Horizon:Volume 3C Chapter 87
Chapter 87: Attacker in a Place of Pursuit
What is far away
And yet close by?
Point Allocation (The Enemy)
On Musashino’s bridge, Suzu felt several spots of heat in the sky to starboard.
A veritable wall of sound had appeared to the right of the Musashi.
The cannon blasts were approaching from far away.
Something was arriving from the west while the Musashi travelled south-southeast.
Suzu sensed the great disturbance of a stealth ship. She had heard it was an M.H.R.R. Hashiba flagship, the Shirasagi Mk. II. It was almost three kilometers long, making it the longest individual enemy ship that had opposed the Musashi.
Suzu recalled what “Musashino” had said.
…It uses the same kind of virtual sea as the Musashi to ascend.
However, it apparently fired wind from its wings to accelerate.
That’s different, thought Suzu as she felt a vibration coming from the floor and moved the model of the Shirasagi Mk. II that she had to hold in both hands.
“Musashino” nodded as she watched.
“It is a large striking-type warship, but its speed and mobility are its selling point. It was supposed to be modified for high altitude use after it became Hashiba’s, but I have determined that has already been completed. Over.”
Suzu nodded, but touched the Shirasagi Mk. II she held in her hand.
She had been the one to detect the disturbance caused by the ship, but…
“How did…you know…its name?”
“We determined its identity by measuring the ejection pattern of the acceleration wind leaving the stealth space. Most ships have the sound they make during flight recorded and that data is exchanged or gathered. And…”
“The data on the Shirasagi arrived from K.P.A. Italia when we arrived in IZUMO. The Pope-Chancellor pressured us into purchasing it with deferred payment. Over.”
Oh, thought Suzu. She did not like the Pope-Chancellor very much after the incident in Mikawa, but he may have had his own thoughts about them.
…I guess…I can’t hate…him.
She decided to thank him and then nodded.
“What do…we do now?”
As soon as she asked, she felt movement in her hands.
The Shirasagi Mk. II was leaving stealth mode. The form Suzu sensed was much like the estimated model “Musashino” had created. The only difference was that the three movable fuselages were cruising at different heights, making the entire ship look like three stacked horizontal lines, and all of the ship’s port cannons were aimed toward the Musashi.
The automaton in charge of divine transmissions spoke from the front of the bridge.
“The Shirasagi Mk. II is requesting a divine transmission link! Should I open it!? Over.”
Suzu could tell everyone was looking her way.
Automatons tended to seek instructions from people and she was the only person on the bridge.
“Eh? Eh? U-um, wait… Uh…”
She frantically waved her hands back and forth.
The Shirasagi Mk. II’s bridge was located on the back of the center ship. The bridge was known as the Castle Keep and it was almost empty.
Divine monitors and spell keyboards were being operated in front of the windows to the front and either side, but their users were nowhere to be seen. However, a woman in a ninja version of a P.A. Oda girl’s uniform stood in the center with an insha kotob displaying their course on the floor.
She was Takigawa Ichimasu. She turned to look at the divine transmission equipment that seemed to be functioning on its own.
“Has the Musashi still not answered us? And after we went out of our way to remove our stealth and try to chat.”
An empty chair swiveled toward her. There was no one visible in the seat, but it still held the weight of someone sitting there thanks to ninja stealth techniques. The ninja in charge of divine transmissions spoke without showing himself.
“Shaja. Boss, our Shirasagi is meant for the fight against Mouri, so…”
“Yes, our general mission is to patrol the Osaka Bay area. We can’t have the Shirasagi taking damage before the fight against Mouri.”
“So we’ll only be acting as the command and intelligence ship for the airspace around Osaka Bay. If the Musashi tries to run, we’ll do everything we can to follow them halfway across the bay, but Cookie will have to take over after that. We’re really only meant to deal with Mouri.”
Black and white letters suddenly appeared on the book-shaped divine display board for the divine transmission device.
“Boss! We have a reply from the Musashi! It says ‘I don’t know’!”
“Eh? What does that mean?”
“Boss! Our information says their current acting captain is a girl named Suzu! And something about filling the bangs slot!?”
A secretly taken photo of a girl appeared in the center of the bridge. It may have been taken during PE class because she was wearing a track suit. Everyone on the bridge let out a breath when they saw it.
“So this Suzu said ‘I don’t know’?”
“W-was it like this!? Did she tense up her shoulder like this and say ‘I don’t know’!?”
Amid the comments of “maybe so” and “shut up”, Ichimasu tilted her head and glared forward.
“At any rate, this means we can’t speak with them. …Let’s try attacking even harder. We’re not firing blindly from stealth anymore. Oh, and send them another divine transmission.”
She instructed them what to send.
“We have a divine transmission from the Shirasagi Mk. II! They’re asking ‘are we getting through to you?’ Over!”
“Eh? Eh? Wh-what…does that mean?”
“Suzu-sama, I would guess they are demanding we listen to them. Over.”
“Eh? O-oh, no. Then, um, uh… Send them…this.”
“We have a divine transmission from the Musashi! It says ‘I’m sorry –Suzu’!”
“What? Did I say something wrong?”
The unseen people gathered in the front and center of the bridge for a whispered discussion.
After a while….
“Boss, this may be inappropriate, but I felt a twinge in my heart when I saw the enemy’s divine transmission!”
“Is their captain an airhead?”
They all started whispering again.
“Boss, you didn’t do enough research. That’s Suzu! Suzu!”
“You should at least read the interview she gave at IZUMO.”
“Yeah… If only it was Flat Vassal…”
“You guys need to keep your private lives out of your work.”
Ichimasu appreciated the “Shaja!” she heard, but then someone else spoke up.
“Personally, I’d have an easier time of firing if we were up against some filthy old man. I wouldn’t have to hold back.”
“Yeah, I’d have trouble sleeping if I squished a cute girl.”
“But things can get rough afterwards when you only think of your enemy as an enemy.”
“That’s right,” said someone. “If you squish a cute girl, you wonder why you didn’t stop fighting, but if you squish a filthy old man, you decide it couldn’t be helped. Approving of someone’s death like that can be really rough. …It dulls you to the value of people’s lives.”
“So…well, we’ll fire, we’ll target you, and we won’t hold back. But…”
“Don’t you die, cutie. That’s your job in all this.”
“In that case.” Ichimasu nodded and raised her right hand. “Fire all weapons! This is now an official battle as we monitor the Musashi inside Osaka Bay!”
“They’re firing! And they’re sending a divine transmission! It says ‘For cruising through M.H.R.R. airspace after the ban, we will capture and stop you’. Over.”
“I see,” said “Musashino”.
“Cruising? But…um, we launched…ourselves…”
“It is not uncommon for our interpretation to differ from theirs. Over.”
After a comment of “oh, dear”, “Musashino” opened a sign frame and set it to address the entire Musashi.
“Everyone, Musashi King Yoshinao-sama may have come up with the idea to launch ourselves, but this is not his fault. Yes, it is not his fault at all. I am not sure whose fault to say it is, though. Suzu-sama and I worked out the details, but…at any rate, it is not Musashi King Yoshinao-sama’s fault. Over.”
Musashi King: “No matter what you say, we will not run or hide!!”
Me: “Eh? But that’s the most boring reaction you could have.”
Asama: “Um, Toori-kun, he did save us with that, you know?”
At any rate, Suzu was not sure what to do. She had a feeling she had made their opponent mad, so…
“L-let’s run away?”
“That is an extremely appropriate decision, Suzu-sama. In all of history, not many generals have been able to say that immediately after the battle began. Neshinbara-sama tends in the opposite direction, which, from an automaton’s perspective, creates for some ominous possibilities, but…yes, let us run away. Over.”
She was thankful “Musashino” agreed, but…
It was not “Musashino” who answered that. It was a sign frame that had appeared between the two of them. Neshinbara had apparently sent it and his voice came from it.
“I too agree we should flee given the situation! I really do, okay!?”
“For appearances. Merely for appearances, Suzu-sama. Deep down, he loves charging the enemy, talking for far too long, and glasses. Over.”
“Oh…then, there’s no…helping it.”
“You’re making some horrible assumptions about my character, but let’s get back on topic. We’re up against a high-speed striking-type. Beginning a shoot-out with them would be like taking on a fortress. A giant ship with nothing but gravity barriers and secondary cannons has no chance, so we should hurry on to Mikawa.”
Everyone on the bridge started whispering.
“Secretary Neshinbara always treats us so distantly. Over.”
“Judge. We are moving, speaking beings, but he talks about the Musashi like an object. Over.”
“Statistically, that’s the kind of guy who isn’t popular with girls. Over.”
But doesn’t Neshinbara-kun have a girlfriend? wondered Suzu with a tilt of the head. There’s that person who judges him with extreme objectivity and monitors him extremely closely.
“What…do we do?”
“Judge. The Shirasagi is an anti-Mouri ship, so it will be important to the recreation of Hashiba’s invasion of Mouri. The Musashi is outside its jurisdiction, so it should not be able to begin an all-out battle with us. If we accelerate and put enough distance between us, it will most likely take on the role of Osaka Bay’s command and intelligence ship by supporting another ship in the bay.”
Huh? thought Suzu. That was not quite what she had asked, so she tilted her head and asked again.
“What…do we do?”
“Eh?” replied Neshinbara.
Everyone began whispering again.
“See? Suzu-sama was asking for a realistic means of piloting or an actual course to take, but his explanation went on too long. Over.”
“This is the problem with nerds. Over.”
“Suzu-sama is… Suzu-sama is angry now! Over.”
“Eh? I-I’m not…mad. Just…troubled.”
Almost Everyone: “He troubled Suzu-san!!”
“Wait! The rest of you have been making a lot of noise, but you misunderstand!” said Neshinbara. “They may be a high-speed ship, but our top speed is higher. Our primary objective is reaching Edo through Mikawa, so if we accelerate away from the Shirasagi Mk. II, we can force them back to their original patrol duties. …‘Musashino’-kun, if we continue our acceleration from here on out-…”
“There is no need to speculate. Our fuel will not last until Kantou. We must use inertial cruising. Over.”
“Then let’s accelerate while using inertial cruising. ‘Musashino’-kun, you know how, don’t you?”
“There’s…a way to do…that?”
“Judge. There is, Suzu-sama. It is something we can only do in our current situation. Over.”
“Musashino” looked toward the bow and opened her mouth.
“All ships, begin descent. Angle down by fifteen degrees. …We will use the momentum of our descent to accelerate while remaining in inertial cruising. After the descent, begin acceleration and lose the Shirasagi Mk. II. Over.”
As the Musashi slowly began to tilt down, “Musashino” said more.
“Neshinbara-sama, please prepare yourself. Currently, the Musashi is traveling along the provisional borders between nations and principalities while using markers. Even during a battle, we can only move along those borders. In other words…”
“Musashino” nodded before continuing.
“If we do not fire a course marker at an estimated four locations before reaching Matsunaga’s territory, we will have given the enemy a justification to attack. Over.”
“Boss! The Musashi is descending!!”
Ichimasu whistled at the report from the unseen divine transmission operator. To their port side, the moonlit Musashi was kicking up the clouds in its descent.
It was moving quickly. The bow pierced the clouds almost immediately, the clouds reached the waterline, and then the streets, gantry cranes, and derricks on the top slid below as well.
“Boss! What should we do!? The Musashi has the higher top speed, so we’ll lose them at this rate!”
“Maintain our altitude,” replied Ichimasu. “Instead of moving up or down, stay behind them and pursue them at full speed.”
“We’re not going to attack!? But we just finished showing off how manly we are!”
“I’m a woman, so that has nothing to do with me. Besides, the Shirasagi is meant for Mouri, so we only have permission to patrol around Osaka Bay. Plus, they can only move along the provisional borders. We have our own defense network, so our only role is to monitor and pursue them. We’ll stay on the Musashi’s tail until almost to the Kii Peninsula. We’ll follow at full speed.”
Ichimasu punched her palm, looked to the course on the insha kotob at her feet, and crossed her arms.
“I don’t know what Old Man Matsunaga wants, but it looks like he’s getting it. But things are getting busy here. Akechi controls the area north of the provisional border the Musashi has to follow through the Kii Peninsula, but he’s been strengthening Kyoto’s defenses since Hashiba ended their shift toward Magdeburg. That means only the light ships up front can make an appearance now.”
“Well, there is one person who can summon a fleet by cheating, so is he arriving on a high-speed ship down below?”
The navigation officer answered in the affirmative.
“Shaja. They’re following from behind. Also, even though the M.H.R.R. Catholic fleet was focused on Magdeburg and K.P.A. Italia, they still set up a defense network on the ocean and more ships are arriving as we speak. And a major ship will be coming from P.A. Oda on Lady Hashiba’s request. If we can slow down the Musashi somewhere, they should be able to sink it with ease.”
“So there’s more than enough pursuit, is there? That means we have to figure out how to reduce the Musashi’s speed with the defense network.”
Ichimasu looked to the Kii Peninsula on the map.
“The biggest problem is Old Man Matsunaga at the Kii Peninsula. Will he block the Musashi’s way or take their side? What do you think?”
They all sounded uncertain, but then the course confirmation officer’s voice cut sharply across the bridge.
“The Musashi has passed the course marker on the south while maintaining their south-southeast course! They have entered the Seto Inland Sea and are headed for the Kii Peninsula! I believe they have chosen the shortest route toward the center of the Kii Peninsula, north of Matsunaga’s territory!”
“At how many more points will the Musashi have to fire a marker?”
Three red dots appeared on the map of Osaka Bay. The Musashi was currently crossing the bay from the north to the southeast.
According to the navigator…
“The first point is directly along their course, the second is along a gentle southward turn to leave the Sakai region and arrive alongside the Kii Peninsula. And the third…the third will be difficult because it requires a sharp eastward turn into the Kii Peninsula!”
The Musashi rumbled as it descended southward.
It applied the same buffering control as when it used gravitational cruising, but it still had some effect on the air. It produced the same rumbling as thunder clouds as it sank below the clouds toward the dark inland sea.
Below them, the great expanse of the sea was filled with darkness.
The cloudy sky meant the water’s surface was entirely dark.
Still, the Musashi continued on.
The slight brightness in the sky made the horizon vaguely visible, so they pointed south and accelerated horizontally.
They shot forward.
They pushed on the air, creating a powerful rumbling between the sky and sea. Mist formed on the sea below, blurring the darkness visible there.
And just as the Musashi accelerated toward the south, red light dropped to the sea from their bow.
They had fired a course marker.
It fell to the buoy-mounted marker set up on the water and the Musashi corrected its course somewhat. It turned port, toward the Kii Peninsula south-southeast of them.
Of the three markers they had to pass on the way to the peninsula, they had passed the first and were on their way to the second.
Currently, they could see dark shadows beyond the eastern sea on their port side.
They looked like scratch marks between the sea and the sky, but they were actually islands stretching from Osaka to the southern end of the Kii Peninsula.
However, countless people existed in the small lights on those islands.
Those lights belonged to Osaka and the Sakai region.
The Musashi traveled south-southeast with the lights on their port side. They were on their way to the Kii Peninsula that had relatively few village lights.
After descending and floating back up a little, the eight giant ships fixed themselves in a perfectly horizontal layout.
But the Musashi did not slow down. A pursuing enemy distorted the clouds in the sky behind them.
That enemy was the Shirasagi Mk. II.
It was a good distance away, but it whipped up the clouds as if to show off its presence.
A red light stretched into the sky from the sea ahead and to the port side.
The second point had given a sign to confirm its location.
This second marker point was positioned alongside the Kii Peninsula and required a southward curve from the Musashi’s south-southwestern course.
The wind on the sea grew stronger and the chilled air surrounded the Musashi with mist. It kicked up the white mist as if sliding along some waves on its way to the marker point.
Its course took a turn to the right.
Light filled the inside of the Musashi’s expanded outer hull. It was beginning to accelerate via gravitational cruising.
It had to turn starboard, which was to the south, so the port side acceleration kicked in slightly earlier.
The wind roared and the Musashi slid sideways as it turned southward.
The second marker point fired another red light when it detected the Musashi’s approach, so the Musashi corrected its bow to the south to sweep away the mist.
Asakusa, Shinagawa, and Musashino’s bows faced the marker point and the entire Musashi accelerated.
They hurried. They would have to slow down for the tricky third point, so this was their only chance to lose their enemy.
And so they sped up.
Their gouging trajectory twisted the Musashi from south-southwest to south.
They continued on.
They could not fully restrain the shaking of the air, so that shaking slammed into the ocean approximately 1.5 thousand meters below. The water bounced back up and mist rose in a wide range on either side of them.
They passed the second point.
They were slightly off course, but the marker ejector angled diagonally to correct.
They fired and the marker point fired back its own light to confirm receipt of the signal.
They passed through.
The Musashi then shifted to inertial cruising. They maintained as much of their accelerated momentum as possible, but they had already started angling eastward to safely pass through the third marker point.
However, some mist suddenly appeared in front of them. It was neither a natural occurrence nor created by the Musashi.
This was another fleet.
Catholic warships bearing the school emblem of M.H.R.R. had arrived ahead of them.
After the battle with K.P.A. Italia, this fleet had predicted the Musashi’s route and situated themselves here instead of heading to the Magdeburg region. Musashi had run into one point on their defense network.
However, the Musashi did not slow down.
They continued their advance.
The enemy had removed their primary stealth to make a sudden appearance, so the eighteen ships were all wrapped in white mist that trailed through the night sky.
As if to prove their hostile intent, the mist was blown away and light was sent toward the Musashi.
They had fired.
The cannon fire sounded like distant thunder and it carried far to the east.
With the sea to the south, a mountain range overlooked a great plain from the northwest. Yoshitsune sat among the campfires munching on a Shingen Mochi, but she looked up toward the low rumbling from the west.
“Have the heavy mechanical cavalry prepare for battle. Send out all Eight Banners.”
The Satou Brothers had been preparing tea and peeling pears that were not quite ripe yet, but they raised their eyebrows at that.
However, they sent her instructions via sign frame without asking a thing.
A few moments later, several lines of light began moving quickly from east to west along the plain.
Those lights came from the mechanical cavalry.
With the elites of the Eight Banners, there were twenty seven thousand of them.
The students in the lead wore horo with anti-air defense spells written on them and they rode large, two-wheeled mechanical horses. The mechanical horses were all equipped with cowlings. They switched from the quadrupedal gait of their standby mode and entered the fixed-leg position of their mobility mode. Wind ether surrounded their legs and filled the night with bluish white light.
Wheels were attached to their legs in place of horseshoes, but due to the position of the four legs, the ether light of the two wheels in the front or back overlapped and formed a single wheel of light in the front and back.
While they were technically driving, the two glowing wheels floated a few centimeters off the ground.
They shined their lights forward as they moved west.
They were followed by the heavy mechanical horses.
These were over one hundred meters tall. They looked like bigger versions of the smaller mechanical horses except with four or eight wheels, but anti-air cannons larger than they were tall were equipped on their backs and sides. These heavily-equipped models had a few spell piles on the sides of their legs to hold themselves in place while firing.
Each of the mechanical horses leading each unit and all twenty four of the heavy mechanical horses had a flag raised on their backs. The eight colors of those flags divided them into eight battalions which formed up to view the western sky.
The Satou Brothers brought a single mechanical horse over to Yoshitsune. It was a large white touring type. The ether tank bore the emblem of Qing-Takeda and a shrine maiden Mouse stood on it.
The Mouse did a little dance and beckoned her over, so Yoshitsune smiled and nodded.
“I’ll be counting on you again, Shizuka.”
“I’ll be with you wherever you go.”
“I suppose so.”
Yoshitsune stood up and climbed aboard Shizuka. She wiped the dark syrup from her mouth with a finger and licked the finger clean.
“If we sold these in the Edo region, we could do some good business.”
“If we can win over Musashi, we might be able to open a trade route.”
She nodded and faced forward to look at the western sky beyond the rows of fires.
She thought about what to say before continuing.
“It looks like the Musashi is on its way, but Hashiba, Oda, or M.H.R.R. are going to be right on their tail. We need to recreate Mikatagahara, so they’re in the way. I’m sure the Satou Brothers will show their tolerant spirits by telling M.H.R.R. ‘get lost, you fools’, but… Are you going to tell them that, Satou? You are, aren’t you? Make sure you do. And in those exact words. Hm? The older one is going to do it? …Quit trying to force that onto each other, you fools.”
She took a breath.
“Anyway, we need to get them away from the Musashi, but we can’t fire any warning shots. I really do like firing cannons. I love it. I always want to fire some to celebrate during festivals. Horizontally, of course. …Now, what was I talking about again, Satou Brothers? C’mon, no need to be so polite. …What! Is that any way to address me!?
“Well, anyway, there’s a chance we’ll have to use our scouts, so everyone prepare for battle. If any idiots show up, shoot them. …No, wait. Only shoot the sort-of idiots. There’s a spectacular idiot on the Musashi, but shooting him wouldn’t do anything to fix him.”
Yoshitsune rubbed the back of her head from above and sighed.
She heard another sound much like distant thunder. It was deeper and she could make out the individual sounds now.
The Musashi was under attack.
Yoshitsune smiled with her eyebrows raised.
“Once the Musashi shows up, make sure to celebrate by firing your cannons. But not horizontally, okay? And feel free to hit the Musashi too as long as it’s small enough we can pass it off as a joke.”
A windowless room of not quite ten square meters contained a bunk bed and two desks by the wall.
A girl in a wheelchair sat in front of the desk in the back. She gave the door a sharp look where a girl in glasses stood with a notebook held to her chest.
“Judge. Well, I think I’ll be going now.”
“That’s fine, Adele Balfette. I understand the situation now. Yes.”
She smiled bitterly.
“Staying here wouldn’t help anything, so you should probably get back. You’re busy, aren’t you?”
Despite that, Adele looked around the room curiously.
“They say people change, but it looks like they really do. Azuma-san’s tastes sure have.”
“That’s my bed actually.”
Adele smiled at the translucent girl who stood up with the lower bunk’s blanket still over her head.
“Ah ha ha. Mama? So do the two of you have a common-law marria- ah!”
The floor suddenly shook as if being rocked by waves. The wheelchair’s wheels automatically moved to recline the device and balance itself.
Adele however almost tripped and frantically grabbed at the sliding door.
The door slid open, pulling her for about three steps. Then she saw who stood on the other side.
It was Azuma.
To prepare for battle mobility, the Musashi had to supply the rooms with air and hold the contents of the rooms in place using spells. Azuma had visited a police box to pick up the “high mobility house safety set” distributed for that purpose.
…Oh, she’s here to report on what happened today.
Miriam completed her schooling in this room using the notes taken by their classmates, the textbooks, and the lessons prepared by the teachers. One of the girls in the class would take notes each day and drop them off. During busy days like this one, they would also explain what had happened.
They apparently chatted a lot like girls tended to do and also complained about their everyday life or their work.
According to Miriam…
“Almost all girls talk about the same kinds of things together.”
Azuma had to wonder if that was how it worked, but at the moment, Adele bowed toward him.
“I’ll be going.”
“Huh? You’re leaving already?”
“Ah ha ha. I’d only be in the way. …So you’re the mama and papa? You’ve got a pretty mature setup here.”
“Adele-kun, are you sure the rest of the class hasn’t been influencing you a lot lately?”
With that, Azuma opened the home shrine above the door and replaced the old Shinto charm with the new one he had gotten. The home shrine was well-made, but it was different from those in other rooms.
“This one is bigger than the others.”
“That’s because this is Miriam’s room,” replied Adele.
Inside the room, Miriam looked up a bit and nodded. She placed a hand on her wheelchair and chest before shrugging.
“It can be difficult for a girl to live all on her own. Of course, there are some different difficulties now.”
Adele nodded too.
“Just think of it as a way of making sure she can get by without too much trouble.”
I see, he thought while also thinking that was implicitly referencing her legs.
…But if I apologized, she’d definitely say I hadn’t expected that answer when I asked and she would say apologizing here meant she would always be someone who needs to be apologized to.
He finished preparing the home shrine without saying anything more.
Adele was about to leave with the notebook in her arms, but…
“Do you not have to fight this time?”
“My mobile shell is more or less fixed, but the secretary said this will be a naval battle.”
“It’s probably going to get a little rough.”
The Musashi flew over the nighttime sea while under fire.
It had plenty of speed and its destination was clear, but that meant the enemy knew exactly where to position themselves and the small fleet could persistently attack.
During inertial cruising, they had no trouble creating gravity barriers, but that weakened their buffering against the air and their speed dropped more quickly. The enemy’s eighteen high speed ships were already ahead of or alongside the Musashi, so they could constantly fire on any point.
“I have determined it would be dangerous not to apply a burst of gravitational acceleration! Over!”
“Musashino” shouted within Musashino’s bridge and “Musashi” replied via their shared memory. “Musashi” was already tending to her ether flower garden on the bridge in front of the academy.
“That will make it more difficult to pass through the next point, so put together a countermeasure. If you have one, then I will allow it. Over.”
All of the automatons replied “judge” over their shared memory.
But inside the bridge, Suzu gasped at the movement she sensed inside the enemy fleet.
The eight enemy ships up ahead formed an upper and lower row of four ships.
This was a wall.
Their way forward was blocked and at the same time…
“The five ships on either side are firing! Over!!”
The impacts on the left and right shook the Musashi.
The P.A. Oda forces had caught the Musashi right in front of the Kii Peninsula.
The P.A. Oda high speed ships began firing on the Musashi.
The way forward was completely blocked and constant cannon fire struck them from either side. That arrangement had been decided by the demon on the stern of the third ship in the group up ahead.
He was Kuki who had lost his right arm.
To keep his balance, a large shield from M.H.R.R.’s Holy Knights’ Steel Association hung from the hard point part on his right side. He spread his empty left hand forward.
“Continue firing! And if the Musashi tries to accelerate their way through, ram them with the leading ships! We need to stop them over the sea even if it means sacrificing our own lives!”
Kuki looked to the giant ship that seemed to be pursuing them.
…Such an enormous presence.
But, he thought. He had done something similar to his own opponent today. Murakami Motoyoshi, leader of the Murakami Navy, had opposed his galleys with a fleet of smaller ships. The size difference between those smaller ships and the galleys would have been similar to this. Also…
“Our tactics here are similar to the ones he used against us.”
Now, what will they do? he wondered.
He had come here despite his injuries out of pure curiosity as a tactician.
…Talk about being selfish!
He was glad he belonged to P.A. Oda. Hashiba was an understanding person. She had said “If you are curious, then I guess there’s no stopping you.” while averting her gaze for some reason, but he considered it a win because he had been allowed to come.
But here on the battlefield, nothing was greater than his curiosity in his enemies and allies.
The Musashi was an unusually large ship, so what would it do on the battlefield and what would its enemies force it to do?
…You don’t often get a chance to see and experience something like this!
An insha kotob appeared next to him. It displayed the ninja woman named Takigawa Ichimasu.
“What should I do, Cookie? They’ve pulled away from me, so can I leave this to you?”
“This is the site of my curiosity. And if you did anything unnecessary, Hashiba would be disappointed.”
“It’s really not fair that you don’t just say she wouldn’t be happy.”
“Sorry, but I speak from a man’s perspective. Anyway, the information you gathered on the way here was useful. The information processing of a large ship really is on another level. Also, let me ask your opinion. What do you think they’ll do?”
“They’ll head down, won’t they? It takes a lot of power to move something that big up. That’s why you chose to go down during the evening, right? I saw the records of that.”
“Shaja,” replied Kuki, but the right side of Ichimasu’s mouth rose.
“Well, in the worst case, they’ll come straight at you. That might be what I would do.”
“That would be the worst case. Do they think they can reach Kantou if we destroy their armor?”
“They might think so, they might think you’ll move out of the way, or…” said Ichimasu. “Whatever the case, nothing’s scarier than an enemy without any sense.”
“That’s true,” agreed Kuki.
At that moment, a lookout spoke up.
“The Musashi is beginning to move! Its bow is lowering! They’re descending to speed up and slip below us!!”
Kuki’s decision was swift and so were the movements of his men.
Having already experienced a similar battle, they knew what would happen and how it would turn out. So…
“Descend! If it comes to it, crush the Musashi from above!”
They began descending quickly enough for their feet to float off the deck.
Ahead, the Musashi was lowering its head toward them, revealing its upper surface.
But, thought Kuki.
…We will win this!
The Musashi was large. With its great height, it would have to descend quite a bit to slip below Kuki’s ships. With its upper surface exposed like this, they only had to descend and collide with that upper surface.
…Will they try to deflect us with gravity barriers? Or snag us with the derricks?
“What are you going to do!?”
As soon as he asked, the Musashi displayed a sudden color.
It was the white of mist and spraying water.
As the Musashi descended, it created its buoyancy ocean in front of its bow.
Just as Kuki wondered why, the thought leading to the answer came to him. With the solution in mind, he gave a shout.
“So that’s what you’re doing!!”
The Musashi applied powerful brakes to its bow.
Its descent had provided acceleration, but the instant it took on that additional speed, it created a thick buoyancy ocean only in front of its bow.
The descending front end collided with the ocean that tried to lift it.
This was a powerful braking method.
The ocean stopped the ship and also lifted the creaking stern.
But then they began the acceleration of gravitational cruising.
The Musashi had pitched forward, so the acceleration from the rear caused the stern to quickly swing upwards.
But they did something else just as leverage lifted the stern.
“Release the virtual ocean!! Over!”
On “Musahino’s” command, the ocean lifting the bow vanished along with the ether light.
With nothing restricting the bow anymore, the Musashi gained a certain motion.
It pitched forward in midair and skidded forward and upwards.
“Ensure internal anti-shock buffering! Over!!”
The bow was thrown forward and upwards and the stern flew after it.
The Musashi made a short jump with its rear lifted high like a pouncing beast.
The wind roared and the eight ships leaped through the night sky in unison.
Like a knife being pushed forward, they made a powerful jump with great initial speed.
The bow pointed down towards Kuki’s descending fleet, but they jumped over those ships.
Then, the eight ships resumed gravitational cruising, starting from those in the back.
After jumping over the enemy ships, the Musashi quickly picked up speed while making a shallow descent.
By the time Kuki and his men looked back through the whipping wind, the Musashi was already just above the sea’s surface in the distance. And it was splitting the sea below it.
On Musashino’s bridge, “Musashino” nodded at the sign frame from Mitotsudaira.
When they had been surrounded by the enemy fleet and under fire, a divine transmission had arrived from Mitotsudaira.
“Can we jump over them?”
She had had difficulty explaining it verbally, so she had bent one of Asama’s arrows and sent it flying into the distance as a real-time demonstration.
In the footage of that one-shot demonstration, the spinning arrow had hit Ohiroshiki who was wandering the deck yelling “Any little girls! Any lost little girls around here!?” Regardless, it had been enough to explain the principle and they had immediately done it for real.
“I have determined that went quite well. Over.”
They had all used a lot of their processing power to pull that off with no practice.
Under those conditions, they had to perform the calculations several times over to avoid failure and they had to perform a wider range of calculations because a lot of the directions were not yet clear. That had put a large burden on them, but Mitotsudaira had praised them and…
Suzu also looked back at them, so it had all been more than worth it. Most wonderful of all, everyone was safe and they had accomplished the necessary acceleration.
They simply had to continue on toward the Kii Peninsula.
However, the automaton detecting ether readings suddenly straightened up and turned around.
“A new ether reading is pursuing us approximately three kilometers to port! Over.”
“Pursuing us? Over.”
“Musashino” could not imagine what kind of ship could be pursuing the Musashi after they accelerated to lose Kuki’s high-speed fleet.
In that case, she thought while giving instructions.
“Determine the identity of our pursuer. Over!”
That response was immediately followed by the answer.
“These are ghosts! Ghost ships made of ether have manifested! This reading…”
They all realized the same thing.
“This is Maeda Toshiie’s Israfil! These are Landsknecht aerial warships! Over!”
The ships made waves in the empty air as they slid along.
There were a total of five ghost ships made entirely of ether. They moved quickly and smoothly toward the Musashi without making a sound or shaking in the slightest.
They were old ocean ships.
These ships from the Age of Discovery amplified the wind hitting the sails to power their flight and they had no bow. They were less than one hundred meters long and looked a lot like modern transport ships.
However, the sails made of ether light were torn and catching no wind.
The crew wore torn sailor’s outfits and were all made of bones.
As the wind washed over them, they would occasionally move to stare directly at the Musashi.
The central command ship contained Maeda Toshiie in his red M.H.R.R. uniform. Matsu stood on his right shoulder with her wings of light expanded.
“Thanks, Ma-chan. I’m glad I held back in Magdeburg. It took a lot of work to call in this group that died in the Pacific.”
The ghosts may have retained some slight memories of their lives. First, the bicorne-wearing captain came to greet them and the others came in order of rank. The crew of the other ships approached the side of their ship, some bowing, some raising their swords, and some removing their hats.
Were they being so polite because he had made a contract with them using money and also used a European ghost spell that included a vow to god? Or were they showing their courtesy for their employer who was a ghost just like them? He did not know.
…But I’m quite the opportunist for thinking of them as alive and myself as a ghost.
Toshiie faced forward.
The mist trailed behind and tore away from the Musashi as the ship traveled alongside the Kii Peninsula.
“Aren’t they moving too fast to make the turn onto the peninsula’s provisional border?”
The ghost ships were closer to the peninsula and thus had the inner corner, so Toshiie gave his instructions.
“Do not fire. Focus on speed so we can hold the inner corner at the third marker point. The turn into the peninsula is a ninety degree angle from south to east. If we hold that inner corner, they can’t fire the marker at the point. That gives us the material we need to accuse them later.”
The Shirasagi Mk. II slowed down in the sky. It was already near the Kii Peninsula, which was the edge of its jurisdiction as Himeji Castle in the history recreation of the attack on Mouri.
But as Ichimasu managed the courses of the ships participating in the battle, she expressed her astonishment with the direct-line path of Toshiie’s accelerating ship.
“Not bad.” She whistled. “That’s some amazing acceleration, Toshi. Or is it just that ghost ships are fast? Then you’re useless, Toshi.”
“B-boss! This is progressing too quickly!”
“Don’t worry about it.” She checked Toshiie’s course. “That speed is cheating. That would be how they caught up after the switchover on the coast.”
The Musashi had left Osaka Bay on the east and taken a gentle curve toward the Kii Peninsula, but Toshiie had made a straight shot across the coast from the west side of Osaka Bay. It was a slight difference, but the fact remained that Toshiie’s straight line would arrive first.
“Boss, the Musashi’s gravitational cruising is quite fast, so how can Master Toshiie’s ghost ships keep up like that?”
Ichimasu spread her mouth side to side at the navigator’s question. She was not sure how to answer.
“Shaja. Well, I called it cheating, but it really is. Any European sailor has probably heard the legend of Der Fliegende Holländer that has to eternally wander the seas after cursing god and dying at the Cape of Good Hope.”
She laughed and saw on the map that Toshiie’s five ships had finally caught up to the Musashi.
“That ship wanders in the distance, but when it approaches, it smoothly follows you and you can never get away. Ghost ships are often described like that, but that’s because they appear by resonating with the other ship’s ‘existence as a ship’ through the ley lines. They appear because they’re called. That means a ghost ship’s speed is dependent on the other ship. They’re pulled by the ship that called them, so they will always follow it. It’s sort of like a kind of shadow. That’s the basics of it anyway.”
Ichimasu stepped on the white intersection between the Musashi and Toshiie’s ghost ships on the map displayed on the floor. Then she smiled.
“No matter how fast the Musashi moves, it can never lose them.”
The unseen crew audibly gulped, but Ichimasu shrugged and spoke. Toshi has a pretty unique fighting force, she thought.
“Of course, that means the ghost ships would be small fries if they’re called by a slow little ship. But for a high-speed ship like the Musashi, a ship that can always catch up to them is deadly. Then again, the ghost ships have old equipment and probably won’t be able to get a decisive blow in. We need either the Shirasagi or…”
Ichimasu kicked the map at her feet with her heel.
Halfway across Osaka Bay, the number of lights indicating their forces had exceeded one hundred.
“That’s Cookie for you. Even after they got past him, he’s gathering all of the defense network’s ships to pursue the Musashi.”
As she spoke, Toshiie’s five ships and the Musashi approached the turn into the Kii Peninsula and their courses began to mix together on the map.
They were fighting for the proper position to make that turn.
“They have to make a ninety degree eastern turn to make the provisional border across the Kii Peninsula. The marker point is on the inner corner, so an out-in-out route would get them through without slowing down as much.”
“Toshi has the inner corner, so it isn’t going to be easy for the Musashi.”
Based on the courses visible on the map, both sides were maintaining their speed and pushing for the inner corner.
However, Ichimasu smiled bitterly when she saw Toshiie’s course.
…You really are bad at this, Toshi. You haven’t used ships much, have you?
He was here despite that because he was intent on winning and because he was relying on Kuki’s fleet catching up.
“We need to live up to Toshi’s expectations since he’s really pushing himself here. …It makes me want to show off what I can do.”
She said “listen” as if speaking to herself.
“The word Holländer can refer both to a ghost ship and to a Dutchman. If it was a Protestant Dutchman that cursed god and died after being shipwrecked, then you might be able to invite him to Catholicism so he can redo things. Toshi, I’m impressed you visited the Cape of Good Hope…which I suppose that would be Kyushu. Kyushu is where Naru will eventually rebel and where you have to defeat him, so did you get permission from the Testament Union by saying you were preparing for that? …You really can be masochistic like that, Toshi.”
“Keep up the hard work. A chance is sure to present itself.”
The five ghost ships and the eight ships of the Musashi continued fighting over their position in the sky.
As the Musashi continued south, its destination was the center point of the Kii Peninsula’s western coast on the left up ahead. Turning left there would take them east along the peninsula’s provisional border.
The peninsula had already grown large on their port side. The red light fired by the third marker point rose toward the heavens in the center of the dark shadow’s western edge.
Toshiie’s five ghost ships were small, but they were pushing southwest, to knock the Musashi out of the turn.
The Musashi was at least seventy times as long as Toshiie’s ghost ship, but he showed no fear. He was trying to push the Musashi away by ramming it.
“Go, everyone! Start by keeping the Musashi from checking in with the marker point on the peninsula’s entrance! We need to accomplish at least that much!”
“Toshi, won’t that be due to our interference and not due to the Musashi’s mistake?”
Ichimasu sent a divine transmission and Toshiie nodded.
“Shaja. Listen, Ichimasu. The Musashi will leave its course both because of our interference and because it’s moving so quickly. Watch.”
As he spoke, the ghost ships collided with the Musashi.
They primarily pushed at it on the bow and stern of Asakusa, the first port ship. Each time Asakusa tried to take the proper path for the turn, the ghost ships would push it away from that inner corner.
“Do you understand?”
The Musashi was moving very quickly. The impacts from outside were greatly affecting its movements.
The ghost ships were far smaller, but the Musashi could not help but shake.
Fearing that interference, the Musashi took a wider turn, to the detriment of its overall movement.
“My interference is only affecting it so much because it is moving so fast. If it were not moving this fast, I doubt ghost ships this small could push it off course. …To put it another way, the Musashi could maintain its course despite my interference as long as it cruised like normal.”
“The Musashi will have left its course for its own safety and it will fly into another nation’s airspace fast enough to call it an invasion. …That’s how this will turn out.”
“You sure do love sophistry, Toshi.”
“I do.” He smiled bitterly. “But if the Musashi is allowed to leave its course for its own convenience, then the other nations will be forced to let it fly through their airspace any time Musashi can claim they have a reason for it. …Even if that reason is entirely false. Any nation at war or with an enemy will never allow that. There would always be a threat of the Musashi cooperating with their enemy, invading in the name of ‘leaving their course’, and letting down troops from that enemy.”
Toshiie looked to the Musashi.
“Here it comes. The Musashi is taking me seriously now.”
After that, light flew from the side of the Musashi’s deck.
The Musashi repeatedly fired on the ghost ships.
The ghost ships used their small size and great speed to evade.
A shell would occasionally graze them or hit them, but…
“You can’t sink us that easily!!”
Toshiie did not hesitate to drop some money as he raised his eyebrows and the corners of his mouth.
When the silver coin landed, the dead rose and used their own bodies as parts to repair the ship.
The cannon fire was affecting them, but the money could buy some time before the ghost ships were fully destroyed.
But from Tama’s deck, Neshinbara ordered the Musashi to continue firing.
“Always focus your fire on the closest ship! Make sure to damage that one ship!”
They could not sink the ghost ships easily, but by always damaging one of the five, they could force the ghost ships to attack in a rotation. They set up the rotation in groups of two, so the other ship could swap out for the damaged one.
However, that gave the attacks a tempo.
“Toshi! They can tell what you’re going to do! Throw some more randomness into your movements!”
“Sorry! I’m a little overwhelmed right now! I’m sure I’d wonder what that idiot commander is doing if I was watching this from afar, but it sure is hard to focus in the middle of it all!”
“If you get it, then show some respect to your upperclassman and do as I say!!”
But just as the ghost ships began a new rotation, the Musashi responded in a new way as well.
Each ship moved separately to give the port ships vertical movement.
“They’re evading at this speed!?”
It would be harder for them to make the turn now, but the automatons’ calculations could correct for it if they incorporated the vertical movement into their course.
The ghost ships had difficulty targeting the giant ships as they moved up or down.
On Musashino’s bridge, Suzu added the air currents up ahead into the model, “Musashino” sent that data to all eight ships, and they all calculated out their countless course patterns.
On the ghost fleet’s flagship, Toshiie gave instructions to the ships trying to ram the Musashi as it moved up and down.
“It’s impossible to push on the outer hull when they’re moving like that! But this reveals something else to us!”
His eyes were focused on the Musashi’s outer hull as wind wrapped around it. He was looking inside the opened accelerators and the idling light inside.
“Let’s rob the Musashi of its legs!”
The first to notice the enemy ship’s movement was Noriki as he carried an armor panel on Asakusa’s outer shell.
The enemy was coming. They all knew that, so he did not need to say it.
The enemy was approaching. They all knew that as well, so he did not need to say it.
But the enemy’s movement was weird. They were no longer trying to ram the hull.
…They’re trying to slip below our port side.
He did not know what that meant, so he said it.
Laborer: “The enemy on the port side is weird.”
Almost Everyone: “Weird!?”
Come to think of it, people sometimes say I’m a bad speaker, he remembered just as shattering light burst from the front port side and the entire ship shook violently.
The ghost ship had rammed full speed into the accelerator to destroy it at the cost of its own destruction.
“The enemy has rammed the opened hull on Asakusa’s port side! The enemy ship has been destroyed and has vanished!! Asakusa’s gravitational cruising accelerators #11 to #13 have been damaged! We have lost a maximum of 12% from Asakusa’s port side acceleration! Over!”
Hearing the report from the ship-to-ship communication automaton, “Musashino” used her shared memory to quickly speak with “Asakusa”.
Musashino: “How are you feeling? Over.”
Asakusa: “Judge. Having learned my lesson in England, I purged the affected area just before the enemy hit. I have determined the damage will have minimal effect on the outer shell and internal components. I am working with the kobolds to rearrange the internal ether pathways in the damaged area. By adding in blocking parts, I can reduce the loss to 5% within two minutes. Over.”
Musashino: “That is the result of an excellent learning experience. Please share those memories with the rest of us afterwards. Over.”
After an instant to go over things, “Musashino” gave her decision to the rest of the ships.
“As our speed will drop from now on and because we could take more damage, I would like to build up some more speed here, but…”
As soon as she said that, an automaton spoke up after detecting an ether reading.
“Another enemy ship is approaching! It is trying to ram Oume’s port side! Over.”
…The enemy must have a reason to go as far as destroying themselves to wear us down.
“Are they sacrificing themselves for the fleet arriving from behind!? Over.”
“We wouldn’t sacrifice ourselves for no reason. Someone needs to capture you. But…I will sacrifice the piece that will have the greatest effect.”
Toshiie looked to the Musashi through the wind.
Ether light smoke was rising from Asakusa’s port side.
An excellent result, he thought.
“We have an expert in naval battles, so I only need to set the stage. That’s why I’m the treasurer.”
He sent one of his ships into Oume’s port side from below. This collision would rob the port side of all its speed. Even if the Musashi took emergency measures, this would be enough when combined with the damage to Asakusa.
The ship slipped into the gap in the Musashi’s giant outer shell.
The ghosts on the ship looked back toward him and crossed themselves, so he nodded back.
“Thank you. May you rest in Catholic peace.”
Meanwhile, the ghost ship continued its charge.
It was destroyed.
Light exploded before Toshiie’s eyes. It was the expected light of the ghost ship’s destruction, but…
“What just happened!?”
The Musashi was unharmed.
What just happened? he asked silently this time. Their cannons couldn’t have hit it at such close range and while they’re moving up and down.
Also, the ghosts had been acting oddly at the moment of destruction. For some reason…
…They were raising their arms!?
Just as he questioned what could have made them so happy as they were destroyed, the light of the destroyed ghost ship and crew rose into the heavens and vanished. That meant powerful purification had sublimated the ether instead of destroying it. And…
“Gunner,” said Matsu while looking upwards.
Toshiie saw the enemy on Oume’s starboard deck.
It was a shrine maiden. Her black hair fluttered in the powerful wind, her binder skirt held her in her firing position, and she held a giant bow.
“I-I completely forgot! All ships, keep your distance and fly in an evasive pattern!”
Toshiie’s eyebrows rose as he shouted a warning.
“Musashi’s critical shrine maiden has joined the fight!”
“Wh-who are you calling a critical shrine maiden!?”
Even as Asama watched the three ghost ships move away, she breathed a secret sigh of relief.
…Th-thank goodness! That used up all of my internal Blessings!!
Anyway, she thought as she looked back where the crossdresser was walking along Okutama’s bow. He was carrying a charcoal grill while Horizon searched for Mitotsudaira, but he waved when he saw her looking.
She had been constantly using divine transmission spells in Magdeburg, so she had not been able to respond to the aerial ships falling from the sky. But with Toori here, his Blessing distribution could replenish her internal Blessings.
“Well, at least that refill made it in time.”
She looked down at her butt. Long brown hair with ribbons and cloth wrapped around it was crouching between her two tail ballasts.
“Kimi, why are you hiding behind me?”
“B-because ghosts! Those are ghost ships! Don’t you know what’s going to happen!? They’ll ask for a water ladle, but if you give it to them, they’ll scoop up the water to sink your ship!”
“They can’t exactly scoop up any water in the air and we aren’t even using our virtual ocean right now.”
“They can do it because they’re ghosts!! They’re spirits! Spiiii! Riiiiits!”
She grabbed Asama’s butt on “spi” and pulled down and out on “rits”. Asama tried to knock her to the ground, but the girl dodged.
It was no use reasoning with a crazy person, so Asama took a step to the side to reveal the ghost ships in the distance. The strange girl collapsed onto her side.
“Th-that was a close one! What if I had fainted!? What would happen then!?”
“To be blunt, could I just ignore you?”
“Not before I faint! Definitely not! But if I do faint, you can do whatever you want!”
“In that case, I think I’d call your mom.”
“D-don’t make this any scarier than it already is! My mom is a legit samurai, so she doesn’t know when not to joke about something! Fine then! You want to turn this into a fight, don’t you!?”
Eh? Why? wondered Asama, but she would only be dragged further into it if she went along with it.
So instead, Asama sighed.
“Um, Kimi? Try to calm down. Sure there are some ghost ships here, but I’m stronger than them. There’s nothing to worry-…”
…Huh? Why does saying that make me feel so sad?
She looked back down and found Kimi lying limply on the floor. Huh? she wondered before realizing the girl had passed out cold.
It can’t be, she thought as she turned back around.
“A ghost ship!”
Kimi had fainted because one of them was fast approaching.
After keeping their distance, they had likely decided she had used up her internal Blessings. Sure enough, the Internal Blessing gauge Hanami was displaying had yet to rise above one-third. Toori’s refill was being distributed to Asakusa at the moment.
There were other students trained in being a shrine maiden, but they were up against ghosts here, not monsters. Plus, this was a powerful opponent. She could not destroy the ghost ship at the moment and neither could anyone else she knew, so…
“ ‘Musashino’-san! Take care of this!”
Just as she shouted into the sign frame Hanami lifted up for her, her field of vision shifted forward.
The Musashi had accelerated.
Toshiie did not hesitate to swear when he realized the enemy had escaped.
“Aerial battles really are difficult. I’ll chalk this up to how new at them I am!”
Toshiie continued his inevitable pursuit of the Musashi that had briefly moved away.
They had made the emergency repairs to Asakusa while the ghost ships were held off by the shrine maiden. And when another ghost ship tried to approach now that Asakusa’s repairs were complete…
…They accelerated forward.
The ghost ships would always pursue their target ship, but the Musashi had accelerated horizontally while the ghost ships were focused on their vertical movement. It was only temporary, but that had put some distance between them.
“But still… After them!”
This pursuit had a purpose.
“They can’t make the right angle turn for the marker point at this speed! It was a difficult enough turn already, so keep up the pursuit and ram them if they try to slow down!”
But then the ghost ship in the lead fell apart.
Toshiie saw the annihilation of one of his ships.
It occurred directly behind the Musashi. He had positioned it there because he had thought it was the safest place.
After all, the secondary cannons were equipped on the sides and the gunner shrine maiden could not fire there from her position on Oume’s bow.
Nevertheless, the ship had been destroyed.
He heard a scraping sound, the ether light scattered like a sandstorm, and both ship and crew were destroyed. The scene quickly vanished as if battered by a storm, but the way the light scattered was odd.
This light also rose as it vanished.
The ghosts had been given a peaceful rest.
“Was it that shrine maiden’s anti-ghost shot!?”
His eyes opened wide as he observed Oume which was accelerating away, but he saw no sign that the shrine maiden on its bow had fired an arrow. The girl was focused on peeling off the dancer who was clinging to her butt.
…Then what was this!?
Toshiie’s ship had given the vanishing light of the other ship a wide berth, but he suddenly detected a certain scent.
“That is correct.”
Toshiie saw two people sprinkling a yellow powder from the back of Oume’s deck.
One was a fat boy with an arrow sticking into him and the other was a student in a turban.
“We did it!” said the fat boy. “We really did it! The curry exorcism was a success! This has got to improve my popularity with little girls!”
“Curry is from the country of the gods. It can instantly purify even an evil spirit.”
“You liar!” shouted Toshiie. “Curry is just a collection of spices!! What did you put in there!?”
“Oh!” The turban boy shrugged and shook his head. “All of the spices in curry have been accepted by the gods. I would never dare to object to them.”
“Wait! You’re the one that mixed that, aren’t you!? Don’t tell me you think you’re a god!!”
The boy shrugged again and threw some curry powder Toshiie’s way.
The ghosts frantically moved the ship out of the way and the boy watched the curry powder scatter fruitlessly into the air. He then looked down on Toshiie.
“Why would you dodge that? I will never forgive someone who wastes curry.”
“Look in a mirror!!”
By the time Toshiie saw Matsu give a powerful nod on his shoulder, they had escaped from the range of the enemy’s curry.
These people are dangerous! Toshiie realized anew.
He did not want to live in a world where someone could destroy a warship by sprinkling curry powder around.
“This is what makes aerial battles so frightening! You never know what’s going to happen!”
“Actually, Toshi, this is a new one for Cookie and me, too.”
Well, those upperclassmen aren’t ghosts, he thought, but he needed to come up with a countermeasure for next time. With that in mind, he spoke to the other remaining ship.
“Approach from upwind! That will give you a safe approach! Also…”
He shouted into the wind toward the Kii Peninsula.
“It’s about time you decided whether you’re on our side or not, Lord Matsunaga!!”
Toward the back of Okutama, Masazumi was on her way to Ariadust Academy. She was currently in the nature district on Okutama’s surface and she looked back to the east.
A bug-like form was slowly coming apart in the shadows of the Kii Peninsula.
No, she had seen that ship once before.
“Is that Lord Matsunaga’s castle, the Shigisan?”
What is he going to do? she wondered as she came to a stop.
On the stone path through the trees, she saw the flat spider created in the night sky by the eight attached ships.
She had spoken with Lord Matsunaga both at IZUMO and Magdeburg. He had been an elusive person, but he had still arranged a way to Magdeburg for them as they escaped IZUMO. And in Magdeburg, he had joined the negotiation and supported her in a number of ways.
…He isn’t an ally, but I want to believe he isn’t an active enemy either.
She lightly hit her own head. If he were to join them, he would effectively be rebelling against Nobunaga. He had already rebelled once, so if he did it again…
“He’ll blow himself up along with the Hiragumo tea kettle.”
She smiled bitterly as Tsukinowa rubbed against her cheek to cheer her up.
What is he going to do? she wondered again.
“Maybe it’s natural to want a reason for the selfish things you do.”
By the time she said that, she saw and heard Matsunaga’s answer.
“So you aren’t going easy on us, Lord Matsunaga!”
His answer was to fire.
Countless red shells of light cut across the sky as they flew from the Shigisan to the Musashi.
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