Horizon:Volume 8A Chapter 20
Chapter 20: Greeter at the Entrance
It goes without saying
But this should be
Thoroughly inspected before
Sharing the joy and pain
Point Allocation (The Efficient Type)
Mitotsudaira saw Urquiaga and Narumi’s teamwork.
Urquiaga was on the left and Narumi on the right.
They were attacking from behind, but there was one crucial factor here.
“Which one will attack first!?”
One was a half-dragon and the other the Date Vice Chancellor. Urquiaga had the greater momentum, but Narumi had the greater skill. Narumi was not using Unturning Centipede this time, but…
“That should be fine with her,” said Horizon.
Just one step after landing, those two shifted to an attack.
They did not even wait for Oriotri to look back.
Narumi made a short dash to come up alongside their teacher when she saw their teacher had a hand on the hilt of the sword she carried over her back.
The hilt stuck up from the left side of her back, so if she drew it and swung with her right hand…
…The attack is directed at me on her right.
That was fine. Narumi ejected a mandible sword into her left hand. Then she repeated the process twice. She drew three of the swords out past her elbow, attached them to her elbow in midair, and swung them.
Then she reattached her original arm and drew a mandible sword with that as well.
…For the real attack.
The Triple Slash had created an opening for this final attack.
Just then, she heard a noise. Their teacher had produced a solid clang while running out ahead.
It came from her sword, yet she could not have struck anything with it. Which could only mean…
“– – – – – –”
Narumi reflexively twisted her body to the right.
She kicked off the ground for a midair spin.
Something else happened immediately afterwards.
It came from their teacher.
Her speed suddenly dropped. But instead of braking by bracing her feet against the ground, she entered an immediate skid that made her pitch forward.
Narumi did not need to check and see what the previous clang had been.
…The tip of the scabbard.
Their teacher had not been preparing to draw her sword. She had instead pushed it down so the tip tore into the ground.
The first two strikes of the Triple Slash had not hit.
She had not even needed to dodge. By lowering her speed, the distance between them had dropped. Then she had used the skidding from the scabbard’s tip to send herself just barely airborne. So…
Narumi placed her hopes on Urquiaga while twirling through the air. No eye contact or verbal signal was needed. She knew he would handle this. So while she twisted around…
…I need to get the timing right.
When she had predicted their teacher’s skidding, she had known she too had to reduce her speed. Hence the spin. The midair spin delayed her by about two steps. From there, she only had to launch another mandible sword to automatically change her movement from a backhand blow to a tornado slash.
She could slice into her opponent. She knew the timing was dead on. And…
…The third one!
The third strike of the Triple Slash would reach her opponent, even if it was not a clean hit.
She knew Urquiaga would use that as a feint to make his own move, so she poured all of her strength into her next move.
The follow-through of the backhand blow made for a horizontal slash.
Mitotsudaira and Futayo, who was picking up speed, saw what happened next.
Urquiaga struck with his right arm that doubled as his right main wing. He swung it toward Oriotri.
His arm was both large and long. He generally kept the elbow bent to balance his upper body, but when stretched out, it grew to nearly 2m long.
He pushed that arm out instead of swinging it. The blow also carried all of the speed he had built up.
Narumi’s third strike was also going to reach Oriotri. It was swinging in low toward her legs from behind.
Would she dodge or deflect the attack to her feet? Either way, Urquiaga’s attack would reach her while she was dealing with it.
A solid sound rang out.
Narumi’s third strike had hit the long scabbard lowered from their teacher’s back.
Their opponent had chosen to defend.
That caused her to freeze up for the instant of the blow, so she could not make another move right away. And then…
Urquiaga’s right punch flew in.
Narumi had set everything up perfectly for her attack.
Their teacher had chosen to defend, which made the next step simpler.
Urquiaga only had to hit with his attack. And even if he did not, Narumi was still here.
She drew another sword from her high-speed spin and swung the blade from her right shoulder.
Narumi made sure to visually confirm the enemy’s position. Her intuition had already told her what she needed to know, but it was still worth checking.
The teacher was no longer there.
When she looked back, all she saw was Urquiaga.
The teacher had vanished between them. The woman was not to the right or left either.
…Where did she go?
That silent question was followed by two sharp but solid sounds.
Then she saw Urquiaga’s fist fly through empty air. That meant his attack had not hit, so…
She looked up.
Sure enough, their teacher was performing a layout backflip high in the air.
That was not a move made when running forward. And even if you did pull it off, you would not gain that kind of height.
But Narumi did not question how she had done it.
…The third strike!
That final strike had swept low toward the legs. Their teacher had caught that on the scabbard lowered from her back, but what if she had meant it as more than just defense?
She had performed a midair backflip to avoid the attack coming at her from behind.
That would normally not be possible, but some extra initial speed could make all the difference there.
She had used the momentum of her skidding to kick herself upwards and then she had caught the blade on her scabbard. The mandible sword had been given plenty of force by a prosthetic arm, so what if she had caught that to boost the initial speed of her flip?
Not bad, thought Narumi.
She did not mind because she could follow her opponent’s moves.
Their teacher was going to land in the middle of Narumi’s horizontal slash. So…
…I will get this hit.
That had been an impressive evasion, but Narumi knew that meant they had driven their opponent to the point of requiring such a fancy move.
Their teacher was only moving from one improvised move to another, so…
…I will hit her as she lands.
She did not mind if it was blocked. This time, she was aiming for the torso instead of the legs. Just to be safe, she used a snap of her wrist to give it a somewhat downwards twist. That would push her opponent into the ground, thus preventing her from using the blow to escape upwards like before. That left just one thing.
Narumi made an immediate decision.
Futayo saw Narumi let go of her mandible sword.
She suddenly threw her weapon, which could be seen as abandoning the fight.
She had forcibly twisted her wrist to send it rotating up over the half-dragon’s head.
But Futayo had just one thought upon seeing it.
Three actions overlapped a moment later.
The first was Narumi kicking off the ground to move a step away from Oriotri.
The second was their teacher landing.
With an exclamation of surprise, she dashed forward.
And the third…
Something flew down toward where Narumi had just been and where the half-dragon still was.
They were a pair of mandible swords – two of the three Narumi had used earlier.
…Did Sensei knock them upwards when she made her flip earlier!?
Futayo had heard a solid sound then, so that must have been the tip of the scabbard forcibly catching at the two blades. That had guided the two swords toward the path Narumi and the half dragon would be taking.
At the same time, Narumi had thrown a sword over the half-dragon’s head.
With a solid clang, the two blades scattered through the air.
Then Narumi shifted to the right and the half-dragon to the left. Their speed had already dropped, so their teacher pulled out ahead.
“Narumi, Urquiaga,” she said. “You two make a lot of moves and weave your attacks together well, but that tends to fall apart when someone forcibly intervenes. So watch out for that.”
That applied to Futayo as well.
She was reminded of the training she used to receive from her father and Kazuno. They had always given her some advice after defeating her. Whenever her father gave some advice, Kazuno would generally correct him with, “Incorrect. What Tadakatsu-sama did was also a poor lesson for you, so just assume that he got lucky this time, Futayo-sama.” Her father would then insist “N-not true! It’s all about getting a feel for it! Don’t think – feel!” Kazuno would then roll up her sleeves and chase after the man.
…That really takes me back.
She had not been taught by anyone since before they left for Novgorod, but she had a feeling that instance was not strictly the same thing as training. So…
“Please train me!”
She moved forward.
The surrounding city was changing. They were leaving the area full of business and government buildings and entering a residential district with lots of student longhouses. The city grew a lot shorter here and there was more foot traffic, so their teacher made a great leap.
She landed on the rooftops.
Mitotsudaira was concerned about something while she accelerated.
A middle group was forming and following behind her leading group. They were primarily the noncombatants. In gym class terms, these were the ones who were satisfied simply finishing the race.
The ones like Neshinbara and Ohiroshiki were low prior- No, I shouldn’t think about my classmates that way. But regardless, some of that group created their usual “main formation”. However…
Silver Wolf: “Tomo.”
Mitotsudaira asked Asama a question while she ran.
Silver Wolf: “You have Umetsubaki ready to fire.”
Silver Wolf: “Why are you back in the middle group?”
Mitotsudaira listened to Asama’s response.
Asama: “What are you talking about? That’s usually where I am when I use my bow. I use Persona-kun’s shoulder. Yes.”
Silver Wolf: “Hm, I guess you’re right. Then can I ask about something else?”
Asama: “Ask away.”
“Judge,” said Mitotsudaira as she smiled and did so.
Silver Wolf: “You can use your ether detection to tell when Sensei’s reinforcements are approaching, can’t you?”
Asama: “No, no, no. The ether detection is triggered by far too many things on the Musashi, so that would be a challenge.”
Silver Wolf: “But you have a general idea, don’t you?”
Mitotsudaira was certain of it now.
…This is dangerous.
But just to be sure, she asked anyway.
Silver Wolf: “Tomo?”
Silver Wolf: “I take it she actually went through the visiting procedure, didn’t she?”
Novice: “Hold on! I don’t like the sound of this!”
Neshinbara interrupted from the rear group just as they passed through the gate to the residential district where there were actually people on the streets. They would be traveling on the roofs from here, so Mitotsudaira searched for some footing up above.
That was when she saw something.
A beam of light shot in from behind. That was Ex. Collbrande. It flew to her from Mary back in the middle group. She snatched its hilt from the air.
“Sensei’s reinforcements have arrived, haven’t they!?”
Excalibur had reacted to a threat.
It came in the form of two pieces of destruction.
From the front came several bursts of air that tore into the roofs near Futayo before disappearing.
And from behind…
The crust block sprang up from below and someone emerged from below, wearing a yellow track suit.
Suzu sensed the enemy force from Persona-kun’s shoulder in the middle group.
…I don’t believe it.
No, she had to accept that this was really happening. But it still seemed ridiculous. Her response was closer to exasperation than surprise or anger. After all, the ground behind them had launched skyward and someone had jumped from below.
“Oh? I was trying to hit your middle group from behind, but they were faster than I thought.”
Hexagone Française’s Vice Chancellor was lifting a crust block with her right hand while inexplicably wearing a track suit. And to the front…
“Ko ko. Kids these days have so much energy!”
It was a fox.
A nine-tailed fox in a track suit stood on a roof.
This is bad, thought Neshinbara. Very bad. How is it bad? By being really, really bad. Because…
“Sensei! Are you trying to fail us!?”
“Hm, I just want you to put some real effort into it.”
“That doesn’t answer my question!”
Still, this was a very dangerous situation.
They were well aware how absurd the Reine des Garous’s physical abilities were. The rear group was primarily the indoorsy types, so they would do little to stop that woman from catching up.
“Fine. I’ll do it.”
Noriki had stuck with the rear group as their guard, so he bumped his fists together and then turned around while still running.
“Can you really do this, Noriki-kun!?”
“I don’t have much of choice.”
Everyone watched as he took a fighting stance.
Just then, a sign frame appeared next to him.
His classmates and the Reine des Garous watched curiously as he nodded toward it and then smiled back at them all.
“Ha ha ha. Ujinao’s mad that I was thinking of hitting a woman. Guess I can’t do it after all.”
“Then how are you supposed to attack Sensei!?”
“I’ll just ask her again if it comes to it.”
He answered with a smile, so Neshinbara silently removed Noriki from the list of fighters. Then Suzu gasped and looked back.
“Sh-she’s…coming! The mother…the mother is c-coming!”
Horizey: “That is not inaccurate, but try to calm down.”
Silver Wolf: “What even is my mother at this point?”
Still, it was true the Reine des Garous was running toward them.
Her rooftop movements looked carefree, but she was moving quite quickly. This is bad, thought Neshinbara again.
“Ohiroshiki-kun! You be our shield! Now go! Buy us what little time you can!”
“I was afraid you’d say that!”
At any rate, Neshinbara knew what their teacher was doing here. The rear group would always take a command or support role, but this was a way of getting them to fight as well. But…
“You could have eased us into it a little more than this!”
He decided to try asking.
Novice: “Mitotsudaira-kun! What is your mom doing!?”
Silver Wolf: “D-don’t ask me!”
…Th-this was my question!
Just then, someone grabbed the back of his neck.
He was lifted up and dangled down, so he looked up and saw the Reine des Garous’s face.
“Oh, uh, h-hi.”
She held him with her left hand and held something else up with her right hand, all while continuing to run.
The thing in her right hand was a wolf made of ether. It was panting and wagging its tail in excitement.
“This is one of my forest’s wolves. When one catches you, they’ll suck you dry.”
“Of our life force, you mean!?”
Four Eyes: “Can’t even give an amusing reaction to that, can you?”
Shut up, he thought.
“Now, play nice, you two.”
The Reine des Garous pressed her arms together, bringing the large wolf toward Neshinbara, and then she tossed them both to the ground.
Mitotsudaira heard a scream that started off powerful but gradually faded away.
Neshinbara was being loved on by a wolf behind her mother.
Art-Ga: “I took a peek while fighting, but it’s clearly just playing with him, isn’t it?”
Gold Mar: “Judge. I took a peek while fighting too and it’s definitely just playing with him.”
Four Eyes: “Excuse me, but could I get a photo of that? A video would be even better.”
The sign frames that opened told Mitotsudaira more or less what was happening, but then she heard Horizon’s voice.
“I shouted his name to warn him of the danger, but I never imagined he would mistake it for part of our running gag.”
“Eh, he would have been taken out sooner or later anyway. He’s obsessed with famous people.”
Then they received some last words from the obsessive.
Novice: “E-everyone…d-don’t worry about me.”
Almost Everyone: “We weren’t.”
Worshiper: “The thought never crossed my mind.”
10ZO: “Worrying would be dangerous given the situation.”
Art-Ga: “You didn’t even manage to buy us any time.”
Novice: “Wait! Did you really think I failed to accomplish anything before I was taken out!?”
Everyone exchanged a glance while running and ultimately turned toward the 1st Special Duty Officer. The ninja made a “why me” gesture and Mary tilted her head.
“Judge. I will find something useful Neshinbara-dono did!”
Mitotsudaira thought she heard a sarcastic “good luck” in Naruze’s voice from the sky, but maybe she had imagined that.
10ZO: “D-do not worry, Neshinbara-dono. I-I know what you set up here?”
His statement became a question since he did not in fact know, but the Secretary seemed to believe him. He managed to give a thumbs up from behind the happy wolf.
Novice: “Good…so it wasn’t for nothing.”
Silver Wolf: “What are you saying you did?”
Silence fell over the divine transmission.
Four Eyes: “Did you only say that to feel better about yourself? Surely you aren’t going to say you were buying them time. That excuse was already rejected.”
Novice: “No, um, well.”
“Mother!? The Secretary hasn’t been defeated yet!”
“Okay, fine,” said her mother while creating three more wolves from the ground. They finally silenced the Secretary, but…
Horizey: “Well done, Mitotsudaira-sama! You prevented his sacrifice from being in vain and revealed the process by which she creates the wolves!”
But that’s all it accomplished, she thought before noticing her mother lightly skipping along and blowing her a kiss.
“With that, I have taken out your chain of command!”
Everyone thought about what that meant. And after around 5 seconds, they all reacted just like Neshinbara had earlier.
Uqui: “He was our entire chain of command!? Really!?”
Laborer: “A frightening thought.”
Musashino: “Thank you very much for visiting my ship today, Reine des Garous-sama. However, your assertion just now is extremely concerning, so please refrain from repeating it in the future. Over.”
Vice President: “In his defense, other nations’ Secretaries often are the ones who put together their strategies.”
Silver Wolf: “That is a defense of what my mother said, not of the Secretary.”
Horizey: “Anyway, this is a dangerous situation, but what is our next move?”
The Reine des Garous saw Musashi’s princess turn back her way while carried by a silver chain.
That was her daughter’s king’s wife. That made her the head of her daughter’s household. As a Loup Garou, her daughter would find a female pack leader more comfortable. The Reine des Garous wondered if she would have made Anne a part of her “pack” had she been healthy.
But after the princess raised a hand in greeting, she raised her voice.
That was Musashi’s Treasurer. Thanks to the records and seeing him at the Siege of Odawara the other day, she knew he fought using money. She had heard he had received the ultimate udon punishment, but he must have been pardoned.
He was not a threat to the Reine des Garous, but she still had to be cautious. He had used money sniping at Odawara and if he were to use that here-
Sensing a shadow overhead, she looked up.
She saw the bow of a transport ship.
It was dropping toward her from directly above.
“Yesssss! I’m so glad we called it in from its original route!”
Heidi and Shirojiro stood on the rear deck of the vertically-oriented transport ship.
They had used one of the supply ships from the Udon Kingdom. It was one of the one-way ships that was to be abandoned after making its delivery, so they had planned to use it as a mobile warehouse in Edo or thereabouts. However…
“Any ship capable of flying near the Musashi needs solid armor and anti-ether spells!”
“Judge.” Shirojiro crossed his arms. “Honda Masazumi! Here is a free service to thank you for releasing us!”
With that, the ship shook. They knew exactly what the vertical shaking meant.
A direct hit.
Heidi snapped her fingers at the transport ship bull’s eye.
“We did it, Shiro-kun! Perfect aim! We’re bound to get some reward money for this!”
But then she noticed something.
This wasn’t right. Because…
…Why did our descent stop?
After a direct hit, the ship should have at least broken through the surface. Yet they had not lowered a centimeter since hitting. Then what was going on?
The ship swayed backwards. Or so it felt.
That was inaccurate.
It was moving forward. The transport ship was running forward while still oriented vertically. And with a skipping tempo.
Heidi could guess what had happened.
“Sorry, everyone!” She laughed from the transport ship’s rear deck. “The Reine des Garous is running toward you while holding the ship!!”
Narumi watched it all from a few breaths behind the others.
She was about two blocks to the right and a bit behind them.
From that distance, she could see more clearly what was happening.
“She really is carrying the transport ship while she runs…”
Narumi was the type to just accept things, but even she trailed off in disbelief this time.
The Reine des Garous was running along the street in one of Musashi’s residential districts and she was holding a 300m transport ship overhead. And yet…
…Why isn’t she breaking through the floor?
Martial arts were the only possibility.
Did it take being an embodiment of strength to pull this off, or was it a simple matter of her species’ superior muscles and bones? Narumi did not know, but…
“I don’t like this.”
A fellow Vice Chancellor was doing this. Of course, there were plenty of things Narumi could do that this opponent could not, but the gap between them still felt massive.
“You need Unturning Centipede,” he said from the other side of the Reine des Garous. “Never hold back against this class’s opponents, even in your imagination.”
She felt a strange urge rising from the bottom of her chest, but she used his words to suppress it. That was why she appreciated him. Back in Date, she would have faced this battle like it was nothing, but now she could face these battles with the importance they deserved. She felt like she had changed a lot, but…
“It isn’t a question of when, because I have to do it right here and now.”
She might never fight this woman again, but if she did poorly during their one and only battle, she would only be creating a bad memory for herself. So…
“Watch this, Reine des Garous. Watch and see how we respond to your absurd strength.”
“Everyone is already responding,” he said. “Those that predicted it are already on the move.”
“Only she can launch a proper counterattack here.”
Suzu sensed a powerful attack.
300m transport ships were a familiar thing on the Musashi. They would fly between the Musashi’s ships even during combat and they could be used for transporting personnel, defense, or offense if need be. There were specialized warships and aerial ships that functioned as castles, but Suzu thought the transport ships were the real hardworking MVPs. However…
“H-here it comes!”
A transport ship was oriented vertically and skipping this way. No, the Reine des Garous was supporting it from below and running this way, but something of that size had never felt so real to Suzu. She felt bad for ramming or luring their previous enemies with or toward these things. She decided to go for something less frightening next time.
But the skipping was picking up speed. And…
“Okay, I hope you’re ready now!”
Joy was the only emotion Suzu sensed in that carefree voice. Oh, Mitotsudaira-san’s mom…isn’t a bad person.
…O-or wait? Does this make her…even worse?
But just as the transport ship’s movements sped up, Suzu raised her voice.
Narumi could not detect any haste in the Asama Shrine Representative’s movements.
There was no hesitation or delay in them either and it all flowed together as naturally as breathing.
Narumi finally understood why that girl was with the middle group.
The Asama Shrine managed visitors from the outside, so she would have known that the Reine des Garous and Mogami Chancellor were visiting.
So just in case, she had chosen the middle group this time. From there, she could snipe the enemy whether they came from the front or the back.
…That’s why the Mito Lord questioned it earlier.
She stood on Persona-kun’s shoulder while attacking with her Umetsubaki divine weapon, so she could not use her direction fixation spell. However…
“With the ground below and the transport ship above, the target has no way of avoiding this.”
She aimed for the Reine des Garous.
The shot flew perfectly straight.
Heidi could feel the result of Asama’s shot. First…
She floated up. She definitely felt herself rise up to knee height. And then…
She fell back down. The fall was exactly what she had expected to happen during the initial crash.
The bow of the transport ship had broken through the surface. So…
…Did she take out the Reine des Garous!?
“You deserve a reward for that, Asama-chi!”
She shouted with her hands down on the deck, but there was no response. She realized why after looking down.
Persona-kun with Asama on his shoulder and the others were all running. At full speed.
They were clearly running away from here, but based on how far the transport ship had sunk, Heidi could only assume the Reine des Garous had been squashed. However…
A light shined behind her.
She looked back but could not see past the stern armor. Still, she knew what that light had to be.
It was ether light. And from a powerful spell. Since it was directly behind her and Shirojiro…
Circle Be: “Is that light below us from Asama-chi’s arrow!?”
Asama: “Oh, did it self-destruct like I wanted!?”
It had not hit. It had done well for a non-homing shot, but if it had not hit, then what had happened?
…We floated up a bit at first.
That must have been the Reine des Garous tossing the transport ship up.
However, that was not enough to dodge Asama’s arrow. And now the ship had broken through the floor. Heidi could only think of one possibility.
…Did she abandon the ship and dodge to one side or the other?
No, that did not explain one thing.
Why were her classmates fleeing directly away, like they wanted to put as much distance between them and the ship as possible?
A thought occurred to her and then something happened.
She heard a straining and another odd sound. And…
The transport ship was moving. Forward. While breaking through the surface city’s floor.
The Reine des Garou was holding it from below the deck and dragging it forward.
…She broke through the floor herself when she tossed the ship!?
She was at some risk up top since she could not use her hands or dodge, so she had gotten creative. She had gone down a level. So now she was running underground while carrying the transport ship that stuck up through the deck.
She knew the path ahead was perfectly straight, so she didn’t need to see.
The transport ship tore through the surface like a giant shark fin.
“The bill for all this destruction had better not go to us!”
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