Horizon:Volume 3C Chapter 82
Chapter 82: Messengers in a Crumbling Place
What is accumulated?
The dead or the living?
Point Allocation (Progress)
An army joined the battle from underground.
As the Three Musketeers’ royal guard unit attempted to attack the siege troops, the skeleton army appeared between the two forces.
The enemy rising from the earth took the form of bones, but they were actually a product of ether containing a dead soul. But due to their bony form, the musket-wielding Belle de Marionnettes on the outer edge of the formation reached a certain conclusion.
“I have determined firing on them will have little effect!”
“Then bring out the core unit’s spear formation!”
The musket-wielding outer edge unit all turned around and a spear-wielding formation rushed forward from behind them. They wore combat maid uniforms and raced forward with their hips lowered for stability. Their spears were fixed in place to strike the bones.
The bones broke and the Belle de Marionnettes realized something.
“I have determined the bones have poor movement! They are slow!”
“I have determined they are using their numbers to form a barrier!”
The ten thousand dead were meant to slow them down.
The maids fell back for the moment. It was a regulated movement and they moved back about a dozen meters in complete unison.
When the leading row hit, the tips of their spears would shatter the ether skeletons.
White fragments scattered through the night and their spears moved in arcs to stand vertically. Also…
“Front row, fall back!”
Finished attacking, the row of raised spears took a single step to the right and back stepped away. To their left, the next row rushed in with their spears at the ready.
They set up a rotation for a continuous charge.
They would not stop.
There were approximately six hundred maids against the ten thousand skeletons. The rows were one hundred across, so excluding the musket unit, there were four rows’ worth. But with each attack, they provided a loss of nearly one hundred to the enemy and continued breaking them. And…
The Three Musketeers took care of the remaining flanks of the skeleton unit. Henri summoned four giant blades on the right, Armand lifted the ground on the left to close it on the skeletons like a book, and Isaac, the Lourd de Marionnette style of automaton, spread his cannon arms on either side to fire on both flanks.
With their support, the charging unit only had to rush straight in with their spears, and eventually…
“I can see them!”
They could indeed see the Lourd de Marionnettes that were sweeping away the enemy.
So the maids prepared their spears and performed one final charge.
They moved onward. They raced forward. They knew the front row would breach the enemy, so they pushed through as a single whole.
“Full speed ahead!!”
They ran and tore through the enemy
But a sudden movement reached them.
It came from behind them. An unexpected strike hit them from directly behind.
Henri, the feminine member of the Three Musketeers, learned of her fellow Belle de Marionnettes’ confusion through their shared memory. There were countless messages there, but they were mostly questions of “What!?” toward an unknown entity. Also…
Henri turned around and saw it.
The enemy was there. They were made of bones, but they looked different. These were not the weak bones shaped like a human skeleton that had been smashed before.
These humanoid forms were made from a collection of bones. They were over three meters tall and resembled large apes.
Ether bones had been drawn in and bent to form not just a skeleton but an entire beast including muscles.
“What is this?”
She found the answer at the bottom of her vision.
There were of course bones there.
The smashed and scattered bones seemed to be slowly melting and gathering together.
They joined together, some to become bundles of arm muscles and some to become part of a breastbone.
Once they were finished binding together, they formed arms and legs, but they were still clearly made from a collection of bones of uneven length. Even in their completed form, the scars from fractures or the ends of the bones were apparent and the right and left limbs were sometimes different lengths. The gulden coins embedded in their foreheads were made with a hole and a narrow red light extended from that hole in search of prey.
Their creation took only a few seconds and Henri estimated the total number used to make one.
The beasts made from one hundred skeletons were about three meters tall. They looked somewhat like large apes, but they ran on two legs and suddenly swung up their arms.
Their rapid tackle blew away the Belle de Marionnettes from behind.
The maids were slow to react because they did not understand what was happening. The large apes made from white bones did not hold back. They rushed in with bestial movements.
They roared and attacked the maids.
The maids flew through the air with a sound of destruction. They prepared their spears and thrust at this new enemy, but…
“We can’t get through!?”
These humanoid forms had the density of one hundred skeletons. Even the spears could not break through, so more and more of them broke.
However, others stepped forward in place of the spear unit.
It was the musket unit that had created the outer edge of the initial formation. They kept low, rushed between the spear unit and the enemy, and got down on one knee. They prepared their weapons and used a simplified smart system to target the humanoid bones by synchronizing the movements of their eyes with their arms.
They wanted to break the joints and seams, so they fired anti-mobile shell bullets into those spots.
The white broke, the distance between them shortened, the bones burst, and a few of them arrived close enough to smash the maids into the ground. However, the Belle de Marionnettes completed their attack unfazed.
They broke the enemy.
At the very least, they broke the enemy’s front line and created an opening. The spear unit used that opening to regroup and face the rest of the enemy.
“Spear unit, charge!”
They picked up as much as speed as the enemy had, used gravitational control to prevent the spears from shaking, and attached the spears to the hard points on their sides. They intended to pierce straight through the enemy by keeping themselves from wavering in the slightest.
As the spear unit charged in, a sudden strike from below knocked them into the air.
An intense sound rang out as the dolls were destroyed. After they were thrown into the air, the running apes had knocked them back down or tackled them to destroy them even more.
The sounds of breaking porcelain and snapping threads continued for a while.
Then everyone saw something beyond the large apes that were coming their way after destroying the charging spear unit. This was what had knocked the spear unit into the air from below.
“Lourd de Marionnettes!?”
“No,” someone shouted over their shared memory. “Those aren’t Lourd de Marionnettes!”
“They’re made of bone!”
These giant dolls were made from molded ether bone. There were three of them, they were over ten meters tall, they had twisted asymmetric shapes, yet they had likely been humanoid to begin with.
“They’re giant skeleton dolls!”
“Exactly. This would normally be the end of it, though.”
Someone in a red uniform looked down from the bow of a warship floating in the sky. He wore an M.H.R.R. boy’s uniform with the numeral “4” sewn in white.
“Maeda, are those your mercenaries?”
“Testament, Matthias. That is the true form of my Kaga Millionen Geist.”
Matsu sat on Toshiie’s shoulder and she had white ether wings on her back. She narrowed her eyes when he stroked her wings and he turned his head to the side.
Matthias leaned on the deck’s railing there, looking down at the battlefield.
Toshiie shrugged and explained his “men” fighting below.
“First, ten thousand mercenaries are smashed so they can gather together into one hundred elites.”
“Those one hundred elites become ten large dolls.”
“So they grow stronger the more you break them down? How very human.”
“Testament. Automatons are different because it’s all over once they break. But spirits of the dead are still human. Of course, that begs the question of what I am if I control them.”
Toshiie brought a hand to his waist where he had a sword made from a roll of coins.
When he flicked the pommel of the coin roll sword, the hilt’s wrapping peeled back to reveal silver coins with holes in the center. The coin stocker being used as a sword guard accurately dropped four coins to the floor.
“The Landsknechte are hired for four gulden and swear to fight in the name of their holy land and their god.”
The fallen coins were gathered by an arm of bone that suddenly grew from the floor. With a snapping motion, the coins vanished into the palm. After confirming the sight, Toshiie spoke to the battlefield below.
“Now, you can enjoy life for the first time in a long while. Let’s start with three and stick together. Make sure to work yourself to the bone as you fight.”
Henri moved out front.
“Armand! Create a barrier wall with the ground! Musketeer unit, you focus on defense without destroying the bone apes!!”
After giving her orders, she ejected two additional swords into the air. She already had four, so that was six in all.
Of those, she set three to be controlled by fingers of her right hand and the other three to be controlled by fingers of her left hand. And…
The maids tried to retreat, but the walking large skeletons kicked them and crushed them underfoot. Henri clicked her tongue, moved forward, and ran toward the large skeleton in the center.
She swung the left three blades horizontally like swinging a knife with a reversed grip.
A sound of breaking filled the air.
Light scattered and the large skeleton’s chest split apart. The inside was not hollow; it contained a dense collection of bone. But the bundles of bone moved like organs or flesh and the rest of the body swung an arm toward Henri even with its chest smashed.
Henri thrust her right three blades straight forward. She drove them deep inside the chest and the blade controlled by her middle finger broke out the back.
“Tear apart, you lowly servant.”
The blades controlled by her index finger and ring finger tore out through either side of the chest.
She had completed her attack.
With repeated sounds of breaking, the large skeleton’s torso shriveled downward. But the unharmed stomach and below were carried forward by the legs. The shoulders were only attached by the back and it dangled upside down behind the rest.
Pulled by the dangling shoulders, the entire body fell backwards. The legs seemed to fall into a sitting position and kicked around for a bit, but they finally came to a stop. And…
That was exactly what happened.
The large skeleton sank into the ground and vanished as if it were crumbling and melting.
Henri did not have time to think “one down”. She had to destroy the other two, so she immediately turned to the left and gave instructions to her retreating comrades.
“Hurry to the Lourd de Marionnette unit on the other side!”
But there was no response. Wondering why, she looked over and found the maids staring wide-eyed behind her.
Henri looked back as she ran to the left.
A fourth and fifth large skeleton were standing up.
The musketeer unit had stopped destroying the bone apes, so why were more large skeletons rising?
She immediately found the answer. The large bone apes had begun cannibalizing each other.
They were killing each other to make themselves into large skeletons. Armand described the sight over their shared memory.
“Simply put, this is hell.”
As if to confirm that, more and more sounds of destruction rose into the sky.
They would punch each other, pierce each other, and bite each other. Then several of them would intertwine.
Six of them stood and gave scream-like roars.
They then helped the large apes that had begun killing each other.
They crushed them.
This created a total of eight large skeletons. The ones that had been created earlier began to move and Armand spoke when he saw them.
“Hey, Henri, it looks like they’re fans of yours, so you deal with them.”
“Based on the feedback, it looks more like they’re your fans, so you deal with them.”
Hearing Isaac’s comment, Henri prepared her blades with a smile and Armand swung up the earth’s crust with his teeth showing. Isaac let the maids climb on top of him before moving away to defend the main formation on the hill.
Henri understood she could defeat these large skeletons, but there were too few of her. That left only one method.
…The princess’s ship needs to fire down on the enemy even if it means catching us in the blast.
Just as she settled on that plan of action, two of the approaching large skeletons were suddenly sliced in two. They were both cut through the torso and at the exact same time.
What was that? she wondered while forgetting to even defend herself. First, wind blew in and the bones blew about as a blizzard of dust. The large skeletons were worn away by the great wind and two Lourd de Marionnettes were visible beyond those bisected forms.
They both had canine head armor, the larger of the two was white, and the other was blue.
“Satomi’s Yatsufusa and Righteousness!?”
Yoshiyasu held her sword lowered on the left while she checked on her surroundings.
…There are four battlefields.
The first was within Magdeburg.
The second was the close-in battle between the Hexagone Française gods of war and the joint M.H.R.R. and P.A. Oda unit being held near the outer wall.
The third was right here where they were. And the last was…
“In the sky.”
She could hear cannon fire from the side. Below the clouds, the M.H.R.R. fleet recently arrived from K.P.A. Italia had begun exchanging cannon blasts with the Hexagone Française fleet.
As far as she could tell, the M.H.R.R. fleet was damaged and worn down.
But they had the upper hand in morale. They had arrived intending to fight a naval battle while Hexagone Française had expected the fight to primarily occur on land, so their battle preparations and spirit were completely different.
The M.H.R.R. ships were creating a low-altitude formation beyond Magdeburg on the opposite eastern bank of the Elbe. Their bows were pointed toward the Hexagone Française fleet to expose a smaller surface area to enemy fire. Also…
…By using Magdeburg as a shield, Hexagone Française can’t fire directly on them.
The Hexagone Française fleet was positioned at the top of the hill and they could not ignore the ground units or Magdeburg down below. They could only fire in parabolic arcs that were guaranteed to clear Magdeburg.
But M.H.R.R. was positioned lower, so they had a straight shot at the Hexagone Française fleet’s belly.
Yoshiyori understood that too and he spoke up while keeping Yatsufusa low.
“Yoshiyasu, prepare to fly to Magdeburg.”
“Are we giving up on this area?’
“No. You need to save the Musashi students. Your job is to pick up the ones fighting within Magdeburg and deliver them to the transport ship. After all, the Hexagone Française fleet may have drawn the M.H.R.R. fleet’s attention, but Musashi is using that opening to send two diplomatic ships down behind the cathedral to protect the transport ship when it ascends. Once the diplomatic ships arrive, the transport ship will begin for the Musashi, but…”
“I need to pick up those remaining in Magdeburg when that happens?”
“Yes,” said Yoshiyori. “Their opponents in the city are Shibata and Sassa and they are both powerful enough to destroy a transport ship. Musashi’s vice chancellor and special duty officers are fighting to keep them away from the transport ships. …Your duty is to rescue them.”
He did not ask if she knew what to do afterwards, but did that mean he trusted her understanding?
A sign frame appeared next to her sight devices containing the predicted position of the M.H.R.R. fleet’s formation and their predicted line of fire that Yatsufusa had calculated. She took the sign frame, but Yoshiyori was not done speaking.
“Don’t go right away.”
The bones still remained and there were more than just the seven large skeletons surrounding them.
“Were more of the original bone soldiers added!?”
There were probably ten thousand of them. As they rose from the ground, they devoured each other and grew.
The enemy was attacking with pure numbers, but…
“You have our thanks!”
A commander of the Three Musketeers rushed in outside of their attack range. She swung up her six giant blades and repeatedly hunted down the midsized enemies.
The automaton spear and musket units ran alongside her making their own attacks.
“Testament,” said Yoshiyasu. “Resuming attack.”
As the roar of cannon fire grew thicker overhead, she swung her blade.
The attack on and defense of Magdeburg was split between two locations.
The first was by the Elbe River where Futayo fought Katsuie on the rooftops of the buildings flooded up to the second floor.
The other was to the west, near the city entrance from the plantation, where Narimasa fought the two Technohexen in the complex arrangement of back alleys.
One of the Technohexen, Naruze, flapped her wings within the city to fly as quickly as she could.
…The water has come in quite a bit.
Even on the west side of the city, the water was filling the streets and submerging everything.
That was why Narimasa did not use the ground up ahead. He kicked off the edges of walls in narrow gaps between buildings to fly through the air like a ricocheting bullet. The two Technohexen were pursuing him and attacking.
Narimasa’s movements were quick and sharp. He kicked off one wall and it looked like he was going to land on the second story wall of the opposite building, but he immediately ran a few steps along that wall and jumped onto the roof of a building on the initial side.
Naruze accelerated her wings in pursuit and Margot did the same next to her.
“Ga-chan, it’s starting to feel like everyone can run along walls these days. But that can’t be true, can it?”
“If you only look at the weirdos, you’ll end up with screwed-up standards.”
“I don’t want to hear that from people who are flying!”
Naruze tilted her head at Narimasa’s protest.
“But this is a normal part of our race.”
Oh, that means I’m normal, realized Naruze. Yeah, it’s everyone else who’s weird.
Narimasa fell silent, so they followed him and attacked.
Naruze primarily used her homing bullets.
When she fired the bullets of light across the street, Narimasa quickly kicked off the wall to both evade and move further ahead.
But that was when someone else attacked.
“He sure is fast!”
That person was Margot. She fired straight line bullets that pierced far down the street to hold Narimasa in check as he jumped between buildings.
But Narimasa did more than run away. He smashed the building walls with his heel when he jumped or tore signs or stones from the wall to throw them. Those held the Technohexen in check and deflected the bullets, but he also used his own movements without relying on those objects.
He dodged the bullets.
The narrow street was difficult for the Technohexen to navigate. With water filling the bottom of the streets, Naruze had assumed the battlefield would shift to the rooftops, but the enemy had chosen to travel below the roofs.
Reality can be so cruel, she thought. Doujinshi are much more honest.
But for Narimasa, the narrow roads allowed him to keep his jumps short and quick.
…That’s why this idiot wanted to travel down the city’s slope.
When kicking off the walls, he could move faster on a downward slope.
Sure enough, Narimasa’s speed was picking up.
“Ga-chan, where does this lead!?”
“Magdeburg’s Maurice Cathedral. Everyone’s waiting for the nudist in the transport ship behind it, but it seemed like a good spot for a date. It didn’t look like people go there often. …Sounds nice, doesn’t it!?”
“I hope the place is reconstructed by the time we stop here next year.”
…That was an implied yes! Herrlich!
Her spell exploded. She had clearly not intended to hit, but that was exactly why Narimasa looked back.
“W-watch out, you idiot! You’re serious about this, aren’t you!?”
“What? Don’t assume you know what you’re talking about. Are you stupid? All I have to do is hit you.”
“Shut up or I’ll put you in a doujinshi!”
Naruze opened a Magie Figur and sent a few diagrams and some text to the transport ship.
Mal-Ga: “Asama, this can reach you from here, right? Can you pass this on!?”
She did not check for a response after sending it and she pulled on Naito’s hand in midair.
“Let’s go win this!”
“Have you given up on victory, daughter of Tadakatsu!?”
In the submerged city, the battlefield had moved to the rooftops surrounded by dark flowing water and Futayo let Katsuie’s words wash over her.
He was saying she did not intend to win and she understood that.
He said so because she was focused on defense.
Currently, Futayo had her back to the cathedral in the north and Katsuie was to the south. She was keeping him from reaching the transport ships behind the cathedral and her duty was to hold him here until the entire battle was won.
Her method was simple.
She would crush his attacks as soon as he made them.
Kamewari was a divine weapon that needed to charge up and it smashed anything reflected in its blade, so when he swung it, she would take action before it could turn towards her.
…The key is to counterattack and keep him from completing his swing!
She used the tip of Tonbokiri. She simply watched Kamewari’s movement and thrust Tonbokiri into the base of the blade when he started to swing it. When she did, Katsuie roared back at her.
“Damn you,” replied Tonbokiri.
A metallic sound rang out, she felt an impact through her weapon, and Katsuie pulled his weapon back.
That was all it was. Of course, this method meant she could not attack, but…
“Have you given up on victory!?”
She had not. She simply defined victory differently here.
…After all, the glasses boy and Masazumi said a lot about some kind of strategy.
She had not understood much of it, but it had probably been important since the glasses boy was a nerd and Masazumi had said some confusing things. It was important to be understanding of such things.
So she stuck to this. Whenever Katsuie tried to swing Kamewari, she would attack and stop it.
He moved again and she stopped him again.
She continued stopping him.
Instead of an intense clash, it was a smaller strike that stopped just his initial movement.
Her challenging spear tip would deflect the initial swing of his blade and the sparks illuminated the night and the water below the roofs.
It grew into a continuous barrage.
The amount of metallic sparks grew the more they moved. She also knocked his blade back with greater frequency.
…This is quite an intense exchange!!
Each movement of her spear was flowing into the next and she started also using the bottom end to knock his blade away. The straight line of the spear made it faster and holding it in both hands increased its strength, but she could not hope to match Katsuie’s strength as a demonic long lived. Every few attacks she received pushed her back half a step.
Futayo sensed danger in that backwards movement.
After all, they were fighting atop a straw-thatched roof sticking above the water.
It was not the best footing.
During her training, she had been taught that tile roofs were rare in Europe during this time period, even on royal palaces.
The Musashi had adopted a portion of the Far East’s tile roof culture, so they were common especially on the diplomatic second ships. However, Magdeburg’s focus on the history recreation meant almost all of the roofs were made of straw.
The gabled straw-thatched roofs had their straw swept away by the rising water. It sometimes floated up from the edge like a blanket and it sometimes came off as soon as the water touched it.
That was why they fought in the center of the roof. The roof’s ridge was their only footing.
…So I can’t use my usual footwork.
Not only could she not run and jump around, but even swinging her body to either side proved difficult. She could only move forward and back or a step or two to either side.
And when the roof was swept away, she was forced to move to the next one.
But the same applied to her enemy. Katsuie could only move forward and he could only do that by removing her from his path.
That was why she focused on knocking back his attacks.
Katsuie then gave a shout.
“Damn you! And you call yourself Musashi’s vice chancellor!?”
He is trying to provoke me, concluded Futayo.
He was asking how she could be a vice chancellor without fighting.
But she did not need to respond. She knew this was enough for a vice chancellor. After all, she had seen this before.
…I am using the bunting technique of Tres España Vice Chancellor Hironaka Takakane-dono!
Takakane would knock down his opponent’s attacks to throw off their balance.
Futayo had been on the receiving end more than enough during the attack as they approached England.
She had never been able to break through this technique.
But even after so much experience on the receiving end, she was having trouble using it herself. She could only deflect her enemy’s attack one out of every third time and she was allowing him to advance.
She became even more painfully aware of how high level of a technique it was.
He had pulled it off against countless opponents at the same time and all from different directions.
She was inexperienced and the world was a large place. That was what this meant. But she did her best to fight and move even a little bit closer to his level.
Katsuie responded by raising his speed.
He began his attacks again and again from many different angles and Futayo stopped them with a high-speed barrage.
Their exchange accelerated.
Fifteen minutes after the Sack of Magdeburg began, individual battles had settled into place across the region as everyone worked to fulfill their respective roles.
The history recreation of the Sack of Magdeburg was approaching its climax.
Meanwhile, Toori’s group slipped from the M.H.R.R rear guard which was responding to Hexagone Française’s charge. The side effects of Toshiie’s bone army had slowed them down, but they could already see Magdeburg and the Musashi.
They had experienced many twists and turns along the way, but they were only a step away from arriving.
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