Horizon:Volume 6B Chapter 23

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Chapter 23: Entangled Ones in the Open Heights[edit]

Horizon6-B055 055.jpg

The unexpected

Occurs at unexpected times

Point Allocation (Table)


Ootani engaged in a sword fight.

He formed a data blade in each hand. The enemy's weapons were anti-ghost, but he had to strike down the enemy regardless. Thus, he adjusted his output to maintain a high anti-physical object setting.

...I cannot keep this up for long.

Strings of text danced along the ether paper wrapped around his body and it scattered into the air around him.

That glowing detritus surrounded him and was swept away by the wind as he struck at his opponent with dual solid noises.

The Mito Lord's sword technique was rough.

But not from a lack of skill.

She was not contained by any standard form and she used speed and strength to forcibly create the best possible actions for herself.

Thus, there was no "waiting" in her attacks.

At times, there was no pause for breath between attacks.

That left no apparent opening. If he was to match her movements and behavior to "strike at an opening", he would have to intervene in her speed and strength.

"You are like a beast...!"

Light scattered as the series of slashes constantly targeted his vital points.

Each individual attack was soft.

She was using the chains instead of her human joints. A wrist could only bend and turn so far, but these slashes were launched with whip-like speed and would even spin around. Also...

...The length of the chain adds to her reach...!

Those factors, combined with the Mito Lord's bursts of speed, led to a series of slashes.

She was a lone wolf, but she might as well have been a full unit of troops.

Her swords flew in gently but heavily.

She was using even more strength than necessary to defeat him.

Her sword technique had undoubtedly been developed through battle with an enemy more powerful than him. She mixed speed with brute force and included no attempt at trickery.

He dealt with all that while moving to get his blade through.

If the only opening was found by intervening in her speed and strength, then that was what he had to do.

Most of his power was being used for evasion and blocking the enemy's swords. His thought speed was causing him to heat up, so he had very little power left to spare. Thought was only useful after he had gotten his body to move appropriately.

Also...

"Mouri...!"

Mouri-01 was aiming a pistol his way from the edge of the deck. She would occasionally fire at him while one-armed and kneeling.

She only fired one shot at a time to ensure she did not hit the Mito Lord, so she predicted when he would attack and sent an accurate shot then.

She too would be using high-speed thoughts to take aim. Her firing pose was fixed in place because she could not divert any thoughts to moving her body.

But Ootani did have a method available to him.

He had hijacked her right arm which was still in the air.

He would have preferred to target the Mito Lord with it, but...

"...!"

He returned fire on Mouri-01.

He did not need rapid-fire here. His goal was to make her move. While moving, she could not take such careful aim to fire on him.

Also, he could not reload the pistol held by the stolen right arm.

He had to preserve the ammunition and endure.

...Yes.

Ootani thought, I am enduring this great pressure from the enemy.


Mouri-01 heard a sound.

"Ko."

It sounded a lot like a hand drum, but it was not the tone of a musical instrument.

It was Ootani. He deflected the silver wolf's attacks with his two swords and occasionally stuck his blades in and materialized them. And while tearing at the wolf's clothing and skin, he produced a sound.

"Ko, ko ko ko...ko."

It was laughter. It sounded like confusion or like a mimicked laugh.

But it was neither confusion nor mimicry.

...You have little experience.

The only information they had on Ootani came from the Testament. He would have been tested within P.A. Oda, but this had to be his first actual battle.

As an automaton, Mouri-01 realized something from that situation.

New experiences were valuable things. So...

"Ko ko, ko, ko."

She heard that awkward laughter.

"Mito Lord!"

And she sensed danger.

The vision of her high-speed thoughts saw the glow of Ootani's body intensify.

His ether was heating up. It was only a slight increase in light, but...

...He is rejoicing...!

He felt joy in this situation.


Ootani laughed.

He had originally intended to criticize Houjou, Mouri, and Musashi and to attack the Musashi Chancellor if necessary. That was going too far for someone who would be lost at Sekigahara, but he thought that was best for now.

And if it was the best course of action, then it was justice. However...

...This great pressure is wonderful...!

He would meet his end when an ally betrayed him at Sekigahara and destroyed him. He would lose his forces and commit suicide rather than let the enemy lay a hand on him.

He must eventually be hopelessly surrounded like that.

Compared to that...no, when thinking about that, this situation was worth heating up over.

He was facing several enemies in enemy territory.

...Hm.

Someday, eventually, one day, and in the near future, he would fulfill his duty at the center of an even more intense scene.

He was no more than an artificial being.

Hashiba and the others who had created him likely had a number of thoughts on the matter, but a program had one primary purpose: to execute the code given to them.

The absolute code carved into his body was a single name: Ootani Yoshitsugu.

That was a wise and brave commander praised by Hashiba and a good friend of Ishida Mitsunari.

But he had later been inflicted by a serious illness and used his actions to call out to Mitsunari. He had temporarily sided with Matsudaira, but ultimately fought for the Western Army at Sekigahara.

The rest he had reviewed countless times.

His code would be completed at Sekigahara.

But he could only speculate about what had yet to occur.

Even after being assembled and rolled out by Hashiba, what knowledge he had of his eventual fate came from simulations carried out by his high-speed thoughts.

But this was different.

This was an enemy. The pressure of this enemy would eventually multiply to hundreds or even thousands of times this size and attack him.

"Ko, ko ko ko...ko ko."

He laughed from his throat. Yes, when encountering the unknown and learning of their possibilities, what they must accomplish, and what form would satisfy them, humans would laugh.

Ootani laughed and he was thankful. He was thankful for this battle in which the enemy immediately struck back when he interrupted their meeting to criticize them.

He was thankful for this opponent that made his future feel real to him for the very first time.

"Thank you very much."

With those words, he drew a sword.

This was not one of the blades he had held in either hand. It came from the center of his chest. He split his armor body open like it was a book.

"Come forth."

There was light and it was not shaped like a standard Far Eastern or Western sword.

It was the foundation of his power as a data entity. The sword-length object rose up from his own body.

"Tsuruga Masamune."

It was a daito.

As soon as he wielded it, the sky glowed. Something arrived from overhead.

"Oh? Trying to make it a sure thing, are you?"

A great number of crosses dropped like a waterfall.


Mitotsudaira fell back.

The dense pack of barrier signe cadres were more like a solid mass than a wall.

This attack was meant to crush Ootani rather than restrict his movement.

They were Catholic and Mitotsudaira knew who had ordered for them.

"Looks like we can't go easy on you!!"

It was Terumoto.

Her group had already fallen back to the rear of the deck where Mouri-03 and the other automatons protected them. After Mitotsudaira saw her king and the others there too, she focused on the objects falling from the sky.

"————!"

She had the silver chains throw the two swords toward Ootani.

But she did more than throw them.

She sent them to either side of him to restrict any evasive actions now that he had drawn a sword from his chest.

But Mitotsudaira saw something in the instant the crosses completed their fall.

Ootani raised the sword he had just drawn.


Light exploded on the Mouri diplomatic ship's deck.

The cascade of barrier signe cadres was entirely deflected and scattered at once.

But that was not the intended result.

"They were broken...!?"

That was exactly what had happened.

Everyone there saw extraordinarily large destruction.

The only sounds were the roaring of air and the shattering of light.

As the glowing detritus and shards scattered, they built up for an instant and then exploded all the more powerfully.

All that remained were the many shards and glowing dust of the signe cadres and...

"Is that...?"

From close range, Mitostudaira saw something in the light.

A warrior stood at the center of the destroyed crosses.

Ootani Yoshitsugu was unharmed.


Mitotsudaira saw that Ootani Yoshitsugu had taken no damage.

The crushing attack from the sky had caused him no injury or hindrance.

...How did that happen?

Ootani was created from light shaped like wrapped paper and from scattering writing. He appeared to be standing there, unchanged from before. The only changes were the absence of the sword in front of his chest and...

"...?"

There was something within the scattering and falling light.

No, the objects in the light were not yet fully formed.

Something was slowly taking form in the air behind him.

They were arms.

Long, slender arms made of bluish-white light stuck out of the empty air behind him. There were three of them and the length to the first joint was at least 3 meters.

They were all identical in shape.

They had machine like joint structures, they looked like they would creak when they moved, and the end was combined with a blade. The overall shape reminded Mitotsudaira of something.

...A god of war!?

During the recent commotion at the Date clan, Masamune's god of war, the Seiryu, had supposedly had just its arm appear out of empty air.

Could Ootani actively eject just a portion of a god of war like that? But Mitotsudaira had to wonder what was at the other end of those arms. Also...

...How would a data entity pilot a god of war?

The god of war would be made from a program as well.

So how would Ootani use it?

Just as she wondered that, Ootani made his move. He raised his right hand and swung the wrist downwards.

"...Now, then."

She heard his voice.

She responded by moving forward.

She had no idea what she could accomplish here, but she could at least contact him using the silver chains. So...

...I will stop him!

But Ootani gave his god of war an unexpected movement.

"Assault them, Tsuruga Masamune."

One of the three arms slammed its giant blade straight down.

It pierced the deck like a stake.

A moment later, Mitotsudaira lost something: her footing.

The deck below her racing feet suddenly...

...Disappeared!?


Mitotsudaira's feet started to flail through the air, so she forced them forward instead.

The movement produced a solid sound from her heels and it brought her to a stop. That meant the deck existed below her feet.

Her footing had not disappeared.

But the long platform in the sky had definitely shaken. As if it had been hit by an impact, it lost power and fell lengthwise a bit.

And that was continuing. The diplomatic ship intermittently spat out writhing motions and shook violently.

The shaking was accompanied by the groaning of metal.

...What is this!?

Something was happening to the ship.

No. She could guess what was happening here. She was just unsure if she should trust her intuition since she had never seen or heard of something like this happening before.

How could she explain this situation?

"Lady Terumoto!" A belle de marionnette spoke over the ship's speakers. "Someone has locked down the ship's control system! We cannot control the ship! Currently..."

A shock ran through the ship's port side, which bordered the Musashi.

The vibration was powerful enough for the deck to creak and continuous metallic sounds reached them from the left.

...Is this...!?

"The port ether cannons are preparing to fire. The ether fuel restriction has been released! ...They are capable of firing!"


"Oh, dear. Now this is a problem. Could I ask something of you?"

Gin heard the Reine des Garous's voice.

A battle was underway on the Mouri diplomatic ship overhead.

...It sounded like quite an exciting battle. But now...

Sixteen hatches opened along the side of the diplomatic ship and short-barreled ether cannons stuck out.

Gin had already pulled out Cuatro Cruz due to the emergency situation, but she asked two questions just to be sure.

"Master Muneshige, is there no way for us to board the ship as belated reinforcements or to take the easy route and just sink the ship?"

And...

"Is it possible for the diplomatic ship to fire on us?"

"Well, Gin. ...For your first question, while they have announced they cannot control the ship, Lady Mouri Terumoto has not given us permission to board. So if we act, it could still lead to diplomatic issues."

"I see," said Gin as Muneshige continued.

He looked up into the sky where a row of sixteen cannons was visible on the diplomatic ship's port side.

"Generally, a diplomatic ship's weapons are locked down and unusable when it arrives. For an ether cannon, the fuel supply is cut off, the core shell creation mechanism is locked, and the other nation confirms this. However..."

"Those locks are meaningless now that the ship has been hijacked by a virus like Ootani Yoshitsugu."

"Judge. To respond to the unexpected, even a diplomatic ship cannot be left entirely defenseless and unarmed. While engaged in diplomatic relations, it will carry enough weaponry to escape from an enemy nation. But at this close range..."

Adele gave a shout while looking at the Reine des Garous who opened a sign frame to arrange for something.

"Everyone, take defensive action!!!!"

The ether cannons erupted.


Asama saw light launched toward the Musashi from the port side of the shaking diplomatic ship.

It was the light of ether cannons.

These were light cannons that used an ether core shell. They could make an attack with just the firing mechanism and ether fuel, so they could be made quite small and could be installed without using up much ship space.

That was why small ether cannons were used in diplomatic ships and in the cannon batteries of large, fuel-rich ships. However...

...Isn't a simultaneous attack pretty dangerous!?

At such close range, the Musashi would have a hard time reacting. Asama began calculating out how many defense barriers would be put up in time.

"Oh?"

But Horizon spoke from behind her.

"Those are not going to hit."

"...Eh?"

Confused, Asama watched the light streaking through the sky.

The sixteen lines of light were high power and flew in straight lines.

...And they're headed toward...

They were fired forward from the diplomatic ship's port side, which took them toward Musashino's bridge-shaped ship's bridge about 800 meters away.

Given the shell speed, they would arrive in just over two seconds.

But something was apparent even to Asama.

Musashino was not responding at all.

She produced a sound in her mind due to that utter lack of reaction or even acknowledgment.

...Ah.


She was certain they would not hit. If the Musashi was not reacting, then the attacks were not on a collision course.

At the same time, the light raced through the sky.

The 16 beams shot past Musashino's bridge at about 30 meters directly above it.


"Musashi" viewed the Mouri diplomatic ship from atop Musashino's bridge.

She did not question the ether cannon blasts that had passed by overhead.

"If they do not hit, then they are not a problem. ...Of course, they were still dangerous as transport ships use that altitude."

She opened a sign frame.

It displayed the port side of the Mouri diplomatic ship.

There were sixteen cannons at the top of the white ship's hull. Their hatches were currently open.

Zooming in revealed ether cannons within.

"Normally, firing horizontally would have hit Musashino's bridge. The ship is under the enemy's control, so another method would be necessary to avoid a hit. Over."

"Musashi" saw Mouri's decision on the sign frame.

They had lost control of those ether cannons when Ootani Yoshitsugu hijacked them. So what had altered their firing trajectory?

"It would seem our help is truly indispensable. Over."

Beyond the opened hatches, people stood beside the cannons.

They were automatons.

Mouri's maid automatons were clinging to the cannons, two per cannons.

They had used their gravitational control and physical strength to forcibly alter the cannons' aim.

When she saw that, "Musashi" lightly lowered her head toward those fellow automatons in the distance.

"Judge. We should do that as well. Over."


"Great decision, Mouri-01!"

Voices intersected from the rear and center of the deck.

One came from Mouri Terumoto who stood with her arms crossed in front of the belle de marionnettes who were guarding their guests.

"It is an honor for you to say so...!"

The other came from Mouri-01 who smiled near the center of the deck with a pistol in her left hand and her right arm still missing.

Terumoto then opened her mouth wide to speak.

"That was a gun salute to celebrate the conclusion of our meeting! Rejoice that Musashi's negotiations with Mouri went well!"


Mal-Ga: "How are we supposed to rejoice?"

Gold Mar: "Yay... It didn't hit us... Yay... Like that?"

83: "What an unpleasant way of putting it."


Asama saw Masazumi hang her head and raise her opened hands to shoulder height a few times.

...Oh, she's raising her hands in celebration.

Asama: "Being a politician must be tough."

Vice President: "This is not a politician's job!"

But someone else took a step forward.

It was Toori and he was doing a wiggling dance of celebration.

"Hey, Teruko!"

"My name isn't Teruko, you moron!"

Both of them seemed kind of awful in that exchange. Regardless, he continued speaking while grinding his hips side to side.

"Does that gun salute mean our diplomacy went well!?"

"Huh?" Terumoto frowned but then spread her mouth horizontally. "Course it does!! Why else would we fire a gun salute!?"

Masazumi was still hanging her head, but she clenched her fists. Receiving that statement seemed to have helped her motivation recover.

But someone raised their voice in protest.

"Lies!"

It was Ootani Yoshitsugu who still had a long god of war arm and blade stabbing into the deck.

He swung his left arm down.

"I will fire the port-side cannons once more."

Terumoto immediately responded to that.

"Prepare for a second gun salute!"

"It is no use." Ootani knew what she intended to do. "I will add a trajectory setting next time. ...They will each curve downwards at a different angle to ensure they hit the Musashi."


Masazumi sensed danger.

...A trajectory setting?

He would set up the ether cannons, so their beams would curve downwards after being fired.

If he did that, changing the angle of the cannon would accomplish nothing. The ether cannon beams would hit the Musashi.

And that would prove that Terumoto was lying.

A hit would be very bad. These were sixteen ether cannons at close range.

Vice President: "I guess this is goodbye, everyone..."

Smoking Girl: "Hey, don't just assume this is going to end like that."

Musashi: "In an emergency, we will respond as best as possible even with a close-range attack. However, I must ask you all to defend yourselves as best you can. Over."

Flat Vassal: "...Why is everyone looking at me!?"

Wise Sister: "Heh heh. But even if we defend against this, it will prove that Mouri was just saying that and their statements will be nullified. I wonder what Mouri's boss thinks about that."

That's true, thought Masazumi.

They were here to negotiate, so she had to deal with Ootani using her words.

"Mouri Terumoto!"

Masazumi called out to Terumoto who stood in front of her with automaton guards.

"Listen! Mouri Terumoto, calm down and deal with this! Got that!?"

"Testament, I know, I know. Just leave it to me!"

That was reassuring. You could really tell she supported a major nation.

...Will this work?

Just as Masazumi wondered that, Terumoto pointed and yelled at Ootani.

"If you think you can do that, then prove it!!"


"Waiiiit!!"

Masazumi immediately took issue with that.

"Don't you know what will happen if that hits the Musashi!?"

"Ahh!?" Terumoto turned toward her with a frown. "Can you say what will happen!?"

Come to think of it, not very well.

After a moment, a divine mail arrived. It was from Neshinbara and the subject was "I wrote up what would happen!", so she held the sign frame up in both hands.

"Zgodragyagwaaaaahhhn. With a deafening explosion, dark and black smoke rises from the Musashi's deck but is soon swept away by a swift wind. Behold: The cannon-fire light is an angelic stairway from the sky. It carries the force of sixteen lightning strikes and is equivalent to having the sky crashing down upon us."

"You're completely monotone."

Masazumi smashed the sign frame against the floor.

Behind her, Horizon placed a hand on her shoulder, but she brushed it off.

"It would be very, very bad!"

"I see." Terumoto pointed at Ootani. "You're a very, very bad person! And the Musashi Vice President agrees!"

"Th-there is no need to be mean. And are you still going on with that nonsense!?" Ootani pointed at Terumoto. "You are showing no concern for the innocent people the ship's guns are aimed at! I can only call that evil!"

"Says the one aiming the guns at them!!"

Masazumi and all the other non-Mouri people made that retort.

But Terumoto was not listening. She puffed her chest out proudly.

"Then what are you going to do about it!? Well!? Tell me, you iiidiot!"

"Mouri Terumoto! Don't provoke him! ...Hey! Houjou!"

Masazumi turned around and found Ujinao looking at a sign frame map of the Suwa region. She had a hand on her cheek and would occasionally sigh as she did her best to ignore the reality around her.

Ujinao was useless. And the idiot behind her...

"Hey! Seijun! Is it all gonna fall apart!? It is, isn't it!?"

"Toori-kun, stop trying to make things more exciting and try to calm down! Masazumi is about to persuade Terumoto-san!"

Vice President: "Don't ask the impossible!!"

Silver Wolf: "Oh? Th-that's not where this was headed?"

Me: "Hm... So some things are impossible even for Seijun..."

Tonbokiri: "Masazumi, if it comes to it, I can board the ship and resolve this, so do not worry!"

Now I'm worried, thought Masazumi. So...

"Mouri Terumoto! If you fire on the Musashi...I would find it truly regrettable!!"

Almost Everyone: "That's meaningless!!"

Vice President: "Shut up! 'Truly regrettable' is a level higher than 'very regrettable'!"

But while they argued, Terumoto responded.

"Fine, then. I guess we can't get Musashi caught in the middle of this. You're a foreign nation after all."

She maintained a serious expression and sighed once before turning toward Ootani.

"Hey, you listening, Ootani Yoshitsugu? Let's make a deal," said Terumoto. "I'm demanding it, so stop this nonsense, bow down, and apologize, you idiot."

"Don't provoke hiiiiim!!!"

"That's right! Everything you say seems meant to provoke me into a fight!" Ootani raised his right hand and tightly held the blade there. "Why are you so intent on fighting!?"

"Says the one who picked a fight with us!"

But saying that was not going to stop those two belligerent people.

Ootani swung his raised right hand to port, as if to deter any movement from Mitotsudaira.

"I will shoot!"

"Then do it, you moron!!"

"Testament!"

Ootani lowered his right hand.

Two of the three sword arms behind him stabbed into the deck.

"Fire...!"

The diplomatic ship shook from the port side.


Asama opened a defense barrier against the blast from port.

...Wow...!

The wind was more powerful than she had expected. A few automatons turned around and bowed toward her for erecting the barrier. The gust that swept across the ship from port was just that strong.

There was also light as ether light sprayed into the port-side sky.

The ether cannons had been fired. But...

"...Eh?"

Asama realized something while protected by the defense barrier.

The others there with her also noticed it.

To her right, Toori tilted his head.

"...Nothing happened to the Musashi."

That was right.

Beyond the blast and light, the Musashi had not erected a single defense barrier.

And it was unharmed.


How did that happen? wondered Asama.

The ether cannons had definitely been fired. The wind and light had definitely been there.

...And the sound...

...was there too.

The din of destruction rang out from the port side.

She heard breaking metal, bursting flames, and frames snapping in a chain reaction.

But as she listened to that noise, a question occurred to Asama.

...If the Musashi is fine, why am I hearing destruction?

She would come up with the answer soon enough. But before she could draw in that answer and convert it into words, Terumoto spoke. She scratched her head and sighed as she did so.

"Oh, whoops. I got ahead of myself and screwed up."

Meaning...

"I was so eager to fire a second gun salute that I did it with the hatches closed. ...They detonated inside the hatches, so those cannons aren't gonna work anymore."


...That's crazy!

Adele gasped as she watched from below.

After the first attack, the Mouri diplomatic ship had begun work on the port side. The automatons had activated the emergency manual override for the hatches and shut them using gravitational control.

The hatches were made from armor panels, so even they had difficulty closing them. They applied the gravitational control from the inside and outside to fully close the metal doors.

"It is fortunate we were able to borrow a transport ship. We managed to collect all of the girls working on the outside."

The Reine des Garous was pulling in a mooring line that extended up from the deck.

The other end was connected to a transport ship bearing the crest of Musashi Ariadust Academy. As she gently pulled that toward them, the automatons on its deck were all looking to the sky.

They were looking at Mouri-01 who stood on the port side of the diplomatic ship. However...

"Excellent job, everyone."

"Testament!"

They bowed toward the divine transmission and a few of them took each other's hands to confirm each other's memories.

While Adele viewed that, the Satomi Student Council President sighed and spoke next to her. She did not even try to hide the exasperation in her voice.

"They had the cannons misfire to destroy their port-side cannons. I have to admit that eliminates the threat to the Musashi, but it's still crazy. ...That had to have done considerable damage inside their ship."

"No, this is perfectly fine. Just look."

The Reine des Garous turned toward them with a smile.

And sure enough, when Adele looked back up toward the diplomatic ship...

"...Huh?"

A few sign frames had appeared around the ship.

And they said...

"Emergency...?"


Ootani realized what they were up to.

The misfire and self-destruction on the port side had done more than just eliminate the threat to the Musashi.

...It can't be...!

Just then, two of the arm swords behind him exploded.

The sudden occurrence was accompanied by dual sounds resembling splitting ice.

They self-destructed.

Those two arms had injected a virus in order to take control of the ship and perform the firing control.

If they had shattered and scattered as light...

"You took back control of the ship...!?"

"Not quite," replied Terumoto.

He turned around to find the Mouri leader with her arms crossed. She took a breath before continuing.

"There was internal damage to the ship's port side. It's only mid-level damage, but it will cause serious problems with the ship's flight. Thus, the ship's control OS entered emergency mode and cut off the autopilot. As a result..."

He knew what had happened.

"It shifted to manual control...!?"

But Terumoto had a similar answer here

"That's not quite it either."

Because...

"This ship was originally under my control. With that misfire, it merely became entirely manual. Meaning..."

Meaning...

"This ship has been mine all along."


That's crazy, thought Masazumi for the umpteenth time that day.

But Terumoto had accomplished what she set out to do.

...She forcibly created an emergency to remove control from Ootani.

Smoking Girl: "The emergency override is an automatic system that takes priority over any part of the control OS to ensure the safety of anyone onboard. ...Ootani may have hijacked the control system, but in an emergency, the override system takes precedence over the control system and the controls revert to manual. ...That uses a separate command hierarchy, so Ootani was unable to intervene."

"But," said Naomasa before saying the same thing Masazumi had thought.

Smoking Girl: "That was crazy."

Vice President: "I don't want to hear that from the engine division that intentionally let Isa's bombs detonate."

Smoking Girl: "That was within acceptable bounds. ...So it didn't count as an emergency."

Still sounds crazy to me.

...But it's true we've made progress.

"Hey! What are you gonna do now, Ootani Yoshitsugu!?"

Terumoto was free now. Ootani's virus could no longer overturn their persuasiveness. So...

"...You are too naive."

With those words from Ootani, Masazumi saw three different movements.

The first was Mitotsudaira who had sensed something and accelerated toward Ootani.

The second was the third sword arm behind Ootani piercing the air instead of the deck.

And the third...

"Princess!!"

Mouri-01 cried out as it happened.

There was light. The third daito floating behind Ootani exploded.


Mouri-01 reflexively entered self-lockdown mode.

The other belle de marionnettes also ceased exchanging data with the outside.

Ootani's ether was a virus. Any contact with it and they would be hijacked.

However...

...Eh?

Mouri-01 realized something. The firewall of her locked-down OS was not detecting any external access attempts. Which meant...

...Oh, no!

Ootani's daito had been a feint. There had been no program contained in it, so it was only a flash grenade meant to blind them.

And what would he target while they were kept from moving?

"Princess!!"

Mouri-01 shouted that title once more. Once her vision returned, she saw Ootani sprinting across the deck.

He was moving toward their Princess, the Musashi Vice President, and the others there and he was only 20 meters away.


Masazumi saw Ootani approaching.

He was racing toward them and had his hands at the ready.

"Prepare yourselves...!"

The blade of light formed in his hands quickly grew.

The line of light attempted to reach them and take off their heads.

"————!"

Just as she gasped, Masazumi sensed light from an unexpected location: behind her.

Ootani's blades were right in front of her, yet something appeared from behind her.

"A second blade of light...!?"


Light clashed with light, the one prepared for the clash was destructive, and the one caught off guard was destroyed.

Ootani's blade was sliced through by the intercepting light.

Someone had rushed past Terumoto and smashed his light with a short sword held in a reverse grip. It was...

"An automaton!?"

Ootani's doubt came from his trust in his own virus.

The feint using the bright flash had been a ruse taking advantage of how frightening that virus was.

But the person who charged in front of him now freely used both arms and viewed him through a pair of glasses.

"Testament. ...Due to my poor work, I am a 'shut in' who is not given the same jobs as the others."

But...

"The one area in which I am competent is combat. I, Seki Masasada, will protect this place."

And she was not the only one.

Another blade of light targeted Ootani's.

"Not so faaaaaast!"

There was a voice.

It was a male voice and it suddenly came from right next to Ootani.

Three meters away from him was an automaton.

But this one was different from the Hexagone Française maids on the deck.

"...A Houjou maid automaton?"

"Indeed. ...But more importantly, Ootaniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!"

The automaton opened their mouth wide and stuck out their tongue.

"You are in the presence of Houjou Ujiteru, so how about showing your faaaaaaace!? ...Ootani Yoshitsugu!"


Masazumi saw it.

The automaton claiming to be Houjou Ujiteru used their light-emitting sword to slash at Ootani's face.

Light scattered and something became visible on Ootani's face. It was shaped like...

...A mask?

No.

It was made from light and, based on its thickness, it was clearly his actual face.

However, it had no eyes, nose, or mouth. The smooth egg-like shape had holes in it.

One where the right eye should be and one where the mouth should be.

Were those a sight device and a speaking device?

The sight one curved upward in a shallow arc, perhaps to gather images on the left and right. The speaking one instead curved downward in a shallow arc.

It looked like he was smiling.

But he covered his face with his right hand. Specifically, he covered the blank left side of his face.

"Now you've done it...!" He spoke calmly. "So I shall count you as an enemy!"

"Then this is goodbye!"

With that shout, someone arrived behind Ootani. It was...

...Mitotsudaira!


Mitotsudaira did not let this moment escape her.

...This enemy is dangerous!

He used brand-new and unknown technology on the battlefield. So what was the best way of opposing that threat?

"Removing him!"

She threw a weapon at him.

It was the table.

She used a silver chain to swing the giant board like a racket and slam it into Ootani.


Ootani saw the enemy's decision.

He had not set himself to interact with the approaching table, so it would not hit him.

Or it should not have.

It did.

...What!?

His entire body took damage, like he had crashed into a wall.

And as his data entity body distorted, he noticed the trick to this blow.

It was the chain.

Her chains could make ether attacks, so she had wrapped one around the table so it could hit him.

A chain on its own he could handle. Even if it hit him, a blow from the chain's tight arm could be negated by purging the point of impact. Even if it grabbed or wrapped around him, he only had to separate his body into multiple pieces.

However, he had not expected an attack like this.

By wrapping the chain around the table, the blow gained great weight and surface area.

...Oh, no...!

Before he could release his virus, his body was ripped from the floor. Nothing he tried to do made it in time. And...

"Kh...!"

In something like a baseball hit into the opposite field, he was launched into the sky.


Mitotsudaira watched the ball fly from her full swing.

There was no need to run after him. He had flown plenty.

"He's flown off the ship. ...That's a home run!"

The warrior scattered light as he flew and someone launched an additional attack toward him.

A duo was rapidly ascending from the Musashi in the sky behind them.

"Margot, Naruze! It's in your hands now!"

There was no response.

Only the boom of cannon fire and...

"Herrlich!!"

The Technohexen word of praise joined the projectile that collided with the airborne light.


In the final moment, Ootani understood the logic of what had happened.

From the Mito Lord's attack to the Technohexen cannon blast...

...I left the Mouri ship and entered Musashi airspace!

The light of cannon fire came from a roll of coins given anti-ghost properties by Technomagie. And the projectile flew as a single whole instead of separating. They had chosen fire for the anti-ghost element.

It was going to hit.

Just before it did, Ootani saw something in the visual scan carried out by his high-speed thoughts. One of his enemies did something different from all the others.

It was Mouri-01.

The one-armed automaton had held a pistol in her left hand before.

But no longer.

She had a signe cadre open and she was using it to send instructions.

...What is she doing?

Had her high-speed thoughts noticed his own?

She looked up at him and changed her expression.

Her lips showed the first signs of a smile.

Once a moment had passed, the actual smile would appear, but for now, it was only the beginnings of movement in her cheeks and the corners of her mouth.

Nevertheless, Ootani understood. The words scrolling along her signe cadre and that expression told him everything.

"You are streaming this battle to Kantou, aren't you!?"

Mouri had fought this battle for a specific purpose.

...To reveal their stance to the Kantou nations...!

Mouri was not well known in Kantou. Since they were combined with Hexagone Française, they were seen as a major western nation, but not much else was known about them.

The Kantou nations would find it difficult to trust Mouri if they said they were liberating Kantou.

That was why.

Mouri Terumoto would choose inaction at Sekigahara and betray the Western Army despite being its leader.

Ootani would sacrifice himself for the Western Army at Sekigahara.

From the moment he came here and opposed her, Terumoto had already been looking ahead to Sekigahara and planning to liberate Kantou beforehand.

As a result, she had cooperated with Houjou and Musashi while driving back Ootani, a representative of the Western Army at Sekigahara.

There was only one possible conclusion.

"...The absolute beginning of the Kantou Liberation...!"

Musashi, Mouri, and Houjou had shown the Kantou nations that there was no avoiding it now.

As for Ootani...

...I was careless!

He took a defensive stance.

He began summoning the god of war parts he could call out instantly.

But the Technohexen attack was accurate.

"————!"

He was hit in midair.