Horizon:Volume 2B Chapter 61
Chapter 61: Defense Units in the Sky
What do you do
If they don’t show an opening?
Point Allocation (Defend)
As the battle sent tremors through the ship, Heidi ran through the sixth basement of Okutama. She occasionally placed exhaustion recovery charms in her mouth and the circular meter indicating its remaining power would fully rotate around and vanish. She complained to herself how much physical strength she was using and she finally arrived in the cargo area that filled the 16th wide block.
Unlike the larger specialized cargo areas in the first port and starboard ships, this was a standard Musashi cargo area that used the same space as any of the wide blocks. She used a password key to pass through the wooden bulkhead door that was used in place of a guard station and she immediately relocked the door after stepping inside. The only others inside were Marube-ya staff who had the same key.
The long and narrow floor was filled with Musashi-style wooden containers that had been shoved inside from the hatch on the stern end. All of the student merchants opened the access hatches on the top of one of the containers.
“Oh, Heidi! Sorry for calling you here, but come look at this!”
They pointed inside from above.
Heidi tilted her head and wondered what it was as she climbed the ladder on the side and spoke to the others.
“Lord Howard gave us this, didn’t he? Isn’t it the so-called present he gave us just before the Musashi left port?”
“Judge. That’s right, but what is it?”
Everyone got down on hands and knees to look inside from the narrow space above.
She tilted her head again. One only needed to peer in from above when the cargo was a liquid, a grain, coal, or some other granular object. Simply put, it was for any cargo that would spill out as soon as the side was opened. Shirojiro had already checked through everything, but he had not said anything about this and he was currently out on business.
“Well, if I don’t know, I can always ask him. So what is it?”
Everyone peered in at once, but there was no need to ask what was contained inside.
The container was filled with rocks about the size of a child’s head and the others looked troubled.
“It’s true rocks are valuable on the Musashi. Some people say they need them to make pickled foods. But still.”
“We aren’t supposed to pour them down on people in battle, are we?”
Heidi listened to all their ideas and frowned.
“That glasses man!”
…Oh, but Shiro-kun checked over it.
“Then it must be something good! It has to be, right!?”
“Did someone brainwash you, Heidi!?”
“You just don’t understand,” she complained with a snort, but she still tilted her head.
What were these rocks good for?
After a sudden vertical vibration, one of the others hit his head on the ceiling.
“That was an attack from an enemy god of war. I recognize the sound from Mikawa.”
“The battle really has begun!”
Adele watched the attack by the enemy god of war squadron from the bridge.
…Santiago Caballero is a famous aerial god of war squadron, so seeing them in action is a great learning experience.
Tres España’s god of war squadron formed units of three and attacked with five such units.
Of the three, two rotated between attacker and assister and the third acted as the controller and leader who monitored their surroundings and sent targeting information.
Two units fought at close range while two others covered for them and they set up a rotation of roles as well. The final remaining unit covered for them all and commanded them. Its covering fire primarily came in the form of sniper shots.
The continued rotation of the attacks eliminated any losses and allowed them to fight indefinitely.
…They’ve clearly been well-trained.
The fighters of other nations’ academies would often act in teams on a daily basis, even in their normal lives. They would go as far as to eat and bathe together. Their academy classes and presentations were all together and those lovely young men would appear in academy divine TV ads saying “Alcalá de Henares! We may be broke, but just look how big our smiles are!” Adele felt that was a bit different from how the horrible people in her class acted. They were so defenseless that Naruze would make a gay doujinshi about them in an instant.
And as they attacked, the Musashi focused on defending. It was said defense was easier than offense, but that was not necessarily the case. After all, everyone here was more or less a beginner. Just like at Mikawa, the most they could do was track the shells and gods of war with capture spells and then intercept them.
However, they were still fighting.
It was an entirely defensive fight, but they had a plan.
Neshinbara had yet to arrive, but receiving his assistance via divine transmission was a huge help. In truth, Adele was neither a commander nor a strategist. She was only in command due to the process of elimination.
…I’m convinced I’ve lost some weight during these past few hours. I’m not going to say from where, though!!
Actually being out on the battlefield was easier on her mind, even if it was not easier on her body.
Currently, she was watching the enemy gods of war from the bridge.
However, they were not yet perfectly handling those gods of war. The Holy Spell chaff was still clinging to the Musashi, so the automatons could not instantly exchange information through their shared memories.
Nevertheless, they were using handwritten memos and other methods to gather and transmit information.
They’re really desperate, thought Adele before asking a question to “Musashino”.
“When do you think the wind will render the chaff ineffectual?”
“Judge. This is only my personal estimation, but I would say twenty minutes from now. Over.”
Their strategy until then was to wait, but there was something they could do before that: defend, endure, and persevere. Afterwards, their efforts would be repaid with a chance to attack.
…Either way, we can’t move until we sink the San Martín.
Adele waited for their chance with nervous sweat appearing on her forehead. She raised her right hand to give a command and realized she might be a little too into this.
“Not much longer now.”
While the Musashi settled into defense, the Tres Españan god of war squadron wore down those defenses and confirmed the location of their forces.
“B2 leader to Base1. It’s no use. The water on the bottom of the ships is flowing up too thickly. They seem to be changing the thickness in the areas we approach. A ship’s cannon could probably get through, but with ours, we need to split apart the water for a direct hit or it won’t get through.”
“Testament, Gran Muñeca unit. This is Base1. They most likely have lookouts, so please attack them if you spot any during combat. But do not try to follow them if they escape. Moving them from their post even temporarily is good enough.”
“A1 leader to C leader, please swap us out with A2. My left knife is about to break, but we’re in a bad position. We’ll remain until the last second, so have them attack from the top. …Oh, damn! They’ve got a lock on me!”
“C leader here. Testament. A2, you’re up. A1 leader got unlucky. Use the designated course to attack the first starboard ship from the designated position.”
“A2 leader here. Testament. What, I don’t get to watch him panic as they trail after him?”
“You got promoted just before we were sent out, so I’m not gonna let you just sit around.”
“It’s better than being promoted afterwards.”
They all laughed and continued exchanging divine transmissions as they fought.
“It’s about time we had a serious discussion. …How’s their air defense? Has anyone been stupid enough to check?”
“Testament. It’s thick but its range isn’t that big. It seems to be about five hundred meters on average. It makes sense when you remember they’re using what were originally developed as anti personnel spells. We should be fine as long as they don’t hit us in the joints or gaps in the armor. But be careful about the face. You don’t want your sensory devices reflexively shutting down.”
“Shut that off, you amateur. Are you still complaining about the wind hurting?”
“C’mon, I’ve got sensitive skin. …Anyway, where’s their Technohexen unit? I didn’t like the looks of their attack on the mechanical phoenix unit.”
“Those phoenixes came in too straight because they’re used to the beasts of the New World that aren’t on the lookout for an attack. Don’t forget that we can move in three dimensions. They haven’t been trained well enough to follow us if we do that.”
“Testament,” they all agreed and they all knew each other well enough to recognize each other by the voice alone.
But sometimes, their smiles would vanish in an instant when someone gave a report and that happened now.
“C leader to units A, B, and C. I’ve calculated the area Musashi’s defense unit covers and I’m sending it to all of you. The way they’re using the passageways and hiding behind buildings suggests locals of each area are in charge of defending it. It would be best to destroy as much cover as possible before Captain Takakane’s landing team arrives.”
“Wait, wait. If we try to fire horizontally, our own fleet will hit us from behind.”
“Why didn’t you turn down that promotion?”
“I don’t want to hear that from someone who’s working to pay off his mortgage. …Unit B1, let’s go. We’ll approach the second starboard ship via 8-2, lower to 150, and attack the surface. Scatter at 11. Let’s see if we can make our way out along the roads.”
“Testament,” replied C1 as the god of war squadron worked together. “Let’s destroy the surface. Don’t leave any walls behind. Create a pile of rubble and tear a hole in the ship.”
Adele watched as the god of war squadron lowered its altitude and attacked Tama.
Tama was primarily used for diplomacy and trade and its surface area was mostly residential, but the front of the ship was being flattened by Tres España’s blasting spells.
…It’s like they’re saying this is where they’ll land.
Currently, containers of armor for repairs were being sent to most areas to combat the destruction. The passageways leading underground were sealed off and “Tama” had locked down the barrier doors along the corridors.
It would not be an easy place to enter from and there were plenty of obstacles before reaching anywhere important.
“The defenses leading to the bridge in the rear are weakest on the second ship. The bridge is built low so diplomatic ships can moor themselves.”
…So this is the most dangerous place for them to target.
The sounds of gods of war firing and flying through the air seemed to support that thought.
“The enemy god of war squadron is switching between low-altitude bombing runs and quick withdrawals! Over.”
The looping attack of descent followed by ascent continued one, two, three, and then a fourth time.
However, the gravity barriers and defensive formations were holding. There were danger reports, but Adele was patient.
And on the seventh attack, something arrived at the same time as the two attacking units, so she swung her right hand forward.
“3rd special duty officer! Please handle this!!”
Several figures flew out from Musashi’s inner hull.
They were black Technohexen.
They flew out before the transport route’s side hatch could fully open and they stood on the outside of the hull as if flipping themselves around. They already had acceleration spells prepared on their brooms or other weapons.
But when they fired, it was not at the enemy.
They were all firing directly ahead and at the same altitude.
They simultaneously fired along the path of the gods of war attacking the surface from low-altitude.
None of them were trained well enough to target the enemy by sight, so they had decided on an altitude and all fired ahead to draw a straight line.
There were twenty-one of them and they each fired a roll of coins worth one thousand yen. The horizontal barrage created by those people and that currency flew toward the six enemies.
Two took direct hits and one’s right arm was hit.
They had been hit.
Of the two that took direct hits, one had the scatter shot of coins bite into its wing expansion mechanism which caused the god of war to tumble in the air.
It reflexively moved the opposite wing which accelerated the tumble.
As it spun away through the air, its right leg was bent the wrong way when it struck the deck and the entire machine fell off the inner side of the ship.
The other one that received a direct hit received no actual damage because the coins hit its armor, but the other one that was hit on the right arm lost control of the rifle that arm held.
A shot hit the first god of war in the back of the left thigh, but it still maintained its posture. With no concern for appearances, it immediately evacuated upwards.
However, the one that had fired the shot stopped moving for an instant and that was a mistake.
The anti-air fire of the defense unit focused its fire on that one which had ended its three-dimensional motion and come to a stop.
The god of war was bending back at low-altitude, so the gaps in its armor were opened wide when viewed from below. A metal spear was accelerated into its stomach and it convulsed before colliding with a building.
After its armor broke and strength left its body, the god of war fell into empty air off the outer edge of the ship.
That was two defeated.
But someone took action after the repeated losses to the god of war unit: C Leader who acted as the unit’s leader.
He rapidly ascended to a safe area out of range of the Technohexen.
He looked down to check on the Musashi from overhead and get a grasp on the enemy’s location.
However, the enemy was moving toward him.
This enemy rapidly ascended after moving from below the ship and up the outer hull.
“The Schwarz Hexen from Mikawa!?”
She was already equipped with Schwarz Fräulein and she held up the broom with multiple layers of acceleration spells.
“Neshinbara Tou-chan can be pretty nasty in how well he reads things.”
As she spoke half in admiration and half in exasperation, she took an instantaneous action.
Just like in Mikawa, she fired up into the sky. C Leader tried to escape, but he was too slow to raise the wings on his back.
…I can’t accurately guide the shot without Ga-chan, though.
His reaction had been slowed because he had only just escaped and come to a stop. Because the other Technohexen had fired from the Musashi, he had subconsciously assumed he would be safe up in the sky.
But Naito took advantage of that.
She held up her broom and used the several layers of acceleration spells.
The supervisor of the Tres Españan god of war squadron was pierced through the left side and out the back.
A cheer rose from the Musashi and they covered for the descending Technohexen.
The god of war squadron scattered again and the sky cleared up for a short time.
In that moment, a ship-wide announcement from “Asakusa” cut off everyone’s cheers.
“To the northwest off the port side at ten o’clock!”
“Asakusa’s” voice shouted a direction.
“Low-speed shell detected! Tres España’s stealth ship has fired! Over!!”
Tres España’s stealth ship named the San Martín had supplied the damage that had kept the Musashi stuck in England and it fired on them again now.
“Preparing defenses! Over!”
“Musashi” handled the gravity barriers from the waiting room next to the bridge.
She coordinated the defensive walls with “Asakusa” on Asakusa without using their shared memory.
A single shell flew their way. It was a physical shell and it had no divine protection or spells applied, so a dozen or so gravity barriers would be enough to divert it.
They could not communicate their thoughts via shared memory, but they could statistically predict where the other would move first based on their past movement patterns. “Musashi” virtually synchronized her actions with “Asakusa” despite not being able to see her.
“We will divert this shell! Over.”
The shell ultimately struck the torii-shaped gravity barriers, lost speed as it broke through a few of them, and finally burst.
Cheers rose from the left side of the ship. “Musashi” could no longer see the shell from where she was, but…
…It must have been diverted!
There was no second shell. Given the time from “Asakusa’s” shout to the interception, the enemy seemed to be staying more than three kilometers away in fear of Horizon’s Logismoi Óplo.
Defending against a shot from the stealth ship that had damaged them before was sure to raise morale and the guns on the Musashi’s port and starboard sides returned fire toward the position the San Martín had fired from.
“The shells are passing through!”
Their shells did not hit the enemy.
“The San Martín has left the corresponding area!! Over!!”
“Musashi” thought. She made an estimation based on the hit they had previously taken near England.
…I have determined the San Martín can move at the speed of a high-speed ship.
They could not hit it in time by firing back after it fired on them.
That had just been proven.
…This has gotten much more difficult.
Adele on the bridge and Neshinbara listening in over the staticky divine transmission had to be thinking the same thing. They still had not located the enemy stealth ship and would continue to be targeted by it.
The enemy was certainly moving around so its location would not be known. It would likely fire if the Musashi tried to move or showed an opening.
With that in mind, it was clear why Tres España had only sent out their god of war squadron. Bringing in the many other ships would prevent the stealth ship from moving around.
If Musashi did not locate the stealth ship, they could eventually be hit. Even if they could detect and defend against the shells, it would not necessarily work so well the next time. After all, the god of wars were searching for more weakly defended areas and acting as a diversion.
“Musashi” then heard someone take a breath from the sofa behind her.
She turned around to find Suzu whose face was a bit pale.
“Judge. Do not worry, Suzu-sama. The defense is complete.”
“Judge. A low-speed shell from the enemy stealth ship. One of those hit us before, but we defended with multiple gravity barriers this time. I have determined ‘Asakusa’ was able to respond so quickly because she has the most data on the previous hit. Over.”
“I see,” muttered Suzu before taking a breath. “So that…first sound was…the shell being…fired.”
“Musashi” replied with “judge” to help put Suzu at ease, but she suddenly felt something in Suzu’s words did not fit.
She had determined it was odd for Suzu to say that, but she could not determine why that was without searching through the massive database or consulting the others via their shared memory.
For that reason, she analyzed the statement with only her own artificial brain and spoke to Suzu.
“If something is bothering you, please tell me because we are working to locate the stealth ship. Over.”
Fusae quietly clicked her tongue in Tres España’s main fleet.
“Their distributed spells and ether supply allows the Technohexen and defense units to do whatever they want when we get too close. And even the San Martín will have difficulty hitting with their gravity barriers. How are things with you, Taka?”
A cadena firma appeared and produced his voice.
“Didn’t I tell you not to call me when we’re in stealth because we don’t want to make any weird noises?”
“But I want a report from you.”
“They defended against San Martín’s shell. What else am I supposed to say?”
“I suppose you’re right,” replied Fusae while she sent him text information on the Musashi’s reaction.
She thought about the condition on the distant ship’s deck.
…Their joy over defending will have gradually faded and they’ll be growing impatient.
The Musashi was stopped and the defensive formations on the deck were being repositioned or newly sent out. They were located at the center of the ships, along the outer edges, and on the major roads and they were all in the same stances as when they had responded to the low-speed shell.
“And in response to our gods of war… Oh, there they go. Their work gods of war are out holding giant shields. They’re in groups of two and one of those two has picked up the bow at their feet and started to use it.”
“If those bows and shields fit in a god of war’s armored outfits and hands, they must be the ones England’s ArchsArt makes for giants. But just like a ballista, those arrows can’t hit a god of war even with homing spells.”
“Um, Taka? From what I’ve seen, I think they’ve been ordered not to pursue anything moving left and right or up and down. They’re only firing at stopped targets or ones coming straight at them.”
“So they’re only swinging at stopped balls or strikes, hm?”
“Testament. I’d do the same if I was them. Narrowing it down to there lets the homing actually work and raises the odds of the arrows hitting. Also, the attack spells used by their normal students have a range of only about 500, but a god of war’s arrow can reach 1500. That’s probably the main point behind it.”
“In that case…”
“Testament. The god of war units can’t descend. The coordinated firing of the Technohexen unit and the sharpshooting of that Schwarz Hexen was enough to keep them from getting too close, but the long range of their gods of war means ours need to back off a little. And since C Leader was injured too, the injured will return to the aircraft carrier. The uninjured will form units of three and perform hit-and-run attacks to gather information for the landing unit’s entry. It’s actually decent timing.” Fusae fixed her track suit’s collar. “It looks like they understand what the San Martín’s presence means. I’m sure they’ll figure this out eventually, but let’s surprise them some more until that happens.”
Adele exchanged opinions with the automatons on the bridge.
They had calculated the coordinates from which the San Martín had fired earlier. They had then compared that to the flight patterns of the god of war squadron and the locations the other enemy ships had fired on.
“Adele-sama, it seems Tres España is leaving a certain amount of space open as they attack so as not to interfere with or accidentally hit the San Martín. The San Martín is currently to the rear port side of the Musashi.”
An object representing the enemy ship appeared on the model Musashi floating in the air. It was on the rear port side. As a clock position, it was at seven o’clock.
“We can estimate that the San Martín is moving here. We can use the guns set on the back of the second port ship and the outer hull of third port ship. Those guns have an effective range of seven kilometers, so it is well within range. Over.”
Adele nodded and ordered the six guns on the port side to target the corresponding airspace.
They had not confirmed the San Martín’s location, so they could only predict it based on the space left open.
…But there are plenty of other areas that are being left open.
The key to estimating the San Martín’s location was how quickly it could move with the spatial barrier of primary stealth active.
Calculating the enemy’s location while under the pressure of being targeted while motionless was exhausting to everyone involved. Even now, a divine transmission was coming in from the completely panicked idiot on the bow.
“Adele! Adele! Is it all over!? Are we all gonna die!? Nwooohh! There’s one sexual and businesslike thing I want to do before I die! Horizon, you know what I mean, don’t you!?”
“Judge. Do you wish to receive a urine test? Make sure to include as much blood and proteins as you like.”
“Huhhh!? I thought this was a game of catch, but you just hit the ball back at the pitcher, didn’t you!? Wait, Horizon! Horizon! Why are you pulling a giant paper cup out of your storage space!? Don’t draw a line on the inside! I can’t fill it up that much! Or do you want to see me get serious!? Is that it!?”
…I can’t do this. It’s going to drive me insane. I need to stop listening.
At any rate, the automatons’ observations said the enemy ship was a high-speed ship meant for quick decisive battles. Based on its speed and the movements of the gods of war, it was determined to be on the rear port side.
This assumption made for a dreadful opponent, but they could put up a fight if they could estimate its location.
And so Adele ordered for the cannons to fire and Neshinbara gave some advice.
“Let’s find them. Fire all across that area of sky. If we hit them, we win.”
“Secretary, couldn’t they circle around behind us?”
“The smoke coming from the Musashi is still behind you, right? Primary stealth eliminates their visual form and sounds, but it doesn’t eliminate their existence. Even if they’re using a visual compensation spell, they’ll avoid moving through smoke because it’s so easily disturbed. If they do try to pass through, they’ll go under you, so angle your line of fire there.”
They did not have to hit. As long as they showed the enemy they knew where they were, they would be on equal footing.
And so Adele passed on the firing location and…
But no cannon fire came from the Musashi.
Suzu and “Shinagawa” were the first to notice. “Shinagawa” had a lot of similarities to “Asakusa” as they were both captains of the first ships and she had been looking back in sky on the starboard side in case gravity barrier defense was needed.
“Low-speed shell detected!! It is arriving from the rear starboard side!! Over!”
They had thought the San Martín was on the port side, but it was actually on the starboard side.
“Did it move above or below the Musashi to reach the other side!?”
“Musashi” had only been able to respond to the attack from an unexpected location that did not match the automatons’ prediction because Suzu had turned in that direction. That acted as an accurate guideline and she deployed the gravity barriers as soon as the shell was visually detected.
After a short delay, “Tama” deployed her own barriers, but it was too late.
They diverted the shell, but not by enough. It struck the bottom of the arrival and departure deck for transport ships and diplomatic ships on Tama’s outer hull.
With a great sound, the materials were smashed to pieces and the deck broke from its connections with the ship. Tama also shook as if being rocked by waves.
As Tama shook up and down by about three meters, the defensive formations on its deck stopped moving. Anyone working on the outer surface of the Musashi was given a divine protection that kept them on the ground, but those who had not had both feet on the ground lost their balance.
Some were thrown to the ground and others fell.
Voices of surprise, repeated explosions, and the sound of the wind could all be heard.
As soon as Suzu made that noise, “Musashi” saw it.
Several small ships had appeared in the sky off the starboard side where the enemy gods of war had been firing on them.
This fleet had been towed along within the San Martín’s stealth barrier.
It was the landing unit led by Hironaka Takakane and primarily made up of Tres España’s baseball and track teams.
The landing unit quickly approached Tama while letting the god of war squadron handle the defensive formations that were attempting to recover.
“The enemy is approaching…no, they are landing! Over!”
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