Horizon:Volume 3B Chapter 57
Chapter 57: Crow Master of the Inland Sea
A view from above
Looking to this
Point Allocation (Big Catch)
The finale of the land battle and aerial battle over the Seto Inland Corridor began when K.P.A. Italia’s Murakami Navy prepared their formation and fought back against P.A. Oda’s onslaught.
“This formation is a lot more dangerous than their last one!”
On the bow of the central P.A. Oda iron-clad ship, a female demon named Magoichi wielded three rifles. She raised her eyebrows as she repeatedly fired all three.
She had a single goal among the flying shells, bullets, and fire arrows.
She stood on the bow of the leading ship and handled the interception and attack from that frontmost point.
Her method of offense and defense was simple. Of her three rifles engraved with a Yatagarasu, one was for attack, one was for interception, and the last one was for whatever the situation demanded.
She barely touched the three guns. The recoil produced by the Yatagarasu rifles’ great firepower sent the shallowly bent guns flying high into the air.
When they finished spinning through the air and fell back down, she would lightly touch them only to operate the firing trigger and adjust the angle at which they would fly back up.
All on their own, the three Yatagarasu would fire in midair, rotate in midair, reload in midair, and accelerate further upwards.
As they flew to about ten meters above her, Magoichi had a thought.
…This battlefield is really noisy, but it’s nice having so many targets.
Standing on the very front of the black iron-clad ship felt like standing in midair and she would reach for the three great crows flapping their wings and frolicking around her in order to send them out again. She fired spell-enhanced bullets at the fleet of small ships.
…I love this feeling!
She swung her hands as if scattering birdseed, used her feet too, and spun around.
“Yata! Pick up and devour the shells!”
While occasionally altering their angle, she had the three crows strengthen their flight.
The firing continued.
A trio of rapid cocking and firing filled the air. Added to that was the sound of the Yatagarasu tearing through the wind as their paths were occasionally changed.
Attacks flew and enemy ships burst.
Since the beginning of the full-blown battle, she had sunk around twenty-one enemy ships. Of the two hundred ten kilometers of the Seto Inland Corridor, they had advanced one hundred fifty kilometers west, but as the iron-clad ships broke through…
Nine Horns: “Suzuki, please be cautious. The enemy is throwing away half their fleet as a wall while constructing a defensive formation. …The real battle begins now.”
Currently, their six iron-clad ships were arranged with three in front and three in back. The front three were pushing the Murakami Navy’s net-like formation westward and the rear three acted as replacements for the front three and provided covering fire for the ground troops. Kuki commanded the entire fleet from the central rear ship and he was operating several insha kotob.
Magoichi responded while looking ahead at the Murakami Navy.
“The one coordinating these small but not tiny ships is their 1st special duty officer, Murakami Motoyoshi, isn’t it!?”
Ahead of Magoichi, the Murakami Navy’s small ships created a formation of overlapping nets. They put together a crude but deep grid pattern. When part of the front layer crumbled, the rear ships would fly through the holes to take its place.
There were six layers to the net and the enemy’s main fleet was at the center of the very back layer.
…There he is!
The young man with long black hair was Murakami Motoyoshi. Magoichi had heard he was a mercenary from Hexagone Française. He apparently excelled at remaining aboard one of the small ships and commanding the fleet in a high-speed hit-and-run attack pattern.
Nine Horns: “The Testament descriptions do not specify whether Murakami Motoyoshi, leader of the Murakami Navy, took part in the Second Battle of Kizugawaguchi, but he was the commander that devastated Oda’s navy at the First Battle of Kizugawaguchi. Seeing that he is here…”
“They decided they could put him in this battle since it isn’t known if he took part or not. K.P.A. Italia is making their own interpretation of the Testament descriptions. I have to admit he is good at defense!”
The front line of the enemy’s net calmly focused all of their attacks on just one of P.A. Oda’s iron-clad ships. Even when Kuki sent the other ships out in front as bait, they refused to bite. Their actions were strongly controlled.
…Even with the iron armor, this concentrated fire is dangerous. …He isn’t bad.
They seemed to have come up with a countermeasure for the iron-clad ships.
Nine Horns: “Suzuki, the ground forces have caught up, so we can coordinate an attack. …Advance and break through their center.”
Three Legs: “Are you sure, Kuki? We’re taking concentrated fire.”
Nine Horns: “This is probably not an enemy we can defeat without taking any damage. And as long as we only take the damage we are expecting, we will be taking the least possible damage. Or so Hashiba said.”
Magoichi smiled bitterly at that and Kuki gave a sighing laugh before continuing.
Nine Horns: “Let’s end this here. You protect our path, Yatagarasu.”
On the K.P.A. Italia side, 1st Special Duty Officer Murakami Motoyoshi commanded the small ships, but not by cadena firma. He moved his fleet primarily through glances and hand signals.
The small ships were a lot like fishing boats, so they did not have the power to send their divine transmissions through any possible chaff. For that reason, he gave instructions to each unit’s command ship and they would pass it on to the ships in their unit.
“We certainly were lucky.”
Motoyoshi muttered to himself and pushed his glasses up his nose.
…It’s fortunate this was a daytime battle.
The positioning of each ship was crucial for this net-shaped defensive formation, but these ships needed good visibility because they were too small to be fully equipped with rangefinders. That limited this formation to the day.
“The question is how long we can keep this up.”
The iron-clad ships had solid armor and the Black Metal it was made from supposedly gave it a self-healing divine protection, so the Murakami Navy was forced to wear them down with concentrated fire. But when he gave his instructions…
“But commander! We can keep going!”
He appreciated the thought and it made him reluctant to pull them back, so he smiled bitterly. In land battles, people directly clashed, but on a battlefield fought between warships, the meaning of morale changed. Morale could be high, but one’s momentum was hard to see and it was not easy to keep the pressure on the enemy.
In order to endure the enemy’s attacks, high morale was best not wasted. That was Motoyoshi’s view.
He felt he understood their high morale.
The Murakami clan was related to the Kitabatake clan that had existed on the Kii Peninsula. Kitabatake Academy had excelled in the art of war, but it had given in to P.A. Oda’s forceful subjugation policy and underwent a political marriage as per the Testament descriptions.
However, the head of the clan had refused to accept that. He had rebelled just as the Testament descriptions said and Kitabatake Academy had been purged.
The remnants of Kitabatake had primarily gone to Murakami and then to this battlefield.
Also, Murakami included the Saika Ikki, a mercenary unit which had joined the Ikkou-Ikki uprising as an anti-Hashiba group. Suzuki Magoichi had been their leader before leaving and joining Hashiba. Hashiba had likely sent out Magoichi to settle things with the Saika Ikki once and for all and perhaps to take them in as allies, but that had instead increased the Murakami side’s morale.
However, Motoyoshi had a thought as he listened to the shellfire and shell hits.
…No, I am still being too naïve.
Based on Hashiba’s previous accomplishments, he doubted she was the type to use tactics with an ulterior motive like that. Magoichi’s inclusion was intentionally meant to raise their morale.
“That way, they can overcome every obstacle to defeat us.”
He was being cautious, he had prepared, and he had morale on his side. But the enemy was powerful and he could not let his guard down, so he had fallen back as far as he could and he made sure they were always firing.
He looked to the bow of the enemy’s front ship and saw Suzuki Magoichi send her three Yatagarasu high into the sky.
He knew exactly what it was. He had seen it a few times while viewing the battle between the Ikkou-Ikki and P.A. Oda from a distance. An extremely staticky voice reached him from the Saika Ikki in his fleet.
“Here it comes! This is Yatagarasu’s wide-area attack!”
As the three Yatagarasu flew into the air, they came apart and transformed.
The gun barrels expanded into long metal panels that were connected together by enveloping black ether light.
The black light formed a virtual barrel over fifteen meters long.
The three crows each fired a blank. The recoil caused them to rotate and dance high in the sky, but they suddenly arced back down.
They tore through the wind in a descent toward Magoichi who had one eye covered by cloth. However, the Yatagarasu each moved as if their virtual barrels would hit her from behind.
“Hey, now. Don’t get so excited that you forget about your owner.”
Magoichi turned toward the Yatagarasu as they descended from the sky behind her. She grabbed the cloth covering her eye and slid it down.
This revealed a pale blue bird’s eye with a black pupil.
It was a false eye and the black pupil captured the three flying crows and swiftly locked onto each one.
With that word, she threw three metal pots into the air. They were ether fuel pots the size of a bamboo segment.
The Yatagarasu each attached one of the pots to the gunstock in order to consume the fuel. They quickly passed by her and shook their virtual black wings just once.
The three crows flew to three hundred meters above Magoichi.
They spun around.
The crows rotated vertically through the sky and the path of their ether light drew a circle containing the program spell that would control them.
The three Yatagarasu drew countless circles measuring over one hundred meters and flew around them like the hands of a clock. They then obeyed the program written in the circles.
“Show your talons, messenger of heaven.”
As soon as Magoichi spoke, black beams of light were constantly fired from the three long virtual barrels.
They tore through the air.
The three black lines produced three tearing sounds and they pierced the enemy fleet like talons.
The Yatagarasu responded by tearing apart the net of small ships as if brushing it away.
The Yatagarasu aimed along a straight line through the center of the Murakami Navy’s net and slightly toward the land side.
Of the net’s six layers, three were torn apart by the black spray, two had holes punched through them, and the final one was damaged.
This was not absolute destruction, but destroying multiple layers of the net at once threw off the Murakami Navy’s actions. The rear ships hurriedly moved forward, but the hole was too deep and they were not fully coordinated.
The iron-clad ships targeted their advance and attack there. The small ships in the rear were forced to move forward to fill the holes in the net, but they received a counterattack of concentrated long-range fire.
This produced more destruction and a few holes formed all the way through the net.
The six iron-clad ships changed formation and advanced through one of those holes. They were packed closely together with three ships in the front and three in the back. The two ships on either side would receive all of the attacks from the right or left and the central ships would break through.
The wind roared and the six black ships advanced like islands or a pod of whales.
The Yatagarasu had lost their light and they returned to the bow of the front central ship where Magoichi held out her left arm. The Yatagarasu let their stocks catch on her arm such that they spun around it several times. They then expelled their scorched physical barrels into the air.
Magoichi drove new barrels into the three crows from below and reversed their rotation. They were cocked, they gave their cry of firing, and they began rotating and firing around her once more.
They would not be stopped.
“Go, crow that guides the war god. Go wherever Yata’s protective bullets fly!”
The three crows cried out and a new uninterrupted stream of fire flew to the west.
The iron-clad ships continued through the torn openings in the enemy’s net.
Wrapped in roaring wind and parting the air current, the six black ships advanced.
Meanwhile, the Murakami Navy’s commander, Murakami Motoyoshi, raised his right hand and swung it backwards. Doing so thrice was the sign for a full-speed withdrawal and his entire fleet obeyed.
Commander of the iron-clad ships, Kuki Yoshitaka, saw something different enter that movement, so…
Nine Horns: “Central ships, fall one ship’s length back from your port and starboard ships!! Lead port and starboard ships, move to the center!”
Three Legs: “Kuki!? Isn’t this our chance to break through? Why are you hardening our defenses!?”
Nine Horns: “The Murakami Navy’s net had six layers. If they try to withdraw as is, they will only get caught on the layers behind them. The only reason to begin a full-speed withdrawal in this situation is to create a different formation!”
As the Murakami Navy withdrew at full speed, it really did create a new formation.
They created two long net-like walls that formed an upside-down V.
Both nets were three layers thick. It was not as tall as before, but the tilted angle made it twice as long from front to back and it hid the ground.
Nine Horns: “Port and starboard ships, take anti-shell defenses on your outer edges!”
As soon as Kuki gave his instructions, the shellfire began.
As Kuki commanded the iron-clad ships from the deck of the rear central ship, he saw the Murakami Navy fire hundreds of shells to wear down the side hulls of the iron-clad ships. The book-shaped ether light of gravity barriers appeared primarily around the decks and cannons.
“Port and starboard ships, maximum defenses to the sides!”
Countless solid sounds created a single long sound and nothing would stop it.
Nine Horns: “Port and starboard ships, check the damage to the armor! Where damage is lightest, deploy the cannons and return fire!”
“Shaja!” they replied as the counterattack began.
But even as they tore holes into the enemy net, new enemy ships slipped in to fill them.
Even so, the iron-clad ships forcibly accelerated.
They were moving directly ahead.
…I can see Aki there!
That was Itsukushima’s floating island and K.P.A. Italia’s headquarters were located there.
Looking ahead raised their morale. They had made it this far, so…
“Everyone, double-check your objective! Accelerate forward as much as possible!”
But as the iron-clad ships moved forward, the Murakami Navy took new action.
The left and right net walls rapidly approached the iron-clad ships.
Three Legs: “Eh? What are they doing!? Are they ramming themselves into our shells!? Are they stupid!?”
Nine Horns: “No! They’re using the angle of fire against us!”
The iron-clad ships’ cannons were massive, so they could not immediately change their direction of fire. Even the homing turret-less cannons could not use their homing properties at close range.
So the Murakami Navy was moving in right up to them.
Nine Horns: “They know how to take advantage of small ships, so is this their idea of a do-or-die tactic!?”
A small ship was struck and destroyed by a shell at close range, but the crew did everything they could to guide the ship before abandoning it.
The small ship collided head-on with the rear starboard iron-clad ship.
A vibration ran through it and an explosion blossomed in the sky. The Black Metal armor was revealed unharmed below the scattering smoke, but…
Three Legs: “Wow, Kuki. I always thought your designs had a lot of waste, but they come in handy at times like this!”
Nine Horns: “Why do women always view precautions for ‘times like this’ as waste!?”
Nine Horns: “If they keep that up in a single spot, they will eventually break through. More importantly, they are reducing our speed. If we let them hold us up here, we cannot take Aki before the battle’s agreed-upon end of 4:00 PM.”
Three Legs: “Um, then what are you going to do?”
Nine Horns: “What do you think these iron-clad ships are for?”
Kuki gave instructions to the leading starboard and port ships.
Nine Horns: “Ram the left and right walls at full power. Sacrificing those two ships is necessary for victory.”
The students fighting a fluctuating battle on the surface saw a cascade of ships pour from the sky.
Colliding metal, breaking wood, shouting voices, and reverberating explosions blurred together.
An eight hundred meter iron-clad ship charged into the net wall formation of the less than twenty meter ships.
The ships that could not react in time and the ones that attempted to evade or defend were all equally crushed and destroyed by the massive black form.
Ripples ran through the net, they sprayed upwards, and they exploded. When the small ships were struck by that ferocious pressure, they all fell, some spinning, some directly, and some while falling to pieces.
The iron-clad ship did not escape unharmed either. After about fifty ships were taken out in an instant, Murakami Motoyoshi ordered the rear half of the fleet to abandon them and ram the enemy.
The dozen or so ships that rammed them and the concentrated fire of the leading ships was enough to set ablaze the front starboard iron-clad ship that was making its attack on the land side.
With the bow breaking apart and around three small ships embedded within it, the iron-clad ship’s bow suddenly dipped. Next, white light burst from between its Black Metal armor and it instantly expanded outward.
Everyone looked up and saw the ship noisily turn into a mass of flames and explode.
The air moved and heat swept down from the sky and across the land.
No one uttered a word on the surface, but the M.H.R.R. students and K.P.A. Italia students on the Seto Inland Corridor all realized one thing: the covering fire from K.P.A. Italia’s Murakami Navy had been almost entirely lost.
The high-speed mobile shell assault team making up the front lines raised a cry and accelerated straight forward.
At the same time, the front port iron-clad ship making its attack on the ocean side was also destroyed.
A flaming blossom filled the sky, taking many small ships with it.
Kuki realized he had accomplished his part of the history recreation.
The iron-clad ships were meant to neutralize the Murakami Navy and secure the safety of the ground troops.
From morning until now, the Murakami Navy had lost almost forty percent of its forces and around twice that were at least damaged. Except for the central fleet, not a single unit appeared to be fully functional.
Three Legs: “They aren’t giving up yet! They’re firing!”
That would be Murakami Motoyoshi’s decision. The hundred or so undamaged ships were deployed toward the land on Kuki’s right. They remained in a net formation but as a wall and they were located at very close range.
Had they decided that no more ramming attacks were coming or did they simply not care if there were more?
Motoyoshi was at the very back and center of this new formation and he looked Kuki’s way despite not actually being able to see him from there.
Their gazes met and they both gave instructions to their fleets.
Shellfire intersected, but something happened that Kuki had not expected.
Directly ahead of his rear central ship, something resembling lightning raced toward Magoichi’s front central ship.
That light should not have been there. Sensing danger, Kuki cried out.
Before he could warn the demon gunner, flames blossomed up ahead.
The front central ship had exploded.
Magoichi detected everything that happened while in midair.
She was currently flying. She had a Yatagarasu under each arm and their recoil had sent her into the air.
Her decision to take flight had been a split-second one. The instant she had sensed a powerful presence approaching her ship, she had used Yatagarasu to fly into the sky where she could confirm what it was.
That decision had saved her life.
After all, the presence had shown itself the very next moment.
It was lightning.
No, it was technically a bluish-white god of war wielding a large sword enveloped in lightning.
Only half of the god of war was humanoid. The upper half was shaped like a warrior, but the bottom half had four giant legs. The four-legged god of war suddenly appeared on the deck below Magoichi and…
It drove the lightning sword into the iron-clad ship.
A moment later, the ship swelled out and burst.
The bluish-white four-legged god of war left the explosion and roar of noise behind as it leaped toward Magoichi.
It had noticed that she had sensed its presence and jumped away.
A split-second decision would decide her fate as the lightning strike flew up toward her.
She did not choose wrong.
She called in the final Yatagarasu that was spinning through the air on standby.
“Bear with it!”
She let it hit her.
It was a solid blow. Her organs twisted in the opposite direction of the hit and she nearly lost consciousness, but that pain earned her great acceleration. And as the enemy’s blade approached…
More than just yell the word, she twisted her body and fired the twin guns below her arms. She did not target the enemy; she simply fired into empty air.
She focused on evasion and sent herself flying.
…How about that!?
She felt heat in her right leg. It was the enemy’s rising lightning strike, but she shrank down in midair to pull herself away from the hot lightning.
She rotated through the sky to avoid it.
And she succeeded. The enemy’s blade grazed past her foot.
A deep voice reached her and a large form moved below. The four-legged heavy god of war maintained the trajectory of its leap toward her, which took it to the rear port ship.
Magoichi shouted to Kuki’s ship as she watched it leave.
“Kuki! …K.P.A. Italia’s vice chancellor is here! That’s the former Peerless in the West and father-in-law of Tachibana Muneshige! He’s the head of the Peerless of the West’s family…”
The lightning raced toward the rear port ship.
“Tachibana ‘Lightning Cutter’ Dousetsu!!”
As soon as she finished, the heavens were split apart and lightning dropped down.
Even as the M.H.R.R. and P.A. Oda warriors clashed with the K.P.A. Italia warriors on the surface, the team led by the Reine des Garous to meet with Rudolf II rode unicorns to quickly reach the forested border between Hexagone Française and M.H.R.R.
Meanwhile, Musashi arrived at a city along the border with Holland and let off the evacuees while using the divine network to check the uncertain details of the battle on the Seto Inland Sea.
A lot was on the move, but one thing was true for them all.
“The battle between Hashiba and the Italians is the key here. That will let us predict how the world will progress from here.”
Yoshitsune gave that comment as she moved slowly west along a great plain of Qing-Takeda. She was not alone. She was preparing for battle with cannons and a large mobile city.
“Musashi, can you overcome Magdeburg and arrive here for the Battle of Mikatagahara? You have your meeting with Tomoe and the others as well, though.”
She looked to the west in the early evening sky.
“Now, what will you do, P.A. Oda, Hashiba, and pope of K.P.A. Italia? The result of your battle will influence everything else from here on.”
As she asked that question, the Satou Brothers contacted her from the group following behind her.
They were providing incomplete information about the battle on the Seto Inland Sea, but it was enough to know the situation was progressing.
“K.P.A. Italia Vice Chancellor Tachibana Dousetsu is having some fun, is he?”
He had destroyed a third iron-clad ship and he was continuing to fight.
The battle that would influence the world had intensified.
Battlefield Diagram 3
Toori: Sis! Sis! It’s kind a hard to care since this is a battle between other nations, but that’s no excuse for it being so confusing! Help me out here!
Kimi: Heh heh heh. Uncaring brother, I like your honesty, but setting that aside, here’s the general situation.
Top: Toward Itsukushima
Left: Ocean Side
Right: Land Side
1: Murakami Navy’s Net Walls Composed of Small Ships (Murakami Motoyoshi)
2: Iron-Clad Ships
3: Tachibana Dousetsu
4: Suzuki Magoichi
5: Kuki Yoshitaka
*Gray ships have been destroyed.
Toori: Ohh! So they keep pushing back against each other!? In action games with this kind of battlefield, I always fall off when jumping between ships!
Kimi: That’s because you have a habit of tapping the jump button too much. And I feel like that’s not the point, but it is hard to care when it’s someone else.
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