Horizon:Volume 4C Chapter 94
Chapter 94: Fox of the Sun Shower
Drops fall from the clear sky
The fox says goodbye
Into the joyous sound of the rain
Point Allocation (Happiness)
A name was quietly called in the sky northeast of Novgorod where the Mogami fleet moved in to drive back Shibata’s fleet. It came from the top of Yamagata Castle’s bridge where Mogami Yoshiaki held two large fans. She pressed a closed fan against her forehead and shut her eyes.
“…It was the promise, wasn’t it?”
She added a “yes” as the wind of Novgorod’s fall washed over her.
It was a thick wind. It reflected off the ground and whipped her hair around.
“It was because we promised to protect Oushuu and Sviet Rus that you chose suicide, wasn’t it?”
“Komahime. You are a clever girl, so fulfill that promise. …Your mother will not run away. I will watch over you to the end.”
Komahime stood inside the bridge as the ether fuel overheated and ignited.
The ether fuel pipes burst more due to power system malfunctions than the vermilion flames and their heat and flames filled the bridge with light.
Similar ruptures and tremors occurred in the corridors and lower floors and those countless noises reached the bridge.
But Komahime was alone on the bridge; she had ordered the rest of the Jurakudai’s crew to evacuate.
They had all begun sending out the escape ships to reach Shibata’s fleet, so as flames erupted and ether light raged across the bridge, the only words were spoken by her and her divine transmission insha kotob.
The second-in-command’s voice-only transmission reached her from one of the escape ships.
“Acting Captain! Everyone is accounted for. We are currently approaching Shibata’s fleet while sending out a request to join them!”
“Shaja. …If Novgorod falls and explodes, it will affect the position of Shibata’s fleet too. If I fully open Jurakudai’s defense barrier and divert the gravitational cruising power to the exterior, I can slow its fall and delay its destruction. So…”
“Please take Hidetsugu-sama somewhere safe!”
“Shaja…! But Acting Captain, what about you?”
“I’m fine. My regret came from my desire to be with Hidetsugu-sama, after all.”
Just a few minutes before, she would have been too embarrassed to say that, but now she could use it as a proper reason.
“I am a ghost. I can’t die, so I’ll be fine. And second-in-command?”
“What is it?”
“I’m sure Niwa-sama asked you to, but I must thank all of you for teaching me so much and speaking with me. Thanks to that, it looks like I can manage controlling the ship, even if I am just using the auto-settings.”
The second-in-command gently responded to that.
“Oh, you’re not there yet. Your piloting is still pretty rough. …There’s still a lot we have to teach you.”
“Shaja. I look forward to it.”
With that answer, Komahime thought, This is for the best.
She could see the state of the ship on an insha kotob that kept flickering in and out. The Jurakudai had already taken damage from the after effects of the Musashi’s attack and now it was recklessly trying to support the Novgorod as it fell.
“You can do it.”
Komahime spoke to the ship as she operated the various power conduits. When one had stopped due to a collapse, malfunction, or excessive power, she rerouted the power around it to keep it distributed across the ship. A ship as large as the Jurakudai had countless power conduits as well as secondary ones for use in emergencies, so she displayed them all on an insha kotob.
“You can do it…!”
It got through. A few areas were unusable now, but about 70% of the primary regions had recovered. Outside the bridge, she could see the defense barrier’s multiple layers of light. And in the sky…
Several giant pieces of rubble fell to the deck. They produced so loud a sound she wanted to cover her ears. When Novgorod’s falling speed had lowered, pieces of its outer hull had fallen away.
But its fall had definitely slowed.
The impact triggered further explosions and shaking inside the Jurakudai. All readings from the rear port side vanished from the insha kotob. That meant the port side thrusters had been taken out.
…So there’s no escape now.
And so she made up her mind: she would do everything she could.
“The only other thing I need to do is…”
The ether fuel supply was still being limited. She wanted to use up all of the fuel in these few minutes, but the ship had no such setting.
In that case, she thought as she ran to the captain’s spot in the rear of the bridge while protectively raising a hand and dodging some sparks that fell from the ceiling. There were some manual controls there that opened during emergencies. When the divine transmission controls from the bridge’s insha kotob were cut off, these could directly control the ship via physical means.
The gauges were moving. The support insha kotob had also opened. This will work, she told herself.
After double-checking how to do it, Komahime opened the five control valves. She grabbed the slide switch handles and pushed them to the back, one at a time.
Once this was done, the ship could support Novgorod even more powerfully than before. So…
“I need to do it right…”
She knew the Jurakudai could not fully support the falling city and she was certain that she would disappear in the explosion when the Jurakudai crashed along with Novgorod. But…
“All that matters is that Hidetsugu-sama gets away safely. …I’m too afraid to check.”
She had her suspicions that Hidetsugu’s failure to wake had nothing to do with his regret. It was because the Seiryu was stealing away the ether forming him.
But if he woke up now that he was freed from the Seiryu…
“He’ll suddenly find out that he’s married to me and that my regret came from my desire to be with him…”
What would he think of that? She knew this was hardly the time to think about that, but…
…He’s already been evacuated.
He had seemed to sleep more peacefully now that he was freed from the Seiryu and she had seen the second-in-command and others from the crew carrying him out as they evacuated.
She was the only one here now. So…
“I need to do this properly.”
She would support Novgorod as long as possible and root for those trying to evacuate. She knew that was something only she could do right now, but…
A sudden wave of heat pressed against her back, so she turned around to check.
The door into the bridge had grown red with heat.
The explosion of heat from a flashover blew her backwards and fried the interior of the bridge.
Flames erupted from the Jurakudai.
In the sky north of Novgorod, Shigenaga used her right arm to hold onto the net hanging from the transport ship above her and she saw ether light fire covering the upper levels of the Jurakudai.
The ether fuel had overheated and it had exploded from the fried and broken power conduits.
She could guess that Komahime had been trying to use all of the Jurakudai’s power. She could also guess why the opposite had happened:
…Was it the rubble from above combined with the damage to the ship!?
The Jurakudai’s defense barriers and buffering spells could cover a 7 kilometer area and that power was currently being used to cover the bottom of Novgorod. The gravitational control used for its half-gravitational cruising was being passed through a buffering spell to divert it from the thrusters to the defense barrier.
The Jurakudai itself was currently a giant box of ether fuel and it could not defend itself or move. It was only remaining afloat thanks to the gravitational control balance points that stuck out above and below it via the buffering spells.
Even if someone wanted to go rescue it, giant pieces of rubble were falling and it was groaning under the strain of the gravitational balance. After another scream of metal from the bottom, it broke from the invisible weight of the upper deck.
Flames erupted from the bottom of the Jurakudai as well.
Komahime immediately came to.
She had been slammed against the wall and could say she had been knocked out, but…
…I’m a ghost.
The effects of a concussion would only be reproduced when she was hit by a weapon with that kind of divine protection applied. There were ether flames here now, but…
“When I hit the wall, I was just so surprised that I didn’t know what to do.”
She left the wall and placed her right hand in front of her. From that position, she lifted her knees and stood up.
As she stood in front of the controls, her left hip was crumbling away. Like a piece of clothing unraveling, ether light surrounded that area and the lines of her hip disappeared.
She had either been burned by the flames or melted by the overheated ether fuel. She touched it and could feel the skin and the bone within. She may have been falling apart as ether more than as a ghost.
Can this be healed? she wondered before smiling bitterly. Even damage with no divine protection could destroy a ghost if it was powerful enough to destroy the ether mold. If the ship fell and exploded along with Novgorod, she would never survive.
Why am I so worried about my appearance? she thought as she reached for the controls in front of her.
Her left arm was gone.
Noticing that, she glanced to the floor, but it was nowhere to be found.
She placed her other hand on the control panel to support herself. The ceiling structure collapsed like a pillar on the back right end of the bridge, but she only needed the manual controls.
She still had to move 2 of the 5 power conduit levers, so…
Even as her body fell apart, she used her remaining right arm to push one of them forward.
It was hard. She was only using one arm this time, but it also seemed to be stuck on something. Regardless, she managed to push it all the way back and then reached for the other one.
She would be done once she did this, so…
She pushed it back. At first, she felt something pushing back, but…
…I got it!
It was all the way back. She heard the metallic thunk of it locking into place.
That was all 5. The conduits were fully open now.
“I did it.”
She breathed out and straightened up, but then she noticed something.
The 2nd control lever had moved back to the front.
The manual controls were one-way and received no feedback.
“Then were the controls bent when a piece of the ceiling fell…?”
The 2nd control lever’s lock would not engage and it had fallen back down. That just meant she had to push it back again and hold it in place by hand. That meant she could not leave this spot, but…
Komahime grabbed the lever with her right hand and pushed it. However…
…It won’t go in!?
She heard the ship creaking and new ether light sprayed from the ceiling.
The bridge itself bent and the control panel continued to change shape. So the 2nd lever met some resistance as it slid and would not move. She tried a few more times, but it would not move past that point.
Komahime used her entire body to push at the control lever. She produced a solid metallic sound, but it only bounced back. She did not have the same power as the creaking and shaking of the ship.
And when she looked out the window, the light in the sky was gone.
The defense barrier opened to support Novgorod was disappearing like a hole had opened in it.
Rubble fell through that gap and she heard the rumble of Novgorod pushing down on the air.
At this rate, the Jurakudai would be unable to support Novgorod and would fall with it.
She tried slamming her entire body against the lever, but it was no use.
Why was she crying? She raised a leg and tried kicking the lever, but that did not work either. She grabbed a thin piece of the ceiling that had fallen nearby and swung it at the lever.
But with a metallic noise, the piece of the ceiling broke free of her fingers and flew into the air.
Her hand hurt and she simply stared at the lever that still refused to budge.
When she took a breath, even more tears spilled from her eyes. At the same time, the front half of the bridge crumbled away in flames. The ceiling collapsed and a cascade of ether spray formed a curtain of light. Komahime took a deeper breath in the glow of that light.
“…I won’t give up on our promise.”
So she opened an insha kotob. It was for controlling the ship. The entire Jurakudai was highlighted either in the red indicating danger or the black indicating an unresponsive area. And the black was growing. But the central control system was still functioning. So…
“If I can’t release all the power to the defense barrier, I can set the ship’s gravitational control to maximum acceleration.”
The bare minimum defense barrier would be held in place with gravity and she would crash the Jurakudai into Novgorod.
The impact would only last a moment, but that would negate more of the Novgorod’s falling momentum than a ship with no power.
Of course, doing that would destroy the Jurakudai with its own acceleration and gravitational control pressure. And that would be the end of Komahime as well. But…
“I made a promise. So, c’mon.”
I kind of sounded like Shakenobe-san there, she thought with a smile.
But she had sworn long ago to preserve peace between Oushuu and Sviet Rus, and…
She had also promised that she would give up her name, go to some distant place with the person she loved, and live there with him forevermore.
She had failed to keep that last promise, but perhaps that was because it had been too convenient a promise for her.
If she died, she had thought it would indirectly count for Hidetsugu’s suicide as well. That was why she had killed herself, but she had not expected him to do the same thing.
But as a ghost, he would be free if he was released from his inherited name. He could return to Date or he could go elsewhere.
If her disappearance would give him that freedom, then what she was doing here was meaningful.
She concluded that she had successfully protected someone other than herself here.
“So let’s do that.”
She placed a hand on the insha kotob. She set the Jurakudai’s half-gravitational cruising to full speed and she raised the ship’s angle so it would ascend.
She stared straight ahead and saw the bottom of Novgorod. She prepared to press the confirmation button on the insha kotob. But…
A sudden divine transmission rang through the bridge.
Komahime recognized the voice but had never met its owner.
…Musashi’s Vice President?
Why was she sending an open divine transmission to P.A. Oda’s Jurakudai? But before she could think on that question, the arriving voice pierced her body.
“Mogami Komahime! This is Musashi Vice President Honda Masazumi speaking on behalf of the Musashi Chancellor and Student Council President!”
“Musashi will now take action to ensure we don’t lose you.”
“That’s what we’ll do.”
North of Novgorod, the Sviet Rus fleet was descending more rapidly than the city and flying further north, but a giant city ship made of 8 ships was also descending at the same speed as Novgorod.
An idiot in a summer uniform stood on the academy bridge at the back of Okutama.
The idiot had a silver wolf in front of him, a silver-haired automaton at his side, and a spell control shrine maiden and a dancer behind him. And to his right…
“Neshinbara, what happens next in your dream scenario?”
“It’s simple. The Musashi’s main cannon fires on and blows away Novgorod’s power system. That rids it of the elements that would detonate when it crashes.”
“Based on the range I was told earlier, that should work just fine,” said Tenzou on the left as he and Mary used a telescope spell to measure their range.
“Okay, then that’s what we’ll do.”
Komahime gasped at the boy’s voice she heard.
…So they don’t lose me…?
That’s impossible, she thought. But…
“Sure. So we’re about to help you energize or whatever, but we need a bit of time. So, um…how long do we need, Seijun? 2 minutes? That’s way too long! Make it 1! …Oh, sorry, ‘Musashi’. U-um, 1 minute 17 seconds? That’ll work? You can cut it down that far? Okay, Umako, you hold on for that long.”
“No, not ‘huh’,” he said with a laugh. “Hold on for 1 minute and 17 seconds before you fall. We’ll save you, so you do your best to make sure you can be rescued. Y’see, we’re like some poor little rabbits that are feeling cornered after losing a major battle. We’re bunnies.”
For some reason, it sounded like someone hit someone, but Komahime had a major concern.
“It’s no use! The machine here won’t move!”
“Ugh… Ow… W-well, get it to move?”
“Why was that a question? …And I can’t just get it to move. It isn’t possible…”
“Is it broken?”
This time it was a girl’s voice. The voice sounded calm but also contained a hint of a worried emotion. What a strange voice, thought Komahime as she looked to the control panel.
The control panel was not broken. It was only bent which kept the control lever from moving. So…
“It isn’t broken. It just isn’t moving…or can’t move…”
“Then there is nothing to worry about.” Some relief entered the voice. “If it is not broken, then it can be moved. And even if it is broken, it can still be moved as long as there is a hand to move it. Right now, your hands are there. And as long as they are, you can move it. Komahime-sama, throw out your despair and grab something else instead.”
“Who are you?”
“A café employee. …So I am used to making gambles.”
Komahime did not understand that, but…
Her right hand was unharmed, so she moved it. She opened an insha kotob, looked back over the power system since it could apparently still control divine transmissions, and set it to the full power available in this situation.
It was not as much as before, but the defense barrier returned outside. However…
It groaned as a great pressure reached it from above.
Novgorod’s fall was speeding up.
But she had to support it with the Jurakudai, so…
“I’ll do it.”
She held her right sleeve in her mouth and pulled it back. She rolled the sleeve up to her shoulder and once more grabbed the unmoving 2nd control lever.
When she pulled it back and then pushed forward, she felt the metal hit something. This is the wall, she thought. If I can get past this, it’ll work.
She calculated how long until Novgorod’s fall after the power adjustments from the divine transmission control. She spoke while sending the results to Musashi.
“The power will fail within 42 seconds. …If I don’t get the Jurakudai’s full power running by then, Novgorod will fall. And if it begins to fall in 42 seconds…”
“Don’t worry. If we can save you, then you can do it.”
She did not know what he meant by that, but she oddly felt like everything would be okay. So…
She gathered strength in her right arm and pushed at the control lever.
The divine transmission from Komahime cut off just as the Musashi began to transform.
It all began with “Musashi” spreading her arms backwards from the top of Musashino’s bridge where she could look out upon everything.
“This new equipment is useless for cleaning, but…”
She drew two black-sheathed swords from the air. One was a short sword and the other a long sword. Ether light sprayed out as she pulled them out and she fixed the scabbards in the air.
Sakai spoke as he sat on the bridge roof next to her and puffed at his pipe.
“ ‘Musashi’-san, you’re actually really into this, aren’t you?”
“What aerial ship would not want to use her new equipment? Over,” said “Musashi”. “Now, everyone aboard the Musashi. At the request of the Musashi King, the Musashi Viceroy, and the Musashi Vicereine, Musashi will use its main cannon to remove the obstacle in its path. This is not a test firing; it is an official firing. This action has the approval of the Novgorod Mayoress and Sviet Rus Chancellor who own the aforementioned obstacle. The negotiations have already been settled, so I will now remove the main cannon’s firing safety. Everyone, prepare the Aerial City-class Gravitational Cannon ACC-GC0021 Kanesada. This time we will be using it in main barrel mode: ACC-GC0021L Large Kanesada. Over.”
“Musashi” then slowly drew the two swords from their floating scabbards.
And with that the Musashi opened up.
It was entering main cannon firing form which was based on the gravitational cruising form.
The transformation began with every ship’s gravitational cruising wings opening.
But even more opened. Before, they had primarily opened on the outer edges of the Musashi’s ships, but now…
“Do it just like before, but all of them this time!! Keep working and get it all up and running!!”
On the orders of the engine division chief, wings opened on the inner edges as well. And…
“Send ascension commands to the outer thrusters! We’re gonna support the 2 center ships with only the outer ships!!”
“Musashi” could tell her gaze was lowering.
When preparing for gravitational cruising, the virtual ocean along the outer hull would vanish. To make up for the lost buoyancy, they would accelerate forward and use that powerful forward momentum to keep themselves from “falling”. But the thrusters were not active at the moment. All of the ships were slowly falling.
As soon as she felt a little lightweight due to the falling motion, sign frames appeared around her.
“Asakusa and Shinagawa have finished preparing their outer gravitational cruising thrusters for horizontal firing! Over!”
“Same for Tama and Murayama! Over!”
“Same for Takao and Oume! Over!”
“Same for Musashino and Okutama! Over!”
“Judge.” “Musashi” nodded and continued slowly drawing the swords. “All ships, lock yourselves in firing position. Over.”
Light exploded outwards from the 1st through 3rd port and starboard ships.
That was the acceleration light of gravitational cruising, but it was not exploding backwards to push them forwards.
It was exploding downwards.
All of the thrusters along the outer hull were aimed down.
“Well done. Over.”
The power used to propel them forward was now being sent down to propel them upwards.
Shigenaga viewed the sight from the deck of the transport ship as it returned to her flagship.
The ships on the Musashi’s port and starboard sides were producing an expansive light and wavering down from the outer hulls.
She understood the idea. Before, the Musashi’s gravitational thrusters would have been fixed in the backwards-facing position, but now…
“Did they use the remodeling to make them movable!?”
Her very question was its own answer. Once the outer thrusters moved out into the open, they rotated and pointed downwards to support the ships.
The downwards acceleration on the outer edges was also transferred to the inner edges using buffering spells. Light gradually wrapped around the bottom of Musashi’s port and starboard ships.
…It’s like they’re cruising on a sea of light.
But two of the ships received none of the acceleration light: the central two. Their freefall state was not supported by the gravitational acceleration light. Instead, the towing belts let out a metallic groan as they connected those two to the other ships.
Shigenaga did not have to wonder why they would do that. With something like a metallic scream, the central ships shook in the air while supported by the towing belts.
The lights visible on the inner edges of the port and starboard ships were probably sparks caused from the towing belt connections. On occasion, the vertical stretching of the towing belts stripped some of the armor away and it would scatter through the night sky.
What were they hoping to accomplish with this?
But as Shigenaga watched, the central ships’ descent slowed.
They were probably supported by the ships to their left and right.
As her body floated up and everything seemed to be scooped back up by the wind, “Musashi” slowly finished drawing the two swords.
At the same time, the towing belts extending from the port and starboard ships finished supporting the central ships.
But Musashino and Okutama were being pulled up on the left and right, so they were bent in a shallow U shape. To fix that distortion, “Musashi” raised the long Kanesada sword in front of her eyes.
As she did, light wrapped around the straight sword-shaped ram on Musashino’s bow.
That light extended forward in a longer version of the same shape. Light also raced from the stern like a ribbon connecting the two central ships. And that second light tied itself to the stern with a bow.
“So, ‘Musashi’-san, is your weight okay?”
“First my age and now my weight? Over.”
“Well, I mean, things are looking pretty bad to the left and right. And you fell a little just now.”
“That was not falling. It was descending. And it was Musashino and Okutama that descended, not me. In other words, it has nothing to do with me. Over.”
Musashino: “Principal Sakai, could you please avoid provoking the overall captain? Over.”
Okutama: “Agreed… And, yes, we are very heavy, aren’t we…? Over.”
They develop nicely once their thought experience accumulates enough, thought “Musashi”.
“Now. …We only need to open the barrel. The virtual barrel. Opening main barrel. Over.”
With that, “Musashi” moved.
She slowly pointed the long sword forward.
She aimed the tip toward Novgorod.
But it was not just the sword tip that pointed in that direction.
“Musashi Large Kanesada…main barrel open. Over.”
It began below the Musashino’s bridge. A barrel made of ether extended to the front and back from the thruster installed below the bridge. It was a two-way rotation barrel with a defense barrier built in.
The giant barrel loudly turned on its axis and the two pieces fit together front to back like they were constructing a great tower. And…
“Asakusa, Shinagawa, Tama, Murayama, Oume, Takao…beginning main barrel service. Over.”
“Musashino and Okutama…beginning main barrel service. Over.”
The thrusters on the inner sides of the port and starboard ships faced inwards. Those on the central ships pointed upwards and they formed lines of gravitational control light which supported the barrel.
The barrel was raised to the same height as the inner thrusters of the port and starboard ships.
“Sakai-sama. …Do you understand now why we descended? Over.”
“Musashi” glanced over at Sakai and then sighed.
“I will tell everyone you said so. Over.”
The barrel pierced front and back between the port and starboard ships. And at the very back…
“Musashi Chancellor, I give you the highest position in charge of Musashi’s martial activities. Please provide assistance to allow synchronization between all the parts. Over.”
“Sure. Just leave it to me.”
With that, light appeared from the back. Musashi’s Chancellor had activated his ether supply spell.
A festival had begun on the academy bridge.
Musashi’s Chancellor stood there and, when the giant barrel extended back to him, he used his ether supply spell.
“Let’s get this started.”
With about 20 on the left and 20 on the right, lines indicating ether supply connections raced out into the air like whips. They struck the thrusters on the inner sides of the port and starboard ships and on both sides of the central ships and they provided those thrusters with light.
Behind him, a shrine maiden twanged her bow and a dancer danced to pressurize his spell.
The 40 or more ether supplies grew to twice that number and all of the Musashi’s inner thrusters roared in unison like they were musical instruments.
The silver wolf grabbed the back of the barrel with her silver chains. She pulled on it to inform the Musashi of its exact position. Then the Acting Captain’s voice reached them.
On the deck of Shibata’s flagship, the Kitanoshou, Shibata watched it with everyone else.
“Hold on. Who were those powerful nations that claimed to have the Far East under their provisional rule? They sure have egg on their face now…”
Shibata clenched his teeth in a smile as the large cannon completed its barrel which measured more than 8 kilometers in length.
“How can they create such a large cannon with nothing but defense barriers and gravitational acceleration control?”
He was answered by Fuwa. She scanned the optical and ether readings and she opened her mouth.
“I think this is the accumulation of the Musashi’s experience as it has continued flying for 30 years…no, technically for 160 years. They have learned to balance such a large ship and have honed the gravity barriers that defend it. And in recent years, they’ve installed gravitational thruster technology and gained experience using that. …You could call this the skill of an experienced craftsman.”
“I’m glad you dumbed it down for me at the end there. But how much can that thing do?”
“Shaja.” Fuwa nodded and scrolled through the readings she had taken. “It can pierce through the half-destroyed Novgorod. Depending on the makeup of the shell, it might even be able to entirely destroy the city. For example…”
“Musashi currently has enough striking power to split a floating island the size of Aki’s Itsukushima.”
Shibata lightly whistled at that.
At the same time, flames rose below Novgorod.
They had erupted from the rear of the Jurakudai. As everyone watched, the defense barrier shrank and just about disappeared. And if it did…
“The Jurakudai will fall!”
Komahime barely managed to bring back her consciousness.
Some of the falling rubble had hit the top of the bridge. That had knocked part of the ceiling down, that had hit her, and she had passed out for just a moment.
There was just one thing she had to do now: support Novgorod above her.
There were people working hard to save her, so she had to work hard too.
But the tilting of the ship and her unsteady footing told her the ship was beginning to fall. The countdown on the insha kotob had reached 20.
She nodded, grabbed the control lever with her right hand, and pushed.
It moved, but it once more stopped partway back.
It would not budge, but she had to keep pushing. There was nothing more she could do.
…I won’t give up!
With that thought, she leaned her entire body forward. She pushed with her shoulders behind it.
She thought she heard some creaking metal. It was a tiny, nearly inaudible sound, but it was definitely coming from the base of the control lever.
Just as she thought that, the Jurakudai hopped up with a heavy reverberation. It was enough for her feet to leave the floor. The lever just about left her hand, but she held on and pressed her body against the control panel. But…
Wind passed by overhead. She heard the ceiling breaking and splitting. And the sky came into view. But it was not the night sky she saw when the upper armor was blown away.
It was the stone of Novgorod’s bottom surface.
The stone fell from the giant structure in the sky. It was falling straight toward her.
Komahime did not let go of the control lever.
The stone was going to reach her. It was going to crush her. But just before it did…
“You might not need it, but I came to rescue you.”
Someone placed their left hand on her right hand.
Komahime looked to her right.
She could not believe who she saw.
“Testament. It’s been too long, Komahime.”
“I’m here to fulfill my promise.”
The boy with a single dragon horn raised his right hand. When he moved it, something raced by overhead. It was a giant arm made of ether. It was the right arm of the Seiryu’s ether form.
Kojirou used the azure metal arm to strike the falling stone.
The roaring noise became an umbrella that defended against and protected her from everything.
Komahime saw him turn toward her.
He had a smile in his eyes.
“I woke up in the launching zone’s lobby, but there was a letter there. They were apparently acting on the instructions of someone named Niwa, but it said they had given me a divine transmission connection with Musashi and that we should work toward something together. …It said that’s the first thing any married couple should do.”
Komahime knew it was an emergency, but she still wanted to run away and hide.
“E-even if I didn’t have much choice, I still made myself your concubine without your permission…”
“That’s fine. My regret was the same as yours.”
Bluish-white light stirred from the left hand he had placed on her hand.
It was the dragon’s power. It was the proper form of the Dragon God’s power which used the Seiryu to protect those of the Date family. It surrounded her body.
Her left arm and hip regained their form. She felt a little embarrassed that he was seeing her bare arm, but she still looked him in the eye and nodded.
Komahime and Kojirou grabbed the control lever together.
And before they began to push, a giant and powerful hand lowered to support them.
It was the Seiryu’s right hand. With that light and power protecting them, Komahime spoke.
In the sky over western Kantou IZUMO, a girl sighed on the bridge of the Date flagship, the Aoba Castle, as it defended the Ariake.
A blue gate of light was faintly visible behind her, but it produced no wind and simply pulsed with light.
The girl rested her sword on the deck and turned her one eye to the west.
“Kojirou. …So you ended up being the first to use the Seiryu’s power properly.”
She sent a weak but definite smile in that direction.
“You decided to take the path that would save Date. And…”
She shook her head and raised her lowering head.
“We will not forget it.”
“Toori-sama, Asakusa and Shinagawa have detected the recovery of power in the Jurakudai below Novgorod. Novgorod’s altitude has stabilized! Over!”
After that divine transmission from “Musashi”, the barrel’s direction was fixed in place.
As Toori stood behind the very bottom of the giant barrel, a targeting sign frame appeared in front of him.
“Ohh!” He smiled with the firing portion of the barrel’s back end in front of him. “We created something pretty badass, didn’t we?”
The idiot then looked to Masazumi who was crossing her arms behind him.
“Hey, Seijun. How do you shoot this thing? You did it earlier, right?”
“I did command the firing, but…that was a test firing of the short barrel, Small Kanesada, at 30% power. And we were firing straight down, so there was no distortion to the barrel and the service thrusters didn’t have to do much. The shell was also a lot like a non-piercing air blast. …So this will be the first official firing.”
“Hmm,” said the idiot while turned around to speak with Masazumi.
In search of something to lean on, he placed a hand on the nearby sign frame.
“So how do I shoot this thing?”
“ ‘Musashi’ will target it for you.”
“Then do I have to shout something? Like ‘Musashi Beeeeeeeam!’ or ‘Tenzou Crotch Short Barrel Blast!’ or ‘Wabisa-beeeeeeeam!!’ ”
“Wh-why would you use me in your joke!? I’m trying to monitor the target’s range, so I can’t give a decent reaction right now!”
“Hey,” cut in Urquiaga’s voice. “Don’t leave out Narumi and me just because we’re out on Musashino’s bow monitoring the range from there.”
“As the overall captain, I must ask that you do not shout anything weird. Especially that 2nd one. Over.”
“Hmm, so even ‘Musashi’ asked for a retake, huh? …Okay, everyone, think up a good thing to yell in the next 3 seconds.”
“Wait, you idiot.”
“Hmm… Seijun-kun, yelling that when we fire wouldn’t be very funny…”
“Wait, um,” said Mitotsudaira and Asama. The two girls were looking at the sign frame out in front. It was set to grow solid when touched, so the idiot was leaning his hand on it and sitting on it.
“W-wait! Um, my king?” said Mitotsudaira. “Can you look at this?”
“Y-yes, Toori-kun. This, um, might be bad.”
The idiot followed their gazes and Masazumi also pointed out ahead.
“Look more carefully. They mean that.”
The idiot peered at the sign frame which contained the word “Authorize?” and a handprint.
The idiot looked between his hand and the authorization handprint for a few seconds before quickly looking up at the giant barrel.
The barrel had already begun its two-way rotation and moved forward to cock itself.
“Ah, hey… Wait, you idiot!!!”
With that yell, the Musashi fired its main cannon.
Suzu sat in the seat installed for her on Musashino’s bridge.
She felt the seat rotating backwards, but just as she thought about asking why, it happened.
The Musashino and Okutama were knocked back by the cannon’s recoil.
The two ships hanging from the towing belts rushed backwards through the air like they were sliding on rails. With her seat turned backwards, the force of it pushed her into the seat back.
Toori’s ether supply was cut off and ether sprayed out between him and the port and starboard ships.
And Suzu sensed those port and starboard ships spreading outwards in a fan shape to absorb the motion of the Musashino and Okutama as they were pushed back by the force of the cannon.
The towing belt connectors and the ships’ movements were the key.
Suzu displayed the model of the Musashi in front of her and swiftly moved her hands to tell the ships how to move. To prevent the towing belts from snapping, she had to make sure the central ships did not go too far.
She pictured it like a model boat being pulled by the current of a stream. The more it tried to move, the greater the resistance. So…
She had recently come into contact with ether wind pressure while at Date, so she had an even greater feel for wind than before.
…Yes. This will…work.
All of the Musashi moved back about 2 kilometers while dropping its speed. The port and starboard ships were positioned a little further forward, but the central ships were pulled back to them by the towing belts. Meanwhile, the barrel had finished its role, so it scattered as countless fragments of light and all of the ships were surrounded by a virtual ocean.
Then she shifted her focus forward.
Novgorod. Suzu turned her entire seat around to face the center of that floating city.
The hemispherical bottom had a round hole straight through it.
Yoshiaki had stopped moving.
The wind was blowing.
Musashi had fired its main cannon. Even with buffering spells suppressing the shockwave when it fired, some noise and wind were unavoidable.
“Turn the bow straight toward Musashi’s muzzle! We’re going to ride this out!”
This was no time to be approaching Shibata’s fleet while also moving toward Novgorod.
Yoshiaki could see Shibata’s forces doing the same. They had already withdrawn to the southwest, but they were using the same wind to gain even more distance.
But even as the undulating winds passed by and a few of the ships’ virtual oceans were scattered, Yoshiaki saw something.
As Novgorod fell helplessly with its power system gone, the Jurakudai appeared below it as what could only be called wreckage.
The ship had been crushed flat and it was lit like a stage by the erupting flames and scattering ether fuel.
And Yoshiaki saw something else.
Two people stood on what little remained of the deck by the bow.
It was Hashiba Hidetsugu and Komahime.
They were holding hands and looking her way.
Komahime realized her end had arrived.
She was not dying. She had already died and was currently at a place beyond death.
“My regret is gone.”
The power allowing a ghost to exist was their attachment to the world of the living.
She had felt regret because she had wanted to be with him.
He had felt regret because he had wanted to be with her.
So now that they knew they could be together, their regrets vanished and they could no longer remain in the world of the living.
They would leave this world together. She could not quite put it to words, but…
“I’m glad,” he said by her side. “There’s a lot I left undone, but I’m glad there’s nothing I regret not having done.”
“So am I.”
Komahime pulled on his hand. They faced north together. They smiled toward the giant form floating there. Toward the Musashi.
Novgorod fell behind them. It had lost all power and fell as a mere corpse. It was picking up speed and moved like water blown along in the wind, but the Jurakudai endured it. Finally, they heard some noises below them. They heard stone colliding with stone and a great mass of it collapsing, knocking over trees, and falling into a canyon.
But Komahime opened her mouth with all those sounds of destruction in the background.
“Thank you very much.”
Asama saw the two of them bow on the large sign frame.
If they had done nothing, those two might have still been together, but they would have fallen with Novgorod and been destroyed.
Allowing them to be like this was only a small difference, but…
Asama looked to his back as he scratched his head and viewed the two in the sign frame.
Horizon glanced back toward her. With that as her cue, Asama continued.
“The two of you chose not to lose someone, so you resisted and now you are smiling.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Are you smiling?”
“You can smile, can’t you?”
“Yes,” confirmed Asama as she, Mitotsudaira, and Kimi (who had moved up close to Asama’s side) all smiled. Horizon could not smile, but she looked at the others and spoke.
“Once I have more of my emotions, will I have my own thoughts about this? But even without all of my emotions, I still want to be with all of you. And I believe I will feel the same even with all of my emotions. After all…”
“I could not have done this if I was alone or if I only had Toori-sama with me.”
“Then,” said Asama with a smile. “Let’s continue on together, Horizon.”
“Judge,” agreed Horizon.
And as Asama looked to Horizon and Mitotsudaira, Kimi embraced her arm and whispered in her ear.
“So as soon she announces the creation of a harem, you speak up to claim your spot?”
“Wh-what are you talking about!? I am a shrine maiden! A shrine maiden!!”
“Heh heh. Then maybe I should take the assistant/supreme commander role…”
She was not listening. Horizon did not seem to have heard and was tilting her head, but based on Mitotsudaira’s reaction, she had caught on. Mitotsudaira glanced over at Horizon, looked like she was about to protest to Kimi, but then turned her back, hung her head, and sat on the bridge.
…A-at least deny it!!
Asama had to wonder why she felt so panicked and cornered right now. She started to come up with some ways to reject or confirm this, but she stopped because she he had a bad feeling about how it would turn out.
So to reject it for the time being, she used the same reasoning she always had:
…Right. Our roles are just too different! Our roles! A pervert and a shrine maiden don’t go together at all! So we’re not close at all. We’re miles apart.
Then Masazumi approached from behind. She looked to the barrel’s ether light as it continued to scatter into the sky and she formed a relieved smile.
“That was like a powered-up version of Asama’s already powerful blasts, wasn’t it? Who would’ve thought Aoi would take over Asama’s role.”
“He’s moving closer to my role!?”
But wait, is that really my role? she wondered. I’ve spent way more time working on divine transmissions and tuning, but I guess life is all about what makes the biggest impact.
Regardless, the situation was still underway on the sign frame in front of them.
The two people on the Jurakudai were fading as light surrounded them.
With their regrets gone, they were disappearing.
Komahime looked to the northeast.
She saw the familiar shape of the Yamagata Castle. Her mother had to be watching her. And her mother was a strict person, so she had to be celebrating what Komahime was doing.
After all, foxes left their parents when they grew up. So…
She called out. She shouted the words she had been unable to say when she tried to go away before.
“I kept my promise! You take care of the rest! I am no longer Komahime, so I will go with someone who is no longer Kojirou-sama, live happily, and never return to Mogami!”
She squeezed the hand she held. That hand barely existed anymore, but…
He squeezed back and that strength seemed to push more words from her mouth.
“Thank you for everything! And…”
According to the Testament, the Mogami clan would gain its greatest territory after Sekigahara, but due to a subordinate’s plot, its heir would be lost and it would be purged. It would lack the number of clan members needed to continue and it would fall into decline.
Aged Yoshiaki would grow ill when that happened, but…
“Take care of yourself…!!”
Komahime thought her mother would be okay, but it was still worth wishing her well.
And she opened her throat.
She produced the voice that foxes used to say goodbye to their parents.
That voice rose into the heavens.
Once the reverberation faded, she sensed light.
She felt her and the boy next to her floating upwards.
“We’re leaving now.”
The two of them nodded and she left.
Yoshiaki watched the light rise into the sky.
Two spiritual lives were released from their humanoid forms and, in this case, chose to ascend.
Yoshiaki narrowed her eyes as her daughter’s cry of parting echoed in her ears.
…That brings me back.
She too had made that cry when she left on a journey. She was still single and had never been reunited with her mother or the others, but Komahime had a husband who had chosen to leave on that journey with her. So…
“Take care. …Komahime.”
That is my one and only wish, she thought.
Then rain poured from the clear night sky. The Musashi’s cannon had disturbed the air at the higher altitudes and brought this sun shower from the night sky. Shakenobe cried out in joy as the water fell on him behind her.
“Yoshiaki-sama! Is this what they call a fox’s wedding, mon!?”
“Yes, it is. Heh heh. …Komahime, you are such an excellent child.” Yoshiaki’s wet bangs hid her expression. “Your mother had you without a partner, so I never knew this rain. …Seeing it now…heh heh…makes me feel like I’ve been wed too.”
She ignored the drops flowing down her cheeks, formed a smile on her lips, and hid those lips behind her fan. Then she opened a sign frame and spoke.
“Satomi Yoshiyasu. …We can call this your victory.”
“I wasn’t really trying to compete with you.”
“Then are you saying this was the natural way of things?”
“Yes. …Everything found its way to where it belonged. That’s all.”
“Testament,” said Yoshiaki. “Mogami will now support Musashi with everything we have. That is Mogami’s vote in the Hidetsugu incident.”
“Testament,” agreed the ruler of Date in Kantou’s sky.
She looked back and up to see the Seiryu’s gate had closed behind her.
“Date will also trust in Musashi and we swear to support Musashi in its fight against Hashiba.”
Masamune’s shoulders relaxed as she exhaled and she brushed up her bangs.
Below her one eye and the sword guard eyepatch over the other, she smiled. And she spoke while her comrades lined up on the deck and bowed westward to support her.
“Kojirou desired and worked to fulfil that promise, so we will set that as our vision of the future. But it we will no longer restrict ourselves to Oushuu and Sviet Rus. We will remake it as a promise to Musashi which visits all of the Far East.”
“Sviet Rus will also follow you when the time comes. And we will pay a deposit now.”
Masazumi heard Kagekatsu’s divine transmission on the academy bridge.
As she looked around, something like the ground itself rose from below.
It was a group of ships. It was the entire Sviet Rus fleet. And they were floating upside-down. The more than 100 ships were a mixture of unharmed and damaged, but they all lined their decks up alongside each other.
“Until we meet again, Musashi!”
With Marfa held in his left arm, Kagekatsu waved from the flagship’s deck.
Among those looking up at him, Masazumi saw the idiot waving back.
When she thought about it, casually waving to Uesugi Kagekatsu, the representative of Sviet Rus, should never have happened from a global perspective.
She never would have imagined this situation half a year ago.
…This is all so crazy.
And then the deposit arrived.
A coffin-shaped Sviet Rus drop container was dropped from Kagekatsu’s side.
It fell through the air.
And as soon as it hit the bridge, it opened with a solid sound. It spread out like a flower to reveal…
|Back to Chapter 93||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 95|