Horizon:Volume 7A Chapter 17
Chapter 17: Trailblazer of Empty Land
An enemy need not
Greet you with battle
They can stop by on a whim
Like a passing rain shower
Point Allocation (Refuel)
Naomasa saw the enemy.
It slid between the other nations’ ships and stopped in the center where everyone was gathered.
It was a red mechanical dragon.
It was shaped like a dragon, but it was actually a machine.
Just like a mechanical phoenix, it was a large weapon piloted by the person riding it.
“And just one of them can fight on the level of a military division or a warship.”
They were rare.
They had worse fuel efficiency than gods of war and they were a pain to maintain, so Tres España was the only major nation that used them and they only used them in the New World. Some smaller nations used them as a symbol for their nation’s weaponry, but they rarely appeared on the front line except as a show of force.
Yet here one was right in front of them.
347: “Wow! Hey, Masa, get me some video! O-oh, and audio too! The acoustics outside aren’t great for picking up the sound of its engine, but I can still play the recording while I fall asleep!”
She’s got some kind of sickness, that’s for sure, thought Naomasa even as she worked to record the requested data.
The red dragon set its four legs on the deck and shook from the movement. It had a pointed head, main wings on its forelegs and secondary wings on its hind legs.
Musashi: “Our readings show it was travelling at 82% of our gravitational acceleration. Over.”
Gold Mar: “Geh.”
Me: “Eh? Doesn’t that mean it can’t keep up? Nothing to worry about then.”
Mar-Ga: “The Musashi extends its cruising distance by using inertial cruising after accelerating. It also helps that we can stay afloat for long periods of time, but if we stay at full speed, we’ll run out of fuel in no time. On the other hand, that mechanical dragon can’t stay afloat on its own, so it keeps accelerating its entire time in the air.”
Uqui: “In that case, the Musashi can at best match its speed. It might even be able to catch up to us.”
Me: “You mean we suck!?”
Hori-ko: “Do not say that, Toori-sama. ‘Musashi’-sama will functionally get super mad.”
Sakai asked “Musashi” a question while he viewed the menu for Bonten, a Date mail-order site that had expanded into Kantou.
“ ‘Musashi’-san? Is that mechanical dragon really faster than you?”
She gave him a sidelong glance before responding.
“I will not stoop to the level of silly contents of speed. This ship follows a policy of safety first. Besides, I have the greater top speed and power output. Over.”
“Is that so?” said Sakai while viewing the section for local hero shows on black disk. “But I’d really prefer it if the Musashi won.”
“Is this a childish game, Sakai-sama? Over.”
“Musashi” sighed, but only for show as she was a doll. And then she opened a sign frame.
“ ‘Musashino’, continue calculations until you arrive at a satisfactory result. Over.”
Naomasa saw Horizon nod toward a sign frame and then turn her way.
“Naomasa-sama, make sure the record says that the Musashi does not suck and the mechanical dragon could not catch up.”
“Are you sure?”
She was confused, but that was apparently the result. However…
…That thing has a very Tres Españan design.
Mar-Ga: “I was expecting an M.H.R.R. one, but that’s Tres España red, isn’t it?”
“It is,” agreed Naomasa.
Just then, the mechanical dragon stood up from its crouched position.
“Oh? Is it making its move?”
It was not. The creaking of metal gradually grew louder as the giant form came to a stop.
The metal dragon continued to shake up and down a little and there were still lights on across its body, but it showed no sign of further movement.
…It must really be out of fuel.
Then a voice came from an external speaker.
“Waiiit, Nabe-sannnn? What do we do?”
“We don’t do anything. We have the right to do this.”
“Ummm,” said the voice from further back.
“We’re on our way to Edo for the history recreation, but we’re short on fuel and would like to refuel. We’re in a hurry, so only give us enough to reach Edo.”
With that, the head of the mechanical dragon slid forward to reveal a cramped cockpit inside. Naomasa could not see what was inside since she was looking up from below, but she saw two people stand up into view.
The one in the front seat was a tall girl who wore an M.H.R.R. work uniform and had her hair tied back.
“I am Nabeshima Naoshige from the Ryuuzouji Warriors of Hashiba’s M.H.R.R. Kyushu Region Warrior Division!”
The one in the back seat was a long-haired girl who had apparently been asleep.
“I am Asano Yoshinagaaa of Hashiba’s M.H.R.R. Home Warrior Divisionnn.”
The girls definitely looked younger than Class Plum and Neshinbara responded to the names they had given.
“Asano of the Seven Generals…and Nabeshima Naoshige, the fierce warrior under Katou Kiyomasa’s command.”
He knew why they were here.
“Those two are going to fight in the Keichou Campaign.”
Gin saw Muneshige take a deep breath.
She did not know if it was tension, hope, or something else that had inspired emotion in him, but…
“Master Muneshige, it appears something big is in the works, doesn’t it?”
“According to the Testament, Nabeshima Naoshige attacks our Tachibana territory after Sekigahara. There is fierce fighting, but you never meet Nabeshima in battle and the Tachibana territory surrenders.”
She had not expected that opponent to be a mechanical dragon pilot.
There were records showing that both Muneshige and Nabeshima had fought in the coming Kantou Liberation or Keichou Campaign. However, Muneshige had yet to reclaim his inherited name.
It was unknown if those two would meet as enemies during the Kantou Liberation, but…
“We should both be able to see how the other fights.”
“Judge,” agreed Gin. Something was clear to her now.
…The times are changing.
She could also tell that they were the ones causing that change. At Novgorod, Sanada, and Houjou, they had interacted with the current age and gotten ahead of it.
But it felt more real when she saw things related to Muneshige and herself in it.
A future enemy stood before them now.
Of course, this was all meaningless without his inherited name, but…
“It is not that our goal will not wait around for us, Gin. Perhaps our goal will come to us and then pass us by. …We must be prepared so it does not escape us.”
“Judge. Let us keep an eye on the enemy during the Kantou Liberation to prepare for that.”
After Gin agreed, Nabeshima hopped down from the cockpit.
As a mechanical dragon pilot, there was no real reason to worry about her own agility.
But just like the Satomi Student Council President, fighters had to be well-trained even if they piloted a god of war or similar machine.
This girl would be the same.
Nabeshima landed on the deck after a drop of nearly 10m. She nimbly lowered her hips, but immediately stood back up and rolled her shoulders. She must have been stiff after such a long flight. And she opened a Catholic lernen figur.
“Here’s my request for fuel. Who’s in charge of that here?”
Her behavior was more casual than it was direct. And…
A hatch on the mechanical dragon’s flank opened and some elderly men tumbled out from the interior.
They all wore work uniforms made from a mixture of Tres España and M.H.R.R. designs.
Gin knew who they were. Muneshige would as well.
There were five in all and they ran toward Nabeshima.
“The Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji?”
Masazumi asked Gin what she meant.
“The Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji?”
She knew what Ryuuzouji was. It was a small nation in Kyushu.
…Come to think of it, the Testament says Nabeshima Naoshige was left in charge there and he more or less hijacked the place.
Nabeshima must have been given an important position among Hashiba’s warriors after strengthening her ties to Hashiba.
“Why are they called the Four Heavenly Kings when there are five of them?”
“Eh?” Gin frowned and it took a while for her to finally respond. “Tradition.”
“Oh,” was all Masazumi could say to that. But when the five old men noticed the conversation, they stopped running toward Nabeshima and struck a pose together.
“Indeed! We are the Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji!”
“We are five in number, yet we are the Four Heavenly Kings!”
“There’re five of us, but we’re the Four Heavenly Kings for some reason!”
“You’re in the wayyyyyyyyyyyy!”
“The hell I aaaaaaaaaaam!”
The five of them spun in perfect unison to throw counter punches that sent them all flying.
“Yes, yes, yes.” Nabeshima walked over. “C’mon, you old geezers, we’re trying to arrange for some fuel, so don’t get in the way. If you have time to hit each other, then get things ready on our end. C’mon, hop to it!”
“My lady! But this is enemy territory!”
“Leave this to us while you handle the refueling, my lady!”
Nabeshima kicked one of the old men in the butt.
“Don’t shove all the work onto me! If you’ve forgotten your jobs, I’ll beat the knowledge back into you!”
The old men gave a shout and rushed to the rear of the mechanical dragon.
They look like a pain to deal with, thought Masazumi as she raised her right hand and called out to Nabeshima.
“Musashi can prepare fuel for you right away, so just tell us what you need. But…”
She turned her gaze in the direction the Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji had run and Nabeshima followed that gaze.
“Testament. I arrived at the Ryuuzouji clan during middle school, which was when they were reorganizing everything. …But – how should I put it? – those old geezers wouldn’t do any work, so I kept having to bring the work to them and kick their asses until they did it. And they eventually ended up like this.”
“This. The mechanical dragon. It’s Tres España’s-…”
Nabeshima then noticed two people standing behind Masazumi.
Masazumi did not even need to look to know it was the Tachibana Couple. Nabeshima bowed and a shout came from the rear of the mechanical dragon.
“Oh!? Is that Tres España’s 1st and 3rd Special Duty Officers!?”
“I do not believe we have met. I am Tachibana Gin and this is Tachibana Muneshige, although his inherited name has been revoked.”
“Ohh.” One of the Four Heavenly Kings pulled his work goggles over his eyes. “That’s our enemy!!”
Gin responded to the man with a nod.
Next to her, Muneshige lightly lowered his head and spoke a single word.
That is sufficient, thought Gin in admiration. Neither we nor them need any more of a response than that.
But she had another thought as well.
It had to do with the mechanical dragon piloted by Nabeshima.
Tachibana Wife: “It is true Tres España built mechanical dragons in order to settle the New World. With the Armada Battle approaching, Tres España did the development and design work in the New World while the production and assembly were done by Ryuuzouji since that clan already had mechanical dragons.”
That would have been when Nabeshima moved to Ryuuzouji.
She had likely been sent there to bring mechanical dragon technology back to Hashiba. She must have done an excellent job given Ryuuzouji’s own technical prowess and the technology being sent in from Tres España. But…
Tachibana Wife: “Tres España’s New World Warriors only had land mechanical dragons that were mid-sized at best. Large, flying ones like this are a different thing entirely.”
To quickly supply ether fuel, pressurized barrels were carried in on a wagon instead of using a pipe. Those were hooked up to the mechanical dragon using a wooden frame as a universal compatibility hub.
…The engine system and other parts definitely use Tres Españan technology.
The biggest difference was the primary usage of ether fuel. Tres España did not have the best ether engine technology, so their gods of war and mechanical dragons used spring power conversion systems instead of fuel.
Smoking Girl: “With spring systems, managing the spring container is easy and they’re quickly swapped out, so those systems are well suited for aerial gods of war. But they have an upper limit on power, so flying a mechanical dragon would require too many to be feasible. …The ether fuel usage is probably taken from M.H.R.R. tech.”
In that case, thought Gin.
This more or less confirmed something.
“Tres España has chosen to cooperate with Hashiba instead of opposing them.”
Gin looked at Nabeshima.
That younger name inheritor belonged to a generation they increasingly had to think about. The girl shrugged and opened her mouth to speak.
“Well, Tres España does belong to the western Habsburg bloodline, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they would work with M.H.R.R. …And they used the history recreation of the Kyushu Campaign to keep Hashiba from invading their home country.”
“Testament. …That invasion would have been by the eastern Habsburgs, which would have made cooperation between Catholics impossible. …I take it this is the price of that decision?”
“Testament. But Tres España itself is still treating those of us in Hashiba pretty coldly. They do what needs to be done for the history recreation, but they provide no support beyond that. …They use their losses in the New World business as an excuse.”
“That sounds like the Chancellor’s idea.”
Gin nearly nodded in response to Muneshige’s smiling comment, but she stopped herself.
“Master Muneshige? You probably should not refer to him as just ‘the Chancellor’.”
“Oh, my apologies, Gin. We are residents of Musashi now, aren’t we?”
Muneshige took a breath and reworded his comment.
“That sounds like Tres España Chancellor Segundo’s idea.”
“…Spelling it all out is a little long, isn’t it?”
“Can you display appropriate respect for our elder while keeping it short, Gin?”
“Such quick thinking, Gin!”
“I am a Tachibana woman after all.”
Now, then, thought Gin as she turned back toward Nabeshima and the mechanical dragon. She wondered if there was anything she could learn from the dragon using her Tres Españan viewpoint.
But just as she began her observations, she heard a voice.
It came from Asano Yoshinaga who was still in the cockpit overhead.
“Huhhh!? Hey, hey, hhhey? What’s Nagaoka doing here?”
Masazumi gasped at Asano’s question.
Nagaoka’s presence here was supposed to be top secret.
If the Hashiba forces found out, Musashi could be criticized for ignoring the history recreation.
We’re in trouble, thought Masazumi. I need to do something.
But the voice overhead continued with a tilted head and puzzled tone.
“That is Nagaoka, isn’t it? Hey, Nagaokaaa! What are you doing herrre?”
Out of the corner of her eye, Masazumi saw Nagaoka hesitating to respond. He was a middle school student, so making a political decision and adlibbing through this was beyond his abilities. In fact, Masazumi would prefer he did not even try. But…
Gold Mar: “Should we open fire?”
Vice President: “Let’s not be hasty! And not even all of your combined firepower could destroy that mechanical dragon!”
Novice: “Fine, then. It sounds like I must drag them into the dark depths of history.”
Silver Wolf: “My kiiiiing!!!!”
As they passed the focus from person to person, the idiot suddenly responded.
He jumped away from Tadaoki and rolled across the deck.
He shouted as loud as he could.
“Nagabuto’s boarded our shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip!”
Me: “Oh, whoops. I called him Nagabuto.”
Unturning: “What kind of act was that supposed to be?”
Uqui: “You couldn’t tell, Narumi? Toori is going to piss himself and sob while he crawls away in terror.”
Hori-ko: “Sounds like he stands to lose a lot for how difficult it will be for that to work.”
Silver Wolf: “Stop! No! He is not doing that here!”
Still Got It: “That’s right! Save that kind of fun for when you’re alone together!”
Silver Wolf: “Mother, I do not need your messed-up opinions right now!”
Vice President: “Umm, so the idea is to make it look like Nagaoka Tadaoki forcibly boarded us and we were fighting him when the mechanical dragon showed up!?”
Nagaya-Stable: “Hey, doesn’t that prevent us from inviting him to stay with us?”
Vice President: “That’s no longer an option no matter what we do. We’ll have to play this by ear!”
Almost Everyone: “Judge!”
Masazumi looked to the others.
…The plan is to run away from the boy like he’s a dangerous enemy!
She used eye contact to communicate with them all.
Then Horizon placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Masazumi-sama, please explain the plan such that we can understand.”
Masazumi felt everyone’s eyes on her.
But it was not just the idiot. Even Asano, Nabeshima, the Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji, and Mouri Terumoto’s group were giving her cold looks that asked what they should do. In fact, Nagaoka was doing it too.
This required resolute action.
She had watched kabuki and plays as part of her education and she had learned to project her voice for giving speeches. If she gave a shout, that was sure to show everyone why they needed to run away from Nagaoka.
So that was what she did.
She forgot to move, so she just stood there.
That may have been why her voice had been so straightforward and direct. Almost like it was meant as reverence for trees. Oh, I like that description. You can call me the Tree Revererer. Oh, that’s one ‘er’ too many.
Then the idiot raised his voice while standing still next to her.
Horizon did the same.
The others exchanged a glance, and then…
Nabeshima and Asano joined in.
Even Nagaoka did it.
…You don’t have to do it!
Gold Mar: “W-waaahhhhhh!”
Vice President: “Don’t do it when you aren’t even here!”
Mar-Ga: “Sob, sob. M-Margot, all I wanted to do was show some camaraderie with the others, but Masazumi says I’m not welcome…”
Gold Mar: “There, there. It’s okay, Ga-chan. You can make yourself feel better by drawing a doujinshi where Seijun shows some ‘camaraderie’ with the others.”
The secondary damage had already begun. Meanwhile, Horizon placed a hand on Masazumi’s shoulder again.
This time, Masazumi actually moved. She jumped away from Nagaoka in an exaggerated way, and…
“Now this is true fear!”
Neshinbara was into it right away.
He swung his arms and held them up in two or three different meaningless poses as he spoke.
“Nagaoka Tadaoki has singlehandedly boarded our ship during this crucial meeting! The history recreation of losing his wife must have driven him mad and given him a murderous dual personality! And that other personality is named…”
“It’s Nagabuto, Neshinbara.”
“Indeed! The name derived from the cursed bloodline of his maternal ancestors is Nagabuto. It might sound Far Eastern, but it actually refers to the Indian divine serpents known as Naga! Thus, it is all too obvious that it was this Houjou land that has awoken the ancient blood within his veins!”
“Neshinbara-sama, if Nagabuto-sama is a manifestation of a divine serpent, does that make us evil?”
“No! I can say nothing for certain without doing more research, but to have divine serpent blood in his veins, his ancestors must have slain one of those serpents and drank of its blood. They are a cursed family.”
Asano raised a hand.
“Nagaoka’s pareeents are thread-making craftsmennn.”
“Exactly! What are threads if not artificial serpents!? They began making the thread to ward off the serpent’s curse, but the true reasons behind have since been forgotten! He is the descendent of a dark tribe!”
Four Eyes: “Are your excuses always this forced?”
Vice President: “Hold on, Shakespeare! Your very reasonable comments can wait! …Now, Neshinbara, what is the situation!?”
Neshinbara responded by sliding to the side and swinging his right arm around.
All of his sign frames followed the movement of his arm.
…He didn’t mean for that to happen, did he?
But Neshinbara did not let it get to him. He held his hand over the bottom of his face and spoke.
“This is fear itself…”
Immediately, the idiot turned toward Nagaoka, stood perfectly still, and opened his mouth wide.
“He’s so scaryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy! Waaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Why’d such a dangerous guy have to come herrrrrrrrrrrrrrre!”
The idiot tripped and fell, but…
He looked like he was crawling away, but he somehow ended up moving toward Nagaoka.
Wise Sister: “Heh heh. That is a stage technique passed down from the Age of the Gods: the Crawling Moonwalk! The technique was developed by an entertainer god named Michael! You don’t get to see this every day!”
Toori approached Nagabuto and whispered to the boy.
“We’ll make sure to at least do something about your wife, so you head back for now.”
“A-are you sure?”
“Just leave it to us. Cause we know you’ll do what you can too.”
“Play along here, okay?”
Masazumi saw Nagaoka raise his voice as he drew his gun chain swords.
“Heyyyyyyyy! You gotta death wish or somethinnnnnnnnnnng!?”
“Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh! He’s so scaryyyyyyyyyyyyy! Help meeeeeeee!”
“Dammit, yooooou! Nudists should be executeeeeed!”
Okay, that part I can get behind.
“Waaaaaaahhh! I’m gonna be killed in the nuuuuuude! Nagabuto’s super scaryyyyyyyyyy! I bet his dick’s pitch blaaaaaaaaaaaaaack! …Right, Tenzou?”
“Eh? Oh, waaaaaaaaahhhh! Yes, his dick probably is pitch blaaaaack!”
Don’t encourage him. And can we start talking like normal people now?
Asama: “S-sorry. I think laughing at that makes me unfit to be a shrine maiden, so s-sorry.”
Hori-ko: “Asama-sama, I feel like your standards for humor have dropped considerably since moving in with us.”
Silver Wolf: “I-I didn’t laugh! …Kimi, why are you hopping up and down repeating that!?”
Whatever the case, there was only one thing to shout now.
Everyone screamed and ran to the inner side of the port. The warriors waiting behind them moved forward instead. And…
“Dammit. …Oh, you were okay, 1st Special Duty Officer!?”
“Dammit. …1st Special Duty Officer, hurry up and retreat with the others!”
“Dammit. …It was all an act!?”
“I-I feel like you all are speaking your mind a little too much lately!” protested the ninja.
But the arrival of the warriors changed things for Nabeshima’s group. The girl shouted at Nagaoka who was still swinging around his gun chain swords.
“Hey! Don’t get in the way of our refueling! …Hurry it up, you old geezers!”
“We’re almost done!”
Nagaoka came to a stop between them and the Musashi group.
He must have realized now was his time to “retreat” too. For just a moment, he looked up with his eyebrows raised, but…
Their eyes met.
He looked straight at Masazumi with strength in his eyes.
10ZO: “What do we do now?”
Vice President: “He can’t seek asylum with us right now. They’re going to make him fight in the Keichou Campaign, but we’re still going to want to bring him with us.”
10ZO: “Then…we can discuss what to do later!”
With that, Crossunite gestured for the warriors to advance.
The warriors moved forward like a solid wall, so Nagaoka…
He turned his back.
But this was not the same as when he fled from Shigenaga earlier. He was keeping an eye on the warriors while still running to where he needed to be.
At the same time, there was a great roar as the mechanical dragon shook from its startup procedure.
“Nagaoka! We’ve barely got enough fuel, so we can’t wait much longer. Get your ship airborne immediately!”
Tadaoki arrived at his transport ship which had already started to ascend.
The emergency entrance on the side of the stern was open and an elderly student was reaching out a hand.
“It is a shame, Tadaoki-sama.”
“No, it’s not.”
He climbed onboard and felt the wind.
They were leaving.
The air in the ship was spilling out as the ship rapidly ascended. That wind pressure threatened to blow him out of the ship, but he stayed there, viewing the scene outside that closing entrance.
He saw the large ships of Musashi’s diplomatic port. His ship was still low enough for that to look like a city instead of part of a ship.
He continued speaking while watching the Musashi students visible there.
“All I’ve done is make the request. But…”
His shoulders slumped and his voice escaped his lips.
“I just hope she ignored my request for her to die.”
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