Horizon:Volume 4A Chapter 11
Chapter 11: Corpse Princess of the Dark Sky
Where does one
Look down on someone from?
Point Allocation (The Heart)
A male voice fell to the nighttime snowy plain.
“Hey, Toshi. Now that we’ve crushed most of them and are getting a break, I’d like to say something you might not like.”
“Then I’d really rather you didn’t say it, but I guess I’ll hear you out. …What is it, Na-chan. Are you feeling lonely?”
“No, it isn’t that.” Narimasa used his chin to gesture forward because his hands were in his pockets. “They’re retreating right now, but I’m betting they have reinforcements coming.”
The aftermath of a battle covered the vast snowy field in front of them.
The sky was dark and the ground was mostly white. The white of the Sviet Rus demon warriors’ uniforms colored the figures collapsed across that large space.
Far in the distance near the surrounding forest, figures could be seen retreating or recovering their allies.
“You can see that, right? Shibata did a terrible job of checking how many there were.”
Narimasa was referring to the new white color he could see.
At the base of the mountains far to the northeast were five white transport ships measuring about five hundred meters long. They were halfway through their landing process and countless figures were approaching on land.
“It’s time for the Ikkou-Ikki to leave, but those unmarked troops from Uesugi’s provisional border guard are here. It looks like that’s five thousand more to deal with.”
“Another five thousand demons really is a lot of trouble. …Of course, I can get by if I pay an extension fee.”
“Where will you get the money?”
“I can get that from Shibata for missing this when he checked on our enemies.”
“In that case…”
Narimasa gestured with his chin again. This time, it was toward a color in the northwest sky.
That color was black, but it was not the color of the night.
He raised his eyes a little.
“How many do you think will be coming from there?”
A city floated in the northwest.
The giant floating island was approaching with the emblem of Sviet Rus on its side.
It was Novgorod.
Toshiie saw the city approaching.
…That previous battle was just the opening act, so they’re only making an appearance now.
“It took some time to draw them out, didn’t it?”
“So this is Russia’s oldest city that chose to be purged by Sviet Rus because they wanted more independence as a trade city. …And they didn’t give any help to Sviet Rus’s forces while we kicked their asses. They’re probably a lot of trouble to deal with.”
The two of them looked into the sky and saw a giant bowl there.
The shallow hemisphere appeared to have been directly scooped up from the earth’s crust. That table was at least ten kilometers across and it contained earth, hills, a river, and the buildings of a city on top. However…
“There aren’t any lights. Just like the rumors said.”
“Shaja. That isn’t surprising. The city is primarily populated by the dead, which is rare for Sviet Rus. And most of them are Living Dead who have no wills of their own.”
Toshiie also controlled the dead, but he did not know if that made him a good match for this opponent or not. But he did know one thing.
“Not only is it Russia’s oldest city, but it was nearly driven to extinction by that great purge. When they opposed current Sviet Rus Chancellor Ivan IV aka Uesugi Kagekatsu’s purge, sixty thousand out of a population of eighty thousand were killed. It’s said the nearby rivers and lakes were covered in a layer of corpses. Of course, in the history recreation, they all committed suicide on the orders of Mayor Marfa. And then all of the residents were allowed to ‘live on’ because she turned them all into Living Dead with a spell of hers. …Only the outside trading portions of the city are still functioning. The residents require no food, education, or entertainment.”
“Hey,” said Fuwa from behind them. “Are we going to be okay here? Novgorod was one of the cities belonging to the Hanseatic League, right? They’ve grown more obedient after the purge, but their strength and willpower are still far from average, right? After all…”
“Yes, we know, Michi. Novgorod is indeed a strong city. They were purged, but since Marfa handled that via suicide, their weaponry and defenses were untouched. Some forces thought about invading after the purge, but they realized Novgorod was far more trouble than they had imagined when they saw the Living Dead working in the trading facilities like normal the day after the purge. Novgorod is now a city of warriors who do not fear death.”
“Keh.” Narimasa turned to the side and looked up at the floating city. “So you’re saying all of the residents are as courageous as us? Why’s that?”
“Didn’t Maeda just explain it? Novgorod is Russia’s oldest city.”
Narimasa turned back and found Fuwa had approached within arm’s reach. She took a breath before continuing.
“From their point of view, they are either the true rulers of Russia or an independent trading city. They have their pride as well as the history and economic power to back it up. That’s why Russia purged them and tried to completely annex them.”
“Or so it says in the Testament descriptions. Right, Michi?”
“Shaja,” replied Fuwa as she spoke to Toshiie as well. “But we have our own thoughts on that matter. Novgorod is indeed a trading city, but they restrict their diplomacy and trading to the outside edges of the city. No one ever gets inside the city center.”
“Isn’t that normal? P.A. Oda places stealth barriers over central or important regions and only lets authorized people inside.”
“Yes, but Novgorod has been like that ever since it appeared halfway through the ninth century. And when Ivan the Terrible claimed he was going to conquer the entirety of the city…”
Toshiie looked up at the floating city sitting motionless in the sky.
“Novgorod announced they would self-destruct if they were invaded. During the following negotiations, Novgorod chose to have all of their residents commit suicide and have thus essentially parted ways with Sviet Rus. …Of course, that was probably partially because they were in charge of the history recreation for Uesugi Kagetora, the rebel side of the Uesugi clan’s Siege of Otate. That forced Sviet Rus to keep their distance from Novgorod.”
“But what’s inside that bowl that they’d want to protect that badly?”
“Who knows. Demanding to be left alone to preserve one’s independence isn’t exactly uncommon. But there is one thing we can say about this.”
Toshiie’s breaths were not colored white, but he still took a breath just for show.
“Novgorod has continued on like this for a long, long time without even knowing who it was they let in back then.”
From his shoulder, Matsu pressed her cheek against him.
Oh, Ma-chan! That’s what I’m talking about!! he thought while watching Novgorod.
Several ships were beginning to leave its outer edges.
A moment later, a great noise and light burst in the sky.
It was the noise and light of a hammer striking Novgorod diagonally.
An eight hundred meter P.A. Oda ironclad ship had rammed into it from the southern sky.
“We did it!!”
Fuwa watched the full-speed attack from behind the two boys.
She had asked Shibata to make this recreation of Hashiba’s attack on Magdeburg, which Hashiba had described as, “Make an attack like this: Ei!”
It had definitely hit the floating city, and…
“The second and third ones are on their way!!”
Her words were backed up by two additional strikes.
The total of three attacks shook the night sky and created waves of frosty mist.
An avalanche of smoke was descending the slopes of the distant mountains and even the demons on the snowy plain stopped their approach at the great noise.
The additional hammer strikes had been made, but to Fuwa…
…My ears hurt!!
She had arranged for it herself, but she had not expected it to be so loud.
She had never heard anything that reverberated below her navel and not just in her gut.
…How are Maeda and Sassa fine? Because they’re crazy? Oh, that must mean I’m normal…
“Hey, Fuwa, quit plugging your ears and explain this. Did you arrange for that?”
“Shaja. By which I mean, I asked Shibata. I could predict that Novgorod would have anti-air firepower, so I had some of the ships that flew south slip away and lie in wait. All three scored a solid hit, so even a city of that size will have-…”
That was when the mist overhead cleared.
The first thing she saw was the south face of Novgorod after taking three direct hits.
“Hey,” said Narimasa. “It’s just fine.”
Fuwa pushed up her glasses as she viewed the enemy.
Her three strikes had definitely hit the trade port on the southern end of Novgorod.
She could accept that attack not doing any damage if it had hit the bedrock on the side or bottom, but as the wind blew the ether light out of the way, she got a better view which revealed that…
…It isn’t even damaged.
“That was aiming for the city, so does it have a defense barrier on the same level as Magdeburg?”
As if to confirm that for her, a dull groaning sound came from above.
The wreckage of three ironclad ships scattered into the sky south of Novgorod like they were being brushed off.
“Novgorod has a fully-functioning barrier activated…?”
She knew all too well that it was her naiveté that turned her words into a question, but Toshiie smiled bitterly.
“I think that was the best possible timing for the attack. After all, Novgorod was in the process of sending their warriors out by ship.”
“That’s right. If they activated their barrier then, any ships caught in the middle would’ve been badly damaged and those outside the barrier would’ve been hit by the shockwave of our ships hitting the barrier. Either way, they wouldn’t have fared well.”
Sure enough, a few black fragments were visible in the shadow cast directly below the floating city.
When the three ships had hit, Novgorod’s vanguard had been caught by their own city’s defense barrier or destroyed by the shockwave.
“They abandoned their own warriors?”
“Hashiba would call it ‘the best possible decision’, Michi. Of course, she’d worry over it a bunch too.”
The scene and Toshiie’s tone of voice allowed her to imagine it all, so she closed her eyes.
She brought a hand to her brow, relaxed her eyebrows, and opened her eyes again.
I need to pull myself together, she thought.
In the sky ahead, Novgorod was sending out more boats. The speed of departure had not slowed, as if to say what had just happened was only to be expected.
In that case, thought Fuwa. I can’t let myself feel surprise or anger over what the enemy considers normal.
Everything that happened to the enemy before her eyes was that enemy’s problem, so she did not have to worry about it. She needed to keep her emotional reactions directed toward her allies.
She raised her head.
Beyond Novgorod, the three ironclad ships fell from the sky after being brushed off of the barrier.
Even if they had been unmanned, that was three ships destroyed for nothing. And the blame fell on her naiveté. As the local treasurer, it was her duty to eliminate waste and increase the profitability of their battles. She had planned to accomplish that by bringing an early end to this battle, but she had failed.
“I’m not cut out for this. …Anyway, Maeda, Sassa, I’ll start checking on the number of enemies.”
Based on the size of the port on Novgorod’s southern side, there were seven thousand enemy warriors descending. And…
“Michi, Sviet Rus is sending some additional ships too. You should add another six thousand to your figures.”
“Don’t worry. More importantly, Maeda, Matsu, and Sassa. Will you protect me?”
“If your estimations are correct, then I might have my hands full protecting myself.”
“Coward,” said Matsu.
“Oh, shut up! You try taking all of them on!”
Just as Sassa’s shout echoed across the snowy plain, a wave ran across that plain.
A new line of enemies faced them from that vast field of white snow.
Toshiie checked the battlefield again.
Before, the remaining demon warriors of Sviet Rus’s Ikkou-Ikki had been moving north to fall back, but they had been made into the rear guard as a new vanguard formed with double the numbers.
These demon warriors were the provisional border guards who had arrived from the northeast.
Plus, wooden ships were descending from the sky in the northwest, bringing…
…The dead warriors of Novgorod.
The oars of those hundred-man ships were rowed by Living Dead. Their bodies were covered in a white inner suit that prevented decomposition and they wore masks and helmets over their heads.
They all looked human yet inhuman.
Some had shoulders a size too big, some had lower arms a size too big, and some had arms or legs twice the normal length.
Fuwa gulped once and slowly spoke.
“For the history recreation of the population being purged to a quarter the size, four people were combined into a single Living Dead. Apparently, a lot of them are made from a single family…”
“Three cheers for human resources, huh? Do they think they’re mocking us with those easy physical buffs?”
“Well, one hundred of my ghost warriors combine into one, so I’m still better.”
“Better!” added Matsu.
Fuwa placed a hand on her forehead and looked into the sky, but then she stopped moving.
It was obvious why. The air was shaking as something pushed a great wind toward them.
“Novgorod is descending!”
There was no point in asking why. It would partially be to let the wooden ships descend more quickly, but more importantly…
“There she is.”
Fuwa could see someone standing on a pier sticking out from Novgorod’s southern edge.
She had pale skin and white hair. Her Sviet Rus girls uniform had been dyed pitch black and modified into a dress with decorative wreaths. That uniform was currently whipping in the wind.
Fuwa spoke her name while checking her telescopic insha kotob.
“Marfa, the mayor who oversaw Novgorod’s purge!”
With the sound of the sky being moved, Novgorod descended toward the snowy field. The wind blew, the forest shook, and the giant mass came to a stop just barely above the northern forest.
The mayor looked down on her three thousand warriors as they descended.
A thin smile covered her lips as she opened them and raised her right hand.
A moment later, a giant sankt okno opened in the sky above the snowy plain.
The Orthodox-style screen appeared as a giant window two kilometers across and it displayed Marfa’s face. She kept her right hand raised as she looked clearly at Fuwa and the others.
“Perhaps I should say welcome, P.A. Oda.”
She had a low voice for a woman.
“I am Novgorod Mayor Marfa ‘Vedma’ Boretskaya. I also have the Uesugi clan’s Uesugi Kagetora as a double inherited name. In other words, I’m nothing but trouble for Sviet Rus.”
Marfa spoke to the group down below with a smile on the corner of her mouth.
“P.A. Oda, you did well to take step after step into the territory of the demon warriors of the Ikkou-Ikki and the indigenous religion. …Well done, living warriors. Demonic Shibata’s troops have done a thorough job of this invasion.”
She lowered her right hand.
“Now, how about I show you something neat as a reward?”
Novgorod began to shake as it turned to the side.
The giant floating city was being pushed by something: a group of shells racing through the sky toward their target.
Cannon fire rang out hundreds of times and light sprayed from Novgorod’s upper edge as firing control spells took effect.
Marfa described the high-speed armor-piercing rounds as follows:
“I hope this small sideshow is enough to satisfy you.”
Without leaving a single shell behind, Catholic acceleration spells opened in midair and applied further acceleration to them. The atmosphere was split apart as they flew toward their target.
However, these piercing strikes were not aimed at P.A. Oda’s main fleet.
Every last shell scored a direct hit on the five transport ships that had only just finished carrying down the additional demon warriors.
“To ensure the Ikkou-Ikki and border guards fight to their fullest, I will be rudely interrupting to sink those ships.”
With those words, sounds of destruction rang through the sky.
Five transport ships bearing the crest of Sviet Rus were sunk.
Wind, the light of ether fuel, and flames burst from them all as they fell.
“I see you did not allow your aim to stray. Well done, comrades. …And the light is a free bonus.”
After the smoke and light of the explosions, five burning flames illuminated the snowy plain from diagonally above.
Down below, the demon warriors saw it happening.
They raised cries of protest and anger, but Marfa’s expression did not change. The smile on the corner of her mouth remained in place.
“What’s the matter? They were empty ships, weren’t they? If you need ships to take you home, I will provide them. Or…are you saying you need to leave right away?”
“You are the demon warriors who originally fought P.A. Oda under Suleiman’s command. Surely you aren’t thinking about what happens if you lose here. So I have simply made it easier for you to choose between fighting and living or fighting and dying. …It takes firepower to provide this kind of favor. And…”
She continued while looking to the three young P.A. Oda members standing on the other end of the snowy field.
“M.H.R.R. obtained their spell to control the dead by watching my ancestors, but I am impressed you’ve managed to bring that spell so far. Once again, well done.”
The spell’s user, the one in a red uniform, bowed toward her.
Marfa nodded back, lifted the corner of her mouth even further, and raised her left forearm.
“It couldn’t have been easy fighting this far so you could challenge Novgorod as the gatekeeper of Sviet Rus, so I, ‘Vedma’ Marfa, shall test you.”
“If you can cut your way through my warriors and arrive for an audience with me, Novgorod shall leave Sviet Rus and declare its independence.”
As soon as she lowered her left arm, a wind blew along the earth.
It came from much closer to the P.A. Oda camp than the snowy field. It blew toward the area behind the three standing there.
Figures in white rushed from the forest on either side.
Snow was kicked into the air as a group rushed toward those three and the P.A. Oda camp.
“With my dead warriors and the demon warriors, the only stylish thing to do is to have them burst from the forest with the invisibility spells of the dead. There are two thousand of them. …Now, how will you cut through them?”
Fuwa was the first to react as groups of white charged their way from ahead and either side.
“Waaaaah! Matsu, what are we supposed to do!?”
“…Michi, why didn’t you rely on Na-chan or me first?”
“Hey, if Shibata’s really not gonna make an appearance, then I’ll take care of them all myself. Is that okay?”
Yes, thought Toshiie as a tremor ran through the snowy field.
…Shibata might be planning to stay out of all this.
In that case, what were they supposed to do? He of course felt he had the power needed to handle this, but…
“…Isn’t this weird, Toshi?”
“You think so too, Na-chan?”
“Shaja.” Narimasa nodded and pushed his sunglasses up his nose. “Even if they’re planning to leave it all to us, shouldn’t the camp at least put up their guard? That guy’s probably not letting anyone head out and I think I know what that means.”
“Eh? Eh? What do you think that means? Maeda, Sassa, what is it?”
“Oh, well, it means that Shibata trusts you, Michi. Or rather, that he trusts us to follow through for you.”
Even in the dark, Fuwa’s face visibly paled.
“You don’t mean…”
“I do. I really do, Michi. Shibata is having fun using us as bait to lure out all of the enemy’s forces. And…”
Toshiie turned around.
“And he knows that we can deal with whatever might happen.”
A single figure was visible in the camp back there.
It was a feminine figure. She was slender and she wore a Sviet Rus coat over her M.H.R.R. girls uniform to protect against the cold. She raised her hand and shouted over to them.
“Maedaaa, Sassaaa, Fuwaaa! Dinner’s ready!”
“Is that…?” asked Fuwa. “Lady Oichi!?”
“That’s right.” said Oichi as she continued waving their way. “What’s the matter? Why are you just standing out there?”
Toori: Sis! Sis! I’m not quite sure why we’re explaining a P.A. Oda battlefield, but it must be destiny! It’s destiny, ain’t it!?
Kimi: Heh heh heh. Destiny brother, hogging all the appearances for yourself is one of the perks of being a winner. And that kind of winner loves being brought some sake to celebrate. …I’m talking about myself, of course.
Toori: But to get serious, what’s going on here?
Top right of map: North
2: Sviet Rus Demon Warriors
3: Novgorod Dead Warriors
4: Toshiie and Fuwa
5: Sviet Rus Unit that Moved Ahead
Kimi: That pretty much sums it up. The main Sviet Rus force is pushing in as a solid wall while another unit has moved on ahead. That unit could have either made a pincer attack on the three in the middle or continued on to the P.A. Oda camp, but then Oichi showed up.
Toori: Oh, that Narimasa guy who ignored my porn game recommendation is there… That guy’s a terrible friend…
Kimi: Hey, now. You don’t know if he sees you as a friend or not.
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