Horizon:Volume 8B Chapter 50
Chapter 50: Strict One in the Dark
I don’t think
That’s supposed to be there
Point Allocation (Close It Already)
“Ahhhhhhhhh! What in the world is that!?”
Sakon slammed the door shut and pressed her back against the metal surface while turning toward Mitsunari.
“M-M-M-M-M-Mitsunari-sama! Th-there was a b-big…giant…big thing in there!”
“Kohime, you’re pretty big yourself, so what are you freaking out for?”
“A-anyone would freak out after seeing that! I mean, what even was that!? What kind of attraction throws a Terrestrial Dragon in your face 2 seconds after you open the front door?”
Kasuya tilted her head and turned to Mitsunari.
“It doesn’t make any sense for such a large dragon to exist in an enclosed space underground. Um, can you explain this, Mitsunari?”
“Testament. Here is who to ask. He is in charge here.”
Mitsunari opened a lernen figur. The white frame displayed…
“Good evening, everyone! It’s me, Holy Roman Emperor Matthias!!”
Matthias was in M.H.R.R.
This was the Catholic land of Austria. He was inside a European fortress city located on the countryside west of Kinki.
This was originally Kuroda land, where Shirasagi Castle was located, but when M.H.R.R. had agreed to work with Hashiba, Shirasagi Castle had been turned into an aerial warship, this land had been given to Austria, and the Europeans had rapidly developed the area.
Normally, the oppressed Far Easterners would have been displeased and resisted, but there were two reasons that had not happened.
As thanks for handing over the land, Hashiba had given the Far East the right to open markets there and had given them infrastructure such as roads.
Also, Europe had left the farm work and management to the students under Hashiba’s command, sending the direct profits to the Far East.
On top of that, Matthias had made a good scapegoat.
He had political power but none of the skill needed to wield it, so that had suited him just fine. His brother had chosen to isolate himself, so Matthias had felt the need to get through the Thirty Years’ War on his own.
He had concluded that was impossible and had hoped to just take things easy, so Hashiba’s arrival had been a godsend for him.
…I love being a puppet!
He had gone ahead and performed all the oppression and whatnot as a puppet of Hashiba and he had helped escort Hashiba who had yet to find her legs in diplomacy at the time.
His management of this land had been used as a test case, but it had gone well and his family, who owned the academy and the city, had expanded their power.
This was one of the results of that expansion. It was a villa under Hapsburg control. As a puppet, he had a Hashiba bodyguard and had to remain on the roof of the walled fortress, but…
“I guess I was hoping for too much when I thought one of you would come guard me, but a puppet can’t be picky. But I am ready to come running and do some butt-kissing whenever you might need me during summer break.”
“Thank you, Emperor Matthias. Now, I was hoping you could explain this here.”
Mitsunari gestured toward an underground door he was very familiar with.
…I know Mitsunari-kun knows this already.
But I must not complain. She’s one of Hashiba’s direct subordinates. If she asks for an explanation, I need to raise my hand and ask “Ooh, ooh, do you need a Holy Roman Emperor to answer that one for you!? Because there’s one right here!”
Yes, I am a puppet, so I need to let them boss me around.
“Testament. I see. You need someone to explain that place for you? Then shall I head there immediately?”
“No, you don’t need to do it in person. Over the divine transmission is fine.”
…Oh, come on! You’re supposed to demand I get there in 30 seconds or less!
Hashiba’s subordinates don’t know how these things are done. My puppet spirit is going to waste.
Yes, you outwardly compliment me but then you make impossible demands. That is how you treat a puppet! Like the other day, when Niwa was busy withdrawing from Nördlingen and asked me – without so much as a glance in my direction – to take some boxes of unnecessary materials to the dump. Now that one sent a tingle through my heart. That’s the kind of thrill I want – nay, that I need!
But as much of a disappointment as this was, he was prepared to answer. So…
“If I am going to explain that place, I will first send you the necessary documents. Oh, and I made these documents myself. You don’t even have to read them because they include an audio description. This includes a map introducing you to all the important points of that underground area and an introductory document that doubles as index of all the other documents. As an added bonus, each document you read earns you a Holy Roman Emperor Point! Earn 100 of those and I will treat you to a wonderful dinner, so I do hope you try to collect them. Now, what did you want from the emperor?”
“Oh, um, a simple explanation will be sufficient.”
…You can’t do this to me!
What, does she think the Holy Roman Emperor is a common tour guide? No, that’s not the point. I am a puppet and will guide you on a tour of whatever you want. But…
“Um, Emperor? Could you explain this to us?”
…That’s more like it!!
Was that Kasuya? Her phrasing managed to ignite my puppet spirit.
“Very well.” He raised his dinner glass toward Aki and K.P.A. Italia. “That is the bedroom of Olimpia, the current Innocentius X and the original one’s older and younger stepsister. But her dreams are manifested in her immediate vicinity. And…”
“She treated herself to a few dates with me where we viewed the stars, but she has since gotten hooked on dreaming and will not wake up.”
That was a bit of a problem. He had hoped to take her to Nördlingen and have her fall asleep to summon a Terrestrial Dragon that could obliterate the enemy, but…
…Well, sleep is a luxury for her.
She belonged to a reverse-aging people and she grew younger whenever she dreamed. They would eventually become babies and disappear, but they saw sleep as a happy death and luxury that consumed their “youth”.
But Olimpia appeared to be having another exciting dream. Plus…
…Her dreaming spell seems to be showing her something somewhat troublesome.
“Doesn’t it seem bad to not have the pope around? So if possible, I was hoping you could defeat her dream and wake her up. Oh, and one other thing,” he said. “The credit will of course go to you and to Hashiba. I will make sure to let M.H.R.R. and K.P.A. Italia know all about what you did for us. How does that sound?”
…So that explains it.
Kasuya checked her equipment.
Her summer uniform had defense divine protections in strategic locations, which she figured was good enough. After her experience fighting the Reine des Garous in Kantou, she had made sure to include ether and Shinto divine protections that diverted any impacts that hit her.
Her weapon was hanging from the back of her hips. Argent Clou would also be good enough. So…
“Mitsunari, about that dragon. If it is a manifested dream, is it made of ether?”
“That would be the logical conclusion.” Mitsunari placed a hand on her chin in thought. It only lasted around two seconds, but a few lernen figurs spilled from the back of her hair. “Firing an ether cannon in diffusion mode would likely eliminate the entire space.”
“That probably is true, but were you planning to drag a warship cannon down here?”
“Would a spell field work?” asked Mitsunari.
Sakon raised her right hand.
“Based on what I saw for that split-second earlier, that was a weirdly large hall, not a bedroom…I think? So isn’t it some kind of illusion? So what would happen if we established a new field to perceive that room in its proper position?”
“Would the effects of the dream be eliminated within that field?” speculated Mitsunari.
“It’s a good idea, but if it was that easy, they would have done so already.” Kasuya decided to ask about that, so she opened a lernen figur. “Emperor? Is there no way to erase the manifested dream with a spell field? Please answer me.”
“Testament! An excellent question! The problems is, that isn’t a divine protection or a spell – it’s a dream playing out in real time. So the spell field will temporarily erase it, but that will be overwritten a moment later.”
“What about a powerful and continuous spell field?”
“That too is a good idea, but how would Olimpia feel if you simply erased the dream she is spending years off her age to see instead of simply waking her up?”
The two data entities exchanged a glance at that.
Eventually, Mitsunari turned toward Kasuya with her head somewhat lowered.
“E-excuse me, but what does he mean by that? We have too little experience to understand these things.”
“Oh,” replied Sakon, spreading her arms. “I think I know. It’s like the difference between a manga that ends with a proper conclusion and one that’s suddenly canceled in the middle of an arc!”
“Sorry, I don’t read manga, so…okay, I do, I do read it. I’m sorry.”
Kasuya had never seen a data entity capable of being so self-conscious and apologetic.
But logically speaking…
“The reverse-aging people dream in order to reduce their age. Waking her up by concluding her dreamed battle would be fine, but if we unnaturally ended it with a spell field, would it be bad for that de-aging process?”
“Testament.” Ootani clapped his hands once. “Mitsunari-kun, think of it like this. When you are adding a new program to your functionality, would you prefer to wait until the installation is complete or stop the installation partway through?”
Mitsunari thought for about two seconds and then turned toward Kasuya.
“I understand now. I understand it fully and perfectly! We must not do that! We must follow the proper procedure!”
“Well, I’m glad you understand now.”
“Kohime! Why would you use manga as an example!? Are you ever going to grow up!?”
“W-well, excuse me. Besides, I am still in middle school, even if it’s cause I was held back five times. So I’m still a kid.”
That answer is only going to set Onitakemaru off again, concluded Kasuya.
Sakon was 20. She was definitely an adult, even if she was still in middle school. So…
“Read some books along with your manga, Kohime.”
Did not see that one coming.
“It can be something simple, popular, and fun. But you are a commander now, so you must learn that not all information comes with illustrations. I will not ask you to read anything difficult, unpopular, or boring. But…”
“Expand your horizons, Kohime. Otherwise, you will become a nuisance to others.”
“Wh-why am I being lectured by a Shogun!?”
“I am merely stating the obvious, not lecturing you, you fool!”
Ah, there it is, thought Kasuya with an inward bitter smile.
Testament. I see. Mitsunari really did give her a decent partner. Because…
…Sakon can be careless, but she has talent, so it’s good that Onitakemaru doesn’t just yell at her all the time.
Sakon had a breadth of talents, but she was limited by her own viewpoint. Onitakemaru also had a wide breadth of talents, but he rarely let them show due to his habit of scolding her. They drew out each other’s strongest points when they worked together.
Kasuya’s thoughts turned elsewhere while she watched those two begin arguing again.
…Those two were defeated by…
The Mito Lord. Musashi’s 5th Special Duty Officer. The Reine des Garous’s daughter. And…
“Catching up to her is going to be difficult.”
“Eh? Catching up to who?”
“Obviously not you, Kohime. She is on Mitsunari’s level.”
“B-but the neighborhood kids were always jealous of my height, so she might mean that.”
“That would certainly be something,” said Kasuya with a smile.
This was nice. She had only met those two a few minutes ago, but Hashiba and the others had gathered some really nice people.
If she was being honest, being around the 10 Spears could be a little stifling. Especially with the original 8, which included her. They trusted each other, but they understood each other a little too well, which led them to feel too much responsibility for each other.
She had met Kani in Kantou and now she had met Sakon and Onitakemaru.
She was glad she had left the Shibata team’s territory for her training. And if possible…
…I want to try battling them.
Their training would probably begin with that dragon inside the dream room. So…
Before she could say “go”.
“Okay, I believe I shall test my skills in there!”
Ootani raised his right hand and walked up to the metal door.
Sakon had been about to do the same thing, so this threw her off.
Ootani Yoshitsugu was a data entity, just like Mitsunari.
But as a virus, he was apparently made for more offensive uses than Mitsunari. She wasn’t sure what exactly that entailed, but…
…You sometimes see things about a lernen figur getting a virus. Is that what he does?
“Um, I have a question.” She was curious, so she tried asking. “Since this is a training camp and I expect we’ll be working together for a while, Ootani-san, there was something I wanted to ask you. Is that okay?”
Ootani turned around. So did Mitsunari.
“Hm.” Ootani crossed his arms. “It is true you are part of Mitsunari-kun’s team. And Kasuya-sama belongs with her as part of the 10 Spears, so it is true I am something of the odd one out here.”
“That is not true, Ootani-kun. You are the same model as me.”
“That is not necessary, Mitsunari-kun. I was made as your prototype, so I should be treated accordingly.” Ootani spread his arms. “And questions are a way of reaching a deeper understanding of each other. This means Sakon-sama wishes to understand me better. So what is it you wanted to ask me? I will answer to the best of my ability.”
Ohh, thought Sakon. She felt like she hadn’t had any normal conversations like this in a while. She also appreciated how he seemed to trust her. Well, so did Mitsunari, which made sense since she and Ootani were the same model.
So she decided to ask her question about his viral nature as politely as she could.
“Um, my question is about how you’re a virus.”
“Testament. What did you want to know about that?”
He kept a positive outlook.
Sakon could feel themselves reaching a deeper understanding already.
“Since you’re a virus, does that mean you spy on people’s divine mail, peep on people changing in their room, and steal people’s personal information?”
Kimee: “I seem to recall a virus rummaging through an important name inheritor’s underwear instead of doing his job the other day.”
Super Justice: “W-wait just a second! I was searching her house!”
AnG: “I know, I know. I know how tempting it is to make excuses like that, Tsugy.”
Super Justice: “Why are you two spying on our divine transmissions!?”
Kimee: “It’s okay when we do it.”
Super Justice: “I-I knew it! You’re using that absurd Technohexen logic again!”
Ootani realized Mitsunari was trying her best not to look at him.
“M-Mitsunari-kun. What is the meaning of this reaction!?”
“Nothing really. But when you were in the Nagaoka residence…”
“What in the world did he do?” asked Kasuya and Mitsunari beckoned her over.
The two of them walked to the end of the hallway and Mitsunari spent a dozen or so seconds explaining something with hand gestures and a diagram on the wall.
Eventually, they returned and Kasuya spoke with a smile.
“We’re all good now. She explained what really happened.”
“Sh-she did!? This horrific misunderstanding has finally been resolved!?”
“Testament. She told me you can’t help it because you’re a man.”
“That’s just making it worse!” he shouted before another voice interrupted.
“Hey,” said Onitakemaru from Sakon’s head. “Do that to us and I will erase you from the family register. Remember that.”
…That carries a lot of weight coming from a Shogun!
But Sakon frowned, tilted her head, and turned toward Ootani.
“D-does that mean you are interested in Onitakemaru-san’s underwear?”
“It would certainly be something if I was!!”
“Calm down,” said Kasuya, still smiling. “Um, how about we head inside?”
“O-oh, right!” Finally, some help! concluded Ootani as he raised a hand toward the others. “If the Terrestrial Dragon and everything else in there are made of ether, then I should have an advantage seeing as I too am made of ether! I may even be able to infect them as a virus and communicate with them as a data entity!”
Ootani opened the door a crack.
“I may be able to solve this all on my own, so sit back and wait for the good news!”
He leaped feet-first through the crack.
Kasuya saw the door close.
It shut with a solid thud and silence returned to the hallway.
Mitsunari’s shoulders drooped.
“Ootani-kun was never the type to do that. Where did it all go wrong?”
Kimee: “That’s life, Mitsunari. People grow in any number of ways and not always in a good way. And once they’ve been corrupted, there is no going back.”
That didn’t seem like a helpful answer.
But someone raised their right hand: Sakon. She pointed at the metal door.
“Um, is there no way to know what’s going on in there? If something happens, shouldn’t we go help him even if he is a criminal?”
“Oh, that.” Mitsunari opened a lernen figur. “This is monitoring our status. You can see Ootani-kun’s here at the top.”
A blue bar stretched horizontally across the screen.
“Is that his health bar?”
“Testament. Although ‘ether level’ would be more accurate than health. Think of it like his total amount of fuel. When he is full, the bar is blue and reaches the right side of the screen. When he is nearly out, the bar is red and barely leaves the left side. It is currently blue and all the way to the right, so he is unharmed.”
Ootani’s bar suddenly reduced to a red sliver.
“Ahhhhhhh, Ootani-kun! Ootani-kun! What are you doing!?”
“That dropped fast. Did he get overkilled, but he has a special skill that prevents one-shot KOs?”
“Yeah, like a willpower skill or something.”
Kasuya and Sakon worked together to open the door.
The loud sound echoing through the night sky was of flesh being beaten.
In a clearing surrounded by forest, several enormous spears were jabbing into a giant by the light of four campfires burning the cardinal directions.
The giant swung its arms to strike and drive away the spears. The movement was somewhat bland compared to the speed and quantity of the spears.
But as far as winning was concerned, the giant had the advantage.
The spears raced through the air and clashed with the giant, but the giant was not taking much damage. The giant was colored black, had long limbs, and spoke toward the position the large spears seemed to be coming from.
“That isn’t going to cut it, Kani-kun! It won’t work! Not on me anyway!”
The giant took the flying spears head on, but they were noisily deflected.
“It simply won’t work! Not on Mori Nagayoshi’s Boneless Man!”
“I’m not done yet!” a voice shouted from among the launching spears.
Kani moved swiftly in an attempt to pierce an opening in Mori’s god of war.
She zigzagged on her way forward.
“I still haven’t shown you everything I can do!”
Mori saw Kani as a diligent person.
He wasn’t sure if she qualified as his generation or the generation after. Their debut battles were Novgorod and Odawara, which wasn’t much of a difference. Kani referred to him as “Mori-san”, which he liked a lot since almost no one other than Hashiba did that. That alone gets her a lot of points in my book. Or maybe I’m only now realizing how awful everyone in the Shibata Team is.
Since he was a tentacle and all, he had tried to avoid leaving a bad impression when he first met her. And he had worn a mask to hide the embarrassment on his face, but Fuwa…
“Mori, why are you wearing one of those rubber products?”
“It isn’t rubber! It’s wool!”
But when he had been introduced to Kani…
“Wow! You really do look like that, Mori-san! You look just like the stuff I see at Sakata-san’s offal shop three doors down! You look tender and like you’d cook up real good!”
He had left a good impression with her, although thinking back he wasn’t sure if it was the kind of impression he wanted.
“If we’re going with body parts sold as food, I would’ve said…well, you know,” Toshiie had commented.
The word you’re looking for is pizzle! I’m a knowledgeable tentacle. Eh heh.
But Fukushima had been acting odd for the supposed #1 of the Ten Spears.
She had stood behind Kani and given only monosyllabic responses to his greeting. There had been no life in her. He was so used to people recoiling that her lack of response filled him with a strange sort of disappointment. According to Kani…
“Fukushima-senpai is in a bit of a slump right now!”
He would just have to trust her on that one. Everyone hit a slump from time to time. Yes, even I get all sad and limp during the rainy season. And it doesn’t help that Sassa-senpai will so rudely claim I’ve “gone flaccid” and ask someone to lend me some porn. He has the whole idea wrong. A drooping tentacle isn’t the same as a flaccid one!
Anyway, Kani had arrived as Fukushima’s aide and she had never skipped a training session and asked everyone for any special training they would give her. Mori had to wonder if she was trying to make up for their #1’s slump.
This was part of that.
Night had already fallen. Even in summer, it grew dark once the sun set. Training by the light of campfires seemed meaningless since she couldn’t see his precise movements, but…
Kani did not give up.
And he was a tentacle. We tentacles love the darkness. Which makes me a tentacle pioneer for venturing out into the bright sunlight. Oh, but I shouldn’t call myself a pioneer. Why does that word sound so dirty? Pioneer. Reverse the syllables and you get ‘near oppai’. Oh, how indecent!
Kani’s attack crashed right into his face.
I got him! thought Kani.
Before this, she had not landed a single effective blow.
She had been working to increase Sasamura’s precision and power ever since she arrived here.
That meant to make her aim better. That decreased the distance between the launch point and the hit point, which naturally increased the power of the blow.
First, she had fought an army of the dead summoned by Toshiie.
That had honestly been a ton of fun.
After all, the destroyed warriors had gathered together for a power boost. That gave her an opponent worthy of several spears as large as Sasamura.
…And since they’re the dead, they were perfect for night training!
Once her training with them was complete, all those broken warriors had lined up and departed for heaven, which had been kind of moving. Toshiie had said they were mercenaries hired with money, but some of them had even waved goodbye to her.
That proved to her that you could build a friendship overnight.
She had started with some light combat, but that had gradually grown until she was fighting an entire battalion and she had to incorporate strategy into her fighting style.
Yesterday, they had set up tents within the trees of the forest to create a fake “town” they could fight in.
She had shown real results there, so…
“You’re ready to fight the real thing.”
She had been introduced to Mori.
At first glance, he looked like moving yakiniku. She had decided he would be tasty if cooked up, but she could not say that out loud in front of him. But she did conclude that someone so tasty-looking couldn’t be a bad person. But…
“Huh!? We’re doing a 1-on-1 battle now!?”
“Just try it, okay?” Toshiie, her coach, had said with a smile. And…
…He was right!
She had discovered something once she tried it.
“I got an attack in!”
That had to have been a direct hit to his face. But…
“That is not enough!” shouted Boneless Man while deflecting Sasamura and shooting out white exhaust. “That will not work on me, Kani-kun! Keep trying!”
Kani realized how insufficient she was, but she remained on the move.
She sharpened her aim as she ejected Sasamura, aiming for her opponent’s joints and the seams in his armor.
She was not targeting his vitals. Instead of stabbing him, she would stop him by targeting places that didn’t let him deflect the attack.
…It’s the only way!
Her attacks did not work.
Until yesterday, her eight Sasamuras had shattered countless opponents and cleared a path for her, but they were no use at all today.
They were deflected, dodged, rendered useless.
She understood that Mori’s god of war was a mass of artificial muscles.
Instead of being solid, it was more like a tightly-packed bundle of muscle fibers covered in a sticky goo.
That made it bouncy and slippery, so Sasamura could not stab in and was deflected instead.
She had scored a few clean hits, but that was a god of war. A Sasamura attack could be blocked by the giant’s great strength, so it was only stopped for a brief moment.
She was honestly impressed.
This god of war had taught her where her limits were and helped her understand the reasons why.
She picked up on it faster than she might have thanks to all the fighting she had done recently.
She had fought Yoshiaki, Musashi’s Vice Chancellor, and the Reine des Garous. She had been no match for any of them. She always tried to do her best, but her best hadn’t been enough.
Her goal would require “doing her best” more than just a few times.
Doing her best was only a single step toward that goal.
Every time she did her best, she had taken another step forward.
She didn’t need any kind of reward for doing her best other than the fact that she had done so.
How long did she have to do her best? Until she had achieved her goal. It couldn’t be any simpler. Doing her best was like walking – it was only a means to an end.
She could not be satisfied with simply doing her best. She knew that because…
“My parents taught it to me!”
Her parents ran a greengrocer. They stocked and sold vegetables every day, but that was far from simple. They had to ask the village head what the local buying price was, do their own investigation, choose who to buy from, and then negotiate.
They had to work well into the night, but they also had to get up early. Watching them had been enough to know how much work it was, but she had once asked them why they did it all. And how long they were going to keep doing it.
Her father had rubbed her head and answered her.
“You’ll be the same as us once you know the answer to that.”
She had written that off as some grownup thing, but eventually she had found the answer. It happened when she started middle school. She had been given a brand new uniform and bag and her textbooks. That was when it hit her.
It was something anyone living in a shopping district would come to understand. None of those items had been free.
They cost money.
But where had that money come from?
What had people done to earn that money? And most importantly…
Once she returned from her first day of middle school, she had called out to her parents in front of their house.
“Raising me is a lot of work, isn’t it!?”
Her father had placed his hand on her head as usual.
“Of course it is.”
“Life is always a lot of work. So you know what?”
“The work we do for you is just part of the work that we do every day from birth to the grave. But the work for you is different than all the other work. It makes for a nice change of pace and it’s a lot of fun. We pour a lot of work into you, but it doesn’t end with you. Don’t assume that what we do is only for you. Do you get what I mean?”
She did. But she wasn’t sure if she was supposed to. It felt like he was just spoiling her.
But she had made a decision then.
“I’ll do my best!”
Just like her parents had been doing their best without her knowledge.
“I’ll do my best!”
So they could be proud of her and she could be proud of herself.
So she gave everything her all. She might be unsure of herself, she might not understand something, and she might come to a stop, but she would do everything in her power to make that a part of her efforts.
She knew her parents, their parents, and so on had done the same for generations, so she had done her best to achieve her goals even when she was unsure or angry.
Every day was a new challenge to be overcome.
She saw that as the normal thing to do. As long as she refused to consider herself finished, she could always draw on the strength she needed. So…
“I’ll do my best!”
Kani made another attack. She had a target in mind.
…The inside of the god of war’s left elbow!
Fuwa more felt than heard the sound.
A series of absurd impacts was followed by some unusually energetic comments from Mori: “Wait, no! Not there! Yes, there! Hit me harder there!” The nearby village was even sending complaints: “Um, Shibata-san’s place? Could you maybe keep it down?”
She had come here to pass on those complaints and because it would be dinnertime soon, but…
…How can they do that when it’s so dark out?
Still, she didn’t want them to notice her approaching.
Kani was new, but she was a name inheritor. Her training was important and Fuwa wanted her to focus on it.
I hope she can improve herself every single day, thought Fuwa before she heard a voice from the side.
“Go for the left arm.”
“What are you doing here, Maeda?”
“Oh, I was just watching because this is quite fascinating, but hiding my presence is a real pain. I’m glad you’re here, Michi. Now I can just relax and watch.”
Maeda was seated below a tree and he flicked his right pointer finger toward the clearing.
“That’s the ticket, Kani-kun.”
Kani noticed something about Mori actions.
…His left arm!
When he swung his right arm – either to attack or defend – he always bent his left arm to pull it back.
That was done to keep his balance, but he didn’t do the same with his right arm when swinging his left arm.
That seemed strange, but it had to be one of his idiosyncrasies.
“Do you see how Mori-kun is bending his right arm a bit? I doubt he even notices it himself.”
“I’ve been wondering. Why does he mimic human motions when there aren’t any bones in that thing?”
“Probably his environment.”
“That makes sense, but I didn’t actually expect an answer.”
Kani saw Mori’s god of war move both its arms.
Most likely, he was punching with the right and pulling back the left.
But the left arm’s movement was what mattered to her.
It told her his right arm was about to move, and…
…He bends his elbow!
The inside of the bent elbow had to be perfect for stabbing with Sasamura. There was no armor and the gathered bundles of muscle fibers created a seam. So…
Kani struck with Sasamura.
Mori failed to predict Kani’s attack.
The small girl seemed to sink into the darkness as she ducked down to dodge his right arm, but that much was the same as usual.
Her usual pattern was to send a spear toward his torso afterwards. She would eject one or more spears at close range to try and pierce the seam between the god of war’s stomach and chest.
But that did not work.
And with the light fading fast, this would be her last chance to attack. So Mori made a prediction.
…She will attack somewhere other than my stomach!
He had previously proven to her that a blow to his face was ineffective. So that left…
…The arms or legs!
There were a few different locations worth attacking, but she couldn’t deal with all of them the way she was fighting today.
So Mori expected her to go for his swung right arm or the left arm. As for his legs, he twisted his forward-stepping right leg at the knee to fill in all the gaps at the seams between artificial muscles.
He was ready.
She could not get any kind of attack into his joints or seams.
That would finalize his flawless victory today.
“Please make your move!”
He felt the need to be polite.
But he would still defeat her.
Kani had come to the Shibata Team to grow stronger.
What did it mean to be stronger?
Mori did not think of himself as strong. After all, I’m just a cute little tentacle. I have a daily skin care regimen to keep me all pink and smooth.
But there were things even he knew.
He had once lost himself in an impure lifestyle in a dark underground place. To be fair, I was forced into it. I can’t deny some of it felt good, but more importantly…well, that kind of thing is unhealthy.
But if he had not lived that life, what would he have thought of the blue sky once he was rescued?
If he had only lived in the humid rainforest, would he have seen that blue as no more than a color? Would he have seen the bright sun as no more than the reason it was so hot out?
But he hadn’t seen it that way.
He had lived a different life.
He could never return to that life of self-indulgence. He wanted to fall in love like a normal person and he wanted an ordinary life where he wouldn’t lose sight of who he really was.
That blue sky had been a turning point for him.
This girl had to have something similar in her past.
A memory that led to her current strength. Otherwise, she could never work so hard to do her best.
But, thought Mori.
…That is why I must defeat her here!
Maybe nothing would ever surpass his memory of the blue sky. Maybe first impressions overpowered all else, even if they were bad.
But having them allowed you to make it across the second and third gap as well.
If she knew how to do her best, then she needed to know more than the taste of victory.
Just as he decided to give her a taste of defeat, her final attack hit him.
It hit his left arm, but not one of the joints like the elbow.
A large spear struck down at his clenched left hand from above.
Kani’s attack confused Fuwa.
It had only lasted an instant, but she was used to seeing high-speed attacks thanks to Sassa, Shibata, and Oichi before Novgorod. Honestly, most other attacks paled in comparison to what she had seen Oichi do.
But here, Fuwa saw Kani’s spear strike the left hand of Mori’s god of war.
“Why would she attack there?”
Meanwhile, Kani’s spear slid off and was deflected.
That’s what happens with Mori’s god of war, thought Fuwa, but Toshiie surprised her.
“She has the right idea.”
In her confusion, she looked to the god of war’s left hand.
Kani’s attack had not pierced it.
But being struck and deflecting the spear had made him clench the fist harder.
And what happened when he gathered his strength there?
“Clenching the fist first makes it harder to tense the elbow. Tensing the elbow and then clenching the fist works fine, though. And if his hand is fixed in place, he can’t pull his elbow back to reduce the damage that way either.”
So what was she seeing here?
Fuwa watched as new spears were ejected.
Two additional spears were sent into Mori’s left hand.
And two were sent toward his left elbow.
All four spears struck.
Fuwa heard a single unified impact, not four individual ones.
That showed just how precise Kani’s attacks were.
But even with two spears sent to fix his hand in place and two sent to his elbow…
“Not one of them got in!”
And just before the four spears were deflected into the air…
“Can you raise your precision even further, Kani-kun?”
A sixth spear was ejected.
It was located between the two already sent to his elbow.
It flew into that gap where it would clearly be squeezed between them and have its course altered.
Sparks flew as the sixth spear passed between the leading two. The friction drained its speed, but Fuwa understood what Kani was doing here.
…The first two are guiding it!?
That increased its precision. The first two had never been meant to do damage. They were guiderails to send the sixth spear right into the joint’s seam.
It followed those rails and scored a direct hit, producing a solid sound. But…
“That isn’t good enough!” announced Mori.
The two guide spears were blown away and Mori’s god of war pushed its tilted body forward.
Then the last two of the eight Sasamuras flew in.
One at Mori’s face.
That one was meant to stop Mori from continuing forward. And the other one…
…It all comes down to precision!
Fuwa saw exactly what she had predicted.
The last spear was ejected from thin air so it would collide with the butt end of the spear that had been guided into his left elbow.
The guides had positioned the one spear against his elbow and this one would hit it from behind to jam it in.
Kani was not relying on just the one spear to pierce her opponent.
This was more like lining up a chisel with a guide and then driving it in with a hammer.
Perfect precision came together for a point-blank piercing attack.
The chisel strike sent a metallic noise echoing through the forest.
The leaves rustled and the forest’s slumbering birds took flight.
But two figures were facing each other at the source of that noise.
One was a girl down on one knee in the forest clearing, her upper body drooping forward.
The other was a god of war facing her from a short distance away.
The god of war was in a fighting stance, its left elbow deeply bent.
That arm was meant to be fully extended, but…
“Do you see now the beauty of my artificial muscles, Kani-kun?”
It grabbed its left fist with its right hand and made its left arm muscles swell out.
“In the art of bodybuilding, which has its roots in 11th century India, this pose is known as the side chest. And…”
Meanwhile, something fell between the two of them.
It was a spear.
It was a spear, but at the same time, it was two.
One spear had pierced the butt of another spear, splitting it about halfway through.
Then the god of war moved.
The flickering light of the four fires illuminated the motion.
Starting from the side chest pose, it faced straight forward and slowly rotated both arms upwards.
That was enough to see its left elbow was not damaged. It was unscathed.
But it did give a fist pump and then spread its arms to the side.
“I win, Kani-kun.”
Kani responded by placing her hands on the ground and lowering her head.
“Thank you for your training!”
And as if pushed by her own voice, she collapsed backwards.
With her limbs spread out.
“I get it now!”
She lay on the ground with her arms spread as if to embrace the sky above.
Her voice sounded relaxed and there was clear relief on her face.
“My Sasamura doesn’t work on a name inheritor!”
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