Horizon:Volume 3 Chapter 20
Chapter 20: Preparers in the Setup Area
After forming ranks
What should you do?
Point Allocation (Hard Work)
Dragon Dog: “Testament. It is beginning.”
ANA: “Did you pass my thanks on to my brother?”
Dragon Dog: “Testament. He said you were being too reserved and wishy-washy. And he claims he and water do not go well together.”
ANA: “And yet someone important to him has an origin related to water.”
Dragon Dog: “I have difficulty with unreasonable conversations.”
ANA: “Sorry. But even that…”
Dragon Dog: “Testament. I carry even that with me, milady.”
ANA: “Heh heh. You are perfect.”
The sky was clear and the midday sun was approaching its highest point.
Below, the Musashi and the fleets from Hexagone Française and M.H.R.R. surrounding it were filled with motion as they fulfilled their various duties.
The ships of the fleets moved and a many people and materials were quickly moving or moved along or within those ships.
However, the motion did not start with the Musashi or the surrounding fleets.
It began in IZUMO.
At 11:30 AM, a representative of IZUMO’s central office and shrine made the following announcement to the Testament Union.
“We will now state IZUMO’s position and point of view.”
Everyone silently urged them to continue and the voice did so.
“First of all, IZUMO is neutral and will thus repair any and all aerial ships. That right was given to us by the emperor of the Far East. If the Testament Union nations insist on finding fault in that, we will retain our neutrality by refusing to cooperate with the Testament Union that takes issue with that neutrality.”
“They’re holding the Testament Union in check,” commented Masazumi from the bridge in front of the academy.
Asama spoke up in agreement among those looking to the sky in the east and west.
“They can only make such a bold statement because IZUMO is a company that dates back to the Age of the Gods and because they control the Far Eastern divine network and the trade networks between nations that use that network. They also cooperate with Shirasago Enterprises and the Testament Union uses IZUMO’s Far Eastern transportation network to trade between their own nations by interpreting it as a type of intermediate trade through the Far East.”
“In other words, the world wasn’t fully connected in this age, but they’re passing their goods through the Far East as ‘intermediate trade’. …That would be why the other nations want the Musashi and its great transportation ability.”
“Heh heh heh. A decent woman has nothing to worry about as long as plenty of people are still trying to get their hands on her without harming her. Her patron is also aware of that, of course.”
“This would have been a lot more dangerous if we weren’t in IZUMO.”
“Judge,” agreed the others just before another announcement came.
“Second, as a Far Eastern vessel, the transport ship Musashi is a neutral entity and IZUMO has no obligation to force it to leave at 3:00 PM as the Testament Union claims. However, the Musashi has announced its intention to leave at 3:15 PM and IZUMO will support that intention.”
“Vice president, you were the one that decided on 3:15, right? Are you sure that’s a good idea? What if they fire on us? We’ll be a giant sitting duck for the fifteen minutes before we leave.”
“I discussed that with IZUMO this morning,” replied Masazumi as a large sign frame appeared in the sky above the bridge.
Not even a hint of noise could be seen in the footage that displayed a giant shrine and the sky. An elderly man in white Far Eastern garb stood in the center.
He had a large build and his hair was roughly parted on one side.
“I am IZUMO Executive Chairman Izumo Yuu. Musashi Vice President-kun, you can call me Yuu-chan.”
“Judge. Anyway, Executive Chairman.”
“I said Yuu-chan is fine.”
“IZUMO Executive Chairman.”
“You sure are hardheaded, Masa-chan. And after you sent me your first divine text earlier.”
The others began whispering behind Masazumi.
“Seijun’s not just hardheaded. She’s hardchested too.”
“Oh? You say that, but I seem to recall you watching her butt when she climbed the stairs earlier.”
“What are you talking about, Horizon!? The chest and the butt are two different things! They’re so different that one’s the standard for the front and the other for the back! Do you get it now? …Ah, I’m sorry, so don’t reach into the space behind you. Stop, stop, stop.”
“Hey, Margot. Masazumi seems pretty popular with older men, but why is that? To give me doujinshi material?”
“That definitely isn’t the answer I would have given.”
“Um, can we try to stay positive here? For example, we can say Masazumi has gotten close to the leader of Izumo. …I bet her father is happy about that.”
“Ah! N-Nobu-tan! Put away that blade! Put it away! We all agree with you that he’s being too familiar with her, but let’s use this Hexagone Française red wine ‘Some Red Came Out!’ to calm down and then work together to plan out our eventual revenge!”
“That’s right. Masazumi’s dad is on the provisional council, so I think he would be delighted by these results.”
“Come to think of it, I’ve probably done enough just by being so close to Asama, Mitotsudaira, Horizon, and Mary. As we were saying this morning, our class really has a lot of important people in it. No, not you, idiot. Sit down.”
Instead of the sign frame overhead, Masazumi faced the filming sign frame that Tsukinowa opened.
“IZUMO Executive Chairman, I assure you that the Musashi will leave at 3:15 PM. We would also like to proclaim our neutrality, but in the case of a misunderstanding, we would like to avoid any damage and the effects of that damage. So…”
“Third,” said IZUMO’s representative to begin their next announcement. “If another nation damages the neutral ground of IZUMO or any related ships from the air – and this includes indirect damage – IZUMO will make an appeal to the Testament Union to label that nation as an enemy that violates neutrality.”
“Wait,” said Ohiroshiki. “Does this mean they can’t use indiscriminate aerial shellings or bombings that would create stray shots and accidental damage? Even if every shot is dead-on, they could ricochet off our gravity barriers and still hit IZUMO. Does this make the Musashi untouchable as long as it stays here?”
“Unfortunately, Hexagone Française has already finished their preparations and we have already promised to leave at 3:15 and made the appropriate arrangements.”
My father and the others on the council did well, thought Masazumi. But…
“But, vice president, they can still fire on us and bomb us once we leave IZUMO, right?”
“That is why we will endure Hexagone Française’s attacks and request a ceasefire while the Musashi enters the next sequence. Naomasa, Can you give a simple explanation of that?”
“What a pain,” said Naomasa.
Still, she opened a sign frame and displayed a diagram of the Musashi and the giant dock it was contained in.
“Listen,” she began while the Musashi in the diagram began to float. “At 3:15, the Musashi will escape this place. We will float up in the dock and open enough gravity barriers to surround the Musashi.”
Asama frowned at that.
“Um, Masa? Surrounding the Musashi in gravity barriers is crazy. Won’t it only last a few seconds?”
“It only has to last an instant, Asama-chi. After all…”
Naomasa pointed at the diagram of the Musashi and its hull expanded outwards.
“We’ll use the gravitational cruising system to escape. The gravity barriers are to make sure the shockwave and air pressure we create doesn’t destroy the dock.”
“Can we really do that?” asked Tenzou.
“It’ll eat up a ridiculous amount of fuel and it’ll definitely blow out some of the gravity accelerators since they won’t be able to fully deploy. And while it won’t tear us apart since all the holes in the armor have been filled, it will be rough on the surface of the ships. Still, it’s possible. Unlike in Mikawa, the dock is open on the front. We’ll be making a short jump that only lasts an instant and the recoil will be pretty bad once the acceleration stops.” Naomasa shrugged. “But we decided it’s better than a shell bombardment. The low-speed shell on our approach to England damaged us pretty bad, but everywhere that wasn’t damaged by the shell withstood the air explosion from Ex. Caliburn. After the short jump, we can continue our escape with inertia and reacceleration. As for our destination…”
“I have a candidate. Some parts of the journey won’t be easy, but as long as we make it from the Kii Peninsula and to Mikawa, Edo is right around the corner.”
“That’s right,” said Naomasa while taking a breath. “We’ll have to redo the repairs at the Kantou IZUMO dock in Edo. Then again, it’s because we know we can do that that we can use such a crazy method of escaping.”
Once she finished, Izumo Yuu smiled over the divine transmission.
“I’m glad you’re putting the Musashi to good use.”
“But,” said Mitotsudaira. “Isn’t there a hole in that plan? The Testament Union is insisting we leave by 3:00. If we do not leave until 3:15, what will the Testament Union do in the intervening fifteen minutes? Our promise to leave was in exchange for no aerial bombardments, so what did we give in exchange for the extra fifteen minutes?”
“They’ve actually already given their answer concerning that,” said Masazumi.
Everyone exchanged a glance and Suzu tilted her head.
“The ships? Huh? They’re…moving.”
Everyone looked into the air and the entire sky seemed to be moving.
Among the ships encircling IZUMO, a formation surrounding Matsunaga’s Shigisan left M.H.R.R.’s fleet and slowly moved south.
Similarly, some ships began to move at the leading edge of the Hexagone Française fleet.
“What’s going on? It looks to me like they’re descending to the western edge of IZUMO.”
“Judge,” muttered Naruze while glaring up into the sky. “What a coincidence, Adele. I see the same thing and I was up all night.”
“Heh heh heh. What is this, butt politician? Explain it so the rest of us can understand!”
“Well,” said Masazumi while crossing her arms. “Remember what they said in that announcement? They mentioned damage to the neutral ground of IZUMO or any related ships from the air.”
“Wait, um, Masazumi? Don’t tell me…”
“Judge.” She nodded and hesitated a moment. “I wanted to avoid an aerial bombardment or having enemy forces descending on us, so I made this deal with the approval of the engine division and the superior operations committee.”
In other words…
“Hexagone Française will be approaching for a land battle. And it will begin at 3:00 PM.”
Everyone’s faces stiffened and Masazumi nodded with an identical expression.
“We don’t have to worry about a one-sided attack from the sky, but that means we can’t complain about any other damage and IZUMO can’t either.”
To sum it up…
“For the fifteen minutes until the Musashi leaves port at 3:15, we have accepted any attack carried out from the surface of IZUMO.”
“W-wait. So Hexagone Française’s land unit will attack us!? They may be limited to the ground, but Hexagone Française’s Ecole de Paris has gods of war!”
“Judge.” Tenzou nodded and scratched his head in exasperation. “That is likely why Hexagone Française decided an aerial attack was unnecessary and agreed to our terms. Although they do seem to have other plans as well.”
As Tenzou spoke, the others saw several gods of war standing on the ships landing on the opposite end of IZUMO. Neshinbara gave a further comment while glaring at them.
“They’re planning to have the gods of war install large bridges for boarding the Musashi. Four of them, it looks like. And the land unit descending to IZUMO belongs to Louis XIV, a man whose name will go down in history. With only fifteen minutes and the restriction to land, they will send out a small number of highly-trained elites. If we’re unlucky, they’ll even send out Palais-Cardinal, their flagcraft piloted by Vice President Luynes. …Well, it all makes me want to die, but it should be good material for an aspiring author. Now then,” he said. “It’s my job to find a way to stop all that. …Just leave it to me.”
At 2:30 PM, Hexagone Française flagship Pension Versailles arrived at the land port on the tableland of southwestern IZUMO. There, it let out approximately two thousand men. The Musashi students soon commented on Hexagone Française’s main force.
“The knights of their royal guard are using gods of war as ‘horses’, aren’t they? How is that interpretation fair?”
“They likely claim that it counts as a horse if knights ride them. …And the Testament Union must go easy on the soon-to-be most powerful nation. They’re also being viewed as the front-line against P.A. Oda. But look. Even the gods of war are wearing red below their breastplates. I never thought Musashi would be facing them.”
“Yeah, you were originally from around here too, weren’t you? Try not to remember old times and cry, okay?”
“You’re the one that needs to worry about that.”
Despite their comments, they gasped a bit when eight gods of war dragged forward the mobile bridges like they were blunt weapons.
They could tell each god of war was surrounded by a 25-man platoon to operate the mobile suspension device for maintaining the god of war and to ensure coordination between gods of war.
The Musashi students then saw the formation spreading out behind the gods of war.
“Wait, wait. Those are the musketeers of the royal guard!”
After a few cries of dismay, a voice identified this enemy and they focused on the figures in red on the enemy’s front line.
“Those are the Hexagone Française automatons known as the Tree Musketeers!!”
“It seems we are quite well known for Belle de Marionnettes. Don’t you think, Armand?”
That comment came from a woman in a red women’s Hexagone Française uniform.
She was a Belle de Marionnette and she was almost a perfectly lifelike model, but the lines of her joints were those of a combat model. She commanded two hundred female Belle de Marionnettes armed with long guns.
A man similarly commanding two hundred dolls turned his gaze from the Musashi and toward her and her lightly crossed arms.
He too was a Belle de Marionnette.
He had a large build and he wore a red coat with the sleeves removed. The lines of his muscles were drawn in black on his exposed arms and he scratched at his head.
“I’m not too interested in that. …In fact, can Belle de Marionnettes even be interested in the first place, Henri?”
“Armand, you have spent too much time living with humans. It is clouding your decisions.”
“You say that, but you’re far too attached to the princess. Distinguishing between individuals is one thing, but prioritizing one over another goes beyond my understanding. …Don’t you think there’s something wrong with Henri, Isaac?”
He looked over his shoulder toward Isaac who resembled a Lourd de Marionnette.
Behind Armand, Henri, and their troops, Isaac had a few dozen female Belle de Marionnettes on top of him.
But while he resembled a Lourd de Marionnette, he was not one. His fifteen meter body wore a red coat, but unlike the Lourd de Marionnettes that took on human pilots, he was not entirely humanoid. His arms were long front to back like a runway, his body was flat, and even his legs had a thick design.
He slid down the flat collection of sensory devices that corresponded to his head.
“What’s wrong with being a loyal subject?”
“You need to grow closer to humans as a whole, Henri. Then you’ll understand. Let’s say…” Armand scratched his head and looked into the sky behind him. “About that close.”
He indicated a silver giant. The Lourd de Marionnette was on top of the Pension Versailles that was sending out four companies led by the Scots Guard who acted as the chancellor’s personal guards.
It was a silver feminine Lourd de Marionnette with giant wings on its back.
Drawn by Armand’s upturned gaze, Henri also looked up into the sky behind them.
“The Lourd de Marionnette piloted by a Far Eastern Belle de Marionnette…no, Lady Luynes now belongs to Hexagone Française. It’s a little confusing how it is still referred to as the Palais-Cardinal despite looking so different now.”
“Lady Luynes is from the generation before ours, but she was sent from the Mouri side by Anne of Austria, the previous provisional chancellor.”
The Palais-Cardinal was approaching them.
It gave them a small, direct nod, so Henri and Armand lowered their heads as well.
Isaac did so as well and Henri spoke while turning to Armand.
“You have only ever met Lady Luynes in her Mouse form, right?”
“You only met her for a quick greeting before the combination, right? After all, the entire reason we were quickly constructed was to fill the holes left by Lady Luynes and the others.”
“I have determined even a quick greeting was an honor.”
“Your refusal to hand that memory over to us is not very Belle de Marionnette-like.”
“The princess laughed and said it was very feminine of me, so that is how I will view it. But as for Lady Luynes…”
Henri faced forward before continuing.
“It is said a Belle de Marionnette cannot fully pilot a Lourd de Marionnette because a will is needed to control it, but she broke herself down to create controllers for each individual part to become a Belle de Marionnette-style Lourd de Marionnette like Isaac while still allowing someone else to combine with it.”
“Testament,” replied Armand. “Her soul, which acts as the core of her Belle de Marionnette being, could be safely transferred into the Palais-Cardinal because of how strongly she had set her desire to serve her master and because of the results her master achieved. …It was all thanks to Lady Luynes’s loyalty and Lady Anne.”
“Testament. Because Lady Luynes had never used the Palais-Cardinal for anything but defense despite its great ability, I had honestly wondered if she was not loyal enough to fight.”
“I have made a definite decision after hearing the strategy for today: she is loyal, through and through.”
Henri fully raised her right hand which signaled for the unit following them to line up behind and on either side of their musketeer units.
These were the human students of the chancellor’s personal guards.
The Belle de Marionnettes then began to move. Henri and Armand’s units split between front and back. The leading group was the main unit and the rear group would protect the students.
They created a formation in preparation for the coming battle and their movements created enough wind to disturb the grass of the tableland.
“Now then,” said Henri as she lowered her arm within the wind. “Our preparations are complete. Armand, what time is it?”
“Don’t turn off your clock function. You’re a Belle de Marionnette, aren’t you? Are you sure the princess isn’t influencing you?”
“Testament. I know, I know. It’s 2:52, isn’t it? That’s good enough, right?”
“You forgot to add ‘PM’.”
“Shut up,” replied Henri as she lightly raised both arms.
This was not a signal; it was her way of preparing to fight and she spoke as she did so.
“The chancellor and princess are watching from behind. We must not embarrass ourselves here. And so…”
She quickly lowered her arms and something appeared in the air as they tore through the wind.
Thick red blades appeared in the air above either side of her. They somewhat resembled machetes, but they were five meters long and there were four of them.
“At three, we will tear into the enemy, my unit.”
The time had passed 2:57 PM.
With only three minutes until 3:00, Musashi began by lowering all of the bridges between the Musashi and the land port.
Of the cargo transport bridges extending from the starboard side, all but one were purged and dropped from the dock side.
The sole remaining bridge reached the center of Tama and seven hundred Musashi students used it to arrive on IZUMO’s ground.
Hexagone Française insisted that Musashi must leave by 3:00, so they could not accuse Musashi of anything until that time had passed.
“Hexagone Française’s main force sent from IZUMO’s western land port has to travel almost four kilometers east to reach us,” explained Neshinbara. “At a god of war’s pace, that should take somewhere between 60 and 70 seconds on natural terrain. If it will fill up one of the fifteen minutes until 3:15, so there’s no reason for us to speed up the collision. We need a way to withstand the great speed they will build up for that collision, but we can spend 1/15 of the time in safety. So next…”
A sound arrived over the heads of those deployed in front of the bridge.
It was Musashi Ariadust Academy’s bell and it was informing them it was 3:00 and that something was coming.
The field artillery of the Hexagone Française unit far to the west and the guns of the warships in the western land port began to fire on the Musashi.
As a great number of shells could be heard soaring through the sky, countless gravity barriers opened on the Musashi’s starboard side.
Seeing that, Neshinbara shouted an order.
“Begin! Let’s take this a minute at a time!!”
The Battlefield as the Fight Begins
Toori: Sis! Sis! A battle’s starting, but I don’t get what’s going on at all! Can you give me a quick explanation!?
Kimi: Heh heh heh. Quick brother, it’s more or less as you can see below.
*Distances and relative sizes are fairly arbitrary.
1: Hexagone Française’s eight gods of war and royal guards
2: Three Musketeers’ royal guards
3: Rear royal guards
4: Flagcraft Palais-Cardinal and Warship Pension Versailles
5: Adele and Musashi’s defense unit
7: IZUMO’s anti-wind woods
8: Southern shrine grove
Toori: Ohhhh, I get it. But why are Adele and the others off the ship? Wouldn’t they be safer inside?
Kimi: Well, there are a number of ways to look at it. Barricading themselves inside a structure like the Musashi might seem safer, but that limits their counterattack to projectiles fired from above the wall, right? That’s actually pretty dangerous. After all, putting up less of a counterattack would let the enemy prepare the bridges needed to board the ship. As long as they are prepared to withstand the smaller counterattack, they could easily board us.
Toori: So they have to go outside and disturb the enemy movements?
Kimi: That’s right. We can’t let the enemy make the preparations needed to board the Musashi, so we need a unit to disturb their movements and then escape back inside.
Toori: Yeah, but I’m worried. Adele’s in her mobile shell, so she can’t use the Flat Chest Evasion.
Kimi: That’s a unique skill, so she cannot use it regardless.
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