Horizon:Volume 7A Chapter 22
Chapter 22: Leader of the Recovery
Some things can be taken back
Some things cannot be
If you can only have one thing
Which would it be?
Point Allocation (The Future)
The battle did not begin immediately.
The Hashiba forces moved their formation to intercept their enemy, but they did not move forward.
Meanwhile, the Mouri forces kept their distance by choosing to move from the coast to the ocean.
It was only a matter of time before they clashed, but the Hashiba forces extended their formation southeast to intercept and stop their enemy while the Mouri forces took a route east along the ocean to the south.
The Mouri forces wanted to circle around the ocean to reach the Bousou Peninsula, but there was only so far they could go with that route. If they took too wide a turn to avoid the Hashiba forces, they would pass the southern tip of the Bousou Peninsula and miss the landmass entirely.
Meanwhile, the Hashiba forces could not focus all their strength on pursuing the Mouri forces. If they were pulled too far southeast, their formation to protect the Uraga Channel would fall apart and the next wave of Mouri forces would attack.
That was why the Hashiba forces had the warships above the Uraga Channel move south. Those nine ironclad ships flew at different altitudes to form a wall that would block the Mouri forces.
The Miura Peninsula defense fleet was to the west. The stationary cannon emplacements were to the north. Add in the ironclad ships to the south and the overall formation had a “ ⎤ ” shape.
The Mouri Fleet was charging into the inner angle from the west.
They tried rerouting south, but the ironclad ships had the greater speed.
The ironclad ships were 800m long. They formed stacks of three ships with 2km between them and the ships behind them, so they effectively surrounded the Uraga Channel cannon emplacements from about 8km away.
Mouri responded by continuing south regardless.
But something stopped their fleet.
Behind the “ ⎤ ”-shaped interception formation, the aerial fleet defending the Bousou Peninsula started moving south.
If that defense fleet moved out from Bousou, they would push the Mouri fleet out into the ocean.
So the Mouri fleet chose to fly straight toward the ironclad fleet.
The assault ships in the lead moved to the center right of the ironclad ships arranged in 3 stacks of 3 ships.
They were attempting to fly between the rightmost group and the center group.
And the ships following them selected a route that would take them past the assault ships on the right.
If the ironclad ships narrowed together to prevent the assault ships from slipping through, these other ships would slip past them on the right.
A moment later, the Miura Peninsula defense fleet and the Mouri assault ships arrived within 10km of each other.
Fire raced through the night.
The first shots were launched by Hashiba’s Miura Peninsula defense fleet.
Asano Yoshinaga could not see the distant cannon fire.
But she could hear the blasts which sounded oddly soft as they reverberated through the night.
“So it’s beguuuun…”
She saw a great body of water before her.
It was the edge of Edo Bay on the east side of the Bousou Peninsula.
The fighting was happening at the Uraga Channel’s entrance, which was about 50km from here.
She was on the north end of the Bousou Peninsula. She was part of a defense unit in case the enemy took a land route from Edo Bay.
She saw the occasional aerial ship silhouette in the southern sky and the light of shellfire would brighten the sky like distant lightning.
But there was no definite evidence of fighting.
The enemy had not come here. Which meant…
“No, you aren’t. It just means the enemy didn’t take that route.”
“Ohhh, Nabe-san. Fighting already?”
“I’m halfway up Uraga, so I haven’t been sent out yet. But I can see the fighting. …Wanna see?”
“No? If I see iiit, it’ll feel like I’m part of iiit, so I’ll paaass.”
Maybe I’m being disrespectful, thought Asano.
But it was true she had nothing to do.
She was on the bay coast of northern Bousou. There were only two routes for the enemy to reach here, assuming they did not arrive by air.
The first was along the bay. They would circle around from the northwest to the southeast. And the other…
“Nagaokaaa, how about you?”
She turned to view a long bridge.
The half-ruined bridge crossed Edo Bay from east to west. That was the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay.
Nagaoka had taken up a sniper position on top of a rest station building at the midpoint of the bridge.
“Can you see to the south?”
Tadaoki was on the roof of a ruined building.
This was the center of Edo Bay, so he might as well have been on the ocean.
This great bridge was what remained of a land route built to cross Edo Bay. In the Age of the Gods, there had apparently been an undersea tunnel continuing west from this building, but that was flooded now. However…
…During the Age of Dawn, a bridge was built as a “sea route” for an eastern expedition.
The bridge had been maintained ever since for the value of the ruins, the economic value it provided, and avoiding any rights troubles and wasted effort if the undersea tunnel was reopened in the future.
During the Kamakura Shogunate, it had been expanded in the name of preserving the ruins, but since the western entrance was managed by Edo instead of Houjou, Satomi and Houjou had not been dragged into a war.
From what he could tell, this building acted as a provisional dividing line and he could see Satomi-managed fishing boats using the expanded bridge east of the building.
But at the moment…
“Heyyy, whaaat’s happening to the southhh?”
Asano often sounded a beat slow when speaking, but she was good at coming up with plans in battle. She likely understood why she had been placed as a defender on the peninsula coast land route, so…
“Are you bored?”
“Hmmm, I’m really just curious.”
“Are you?” sighed Tadaoki. It could be hard to believe, but she was two years older than him. He interacted with her a lot and he figured that was why he could speak so casually with her. “The angles don’t work out, so I can’t see the western ocean from here. All I can tell is that the south Bousou fleet appears to be headed further south. The defense fleet above Edo is staying put.”
“Hmmm. What about the Musashiii?”
Tadaoki felt his heart skip a beat when he heard that.
He thought she might be trying to subtly ask about his visit to the Musashi. But…
…I am further west than her group.
He decided not to read too much into it and looked up to the west.
There, the Musashi was…
IT: “The Musashi is entering stealth mode after turning west. It probably doesn’t want to get dragged into the battle.”
Asano: “I wasn’t asking you, Ikedaaa. I was aaasking Nagaoka.”
IT: “I’m closer to the Musashi. Uunderstand?”
Asano: “Ikedaaa, quiiit tryyying tooo copyyy meee.”
That’s what he was doing? thought Tadaoki with a shudder.
…It didn’t sound anything like her! I didn’t even notice he was doing it!
He even wondered if Asano was falsely accusing Ikeda here, but…
Kanitama: “Hm, those two really do get along great.”
Do they? thought Tadaoki in shock while hanging his head.
He felt like he had recently started realizing how ignorant he was about relationships and the subtleties of human emotion. But…
Nabe3: “Nagaoka, you can call them on their crap when they say stuff like that. Don’t worry about it.”
Okaaa: “Well, um, I’ll try, I guess.”
He appreciated Nabeshima’s leadership, but he still had trouble relying on it. Not to mention…
Asano: “Nagaoka, you’ll do things when Nabe-san tells you tooo? Are you into ollllder girls?”
Okaaa: “Older? Aren’t you all the same age?”
Asano: “Ehhh? Nabe-san works hard on her imaaaage. She feels five years older than meee.”
Nabe3: “Again, Nagaoka, you can call them on their crap.”
Can’t you do it? he wondered. However…
The sound of shellfire from the south had changed.
There was still nothing here, but…
“Are the ironclad ships in range of the Mouri forces?”
Kuki made all the by-the-book responses from his command ship above the Bousou Peninsula.
His forces both outnumbered and outgunned the enemy.
The enemy had been deprived of Houjou and Date and they lacked the major firepower of the Musashi. It helped a lot that most of Mouri’s transport ships had been sent to the Hashiba forces as “supplies for the Keichou Campaign”.
Thanks to that, the Mouri forces got most of their numbers from transport ships provided by Musashi.
It was true Musashi had provided an unexpectedly large number of transport ships, but even with cannons loaded onboard to use them as warships, they were not very powerful as attackers.
The exchange of cannon fire had already begun, but the louder sounds were coming from the Hashiba ships and the quieter from the Mouri ships. The difference in volume painted a clear picture of the difference in firepower.
Kuki did not think Hexagone Française was a weak nation when it came to aerial forces. They had the technology and resources to construct and operate large ships such as the Pension Versailles.
“They do plan to settle the outside world, after all.”
But Hexagone Française had little combat experience using their aerial fleet.
And a lack of experience did not just mean combat was not their forte. It meant they were lagging behind when it came to developing and deploying new technology designed with the feedback provided by combat experience.
You only had to think back to when they had surrounded IZUMO to attack the Musashi.
That must have been the most they were willing to reveal of their Hexagone Française fleet.
They had their target surrounded, so the standard fleet tactics would have been to close in on their target to use their cannons. An M.H.R.R. fleet had held the east of IZUMO where the Musashi was, but Hexagone Française had made no attempt to circle around them.
“Did they not want to reveal just how bad they are at naval battles?”
Hexagone Française had lured Hashiba into their territory later, but they had once again avoided a naval battle by primarily using gods of war in ground battles and ambushes.
The initial exchange of cannon fire was occurring in the western sky.
The front of the Mouri fleet was being fired on by the ironclad ships directly ahead of them and Kuki’s fleet over the Miura Peninsula to their right.
The Mouri fleet was returning fire, but there was a difference in firing range and accuracy.
The Mouri fleet could not resupply, so they had to conserve their ether cannons that used both a physical shell and ether. They primarily used the physical shell cannons and spell cannons and only used the ether cannons when their vanguard had moved out.
That was slow going.
The differences in combat speed, weapon ability, and availability of supplies meant everything in this battle.
At the moment, the ironclad ships were untouchable. Their thick armor and great size let them overwhelm normal warships.
And this time, there were nine of them. That meant they could be used as a wall.
…We have so much more to work with than during the Second Battle of Kizugawaguchi.
Back then, he had been the attacker and thus needed to stay on the move. Eight ironclad ships had been lost as a result. He had also lost his right arm, which he had replaced with a biological prosthetic.
But things were different now.
He was the defender instead of the attacker, so he only had to focus on defense and positioning.
If the enemy managed to land on the Bousou Peninsula, he would have partially lost.
If they managed to take the Bousou Peninsula, he would have fully lost.
But even if they made it to the peninsula, he would count it as a win as long as he held them off until Hashiba arrived.
Plus, he had the superior forces.
Three Legs: “This should be easy if things play out normally. Right, Kuki-kun?”
Nine Horns: “Do not let your guard down, Suzuki-kun.”
Three Legs: “You just have to make sure this plays out normally. …So what’s your plan?”
Nine Horns: “That is simple. Always keep the enemy’s vanguard half-surrounded and never cease firing on them.”
Three Legs: “You’re sending the ironclad ships straight at the enemy, but will they last?”
Nine Horns: “There is a way to ensure they do, so don’t you worry. Also, we have greater numbers, strength, and armor. If we make this a war of attrition, we will win.”
“Is that so?” said Magoichi, who did not sound at all delighted.
That meant she had not let her guard down at all. And…
Nine Horns: “Suzuki-kun. The battlefield is about to change.”
Three Legs: “The ironclad ships are entering the enemy’s firing range.”
“No, not that,” said Kuki. Another sound joined the back-and-forth of cannon fire. It was…
Nine Horns: “The enemy vanguard is breaking.”
“Oh? That was fast.”
Terumoto twisted the corners of her mouth atop the Pension Versailles that remained at the rear of the Mouri fleet with the Yamagata Castle.
She was watching a red flower blossoming in the sky far to the east.
The assault ship at the very front of their vanguard had exploded.
“Damn, their main cannons can break through our armor better than we thought.”
“Moving too far out would be dangerous. Although I am sure the fleet commander has a plan.”
“Can we not just coast through on momentum, Mouri-01?”
That question briefly silenced Mouri-01.
She was taking some readings. And when she had the results…
“The enemy ironclad ships are equipped with different cannons than during their attack on K.P.A. Italia. Instead of turretless models, they are likely using 24cm/28 caliber cannons. They may have shortened the Azuchi’s secondary cannons.”
“Wouldn’t cutting off part of the barrel weaken them?”
“But it gives them an advantage with cooling, Princess. They already have a great number of cannons on the sides of their ships, so they can fire in volleys to prevent the individual barrels from overheating. …As for the power, at the current range of 10km, just six direct hits to the bow can incapacitate a ship. We are using defense barriers in place of armor, but the barriers cannot keep up with the concentrated fire and this is the result.”
“Hold on,” said Terumoto as she opened a signe cadre with the sounds of cannon fire in the background. “How many seconds did it take until the enemy broke through the defense barriers and sunk that ship?”
“117 seconds after the concentrated fire began.”
“And what’s our current speed?”
“50km/h. You can think of that as 14m/s.”
“Testament,” said Terumoto with a nod.
She looked to the warships lined up in front of her.
…Each one is about 400m long.
There was about 300m between ships. That meant each ship took up 700m.
“Does that mean we continue making progress as long as the ship out front isn’t shot down in 50 seconds?”
“Testament. However, the fleet is slowing to deal with the enemy cannon fire. It will ultimately slow to about 30km/h. Also, the ironclad ships’ main cannons likely have an effective range of 5km. We will continue to approach, but once we are within 5km of them, we need to be prepared for each direct hit to mean a sunk ship.”
“That’s a pain, so can you calculate out what’s going to happen?”
“Testament. That likely means we cannot approach closer than 5km.”
“That was fast!”
“Testament. That is how simple a problem it was. The enemy armor appears to be identical to what they used during their attack on K.P.A. Italia, but I have determined the new cannons are a major problem.”
“Was this a surprise?”
“We expected this. And it severely limits our tactical options.”
“Can we win?”
“We expected this and it limits our tactical options, but we also expect to win.”
“Then I’ve got just one thing to say: everyone needs to pour their heart and soul into this fight.”
“Do not worry. According to the fleet commander, we can fight our way to 3km from the ironclad ships. He says that is where the real fight begins.”
“Can we use our cannons?”
“Our 18cm/36 caliber cannons have an effective range of 2km against the armor of the ironclad ships.”
“Sounds like the fleet commander needs to work extra hard to earn that last kilometer.”
Terumoto took a breath while listening to the sound of cannon fire and shattering defense barriers in the distance.
…The balance of combat here is defined by the ironclad ships’ main cannons and the intensity of fire from the surface.
The enemy had the greater offensive and defensive power.
Mouri was reliant on tactics and numbers, even if their numbers had been worn down a fair bit.
But their position was still pretty bad. She crossed her arms, flipped back up her combat vest’s collar, and asked a question.
“We’re a little too far forward, aren’t we?”
“Testament. We had hoped to start losing ships to artillery on the other side of the Miura Peninsula’s tip, Princess.”
“Can we make this, Mouri-01?”
“Princess, that is not what you need to say now.”
“True.” Terumoto opened a divine transmission signe cadre while watching the next flower blossom, followed by yet another. “Move out ahead.”
She did not ask if they could do it.
“If you can’t, then I’m headed out there myself. So get on out there, all of you!”
“Clear a path for me, vanguard!”
There’s something odd about Mouri’s movements, thought Nabeshima while viewing the battle’s progress.
The Mouri fleet was actually doing quite well.
From her position on the foothold built on the Edo side of the Uraga Channel, she could glimpse the battle beyond the bay.
She observed the movements of the enemy ships there.
“My lady! They say Mouri has a good navy, so they must have found a good name inheritor for that!”
“You mean their defense?”
“Yes,” said one of the Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji while performing maintenance on her mechanical dragon. “Their tactics have changed since the Battle of Itsukushima! That’s what this means, my lady!”
“Why would I remember something from that long ago!?”
She observed the Mouri ships in three columns arranged horizontally to each other.
…The column closest to us is made up of three ships.
The three closely-packed ships showed a focus on defense. When they opened defense barriers, they opened several layered together to deflect the attacks from the land. And the ships protected by that fired physical shells along curving arcs and homing shots from spell cannons to hit their enemies on the surface or in the sky.
The Mouri fleet had divided their ships into defenders and attackers. Most of the ships focused on defense were the transport ships supplied by Musashi, probably because the defense barriers designed to Musashi’s standards were more powerful than Mouri’s. However…
“Look, my lady. It might appear they are charging straight in, but that is actually a troublesome false infiltration tactic.”
She looked up in the night sky where the Mouri fleet’s front line had the ironclad ships in their effective range.
The Mouri fleet began to fire their ether cannons directly ahead.
But it felt like there was too much cannon light.
The Mouri forces were arranged in three columns, two above land and one circling around above the sea, so unless they curved, only the ships in the front should have been able to fire directly ahead.
But more than twice that much cannon light stabbed into the ironclad ships forming a wall. How had they done this?
“They used the ships shot down earlier to create an optical illusion.”
One of the Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji – Um, which one is that? Who cares. The one with glasses on. – stroked the air with his finger. The movement formed steps up from east to west.
“Their fleet is arranged in slight steps angled down to the front.”
“What? They’re clearly arranged horizont-…”
Nabeshima trailed off.
The Mouri assault ships had crashed into the Miura Peninsula beach and created pillar of fires. The Mouri fleet was illuminated from below by those three fires, but…
…The reflection of the firelight is different.
This was more than just distance. The shadows of the ships out front were cast on the ships behind them. And deeply so.
The Mouri fleet was ever so slightly angled downward. And…
“Earlier, the outermost group was arranged so their tails were swept outward somewhat. It might be noticeable when seen from the front, but movement overhead is hard to tell from land. I bet even the people watching with ether sensors thought the third group was continuing to turn in from the outer edge.”
“That is actually a formation shifted diagonally in two directions.”
She understood what he was saying.
The Mouri fleet was definitely angled slightly downwards to the front. Since their cannons were loaded on the deck, lowering the front ships cleared the line of fire for the rear ships.
The Mouri fleet had less firepower, but…
“The farther forward they get, the greater their concentration of cannons. They have a lot of light warships, but when they move so close together in both directions, they create a ‘never-ending warship’ even if its firepower is somewhat weak.”
The amount of cannon fire grew further.
The outer column had been circling around from the outside over the ocean, but now…
“They’re rotating, huh? That’s a move for light ships.”
The bearded old man was correct about what was happening above the ocean.
Mouri’s outer column was beginning to create a lengthwise wheel formation.
They moved more slowly than smaller ships could have managed, but they rotated as if trying to attack diagonally down in front of them. Their advance was slow, but the wheel was stretched out lengthwise in a shape reminiscent of a rotating serpent.
“They have a commander who has already adopted the wheel formation that Tres España demonstrated in the recent Armada Battle!?” The ponytailed old man laughed. “Watch this, my lady. It is fascinating.”
“As you would expect from their gods of war, Hexagone Française is a nation with a downright stereotypical knight culture. When a knight charges, they use a shield and a spear, but that is exactly what the Mouri fleet is doing now. Look,” he said. “The column closest to us is the shield of gathered defense barriers. And the center column is firing its ether cannons while moving forward whenever it sees an opening. They are essentially raising their shield and making a charge when the enemy lets their guard down. …But the wheel formation over the ocean is the real focus here. After all, they are attacking endlessly without ever guarding. But our ironclad ships must pay attention to the shield column closest to us and the charging column in the center, so they cannot focus their cannon fire on the wheel formation to crush it. …They are just like knights on foot. They use their shields for defense and diversion so they can advance and find an opening to wear down the enemy numbers with their spears.”
“Then does Mouri have the upper hand here?”
“Not necessarily, my lady.” He brushed a hand through his hair. “There is still a lot they can do and I am sure they still have a lot up their sleeves, but the P.A. Oda ironclad ships have the greatest firepower and armor available.”
Kuki set his enemy location insha kotob to 3D display mode and viewed the overall flow of battle.
…I suppose I should call this impressive.
Aerial ships were airborne. Since they used a virtual sea to float, most of their weapons were loaded on the top, but generally speaking, they were still attack stations capable of moving through the air.
The enemy’s initial movement had seemed meaningless to Kuki.
After all, they had appeared to charge in using their numbers. He had figured they were trying to break through his fleet using nothing more than that.
That would not have worked, of course.
So he had arranged the ironclad ships in a grid and fired the main cannons at the enemy from above, below, left, and right. He had also fired the anti-air weapons from the Miura Peninsula and Uraga Channel to destroy the enemy’s vanguard.
The enemy had not been moving quickly enough to reach the ironclad ships. The sinking of the front ships had proven that.
But the enemy had already made their next move behind those sinking ships.
As if pursuing the sinking ships, the columns of ships had lowered their heads, spread outwards, and arranged themselves diagonally.
The columns were diagonal in the up-to-down and left-to-right directions and the outer column had set up a wheel formation.
It was like the enemy had announced they would spread themselves out across this airspace without ever leaving it.
Hexagone Française had only been able to use their fleet to surround or charge at an enemy, so they should not have been able to use these tactics so well.
This fleet was being run by a good commander and well-trained crews.
But, thought Kuki.
“I will show you what can be done with greater firepower and armor.”
Terumoto could easily see it now that her view was opened up by the lowered front of the column.
The ironclad ships commanded by Kuki were taking aim.
Sparks flew as their main cannons tore into their chosen target.
“God, this just reeks of ‘look how strong I am’! Tearing down our shield, huh!?”
Kuki had chosen the column to her left. Those transport ships had their defense barriers opened toward land and the enemy fired directly on them.
That choice was meant to say they were not concerned about the cannon fire and approach of the Mouri warships. If the ships defending them were brought down…
“I bet they plan to finish us off with the cannons they have on land.”
Terumoto’s words were backed up by an explosion of ether light from the front of the left column.
The transport ships there had their primary defense barriers directed toward the land. They did have barriers directed ahead of them and the shape of aerial ships made them harder to hit when they were angled head-on.
But Kuki’s ironclad ships shot right through the first ship.
A cluster of several shells shattered the defense barriers and a main cannon blast tore through the transport ship.
It was destroyed.
The transport ship assigned as the defender on the northern coast was destroyed.
The destruction was caused by a shell that punched through it from bow to stern.
An ironclad ship’s main cannon had scored an accurate hit.
The destruction continued from there.
First, the loss of power caused all of the transport ship’s defense barriers to shatter. The primary defense barrier was the first to break, but the destruction spread like a ripple through the surviving secondary barriers as well.
Next, the transport ship ruptured from within. The shell’s shockwave raced down the hole it had left and released energy that seemed to expand the hole.
A transport ship was mostly just a cargo bay on the inside. The cargo bay had a lot of empty space and was divided into a few blocks by frames, but each of those blocks swelled out like a balloon and the ship’s strength balance meant the joints bent first.
The transport ship’s bow and lower hull were the strongest parts. As the internal blocks groaned loudly and swelled out, the weaker upper portion ruptured. As a result, the stern tilted downwards, the entire ship bent as if embracing itself, and the keel on the bottom finally broke. From there, the ship fell stern first.
But the ship’s troubles were not yet over.
A second enemy main cannon blast crashed into it.
A deafening sound rang out.
The shell had hit the forward-facing ship in the belly.
The main keel frame shattered and the impact spread from that backbone to the ribs.
The vibration stripped off the inner hull and the sturdier outer hull lost its connections to the external armor.
The transport ship broke apart all at once.
A moment later, the shaking of the main frame caused the ether fuel to flow back into the main engine. There were safeties in place to prevent power feedback when the defense barriers were destroyed and all of those were triggered.
Nothing remained to protect the ship.
The transport ship exploded into a bluish-white light in the night sky.
Then a red flame enveloped the ship’s structure as if consuming the ether light already burning in the air.
The ether fuel had ignited the armor and everything else, so it all went up in flames.
It was all falling.
The shattered armor, frames, and other miscellaneous wreckage fell to the dark ocean and beach.
Only one thing remained.
On Kuki’s command, an ironclad ship’s main cannon pierced the now-vacant sky.
Kuki wanted to go on the attack all at once.
He made short work of the enemy transport ship column in charge of defense.
He concentrated the artillery fire from the ground on the enemy’s primary defense barriers. Then when they redirected the barriers directed ahead, he had the ironclad ships fire on them. And…
“Uraga Channel entrance cannon emplacement, tear into them from below.”
The anti-air weapons were located in a position that allowed them to aim at the enemy column from almost directly below.
So that was what they did.
Kuki wanted to focus the ironclad ships on the enemy’s attack ships. He was pretty sure he needed the firepower of the ironclad ships’ main cannons to stop the enemy warships.
So he used the anti-air cannons of the emplacement constructed at the Uraga Channel’s entrance.
Aerial ships had difficulty aiming down, so anti-air cannons could fire in relative safety as long as their enemy did not drop any bombs or fire along a parabolic arc.
“Warrior artillery unit, it is time to show off your skill.”
Most of the gunners were normal students without inherited names. Letting them bring down an enemy ship would be a useful way to raise their morale.
The successful students cheered over the divine transmission.
But, thought Kuki. He sent instructions to switch out the gunners just as the 5th and 6th enemy defense ships were destroyed.
…This will be a long battle of several hours.
The students might be cheering now, but as the enemy’s attack continued with no end in sight, they would probably begin to feel exhaustion and fear. Especially when so many of them had never fought in a real battle before.
So he gave them frequent breaks.
By swapping out gunners more often, the ground troops would be able to fight for longer.
“Ground troops, aim only for the defense ships! The long column should be in front of you by now. Do not worry about coordinating your attacks, just fire on as many as you can to bring down their numbers!”
If the enemy’s defenders could be worn down along the Miura Peninsula’s coast, the Uraga Channel troops would have an easier time later.
They had their targets and their orders. Not much had actually changed, but…
Three Legs: “When the battlefield is in motion and the troops are growing uneasy, wondering if they’re doing the right thing, you need to give them a new objective and new orders. Right, Kuki-kun?”
Nine Horns: “The battlefield is a workplace, Suzuki-kun. You start with a plan, but then you need to manage the workers’ motivation while providing concrete goals and accurate instructions. And the finishing touch is…”
Another transport ship fell.
Kuki finished his thought while watching the red flames and smoke in the distance.
“The results. That, above all else, will increase their desire to work.”
These results came from the Miura Peninsula’s anti-air fire. Firing from below was effective, so he had landed some aerial ships on the peninsula to fire from there.
But the enemy had a plan as well.
Kuki noticed something.
“The enemy is not losing their momentum?”
Kuki sensed something odd about the enemy’s movements.
It was a worrying oddity but also a praiseworthy one.
The enemy’s movements were precise, logical, and well-trained.
But he had thought it was still not enough for tactics alone to overcome his superior forces and he had thought they did not follow through on their tactics enough.
In other words, the enemy commander had not rescued his troops from the path of defeat.
Of course, that was due to the strength of Kuki’s forces, but…
…I suppose I should call this odd.
After all, the enemy’s defense ships were being destroyed, but he could not see anything being done to make up for that.
The enemy was doing well, but it was not enough.
With their defenses gone, they should have altered their formation or brought some other change to the battlefield.
If the commander was skilled enough to bring them this far, they should have been able to make up for this setback.
But the enemy did not appear to be doing that.
“And yet the enemy is not losing their momentum. Why?”
The enemy had something prepared. He simply had not noticed it yet. That was the only possible answer.
…But what is it?
Kuki noticed something when he looked to his enemy location insha kotob.
“This must be it.”
Nabeshima remained on standby at the cannon emplacement supported by transport ships on the Edo Bay side of the Uraga Channel.
There, she saw their own forces alter the target of their cannons.
She could see the front line almost directly to her side. The ironclad ships had crushed the front of the approaching enemy column, but now they aimed back at the defense column made up of transport ships.
…Why did they change their target and then change it back?
Hadn’t they decided not to bother with those transport ships anymore?
She sometimes had trouble understanding what her upperclassmen were thinking.
But when she narrowed her eyes to figure it out, she realized why Kuki had done this.
“There are warships in the transport ship column?”
“Ohh, well spotted, my lady! That’s our lady!”
“I honestly can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not. But…”
She could see it.
“The advancing column and the wheel formation weren’t just for offense.”
“Indeed,” said the bald old man. “With columns, if the outer edge is taken out, they can fill it in from the inside. And when the inside empties out, they can refill it from behind. Also, the exhausted and worn-down ones can return to the wheel formation when possible and circle on back out of danger. …This formation allows them to repair and recover while still attacking.”
He pointed at the bottom of the enemy columns.
The enemy was arranged in a stepped formation and the damaged warships were moving behind the “steps” of the ocean column.
“They are moving behind cover. When they are hit, it looks like they are being pushed inward and falling, but that too is an illusion. The interception gunners have to focus on the new enemies that move to the front, so they cannot pursue the ones that fall back.”
So the damaged ships could fall back and join the wheel formation.
“And there they move even further back…”
“On the other hand, if a hole is blown in the transport ships of the column closest to us, a warship fills it and begins defending. That is a fair amount of trouble because warships have much more powerful defenses. The novice anti-air gunners could handle the transport ships, but they must be unsure what to do with the movements of the warships that fill the gaps.”
That was true. The number of hits from the anti-air cannons was awfully low for how much they were shooting.
Nabeshima sighed as she viewed that quiet chaos in the distance.
She had still not been ordered to join the battle.
The battle was not going as smoothly as could be hoped, but…
“This must all be within the acceptable limits.”
Their forces were not taking much damage because the ironclad ships were absorbing the enemy attacks. And…
“Is the enemy using up their limited number of warships so early in the battle?”
“Kuki is being cautious and having the ironclad ships deal with the warships in their transport ship column, so he must assume they have some kind of plan. If we can just destroy their warships, we can manage. …And the ironclad ships can pull that off since their crews are so well trained.”
The enemy’s front line was once more destroyed and sunk. The warships ruptured and the transport ships burst into flames as they fell to the beach below.
But even with the transport ships column shrunk by about 20%, it was not stopped.
Also, the central warship column was gradually advancing.
The defense transport ships were being destroyed, but the anti-air fire was having trouble with the warships that filled the holes in the transport ship column. The column behind that used this chance to move forward.
“There they go. Each of their three columns has altered their speed,” said the bearded old man.
Sure enough, the wind groaned from the distance.
The Mouri fleet was zigzagging slowly but surely.
…What a pain!
Kuki quickly analyzed the zigzagging movement. The navigators were already sending him a few different predictions. He combined them all and sent the summarized results to the gunners.
“Couldn’t they show us this earlier?”
The sooner he saw it, the easier it was to respond.
To an extent, the enemy was using delaying tactics. And those tactics contained both offense and defense.
The slowly zigzagging fleet was moving exactly as predicted. That allowed them to accurately attack and defend against Kuki’s fleet.
Kuki’s fleet was forced to respond to those attacks.
The enemy made use of that brief moment of delay.
They had the inferior fighting force, so they were trying to win with their tactics.
But this opponent did not believe in or use tactics that aimed for a one-hit victory. They stuck to the slow-and-steady tactics they knew they could pull off. And more importantly…
…They are avoiding anything that makes it look like they are winning.
Going for the win would make their opponent fight back more fiercely.
They had the weaker fighting force and they could not win if their opponent took this seriously, so instead of going for a big win or some clever stratagem, they used nothing but simple methods to keep Kuki’s fleet’s hands full while they advanced.
“So they have a great number of tactics and they never show them all off at once.”
When he dealt with one tactic, the enemy would bring out the next.
With each one, they bought more time.
The tactics were simple enough for anyone to pull off, but they were being combined and constantly managed in a calm and composed way.
It was delicate and almost too straightforward.
But, thought Kuki.
Nine Horns: “What is your opinion, Suzuki-kun?”
Three Legs: “Testament, Kuki-kun. I have a number of suspicions as well.”
Three Legs: “This is dangerous.”
Three Legs: “I don’t think we should let them continue this delaying approach.”
Nine Horns: “Then what do you suggest?”
Three Legs: “We see how serious they really are, or we reveal what they have hidden up their sleeve.”
They had to do it.
With the enemy facing them like this, they had to see just how serious the Mouri fleet was with its slow invasion.
Because even if it was possible to respond to this, it would be mostly novice warriors receiving the orders. They had to worry about morale too, so Magoichi did not think they could continue these high-speed responses forever.
If the novice warriors started to unravel, the enemy would use that to advance even further.
And in fact, the enemy columns had advanced quite a bit. They were also stalling for time, but the front of the columns had passed the Miura Peninsula and arrived over the Uraga Channel.
The distance between fleets was already less than 5km.
That was within the ironclad ships’ effective range.
A direct hit could blast right through the enemy warships.
It would not break or bend their armor. It would pierce right on through and wreak havoc on the inside of the ship.
But, thought Magoichi. I sense something dangerous about this enemy.
“They shouldn’t be able to get closer than 5km.”
No, they should have lost far more ships before crossing the 5km line.
Yet they were crossing that line with most of their numbers remaining.
They were moving slowly and the Hashiba forces were undamaged, but the enemy had gotten this close with a minimum of losses.
Spreading out to split up Hashiba’s attacks and circling wide out over the ocean should have been an option.
In fact, that would be the normal choice if they feared having their numbers worn down.
Of course, their weaker ships would have been individually shot down if they tried that. And even if they did reach land, it would have been a sporadic thing and the ground forces would have picked them off.
But this enemy had not attempted that.
They had included the losses in their calculations and moved in close.
Now the enemy columns were directly in front of them.
Magoichi herself was on the central ironclad ship of the top layer. That meant she had to look down at the Mouri columns.
And she questioned something from that position.
…Why aren’t they rushing this?
They were within 5km of each other now. That meant the ironclad ships could attack with their full firepower.
But the enemy slowly advanced without any fear of becoming a target.
“How serious are they?”
Nine Horns: “What do you think the enemy is trying to do here?”
Three Legs: “Once they’re closer, they might suddenly abandon these agonizingly slow tactics and make a quick attack.”
Three Legs: “Even our ironclad ships would have a tough time if their ships rammed us.”
Actually, if they did get close, what would be their best course of action? Wreckage from above would be plenty of trouble for a warship and boarding the ship for close-quarters combat was also an option. Making a charge in order to ram the enemy had long been a standard tactic.
“So,” said Magoichi.
Three Legs: “Like I said, we should launch one big attack and see what they do.”
Nine Horns: “To be clear, we can respond in time if the enemy tries to ram us from this distance. Are you sure you want to do this?”
Three Legs: “How many kilometers until it isn’t safe?”
Nine Horns: “We will have difficulty once they reach 3km. Of course, they will be badly worn down by then and I expect we will still be able to handle them thanks to that.”
But he could always be wrong.
Three Legs: “In other words, if the enemy reaches 3km with their current numbers, we’re in trouble?”
Nine Horns: “Yes. The enemy must see it the same. If we can reduce their numbers, their approach becomes meaningless. So if we can wear them down, they will be forced to respond by ramming us or using some other method.”
That settled it.
Three Legs: “Then I’ll reduce their numbers here.”
If the enemy’s final decision was to charge…
Three Legs: “This will lure them into a charge that they’ll have a hard time surviving.”
Nine Horns: “And even if they have some other plan, they will be forced to use it? …Understood. Do it, Suzuki-kun.”
Kuki gave his command.
Nine Horns: “Reveal the enemy’s plan, Suzuki-kun.”
Magoichi took action.
She activated Yatagarasu’s cannon. The three crows were already flying in the night sky.
The battlefield had no shortage of flowers. Some had fully blossomed and scattered their petals, some simply adorned the ships, and some had fallen to the sea or beach. The heated wind they produced created an updraft on the battlefield and that helped the crows fly.
The crows were positioned plenty high. And to aim…
“Open wide, Yata.”
While in her summer uniform on the deck, Magoichi removed the cloth wrapped around her right eye as an eyepatch.
She opened both eyes and viewed the enemy. Her target was…
…The warship column!
Tadaoki looked up when he heard Nabeshima’s voice.
He sat below a bivouac shelter that doubled as an insulating sheet so he would not get chilled while sniping. That had been provided to him for the Keichou Campaign, but name inheritors may have gotten special treatment because it preserved heat and let moisture through better than any he had used before. He had just started to wonder whether he should focus on emotional attachment or specs when choosing one next time, but…
Okaaa: “What? Is the enemy coming here?”
Nabe3: “I might have to start fighting soon, but I wouldn’t bother you about that. I just thought you’d want to watch this. Suzuki, that famous gunner, is making an attack.”
Tadaoki looked to the southern sky, but then he remembered something.
…There’s no way I can see it from here.
He realized Nabeshima must be sending him the footage, so he opened a lernen figur.
But he was wrong. He saw the actual thing.
A pillar of black light pierced the southern night sky at the entrance of the Uraga Channel.
It was fired diagonally and it swept from east to west to tear through the warship column.
Light darker than the night raced across the sky, and…
The night shook with the explosions of about six warships having their upper structure detonated.
Similarly, flames burst from the transport ships caught in the devastation and they fell without their speed dropping.
Nabe3: “I’ve never seen this before since I wasn’t part of the K.P.A. Italia battle, but Suzuki’s Yatagarasu cannon sure is flashy, isn’t it?”
Tadaoki gasped at Nabeshima’s comment.
…Is this what our upperclassmen can do?
This was nothing like that nudist who made weird noises and colored people’s dicks black. Although on second thought, that boy’s power as a nuisance seemed about equivalent to the destructive power of this attack in the southern sky.
Asano: “Wowww… Instead of just attacking along the top of their outlines, she actually brought them dowwwn.”
Asano was right.
More explosions and smoke appeared in the southern sky.
Tadaoki muttered to himself while watching it.
“How long do you have to work at it before you can do stuff like that?”
He’s asking the impossible, thought Nabeshima.
The Yatagarasu cannon blast in the southern sky was a major, one-time-only attack even for Suzuki Magoichi. She could not use Yatagarasu at its fullest for a while after firing that.
Since she had used it during the current shift between the beginning and middle of the battle, their superiors must have been having a hard time figuring out what the enemy was doing.
So they had forced a change with this.
It took a name inheritor to do that on her own.
Of course, name inheritors came in all types and there were vast differences in their abilities. For example, Suzuki Magoichi excelled at sharpshooting, while Kuki excelled at commanding and controlling a fleet.
And with Nagaoka Tadaoki…
Nabe3: “When you see something flashy, do you feel an urge to reach that level yourself?”
Okaaa: “I’m a gunner too.”
Nabe3: “So what are you gonna do about it?”
“Umm,” he said while hesitating.
This wasn’t very nice of me, she thought.
He was in middle school, so he would not have decided on a high school course of study yet. His teachers would not have taught him how to plan for his future or how to acquire techniques and experience. So…
Nabe3: “What about you, Kani?”
“Testament!” replied Kani.
Kanitama: “Well! I think it’s best to fight someone on the level of Yoshiaki-sama! You realize just how far you can push yourself because you know you’re in serious trouble if you don’t!”
…Most people don’t get to do that!
Tadaoki stopped himself from responding to Kani out loud.
He had seen what had happened during the Siege of Odawara, but the level of fighting had been far too inconsistent. However…
…Is doing something like that the only real option?
What could he do to keep the woman he’d fallen for from treating him like a child?
Asano: “Well, in my caaase, I guess I would build up experience and substitutions the old-fashioned way and develop some new techniques whiiile trying to reach a high level position with myyy god. There’s so muuuch more you can do at the mid level, so I bet there’s much, muuuch more at the high level.”
Kanitama: “You can also get more powerful by constantly training a single spell like Fukushima with her acceleration spell, so it’s not too late to start on that, Oky-kun! I’ve learned I need to train my own movement abilities too!”
I see, thought Tadaoki.
Even in the first year of high school, which was two years older than him, they were thinking about what to do with themselves. And they had tasked themselves with not rushing things, building things up gradually, and changing course when needed.
How much would they have built up and changed once they reached the second year, third year, or beyond?
Tadaoki thought, I’m hoping to be accepted tonight.
Tadaoki suddenly looked to the western sky.
He had been busy, there was a lot going on, and the battle was starting, so he had very nearly forgotten. Except he had not really. He was only suppressing the thoughts.
He was worried about her. What was she doing now? What was happening to her?
He wanted to know, but…
What could he do to get her to accept him?
He had a feeling she would not be happy to see him if he went running there right now.
He had a feeling she would look at him like a nuisance.
What was he supposed to do?
Was there nothing he could do because the problem required time and preparation to solve?
…What do I do?
Just as he asked that, he heard an especially loud explosion from the southern sky.
One of the warships had crashed into the beach and exploded.
The sound reached his ears after echoing off the ground and sea from point-blank range. He watched the distant flames rising into the southern sky.
He could hardly believe that was possible and it seemed to illustrate the difference between him and his upperclassmen.
But just as he started to grow depressed, Nabeshima spoke up.
Nabe3: “Oh, not good.”
Nabe3: “This didn’t go as our upperclassmen hoped. The enemy’s pretty good.”
Kuki could tell the corners of his demon lips were pulling stiffly back.
…Not bad at all.
The enemy had lost a lot just now. Suzuki’s cannon blast had sunk 6 warships and 4 transport ships. However…
“They’re continuing their slow advance!?”
Three Legs: “Does this mean the enemy is serious? It does, doesn’t it?”
They were very serious.
As proof, they were responding to the attack. Ships moved in from behind to fill in the holes opened in the long column. Also…
Nine Horns: “The downward sloping column is dropping even further down.”
They sank down to show the full line. That exposed all of the ships to attack, but it also distributed the damage across them all. And by moving down, all of their cannons could aim upwards to target the ironclad ships. The damage per unit of time would be greater for the Hashiba fleet than the Mouri one.
But the enemy’s speed remained unchanged.
They stayed slow and never rushed while playing the appropriate cards to respond to the Hashiba fleet’s attacks.
Even if that meant accepting damage.
And Kuki realized a certain fact.
He recognized this fighting style that packed an inferior fleet close together and made a slow advance to ensnare the enemy.
He had seen a very similar battle once before.
“The battle in K.P.A. Italia. The Second Battle of Kizugawaguchi!”
Kuki shouted toward the back of the enemy column.
“Is that you, Murakami Motoyoshi!?”
A figure moved in the western sky as if responding to Kuki’s voice.
It was a squat, broad-shouldered man.
A coat of Hexagone Française blue and white was draped over his shoulders like a cape.
“I may lead the Mouri Navy, but at the moment, I command the Kantou Liberation’s aerial fleet.”
He pushed his glasses up his nose and stared at the ironclad ships.
His gaze passed right through the nine ships to view Bousou beyond them.
“Our positions have reversed, Kuki Yoshitaka. This time, I am the invader and you the defender. However…”
“I learned my lesson last time. I lost the Second Battle of Kizugawaguchi due to a full-fleet charge, so did you really think I would use that here?”
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