Volume 1, Chapter 14: Pride and Thanks
A wolf’s attacks
Come from their claws and strength
But what do they use
For the finisher?
Point Allocation (Fangs)
Suzu heard a distant sound.
She was closing the bathhouse for the evening after hearing from Asama what was happening. She was about to give the place an extra thorough cleaning. And…
Solid sounds reached her through the Musashi’s air.
The spacing between the sounds seemed more compact than the other night’s battle. That would mean Mitotsudaira was moving as quickly as she could manage.
Kimi had arrived at the bathhouse, but she had fainted in the dressing room once the ghost fleets appeared. She had pulled a blanket over her head to make herself look something like a giant dumpling, so Suzu was impressed just how terrified that girl was of ghosts. However…
…I probably shouldn’t tell her that’s the blanket the ghost used last night.
Asama: “Kimi! Kimi! You don’t have to faint now, after all this time!”
Wise Sister: “Ahhh! I can’t hear youuuu! I finally see why my foolish brother and Asama couldn’t tell me what was going on! Also, I had figured it out myself because I’m so wise! But being wise doesn’t help with things like this!”
Asama watched Mitotsudaira fight.
The nature district had been altered this time based on the previous battle. The dirt and trees were not yet set up to allow Mitotsudaira more freedom of movement.
The crust blocks that supported those natural structures were artificial land containing a natural filtration system for the liquid that passed through it from top to bottom. The surface had a wave-like pattern carved into it for placing the ground on top.
She could still kick off the height differences as before, but she could also use that carved pattern to stop her sliding or to catch onto and launch herself in the opposite direction.
Meanwhile, her opponent was a ghost. Most ghosts had no feet and their position was based on the “mold” of the ground’s surface. The type of ground did not matter to them, so the pattern carved into it was irrelevant.
That meant it would work only to Mitotsudaira’s advantage. And…
“Mito! The water’s surface has a very different mold from the ground’s surface, so most ghosts can’t cross over water! If it comes to it, you can always retreat across the central stream!”
She received no response, but even Asama only meant that as a last resort.
…Knowing Mito, she won’t lure the enemy over in that direction.
That was how focused on fighting Mitotsudaira was.
Asama saw the wolf within the disturbed mist.
She planted her feet solidly on that pattern and kept her body low to gain as much speed as possible.
She sank down, gathered strength, and then pushed herself forward.
Her steps rang loud and solid.
She pushed herself up with a heavy straining.
The wolf pursued her foe with winding movements.
Meanwhile, the enemy held her back with his sword tip and attacked when she lost her speed.
Mitotsudaira’s attacks were curved and the enemy’s were straight. Countless open-hand strikes and straight sword jabs crossed paths, pierced the empty air, and whipped up the wind.
“Hey, why’s he attacking Nate instead of this woman here?” asked Toori.
“I think because Mito is in Matsudaira’s line of succession. Matsudaira fought for Imagawa during the Okehazama history recreation and they even defeated an Oda fortress.”
So if this ghost was attacking Imagawa to fulfill his resentment…
“When the enemy lost sight of Asahina-san during the cannon fire the other night, I think they must have shifted their aim to Mito instead.”
“They can tell Nate’s Mito Matsudaira, or whatever it is?”
“Your memories and personality are a part of your mold too. It isn’t just your build and appearance.”
“Even if she tries to reject it, Mito may have received the mold of her family name. In fact, she may have received it even more strongly since she arrived at this point through rejecting it.”
“You mean…?” he asked and she nodded.
“Mito’s mold is closely connected to the Far East’s future. We can’t let her lose to a history recreation from nearly a century ago and I doubt she intends to let that happen herself.”
“That is why Mito is doing this.”
Mitotsudaira was learning to predict her enemy’s movements.
He really did have a limited range of attack patterns. He probably only had the most representative of the Atsuta Shrine’s sword fighting techniques. But even so…
Even after dying and mostly losing his memories, this ghost was still an impressive blade user.
It was like facing sword technique in human form.
She had to wonder just how much practice and training he had gone through in life to learn it all on such a fundamental level. The result of that was now moving and attacking in front of her as a “mold”.
The Atsuta Shrine was established to keep the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, so its sword techniques were for straight swords.
She was a knight, so most of her classes and training had been in the use of swords.
Knights also used straight swords.
Their sword was a power given them by their king, so it was used to display their justice.
His level of training was far greater than hers, but she understood his actions and she could pick up on what the sword was doing.
She had not been aware of it last time, but now she knew.
She knew he was Atsuta Shrine High Priest Senshu Shirou.
So she understood.
The sword technique she had been taught on the Musashi had been the European style, but it was all based on the Far Eastern style.
And Far Eastern straight sword techniques had to work against Atsuta techniques.
The techniques of the sword offered to the top of the Far East were a king’s techniques.
They were faithful and straightforward techniques.
He preferred to make jabs toward the center of the body. The wind of his jabs blowing straight at her felt refreshing to her.
It reminded her that Kusanagi was also known as Murakumo – gathering clouds.
She dodged and was occasionally grazed as she moved forward. Because…
She was still weak and constantly needed assistance. She was always hanging around her king and could not do anything on her own. But one day…
“I too will be my king’s sword!”
Mitotsudaira moved forward.
The enemy held his blade in his left hand.
He jabbed it forward.
She tilted her head to the left to dodge and felt the wind of the blade on her right cheek. She felt no fear. Because she had already dodged it. The attack had not come as a surprise; she had known it was coming there. That gave her time to watch the blade pull back and to step forward along with it.
She took the step while also sending her right hand out below the blade.
She used the blind spot created by the blade to strike at her enemy’s torso.
She was just barely in range, but the enemy used just his ankles to step back. Instead of seeing through her attack, he was simply moving away from her step forward.
He took a half step back while remaining so low his feet never would have picked up from the ground if he had feet.
She realized the enemy’s withdrawn blade was in position to jab again.
She responded by pressing her feet against the ground and fitting the soles of her shoes into the pattern carved into the surface of the crust block.
She leaned her body forward.
She thought of it like lying down, but her feet did not slip back.
Because her feet were caught in the pattern on the floor.
That let her lean forward without slipping and thus the enemy’s blade passed by overhead.
She had dodged it.
If she stood up as the blade was pulled back again, she could move right up to the enemy.
So instead of using her right hand for another attack, she slammed it against the floor.
Standing up with just her legs would have been too slow, so she placed her hands on the floor as if crawling.
She dashed forward.
In that instant, the enemy’s jabbed blade began to move overhead. He’s pulling it back, she thought. Except…
She saw the enemy’s movement.
He did not pull the blade back in his hand.
Asama saw what the enemy did.
However, she did not know enough about combat to understand what it meant.
I don’t need your input, Phantom Naruze.
Anyway, she was not trained in combat, so while the others often said Mitotsudaira’s movements were “slow”, that was not what she was seeing now.
…I can barely see her!
But she had seen the wolf’s last movement.
She had an enemy.
He had made Mitotsudaira duck down below his left-handed jab at mid height.
Below his left arm, the wolf was preparing to throw herself forward.
She could tell Mitotsudaira’s plan was to launch herself forward. If she sent her left hand out from that position, she could pierce right through his body.
That would be devastating for him.
And even if he tried to fall back, he had his sword. It was unclear how much the weight of the sword affected a ghost, but that weight and the motion of pulling it back would slow any attempt to fall back.
Besides, it was hard to pick up speed while moving backwards.
But the enemy had stopped thinking about any of that.
The ghost swordsman let go of the hilt and let his fingers catch on the guard.
With a snap of his fingers, the blade was launched into the air.
Instead of pulling it back with him, he let go of it in the air in front of him.
And instead of tossing it backwards, he gave it a horizontal rotation.
The movement was speedy but well controlled and unhesitating. That was why even Asama could tell what he had done.
The straight sword spun above Mitotsudaira’s head. She launched herself forward a moment later and in response…
“Mito! To the side!”
Instead of moving back and away from her, he moved to the side.
From Mitotsudaira’s perspective, he moved right. The motion of his sliding feet was instantaneous, and…
Once the wolf passed by him and tried to get back up, he swung his right hand. That hand caught the spinning sword’s hilt in a backhand grip.
And with a rapid snap of the wrist, the blade attacked Mitotsudaira from behind.
It was going to hit.
Mitotsudaira made a single decision regarding the horizontal strike from behind.
…Now is no time to worry about how I look!
So she rolled.
She had already started standing back up, so she could not crouch back down again in time.
Her shoes were planted firmly on the floor, but she forced them out of place to instead roll through the night.
She did not remove both feet from the floor at once, so she rolled to the side. She moved her left hip down and crashed her body against the floor.
Then the blade passed by as if stroking her right cheek.
A few strands of her bangs were cut away, but…
She heard a voice. It was her king’s.
“Isn’t it about time you won this?”
Mitotsudaira slammed both hands against the floor.
She rose up to the right as if hopping up from the floor.
Instead of standing up, she struck the floor with her Loup-Garou strength so she lifted from the floor until she had righted herself.
The enemy was right in front of her now.
She had to win this. Her king expected it of her. More than that, he trusted she could do it.
He was supporting her.
She viewed her enemy. The ghost swordsman’s blade left behind a trail of light as he pulled it back in from the snap to the right. The returning path of the sword would take it to…
So Mitotsudaira exhaled and relaxed her body.
She swung her head against the incoming blade.
The strike came at her like a flash of light, but she could see it.
This opponent was accurate.
These sword skills had surpassed memory to remain with him even in death, so he could reproduce them here.
He did not miss and he did not make mistakes, so his attack was aimed accurately at the center of her neck.
She used her mouth to measure out half her neck’s width. When her right cheek no longer felt the heat of her exhaled breath, she knew she had reached that width.
The measurement proved accurate.
She heard the crash of destruction and felt an impact on her neck. The hard point part on the left of her neck had been pierced through.
The metal and processed wood fragments hit her, but…
…I dodged it!
By the time she had that thought, the enemy had already pulled back his blade.
He was fast. He was making his attacks even faster than before. Which meant…
…That action is part of a series of attacks, isn’t it!?
If this was the beginning of a rapid flurry of attacks, she knew exactly what he would do once his sword was pulled back.
He took action in the center of her vision. He pulled the hilt back in his right hand, but…
He released the hilt in midair while pulling his right elbow back.
He let go of his weapon.
He had tossed it to the left where his left hand had already taken a raised position.
This was the same as the other night, so she used this chance to move. First, she swung her right hand outwards
She managed to catch the midair sword with her right hand’s nails to swat it outwards.
Asama saw a series of actions progressing.
Mitotsudaira had swatted the enemy’s blade out to the right, perhaps to neutralize him.
But the enemy was already moving. He swung his entire body to her right as if throwing a disc with his left hand.
The enemy’s left fingers snagged the straight sword she had sent to the right. It looked like he just barely managed to catch it with his fully-extended arm and fingertips, but…
The way he forcibly pulled it back and instantaneously swung his body led right into a full-power horizontal strike with the sword.
The speedy attack drew a line of light in the air that led toward Mitotsudaira.
Mitotsudaira saw what the enemy was doing.
He was fast, so not even she could dodge it now. And he was aiming for…
…My neck again!
Just then, the sound of the wind came to an end.
The enemy’s blade had finished slicing through the air to reach her.
Asama saw the horizontal strike hit.
The ether light blade struck Mitotsudaira on the right side of the neck.
“Mito!” she shouted, but then she saw something.
Something had been shattered, but it was not Mitotsudaira’s life.
The enemy’s sword had come to a stop at the right of Mitotsudaira’s neck and been utterly destroyed in an instant.
Mitotsudaira let out a breath with both her arms raised in a fighting stance.
The enemy in front of her had frozen in place without finishing his horizontal strike.
“Sorry, but this is my win.”
The enemy’s blade split and cracked from where it touched her neck and on down to the hilt.
The hard point part at her neck had similarly shattered. And…
“This uniform functions as armor and Asama gave it some additional divine protections. I let you cut my hair and destroy the other hard point part so I could check on your blade’s cutting edge and location. So…”
She had wrapped her sleeves around her hands as gauntlets and placed the uniform over her neck hard point part to block the attack. Her outstretched right hand had been to push on the base of the blade to reduce its speed.
And whether the blade cut through her uniform or whatever else…
“I am confident in my strength.”
Her bare hand emerged from the scattering pieces of her sleeve.
The fingers were covered in blood. But…
“My Loup-Garou grip was effective.”
Her fingers had held the ridge of the blade from above and below and held it in place like a vise.
She had caught the horizontally-swinging sword.
Even with a straight sword, only the edge of the blade could cut. By holding it from the sides, she could grasp it safely.
From there, she only had to squeeze with all her might to shatter it in her grip.
Its speed had let it split her palm open a bit, but…
“How about it?”
These were the sword techniques of a sword god’s high priest, but…
“Can you find pride in combat after losing your sword?”
The enemy moved in response.
She heard Asama’s voice, but she ignored that and continued to face her opponent.
He pulled back his sword.
It was only a hilt without a blade now, but he still pulled it back and pressed it against his left hip where he likely had a hard point part.
Then he slowly turned to fully face her.
And he bowed his head.
He immediately began to scatter away.
Suddenly and without warning, he scattered like sand in the wind.
She had won.
She lowered her shoulders and felt hands grab both of her own.
On her right, Asama checked the wound on her wrist, but…
“Huh? It’s gone.”
“A cut that shallow will heal almost instantly. It didn’t reach the bone or anything.”
She needed to thank Asama. Without Asama’s divine protections increasing her defenses, she would have been injured much worse from that crude sword catching. And…
“Nate,” said a voice to her left.
She turned that way and saw him holding her left hand and breathing a sigh of relief.
She felt bad for having worried him.
“The wounds received here belong to both of us.”
At first, she did not know what he meant, but…
He was supporting her. And a knight was her king’s sword.
So even if she was injured, it was best if it did not leave a scar.
She was belatedly glad she was a Loup-Garou. And more than that…
“This is not over yet, my king. Because-”
“Hey! What’s up with Okutama!? I brought the greedy merchant here, but no one showed up to greet us! Asama, aren’t you in charge of that!? What’s the deal!?”
That was Urquiaga over the divine transmission. A high-speed transport ship was approaching while avoiding the cannon fire from the south.
The ship said Marube-ya on the side.
It belonged to Shirojiro and Heidi.
Heidi was out on the deck with Shirojiro. A battle filled the night sky, so they could always be hit even while taking this detour. She made sure all of the crew was always equipped with descent spells. As for her and Shirojiro…
“Totomi was a complete bust for us, wasn’t it!?”
“Judge. I did not expect the others to buy up everything in the market before we got there. The Tian Shan corridor coming up must be starved for materials. But…”
Shirojiro turned back in the wind to view the rear of the deck.
Small containers were lined up on the transport ship that felt long to them. She smiled as he saw the containers being quickly loaded onto smaller boats.
“If this helps protect Totomi, they will owe us one. We can do real business at Totomi starting next year, Heidi. Once the money comes pouring in then, we can exchange it all for 10-yen coins and bathe in money together. How about we soak up to our shoulders and enjoy some drinks?”
“That are gifted to us, of course. Why would we ever pay for expensive drinks ourselves, Heidi? We can use silver coins the year after that and gold coins the year after that to truly enjoy being surrounded by money. We must find some way of thanking the Asama Shrine that does not cost us any money.”
“Judge,” said Heidi with a smile while she heard something accelerating overhead. It was Urquiaga and he spoke while flying higher.
“Hey, money freaks. I am on my way over to Tenzou and the others, but you need to hurry up and get your cargo to the stern of Okutama. …The battle is right over there!”
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