Horizon:Volume 5A Chapter 12

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Chapter 12: Racers in the Night Sky[edit]

Horizon5A 335.jpg

How far you can go

Is determined by how far you wish

Point Allocation (Practical Ability)


“The Azuchi might pass through here, you say?”

Night covered a city that stretched north to south with a river to its east.

The city was surrounded by a wall and the rebuilt southern gate bore the name Magdeburg.

On the southern hill of the city, a demonic long-lived woman checked on the status of Magdeburg. She looked out into the eastern night sky, but she finally lightly turned her ghostly transparent legs. She turned from east to south and then west.

“Guericke, if the Azuchi does come through here, they will most likely pass along that line. But will the Azuchi really continue straight to Mouri without resupplying or changing ships within P.A. Oda?”

“Testament. Tomoe Gozen, the observation information from Musashi suggests they have too much cargo too well secured to move it around anytime soon. They would need a large fleet to do so.”

“I see,” said Tomoe Gozen as her shoulders relaxed.

She continued without looking back at the bearded man with metal hemispheres on his hands who stood behind her.

“If they need a fleet equivalent to a quasi-Bahamut Class transport ship, it would indeed be better for them to head straight to Mouri. Understood. Now I can predict Hashiba’s general actions from here on out.”

“Tomoe Gozen… What will Hashiba do?”

“I won’t tell you.”

Guericke’s jaw dropped, but she ignored it and asked a question.

“Have we secured the metal tower to the south?”

“Testament. Tomoe Gozen, the local villagers were avoiding it because they ‘don’t want to catch the perversion’, so we settled on cleaning it, recycling the minerals in the unneeded floors, and delivering those materials.”

“It is a shame, as I had hoped to speak with Rudolf II a little more.” Tomoe Gozen crossed her arms. “Well, whatever. Record the Azuchi as it passes by. That should happen in about an hour.”

“That soon?”

“They already used the Tottori Castle to test the Great Return on the way to Kantou. I’m guessing they’ll use a high-speed warship like the Azuchi to test the reverse path out of Kantou,” she explained. “Listen. Shibata and the others are in the southeast as a diversion. Even if they attack, ignore them and continue observations from the metal tower. For a while, it’s going to be impossible to freely contact Hexagone Française in the west. We need an emergency means of contacting them. Got that? Also…”

“What is it?”

“Only contact Musashi via IZUMO. P.A. Oda will likely restrict all external divine transmissions before long.”

“Can they really place such a largescale restriction on the Shinto infrastructure?”

“P.A. Oda’s primary shrine is the Tsurugi Shrine. They have 1400 years of history, they worship Susanoo and the imperial family, and they are a wartime shrine that uses a sword as their shintai. It is also known as the Great Oda God and the Oda family is descended from its priests. …Do you know what that means? I won’t tell you either way.”

Guericke glared at her, but Tomoe ignored it. However…

“The Tsurugi Shrine is their second largest shrine. The largest is the Kehi Shrine, but that means Shinto has some room for flexibility. Their biggest shrine can dodge responsibility by saying responsibility lies with Tsurugi, so they can temporarily take some extreme actions while still being protected by their largest Shinto group. …The shrine that embraces Susanoo is lawless. Unlike the other, pacifist shrines, they are a threat. And they are superior to the other combat shrines. They will be a troublesome opponent for Musashi.”

She turned toward Guericke.

“Now, then. Musashi proved at Novgorod that they can win. But what matters is not that you can win, but how you win. Their current speed of progress does not bode well for the future. Musashi seems to be battling Houjou, but if they cannot produce results here, they will be too late to catch up to the coming events.”

“Yes, Hashiba has already begun their invasion of Mouri and P.A. Oda is beginning to take action regarding Nobunaga’s assassination.”

“That is not all.”

Tomoe pulled a freshly harvested apple from her pocket and tossed it to Guericke. It was a somewhat poorly controlled throw, so he used the hemisphere on his wrist to suck it into his hand.

“This is an apple that survived the Sack, isn’t it?”

“Testament. Stressed fruits and vegetables grow more flavorful. But announcing that in the market is meaningless if you do not put them out for sale and miss your timing. And Mouri and P.A. Oda are already looking at a market far in the future.”

“Far in the future…?”

“I won’t tell you.”

Tomoe laughed, turned her back on Guericke, and opened a lernen figur.

“I will continue planting trees here for a while longer. You…oh, I know. You record what is coming. Most likely, we are going to see some major movements as all of the academies begin summer break. But…”

But…

“Whether ‘assassinating Nobunaga’ can be given as summer homework is entirely up to Musashi. …It does not need to be the Tensho Jingo Conflict, but they need to achieve some kind of results. They need to find a way to drag Mouri or Houjou into it. That is the key to setting the world to motion much more quickly.”


“The Houjou fleet is moving south at uniform velocity. They are maintaining a distance of 22 kilometers. Over.”

Neshinbara crossed his arms as a divine transmission arrived from an operator automaton.

Crossing his arms was entirely meaningless. It simply made him look cool and like a strategist. Placing a hand on his chin was a nice touch and pushing up his glasses really completed the look.

But if he was not actually thinking, then he was no more than an idiot. So he had to think about thinking.

The way things are going, the question is how we can approach the Houjou fleet.

He understood they only had to speed up, but doing that would require removing their stealth barrier.

Removing that would allow those light bombs to hit them once more. Also…

“ ‘Ariake’-kun, can you remove the stealth barrier on the southern surface? Just for a moment.”

“Judge. It can be removed for units of 7 seconds. Over.”

“Please do so,” he replied before taking a breath.

A moment later, the southern stealth barrier was removed from the Ariake’s bow. Due to the atmospheric interference, white fog appeared around the large opening in the stealth.

It was created by the temperature difference inside and outside. But…

“Here it comes!”

Dozens of enemy shells immediately flew toward the entire surface of the bow. And…

“It’s those light bombs! It looks like they can be used for shells and not just bombs!”

The stealth barrier returned before they hit, but…

“This is ‘Ariake’ with a report. Those enemy shells were adhesive types. I have determined they will likely remain at the point of contact for about 3 minutes. Over.”

With those light shells attached, they could not open the stealth barrier for 3 minutes. If they did…

The entire front surface of the Ariake would turn to light!

Silver Wolf: “Um, Secretary? Can I ask something real quick?”

Novice: “Eh? What is it?”

Silver Wolf: “Did you just make a terrible tactical mistake?”

Flat Vassal: “…I know, right? I mean, we have to open the stealth to speed up.”

Vice President: “Wait, wait, wait. This is no time for jokes. The Ariake can only head as far south as the border between Edo and Mito territory.”

Marube-ya: “Doesn’t that mean we have less than 40 kilometers left to go? Are we in trouble?”

Novice: “W-we are not in trouble! I have a plan! So don’t worry, everyone!”

Smoking Girl: “What kind of plan?”

Novice: “Judge. I had the perfect plan, but seeing how the enemy reacted there, I realized I need to put a little more work into it. You’ll see the real plan next time, I swear.”

Mal-Ga: “That’s just the excuse of a pathetic author who never actually uploads his work.”

Flat Vassal: “E-everyone, I know I’m not one to talk, but let’s trust the Secretary a little more! He’s the only one that can take responsibility here!”

Novice: “That’s a pretty awful way of looking at this!”

Just as Neshinbara said that, Adele’s Raging Beast vanished from view.

“Eh?” said everyone as they heard some rolling metal from the stern.

“Owwwwww!!”


Mitotsudaira saw what had struck Raging Beast bouncing up into the night sky.

She swiftly sent out a silver chain and caught it as shimmering heat continued to rise from it.

“A physical shell…!? Is the Houjou fleet scattering cannon fire!?”

Wind arrived as soon as she asked that. Righteousness had fallen back from the bow. As for why…

“Focus on the shells heading toward important locations on the upper surface!”

The important locations. That meant Houjou was targeting the hatches for the lifts, the entrance shutters, and the transmission pipes below the armor.

They could hear the sound of shells flying in. And physical shells followed those sounds.

“Incoming!”

Sign frames appeared horizontally out in the sky to indicate the predicted paths and points of impact. Then the defense barriers opened.

“—————!”

That steel rain collided with the Ariake from nearly head-on.

The sign frames broke and the defense barriers shattered. It almost sounded like they were being hit by masses of water. They had the defense barriers, but…

My ears…

Mitotsudaira’s Loup-Garou hearing briefly trembled and lost their sound.

But her vision still saw it. Up ahead and low overhead, a few shells passed through the multiple layers of defense barriers.

“ ‘Musashi’…!”

Musashi: “I apologize, but that is the Ariake’s jurisdiction. I will provide calculation support, but I can only tell you to work hard to fully protect us from the cannon fire of a nation’s entire fleet. Over.”

That was exactly right. They had been hit on a smaller scale during the Armada Battle. The Ariake only had so much power and it would be difficult to instantly open barriers when the shells were fired so rapidly and from blind spots.

So the overall result was some direct hits. That was the reality of the situation.

Sounds of impact and scraping could be heard from the rooftop floor below the stealth fog.

But, thought Mitotsudaira. The enemy’s ballistic path is too low. Like this…

Silver Wolf: “They are firing level to the top of the Ariake. The shells fly in nearly horizontally, so they should slide and ricochet off like a stone skipping on the water!”

Wise Sister: “In other words, this is a Flat-Chest Defense!”

Shut up. But a sudden noise and shock rejected Mitotsudaira’s words.

The enemy shells did not slide along the upper surface. Instead of ricocheting…

“A direct hit!? How!?”

The great noise and vibration erased her question.


Wh-what does this mean!?

After rolling along in Raging Beast, Adele shook her dizzy head and got back up.

Something raced right by her as she stood up.

It was a shell. A physical one. The Houjou ships located lower than them had fired it in a parabolic arc and it had bounced and slid along the top of the Ariake.

“That was close!”

A shell that flew in horizontally at high speed was worse than one that fell from above. Falling ones would only strike a point, but horizontal ones would hit anything along a line.

And after this one passed her by…

“A direct hit!?”

The gliding shell suddenly and loudly collided with the Ariake’s upper surface.

I thought it was sliding!? Was that some kind of spell!?

No. Several more deafening sounds reached her, but…

“They’re so close together…”

That was when Adele figured it out.

“These shells are not sliding! It looked like they were flying horizontally, but they’re catching on the holes from the previous light bombs for a ‘direct hit’! They’re further destroying the holes opened by the light!”


Righteousness: “Shit. …Sorry!”

Mal-Ga: “Instead of using dirty words, how about an explanation? Oh, but don’t ramble.”

Novice: “I don’t ramble! I keep things interesting! Listen, Naruze-kun! For one thing-…”

Tachibana Wife: “Shut up.”

Novice: “Eek.”

Tachibana Wife: “To keep it short, I shall explain, Master Muneshige.”

Tachibana Husband: “Yes. So, Gin-san, you’re going to point out that Houjou is using its two different shell varieties for different purposes to expand the scope of the damage, aren’t you?”

Tachibana Wife: “So you understand. That’s my Master Muneshige. In that case, no explanation is necessary.”

Mal-Ga: “The end…!!”

Righteousness: “No, that is not the end!”


“Yoshiaki-sama! Why are you looking away, mon!? Is something funny, mon!?”

“Oh, I was just realizing that girl has found a very nice place for herself.”


“The point is,” explained Yoshiyasu as she set a virtual foothold in midair to face the incoming shells.

Righteousness: “Houjou has a new strategy that uses the light shells and physical shells for different purposes. It really just means using one before the other, but it’s still an important strategy.”

Do you understand?

Righteousness: “If they fire the light shells first like they did here, the scars act as hooks for the physical shells. Even if we activate the stealth and force them to fire blind, they know they can expand the damage since those scars will gather their shells.”

Hori-ko: “And if they fire the physical shells first, they can fire the light shells into the damage they caused so the damage can reach much deeper right away, correct?”

Righteousness: “And they can also alternate between them to chain those advantages together. …It pains me to admit it, but this must have originally been meant for use against Satomi. Sorry.”

There’s more than just the Azuchi for me to focus on here, thought Yoshiyasu to admonish herself.

I guess that crossdresser was right.

That pissed her off, but it also reminded her just how inexperienced she still was, which brought an odd sense of calm. This meant her sister and Yoshiyori were still pushing her forward.

But it was all meaningless if she settled for only that. There was something she had to do now.

Righteousness: “I’ll intercept the shells! Take care of things back here!”



Neshinbara nodded at Righteousness’s movements. And he measured the enemy’s current position and altitude.

This is a problem.

He had of course taken measures against this problem.

More than just approach Houjou, they were pushing Houjou from the sea toward the mountains.

Their direction of approach would pursue them to the southwest instead of simply to the south.

That diagonal shift extended the distance they could move and bought some time before they reached the provisional border.

But that diagonal course meant something else as well.

“Their shellfire will focus on our outer corner…”

Removing their stealth meant those light shells. Not removing it meant a downpour of physical shells. The light of defense barriers was scattering overhead and a shell was passing by next to him.

But sign frames showed the path of the shells.

“…Whoops.”

So he only had to shift a half step aside and turn the other way as the powerful mass flew past.

I had to have looked so cool there.

“Did you see that, everyone!?”

Uqui: “Hey, tear up that armor panel! I might just help you out with my great strength.”

Gold Mar: “If you were hit by shrapnel, could you open a sign frame? The Schwarz Hexen unit will be there for you!”

Marube-ya: “Excellent, excellent. The combat expenses just keep piling up…”

Hori-ko: “Oh? Neshinbara-sama, why are you holding your right hand out in front of you?”

Novice: “I won’t let this get to me! Yes, a hero must stay strong!”

Smoking Girl: “Get to work on your plan already.”

“Judge,” replied Neshinbara.

Novice: “ ‘Musashi’-kun, you’ve been recording data on them, haven’t you? Display all of that for me. I can use that to predict their movements and we might just be able to turn this around.”

A new sign frame appeared from “Musashi”. It displayed…

“The ballistic patterns of the enemy shells and the estimated mobility of the mechanical phoenixes based on the courses they took. …Well done.”

Neshinbara spun around to dodge an incoming shell and let his hands race across his keyboard. He put together a pattern for opening the defense barriers sand sent it to everyone.

“Let’s smash this stagnation and earn a debt of gratitude from Houjou, Mouri…and P.A. Oda.”


“It would seem they have realized the purpose of the Descending Light Bombs.”

Ujinao sensed a change in the formation of troops atop the distant Ariake.

Kotarou nodded and spoke to her.

“The Ariake has removed its upper stealth! They have lined up defense barriers along the front edge! They are forming a wall!”

“That is an incorrect answer.”

As she said that, a sound and the wind blew in from behind.

It was their mechanical phoenix units. She had not approved their use until now because the stealth would block the Descending Light Bombs, but…

“This is the correct answer.”

Two units of 12 produced a total of 24 blasts of acceleration with something hanging from their bellies.

They carried reinforced stone spikes measuring more than 30 meters long and the tips were cut diagonally.

“Show me whether you can prevent these stupas from being erected.”


The members of the mechanical phoenix units did not take a straight-line course.

They gradually ascended for a shallow rise, but even with their feinting and curving trajectories, Musashi had a lot of automatons, meaning their trajectories were certainly being read accurately.

But the same was true of the Association of Indian States. They had developed an idol culture since ancient times, so idol worship had become entrenched there and greatly expanded. Houjou had used an interpretation of that history recreation to develop automatons.

Automaton calculations were used for the mobility and management of Houjou’s fleet and mechanical phoenix units.

“Mechanical phoenix unit to HQ. Provide each of us with further safe trajectories.”

At the commander’s request, a few sign frames opened in the cramped mechanical phoenix cockpits. They overlapped with the sign frames displaying the exterior view to provide a few courses marked by lines.

Not one of them was a simple line. They were ascending paths that readily required intersecting the paths of the others.

But according to the automaton officer in charge…

“We have determined this will be safe in the sense that it exceeds the calculations of the enemy automatons. Be safe.”

The final two words necessitated a certain response.

“Dhanyawaad.”

After expressing their thanks to the gods that gave them this destiny, they flew onward.

Their target was the Ariake’s upper surface. It was already scarred by the Descending Light Bombs and physical shells and they would send their reinforced stone spikes in for further damage.

“The enemy has placed defense barriers forward to block our bombardment. …That is fine for defense, but now those barriers are in the way of their own sniper cannons. They will likely predict our movements and use anti-air cannons beyond the wall. But…”

Shellfire from the Houjou fleet behind them flew out ahead and cleared the way for them.

It shattered the wall of defense barriers prepared atop the Ariake.

The automaton-managed shellfire was accurate and the repeated blasts were opening holes in the wall.

The 12 mechanical phoenixes accelerated through there.

“Send the first unit in! And the second unit…”

The second unit of 12 did not target the Ariake’s upper surface.

They flew toward the Ariake’s invisible bow that only looked like the night sky thanks to the stealth.

“…is already in place.”

Two layers of ultra-high speed stone hammers were launched toward the Ariake.


Everyone on the Ariake’s upper surface saw holes open in the defense barriers in front of them.

The accurate series of shellfire from the Houjou fleet had shattered the line of barriers.

Other than those who had been reinforcing the barriers from behind them…

“Oh, no!”

Everyone had been fortifying the defenses in front of the hatches, ducts, and other important areas. But Houjou’s cannon fire chose to accurately target the open areas instead of them.

Light scattered and holes appeared.

And 12 stone spikes flew toward those holes.

The straight lines of power flew along shallow parabolic arcs and targeted the scars left by the light bombs. Even if they ended up sliding along the upper surface, there were plenty of scars. They would eventually hit one and exacerbate the damage there.

A few of the students cried out as the stone spikes flew by on either side.

“We need additional defense barriers!”

None were forthcoming. The excess barriers that the Ariake could prepare had been sent elsewhere.

“We are defending the front. Over.”

The second unit of mechanical phoenixes fired 12 shots on a direct course for the Ariake’s bow.

They soon met their first obstacle.

“I’ll take the lead when we’re up against Houjou!”

It was Righteousness.


Yoshiyasu tasked herself with destroying 4 of them.

The shots were spread out over a wide area. The gaps between them were more than 50 meters. But…

I can do it!

She moved. The blue craft moved forward through space in a tight right curve.

“…!”

She smashed 2 of them along the way.

She then flew in a semicircle back and held her sword in a backhand grip to strike behind her.

“Kh…”

Her entire body’s frame creaked at the quick change of direction. Her left half could not quite keep up, but as long as she understood that…

I remember what the engine division people told me before we went to Mogami.

Righteousness’s frame had been reinforced to keep her safe even if she pushed its movements past the limit.

Her schoolmates from the now-destroyed Satomi Academy had done that.

She had to wonder if they were still alive and watching her now, but that was most likely an indulgence for her, not a restraint.

I…

She had to do this even without that kind of hope. So…

“—————”

She continued on.

As soon as she felt the wind pass by her back, she was enveloped in a gentle sensation like she had dived into a body of water.

“Kh.”

White fog briefly surrounded her entire body. Immediately afterwards, she saw a stone spike within reach of her sword.

She casually smashed it. And then another one.

“Ohhh!”


Four of the head-on attacks had been destroyed.

After wielding her power, Righteousness twisted her body to negate her momentum.

“Take care of the rest!”

With that, she dropped straight down. Wind whipped at her entire body as she used the action to forcibly rid herself of speed. That avoided a collision with the Ariake and the 8 undestroyed attacks passed by overhead to reach the front of the Ariake.

But just before they did…

“Temporarily removing front stealth barrier and opening front defense barriers. Over.”

The Ariake revealed its front surface and opened defense barriers.

The last-second wall smashed the stone like stone.

The spikes were destroyed.

But the walls of rejection were far from unharmed. Smashing apart and wearing down the spikes scattered an immense quantity of ether light.

The sounds of destruction enveloped the sky and split both the stone and the night.

The noise rang loud, but light glowed within the barriers. The previously-fired light bombs regained their power now that the stealth had been removed.

Ohiroshiki and some others had been removing them using water and they now watched the defense barriers consume the stone spikes.

“Waaaah! They’re coming this way!!”

Wise Sister: “That’s a pretty nice sound. I think I’ll record it.”

Me: “Oh, can you send it to me later? I want to use it as a sound effect when I’m sent flying.”

Hori-ko: “Then I need to do my part and try to hit you even harder.”

Asama: “Yes, yes, you three. But you need to get to safety over here!”

However, the 12 attacks to the front were just barely stopped. Only 2 or 3 defense barriers remained. Shells soon arrived to destroy those and collide with the front armor, but the Ariake’s armor was thickest on the front. Sparks flew when they hit and Ohiroshiki’s group only had to swing from some ropes.

But…

“The upper surface!”

The 12 stone spikes sliding along the top decelerated near the middle of the Ariake and started tilting so they would stab in.

The tip was cut diagonally and they tilted forward as they scraped along the Ariake’s upper surface.

“…They’re going to pierce us!”

Someone else raised their voice to counter that.

“Bind…Tonbokiri!”


Gin saw Futayo slice the 2 incoming attacks on the far starboard side.

That was well done, but their work was far from over. After all, 10 of them yet remained.

“We will take care of the 4 on the port side!”

Gin immediately summoned an Arcabuz Cruz on either side of herself. The cannons spread like wings and fired repeatedly, piercing the two port-most ones from the side as they flew past.

The sound could not keep up. She only saw the white of sparks and dust as…

They were destroyed!

The stone spikes broke in half and seemed to bend back as they pointed toward the sky.

The air collided with the damaged portions which accelerated the destruction. The stone spilled shards and broke apart as if great claws were tearing across it.

But before that destruction finished, the whole stone dropped to the Ariake’s rooftop and contacted it.

“———————”

It could not withstand that.

The outer shell that maintained the spiked shape was already cracked badly enough for the wind to trigger its destruction, so the stone spikes dumped gravel on the Ariake’s rooftop like they were spewing their innards and they ultimately disappeared.

And someone ran alongside the shattered 2 while giving her a glance.

It was Muneshige.

He used his acceleration spell, Racing Toes, to run across the Ariake’s upper surface almost like he was climbing the thin fog.

He closed the distance between himself and the stone spikes ahead of him.

“…!”

The quasi-divine weapon named Kamenuki was a sword-like spear that provided pursuit-type acceleration, so his speed and direction were accurately guided by it.

“One…!”

He shattered one.

Well done, thought Gin just before she saw Muneshige do something in pursuit of the other.

Was that…!?

He ran through the air.


On the starboard side, Futayo watched the half-dragon and Narumi work together to smash 3 of the attacks. She then saw movement on the port side.

It was Muneshige.

Is he running through the air?

No, he was technically running across the fragments of the destroyed spike.

Instead of simply shattering the first stone spike, he had pierced and split it forward.

He then activated his acceleration spell and used the fragments as footholds to reach the other spike.

Well done, thought Futayo. I probably could not do the same, she added.

She would provide her own axis of movement.

Muneshige specialized in receiving his opponent’s movements and altering himself to match. So…

“…”

She felt some envy and kind of wanted to try it out herself. And…

Oh, no.

Futayo was certain of something.

“I am enjoying this.”

Had she been like this since Magdeburg and at Novgorod?

She belatedly felt grateful to Fukushima who had opposed her and Kimi who had opened her eyes. She began to run.

I can destroy another one, she told herself.

“If this is enough to delight me, I am still terribly inexperienced!”


Futayo cut another one.

With that, a total of 10 spikes had been destroyed on the upper surface.

But that left 2.

“They’re still a threat!!”

Everyone on the Ariake’s upper surface was looking at the back end of the stone spikes, not the front end.

But their gazes were answered by a sharp but heavy noise.

Something happened to the 2 stone spikes.

“…They were deflected!?”

Without a single mistake, the 2 lines of stone were knocked high into the night sky.

There was a single trick behind it: defense barriers.

There were traces of many thin defense barriers placed along their path.

Those barriers had shattered into scattering light. “Ariake” had not made it in time, but someone else had.

“This is ‘Musashi’ within the Ariake. We have confirmed the effectiveness of the defense barriers and have determined our support of the Ariake was successful. Over.”


“That was a close one, ‘Musashi’-sama. Over.”

That voice reverberated through a vast white space. It was the bridge room within Musashino’s bridge-shaped ship’s bridge.

Everyone had opened sign frame consoles and recorded the processing of the previous defense barriers for future reference. Someone moved along the lower area of the hall-shaped bridge.

It was Suzu. She created a model of the Musashi and of the Ariake around it and she turned toward the others.

“…Did that…work?”

“Judge. Excellent work, Suzu-sama. Over,” said “Musashino” while carrying Suzu some tea. “Due to Ariake’s jurisdiction, any remote defense barrier support from Musashi requires sending an approval request, receiving the approval confirmation, confirming the data from outside the Ariake, and more. And the situation this time was even more inconvenient with the stealth active.”

“Musashino” saw Suzu spread her mouth horizontally.

“My apologies.” She bowed. “To put it more briefly, your ‘emergency ultra vires act’ of opening and controlling the defense barriers saved both the Ariake and the Musashi. Over.”

“R-right. If…you say so. But…this.”

Suzu reached for the teacup and checked its temperature with a finger before touching it. After confirming it was cool enough to touch, she picked it up and brought it to her lips.

“Thank you.”

“Judge,” replied “Musashino” with a bow.

Suzu took a sip of the tea and spoke.

“But that means…Neshinbara-kun’s information…was right.”


Novice: “See!? Did you hear that, everyone!? You’ve got to reassess your opinion of me now!”

10ZO: “We’re back after changing into new clothes. Um, what’s going on now?”

Scarred: “Oh, Lady Adele, you’re round today. You haven’t done this since IZUMO, have you?”

Flat Vassal: “Judge! This is actually my official equipment!”

Novice: “Listen to meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!”


Neshinbara swung both hands while cursing in his heart.

The enemy crafts were already scattering high in the sky ahead of them, but Neshinbara raised his voice.

“Ariake! Ascend!!”


After decelerating using its falling trajectory, Righteousness flew back up to the Ariake’s altitude.

Due to the stealth, the Ariake was not visible from below, but…

“Oh…”

The sky grew distorted.

The great mass of the Ariake was making a rapid ascent.

The Ariake’s stealth barrier was indeed showing the night sky overhead, but as it moved, the thickness of the distorted air shook the sky.

A rectangular portion of the sky shook like the summer stars.

At the same time, the pressure grew wild. Wind dropped down from the Ariake and the empty space that created sucked in the air, producing fog over a wide area around Righteousness.

Rain fell as if to thinly stain the sky.

Within that, Righteousness continued its ascent.

It could not afford to be late. After all, a sign frame appeared alongside its face. The information there suggested exactly what Musashi’s Secretary had said earlier.

“It’s up to Houjou…but depending on how this goes, we might just earn a debt of gratitude from Houjou, Mouri, and P.A. Oda!”


“The Ariake is not stopping its ascent! Its altitude has passed 6…no, 7 kilometers! The lower hatch holding the Musashi must be close to its limit!”

Ujinao nodded at Kotarou’s puzzled voice.

She understood what the Ariake was doing. However…

Why ascend here?

If their goal was pursuing the Houjou fleet, they did not have time to ascend.

She could only think of one reason for them to do so.

“Do they not want to receive our shells on their upper surface?”

“Even the mechanical phoenix units will have difficulty securing a safe course at that altitude!”

“Indeed,” agreed Ujinao.

The automatons providing full support to Houjou on this battlefield sent the same prediction as Kotarou.

The Ariake has chosen ascent as a means of defense.

That was likely not a mistake, but something still bothered her about it. After all…

“At this rate, Musashi will not trigger the Tensho Jingo Conflict with us.”

“Have they given up on earning a debt of gratitude from Mouri?”

The Azuchi was already passing by in the southern sky behind them.

Musashi no longer had anything to show they had supported Mouri. So…

“We must fall back at full speed to end this-…”

Before she could say “battle”, a sign frame appeared next to Ujinao’s face. It was from the divine transmission automaton.

“Ujinao-sama. We have received a divine transmission from Musashi. She claims to be Musashi’s Vice President.”


“…!?”

What is this? wondered Ujinao.

But if this was some kind of attack via transmission, the automaton inspector would have already intervened.

So Ujinao gave her approval.

“Put her through.”

“Testament,” replied the automaton before the voice from the sign frame changed.

She heard alarms and rushing footsteps.

That was the Musashi.

The alarms echoing within the Ariake provided background noise for the voice.

“Musashi Ariadust Academy Vice President Honda Masazumi has a proposal for Houjou Association of Indian States Odawara Academy Chancellor and Student Council President Houjou Ujinao!”

Namely…

“Musashi wishes to enter a friendly relationship with your academy.”

That’s ridiculous, thought Ujinao. Why were they saying this now?

Because they realized they could not pursue us after ascending to preserve their own safety?

It was a terrible plan. Houjou had the overwhelming advantage here. So Ujinao prepared to say that was not possible.

But then a thought occurred to her.

Ariake’s ascent and the Vice President’s proposal were entirely worthless, but…

Would Musashi really not understand that?

That question was directed at herself and she quickly came to an answer.

“————”

Ujinao gasped and closed the sign frame.

But not as a rejection. She knew of Musashi’s statement and did not respond.

Because that was…

“The right answer…!”


As soon as she was confident she had made the right decision, Ujinao sensed something.

Her senses told her it was a light.

The video sent to her by the sensors of the Houjou fleet’s ships told her it was definitely a light.

A single line of light had been fired from the Ariake’s upper surface, but…

“Eh…!?” shouted Kotarou. “That wasn’t directed at us. It’s headed high into the sky to the west-southwest.”

From their perspective, that was up and to the left of the Ariake.

However, that was an empty patch of night sky.

“The Asama Shrine Representative fired a shrine maiden blast!!”