Horizon:Volume 2B Chapter 52
Chapter 52: Parting Ways in the Night Sky
Do you shout ‘why’
Because you have yet to give up all hope?
Point Allocation (Relative Importance of the Past)
Mary saw the remnants of the setting sun through the closed shutters.
Her room’s lights were not on.
…It’s just about six o’clock.
Her execution was at seven. Once she changed her clothes and walked up to the Andamio de la Ejecución, history would advance.
She could tell her senses had grown sharper and she sighed.
The festival outside had long since ended. The people would be hiding as the war approached, so the city would only contain the Trumps and other warriors.
A few of the Trumps were scattered around in other places. Howard and Jonson were recording the armada battle from Drake’s patrol ship while Hawkins and Cavendish were helping send Musashi’s normal citizens to IZUMO. Pirate Queen Grace was apparently protecting her birthplace of Ireland.
Even so, most of them had remained in London.
…No one will come to abduct me.
She did not know how right it was to say “abduct” rather than “rescue”.
But then a knock came on her door. She heard the voices of the wooden chairs that were house spirits and acted as her maids.
“Can we bring?” “Your change of clothes?” “Yet?”
“Judge,” she replied.
After a hesitant pause, the presences beyond the door left.
It was about time. She would change her clothes at the bottom of the northwestern tower and then climb to the execution stage.
The execution would return her body to the ley line and strengthen Ex. Caliburn’s ley line connection. That would extend Ex. Caliburn’s range to halfway between the mainland and England and it would allow the sword to be fired more quickly in succession.
Once that happened, no enemy would be able to approach England.
She would become a cornerstone toward eternally protecting England.
Becoming such a cornerstone seemed like true salvation for someone who was treated as if they had never been born.
…But which one of us was it that cried when we first learned about this?
Had it been her or her sister? She did not know. However…
“Save you from anything.”
That’s what this is, she thought while picking up a color from her desk.
It was a red fabric. She had tried to make a scarf, but it had come out more as a muffler. She spread it out and tried holding it up around her neck.
…Do I look like Master Tenzou?
She looked in the mirror, but she did not. She had to hide her face even more. She smiled bitterly at the fact that she had never managed to see his face and she placed the scarf in her pocket.
She then started toward the door, but she heard a sudden sound from the southern shutter. It was the sound of flapping wings and a hard object.
She ran over to the shutter and quickly opened it.
However, she found no one on the other side of the window. It was already night and a blackout was in effect, so she could not sense many people in the city and she would never see the crow even if she looked into the sky.
She accepted the disappointment in her heart and sighed. When she lowered her shoulders and gaze, she noticed a dagger on the windowsill.
The double-sided dagger was small enough to fit in the hand and it was the type used by ninja. Tenzou had used one while digging up the dirt and making small contraptions. This one had its bottom end pointed south toward the Musashi and the tip pointed toward her.
“It can’t be…”
What did she truly want? She picked up the dagger without knowing the answer and she looked south toward the Musashi.
Juana liked riding on ships.
What she did not like were small, dark places. Such places were common on ships, but she oddly did not mind when it was on a ship.
It was likely because her very first memory of relief was on a ship. That memory was of the few days after being saved on the night of the Lepanto. It had been her first time in a bright room and her first time to be able to do as she pleased. She had enjoyed how everyone there had interacted with her and how the cities visible from the sky had looked so pretty during both day and night.
At the time, she had felt glad to have lied.
That was why she had been afraid of growing in the orphanage Velázquez had sent her to. On the day for the orphanage to check her growth during her second year there, she had gone to a corner of the room to try to hide in a dark place once more.
…But the secretary came to save me.
“Due to my business… Actually, I can’t tell you about that until you’ve come of age,” he had said. “Well, a lot happened and I was driven out of my family’s clan. That’s why I’m not big on the superiority complex the long-lived tend to have.”
That was Velázquez’s opinion on the matter and he had said more after stressing that lying was wrong.
“When asked about your dream for the future, you said you wanted to ‘save mister’, so how about you try to make that happen? How about you give it everything you’ve got? If it’s for that, I’ll support your lie.”
To receive higher education, it helped to be long-lived. That was doubly so for someone without Velázquez’s intelligence, without an inherited name family, and without the ability to fight. By moving between orphanages and academies about once a year, she had reached her current position. She guessed it had been part of Velázquez’s plan, but moving all over the nation had helped her in another way.
…It familiarized me with the true state of Tres España.
Those experiences had been useful in achieving her position as vice president and making many different decisions afterwards.
…Even now, I’m lying.
However, she was using what that lie had given her to save Tres España.
For that reason, she felt it was for the best to keep up the act. At least until she had grown and she was forced to leave the one she cared about, that is.
At present, she was faced with a certain problem.
“We are not quite there yet, but it isn’t going to be easy. I can’t seem to put together a scenario to restore Tres España from its decline.”
It can’t be done, thought Juana.
The biggest problems were the loss of the Grande y Felicísima Armada and the nation’s decline it produced. England would continue to show off its power with privateers, so the loss of their aerial fleet was painful. If it hindered their investment in trade and others insisted on repayment, it would strike a fatal blow to Tres España and its weak domestic industry.
…How can we recover from that?
She opened small cathedrals on both her shoulders. The laptop-style handheld cathedrals were mounted on her uniform and they opened countless cadena firma on either side and in front of her.
“Please show me what you hold, Testament.”
“Activating : Accepted : Welcome to the World of the Testament!! : Complete”
Enough cadena firma appeared to fill the guest room she had been given. They were all documents related to Tres España.
As they were rewritten in real time, Juana felt they looked like city lights.
She disliked dark places and that was likely why she always ate dinner in the food cart district. While reaching toward the collection of cadena firma that represented a nation, she felt as if she were touching a city.
“I need to restrain myself better.”
Her style was to draw out the necessary data with a voice recognition search. That meant she did not have to close or open cadena firma and could therefore maintain her train of thought. However, this was more cadena firma than a Mouse or normal contract could fully handle, so she needed the ability to accumulate and manage them all.
Juana also used the small cathedrals on either hip while working through it all.
She lined up all the data on the nation and displayed the links between data with lines of light.
Link lines of ether light raced through the air and the spots with the most connections were the most important.
However, she also had to watch out for data with a large number of views but few link lines. Those had their usage limited due to their great importance and they tended to be related to hospitals, the Testament, and welfare.
Unsurprisingly, there was a fairly heavy bias toward wartime industry at the moment. Quite a few maintenance factories around the nation were running, but she guessed that was because they were seeing to the maintenance of the Grande y Felicísima Armada.
…Whatever the case, I need to support our domestic industry.
The food and clothing industries were in an especially catastrophic state, but she could not return them to their former state without any funds. If they were forced to make payments to the traders, the student council and chancellor’s officers would be completely ineffectual.
To recover, she had to avoid rushing things. She could use the fishing and shipbuilding industries to first restore the coastal regions. To distribute the insufficient industries to other cities, it would likely be best to make the coastal distribution by ship more efficient. She would need to get the different cities to work together, though.
“And to do that, I need the king’s will.”
She needed a king who would unify and lead the cities. According to the Testament descriptions, Felipe II had continued ruling after the armada battle and had tried to somehow stop the decline while also announcing the nation’s bankruptcy.
However, he had not managed it.
She decided she would not let that happen. She would repay him for saving her.
“My preliminary calculations say it will take about forty years to stop the negative trend, but it would only take twenty without the armada battle.”
What would he say if she showed him that information?
“He would probably call it ‘amazing’ as if it was someone else’s problem…but I wonder if he would praise me.”
In a few years, she would have to leave. As she aged, who she truly was would show itself and she was intent on leaving before her lie was found out.
…I need to leave him a path he can take without worrying.
She closed her eyes and thought about how the result of the armada battle would clarify how she could repay him in the future.
She nodded, stood up, and produced a cadena firma in order to contact him on his ship.
…It won’t connect?
This was strange. The data on her cadena firma was being taken from all over Tres España, so why could she not contact the ship right next to the one she was on?
And something else was strange as well: the ship shook beneath her feet.
She felt the movement of inertia in her legs and body.
“Why are we turning back toward España and accelerating?”
A giant shape travelling through the sky sent a spray of water into that sky.
The entirety of its eight ship form was difficult to see while standing on it. The only place where it was almost possible was the back of Musashino. The combined bridge was located within the giant arch-shaped upper surface there.
The thirty meter square floor was dimly lit, but several slate-shaped displays brought in outside information. The area was filled with automatons and very few people accompanied them.
The automatons exchanged information via their shared memory and performed high-speed data processing using their artificial brains.
Because of this, there were no chairs, desks, or lights. There was only the sign frame notification board system embedded in the floor and ceiling and…
“This is our guest chair, but will it suffice, Adele-sama? Over.”
Adele was the only human in the room.
While seated, Adele looked at the figure to her side.
“Judge. I see the automatons always remain standing, ‘Musashino’-san.”
“Judge,” replied a maid doll with semi-long hair and eyes opened in a way that made her look sleepy.
…From what I’ve heard, she’s performing a good bit of the management for all the ships in her head.
Adele decided not to interrupt and opened a sign frame, but “Musashino” staggered a bit and spoke up.
“Shall I turn on the lights? They cannot be seen from outside, so do not worry. Over.”
“Oh, don’t go to the trouble. And shouldn’t you relax a little?”
Adele was on top of a giant spell radar screen that was changing moment by moment. The countless red dots of the Grande y Felicísima Armada were located at the front end.
“We won’t be in firing range for another fifteen minutes, so you should probably try to stay put and work on…optimizing control of the ship, was it?”
“Judge. I have determined that would be the best way of ensuring the Musashi’s safety. Excuse me. Over.”
“Musashino’s” knees collapsed to the floor. Her butt landed in a sitting position and she closed her eyes while Adele sighed next to her.
It must take a large burden to make an automaton choose to rest, thought Adele as she looked forward.
A small version of the Musashi hovered in the air there. It was a model Musashi made of ether light and it used color and sign frames to reflect the state and cruising attitude of the ship.
Currently, the Musashi was switching from inertial cruising to normal cruising after it had accelerated with gravitational cruising.
However, its high speed knocked away the ocean created on the surface of its armor in normal cruising, so it had difficulty obtaining buoyancy. For that reason, it had its waterline set higher than usual and was repeatedly producing a new ocean.
This state provided poor fuel efficiency for normal cruising, but they would run out of fuel in about ten minutes if they used gravitational cruising. Calculations suggested this intermittent acceleration method would provide two hours of combat mobility on the level of a high-speed ship.
It was indeed an inefficient cruising method, but their normal cruising would not suffice if the enemy sent out high-speed ships.
…Our decision is based on that assumption.
Words came from the sign frames around Adele.
Asama: “Lacking Headquarters, this is the archery firing team. We have taken up our positions and are currently checking on our targeting positions, chain of command, and instruction patterns.”
Gold Mar: “The mobile aerial team is doing the same.”
Tonbokiri: “The ship warrior team is the same. Adele-dono, as you are the current commander, I would like for you to double-check the flow of the battle in order to raise all of our morale.”
“Judge,” verbally replied Adele. “Oh, whoops.”
She then moved her hands instead of her mouth.
Flat Vassal: “Then let’s go over the general flow of the armada battle.”
Adele looked at the image of the ships hovering before her while she typed.
Flat Vassal: “Essentially, the armada battle is the English fleet intercepting the Grande y Felicísima Armada’s attempt to invade England, but the Grande y Felicísima Armada begins retreating while circling around England.”
Noriki: “It circles around England even though it’s retreating?”
Flat Vassal: “Judge. It travels counter-clockwise around England while pursued by the English fleet. And while that happens…”
She redisplayed the outline of the battle that had already been sent to everyone.
Guide Program for the Armada Battle – Created by Lacking Headquarters
1: “Hostilities Begin off of Plymouth at Southwestern England”
At this point, the English fleet circles around from behind and to the right of the Españan fleet to behind and to the left. The Tres Españan vice-flagship, the Santa Ana, is incapacitated. Also, the Tres Españan treasury ship, the San Salvador, is accidentally set on fire and leaves.
2: “Second Round off of Portland at Southern England”
Tres España’s fleet forms a defensive formation while England’s fleet pursues and destroys ships one by one.
3: “Resupply Time”
But it is mercilessly interrupted.
4: “Third Round off of Southeastern England”
Off of Calais on the Far Eastern mainland, England’s fleet crashes eight fire ships into Tres España’s fleet to throw them into confusion.
5: “Fourth Round off of Gravelines near Calais”
From here, Tres España begins retreating north and around England. England’s fleet begins pursuit.
6: “Pursuit Ends off of Southwestern England”
After circling England, the Tres Españan fleet is almost entirely destroyed. The armada battle ends.
Flat Vassal: “That pretty much sums it up. It actually took several days, but given the size of England and the speed of the ships, it should only take a few hours. The number of days will probably be interpretively settled by stalling for time after the fact. What matters for us is to faithfully reproduce the events.”
Adele then removed her fingers from the keyboard.
Based on the progress of the program, Adele decided the majority of the armada battle would be settled in the series of conflicts south of England.
However, the history recreation would sometimes change the meaning of a result. For example…
Flat Vassal: “Even if England wins, it’s all over for us if the Musashi is falling apart afterwards.”
Asama: “But Tres España should speed up their retreat to minimize their losses.”
Adele agreed that would be the best option and England had given the same opinion. They had said the Grande y Felicísima Armada would quickly continue with its retreat in order to prevent as much of Tres España’s decline as possible.
Flat Vassal: “After all, they can only lose when it comes to fighting the Musashi rather than the English fleet.”
Marube-ya: “Just firing shells and taking damage is probably a waste of money.”
More importantly, England had made a certain prediction.
Flat Vassal: “They may quickly pass by us and flee while leaving behind the Santa Ana and San Salvador. Then they’ll take up a defensive position at Calais for Part 4 of the program and retreat from there. We can’t carelessly approach because they have their stealth ship, the San Martín, so they can use that fact to leave behind the ships to be sunk by the fire ships and immediately begin retreating around England.”
Worshipper: “It seems to me that the best plan would be to make a secret agreement with them to end this as quickly as possible.”
However, England and the Testament Union would not allow that. If England did not ensure Tres España’s decline, the nation could easily strike back.
Flat Vassal: “The Musashi has been hired as England’s mercenary, so we need to give them the results they want. Also, the Testament Union is monitoring the history recreation between England and Tres España. If the two nations conspire to preserve their strength, the Testament Union will punish them.”
She felt it was an annoyance, but…
Flat Vassal: “Anyway, most of the cannons are focused on the front of the first port and starboard ships. We should be able to shoot down more during the pursuit around England than any other time. We could enter stealth cruising and keep our distance until then, but stealth cruising is pretty slow.”
Asama: “We can’t do it at this speed?”
“Judge,” Adele typed into her keyboard.
Flat Vassal: “The stealth barriers will cause internal interference with each other and destroy each other. Secondary stealth is out of the question and even primary stealth would consume twice the fuel of gravitational cruising at this speed.”
Gold Mar: “Yeah, the Musashi’s pretty big.”
Flat Vassal: “Judge. It seems Tres España’s stealth ship has decent speed, but continuous high-speed movement should still be tough. I assume it will be moving more intermittently. If possible, I want to avoid a fight between stealth ships. We’re so big that they can fire blindly and still hit us.”
The general consensus was that a direct confrontation such as that was unlikely. Tres España would be thinking about the future more than a serious attempt to sink the Musashi. If they began the pursuit soon after the battle began, the battle would primarily consist of the Musashi firing forward at the back of the Tres Españan ships.
That would be a good thing for the Musashi.
…After all, we’re not a warship.
The Musashi’s gravity barrier system was excellent as equipment for a city.
The Testament Union had approved it to defend against pirate attacks that would threaten the combined benefits of trade and it had done an excellent job of protecting them during the Battle of Mikawa.
But how would it fare during a prolonged bombing or shelling? They had their estimates, but those were not certain.
The best plan was to avoid such a situation if at all possible.
For that reason, the pursuit part of the battle was better for them than the earlier melee.
An automaton standing at the front of the bridge held out her hands. A torii-shaped lever made of ether light appeared below her hands, she grabbed it, and she slowly pushed it forward.
“Reaccelerating. Once we pass below the Grande y Felicísima Armada, we will circle around behind it. Over.”
“Judge. Make our turn wider than entirely necessary.”
What both sides feared was damage to their own forces during the early melee. They would preserve the flow of the history recreation and avoid all damage until the end of the conflicts south of England. Adele felt the real battle began during the later retreat and pursuit.
The other side likely felt the same way, so…
“Use our actions to show them what we’re thinking. Exaggerate our motions to show them how we will move next.”
“Judge,” replied the helmsman automaton as she moved the ship forward.
On the spell radar below them, the red dots of the Grande y Felicísima Armada approached. It was a large fleet of 130 ships in all and it included some ships borrowed from K.P.A. Italia.
Once the Musashi slipped below them and circled behind them with a turning ascent, the battle would begin.
Adele took in a breath and watched the front of the Musashi’s course overlap the red dots.
Adele’s shout set everyone in motion.
While the ship ascended, it would turn hard to the left to circle behind and to the right of the Tres Españan fleet.
Inertia pushed everything to the right and the ship groaned, but no one forgot what they had to do.
Those in charge of securing materiel held down the hooks and ropes, the gunners aimed their sights forward, and the warriors crouched low and awaited orders.
A massive fleet was visible in the sky like a group of clouds.
However, two people’s heads suddenly shot up as everyone carried out their duties.
One was “Musashino” who had been curled up sleeping next to Adele.
The other was Suzu who sat in the waiting room next to the bridge because she was their ambassador. She looked up while sitting next to “Musashi” who was looking after Suzu and managing the gravity barriers.
After a moment of confusion, the two people divided by a wall simultaneously shook their head and said different things.
First, “Musashino” spoke.
“Enemy relocated!! Over.”
And then Suzu.
“That’s not it!!”
An instant later, everyone on the Musashi saw the sky split apart.
As they approached the Grande y Felicísima Armada, it suddenly split to the east and west.
One side was larger than the other. The piece moving west toward Tres España was large and the one moving east toward England was small.
The speed at which the split occurred confused everyone. How had it been able to split so quickly?
Ships had a front and a back and they could only move slowly while moving backwards. However, the majority of the fleet splitting off toward Tres España was moving faster than the small portion of the fleet moving toward England.
The answer to that question came into view as the Musashi ascended.
The light of the two full moons revealed it.
“The majority of the Grande y Felicísima Armada heading toward Tres España has its bow pointed that way!?”
Those ships had likely turned around back when the fleet had been deployed into the airspace. The ships to return to Tres España had been stopped while pointing backwards and only those meant to continue on to England had faced forward.
This trick had used the fact that spell radar did not show the direction of a ship.
“But why did they split their fleet in two!?”
The term “pincer attack” came to mind, but that would mean a frenzied clash between the two sides. That would cause the most damage to both of them.
“The retreating fleet is not lowering its speed! It is leaving the combat airspace! Over!”
Despite splitting off only a few ships to head to England and having the majority leave, the Grande y Felicísima Armada accelerated towards its different destinations.
The Musashi was already on track to pursue the smaller England-bound fleet from behind, but a single question filled the minds of everyone aboard the Musashi.
Why would they do this?
Juana ran down the corridor. With the divine transmission closed, she could only confirm it with her own eyes.
The ship was currently moving forward, but “forward” likely meant toward Tres España.
They were advancing in a direction that looked like a retreat and there was only one place she could go to determine the reason for it.
…The rear deck!
She activated a defensive spell and opened the hatch before her. The air entering from outside was weakened by the deck’s buffering spell, but it still felt like having a thick blanket thrown at her. She forced her shoulders through that pressure to reach the night sky.
“Go back inside!!”
Suddenly, white spears appeared from either side and crossed in front of her chest. She looked over and found warriors on either side.
“I am Vice President Juana! On whose orders are we returning to Tres-…”
She trailed off when she saw the ships continuing toward England.
The ship leading those few rapidly-leaving ships was the former San Lorenzo and she knew who was aboard it.
“That is his ship!! Why is it and only a few other ships continuing to England!?”
She reflexively attempted to move forward, but crossed spears blocked her path once more. There were more spears this time, but she only watched the ships growing more distant beyond them.
She felt like they would soon disappear forever, so she wrinkled her brow.
As soon as she took a few hurried steps forward, a voice over the divine network seemed to slam into her.
“Um, can you all hear me?”
It was his voice.
A man was displayed on the large visual sign frame on the front of the ceiling in Musashi’s bridge.
With the night sky in the background, the middle-aged man’s hair and worn-out uniform blew in the wind. He pushed up his glasses and took a moment as if thinking about what to say.
“G-good evening. This is Tres España Chancellor and Student Council President Felipe Segundo. Presently, um, we are approaching the ocean south of England for the history recreation of the armada battle.”
Adele asked a question despite not knowing if her voice would reach him or if he would respond.
“What is going on!? Why is the Grande y Felicísima Armada falling back!?”
It seemed her question did reach him because he gave a small nod.
“No…it isn’t falling back.” He wiped away a nervous sweat with his sleeve. “Um, my ships…that is, these old-style ships and the ones that will be joining it are the true Grande y Felicísima Armada. Just look.”
With that, light filled the floor below Adele.
New red dots appeared in front of and around the Musashi as it pursued Segundo.
The lights were small and an automaton commented on their size.
“I have determined they are about the size of large fishing boats. Most likely, they were hiding in the waves with their engines off, but they should not be armed with anything more than small cannons. Over.”
There were only a few at first, but their numbers soon grew quite high.
Their numbers continued to grow and grow like a wave, until…
Adele saw the color red filling the floor like a solid block.
“Fishing boats!? No, these are small guard ships used to protect local ports!”
Those armed with guns visually confirmed the enemies from the deck of the Musashi as it ascended and advanced. Countless ships rose as if pursuing and lifting up the Musashi from below.
“These are modified old-style ships! They’re pretty damn old. I think Tres España’s automatic galley type was… Yes, it was the type used back when my old man lived there!”
What was going on? Some stared blankly and others curiously, but someone gulped and continued.
“I think it was 25 years ago.”
“These are the ships used in the Lepanto!”
“Yes, that’s right.”
Aboard the leading ship, Segundo spoke while watching the countless smaller ships rise.
He breathed a sigh of relief that the meaning of their actions had finally gotten through. He also realized anew just how much he did not like being the target of so much attention.
Many, many cadena firma had appeared around him. The glowing text gave the words of the owners of the ships that had literally ascended onto the stage.
“I’m here.” “I’m here, commander.” “As promised, I’m here to save the nation, our captain.”
“Testament. Thank you for coming. We all know the password: use the money we have, give in to our passions, have a party, and forget everything unpleasant. So let’s do exactly that. Let’s make this the site of our final falla festival.”
He wondered how that would work as he watched the Musashi rise from below. It lifted the wind which spilled over and formed clouds of fog, so it looked like an entire city rising from the ocean.
He had not taken part in the Battle of Itsukushima, but Itsukushima had looked the same way in the distance. It had been massive and it had toyed with the wind.
…But it lost. So…
“Um… We will now begin the armada battle. This can be the Musashi of the English fleet vs. the Grande y Felicísima Armada or it can be the Musashi vs. the remnants of the Lepanto and Itsukushima. Either one works for me.”
“Everyone and every nation listening to this, please remember one thing.”
Elizabeth watched Segundo’s divine transmission from the waiting area prepared in the Tower of London’s courtyard in order to watch over the execution. She expressionlessly watched Segundo brush a hand through his hair on the sign frame.
“The Grande y Felicísima Armada will now use its full strength to sink the Musashi, but as promised, we will carry out the history recreation. So…”
“My Grande y Felicísima Armada will be destroyed in accordance with that recreation, but I want you to remember one thing. Even if the Grande y Felicísima Armada is destroyed, the San Martín and the rest of Tres España’s forces will remain unharmed.”
“In other words…” The Fairy Queen spoke sharply with her eyebrows slightly raised. “You had already set up the same method we used with the Musashi! You’re using the fleet defeated in the Lepanto as a replacement for the Grande y Felicísima Armada!!”
“Yes, Tres España will lose the Grande y Felicísima Armada and decline, but that decline will be interpretive. The Grande y Felicísima Armada I have brought here is made up of relics our ports were unsure what to do with. They are the symbol of a victory in name only, but that was a lie. It was no victory. After all…”
“I was unable to protect my wife and child. When Chancellor Carlos I appointed me as the next chancellor when he had never even met me, I thought he had given me a place to die. I thought he was telling me to give something back by protecting something great in the very end.”
Everyone watched him smile over the divine transmission and he then shrugged.
“S-see? I’m so pitiful that I’m shaking. I’m really scared. I’m scared of my own resolve, of what I’m going to do, and of everything else. I’m no hero and I’m no king. I’m nothing but a coward who can’t do anything and yet managed to survive. I’m nothing but your average old man. But…”
“What’s wrong with someone like that trying to save Tres España?”
He forced a smile and then indicated the lights of the Lepanto that split to the left and right while pursuing the Musashi.
“Look. Without these ships, the ports don’t have to waste money maintaining them, more space is freed up, new fishing boats and transport ships can be built, and a newer Tres España can be made. …And Tres España also has Juana. If you need a chancellor after me, have her do it. I’m certain she can bring prosperity to the nation.”
And if that happened…
“I may not have been able to protect anything, but maybe I was able to create something.”
Juana shouted through the night from beyond the giant form rising from below and the fishing fires pursuing it.
“What about me! What about what I want!?”
She was being left behind.
He was not yet guaranteed to die, but what was it he wanted?
…If the destruction of the Grande y Felicísima Armada is settled with an interpretation and we lose our king…
It could be said that they had passed the era of decline.
He was trying to disappear to make that happen.
He was trying to leave after giving her the position of the next era’s chancellor.
She could no longer reach him and she could not stand by his side, but if her voice could reach him…
No, that was not it. She needed to make sure he turned her way.
She shouted the word she had used whenever she had lost sight of him on the ship she had taken on the way back from being saved. She also cried just as she had back then.
“Don’t leave me behind!!”
For an instant, Segundo did not understand what he had heard.
That was a nostalgic word. It was a word that had relied on him even though he had been unable to save or protect anything.
He had made the promise to communicate by letters in order to preserve that sense of relief.
However, a woman was now speaking that word over the divine transmission.
Her hair was a mess, her glasses crooked, and she attempted to break free of the people restraining her.
She took a rough breath and spoke.
“I’m sorry for lying!! So…so…don’t leave me behind!!”
What did that word of rejection mean? Her next words gave Segundo’s thoughts the push they needed to make the jump from confusion to understanding.
“I am…I am the child from back then! I didn’t understand anything back then and I was a child, so I lied!”
She continued before he could tell her to wait.
“I am half-lived, but I lied and said I was long-lived!”
She took a breath.
“And I made my way to your side while keeping up the lie!”
“I can’t do it!”
Juana forced the words from her throat with tears on her face.
“I’m the one that must eventually leave! I lied, so I was going to disappear before the truth was discovered!”
This was what had resided in her heart back then and now.
“I don’t want you to leave me!”
Segundo took a few hard breaths.
He did not entirely understand the situation he was faced with and his knees had been trembling for quite a while now, but he knew one thing for sure.
…I have to.
He watched her sob and struggle to free herself from the people restraining her.
…I have to protect her.
With that thought, he gave a small nod and opened his mouth.
…Calm down. This isn’t like you at all, but calm down.
He calmed himself and spoke clearly.
“You…read one of the letters that girl wrote me, didn’t you? So, um…”
He had to say it.
“You’re doing this to keep me from doing this, but…how should I put it?”
Juana watched and listened. In the cadena firma, Segundo covered his face with his hands and spoke in a trembling voice.
“You don’t have to…pretend to be…that girl.”
He let out a breath and relaxed his body. He lowered the hands covering his face and revealed only a smile.
“Commander of the returning fleet.”
“Testament,” replied a voice from a new cadena firma.
It displayed Fusae with the dimly-lit sky in the background and Segundo spoke to her.
“It seems the girl who sends me those letters was half-lived. And, well, Juana was only pretending to be her to keep me from doing this, so…what was said here doesn’t count, okay?”
“Testament. Ju is long-lived. I guarantee it.”
“Thanks,” he said.
During the pause after that, Juana stopped moving.
During her silence that could be telling him to wait or stop, he spoke.
She both wanted to and did not want to hear what he would say with that smile on his face.
“You grew up splendidly.”
After that single comment, the cadena firma vanished.
Juana wanted to say something, shout something, protest something.
But she slipped from the arms restraining her and landed in a sitting position.
She heard a voice, but it seemed to come from her own throat as she hung her head.
She collapsed forward and her throat trembled.
Meanwhile, the Musashi finally showed itself in the sky.
It had no choice but to pursue the small fleet of the true Grande y Felicísima Armada and the larger retreating fleet took a certain action on Fusae’s instructions.
“Prepare a gun salute wishing the Grande y Felicísima Armada victory!!”
At least three hundred cannons targeted the Musashi’s stern at once.
Adele realized this was a dangerous situation.
Tres España’s leading fleet was moving quickly toward England’s south coast, so the Musashi had to pursue it. However, they were also being fired on from behind.
…And they have small ships to our port and starboard!
This was not good. They had few cannons on the port and starboard and the enemy fleet rising on either side was made up of only small ships. With their high mobility, the cannons intended for large ships would be unable to target them.
The enemy would have to approach to use their small cannons, but that would create a complete frenzy of a battle.
The enemy had chosen the exact kind of battle the Musashi most needed to avoid.
The reason for this was obvious. The original assumption had been that both sides would avoid damage, but the enemy now did not care if they were destroyed.
They were not simply desperate; they were prepared to die. To ensure their deaths were not wasted, they had chosen where they would die.
The enemy was too close to switch to stealth cruising now. They were moving too fast for secondary stealth, they were not prepared for the switch, and primary stealth was useless when their location was already known.
…What are we supposed to do?
The enemy came with enough speed and density that she had no time to think.
The enemy’s numbers were massive and an automaton shouted a report on the attack from behind.
“The retreating fleet’s ether cannons and physical divine protection cannons will hit in fifteen seconds. Over!”
A moment later, “Musashi” had the Musashi repeatedly open gravity barriers behind itself and hundreds of shells exploded.
While the Musashi was shaken and lit up by the impacts and explosions, the fishing fires attacked from the bottom of either side.
The attacks were swift.
Alarms filled the night sky. Light from the Musashi’s spell floodlights searched for the Lepanto fishing fires that pressed in with overwhelming numbers.
Segundo’s voice reached everyone who watched it.
“Now, how about we get started, everyone?”
The survivors of the Lepanto ascended as they listened to the man they had once called “commander” and “captain”.
Eight massive forms existed overhead and each one was as large as a city, but everyone faced that enemy with hope in their eyes.
“It’s finally time,” said someone. “It’s finally time to do what we weren’t able to back then.”
“We can protect something.”
“We can save something.”
New bearers of fishing fires approached. When they called out, they could hear each other over the wind rather than the divine transmission.
“Are you the Lepanto group? We’re the survivors of Itsukushima.”
“It’s been a while. Not that we ever got to meet each other back then.”
Words of agreement gathered along with the fishing fires.
“We had only just barely survived, but now I wonder if we could’ve saved someone if we’d rushed over to you right away back then.”
“It’s not too late to save someone now.”
Someone asked who had kids and lots of hands rose into the air. Someone then asked who had grandkids.
“That’s a lot of us. But both those with and those without are going to save them now.”
“This isn’t a victory given to us through interpretation. Let’s go get a real victory we can believe in.”
“Let’s go to our festival. The fires of war will light our falla.”
“So give us our orders, captain.”
They all spoke.
“Give us our falla fishing grounds that can set ablaze what has been smoldering within us for 25 years.”
“Testament. In that case, you’re all the same as me,” said Segundo. “Let’s sink the Musashi.”
“Let’s show England that the empire on which the sun never sets will continue strong for all time.”
At 6:07 PM, Tres España’s Grande y Felicísima Armada and the Musashi engaged in combat while cruising toward southern England.
At the same time, Musashi’s representatives arrived at London on the second level of England. They turned around to observe the repeated lights and noises in the southwestern sky. As they ran, the one trailing silver hair spoke.
“An ambush was waiting for the Musashi on either side!?”
“They said they’re the survivors of the Lepanto and Itsukushima, right?” said Urquiaga. “In non-Far Eastern nations, the trouble of preparing land ports is eliminated by allowing aerial ships to travel on the ocean. They likely left this evening, shut down their engines on the ocean, and disguised themselves.”
“How long have they been planning this ridiculous misunderstanding?”
“Probably ever since 25 years ago. I can’t quite manage it, but I can almost understand.”
They heard a great roar and countless lights appeared in the sky.
The cannon fire had begun.
As the massive number of old-style ships fired and the Musashi intercepted them, the light was lit up as if by distant lightning.
“I wonder if Margot is fighting,” muttered Naruze.
“We’ll be fighting soon as well,” replied Mitotsudaira.
The density of houses on either side of the road was growing. Ahead of them was a wall with a closed gate. A group of warriors with spears and spell shields waited in front of the gate.
“I will handle this,” said Urquiaga. “You can leave the warriors who approach from behind to me as well. Our opponents at Mikawa were Catholic, so…”
“You were useless?” suggested Tenzou.
“No, Catholic inquisitors have a point card for each time we strike a heretic, but I only gained a single point last time. If I do not earn enough to make up for last time too, I will not get the discount on the goods I want.”
“I-isn’t that pretty secular for an inquisitor!?”
“Don’t worry about it.” Urquiaga raised his main wings, moved forward, and passed by Tenzou in the lead. “Tenzou, when you gave your notification of leaving the school, you did not throw out your possessions, did you?”
“I sent all the older sister porn games to your house, Uqui-dono. The package is labelled ‘porn games’.”
“Enough of that,” said Mitotsudaira as she also moved up ahead.
She attached the obelisks for her two remaining silver chains on the back of her shoulders and glanced up into the sky.
“The full moon. An excellent night. I am in a good mood, so I’ll help out a bit.”
The warriors up ahead deepened their defensive stances as Urquiaga charged forward and a giant strike was swung down on either side by the silver chains.
“Go on ahead, Tenzou! Go and represent the will of our king and princess!!”
The ninja ran straight through the sounds of destruction and the result thereof.
He intentionally avoided looking at the battle behind him and the Musashi’s crisis in the southern sky.
Beyond the gate, he entered the dark city of London.
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