At all times
And wherever you are
They are worried about you
Point Allocation (Parent)
A white tent was set up between the waves of green, blowing grass on a hilltop.
A woman sipped at a cup below that shadow blocking the sun. The large blonde rolls of her hair were swept back.
“Musashi will have settled on a direction in another hour. Now, what will you two do as Mouri Terumoto and Louis Exiv? As the Reine des Garous under your command, I am very interested in your future plans.”
The Reine des Garous’s question was directed at Terumoto, who wore an Hexagone Française girl’s summer uniform, and Exiv, who wore his summer birthday suit. They looked back at her and Terumoto crossed her arms with a smile and raised eyebrows.
“You want to know what we’re going to do? What can we do besides bring the fight to Hashiba?”
“Terumoto, I love the youthful enthusiasm, but do you have a plan?”
“Testament,” confirmed Terumoto as she looked east.
She looked down the hill, through the woods, and past a distant wheat field, a river, and more woods.
“Wayyyy over there, beyond where it fades into blueness, an aerial transport ship name Tottori Castle controls our front line near the border with M.H.R.R. Are you familiar with that history recreation?”
“Testament. Hashiba besieges the castle for two hundred days and most of the soldiers in the castle starve to death. The lord of the castle attempted to fight back but ended up asking that the survivors be spared if he committed suicide. But Hashiba was impressed by their thorough resistance and attempted to spare the lord’s life to help rule over and negotiate with the region more smoothly. However…”
“The lord stubbornly refused, so Hashiba asked Nobunaga if he could accept the suicide. He received permission, so with the lord’s suicide, Hashiba took Tottori Castle as a stronghold for attacking Mouri.”
Exiv completed the explanation as Terumoto looked to the east.
The afternoon sun lit up the distant sky, but it was also white and hazy. A deep shadow and a sandstorm covering several dozen kilometers were visible there.
“Tottori Castle sends out a sand barrier along with its accompanying ships to protect Mouri’s eastern sky. As a transport ship, the most it can do is put up a long-term defense. …Mouri-01.”
Terumoto’s call was answered by a voice in the open-air kitchen a short distance outside the tent.
“Testament. Princess, Mouri-32b is in charge of Tottori Castle and she has enjoyed the past two hundred days very much. After all, she was given a fully mechanical body that allowed her to continue working without eating a thing for those two hundred days. And in that sandy environment, she apparently had all the cleaning work she could ever hope for. The Hashiba forces positioned to the east have apparently been worn down, so Mouri-32b and the others under her command apparently set up shop to supply food for them.”
“Those two hundred days will soon be over.”
The Reine des Garous nodded at Terumoto’s comment.
“P.A. Oda possesses a great fleet, but after spreading their forces over K.P.A. Italia and Kantou, their territory has grown by about 30% and they are left with insufficient ships. If they are to invade Hexagone Française, they would like to take Tottori Castle for its transportation and storage abilities. Of course, to prevent a rebellion of the local people who have been protected by that castle, they would also like for control of the castle to simply be transferred to them.”
“That’s why we use it as bait.” Terumoto looked to the Reine des Garous. “We hand over Tottori Castle unharmed, and in exchange…they let the Reine des Garous inherit a Far Eastern commander’s name.”
Which would mean…
“The Reine des Garous would be able to interfere in the Mouri-side battles. That would be Hexagone Française and Mouri’s best way to hold Hashiba in check.”
“You’re unbeatable, Terumoto! Your wisdom is sending a shiver down my spine!”
“You’re just chilled because you don’t have any clothes on. …Anyway, we could also make it so you can interfere, but that can wait. Sending the Vice Chancellor to the battlefield provides a better image than sending the Chancellor.”
The Reine des Garous smiled thinly at what Terumoto said.
“I more or less understand what you are after. You wish to mess with Hashiba, don’t you?”
“It isn’t fair to the people taking all this more seriously, but I just can’t help but oppose anyone with power. …Also, we’ve also received some troubling information.”
“What is it? Has the time I have been waiting for finally arrived?” The Reine des Garous’s smile deepened. “If I do join the fight, Hashiba will not just send an empty Tottori Castle to the front line, will they? You have received some information from a spy while Mouri-32b was running her food stand, didn’t you?”
“You wolves have sharp noses.”
Terumoto smiled bitterly. She leaned back in her chair and stretched a hand back. Mouri-02 stopped forward and placed a cup of hot milk in her hand.
“Oh, thanks. …Now, anyway, it’s simple. Hashiba is apparently loading supplies onto the Azuchi Castle at Kantou and Edo. This information is from two days ago, so they’re probably about done. That means Hashiba will carry those supplies to Tottori Castle while they send the Azuchi Castle back to Lake Biwa to return it to Nobunaga. But…”
“As they do that, they will apparently be sending supplies to Shibata’s forces.”
Terumoto opened a signe cadre. It showed the sky as well as a ghost. The ghost was a black-haired demonic long-lived wearing an M.H.R.R. girl’s summer uniform.
“Tomoe Gozen. …Any news on the visual confirmation of the western Hashiba forces and eastern Shibata forces?”
“Testament. Hashiba is apparently leaving K.P.A. Italia and returning to P.A. Oda’s headquarters in Lake Biwa’s Azuchi. She is probably visiting Nobunaga to ask about the suicide of Tottori Castle’s lord. As for Shibata’s forces in the east, Shibata’s fleet is deployed south of Novgorod. …Once they decide to begin, they can quickly advance on Novgorod.”
“What a pain.” Terumoto looked up into the sky. “The Azuchi Castle will be carrying all the supplies peaceful Kantou had stockpiled. They’ll be giving supplies to Shibata’s forces on the way, so Shibata will definitely be able to invade Sviet Rus and Hashiba will definitely be able to attack Mouri. …This large-scale resupply is a lot of trouble.”
“But Shibata has not yet begun his invasion of Novgorod. If he hasn’t, then that resupply seems of little value.” The Reine des Garous narrowed her eyes and intertwined her fingers. “What do you think will trigger Shibata’s invasion of Novgorod?”
“Sviet Rus or Oushuu cooperating with Musashi.”
Tomoe Gozen answered immediately and Exiv continued for her.
“Sviet Rus and Oushuu cooperating with Matsudaira did not occur until after Nobunaga and Hashiba’s deaths. If that occurs, Hashiba will have to move ahead with Nobunaga’s assassination since they control the Testament Union now. So P.A. Oda will first want to quickly finish all of the history recreation leading to Nobunaga’s assassination so they can rush in to stop it. That is why Hashiba is preparing to attack Mouri and why Shibata is preparing to invade Sviet Rus.”
“An excellent answer.” Tomoe Gozen showed off her sharp canine teeth in a small smile. “Of course, if Sviet Rus or Oushuu are to cooperate with Musashi, the current Student Council must win this special student general assembly and then achieve decent results at the three nations meeting with Sviet Rus, Date, and Mogami. But are you sure you want that, Mouri? …If Musashi earns Sviet Rus’s cooperation, Hashiba will begin their Mouri invasion in earnest.”
“We have countermeasures in mind. We’ll mess with them good. After all, I’m Mouri Terumoto, the commander who messes with everyone at Sekigahara. Also, Anne already decided at Magdeburg that we would focus on Musashi for our resistance against P.A. Oda. …And we have no complaints about that.”
Tomoe Gozen bowed and Terumoto smiled bitterly.
“Don’t worry about it. This just means everyone’s destiny has yet to be decided.”
Terumoto opened another signe cadre. This one was a divine transmission from the Ariake.
Musashi’s Vice President raised her right hand and said something.
“Good. …Musashi’s Vice President. Now that’s someone I’d like to face head-on.”
Terumoto raised her eyebrows a little and fixed her eyes on Musashi’s Vice President.
“When I see a girl going on the offensive like that, it makes me feel like they’ve gotten disturbingly far ahead of me.”
Masazumi stood below a vast white ceiling and atop the bridge leading to the academy on the aft end of a giant ship.
She checked some information on a sign frame and breathed in.
She was about to begin tearing down what Ookubo had said.
She would remove all of the complaints Ookubo had made about their goals and methods.
…This won’t be easy.
More through intuition than realization, she concluded that Ookubo was fully betting herself on this. Ookubo had two inherited names, yet she was facing down and debating someone with no inherited name while showing no fear of the history recreation of her own fall from grace.
Masazumi silently commented on that stance.
…Ookubo. You take Musashi and the Far East very seriously, don’t you?
So do I. Or at least I try to.
She wanted to speak with Ookubo about that.
Of course, that would have to be after all of this was over.
But, thought Masazumi. Just as a lot went into constructing who I am today, a lot went into who Ookubo is as well.
What was that “a lot”?
…If I knew that, I bet I could understand what she really wants here and what she’s really thinking.
Simply knowing whether or not what Ookubo was saying was real would change Masazumi’s trust in the girl’s words and actions.
Masazumi wanted to do everything she could as a part of what determined Musashi and the Far East’s destiny. While preparing the night before, she had received some information from Ohiroshiki and visited a number of places, but…
…This won’t be easy.
She could only say her opponent’s defenses were too strict.
Hey, she thought toward the side of Ookubo’s face.
What are you thinking as you stand here?
Masazumi formed those words in her heart and took a breath.
But then she noticed a sign frame next to her face. She saw Tsukinowa raising both front paws.
It waved them. That was probably a way of telling her to look as soon as possible, so…
Vice President: “What is this? And why is it protected so only I can read it?”
Four Eyes: “Hi, Musashi Vice President. This is the volunteer working to restore your silly wannabe author.”
Letters rapidly flew around the target of Masazumi’s question.
She was supposedly in Neshinbara’s home, restoring him from his flattened state, but…
Four Eyes: “I was analyzing the data while working on the restoration and I came across a divine mail summing up the events of the night before last. Basically, it was his notes concerning Ookubo Tadachika/Nagayasu. …This boy seems to have a fetish that leads him to go for anyone with glasses, but that doesn’t really matter. No, it does matter. Or maybe if he at least had better taste in them. But, anyway, look.”
Look at what?
Four Eyes: “ ‘The Possibility of Rebellion by Ookubo Tadachika/Nagayasu and the True Meaning Thereof’ ”
Masazumi was dumbfounded by what this meant and the sign frame continued speaking.
Four Eyes: “Sorry. I was given full privileges over this wannabe idiot, so I should have noticed this sooner and sent it to you. If I had, it would have significantly reduced your stress and given you several hours with which to peacefully work on the creative process you call politics. That was my mistake. …But may I ask one thing?”
Vice President: “What is it?”
Four Eyes: “Is this enough for you to accept Toussaint’s value?”
Vice President: “Judge. …I was just hoping to learn the truth behind Ookubo. I didn’t want to make a mistake in how I responded here. I don’t know to what kind of extremes Neshinbara’s thought processes took him, but he predicted this would happen, didn’t he? And he already investigated the truth behind it.”
Vice President: “We might have avoided all this trouble if he hadn’t been flattened.”
Four Eyes: “I am shocked to find a lacking wannabe author is enough to alter the destiny of an entire nation.”
Vice President: “Are you saying we must be severely shorthanded?”
Four Eyes: “No. If I am his goal, then he needs to be at least at that level while still only a wannabe. Otherwise, he could never hope to match me in the future.”
Masazumi did not entirely understand that, but she recorded it so she could give it to Heidi or Naito later on. Hopefully it would be worth at least the price of a lunch.
But at the same time, relief filled her heart.
Vice President: “What does it say?”
Four Eyes: “I have not read it as Toussaint meant it for you. He may be foolish and lacking and he may have a hopeless penchant for delusions, but…nothing he creates is powerless.”
Vice President: “Are you saying this will help me?”
Four Eyes: “Testament. All creative works contain energy. Whether you will consume it or not is up to you, though.”
Shakespeare sent the word “bye” and the sign frame vanished. All that remained was a single sign frame showing the information Neshinbara had sent.
Masazumi thought as she viewed that and let most of its contents enter her mind.
It contained the truth behind this special student general assembly and a few odd happenings of late.
Masazumi was able to find the answers to what had seemed so inscrutable. She thanked Neshinbara for that sense of relief and turned back toward Oriotorai.
The woman returned her look and raised her eyebrows in interest.
“Sensei. …Sorry, but please give me a moment to gather the information in my head.”
“Honestly, why do you boys love showing off in front of girls so much?”
In a small room, Shakespeare lay on the bed in her white coat. She started by sprawling out her limbs and grabbing the blanket. Then she rolled up in it and rolled back and forth on the bed.
After a while, she said “testament”, got up, and sighed.
“My sponsor will be releasing me soon, so I will be quite busy as a professional author.”
Her eyes turned toward a wall covered in bookshelves and…
Neshinbara’s armor panel was there with the excess portion cut away.
The corners of Shakespeare’s mouth relaxed and she approached the armor.
She placed her lips on it and took a breath.
“I thought I could do it while everyone slept, but the preparations to release you are already complete…”
She reached for her collar and undid her inner suit’s joint. Then she showed off her teeth in a smile.
“So I can indulge myself just a little for the time being, can’t I?”
Once she said that, Shakespeare’s long ears suddenly moved. They twitched a few times and she spoke while touching them with her hands.
“What a nice rhythm. …Is someone dancing up on the western side of the Ariake?”
They were high in the sky.
So high, in fact, that it grew dark blue below and they could not see the bottom. Thin white clouds were spiraling lower down, but none were visible in the blue overhead.
A white panel existed below that blue. It was a vast plain floating above the earth.
The white surface existed on the same scale as the sea, the mountains, the towns, and the forests stretching out below. Its upper surface was printed with the brand name Kantou IZUMO and the name Ariake.
A few things were moving on the Ariake’s surface. Most of those on the western side were light gods of war replacing the western armor and defense spell stockers.
The majority were split into three groups.
One group continued working. That was the smallest group.
Another group watched the special student general assembly on the few sign frames opened above the Ariake. That was the largest group.
The last group was gradually growing as the gods of war called out to each other. They were looking to the scaffolding being put together to replace the external armor on the western side. Two people were moving atop the reinforced bamboo pipes.
They were both girls.
The two exchanged positions and moved about while favoring the cut edges of the reinforced bamboo pipes that stood vertically. It looked more like dance practice or a game than it did a battle. Or it would have if the one pursuing the other were not wielding a spear.
Another girl and a woman were watching those two.
On the edge of the deck near the scaffolding, a middle-aged woman wearing a Blue Thunder apron crossed her arms and smiled as she asked a question of the girl in a summer uniform standing next to her.
“Tomo-chan, how much support are you providing as the Asama Shrine?”
Asama did not understand what that question meant at first.
“Are you talking about Kimi and Futayo’s training or the special student general assembly, Toori-kun and Kimi’s mother?”
Yoshiki smiled bitterly and answered without looking Asama’s way.
“I’m talking about both. You’re pretty strongly in my kids’ camp, Tomo-chan, and you’re also in their friends’ and allies’ camp. And you don’t hold back in either case, do you?”
“When you put it like that, I can only say that’s due to my personality…”
“Judge. So take care of Toori. There are other girls, including Horizon, but if that idiot’s prepared to be a king, then he needs to start looking to the next stage before long.”
“What do you mean by the next stage?”
“Judge,” Yoshiki nodded and looked to Kimi’s hair dancing and Futayo’s hair flying in pursuit atop the scaffolding. “Futayo-chan is pretty flexible. I thought she would move more stiffly. …Kimi is always wiggling around, but she bends pretty far when you go along with it, Tomo-chan.”
“If I get out of shape and can’t do the splits anymore, Kimi always forces me to do it…”
“Ha ha.” Yoshiki laughed. “Anyway, about the next step. It looks to me like everyone will be able to act like that.”
“Musashi became what it is today in order to rescue Horizon, but she’s no longer gone and no longer taken. She is here now. She is with us now. She works at my place and she lives underground in Tama. She has also become quite active as that idiot’s girlfriend. …So even if this started with losing Horizon, thinking of our current issues based on that means to deny what we have now.”
Asama’s pulse began beating faster.
In front of her, Futayo was pursuing Kimi.
According to Yoshiki, the girl had felt her own limits and wished to surpass them.
That desire was likely a reaction to the current state of Musashi and Yoshiki’s next words seemed based on that premise.
“A foundation is important, but it’s just a foothold. What you need to hold in your arms now is a brand new weapon that can break through your obstacles and pave the way forward. And…”
“That idiot is trying to become a king. He’s trying to create a nation, not preserve one. That nation does not yet exist and you could say his future is lawless until it does exist. In that case, anything goes as long as it seems like the best option. So Tomo-chan, take care of my idiot and of Horizon and Kimi too.”
“Oh, come on. I’m still in no position to be taking care of anyone…”
“Judge.” Yoshiki patted her on the back. “I know you can’t say no if I ask you, but I’m asking you anyway. …Do you know why?”
It was not to increase Asama’s sense of obligation. She knew Yoshiki enough to know that. She knew it all the more because Yoshiki knew her quite well.
Yoshiki was saying this:
…If I ever feel like I’m creating a wall between us, I can use this request as an excuse to follow him regardless…
That woman must have seen right through her. Asama was a shrine maiden and Musashi’s Shinto representative, so she could not always act freely. Her role was often that of a supervisor, so it was often hard to know whether or not she should ask for something herself.
“The others are always acting of their own volition,” said Yoshiki. “But Tomo-chan, you often have to stop them. You play that role a lot with my two idiots. So feel free to act first and make up your mind later. You said before that you were thinking of traveling around the mainland after graduating, right? Before you decide whether you should do that or not, make sure you won’t be leaving behind any regrets. And…”
“Just like Asama-kun and Ei-san, you’re as much a part of our family as Horizon. Feel free to follow your heart and go for the answer you like best. I’ll root for you, although I’ll be rooting for the others too. And if you’re going to do that, you’ll need to get Horizon on your side.”
Asama asked just to be sure.
“What are we talking about here?”
Yoshiki glanced over at her hesitant question and formed a smile on the corners of her mouth.
“You really are hopeless if someone doesn’t ask you to do it. You’re just like Ei-san.”
Asama did not find it weird when this woman spoke her mother’s name. And then Yoshiki patted her on the back.
“So make sure you’re also just like her when it comes to the fights that truly matter. I guarantee you’ll get the answer you want.”
“Um, but, uh…”
“Judge.” Yoshiki nodded with a bitter smile. “We’re talking about a very serious issue. …Now, look over there, Tomo-chan.”
Asama did so and saw a slow change coming over Kimi and Futayo’s movements.
Their movements were growing larger.
Kimi felt a smile on her lips.
…Finally. Yes, finally.
She was finally feeling it. Her movements were starting to take the form of a large dance.
After all, this was training. She needed to “match” her opponent. So she had sealed away her more serious movements until that opponent could keep up.
She was gradually releasing those movements now. She had initially taken up her position on the scaffolding to judge her opponent’s skill, but Futayo’s movements were growing larger and faster.
…But she still has a long way to go.
The girl was simply matching Kimi’s tempo and taking great leaps with a set timing.
Futayo was doing nothing more than repeatedly taking a kind of jump she was unaccustomed to taking. But…
It was like smelling a food one loved. It was like stepping through the door of one’s favorite shop. It was like waking up in the morning and finding that beloved person by one’s side.
Futayo’s movements gave off that hint of greater things to come.
The movements of the dance had seeped into her body.
The order in which she moved her legs and how she swung her body expressed the dance’s theme.
By placing all of those movements into a single current, the dance became more than just a form of exercise. It was a medium of expression.
This was the same.
Right now, I am waiting even as I continue to flee, thought Kimi.
It was just like a couple chasing after each other at the beach.
It was just like a prince and a princess attempting to take each other’s hand at a ball.
It was just like a brother and sister fighting over the snacks they held.
“But my foolish brother gets worn out so easily. Yes.”
She was doing more than “continuing to flee”. She was also “waiting”.
She would occasionally slow the timing of her jump.
But she did more than slow her timing. She would also change direction or adjust her body’s movements for the jump after that.
She also never forgot to keep one motion flowing into the next. She would jump, and…
Futayo jumped and approached. Her footsteps were growing louder. She was beginning to put real strength behind her jumps in order to keep up with Kimi’s movements.
She closed the distance between them like that, but she had yet to use any acceleration spells.
Neither had Kimi.
Kimi used the leaping motions as a part of her dance. From a dance-perspective, repeatedly jumping from one end of the stage to the other was a beginner-level skill.
But Futayo seemed unaccustomed to making such long jumps so many times in a row.
Kimi was sending the spring of her body back and forth like a pendulum, but Futayo would build up strength, release it, and then repeat the process.
Kimi knew why. Making such frequent long leaps was unthinkable in a battle. And if Futayo wanted to make these long jumps more easily…
“Heh heh. You know what you have to do, don’t you?”
Kimi narrowed her eyes and looked back toward Futayo.
She saw light behind her. It was ether light, the light that resided in spells. It was…
“Soaring Wings. …Use that to jump after me with everything you’ve got.”
Futayo activated her spell.
To leap in quick succession, she opened the spell circles for Soaring Wings on her leading toes, knee, and shoulder.
The bluish-white sign frames instantly purified her path forward.
Her body felt lighter. The space before her contained the chill of clear water. She felt like jumping through there would clear everything up.
She pursued Kimi.
She knew Kimi’s jumping technique was based in her dancing skills.
It was a unique technique, but it was still pathetic that a Vice Chancellor of all people had to use a spell to keep up with a non-officer.
This was training for her. After deciding to teach her, Yoshiki had set up this time for her.
Futayo decided she would pursue Kimi without worrying about appearances.
If Kimi was making leap after leap, then…
…I will keep up by using Soaring Wings’s acceleration to double my own leaps!
So Futayo made accelerated jumps to keep up with Kimi.
A moment later, Futayo saw Kimi crouch down in preparation to jump backwards. And…
Kimi had not done anything, yet Futayo was sent flying into empty air.
“Gin… It would seem the Vice Chancellor has decided to face her battle head-on.”
At the site of the special student general assembly, Muneshige was stationed as a guard at the back end of Musashi Ariadust Academy’s bridge. Gin was stationed halfway up the stairs and he sent her words that only she could hear.
Masazumi had bought herself some short time to gather her thoughts for the special student general assembly.
…This is a duel.
Muneshige understood political topics, but he could not handle them with ease. He had skill in both military and intellectual matters, but he did not think he would focus on the latter until he had pursued the former some more.
So this special student general assembly confrontation felt like combat to him.
There was also the other form of combat occurring behind the scenes.
“What do you think about the Vice Chancellor’s training?”
Gin answered without waiting to nod.
“The problem with her is how she faces everything a little too head-on. Try to use a technique on her and it can easily backfire.”
“Your prosthetics are part of your body and not techniques, so you have nothing to worry about, Gin.”
“Judge. You are saying the daughter of a warrior family should put more effort into cooking and cleaning, aren’t you?”
“That bonito this morning was exquisite. And when you prepared my uniform last night as we would be appearing in public, I appreciated the padding you put in in case it came to a fight. Not to mention that you look stunning in that summer uniform.”
“…Please leave your opinion of me out of this. And it wasn’t difficult as I know your dimensions, Master Muneshige. But more importantly…”
“Judge. Nothing to report at the moment.”
For the time being, they had seen no one suspicious in the area. Musashi Ariadust Academy was a target of the remodeling just like everything else and materials and supplies were stacked up inside since it functioned as a post station. The areas between those were being patrolled by kobolds and…
“Sewers. Same as always.”
If experts like the black algae creatures had nothing to report, then it was unlikely there was a problem. Muneshige just had to continue his guard duties while leaving that to them. But…
“Master Muneshige, you can hear that, can’t you? The Ariake’s armor is shaking from the Vice Chancellor and Lady Kimi’s battle.”
“Judge. …I wonder how that will turn out.”
“I do not know, but Musashi’s residents are too kind.”
Gin spoke quietly as she listened to the distant vibrations coming from that training.
“They all take people out to the battlefield like they’re inviting them out to play. What a troublesome nation.”
Asama did not understand what had just happened before her eyes.
Futayo had activated her Soaring Wings and then suddenly been “thrown” right and diagonally up from her direction of movement.
She flew in a parabolic arc seven or eight meters tall and twenty meters long.
The way she flailed her limbs and the way Yoshiki smiled with her hands on her hips made it clear Futayo had not done this on purpose.
“Young children have so much energy.”
“Youth can send you flying through the air…?”
Asama could receive real time data from the Asama Shrine on people’s usage of Blessings and contracted spells. Her sign frame was currently showing the data on Futayo and Kimi, but…
“Um, Kimi and Futayo didn’t do anything, right? Futayo used Soaring Wings and Kimi just jumped backwards. Isn’t that right, Toori-kun and Kimi’s mother?”
“Could you just call me Yoshiki-chan?”
The woman made the request with a bitter smile, but Asama’s personality and habits would not allow it.
Gold Mar: “Did she fall? Should I have a friend pick her up?”
Asama looked up and saw Futayo spinning around at a height of about six meters.
If she could reorient herself like that, then she was conscious, so Asama sent a message to only Naito.
Asama: “I think she’s fine. But inform the surrounding transport personnel and the guard Technohexen unit just in case.”
Gold Mar: “Sure thing. Judge, judge. I’ll tell them there’s some exciting training going on.”
It certainly is exciting, thought Asama as she saw Futayo force a midair side flip and just barely get her feet on the edge of the scaffolding. But her angle and position were not quite enough to bring her body on top of the scaffolding. So as Asama watched, Futayo crouched down…
And she leaped backwards.
Futayo’s hair flowed out in front of her and she reached the scaffolding behind her. Asama heard a bitter laugh next to her.
It was Yoshiki.
“She’s hesitating. And the cause is pretty deeply rooted.”
“Um, what exactly happened earlier?”
“Judge. It’s simple. Kimi just shifted the timing of her jump a little.”
Asama saw Kimi return to the previous scaffolding and calmly spin around. She extended one leg and both arms as she wiggled her spinning body back and forth.
“She kept the build-up for the leap inside her? Honestly, it’s a shame she’s such a capricious girl.”
“Yes, Kimi has always been pretty amazing… Or she would be if she wasn’t so capricious.”
“I know what you mean.”
After that, Asama tilted her head and asked Yoshiki a question.
“How did shifting the timing of her jump send Futayo flying?”
“Because Futayo-chan is a coward,” said Yoshiki. “Listen. When you pursue your opponent, they run away. Futayo-chan had caught onto that tempo and felt like she could close the gap between them. So just when she started moving in…Kimi stopped for a moment. Kimi perfectly predicted when Futayo-chan would use her acceleration spell and did it just before Futayo-chan moved forward. Far Eastern acceleration spells use purification, so it’s all over if it’s thrown out of order. That’s how Kimi ended it.”
“Judge. This battlefield is under Kimi’s control. And for a simple reason. This is the cause of Futayo-chan’s slump, it’s the source of her cowardice, and it’s incredibly simple. And Futayo-chan has of course realized what it is. It’s just that she refuses to accept it.”
Yoshiki smiled as she spoke.
“So,” she continued. “Kimi, go ahead and expose all of Futayo-chan’s weaknesses. If you don’t, that conservative girl won’t be able to trust herself even if she does think about changing.”
She really got me, thought Futayo as she made a back jump.
…I would expect no less of Kimi-dono!
This was not an issue of the Vice Chancellor against a non-officer. She had already lost once to this opponent.
Since Mikawa, Kimi had given her snacks, groomed her hair for her, and otherwise behaved like a friend during breaks between classes, but training was different.
Futayo was currently up against a formidable enemy.
…I need to stay focused.
She held a weapon in her hand, but she had her worries about the Tonbo Spare. She had her worries about herself as well. She needed to keep those worries from showing while training and, if possible, rid herself of them entirely.
She would continue training for that purpose.
“In that case…”
She activated Soaring Wings. Light appeared on her toes, knee, and leading shoulder.
She started forward, but…
After Kimi’s unexpected comment, the color white filled Futayo’s eyes.
Futayo had no clue what had happened.
White round masses suddenly appeared before her eyes.
“Look, look, look. Here are some awkward cushions.”
As Futayo tried to move forward, her face was buried. And when she thought about what this was…
Impossible, thought Futayo. Not the size. Asama-dono and Mary-sama’s are larger. The movement is the impossible part. Kimi had been moving slowly, yet she had somehow arrived right in front of her. Which meant…
…She predicted my timing…
“Take this: Busty Press.”
As Futayo had tried to move forward, her face had been buried in Kimi’s chest and she had been robbed of her momentum. Then Kimi raised her hips as if to lift Futayo up.
Futayo’s forward momentum was lifted up by the resiliency of Kimi’s breasts.
Soaring Wings made a valiant attempt to account for this unplanned change of direction. It changed the forward-directed acceleration purification in accordance with the user’s wishes.
But those wishes did not successfully change the spell’s direction even for an instant. Soaring Wings shattered and its power briefly fell out of equilibrium. This meant Soaring Wings tried to launch her upwards and she was also being pushed back, so there was only one direction she could go.
Futayo was tossed into the air as if she had bounced off of Kimi.
“She flew pretty far this time.”
“Tomo-chan, isn’t that a little quick to get used to this? Are you okay?”
“Well, you know…” said Asama as she watched Futayo’s parabolic arc.
She doubted the girl would fall, but…
“Kimi shows less restraint the more stubborn her opponent is, so I wonder if Futayo will be okay.”
“Tomo-chan, you really know my kids well, don’t you?”
“They have a long history of dragging me into their messes. Yes, and Horizon was a part of it in the beginning.”
Her sign frame showed that Kimi had yet to use a spell. The girl simply spun around while keeping her eyes on the sky. She made a gentle rotation to keep her gaze on Futayo’s airborne arc.
So as Futayo fell…
“Kimi is going to go after her without showing any restraint.”
Futayo thought to herself as she flew about forty meters through the air: What is going on?
It was not just that her technique was not working; she could not even use it.
She could not do anything.
She did not know if this was a different form of combat or a different level of combat.
But there was one thing she did know and one thing she could think while flying through the empty air.
…If I had even once run across an opponent like Kimi-dono in my past battles…
Her words of conviction sent her pulse racing as she spoke them aloud.
“I would have lost and the Far East would have met defeat.”
When she put it to words, she was astonished by her own weakness and fragility. But…
“What are you zoning out for? Get up.”
As she fell through the air, her body was spun around without warning.
After that half-rotation, she found her feet standing on the scaffolding. And she saw something in front of her weak gaze.
She reflexively raised her head.
“Youuuuu weak-willed fool!!!”
A blow with a tornado windup struck Futayo on the cheek and she flew through the air again.
…Wow, it’s been a while since I saw that…
Asama blankly watched Kimi’s tornado slap and its result.
Saying this was “the first time since Naruze” would probably upset Naruze, but when Kimi did this…
“She must be pretty mad.”
“That you didn’t say ‘as mad as she can be’ shows just how well how you know my daughter, Tomo-chan.”
“Well, you know…” said Asama as Futayo made four full rotations in midair, but Kimi used the rotation of her own body to grab Futayo’s collar. Then her hair whipped behind her.
With an intense sound, Kimi headbutted Futayo.
Futayo received an unavoidable hit.
Kimi had her by the collar and was swinging her around. However, Kimi only had her by the collar with one arm and Futayo’s feet were not dangling in midair. But…
When she tried to plant her feet on the scaffolding, Kimi forced her off balance, but when she tried lifting them up, Kimi swung her around. This did not mean Kimi had incredible arm strength. She was simply using the shifts in body weight and unnecessary movements that Futayo used to move away.
Futayo knew what this meant.
…I am making needless movements and losing my calm!
She did not think Kimi was taking advantage of her. She was trying to do this properly, and yet…
“You really are a hopeless girl.”
Another headbutt hit her.
“Why do you always try to follow the other person’s lead?”
A reverberating blow hit her between the eyes. The stinging pain spread to her nose as well.
“Why are you only looking at yourself?”
You are contradicting yourself, thought Futayo. But as she hung her head, a blow hit the top of her head.
“You follow the other person’s lead and never decide anything for yourself. But even as you do that, you only evaluate your own performance. …You have an egocentrism that relies on others. Could you be any worse?”
What other option is there? thought Futayo. She was inexperienced and her enemies were all powerful and skilled. There were times when she could only fight a defensive battle like with Shibata in Magdeburg. But…
“I don’t know who your enemies are. Heh heh. After all, I’m not you.”
Kimi swung her outwards as if to fling her away but then pulled her back in.
“But your enemies must have wanted a proper fight with you. And yet you wouldn’t fight in your own style. No, that isn’t quite right. I’m betting…”
“You still don’t have a fighting style of your own.”
Futayo was utterly dumbfounded.
…I don’t have a fighting style of my own?
As soon as she thought that, an impact passed through her forehead and out the back of her head.
The blow was powerful enough to shake her vision and weaken her knees.
She moved her legs to somehow support herself, but her feet were trembling and dancing. She could not even call herself an acceleration spell user at this point.
But, she thought.
…If I don’t have a fighting style of my own…then isn’t it hopeless?
Musashi was sure to face powerful enemies in the future. What would happen if she fought those future opponents while inexperienced and with nothing to call her own?
But the sharp gaze of the dancer was still directed right at her.
Those eyes seemed to be looking through her eyes and into her brain and her deepest thoughts.
“A sheltered flower will wither on a shorter cycle, but it will bloom again before long.”
Kimi tilted Futayo’s limp body upwards.
That placed something in Futayo’s field of vision.
A sign frame floated in the sky and it displayed…
That was a scene of another confrontation. That old acquaintance of a Vice President was speaking at the special student general assembly to send Musashi back to the battlefield and return everything to normal.
“Do you understand?” asked Kimi. “Again and again, that flat-chested non-name inheritor has been defeated, felt resignation, made lame jokes, and desperately endured the fear as everyone relies on her. …Of course, I’m not telling you to become her. You mustn’t compare yourself to others.”
“Anyone, even my foolish brother, can do that much.”
Futayo’s mind went blank at Kimi’s line.
“Anyone…can do that much?”
“Judge. Silly girl. That’s what makes you so ignorant of the world. You must have had a lovely upbringing. Think about it carefully. Heh heh… Just how frustrating does it have to be for Mr. Impossible to become a king? And if Mr. Impossible can become a king…”
“Then anyone can become a king. That is known as usurpation or the rise of many warlords…in the world of samurai, at least.”
“B-but I am not trying to be a king!”
“Then what do you want to be?”
She could not answer that.
Of course she could not. She simply wished to be stronger.
She was still searching for what came after that.
But a powerful gaze pressed her for an answer.
“So a foolish girl who doesn’t even know what she wants to be is trying to fight those who are trying to become something? And you have the nerve to hesitate and self-obsess? Just how sorry for yourself do you feel? You have your head in the clouds and you had a sheltered upbringing, but I will end that for you here. After all…”
“You were flower raised to be let loose in the wild, but the final choice was left with you. So I will test you to see if you have blossomed yet. And then I will replant you here.”
“Judge,” replied her opponent. “I know you are the type to follow your opponent’s lead. So I will take away one of your options.”
Are you listening?
“Honda Futayo. Samurai girl. Before my next dance comes to an end, I will decide whether or not you give up. And you can use that to think about whether you will continue to follow your opponent’s lead or not.”
A moment later, Futayo saw a certain color.
It was blue.
It was the color of the sky.
Kimi had sent her flying with a single blow from her toe tips.
But Futayo also saw a girl with the same surname as her speaking in the floating sign frame.
Masazumi was fighting.