Horizon:Volume 7A Chapter 24
Chapter 24: Battlefield Picnicker
Now, let us go
The battlefield is indeed a field
A field ablaze
A wasteland of enemies to shoot
Point Allocation (Picnic)
Magoichi saw movement.
Directly beneath the enemy column visible below, several giants marched through the fire and smoke on the land.
These were feminine movements.
But they did not kick up the sand. They did not run quickly enough to start swinging their shields and cannons.
They kept their hips low, leaned their metal bodies forward, and aimed their cannons in the opposite direction of their shields.
…They sure are slow.
No, she realized. They sped up after arriving on land and heading toward the field and woods beyond the beach.
She recognized the running style they used to jog across the dirt without much vertical movement of their bodies.
“Kuki-kun! Have the Miura Peninsula fleet ascend immediately!”
“Shouldn’t they intercept these gods of war!?”
Magoichi saw the gods of war jumping from the woods to the thicker forest, but the leafy roofs of the trees were not shaken as those giant forms arrived.
The only sign of their presence was the occasional flock of birds flying from between the leaves.
The gods of war continued their march without touching a single tree in the forest. And based on the cries from birds and other animals…
Not many pilots could pull off this trick, so she could guess who this was in the forest.
“This is Hexagone Française’s forest guard unit! Those automatons protect the border with M.H.R.R.! But now they’re piloting gods of war to hunt down our landed ships!”
…This is dangerous!
Magoichi knew these automatons. When she had fought P.A. Oda for Honganji, she had been tasked with protecting the fortress on the Mediterranean’s southern coast, but Mouri had fortified the northern forests to prevent invasion. So as not to defile the forest and anger the spirits, they had used forest-dwelling nonhumans and automatons.
“When the Mouri automatons of their forest guard unit fight in the forest, they are the equivalent to a group of Special Duty Officers who can adapt to the situation.”
Magoichi excelled at sniping in wide-open areas because she had been raised in the desert Harmonic Territory of the Middle East, but these automatons had a different skillset entirely. They were primarily snipers and gunners, but they were more like ninjas. So…
“Hurry! Get those ships off the ground! Focus on defense and move quickly!”
Light appeared in the forest even as she spoke.
Ether light burst from within a warship landed on the front of a hill and then it exploded.
Static ran through the divine transmission and she heard the cries of the evacuating warriors, but she saw something beyond all that.
Between the trees reduced to silhouettes by the bright light beyond them, she saw giant silhouettes crouching low as the explosive blast passed by overhead.
She was not sure of their total numbers, but the ones she saw did not even look back at their handiwork.
In an instant, they vanished into the dark forest once more.
They were hunting a new target now.
Mouri-01 moved through the shadows.
Not through the darkness.
The darkness existed across the entire night, but the starlight and flames were casting deep shadows at the bottom of that darkness.
…There is no noise.
She was in battle and there was no unexpected noise around her.
Belle de Marionnettes experienced the world through high-speed thoughts. That remained the same when viewing the world through Lourd de Marionnette eyes. The wireless connector set on the back of her head exchanged data with the Lourd de Marionnette and the wired connections on her shoulders, thighs, and hips moved the Lourd de Marionnette’s body as if it were her own.
A metal pack with her inside was contained in the cockpit instead of a person.
…I appreciate that the Princess insisted on a high speed for the emergency ejection device.
But she and the other Belle de Marionnettes had insisted on a high speed for the movement transmission.
Their quick thoughts and senses were meaningless if their movements were slow.
The end result was like wearing light weights on their limbs, but…
“This was well done!”
They were using another nation’s Lourd de Marionnettes. These were Houjou-made. Since there was a generic hub and a program between them and the controls, there was more lag than when controlling one directly.
They made up for the delay by using their high-speed thoughts and decisions or by linking their shared memories.
That way, even if they were fired on…
“Time for the next target, everyone.”
Mouri-01 repeated the same instructions she had given several times already.
She continued onward through the shadows cast by the trees.
A largescale hunt was underway on the Miura Peninsula.
Giant humanoid shapes pursued the warships and worked to sink them before they could take off.
There were 28 Lourd de Marionnettes in all. They formed groups of 7 and made their way to the remaining 5 warships.
The only sounds were the blasts of cannon fire and the rumble of metal feet on dirt.
All of the Lourd de Marionnettes knew exactly where to go. Those machines were being piloted by Belle de Marionnettes, so they ran swiftly and…
They did not dodge the flying shells.
They did not enter the attack range in the first place.
They took evasive courses with no sense of panic to them. It was all thanks to the Belle de Marionnettes piloting them. They sensed things using each other’s shared memories, and…
“Eliminate all your blind spots and move where the cannons will not target you.”
Those were their orders.
“Then walk at a speed of our choosing.”
Those orders were silently executed. The 4 groups of Lourd de Marionnettes worked in unison to monitor the movement of the enemy cannons and they acted as diversions for each other in order to secure safe locations for them all.
The enemy attacks continued to fly, but the Lourd de Marionnettes were not pursued by them and they even predicted the courses of the seeking projectiles to slip below them.
Voices spoke that word from atop their shoulders.
The figures riding on the Lourd de Marionnettes’ shoulders were of course more Belle de Marionnettes.
They acted as boosters to connect the pilot within their Lourd de Marionnette with the other pilots and they provided the sensory and targeting data that the Lourd de Marionnettes themselves could not supply.
Those two maids wore combat maid uniforms with a harness to latch them to their foothold within the wind, shaking, and shockwaves. And…
“Small threat eliminated.”
They occasionally fired their rifles to pick off the enemy’s frontline guards without bothering the Lourd de Marionnettes with it.
The Lourd de Marionnettes and Belle de Marionnettes all played their roles with precise movements.
As they climbed the slope without delay, those toward the bottom searched for data around those ahead of them in order to ensure their safety. Meanwhile, those out ahead sent information on the footholds to those following.
By sharing information between front and back and between individual groups, they understood the entirety of the battlefield.
“Honestly,” one of them said in their shared memory while walking. “We don’t have to deal with the Reine des Garous’s daughter, Musashi’s Technohexen, or the English Princess this time, do we?”
“Testament,” said another one of them in their shared memory. “If anything, Musashi is on our side this time.”
“Yes,” agreed yet another one. “We really botched the pursuit near the border last time.”
“Only because we constantly had to respond to the unexpected.”
“This forest effectively belongs to us.”
“Testament. This enemy has not made the forest their own.”
“They merely chose the forest as a location for their guns.”
“Then,” replied one of them. “Let us prepare a place for Lady Terumoto to dine. The peak of this hill looks like it has an excellent view.”
The entire conversation happened at high speed, so it did not even last a full second.
But they all agreed to one thing while Mouri-01 sighed.
“Tonight’s entertainment is the Kantou Liberation. The best way to enjoy the forest is to hunt down a meal.”
Kuki hurried to respond.
First, he had all of the ships take off from the Miura Peninsula.
The focus was on defense. He instructed them to stop firing and surround the ships with defense barriers. The top of the ship would be a target for snipers, so he ordered them to layer the barriers there.
Then he gave further orders to the ships on the west side of the peninsula.
“Abandon ship as soon as possible, starting with the normal students! The odds are high your ships will be destroyed on the way up! Everyone without sufficient descent training needs to disembark immediately!”
He was answered by something rising into the sky from behind the mountain on the west side of the peninsula.
They were explosive flames.
The enemy had shot down every last one of the ships on the mountain.
The wind of their destruction swept across the mountain and washed across the forest.
“They’re good at this!”
He had ordered his people to focus on defense and he could hear and see their responses from here. Nevertheless, it was not just the weak point at the base of the turrets that the enemy attacked. They also shot through joints in the armor and at the anchor ejection ports.
They fired through the gaps between defense barriers to accurately pierce the ships’ weak points.
That sharpshooting was not something humans could pull off.
Automaton actions were all about precision. These ones had experience guarding the forest, so now that they were at god of war size, it was absurd to think a distance of a few hundred meters would act as a defense even in the forest at night.
Kuki received sensor data from the ships that were being sunk or targeted.
Most of it was obscured by static and the sound was too distorted to make out.
But Kuki did hear something as he instructed them how to respond.
He heard a song.
…What is this?
Something was singing while moving through the forest.
It sounded like a bright nursery rhyme.
“Oh, you shadows of the trees and thin leaves, where will you guide me as I wander?”
The voices singing of a forest stroll moved quickly through the dark forest.
“Show me the way, sunlight. There are no wolves here.”
The automatons continued their attack as they sang.
“Oh, small stream, you have dug deep, like a great valley.”
“Let us jump across you for fun and laugh as we cross this land. Where is the border? I look back to see my homeland.”
“Oh, deep forest, I can see the path below my feet. The animal trail smells of nature.”
“Search out the scent of flowers and search out the mouthwatering aromas. This land is blessed with fruit. Fruit the color of the sun.”
“There are no wolves here.”
“Oh, valley, your slope is covered with vegetation. I leave a red ribbon to mark the way.”
“Is anyone lost? Our master follows behind us. Where is the summit? The fairies will show the way.”
Mouri-01 raced across the battlefield.
She passed by like the blowing wind, but her passing was marked by explosive blasts as she led the Lourd de Marionnette unit.
They worked together without any eye contact or gestures. They mechanically destroyed the warships landed on the Miura Peninsula slope and they moved ever closer to the peak.
Three warships remained and they had all begun to float.
But the Belle de Marionnettes did not let them escape. In the forest on the slope, they slipped between the trees like it was an empty wasteland and they continued to sing while…
An explosion blossomed in the night.
At the same time, Mouri-01 received words from her fellow Belle de Marionnettes.
“Lady Mouri-01, this is 4-02. Our view of West #2 has opened up.”
“Lady Mouri-01, this is 3-02. Team 3 is opening fire on the starboard side of #2.”
A moment later, Team 3’s sniper fire pierced the shadows with the air currents of the explosions and fires taken into account. And they also ran in a sweeping path to the north. They fired while running to hide their location. That would reduce accuracy even for Belle de Marionnettes, but…
“Team 4 is joining the attack.”
After receiving the data from the previous attack, Team 4 made minute corrections before each member of the team fired a sniper shot of their own.
Mouri-01’s rear vision confirmed that the total of eight shells clinched it.
She saw the projectiles accurately shoot through the base of a turret and detonate the ammunition storage within.
Before any alarms could go off, the gunner jumped out and the turret was blasted straight up by an ether light explosion. That sunk the second of the remaining ships and Teams 3 and 4 started toward their next target.
Just then, a member of Team 2 spoke to Mouri-01 and their report coincided with the song.
The third ship exploded as it tried to rise from a higher part of the slope.
They had now destroyed all of the enemy ships on the western slope.
The explosive blast rushed toward Mouri-01. When using her high-speed senses to their fullest, it felt more like a wave crashing over her than a gust of wind. But she used that pressure as a final push to reach a certain location.
This was the watershed dividing the peninsula’s eastern and western slopes.
She had arrived at that ridge.
Kuki did not overlook that moment.
He ordered the ships to fire on the enemy gods of war just as they crossed the ridge to reach the slope on the Uraga Channel side.
The ships on the western slope had not bought all that much time, but the four warships on the eastern side had finished escaping into the sky.
Their altitude placed them nearly even with the ridge.
Gods of war were structurally incapable of firing when just their heads were in view, so when they had only just started to appear…
Kuki gave the command when their silhouettes had started overlapping the trees on the ridge.
He knew their timing. He had been following their progress destroying the ships on the western slope this entire time.
He could not actually see the gods of war among the shadows of the forest, but he knew how quickly they moved.
Even in the forest at night, they moved faster than 70km/h.
They were monsters. No, there were even greater monsters in Hexagone Française’s forest who could move even faster and wield superhuman strength. Compared to the Loup-Garous who were said to be the history of human fear, these really were no more than “dolls”.
“But I can predict their actions.”
Of course, the enemy was not stupid. There was a good chance they would stay low and escape this volley. But even if they did, this would stop their attack.
The ships fired.
If possible, he wanted the supply ships to join those ships so they could continue firing indefinitely.
They could not allow the Miura Peninsula to fall to the enemy. If the enemy took the peninsula, then the Kantou Liberation would have been partially successful.
Giving the enemy any kind of success would require an interpretation.
If war was an extension of politics, then he could not allow the outcome here to have any negative political consequences.
This was the crucial moment.
Could he protect the Miura Peninsula or not? There was only one way to keep this success out of the enemy’s hands.
The cannon fire came in two varieties.
Cannon control was full of novices, so they used spell shells with a guidance spell that would ensure they hit the designated coordinates.
Then swift physical shells were fired from behind those to construct a proper barrage.
The ether light and Djinn-guided spell shells were visible, while the physical shells were not visible at night when they were not tracer rounds.
But it all produced lots of noise. The shells shattered the ground, ruptured the trees, and tore into the night.
And the gunners saw something.
Someone had been hit at the center of the shell fire on the ridge.
Just as one of the gunners celebrated, something flew up into the scorched night sky.
It was part of a god of war. Specifically, the large shield attached to their shoulders.
But that was all. What had happened to the feminine machine and its weapons?
They all saw where it had gone: up.
Just before the shell had been fired, something had flown into the night sky far more quickly than they had predicted the god of wars would appear.
That form had sacrificed the shield and flown up from behind it.
It was a feminine giant. A winged one.
The shell grazed her feet as the four wing-shaped flight devices on her back took her up toward the four ships above.
Before they could finish their question, the giant landed on the second ship from the ocean.
There was a deep rumble as she shook the rear deck.
“Mouri-01 here. Commencing attack.”
Mouri-01 made her attack.
She was headed 400m toward the bow.
She struck with the knight’s lance attached to her back and held in her left arm and she fired with the pseudo anti-ship cannon held below her right arm.
She had no experience fighting atop ships, but she did have access to it. Data from the two gods of war that had attacked the Hashiba ships before had been installed on their machines.
They would not let anything go to waste. That was the spirit of a maid.
A few steps into her charge, she switched her combat mode from forest guard mode to ship’s deck mode. The output of her engine system was shifted from her legs to the center of her body.
She made her attack as if dancing.
She ran, fired, used the recoil to spin around, and struck with her lance to do even more damage.
Her running legs were so light because she used the lift of her wings and took the shaking of the ship into account. The flight devices on her back gave her more steady footing, and…
She was no longer running. It was more like spinning across the 400m ship and destroying everything in her path. She spun her entire body by rotating her hips from diagonally forward to backward. She fired backwards as if to accelerate that momentum and accurately shot through the base of a turret trying to turn her way.
The explosion followed her as a pleasant noise after another full rotation.
By then, the metal maid had already flapped her flight devices to send her toward the bow.
She was essentially gliding across the deck and accelerating using turning slides and cannon shots.
She blasted a couple more enemy turrets until they went silent.
The ship’s alarms had to be blaring by now, but it was too late.
Secondary cannons were lined up in a tiered layout around the bridge. They were quickly turning her way, starting with the one closest to her, but…
She had originally been equipped for forest combat. By taking the close-quarters knife from her hip and throwing it with the Lourd de Marionnette’s strength, it would function as an armor piercing round.
She briefly set the knight’s lance on her hip hard point, grabbed the knife with her other hand, and threw it in a straight line.
It pierced the armor.
And the enemy fell silent.
The secondary cannon closest to her stopped moving and the knife piercing it blocked the line of fire for those behind it.
Mouri-01 leaped into that opening. She flew close to the deck and picked up gliding speed.
She drew new knives in both hands and sliced through the secondary cannons as she soared past. She set the blades’ paths with her arms in order to split open the barrel, stab into the turret, and slice through the base.
Solid sounds screamed ceaselessly. Tearing metal rang through the sky.
Mouri-01 continued forward while producing those sounds and sparks.
She maintained her speed and used short-distance and optimal-trajectory slashes to destroy around a dozen secondary cannons.
Her destination was the bow where the main cannons were located.
There were two main cannons with two barrels each. However…
She raised a joyful voice with the cannons aimed her way.
How splendid. This show of hostility meant she need not restrain herself from bringing down a ship of novices.
Just as she gave that instruction, the muzzle directly in front of her belched fire.
However, it had not fired on her.
A Lourd de Marionnette had flown down from the sky and rammed its knight’s lance into the cannon from directly above.
But it did not end there.
A machine equipped with flight devices was descending on the other ships as well.
Mouri-01 and the other three were the commanders of the four units.
Mouri-01 moved forward along with them. They had each destroyed the warship they were on, so…
They set out to crush the fourth and final ship.
They really got us this time, thought Magoichi with a gasp.
…They’ve taken the Miura Peninsula.
Only four of the enemy gods of war were equipped with flight device and those flight devices probably only allowed for short flights that really only amounted to extended jumps. Also, the gods of war were Houjou ones being forcibly operated through a generic hub and harness.
They were far from perfect.
But the enemy had a good grasp of the movements and distances on the battlefield.
Three fireballs were wobbling in the sky at the entrance to the Uraga Channel visible to the north.
The three ships the gods of war had attacked were tilting and falling as if sliding diagonally toward the water.
The four winged machines were flying toward the final ship.
The Hashiba forces included the fleet above the Uraga Channel and the turrets on the floating cannon emplacements. Kuki seemed to be moving the ground forces on the east side of Edo Bay, but it would take an hour before they arrived here.
Retaking that peninsula would require a long-term battle.
But Magoichi saw something else in Kuki’s decision.
A warship was falling in the northern sky.
Kuki’s orders appeared in front of that flaming and tilting ship.
Immediately, light erupted in Magoichi’s vision.
A great number of cannon blasts erupted from the Uraga Channel and the sky above it and they all pierced that one falling ship.
“Is that targeting the gods of war!?”
Kuki saw a flower spreading across the sky.
The petals of ether light and fire spread across a diameter of 400m, but the flower fell apart before fully blooming. An explosion from within the destroyed ship blew away the spreading ether and fire.
As the atmosphere was pushed out of the way, a ring of water vapor formed, but it contracted once the air currents scattered. And once that burst in the night sky once more, a few objects were visible beyond.
One was the falling wreckage of the warship.
The ship had been nearly broken in two and it gently rotated as it fell. It scattered embers that illuminated the Uraga Channel during its descent.
And four figures looked down upon that wreckage.
Those Mouri commanders had their flight devices fully open as they descended toward the Miura Peninsula beyond the Uraga Channel.
Two had lost their side skirts and one had lost her right cannon.
But the company commander was essentially unharmed.
Koni-ko: “Did they get away?”
Nine Horns: “Not necessarily. After all…”
He did not even need to say it. A giant form had flown in from the northern sky to clash with those four airborne machines.
It slammed into the Miura Peninsula beyond the sparks, crashing noises, and scattering embers.
“If you have them, then take care of this, Mechanical Dragon Pilot Nabeshima Naoshige.”
I’ve gone and done it now, thought Nabeshima in the mechanical dragon’s cockpit.
There was a smile on her lips.
She was currently on the east side of the Miura Peninsula. She was on the slope overlooking the Ooura beach. The place was a mixture of woods and farmland and that farmland formed steps of connected dots up the slope.
The wide-open space was perfect for a mechanical dragon to fight, but…
“My lady! This terrain is good for gods of war as well!”
“I know that!”
A figure took a fighting stance in front of her.
She did not think of them as giant. They were about as tall as her mechanical dragon, but nowhere near as long.
But on the battlefield, she did not feel the comfort of being cradled by her dragon’s large form.
“Hey, you old geezers. You know how strong I am, right?”
“You are stronger than the five of us.”
“That’s right,” said another of them on the divine transmission. “Your opponent has inherited the name of Hoida Motokiyo. And she is the leader of Hexagone Française’s automatons.”
“But there’s nothing to worry about.”
“Because there is only one of her.”
“You defeated all five of us, so you could beat her at only 20% of your power.”
“Let’s hope you’re right!” she said.
Her entire body shook inside the control device that covered her arms and legs.
“I’ll do what I can! We do have backup coming, after all!”
Ships that had been protecting Edo and Bousou were approaching in the northern sky behind her.
They had to make up for what they had lost on the Miura Peninsula.
Nabeshima moved her mechanical dragon forward while checking the approaching ships on her radar lernen figur.
“Old geezers, I want all the data I can get on the enemies I have a kinetic lock on.”
She pulled on the control device like she was swinging a horse’s reins. The cockpit immediately went dark. The lernen figurs and gauges were the only light sources and a hemispherical external sensor lernen figur opened in front of her face.
Through that, she viewed the enemy god of war and the other three that had landed nearby.
“Let’s do this, Unambitious. Bite at the sky if you must, but don’t forget the enemy!”
Mouri-01 felt surprise in her heart before the mechanical dragon started to move.
This was fascinating.
Dragons lived in Hexagone Française and she had spoken with them on a few occasions, but this was her first time fighting one, even if this one was piloted by a human.
This made for a powerful opponent.
“This should require every last bit of our functionality.”
She had three gods of war to support her. She shifted her entire engine system from normal land mode to sloped land mode. She set forest mode as the backup, but that was for if she had to jump into the woods on the slope.
Just as she straightened up, the dragon came for her.
The front right leg made a diagonal strike.
It was fast. It was big to begin with and the engine running it was fully devoted to this fight. Also…
“They aren’t playing around!”
The claws of the front right leg tore into the ground.
And with that leg lowered…
The mechanical dragon suddenly charged at her.
Asano: “No one’s asking uuuus to do anything, huh?”
Tadaoki heard Asano’s comment along with a rumbling in the sky.
Most of the aerial ships in Edo had been sent south.
They were being sent to the Uraga Channel to see if they could take back the Miura Peninsula. The many warships took a route that circled around from north to west in order to pursue the enemy gods of war.
Kanitama: “What tactics are we using here!?”
Someone answered Kani’s question.
Kimee: “The current objective is recovering the Miura Peninsula. Nabeshima needs to hold them back until our warships arrive.”
That girl would eventually be one of the Seven Generals, but his group mostly viewed her as a second year high schooler and one of Hashiba’s Ten Spears. She was an upperclassman with actual combat experience, but she joined the conversation because she knew Kani.
She was probably onboard one of the aerial warships. She sounded like she was viewing the events from afar.
Kimee: “From here on, it’s a race against time. Given when the Miura Peninsula was taken, we’re going to end up with a formation located more toward Bousou than Edo.”
She was right.
Tadaoki was in the center of Edo Bay and he could see lots of activity on the southwest end of the bay. The land unit in the ruins had turned on their lights and were headed toward the bridge he was using.
That meant the Edo unit was moving to take the strategic points along the bay coast.
Kimee: “I need to get ready too, but from the looks of it, the bay and the area north of Bousou’s entrance will probably be left to your group, Kanitama.”
Kanitama: “T-testament! We will do our best to defend it!”
Kimee: “Don’t worry. Even if it doesn’t work out, the Testament has Hashiba’s forces retreating from the continent during the Keichou Campaign. Successfully defend that area and we can say the Keichou Campaign isn’t over or hasn’t happened, but there’s nothing wrong with having to retreat.”
Kimee: “Just keep in mind that you’ll regret it if you don’t give this your all.”
Telling them not to worry and then telling them they had to give it their all seemed like a contradiction.
But Tadaoki understood.
If they lost, it was all over.
If they suffered a defeat here, they would lose everything and there would be no second chances. That fact reminded Tadaoki of her.
He felt pathetic.
His emotions were so shaken he wanted to run away from the job given to him.
This was bad. A sniper had to remain calm and unshaken.
“Dammit,” he swore when he remembered something else. “How am I supposed to stay calm when someone painted my dick black?”
“Dammit,” groaned Tadaoki as he leaned forward. He pressed his forehead against the bivouac he had laid out and he sighed.
After catching his breath, he could hear the sounds around him much more clearly.
The first thing he heard was the roar of the warships flying south.
Nabeshima’s mechanical dragon was a part of the intense fighting in and on the southern sky and land.
He wanted his upperclassmen to hurry as they ran here from southwest Edo Bay.
And he was aware of his own role as a defender of Edo Bay and as a sniper.
Of course, there was no enemy coming here.
All of their forces were concentrated to the south.
Musashi had flown off toward Nördlingen.
He had no choice but to leave everything in other people’s hands. Both the battle to the south and Nördlingen.
Was there nothing at all he could do?
Hadn’t he become a name inheritor so he could do something?
Tadaoki groaned and got up. He spread his mouth horizontally and shouted into the night.
“Isn’t there anything for me to do!?”
Just then, something appeared in the sky overhead.
With his head raised toward the west, he saw that great dark expanse open up.
He heard wind. That meant the atmosphere was in motion. And then he saw a giant white and black structure shining in the night.
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