Horizon:Volume 3B Chapter 59

Chapter 59: Victor of the Desperately Fought Sea

What remains before you

Unwavering?

Point Allocation (Result)

The direct conflict between ships began with a midair clash.

The Murakami Navy was the first to act. Their wall of small ships quickly withdrew toward Aki.

Motoyoshi had given the order after determining their net formation would not survive a collision from the iron-clad ship. They had few ships left, so they would not be able to regroup if anything happened.

Instead, he had them change their formation. They constructed a horizontal net stretching from the iron-clad ship to Aki. It looked a lot like a long board.

That net board was positioned along the iron-clad ship’s shortest route to Aki.

If the iron-clad ship collided with the board horizontally, it would be crashing into a wall that continued for the entire length of the board.

If it tried to pass above or below, it would be under attack for the entire length of the board.

And Motoyoshi’s next instructions covered an attempt to pass on either side of the board.

“If the iron-clad ship moves to the side, create a stepped height difference along its path! If we do that, we win! Firing horizontally is what naval ships do best!”

They no longer had the durability of a multi-layer net. Their net only had a single layer, but that allowed their cannon battery to stretch on even further.

Meanwhile, Kuki made a single decision aboard the iron-clad ship. He ordered the crew to maintain their speed and decided what route to take in relation to their enemy.

“Below! Pass below the enemy ships!”

Kuki had two reasons to move below the enemy’s board.

First, few aerial ships had many cannons that could fire downward, so it was relatively safe to fly below them.

Second, descending to pass below the net formation would give the iron-clad ship a little more speed.

So Kuki’s instructions were to pass below the enemy at full speed and to fire upwards.

“You can’t miss at this range, so keep firing! We’ll pass through while blowing them to bits!”

But just as the iron-clad ship began to descend while firing, Kuki noticed a change in the enemy’s movements.

Is that…?

The board of small ships was breaking apart ahead of them. It seemed to crumble down toward them like a waterfall.

There was only one way to describe it.

“Did they let us accelerate and lure us down to ram us with every last one of their ships!?”

The Murakami Navy chose a more surefire method of bringing down their enemy than shellfire.

They made themselves into fire ships and rammed the enemy.

Motoyoshi, their commander, ordered the line of ships to charge in, starting from the front, and pushed his glasses up his nose.

“I had decided to do this no matter what direction you chose, but it is a shame you did not choose the sides or the top. Our odds of bringing you down would have increased were we able to fire on you at the same time. Ramming you is easier from above, but our shellfire is much weaker. …So that was an excellent decision, Kuki Yoshitaka. And…”

Murakami Motoyoshi ordered all of his men with a single word.

“Go!”

The Murakami Navy became a waterfall.

The front of the board-like net formation surged down toward the iron-clad ship’s deck.

The shellfire from the small ships was only covering fire for their collision course, but the cannons on the iron-clad ship’s front deck and sides angled shallowly upward.

“We will transform you into a shower of steel!”

They began a close-quarters counterattack.

They brought destruction.

Shellfire overlapped and the sound of splitting and breaking metal joined it. The wreckage sounded a lot like wind instruments, gusts of wind whipped up from the iron-clad ship, and the pieces and wreckage of the small ships looked like they were kicked up by a wave.

Thousands of shells quickly shot past each other. None of them were wasted, but they had no real meaning. They did not reach their target, but they were not fully destroyed.

However…

“Ohhh!”

One small ship used a fellow ship as a shield as it plunged toward the iron-clad ship. The leading ship was smashed by a shell which broke through it and partially split the following ship, but the crew of the leading ship shouted out.

“Go!”

The following ship answered by maintaining its stability and pouring on its last burst of speed. As if delivering a punch, it crashed into the twin main cannons at the top of the iron-clad ship’s deck. The main cannons fired, but the small ship had already wrapped around their barrels and twisted them.

“—————”

The main cannons almost seemed to jump up as they were ripped from the deck and they exploded.

Wind instantly blew through and revealed the iron-clad ship’s deck, which had now lost its primary means of attack. So…

“Go!”

The men of the Murakami Navy shouted that word again, but it was filled with hope this time.

“We can win this!”

The iron-clad ship had lost its main cannons and the small ships created an unstoppable stream of collisions into its front deck.

They cascaded down for angled strikes much like from a sharp chisel.

The line of ships wished to collide with their enemy in a straight line.

But Murakami Motoyoshi had a thought as he watched sharp angled charge that would finish off his enemy.

Is this…?

He realized what Kuki was after and gave an order, despite knowing it was too late.

“Everyone, descend straight down without adding an angle!! You won’t hit otherwise!”

Because…

“The iron-clad ship is going to rotate as we try to ram into them!”

A moment later, exactly that happened. As the small ships slammed diagonally down from above, the massive iron-clad ship appeared to raise its head. And then it performed a full loop.

“Take us around!!”

Kuki shouted from the vertical deck that was quickly continuing to rotate.

The Musashi had previously pulled off a midair rotation like this, so…

“We can do this! Let’s show them that a P.A. Oda warship can do anything the Musashi can do!”

The ship’s various accelerators were not quite enough for this feat. They also used the side and bottom cannons on the bow and stern.

By repeatedly firing the front and back cannons down and up respectively, they supplied the ship with the extra acceleration it needed.

Kuki had chosen a descending trajectory both to keep up their speed for the rotation and to use the upward force of the air pushing back at them as they descended.

As its altitude dropped, the ship quickly rotated and creaked.

Even as it raised its head, the ship maintained its forward acceleration.

The enemy ships targeting its deck tried to alter their speed and trajectory to match, but the iron-clad ship shot past, leaving them behind.

The ship continued to creak and the side armor bent too much and split. The armor’s Black Metal scattered through the sky, but…

“Shaja!” shouted Kuki.

“Shaja!!” replied the others.

They completed the rotation.

The ocean appeared overhead, heaven and earth had reversed positions, the horizon finally appeared again, and the sky rose from below.

“The enemy ships have passed by overhead!!”

The way forward was clear and Aki and Itsukushima were visible, so Kuki gave a shout.

“Stop the rotation and accelerate forward!”

A moment later, something appeared in the sky ahead. It was the last of the small ships that had supposedly passed them by. It was Murakami Motoyoshi’s ship.

There was only one reason for this single ship to not have joined the others.

Did he predict what we were doing!?

And having predicted it, he had chosen to take advantage of it. That was why Motoyoshi’s ship was there and why it charged toward them.

This would settle it.

The iron-clad ship had performed a full loop and its bow was flying back upwards, but Motoyoshi’s ship descended on a collision course with the front deck. Kuki also heard a voice. He heard the words of the enemy he had been facing the entire time he stood on this battlefield.

While splitting the wind and scattering shells, Motoyoshi’s ship dropped straight down like a pile-driver.

Motoyoshi had ordered the rest of the crew to evacuate and he was controlling the ship via cadre firma.

He continued onward.

The enemy could not avoid his ship’s current path, so he continued straight ahead.

“————!”

Shellfire arrived from directly below. The iron-clad ship’s bow cannons had fired upwards to stop its rotation and the shells slammed into the bottom of his ship as if trying to hold it back.

It hit the back of his ship. He felt a tremendous impact and a full third of the ship was torn away.

“Don’t underestimate the construction of a smaller ship!”

The ship’s course had been thrown off a bit, but he quickly corrected it.

A normal warship would have been too twisted to move after that.

But the small ships of the Murakami Navy were different. They primarily used fishing boats and other small ships, so they were easily smashed by enemy attacks. But when they were smashed, the destroyed pieces tore away easily enough that it did not bend or twist the rest of the ship too badly.

And that allowed them to continue on.

“Once a pirate latches onto something, he doesn’t let go!!”

He saw Kuki ordering the iron-clad ship to tilt toward the ocean.

Too late, thought Motoyoshi. I’m too close for you to escape the impact by tilting.

“So I will get one last attack in!”

Motoyoshi sent his ship on to stab into the iron-clad ship’s deck.

His attack would reach. Kuki looked his way and shouted, but his roaring voice had no attack power to back it up.

This will work.

As soon as that thought filled Motoyoshi, an attack slammed into the center of his ship’s deck.

“…!?”

The surprise ruled Motoyoshi’s mind more than the actual shaking. This attack had come from beyond the line of fire for any of the iron-clad ship’s cannons.

It had come from the east, which was directly ahead, and there was only one thing that could have made it.

The enemy ship that wasn’t fully brought down!?

After an attack from Kaminarigiri, the following ship was falling from the sky as it burned and fell apart. Its back half had exploded earlier, but the front half remained.

It was nothing more than wreckage and it slowly fell from the sky.

However, someone must have remained onboard and they had fired a definite attack on Motoyoshi.

I see, he realized. Kuki tilted his ship to clear the line of fire for the following ship.

As a result, the main frame to Motoyoshi’s ship had shattered and fallen apart.

His ship was destroyed.

Sorry, he thought. Just like his own men, Kuki’s men had not given up on the battle. And most likely, Kuki had not even checked to make sure his men had done it.

Just like Motoyoshi, he had trusted in them and made a gamble.

Motoyoshi knew why he had overlooked it.

I was obsessed with bringing the battle to an end!

He had been trying to end it himself. That was where he had erred. And because of that, he corrected his way of thinking. If Kuki still had people fighting with him, then so did he.

As his destroyed ship was blown from the sky, Motoyoshi cried out.

“Vice Chancellor Dousetsu!!”

Something dropped down from almost directly overhead.

A four-legged god of war jumped down from the command ship that continued to ascend with its control automaton gone.

Kuki’s current ship increased its speed and put some distance between them, but…

“A fall from extreme heights can fill that gap!”

Dousetsu felt that Motoyoshi had done well to restrain Kuki’s speed long enough for him to reach a position from which to jump down.

“You have my thanks!”

He raised his sword in his right arm and new lightning enveloped it. It had been sufficiently cooled. As he dropped straight down, he used his god of war body to swing down the blade.

He directed Kaminarigiri’s full power towards the deck of the iron-clad ship below.

“Cut it with your roar, Kaminarigiri.”

He drove the sword into the ship.

We’ve won, thought Motoyoshi. He was convinced of their victory even as his he and pieces of his ship fell into the sea. The invasion of the iron-clad ships had been brought to an end.

It had been so long. After moving from Hexagone Française to K.P.A. Italia and learning of Hashiba’s movements, he had known he would have to handle the Murakami Navy’s destruction.

Ever since then, he had felt a great pressure and a defiant spirit mixed with resignation.

“Please let that all be over.”

He squeezed those words out from deep in his throat. He begged for this to be the end.

But at the same time, he saw something move.

It was Kuki. The brown-skinned demon reacted to the lightning arriving from above.

He did not defend, evade, or even give his men orders.

He used the strength of a demon to pick up one of the barrels to the main cannon destroyed in the previous exchange and used it as a counterattack against Dousetsu.

“He can do that!?”

Motoyoshi realized one more reason why Kuki had tilted his ship. The main cannon had been destroyed by the small ship ramming it and it had nearly come free of its base. By tilting the ship, its own weight had pulled it the rest of the way loose. Kuki had caught it and rested it on his shoulder.

“Gah!”

The demon clenched his teeth so hard that Motoyoshi heard one of his fangs break.

The deck dented inward and the ship was twisted into a greater tilt, but the cannon with a fifteen meter pedestal was securely propped up on the demon’s shoulder.

“Tilt it back!”

The ship straightened out its tilt, which lifted Kuki upwards.

As Motoyoshi fell, he saw Kuki gather all of his strength and brace his legs on the deck.

“Have a taste of my ship’s main cannon!!”

The main cannon’s strike carried the force of the giant ship righting itself and it struck Kaminarigiri from below.

A lightning strike collided with the main cannon.

Dousetsu swung down Kaminarigiri as he fell and the remnants of the main cannon exploded.

In an instant, the metal split and the cannon burst like a paper balloon. However, Kaminarigiri still had power to spare. The great sword continued down in search of something else to cut.

The lightning was not enough to destroy the ship, but enough to provide a fatal blow. It flew in an arc as four legs prepared to land.

Kuki responded by fighting back.

He crouched down and charged into Kaminarigiri’s path shoulder-first.

He let out a roar as he ran.

“I will absorb all of Kaminarigiri’s cutting power with my own body!”

The “Lightning Cutter” effect was created through the rejection process using the reverse of the process that called in the “lightning”. That was caused by a reverse-resonance and he would have it use up all of that as it cut through his body.

And so he raised his right arm toward the falling blade.

To extend the length of time for which he was in contact with the blade, he gave himself to the blade, starting with his middle finger.

The blade drove into him. It split apart his middle finger, reached his palm, reached his wrist, and split the bone.

“————!!”

He ran to make sure he wore down the entire blade.

He did not hesitate for a moment.

In his mind, it did not matter that he was up against a god of war or the former Peerless in the West.

He thought only of protecting his ship as he charged forward.

He continued on.

Even as his raised right arm was sliced in two, he swung his body downwards to dash further forward.

The blade tore through his right arm.

Kaminarigiri’s strike sent a mist of blood scattering everywhere from fingertip to shoulder.

But despite Kuki’s efforts, Dousetsu’s attack was faster. By the time Kuki had made it halfway down the blade, it cut through his right arm and embedded itself in the deck.

The splitting lightning attack sent a rumbling and shaking racing through the air.

Light burst from the front of the iron-clad ship and a portion of the side before exploding.

But that was all.

Kuki had lost his right arm and he held the bleeding shoulder with his left hand, but he stood up to face Dousetsu.

But the result had ultimately been decided by more than just his arm.

“Even if it means sullying the name ‘Kuki’, I cannot back down here.”[1]

Out of his nine horns, he had lost the three closest to his right shoulder. And…

“Now! I’m not done yet!!”

With Kuki’s yell, the ship strengthened its tilt.

Kuki had instructed it to roll so Dousetsu would fall.

As the ship tilted, the deck exceeded thirty degrees. Dousetsu realized he would have difficulty holding his position without stabbing his four legs into the deck.

Kuki stood before him. The demon was gasping for breath, holding his right shoulder as it spewed blood, and staring directly at Dousetsu. The blood fell in sync with his breathing, shimmering heat rose from it, and the hard wood deck scorched and smoked when the blood hit it.

The ship continued to tilt and Dousetsu gathered strength in his left leg which was now pointing almost straight down.

“I would like to hear your name and affiliation,” he said.

Kuki nodded, opened his mouth, and spoke with heated breath.

“I am Kuki Yoshitaka, Naval War Representative of P.A. Oda’s Defense Committee.”

“Then let me ask one more thing: what do you plan to do now?”

“Achieve victory.”

“By what means?”

“Shaja.” Kuki nodded. “If you refuse to fall, I will hit you with pieces of wreckage until you do.”

“Well said.”

An appropriate decision, concluded Dousetsu.

He could not have free use of his sword from this position and his opponent had seen through that fact. This man was sure to use any means necessary to ensure the survival of his fleet. So…

“This is unfortunate.”

“What is?”

“There will be no victory for you.”

As soon as he said that, a great power arrived. It came from Aki’s Itsukushima behind him and it seemed to stroke his back as it passed below him.

He had felt the after-effects of a speedy attack piercing through the iron-clad ship from bow to stern.

Kuki’s eyes widened when he realized what had happened.

“That was…”

“Testament,” replied Dousetsu.

He felt the piercing power throbbing below the deck and he spoke to Kuki.

“That was the new anti-ship bombardment spell created by the Pope-Chancellor.”

A moment later, the power that easily penetrated the iron-clad ship exploded inside it.

The ship measured over eight hundred meters and it was covered in Black Metal, but it still burst from within.

The strength of the armor and frame prevented the internal shockwave from expanding, so it pushed out the inner shell until it split. The compressed air grew hot, scorched the ship’s components, and produced an explosion when it combined with an impact of vacuum.

At first, the ship’s internal components were blasted from the ship’s exits and the attack’s entrance and exit holes.

But the shattered materials soon tore through the ship’s inner and outer shell like blades.

A sound much like shattering glass shook the entire ship and the ship slowly entered a descent while still tilted.

The ship had lost all power.

It was still headed toward K.P.A. Italia’s headquarters at Aki’s Itsukushima, but its altitude was insufficient.

All the black ship could do was gently sink. Meanwhile, Itsukushima was wrapped in light and it maintained its majesty as a floating island.

Rows of glowing emblems surrounded the entire island.

Itsukushima was surrounded by light.

Like a line of dominos, torii cross emblems standing about three meters tall covered the full 219 kilometer circumference of Itsukushima. They were positioned only fifty centimeters apart and they were all acceleration spells.

“This attack spell was originally meant for use against exceedingly large ships such as the Musashi or Himeji Castle, so it isn’t easy targeting a ship that size. It probably only worked because Murakami kept it at such a level altitude, don’t you think? Hm?”

In the eastern ocean, the Papa-Schola spread his arms on a platform created in front of Itsukushima Shrine’s great torii.

He looked up at Galileo and pointed at the command ship flying toward them high in the sky.

“I’ve sent a guard ship after it, but can you use your Geocentrism to bring it down?”

“Unfortunately, Geocentrism requires a human or equivalent being at its axis.”

“Can’t you use Dousetsu for that? You sent him out there with Heliocentrism, didn’t you?”

“I threw him out there with a three-hundred meter swing, former boy. The force of the swing gave him plenty of momentum when I let go. Of course, anything lighter than the vice chancellor would fly even further.”

“Are you suggesting I should go? Hm?”

“I thought you said you had sent a guard ship, former boy.” Galileo shrugged. “Now, about the acceleration cannon using the acceleration spells surrounding Itsukushima. It would be nice if it could be angled up or down more.”

“Don’t say that,” replied Papa-Schola Innocentius with a bitter smile.

He looked to the eastern sky and sea. Kuki’s iron-clad ship was nothing but wreckage and it was slowly losing altitude.

“It seems the M.H.R.R. ground forces have withdrawn to a safe distance and are watching to see what happens. …They’re probably thinking about when to ask for a ceasefire. We’ve lost a lot of our forces, but we gained the history recreation of the Murakami Navy’s destruction and continuing peace for Catholicism.”

But then the two of them heard a noise.

“A pulse? No.”

Innocentius frowned and looked to Galileo.

“You recognize this sound, don’t you? Hm!?”

On the iron-clad ship’s bridge, Dousetsu heard Kuki laugh after he fell to his knees. His rapid healing as a demon had already stopped the bleeding from his shoulder, but the blood loss still left him woozy.

“My master has won.”

As Kuki spoke, Dousetsu heard another pulsation.

Whose pulse is this?

It sounded again and it was somewhat speeding up.

“Is that coming from the command ship up above!?”

“Shaja.”

Kuki smiled, but his eyebrows were slightly raised. He looked to the sky where the command ship was just about to arrive above Itsukushima.

“It’s a good thing Suzuki cancelled out your lightning attack. As long as the command ship survived, I only had to act as a diversion and draw everyone’s attention over here. Getting you down here from the command ship took a lot of doing, though.”

He inhaled and looked up into the sky.

“The Pope-Chancellor and 2nd Special Duty Officer Galileo may understand just what this trembling pulsation is.”

“This is a runaway ley line reactor. …Or rather, a newly developed bomb using one.”

Initially, Dousetsu was completely dumbfounded.

“————”

He knew what a runaway ley line reactor meant. He had heard of the damage done in the past, of the destruction caused at Mikawa, of the secondary and tertiary damages that caused, and of the mysterious phenomena that followed.

“That is a forbidden technique!”

“It is a human technique. It was made by humans, after all. No, my master made it, so you could say it was made by a demon king.”

Kuki laughed with only his mouth.

“It was developed with more focus on range than destructive force, so the blast has a radius of approximately five kilometers. More importantly, it will act as a demonstration to the other nations. We call it a dragon line reactor. …From that position, it will take out a third of Itsukushima.”

Without showing any concern for Dousetsu’s sense of ethics, Kuki finished speaking and stood up. He instantly jumped from the back of the deck and off the ship. Dousetsu moved to follow him, but…

Light?

A ring of ether light appeared around the command ship that had surpassed them high above. This was the same as a runaway ley line reactor. It was filled with more ether than the acceleration reactor could handle and that ether was overflowing.

Kuki vanished from the deck, but he left some words behind.

“I have fulfilled my role. That is all this means.”

The very next moment, a ten kilometer space centered on the Seto Inland Sea’s coast crumbled and broke apart.

A flower of shockwaves and dust blossomed in the air and sky.

The runaway dragon line reactor had exploded.

Notes

1. The characters for Kuki mean “Nine Demon”.