Horizon:Volume 8A Chapter 22
Chapter 22: Noisy Girls Above and Below
What are you doiiiiing!?
Take this, and this
Point Allocation (These Things Happen)
Asama heard screams coming from all over the Musashi.
Legally, this qualified as property damage.
The vertical-oriented transport ship had been run across the Musashi until it slammed into the bridge-shaped bridge.
It hit. It tried to break through. No…
…It’s slicing through!?
The ship dug into the bridge like a blade.
Everyone shouted and looked up to see fragments glowing and scattering in the sky.
It had to have been moving at around 60km/h and it was plenty big.
Shortly after hitting, it took half a step back and produced another loud crash.
It sounded like all sorts of metal crashing together to create a great roar.
The Musashi groaned and shook.
This was as close to an earthquake as a ship could have.
Meanwhile, Asama confirmed that several defense barriers had appeared overhead. “Musashino” and the others had to be collecting the fragments.
Asama: “Um, Mitoooo!!”
Silver Wolf: “Motherrrrr!”
Still Got It: “My, my. I wasn’t looking where I was going.”
Almost Everyone: “Take this seriously!!”
Still Got It: “But it seems to be caught on something up top, so… take this, and this.”
She slammed the transport ship against the bridge like she was beating a futon, causing a great rumbling and shaking.
Musashino: “Um, I hate to interrupt, but this is the greatest threat to my ship since its construction. Over.”
Asama: “Listen, Mito’s mom! You can’t just push! Try pulling a little. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and think things through!”
Art-Ga: “Says the girl who did exactly that so much that she never ended up doing anything.”
Asama: “I-it worked out all right in the end! Anyway, you need to stop pushing, Mito’s mom!”
“Very well,” said the Reine des Garous. “I will try your plan.”
Asama and the others saw the results while they ran toward the windbreak.
The 300m transport ship pulled back.
It tilted backwards like a lever being thrown.
“Yes! It’s moving away! Mito’s mom can be reasoned with!”
Asama clenched both fists in celebration.
Still Got It: “You were saying I need to pull it back to build up speed, right?”
The ship swung rapidly forward to crash into the Musashi’s bridge-shaped bridge. Defense barriers opened, but most of them were too slow as the transport ship made its physical collision.
Asama raised her right hand amid the shaking and rumbling.
Asama: “I-in my defense, no one could have predicted this!”
Musashi: “Who was it that suggested we give the ship an endurance test over summer break? Over.”
Musashino: “In my defense, no one could have predicted any of this. Over.”
Musashi: “A captain is responsible for her passengers’ behavior, ‘Musashino’. You know that, don’t you? To be clear, that does not apply to my position of overall captain. Oh, Sakai-sama, do you need more tea? Over.”
Okutama: “ ‘Musashi’-sama, you can’t just ignore what is happening here! And “Musashino’! Deal with this before the damage spreads to me! Over.”
Musashino: “Excuse me, everyone? Could you perhaps move on to Okutama now? Over.”
Still Got it: “Take this, and this.”
Several defense barriers appeared in the air and one of the Technohexen contacted them.
Gold Mar: “Kind of impressive that the greatest threat to the Musashi is one of our final exams and not like the Armada battle or the Battle of Mikatagahara.”
“Mochizuki, things look pretty bad on the Musashi right now. Any idea what’s going on?”
“Testament, Unno-sama. According to the message they sent out earlier, this is a final exam.”
“How in the hell!? Torahide, do you understand this!?”
“Why would I!?”
The Reine des Garous tilted her head at the stubborn obstacle up top.
“Hmm, this is going to be a challenge.”
She raised her weapon, tilted her body to the side, and then made a vertical tornado strike.
The next hit to the surface was very different from the previous ones.
The transport ship was pulled back as far as the hole allowed and then slammed forward with full strength. It had enough force behind it to harness the transport ship’s full length.
“The end!” shouted Suzu.
Sure enough, water vapor exploded off the stern of the transport ship.
That bursting sound was followed by the roar of the air being parted as the transport ship flew toward the bridge.
Everyone continued running as they watched saw the transport ship suddenly rupture just before impact.
“What was that?”
Another ship floated in the sky above.
It was a personnel transport ship from Kantou. Everyone recognized the attack that had ruptured the attacking ship.
Gin flipped around in midair.
This type of high-altitude dive was taught in Tres España. It was used when moving between ships in the armada or to save yourself if you fell, but…
…We also needed these skills in the New World!
Muneshige had learned it as well, so the two of them were now dropping toward the Musashi.
Tachibana Wife: “Asama Shrine Representative! Please handle the procedure for our return to the ship!”
Asama: “Don’t worry! You already have a free pass in and out!”
<It’s cool, it’s cool. By, god.>
The Asama Shrine’s Sakuya had apparently gone to Kantou to hit her father before, but she must have been back to the Musashi now. That meant…
…Our divine protections are active.
Just then, her vision went dark.
She had dived in through the stern of the transport ship she had blasted through.
She twisted around from her diving descent to bring her feet down below her.
She had built up a lot of speed, but Musashi’s divine protections allowed her to activate a descent spell. However…
“We must finish this in an instant. Taking too long would put the Musashi in danger.”
“Judge. Then let’s do it, Gin.”
“Judge,” she replied as she kicked to the side. Her foot clanked against the transport ship’s frame to adjust her descent. She sent herself down the center of the hollowed-out ship.
“Return to me, Cuatro Cruz.”
It returned to her from the emptiness directly ahead of her fall.
A vermilion cross ascended with the metallic noise of its transformation. She needed to retrieve that, descend to the bow, break through the bow, and attack with its siege mode.
…That should destroy the ship down two or three levels.
She concluded the wide-range destruction of her weapon’s siege mode could defeat the Reine des Garous.
Gin had learned during the Kantou Liberation that not even a member of the Ten Spears or their aide could touch the Reine des Garous.
That was of course partially because she had unleashed herself as a spirit, but even her base abilities were abnormally high.
And in a short-term battle like this, failure was not an option.
Gin could not afford to miss.
That meant a wide-range attack.
Not even the Reine des Garous had been able to withstand an aerial warship cannon blast during the Kantou Liberation. So…
…A surprise wide-range attack should be more effective if I’m attacking at close range!
The Reine des Garous was underground right now.
Underground on the Musashi was a closed space divided into wide blocks and long blocks, so it could be difficult to navigate. She might head outside through the hole in the surface, but Gin accepted that as a calculated risk.
If the enemy moved too far away, Gin could handle it with Cuatro Cruz’s anti-ship attack.
That shockwave destruction was most effective in a closed place like the underground level.
So Gin readied Cuatro Cruz by syncing its movements with her right hand.
Just before she fired, she heard a voice in her ear.
“Oh, dear. The transport ship will collapse if you destroy its base.”
Muneshige did not hesitate.
The Reine des Garous was on Gin’s other side and behind Cuatro Cruz.
He did not question how she had gotten there.
Taking time to think about that would get him killed. Who had he been training with to learn that lesson?
So he acted on reflex instead of thought. He aimed his Kamenuki quasi-divine weapon toward the Reine des Garous and attacked.
Gin was along the path its blade would take, but that did not concern him. Her neck was aligned with the Reine des Garous’s neck, but Gin was turned to the side and the Reine des Garous was looking head on. An attack from the front was harder to dodge.
Crouching down to lower your head would be the normal response, but not for Gin. She gently pulled back her chin to evade with the smallest possible movement and to block the Reine des Garous’s view.
That was all she did.
The blade jabbed right in front of her neck on its way to the Reine des Garous’s neck.
Muneshige knew what would happen next.
The tip of the blade provided him the tactile feedback of hitting something hard.
…The Silver Cross!
A small silver box popped up from her cleavage.
The process was the same as at the Kantou Liberation. So…
…I won’t let you do the rest!
A metallic sound rang out as it fell.
Kamenuki was accelerating and the tip of its blade pushed hard against the Silver Cross. The silver box touched her as she pulled back, effectively jabbing her.
She was pushed away from Cuatro Cruz.
He let Gin’s two actions take care of the rest.
First, she placed her right hand on Cuatro Cruz.
She placed her chin on Kamenuki’s blade. Then she lowered her chin as if nodding, pressing Kamenuki’s freed blade against Cuatro Cruz.
The acceleration of the blade stood Cuatro Cruz up.
She then spoke even with the blade at her throat.
It was now directed upwards.
“Tear into her.”
Gin and Muneshige shot downwards.
That put distance between themselves and the Reine des Garous.
The echo of the skyward shot was soon left behind above them.
Firing Cuatro Cruz straight up had increased her falling speed.
Muneshige was with her. By passing Kamenuki’s acceleration to Cuatro Cruz, he stuck with it.
Their relative positions remained unchanged. The blade touched her neck and occasionally dug into her skin, but she did not mind. They interacted in that way all the time, so if she did lose her head, it would mean she had lost her edge and deserved to die.
So it was a lot easier to keep going like this.
She loved a lifestyle that made her feel so alive. But at the moment, they were taking their final exam retest.
She ejected two cross cannons. They were aimed upwards.
The enemy was pursuing them.
The Reine des Garous had kicked off the destroyed frame.
…Did not expect her to keep up with Cuatro Cruz’s flight speed.
How fast would that feel in a surface battle? Gin belatedly decided she needed to ask the 5th Special Duty Officer how much skill it had taken to fight this woman…and how exhausting it must have been.
But right now it was her turn. So…
“Tear into her.”
Gin repeatedly fired the Arcabuz Cruzes without slowing her fall speed.
Suzu heard a noise as she arrived at the windbreak on Persona-kun’s shoulder.
A cannon was firing.
The transport ship remained upright by leaning against Musashino’s bridge-shaped bridge. Its stern had split wide open, so from Suzu’s perspective, it functioned like a giant megaphone. All of the noise reverberated up its length before leaving the stern as a great roar.
Based on the sounds it was picking up, Gin was firing on the Reine des Garous.
That was a 300m fall.
Gin had likely deactivated her descent spell. That would be why she had asked Asama about the return procedure. Deactivating her own divine protections required her contract with the shrine to be reactivated.
Those two had been prepared to go this far when they began this battle. But…
…How will…it end?
Suzu did not know. Because of another sound she had started to hear.
She could guess what the metallic noise was.
“Mitotsudaira-san’s mom…is defending against the shells…with her cross.”
Gin knew the standard form for a descent was legs first.
It was harder to attack with your feet in the way, but it was easier to ready a projectile weapon because you could lay it along the length of your body. More than that, your boots’ sole armor and your feet themselves would shield you against the enemy attacks.
However, your speed would drop because you would receive increased air resistance. That was why it was standard practice to descend feet first to slow down enough to land safely when boarding an enemy ship.
But at the moment, neither she nor her enemy were following that standard practice.
The Reine des Garous had her Silver Cross raised like an umbrella, but she was falling headfirst.
She was also kicking off the transport ships interior frame to constantly accelerate.
She was more running down the ship than falling.
Meanwhile, Gin would have been overtaken with a feet-first descent. Instead, she made a headfirst descent and kicked off the frames to run down while firing aft toward the Reine des Garous.
…I can’t believe this.
She knew this was insane.
But it was no more than a more extreme version of what she normally did and her enemy’s movements were no different.
She could handle this. She just wanted their movements to be as accurate as possible.
It reminded her of Novgorod when the two of them had fought Oichi with no advance information on the woman. Back then, she had calmly responded to the challenge of someone who could instantly heal any wound.
She had to keep cool.
It would all unravel if she allowed any heat in. That was an ugly side of her she would only show to Muneshige. So…
…200 to go.
They were approaching the midpoint. From here on, it would come down to a series of instants, so she sent an instruction to the Cuatro Cruz floating alongside her left hand.
“Tear into her, Cuatro Cruz!”
The Reine des Garous did not hear the roar, but she did see the air splitting in the darkness.
Tres Españan Tachibana Gin’s cross was a size larger – or wider – than her Silver Cross.
Since it could fire at long and short range, it was also more versatile than her Silver Cross. And…
“She can slam it into you too!?”
She knew what was coming.
…The path ahead is a lot narrower.
That large cross had hollowed out the transport ship. The ship lacked a combat frame and the center of the ship was used for cargo space, so the cross had easily blasted open a pathway through the ship.
Earlier, the cross had fired a shockwave blast at the bow and then returned to Gin as she charged in from the stern.
The Reine des Garous had caught up and moved them up again, but she had made sure to check on the structure of the hollowed-out ship in the process.
Her memories told her the bow had been widely blasted open by the shockwave.
But the cross had lost its penetrative force just before that, so it had been less effective at destroying the frame. That had narrowed the path through the ship.
…If she fights back there, she’ll have an easier time of finishing me off since my movements will be too restricted.
Once the pathway narrowed, she could no longer move to the sides to dodge attacks.
That meant Gin’s attacks would fix her in place.
And what would happen then?
What would arrive then?
The vermilion cross flew in as a giant striking weapon.
She had very little room to dodge, so it seemed guaranteed to hit. However…
She altered her orientation just before it did.
She had been falling headfirst before, but now she flipped around. By kicking away a destroyed and torn piece of the ship’s internal frame, she caught her foot on the thorny cylinder created by the damaged frame and stood horizontally from it.
“Here I go!”
She took off running with a burst of speed.
The narrower pathway meant a higher concentration of possible footing, so she used all of that to run on.
She used her Silver Cross as a shield as she swung her full body to run straight down.
Gravity was irrelevant.
She let her speed determine her path and accelerated directly toward the approaching vermilion cross.
When she had footing, the flying cross was no more than an obstacle.
The narrow path limited the possible trajectories for such a large flying object. It also limited her own.
A head-on collision was the only option, so…
“I just have to power through it.”
Tachibana Gin fired from beyond the cross. She was probably trying to limit the Reine des Garous’s movable space so the cross would hit.
She approved of how the girl continued to fight right up to the last second.
The Reine des Garous herself crouched low and used the vermilion cross itself to shield herself from the silver blast.
The shell’s sparks decorated the other side of the vermilion cross.
The vermilion cross even seemed to accelerate slightly.
“I saw that!”
Just as the cross flew toward her, the Reine des Garous thrust out her left hand to touch its tip.
Their relative speeds made it hard to say she had “grabbed” it, but she definitely heard the high-pitched sound of straining metal from where she touched.
She had stabbed her claw into it.
A second later, the vermilion cross floated up in a distorted way and the wolf ran below it.
…“Still Got It” is right!
The Reine des Garous used her stunt-like footing to touch and deflect the flying cross just enough for her to slip past it. How could she call herself a Loup-Garou, much less their queen, if she could not do that?
She recalled long ago when she had crushed the people attempting to hunt her down. A lot of knights and other people hoping to make a name for themselves had wielded fancy attacks like this, thinking they could fully eliminate a Loup-Garou.
She was only here to fight now because she had crushed every last one of them. Looking back, using their fear to make them her servants before eating them seemed inelegant, but at the time, she had been proud of it as a wolf.
…I really have changed.
But right now, she was still moving.
She used both power and speed to push in toward her enemy instead of just catching up.
She had the battles she had fought since IZUMO and the fun she had had with her daughter and her friends to thank for this. She was moving much better than during her debut at IZUMO.
She could really move.
The vermilion metal grazed and tore at her track suit’s left shoulder.
That was fine. She had let it graze her because she knew it would do no real damage.
She bit at the torn cloth with the side of her mouth and fully tore the sleeve away as the cross passed her by. The tearing sound combined with the windy roar as they passed each other by.
A moment later, she realized the true battle would begin here.
So she took another action.
She activated her Silver Cross with her bared left arm and aimed its cannon behind her.
She did not need to look back.
…Because I already know.
The vermilion cross had been in anti-ship impact mode when it passed her by.
She had learned that when she touched it earlier. That was why she had touched it.
She had wanted to know if the cross had begun transforming.
She had touched it with her fingertip and claw. A wolf’s claws had nerves in them. She had used her claw as a sensor to search the interior of the object. Its vibrations had told her what it was doing.
It had begun transforming before it even reached her.
The anti-ship impact cannon had been opening.
Why had her opponent been so eager to get that done?
…That’s obvious enough.
To attack while still in range as she passed it by.
So she fought back by activating the Silver Cross in her left hand.
“Show her what you look like, Silver Cross.”
She launched a short-range cannon against the vermilion cross’s impact cannon.
Futayo was loved on by Mogami Yoshiaki, something she had never before experienced. She had initially thought that was how Yoshiaki declared herself the winner, but…
“Ko ko. I am glad to see you are doing well. Do you know what it is you did wrong?”
Futayo got the sense that she did not need to answer that question.
…This is her way of showing she likes me.
It has been a long time since anyone hugged me like this. In fact, this is a new experience for me. My father was never the huggy type, nor was Kazuno. And the only person who has hugged me lately is…
…Gin-dono during the Celestial Dragon fight, I guess.
You can always count on Gin-dono to be manly. And speaking of Gin…
Futayo heard a familiar sound. Or she thought she did.
I half-thought I heard this a few times before, she thought, but this one confirmed it.
That was definitely Gin’s Cuatro Cruz firing.
She remembered the sound very well after having it fired at her several times and shoving her face between them to dodge. However…
The sound came from within the transport ship that had been banging against Musashino’s bridge.
Just fore of center, the ship violently ruptured.
Ether light scattered and burst as the sounds from within grew clearer. They were no longer as muffled as before.
Futayo did her best to speak with her face buried in Yoshiaki’s chest and her head rubbed by Yoshiaki’s chin.
“Gin-dono seems to be doing well.”
After the ether light explosion hit her in the back, the Reine des Garous accelerated downward.
The force of the impact was very clearly pushing at her back.
She could tell the vermilion cross had been launched upwards in the same way.
That meant she only had to pursue the prey below her.
She made a vertical dash.
She kicked off the bottom of all the frames to leap and dance through the forest of destroyed metal.
Wolves, trees, night birds, and bugs.
“I am your queen.”
“I determine the path of my innocent forest.”
She could see her prey. The Tachibana girl was falling and kicking off the frame to make back steps. She was obviously the type who could conquer her fears. So…
“What if I use my strength?”
The Reine des Garous accelerated further.
The girl fired, but the shells did not belong in the forest’s night. The Reine des Garous could sense their location just like anyone was keenly aware of anything that did not belong in their body.
So she dodged them.
…She does have good aim.
Gin likely had a number of possibilities in mind. Such as…
“She dives into the larger hollow up ahead and aims for the moment I follow after her.”
The Reine des Garous would lose her footholds when she dived into that larger hollow.
Gin could shoot her all she wanted then. But the same was true in reverse. So…
“There is a simple solution to that. I dive into the hollow even faster than she does.”
Then she could catch up in midair. Even if she was fired on, she could use the Silver Cross to deal with it. So…
“I know what happens next.” The Reine des Garous readied her Silver Cross, but she held it behind her. “Any husband would pray for his wife’s safety and success.”
A metallic clang came from the Silver Cross when she swung it behind her. Someone had caught up to her while the sparks flew. His footsteps rang loud as he ran alongside her.
Muneshige used his Racing Toes acceleration spell to its fullest.
“I finally caught up!”
He had used Kamenuki to follow after the previous Cuatro Cruz.
She might have noticed him, so Gin had started the transformation early so the Reine des Garous had to respond to that.
She appeared to have noticed the transformation, but…
…She overlooked me following after it!
He was lucky they had passed by at such high speed. Not even her Loup-Garou nose could detect him that quickly. From there, he had needed to make it past the blast from the two crosses and catch up to her. But…
He had pulled it off.
He had correctly chosen to race alongside the blast rather than try to break through it.
Partway through, it had pushed on his back, increasing Racing Toes’s acceleration.
From there, he had to keep the spell going with each step he took. Now that he had caught up, he only had to throw on a burst of speed, but…
…How is she so fast without any kind of acceleration spell!?
He recalled that the 3rd Special Duty Officer was the same. She too accelerated herself with bursts of speed and he was pretty sure she only used a strength boosting divine protection to pull it off.
And this was her mother.
He showed no concern, hesitation, or fear as he made his attack.
He allowed himself to wish that it would hit. Because…
…Gin is below!
If this opponent was allowed to continue, Gin would be caught in the hollow below. He needed to delay their opponent until Gin could land and prepare to fire upwards. That required buying a mere second and a half of time.
Kamenuki made several accelerated jabs, but…
“My, my, my.”
Sparks flew and the blade was deflected by the Silver Cross.
These were not light impacts. Each one pushed in toward him and pushed down like they were trying to bring him to his knees.
It was a lot like a wolf pinning down its prey and snapping its jaws down on them. He could feel a great weight bearing down on him.
He shifted his position and struck at an opening, but he was always deflected by the Silver Cross coming in from a seemingly impossible angle such as below the arm or above the elbow.
She was a beast.
She did not follow set kata like Gin. She reacted from moment to moment on reflex and instinct.
Muneshige sensed great danger in this. He realized she would be a particular threat for Gin. Because…
…She’s all about adlibbing and adaptability!
…Just like me!
The Reine des Garous could tell her speed was rising.
She appreciated this opponent. He could keep up no matter how much of her animal side she let out. And he would keep up while maintaining his human sensibilities.
Her daughter had done the same thing in their battle. That girl had combined her human skills with her animal ones to use the kata while also adapting to the situation.
This opponent was similar. He would use human skills in an animal way to adapt to her attacks.
Fighting him was fun. So…
She gave him a small gift.
She let him have 0.2 seconds.
That would not be enough to prevent her from catching up to Tachibana Gin, but it did allow her to do something.
She closed in on him and jabbed the Silver Cross down to free her hands.
Then she used the 0.2 seconds to ready both hands’ claws.
She laughed as she sent her strength at him in a flurry of attacks.
|Back to Chapter 21||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 23|