Horizon:Volume 8A Chapter 24
Chapter 24: Liberator on the Way
Now, how much is it?
Yes, it’s this much
Now, how to do it?
Yes, I do it like this
Point Allocation (Catching Up)
The Reine des Garous suddenly looked up while lifting the transport ship.
She had heard something that made her feel nostalgic, but not because it reminded her of her past. It had inspired a more primal sort of nostalgia inside her.
“What a wonderful sound.”
She heard the clashing of metal far to the west.
The attacks had a familiar tempo to them. That girl was short, slender, and took after her father in the chest area, but she could still make such familiar sounds.
“But.” The Reine des Garous tilted her head with a finger on her lips. “She still has a lot of room to grow. In fact, she is entirely missing one thing.”
Mitotsudaira focused on attack.
She was catching up. She only had to send out two silver chains and use Ex. Collbrande as her primary weapon.
The wolf clashed with her teacher using a burst of acceleration. She used more than just the sword. She also struck with the silver chains, slashed with her claws, and sometimes even kicked with her feet.
She was a wolf. Every part of her could become a weapon when given proper speed.
And when she attacked…
She would use her entire body to accelerate the hand swinging her claws or Excalibur.
She liked not needing to hold back with her high-speed attacks. In that sense, it reminded her of her battle against Shibata at Novgorod.
The way she accelerated her feet was most comparable to her battle against Shima Sakon at Nördlingen. She felt it had been really clever of her to use the sword as footing to launch an attack from midair.
She could use all of that here.
After all, her king had given her a command.
The wolf leaped and attacked from every conceivable direction. As for Oriotri…
She sounded somewhat surprised as she dealt with every one of Mitotsudaira’s attacks.
Sparks flew from her sheathed sword, but…
…I can’t seem to hit her!
The battlefield was starting down Remorse Way.
Mitotsudaira kept up the attack on Oriotri.
A hit would mean a win. A win for everyone, a win for her, and a win for her king.
But Oriotri was focused on defense and her defenses were solid. Also…
…She’s slowed down, but not by much.
Mitotsudaira could tell the middle group was moving at about the same speed. So…
“Your tactics were crude, but we still fell for them.”
“Oh? I’m not sure what you mean,” said their teacher.
Mitotsudaira had studied command, so she understood.
“The standard escape tactics are to separate your opponents by movement and speed and then defeat them individually. But our focus is on the overall results, not our personal results, and we have a hard time intervening in each other’s battles, so it actually hurts our chances if we try to fight as a group.”
Of course, that had been true of all their previous mock battles, but Mitotsudaira thought it was obvious what Oriotri was trying to do this time. Because…
“You took out the quickest of us first. As soon as the battle began, you dealt with Adele and Hassan. Then you kept Naito and Naruze from interfering and defeated the Date Vice Chancellor and 2nd Special Duty Officer since they could all fly. And before any exhaustion set in, you called in reinforcements to get rid of Futayo, Gin, and Muneshige who could catch up to you.”
And by pulling out far enough ahead…
“Even if Tomo tried to shoot you, she would be unable to get a clear line of fire. You haven’t had the middle group do all that much, which is unusual.”
“And what does that tell you?” asked Oriotri.
“Even if my king survives, our fighters protect the majority, and we defeat the enemy’s main force…we can still lose. Because real battles are not a race to a finish line.”
“Ha ha.” Oriotri laughed. “Before, it was only a game of tag where I picked you off one at a time, but you’ve finally brought it all together enough for an attacker to reach me despite the reinforcements.”
“Judge,” agreed Mitotsudaira.
Oriotri asked something from behind the sparks binding their swords.
“I have a question, Mitotsudaira. Do you know why you are here?”
“Because of others’ skilled assistance and because your calculations were not quite sufficient. I should really have been the only one capable of dealing with my mother.”
But the Tachibana Couple had taken on that role.
“I think we could have defeated or restrained my mother if I had worked with the Tachibana Couple, but someone was more interested in the overall battle, not the individual number of wins.”
She had come to realize this while answering her teacher’s questions here. She was still lacking some skill in ways so obvious even she could see it, but right now…
“I am here as the final blade of victory my king prepared.”
Naomasa reattached her right arm and began a quick walk.
The chatter on the sign frame told her the middle group was already here, but she could still finish with the rear group even if she only walked.
She had done her job, so rushing here would only amount to a margin of error. However…
“Are you kidding?”
She turned toward the academy – toward the nature district’s forest.
The terrain had been transformed.
Trees were flying into the air and crashing back down to aft. The ground rumbled like a dragon was walking by and Asama and “Okutama” were shouting about something or other on the sign frame, but Naomasa chose to believe she was imagining that part.
But the trees were definitely flying and the occasional flashes of silver had to be Excalibur. The wolf was going wild today.
When Naomasa saw it, she sighed, smiled bitterly, and got moving.
She began to jog and scratched her head.
“Honestly, just because your king can go this way again doesn’t mean he made it his knight’s territory, you know?”
Mitotsudaira wielded her power.
She had to win this. She was already doing everything she could, so it all came down to how far that would take her.
Remorse Way was a road through the trees that her king had long avoided. The thick forest was poorly maintained, as was the norm for the inner side of the nature districts.
…There’s less wind and sun than on the outer side.
People tended to view the difference between the port and starboard sides of the nature districts as a form of wabi-sabi, but the committee member in charge of upkeep had once been dragged around the nature district by a horse on charges of “using wabi-sabi as an excuse”. So…
“I’m just thinning out the forest a little.”
She looked to the trees lifted up by the silver chains. She had grabbed four just this one time and she had done this several times already.
“J-just a little!”
She had a bad feeling about this, but she could not afford to reduce the chains’ motivation by scolding them, so she kept her smile and threw the trees at Oriotri.
Masazumi rode on Futayo’s shoulder while the girl ran at a quick pace. She could see Mitotsudaira’s battle from the rope pathway between ships.
“Hey, wait. That’s the park where I always read books.”
“Is it? I had no idea there was a park there! Maybe the holes in the forest will make it easier to find.”
Masazumi sincerely hoped not. Because…
…If everyone starts going there, I’ll lose one of the precious few quiet spots on the Musashi.
I’d better prepare myself for that letdown now, she thought before looking to Okutama again. She could see the academy from here.
“C’mon, everyone. Win this for us.”
Mitotsudaira slammed the trees down like the front legs of a giant beast pursuing its prey.
She did not bother stripping the trees of their branches.
She would tear them up and slam them down as is.
Even Oriotri could not block attacks like that, but the trees were heavy for Mitotsudaira as well.
With all their branches and leaves, the air resistance was increased and that slowed their movements. However…
…I can still swing them!
They were useful as heavy weapons, but she mostly just wanted to apply pressure to Oriotri.
Making them feel hard to dodge would create an opening in their teacher. A smoothed log would only look like a simple striking weapon. And…
…All of my efforts will pay off down the road!
Mitotsudaira moved forward and her vision opened up.
She had emerged onto the central road leading to the academy. From here…
“The academy is right up the stairs!”
Oriotri began her last spurt. She had to climb the stairs, but that was barely an obstacle for her. Mitotsudaira swung her silver chains behind her just once more as she pursued.
Naito checked on the final stage of the mock battle out of the corner of her eye.
When Oriotri had emerged onto the road to the academy, she had thought they had lost, but…
Mitotsudaira was catching up.
Was this the first time they had managed to close the gap and catch up like this?
That was impressive enough on its own, but Mitotsudaira was aiming for more.
It was hard to tell form the sky, but she had gathered up some trees in her silver chains and swung them around once to build up speed.
She threw them, but she did not simply aim for Oriotri.
She threw them toward the top of the academy stairs, to block the way.
Mitotsudaira used a burst of speed.
She had thrown eight trees. Three of them fell down the stairs, but the other five blocked the way at the top.
Oriotri would have to clear them at the very end of her last spurt.
That was why Mitotsudaira had been laying the pressure on her this entire time.
To make it feel like an obstacle. From there, she only had to run toward the tree wall she had built on the stairs.
The wolf ran. She was already starting to run out of breath.
But she had cornered her prey.
Oriotri was their teacher and she had monstrous combat skills and mobility.
Their teacher was running full speed at this point.
Mitotsudaira had the greater top speed. Their teacher could not use these bursts of acceleration, but she did have a stable and unfaltering speed. That continued now. She was more leaping than running up the stairs.
“She’s going to jump right over the trees, isn’t she!?”
Mitotsudaira threw the silver chains out after Oriotri.
She was nearly at the top of the stairs. The schoolyard goal was close.
It all came down to this.
She would be defenseless in midair while jumping over the tree wall, but the silver chains could fly.
“Go, silver chains!”
Mitotsudaira sent them out in time with Oriotri’s jump.
But not at the teacher herself. She had them grab the trees below.
And she flung those up toward their teacher.
Oriotri made a split-second decision.
In the past, Mitotsudaira would have attacked by having a silver chain wield Excalibur.
But not now. Her form was far from perfect, but she had prioritized victory. No, victory had been her king’s command, so she would do whatever it took to achieve that.
But Oriotri made a move in midair.
The rising trees were given plenty of momentum.
If she continued her jump like this, they would crash into her from below. Even if she kicked off them to jump, all the branches would make it hard to claim they had not “hit” her.
…And a teacher can’t start making excuses against her students.
So Oriotri made her move. She reached for the hilt on her back.
“How about I give you a special treat?”
The Reine des Garous’s ears twitched as she threw out the transport ship.
Her ears were animal ears. She had partially transformed into a wolf. But this was her transformation as a Loup-Garou, not as a spirit. Why had this happened on a summer day?
“That was an awfully clear sword strike.”
She tilted her head and turned toward Okutama’s stern. She had heard an attack from her daughter’s opponent, but that opponent had not previously drawn her sword this entire time.
She must have drawn it for just an instant and immediately resheathed it, but…
“How sharp is that blade? It sliced through those trees like paper.”
Naomasa had seen their teacher’s attack.
She had honestly failed to perceive the sword strike. It had been too fast. But just as Oriotri had gone behind the rising trees, she had seen…
It had looked like a flash of light circled around from behind the trees. It had been an inconspicuous and calm light, leading Naomasa to believe it had been a weak attack. However…
“That is disturbing.”
All five trees had been sliced right down the middle. Oriotri then kicked off the slice and jumped diagonally toward the port schoolyard.
The two halves of the bisected trees crashed together, making a solid noise that seemed to push their teacher toward the goal. But…
“Mito!” shouted Naomasa. “Clear yourself a path to victory!”
After putting away her sword, Oriotri checked the air behind her.
Her opponent was there. And…
“I knew you’d aim for this moment!”
The silver wolf used the split trees as midair footing to catch up to her all at once.
The difference between a leap and a midair dash was made plain by the shrinking distance between them.
In the span of a breath, the wolf arrived within a few meters of Oriotri. By then, Oriotri had seen how the wolf intended to attack.
Two arcs trailed behind her over a few dozen meters.
Those were silver chains. They were being swung like whips – one free and one with Excalibur.
They used their maximum centrifugal force plus the wolf’s full strength to send first the tight arm toward Oriotri.
That metal fist was meant to send her airborne.
Oriotri readied her sheathed sword in response.
Then the silver wolf twisted around. She shifted her head to the side, sliding her body one body-width to the left. That pulled strongly at the Excalibur chain, but…
A high-speed attack shot through the spot the wolf had just vacated.
It was one of Asama’s anti-ship arrows.
Asama put away Umetsubaki in front of Remorse Way, on the long block that connected the nature district’s wide blocks. Since she was not in her shrine maiden outfit, she had not used the leg anchors and such, but the directional purification had worked perfectly. This shot had greater power and accuracy than the previous one.
And Mitotsudaira had blocked it from view.
She could not imagine how Oriotri could dodge it. So…
“Did it work!?”
Something exploded in the sky above Okutama’s stern.
Ether light sprayed out over a massive area.
Suzu was correct. Asama looked up to see light exploding at a point 200m above the academy. She knew exactly what had caused that ether light.
Oriotri had not dodged it. Instead…
“She kicked the speeding arrow up into the air!?”
The spectacle in the sky was as eloquent as answers came, but Asama did not bother lamenting this failure. Instead…
“Judge, it is already on its way.”
Asama looked back to see the English princess showing off her two empty hands. The Excalibur she had held was gone.
“It took off after realizing its friend needed help solving a problem.”
Mitotsudaira kicked off the final log.
She aimed for Oriotri who had thrown a kick in midair and used her momentum for a backflip.
She was about to arrive in the academy’s schoolyard.
That was the goal.
If she arrived there without taking a hit, they would lose.
Of course, losing did not mean death here. They would only lose points. Mitotsudaira would get points for completing the race and she would probably get more for the fight she put up along the way. But her king was in a bit of trouble there. No, a lot of trouble. That would also put Horizon in trouble and it would throw a wrench in any plans they had for enjoying summer break together.
…I have to do this!
She sent Ex. Collbrande in on the right and the tight arm in on the left. And…
“The second Ex. Collbrande!”
The additional sword flew in past her shoulder and she caught it in her right hand without even looking back.
She moved in to attack her teacher with this triple midair attack.
Mitotsudaira watched their teacher’s movements while rushing toward her in midair.
Oriotri appeared to be falling back-first toward the schoolyard, so Mitotsudaira first sent the left tight arm in on a collision course.
But their teacher raised her sword just before it hit.
Mitotsudaira honestly thought she was defending against the tight arm, but she was not. Oriotri then let go of the sword. And…
…It can’t be.
Mitotsudaira gasped as their teacher sent her right hand outwards.
The tight arm was going to crash into her hand from the outside.
But Mitotsudaira did not see a direct hit to or destruction of the teacher’s hand.
The chain rolled through the air.
She understood what had happened, but she had difficulty accepting it.
“She ‘unbalanced’ the chain!?”
Oriotri answered Mitotsudaira’s question with a nod.
“Yes,” she said while sending her left hand out as well.
Excalibur was rushing in from that direction, so she matched its movement and swung her wrist.
“I can knock these off balance.”
She deflected it.
The sword had made a powerful and speedy attack, but it did not matter. A series of metallic straining sounds rang out just once.
And it was knocked away. Neither chain had managed to harm her. Because…
It was just like that girl to be staring at her with strength in her gaze instead of with dazed surprise. Thanks to that, Oriotri felt comfortable speaking plainly.
“One thing you lack is a proper technique for using your silver chains. You could sense that here, couldn’t you?”
“Judge,” replied the wolf, approaching with the other Excalibur resting on her right shoulder. “I can give myself bursts of acceleration, but the chains cannot do the same since they lack a skeleton and muscles.”
“Once I swing them with my strength, my opponent can knock them back if they know how.”
That’s right, thought Mitotsudaira, finally accepting what she had seen.
The silver chains could carry her strength, but then they had to rely entirely on that strength.
Her bursts of acceleration required a skeleton that could function like a spring or make use of leverage. She could swing the chains with her great strength or even use her own burst of acceleration to throw them, but…
…She immediately picked up on the flaw in my hidden tactics!
But Mitotsudaira did not stop there.
“Then how about this!?”
She lifted Excalibur from her right shoulder in midair.
“I can accelerate this sword!”
The teacher responded by grabbing the sword floating in front of her.
And just as the two of them were about to reach the schoolyard…
Raging Beast crashed down toward Oriotri.
“Adele-sama has reached her destination! Over!”
On Musashino’s bridge, “Kokubunji” informed the others her task had succeeded.
“Musashino” gave a performative sigh and turned toward “Kokubunji”.
“Well done, ‘Kokubunji’. I did not expect her to want a second launch after the first one failed. I can only assume the repeated blows to her head have ‘knocked a screw loose’ as the saying goes, but scoring a direct hit on a moving target from Musashino to Okutama’s stern was impressive work. Over.”
Everyone applauded with minimal movement, but one of them raised a hand.
“What is it, ‘Akishima’? Over.”
“That looked like a direct hit on Oriotri-sama, but are we really supposed to crush our passengers? Over.”
“Musashino” looked away from “Akishima”.
She turned toward the front of the bridge where the scene outside was displayed on the wall.
Or it should have been.
The image from the bridge’s front sight devices had a thick black line down the center.
That was the scar left by the transport ship collision. She stared at that and spoke with no emotion in her voice.
“This is nothing compared to what I have endured. Over.”
Adele hopped out of Raging Beast.
…I did it!
There was nothing Oriotri could do when she was hit in midair. So…
“Well, Sensei!? How was that for a direct hit!?”
She peeked below Raging Beast to see what had happened to her teacher.
She knew it had worked out this time. Because…
…I learned my lesson last time and moved the legs behind it this time!
There was no gap below it, so if Oriotri was below there…
She spent two seconds in silent contemplation.
Asama: “H-hey, was Sensei just squashed flat!?”
Art-Ga: “It would seem we finally have a criminal in our class.”
Uqui: “Pretty sure we already had one of those.”
Me: “Hey, hey, hey! Why’s everyone staring at me!?”
Circle Be: “No, no, we’re the new hotness there! We’re the latest criminals!”
Gold Mar: “The nudist and the udons are our criminals? Gotta admit, that does feel pretty Apocalyptic.”
“C’mon, our class has been like that forever,” said Adele as she quickly checked below Raging Beast.
There was something below it: Oriotri’s sword. The long blue scabbard was stabbed into the courtyard, pushing Raging Beast out of the way.
In other words…
…She caught Raging Beast on her sword and escaped?
That would mean, she thought before a karate chop hit the back of her head.
She could not say anything at all before the teacher’s voice reached her.
“That was a good try. I honestly would’ve been in trouble if I wasn’t already raising my sword.”
She looked back to see Oriotri standing there.
The teacher smiled down at her.
“Okay, I’ve reached the goal without taking a single hit. There are no more attacks in progress, so I guess that ends our mock battle, doesn’t it?”
Mitotsudaira sighed as she landed in the same schoolyard Oriotri had reached unscathed.
Once the breath had left her, her knees fell to the ground.
She was terribly worn out.
She had managed to ready that final sword strike, but she had honestly not had the strength left to swing it.
Not after running full speed the entire way here, throwing trees and such on the way.
Endurance will be my next task, she decided while pulling her silver chains back in. Oriotri turned her way, so she asked a question.
“What will happen to my king and the others?”
“Hm, let’s hope they can get here in time. I wonder if the trees down there will cause any trouble for them.”
“Oh, that could be a problem.”
And once she had Oriotri’s attention, she gave a quiet command.
Two hands suddenly thrust out below Oriotri’s arms.
Oriotri tried to escape, but the hands were slow but accurate.
The fingers reached for their targets on her body and squeezed at the chest of her shirt.
And with those grabbed…
“Heh heh. Got you, Sensei.”
It was Kimi and she shouted down the stairs with a smile.
“There, mission accomplished! See that, foolish brother!? And Horizon!? You have your wise sister to thank this time!!”
Why am I not surprised? thought Adele as she pulled the sword out from under Raging Beast.
Kimi was here because she had been riding within Raging Beast.
They had come up with this strategy when they all began their run. It had been Neshinbara’s idea.
“We need to get an attack in on Sensei at the finish line. That is our top priority.”
And he had known who could pull it off.
“Aoi-kun, your entertainer’s timing has bypassed Sensei’s defenses before. I would love for you to do that again, but I doubt repeat material would work on her. So instead…”
“Heh heh heh. That leaves me.”
So they had needed to get Kimi to the schoolyard finish line, but the timing was key there.
“It can’t be after we all gather there like last time.”
So it had to happen sooner, when the initial rush was arriving.
The rest had been simple. Urquiaga and Narumi had rushed in to keep Oriotri from noticing the discussion and the rest had followed after them.
They knew what they had to do in the end, no matter what obstacles awaited them along the way.
…Which is why we won.
This was different from before. The result was similar, but there was a clear difference. Because…
“You did,” admitted Oriotri. She smiled bitterly, slipped away from Kimi, and lightly held her own shoulders. “There’s not much you can do when Kimi lays a trap for you.”
“You are full of openings to me, Sensei.”
“Am I?” Oriotri smiled bitterly. “Then I have a lot of studying to do myself.”
Uqui: “Hey, someone stop her. We’ll never graduate if she gets any stronger.”
Horizey: “Wouldn’t we have to defeat her to stop her?”
10ZO: “And she powers up each time we defeat her!”
It did seem that way. But the rear group was leaving Remorse Way now.
They still had time, so that settled it. Adele clapped her hands and announced the result.
“No one fails! We all reach the finish line, so we all pass!”
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