Horizon:Volume 2B Chapter 55
Chapter 55: Lead Role in the Fire
If it is thoroughly burned
Beyond the point of nothing remaining
What is created afterwards?
Point Allocation (Continuation)
The Musashi burned.
It gave off smoke, holes had been torn into it, the chaff of light Holy Spells kept it from moving, and its speed was dropping.
“That wasn’t really fair, was it?” muttered Segundo.
The flames and smoke did not clear up, but the Musashi slowly broke through them and knocked them away.
Finally, the Musashi appeared without the surface armor or top-level cities on the front half. It was wrapped in light, its secondary armor could not produce its ocean properly, and the front ships looked like they were about to sink.
Segundo watched it as it trailed smoke from various points and the gaps in its armor.
“But this isn’t over yet.” He breathed out a sigh of relief. “When we’re up against such a giant ship, we have no choice but to continue being cowards, so now we’ll be using a truly unfair method.”
He looked up into the sky.
“I can use this as one of the things I’ve gained over the past 25 years, can’t I?”
A color appeared in the distant western sky beyond the Musashi.
The color was white and it flew as if cutting through the sky at high altitude. Ten flying objects were approaching.
“These are reinforcements from the New World.”
Juana looked up at the sky from the retreating fleet moored off the north coast of Tres España.
She watched objects quickly cutting through the sky after being launched from a giant aerial mother ship arriving from the west.
“The mechanical phoenixes of the New World forces!?”
“Testament. Las Casas ordered these ten Rojo Azor here. This is how we will ‘resupply’ for the armada battle.”
The large birds made of metal flew by before the voice over the divine transmission could finish speaking.
They were a type of mechanical beast specialized for aerial combat and their wings were slightly closed. They were not as large as mechanical dragons, but they were still over ten meters long.
After ascending, they dropped toward the cloud of light visible to the east.
The avian silhouettes held long spears below their stomachs.
Those were giant stakes meant to attack fortresses. When the phoenixes’ descent speed was added in, not even fortress walls with defense spells could stand up. No ship’s gun could provide as certain a blow.
Currently, ten of those were thrown during a hit-and-away descent and then ascent.
The destructive sound reached even the distant coast.
“Damage to the back! Presumably! Over!!” reported the automaton in charge of the rear portions of the ship.
Adele turned around just in time for a great roar to pass through both sides of the ship.
She could not immediately tell how many there were because the sounds blurred together, but she decided there were ten based on what she saw. After all, there were ten giant holes of destruction on the top levels of Takao and Oume on the rear of the Musashi. It seemed some spear-like objects had been fired into the ship. Some had pierced all the way in while others had not and were lying on their sides.
However, all of the holes were scattering the glowing cloud of ether fuel.
The mechanical phoenixes could be heard disappearing into the sky overhead, but that meant one thing.
…They’re going to attack again!
That first attack had likely been to get a feel for how the stakes hit. In order to prevent any optical illusions brought on by how large the Musashi was, they had likely limited themselves to surefire targets. But Adele guessed they would target Musashino or Okutama next.
They really got us here, she thought.
The Musashi had taken a lot of damage. The smoke of ether light was now rising from all of the ships except for Okutama and Musashino and that meant the port and starboard ships would not have their full power.
Also, the automatons were not functioning.
…What am I supposed to do!?
She could not think of anything right away, so she wanted time. She told herself not to panic.
However, Tres España did not end the attack there.
The small ships led by Segundo were coming.
Segundo was finally going in for the attack after taking away the Musashi’s front guns, pushing the defenders and attackers into hiding, destroying the surface armor, and then getting in a solid blow on them.
“Are you trying to make this a completely confused battle!?”
Segundo’s strategy was obvious. After robbing his opponent of offense, defense, and sight, he would drag them into a confused melee.
His method of doing that was simple. He stretched out the ships as if opening up the wheel formations and then…
“Move the wheel formations in between the Musashi’s ships.”
From the inside, the Musashi could not attack horizontally for fear of friendly fire. Also, it worked as a recreation of the confused battle in the Testament descriptions.
“The mechanical phoenix unit will take advantage of the damage to the armor on the outside. If they fire their large stakes into those sides, the Musashi will be unable to expand its outer hull for gravitational acceleration.”
The ten mechanical phoenixes were disappearing into the distant sky, but they would return soon.
I came here to lose, thought Segundo.
Twenty-five years ago, I was unable to accomplish anything beyond surviving. I wasn’t able to protect what I needed to protect and yet I was celebrated as a victorious hero. Later, the chancellor gave up his seat for a mere commander like me.
There was a lot I was jealous or resentful of, but none of it could compare to not being allowed to lose. Other people’s prejudices were far more human than my disappointment in myself. After all, I had lost everything. There was no point in a prejudice meant to take something from someone.
The previous chancellor gave me a good place to die. Because I didn’t know why he chose me, I looked into what kind of person he was, but I still don’t know much of anything.
In the end, I have nothing.
I even brushed aside what needed me. But…
“Even if I have nothing, can I still create something?”
The Musashi’s front ships pressed in from the left and right as Segundo flew in between them with the others.
At high altitude, the narrow space between the Musashi’s ships was filled with turbulence.
“But we originally fought in the Inland Sea. The Lepanto was the same, so we’re used to this kind of battlefield. As long as we keep an eye on the towing belts, we can shoot to our heart’s content while ignoring an enemy that’s afraid of friendly fire. Of course, I’m sure Musashi will think up something.”
He smiled bitterly.
“But we’re just as determined, Musashi, so we’ll make sure you go along with us. Now, which one of us will be crushed first in this retreating battle?”
He advanced the ship through the Musashi’s ships as if they were canyon walls and he raised his right hand into the light-filled night sky.
“How about we begin where we left off 25 years ago? How much can we satisfy ourselves by crushing each other on this trip around England?”
He swung down his hand.
A rotation of random firing to the left and right exploded between the Musashi’s ships.
As the Musashi fought in the southern sky and Musashi’s representatives fought in London, Masazumi was caught up in her own battle.
On the transport ship, she had to fight back against a group of primarily skeletal Living Dead warriors.
White bones had already filled the deck starting from the bottom and the battlefield had moved inside.
“Waaaah! Why is this turning into a cheap Noh horror play!?”
They were currently at war with England. Even if she was not killed, they would still lose her authority as vice president if she were captured. That would prevent them from making peace and ending the war with England.
She wanted to avoid that at all costs, so she made use of the harpoons they had used for fishing and the firearms prepared for defense.
…F-fighting in a narrow corridor is the standard tactic, right!?
She had smashed to pieces quite a few of the group closing in on her. They moved slowly because they had to move their muscle-less bones with only their spiritual body. However, the worst part was what they were all saying.
“Girl, will you let me rest in peace!?”
“From that, I take it Lord Chancellor Hatton is manipulating all of you!!”
“Manipulating? That kind of accusation gives me a deadly heartache! I am only forcing them to do this in exchange for letting them rest in peace!!”
“That’s called manipulating them!!”
However, yelling would not improve the situation. She rolled a barrel to crush them, pinned them in a door, and handed them a bottomless ladle when asked for one from the window.
“That last one was no friend or fiend of mine!” insisted Hatton.
“But you being here is what called them here!! Leave! Leave right now!! I didn’t call for you!!”
“Why are you so opposed to dying!?”
How philosophical! she thought while throwing desks and chairs to smash the skeletons.
Each time one was crushed, a message would appear in the air saying “Anglican Church Rest in Peace Combo 1-2-1 Hit! Thank you for your cooperation.” That made her wonder if this counted as charitable work.
But the thrown knife that grazed the side of her hair made her rethink that position.
“H-hey! You can use weapons!? We don’t exactly have the same kill ratio here!”
“I am deadly serious about tolerance when it comes to people’s private lives!”
…Does that mean I’m the intolerant one!? Does it!?
At any rate, her situation was very, very bad. There was something she had to say if Tenzou’s confession was a success, but it had been a mistake to stay behind for that.
…Oh, but sending a letter or saying it later would make it less meaningful.
She had to say it no matter what, but the corridor was full to capacity.
The skeletons held rusted daggers at their waists and arrived in ranks of three.
“Go to hell!! Go to Naraka!!”
“Are you sure you’re Anglican!?”
She kicked over a desk she had dragged from a side room and it pierced through to give her six hits. Meanwhile, she tried to pull her handheld shrine from her pocket binder.
“Huh? I-it’s gone?”
There was a hole at the bottom. One of the thrown knives must have torn it because her hand came out the other end of the pocket. Oh, no, she thought as Hatton spoke in front of her.
“Oh? You seem to have dropped something. It’s so sad. This divine mail address book is a complete graveyard!”
“Don’t look at that!! Aren’t you supposed to be the Lord Chancellor!?”
“Yesssss! With equity, there’s no problem!”
She threw a chair, but he floated right to dodge it. However, she heard a sound of destruction behind him and earned two more hits.
Unfortunately, the enemy already had reinforcements coming. They formed ranks and advanced like a wall and Masazumi realized there was nothing nearby with which to make an impromptu weapon.
“I need to get to the lower corridor!”
Her only choice was to continue on as far as she could while trying to endure. If she managed that, her classmates would come running once they finished their battles. Or so she hoped. She also suspected those horrible people would completely forget about her and leave.
…S-stay positive!! You have to stay positive!!
Once she reached the lower level, she tackled open the door.
And the other side was already filled with skeletons.
As Masazumi tilted her head toward the skeletons that had somehow circled around ahead of her, they lightly raised their hands.
“Good evening, Miss Honda.”
“Good evening,” she replied without thinking.
“H-how did you get here ahead of me!?”
All of the skeletons raised their arms and what their white hands held.
“The Living Dead are allowed axes, saws, and spell chainsaws!” explained Hatton. “And it’s a ghoulish legacy of the Living Dead to show up ahead of you when you try to escape!”
“I hate B movies!!” she shouted.
However, she was quickly captured.
Several of them held her arms and legs to the floor and they all turned toward Hatton.
“Teacher! One please!!”
“H-hey! What kind of joke is this!?”
Hatton ignored her protests, nodded, and used both hands to hold up the giant dictionary on his waist.
“Now, it is time for death by bludgeoning!”
Those words, the way he held the book as if praying, and how she was held down led Masazumi to shout out.
“This is just wrong!”
A small form awoke in a dimly-lit room.
It was a young anteater Mouse. It had a nest of healing charms inside a short wooden box on the floor and it looked around from the center of it. It wondered why it had woken up.
However, its upturned vision suddenly shook. Something was shaking the floor from somewhere in the distance. Occasionally, it saw glowing objects scattered outside the window and heard people shouting.
It wondered what was happening and felt scared.
Until recently, it had been with its mother. No matter what had happened, it had been able to hide by sinking into its mother’s fur and body heat. However, it could no longer do that. It had thought it could hide in that hard point part, but even that had become a dangerous place of damage and injury.
Why was no one protecting it?
It let out a cry in hope of an answer. It could do nothing more than that.
No reply came.
The anteater looked around the area. The dimly-lit area was in the third basement of Okutama which was directly below Musashi Ariadust Academy. It was an agricultural area where selective breeding was researched. The anteater was inside the office there.
As a Mouse, it had knowledge of the area belonging to its registered shrine, but it did not know why it was here. It assumed it had been thrown out.
However, it relaxed when it saw food placed next to the nest. It decided to lick the small translucent green solid and then go back to sleep. It may have been thrown out and its food might run out, but it would eventually disappear all the same if its surroundings were so dangerous. Simply closing its eyes would be easier.
And so the anteater licked the food, took a breath, stretched a bit, and then realized something.
A sign frame was floating above its head.
The young anteater saw a notification that its supposed owner was in danger.
She was very far away. Based on the divine network connection, she was in a land under the jurisdiction of another academy. Even if their divine transmissions were currently shared, there was a large gap between the Musashi and England.
It could not travel there easily.
Also, its owner was in danger, so if it went there now, it too would be in danger.
However, its owner was in a confrontation between academy representatives.
That meant no one else could help even if she was in danger. The only one who could was the anteater that counted as her possession.
But going would mean getting injured, so it decided it did not have to go and returned to the nest.
Sleeping and allowing its injury to heal was important. Its mother might even return.
If its supposed owner was gone, its ownership would become uncertain and it might even be able to return to its mother.
With that hope in mind, the anteater curled up in the nest.
It decided it did not care if she disappeared.
But then it slowly observed its surroundings.
It had a nest made of healing charms, it had food, and it had a box to designate its own space.
Most likely, its master had felt differently. She must have felt she would care if the anteater disappeared.
And so the anteater changed its mind about whether it would care if she disappeared.
However, it did not know what to do, so it tried looking outside. It would see if it was dangerous outside and then think about what to do.
Its owner did not want it to disappear, so if it was dangerous outside, staying put would be the best option.
The office door was cracked open, so the anteater left the nest, passed between boxes of bulbs, and slipped through the door labelled “King of Musashi’s Agricultural Laboratory – KoMA Lab”.
Once outside, it found a scene of destruction.
The young anteater was supposedly underground, but the ceiling was split open diagonally and a giant stake had torn up the floor into the lower levels. The light it had seen out the window came from the glowing charms entering through the hole in the ceiling.
The farm had been broken and bent and a few of the thick pillar-like research facilities forming an alternating line with the farmland were spewing flames and smoke. People were running around putting out the fires and plenty of shouting could be heard.
This place was dangerous.
The anteater understood that nowhere was safe anymore.
And so it decided to return to the room, but it was stopped by a sudden voice from the side.
It recognized that as its master’s name, but who was calling her name? The words were formed with thought speech, so it could have been a Mouse. If so, the anteater could leave this to them, so it turned around.
“Masazumi? Not her?”
A brown algae creature crawled out of the farm’s ditch.
The anteater knew of the brown algae creatures due to the information inside it, but the creature would not know it. So how had it made the link between the anteater and its master’s name?
“Bandage. Masazumi’s smell.”
Hearing that, the anteater looked at itself. A healing spell bandage was wrapped around its neck where it had been injured, but it was not tight enough to strangle it.
Its master’s smell came from there.
It then realized something: from the time it had been asleep to now, its master had been trying to protect it.
It had indeed been injured. That had hurt and it had been scary. However, its mother had not been the one to hold it in her hands back then.
“Masazumi.” The brown algae creature tilted its head a bit. “Masazumi in trouble?”
The anteater looked at the sign frame overhead and nodded. At that point, it finally turned its thoughts in a certain direction.
…What am I supposed to do?
That question came from a desire to resolve the difficult situation it was faced with. For the inexperienced Mouse, that activated its help functionality.
“Top recommendation! If the conditions are right, you can travel between ley lines.
“Even with a great distance between Mouse and master, as long as they are on a shared divine network, the Mouse can turn to ether, travel along the network, and recompose itself at its master’s location. This is the same system used to transport the Mouse in when the contract is made, but when it is carried out between Mouse and master, the Mouse needs to recognize its master. Otherwise, it will be unable to recompose. That could mean appearing elsewhere or having a distributed recomposition that, in the worst case, could mean losing the Mouse. As such, a Mouse with an intimate bond is needed.”
The anteater knew it was impossible. Not only was its bond with its master weak, but it did not even remember what its master looked like. That was due to its habit of curling up and hiding.
It could not save its master.
“Don’t know Masazumi?” asked the algae creature.
The anteater nodded.
It did not know and that fact would mean losing her. Not knowing scared it, but there was nothing it could do. This was what it had wanted. Its choices would lead to the death of the master who had not wanted it to die.
Suddenly, the number of algae creatures grew. A second appeared, a third, and they continued to multiply.
The anteater looked up in surprise as the algae creatures swayed and spoke.
“Teach you Masazumi.” “Save Masazumi.” “Friend.”
Asama watched the scene.
A sort of meeting was being held in an obscure ditch next to the KoMA Lab building. The meeting was between Masazumi’s Mouse and some brown algae creatures. The algae creatures were telling the Mouse about Masazumi.
“Masazumi is politician.” “Loves taxes.” “Skinny.”
Asama was unsure about that description, but the young anteater was listening carefully.
Why it would do so was obvious.
…To travel through the ley lines.
Asama had received the notification, so she knew Masazumi was in danger. That was her right as the contract manager. She had reported it to the student council and chancellor’s officers, but everyone on the Musashi and in England had their hands full and Masazumi still had a job to do.
…She said she has an announcement to make if Tenzou-kun manages to confess to Mary.
To maintain the right to make such an announcement, she could not lose this battle between representatives. That meant no one could go to help even if they wanted to.
However, a Mouse was different. Asama had run here in order to give the anteater some spells and have someone carry it to Masazumi.
“But I never thought the Mouse would try to go on its own.”
She wondered if she should stop it, but the half-dragon that loved porn games and could fly was gone and Naito was out on the battlefield. She could always load it into a transport arrow and shoot it there, but she would be forced to set Masazumi as the tracking target and she was worried what would happen if she scored a clean hit. And that was almost guaranteed to happen.
However, the anteater Mouse was using a sign frame to set up the ley line travel while watching the algae creatures use water to draw their version of Masazumi’s face on the ground. Occasionally, the anteater would use its front paws to touch the bandage around its neck as if to make sure it was there.
…Keep at it.
Ley line travel was often used inside the Musashi and it was a simple process. Most of the time, it was used when the Mouse had gotten lost or had finished an errand it could settle on its own.
However, things were different when battlefield airspace lay in the middle and the end point was on another academy’s land.
Nevertheless, Masazumi’s Mouse awkwardly but carefully set everything up.
It set it all up correctly, so it would succeed as long as it could recognize her.
If possible, Asama would have liked to test it out in Musashi beforehand.
But the young anteater finished setting everything up and the sign frame indicated that there were no problems with the setup. It now came down to how well the Mouse could recognize its master. Asama was most worried about this part, but the algae creatures spoke up once more.
There was something they had forgotten to mention.
“Makes bad jokes.”
…That new information should do it!
An instant later, the Mouse sank down and its fur bristled.
It turned to light, vanished, and flew through the air.
Adele looked at the model of the Musashi floating in front of her.
The Musashi was currently being shelled by the small Tres Españan ships positioned between the center ships and the port and starboard ships.
The front ships on either side had lost almost all their surface armor, been hit by the mechanical phoenixes, and now were being targeted from extreme close range.
This couldn’t get much worse, thought Adele while her mind was almost entirely blank.
She could hear the sounds and feel the shaking, but the control automatons had lost most of their senses due to the Holy Spell chaff. The only sign of the damage being done was on the ether light model of the Musashi. The color red was filling both sides of the central ships and the inner sides of the port and starboard ships. Several overlapping sign frames gave the details of the damage.
…This is bad.
She wondered what to do while watching the model that was occasionally wrapped in static.
However, she had wondered the same thing several times already and nothing had changed.
She had simply been thinking “what should I do” again and again.
She found no answer and something seemed to give the finishing blow.
The sounds of shellfire on either side grew to a complete barrage.
The wheel formations in between the ships had perfected their movement.
When doing it on the outer sides of the ships earlier, the automatons’ reactions and calculations had let them create the defensive water barriers.
However, that was no longer an option. Not even the gravity barriers were working.
Beyond the light of the scattering Holy Spell charms, a roar and white smoke rose from Murayama’s starboard side.
The upper part of the hull had been breached and ether fuel was scattering into the air.
Segundo heard cheers rising into the sky.
The Tres Españan ships were firing while flying back and forth in the narrow space between Musashi’s ships.
They were receiving return fire from the decks of those ships, but it was a desperate attempt that the gunners on the scene had decided on.
Fortunately, it was sporadic and their aim was off. Even if they got a few lucky hits, it was not enough to create the continuous barrage needed to wear down the Tres Españans.
The Musashi had stopped. It was still moving forward, but it was entirely on inertia.
That was thanks to the Holy Spell chaff eliminating the shared memory of the automatons in control. The ships could be controlled manually, but they had no way to coordinate the movements of those giant ships. Without proper inter-ship communication, any careless movement could lead to a collision, so the Musashi had to remain motionless.
But, thought Segundo. Our attack will not work forever.
Their wheel formation was only effective as long as the Musashi could not move and the automatons were not functioning. Once the wind carried the chaff out of range, the Tres Españan ships would be surrounded.
That meant they had to destroy the Musashi before that happened.
He looked at the chaff floating around the Musashi and checked on their own pace.
…Can we make it in time?
While he asked the question, a shouting and praying voice filled his heart: please make it in time.
The chaff would most likely last for more than half an hour. Since the Musashi was not moving, the chaff would fall on it and the chaff’s effects would continue.
The voice in his heart told him they could make it given that much time.
…Can I really trust in that?
He thought with the sounds of shellfire filling his ears. He held those words of victory in his heart while also wondering if he was allowed such an action.
He heard another cheer. The upper armor of Tama, the second starboard ship, had broken and it was spewing ether light smoke.
A moment later, someone spoke to Segundo.
“We can win this, commander!!”
“Yeah,” said something else.
“Testament,” shouted yet another person. “Let’s win this, commander!!”
That shout produced another cheer that seemed to accelerate the sounds of shellfire.
Among those resounding voices, Segundo nodded while trembling a little. Even that small action produced voices of expectation from the others.
“Let’s win this.”
He did not know if he could trust what he himself was saying, but…
…Part of why I’m doing this is so I can trust in it.
He uttered the words hidden deep in his heart.
“Let’s win this, everyone!!”
Adele stood up from her seat as the enemy shellfire further intensified.
All of the automatons around her had fallen to their knees and did not look up toward her.
She merely watched the light of the cannon fire in the sky before her while the inner hull of the Musashi model grew red. However, she could not think of anything she could do.
Below her raised eyebrows, something fell down her cheek from the eyes behind her glasses.
I can’t, she thought. I’m the commander, so I can’t give up.
However, she could not contact any of the other ships properly and the firing continued as if ignoring everyone on the Musashi.
With more rumbling and shaking, even more smoke filled the air.
It was breaking. It was falling apart and no one could do anything about it. They could only wait until there was actually something they could do.
…Is it all over?
But just as she had that thought, she heard the door behind her open. She turned around and found a certain person standing in the open door.
A naked boy stood there. Not only that, he posed with his arms spread in a Y-shape and he let out a shout.
“It’s all overrrrrr!!”
“Nwaaah! The chancellor is here to fan the flames!!”
Hearing Adele’s protest, the naked boy redid his pose and shouted again.
“What? Don’t be stupid! Look at reality for a second! We’re done for, Adele!! The Musashi is toast!! Giving up’s our only option! Okay, Big Bro Toori will help you figure out whose fault this is! Oh, but it can’t be me! That’s the rule!”
“Um, chancellor, Vicereine Horizon is behind you.”
A moment later, everyone aboard the Musashino felt a strange lurch.
Adele watched the naked boy return through the hole broken in the bridge’s left wall.
…How can he act the same as normal?
Nevertheless, the idiot came toward her while the shaking of shellfire continued.
“How about it, Adele?”
“Don’t give me that. Try looking at reality for a second.”
She saw him pointing into the northwestern sky.
She saw England and London on its second level, but there was something new visible in London.
It was something large enough to see even from this distance.
It wore Western armor, wielded two swords, and it was fighting something she could not quite see. Based on the movements of the swords, its opponent seemed to be an equally large giant.
“It looks like an idiot escalated things to that level.”
She knew that Neshinbara was likely controlling the giant she could not see.
Sugawara no Michizane was a god of literature and learning, but he had originally been a noble whose grudge brought a cruel curse to the Far East after being demoted in a government scheme. His anger had been quelled by deifying him, but he was known for a certain ability.
He occasionally fired sword-like bolts of lightning that tore into whatever it was Shakespeare had created.
At the moment, one of Adele’s classmates was exchanging swift sword strikes with one of England’s greatest authors. In fact, several more of her classmates were also in that city. And…
“You fit right in as a classmate of that kind of idiot. After all…” The chancellor pointed from London to their current location. “You’ve made it past the halfway point of the armada battle. You’re the one that did that. Adele, you’ve kept us going through half of an important piece of history. I couldn’t do that, but you did. So…”
“Let’s try to keep history going a little longer.”
A few thoughts filled Adele’s mind: I can’t or Please spare me.
All she could hear were the din of shellfire and destruction that sounded like a quickly ringing bell. Ether smoke had started to rise from every part of the Musashi as if making the sky cry.
However, the idiot spoke clearly.
“Now that you’ve made it halfway, the rest has got to be a piece of cake, right? After all, the rest just gets smaller from here on.”
“Just gets smaller?”
She wanted to say “we’re not talking about a literal piece of cake here”, but then she realized something.
She had regained the calm needed to think things like that.
She still did not know what she had to do, but…
“Don’t worry, chancellor,” she said. “Everyone is doing what they can, so I can keep going too.”
I just said it, didn’t I!? she realized in silent shock. I didn’t realize I was so ambitious.
However, the automatons were shaking their heads and beginning to reboot from their motionless state on the floor.
…I may not know how to fix this situation, but…
“You know what to do at times like this, don’t you?”
“Judge,” agreed Adele before opening a sign frame, taking a breath, and shouting loudly at everyone else. “Someone please hellllllllp!!”
Adele’s shout brought someone back to her senses: “Musashino”.
She had been sitting on the floor next to Adele, but the girl’s desire for help had completed the reboot of her consciousness. Helping people was at the core of all automatons and it controlled their entire being even without their shared memory.
And upon waking up, “Musashino” realized something.
…The ship isn’t shaking?
The sounds of impact, sparks, and smoke were still occurring outside, but the Musashi was no longer shaking. She wondered why.
“The transport ships!? Over.”
As Segundo’s fleet fired, they saw a sudden barrier.
It was made up of the Musashi’s transport ships which had appeared while flying along the perimeter of the Musashi’s ships.
They were pulled in a line by the towing belts to act as shields, but they were no normal transport ships. They all had colorful emblems drawn on their sides.
“Are these the transport ships belonging to Musashi’s most powerful merchants!?”
To avoid losses due to piracy or battles, the large transport ships had excellent defensive capabilities.
The several dozen ships formed walls that shielded the inner sides of the Musashi.
On the bridge, Adele watched the scene with “Musashino” standing by her side.
“Those are the transport ships of Musashi’s mercantile guild.”
They were taking shells and their armor was being blasted off, but they were protecting the Musashi.
All of those ships had been loaded with the Musashi’s cargo and towed on the outside, but they were now forming a defensive wall. A staticky sign frame video then appeared next to Adele’s face.
The audio was also staticky, but she recognized her friend’s voice.
“Adele!? It’s Heidi! We had the higher ups take action!! So…so don’t worry!!”
She sounded out of breath.
“We’ll protect you with the power of money!!”
In an underground long block of the Musashino, the members of the mercantile guild viewed the scene outside through a sign frame.
“Waaaah!! My transport ship! I had money hidden on there to avoid taxes!!”
“Aren’t you being a little too honest? …Wait! Is that my ship!?”
Shirojiro spoke from the elevator lift in the center of the low-ceilinged long block.
“This is quite a problem. For some reason, the towing belts pulling everyone’s transport ships have been deployed.”
“Oh, what’s this? You are the ones who said staying behind is the best way to get information on Musashi and another nations’ firepower. And you agreed to turn over your cargo ships as a participation fee. The way you continued loading them with your trade cargo right up to when we left port shows how wonderful a mercantile spirit you possess.”
They could all hear the sounds of holes being torn in the hulls of the transport ships. They listened to the continuous sound of their goods and money being destroyed and one of them raised his eyebrows and spoke.
“What do you want!?”
“A good question.” Shirojiro faced the line of thirty merchants. “I am currently in charge of managing the industrial goods on the battlefield. Let us do business while keeping that in mind. We can start with the right to use defensive spells. If you purchase that right, your transport ships will no longer take direct hits from the enemy shells. Instead, they can be defended with spells.”
All of their faces stiffened at that. Simply buying that was not enough for a perfect defense.
“Judge. As a special service, the first three will receive their defensive spells for free. Now, what will you do? To be clear, I will withdraw a transport ship once the total losses – including these expenses – exceed sixty percent of the ship’s value.”
“Who does not want to throw their ship away?”
“Adele! You handle things there!!”
Adele understood what Heidi meant.
This was Adele’s post. And as if to cheer her up, the others scattered across the ship had sent quick divine texts with their ideas on resolving their individual situations. While “Musashino” manually organized them, Adele took out a few useful ones and sent back simple replies.
…I may not know what to do right now…
The automatons’ shared memory was unusable, so they had essentially lost all their senses.
“But we might be able to pull through.”
No, she thought while turning toward the chancellor and vicereine behind her.
“Making sure we do is my duty here, isn’t it?”
Musashi King Yoshinao nodded twice in front of the hatch to the bridge.
After making sure there was no one around, he nonchalantly walked on as if he had simply been passing by.
“I thought she might need some advice, but I should have expected this of the girl who bears the wild beast emblem of my territory.”
But then he suddenly stopped walking. He heard a certain sound. It was a long, continuous ripping sound and he knew it by heart despite only having heard it once before.
He opened a sign frame and used his authority as King of Musashi to notify the entire ship.
“The ten mechanical phoenixes are approaching from the starboard side!!”
“What? We, why’re you making things up? Are you that starved for attention? You sure are lonely.”
“I am not making it up, you fool!!”
He saw white lines in the night sky and they were moving directly toward the Musashi’s starboard side.
The ten mechanical phoenixes approaching the Musashi’s starboard side briefly ascended in the light-filled night sky.
They were prepared to fire the large stakes positioned below them in the instant their rising trajectory lessened.
But something happened just before they completed their approach.
The two leading phoenixes strayed from their course.
The others barely had time to wonder why when the reason passed by.
Technohexen. A few groups of them wore Technohexen outfits that looked especially black even in the night and they flew through the sky on brooms that could transform into cannons.
“Has Musashi’s aerial spell unit joined the confused battle in the sky!?”
The small number of Technohexen rose through the aerial battlefield and used acceleration spells to provide high-pressure acceleration to coin bullets. A few of them would work together to strengthen the acceleration of a single bullet and carefully aim it as an anti-air gun.
Musashi still did not have air superiority, so the Technohexen scattered as soon as they fired.
They had already passed by the mechanical phoenixes, so they could not fire again. However, the two phoenixes they had hit were in danger.
The damage to them was light and it was not enough to shoot them down, but they had reflexively taken evasive action and their vision had been briefly taken because the shots had targeted the cockpit windshield.
The Musashi’s great size threw off those two pilots’ sense of distance, so their wings clipped the starboard deck as they passed by.
The hit sent their bird-like forms into a horizontal spin much like a shuriken. They hopped up, air resistance hit the craft from both the top and bottom, and they were knocked away as if twisting their bodies.
One of them slammed into the deck on the opposite side and broke apart after tossing the pilot into the air. As for the other…
A quickly-gathered attack unit poured anti-air fire on it from the ship.
The phoenix was struck from below and twisted upwards for an instant.
It too exploded after the pilot managed to eject.
Despite the continued sounds of destruction, those on the Musashi did not have time to celebrate. The other eight had already fired their stakes.
“Tear into the enemy!!”
A single voice replied to that anger-filled shout. It was a staticky voice.
“All automatons, reboot in self-contained mode!”
The scolding tone came from “Musashi”.
That was the first time Suzu had heard “Musashi” speak like that.
…Does she need that…even without emotions?
“Musashi” already had her arms held out as if to play a keyboard, but she was facing a wall-type sign frame. It most likely showed the scene outside and the stakes fired by the mechanical phoenixes.
As Suzu observed it with her senses, “Musashi” faced it and spoke.
“Everyone, rely only on your intrinsic sense devices and only remote connect to devices that allow private connections! If you retain your individuality in self-contained mode, the excess external information should not cause any problems. Do what you can on your own and only communicate via divine transmission or mouth rather than via shared memory! Also, I may be working manually and through a private visual connection…”
Suzu listened to the automaton’s announcement.
“But I will reactivate the gravity barriers!! Over!!”
Of the eight large stakes, four were deflected into the sky.
This was thanks to the gravity barriers. “Musashi” was visually confirming their location from near the bridge, so their location had been a little off. However, she had placed multiple barriers together to just barely catch that many.
Unfortunately, she did not reach three of them in time and one was only slightly diverted from its original target.
Three were on course for a direct hit and one was on a deflected course. After confirming that, the crews of the mechanical phoenixes let out a shout.
But a moment later, several people appeared on the outer edge of the Musashino. They were the members of Musashi’s mercantile guild. Their movements were frantic, but they all struck poses.
Next, the starboard hulls of the Musashi’s starboard ships literally opened. Double-layer door side hatches making up a portion of the outer hull opened up and down. Those hatches were used as external transport entrances, but they also contained…
“The long block transport routes that extend horizontally through the ships!”
With that shout from the merchants, the long block transport route hatches fully opened and giant passageways extending all the way through the Musashi were formed.
There were four of them. Three swallowed up their stakes in an instant while the other took in the deflected shot at an angle.
The automatons inside the passageways answered that shout with their actions.
To ensure the large stakes passed through into the sky on the opposite side, they used their gravitational control to move objects out of the way or picked up and ran away with any cats or dogs they found. And if the trajectory of the stakes ever deviated…
Several of them would correct its path.
All four of them were sent out the transport hatches opened in the armor on the opposite side.
And on that port side were the small Tres Españan ships forming a wheel formation between the Musashi’s ships. From their point of view, the Musashi’s starboard ships suddenly opened their armor and destructive stakes were launched from the hole.
A few of the ships were hit and blown away.
This was friendly fire.
And as the mechanical phoenixes creaked and groaned in their rapid ascent, they were attacked.
It came from the giant forms standing atop Takao, the third starboard ship. The work gods of war there had started to repair the city, but…
“If you don’t need this, then take it with you!!”
A large stake pulled from the city was thrown into the belly of the rising phoenixes.
They were riding the wind to ascend even further, so the long attack thrown right in front of them was nearly impossible to avoid. Six of the eight still managed to forcibly scatter out of the way. Of the remaining two, one just barely escaped, but…
A single flower of red flames blossomed and a single trail of white smoke rose into the already glowing night sky.
This time, those on the Musashi raised their voices in celebration.
Segundo heard the enemy’s cheers.
A blizzard of light filled the night sky and a wind with a nostalgic heat reached him, but the men and women around him all raised their hands.
They cried out.
“We’re not gonna lose!”
“Yeah, I’ve got a grandkid watching this!!”
“It’d be painful if he said it was his grandfather’s fault we lost…especially if he said it in front of your grave.”
They all laughed and that showed they were still plenty calm.
However, a sudden wind arrived. It was a vertical wind coming from Musashino and Okutama at the Musashi’s center and the sudden wind raging up and down meant only one thing.
“It’s ascending!?” asked Segundo “But it shouldn’t be able to move!”
He then saw a certain sight. Most of the towing belts on the six port or starboard ships had been detached and Musashino and Okutama had begun a rapid ascent.
“The Musashi has separated its eight ships to pilot them separately!?”
Juana saw the change in the fires of war visible in the distant sky.
“It can’t be.”
The Musashi and Segundo’s small ships appeared to be on even footing, but a change had come over the Musashi. She assumed those on the scene had already noticed.
…It’s started piloting its ships separately.
The chaff prevented the automatons from coordinating, so the eight ships could not fly in unison. In that state, piloting a single ship risked a collision with another one.
…So the Musashi was supposed to be rendered motionless.
However, those around her had also caught on and they started pointing at the giant ship.
“Hey…. Look at that. The Musashi is separating.”
Musashino and Okutama alone had begun a rapid ascent. They brought themselves about a half-ship’s height above the port and starboard ships.
“Piloting the individual ships was supposed to be impossible, but are they doing it without coordination between the automatons!? How!?”
A closer look showed the port and starboard ships were awkwardly but definitely zigzagging to the left and right.
The eight ships were all moving independently to create a situation advantageous to the Musashi.
A cold sweat washed over Adele as she watched the sign frame within Musashino’s bridge.
It contained data from the individual stealth used during the arming and modifications performed at England.
Currently, that data was being used for “Musashino” and the other captain automatons to redistribute their personnel.
Their speed had dropped, but Musashino was ascending along with Okutama. They had never before looked down on the other six ships like this and they had never seen those six ships zigzag so widely to the left and right. This was their first time trying anything like this.
…It’s dangerous, but we have no choice.
It had frightened Adele when the Tres Españan ships had moved in between the Musashi’s ships. Even if they had endured the mechanical phoenixes and defended with the transport ships, they could barely attack the enemy formation and could only be torn apart from within.
To pilot the ships individually, they had tried to use a signal to communicate between ships, but the enemy wheel formation had interfered. If they tried to send out a signal from the deck or near the bridge, the enemy would fire shells at them.
That was when the commander of the Technohexen unit had sent in an idea. That commander was Naito.
The Technohexen were using their brooms to float above the bow and both sides of each ship. While remaining too high for the enemy ships to fire on them, they dangled down spell light torches to indicate the location of their ship.
Piloting the individual ships based on that was slow and awkward. It even looked amateurish.
However, that movement held great meaning. As Musashino and Okutama rose, they could attack downwards more easily and they would fire when the port and starboard ships opened a space in their zigzagging pattern. Also, the enemy’s attacks had a harder time of reaching Musashino and Okutama and they had difficulty targeting the zigzagging ships.
It looked like they were writhing in agony from the battle of attrition, but if one looked at the advantages of their positions…
…This should work!
The Holy Spell chaff was putting considerable restrictions on their movements and the explosion had greatly damaged them. Also, “Musashino’s” calculations made it clear their counterattack through individual piloting would leave them even more damaged.
However, they had to work to keep the needle of this battle of attrition from pointing too far on their opponent’s side.
“Please do your best to keep the ships’ movements as unpredictable as you can! And fire back!”
Segundo held his breath while surrounded by the Musashi which was moving as if writhing in pain and yet yearning for freedom.
…Now you’ve done it.
He had thought they had the Musashi cornered, but the enemy had used that to turn everything around.
The wheel formations were unable to reach the zigzagging port and starboard ships or the two risen ships, but those ships could fire on them.
They were supposed to have a unilateral victory here, but now they were surrounded and cornered.
“Commander! This isn’t over yet, is it!?”
“Like with the falla festival dance… And like the Lepanto and Itsukushima, we haven’t even gotten started at this point!”
“Testament,” replied Segundo while quietly raising his right hand. “Extend the wheel formation vertically so it can reach the Musashi’s two central ships and its second port and starboard ships! If the wheel formations hold back the zigzagging ships, our attacks can reach them!”
Even so, they could not avoid a battle of attrition and Segundo assumed they all understood that.
“Testament. Let’s do it, everyone! Isn’t that right, commander!?”
Segundo swung his hand forward.
“Let’s go, everyone,” he said. “Even if their gravity barriers are back, we can still fire from a blind spot and we have an overwhelming advantage in numbers. The real retreating battle begins now. But remember this.”
“The results we earn here belong to us.”
A plaza with a fountain in the center was located on the border between city and forest.
Two girls with the Urban Names of a wolf and a hound faced each other there.
A single motion occurred between them in the moonlight.
Walsingham moved first.
She moved in a straight line.
She launched herself and her blades in order to clear the fountain.
Her feet tore into the stone structure surrounding the fountain as she made the high-speed leap.
Meanwhile, the silver wolf took action to intercept. She made a horizontal swing of the log hammer she had created with her right chain.
However, the hound read her enemy’s action and struck the chain with 32 blades.
This defense deflected the chain with a surface, but the chain did not stop.
The reason for this was simple: the chain was wrapped around a log at the halfway point as well as at the hammer. Not only did this add weight, but the blades were unable to accurately strike the portion of the chain wrapping around the log and were deflected.
The chain could not be knocked away as before.
However, the chain’s movement was slowed by the weight of the extra log.
The hound would bite at the wolf before the primary log arrived.
But before that, the chain swung itself around. Rather than striking the hound with the hammer at the end, it used the log at the center to swipe at her with a lariat.
However, the hound accelerated. She had a way of accelerating in midair. First, she sent her detached right arm below her feet.
Then, she fixed the arm in the air and kicked off of it.
Walsingham accelerated and corrected her direction. She aimed a bit downwards where the silver wolf stood.
She fired and then twisted the cross spear into her enemy.
However, the cross spear cut through empty air and the shot tore into the dirt ground.
The enemy had jumped.
With her right arm raised, the silver wolf jumped into the air above the fountain as if scraping away at the moon.
She was using her chain.
She lifted herself into the night sky as if pulling herself with the weight of the two logs and also as if pulling herself up to the chain.
Without turning back toward her, Walsingham swung her hair.
Something spilled from her whipping hair and into the sky.
They were yellow fruits. Those six lemons were enough to destroy a wolf’s sense of smell.
The fruits were sliced in two instantly and their juice sprayed into the darkness. Also, Walsingham accurately aimed her cross spear at Mitotsudaira without turning around.
And she fired.
Mitotsudaira saw Walsingham’s attack.
It was an accurate behind-the-back shot.
Also, she had drawn Mitotsudaira’s attention by throwing the lemons first. Slicing open the lemons was enough of an attack, but just to be sure, she had saved this shot for her true attack.
“Well done,” said Mitotsudaira while gathering strength in the left silver chain.
The two chains dangling from her wrists were currently sinking into the fountain’s water.
“It is time for the knight to redeem herself.”
She spoke as if howling and the fountain’s water exploded. The chains curled up at the bottom of the fountain launched a massive amount of water into the air.
In an instant, the plaza was filled with mist.
Walsingham recognized the danger of this rising night mist.
The thick mist at the bottom of the plaza had formed from the scattering fountain water. The citrus fruit sank to the bottom of the water which suppressed its smell and the mist made for poor visibility.
Walsingham suddenly sensed motion.
And she heard repeated groaning and snapping sounds from the forest behind her.
It sounded like trees were toppling.
The hound launched herself in the opposite direction.
But as she landed on the north side of the fountain, something touched her shoulder. It was a hard object and she also heard a chain moving down at her feet.
She reflexively leaped.
It was too dangerous within the mist and something was happening there.
The only way to escape the mist to was to move upwards, so the hound kicked off the branches of the trees surrounding the plaza, kicked off the low roof of a house, kicked off the wall of an apartment building, and reached its roof.
Below her, she saw a cloud of mist the same shape as the plaza, but there was no sign of the enemy on the rectangular roof.
Where was the enemy?
She then realized the moonlight was washing over her.
With no obstruction this high up in the city of London, the direct moonlight caused her to tremble.
Where was the enemy?
She did not know, but she could not let herself fear. She would protect what it was she liked.
With hands and feet on the straw roof, she bent back and gave a cry.
As she threw back her head, she finally saw it.
A silver form stood in the moon above her.
As he ran, Tenzou sensed a tremendous voice behind him.
…Was that the cry of a beast!?
He did not know what was happening, but it was clear the battle was advancing.
Something powerful was battling in the city behind him and he also heard arbalests being fired repeatedly.
However, he heard his own footsteps most of all.
Far beyond the cityscape before him was a square fortress.
It was the Tower of London.
…I can see it!
Without letting his joy distract him, he opened a sign frame while running.
He was contacting Masazumi. As vice president, she had asked him to call her once he had finished confessing, but he thought it would be best to notify her that he was almost there.
“It won’t go through?”
Due to the armada battle, England and Musashi was using shared divine transmission settings. Masazumi was using a handheld shrine because her Mouse was not yet attached to her, but he should still have been able to reach her.
The fact that he could not reach her made him a little uneasy.
…I’ve made it!!
The main road continued on in a straight line.
He could see the staircase leading to the first level at the end of the road, but the Tower of London was visible to the right.
While listening to the sounds of various nearby battles and the reverberations of the aerial battle far behind him, Tenzou swung his arms and swung his body forward.
And he accelerated.
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