Horizon:Volume 5B Chapter 44
Chapter 44: Front and Back Ones of the Festival Stands
It smolders and rises
But it does not blossom like fireworks
Point Allocation (Inexperience)
The two gods of war advanced.
Oda’s ironclad ships were galleys, so the top deck was nearly flat and quite long.
There was a ram and two main cannons on the bow, so the bow was slightly raised. That meant there were no forward-facing cannons on the deck and they instead used turretless homing cannons on the left and right instead.
The two gods of war flew along the deck, placing them between those.
They used the four wings on their backs to maintain their speed along the port and starboard side of the first ship.
Their weapons were many. A long cannon was held below each arm and attached to the god of war hard points on their sides and a long spear was attached to each hip. And the shoulder hard points held…
Someone on the deck who held an anti-god of war rifle clicked their tongue.
When they targeted the upper body of the gods of war, the shields automatically moved and sparks flew. And if they targeted lower down…
“The waist armor is the same…!?”
Sparks blossomed from the armor that opened up like a crustacean’s legs but also like a bird’s wings. And when the inertia of the shields’ weight threatened to swing the two gods of war around…
They whirled around and moved their wings to balance themselves and they continued forward while…
They fired the cannons below their arms separately in order to balance themselves.
The sparking gods of war launched cannon fire within their gentle spin.
The cannon fire followed their rotation and it pierced something: the turretless cannons positioned on the left and right of the deck.
While their rapid-fire raced out, their giant metal heels scraped at the deck, leaving a mark behind them. Their weapons roared over and over as they leaned toward the center of the deck and crossed paths there.
In that instant, the cannons on their sides flipped upwards. The hard point latches loosened and they circled from the sides to the top of the shoulders and to their backs.
There the cannons stopped. The magazines were sticking out from the midpoint and that action caused them to come out and fly into the air.
All the while, the gods of war continued spinning. They instantly slammed in a new magazine.
At the same time, an M.H.R.R. boy standing atop the bridge waved his hand forward. He wore the epaulette of the ship’s captain and he raised both his eyebrows and his voice.
Shellfire flew toward the gods of war.
But the captain’s order had not been directed at his own ship and it was not his ship which had launched the shells.
The second ship behind them had increased its altitude and the main cannons on its bow were targeting the first ship’s deck.
“Don’t worry about us!!”
His decision led the second ship to fire its cannons.
The air shook, everything shimmered as if from heat, and two high-speed attacks were launched.
They targeted the two gods of war crossing paths at the center of the first ship’s deck.
The gods of war were moving quickly, so the two shots were launched along their predicted trajectory.
But the gods of war did not stop.
The four wings on their backs detonated the air and they leaped and spun diagonally forward.
The flying shells had already broken the sound barrier and were surrounded by a transparent vacuum.
The soundless attacks were pushed on by the captain’s voice as he endured the great wind they whipped up.
The two shots flew straight toward the two gods of war.
But just before they hit, the two separating machines did something.
They each grabbed the other’s hand with the hand rotating toward the center of the ship.
The sound of straining metal told just how firm their grip was.
One pulled on the other and the other simply raced forward. Their respective forces affected each other, so…
The two spun as a single pair.
And just as the shells passed by their sides, they let go of each other.
Then the two separated to the left and right. The passing shells collided with the first ship’s bow from behind.
The two main cannons on the bow were broken and the impact reached the ammunition stored below.
It exploded. But two things happened before that light flashed and the ship shook.
The gods of war leaping toward the port and starboard edges moved their back wings just before colliding with the turretless cannons.
Wind exploded behind the silver giants.
Immediately afterwards, the soundless attacks reached the bow.
As a harbinger of the shockwaves from the resultant explosions, a ripple of dust spread out and the air cooled.
The double shockwaves swept across the deck.
But the gods of war moved even faster and outraced that wave.
There were no more enemy attacks as far as they were concerned, so their shields made no autonomous movements.
And that made them more nimble. So…
The two gods of war raced forward as if to surpass and be surpassed by the gap between soundless and deafening.
They ran to the stern and the right god of war changed its route.
It glided down the center of the ship.
It then drew the long spear on its left hip and raised it. From there, it was a series of movements unique to a well-trained warrior.
It slammed the long spear into the bridge on the stern.
Then the two gods of war flew.
They soared up to the ascended bow of the second ship so they could race down the next deck.
Fukushima sped up.
Still in her swimsuit, she ran through the festival being held on the seventh ship.
She passed between the students, the items for sale, and the stands while accelerating with Headfirst Fall and facing forward.
She viewed her route through the gaps between people.
She saw a path she could pass through and she saw something deep in the valley of the crowd.
“Is that them…!?”
She caught a glimpse of two silver machines flying from the first ship to the second ship.
The din of metallic destruction left the first ship, traveled through the air, and reached her ears.
The bow had been shot.
If she hurried from here, she would make it in time for the fourth ship. So…
…If I hurry even more, I can make it in time for the third ship!
She gave a yell to accomplish that.
“No one move!”
Instead of just reaching them, the dignified ring of her voice resonated in the people. That overpowering ring caused them all to tremble and come to a stop, but Fukushima did not bother confirming the result.
She was already slipping through the gaps in the crowd.
Her repeated accelerations and spinning body raced through the festival at full speed. Her movement took the form of consecutive gentle curves that seemed to slide past everything.
Each time she swung her body to the left or right, she accelerated and built momentum, but she still had a thought.
…This is nowhere near enough!
She immediately recalled her defeat and injury at Novgorod. That memory was still fresh in her body. It was strong enough that she could reproduce her movements from then and reaffirm her loss.
She arrived at the bow, but she needed height to clear the gap between ships.
There were a few dozen meters between the ships.
…Musashi’s Vice Chancellor would clear it with ease…!
Fukushima leaped without looking back to the responding voice.
Roofs were lined up on either side of the festival and she chose one side for her running start.
She used the left and Kiyomasa used the right.
She raced forward and made a great leap when the roofs came to an end.
She was moving in a straight line, but she placed Headfirst Fall’s acceleration on her leading left shoulder.
She used the base of one of the bow’s cannons for her next foothold and then she leaped toward the sixth ship.
Kiyomasa thought to herself while running and jumping to the sixth and then fifth ship.
She sensed something in the other girl’s actions that prevented her from looking back at Kiyomasa.
There was something like desperation and impatience in her.
But Kiyomasa felt something like understanding toward Fukushima.
I might just be imagining it, she began.
…But this is due to her duel with Musashi’s Vice Chancellor, isn’t it?
She had lost at Novgorod. She had clashed with Musashi’s Vice Chancellor and ultimately failed to endure it.
She had not said much about it, but the scrapes and cuts on Ichinotani’s shaft made it clear just how intense a battle it had been.
The battle at Mito had been nothing in comparison.
That reminded Kiyomasa of another memory.
When Fukushima had faced Musashi’s Vice Chancellor at Mito, she had been disappointed that her opponent had not been in top form.
But Musashi’s Vice Chancellor must have been fighting seriously at Novgorod.
That enemy had surpassed Fukushima’s expectations at Novgorod.
Kiyomasa understood that from what she had heard from others.
For example, the battle with Shibata Katsuie, M.H.R.R.’s Vice Chancellor.
At Magdeburg in the battle preceding Mikatagahara, Musashi’s Vice Chancellor had fought Shibata and remained entirely focused on defense. And she had then driven him back with the help of others.
But at Novgorod, she had fought on the same level as Shibata, even if he had been missing an arm at the time.
Importantly, she had been on the same level in more than just skill with a blade.
She had held her own against Shibata with footwork, martial arts, and the struggle over the most advantageous position.
Something about her must have changed between Mito and Novgorod.
Was it training, an insight, or some other way of strengthening herself? Whatever it was, something had quickly increased her skill.
And that was why Fukushima felt so much regret.
At Mito, she had been forced to defeat an opponent who was not in top form.
At Novgorod, she had failed to judge her opponent’s skill and been defeated due to lack of preparation.
She and her opponent each had one win and one loss, but there was a large difference between the two.
Fukushima had been surpassed.
So she felt regret and it showed through in her actions.
Fukushima would not look back at Kiyomasa right now. She simply moved ever forward, as if driven by impatience.
Their view opened up as they reached the fifth ship’s bow.
They leaped toward the fourth ship.
Fukushima made the jump and did not look back.
That is fine, thought Kiyomasa.
Kiyomasa had also lost.
If Fukushima would not look back while out in front, she could be the same.
She had no idea if Fukushima could hear her.
“I will be moving out ahead.”
Kiyomasa accelerated using the Caledfwlch pair she held below her arms.
“Finish this. …Caledfwlch!”
The forest’s branches surrounded the sky in a wide open space.
It was a large hall. But what looked like a floor was dirt and what looked like walls was a domed ceiling.
The ceiling was missing its center and the trees beyond masked the morning sunlight.
A voice spoke once more. It belonged to a black dragon sitting in the center of the large hall.
His giant body occupied a fifth of the hall and he looked to the hole in the back wall which led underground.
A white dragon stood at that entrance to the underground.
The black dragon called out again and the white dragon looked back.
“What is it, Saizou? Are you afraid to be left alone?”
“Is that anything to say to a Celestial Dragon…?” Saizou breathed a glowing sigh before continuing. “Sasuke…what do you think about Torahide losing?”
“He was truly freed from the bonds of eight hundred years ago and four hundred years ago. Torahide was never really satisfied back when Sakai was here. In a way, we should thank those Musashi students.”
“So what’s going to happen to us?”
“We’ll know in a day or two. …Of course, it’s because we can’t make a prediction as short-term as that that we fell behind in Europe but also had such an enjoyable time with Sakai and the others.”
“They certainly were entertaining. I wonder if he’ll be coming down here.”
“Oh, I’m sure he will, but he won’t come here quite yet. …He mentioned it the night before last.”
“The place we once guided him to.”
“We still have no idea what it is, do we?”
“Originally, it was definitely nothing more than ruins. But things changed after that man showed up thirty-odd years ago. …That man who could speak on our level and investigated so very many things.” There was a nostalgic ring to Sasuke’s voice. “Matsudaira Motonobu. …We could feel it through the ley lines when that nuisance of a man met his end.”
“Enough reminiscing,” said Saizou with a bitter smile.
They heard a voice from behind.
A large man had followed them through the entrance and entered the light of the hall.
He wore a Far Eastern summer uniform modified to look like a Buddhist priest. He himself was a demonic long-lived man. He waved his tattooed right arm.
“Unneeded #3, Miyoshi Seikai, here. I am about to leave Sanada.”
While waiting at the entrance to the underground, Sasuke relaxed his front shoulders and asked a question.
“What about him?”
“Eh? Oh, if you mean our great teacher, he left as soon as he heard about Isa from Anayama.”
“That sounds like him. …Did he say anything about Isa?”
“That she ‘did well’.”
“Oh?” Saizou slowed his walking pace somewhat. “Isa must be rejoicing in the afterlife. …So where was he headed?”
“Testament. He said he was going to make up for Isa’s and our regrets.”
“Musashi? …No, I suppose not. He tends not to look at the ‘present’. In that case…”
Sasuke spoke the location with some stiffness in his tone.
“Hexagone Française. …The land in which we fought so fiercely.”
They met the enemy at the back of the third ship.
The third ship’s deck was set up for the festival which had slowed the two gods of war a little, but the delay was mostly thanks to the Caledfwlch attack that Kiyomasa had made after pulling out ahead of Fukushima halfway across the fourth ship.
Just as the two gods of war had tried to take the center line to target the bridge, she had managed to split them to the left and right once more.
Fukushima “fell” toward the one that leaped to port.
She could fall horizontally there. The third ship’s surface contained a deserted festival. The festival stands were lined up on the port, starboard, and center and the walkways were littered with abandoned attractions and food containers.
Fukushima kicked one of the wooden containers along the way.
Fukushima saw her enemy change weapons.
The god of war’s arms did not let go of the long cannons attached to its sides. Instead it used…
…The waist armor!
That armor expanded like wings to handle defense of its lower body. The armor on the front right side moved like a crustacean’s claws.
If it lowered its hips and glided toward her, the waist armor would fly toward her in a piercing attack.
It was coming.
Fukushima did not dodge the approaching charge.
As the straight claws of the armor flew toward her nearly horizontally, she kicked off the edge of a stand’s roof.
The god of war’s right-side cannon fired, but she did not care. She spun to the right in midair and the shell grazed the bottom of her ponytail.
Her divine weapon, Ichinotani, opened its blade.
Ichinotani could absorb her opponent’s attack and then release it.
Ichinotani currently contained an anti-ship ether cannon blast used for the initial attack.
The light was launched in an instant. Ichinotani’s blade opened horizontally and its close-range attack flew toward the god of war.
It targeted the enemy’s side. Because its right knee was moved somewhat forward, it was turned a bit to the side and its right side faced her.
She scored a direct hit.
But not on her opponent’s side. Instead…
Fukushima saw how the enemy had defended.
The enemy god of war had removed the cannon from the hard point on its right side.
The canon barrel had fallen.
…At the exact height to match my cannon blast!
That was precisely what had happened.
Her cannon blast had collided with the falling cannon barrel.
The god of war’s long cannon was a quasi-anti-ship cannon. The barrel was made to endure firepower at that level.
After being hit by her anti-ship cannon blast, the barrel instantly swelled out. The power of the blast melted the inside, but the power that escaped the muzzle launched the long cannon backwards before destroying it.
The ruptured cannon flew through the gap between the god of war’s raised right arm and right wing.
Its flight only lasted a split-second. At a point 29 meters behind the god of war, the flying cannon exploded.
Fukushima saw the light.
And she saw the god of war’s silhouette charge forward within that light.
She realized the enemy’s charge had not slowed at all. Also, its waist armor swung upwards toward her height.
The straight claws of the waist armor were directed toward her airborne body.
It was going to hit.
Kiyomasa saw the cannon burst on the port side.
Her own battlefield was on the starboard side. She used the two Caledfwlchs in a swordfight against the god of war.
She used one Caledfwlch fall back toward stern and to assist her jumps and she used the other one to actually battle the god of war.
She did not have the physical strength to clash blades with the god of war, so she continually fell back while using the attack Caledfwlch for short-range acceleration that built up the blade’s force before an attack.
Sound rang out and several festival stands were knocked away. Each time, fruit or coolant water scattered through the air.
But as she fell back and clashed…
Doubt filled her heart, but she did not have time to check. The enemy was repeatedly attacking her with its expanded waist armor while also firing its cannons.
And she heard a metallic sound from the port side.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a short line reflect the light as it flew aft.
Fukushima’s Ichinotani had been knocked away by the enemy’s attack.
The enemy had defended against Fukushima’s attack.
But Kiyomasa did not hesitate to use Caledfwlch.
…This one is mine!
They had a goal: their enemy.
“The Ten Spears are an anti-Musashi unit!”
They were in the second year while Musashi’s main force was in the third year, so they had a one year disadvantage. They had to catch up to their enemies, but they also had a duty to surpass them.
And the foundation of their enemy’s offense was their Vice Chancellor. At IZUMO before Novgorod, she had directly fought with and defeated Hexagone Française gods of war.
Humans could defeat gods of war.
Of course, the Five Great Peaks and each nation’s Vice Chancellor would also be able to do that. Even the Special Duty Officers would be able to with preparation time.
In that case, the Ten Spears also had to be able to. So…
…This one is mine!
Without turning toward Fukushima, Kiyomasa fell back with the right Caledfwlch.
She launched acceleration toward the god of war ahead of her and she leaped backwards.
Then the god of war moved in. It could give an extra push with its wing acceleration. And…
…Here comes the cannon fire!
As soon as she saw the enemy’s left side, Kiyomasa twisted to the left while still falling back.
A shell passed by her face, where her head had just been.
The god of war had fired the long cannon attached to its side at close range.
The shell smashed the festival stands behind her on the right. The diagonally-fired shot plowed through around a dozen stands and launched them into the sky.
Kiyomasa accelerated backwards while the shards, fruits, and water rained down.
She kept moving.
She moved around and accelerated with Caledfwlch to avoid all of the falling objects as she passed through the remains of the festival.
And just as she thought she was through, the enemy took a certain action.
Its shoulder moved.
The previous shot from the left side had moved the enemy’s right shoulder forward while it fired something toward her.
It was not a cannon blast. Nor was it a spear.
Kiyomasa saw a gliding mass of metal.
The god of war had a shield attached to each shoulder and they moved around autonomously.
They were used to deflect all attacks to the upper body and the god of war had thrown the right one toward Kiyomasa using an autonomous thruster.
And it was not a horizontal throw. It was a side throw very close to being an underhand throw and it slid along the deck.
The attack was fully targeting her feet, so…
Her bodily control and balance were not as excellent as Fukushima’s.
She could not dodge to the left or right due to the festival stands on the left and the pile of collapsed ones on the right.
And even if she fled further back, the shield would continue pursuit.
“In that case…!”
She tried to jump on top of the central stands to her left.
But just as she did, that row of stands exploded from front to back.
The enemy had fired from its right side which was turned out front.
And it had not targeted her or been used to obstruct her path.
The attack was meant to secure line of fire to the bridge at the ship’s stern.
The cannon blast pierced through the stands, scattered the festival structures into the air, and flew toward the bridge.
Kiyomasa did not look back. She could hear it behind her and on the left. The bridge’s armor had deflected the shell.
The bridge was not destroyed, so she leaped.
Leaped forward, that is.
She jumped over the sliding shield and landed on the wreckage of the destroyed stands. She slid atop a wall panel and aimed her right Caledfwlch toward the enemy.
The enemy god of war used the recoil of its right cannon to pull its upper body to the right. It quickly swung its left side forward to meet her attack, but it was too late.
The center of its torso was wide open.
So Kiyomasa aimed there. She directed the tip of the right spear toward the silver chest in midair.
“Finish this. …Caledfwlch!!”
She prepared to launch a straight-line blast from Caledfwlch’s blade.
It was a difference of only an instant.
Kiyomasa saw something just before she fired her cannon: a shadow.
Something that was not quite darkness appeared overhead.
It was a light brown cloth that had formed the roof of a festival stand. The thick canvas was a three-meter square, but instead of falling, it had been launched overhead.
The movement clearly ignored both the wind and the previous explosive blast. After all, it fell toward her at the center instead of being blown outwards.
Kiyomasa realized what this meant.
…The god of war’s right arm!
When the enemy had fired on the bridge with its right cannon, it had swung its left half forward. While doing so, it had torn the tent from the roof of a stand near its right hand.
The blast of firing had likely allowed it to easily pull the tent away.
It had then used the recoil to spin its body and pull with its right arm. By letting go of the tent, the canvas flew in to cover Kiyomasa from overhead.
It ultimately robbed her of her overhead vision.
Caledfwlch was targeting the enemy’s chest, but that was now behind the tent.
Caledfwlch’s target was now behind cover.
She tensed without meaning to.
And then a wind arrived.
It was not a natural wind.
It was created by the great pressure of the god of war’s action as it charged forward right in front of her.
That lightly shook the tent blinding her.
She could see it.
The enemy was moving beyond the tent.
The chest was now in a different position. The enemy had turned so its right side was forward.
She was so impressed by the enemy’s decision that she forgot all about having her attack neutralized.
After all, the enemy had just fired on the right and used the recoil to bring its left side forward.
But it had forcibly stopped that and then returned to this position.
Even a simple assessment showed that would require stopping the full force of the cannon blast.
Just how much of a burden would that place on the god of war’s body? The straining and bending caused shimmering heat to erupt from the hips and the base of the left leg.
It could not make that same action a second time.
But Kiyomasa had already lost her timing for firing Caledfwlch.
Unless she forcibly turned her body around, the enemy would not be in her line of fire. So even if she tried to fire the left Caledfwlch…
…I won’t be fast enough!
And the enemy was now firing its cannon properly. The one on its right side aimed toward her…
And Kiyomasa heard the pilot’s spirit.
Their fighting spirit forced out a groan of anguish as a sign of their desperate attempt.
Kiyomasa did not hear the cannon. And she saw darkness deep in the barrel.
The tent fell on her.
With the sound of a hole being opened in the air, the falling tent was blown through.
The wreckage of the festival stands on the deck were blasted to either side and the tent stopped in the center of that newly-formed valley. The shell was so fast that it did not blow the tent away.
The cannon had fired thrice in quick succession.
Each shot created a hole in the tent and the god of war used the recoil to spin around.
But it used that momentum to launch its left arm forward.
That powerful metal arm had drawn the long spear from its hip.
The sharp attack pierced the tent.
The tent spread out as if to cover the shape of the spear’s cross-section and then it was shredded without a sound.
The god of war did not stop there.
Light was launched from the area hidden behind the tent.
It was Caledfwlch’s acceleration light. The scattering of white light flew in a straight line toward the bow.
Since the enemy had lost her chance to fire Caledfwlch, she had instead used it for acceleration and put more distance between them.
So the god of war did not let her get away.
It rotated its right cannon to cock it and then used its spin to bring its left cannon forward.
It aimed past Caledfwlch’s flying light and at the large shield it had thrown earlier. The god of war fired four shots toward the sliding object that the enemy would likely use for cover next.
With a solid sound, the metal shield was knocked upwards along with Caledfwlch.
The wind whipped up, everything was swallowed up by momentum, and the mass of metal flew into a row of festival stands.
Destruction followed. But while the god of war spun in the opposite direction, its forward speed was unabated. However…
At that moment, the metal knight definitely heard something.
It was a voice.
It came from dead ahead.
But the distance was odd. The voice did not come from the area the god of war had blown away and scattered. It did not come from the large shield that had been blasted along with Caledfwlch.
The voice came from right down at the god of war’s feet.
Someone stood up from the rubble below its racing feet.
It was Katou Kiyomasa.
The god of war saw the scene.
A blonde figure stood up from the pile of rubble that seemed to have spilled across the entire deck.
Despite all the festival stand fragments and splinters of wooden containers, there should not have been anything large enough to hide a person.
Beforehand, the god of war’s cannon blasts had blown away pretty much all rubble along that straight-line path.
But Kiyomasa had appeared right in front of it: directly below the tent it had fired on so many times.
How had she hidden there?
She already held the answer in her hand.
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