Horizon:Volume 4C Chapter 84
Chapter 84: Arriving Pursuer
But even that
Is not a greeting
Point Allocation (Good Evening)
Mitotsudaira saw movement as she cleared a path toward the hill.
It was Maeda Toshiie. He turned toward the P.A. Oda gods of war arriving from the south.
“Okay, this is all yours, Mori!”
“Oh, hey! Are you trying to flee!?”
“It’s called a strategic withdrawal! Oh, whoops. I need to make it convincing, don’t I!? …Wh-what!? I have to make a temporary withdrawal now of all times!?”
“Now of all times!?” echoed Matsu.
Mitotsudaira found it odd that Toshiie inexplicably made a show of jumping into the air before leaving, but she still observed their surroundings from the lead.
Currently, skeleton and combined corpse warriors covered mostly the middle section of the hill, but…
“Nate. …The path we need to take looks pretty wide open.”
The presence of Date’s gods of war meant a lot.
They were especially effective against the large skeletons created by combining the small ones and the large apes.
Date’s dragon knights corresponded to the mounted riflemen in the Testament descriptions.
They would use their guns at long range, their spears at mid range, and their swords at close range.
Meanwhile, something arrived from the southern field Toshiie had disappeared into.
It was the P.A. Oda gods of war that Narumi and the others had seen. There were 17 in all. That looked like a lot, but Date’s god of war unit was well trained. And in Mitotsudaira’s opinion…
…The P.A. Oda gods of war are moving weirdly.
They seemed to be dragging their feet somewhat and walking with their hips. And as soon as she arrived at the path up the hill, the enemy gods of war arrived within range of Date’s rifles.
It was a distance of about 200 meters.
With spell homing, a hit was guaranteed at that distance. Even if the enemy used defense spells…
…That’s close enough to shoot through them, isn’t it?
As soon as she thought that, Date formed a firing line and opened fire.
Date’s god of war unit attacked in groups of three. Three gods of war took turns firing on and defeating the leftmost and rightmost of the enemy’s 17 gods of war.
Spell gunpowder constantly burst from the firing line and the gunfire echoed across the hill and into the sky.
They ignored the large skeletons that rose up at mid range.
“Everyone, focus on the enemy god of war unit!”
While their commander barked instructions, the enemy gods of war on the far left and right were destroyed. The armor split, the upper bodies bent back, they took a step back, and…
They collapsed. Meanwhile, another enemy and, a breath later, yet another were destroyed.
“Ohh!” cheered the demon assault unit following the Musashi group and trying to get behind cover. They were also worried about Sakuma’s fleet approaching the northern Sviet Rus fleet in the western sky. “Looks like we can leave this to Date!!”
While they said that, the P.A. Oda gods of war were struck and shattered by the flying bullets. The roar of gunfire reverberated through the air and spell gunpowder charms scattered as ether light. The sound and light shook the ground like an earthquake and even the demons covered their auditory organs with their hands. But suddenly…
“Huh…? What’s up with the number of enemy gods of war?”
The others looked 200 meters ahead as well and counted the number of gods of war, including those that had collapsed from the gunfire.
“That’s odd,” someone said. “Wasn’t it 17?”
But for some reason…
“6 of them disappeared!?”
Before they even finished the question, the Date gods of war suddenly moved.
They fell back. And it was a forced retreat using the wings on their back.
The wind shattered as the giant forms moved. Flying at ground level created something much like an explosion of air.
Four of the gods of war were safe, but the other two were pounded into the ground by massive falling objects.
The Date gods of war had their armor broken and were knocked to the ground by what descended from above.
“The 6 P.A. Oda gods of war!?”
“Impossible,” shouted one of the demons. “Even Date’s gods of war use their flight devices when they make a jump! So what was that!? How far did those Oda ones jump!?”
It had been a distance of 200 meters. And…
“They did it without flight devices!?”
However, they could not continue asking their questions. Even if there was a trick to it, the facts remained the same.
So they raised their guard. Their sharp gaze watched as the enemies stood up. Two of them seemed to crawl along the gods of war they had crushed and the four that had been dodged pulled themselves up from the ground after half embedding themselves in it.
The P.A. Oda gods of war stood up with loose and wriggling movements.
Then the Date gods of war made a charge. They were targeting the two enemies that had struck their own. If they were to protect their comrades, they needed to eliminate the enemy gods of war on top of them.
They charged with their spears held at their waists and they thrust them straight forward, but…
“What is with these things!?”
Two of the four were blown away.
They had been struck.
The P.A. Oda gods of war did not seem to mind having spears stabbed half of their length into their stomachs or chests and they knocked the Date gods of war away with a backhand punch.
That technique of great and impressive strength was a simple one.
The P.A. Oda gods of war had thick limbs, and…
“What was that sensation and that way they bent…?”
The untouched commander and second-in-command raised their guard, as did another that had recovered after being knocked away.
They saw the six gods of war stand up with two words imprinted on their bodies: Boneless Men.
That was the name of these gods of war.
“It can’t be…”
The Date commander spoke the identity of this oddity they were up against.
It explained the ability to leap more than 200 meters, to keep moving even after taking a spear, and to send a heavy god of war flying in a single blow.
“Do they have no skeletal frame…? Are they primarily made of artificial muscle!?”
“That’s it all right. Although it can be pretty dangerous cause they’re a bit hard to control.”
On the flagship at the rear of Sakuma’s fleet, Sakuma smiled while operating a command insha kotob.
“Mori, how about it? How are things fighting in a major position?”
Mory: “Oh! Yes! The inside of the god of war is so pleasant that I just about give into my desires if I let my guard down! But I can restrain myself!”
Mori Nagayoshi was a tentacle creature. His entire body was mostly muscle fiber, so after taking him in, Hashiba had suggested they might see something amazing if they put him in a mobile shell or god of war.
…Although it took a lot of work to actually reach the idea of making a frameless god of war.
On Toshiie’s suggestion, they had started by having him wear a cheap mobile shell, but the cylinder of armor had seemed meaningless when moving at high speed and jumping around. It had also created a dangerous visual, so they had rejected it. Especially bad was the inner suit developed for Mori to make sure he was not harmed by the mobile shell itself. When Narimasa had seen it…
“What’s this giant rubber product? Oh, it’s Mori’s? It suits you.”
That unnecessary comment had hurt Mori’s heart, so they had given up on the idea.
They had ultimately placed him in a god of war designed for him, but…
“Are you still not used to piloting it? Or am I wrong?”
Mory: “I can move the one around just fine! So don’t worry! I have right turns, left turns, and curving upwards down pat!”
“That sounds worrying in a number of ways, but whatever. I’m sure it’s fine. …But just the one?”
“That’s right,” said Mori.
Mory: “My mind can’t directly reach the separated ones, so my control is less certain.”
“So you have a ton of tentacles, but you don’t use most of them as primary tentacles very often? Or do I have that wrong?”
Mory: “That’s right. …Back when I was captured by that Dark Continent evil god cult, they had me drugged which simplified my actions, so I could move all of them. But right now, I can only move about 12 of them to their full capacity. I need to work harder at training. …Oh, but I’ll do my very best in this battle! That will help Lady Hashiba too!!”
“I see,” said Sakuma as her ears picked up the sounds of Mori’s battle from beyond the cannon fire.
Mori mostly fought using the limbs. His great strength turned them into thick whips which delivered blows powerful enough to move a Dragon-class transport ship.
…But his greatest advantage is his defensive strength.
With no frame, the muscle fibers were merely bundled up at the important points that corresponded to joints. The lubrication system and everything else was unified without being bound to a skeletal frame, so it all came down to his sturdiness and ability to regenerate.
He could regenerate from a simple blade attack and blunt impacts were absorbed by the flexibility of the muscle fibers. They would bend like rubber and none of the force would get through to him. And then…
Mory: “Reaction Punch…!”
He sent the reaction to the blow right back toward his enemy.
He was nothing but trouble for anyone fighting him.
The enemy would feel like they had run across a strange monster. And this monster was well trained in combat against gods of war.
“He can control several at once with the shared memory, huh? Hashiba’s eye for talent is as unbelievable as ever.”
…I need to do my best!!
It was night and he was inside a god of war.
Even so, that qualified as “outside” for him.
It was a stark contrast to a few years before. Back when even his memories were unclear, he had been trapped for a long, long time in a dark, damp, stuffy place that was occasionally filled with smoke.
There had been people there, but they had not been there for him to speak with and he had been in no state to do so regardless. His time there had been nothing more than flesh, warmth, wriggling, and exchanging dampness, but…
…At some point, I saw light.
His memories of that time were unclear. The dampness had remained and he had been exhausted, but he had seen light in the darkness.
It had been the light of the outside.
It had been his first time seeing light and it had been a bright white, but once his sensory organs had grown accustomed to it, it had gained the color blue.
It had been the sky.
Just remembering that moment caused his heart to tremble. He began to harden. He had not even known where he was before that, he had barely known any language, and he had never thought about how he was living his life, but…
He had thought he heard a voice from the sky.
That blue sky had surrounded him endlessly in every direction and he had realized the voice came from a ship floating high in that sky, but the voice had clearly spoken to him.
“This all belongs to you. …I will return what was stolen from you.”
He had not known what that meant, but…
If someone had asked him if he had hated that endless wriggling in the darkness with no conception of time, he was not actually sure what his answer would have been. He had not had trouble living from day to day and, even if he had been forced into doing it, he felt that had been a decent life for his species.
But he had also had another thought: There’s no one to talk to me in that darkness.
No one there had taught him he could go anywhere and return to anywhere as a member of this world.
…I could always return to that darkness, but…
After recovering and being told he could go back if he wanted to, he had made up his mind.
“I-I will be useful! I-I’m sure I’ll be useful!! Lady Hashiba! Please let me join you!”
“…U-um, do you have any special skills?”
“Y-yes! My head spins at the moment of impact!”
“That sounds like fun, so you’re hired!” Shibata had decided. “And when it’s my decision, the others can’t complain!”
The others had been shocked, but Hashiba had raised her hand.
“Someone whose head spins at the moment of impact fills a gap in our personnel, so, um, how about we accept him?”
He had been accepted because no one else could do that.
I’m glad, thought Mori. He would sometimes look to the sky since then. He loved the sky during the day, during the evening, and at night. When he could see so far into the distance, he felt like he was being cleansed.
He did not know if he would eventually be able to fall in love, get married, and raise a family like normal, but he did want to be happy and show Hashiba and the others that he was happy. And then he would say goodbye to his memories of the time he had spent in that dark and cramped placed. So…
…I need to do my best…
With that simple comment in his heart, Mori moved his body to fight.
And he spoke into a communication spell while striking the Date gods of war.
“L-Lady Sakuma! I’m leaving the sky to you!”
As Sakuma’s fleet advanced in a defensive formation, Kagekatsu chose to protect Saitou’s landing fleet while also commanding the rest of their fleets to intercept.
He checked the formation of the fleets on a sankt okno and then adjusted their position at the flotilla level.
By stretching Naoe’s 1st fleet to the west and Shigenaga’s 4th fleet to the east, he created one long line.
That was to present the smallest area for Sakuma’s fleet to hit, but…
“Niwa has done a lot of work down on the ground.”
That was the #2 of the Five Great Peaks and the Six Heavenly Demon Armies. She had been driven back by Date Narumi, but her lightning attacks had suppressed eastern Novgorod, including the sky.
She had held off even Kagekatsu’s fleet long enough for Toshiie and the combined corpse warriors to arrive.
Currently, Toshiie’s ghost warriors and Mori Nagayoshi’s gods of war were holding eastern Novgorod. Their numbers were small, but it was enough to keep anyone from climbing the hill. And…
“Chancellor, this is Honjou Shigenaga from the 4th fleet. …An enemy formation is approaching from the south at low speed!”
That was Shibata’s fleet. He could not join in with the Battle of Nanao Castle still underway, but he was still a deterrent.
So Kagekatsu sent out his words.
“Landing from the east is not possible. …We will stick with the original plan. Sviet Rus will continue the landing operation from northern Novgorod. And to that end…” He gave his commands. “All fleets, rapidly descend to 200 meters above Novgorod. From there, check your individual flotilla’s commands.”
“With this battle, Sviet Rus will demonstrate a new promise that binds us and Oushuu to a new era.”
As the Sviet Rus fleets began to descend, Sakuma pushed them eastward.
They could not circle to the east or south of Novgorod because of the slow advance of Shibata’s fleet from the south, but Sviet Rus’s fleets could not flee to the north either. That would mean losing their landing position there and abandoning the landing unit and the Musashi group.
…So they’re fleeing downwards!? Is that it!?
When a defensive fleet attacked, their own defense barriers got in the way. Firing straight ahead was one thing, but the angle of fire for their cannons was restricted when firing up, down, left, or right. When the target itself moved up or down, it affected all of the ships’ ability to secure the proper angle of fire. But…
“Why are you leaving yourself undefended like that!? Well!?”
The top of a ship had the deck and weak points such as the bridge. Sviet Rus was exposing those areas because they planned on targeting the bottom of Sakuma’s fleet. Due to the virtual ocean, aerial ships generally did not place cannons on the bottom, so descending allowed one to avoid enemy fire while gaining a chance to fire back at them. But…
Sakuma raised her right arm.
“I’ll show you just what’s possible with defensive firing. Yes, I will! …Prepare homing fire for a descending fleet!!”
Each of the ships in Sakuma’s fleet transformed. The gun batteries meant for firing to the side jutted outwards on both sides.
“Input enemy location…!!”
On Sakuma’s instructions, they all turned to point into the sky. And then…
The front 12 ships of Sakuma’s fleet produced the flash of firing.
But that light was not directed forward.
It was directed straight up.
All of the cannon fire flew over their own defense barriers and into the sky.
Tracer spell shells flew 800 meters above Sakuma’s fleet. There were Garudas stopped on the tips and they reacted once they arrived that high in the sky.
They cried out and kicked at the spell shells. They kicked them downwards.
The rapidly descending bundles of light flew straight toward the Sviet Rus fleets.
And after a beat, they scored direct hits.
They had not gained much speed from the fall, so they used something other than their own destructive power.
“These are our newly developed shockwave shells! Be hit and be sunk! That would be perfect!!”
Sakuma watched as the descending Sviet Rus fleets produced barriers to defend their upper surfaces, but that was not enough.
The glowing shells did not just explode directly above. They also slipped between the gaps in the fleets and burst to the sides or from below.
“This is the ultimate defensive bombardment! This body blow reverberates in your gut!”
The multiple bombings hit the front third of the descending Sviet Rus fleets.
It was a barrage.
The decks and hulls were hit. Some of the ships were knocked further down, some shook and tilted, and some collided with another ship above them.
And after the final blast passed through, Sakuma gave a shout.
“Prepare the second round!”
Kagekatsu’s 1st fleet shook in the shockwaves and was tossed by the rough wind.
Alarms rang and damage reports arrived from each flotilla. His own flagship was tilted from the impacts and continued to descend while correcting the tilt.
Fire rose from the back. One of the side power devices had been damaged.
He looked straight up at his enemy and spoke even as he expected a second round.
“All ships, ready your cannons straight ahead. As for above…”
He ignored the blaring alarms, faced his enemy, and gave his instructions.
“Listen. Do not use defense barriers. Use buffering spells.”
Sakuma saw Sviet Rus’s decision just before she ordered the second round.
Buffering spells altered the flow of air and pressure. While defense barriers deflected attacks to a set surface, buffering spells protected and redirected the damage to the entire ship.
They were indeed a good choice to defend against shockwave shells. But…
Sakuma sensed a change in the battlefield.
Something was different from before. The Sviet Rus fleets were descending and spewing smoke thanks to her attack, but…
The silhouette visible far behind the Sviet Rus fleets had vanished.
The Musashi had entered stealth cruising.
“Navigator! Where is the enemy!? Check the last movement of their wind pattern and predict their location!”
“I can’t! …Those shockwave shells disturbed the air currents in front of the fleet too much! The Musashi’s reading has completely vanished!”
In that case, concluded Sakuma before raising her right hand.
“Prepare homing fire for a descending fleet! Input enemy location…!!”
She was no longer targeting the Sviet Rus fleets. She needed to fire on the enemy that would be passing above the descending Sviet Rus fleets and above her own fleet.
“Unlimited range directly above! Our target is the Musashi!!”
Sakuma’s fleet launched a massive amount of spell fire toward the heavens.
With a refreshing sound, the lines of light were released straight into the sky.
A moment later, color appeared in the sky.
It was white. That ether cloud or spray appeared when a stealth barrier was deactivated. A portion of the sky seemed to peel back to reveal…
“Is it the Musashi!?”
But the Musashi was not passing by above Sakuma’s fleet.
The giant ship was standing vertically with its front end pointed straight down toward them.
“A side flip!?”
It was like the entire Musashi was glaring down at them from the sky. But…
“Open defense barriers above us!!”
The Musashi had not been built as a warship. When it had left the Ariake, its armaments had been lacking compared to the similar-sized Azuchi Castle. Thus, Sakuma concluded it could not provide a lethal blow from that position. It was after something else.
“By side flipping over us, it can trap us between itself and Sviet Rus! Rear fleet, open defense barriers and buffering spells behind you! After enduring the attack from above, start east!” shouted Sakuma. “When the Musashi drops back down on the west, use the wind it produces to travel east! We’ll push through Sviet Rus and use their scattered fleet as a shield while circling to the south!”
As soon as she finished giving her orders, Sakuma felt a sudden chill.
Icy air seemed to be descending from the sky.
She did not have time to look up, but she sensed it from the top edge of her vision.
The Musashi had disappeared.
Having been carried back from Date by Urquiaga, Suzu was welcomed onto Musashino’s bridge by “Musashino” and the others. She sat in the central seat and spoke despite being out of breath.
“Wh-what should I do!?”
Vice President: “Well, we’re about to do a low-power test firing of the Musashi’s main cannon.”
“Judge,” she said while sensing the Musashi had entered stealth mode while tilted vertically.
Vice President: “Once the preparations are complete, we’ll make the final adjustments here and fire. We can’t fire it for real without Aoi here, so just think of it as a quick test firing. The Acting Captain has to fill in for Aoi.”
Then Masazumi sent her the command words in audio form.
So Suzu quickly spoke them while “Musashino” supported her shoulders.
“Musashi Main Cannon Kanesada – Short Barrel – Small Kanesada Mode…”
She said it.
It was not a physical impact.
It was an invisible mass that was thrust down from the heavens.
Sakuma’s fleet and the other fleets with it had a total of 71 ships. They were spread out over a distance of 5 kilometers and the 43 located northwest of Novgorod were destroyed.
They were all crushed at once by an impact from above, they creaked, and…
The ships’ frames reacted to the pressure from above. Like a crushed ball popping back into shape, they hopped up from below.
With a metallic scream, several layers of armor tore from the bent frames.
The scattering armor collided, produced sparks, reverberated with noise, and yet…
Every last piece of the breaking ships were pushed back down by the wide-range power arriving from above.
The defense barriers were useless.
Like the sky itself had dropped down on them, the vertical layers of the defensive fleet collided with the layer below them and then were crushed by the surface of pressure.
They were knocked down.
The attack covered a diameter of greater than 4 kilometers.
In the sky northwest of Novgorod, it hit the several rows approaching the Sviet Rus fleets and it hit the area around Sakuma’s flagship in the very back. Save for the Jurakudai and a few other ships, all of the ships were knocked from the sky as if a colossal hammer had swung down on them.
And then the proof of the falling power appeared.
White fog dyed the wide-range attack from high in the sky. The pillar of fog looked like a white hammer and it slowly descended and finally reached the falling fleet.
In that instant, the hammer exploded.
From above to below, the sky burst while surrounded by a ring of exploding water vapor that was bent and distorted from within.
That violently shook the remaining ships and pulled the lighter ships into a vortex of air.
The alarms belatedly started sounding and warning lights flashed in the sky.
At the same time, fires and lights blossomed on the ground.
The fallen ships were exploding while the crews escaped. The red was fire and the bluish-white was ether light. Those two colors illuminated the night sky from below.
By that time, the remnants of Sakuma’s fleet numbered only 11 including the Jurakudai.
And those that remained airborne saw something in the western night sky that had been cleared of the many ships cluttering it before.
It was the Musashi.
It twisted in its side flip and it returned its bottom hull to its horizontal position.
The bow faced east.
The remnants of Sakuma’s fleet were trapped between it and Sviet Rus.
The Musashi shed the last fragments of its stealth barrier.
Various parts pulsed with ether power and it had already transformed from gravitational cruising mode to normal cruising mode.
With the virtual ocean around it, it slowly tilted forward.
The Musashi moved forward toward Sakuma’s fleet. And as it moved directly forward, it briefly released a divine transmission to all of the Musashi and to the surrounding airspace.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen of the cities and of the surrounding space. Quasi-Bahamut-class Aerial City Ship Musashi will now signal 9 PM using Musashi Ariadust Academy’s bell. We are currently arriving at Novgorod via Sviet Rus’s southern corridor. In accordance with Sviet Rus’s request, we will be engaging in commercial mercenary activity, so we ask for your cooperation. Over.”
The bell rang. It rang nine times. Everything rang.
“Now, let us begin. Over.”
The Musashi moved forward.
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