Horizon:Volume 7C Chapter 79
Chapter 79: Reviewing Girls at the Confrontation Ground
Are you at peace now?
Point Allocation (August 28, 1197)
The M.H.R.R. imperial assault unit saw it coming.
“That’s Musashi’s silver wolf!”
Someone in the Far Eastern uniform of Musashi was running toward them. Plus, she held a total of four mandible swords in her Silver Chains and her hands.
She was making a one-girl charge with that equipment to stop them.
“Damn,” they said since they were pursuing an enemy of their own. “This is a bad time to be surrounded!”
They had been angled to the west so they could withdraw at any time, but they had already arrived northwest of Nördlingen and Mitsunari’s unit was approaching from the east. If they could survive this, they could surround the enemy from the east and west in front of the Nagaoka estate north of Nördlingen.
“Keep going!” shouted the unit commander.
Once the decision had been made, it did not take them long to act. Their diagonally-angled formation straightened out to a direct north-south orientation.
“If anything happens, we withdraw to the southwest! Got that!?”
“Testament,” they replied while a few of them took the lead. They used their thrusters to charge toward the enemy formation up ahead.
Gunfire and defense spears clashed and defense barriers shattered.
The din of battle sounded while enemy and ally exchanged words.
“Break, damn you!”
“Shut up!” shouted back the enemy while pointing behind them all. “Look! The Musashi 5th Special Duty Officer is catching up! You’re screwed!”
“Look, look, look! She’s here, she’s totally here!”
“Hey, everyone! Check out these terrified mobile shells!”
The imperial unit clenched and raised their fists in anger while doing as much as they could.
“God, i-it pisses me off so much that they’re not even fighting for themselves!!”
But the truth of the matter caught up to them soon enough.
Musashi’s silver wolf was closing in on them.
They fired their guns, but the silver wolf suddenly vanished.
Only grass scattered in the air at the center of their vision. And…
“To the left!”
That warning came from one of those using a targeting spell.
When they heard him, the others looked to the left.
A silhouette stood on the grassy field there, but it was not the wolf.
“A mandible sword!?”
A mandible sword with a Silver Chain wrapped around the hilt stood there while dully vibrating.
And the chain extended up into the morning sky.
She had jumped to the side, stabbed the mandible sword into the ground with a chain, and used that to jump off of.
It was devastating that she had taken two actions so quickly and that she had moved above them without warning. No one could respond in time.
They simply looked upwards to see the silver wolf swinging both her arms while flipped upside down.
She rapidly threw two swords, and at the same time…
“Tear into them, Silver Chains!”
The one blade was pulled from the ground and the final sword joined it as the chains swung them horizontally.
That made four attacks from four directions, above, below, left, and right. They opened defense barriers, but no one knew who should respond to which attacks.
The swords scored direct hits and the sounds of tearing flesh and breaking bone shook the air.
Just as the M.H.R.R. imperial assault unit expected to be hit by the silver wolf’s attack, they saw something else.
Someone rushed in between them and the attack.
It was a slender but tall figure.
That ultra-tall girl spread her arms and legs so the blades stabbed into and pierced through her joints, muscle, and bone.
The vermilion swords caused her bones to shatter and her blood to spray.
But she did not collapse.
Her large body swayed and her arms swung weakly to keep her balance.
A tense gasp escaped her lips, but she held firm.
She remained standing.
Then the color vermilion appeared in their vision.
One of the mandible swords had burst out of her back.
The silver wolf had thrown another blade for good measure and it had pierced through Sakon’s torso.
With her lung penetrated and her breathing stopped, the air escaped her throat.
But she did not fall.
Even after taking so much punishment, she did not give any ground. She could not stop the air escaping her after the attack to the gut, but…
“I can’t…let that happen.”
She moved with the five blades still piercing her body.
It was slow and she staggered a lot, but she moved forward.
She did not look back or acknowledge their shouts in any way, but…
She took another step forward.
She stepped toward the silver wolf.
Mitotsudaira prepared for a fight.
She stopped moving, but she remained focused on her surroundings.
There was one thing she had to focus on most of all at the moment: the identity of the opponent in front of her. After all…
…She has already taken two artillery hits!
Either one of those pseudo-anti-ship cannon blasts should have killed her instantly. Mitotsudaira had not seen the first, but the second had been a direct hit.
But while her inner suit was damaged, her actual body had been entirely unscathed when rushing in just now.
What did that mean?
Mitotsudaira had felt something odd in the tactile feedback when her four attacks had been blocked.
That was why she had thrown that fifth one, and that had confirmed her suspicions.
…This Shima Sakon…actually did evade my attack.
But not by twisting around to avoid the blade altogether.
She had bent her body so the blade did not hit the breastplate of the mobile shell she wore.
…Why would you do that?
What kind of person would choose to take damage to themselves over damage to their mobile shell?
Wouldn’t that just make the mobile shell a nuisance?
But that was what she had chosen.
That was why the five blades had pierced through her and left her body broken. The bones of her arms had been pulverized, so they bent down and swayed past the point where the blades were stabbed into them.
Yet she continued approaching on unsteady legs. It was slow and she drifted a bit to the left on her third step, but she was still trying to approach Mitotsudaira.
Mitotsudaira also saw Sakon’s hands moving. Her upper arms had been shattered and the arms were simply dangling down and swaying, but her white hands still tried to grab the hilts of the swords stabbed into her thighs.
She managed it. She could only make short snaps of her wrist, but by repeating the process a few times, she gradually worked at dislodging the blades.
There was no blood on the vermilion blades. Nor had any dripped down. But pulling the blades out was exposing some of the flesh within the gashes containing those blades.
She nearly screamed, but swallowed it.
And she did not stop trying to remove them.
Mitotsudaira realized something about that action.
She recognized it.
She knew what this opponent was.
She started to ask, but Sakon suddenly looked up.
The demonic-looking head of her mobile shell faced south.
Then that tall figure was blown away before Mitotsudaira’s eyes.
It was a cannon blast from the south.
The shell was meant for the imperial assault unit, but Sakon had jumped backwards into its path.
This was her third time receiving a direct hit.
The leap did not seem quite long enough, but Mitotsudaira saw something there.
She saw the shape of Sakon’s mouth below her helmet.
It had looked a lot like a smile of relief.
A moment later, the tall mobile shell was blasted into the air.
The force of the impact swung the blades around, causing them to slice through her body.
And Mitotsudaira saw a bloody mist envelop that chopped-up body.
In the blink of an eye, the bloody mist gathered around the damaged portions, and…
Mitotsudaira arrived at a conclusion when she saw that body rapidly repairing itself.
She did know what this opponent was. Or rather, she knew what ability this was.
“You can regenerate just like Rudolf II, can’t you!?”
After flying a dozen or so meters, Sakon rolled across the grass and into the forest.
Onitakemaru understood everything now.
The first time, he had not understood a thing.
The second time, the little girl had already been running by the time he adjusted and rebooted.
And this third time, he had seen it all for the first time.
Onitakemaru: “Little girl!”
She did not respond, but…
He could feel her entire body trembling from pain.
But there was nothing he could do for her. He probably did have a pain relief spell set up, but …
…These are foreign spells!
The list was in German. A translation spell must have been in effect since it was displayed in broken Far Eastern, but they were displayed with the explanation preceding the name, which made searching difficult. What was he supposed to do? Well, he knew he had to find a random spell that looked like it was what he wanted and activate that. And yet…
One of the spells had to be the best one and what if he activated a detrimental spell? He could not get past those concerns. And…
A change came over her while she shed tears and gagged as she breathed.
Her injuries were not just severe, they were clearly fatal, but that damage began to repair itself.
Onitakemaru: “You can regenerate!?”
That had been a unique ability of certain species during his time, but right now, her body was heating up enough to produce steam and a bloody mist blew around her while her broken and split body was repaired.
This was clearly more specialized than the species-specific ability he knew.
…Was she intentionally modified!?
Then he recalled what he had told her before.
Onitakemaru: “You said you’re from Austria, didn’t you?”
He had studied up on the nation he belonged to after waking up in this era. And instead of standard information, he had been given information only available to important figures like name inheritors.
Their leader was the M.H.R.R. Emperor and he was from the House of Habsburg.
Onitakemaru: “The Emperor is from Austria.”
And that man had a certain ability said to be from his House.
Onitakemaru: “I have heard he can regenerate in order to survive assassination attempts.”
That Emperor was here in the formation east of Nördlingen.
But Onitakemaru had heard something else about the Emperor.
He lacked a certain ability that this girl clearly had since she was so tense with pain.
Onitakemaru: “The M.H.R.R. Emperor has no sense of pain.”
Then what was she? He asked a question in order to figure that out.
Onitakemaru: “Were you a prototype used to help create the emperor?”
Sakon wept from the pain.
She did not like pain. In fact, she actively tried to avoid it. However…
“I can’t let that happen.”
She could not let anyone else feel this pain.
She in particular could not let that happen.
Onitakemaru: “What do you mean!?”
Oh, you were okay, Onitakemaru-san? This really hurts, but I’m glad. The beating of my heart feels like it’s shaking my arms enough to tear the nerves apart, but…
Onitakemaru: “Goodness!? You have been protecting me this whole time, haven’t you!?”
He yelled in her ear.
Onitakemaru: “You only pretended to have escaped unharmed while taking the hits for me, didn’t you!?”
He was right. But, she thought. That’s for the best.
“I’ve been like this since I was born. I lived in that facility for so long doing stuff like this.”
Sakon had been born in Austria.
She had been from an unimportant branch of an important family.
But she had apparently been born with “superior” traits. Or at least the people at the facility had said she was shockingly “superior”.
Except she had just one crucial “flaw”.
That flaw was pain.
But the family had needed to study her “superiority”.
So she had been brought to a castle deep in the mountains and made to feel pain more times than she could ever hope to count.
Her branch of the family had been too unimportant, so she had been separated from her parents to live there.
Fortunately, she had not known what a normal childhood was like. She had assumed that was how everyone lived and the other children who were occasionally brought there had felt no pain.
They had all offered up their flesh and blood like it was the done thing and they had been praised for it.
She had been the failure. The spells meant to reduce her pain had not worked. Her regeneration would immediately bring back her sense of pain and it would also sharpen that sense.
But no matter how much she cried and screamed, they had told her it was necessary.
Some of the doctors who came to see her had been brought to tears by her crying, and that had only made her feel all the more like she was doing something wrong.
Her regeneration must have been too powerful. She had grown abnormally tall and she had been different in other ways too. She had only been 7 when everyone had to look up at her in surprise.
She had felt like a failure and that had made her stubbornly want to continue with the research even though it hurt.
She had suddenly been kicked out of that life when she was 9.
They had told her the research had shown some results.
She had gone back to her parents, but they seemed to have grown so much shorter since she had last seen them.
She had always dreamed of the research finally ending.
She had dreamed of having her parents hug her like she saw the other children’s parents do since they had been allowed to accompany their children there. And she had wanted her parents to tell her she had done a good job.
That was all she would have needed to be satisfied.
She had once asked one of the other children what was so great about being hugged.
“When someone hugs you…well, you can feel their body heat. Oh, and you can feel their pulse,” the girl had said. “That’s really important. It reassures you that you’re someone’s child even though we can do all this. They say it’s that experience that will let us do the same for our own children in the future. Hee hee. We’ll have to make sure our heart hasn’t been shot through then, though.”
But her parents had been too short to hold her head to their chest. Worse, they had apologized.
No. That’s not…that’s not what I want to hear.
I worked so hard. It hurt, but I kept at it that whole time.
I wasn’t doing that because I wanted an apology.
At the time, she had only found one possible explanation.
…I really am a failure.
She could also tell her parents were worried for her. Even if they did not see eye to eye (literally or figuratively), she could tell they cared for her. So…
“You don’t have to worry about it.”
She had wept while speaking those words. She had wept because she knew she could not stay with them. They had said she could, but knowing she would bring them more worries than anything else had filled her with a mixture of thankfulness and pain.
She had decided to return there only if she failed.
Their obvious worry for her told her they were not demanding she succeed. So she left home while confident they would still accept her even if she failed.
She had failed almost immediately after entering elementary school 5 years late. She had of course been bullied for being different, but her failure had come from using her strength.
Her regeneration had also increased her physical strength.
The other child’s body had easily broken, but it had all been covered up due to her family and the success of the research. Fortunately, after the injured child had made a full recovery, they had decided it was better to be her ally than her enemy. Having a retainer felt weird, but she had been the oldest one there. She had learned how to tread carefully so no one could try to borrow her supposed authority. Their teacher had praised her for acting as a balancer in the classroom and she had cried on her own later on because that was what she had wanted to hear.
And she had learned.
She must not touch things.
She must not want things.
She must protect things.
She was always with the others, but she could never take the initiative or touch anyone. Even when she saved them or helped them out, she could not expect any kind of thanks and, if they were going to get hurt, she had to take that role in their place.
She was used to pain. She knew how to endure it, so it made sense to her to accept it instead of letting anyone else have it.
She was a failure and she was always in the way, so it had seemed like a fair tradeoff to place all the danger on her own shoulders.
And now she had achieved that.
She had protected Onitakemaru and the assault unit. She had merely been careless the first time, but she had done it on purpose the second and third times.
She could not let any one of them be hurt.
It hurt. Her body was repairing itself with the swords still inside her, so the healing wounds were constantly slicing themselves back open on the blades.
The blade stabbing into her stomach and piercing her lung felt gross because of the chill she felt in her diaphragm.
She felt pain, displeasure, and disgust, but…
“This is fine.”
You fool, thought Onitakemaru. This is not at all fine. So…
Onitakemaru: “How is this fine? This is nothing of the sort.”
“Because,” she said while clearly trying to keep the pain out of her voice. “You weren’t hurt, right?”
He just about finished with “does that matter”, but her trembling voice cut him off.
“I noticed something…when I first put you on.”
Onitakemaru: “And what was that?”
She gasped as the blade in her right leg tilted and sliced its way out her leg.
“Ah,” she continued while clenching her teeth, but she finally managed to calm her heavy breathing once the blade had fully left her.
Only then could she answer his question.
“I could hear your pulse.”
He mentally tilted his head at that. He was a ghost, so he had no pulse.
He was currently a data entity known as a ghost. He was made of ether. Ether had a current from the ley lines and it moved in something like waves. That could be heard from the mobile shell when the divine protections started up, but those waves were normally synced with the wearer and thus almost entirely eliminated.
She had only heard those waves because they were not properly synced.
But surely she could have heard a pulse from literally anyone else.
Onitakemaru: “Do you not have parents?”
Maybe I should not be prying so much. But…
“I do have a dad and a mom…but they’re both shorter than me.”
That was when it hit him: This little girl is a moron.
She must have never obtained many different things that everyone else took for granted. They must have slipped from her grasp due to some kind of misunderstanding. But…
While she gasped and tried desperately to hold back the tears, he held her within him and recalled a moment from his own past.
His mind traveled 500 years back in time to his first child – to his daughter.
“Yoritomo and Shima Sakon have stopped moving.”
Narumi heard Tomoe Gozen’s comment while slowly standing up from the grassy field southwest of Nördlingen.
The woman was looking to the distant forest northwest of the city.
Nördlingen’s circular wall obstructed their view of that point.
The Mito Lord had rushed off toward the enemy in that direction, but…
“Another shell? Should we assume they were defeated?”
“Testament. That seems likely, but something is bothering me about this.”
“What is it?” asked Narumi, so Tomoe Gozen turned toward her and answered.
“It might come as a surprise, but Yoritomo has a soft spot for children.”
Narumi tilted her head while thinking back to the glimpse of the enemy she had gotten earlier.
“At that height, I doubt Shima Sakon is young enough to count as a child.”
“Then,” said Tomoe Gozen. “Have you ever heard that Yoritomo had a daughter?”
“I have, but I don’t know the details.”
She knew the family tree, but she did not know much more because…
“Didn’t she die young, before even marrying?”
“You make it sound like she was not worth remembering. And from a historical viewpoint, that is probably true.”
“She did marry. But at the age of 6.”
That was awfully early. But at the time, the samurai government had yet to be established and the nobles tended to be in charge. To work your way into the imperial court and rule over a region of the Far East, it was best to get the political marriages done as quickly as possible.
But what did that matter now?
…Wait, could it be?
Narumi’s intuition told her this bad feeling was accurate.
Her knowledge of the family tree told her that marriage had not had any lasting effects.
“Did the marriage fail?”
“Testament. The other family betrayed Yoritomo.”
“It was with Minamoto no Yoshinaka’s heir, Yoshitaka, when he was still only 11.”
“Do you understand now?” asked Tomoe Gozen with a sigh heavy with weariness. “This incident was mostly dealt with when we ran away.”
She had asked about it later and learned that Ishi had made various arrangements. Her illness had probably worsened because of the physical and emotional effort involved in that, but…
“After Yoshinaka was killed, Yoritomo decided to kill Yoshitaka. But the young couple had already enjoyed a year together by that time.”
“There were people that stupid back then too?”
“Testament,” confirmed Tomoe Gozen.
The Date Vice Chancellor would understand this. Because…
“The Date clan’s tragedy…was not unique.”
“That wasn’t something we took pride in.”
“Fair enough,” said Tomoe Gozen. “As young as she was, Yoritomo’s daughter tried her best to protect her husband. She let him escape their home in secret and pretended to be playing with him to hide his absence. …We women seem to have a talent for lying.”
“It would be nice if this story of yours was a lie too.”
Sorry, she thought. I honestly have trouble coming to terms with this one myself.
…This was recreated without Yoshinaka and me knowing.
Why did they not allow any interpretations in the history recreation back then? she asked herself as she continued.
“The child’s best efforts at deception were apparently discovered on the first day. Her husband Yoshitaka was soon discovered and beheaded. This was of course meant to be a secret, but Yoritomo’s daughter learned about it and it made her ill.”
Narumi fell silent, so Tomoe Gozen slapped her on the shoulder.
The battle was not over yet. Hearing a sound other than Tomoe Gozen’s voice would remind the girl of the reality around her, so Tomoe Gozen began walking through the booming of shellfire while talking.
“Yoritomo later tried to have her sent to the imperial court to strengthen his connections there, but she still could not forget what happened, her illness worsened, and she died in Kyou. …She was 20 when she died.”
“What was her name?”
“Testament. Her actual name is not known. But I do know her nickname, which indicated her position as the eldest daughter,” she explained. “Apparently, she was called Ohime.”
Yoritomo was reminded of the past.
Why was he reminded of a past even he so wished he could forget and pretend never happened?
She had been given so much happiness for her first 6 years of life and she had enjoyed a fulfilling year after that, but when she was 7, he had taken all of that from her.
That had been part of the history recreation. That had been a valid reason and he had explained it to her countless times.
But it had not been enough.
His daughter had hidden it for his sake, but her condition had worsened as time went on.
She had tended not to get up from the floor and, in the end, she had refused to even meet with him.
He had last seen her after she had breathed her last, so her final words to him had come secondhand.
“I was a failure of a child, wasn’t I?”
That isn’t what I wanted to hear or what I wanted to tell you.
Even after everything that had happened, you stayed strong and clung onto life.
You kept going for 13 years – nearly twice the time you lived in happiness.
“You fought so hard.”
That was what I wanted tell you, but you were already gone.
So I gave up on myself. I ended Yoritomo’s history recreation, inherited the next generation’s name, and let Yoshitsune kill me.
I honestly felt relieved when I saw Yoshitsune there in front of me.
I knew it was finally over.
Yes, that’s right.
I started the Kamakura Shogunate as a society where people were always rewarded for the work they did for their superior. Whenever someone did something for me, I would tell them what a good job they did and reward them for it. I made sure of it whenever possible.
When I died and met her in the afterlife, I wanted to show her that her father was a changed man. That I could own up to what I had done and I would no longer try to run away.
I wanted to tell my daughter she was not a failure. And…
…It’s pathetic but true.
I am the Shogun who created an entire era, but…
…All I wanted was to ask forgiveness of a little girl.
That must be one of my regrets.
That is why I wanted to make up for it as soon as I awoke within this mobile shell. I wanted to destroy my mobile shell self to make up for having destroyed someone’s life.
And if I could protect someone at the same time, maybe I could earn some small fraction of forgiveness.
But that isn’t what happened. Who is this girl I am practically holding in my arms?
She has such a big body, but she calls herself a failure, she tries to protect me, and she cries. She keeps complaining of the pain, but she smiles upon learning I am unharmed.
I am sorry, thought Onitakemaru.
…I am sorry, Ohime.
It looks like it will be some time yet until I can join you and apologize. So for now…
He kept Ohime’s name in his mind.
Onitakemaru: “How old are you?”
“Eh? Oh, w-well.” She answered him. “I am 20.”
“I see,” he replied.
Even that is the same.
Onitakemaru spoke slowly.
Onitakemaru: “Stand up. The battle is still ongoing. We need to get moving.”
“R-right, let’s do that.”
Onitakemaru: “Does it hurt?”
“Eh? W-well, no, um, it doesn’t. I’m fine.”
Onitakemaru: “I see. Understood.”
Onitakemaru: “I will begin assisting your movements. Before, it was just the basic mobile shell reactions, but now I will support your actions in my own way.”
“Eh? Wh-what does that mean?”
Onitakemaru: “I will handle the attacks. You only need to move along with me.”
Onitakemaru: “You handle defense. You can get blown away in what amounts to self-destruction if you like. I’ve figured out that’s just how you are. Even if I don’t like it.”
Onitakemaru: “I said I don’t mind!”
“N-no, you didn’t! That’s the first I’ve heard of it!”
Onitakemaru: “It was implied! God.”
Ohime had been smarter than this. Just how foolish was this girl? So he spoke.
Onitakemaru: “Is that big body all you’ve got going for you? You really are a hopeless little girl.”
Onitakemaru: “Kohime. That is what I will call you from now on.”
Intense pain filled her body and refused to go away, but she did understand one thing.
He really is paying attention to me.
Thank you so much, Mitsunari-sama, she thought.
“Oh, um, I’m just happy is all. Happy that you’re bigger than me.”
Onitakemaru: “I should be thanking you.”
He sounded exasperated.
Onitakemaru: “You protected me from those shells. …Good job.”
“Oh, um, uh.”
She had no idea what to say. She had never imagined he would thank her and it was all so sudden.
Tears suddenly spilled from her eyes.
Onitakemaru: “Hey, what’s wrong?”
“It’s just…it’s just…”
She got up and looked into the sky with her blurry vision. It was blue.
She viewed that color while shaking her right shoulder to dislodge the blade there.
She felt a continuous stabbing pain followed by something splitting her bone, but that familiar pain seemed to link her to everything she had been through in the past.
And now she stood at the forefront of it all.
“I’ve never been so happy.”
Onitakemaru: “How stupid are you? You’re about to charge right into more pain while the enemy tries to give you pain.”
“That’s fine. That’s just fine.”
She could use her right arm, so with a grunt of effort, she pulled out the left sword and reached for the one in her gut.
“I’m perfectly fine.”
Pulling that one out made her spine tremble, but…
Onitakemaru: “I will support your physical divine protections as much as I can. That will increase your regeneration even more and up your physical abilities, but your sense of pain will-…”
“Oh, pain relief doesn’t work on me. Same with anesthetics. So I don’t have any of that prepared.”
Onitakemaru: “So that’s why I couldn’t find it on the list!”
That meant he had tried to help her out at some point.
It hurt, but she was happy.
She had been happy before, but this was different.
Instead of a relieved happiness that she was permitted to be here, she felt happy to be here.
Onitakemaru: “I more or less understand now, so I’ll shove it all in there.”
“M-must you be so rough about everything!?”
Onitakemaru: “We have no time. Hurry up and pull that sword from your left leg and grab it in both hands. I specialize in the bow, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t use a sword. I will show you the technique of a true Shogun.”
Onitakemaru: “I will fully activate all of the divine protections I was given so I could function. They are a type of anti-ship equipment, but think of using them as a way of helping me out here. …Our enemy is Musashi’s 5th Special Duty Officer. Based on the records I have seen, even this might not be enough to defeat her. The data on her history recreation says she will go on to call herself the Vice Shogun. People overthrow their masters so often in this era, so she is bound to be a formidable foe for me, the Kamakura Shogun.”
“I-I’ll do my best?”
Onitakemaru: “You have my permission. And if you accomplish anything here, I will reward you with my praise.”
“So,” he said while effectively holding her in his arms.
Onitakemaru: “Let’s do this together, Kohime.”
“Okay,” she agreed while taking the first step forward.
Kohime: “Here we go!”
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- Ohime means “big princess” and Kohime means “little princess”.