Horizon:Volume 6A Chapter 5
Chapter 5: Doubled Ones at the Edge
Why do I feel happy
Even while washing dishes?
Point Allocation (My Partner)
"That's the first attack!"
Kiyomasa heard Takenaka’s sharp exclamation.
Of course, this was not actually the first attack.
But it was clear what their staff officer meant.
...This is the same type of dragon cannon that pierced the first ship at the beginning, isn't it!?
During the several minutes of battle, only the initial attack had pierced through a transport ship. The large dragons' dragon cannons and the wyverns' attacks had not been powerful enough to sink a ship in one shot.
They now knew where the enemy that could do that was.
AnG: "In the forest!!"
Kiyomasa saw the white light of Technohexen fire near the bottom of the night.
At the same time, light burst in the sky.
The enemy's max-power dragon cannon approached Hachisuka's Genbu.
6: "Right hand compression."
It was unclear what she had done to the diagonally-fired blast, but...
...It was deflected!
The reflected white scattered in the sky. And not in a straight line.
It was a sphere.
The dragon cannon was now shaped like the full moon as it flew through the night sky.
Kiyomasa was not the only one. Everyone else on the deck voiced their surprise as well, then it burst. The southern forest, plain, and wheat field all looked bright because the scattered ether light was raining down on them.
The enemy's attack had been blocked. However...
Kimee: "They disappeared."
Yoshiaki's words reached them.
Kiyomasa viewed Yoshiaki's words on her lernen figur.
Kimee: "We didn't hit anything in the forest. They seem to have moved."
□□凸: "Are they not cheating with gods of war like they did before?"
Kimee: "That was an anti-ship cannon, so even a god of war would have had a hard time of it."
Llaf: "Then where did the enemy go?"
AnG: "Nari Nari~?"
Nari Nari Nari: "Please stop calling me that. ...I will be able to perform a detailed scan once they approach the Azuchi a little more. I cannot do it the way things are now."
Kimee: "I appreciate your honesty."
AnG: "Then what do we do, Kime-chan? Head back? Go visit someplace?"
Oh? thought Kiyomasa.
Kiyo-Massive: "You two? What about the enemy?"
Ang: "Eh? Oh, they're gone. Maybe they retreated after Shouroku's Kiddie Reflex."
6: "Don't call it that."
That seems fairly accurate, though, thought Kiyomasa as she viewed them through a telescope spell lernen figur.
In the southern night sky, beyond the separated Azuchi, a transport ship had been stripped of most of its armor. That third ship was trailing ether light like smoke.
...The Genbu was holding all the ships' cargo in place with gravitational control, wasn't it?"
6: "Keep an eye on my surroundings. I ended my gravitational control of three ships to make an appearance, but I'm still controlling the five ships after that."
However, the enemy was indeed nowhere to be seen.
At the very least, the army of small dragons was no longer in the sky.
But Fukushima frowned next to Kiyomasa.
"It looked like they faded into the darkness..."
"My, how poetic, Fukushima-sama."
"Was that elegant?"
"Testament," confirmed Kiyomasa. She pointed into the distance where the transport ships were correcting their course of approach while illuminated by the ether light rising from the sunk ships.
She placed her other hand on her cheek.
"Hachisuka-sama probably doesn't realize she is part of such an elegant scene."
Just then, five pillars of light rose from the forest on either side and struck the transport ships.
Powerful dragon cannons pierced the five ships behind the one Hachisuka was aboard.
It happened suddenly and Kiyomasa could only watch the quintuple attack.
Something appeared in the moonlight: Dragons.
They were large bluish-black dragons with their forelegs doubling as giant wings.
They dropped straight down and collided with the deck of Hachisuka's third ship.
They had landed.
Hachisuka scolded herself for being doubly careless.
First, she had assumed the enemy would target her. And second...
...I thought they would come from below.
They came from above.
Her mistake had been allowing the previous cannon fire to guide her focus downwards.
She had managed to react to the enemy's dragon cannon light.
But Hidamari Genbu's gravitational control was being used to hold the other ships' cargo in place. She could only protect three full ships using her gravitational control.
Once she thought about it, it was obvious that defense mattered more than the cargo, but...
"I didn't expect a quintuple attack."
"I was not expecting your praise."
She received a response from right in front of her.
A large form stood on the broken deck, lit by the glow of ether light rising through the gaps in the armor.
It was not a dragon.
It was not one of the large bluish-black dragons that had made a noisy and forced landing a moment before. Instead, it was...
AnG: "Some old guy?"
He appeared to be past 50.
He was more than 2 meters tall and both his shoulders and chest were broad.
His hair was tied back and he had a long beard. His face was that of a human, but he viewed her with sharp bestial eyes.
"I am Extra Special Duty Officer Bernard of Hexagone Française."
He wore an armored variant of an Hexagone Française uniform decorated with animal hair. Even in the ether light, it was the same bluish-black as the night sky.
"And you are?" he asked.
"Hachisuka Koroku of M.H.R.R. Hashiba."
Hachisuka decided it was irrelevant to him that she was part of the Ten Spears.
The enemy was not after her.
...He's probably trying to sink the transport ships and responding to Genbu's ether reading.
He was a Celestial Dragon.
It was doubtful if he even knew of the Four Sacred Beasts gods of war. However...
"That is an excellent god of war."
"Because it deflected your attack?"
"No." The enemy named Bernard did not even smile. "Because it protected its pilot's life."
Hachisuka was left briefly speechless.
This was what the enemy was saying:
...Protecting my life was the most Genbu could manage?
She considered making an attack here, but...
"It's too bad," he said.
"...This isn't the extent of Genbu's power."
Bernard did not smile. Nor did he look disappointed or scornful.
"I doubt I will be your opponent," he said.
"I was predicting the same thing."
Her opponent would likely be the Hexagone Française god of war unit and Isaac of the Three Musketeers.
The original plan was for Wakisaka and Yoshiaki to attack them from high altitude.
But those two would now be participating in the attack on Houjou. And now that Bernard's wyverns had made an appearance...
...We can't send out many aerial forces.
But an urban battle to defeat a city was sure to end as a ground battle.
It was up to Takenaka who made the plans, but Hachisuka was certain she would be the cornerstone of the ground battle and that she would not face Bernard there. If anyone would be fighting him, it would be...
Nari Nari Nari: "I should be able to manage with assistance from 'Azuchi'-sama."
Kuro-Take: "Then let's assume you'll be doing some fighting at least at a limited level."
Right, silently agreed Hachisuka as she chose to leave the god of war.
She released her union with the Genbu with Bernard right in front of her.
It took a few seconds.
As the transport ship gradually descended, a small form stood up on the shoulder of the black heavy god of war.
It was a girl.
She wore an M.H.R.R. lightweight inner suit and she stood next to the god of war's dragon face.
"Sorry about being all the way up here, but I'm Hachisuka Koroku, #8 of Hashiba's Ten Spears."
The large old man looked up to face her.
And he opened his mouth.
"I am the Swarm Dragon who was once the lieutenant general of the European Government Organization. ...I am now known as Bernard."
His shoulders shook.
"I look forward to meeting more than just you the day after tomorrow."
That was all.
With no bow or other farewell motion, ether light wrapped around him in an instant and he became a giant form.
He was a dozen or so times larger than the god of war. The bluish-black wyvern was more than 100 meters long and stood in the air above the transport ship.
"I have taken my souvenir."
With those words, the five damaged transport ships crashed into the earth below.
Metal strained and snapped, the ships rolled, and dirt exploded noisily into the air.
"That will cost you dearly."
By the time Hachisuka's retort was hit by the heated wind from below, Bernard had disappeared.
He instantly flew up into the night sky and soared away.
He flew to the north.
Hachisuka narrowed her eyes against the wind pressure of his wing flaps and she glanced up at Wakisaka and Yoshiaki.
She lowered her shoulders and glared up into the sky.
"How much of a fantasy world is Hexagone Française?"
"Looking at the records from the Hundred Years' War, you can tell Hexagone Française has always had forces similar to England's."
Tenzou listened to Mary by the bank of a stream.
They were on the edge of the clearing they had gathered in before. A spring with plenty of water had formed in an area lower than the surrounding trees.
The stream flowing by the clearing fell through a fissure in the crust to form a small waterfall with a drop of about 4 meters. It was caught in a jar-shaped stone structure and then flowed over into a stone sink. They had carried over their pots and other dishes to clean them, but...
...That's probably the last of the Hexagone Française transport ships flying overhead.
Everyone in the clearing would have seen it as well.
As had Mary, Naito, Naruze, and Naomasa here.
"In other words, Houjou and Oda forces will be joining an England-class battlefield the day after tomorrow, right?"
"At IZUMO, we had to fight to protect the Musashi, but what will it be like this time?"
"This time, we will probably be the ones attacking their fortress." Tenzou mentally pictured the Houjou land that would likely be used as the battlefield. "Odawara Castle is a large, flat castle. The inside is divided into several enclosed circles, so it will not be an easy place to attack."
"Circles?" asked Mary.
...Oh, she looks so cute holding up that washed plate as an example circle.
But giving a proper answer was what mattered.
"In Far Eastern terminology, a defensive enclosure of a castle is known as a circle."
Hori-ko: "In that case, Tenzou-sama, you just repeated yourself by saying it is divided into enclosed enclosures, didn't you?"
Me: "I can see why Mary was confused."
Novice: "Yes, you do sometimes see people who try to simplify things with precise terminology and end up tripping over it."
Mal-Ga: "Huh? I take it you've been looking in the mirror then?"
Novice: "No. You didn't understand me? I was talking about people who rejoice in using obscure and confusing language."
Four Eyes: "Yes, I know exactly what you mean. Just take a look at this book I bought at the last event: 'The black shade strength became a dark force and clouded the shadow man's mind with a grim power, drawing out his latent potential.' Wouldn't 'the shadow man became pathetic' work just as well? Right? Is there something wrong with your brain?"
Novice: "It was meant to represent his fall into darkness! Can't you just admit it sounds cool!?"
Tenzou could have sworn Mary said "Oh, so he was feeling himself down below?", but he decided he must have misheard.
Hori-ko: "But saying things in needlessly confusing ways was a problem my father had as well. I have determined I should live a more straightforward life."
Asama: "H-Horizon, you're plenty straightforward already, so you'll be fine!"
"Anyway,” said Tenzou, thankful the enemies' aim had been diverted elsewhere. "Odawara Castle had already prepared a flood water source at the peninsula’s mountains above it. They should already be flooding the castle for our attack."
"They can do that?" asked Naomasa while polishing some ironware.
"Judge." Tenzou nodded. "If they flood the castle in advance, then the attackers will be forced to use that. It would be possible to send in even more water, but since the flooding will be complete without that, I believe it saves us a lot of trouble as the attackers."
"And the defenders will be prepared for exactly what happens, so they can stay safe, right?" asked Mary.
Tenzou nodded and realized that Mary's execution had also been a form of "self harm" her country had needed to perform in advance of the Armada Battle.
Even with control of the self-harm, Houjou's flooding would still require submerging a large tract of land.
"Now, then. ...Even if they industrialize that well, some people will still be harmed by it."
With that comment, he placed a washed plate on the stack being made on the stone step beyond the sink.
Then he reached for the next plate.
Mary had done the exact same thing to his right, so their fingers tangled together.
Tenzou felt the mutual touching switch inside him activate.
...Th-this is a rare situation!
Naomasa had her back to them while polishing the ironware. She breathed out a long stream of smoke from her kiseru, but she ignored them.
And Mary switched from her left hand to her right as she grabbed his hand.
They picked up a plate with their doubled right hands.
Eh? he thought as Mary circled behind him. She kept her hand on the plate and lightly embraced him from behind.
"Yes?" he replied.
Gold Mar: "Oh, he's really shaken."
10ZO: "I am not. I am perfectly calm."
But while Mary embraced him from behind...
"When washing a round, Western-style plate, you need to do it like this, Master Tenzou."
She set down her scrubbing brush and took his hand. She did the same with the plate.
"Western plates come in a few different shapes, but these ones used to serve curry are flat in the center."
The way she pressed her chest into his back through her track suit was clearly squashing them.
"...Yes, I can definitely feel the flat center!"
"Yes, they're flat."
...I'm so glad Mary-dono doesn't worry much about the nuance of what I say!
And Mary said, "With greasy foods, a stain tends to remain in the seam between the flat part and the curved part. Because the spoon and other utensils will often hit there and scrape it. So focus on that seam."
The way Mary moved while speaking rubbed her squashed chest against his back more than he had expected. Just when he thought they were going to squish out in an unexpected direction, they would slide a bit. Beyond just the heat of the pressure, the way the edge seemed to roll around felt ticklish.
"I-it is indeed important to focus on the seam!"
"Judge. But you need to pay careful attention, Master Tenzou."
"Y-you mean I should focus on them even more than this!?"
Silver Wolf: "And with that I just realized what's really going on. This has reversed my opinion of the 1st Special Duty Officer here, so what should I do?"
Wise Sister: "Heh heh heh. Why don't you do the same thing with my foolish brother, Mitotsudaira!? 'Ohhh, my king? Today let's polish up these ultra-flat plates.' C'mon, c'mon! Oh! Asama! You bring your extra-large bowls too! They need a good washing!"
Asama: "Honestly... Mito, please don't say things that will spread the damage to me."
Silver Wolf: "That wasn't me!"
At any rate, Kimi's actions had diverted their aim.
Mary hummed while holding his hand and polishing the plate.
"Even a clean plate will get damage. And it will be small enough that the people using it don't notice," she said. "You only notice once it's dirty, so you have to be thorough when cleaning."
"...Mary-dono." said Tenzou. "So if someone who knows the plate well washes it, it can be made nice and clean?"
"Judge, that's right."
"Then," he said. "Even if it has stains or scars, we can still call it a beautiful plate."
Mary trembled a bit when he said that. And after a while...
The heat on his back grew.
"Thank you very much." There was a bitter smile in her voice as she whispered from below his ear. "But a plate is just a plate. I am not trying to say I am actually pretty."
"I am not saying you are a plate either."
"My." The bitterness left her smile. "Then what do you say I am?"
If she was not a plate, what was she?
Tenzou had not expected this question.
He had thought she would simply agree and that would be the end of it. But...
...This is not good!
I got carried away and responded in sexy ninja mode. I need to be more careful.
But for now, how was he supposed to answer that question?
Unturning: "Should I be looking forward to this answer?"
10ZO: "Eh!? Do you have to raise the hurdle like that!?"
Novice: "C'mon, just say it: 'Mary-dono, you are like an emerald that will continue to shine for a billion lightyears.' "
Four Eyes: "If you're honestly that stupid and you weren't just trying to make him look stupid, you really need to think about what you've done. Oh, but if you are that stupid, you wouldn't know what it was you did wrong. What a conundrum..."
Novice: "Stop making assumptions...!"
Asama: "But, Tenzou-kun, saying she's like a jewel is a good idea! Oh, but you need to say something better than what I could come up with. I mean, she's an English princess and her sister is pretty strict."
10ZO: "And now you're raising the hurdle three levels at once!?"
Silver Wolf: "H-how about going for one of the curveballs you're so well known for?"
Wise Sister: "Meat! Meat, right!? That's what you mean, Mitotsudaira! Something like 'Mary-dono, you are just like a marbled sirloin'."
Silver Wolf: "Oh, but I have heard the name sirloin came from Mary's father Henry VIII thinking the beef loin he was eating was so delicious it deserved the title of sir. But sirloin was originally spelled 'surloine', so that's thought to be apocryphal."
10ZO: "Can you stop sounding helpful but ultimately being entirely useless!?"
There was nothing he could do. But then a thought occurred to him.
...Can't I just get out of this with something abstract like, "Mary-dono, you are the most important thing in the world"?
Mal-Ga: "Oh, I guess I'll be nice and point out that it's game over if you just say she's 'important' or 'irreplaceable'."
Gold Mar: "Yeah. At times like this, you want a clear comparison to something beautiful, not some imaginary thing that everyone will picture differently."
Marube-ya: "Money! It's gotta be money! That's something beautiful that can make any dream come true!"
Almost Everyone: "We didn't need that ugly opinion!!"
Hori-ko: "Anyway, we seem to be at an impasse. Now, Tenzou-sama, respond to Mary-samo with your actions instead of your words."
Wise Sister: "Push her down and have your way with her!"
10ZO: "I can't exactly do that with her chest pressed against my back."
Me: "Why not just be true to yourself?"
In that case, thought Tenzou.
Mary smiled bitterly as sign frames appeared and disappeared around Tenzou.
Everyone was always quick to cheer him on whenever something happened. Those things would often be encouraging or amusing, but she made a point of not peeking and ruining the surprise Tenzou was preparing for her.
Besides, she thought.
...Even if he gets advice from the others, he always thinks for himself in the very end.
In a way, everyone's excited comments would go to waste. She did not know if he was making proposals or if he could not relax until he had ruled everything else out by process of elimination, but he always made up his own mind in the end. And...
He moved a bit away from her.
He held her hand in his right so that they raised the plate together.
He then dunked his left hand in the sink. He pulled out some soap bubbles, but he spread them out between his fingers and then lightly squeezed them into a shape.
"...you are like a water lily."
The bubbles had formed a small but definite shape: a flower.
He held it out toward her.
She set down her scrubbing brush and accepted it in her wet hand. His hand was wet too, so the bubble flower slid down into hers.
She held it.
It looked like it would fall apart at any moment. In fact, it was slowly losing its shape. But...
Mary smiled at his answer.
Tears fell from the corners of her bent eyes.
What she had been so desperate about two months ago felt like happiness now. Did that mean she had lost her sense of tension?
She could only see good things now and she decided it was best to believe that was because there were no more bad things. And as she let the flower melt in her hand...
"I guess I can't wear this one in my hair."
She grabbed his hand with the hand holding the melted flower.
"Master Tenzou, let's get back to the dishes."
This was such a wonderful time. She wished she could experience it a while longer, but now was not the time for that.
As they stood shoulder to shoulder and resumed washing, something occurred to her.
"Doing the dishes at home doesn't take long at all, but we get to spend more time together when we do everyone's dishes."
Mal-Ga: "It would be pretty amazing if he answered that by saying he knows a way they can add another set of dishes in about a year's time."
Gold Mar: "Ga-chan, you sound like a dirty old man."
Flat Vassal: "Huh? Does that mean the 1st Special Duty Officer always does the dishes with Mary-san?"
Bell: "That must be...fun."
Smoking Girl: "Kh... S-sorry, some smoke caught in my windpipe...!"
Novice: "Oh, the divine network just got a lot livelier."
10ZO: "Now who's been leaking our information!?"
I'm glad everyone is so lively down here and up above, thought Masazumi as she looked to the southern sky.
She used a telescope spell to view the Houjou sky. Her sign frame listed the routes taken by the Hexagone Française ships and an estimated cargo list based on their speed and inertial momentum around corners.
And based on that information...
...I guess we can assume they don't have any gods of war.
But, she added to caution her thoughts.
Vice President: "Neshinbara, what kind of forces can we expect from Houjou?"
Novice: "Thankfully, their main force is made up of automatons and gods of war. They have enough of those that Mouri wouldn't have to bring any of their own."
Vice President: "I need to speak with the Satomi Student Council President once we're back on the Musashi."
Asama: "Should I contact her now?"
Vice President: "No, we're on our study camp at the moment. Even if the history recreation takes precedence over school events, we only just counted our investigation of the ruins as a Sanada history recreation, so I want to avoid anything that will get us criticism about political this or diplomatic that."
Asama: "Then I'll just send her a divine mail. That doesn't set a definite time period for a response, so we can always claim Yoshy-chan was just being considerate when she answered now."
Yeah, I guess we can do that, thought Masazumi, realizing how new to a lot of this she was.
She let Asama arrange the divine mail and send it out via Tsukinowa.
"Anyway." Masazumi took a breath. "This will be the last day of our stay in Sanada."
She looked down to the tables set up around the weakening campfire. Mitotsudaira was eating a large piece of chicken while Adele and some others were setting up a hotpot.
They still intended to enjoy this for a while longer.
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