Horizon:Volume 5A Chapter 10
Chapter 10: Responder in a Sky of Beginning
Raise your hand in greeting
How much strength
Is needed to do that?
Point Allocation (Cannon Fire)
Fog appeared in the night sky above Kantou’s eastern coast.
It was an immense amount of fog shaped much like a wave. It blew from the eastern ocean to the western mountains as it washed over the plane of the sky.
The wind and fog wave brought something into view in the sky, but it did not show itself to anything on the same level or below.
It used a stealth barrier. While it was normally a thin and broad cube, the top face had been removed. The stealth barrier had become a giant square bowl that contained a massive structure.
The giant white armored surface on the top was printed with the letters ARIAKE.
Large forms were moving across that surface while the light of the two moons washed over them.
They were heavy gods of war, around a dozen in all.
The unit carried god of war sniper rifles and telescopes that functioned as an observation system. By getting down on the southwestern end of the Ariake’s rooftop, they could view the outside sky while remaining almost entirely hidden by the stealth barrier.
And shells were incoming.
The observation team watched the southwest direction and sent a divine transmission to the Ariake.
“Observation 2, 3, and 4 are sending in separate readings. Use the 3 data points to work out the enemy location!”
A few of the shells hit even as they spoke. They accurately struck the Ariake.
A tremor ran through it and the scaffolding used to replace external armor fell away.
“Ariake to Mito. Incinerating objects falling toward residential districts. Over.”
With that, fire appeared in the sky below the Ariake.
The hardened bamboo used for the scaffolding split, scattered, and fell once it was ignited. There were 21 pieces, but the fire burned into cinders as it fell.
“Incineration complete. Over.”
After the report from “Ariake”, the giant structure began to move.
The Ariake moved out to sea. At the same time, new movement occurred on the Ariake’s stern.
The Oushuu ships docked there began preparations to leave port. They used the Ariake’s giant form as a shield while it moved out to sea. And once the Ariake stopped…
“Opening stern stealth barrier in blow mode. Density: 500. Over.”
A mist-type stealth barrier enveloped the ships on the stern. It spread far behind the Ariake, extended northward, and ultimately dissolved into the night air.
This was wide-area stealth to let the Oushuu ships safely escape.
The Ariake secured that escape route as it continued out to sea.
As it did, the wind started blowing up at it from below.
The chilly mountain wind rose into the sky as it was taken in by the warm ocean. The wavering wind buffeted the Ariake’s stealth barrier from below, but also sent in a mist that helped hide it. But…
“More shells incoming! Even more than last time! They’re firing continuously!”
The roar of approaching shellfire pierced the night.
“They’re physical shells! They have acceleration divine protections, but they aren’t homing!”
The observation team received data from the Ariake. The sign frames next to the gods of war’s face devices informed them that the Azuchi Castle had begun to rise in Edo and that the Houjou fleet was gradually approaching from the southwest. However…
The shells accurately struck the Ariake.
More of the scaffolding on the outer surface fell away and the white armor panels bent.
The elevated wind, which included the sea air from below, caught on the bent armor and sounded something like a crying voice. And…
6 shots produced sparks and intense sounds.
And they were almost all hitting the same spot.
The sniper team aimed their weapons, but the distance was still too great.
“Damn, their aim is good! We’re moving out to sea and they can still hit us from there!?”
“The Association of Indian States is the nation of arithmetic. They can probably calculate out our trajectory and position.”
7 shots arrived. And once again…
“The same spot! The tension gathers in the corners, so if they collapse, it’ll start a chain reaction!”
“Hey! Someone act as a shield! Someone other than me!”
“Can’t Ariake put up a defense barrier?!”
“Not while in stealth mode. The defense barrier could interfere with the stealth and strip it away!”
“Wouldn’t it be better to strip away our stealth if it gave us some defense!?”
“We can’t do that while the Oushuu ships are still behind us!”
“…Then can we only sit here and watch!?”
“No,” said one of them. “Let’s call the vassal!”
“That’s right!” they all agreed as 5 shots scored direct hits.
They cried out as the sound of impact shook the air and an armor panel finally fell away. The 20-meter piece of white armor sounded like a scream as it sliced through the air on the way down toward the ocean.
“Primary armor detached! A chain reaction of detachment is possible on the southwest!”
The wind roared from the damaged area.
The secondary armor below was made to scatter in an impact, so it was weak to direct hits.
But then a noise arrived there. It was a low-speed physical shell with its acceleration managed by a spell.
It was going to hit. But just before it did…
A female voice rang out and a projectile shot through between the gods of wars.
It was a spell shell.
The eyes of everyone atop the Ariake followed the attack that passed between them and approached the enemy.
Its aim was clear. Its path took it directly toward the Houjou fleet.
That fleet was obviously much too far to reach, but the shot did collide with the incoming volley of shells.
A defense barrier flower blossomed in the sky.
It was not one of the Ariake’s defense barriers. The spell circle that opened was marked with the Asama Shrine seal.
It had been built into the spell shell and it had been activated when fired.
The one barrier caught the 6 incoming shells and shattered.
The night sky was lit up by sparks and by fragments of the ether forming the spell circle.
“That was a gravitational defense barrier shell for stealth barrier support. It’s called Hedge Camellia. It’s pretty useful for cannon battles at this range.”
The girl’s voice belonged to someone approaching the southwest of the roof with heavy footsteps.
A red and black female heavy god of war held a rifle. And on Jizuri Suzaku’s shoulder…
“You’re supposed to call me 6th Special Duty Officer at times like this.”
Behind her, several light gods of war were carrying spell shells lined up in wooden containers.
Naomasa pointed back at them and spoke to everyone.
“Sniper team, hurry up and load your ammo! Back at HQ, they’re examining Houjou’s movements and Hashiba’s movements. Until they decide on a course of action…”
Red light appeared in the sky where Houjou was.
They were firing.
Jizuri Suzaku responded by getting down on its right knee and raising its sniper rifle.
Naomasa spoke while returning fire.
“Everyone, fight back!”
“Houjou is attacking? What does that meant?”
In the air within the Ariake, Masazumi crossed her arms in response to Mary’s question.
“I think they made a few different political decisions. The Azuchi Castle’s response is proof of that.
She and Mary were riding on Urquiaga’s back as he took them from the Asama Shrine.
They were on their way to the academy. Up ahead, Naruze was carrying the crossdresser on her broom.
The idiot would occasionally wrap his legs around the broom handle and hang down to swing like a pendulum before righting himself again. When Urquiaga saw that…
Uqui: “Naruze, you can drop him if you want.”
Mal-Ga: “And you can shoot him if you want.”
Uqui: “I’ll take you up on that offer.”
Eh? thought Masazumi as Urquiaga fired a blast of air from his arm and into the dangling idiot’s back.
“Oh.” Mary’s eyebrows rose. “Is that a miniature dragon cannon?”
“It is a compressed air cannon. I used this to confess to Narumi.”
“Hey, wait!” shouted Masazumi. “Are you saying you fired a combat technique!?”
But just as the compressed air was going to hit the idiot, he slid to the side. Naruze pushed at the broom with her butt so they slipped to the right.
Mal-Ga: “Hahn. …You suck.”
Uqui: “Whose side are you on?”
Vice President: “Whose side are you on!?”
Mal-Ga: “Ha ha. …But this reminds me of when we used to train together.”
Uqui: “That broom of yours has always been a pain. It’s flat, so it can move horizontally way too quickly.”
Marube-ya: “Oh, what’s this? Miss Narumi? If you’d like to know more about this, money can buy you all the information you could want.”
Unturning: “No, thanks. I already washed clean my past regrets. Anything that happened before then is unimportant.”
But when Naruze stuck her butt out to swiftly return to her original course…
The reversal was too much for the idiot, his clutching legs slipped from the broom, and he fell into the air in front of the academy.
Seeing that, Masazumi opened a sign frame and told herself to stay focused on what mattered.
“Okay, let’s double check the current situation.”
In front of the academy, Kimi, Horizon, Adele, and Persona-kun gathered the items brought in from the lift.
They would normally remove the fence in front of the entrance bridge and carry everything into the schoolyard on a large cart, but they did not have the time. As the sounds of shellfire reached them, they tied the cart to the fence with rope.
“Adele, I’m sure there’s a post for you, so get going. The people taking the hits up above are sending requests for you.”
“I really don’t like the sound of that. …Okay, this is fixed in place, so I’ll be going!”
“Judge,” said Kimi as a sign frame appeared next to her face. It was from Masazumi.
Vice President: “I would like to speak about the current situation.”
Hori-ko: “Excuse me, Masazumi-sama, but we are currently dealing with some luggage.”
Horizon gestured like she was lifting something up in her arms.
At that very moment, the crossdresser fell into those arms.
“Oh, welcome back,” said Kimi as Horizon braced herself against the weight.
“Nh…! No, never mind. This is too much of a burden on my joints.”
She detached her arms at the shoulders and the crossdresser’s remaining momentum slammed him into the ground.
It made an awful sound.
“Owwwww! W-with that timing and transition, wouldn’t you normally catch me!? Tenzou and Koni-tan both did it! Pe-yan! You carry me instead! Princess carry me!”
While Persona-kun frantically shook his head and hands, Kimi collected Horizon’s arms.
…Oh, these are pretty heavy.
They were heavy enough to feel more comfortable holding them in both hands. They were still warm and she could tell they would continue in autonomous mode for a while still.
Kimi wanted to open the collar of Horizon’s somewhat disheveled track suit, but her hands were full holding Horizon’s arms.
Then the arms she held bent at the elbow and opened the collar with their hands.
“Heh heh. How dexterous.”
“I practice on a daily basis. …My goal is to have them make breakfast while I am still asleep. They can brew tea and bring me the snack jar while I am reading, but I think they can be a little more convenient.”
Asama: “…Somehow I’m not at all surprised.”
Silver Wolf: “…I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone refer to themselves as ‘convenient’.”
While they heard the sounds of reconnection and tuning, a shadow fell on the roof of the front school building.
Vice President: “Okay, I’ll give you your instructions.”
Kimi and Horizon looked to the sign frame displaying Masazumi’s words.
Vice President: “At the moment, the interception unit is working to turn this into a definite battle. …This was an attack from Houjou. If we return fire, it becomes a ‘battle’ instead of just a warning. That is the best result here.”
“She makes it sound so easy.”
Naomasa spoke in the night sky while firing from Jizuri Suzaku.
“The Houjou fleet has slowed its approach at 20 kilometers south-southwest! The Azuchi Castle is now visible in the Edo region! What the hell is going on here?”
Vice President: “Judge. P.A. Oda does not intend to let us approach Mouri and Houjou.”
Masazumi continued after confirming everyone on the divine transmission had gone silent.
Vice President: “Just when we thought Hashiba was going to leave the Tottori Castle at their headquarters of Lake Biwa Azuchi, they brought it all the way to Edo. That was so they can send the Azuchi Castle to the Mouri battle and end it with a short-term showdown.”
Flat Vassal: “Is that at all connected to Houjou attacking us?”
Azuma: “Eh? Isn’t that because they don’t want the Musashi stopping the Azuchi Castle from heading to Mouri? Isn’t that why they had Houjou attack?”
Novice: “Not quite! Not quite, Azuma-kun! To explain-…”
Musashi King: “That is not the case, Azuma-kun. The Azuchi Castle need not approach the Musashi. If they move west through the territory of their allied Association of Indian States, they can reach Mouri territory at a leisurely pace without engaging in combat with Musashi. And that is the exact course the Azuchi is currently taking.”
Four Eyes: “He got in ahead of you.”
Novice: “Sh-shut up! …But doesn’t that make it all the more compelling of a question? Why is Houjou moving against us when we couldn’t even reach the Azuchi? To explain-…”
This sounded like it was going to be lengthy, so Masazumi gave the answer herself.
Vice President: “P.A. Oda is plotting to cut the connection between Houjou and us. That way we can’t work behind the scenes with Houjou to start the Battle of Kanagawa. And this also prevents the Musashi from approaching the Azuchi. Even if we can’t reach them, displaying intent to attack would mean one important thing.”
Vice President: “It would demonstrate Musashi’s intent to support Mouri.”
“They’ve got a pretty interesting situation set up in the east, don’t they?”
A white structure existed in a vast night field surrounded by distant forest.
The wind scattered the grass around an aerial warship measuring more than a kilometer in length and bearing the seal of Hexagone Française.
It was the Pension Versailles.
A woman spoke from its deck while looking into the eastern night sky.
“So they’re quickly swapping out the Tottori Castle we gave them and sending in the Azuchi Castle instead, huh?”
“It would seem Hashiba is being very cautious when it comes to us.”
The signe cadre by her hand displayed a glowing young man atop a tower in the night.
“Put some clothes on, Exiv.”
“Heh. Only if you put them on me.”
“You’d just dodge out of the way.”
“That only proves you are not serious about it, Terumoto. At least allow me that sort of decision.”
“Is that so?” Terumoto spoke to the Roi-Soleil. “What Hashiba’s afraid of is a pincer attack from Musashi and us on the east and west. They’re also afraid of Musashi and us deepening our friendship. If Musashi attacked Hashiba now, it would leave us indebted to them in a big way. After all, we fall under Hashiba’s rule if Mouri loses after this. To put it another way, this is Musashi’s last chance to earn some points with us.”
“Testament. And that is why Hashiba is working to avoid that at all costs. And that includes sending their allies in Houjou after them.”
“That said, they don’t want Houjou to fight an actual war. It’s only a warning or an assault.”
Terumoto saw shadows gathering on the field below. They were…
“The members of our maid automaton unit that will stay with you are gathering, princess.”
Terumoto nodded at the explanation from Mouri-01 who stood next to her. She also put on the long gakuran-style summer uniform shirt the automaton handed her.
“Houjou has the history recreation of a battle against Matsudaira in the period from Nobunaga’s death to their destruction.”
“You mean the Tensho Jingo Conflict?”
“Testament,” said Terumoto. “Immediately after Nobunaga’s assassination, Matsudaira heads out from their headquarters to take revenge and Houjou uses that as a chance to drive out Oda’s Takigawa Ichimasu. When Matsudaira returns, they join the battle and then work out peace terms when the battle looks like it’s going to last a while.”
“This assault was initiated by Houjou. Even if the Battle of Kanagawa that drives Takigawa from Kantou is a prerequisite, Musashi can automatically turn this into the Tensho Jingo Conflict if they establish it as a ‘battle’. And by ‘passing Kanagawa’ like that, they can establish the post-Nobunaga period in advance. Also…”
“The Mouri clan loses to Hashiba before the Tensho Jingo Conflict. Right?”
“Testament,” confirmed Terumoto while looking to Mouri-02 and 03 lining up the maids below. 03 noticed her and waved, so she nodded back. “We fought Hashiba before Nobunaga’s assassination, but when Hashiba received word of the assassination, they hurriedly sue for peace with us. …So they can take revenge. They used flooding in their attempt to defeat us. It’s exactly what you would expect of Hashiba since they’re so skilled at construction. And when Hashiba eventually destroys Houjou, they do it with the flooding they couldn’t complete with us.”
“If the post-Nobunaga Tensho Jingo Conflict is established here, Hashiba’s attack on Mouri will not be as effective. We should be able to find a way to stop it midway. If Musashi is to leave us indebted, that would be the best way.”
“So will Musashi work to establish a ‘battle’ by attacking Houjou?”
“That should be their basic tactic. But the Warring States period is already reaching its end. All the forces that still remain really know how to survive. They’ll use every trick in the book. …As will Musashi.”
With that, Terumoto raised her right hand.
She saw responding motions down below.
A total of 1000 maid automatons brought their heels together and spoke in unison.
To her right, Mouri-01 kneeled and held something up.
It was a wooden sword. Terumoto took the darkly colored weapon, rested it on her shoulder, and raised her eyebrows in a smile.
“Listen up, everyone. We’re about to head for the front line. Our nudist will remain on the rear guard, but this is a Mouri battle. We’ll take the lead and settle it all ourselves.”
Their voices rang nice and loud.
“We’re taking a Testamenta Arma and Logismoi Oplo along for a fun little outing. The Reine des Garous will catch up with this later, so we need to have a nice greeting ready for her. Musashi seems to be taking action in the east, but we aren’t gonna let ourselves be indebted to them. After all, we’ve got Europe’s conqueror supporting us. So…” Terumoto raised the wooden sword and pushed out her chest. “Let’s get to the front line to show them what kind of women we are!!”
“This is ‘Ariake’ with a report. We have arrived 11 km above the ocean. The Oushuu ships are leaving from the stern. Over.”
With that report, the Ariake shook from shell hits.
The Oushuu transport and trade ships began to leave the stern port.
The Ariake had to maintain its stealth mode until they had left the battle’s danger zone. But…
“Houjou is not approaching! They are falling back to keep a set distance!”
Houjou’s fleet knew the range of their shells and was staying there.
It was currently falling back to the southwest, forming a horizontal line, and constantly firing.
Musashi was fighting back with defense barrier shells, but…
“We’ve got plenty of ammo, but not enough guns!” shouted Naomasa.
Immediately, a whistling sound filled the sky.
“This is ‘Ariake’ with a report. 12 enemy crafts are rapidly approaching from south-southwest. They will fly north-northeast at 600 meters above the Ariake in another 21 seconds. They are…”
They had already arrived. Twelve points of wind flew in on a rising trajectory from somewhat lower down.
“…mechanical phoenixes. Garuda Ver. 46s are approaching with bombs equipped. Over.”
A deafening sound passed northward above the Ariake. And…
Naomasa’s voice was answered by light on the Ariake’s roof.
An incredible quantity of light explosions struck the top of the Ariake and tore it away.
“What is this light!?”
When Tenzou and Mary arrived on the Ariake’s roof ahead of the others, they saw light.
White light fell from the sky and shined along the top of the Ariake in around a dozen lines from south to north.
But they were more than just illumination. After all…
“Master Tenzou! The light is destroying the armor!”
Tenzou checked the white light decorating their surroundings.
He looked in the direction Mary was pointing and saw what was happening around one of the light sources.
“It’s melting into light!?”
It was a slow destruction by light.
There was no heat. But the areas that the light hit and that reflected the light turned to ether and vanished.
Was it all turning to light?
No, Tenzou had heard of this phenomenon where things became light and disappeared.
10ZO: “This is moksha! This is nirvana!”
Uqui: “Is that supposed to be a euphemism? Why are you doing perverted things in the middle of battle?”
Me: “And he even felt the need to tell us!”
Mal-Ga: “You are the worst.”
10ZO: “That isn’t what I meant.”
Mary tilted her head when she saw the sign frame.
Scarred: “Is there something indecent about being nervous?”
10ZO: “Well, it would be hard to say there aren’t indecent things that make you nervous, but I said ‘nirvana’ not ‘nervous’.”
“Oh,” she said just as a dull sound came from beyond her.
One of the bigger falling lights had pierced the roof’s primary armor. The air flowed in between the primary and secondary armor and the welded portions came apart.
The roof trembled beneath their feet as the latches came violently undone. And it happened more than once. It happened again and again.
…We have to stop this!
But, thought Tenzou. How do we do that?
10ZO: “Please find a countermeasure to this! The enemy’s bombs are light-melting types! Anywhere that reflects the shell light is melted into ether!”
Asama: “Understood! I think we should prepare a barrier!”
Wise Sister: “That’s our Asama! So what do those preparations entail!?”
Asama: “Well… Tenzou-kun, please run into the light. It would be faster to have someone investigate it on the scene.”
10ZO: “Now you’re using me as a human guinea pig!?”
As soon as Tenzou said that, Naomasa shouted at them while firing a defense barrier shell to the southwest.
“The second wave is coming!!”
The Ariake group managed to predict where the bombs would hit.
Upward-facing sign frames appeared on the front of the Ariake to indicate those locations.
They displayed predictions for the courses of the mechanical phoenixes, the courses of the dropped bombs, and the locations of the bomb hits.
But even if they knew what course the mechanical phoenixes would take, they had no way of fighting back. After all, the god of war sniper unit’s rifles were all in use defending against Houjou’s shells.
The one thing they could do was activated while “Ariake” spoke.
“Opening upper surface defense barriers. Over.”
A great many gravitational barriers appeared above the Ariake.
They made an accurate attempt to stop the falling light bombs.
But they failed.
“They were breached!? Over.”
The light bombs broke through the gravitational-type defense barriers. The weeping willow of light extended its branches and fell as if the triple digit number of barriers in the sky did not exist.
When they hit, the Ariake’s upper surface was covered with light.
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