Horizon:Volume 5B Chapter 35
Chapter 35: Course Changer at the End of Experimentation
Are difficult to even respond to
Point Allocation (Safety)
“Asama-sama, I have a bit of a question.”
The Musashi had left Ariake, made a slow change of direction, and started toward Sanada. That was when Asama heard Horizon’s voice.
They were in the classroom. They had pushed themselves to finish the exams for 7 subjects in the morning, so most of them were collapsed on their desks or leaning back in their chairs.
Asama had moved to Kimi’s desk to discuss the next day’s exams with Mitotsudaira, but…
“What is it, Horizon? Is it about tomorrow’s exams?”
“Judge. I have determined that theology is your field of expertise.”
“Oh, pass your notes this way too,” said Naito while collapsed on her desk with Naruze. “We’ll have it back at Mach speed.”
“Yes, yes,” said Asama as she prepared to distribute the notes with a sign frame. She also glanced over at the boy sleeping in the seat next to Horizon’s. “What happened to Toori-kun?”
“He wrote his answers in a flash and then fell asleep.”
“Judge,” replied Neshinbara. “The Far East’s Chancellor and Student Council President has to be incompetent, so he actually can’t afford to get good grades on his exams. It’s considered best if he can just barely skirt above failing.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes.” Asama nodded. “So Neshinbara-kun and I lend him our notes so he can get the bare minimum number of points. …Oh, I sent you the notes too, Horizon. Do your best tomorrow, okay?”
“Thank you very much.”
Horizon bowed and Asama said “no, no.” But…
“I am already in your debt after sleeping in your lap last night.”
“You aren’t supposed to mention that. And Mito was lying on top of you just like a cat-…well, just like a dog.”
“Wh-why did you feel the need to reword that!?”
“Heh heh,” laughed Kimi while she prepared to distribute her classical literature notes since that was her best subject. “And Asama, you panicked when you woke up to find you were crushing my foolish brother’s face with your boobs.”
“That was quite impressive,” commented Horizon.
“N-no, that was, um…”
Kimi lifted up her own left breast and narrowed her eyes.
“Does it have an imprint of my foolish brother’s face on it?” She then stood up, wiggled around, and mimicked Asama’s voice. “N-no, that precious part of my body has been molded in Toori-kun’s shape…!”
“Don’t be ridiculous! It’s long since gone away!”
Asama’s accidental confession caused everyone to freeze in place. Only Naito and Naruze kept speaking.
“Ga-chan, if it went away, that means it was there to begin with, doesn’t it?”
“Shh. She’ll grow cautious if we point it out. We need to stay quiet.”
What were they planning? Meanwhile, Suzu tilted her head.
“Um,” said Adele as she prepared to explain, but Naomasa immediately slapped her on the back of the head to stop her.
…Nice one, Masa!
Masa takes things surprisingly seriously, thought Asama.
“Umm, it’s just, uh, a natural phenomenon.”
“Judge, that’s right,” replied Mary. “I let Master Tenzou sleep in my lap, but when he woke up ahead of everyone else, my chest was pressed against his face – or rather, his hat – and it left a bit of a mark.”
Tenzou felt everyone looking at him.
He had used a ninja technique to reduce the length of his sleep, so he had awoken before those other awful people. That had allowed him to sleep on Mary’s lap while also preserving his own safety. Or that was the plan, anyway.
He had not expected for Asama to hit him with some friendly fire. But it was too late now.
“Tenzou-kun, you slept in Mary’s lap?”
“A-Asama-dono! You did it first!”
“And you left a hat mark on a girl’s body? You’re the worst. Were you sleeping like this?’
“Naruze-dono! If that sketch is supposed to be me, my legs are longer than that!”
“Master Muneshige, Master Muneshige. Do you want to sleep in my lap, too?”
Muneshige did not hesitate to answer.
“What about you, Kiyonari? No, you would probably prefer harder and more solid legs.”
“How do you know my tastes so perfectly…?”
That counts as weird, doesn’t it? thought Tenzou as Mary spoke to Asama.
“Judge. There is nothing odd about this.”
Asama actually sounded confused for once. And Mary did not seem to care. She simply nodded and spoke with a narrow smile.
“I saw a nice color of ether. …And that is guaranteed to have good results.”
That line caused Asama to blush and spread her mouth horizontally. Next to her, Horizon placed a hand on her shoulder and nodded twice. Asama seemed to understand what that meant.
She grabbed Horizon’s shoulders and pulled her in as a shield against the others.
“We’re supposed to be discussing tomorrow’s exams, aren’t we!? Y-yes, I have notes for theology, so don’t you worry! If you’re worried, I can bring you a protective charm or an exorcism arrow! …What are you laughing about, Kimi and Mito?”
“Silly girl.” Kimi patted Asama’s shoulder with a smile. “We’re going to the art room next. For the physical examination. …You don’t want to increase your weight by eating first, do you?”
Kiyomasa sat at her desk.
A test paper lay before her eyes.
…We really are busy until summer break.
The night before, Katagiri had demanded that Musashi complete their schoolwork, but they had to do the same. They had been on the move to support and provide supplies for the groups in Mouri and elsewhere. Kiyomasa and Fukushima were especially falling behind after traveling from Edo to Mito for that “warning”.
…Fukushima-sama must be taking an exam right now too.
Everyone on the Azuchi Castle had apparently done more than them while in Edo. They were likely completing their exams while on their way here.
And the Azuchi Castle was moving slowly so as not to distract everyone onboard.
Fukushima would be using another ship to meet up with them early tomorrow morning, but…
“When will that be…?”
“Katou-san, we are taking an exam.”
The teacher scolded her with a bitter smile.
“Sorry,” she replied and faced her exam once more.
Only then did she realize she had started looking out the window.
I’m getting distracted, she thought, but it was summertime outside. If not for the battles, the outside would have provided a liberating feeling. But at the moment…
…Each hour, we swap between exams and outside guard work.
Those whose schedules had let them finish their exams already formed the front line and everyone else formed a rotation between exams and war.
Not even Hashiba’s forces had perfect schedule management.
When fighting and otherwise interacting with other nations, there would be external interference. When securing the cooperation of the surrounding nations and opening invasion routes for the attack on Mouri, the progress toward summer break was used as a bargaining chip.
The other nations would not assist them if they did not receive safety or some other benefit in return.
Thus, their schedule was something of a mess.
Of course, negotiations with other nations had been built into the schedule, but Hashiba was managing it and would not make it public. When asked why, she had said…
“I-if I did, you would all grow dependent on it…”
…That was true enough.
If they had to appear on the battlefield, Kiyomasa wished they could train more first instead of appearing according to a schedule. And she wished they could use the margins of the schedule on themselves instead of other nations, but…
…If we did this right, we would be ready to fight at any time.
That said, exam time was always busy.
Heavily-equipped mobile shells were making midair dashes down the hallway, and in the classroom across the hall…
“S-sorry! I’m late for the health test! But today’s test is about combining techniques! I’m really interested in those, so I’m sure to get a good grade! Please let me take it!”
“Um, can’t I answer these questions via live demonstration!? …No, wait! There’re only guys in this classroom!”
“Sensei! I don’t know the right terms, so can I draw a picture instead!”
Aren’t they being a little too honest?
Regardless, Kiyomasa had finished filling out her exam. She had also checked over it. So…
“Sensei, can I head outside?”
“Testament. Circle around to the back.”
“Testament,” she nodded before doing so.
She stood from her seat.
…We’re moving at low speed.
That was partially so the Azuchi Castle could catch up, but it was also due to the previous day’s events. They were traveling west through a forested region of southern Hexagone Française. Starting tomorrow, they would cross the base of the mountains and begin their invasion from central to northern Hexagone Française. From there, they would use the forest as a shortcut to approach the enemy capital of Paris more quickly.
But Musashi’s study camp would last 4 days and 3 nights, including the day of travel. At around the time the Hashiba forces were approaching Paris, Musashi would probably try to participate before summer break.
So they had to act fast.
…That means the flooding.
Certain conditions were needed to establish the attack on Mouri.
The most important and final condition was the flooding of Mouri’s Bitchu Takamatsu Castle using engineering and irrigation.
But the corresponding location for Bitchu Takamatsu was not in southern Hexagone Française but in K.P.A. Italia.
So after some negotiation, they had decided to use an interpretation by flooding Paris as the Mouri stronghold instead.
They would submerge an entire city. They had made a lot of preparations for a larger-scale version of what had been done at Magdeburg.
Failure was not an option.
There were several ways of doing it and they had already performed a test at Magdeburg.
But since the flooding of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle was part of the history recreation, Mouri’s intentions played a role. They could not come to an internal understanding of the issue like M.H.R.R. had done for Magdeburg.
“If Mouri tries to use that to negotiate…”
Kiyomasa walked to the door, opened it, and stepped out into the hall.
“Huh? Are you done already? That was fast.”
A gold-winged figure took a step back with her eyebrows somewhat raised. She had been preparing to enter the classroom when Kiyomasa stepped out like a counterattack.
“Yoshiaki-sama. You’re back early. Where is Angie-sama?”
Yoshiaki answered that by pointing her right hand upwards.
“Angie is on the 2-1 rotation. Ever since Novgorod,” she pointed her thumb toward the empty space behind her, “My Weiss Fürstin has needed a bit of fine tuning. Angie’s Schwarz Fürstin seems to be relatively stable, though.”
“I suppose even complete gravitational control has its problems…”
“Everything about the Technohexen is a type of lost technique.” Yoshiaki smiled a little. “Is there anyone in there?”
“I was the only one for the health exam.”
“Oh? That’s unusual.”
“The ones with more interest in it tend to put it off until last. Like Nagayasu. …I was thinking of teasing Katagiri if he was in there, but fine. I’ll study for the next exam first.”
Yoshiaki opened the door with a dry rolling sound.
No one in the classroom turned around since they were taking exams, but they had to have sensed someone entering. A slight but unmistakable sense of people holding their breath filled the classroom.
But Yoshiaki ignored it and walked to an empty desk in the back.
Then Kiyomasa noticed something.
…She left the door open.
When she smiled bitterly and closed the door, Yoshiaki must have noticed because she smiled and waved.
And just as Kiyomasa shut the door…
“Alert! Enemy spotted 7km dead ahead!”
A divine transmission voice filled the hallway.
“It is an Hexagone Française Lourd de Marionnette anti-air unit!”
Someone stood on the bow of the ironclad ship at the head of the M.H.R.R. Hashiba Mouri invasion fleet.
The girl had 6 black wings and a long black cannon. She opened a magnification spell on a Magie Figur and drew an ether image with a focusing device shaped like a painting knife.
That image roughly represented the grassy field and the left and right forests seen ahead.
“Oh, there they are. Kacky, are you picking this up?”
□□凸: “I am. This was definitely sudden. There was no advance warning at all.”
“If even you’re saying that, then maybe it was god of war stealth.”
□□凸: “I’m not so sure… Wait, Wakisaka-san! Here they come! 8 cannon blasts!”
Eight drawings of light approached in the Magie Figur that Angie held.
They accurately flew toward the bow of the ironclad ship.
Angie tightly closed her wings to protect herself from the blast.
Several layers of defense barriers opened on the front of the ship and the 7 shells hit those from the front.
The defense barriers broke, they shattered along the cracks, and shards of light filled the air. Angie’s wings shook as the remnants hit them.
With that, she spun her right hand around.
The long black cannon flipped around from her palm to the back of her hand before falling into her grasp. The cannon was made from long metal panels without any joints and Angie held it below her arm.
She returned fire.
One shell hit with a time delay.
All 8 had been fired simultaneously, but just one of them was a different sort of shell.
The different shell fell behind the other 7 after flying the approximately 7km.
But it still reached its destination.
This final shell arrived after the previous 7 had shattered the defense barriers. That was the trick.
But Angie returned fire in that instant.
When she fired her 5m cannon, the broom contained within slid backwards.
“Let’s go with a silver coin!”
A bullet coin, which was shaped like a bullet, was swallowed by the muzzle and the cannon’s rear slide raced forward. It provided enough force to launch the coin forward and white light escaped the gaps in between the panels forming the cannon.
The repulsion acceleration spell Magie Figur shattered and the bullet flew.
The shot was launched straight forward with a bit of an upward angle.
“How about that!?”
Sound could not keep up with the high-speed impact. It simply glowed and produced sparks which brightly illuminated the bow.
After the hit from the bullet, the shell collapsed and split in two as if melted by the impact.
The shell had been about 60cm long.
It had been fired toward the bottom of the ship’s bow, but while the front was melted, twisted, and bisected, the back managed to stop the bullet’s impact from passing through it.
Just as Angie said that, the twisted shell split in two.
And it hit the defense barriers that were quickly put in place.
The impact was a loud one.
The shell had lost its power, so the barriers were not broken. But there was a solid sound and some fragments did scatter through the sky.
Instead of watching it through to the end, the black-winged girl moved the cannon from below her arm to her hand. She then spun the mass of black steel in her hand like it weighed nothing.
“Should I head out? Should I shoot?”
□□凸: “Wakisaka-san. You weren’t given the order to charge.”
“Also,” continued Katagiri.
□□凸: “The enemy has disappeared.”
Angie looked far out ahead of the bow.
She saw smoke rising in the disturbed air where the enemy gods of war had been.
Their shellfire had produced that smoke. Or so it seemed at first glance.
But in actuality…
□□凸: “That is a smokescreen to help them escape. It’s a natural smoke not produced by a spell.”
AnG: “What do you think of them, Kacky?”
□□凸: “They were probably buying time. Or that’s what I told Takenaka-san when she asked me.”
…Then that isn’t it.
She felt bad rejecting Katagiri’s idea, but Angie was certain something was off about that interpretation. If they were trying to buy time, then they had given up far too easily.
Katagiri was honest in his interpretations, so that was probably accurate to what he thought. But it would be best if someone with a different view assumed it was something else.
So Angie opened a new Magie Figur and set up a divine chat with just Takenaka.
AnG: “Takeko, what do you think?”
Kuro-Take: “I’d say from the left.”
AnG: “Sure thing.”
Angie turned herself and her cannon to the left. And a moment later…
…Is that it!?
She set a bullet coin in the barrel and immediately fired into the forest to the left.
□□凸: “Eh? Wakisaka-san!?”
Yoshiaki placed a hand on her forehead while taking the home economics test.
…This is not good.
She had completely forgotten everything related to nutrition.
For the history recreation, nutritional science ranked every food based on whether it raised or lowered one’s body temperature and whether it was “aboveground” or “underground”. The actual nutritional information was used as an alternative interpretation.
It was all a gigantic pain. She wished it was all summed up with symbols like V-whatever like it had been in the Age of the Gods.
…Oh, there’s a question about that.
<Question: Why does nutritional science not use the knowledge from the Age of the Gods?>
Was this a spot reserved for them to put all their stress down on the page?
“Hm,” breathed Yoshiaki before getting to writing:
“The rules of the history recreation are most important. And because knowledge of nutritional science can support the population of a powerful nation, this political inconvenience can be used to restrict the more powerful nations. However…”
“Because this conversion of terminology can be handled automatically using spells, it does not hinder anyone’s day-to-day life.”
That’s pretty stiff, she thought with a self-deprecating laugh.
“Katou…Yoshiaki-san, keep your eyes on your exam.”
“Sensei, I think everyone should take cover.”
A moment later, the windows on the left all shattered and an explosive blast filled the classroom.
Kimee: “That was exciting, Angie.”
AnG: “Eh? That wasn’t me. I think you should blame Hexagone Française for that one.”
Angie flipped around a few times and opened her support wings while flying in the rough air.
She was nearly swept back through the sky as she came to a stop and she found she had moved about 15m starboard from the bow of the ironclad ship.
Down below, she saw students rushing up from the lower levels to locate the enemy from the deck.
The male student commander looked up her way.
“Spear #5! What is the situation!?”
“I don’t see any movement at the moment, so I think it’s fine.”
She checked around her as she said that. In the forest to port, a lot of trees had fallen and a space with a radius of 50m had been crushed.
…That was pretty powerful.
The ship had come to a stop. So had those behind it.
AnG: “Can the next ship swap places with us and continue on? We’ll stay here until we can make a decision.”
Kuro-Take: “That would be meaningless if the same thing happened to that one. Your ship is made to take a beating, so please keep going. As long as you can return fire, I don’t think you’ll be sunk.”
“Sure thing,” replied Angie while drawing a picture of the situation on the deck.
The maintenance division would decide whether the ship’s frame and armor had been bent.
And she had another question.
AnG: “What do you think their strategy is?”
Angie asked about the logic of the enemy’s actions and she received a response.
Unsurprisingly, it was from Takenaka, their tactician.
Kuro-Take: “Good question. That shell they used in the first attack was fairly troublesome.”
She may have been doing work at the same time because there was a short pause before she continued.
Kuro-Take: “That first attack used an extremely simple time delay, but using barriers to defend against every high-speed shell like that is the standard. The sound, light, and ether reading of shellfire are all used as a trigger, but there isn’t time to make a manual adjustment even if we notice a time delay that forms after they’re fired.”
Kimee: “That’s true.”
Yoshiaki joined the conversation.
She was supposedly taking an exam, but it had likely been called off for now.
She sent a whole bunch of words at once, perhaps due to the shift in mood from exam to battle.
Kimee: “If they create a time delay by delaying the firing of one shell, we’ll detect that timing and the defense barriers will respond automatically. But if the time delay appears after firing, our response is delayed because we’re so used to using the actual firing to judge the timing…”
Kuro-Take: “That’s because the standard tactic is to fire all your shells at once to concentrate your firepower enough to destroy the defense barriers. And that’s why the defender will defend against them all at once.”
□□凸: “So just now…?”
Kimee: “Yes, we were used to test out a new time-delay shell. And that would make it a different kind of new shell from the one used against the transport ship yesterday.”
“That’s right,” said Angie.
During the battle the day before, they had all seen a new kind of shell pierce the transport ship but send just its impact through without actually breaking out the other side.
…Oh, wait. We didn’t actually see it since we arrived later.
But Kiyomasa’s mobile shell had recorded the footage.
For Hexagone Française, that shell was likely the cornerstone of their anti-ship strategy.
It was that shell that prevented the Hashiba forces from traveling high in the sky.
Because they had to land, it was difficult to place weaponry on the bottom of an aerial ship.
So the standard tactic was to rely on defense barriers for attacks from below, but since that shell could weave between the defense barriers and hit them, they could not expose their defenseless hull as they moved.
So they were traveling at low altitude while using the terrain for cover.
Kuro-Take: “But that impact shell…oh, that’s what I’m calling it, by the way. Anyway, it has done a wonderful job of ruling this battlefield. And it somewhat changes the meaning of that time-delay shell.”
Angie understood what Takenaka meant.
The enemy could eliminate the defense barriers with the time-delay shell and then send in the impact shell.
□□凸: “I think there are a few ways to defend against the time-delay shell. But if we’re limiting it to ones the M.H.R.R. Hashiba forces can definitely pull off…wouldn’t our best bet be creating a double layer of defense barriers?”
Kimee: “I hate to say this after your dramatic pause with the ellipsis there, but who said there was only one layer of time delay?”
Kuro-Take: “No, they need quite a few shells to break through the defense barriers. If we can confirm the enemy’s number of shells, I think we could figure out how many layers they could form.”
Angie descended to the bow while seeing Katagiri thank Takenaka for supporting his idea.
She looked out front and saw the distant smokescreen thinning out.
On the grassy field, she caught glimpses of deer and other animals that had fled from the forest.
It was a peaceful enough scene, but it was ruined by the harsh smell of the smokescreen.
The enemy had already vanished from beyond the smoke and no further shell arrived from the forest to port.
In that case…
AnG: “We probably should double up on the defense barriers. How are we doing on fuel?”
Kimee: “We have that useful puppet, remember? …But won’t producing double defense barriers put a huge burden on the barrier creation devices? Can we not send physical parts through the ley lines? Y’know, like our phase space. …Oh, they’re restarting the exam, sorry.”
Yoshiaki’s name vanished and someone else spoke instead.
Kiyo-Massive: “Um, can I add to that?”
AnG: “Go right ahead.”
Kiyo-Massive: “Testament. It is possible to transport physical objects via ley line divine transmissions, but it uses up a lot of power to maintain the object’s form. …Yoshiaki-sama and Wakisaka-sama’s phase spaces only need the one entrance, so they’re left alone after you put the object inside and close it. But when you need multiple entrances, the environment and settings vary a lot, so changes are liable to happen and it’s harder for the objects to maintain their form.”
AnG: “Oh, yeah. It’s true that Kime-chan and my phase spaces just kind of follow us around… They look like a coffin when we summon them with a spell, but are they always closed when on the other side?”
Kiyo-Massive: “Shall I send a request to Hashiba-sama for some physical supplies?”
□□凸: “If we don’t and we have to receive spare parts through normal transportation, I would want to keep a long supply line behind us to secure a safe route…”
Kuro-Take: “That would delay the invasion.”
“But anyway,” said Takenaka.
Kuro-Take: “It is necessary and they seem to want that. I think this will become a bigger deal later on, but let’s do this the way they want. …I will discuss this with Hashiba-kun. In order to put everyone’s worries at ease, let’s stay here for a while and resupply. We can resume the invasion afterwards. I am certain we will see something interesting once we arrive at Paris.”
“Eh?” said Angie while descending to the deck.
…Is there something at Paris?
The only thing she knew they would find there was a clash with the enemy’s main forces.
Paris was being treated as Bitchu Takamatsu Castle which Hashiba had to flood.
…This is a real pain…
But was there anything else at Paris?
She had no idea.
But thinking about that was a job for Takenaka and the others. Angie’s job was to stand in the vanguard and fight.
“In that case,” she said. “Are we supposed to keep going while assuming we’ll occasionally come under attack?”
Kuro-Take: “That is correct. I’m getting a better and better picture of what Hexagone Française is doing. …I think they are both our enemy and our ally. After all…”
Takenaka paused for a moment before continuing.
Kuro-Take: “They know how to use both pride and vainglory.”
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