Horizon:Volume 7C Chapter 81

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Chapter 81: Messenger in an Unseen Place[edit]

Horizon7C 0803.jpg

Grasping how you

Differ from others

Is the key to victory

Point Allocation (Caste)


Sakon gasped.

Oh.

“Is it over?”

Her voice was hoarse.

She tasted iron. The roar had split her throat open, but it was rapidly regenerating.

She took a step back and viewed the enemy.

The wolf had been squashed flat. She knew just how bad a state the enemy had to be in. Once, to confirm her own regeneration power…

I had part of me crushed.

It had hurt so bad all her focus had been on expressing that and the people around her had found it disturbing despite being the ones to suggest the test. But in order to keep the Emperor safe, she did feel like making sure he could regenerate from that state was an important test.

But a normal person was not going to fare well after a hit like that.

In fact, her hair really was crushed completely flat.

Kohime: “Um, Onitakemaru-san?”

Onitakemaru: “Yes?”

Kohime: “You know how, um, well, her hair had all that round stuff in the back? What is that called?”

Onitakemaru: “You mean her potter’s wheel hairstyle?”

Kohime: “Th-that is not what it’s called! It must have some nice, fancy name! And what do you know about potter’s wheels? They didn’t use those for the Jomon pottery of your time, did they?”

Onitakemaru: “How old do you think I am!?”

Kohime: “Anyway, um, three of those round pieces of ‘pottery’ really have been crushed flat.”

Onitakemaru: “Wait.”

“Huh?” she asked, so he explained.

Onitakemaru: “I thought that enemy had 5 pieces of hair pottery.”


Onitakemaru checked the images recorded during the battle.

Musashi’s 5th Special Duty Officer was the Mito Lord and the future Vice Shogun and she did indeed have 5 pieces of “pottery” on the back of her head.

Three were closer to her body and two were placed behind those.

If she was squashed flat while on all fours, the top two would either slip between the lower three or stack on top of them.

Onitakemaru: “There should be 5 of them. Even if the top 2 aligned perfectly with 2 below, we should be seeing 4.”

He sensed urgency.

There were three.

What would lead them to see that number? He continued checking the images recorded during the battle and he discovered something.

Onitakemaru: “Kohime! Fall back!”

He belatedly realized that the chains protecting the wolf had disappeared along with their mandible swords. And…

Onitakemaru: “That wolf is collapsed on her side!”

They were seeing three rolls of hair because she was lying on her side and her hair had shifted a bit out of place.

If she had been on all fours, her back would have been pointed upwards, so why had her orientation changed? The impact should have hit her from more or less directly above.

The mobile shell stepped back, but a sudden attack reached it.

From below!

A vermilion color was launched from the silver wolf’s position and it skimmed just off the ground.

It was a chain – a single silver line. It shot forward like a shell and flew. It shot upwards at the midpoint between her and them to aim for their stomach. But he took aim, and…

“…!”

Kohime acted on reflex. She had a decent reaction speed. She took a step back and swung her right sword in from below.

Even the sharpest attack was meaningless when blocked with a surface.

With a solid clang, the vermilion blade was deflected into the sky. The chain flew upwards in a wavelike pattern, but…

Oh, no!

Onitakemaru realized what the enemy had been trying to do: block their view.

They could see silver in the center of their vision. The sense of vision being used to view and target the enemy was focused on the wavelike line of the silver chain that extended diagonally down toward the enemy.

That blind spot was skinny, but there was still a direct line between them and the enemy they could not see.


Onitakemaru: “Kohime!”

The word “danger” sprang up in Onitakemaru’s mind.

She saw right through us!

He was the one taking aim and guiding their attacks and defense.

He was reliant on the mobile shell’s vision. That might seem normal, but it was unthinkable for a true expert. Because…

A true expert can react to unseen opponents outside their field of vision!

They were not fully reliant on their eyes.

The 360-degree vision had been prepared to make up for that deficiency, but since Kohime could not adapt to that, they were forced to pursue the enemy with footwork and movement.

Kohime’s attacks and defense were reliant on the front-facing sight devices in the mobile shell’s face.

The range of that vision was the same as a human’s, although the range beyond that could be shown to her by bending it.

But there was still a limited range to her vision.

And the enemy had figured out that range.

Knowing her visual range allowed the enemy to create a blind spot. By sending a chain from the edge of her vision to the center, the area behind it would be a blind spot.

That was exactly what the enemy had done.

When and where had she figured out that visual range? And…

Onitakemaru: “Damn you.”

He saw the enemy getting up.

She rose from the dirt while indeed lying on her side.

She was unharmed.

She had taken no damage beyond some squashed hair. As for how…

Kohime: “A hole!?”

She stood in a hole dug long to east and west. Its width was exactly same as a mandible sword.

Another Silver Chain rose from the hole after her.

And when she turned around toward them, two mandible swords flew in from below the Silver Chain crossing through the air.

Kh!

Onitakemaru moved his armor. He used his power assistance to help Kohime evade faster than she could react on her own.

But he was too slow.

The mandible swords pierced into the shell using the gaps in the armor on her arms.


“Honestly.”

Mitotsudaira reached for her crushed hair and forcefully brushed it off.

With a brief inflation sound and some ether light shards, the hair returned to normal, although it was still a little kinked.

“And after my king groomed it for me and everything.”

She turned around and saw two movements.

The mobile shell let out a cry of pain in response to the pierced arms and the Silver Chains flew back toward her since their job was done.

She caught the blades they carried to her and she stepped out of the hole and onto the grass.

That was a close one.

She had noticed the enemy’s blind spot when she had decided to use the midair footholds like steps.

She had noticed how they reacted while she was rapidly circling around them.

A clear change had come over their attacks and counterattacks, so she had deduced they were using the mobile shell’s functions.

But strangely, the enemy had used ordinary movements to follow her. Instead of attacking behind themselves without turning to look, they had always turned to keep her in front of them.

That told her they had a blind spot for some reason or another.

The blind spots to either side had been the obvious ones since the enemy had always rapidly turned to match her movements to either side.

The other blind spots would be created by the vertical range of their vision, but she had not known how to determine that.

Until, all of a sudden, she had managed to do just that.

It happened when she attacked at the enemy’s chest from midair.

When their armor had moved on its own to defend, the blade had flown back behind the mobile shell.

The enemy’s head had not moved when that happened.

They had not seen it.

That had told her of a blind spot from their jawline to their chest.

Thus, the trick to defeating this foe was to move directly below them, where she could ignore the mobile shell’s assistance. She had realized that was her only option.

“The roar was not part of the plan, but you did well, Silver Chains.”

While she was down on all fours, the Silver Chains had moved below her to dig a hole large enough for her to lie in on her side.

The two mandible swords had helped hide her and the trick had been made in the instant the enemy’s swords had blocked her from view. By rolling into the hole and hiding her body below her hair, she had gotten the enemy to approach, bringing that blind spot almost all the way to her.

“That was a close one.”

She brought a hand to her body and smiled.

She indicated the reason why this had been possible at all.

“I am still growing, but without this body, I never could have fit in that hole.”


Gold Mar: “Is this a new version of the Flat Chest Evasion?”

Worshiper: “How about we make a flat chest stealth action game? Y’know, where you have to hide in the gaps between the furniture and wall. Oh, and it would be perfectly logical to make the player character a little girl no older than 10, which would delight me. Mitotsudaira-kun could be a DLC character that people of other religions could buy.”

Silver Wolf: “No more crazy plans while I’m trying to fight!”


Mitotsudaira inhaled and looked to the enemy.

The mobile shell was moving both arms.

Sakon grabbed the hilts of the mandible swords piercing her arms and pulled them out.

Her wounds were being regenerated and it had to hurt quite a bit, but if she could push through that…

“I will take you on,” said Mitotsudaira with her weapons at the ready.

The enemy made her move.

She raised the swords pulled out of her own arms and stepped forward.

She poured her top speed into her entire body with the very first step. This swift attack was using the mobile shell’s power assistance. She was crouched low as she charged in, as if to say she did not care if her blind spot had been discovered.

Meanwhile, Mitotsudaira took a certain action.

She bent the Silver Chains in preparation while leaping backwards.


Sakon sensed a trick in the silver wolf’s backwards movement.

Letting her continue would be dangerous, so Sakon had to defeat her before she made her next move.

“––––”

She had already inhaled and her throat had regenerated, so that just left…

The roar!

She launched her long range attack that could be described as a roar impact.

She opened her mouth and shouted like she was biting at her opponent.

“Att-”

But she never got the “ack” out. An earsplitting noise beat her to the punch.

“Loo!”

It was a shout.

The wolf standing in front of her released a bestial cry toward her.


“Wow.”

Asama heard the wolf’s voice not just in her ears but in the core of her body.

Mitotsudaira’s shout was a sharp thing different from a howl.

It was short, but it carried all the way here and Asama sensed meaning in it.

Come to think of it, she gets this from her mother, doesn’t she?

Loup-Garous were manifestations of fear. This girl carried the queen’s blood in her veins. Whether she wanted to or not, her roar would stimulate people’s fear and shake their hearts even from a distance.

“Yes, this is incredible,” said Neshinbara in the middle of the deck where he had sign frames spread out so he and Noriki could monitor the situation. “When she howled back at London, it reached pretty much all of us. While it was night, it had the Armada battle’s artillery fire to contend with, so how far does her voice reach?”

So…

“I am sure she must breathe deep to pull it off, but when she makes a proper roar, any ordinary voice will be shattered by it.”


Sakon was hit by the vocal counterattack.

Wow!

She was embarrassed by, but confident in, how loud her voice was.

This was the first time she had heard anyone capable of matching it.

If she had kept her voice going without hesitating, she might have been able to push through it, but this had come as too much of a surprise.

“…”

Her striking command failed. It shattered deep in her mouth and shredded her throat.

“Kah, ah!”

It failed while being pushed out, so blood sprayed from her mouth.

Her lungs also lost their breath. She nearly inhaled the blood in her throat instead.

“Hh, ah.”

Her instincts had her move in search of air.

She tilted her head back to clear her throat and she sucked in oxygen.

Onitakemaru: “Kohime!”

As soon as she heard his voice, she saw something in the very bottom of her vision.

Musashi’s wolf had sent a burst of speed toward the bottom of Sakon’s throat.

Incredible.

That girl had not hesitated to wield her power against Sakon.

She slammed a sword straight into Sakon’s throat.


Mitotsudaira worked to end this fight.

She sent a mandible sword wielded by a Silver Chain toward Sakon’s throat and jabbed upwards with all her strength.

The blade sank in up to the hilt, destroying Sakon’s brainstem and slicing on out the other side.

The upwards jabbing motion sent the mobile shell’s throat up into the air, causing the entire body to rise up.

In that instant, Mitotsudaira slipped between Sakon’s legs.

While running, she sent a Silver Chain into the air behind her without even looking back.

Caught it!

While Sakon nearly collapsed backwards but held her ground, the Silver Chain wrapped around her throat from behind.

The chain also grasped the mandible sword piercing her throat.

Mitotsudaira used all her might to tug on the chain from behind Sakon. The chain was wrapped around Sakon’s neck like a noose.

“…!”

Mitotsudaira used a burst of speed while pulling on her enemy’s neck with the chain.

Sakon’s entire body was yanked from the ground while the wolf used her burst of speed to accelerate.

She ran.

She ran full speed toward the entrance of the forest 15m ahead. Specifically, toward an especially large tree there.

“This ends here!”

In something like a javelin throw, she slammed Sakon into the large tree from the back of the neck first.

The wolf forced that impact onto the enemy.

This was the same as slamming Adele and Raging Beast against enemies. Her familiarity with the action had allowed her to optimize it, so she slammed the black mobile shell into the large tree at her top speed.

The solid impact shook the field.

The high speed combined with the mobile shell’s weight affected the wedge passing through Sakon’s throat.

The mandible sword through her neck pinned the black mobile shell to the tree, which was 2m thick.

The sword stabbed in and the great speed meant it did not even cause the tree to split.

That would not be easily removed.

Instead of splitting, the tree tilted.

The impact caused roots to snap and leaves to rustle while the tree collapsed as a restraint for Sakon.

The only sounds were of branches falling and other branches swinging back into place after being caught by the falling tree. After that, the only sounds were the fleeing morning birds and…

“–––––”

There was no more movement. The black mobile shell remained lying there on the tree.

Only Mitotsudaira was still standing.

I did it!

She inhaled and raised her voice for something other than a roar. She thrust her right hand into the air and made her announcement.

“The enemy commander Shima Sakon has been defeated by Musashi Knight and Aoi Toori’s First Knight Mitotsudaira ‘Silver Wolf’ Nate!”

It was over.


Onitakemaru watched the wolf steady herself and leave the forest.

Onitakemaru: “I suppose I should have expected this from someone who will eventually call herself the Vice Shogun. We discovered some flaws in our combat technique, so this was a learning experience.”

Confirming the situation was part of admitting defeat and he understood that.

Onitakemaru: “Can you move, Kohime?”

“Ah…ow.”

The blade through her throat had destroyed her brainstem and pinned her to the tree. Since she was not entirely incapacitated, her ability apparently isolated the injured area and created a “gap” there if she remained in that state for long enough.

Her neck was currently split down the center to allow the blade passage through.

That kept her alive, but her breathing and circulatory system were having difficulty. Once the blade was removed from her body, she would need time to return to normal and time to refamiliarize herself with that, so…

She cannot return to the battle. And…

Onitakemaru: “Sorry. My command transmission system was severed at the bottom of the neck, so I can only move my arms.”

He worked to grasp what she was saying by reading her lips instead of listening and he artificially played it back as sound.

Kohime: “Ow, ow, ow, owww.”

Onitakemaru: “How are you feeling, Kohime?”

Kohime: “Um, uh, well, uh.”

She started crying.

Kohime: “I-I’m so sorry. I just did everything wrong at the end there.”

Onitakemaru: “Does that frustrate you?”

Kohime: “Y-yes.”

“Then that is good enough,” he said.

Onitakemaru: “If you had insufficient strength, the fault lies with me. The Shogun should have been able to make even a complete amateur win this, so your loss was due to my insufficient assistance.”

Kohime: “Y-you can’t try to place the blame on yourself.”

Onitakemaru: “Why not?”

“Testament,” she said.

Kohime: “L-losing gets you punished. I read about it on the divine network. You’ll be tortured and corrected, but you were already assassinated despite being Shogun three times, so I can’t let you be tortured now.”

Onitakemaru: “Damn you!”

But he did sigh despite not actually breathing. He was simply in a sighing mood.

Onitakemaru: “Then we will have to count on the others here.”

But he had seen something in the two of them.

Onitakemaru: “You will grow stronger, Kohime.”

They had barely spoken at all before this. Their teamwork and cooperation needed considerable work. So if they put in that work from here on…

Onitakemaru: “We can grow stronger! Together!”


Mitotsudaira moved her body.

I need to hurry around north to protect my king.

After moving out onto the grassy field, she saw two people approach from her right: Narumi and Tomoe Gozen.

They both raised a hand in greeting and caught their breath after catching up to her.

“This is looking like trouble, isn’t it?” said Narumi while looking up.

“Eh? Looking like trouble? I thought I just dealt with the trouble.”

“Can you not see this? Or is it such a largescale change you failed to notice?”

Tomoe Gozen pointed east, toward Nördlingen.

Something was odd about that 1km city.

“It’s night?”

A dark blue starry sky existed above Nördlingen.

It gradually faded into the rest of the sky, making it look like there was a hole in the morning sunlight.

“Wh-what in the world is that!? Some kind of illusion!?”

“If anything, wouldn’t you describe it as Bolshoi-esque?” asked Narumi.

“I suppose so,” agreed Mitotsudaira, earning a glare from Tomoe Gozen.

“That is a spell field. Niwa has activated a theatre spell against the Musashi group cutting across Nördlingen. What a pain,” she said while glancing over at Nördlingen. “It is probably an exceedingly largescale acoustic spell.”


A commotion had broken out on Musashino’s bridge.

Suzu had been managing the tilt and other aspects of the ships using the Musashi model, but she had suddenly sat down on the floor.

“Suzu-sama!? Over.”

When “Musashino” called out to the girl, “Kokubunji” hurried over to her.

Suzu had fallen onto her butt with her hands draped limply at her sides, but when “Kokubunji” tried to touch her…

“Kh!? Over!”

An Asama Shrine warning sign frame appeared between her hand and Suzu. It said “danger”, “no touching”, and “possibly impure”.

“Suzu-sama is impure!? Over.”

“Judge. Some sort of impurity must have stained her after spending so long with that class. Over.”

“Judge. Then the entire Musashino bridge staff should send a request to give her time for cleansing and recuperation during summer break. But how is Suzu-sama’s condition, “Kokubunji”? Over.”

“Judge. She is…”

“Kokubunji” kneeled neck to Suzu and tilted her head.

“She is asleep. Over.”


Tadaoki found himself collapsed on the stone pavement.

Huh?

He was in an unfamiliar city. No, it did look somewhat familiar, but that was only because it followed the standard patterns for a European city. But he also immediately noticed things were not right because…

“It’s a Protestant city.”

He got up and looked around to see none of the cross-style information displays or simple cathedrals that were everywhere in Catholic cities. He only saw Testament-style information displays and simple churches.

He looked up and saw a wall. It surrounded him in all 360 degrees. The city wall was everywhere, he could see something he should not have, and he could not see something he should have.

“The Musashi is nowhere to be seen.”

No, if his memories were correct, there should have been fleets waging battle from the eastern and western sky.

He could not see or hear any of that. Instead…

“What’s with this night sky?”

In every direction, he could only see clouds, stars, and the color of late night in the sky.

This is weird, he thought. Am I dreaming? But when he stood up…

“…?”

Just to be sure, he checked inside his pants.

It was sky blue.

This was real life. He did not want to admit it, but it was. I am so killing that guy after all this is over.

But if this was real life…

“Wait.”

What had happened to the Battle of Nördlingen? And he had been on his way to the Nagaoka residence, so what had happened with that?

“Where are they?”

He found them.

The first he spotted was Musashi’s Vice Chancellor.

She was near him with her hips lowered to the stone pavement and her spear standing upright, but…

Is she asleep?

He could see several other people who had stopped moving. The vassal who had taken the lead was collapsed like she had just completed one hell of a head-first slide. The ninja and his wife were dangling from the roof with the wife in the ninja’s arms. He hasn’t hanged himself, has he?

Musashi’s Chancellor was collapsed on the road alongside his sister, but they were both in Y-poses. Maybe it was an entertainer thing. For that matter, the arms were forming a V-shape, so were all of Musashi’s leading members entertainers? But anyway…

“Hey!”

This was the battlefield. He had no idea what was going on, but now was not the time to be sleeping on the job.

“Wake up already.”

While telling them that, he opened a lernen figur and checked the time.

2 AM!?

How could that be right? He had already confirmed this was not a dream. Besides, the date was still the same as when they had begun their attack.

But they could not go back in time. It would certainly be convenient if they could when it came to reaching the Nagaoka residence in time, but he did not expect reality to do them any favors.

“Damn.”

He decided to start by waking up the Musashi Vice Chancellor.

She had carried him here, after all. But when he reached for her shoulder…

Asama: “No, don’t!!”


The sudden voice stopped Tadaoki’s hand.

That was the Asama Shrine’s, um, the very mature-seeming girl. He looked around to see where she was watching him from, but he still could not see the Musashi anywhere in the sky. The voice continued regardless.

Asama: “Um, you are the Nagaoka boy, right? I have managed to confirm your coordinates, but please do not touch any of the others.”

Okaaa: “What’s going on?”

Asama: “That is a massive theatre spell. All of Nördlingen is performing a powerful version of ‘nighttime sleep’. Everyone asleep in there is a part of Nördlingen’s performance, so touching them will trap you in it as well.”

Okaaa: “Performance?”

“Yes,” said the Asama Shrine Representative.

Asama: “At its foundation, this spell is meant to awaken the spirits that manage the corresponding area and use those spirits as actors to take control of that entire land. Nördlingen’s land has a very close connection to the ley lines, so with some negotiation skills, you could probably convince the local spirits to willingly participate. But accomplishing that in mere minutes would take considerable skill. Now, this means having the local spirits perform songs and dances, but those songs and dances would be treated as spells in this case, so the extent of the local spirit’s management would be automatically made into those spells’-”

Does she ever stop!? Crap, but I can’t help but keep listening either. Is this some Shinto prayer power? Or is it her Shinto sales talk skill? Come to think of it, I’ve seen her on a late-night informercial before! That was from Musashi!? Wasn’t that the one where the man hosting it would put on this weird accent when announcing the day’s special Shinto product? Ikeda-senpai always tried to do an impression of it and failed miserably every single time. Anyway, she’s the real deal, so she’ll probably try to sell me something if I’m not careful.

But as he nodded along with her explanation, she finally finished up. He still did not really get it, but…

Okaaa: “So is all of Nördlingen ‘asleep’ right now?”

Asama: “Yes, the spirits’ control allows them to put the sky, air, and ground to ‘sleep’. In fact, the ley lines themselves are ‘asleep’, so this is a very dangerous situation. If you touch someone here or anything closely related to their everyday lives, that will create a spiritual connection and the performance will spread to you as well, so please do not touch or even look too closely at any of the people around you.”

Okaaa: “I can’t even look at them?”

Asama: “I hate to say it, but it works the same as impurities. If you view, touch, or place yourself in the same mindset as them, you too will be made impure.”

In that case, thought Tadaoki.

Okaaa: “Why wasn’t I affect-”

He realized the answer before finishing his question.

The hearing defense spell!

He had been given that spell during the transport ship’s descent because he was not used to such things.

Asama: “Your hearing is being protected by Ootsubaki, an Asama Shrine affiliate. As an entertainer god, Ootsubaki must be able to resist Nördlingen’s performance. You could say this is more about an entertainer god’s stubborn pride than it is about hearing protection.”

Okay, okay, okay, okay. Enough already.

Okaa: “Um, then what should I do?”

Asama: “Leave Nördlingen as soon as possible. And then-”

Static suddenly filled the audio.

The entire transmission became white noise and then silence.

The signal was cut off!?

Did that mean the spell field was growing more powerful? But…

“I guess I need to get out of here.”

“I think you will find that is much easier said than done, Nagaoka Tadaoki-kun.”

He heard a voice coming from atop the wall on the north end of Nördlingen.

At some point, a line of people had appeared there.

There were a lot of them. Most carried musical instruments in their arms or on their backs. And at the center of them all…

“Five Great Peaks #2, Niwa-senpai!”