Horizon:Volume 3C Chapter 76
Chapter 76: Runner on the Battlefield
I am about to go
I will soon go
I will go there
Point Allocation (Forceful)
From overhead, the light covering Magdeburg could be seen growing explosively brighter.
A man and woman viewed it from the front deck of the Hexagone Française flagship, the Pension Versailles, which was stopped on a hill west of Magdeburg.
The woman held a wooden sword against the floor and her eyes turned to Magdeburg’s south gate.
“Dammit! So they broke through!”
The gate had been broken. Narimasa’s accelerated attack had hit the stake like an uppercut.
Driving that wooden stake in diagonally from below was enough to tear through and destroy the defensive barrier.
There was now a hole in the barrier as well as the gate and wall.
The barrier’s automatic replenishment effect would have filled the hole before long, but the mobile shells near the lead rushed in with their shields to counteract that replenishment effect.
Engineering students in lighter P.A. Oda uniforms could be seen rushing down the five hundred man path. They were probably going to solidify the hole.
Some gunfire came from within the hole and the cannons on the city wall continued to target the five hundred man path, but another unit rushed down the path of shields and the path itself started pouring down itself from the back.
“They’re invading Magdeburg! Are you okay with that, Exiv!?”
“Heh. Calm down, Terumoto. You must not get violent…against me.”
Terumoto dropped her right heel on the nudist’s right foot. The surrounding people shrieked and shrank back, the nudist’s expression vanished as he collapsed to the floor, and Terumoto glared at him.
“Oh, sorry. I tried to take a step toward you, but there was a foot in the way.”
“U-um, Lady Terumoto?”
Mouri-01 spoke up with several signe cadre opened around her. She stood next to Terumoto and gestured down toward their warriors lowering from the other ships and preparing for battle.
“Look to the left. Those are Hexagone Française’s famous special forces, the Gallican Good Morning Unit.”
“Oh, you mean the special forces who claim to only hit their opponents to ‘wake them up in the morning’ because monks aren’t allowed to fight? Those are the ones that go around hitting people with their weapons shouting ‘good morning’ even in the middle of the night, aren’t they? …They sure do put the ‘special’ in special forces.”
“Anyway, Lady Terumoto, the assault unit is in the process of being deployed. Once a third of them are ready, they can be sent in.”
“How long until then?”
Terumoto frowned at that but then sighed.
“It’s no use getting mad at you.”
“Um, what about at Lord Exiv?”
“It’s fine when it’s him.” She kicked him where he still lay on the ground. “In other words, you’re saying we didn’t make it in time?”
“Testament. We are justifying our actions as coming to meet Lady Anne of Austria and we had planned to enter the city and defend against the Sack on the pretext of ensuring her safety.”
“But now we can’t do that?”
“Testament. Driving in that wooden stake has established direct conflict between Magdeburg and the M.H.R.R. Catholics. The Sack has begun between them. Our justification is considered less important than the history recreation, so we can no longer interfere.”
“No, we can’t.”
Terumoto clicked her tongue and looked to Magdeburg. The defense near the gate had already stopped, but the powerful waves of light running through the defensive barrier prevented her from seeing what was happening inside.
She then asked Mouri-01 a question.
“How exactly are you negotiating with the other nations to justify our assault? If I’m interrupting, don’t answer and keep working. You can tell me when you have time.”
“Testament. I am mostly sticking with our original plan, but I am gaining the support of the other nations by saying we will be rescuing Lady Anne of Austria. In other words, I am saying M.H.R.R. is misusing the history recreation to kill off Lady Anne.”
“That argument sounds familiar.”
“Testament. Musashi used it at Mikawa and England. I thought that precedent would make it easier for the other academies to accept. Tres España and England have already agreed, K.P.A. Italia’s resistance student council has begun making statements and has agreed, and both Chancellor William of Holland and Chancellor Christina of Sweden have also-…”
A new signe cadre appeared and Mouri-01 smiled when she saw it.
“Approval has surpassed fifty percent. Handling it all at once in a meeting is convenient, but when it’s treated as an individual issue…”
“They’ll decide everything at once at the later international council of Westphalia, hm? Well, keep up the diplomacy to make sure they don’t change their minds by then. …Regardless, you’re good at this and I’m thankful.”
“Your praise honors me. But…”
“Testament.” Mouri-01 placed a hand on her chin and looked at a few signe cadre. “The academies of nations bordering P.A. Oda have placed a condition on our rescue. They say they cannot agree unless we only move in to save Lady Anne of Austria once she is actually under attack, not just in danger.”
“Yeah, if we crushed an M.H.R.R. assault unit just because they were dangerous, anyone bordering P.A. Oda might get invaded ‘because they’re dangerous’.”
“Heh. No need to worry about that,” said someone else.
It was the nudist who had stood up from the floor.
Terumoto saw the nudist brush up his bangs and strike a pose.
“Listen,” he said. “Anne will have anticipated this situation and will act accordingly. After all, she has Luynes with her.”
“Testament.” Exiv looked down at Magdeburg’s light with a bitter smile on his lips. “Although, can you really say someone is ‘under attack’ if she is prepared to fight? Anyway, have everyone prepare to head in. I guarantee you Anne intends to draw all of the enemies into Magdeburg. That way she can give us all the credit.”
Terumoto frowned and Exiv nodded.
“Their strategy is likely to flood Magdeburg themselves and catch M.H.R.R. in the middle of it. I expect they will remove the barrier at some point to let the water in and then escape on a transport ship already inside the city. We will stop M.H.R.R.’s attack ships from targeting Anne’s transport ship and our attack will crush the M.H.R.R. forces attempting to escape the city as it sinks into the mud. And we will do it all in the name of defeating any enemy that attempts to harm Anne.”
“Honestly, she’s probably thinking of improving Hexagone Française’s international standing by giving us all of the credit here. Once again, she is seeing just how high she can lift Hexagone Française.”
“As her brother, do you wish she would simply ask you to come save her?”
“I care more about you, Terumoto.”
He said it so readily that Terumoto was briefly dumbfounded and he then turned toward her.
“Why are you blushing, Terumoto?”
“Shut up, you moron. Quit getting off topic. And Mouri-01, don’t look away and smile.” Terumoto pointed toward Magdeburg. “Anyway, are you saying Anne is enjoying herself in there?”
“Testament. I doubt she will show herself until all of the enemy has invaded the city. That way she can establish our justification to act. To put it another way, the moment the siege troops fully enter the city is the moment when Anne is ‘in direct danger’. We attack then.”
Exiv crossed his arms and gave Terumoto a sparkling smile.
“Heh. That is why I told you to calm down, Terumoto. Because Anne is perfect.”
“You haven’t done anything!!”
As soon as she dropped her heel on his left foot, a great roar came from Magdeburg. The destruction of the southern gate had grown even larger. Mouri-01 frowned when she saw it.
“M.H.R.R.’s main five companies – three thousand men in all – have entered with the thousand man mobile shell battalion in the lead!”
Magdeburg’s defense against the invaders was split into two groups.
This was because the heavily-equipped M.H.R.R. mobile shell unit took the riverside path and the more lightly-equipped P.A. Oda assault unit took the hilly orchard path.
With the flooding Elbe River visibly pressing against the barrier, Magdeburg’s forces fired and M.H.R.R.’s forces advanced using a rotation between the armor of the mobile shells and the spell shields.
In the orchard, Magdeburg’s forces fired back from either the top or bottom of the fortress wall while falling back toward the city.
The orchard area had originally contained fruit trees and fields, but the trees had been cut down and the stonework around the stepped fields had crumbled.
However, remnants of the stepped structure remained and there was a path.
“It may not be the scorching wind of the Middle East, but there’s still wind! Go!”
The P.A. Oda students all grabbed Mlasi-style cloth spell charms that were not made of paper or parchment. Some wrapped them around their forehead, some around their ankles, and some around their shoulders.
The spell cloth had ether-filled spirit threads woven into them, so they acted as ether fuel tanks and were highly durable. While Tsirhc spells tended to focus on religious precepts, these included some religious precepts but were mostly related to commerce or to surviving the harsh environment of the Middle East.
Here, they all used the same one.
“Ride the wind!”
Book-shaped emblems appeared on the outer side of their ankles and Garudas flew out.
They lowered down as if thrusting a knee forward to take a long step and those students in blue P.A. Oda uniforms began to fly. They were only just skimming off the ground, but they moved swiftly across the slope with several spell cloths wrapped around them like belts as armor.
As if jumping from foothold to foothold or from behind cover to cover, they flipped around, lightly placed a hand on the slope, and flew along like a dancing wind.
On the other hand, the defenders did not hold back. Their job was to drive the enemy toward the river instead of letting them head straight to the city.
The large cannons on top of the city wall were constantly firing. Protestant holy spells were not as powerful as their Catholic counterparts, but that thrift allowed them to be used more often. It could take some time to fill the homing ether cannons with charm cylinders in place of normal shells, but the charm cylinders doubled as a magazine and therefore allowed for rapid-fire use.
Countless curving white paths raced outward, tore into the slope, and launched chunks of dirt into the air. Most of the people blasted upward by direct hits would flip around in midair and land on their feet. They had a trick to accomplishing that.
“Focus your anti-shock spells to the left! The homing shots are only coming from that direction! Also, jump toward the river when they hit to escape as much of the blast as you can!”
The recoil would destroy their wind-riding mobility spells or injure them, but any who could no longer move were healed by summoned Garudas or Djinns. Others would fire on Magdeburg’s gunners to cover for the injured as they were healed.
However, more attacks came from above. Something fell rapidly toward them.
“Some logs are coming!”
Logs and stones had been hung from halfway up the wall, but once their ropes were cut, they came rolling down the slope. The P.A. Oda men braced themselves.
“What’s this!? These are nothing but heavy weights! Let’s knock them away like Sassa would!”
“Yeah! If we stop them here, we’ll be heroes!”
“Platoons 7 and 8, prepare your defense spells!”
But as they prepared to stop them, they noticed Protestant charms attached to the logs and stones.
“Eeek! This says ‘Woman-Banning Spell that makes anyone it hits unpopular for a full year’!”
“Th-this one says ‘Hair-Cutting Spell that increases the odds of future balding by 10% each time it hits you, but with you it won’t make much difference’!”
“Th-this one over here says ‘Reverse-Circumcision Spell that gives you the Reverse-Ueno Effect’!”
They were so flustered that they suffered direct hits and about a dozen of them were blown away while becoming reverse-circumcised, unpopular guys with a risk of future baldness. The Magdeburg warriors and crossdressers in charge of spells shouted down at them from the wall.
“Ha ha ha! Thou shalt not commit adultery!”
“Truly, those with plenty shall not keep it! …Now do you see how steadfast the Protestants are!?”
“Come back after stopping by Ueno or Morocco!”
They were fired on in protest, so they fired back with their cannons. The exchange of fire looked equal, but the P.A. Oda warriors were being gradually forced further and further down the slope.
But then a metallic sound rang from the top of the city wall toward the southern gate.
It was a sound of destruction.
The Magdeburg warriors turned to look.
But something hit them and several of them were knocked into the air.
They had been hit by a cannon. Literally. A large cannon itself had flown through the air and hit them.
The enemy was climbing up from the destroyed southern gate. The individual in the lead had destroyed the cannon by the gate and was now rushing toward them.
That was exactly who had knocked them and their cannon away with his Lily Flower.
Narimasa ran as he heard cheers rising from the slope below.
Climbing onto the wall from the broken southern gate had been much easier said than done.
Magdeburg’s defensive barrier had become a vortex around the widened hole, so he had not been able to use the ladders set up near the destruction.
However, now that he was on top, he could take out the enemy’s defenses and he had a straight shot almost all the way to the city.
That was why those on the ground had gone on ahead to draw the defenders’ attention.
“So I made an approaching run and jumped up here just to ensure their safety!?”
I’m nothing but a scout running errands, he thought with some resentment toward Katsuie who had suggested this part of the plan. However…
…Well, it’s still easier than being the commander.
He had never liked taking or giving orders. His general strategy was to grasp the overall movements on the battlefield, decide “I’ll go here”, and not worry about anything beyond what he understood.
It used to be that he had been given “you go here, okay?” as his instructions. Katsuie had been his superior at the time, but it had shown how well Katsuie understood him. Katsuie always placed him wherever going on a rampage and moving forward would achieve the desired results.
But since becoming a member of the Six Heavenly Demon Army and the Five Great Peaks, he had been forced to do a lot more troublesome work like training and managing the troops, although he left a lot of that to Toshiie. He had only been able to go nuts at IZUMO two days before because he had been on his way to the gathering of those heading to Magdeburg.
…Things have gotten so much more annoying.
He trusted his master, Nobunaga, and he recognized Nobunaga’s strength. Nobunaga knew him just as well as Katsuie did, so he would similarly be told “you go here, okay?”. He was always given an accurate spot to go and he was allowed to do whatever he wanted afterwards, which gave him some breathing room.
However, he would not compromise his true nature.
Historically, Sassa Narimasa eventually ended up under Hashiba’s command after Nobunaga’s death.
Then, feeling dissatisfied, he rebelled and committed suicide.
Narimasa had desired that role and inherited the name because of his true nature.
After all, Nobunaga’s was the greatest name of the Warring States period. That demon lord was full of momentum and was now actually threatening the world.
Rather than being a leftover, Narimasa would take part in it and his part would end once it all fell apart.
He had no interest in Hashiba’s later rule. There was no momentum there and it lacked the precious freedom that momentum brought. The breath of freedom was only so refreshing when breathed in an age of tension. In a time of idle peace, freedom was only another word for “boredom”.
Narimasa would become a power that threatened the world, but he would live freely in that power. Great strength was needed to accomplish that. He needed enough strength to move freely through a faction able to threaten the world.
That was why he found P.A. Oda to be so much fun.
The next group of enemy warriors came into view up ahead.
They fled instead of defending the cannons on the wall.
That was a wise decision.
Narimasa heard his fellow warriors climbing the ladders they had set up behind him, so his enemy would only have bought a few seconds if they had tried to fight back and any injuries would have been for nothing.
But he had a thought as he listened to the footsteps approaching from behind, the screams of those jumping down from the wall to escape, and the cheers from below.
“I’m going to continue enjoying myself until I eventually meet my downfall, Toshi.”
He ran, did not pursue the retreating enemy, and knocked away a large cannon using a Lily Flower strike.
He heard the destruction and felt the accomplishment of cutting open a path on the front line. He knew he was breaking into the air of the front line that none of his fellow warriors had breathed yet.
He ran forward, but heard something behind him as soon as he accelerated.
About a dozen steps behind him, the wall exploded from within and toward the slope.
Rocks flew and rolled towards those on the slope.
The cheers vanished and a confused and angry retreat began.
However, the explosions did not stop there. A second and third followed.
“They’re destroying their own wall to keep us from moving along it!? Not bad!!”
So this place is intent on letting me swallow the air of freedom, is it? thought Narimasa with a smile.
…Can you raise the value of this freedom any higher!?
“This was your doing, wasn’t it!?”
He saw someone flying next to the wall. They wore a white Technohexen outfit and had black wings.
“Musashi’s 4th Special Duty Officer!”
Without looking his way, the Technohexen sent out her right hand and made several scratching motions in the air.
A moment later, some homing shots flew in from close range.
The wall crumbled and stone scattered.
Naruze did not slow her drawing hand. She drew focus lines in all three hundred sixty degrees around Narimasa with some stronger and weaker points, added some lightning effects for an electric strike, and sent it out. However…
Narimasa stomped on the wall as he ran. The entire stone wall clearly bounced up and down.
Naruze had never seen anything like it before. The entire wall bounced up from the rebound of the stomp. A “sheet” of stonework rose up between her and Narimasa while falling apart.
The wall shot up in a wave-like motion and Naruze’s drawn attack stabbed into it with slicing sound effects.
However, the attack did not reach its target, the wall shield came apart, and…
The stones of the wall suddenly shot her way while crumbling.
While running, Narimasa had kicked the wall toward her.
Naruze flew out of the way of the stone scattershot.
Narimasa continued sending waves through the wall with his stomps and Naruze accelerated her wings to pursue him.
An exchange of stone scattershot and drawn focus lines began at close range.
“Honestly!” she shouted. “If Musashi doesn’t show up, I’m seriously going to think about becoming a mercenary!”
“We have a report from a Protestant academy in a neighboring city of the Magdeburg region! There are signs of the M.H.R.R. Catholics entering Magdeburg and beginning a conflict inside! Over.”
The communications automaton’s voice filled Musashino’s bridge.
“Judge. Now, Suzu-sama, ‘Musashino’-sama, I will give my instructions as Vicereine of Musashi: please send the Musashi to Magdeburg immediately.”
“Judge,” said “Musashino” to Horizon who stood in the center of the bridge.
She then bowed to Suzu who strapped into a seat with a seatbelt, said “excuse me”, and placed her hands on the girl’s shoulders from behind.
Suzu breathed in.
Her voice grew quieter and quieter, but the volume did not matter. All that mattered was what she did next.
She reached out a hand toward a floating model of the Musashi.
Its eight ships were lined up side by side and standing vertically.
Horizon glanced out the window where the world was rotated by ninety degrees.
After a moment, the communications automaton spoke again.
“All ships have achieved a ninety degree trim toward the sky. Stress on the ships is being reduced by setting the floating ocean surface to forty-two different points. No descent detected. Opening external bulkheads for gravitational cruising. Over.”
Horizon nodded and a sign frame appeared. It showed Naomasa inside the maintenance hangar. She was hanging down by Jizuri Suzaku using her false arm.
“Everything’s good in the engine division. The Musashi King went sliding away with Adele’s mobile shell earlier, but he’s fine. Muneshige and the Sanada group have finished distributing fixation charms throughout the residential areas.” Exasperation filled Naomasa’s tone as she continued. “We tried to use this kind of short burst of gravitational cruising back at IZUMO, but I can’t believe we’re using it to ‘fire’ ourselves to Magdeburg along a ballistic course to get around M.H.R.R.’s ban on ‘cruising’ over their territory. …That Musashi King is something of a dreamer, isn’t he?”
Behind her, Yoshiyori could be seen holding onto Yatsufusa.
“Do you do this kind of thing all the time!?” he asked with a bitter smile. “This is incredible!”
“Not all the time,” replied Horizon. “This is only the…second time we have gone vertical.”
“Are you sure these aren’t the early stages of it becoming an all the time kind of thing?” asked Naomasa. “Not that it matters. Suzu, make it quick. Get us going.”
Suzu nodded, felt from below that each of the eight ships was opening its external bulkheads, and breathed in. She then raised her eyebrows and spoke.
“F-fire the Musashi…to M-Magdeburg!!”
The night air sank toward a land port along the provisional border between M.H.R.R. and Holland.
Directly above, eight ships faced the dark clouds of the sky and opened their external armor like wings.
Light was emitted from within the opened sections of armor, and…
“All ships, beginning vertical firing. Over.”
In response to that announcement, a high-pitched noise began to roar and wind began to blow.
The wind was not being ejected. The wind carried torn grass with it as it was sucked into the Musashi’s opened armor.
This was proof that the gravity bands were activating to prepare for gravitational cruising. The light grew as the noise gained a rhythm as if rising in pitch.
With that, the eight ships fell by a relatively short distance measured in dozens of meters.
They fell, but a moment later, something burst.
The land port, the surrounding forests, and the surrounding mountains all shook and the shockwave was enough to rip trees up by the roots. A white mist raced across the earth, covered the forests, and washed down across the shallow mountain ridges like waves.
And then the Musashi vanished.
However, there was now a hole in the dark clouds above and that hole revealed the starry sky.
A great noise from beyond shook the clouds.
That was the sound of the Musashi changing direction to the southeast, to Magdeburg.
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