Prologue: The Night Sky and a Visitor
In the present
We are far enough ahead
To look back
Point Allocation (Surprisingly Exciting)
A ship traveled through the night sky.
The giant white form was positioned well above the southern coast as it traveled slowly through the moonlight.
It was comprised of 8 individual ships. They were arranged with two ships lined up in the center with the rest positioned on either side like two longer hulls.
Each ship was more than 8km long and had a city on top.
The twin bows of that dual-hulled aerial city ship bore the name Musashi in black lettering.
The Musashi’s great form was currently sliding sideways out to ocean, port side first.
The vast shadow produced by the moonlight was cast across the coastal land and the bluish-black ocean.
Some light appeared in the sky as if in response.
These lights were located well out to sea in the direction the Musashi was sliding, but they were not artificial.
This was ether light. That bluish-white light came from the ether produced when a spell or spirit was manifested. Several of them were currently lined up as if to block the Musashi’s path.
However, the giant ship approached regardless.
The ether lights toward the center reacted. They drew an arc as if to greet the approaching ship and they began to reveal their forms.
They were ships.
Some were 30m long and others were more than 100m, but every single one of them shared a certain trait in common.
They were rotting away.
This was a fleet of what could only be called ghost ships made from ether.
A countless number of ether light ships half-surrounded the Musashi at a distance. The Musashi approached them as if coming up alongside them.
Several people could be seen on the port edge of the Musashi’s decks.
There were students, shrine maidens, Buddhist practitioners, and more – all wearing anti-ghost equipment and wielding weapons wrapped in faint ether light.
Someone moved to the front of the group.
The girl had long black hair and she wore the shirt of a boys summer uniform and the tights of a girls uniform. She pushed up the slipping armband saying Vice President Honda Masazumi.
“Judge. In response to a request from the Oushuu reservations down on the surface, Musashi Ariadust Academy will now perform a largescale purification of this region of sea. The mysterious phenomenon in question has already shown itself and we cannot deny the possibility that this will require combat. Thus…”
She swung her right hand to the side.
“Everyone, perform your final gear check. We will begin on my signal.”
…On my signal, huh?
How courageous of me, thought Vice President Honda Masazumi while sweating on the inside.
…This is my first time actually taking command. I hope I can manage it.
Purifying ghosts fixed to a certain coast or airspace was one of the most common requests sent to them by Far Eastern reservations.
With the world’s nations holding a provisional rule over the entire Far East, the reservations could not engage in combat on their own authority. They lacked the power to purify a largescale mysterious phenomenon.
But in this Warring States period, the academies with provisional rule over the reservations did not have the strength to spare for guarding and preserving the peace in those reservations. In the end, the Musashi would end up doing it as a Far Eastern representative. But…
Asama: “Generally, purifying them will keep them away for 5 or 6 years, but quite a lot of them have cropped up in the past two years. Maybe because of the Apocalypse.”
Next to Masazumi, Asama was dressed in her shrine maiden outfit to signify she was here as the Asama Shrine Representative. She sighed while opening a sign frame in midair. This was a public work performed in the public eye. Her fingers raced across the sign frame keyboard to communicate via writing.
Seeing that, Masazumi opened a sign frame of her own.
The Mouse on her shoulder, an anteater named Tsukinowa, held it up for her to see.
Vice President: “I feel bad saying this after summoning you all here, but this is my first time commanding a purification. Besides, did we even do this last year? With the Oushuu clans – especially the southern region and Kunohe – I thought we got the individual trading done at Mito.”
Asama: “Yes, well, remember what I just said? When you purify a certain airspace, it can take a few years before the next stagnation builds up. And in the years when we have to do that, we will focus more on that region. Also, this one should have been good for another two or three years, but there has been a bit of a disturbance in the ley lines of this area recently, so we had to hasten the schedule.”
Asama: “We are handling smaller scale ones all the time.”
Vice President: “We are?”
Asama: “Yes, the buffering spell cast on the area around the Musashi includes an anti-ghost field, so the courses taken by minor ghost ships will be purified automatically as the Musashi passes through. But…”
Asama: “But the previous purification in this airspace was so deep that the remnants were pushed out to sea and they have reappeared there. That prevents the Musashi from automatically purifying them while passing through since they’re appearing more out at sea.”
“I see,” said Masazumi.
With the Far East under provisional rule, the Musashi generally traveled along the provisional borders between nations. Even on an official duty like this, they still had to tread carefully when moving out to sea.
“Which is where I come in, I take it. I’m sure the Oushuu clans also want to see what we can do nowadays, so this sounds like a pain.”
“It is a pain,” said the winged girl in a Weiss Hexen outfit standing next to Asama. “We’re having to deal with a purification that shouldn’t have needed doing for two or three more years. Is this another annoying effect of the Apocalypse? You know, like two years ago.”
“Naruze, you and Naito were a huge help two years ago. Since it came up so suddenly and all. I seem to recall Kimi screaming and grabbing everyone’s chest because she’s afraid of ghosts.”
Weiss Hexen Naruze and Schwarz Hexen Naito nodded at Asama’s words. Naito held up her schale besen called Schwarz Fräulein.
“She went on to make a boob size list, didn’t she? I was pretty high up on there. And look.”
Naito gestured back with her chin. Masazumi looked back to see everyone holding their equipment at the ready. And beyond them…
Smoking Girl: “The artillery team is ready too. Should we get started?’
Vice President: “Should we really just go all out like this?”
Asama: “Well, with an opponent this dense, a ‘core’ will probably show itself, so keep in mind we have to deal with that.”
Asama used a term Masazumi knew but did not know what it meant in this context.
She did not want to make any mistakes here, so she decided to ask.
Vice President: “A core?”
Smoking Girl: “You’ll know it when you see it.”
An actual answer would be preferable, she thought, but she knew not to expect that from her class.
They were telling her to let them handle it.
And she probably would understand after watching it all play out. So…
Smoking Girl: “We have a way of purifying them as deeply as possible, which is the right way to do it. It’s technically an experimental method, but it’s what we used 3 years ago and it worked well then.”
Asama: “We didn’t do it here two years ago, so I think we can probably manage it this time.”
Masazumi still did not know what they were talking about, but all the others seemed to.
So she chose to focus on her own job.
She viewed the hovering ether light surrounding them at a distance as well as the ones that had formed actual ships.
Vice President: “Then let’s get this started. Um, should we ask them to surrender first? You know, as a formality.”
What a pathetic setup, thought Naruze while making some final adjustments to her schale besen.
“We should do that since it will establish our right to use this airspace and our objective here. We cannot deny the possibility of another nation intervening, and a Terrestrial Dragon or something could fly through here on an aerial stroll. Plus, the Oushuu clans wouldn’t have made this request unless they wanted to see what we could do. We need to go through all the proper steps so they can’t rip us off.”
Asama: “I doubt any of them can approach within 3km of us thanks to the anti-ghost field our shrine manages, but more concentrated things, like attacks, can probably reach us, even if they are weakened along the way, so be careful.”
Mar-Ga: “So the same as always. It was a real pain when they pursued the Musashi 3 years ago.”
“Judge. You can ask Mitotsudaira about it. She’s the star tonight.”
With that, Naruze used her pen device to draw out a crop mark frame Magie Figur. Then she kept drawing to create a zoomed-in image of the distant ether fleet.
…It only needs to be zoomed in enough to make out the individual ships, right?
She enlarged the image and adjusted the brightness so it matched the ships’ ether light instead of the moonlight.
And when she viewed the finished product…
“They really are multiplying. They might just try to fight it out.”
“Hold on, I thought we were only cleaning up the mysterious phenomenon in this airspace. What’s this about fighting?”
“Excited by this unexpected chance at war, are you?”
Meanwhile, their opponent made a sudden move.
Several dozen beams of light shot out. They were…
It happened suddenly.
A fleet half-surrounded the Musashi out at sea and ether light cannons were fired by the dozen or so ships that had taken a definite form.
The Musashi had done nothing yet at this point.
The light rushed toward them in an instant and the giant ship made a clear response.
Several layers of torii-style defense barriers opened to defend them.
The barriers were several dozen meters tall and wide and they were emitted to the port of the Musashi. The beams of light crashed into them.
The ether light forming the barriers shattered and scattered as pure light.
The falling and glowing shards had no weight, solidity, or heat, but the warriors still held up a hand to shield their eyes from the brightness.
“Damn, that was a more blatant attack than I was expecting!”
Meanwhile, they saw movement atop the distant enemy fleet.
The telescope spell showed them the ghosts on the ships’ decks using their arms and bodies to spell out a word.
“Y – E – S.”
“Ah, those bastards are mocking us!”
A second and third wave of attacks soon arrived.
Shattering sounds rang through the air as the light scattered.
More and more defense barriers were emitted, but the enemy only fired more in response.
The cannons were poorly aimed and there was no real tactical thought in evidence. They were simply firing on the Musashi. But…
“They won’t stop!?”
The ether cannon blasts were nonstop.
It was sporadic from any one ship, but they all continued firing regularly. Also…
“Hold on! There’s more of them now!”
There were already 700 ships and the number continued to rise while the larger of the ships fired in turn.
They continued to increase in number and their scattered, poorly-aimed shots made it hard for the Musashi defenders to gather on a single point. Their defense was entirely reliant on the barriers.
“Wait a second.”
The Musashi’s defense barriers were located at a lower position than initially.
“Are they being pushed back!?”
Within the main bridge of Musashino, the Musashi’s 1st central ship, Command Automaton “Musashino” responded to the comment she heard coming from the scene.
“They are not being pushed back. The barrier location has simply been lowered to increase the barrier density. Over.”
“A-are you…mad, ‘Musashino’-san?”
“No, I am not mad. Not at all. What about me makes you think I am mad, Suzu-sama? Over.”
“Musashino” froze for about two seconds and then a tremor ran through her body.
“Full-body adjustment complete. That mysterious anger has been eliminated. How about now, Suzu-sama? Over.”
“W-well, if that’s what…you want to believe,” said Suzu who was managing the Musashi’s movements in the front of the bridge. She pushed an ether model of the Musashi with her hand and turned the port side toward the ocean. “But why…a-are they still firing?”
Asama: “That fleet is capable of firing so continuously because they have become local spirits and that allows them to directly draw ether from the ley lines.”
Smoking Girl: “What does that mean?”
Asama: “They can use the ley lines within this airspace – that is, within their territory – as a fuel source. I honestly would prefer this ley line disturbance does not continue for long.”
Asama operated her sign frames while responding. She opened and operated a few simultaneously in order to check on the settings of the Musashi’s spell fields.
She could use that to change the strength and the extent of the fields.
…Strengthening the ether interference field would weaken their attacks, but…
That would bring its own problems. It would greatly influence the Musashi’s infrastructure and divine protections and it would weaken any of their own ether-based attacks.
So she followed standard procedure by applying fields of different types on top of each other and making adjustments as needed.
The primary field applied on the outside of the ship was a hull spell that would identify and purify mysterious phenomena. However…
“The Musashi generally uses a hull field larger than standard city-wide fields to defend against mysterious phenomena and monsters, but they are so powerful that it would be dangerous here.”
“Dangerous how?” asked Naruze.
“It can affect nonhumans, obstruct external infrastructure, and begin physical interference that drops transport ships into a pocket.”
“Oh, yeah. We get warnings about that for our delivery business.”
“You do,” replied Asama while the scattering light of ether cannons continued to fill the sky. That light had grown awfully close overhead, but…
…It isn’t dropping any more, is it?
Meanwhile, Masazumi placed a hand on her chin and viewed her own sign frame.
“Naito, Naruze. Did we take this kind of concentrated fire the last time we performed a purification here?”
“Of course not. Right, Margot?”
“Judge. I don’t remember them putting up much of a fight last time, so maybe this is because of all our fighting in Kantou.”
“I see,” said Masazumi before turning to Asama. “Asama, do you think the Oushuu clans knew the ghosts in this airspace were so powerful?”
“I think they did.” Asama replied clearly while defense barrier shards poured down on her. “It was the reservation that instructed us to head out to sea, so I imagine the Oushuu clans had already fought a small-scale battle against them.”
“Then I can see a political resolution here.”
Gold Mar: “Oh? Finally ready to get started, Seijun?”
Vice President: “More like I have finally found my role here. I doubt they will use this to declare war against us, but the Oushuu clans will probably decide how to deal with us based on what we do here and on the ultimate result.”
Asama: “Then what should we do?”
Vice President: “We solve this no matter what it takes.”
Asama watched as Masazumi elaborated.
Vice President: “Listen. Musashi intends to treat all nations equally and evenly. And we cannot look down on these nations here just because we have already found some cooperative nations in the area. We are not above or below anyone. We are all equal parts of the Far East. So…”
Vice President: “This much is nothing, so let’s clean it up like we always do. And let’s do a more complete job of it than anyone ever has before.”
Naito nodded in agreement with Masazumi.
“As part of the Chancellor’s Officers, I can’t defy the Student Council’s political decisions.”
“We pretty much knew this was coming anyway,” added Naruze.
Naito nodded in agreement again and then a divine transmission arrived.
Murayama: “Excuse me everyone. This is 2nd Port Ship Captain ‘Murayama’. I am currently constructing a defense spell activation pattern that will stabilize the power usage. I will complete the task in another 117 seconds, but the stationary defenses will be reliant on the warriors. Please move to the location indicated on your sign frame. Over.”
Flat Vassal: “Oh, then we need to get moving!”
The warriors assigned to defense began to move with a thick blue and white mobile shell in the lead. The bespectacled vassal girl inside that mobile shell was displayed on Naito’s Magie Figur.
Flat Vassal: “We will be in position in about a minute, so please begin the counterattack and purification then!”
“Will you be okay, Adele? The barriers are taking a lot of fire out in front of us and above us.”
The enemy attacks were striking those barriers like pouring rain.
…That’s quite a view.
The light and din of destruction made standing on the front line feel like standing in front of a roaring waterfall.
In a real battle, this would be about the same as facing a mid-sized fleet. They were enduring it easily enough for now, but…
“This is thanks to Asama’s field keeping them away and the concentration of the defense barriers, isn’t it?”
“What are your thoughts, Ga-chan?”
“Well,” said Naruze. “Annoyingly enough, a direct counterattack looks difficult.”
Naruze sighed and continued her comment.
“With the enemy bombardment coming from dead ahead, we can only return fire or approach by circumventing that. That either means splitting the warriors to the left and right or sending out transport ships above and below, but what do you make of that from a political perspective?”
Naruze turned toward Masazumi who looked her straight in the eye as she answered.
“Circumvention would take time and hardly qualifies as an overwhelming onslaught.”
“Um, Masazumi? Why do you sound dead-set on an exciting result?”
That tended to happen. But time was of the essence here.
The defense barriers were currently deflecting all of the power raining down on them, but…
Musashino: “Everyone, the calculations are complete for the port side. However, I would like to confirm one thing first, Masazumi-sama. Over.”
“What’s that?’ asked Masazumi while the others gave her a questioning look.
Musashino: “Judge. Even if we respond according to these calculations, the unexpected could always happen. Like you said, it would be best to end this sooner rather than later. Over.”
That’s true, thought Naruze.
The longer this took, the more time there was for the unexpected and the inepter they would look to outside observers.
“Then,” said Naito. “Should we send out a warning instead of waiting for the full pattern?”
Smoking Girl: “Do you want us to clear a path dead ahead?”
Vice President: “You can do that?”
Smoking Girl: “We armed ourselves according to the usual pattern. It’s something of a brute force tactic, but the result should be good fodder for jokes and we can get started right away.”
“Judge. Then let’s do that.”
Masazumi nodded and raised her right hand.
She opened her mouth in front of the constant firing and scattering destruction.
“Um.” Her voice rang loud and far thanks to the Musashi’s external loudspeakers. “Attention ships currently attacking us out at sea. This is Musashi Ariadust Academy Representative Honda Masazumi with a warning.” She took a breath. “The surface reservation requested that we purify this airspace.”
“If you have a problem with that, why not attack the surface instead of us?”
The enemy stopped firing.
Asama could see the night sky now that the enemy’s artillery fire had stopped.
…Oh, the moons are so pretty.
Everyone around her remained as still as could be. She decided not to think too hard as to why while she checked on the enemy through a telescope spell.
The ghosts of the large enemy fleet had formed scrums to discuss something.
Mar-Ga: “So…problem solved?”
Musashino: “Um, what about our pattern? Over.”
Gold Mar: “Don’t worry, don’t worry. This isn’t gonna work.”
Vice President: “Can you at least hope that it does!?”
Asama: “By the way, Masazumi. We’re receiving divine mails of protest from the Oushuu clans down below.”
Vice President: “Oh, forward those on to Ookubo.”
She’s probably going to complain again, thought Asama while doing as instructed. And then…
The ghosts raised their hands on the ghost ship decks.
Everyone focused on that to see what it was about.
“N – O. C – A – N. D – O.”
They resumed firing all of a sudden.
The defense barriers quickly reopened to stop the rapid beams of light. Destruction and spraying light slammed into them repeatedly. Below that noise and colorful light, Naito held both hands out in front of her Technohexen hat.
Gold Mar: “Ah ha ha. See? What did I tell you?”
Mar-Ga: “When you’re right, you’re right, Margot. Besides, the world would be at peace if you could sidestep war by shifting the responsibility elsewhere.”
Vice President: “Well excuse me for trying! Anyway, what was that ‘no can do’ about?”
Asama: “Um, it probably has to do with that core I mentioned earlier. I will omit the details because they’re a pain to explain, but Masazumi? For now, continue your warning.”
“Oh.” Masazumi quickly looked forward again where the cannon fire filled her vision. “Um.”
She held up a sign frame with a surrender document written on it. And as an ultimatum…
“Listen up. We will now begin purifying this airspace. We want each of you to think for yourselves as you respond. Now, do you have any last words or a final wish before you are purified? If there is anything that will help the purification process run smoothly, we would like to provide it.”
The enemy responded even as the cannon fire continued. The ghosts exchanged a glance and then formed letters with their bodies again.
“L – A – D – L – E.”
“So they’re Funayurei,” said Masazumi.
Smoking Girl: “Now!”
Behind her, she heard something ejected high into the sky from Musashino’s stern.
Asama knew what had just happened. The engine division had just launched something they had prepared last year.
But Masazumi did not know.
It was adorable how the girl reflexively looked up into the sky.
“Masazumi, it’s already reached them. Look.”
She pointed toward the ghost fleet.
Her finger pointed at the 300m ghost ship at the center of the fleet, which suddenly split in two.
The answer to Masazumi’s confusion was a blow from directly above.
The thing that had fallen from the sky and attacked the enemy ship could be seen at the center of the bisected ship. It was more than 30m long.
Adele and some warriors had circled around to the defend the diplomatic port and she saw it happen from within Raging Beast, her mobile shell.
After a sound of splitting air from the night sky, blunt weapons poured down on the ghost fleet.
The ether ships were destroyed by…
“I bet they never expected their request for a ladle to be answered by ladles raining from the sky.”
Smoking Girl: “They only have themselves to blame for not designating a size or a delivery method when putting in the order. This is all thanks to Bottomless, a launched anti-ship hammer designed for use against mysterious phenomena. Since we did exactly as they demanded, their own kotodama divine protection will prevent them from dodging. The purification spell multiplies the impact damage several times over. And since they’re made from hardened bamboo, they’ll decompose and become part of a fish reef after falling into the ocean. Also…”
The impacts falling from the sky destroyed the ghost fleet’s main fighting force.
Mar-Ga: “Since they’re launched from the engine division’s launchers, they can soar above the ghost fleet’s attacks to strike them from above. This gives us enough time to wait for a hole in the enemy bombardment.”
Adele saw a gap in the enemy fire on Raging Beast’s console. She confirmed it with Raging Beast’s sight devices and sent the information to the others. And then…
Gold Mar: “Okay, let’s do this!”
The Technohexen began to fly as Musashi’s aerial interception unit.
Like a flock of birds taking flight, the Schwarz Hexen unit’s schale besens moved out into the night.
They kicked off the deck and launched themselves into open air.
Mar-Ga: “We’re going too! Perform midair defense and then get out of there!”
Adele saw the Weiss Hexen unit follow suit. Which meant her group had a task to do.
“Defense unit, spread out to the left and right! Block the attacks that fly by to either side of the path taken by the Technohexen units. And fire as much as you can so they have to concentrate more!”
Masazumi did not really understand the wild battle or assault underway in front of her.
But the ghost fleet began to intercept Musashi’s attacks, making it an exchange of blows. As far as she could see…
“This is how we always do things, isn’t it?”
Smoking Girl: “Hold on. Why are they advancing on us when our launched projectiles are enough to handle their entire fleet?”
Silver Wolf: “Why? Because they are former warriors or have some other kind of pride. They are probably willing to be purified if it is the result of an honorable battle.”
Vice President: “Mitotsudaira? Where are you?”
Musashi’s top knight should have been here right now, but she was nowhere to be seen.
“The idiot isn’t here either.”
“Those two left to go purify the core,” said Asama.
Mar-Ga: “Huh!? Don’t leave yet! It’s too dangerous before we’ve crushed the enemy’s front line!”
Me: “Oh, noooo! We’re gonna leeeeave! We’re totally gonna leave nowwwwww!”
Gold Mar: “Ga-chan, Ga-chan! Don’t aim back behind you. Please. Hitting him wouldn’t be as funny as you think.”
What am I even listening to anymore? wondered Masazumi, but then a single ship departed from down below the deck she stood on.
The defensive ship was well-armored and could produce multiple layers of defense barrier. It was about 300m long and it had ample cargo space as a former transport ship, but…
She had no idea what was loaded on there, but it was probably part of some kind of plan.
She saw a girl standing on the bridge with her silver hair fluttering in the night breeze.
That was Mitotsudaira.
Asama nodded while standing next to Masazumi.
“Yes, this job is best left with Mito.”
“Mitotsudaira’s in charge?”
“Because of some stuff that happened 3 years ago.”
They had mentioned something from 3 years ago a few times already, but that was before Masazumi had come to Musashi.
…Well, I’m sure they’ll explain if I ask.
They would not say much unbidden, but they would tell her as a joke if she asked. That was just how they were.
I’m probably similar when it comes to my past, she realized.
Vice President: “Mitotsudaira, you do whatever needs doing when the timing is right.”
Silver Wolf: “Judge. If you ask me, my king would be a better choice than me here.”
But she went on to say “now then” on the divine transmission.
The enemy artillery fire continued in the sky out ahead, but the Technohexen were clearing a path. The defense ship traveled through there.
Silver Wolf: “I am a knight of Musashi. I am the First Knight of our Chancellor who is my king. My name is Mitotsudaira ‘Silver Wolf’ Nate and I will provide you the response you desire as best as I can.”
Silver Wolf: “If you wish to enjoy this aerial battlefield, then come at me.”
It ultimately took until 2AM to complete that job.
All of the gates on the Musashi were shut, so Masazumi, the rest of the Student Council, the Chancellor’s Officers, and the other VIPs chose to celebrate and spend the night in the Student Council Room on Toori’s suggestion.
His sister Kimi, Horizon, and some others joined them with some food, so they began chatting like usual until the tension and elation had left them. However…
“Hey, Mitotsudaira. What happened during the purification 3 years ago?”
Masazumi’s question led Mitotsudaira to stop eating some chicken.
“You mean the one in Totomi east of Mikawa? That mostly unofficial one?”
Asama nodded in confirmation while using chopsticks to split up the contents of a large lunchbox between Toori and Horizon. Seeing that nod, Mitotsudaira turned toward her king. And he…
“Yeah, go for it. Let’s see where our secrets take us while we keep a log of it all.”
Naruze began booing with a wine bottle in hand, but the wolf paid her no heed. She had her king’s authorization and she knew her secret with him was safe.
“In that case,” she said while opening a sign frame. “This happened a long time ago. A little bit before I joined the Chancellor’s Officers and before I acquired the Silver Chains or the Silver Wolf name. It was a little after I had corrected my wild behavior. We were in the third year of middle school at the time.”
– She’s the star tonight
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