Horizon:Volume 4C Chapter 81

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Chapter 81: Forerunner in the Sky[edit]

Horizon4C 0547.jpg

The one who goes

And the one who receives

Without fear

Point Allocation (Struggle)


A red light blossomed in the northern night sky.

It was fire. On the north end of a giant hemispherical floating city, the black P.A. Oda galleys defending on the west exchanged cannon fire with the blue Sviet Rus hulk battleships lined up from the north to the east.

The blue fleet was led by the Naoe Fleet which had giant sankt oknos displaying the Far Eastern character for “love” on their bows. Those armored ships were high mobility models with pressurization thrusters on the sides more than the back, so they led the fleet forward while seemingly taking steps to the left and right.

“Now! Give all your love to meeee!”

When Naoe blew a kiss from the bow of his flagship, the black galleys fired physical shells his way.

“Die!!!”

“Homosexuality is banned in Mlasi!”

“But polygamy is A-OK!”

The men on the black galleys shouted “That’s right!” while applauding each other and firing. With the sound of clashing iron and sparks, the blue flagship was gradually worn down. But as his flagship took the hits, Naoe oddly began doing squats.

“Lovely, everyone! Simply fabulous! Such a fabulous exchange of love!”

Sankt okno appeared across Naoe’s flagship.

“This is my ‘Punishment of Love’ spell that converts the energy of your impacts into power! …We are told to turn the other cheek! And we are told to give generously to our neighbors. Our neighbors…!?”

The flagship flew out from Naoe’s fleet and Naoe pointed at the P.A. Oda fleet with both index fingers.

“Would that be you!?”

Immediately, Naoe’s flagship fired ether back from every last one of its cannons. They were aimed at precisely the galleys that had fired on it and the shells took advantage of being made from ether.

“Take my generous offering!! Ether shells of love shaped like hearts!!”

Several pink heart shapes measuring five meters across twisted through the night sky. The black galleys were pounded by one pink shell after another. The fragments after they hit were smaller heart shapes and they easily pierced the armor of the black galleys they hit.

And that was not all.

One of the black galleys retreating toward Novgorod’s west side was falling behind the others.

“Master Kanetsugu!” shouted Naoe’s aide. “That is clearly bait! They’re trying to hold us back!”

“I don’t mind! That means it is a present, doesn’t it!?”

Naoe spun his arms, spread them, and struck a smiling pose with closed eyes and wrinkled brow.

A moment later, eight large spell shells fired from Naoe’s ship. They formed giant heart shapes, they surrounded the slower ship, and they spun around it like a top.

“Heart Shock: Kanetsugu!!”

Naoe formed a heart shape with his arms, spread his legs, and lowered his hips.

Immediately, a heart of light exploded in the night sky.

“Isn’t love fabulous!? It contains an unbearable power!”

But beyond the loudly sinking galley, the enemy fleet had changed form. They built a crisscrossing formation that acted like a wall on the west end of Novgorod.

“Oh?” breathed Naoe. “You don’t plan to buy any time, but you want us to use up our ammunition. You want to hold us off in different ways while your fleet falls back. And you want to attack us to position our formation to the north and control our advance. Is that your plan? Since you’re choosing a defense that looks to the future…”

The corners of Naoe’s mouth loosened.

“That’s Sakuma in charge, isn’t it!? Does that mean Mori is there too!?”


Sakuma’s fleet watched Naoe as he was displayed large in the night sky.

He aimed his fingers at them in a matchlock gun gesture and winked.

“Baaaang…♪”

On Sakuma’s flagship at the back of the fleet, Mori spoke from an insha kotob.

“L-Lady Sakuma! Lady Sakuma! I-I don’t like him!”

“Yeah, yeah. Don’t worry about it. No one does.”

“Th-that doesn’t help! Wh-whenever I’m anywhere near him, he runs over and – just when I think he’s going to kick or punch me – he pulls out his spell bench and sits down right next to me!”

“Are you sure you don’t get along? It kinda sounds like you do.”

“I-I’m a guy! And I, um, decided I would live a life of p-pure love! That’s the only way I can recover from the trauma of that Dark Continent evil god cult capturing me and making me rape 24/7! This…this isn’t the same as an a-adorable relationship where you give each other a quick kiss first thing in the morning! This is wrong. I-I am going to m-marry someone who will kindly guide me in the right direction!”

“Why do guys always feel the need to give themselves excessive hurdles? As long as I can maintain my lifestyle, I’m not too picky.”

“Th-the greater the obstacle, the more exciting it is!”

“Then why not Naoe? Isn’t that a hell of a major obstacle? Am I wrong?”

“H-he’s a guy too!”

“Then go capture him and give him a sex change. Wouldn’t that solve it? And doesn’t that only make it a bigger obstacle? Or am I wrong again?”

“Hmm,” thought Mori while twisting around as if tying himself into about three knots. “S-sorry, Lady Sakuma, but it seems I’m just pretty conservative when it comes to love.”

“Is this really the time to start talking about yourself? Want some candy when we meet up again?”

“Oh, y-yes! I love the mint flavor! I feel so refreshed after eating it!”

The guys on the deck twisted their legs inward and stopped moving, so the girls…

“Is that how it works?”

“Again, we can’t do that!!”

Then a spell circle placed a defense barrier above the ship. The Sviet Rus fleet led by Naoe’s fleet had started firing on them as it circled north to land on Novgorod.

Occasionally, one of the enemy shells would reach Sakuma’s flagship at the back of the fleet. “Oh,” said Sakuma as she looked up at the shattering shell which had been fired with a great boom from the Russian fleet.

Then an insha kotob displaying Toshiie and Matsu appeared in front of her.

“Sakuma, Sviet Rus has managed to avoid a direct battle with Shibata’s fleet to the south, haven’t they?”

“Even if they keep at it like this, they’ll just have to deal with Shiba’s fleet later. They’re probably just avoiding that harsh reality for now. Or am I wrong?”

“Sakuma, what about Mayoress Marfa and the Chancellor Prince of Orange?”

“They still haven’t moved from the city hall. There’s a lot underground there, isn’t there?”

“Testament. It is a dangerous place.”

“I see,” said Sakuma. “I’ll use everything I can before passing it off to Shiba. Although I don’t have the same attack instincts as Kuki or Ichimasu, so I can’t go on the offensive. But slowly wearing them down as a defender is more my style, right? Or am I wrong?”

With that, she looked to the Sviet Rus fleet deployed on the northern end of Novgorod.

“Now, let’s see how much effort they’ll put into this.”


At the head of the Sviet Rus fleet, Naoe’s fleet ascended into the sky north of Novgorod.

A shallow hill rose in the center of Novgorod. Ships were exchanging fire over that hill, but Naoe had something to check on.

Why did they let us land so easily!?

Arriving on the battlefield meant going through two stages: movement and landing. Immediately after landing, they had few men and could not build much of a formation. They would normally be attacked at that point, but the enemy had already landed from the south while allowing them to land.

The northern land port was wide open, but Sakuma’s fleet was slowly spreading out in the sky to the northwest of Novgorod. Sakuma was known for defense and playing the rear guard, so it was a slow but dense advance.

Then…

Naoe shouted into a sankt okno.

“Ivan the Terrible! This is a trap! But should we go for it anyway!?”

“Heh. …What kind of trap is it? Tell me…”

“Testament. It would be simplest to assume they are splitting us up between a ground unit and the fleet! If their ships begin firing, we will be unable to land or pick up the ground unit, but unfortunately for us, Sakuma-kun is a defense expert! The shellfire will drag on and on, so the ground unit will be unable to go anywhere! That would be a problem, wouldn’t it!?”

“How clever of them… Defense can be so indirect. …Can you deal with this?”

“Testament! …Of course!”

“Then,” said an elderly warrior. It was Saitou, the commander of the fleet behind Naoe’s. “Allow me to be the first to land on Novgorod!”


“So Naoe-san will handle defense while Saitou-san’s landing unit goes on ahead. They’re all terribly inefficient with their excessive focus on attack, but they’re trustworthy. They should be especially effective in a short-term battle like this.”

Shigenaga’s Fukushima Castle took the lead of the fourth and final Sviet Rus fleet. The diplomatic ship’s equipment had been swapped out to make it a defense ship.

The deck on which they held the privet was still flat, but the bottom of the sides had plenty of gun cannons sticking out horizontally with the deck acting as an umbrella.

Shigenaga asked a question of those behind her as she viewed the shimmering of the cannons’ standby heat rising from the slits on the top of the deck.

“You’re waiting for the Musashi, aren’t you?”

She was answered by Musashi’s 1st Special Duty Officer. The ninja started with a nod.

“Even if we are to act as mercenaries, that ability is based on the Musashi. It would be difficult for us to act on our own while separated from it.”

The English princess and silver wolf stood behind him, but…

“Hm? …Where is my king? And Horizon too?”

“Oh, you can see them here.”

The English princess’s sign frame displayed the ship’s kitchen where the crossdresser was swinging a metal pot around.

“Okay! For today’s Boobs Cooking Show, we’re doing a cabbage dish. Russia pickles things to preserve them, so I’ll be mixing that with some chicken and rice. Chowing down on some rice and getting that homemade flavor is great after returning from the battlefield, right? I’ll even add in some sesame oil, so it’ll preserve pretty well even if you just leave it out.”

“Toori-sama, the salt is first, but how much should I use?”

“Oh, about three pinch-…”

The princess punched him and the crossdresser uttered a coquettish cry.

“I-if anything, isn’t this when I’m supposed to grope your boobs!? Based on the show’s name?”

“I have changed the name to Kitchen of Death. Now, tell me the exact amount of salt.”

They all ignored what the glaring princess said with a wooden pestle in her right hand as well as the sounds of impact that followed, but the idiot finally spoke over the divine transmission.

“We’ll have something tasty ready when you get back, so make sure you all do come back.”

Kagekatsu laughed quietly on another sankt okno when he heard that.

“I look forward to it. Some Far Eastern food would be nice on occasion.”

Viewing that as permission, voices rose from Saitou’s fleet.

“славатоварищ…!”

“Oh?” said Shigenaga as her eyebrows rose.

“What was that ‘oh?’ for?” asked the silver wolf who walked up next to her.

“I thought Saitou-san was going to say ‘glory to Musashi’, but…”

He has said ‘comrades’ instead. Speaking to his men even after what Kagekatsu had said may have been Saitou’s way of showing his embarrassment. But…

He too was lamenting the stagnation of Oushuu and Sviet Rus.

Then he gave another exceptionally loud cry.

The vanguard had landed on Novgorod.

Unlike the fields on the south end, Novgorod’s north end had a lot of warehouses to support the land port. But while it was well suited for landing, the south was blocked by a tall cliff, making anyone landing there the perfect target.

Due to the cliff, the landing unit could not advance south to the city and had to choose the eastward path. And when they did…

“————!!”

P.A. Oda began firing on the landing unit from the slope of the hill on the east end of the land port.

Shigenaga raised her right hand in response.

“Begin covering fire, comrades!”

Sakuma’s fleet provided a thick defense in the western sky while the enemy’s counterattack unit was moving toward their landing team from the east. Cannon fire erupted from Sviet Rus’s main fleet to the north.

The battlefield’s initial preparations were complete and they were shifting to the next stage.


For the first shift in the battlefield, Sviet Rus’s warriors advanced with Saitou Tomonobu in the lead.

Their destination was Novgorod’s city hall. Arriving there would mean they had retaken Nanao Castle.

They were headed east. Novgorod’s northern land port was a wide open space with many warehouses, but that had dug deep into the hill to the south, creating a cliff.

Reaching the central Novgorod city hall directly from the north would be difficult.

Sakuma’s fleet was holding the sky to the west, so Saitou had one option:

“Circle around to the east!”

Saitou was the oldest of Sviet Rus’s current warriors. Since he was human rather than a demon, he knew he could not match the demons in years, but his advanced age had taught him when to quit and when to give it his all. Not only did he have that ‘youthful’ thinking, but he felt he thought differently from the naturally powerful demons.

And the instincts that gave him had allowed him to survive otherwise deadly situations on a few occasions.

This was the same.

“Saitou-sama!”

His men were falling behind him as he ran.

He could tell why when he looked back with a bitter smile. The enemy’s counterattack and their allies’ covering fire were both exploding up ahead and all around them.

Stone was shattering and dirt poured down like rain.

Even demons could be driven by fear when immersed in the night. So…

“C’mon! C’mon, you little kids! Why are you letting an old man like me out ahead? What happened to all that bragging you do on the training ground?”

He worked to keep his tone light. And if they could not accomplish that…

“Come with me, kids! …My legs are shorter than yours, but it looks like they can take me farther and faster than yours. I’ll take the lead for now, so follow me!”

“T-testament!!”

He received a response, so Saitou’s expression changed as his hair fluttered in the explosive blasts.

His smile lost its bitterness and he nodded.

“Then…let us do this.”


Saitou’s warriors led the first landing unit as they fulfilled their role as an assault unit.

Saitou led the charge down the coastal route from north to east Novgorod.

It was a ruined early summer field which had originally been a wheat field.

The wheat and wild grass had grown to knee height and the night wind blew across it.

Saitou continued through it.

When he stepped on the grass, he pressed his feet backwards. That knocked the grass back, prevented it from interfering with the movement of his legs, and pushed him upwards as when it sprang back up.

An M.H.R.R. rifle unit, a P.A. Oda firing unit, and a few gunner ships that Sakuma’s fleet had sent to the east all had the same plan:

“Aim…!”

Illumination spells rose into the night sky above Novgorod.

But as the illumination drew white lines behind them, they only lit up Saitou. He had temporarily run out ahead of the others so they would not be targeted and he charged into the counterattack units from the right.

“…!”

There was no time to speak or receive the word “fire”. They had to react instantly.

The M.H.R.R. rifle unit was unlucky because they wore mobile shells to solidify themselves for firing.

The P.A. Oda firing unit was unlucky because they had prioritized maintaining a light weight and were only equipped with short swords for a close-range fight.

As soon as Saitou charged in, something expanded from his back to behind his right arm.

It was a folding screen made from four panels. And the picture…

“Zhong Kui.”

That was a demonic warrior from the continent. He was said to drive out evil and people prayed to him for victory, but…

“I suppose only one should be enough.”

The folding screen’s picture flew.

No, each panel was removed as thick rectangular blades and Saitou held the hilt at the bottom.

“————”

He ran and made four attacks which slipped through the air with no resistance.

Saitou continued forward, and…

“Impurity begone.”

Immediately, a series of destruction and cutting occurred behind him.

The defense of the M.H.R.R. mobile shells was useless against the thick blades and P.A. Oda’s lightweight equipment was no help in dodging the blades.

And when Saitou gathered the folding screen sword back together in his right arm, there was no blood on it.

But the line of counter-attackers raised their defenses as he ran forward. The enemy had more than one formation. Shellfire from the ships flew his way. They had used the previous illumination rounds to lock on, so they fired an army’s worth of attacks toward Saitou.

All he did was run.

He seemed to fly above the grass while occasionally bending backwards and spinning around.

“Toh.”

With just a few light movements, he dodged every last bit of it. Then those following him only had to follow his footprints.

“Hey…”

One of the demon students running full speed behind him managed to speak up despite being entirely out of breath.

“Why can’t they hit us or Saitou-san…?”

“He is the Zhong Kui of Echigo.” Said another while gulping. “He is Zhong Kui, the warrior who drives out evil. …Through his age and experience, he just has to look at the battlefield to know where the enemy is, where they will attack from, and where to attack them from. Even at night, Saitou-san can see everything…”

And that went beyond himself at this point. If those following him were also safe…

“They say with age you learn when to give up, but how far ahead can he read the battlefield?”

Saitou ran steadily along ahead of them.

And when he reached the enemy’s second formation…

“…!”

Shellfire tried to pass by him on the right.

He would not need to dodge far to let it pass him by, but if he did that, the blast would hit those following him.

And that was why he took action.

He leaped high in the air, spun like a top, and expanded his folding screen sword. Instead of splitting it into four, he constructed an extra thick blade with two of them front to back and two of them side to side.

“Take this.”

A smooth side swing split the ship’s attack.

The shell continued on, seemingly unaware it had been sliced in two until the air got in the slice and it floated up.

“Break apart.”

The shell hopped chaotically through the air, separated into two pieces, crashed into the atmosphere, and broke apart.

Saitou used the blast to leap into the enemy’s second formation from diagonally above them.

Instead of sweeping the enemy away, he simply sliced through them, and…

“Vice Chancellor!”

The corner of his eye glanced into the night sky and he gave a shout.

“Sakuma’s fleet is moving in the west!”

A fleet was arriving from the western sky in order to separate them from the unit landing after them. It was the galley fleet commanded by Sakuma. It moved slowly, but its presence grew like a great cumulonimbus cloud. However…

“Well done.”

Saitou commented on it as he cut through the enemy formation.

A moment later, red flowers bloomed in the night sky where Sakuma’s fleet flew. A few of the P.A. Oda galleys had burst into flames and exploded.

He knew what had caused these midair flames.

“Shigenaga’s fleet has begun a privet, hasn’t it?”


“Very interesting. Don’t you think, Toby?”

A white hallway was made from white birch wood.

It was part of the white birch city hall building on the hill of central Novgorod.

Someone was looking out of its northward-facing windows.

“Lady Marfa. …P.A. Oda’s Sakuma fleet is taking damage.”

“Of course it is. War is a game of subtraction. Both sides bet everything they’ve built up and, if you screw up, you can either get stubborn or pull out. That’s all it is. Given P.A. Oda’s great national power, they can afford to lose a fleet here. Sakuma has inherited the names of both Nobumori and Morimasa. That means she’s both the ‘Retreating Sakuma’ and the ‘Demon Sakuma’. She isn’t going to think about escaping this unscathed.”

Marfa did not stop walking. A rumbling filled the sky and she smiled at being able to hear the exchange of blows and trumpet blasts from so far away.

“A wonderful sound. Such a wonderful sound. Leave it to Shigenaga to let us hear this at night.”

“Meanwhile, we have finished establishing our overhead defenses. We will have a physical defense barrier over the city for the next seven hours.”

“So everyone who comes here will have to do it by foot and climb the hill, will they? This is reminding me of Sundays back when I was a kid. I would use every break I had to climb the hill to see if there was anything there, and I would always come back having gained something.”

“What kinds of things did you gain?”

“Everything that made me who I am now. Is that too realistic and boring?”

“No.” Toby shook his head. “That is a very poetic way of thinking.”

“That’s pretty poetic itself coming from someone who can’t read poetry.”

Marfa smiled a little, but that must have satisfied her because her expression grew flat.

“Toby, how’s our guest?”

“Testament. I sent him to the secret sector belowground. The key was a copy of yours, so it will only work this one time.”

“Not even I understand that place, so I wonder if he’ll know what it means.”

“Yes.” Toby tilted his head. “It was a strange place, wasn’t it? After all…” His voice was nearly drowned out by the blaring trumpets outside. “To think there was a continuation to the images that tell the story of the Anti-Decline Pro-Tuning Project during the Age of Dawn.”

“Is that supposed to be imaginary, a symbol, or…something else? If our guest can answer that, I’d like to hear it. I can offer the answer up to the past mayors.”

“Testament.”

Toby walked out ahead of Marfa and gestured in a certain direction: the center of the city hall. The great hall there was a circular space filled with darkness. But the lights of the night shined down from the ceiling in the center.

Marfa walked there.

“Toby, open the door. We have guests coming, so we need to give them the warmest of welcomes. And then you…”

“Testament. I know my primary enemy will be here, but I have business I must hurry back to deal with.”

“One of your people died?”

Toby nodded his head.

“Based on the ascending light, they did a fine job of fulfilling themselves. …So I must apologize. I had wanted to protect this place to repay you, Lady Marfa.”

“You’ve done enough, Toby. You brought in external information and preserved my connection to Kagekatsu and the others. According to the Testament descriptions, you drove out the Uesugi clan and you have done an excellent job of fulfilling that role. I have no interest in dragging someone into a conflict when they have somewhere they need to be.”

“You are most forgiving.”

Toby bowed deeply and Marfa reached out her hand. She pressed her index finger against his forehead.

“Take care.”

Toby answered by vanishing. There were no footsteps and the air did not move, but he left.

So Marfa smiled bitterly. She placed a hand on her hair and swept it into the chilly air.

“Now, Shigenaga is being her usual self in the northern sky. The battlefield is going to change soon. Yes…the winds will change.”

She shook her hair as she spoke and she maintained the bitter smile of having one of her people leave.

A moment later, a great noise from the northern sky filled the hallway behind her.

As Shigenaga’s fleet continued their privet, one of its ships collided with the air and was destroyed.

The ringing of metal, the explosions, and the reverberation of falling debris were all caused by one thing.

“A powerful, wide-range defense barrier. …That must mean the Jurakudai has arrived.”

So…

“Niwa Nagahide of the Six Heavenly Demon Armies has joined the battle. This is about to get even more exciting.”


The fires of collision and destruction scattered through the sky.

The fleet of large hulks had had its privet rejected.

A Kraken-class ship measuring just below 800 meters had collided head-on with a defense barrier while upside down. The ship’s layered structure shattered as it shrank down to half its length.

Then the ship’s power flowed back into the rear engines. The engines exceeded their limits, the activated ether fuel flowed back into the fuel tank, and it all reacted at once.

“Abandon ship!!”

They had planned to abandon the ship and attack after the privet, and that proved helpful. They had been controlling the ship through spells on the deck, so they could all immediately run off the deck.

“Dammit…!”

The crew threw themselves into the air while illuminated by the giant defense barrier.

Then two things happened.

First, the Jurakudai arrived south of Novgorod.

And second…

“Okay, let’s continue advancing defensively! Let’s try it out! Isn’t that our only choice!?”

On Sakuma’s flagship, Sakuma spun her small body around on the bow of the deck. She pulled out a Catholic Holy Spell charm for a voice amplification spell and rolled it into a megaphone.

“Forward…!!”

With that, a gentle wind pushed on the entire fleet as the wall-like formation of galleys moved forward. The defense barrier sent from the Jurakudai was positioned ahead of them, so they could use most of their power for attack.

“Fire all weapons…!”

Sakuma’s fleet tore into the Sviet Rus fleet lined up in something of a straight line from north to east of Novgorod.


Sakuma’s covering fire and advance through the western sky slowly broke apart the Sviet Rus fleet.

But Sviet Rus did not flee. They were landing on the north end of Novgorod. Saitou’s landing fleet was made up of 12 Kraken-class hulks and it was destroyed by the 32 galleys of Sakuma’s defense fleet.

Even with a concentrated defense, they could not let up in their protection of the landing unit. So Saitou’s fleet was unable to move and was torn apart and destroyed by Sakuma’s fleet now that its power was focused on attack.

But Sakuma’s fleet did not move any further forward than necessary.

They maintained an effective firing range from Saitou’s landing fleet and did not move any further forward until Sviet Rus’s front line moved back.

“They like to play dirty, don’t they!?”

Shigenaga watched from behind Naoe’s first fleet, Saitou’s crumbling fleet, and Kagekatsu’s fleet in front of her.

“Chancellor!”

“Stay where you are, Shigenaga. Do you wish to shame Saitou with your worries?” Kagekatsu spoke from a sankto okno. “My third fleet will move to protect the second fleet. First fleet…Naoe, you move to destroy Sakuma’s fleet from the sky. That is an order.”


KageV: “Waaahhh! Saitou-san! Saitou-san! Are you all right!?”

Tomo-no-Bu: “Well, I’m behind the hill already, so I can’t actually see my fleet. I can only leave this to you.”

Love Man: “Ha ha ha! So I’ve got the best spot, do I!? I’m so popular!”

Shigeko: “For some reason, I feel like I’m missing out here…”


Saitou arrived on the east side of Novgorod’s central hill.

The P.A. Oda camp was to the south. The black galleys and groups of warriors in black M.H.R.R. uniforms could be seen in silhouette here and there. Occasionally, the moon-like color of a P.A. Oda uniform would come into view, but…

That is a diversion.

Sakuma had likely come up with the formation. It was thick and was meant to draw the enemy in before firing, so it was just like “Retreating Sakuma”.

But, thought Saitou. The Jurakudai was a problem as it circled west from the southern sky. It was braking after its high acceleration, so the back end was still turning behind it a bit, but it was already effective as a defensive ship.

It had strengthened the defensive wall of Sakuma’s defensive fleet in the northwest sky.

And in the northern sky, the Sviet Rus fleet stretched east and west while it took fire and damage from the Sakuma fleet thanks to its strengthened defenses.

But…

Well done, Kagekatsu-sama.

Naoe’s fleet was firing on Sakuma’s fleet from above. That was standard practice. If a fleet was to strengthen its defenses, it had to increase its density, so this would keep a fleet from expanding vertically. And a defense formation made from 32 galleys was no exception.

Of course, Naoe’s fleet was not doing any effective damage to Sakuma’s fleet thanks to the Jurakudai’s assistance, but the attack held Sakuma’s fleet in check and prevented it from moving forward.

And while Naoe created that umbrella of shellfire, Kagekatsu’s fleet moved to protect the landing unit at Novgorod’s northern land port.

Kagekatsu’s decision was shrewd because…

He smartly abandoned my fleet!

Even the unharmed ships stopped at the land port had been abandoned. That would force the landing unit to evacuate onto Kagekatsu’s fleet, but it also allowed the abandoned ships to act as a wall against Sakuma’s fleet for the ground unit as well as a barrier if Sakuma’s fleet wanted to land.

Even if some of the ships were unharmed, they could not afford to drag them along. By taking action early, Kagekatsu’s fleet would be less damaged as they moved to protect the landing unit. And…

“Well done.”

While Naoe’s and Kagekatsu’s fleets took action, Saitou saw a few more preparatory actions underway.

The enemy’s forces were more than double theirs, but Kagekatsu had not given up on piercing them and he did not think that was impossible.

Then, thought Saitou. We must keep time moving.

By arriving at Novgorod’s city hall, they could end the Battle of Nanao Castle.

They could take back Nanao Castle which had defected to Oda’s side.

Kagekatsu had to understand what that meant. After all…

“That means to bring Novgorod back to Sviet Rus!”

To put it another way, Novgorod would oppose P.A. Oda as soon as they arrived.

And Saitou knew who had to want to move that along more than anyone:

It has to be Kagekatsu-sama…!

Kagekatsu was forcing himself into a strategy of endurance. He forced himself to take the lead and receive the enemy’s attacks.

Hm, thought Saitou as he stopped at the foot of the hill.

His men came to a stop about 100 meters behind him, but he gestured for them to not approach and he faced forward.

Someone stood there in Novgorod’s eastern wasteland.

They stood on the path up the hill to Novgorod’s city.

The westward path up the hill had been poorly maintained and was now covered in grass. Due to melting snow, accumulated dirt formed occasional shelves on the hillside.

The person in the grass stared straight at Saitou.

The woman wore her P.A. Oda girls uniform in a simple fashion. Cloth was wrapped around her body in places and around her hair, and she had the number “2” written on her uniform.

“I am Niwa Nagahide, #2 of both P.A. Oda’s Six Heavenly Demon Armies and Five Great Peaks.”

“I am Sviet Rus 1st Special Duty Officer…Saitou Tomonobu.”

Saitou spread his arms a little and prepared for battle.

The wind blew through and the sounds of impacts reverberated across the sky. Niwa calmly looked up toward those sounds.

“Are you going to do this despite all that?’

“It is unavoidable.”

“Shaja,” replied Niwa. “Then-…”

Before she could finish speaking, Saitou charged forward.

He expanded his left folding screen sword. As a precaution, he had not shown this left one before, but now he swept it forward.

“…!”

He slid the blade forward and slammed it into her.