Horizon:Volume 4C Chapter 85
Chapter 85: Dropout in the Sky
You do not see it off
It does not leave
It simply falls
Point Allocation (High in the Sky)
Sakuma tried to understand the heat and cooling inside her.
An alarm blared and the ship shook intermittently below her. She desperately tried to determine what she understood and what she did not.
…What!? What in the world was that!?
She did not know what had happened, but she did know her fleet had taken a devastating blow and the Musashi was circling to the west.
The result was obvious, but how it had happened was unclear. She only knew…
Mory: “L-Lady Sakuma! Are you okay!?”
“Yes,” replied Sakuma. “I know, I know. I’m fine…and the battle is still underway!”
She changed how she felt about this. The Musashi had done something from above and it had taken out a large portion of her fleet.
But some of the ships had survived and they were continuing the fight. The surviving ships were waiting for word from their commander.
Most of the insha kotobs by her hand had lost their connection, but she had been right to sync with the other ships’ data in advance. Once she abandoned the links to the sunk ships, she could send out synchronized commands to all of the surviving ships.
She could fight, so she opened the command channel and spoke.
“All ships of my fleet, listen up!”
The front line facing Sviet Rus’s fleet had survived. The defense barrier supplied by the Jurakudai was thickest there, so…
“All surviving ships, advance full speed to the east with defense barriers up!”
That would take them above Sviet Rus’s fleet. Sviet Rus’s fleet would fire on them from below, but it was better than having the Musashi attack them from behind. By flying above Sviet Rus’s fleet, they could prevent the Musashi from pursuing them.
The problem was that the Jurakudai was still on the western side of Novgorod. If they circled eastward to escape the Musashi, they would lose the Jurakudai’s defense support while passing over Sviet Rus’s fleet.
…Of course, that just means each ship will be relying on its own defense barrier like normal.
But the front line was already on its way toward the Sviet Rus fleet, so they did not have time to turn westward. Massive aerial ships were left open to attack when they turned, so it would be better to continue forward even if it meant taking some hits.
So Sakuma spoke while sending her own ship out to follow the front line which had prepared its defense barriers.
As soon as she said that, two things happened simultaneously.
First, the front line began to move with defense barriers out front.
An intense sound of impact came from ahead of those front line ships.
A great mass had flown in from the eastern sky and collided with their thick defense barriers.
It was one of the Musashi’s transport ships.
Komahime saw it from the Jurakudai’s deck.
The front line of Sakuma’s fleet had survived the Musashi’s strange attack, but now one of Musashi’s unique transport ships flew in from the east and collided with them.
However, that collision was meaningless. The surviving ships were protected by a defense barrier strengthened by the Jurakudai.
The Jurakudai had taken a fair amount of damage from the previous attack. The airspace was a mess and its support of the other ships’ defense barriers was not perfect, but the defense barrier under the Jurakudai’s protection still would not be destroyed by a mere transport ship collision.
…It can withstand this!
To prove that, the barrier trembled and dimmed but ultimately held.
And Komahime saw the transport ship break and crumple, starting from the bow.
The sounds of metal bending and the hull breaking arrived in an instant.
The transport ship had lost to the defense barrier.
The barrier had won.
The Jurakudai could not provide perfect support because most of its primary power had been used to endure the Musashi’s attack and its aftermath, but once the distortion from the transport ship collision was corrected, ether fuel could be distributed from neighboring barriers to return it to normal.
But Komahime saw something else.
The transport ship had crumpled after colliding with the barrier, but someone stood on the very front edge of its deck.
It was a boy. He wore a work vest and he raised both fists toward the defense barrier in front of him.
She heard his voice.
“Three punches and I can destroy this barrier.”
The defense barrier protecting Sakuma’s front line shattered.
Shattering the barrier should not have been possible, but just as it bent while absorbing the impact of the transport ship, the boy punched it at a single point.
The last blow of the rapid combination really did destroy the great shield of light.
It did not end at just the one. Because all of the barriers’ power sources and control systems were linked to receive support from the Jurakudai, the destruction of the one spread to them all. Not all of the barriers shattered, but…
A barrage from the east collided with all of the defense barriers at once.
The Sviet Rus fleet was firing on them.
After descending earlier, that fleet was ascending.
With a sound much like an ensemble of wind instruments, all of the barriers shattered at once.
That was the sound of Sakuma’s defense fleet losing the reason for that name.
It gradually dawned on Komahime that Sakuma’s fleet would be destroyed.
But not just because that defense fleet’s barriers had been destroyed.
She saw something in front of the Jurakudai and the other remaining ships.
…Sviet Rus’s fleet is forming a long line and facing us…
The Sviet Rus fleet had rapidly ascended after descending earlier.
That was not something they could do on short notice.
Their commander, Kagekatsu, must have received information on what kind of attack the Musashi would make. That was why they had lowered their altitude to use Sakuma’s fleet and defense barriers as a shield against the Musashi’s attack from above. And…
“They used buffering spells to stop the disturbed air currents and maintain a stable position…”
And all the while, Kagekatsu had prepared to ascend.
He refused to let Sakuma’s destabilized fleet escape.
And the Jurakudai could not move thanks to the feedback from the destruction of the defense barriers. The Jurakudai shook and power surged back into its power system, until…
White armor flew through the air. The power system had burst into flames and exploded from the back of the Jurakudai.
And Komahime saw the Sviet Rus fleet begin to move.
“The Wheel Formation…!”
This was the formation used by Felipe Segundo at the beginning of the Armada Battle.
Sviet Rus’s Saitou and Naoe fleets moved forward. They tilted their forward movement to fly horizontally in front of Sakuma’s surviving ships.
And shells flew toward those defenseless ships.
A single straight line existed within the scattering destruction.
It was the flagship of Sakuma’s fleet, Sakuma’s own Kraken-class ship.
It flew full speed toward the remnants of her fleet.
However, it was not joining those surviving ships. Sakuma had shifted its course to head southeast on its own. She was passing over Novgorod to join with Shibata’s fleet.
It looked a lot like she had abandoned the remnants of her fleet, but…
The flagship rang with the divine transmissions from those surviving ships.
“It’s no use! We’ll draw their attention!”
“Allow me to show you a bit of what I can do!” she replied. “Got that!?”
Sakuma used her flagship to begin firing on the Sviet Rus fleet stretched out east to west in a Wheel Formation.
She had no defense barrier. She was completely defenseless, but she shouted over at her enemy.
“Is Sviet Rus’s ‘love’ really not going to respond in kind when Retreating Sakuma puts herself in danger!? Well!?”
“I will take that confession seriously!”
As Naoe shouted back, the wheel turned toward her, so Sakuma raised her voice.
“You have my thanks! …Prepare for artillery battle!!”
An impressive number of shells – both physical and ether – shot through the night.
Sakuma had to let the enemy fire on her. If the shellfire was focused on her, the remnants of her fleet could escape. And to do that, she remained defenseless and made sure the enemy had her in their sights.
At the same time, her ship shook violently. The port side was facing Naoe’s fleet, so the armor there flew into the sky and the fragments tore at the air. But Sakuma saw the remnants of her fleet rapidly descending. They had chosen to retreat that way instead of turning around.
It was a good decision. She had not ordered them to do that, but the ships sunk by the Musashi’s attack were there. Descending would allow them to pick up those crews in addition to escaping.
I have some good men, thought Sakuma. By using her one ship as a shield, the crews of the sunk ships could be rescued instead of taken prisoner. So…
“There is no shame in the name Retreating Sakuma…! None at all!!”
Komahime viewed the scene while the Jurakudai retreated into the southwestern sky.
Sakuma’s flagship was taking damage and tilting to the right as it slowly fell.
Komahime’s knowledge of aerial ships told her that tilt was too much to recover from.
But that flagship had turned its bottom hull toward the Sviet Rus fleet and the crew could be seen jumping from the deck to escape.
Komahime did not know if Sakuma was among them, but…
Flames burst from the below the flagship’s deck. The explosive flames were surrounded in ether light and they shook the ship.
The force of the explosion caused the flagship to sway toward Naoe’s fleet, but it was never going to reach.
The flagship fell while still a long way away. All that remained in the night sky was the Sviet Rus fleet and…
Sakuma’s flagship exploded and filled the night sky with red light.
That color and tremor reached the giant ship made of 8 smaller ships from below as it slowly joined the Sviet Rus fleet to the north. That meant Sviet Rus had more or less conquered the northern half of Novgorod, and…
“Musashi has joined with Sviet Rus and Oushuu…!”
This is bad, thought Fuwa.
The Musashi had just arrived at Novgorod.
That meant the Azuchi Castle, which could move at the same speed, should have been headed here as well. It was supposed to be loaded with supplies and personnel for Hashiba’s invasion of Mouri, and it would be giving some of those to the people here. Or it should have been.
But the wide-range ether data collected by Shibata’s fleet showed no movement from the Azuchi Castle. Instead, two fleets were on the move. One moving south from Oushuu to Kantou and the other moving south to Sviet Rus’s south central region.
“Mogami is protecting Sviet Rus’s southern airspace and Date is moving south to deter the Azuchi Castle and to protect the Ariake!?”
A three-hull ship flew through the clear sky. And on top of the Yamagata Castle’s bridge, a fox danced with a fan in hand.
She spun lightly in the air and whipped up the wind as she danced to support the guard ships following behind. Next to the fox, a salmon Mouse also flew in arcs through the air.
“Yoshiaki-sama, are you in a good mood, mon!? Could we shift right into an invasion of Sviet Rus, mon!?”
“That would be rushing things a bit much.”
Yoshiaki let her clothes billow in the wind as she swept her body around.
“We are moving south to protect Sviet Rus’s southern border using the history recreation of an attack on Sviet Rus. By doing that, we can deter anyone from traveling from Kantou to Novgorod.”
“If the Azuchi Castle or the Shirasagi try to go to Novgorod, we can knock them away from the side. And of course, once we have determined the risk of that has been eliminated…”
“We will go to visit Komahime-sama at Novgorod, mon!”
“Things are so much easier with you around, Shakenobe.”
As she danced, Yoshiaki opened a sign frame.
Righteousness: “The wind has arrived. We’ll be going.”
Some words appeared on the sign frame from the side and something flew into the sky from the central deck.
It was a blue god of war. Specifically, it was the Satomi President’s Righteousness. The vassal stood on its shoulder while carrying something in a large cloth wrapper.
Flat Vassal: “If you can make it, we’ll see you at Novgorod!!”
With the loud sound of the wind being struck, Righteousness left. After watching it leave, Yoshiaki turned to the eastern sky. She saw a white surface in the distance there. That was the Ariake, and…
“Date… Are you finally free to act?”
Masamune felt the wind on the deck of the Aoba Castle, the Date flagship, as it cruised at low altitude.
They had a reason to keep the Aoba Castle so low. It was partially because the blue-painted Date fleet would only look like shadows in the starlight, but also…
“If the enemy does attack the Ariake, either they have to ascend toward its high altitude position or they have to aim their cannons upwards. If we remain below them, we can fire freely. And if the enemy chooses to go to Novgorod…”
Kagetsuna-kun: “Mogami flew on out west, so if the enemy is stopped by them, we can attack them from behind. Isn’t that right!? You did it, Masa-chan! You couldn’t be playing more unfair!”
“Katakura, you were the one that taught me military strategy.”
Kagetsuna-kun: “Oh! You’ve finally figured out how to play verbal catch, Masamune-kun!? Way to go! But why aren’t you denying how unfair this is!? You make it sound like I don’t play fair! When Oniniwa-san was trying to punish me for some trivial matter the other day, I played things fair and square by taking his pet cat hostage to escape! Wait, that’s not fair at all! But I’m not afraid to bow down in apology! Look, I’m doing a backwards prostration! Are you looking, Masamune-kun? Hmm?”
Masamune silently closed the sign frame.
“Now, then,” she said while pulling the large sword from her hip, resting the tip on the deck in front of her, and straightening her back.
She could see a giant white surface in the sky to the left. It was the Ariake. To erase the aftereffects and buffering from launching the Musashi, repair smoke was rising from various areas and countless metallic sounds could be heard.
She could see something else far ahead.
…The Azuchi Castle.
She opened a sign frame in front of her and zoomed in optically to view the giant ship floating in the sky above Edo Bay. The ship had a small city for the crew and it had just finished preparations to leave port. The loaded cargo created a flat portion on the top of its silhouette, but…
“Aoba Fleet. …Turn your bows toward the Azuchi Castle’s shortest course to Novgorod and remain on standby.”
Masamune ordered her fleet to standby and took a breath.
The wind was cold.
But not just because it was nighttime.
She had been removed from the Seiryu’s protection.
That blue god of war was no longer protecting her at all times. It was likely repairing its damage in its ether space. She would be able to summon it once that was complete, but nothing would appear if she called for it now.
She had gained some precious time during which she was not protected by anything.
…Would you call it refreshing?
There was a sense of emptiness, but was that loneliness?
She did not know, but…
Kagetsuna-kun: “Yes!? This is the guy who makes things confusing thanks to the similarity between Kojirou and Kojuurou!”
She closed the sign frame and lightly rotated her shoulders. She acted like something was wrapped around her back and she was throwing it off and then her body slowly trembled.
She looked up into the cold and clear sky.
“You successfully set Oushuu in motion.”
“That means it’s our turn next.”
The flagship of Shibata’s fleet was waiting in the sky east of Novgorod. Shibata’s giant form stood on the end of the deck with his arms crossed.
“Hey, Fuwa, you tell Hashiba that we need to end Nanao Castle already.”
Fuwa expressed her confusion behind him, so he looked back her way.
He bent his eyes and formed a gentle smile on his lips before speaking.
“What other choice do we have? We’ve gotta wage war.” He laughed. “Have Toshiie form a wall and secure the east with Mori. Novgorod can act as a shield against Musashi’s weird attack, so let’s land on the area we hold on the south, west, and east. This is going to be a land battle now. It’s a struggle for control of Novgorod. If we take this island, we can hold western Sviet Rus. And…”
“Hashiba said there’s something below Novgorod we can’t let Musashi see and that Holland Chancellor Prince of Orange was headed there, right? …On Hashiba’s request, we’ve got to control Novgorod, string up that Prince of Orange, and…yeah…”
Shibata gave a full faced smile and ignored the stiffening of Fuwa’s face.
“Let’s crush Musashi’s forces. Got that, Fuwa?”
The Testament Union officially declared the end of the Battle of Nanao Castle between Sviet Rus and P.A. Oda only after Shibata’s fleet had finished landing from east to south Novgorod.
As Testament Union representative, Pope Chancellor Innocentius X announced that the rest of the battle would be a recreation of the Battle of Tedorigawa, and that greatly changed the meaning of the battlefield.
The combined corpse warriors who had been working with Maeda Toshiie’s skeleton warriors now began destroying the skeletons while the skeletons began rushing toward Novgorod’s city walls which had closed their gates.
As enemy and ally swapped places, Toori’s group met up with the Sviet Rus assault unit and started climbing the path up the hill, but it was a long path. And…
“P.A. Oda is firing on the land!”
They did not hesitate to fire in order to destroy the skeleton warriors so they could reach a higher level. Sviet Rus could only provide firing support to secure a front line for their second attempt at landing, but P.A. Oda was firing from beyond the hill to speed up their invasion. Toori’s group moved to the northeast side of the hill to stay out of P.A. Oda’s way and that slowed them down. And…
12 minutes had passed since Shibata’s fleet had arrived.
By the time Shibata Katsuie set foot on the southeastern field, the Novgorod city and city hall on the hill were protected by the corpse warriors, but the skeleton warriors already surrounded them and were making a multi-stage attack against the defense barriers.
Shibata’s main unit was P.A. Oda’s primary force and, just like at Magdeburg, they moved swiftly to their destination while making powerful strikes. That destruction grew to a roar, the number of combined corpse warriors dropped, and the defense barriers surrounding Novgorod’s city glowed dully.
The battlefield was currently split in two.
One battlefield was the interception unit including Mori’s gods of war that stopped Sviet Rus’s invasion on the east.
The other battlefield was the circle around Novgorod at the top of the hill that tried to break through the city’s barriers.
Sviet Rus tried to conquer the former, but P.A. Oda used that as a shield while they tried to conquer the latter.
The fall of Novgorod was only a matter of time now.
“Honestly, you always seem to be on the move. You need to stop for some good food and a good night’s sleep sometimes. That’s why you’re so skinny.”
A scratchy elderly woman’s voice was heard in a red room.
The room belonged to Olimpia who was the current Papa-Schola Innocentius X. The room was filled with piles of books, toys, clothing, models, and musical instruments. The actual floor had vanished below them all and a man sat at the red lacquered table prepared inside.
He was Holy Roman Emperor Matthias. He wore a summer uniform with an apron and he opened the lid of the pot on the table.
“That’s because I’m a puppet. I’m always on the move and sightseeing, but I make sure to write letters and contact people. And when I have some spare time nowadays, I try to entertain you while enjoying my hobbies.”
“Oh, dear. I thought something smelled good. What is it?”
“Dried beef cooked in red wine and tomatoes. I thought it would be perfect for you since you love red…but what do you think?”
After spreading out a tablecloth, he removed the lid. And as Olimpia sat on the edge of her bed…
“What a rich aroma. But isn’t this French cooking?”
“That’s because Hashiba was talking about starting her invasion of Mouri. I’ve been researching the local cuisine lately, so I thought I would try it out.”
“Oh, dear. So was I only your second choice?”
“Hashiba seems to like being alone… She seems bound by her master in P.A. Oda, you see. It kind of looks like she wants to keep as few connections to people as possible. Not being a puppet must be tough.”
Matthias scooped some of the contents into a bowl and Olimpia’s eyebrows rose when she saw the glistening broth. She stood up from the edge of her bed.
“You don’t put flour in it. That’s the royal palace style.”
“Even a puppet has his pride.”
“Then why not hire a bunch of cooks and live a life of luxury?”
“You call that luxury?” Matthias smiled a little. “As a child, I could ask for any dish I wanted, but I got sick of that long ago. After all, I only ever received my favorite dishes and things that suit my tastes perfectly. It was because I did indeed think of that as luxury that I didn’t understand when my brother left to live all on his own.”
“Oh, dear. Are you in a rebellious phase, then?”
“You’ll see when you eat it.”
Matthias passed Olimpia the bowl and a spoon.
The old woman accepted them and took a bite without thanking him. And after a moment…
“What do you think? Luxurious, isn’t it?” Matthias smiled. “I look for and find a dish I want to eat, search for and gather the ingredients I think will be best, search for and gather the cooking equipment I think will be best, make my own decisions while cooking, and end up with something that’s so-so or a failure. …What do you think? Unlike the past, I can create a much more ideal version of the flavor I want. I don’t let someone else provide that reality for me. No matter how hard I work, I can never make something as good as a first class chef, but I can still pursue an even more ideal flavor. …I have several things I continue to pursue, but I don’t have to be so fixated on them. If I start to want something else, I can abandon cooking. That is what I call luxury. I can acquire anything, but it ends there and I’m not bound by it.”
“I can never reach the level of the first class people, but I can still aim higher. That is the luxury of a puppet. It’s wonderful, isn’t it?”
“Ohhhh?” Olimpia smiled with the corners of her mouth and shrugged. “You are quite a dreamer. And all you do is dream.”
“You too live a life of luxury, Olimpia.”
Matthias pulled a basket of bread from below the table. He also took back the bowl he had handed Olimpia and sprinkled some cream onto the meat.
“Now, I think you might like this better. It’s kind of cheating though. Well, repeating this and learning it as a skill will bring me ever closer to the ideal, which should be fun.”
He passed the bowl back to her and opened a cadena firma.
“Olimpia, the two of us are puppets, but what I have passed on and you approved is making history right now.”
“We are the unexpected approvers of history, aren’t we?”
“Then again, we have no right to reject it.”
“Oh? If we rejected it, history wouldn’t move, would it?”
Olimpia smiled and Matthias’s expression froze in place. But he soon smiled too.
“You are even better suited to being a puppet than I am. How wonderful!”
“Then can you tell me something? With Hashiba providing logistical support over there, I don’t have Mitsunari and the others to provide commentary. …What is most interesting about that battle?”
Matthias pointed to the map of Novgorod on his cadena firma. He pointed partway up the eastern hill.
“Right here, a strange person named Mori is making a valiant effort.”
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