Horizon:Volume 5B Chapter 43
Chapter 43: Shot One in the Water
Important things well up
Like I just remembered them
Point Allocation (Hiding Your Embarrassment)
The morning wind blew through the forest.
It was an east wind passing through the bottom of a valley.
It was not a cool wind hanging around since the early summer predawn. This movement of air had begun to heat up, saying that the morning had begun.
And in addition to that wind…
“Kiyo-dono, the cicadas have started to cry.”
“Then let’s hurry this up so we can complete our quota, Fukushima-sama.”
Water splashed and spilled outside.
This happened on a Hashiba ironclad ship invading Mouri. On the far aft deck, the top of the cylindrical bridge had been modified into a terrace which had a wooden pool.
There were three people there: Kiyomasa, Fukushima, and…
“Katagiri-sama, this is for the history recreation, so you can get out right away if you want.”
Kiyomasa spoke to Katagiri who was answering test questions with a drawing board on the poolside. He wore a shirt and a string-tied boy’s swimsuit and his feet were soaking in the water, but…
“Thanks, but I’m fine. Taking my test here is a lot more relaxing, so I’m actually thankful.”
“That is true,” said Fukushima. “If I had known I could take the test in this environment, I would not have spent all last night reading through all of the textbooks…”
She was already soaking up to her shoulders in the water and she now stood up straight. She shook her body a bit and the water in her hair flew out into the sunlight. Then she grabbed onto the poolside and pulled herself up.
“The view down below is nice.”
She narrowed her eyes toward the festival beginning on the deck.
After her, Kiyomasa also got up on the poolside, sat down, and looked back at the deck.
“This is an early history recreation for a portion of the Siege of Odawara, isn’t it? The first and second ships are damaged and they have stayed in their normal state for defense, but the rest of the ships are holding a festival for welfare purposes.”
Just like the attack on Mouri, Hashiba would use flooding to defeat Houjou at the Siege of Odawara. But while doing so, Hashiba would do something to show their opponents that their reserves were running out.
“We hold a festival and party within our formation.”
But preparing and deploying that took time.
So they would complete it in advance by doing it alongside the attack on Mouri. That would allow them to fulfill the conditions for the Siege of Odawara more swiftly, and…
“We need to be able to respond in time if Musashi heads to Houjou after their study camp,” said Fukushima.
“More importantly,” said Katagiri who approached them on the poolside while wearing a straw hat, presumably to keep the sunlight off his drawing board, and carrying a glass of water. He looked to the eastern sky. “Can the Azuchi not make it here?”
“It is approaching at low speed,” explained Fukushima as she too looked to the eastern sky where the giant ship was hazily visible in the blue distance.
She twisted around on the poolside and sighed toward the Azuchi.
“It is following behind us to ensure its safety. …We cannot move our front line forward at the moment given the possibility of an attack from the enemy’s new type of artillery shell, so the Azuchi cannot move forward without running across the same problem.”
“That new shell is forcing us to change our basic anti-surface tactics, isn’t it?” asked Kiyomasa.
Fukushima nodded and Katagiri raised his hand.
“What is that exactly? I’d like to know our basic tactics, if possible…”
“Very well,” said Fukushima as she opened a lernen figur.
Kiyomasa saw Fukushima open a flat lernen figur over the pool.
The panel pictured a defensive fortress on the ground and attack aerial ships in the sky.
She explained the point of the anti-surface and anti-air diagram.
“In an anti-surface battle fought by aerial ships, thou must first consider the attacks that can hit thee from the surface.”
With that, an arrow appeared pointing from the surface fortress block and toward the air fleet.
The aerial forces approached the surface, but…
“As thou approach, the attacks from the surface will grow in density. Thus, an aerial force will position itself in a horizontal coordinate matching the fortress while using a vertical coordinate to remain in a diagonal position. That way it can stay within effective firing range while keeping as much distance as possible.”
Katagiri raised his hand.
“I’ve always had a question about that theory: Wouldn’t it be better to position yourself directly above and drop bombs or fire straight down?”
“Positioning thyself directly above means thou have come to a stop.”
Fukushima’s response was blunt, so Kiyomasa smiled bitterly.
…She makes it easy to understand, but she can be a bit decisive.
To help out, Kiyomasa turned toward Katagiri.
“If my Caledfwlch or a similar weapon is on the surface, coming to a stop in the sky will get you immediately sunk. To avoid that, you want to keep moving while you attack and you want to attack from as close to a horizontal altitude as possible.”
“Why from close to a horizontal altitude?”
He was sharp.
…It’s unusual for Katagiri-sama to be so interested in tactics.
“Fukushima-sama, let me do this.”
Kiyomasa got in the water and sent Fukushima a request. Fukushima nodded and a lernen figur saying “shared” appeared next to her face.
Kiyomasa then reached toward Fukushima’s lernen figur.
…I can control it now, can’t I?
Kiyomasa turned the lernen figur toward Katagiri. She then placed an additional aerial force block at a point slightly above horizontal.
“This was the general situation when we faced Mouri the day before yesterday, but when the aerial force is at a nearly horizontal altitude, not all of the counterattacking ground force can fight back.”
It was obvious in visual form. An arrow was used to indicate anti-air fire rising from the surface base. As it grew more horizontal, it also grew skinnier.
“The surface artillery and other forces are located on the ground, so they’re arranged nearly horizontally. So if we are located low to the ground, they end up firing at a nearly horizontal angle and the more distant artillery can’t fire because the closer artillery, city, or fortress gets in the way.”
“Also, the enemy’s front line must choose between targeting our surface troops or our nearly horizontal aerial force. That was part of our strategy the day before yesterday. There were a lot of new warriors in the surface troops, so we wanted to divert some of the enemy artillery fire into the sky.”
“I see,” said Katagiri with a nod.
…Katagiri-sama can probably handle some additional information here.
Kiyomasa sent a rectangular block from the nearly horizontal aerial force and toward the enemy ground forces.
“Hashiba-sama’s transport ship attack is an extension of the aerial force and also a means of gathering the enemy’s attention. As the transport ship could come from anywhere, the enemy must be prepared to aim their artillery and activate their defense barriers in every direction. That splits up the enemy artillery fire and applies pressure which wears them down, so it means a lot even if the transport ship attack does not do any direct damage,” explained Kiyomasa. “But Hexagone Française has developed a shell specialized for use against ships.”
She had seen it in person.
There were also images showing what had happened: The transport ship was pierced through the bow, but it burst and broke apart before it was fully penetrated.
“That attack was likely made by Isaac of the Three Musketeers. The effective range is 7km. …Of course, its effective range drops to 2km using one of Hexagone Française’s god of war rifles.”
“In Musashi’s battle against the Shirasagi Castle last night, their god of war achieved a range of approximately 20km. It is unknown if Hexagone Française has equivalent technology, but it would be best to assume they have similar abilities.”
“Couldn’t the Azuchi’s defense barriers handle a long range shot like that?”
“If it can survive a long range hit, then where would it be best to keep the Azuchi?”
Katagiri thought about that for a moment. And…
He looked to the Azuchi in the eastern sky.
He wrinkled his brow and looked at his reflection in the drawing board before speaking.
“We have to keep our distance and, even if we do fire from our aerial ships, Mouri has middle gods of war for defense…”
“Testament. Hexagone Française’s strategy is clear,” said Fukushima. “They are preventing the Far East from using its aerial-ship-focused strategies.”
Kiyomasa nodded in agreement.
This was the answer that Takenaka and the other fighters had reached.
“According to the Testament, Hexagone Française will become the ruler of Europe. But Mouri will shrink. So Mouri has prepared a fighting force and tactics that allow them to fight back against the Far Eastern groups opposing them. That is what this is.”
“Then,” said Katagiri. “Will an invasion primarily using aerial ships not work?”
He adjusted his position on the western poolside so he was facing east.
Kiyomasa slowly treaded water over to him and held up Fukushima’s lernen figur.
“It is not impossible, but we have decided we don’t have to.”
Fukushima opened a lernen figur by her hand and used it to control the large one Kiyomasa was holding.
It displayed their current invasion route toward Paris.
And Kiyomasa asked Katagiri a question.
“Okay, Katagiri-sama, if we are going to use the Azuchi now, how do you think we should do it?”
“…Is that a trick question?”
“It could be depending on how you look at it,” answered Kiyomasa. “But you can find the answer in my question. I am saying we definitely will invade Mouri using the supposedly unusable Azuchi.”
“If it were up to you, Katagiri-sama, how would you use it?”
Katagiri thought about the question.
He was in charge of gathering diplomatic information, so he knew what the other nations were doing.
Takenaka would have used the information he released that morning to ask the opinions of the various departments and to decide what to do with the Azuchi.
…And Kiyomasa-san and Fukushima-san probably heard that from Takenaka-san.
He did not feel left out. They were combat personnel while he was in charge of diplomatic information.
And this was a battlefield. Since Kiyomasa was telling him about this, she must have gotten permission from Takenaka to share the information.
But, thought Katagiri. I am a diplomat.
He knew a bit about strategy, but he was a complete amateur compared to the two girls in front of him. He had just now revealed his ignorance concerning the use of aerial ships.
But even as he thought that…
“Testament,” he said to Kiyomasa.
He was telling her he had a will of his own, so he could think about this and come up with an answer.
…I need to give it proper thought and give the best answer I can.
It was okay if he was wrong, so he would think it through.
When he had asked that shrine maiden how he could be manlier, she had told him to do his best when it came to the things he actually could do.
So he thought about it. How far could his diplomatic information carry him toward the right answer?
And he ignored the answer sheet on his drawing board. He placed his cokepen in the drawing board’s latch and opened his mouth.
“I will say what I can using the process of elimination.”
Fukushima peered at Katagiri’s face while sitting on the poolside.
She sat on the southern side and Katagiri was on the western side. The sun was still in the east, so its light reflected off the pool and shined on his face from below.
His eyebrows were raised and he seemed deep in thought. But…
…That is a slight change.
Before, Katagiri would have been more honest.
If he had not known something, he would have immediately said so and asked for the answer.
But that was different now. He did not know, but he was thinking about it as best he could.
This silence gave him a chance to think, but it also made sure he did not act like he knew what he was talking about in front of the more knowledgeable girls. So when he did speak…
Kiyo-Massive: “Eh? Oh, yes. What is it?”
Llaf: “Katagiri-dono has changed a little, don’t thou think?”
There was a pause of a few breaths before she received a response.
Kiyo-Massive: “Do I feel kind of disappointed because I like to act older than him?”
Kiyomasa gave her a nonchalant look accompanied by a self-deprecating smile.
Kiyo-Massive: “It’s a small change, but if it isn’t temporary and it’s going to stick around, then Katagiri-sama’s department should grow more proactive instead of just waiting for orders.”
Llaf: “That would be a wonderful thing.”
Once she sent that, Katagiri suddenly moved.
His fingers pointed to the northeast and south of the diagram Kiyomasa was holding up.
“The best way I can think of using the Azuchi is to have it act independently of us in the main unit so it splits up the enemy.”
Katagiri simply spoke his thoughts in order to avoid allowing emotions to form in him.
“The enemy’s tactics primarily use gods of war. But using a god of war force requires putting together a unit of a decent size. So if we split up the enemy, they won’t be able to use their god of war forces as effectively.”
Kiyomasa moved in response to his words.
She silently turned toward Fukushima on the poolside to her right.
“I see,” began Fukushima.
She prepared to say more, but Katagiri moved before she could.
He raised his right hand so she could see and then he spoke.
“But…that is unfortunately not possible.”
Katagiri spoke to the two girls.
“We unfortunately cannot use the Azuchi as a diversion to split up the enemy.”
He knew the reason why. It had been in the information he had compiled last night.
“There is a reason for that.” He opened a map of Hexagone Française and placed his hand on the south end. “Partially because we have support from allied K.P.A. Italia, there was a time when we thought it would be safer to have the Azuchi invade from the south.”
“After negotiating with K.P.A. Italia in advance, their commerce cities said they would provide materiel support instead of allowing the Azuchi through.”
“What does that mean?”
Fukushima’s question told him he was on the right track. Most likely, Takenaka had told them her decision but had not given her reasoning why.
So Katagiri said, “K.P.A. Italia is a joint nation of cities. Each city is a commerce city and, even while K.P.A. Italia is conquered by M.H.R.R., they continue to trade with other nations. They do business with Hexagone Française and its associated nations. And that includes nations that continue to oppose Hashiba-sama and M.H.R.R. …There is no way they can allow the Azuchi through.”
“And that’s why they provided support instead?” asked Kiyomasa.
“Testament. The ether fuel shared using the ley line divine transmissions is the result of that. K.P.A. Italia can be seen as the Catholic headquarters, so they are rich with Blessings. As long as we can secure a line, we can continue the invasion without worrying.”
“But,” said a voice.
It was Fukushima.
She rubbed her own right arm and grabbed her elbow.
There was a white scar there. That was…
…A wound from the Battle of Novgorod.
Fukushima had broken her elbow during her duel with Musashi’s Vice Chancellor below Novgorod. She had undergone emergency treatment to recover before they started for Edo, but the scar showed up in the sun.
It either still felt odd to her or she had just remembered it was visible. Either way, she bent and straightened her elbow before placing it in the water. And…
“Is it impossible to have the Azuchi invade via a different route?”
Kiyomasa mentally smiled at Fukushima’s question.
Takenaka had decided on the Azuchi’s future actions that morning. Fukushima had joined them for that purpose, but…
…I guess she still can’t quite accept it.
She had been summoned from Edo as the Azuchi’s temporary castle keeper. And she had been forced to abandon Takigawa for it. Fukushima probably wanted to defeat Mouri and return to Kantou as soon as possible.
As for Kiyomasa…
…I’m worried about what will happen at Sanada’s ruins.
She could guess they were all worried about that.
But Takenaka had stopped them from doing that and she would not say much about the decision.
Fukushima’s demand of Katagiri was fueled by her anger over the current situation.
And Katagiri responded.
He pointed to the northeast of the Hexagone Française map by his hands.
“A secondary invasion route for the Azuchi would be to come from the northeast. We are arriving from the central east, but if the Azuchi follows us along a parallel path from the northeast, it should be able to rejoin us once we cross the central mountains and pass through the north of the forested region.”
“That is true enough.”
That likely meant Fukushima had also considered this route.
Kiyomasa opened a space for her as she got in the water and slowly approached.
With Katagiri on the poolside between them, Fukushima sat on his left and Kiyomasa on his right.
They then tried to view his lernen figur from either side, so he increased its size and turned it toward them.
“Now, about this northern route.” He produced a long-distance image. “Just between us, the Protestants of northern M.H.R.R. are gathering on the southern border.”
The image showed a hill. The light-amplified slope showed rows of mobile shells dressed in black, which signified the M.H.R.R. Protestants.
They belonged to the Protestant corporation named Eisenritter, so they had thick armor.
“…Is that the Magdeburg region?”
“Testament. Shibata-sama entered from the southeast as a diversion, but only the provisional border guards responded. The Protestants’ main force includes mobile cannons and aerial ships and they’re moving south from west of Magdeburg. And it seems…”
“Holland’s forces have joined them.”
“Why?” asked Fukushima. “I thought Holland’s Resistance Chancellor William, Prince of Orange, was taken by the Princess Disappearances at Novgorod.”
“Testament. That creates a dangerous situation for Holland since they are still fighting España. But…”
Katagiri opened two new images.
One was a long-distance image of a fleet traveling west over the ocean.
The other was a long-distance image of an aerial fleet stopping at a tall metal tower above the waiting Protestant forces.
And Kiyomasa tilted her head upon seeing the shapes of the ships in the first image.
“Is this a Sviet Rus fleet…?”
Kiyomasa questioned the westward travel of the Sviet Rus fleet.
…What is this?
It was not that odd for a Sviet Rus fleet to be on the move.
But something felt off to her. And she realized why:
“…Over the ocean?”
The ocean bordered Sviet Rus to the north. So their fleet should have been traveling toward Shibata’s forces to the southwest or Oushuu to the east.
So why were they traveling over the ocean?
Katagiri nodded and opened his mouth.
“Sviet Rus used the Novgorod battle to prove their ‘friendship with England’ by escorting the English ships from the North Sea to Dover.”
“In that case,” said Fukushima. Kiyomasa turned toward her and saw she had grabbed the two lernen figur that Katagiri had opened and turned them toward herself.
Fukushima then looked at both the fleet in the one image and the ships floating above the Protestant forces in the other.
“This is an English fleet…”
“Testament.” Katagiri nodded at Fukushima and then at Kiyomasa too. “ ‘In order to welcome back the group that intervened in the Battle of Novgorod’, England’s Trumps #4, Howard, took a fleet to Holland. …Howard’s fleet was originally purchased from Holland, so we are speculating that it was lent to Holland.”
“Holland has temporarily given England the right to run their academy.”
There was no point in asking “why”.
Holland was currently fighting for its independence.
Its opponents were Belgium, which was split off from Holland, and España, which originally owned Holland.
Holland was being protected by their fellow Protestants in the northern German principalities and by…
“England is effectively their greatest supporter.”
If England had Sviet Rus as the guardians of the North Sea, then Holland would be protected from the north by the two powerful nations of England and Sviet Rus. And on land…
“If England provides a portion of the English fleet, which survived the Armada battle unscathed…”
“The Prince of Orange himself may have made a deal with England about temporarily loaning out their authority, just in case.”
“I really am thankful,” said a man in a straw hat in front of a sunflower bed.
Next to him, a young man lay collapsed on the rush mat laid out to the side of the flower bed. He spoke below the handkerchief covering his face.
“Thankful for what, Chancellor Segundo?”
“Are you sure you should be talking, Valdés? Even a pitcher shouldn’t stay out in the sun for long periods of time.”
“Well, I didn’t expect the work to last so long. I admire Lady Juana’s determination.”
“That’s because Juana manages her health flawlessly.”
“She doesn’t even let herself get tanned, so she really doesn’t overlook a single thing.”
That voice from the other side of the flower bed came from the Valdés Sister. She could be heard pulling weeds as she continued.
“My brother doesn’t matter, but what is it you’re thankful for?”
“Oh, that England has begun to get involved with Holland.”
“England is taking a new action. Instead of harassing us in Tres España, they’re moving on to their next international strategy.”
“It means the Armada battle is well and truly over.”
“…Chancellor, does that mean we can finally relax?”
“I’m not so sure. I bet Juana will be delighted, though. With all the related nations moving on from the Armada battle, we only really have to worry about our domestic issues. …And with Juana’s management skill and the expectation that brings, she can gain recovery support from Cortés of our Representative Council. …The main problem is Hashiba once they finish their battle with Mouri, but our Tres España side is overwhelmingly superior to our Oouchi forces, so we need to focus on avoiding Hashiba. I will have Juana come up with a countermeasure. So, in a way, our relationship with Hexagone Française is going to be important…”
Segundo sat on the edge of the flower bed and reached for the water jug next to him.
He gulped some water into his belly and took a breath.
“It’s time we started thinking about Westphalia.”
“But, Chancellor, isn’t that where Holland gets their independence from us?”
“That’s why we need to think about it. …We need to figure out how to become the finalists who turn everything around with a last-minute homerun. Thankfully, my research shows we have plenty of material with which to do that.”
Someone approached from the hospital building to the south.
It was Juana. She adjusted her straw hat while raising a basket in her right hand.
“4th Special Duty Officer? This is supposed to be a rest day, so you’re making a poor example getting heat stroke out here. I brought recovery spell drinks and charms.”
“You’re pathetic, brother.”
“Sister, experience is everything. And your brother just gained more experience than you, so do not forget that I have won this round.”
“Lady Juana, I think I can do without that experience, so please give me some water.”
“Yes, yes,” said Juana, but she walked over to Segundo and the Valdés Brother first.
And as she passed the basket to Segundo, she suddenly looked to the flower bed.
“The buds have really grown, Chancellor.”
“That’s because you’ve taken such good care of them, Juana.”
“No, no.” A smile escaped onto Juana’s lips. “You are the one who sowed the seeds and looked after them all on your own until they budded.”
“It is still unknown whether or not England has joined Holland. But the movements of this aerial fleet and the fact that Tres España has ceased interfering with Holland let us make a pretty good guess.”
Kiyomasa listened to Katagiri while sitting on the poolside.
He continued speaking as if he had not noticed Fukushima sitting on his other side.
“If we have the Azuchi invade from Hexagone Française’s northeast, there is a chance the Protestants will intervene. And even if we do not, the Protestants are probably monitoring the Azuchi’s movements. After all…”
When she urged him on, Katagiri nodded without looking her way. He then pointed to a certain region of northern Hexagone Française.
“IZUMO is here. IZUMO supplies England with its floating technology and other technological products and it is on friendly terms with England. Plus, if Hexagone Française is attacked now, IZUMO might hire a force hostile to M.H.R.R. to protect them.”
“Are you suggesting they would hire England?”
“Either England or a related nation. …One of the victors at Westphalia. When England takes action, it’s possible that we will also see movement from the nations with a connection to Hexagone Française, England, and Musashi, or that want to make sure those nations owe them a favor,” explained Katagiri. “So we cannot provoke northeast or north Hexagone Française. Which means…”
Kiyomasa narrowed her eyes and looked to Katagiri.
…This is where his real argument begins.
The Azuchi could not invade from the north or south, so it was forced to follow this invasion route. And the enemy had a fighting force and tactics capable of holding back an aerial force.
But Takenaka had concluded they could use the Azuchi.
So how were they to use it?
Katagiri looked to the shallow part of the eastern sky. Even from here, those six ships looked like distant mountains.
“The Azuchi can’t be moved ahead of us, so it will be preserved. Even if it is loaded with materials for the flooding, it can’t move out ahead.”
Katagiri raised his right hand and pointed to the south of the Hexagone Française map.
He indicated the mountains they had passed through and raised his eyebrows.
“The transport ships loaded with support materiel from K.P.A. Italia are currently circling around from the east, just like the Azuchi.”
This was information held by Katagiri as their diplomat.
“With the Azuchi and the arriving transport ships, we can use a certain strategy against Hexagone Française.”
He moved his hand.
His slender fingers hesitated a few times over the map of Hexagone Française, but he finally settled on three points between the entrance to the central plain and Paris in the north. They indicated…
Neither Kiyomasa nor Fukushima said a word. They simply waited for him to speak.
He breathed in once and continued.
“To avoid the enemy gods of war and other attacks, we do not have the time or preparation to conquer the cities. So we will quickly cross Hexagone Française’s countryside. However, we need bases to establish a supply line to support that. But as things are, a base simply made by gathering transport ships might not be able to defend against enemy attack and we would be in trouble if one of the bases was destroyed.”
“Why is that?” asked Fukushima.
“After the attack on Mouri, we head back in the Great Return. If our bases are destroyed, we will have difficulty doing that.” He looked to the east. “So instead of using transport ships, we place the Azuchi across Hexagone Française as the bases we need. We use the Azuchi’s ships as defense-focused supply line bases and use the K.P.A. Italia transport ships to travel between them. …Is that how Takenaka-san decided to ‘use the Azuchi’?”
“Have you, um, c-completed your plan, Takenaka-san?”
A quiet voice spoke in a wood-floored hall that smelled of food.
It was the dining hall within an ironclad ship.
There were few people in the dining hall due to the festival underway up on the deck. But those who were there turned toward the voice, bowed their heads, and took a step back.
It was a girl in a monkey-mask hat. And someone spoke to her.
“Oh, Hashiba-kun. …How are you feeling?”
“Oh, quite good. I got a new part from the Azuchi.”
Hashiba circled to the foot of the table at which Takenaka sat while opening and closing her left hand. That white hand was a prosthetic.
When Takenaka saw the movement, she pulled out the seat next to her and gestured Hashiba toward it. And…
“Are you not heading up top?”
“Eh? Oh, no. if I go out in the sun immediately after maintenance, the standard temperature won’t set right.”
Nari Nari Nari: “Please take care of your body, Hashiba-sama. The decisive battle is coming soon.”
Hashiba nodded toward the lernen figur that appeared next to her face.
“Mi-chan, that would be a lot of trouble for you, wouldn’t it?”
Nari Nari Nari: “That is not what I meant. I should not have said anything.”
“If she’s worried, she should just say so,” said Takenaka with a bitter smile and a stretch. Then she tossed a lernen figur to Hashiba. “This is what I sent you a divine mail about this morning, but I think it’ll more or less work.”
“Wah, testament. Thank you very much.”
“No, no. This was thanks to those two.”
Takenaka gestured toward the black and gold wings sleeping while facing each other at a table in the center of the dining hall.
“Before dawn, they made a vertical ascent to extreme high altitude and got the visual data we needed, so now we know the actual locations of the cities.”
Takenaka leaned back a bit in her chair and lowered her arms on either side. Her shoulders relaxed.
“This has let me put together a plan for the race to Paris and the Great Return afterwards, but prepare yourself, Hashiba-kun.”
“The real battle with Hexagone Française will probably be at Paris…or rather, at Bitchu Takamatsu Castle.”
“I am aware of that.”
“No, you really aren’t.” Takenaka laughed. And, “Something incredible is going to happen in a day or two, but I won’t say anything more since there’s nothing we can do about it. At any rate, we need to focus on getting to Paris.”
“Is that so?” asked Hashiba as Takenaka held out her left hand.
“Kiyo-chan gave me one last night, but it all went to my brain and I don’t remember what it tasted like. I’m going to eat one and then go to sleep, so…tart.”
Hashiba got up and walked to the counter. Everyone at the counter quickly bowed and respectfully moved away when they noticed her.
Takenaka muttered to herself as she watched.
“Oh, I need to thank Katagiri-kun too…”
Katagiri listened to Kiyomasa and Fukushima describe the strategy that Takenaka had told them that morning.
A lot of it was the same as what he had just said.
Now he did not feel inferior to the girls on either side of him. He wondered if it was childish to feel happy about that, but…
…I started with thinking about what I could do.
He had done just what that Asama shrine maiden had told him the night before.
“Hm? Yes what, Katagiri-sama?”
His heart filled with panic when he heard Kiyomasa’s question from the left.
That was something only he and that shrine maiden knew about and he felt like Kiyomasa was asking about that memory.
So he quickly shook his head.
“No, um, I was just satisfied with my test answers.”
“Hee hee. You’re so silly, Katagiri-sama.”
Did she laugh because she realized he was lying?
But he was thankful she did not ask further questions.
Then Fukushima got up from where she sat to the right.
“Kiyo-dono, Takenaka-sama sent me the version of her instructions from this morning.”
Fukushima lightly tapped her lernen figur. That action produced a folder by her hands. It bore a cross emblem and she prepared to pass it to Kiyomasa.
Kiyomasa stood up from where she sat to the left and she opened a divine mail lernen figur in preparation to receive the folder. But because they looked aside and because their timing did not quite match up…
The two of them collided chest-first over Katagiri’s head.
“Ow, ow ow.”
They held their noses and stepped back, but Kiyomasa smiled a little.
“Was that the Giant Breasts Defense?”
“I am not sure how to master that one,” said Fukushima.
“That’s a real technique…?” asked Katagiri.
I really don’t get these combat types, he thought before recalling the night before.
He remembered the Asama shrine maiden he had spoken with over divine transmission. Her chest had been fairly large, but…
…Could her breasts do that, too?
He pictured the light pink chest cloth in the close-up shots. The lips speaking to him had also been colored light pink by lipstick.
But his memories were not all that certain. That was because he had been more focused on her words than the image. So…
“Hee hee. Is this how the Giant Breasts Defense works?”
To his left, Kiyomasa demonstrated for Fukushima who was tilting her head with a hand on her chin.
And when Katagiri saw the transforming shape of her chest armor…
…No, I think the transformation last night applied more pressure from the left and right.
But then he snapped out of his sommelier reverie.
Fukushima saw Katagiri throw away his drawing board and suddenly plunge into the water.
She looked to Kiyomasa because it happened without warning, but the other girl was only lifting up her chest armor. Kiyomasa, however, looked to their surroundings. In other words…
Fukushima looked down into the pool where Katagiri was quickly swimming to the opposite side.
He was moving away from them.
Fukushima turned back toward the bow.
When Kiyomasa nodded her way and got up, she activated her acceleration spell: Headfirst Fall.
With her knee lifted into the air, she leaped to the edge of the poolside. On the way, she grabbed Ichinotani which she had left by the pool.
By the time she shouted to everyone at the festival down below, Kiyomasa was alongside her, wielding Caledfwlch.
And everyone within earshot looked up their way.
They had everyone’s attention. The boys clasped their hands to praise them, but there seemed to be more for Kiyomasa. Is that due to her superior skill with the Huge Breasts Defense? At any rate…
“Katagiri-dono was hit by a sniper!”
Katagiri’s head was sticking out from the pool’s surface and he realized things were developing without him.
…D-do you mind if I have a word!?
He tried to tell them they had it wrong.
…It wasn’t a sniper! It was boobs!
But as he tried to say that and reached a hand out, he saw Fukushima standing on the poolside and speaking to everyone on the deck.
“The enemy might be dead ahead!”
Well, yes, Paris is that way, so you may not be wrong about that, thought Katagiri.
There might indeed be an enemy beyond the valley path ahead of them. So…
“Be on your guard so that Katagiri-dono’s sacrifice was not in vain!”
…But you are wrong about that part!!
He knew he could not let this continue, but he heard a cheer from the deck.
“They targeted Katagiri-sama!? The A.H.R.S. Novel Research Club, Oiran Spiegel, will not let them get away with this!”
“Indeed! Katagiri-sama is the idol of our A.H.R.S. Ukemi Research Club, Accidental Exertion!”
“No, if you wish to tell tales of Katagiri-sama’s greatness, leave it to us in the Storytelling Club, C’mon Long Life!”
He felt like an unpleasant reality was quickly bubbling to the surface.
…How does everyone view me…?
It was an unusual situation to be in while treading water in a pool with no one looking in your direction. But…
He knew it would be dangerous to let the warriors take action, so he spoke to the two girls in front of him.
When he did, Fukushima and Kiyomasa looked back.
But just as he tried to say it was a misunderstanding…
Something shot rapidly between those two and over his head.
It looked like the pool’s water had lowered by a few centimeters.
The water’s surface burst and Katagiri was slammed into the water.
There was one thing he could tell from the bottom of the water and that was exactly what Fukushima shouted loud enough to reach him through the water.
“Dead ahead! …A god of war is firing on us!!”
The enemy had arrived.
They were quite large.
Hashiba’s invading fleet was travelling in a column and some sudden figures appeared on the very first ship.
They were gods of war. The silver charger models had aerial combat wings equipped.
“It’s the Hexagone Française Lourd de Marionnette knights!”
Also, they each had a red flag on their left shoulder. That meant…
“They’re the ace numbers of the royal guards! They hold the 10-20th positions!”
That put them at the level of a Special Duty Officer. And they actually had the rank of knight. A group of two had flown rather than soared in from the sky.
It was too late to intercept them because they performed the charge from impossibly close range.
Defense barriers opened in an attempt to stop them, but…
A series of shells arrived from the supposedly empty area of sky dead ahead and they destroyed the defense barriers.
Then the Hexagone Française gods of war arrived as if splitting apart the shattering light and the satisfying sound.
They were on the deck of the first ship.
They both maintained the momentum of their charge and flapped their wings to propel themselves forward.
They repeatedly fired the long cannons held below an arm and rapidly traversed the column of eight ships.
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