Horizon:Volume 7B

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Contents

Cover Flap[edit]

Kawakami Minoru:

Born on January 3, 1975. From Tokyo. During all the snow recently, the area around his house apparently set a record with so much snow it did not seem like Tokyo at all. And now it’s pollen season! Nature’s threat continues.

Satoyasu:

Born in Yamagata and raised in Tochigi. “I wasn’t going through the roasted soybean flour I bought because it’s good for you, so I’m mixing it into my yogurt.” Mix it with boiled mochi and you will go through it in no time.

Installation[edit]

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Naomasa


She is based on, or named after, the historical Ii Naomasa, one of Tokugawa’s Four Heavenly Kings.

The historical Naomasa had a pretty tough life when he was young. To be blunt, due to the Imagawa clan’s presence around the Ii clan, the conflicts over succession and land led to usurpation, assassination, NTR, and just all sorts of stuff, so someone seemed to be trying to kill him all the time.

But he was a talented person, so Ieyasu recognized his ability and he joined the fight against Takeda.

After numerous successes in battle, the Honnouji Incident in 1582, and his work in the Crossing of Iga, he was made a commander directly serving Ieyasu.

There are some pretty wild stories about him, like when he defeated a Takeda ninja that snuck into Ieyasu’s bedroom, and he took over the tradition of Takeda’s Yamagata by wearing red armor, so people think of him as a warrior, but he was actually more focused on domestic affairs.

A negotiator who can fight is not someone you can take lightly even out on a deployment, but the commanders and daimyos who faced him rated him highly and Ieyasu often used him for diplomatic and domestic affairs.

I think that aspect of Naomasa’s history was thanks to him knowing how powerful and frightening the world and human relationships could be, but I also think Ieyasu felt something in common with Naomasa since Ieyasu was held hostage while he was young.

But that past also made Naomasa a taciturn person who put actions before words.

He was apparently the kind of person who assumed other people could do something if he could do it, so he was extremely unpopular with his subordinates when it came to battle and internal affairs. But his results were good, so he was extremely popular with his superiors and the general public.

He kind of reminds me of a really well-done one-man corporation….

It is said he died from a gunshot wound to the right arm during Sekigahara, but it was actually the tetanus that set in afterwards and his overwork played a role there.


Now, one thing about his history worth mentioning is that his mom remarried with an Imagawa retainer, so she abandoned him and he ended up with an adoptive mother. That adoptive mother was a second cousin, Ii Naotora, who was respected enough to be known as the Woman Warlord.

Her fiancé married another woman, so the engagement was called off. She took in and raised Naomasa as a single mother and that means it would have been her who taught him to be so polite and talented, so there really were a lot of incredible people back then.


For the character’s design, I was really only using the Naomasa name, so I didn’t let the historical figure restrict me too much. I took the easier route on this one.

With things like the hair decoration, I was picturing her trying to dress up with only the finishing touches.

But she’s good at reading the room, so she can be properly formal during a meeting.

I think her outfit left a strong impression on a lot of people who watched the anime.

The prosthetic arm is a reference to the gunshot wound and Jizuri Suzaku is in homage to the red armor.


(Kawakami Minoru)



Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon - Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere - 7B[edit]

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Leave it to us.


Characters[edit]

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Divine Online Shopping[edit]

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Top: The Undeveloped, Far East – My Store – The Undeveloped Points – Gifts – Limited-Time Sales – Help


Right of cover:

Emoticon D (47-B)

Reader Scores

Suzu-ness: Mu-sama!!!!

Excitement: Exciting!!!

Sound Effect: Crashhh!!

Before conquering the world, Musashi intends to conquer Kantou and they are finally making their move to defeat the Bousou Block.

With some help from the automatons, Suzu-sama will perform some all-ships drifting across the sky.

Or will she?

Who knows.

That’s just how it is sometimes.

Anyway, the final battle for Kantou has arrived. Once this is over, summer break begins!


Toori: Hey, Bell-san, I’ve been wondering. What’s that D stand for? “Dandy”? “Dirty jokes”? “Dengaku fun”?

Suzu: U-um, “don’t worry”. Or maybe “don’t let go”?

All: Or else what!?


Bottom:

Customers who bought this item also bought these, so how about you buy them too? Please?

Legend of the Taira Dark Cross II – Asama-sama Shoots 31 – How to Make Cheap Udon – How to Take Good Crotch Photos


Far Eastern History[edit]

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First of all

Hopefully this can help you understand

How humanity will misunderstand each other a lot

But still figure things out and cause a lot of excitement

Table of Contents 7-B[edit]

  • Chapter 26: Observer of an Explosive Region – P19
  • Chapter 27: Sensor of Corners – P49
  • Chapter 28: Wielders at an Observation Point – P83
  • Chapter 29: Dragon Pilot on the Hunting Ground – P101
  • Chapter 30: Searcher for a Destination – P127
  • Chapter 31: Preparers on the Map – P149
  • Chapter 32: Leader at the Intersection – P173
  • Chapter 33: Jumping Girls Above and Below the Arch – P197
  • Chapter 34: Round Girl at the Exit – P219
  • Chapter 35: Hammer Girl of the Ranks – P249
  • Chapter 36: Stubborn Girl with Three-Dimensional Footing – P285
  • Chapter 37: Wolves on the Bridge – P319
  • Chapter 38: Approachers at the Crossing – P355
  • Chapter 39: Wild Girl in Her True Form – P381
  • Chapter 40: Princess of Primal Fear – P414
  • Chapter 41: Interceptor in the Wild – P451
  • Chapter 42: Boy at the Boiling Point – P491
  • Chapter 43: Considerate Boys Above and Below – P525
  • Chapter 44: Landowner on the Bridge – P553
  • Chapter 45: Battlefield Decider – P594
  • Chapter 46: Gambler in the Debate Room – P633
  • Chapter 47: Reverser at the Eleventh Hour – P665
  • Chapter 48: Happy Conscious One – P691
  • Chapter 49: Dreaming Dodger – P717
  • Chapter 50: Comers and Goers on the Route – P741
  • Chapter 51: Runners on the Grading Desk – P765
  • Chapter 52: Someone Looking up From the Gap – P801
  • Table of Contents – P9
  • Character Introduction – P10
  • Glossary – P13
  • Chat Name List, Relationships Between the Major Powers, etc. – P16
  • Study: Kantou Liberation Layout - P18

Illustrations: Satoyasu (TENKY)

Cover Design: Watanabe Kouichi (2725 Inc)

Book Design Concept: TENKY


Characters[edit]

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Musashi

  • Aoi Kimi: Toori’s older sister and worshipper of the god of eroticism and dancing. Fundamentally high-tension and selfish in practice.
  • Aoi Toori: Protagonist. Musashi Ariadust Academy’s chancellor and student council president. Mr. Impossible.
  • Asama Tomo: Daughter of the Asama Shrine, Musashi’s main shrine. Childhood friend and overall victim of Toori and Kimi.
  • Azuma: Child of the emperor and a half-god. All his abilities have been sealed and he lives on the Musashi.
  • Adele Balfette: From a vassal family that arrived from France. Glasses girl.
  • Itou Kenji: Cheerful incubus. Nude, bald, and muscular. Known as Itoken.
  • Ohiroshiki Ginji: Gourmet otaku with a Heart-sama style build.
  • Kiyonari Urquiaga: 2nd special duty officer. Flying half-dragon. Hopes to be an inquisitor. Known as Uqui.
  • Shirojiro Bertoni: Treasurer. Young leading member of Musashi’s commerce and industry guild.
  • Tenzou Crossunite: 1st special duty officer. Ninja and errand-runner who always covers his face with his hat.
  • Toussaint Neshinbara: Secretary. Loves history, wants to be an author, and writes doujins.
  • Naomasa: 6th special duty officer. Older sister type who works in the engine division. Smokes and laughs loudly.
  • Nate Mitotsudaira: 5th special duty officer. Member of a knight family and inheritor of the Mito Matsudaira name. Half werewolf.
  • Nenji: Slime with about 3 HP. Manly.
  • Noriki: Laborer boy who supports his family. Clumsy martial artist. Silent and unsociable.
  • Heidi Augesvarer: Treasurer’s aide. Shirojiro’s partner. Has a white fox named Erimaki.
  • Hassan Furubushi: Calpis logo-style Indian. Lives while eating and drinking only curry.
  • Persona-kun: Super macho man with a bucket helmet. Silent, strong, and kindhearted.
  • Horizon Ariadust: Toori’s childhood friend and current ruler of Mikawa. Currently an automaton. Her emotions were taken as parts for the Logismoi Oplo.
  • Honda Futayo: Former Mikawa student. Honda Tadakatsu’s daughter. Uses a strongly old-fashioned speech pattern.
  • Honda Masazumi: Vice president of the student council. Diligent exchange student who arrived from Mikawa the previous year. Has various issues with her family.
  • Marga Naruze: 4th special duty officer. Black-haired six-winged Weiss Hexen. Member of the manga club.
  • Margot Naito: 3rd special duty officer. Blonde-haired six-winged Schwarz Hexen. Always smiling.
  • Miriam Poqou: Girl who stays in her room because she lives in a wheelchair.
  • Mukai Suzu: Blind but always gives it her all. Acts as everyone’s stopper.
  • Tachibana Muneshige: Former Tres España 1st special duty officer. Amore. Currently working to regain his inherited name.
  • Tachibana Gin: Former Tres España 3rd special duty officer. Muneshige’s wife and possessor of cannon-style false arms. Fifty times.
  • Mary Stuart: Half-sister of English Queen Elizabeth. Well-endowed blonde. Living with Tenzou as his future wife. Owner of Ex. Collbrande.
  • Mishina Hiro: Granddaughter of the engine division’s chief. Loves mechanical things. Naomasa’s underclassman. Her name is pronounced Hiro, not Dai.
  • Mishina Shouichi: Mishina Hiro’s father. Taizou’s son-in-law. Head of Kantou IZUMO.
  • Satomi Yoshiyasu: Satomi Academy’s student council president. Small but does not cry. Uses the god of war Righteousness.
  • Ookubo Tadachika/Nagayasu: A rare Far Easterner with a double inherited name. A second year and head of the representative committee. Speaks in a fake-sounding Kansai dialect.
  • Kanou: Ookubo’s maid. An automaton. Head of the public morals committee. A second year.
  • Date Shigezane [Narumi]: Masamune’s cousin. Vice chancellor of the Date clan and uses a mobile shell named Unturning Centipede. Confident elder sister type.
  • Yagyuu Munenori: A 1st year ninja samurai who serves Ookubo. Hunterrrrrrr chaaaaaaaaaaance!

Academy Officials

  • Oriotri Makiko: High-speed battling teacher. Always wears a track suit.
  • Sakai Tadatsugu: Musashi Ariadust Academy’s president. Used to be a very able person but was demoted.
  • “Musashi”: Automaton that supervises the Musashi and overall commander. Her sharp comments are hard to put up with.
  • Yoshinao: King of Musashi who was sent from Hexagone Française. Has a veto right toward the academy and has the authority to manage Musashi.
  • Sanyou Mitsuki: Class 3-Bamboo’s homeroom teacher. Looks up to Oriotorai. Somewhat sensitive and unlucky.

Hexagone Française

  • Louis Exiv: Hexagone Française’s chancellor. Refreshing young man known as the Roi-Soleil. Has divine blood.
  • Mouri Terumoto: Hexagone Française’s student council president. Delinquent type. Destined to be Musashi’s enemy as leader of the Western Army.
  • Henri of the Three Musketeers: Female combat-style automaton. Acts as the leader and as Terumoto’s bodyguard. Uses large remote-controlled swords.
  • Armand of the Three Musketeers: Male combat-style automaton. Uses broad-range gravitational control.
  • Reine de Garou: Turenne. Hexagone Française’s vice chancellor. Mitotsudaira’s mom. All-around giant breasts.
  • Mitotsudaira’s Father: The Reine des Garous’s husband. A victim who is full of happiness and readily cries. Not so much passive as always under attack. 24 days.
  • Bernard: A mercenary commander from M.H.R.R., but an old man who inherited the name of someone who betrayed his home nation as a Protestant and moved from battlefield to battlefield, but is actually a Celestial Dragon and siding with Hexagone Française. It’s complicated.
  • Mouri Sisters: Three automaton sisters who have inherited the names of three of Mouri Terumoto’s uncles.

Houjou

  • Houjou Ujinao: Chancellor and student council vice president of the Houjou Association of Indian States. A demonic long-lived, but has an automaton body.
  • Kotarou: Ninja girl Mouse that accompanies Ujinao. Skilled but gets treated like a child.
  • Houjou Genan: An elderly long-lived. A wise commander who has served Houjou for three generations, but also leads the aerial mobile unit.
  • Houjou Ujiteru: He’s Uji-terrific!

M.H.R.R.

  • Hashiba Toukichirou: M.H.R.R. Vice President and monkey-masked automaton girl. The nervous bomber type.
  • Olimpia: Innocentius’s older and younger stepsister. Current Pope-Chancellor.
  • Matthias: Representative of M.H.R.R.’s Catholics. Student Council President. Younger brother of Chancellor and Emperor Rudolf II. Being a puppet is fun!
  • Maeda Toshiie: Catholic representative. Treasurer. Samurai attendant that has become a ghost and is peacefully spending his days with his wife Matsu.
  • Fukushima Masanori: Under Hashiba’s direct command. Ten Spears #1. Speaks in an old-fashioned way.
  • Katou Kiyomasa: Under Hashiba’s direct command. Ten Spears #2. The busty blonde type and speaks politely.
  • Takenaka Hanbei: Ten Spears #9. Hashiba’s tactician. Carefree long-lived girl. Has also inherited the name of Kuroda Kanbei.
  • Katagiri Katsumoto: Ten Spears #10. An earnest boy who can also negotiate.
  • Katou Yoshiaki: Ten Spears #4. Gold-haired, gold-winged Weiss Hexen. Speaks sharply, but surprisingly tends to act as a mediator.
  • Wakisaka Yasuharu (Angie): Ten Spears #5. Black-haired, black-winged Schwarz Hexen. The carefree type, but she truly is carefree.
  • Hachisuka Koroku: Shouroku. God of war pilot of the Hidamari Genbu. The cool kid of the Ten Spears.
  • Kani Saizou: Extremely high probability of people misreading her name. The energetic aide to the Ten Spears. Fukushima’s underclassman. Nickname: Kanitama.
  • Suzuki Magoichi: Gunner who joined P.A. Oda by betraying the Saika.
  • Kuki Yoshitaka: Leader of P.A. Oda’s iron ship fleet. His job is to oppose the Murakami Navy.
  • Ootani Yoshitsugu: An earnest, hot-blooded, sincere, and honest virus with a strong sense of justice. Liked by cats.
  • Ishida Mitsunari: An earnest but inexperienced data entity who is often troubled. Ten Spears #3.
  • Kasuya Takenori: Ten Spears #8. Black wolf. Close-quarters fighter who defeated Takigawa. Has a chest.
  • Nabeshima Naoshige: Kani’s childhood friend who moved to the Ryuuzouji clan. The big sister type. A mechanical dragon pilot who bosses the Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji around.
  • Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji: “The five of us!” “Are the Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji!” “There’s five of us!” “But we’re the Four Heavenly Kings!” “Get outta the way!” and so on.
  • Asano Yoshinaga: Kani’s childhood friend and the type to get good grades. Tallllks with a weird intonaaation.
  • Ikeda Terumasa: Kani’s childhood friend and a builder. Is doing a lot of stuff with the Shirasagi Castle.
  • Nagaoka Tadaoki: He’s super scaryyyyyyyyyyyy! His dick’s pitch blaaaaaaaaaaack!
  • Konishi Yukinaga: Koni-tan’s daughter. Negotiator for Hashiba’s Kantou forces and representative of the Bousou Peninsula’s ground unit. A merchant commander. Likes money, but doesn’t produce udon.


Mogami Clan

  • Mogami Yoshiaki: Betrayal-loving daimyo known as the Fox of Ushuu. Shrewd leader who unified frigid Mogami in a single generation.
  • Shakenobe: The Mouse that follows Yoshiaki-sama, mon!

Other Forces

  • Tomoe Gozen: M.H.R.R. Protestant with Luther as a second inherited name. A ghost. Uses a Testamenta Arma and this people with a Testament copy hammer.
  • Christina: Lady Nagaoka. Fully prepared to die. Lives on the north end of Nördlingen.


Glossary[edit]

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A[edit]

  • Academy: An educational facility. Used as the center of political and military power. Tend to have many branch schools.
  • Academy Rules: The basic laws upheld between academies. Agreed to by the Testament Union.
  • Age of Dawn: The age before the Testament was established.
  • Amako clan: Former IZUMO land. Destroyed by Mouri and Hexagone Française.
  • Anti-Decline Pro-Tuning: The action taken during the Age of Dawn that led to the creation of the Testament and Harmonic World.
  • Apocalypse: The end of the world. 1648 when the Testament’s history descriptions end.
  • ArchsArt: England’s primary corporation.
  • Ariake: Floating dock for the Musashi provided by Kantou IZUMO.
  • Armada battle: A naval battle fought between England and Tres España. Tres España planned to land on England but their fleet was destroyed.
  • Artificial Apocalypse: A compressed ley line distortion created in England’s Avalon to research the Apocalypse.
  • ATELL: The smallest unit of ether. Used for spells.
  • Avalon: A space created in England to research the artificial Apocalypse.
  • Azuchi Castle: P.A. Oda’s giant aerial warship.

B[edit]

  • Blessings: The amount of ether needed for a human to exist for one hour. 3600 ATELL. Conversion unit for a spell’s ATELL consumption.
  • Bunroku Campaign: Hashiba’s invasion of Korea. The first one.

C[edit]

  • Catholic: The old mainstream version of Tsirhc.
  • Chancellor’s Officers: An organization led by the chancellor which leads the academy and performs work such as defense.
  • Change of Rank: Having one’s clan taken away.
  • Contradiction Allowance: The foundational ability of the world. Allows the simultaneous existence of all sorts of physical laws.

D[edit]

  • Divine States: Former name of the Far East.
  • Divine Weapon: A weapon that, unlike a normal weapon, has a unique ability.
  • Divinely Ordained Prayer Academies: The original academies that existed during the Age of Dawn. More a guiding frontline base than a place of learning.
  • Dragon Line Reactor: A bomb that uses a runaway ley line reactor to destroy a wide area.
  • Dragon Races: The dragons. There are Celestial Dragons which are spirits and Terrestrial Dragons which are beasts and the Celestial Dragons are of a higher level. They dominated during the history recreation of the Germanic invasions, but ultimately lost. They are now scattered across the land.
  • Dunhi: A religion. Focused on reincarnation.

E[edit]

  • Edel Brocken: Magic brand. Location of headquarters unknown.
  • Eisenritter: Primary corporation of M.H.R.R.’s Protestant principalities.
  • Emperor: A divine individual who is said to control the ley lines using the Imperial Regalia in Kyou. Does not interfere with the world.
  • England: Uses a floating island and does not control any Far Eastern land or Far Eastern daimyo.
  • Ether: Component that makes up contradiction-allowing space.
  • Ether Engine: An engine that uses ether’s space-altering ability. The effect changes based on the internal crest.
  • Ether Fuel: Ether that has been purified into fuel. Used as External Blessings or for ether engines.
  • Ether Reactor: A reactor that extracts and purifies ether from the air. Has a lower output than a ley line reactor, but is relatively safe.
  • Europa: Hexagone Française’s primary corporation.
  • Excalibur: Has a first and second version.
  • External Blessings: Blessings accumulated outside of oneself. Ether fuel is an example.

F[edit]

  • Fan Gang: Qing brand. Durable but a bit rough.
  • Far East: Name of the Divine States after the Harmonic Unification War.
  • Fino Alba: K.P.A. Italian brand. Their use of springs is their selling point.

G[edit]

  • God of War: A giant humanoid machine that people combine with to move.
  • Graduation: No limit for nations other than the Far East. Far Easterners must graduate at 18.
  • Grande y Felicísima Armada: Tres España’s fleet for the Armada battle. Made up of cutting-edge ships.
  • Great Return: When Hashiba returned with all his troops while attacking Mouri during Nobunaga’s assassination. The rushed march covered about 200 km in less than ten days.

H[edit]

  • Harmonic Territory: Locations where the fallen Harmonic World Divine States unified with the real world while breaking apart.
  • Harmonic Unification War: A war between the harmonic world residents and the real world (Divine States) residents after the destruction of the harmonic world. The harmonic world residents won and began a provisional rule over the Divine States.
  • Harmonic World: A former alternate space that copied the Divine States. Preserved through ley line control.
  • Hexagone Française: Mouri clan + France.
  • Hidetsugu Incident: Hidetsugu, Hashiba’s nephew who was going to be left in charge during the next generation, earned Hashiba’s anger and was forced to commit suicide. The reason is unknown, but his concubine Komahime had to commit suicide with him.
  • History Recreation: Recreating the Testament descriptions to maintain the path the world takes.
  • Holy Spells: Tsirhc spells. The Catholics are related to the Testament and holy individuals while the Protestants derive power only from the Testament.
  • H.R.R.M.: Holy Knights Ironworks Guild. Primary corporation of M.H.R.R.’s Catholic principalities.

I[edit]

  • Inherited Name: The name of a historical figure given to an appropriate individual for the history recreation.
  • Internal Blessings: blessings stored within oneself.
  • IZUMO: The Far East’s largest corporation. The headquarters for Far Eastern shrines and the corporation that built the Musashi.

J[edit]

  • Judge/Judgment: Means “understood”. Used by criminals.

K[edit]

  • K.P.A. Italia: Association of Aki States + Union of Italian City States.

L[edit]

  • Laws for the Samurai Clans: Laws established after the Matsudaira clan established the Edo Shogunate. It determined the status of the samurai clans, but it centralized power by declaring a ‘Change of Rank’ if a clan or castle had no heir.
  • Ley Line: The thicker of the pathways through which ether flows.
  • Ley Line Reactor: A reactor that extracts and refines either from ley lines. Can easily cause lay line mutations and destroy everything within several kilometers if they explode. Due to their instability, they are banned by the Tsirhc religion.
  • Logismoi Oplo: Weapons of mass destruction created on the motif of the seven deadly sins.

M[edit]

  • Magic: Folk spells currently under persecution in Europe.
  • M.H.R.R.: Hashiba clan + Holy Roman Empires.
  • Mikawa: Destroyed by the collapse of Lord Motonobu’s ley line reactor.
  • Mito: South of Oushuu and north of Edo. Mitotsudaira’s territory.
  • Mlasi: A later non-Tsirhc religion that also worships the Testament.
  • Mouse: A spirit beast device to act as an intermediary between the Shinto religion and its musicians. Other religions use different names.
  • Musashi: Aerial city ship. The sole independent territory allowed for the Far East.

[First Starboard Ship – Shinagawa/Second Starboard Ship – Tama/Third Starboard Ship – Takao/First Central Ship – Musashino/Back Central Ship – Okutama/First Port Ship – Asakusa/Second Port Ship – Murayama/Third Port Ship – Oume]

  • Musashi Ariadust Academy: The Far East’s representative academy which exists on Okutama of Musashi.
  • Musician: A religion’s worshiper.

N[edit]

  • Novgorod: A large trade city on the western end of Russia. It is a floating city, but became a city of the dead after Ivan IV the Terrible’s purge.

O[edit]

  • Oat: A religion based on China’s sages.
  • Offering: Providing a god with something they will enjoy or Internal Blessings.
  • Official Events: Refers to the ceremonies, exams, etc. that an academy must complete during each term. If these are not completed, the academy may not take part in any external politics.
  • Orei Metallo/Nero: Ore or water containing ether. Can be used as ether fuel.
  • Orthodox: The Orthodox Concerto religion. Sviet Rus’s unique branch of Catholicism.
  • Oushuu: The Tohoku region. The Date clan rules the east and the Mogami clan rules the west.
  • Oushuu Fujiwara (Hiraizumi): A hidden village of the long-lived in southern Oushuu.

P[edit]

  • P.A. Oda: Oda clan + Ottomans.
  • Peace of Westphalia: The peace treaty that ended the Thirty Years’ War.
  • Protestant: A new style of Tsirhc created to escape the corruption of Catholicism and to adjust to the new age.
  • Provisional Council: Group of adults who act as bureaucrats toward Musashi’s student council, chancellor’s officers, and student committees.

Q[edit]

  • Qing-Takeda: Combination of China and the Takeda clan.

R[edit]

  • Religion: Organizations or groups that worship a god or the Testament.

S[edit]

  • San Mercado: Tres Españan brand.
  • Shaja: Used in Mlasi regions and means “understood”. Originally meant “courage”.
  • Shinto: Far Eastern religion. Worships the Far Eastern gods and uses divine music spells.
  • Shirasago Enterprises: IZUMO’s shrine brand.
  • Siege of Otate: Conflict over the succession of the Uesugi clan after Kenshin’s death. Uesugi Kagekatsu and Nagao Kagetora fought and Kagekatsu won.
  • Sign Frame: Spell device needed to use each religion’s basic protection.
  • Song of Passage: Prototype of a fairy tale created in the Far East during the Edo period.
  • Spell: Causing a miracle in a certain space by processing ether.
  • Spirit Spell: Primitive spells used by talking to and borrowing the power of spirits, which are ether with a will of its own.
  • Student Council: The organization that handles an academy’s domestic and foreign affairs.
  • Substitution: Offering something to please a god instead of using Blessings to activate a spell.
  • Sviet Rus: Uesugi clan + Russia.

T[edit]

  • Tes/Testament: Means “understood”.
  • Testament: A history book that provides the history of the earth’s previous age. There are seven pairs and excerpts.
  • Testament Descriptions: History of the earth’s previous age that is automatically updated by the Testament. However, it stopped updating after the description for 1648.
  • Testament Union: An organization meant to lead the history recreation.
  • Testamenta Arma: Weapons that use the ability of the Testaments.
  • Tres España: Oouchi and Ootomo clans + Spain. Currently includes Portugal.
  • Tsirhc: A religion which places the Son of God at the top. Worships the Testament.


World[edit]

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The Story So Far:

Well, as far as I can tell, the last time can be summed up as Nagabuto putting in a thick but short effort. Which would make him Shortbuto, I guess. In other words, the Kantou Liberation began after Nagabuto was colored black. I feel like he needs to grow up and act more like a man, but he is still in middle school and he cannot help how fast he grows. Hopefully he still has some growing left to do. Now, we must do our best to help him have sex with his wife. Come to think of it, Masazumi failed in her attempt to have sex with him, but the nudist pulled it off and did have sex with him. And we would like to freely get along with all the world’s nations, so you could call Musashi the Aerial Free Sex Ship. The first step toward that is to save Nagabuto from the Kantou Liberation and to intervene in the dynamite life of the sex-loving Swedish Chancellor Christina, aka Lady Nagaoka.


Divine Chat Screenname List:

  • Azuma: Azuma
  • Asama: Asama Tomo
  • Obscene: Itou Kenji (Itoken)
  • Me: Aoi Toori
  • Gold Mar: Margot Naito
  • Righteousness: Satomi Yoshiyasu
  • Scarred: Mary Stuart
  • Silver Wolf: Nate Mitosudaira
  • Still Got It: Reine des Garous
  • Wise Sister: Aoi Kimi
  • 481: Mishina Shouichi
  • Tachibana Husband: Tachibana Muneshige
  • Tachibana Wife: Tachibana Gin
  • Smoking Girl: Naomasa
  • 10ZO: Tenzou Crossunite
  • Tonbokiri: Honda Futayo
  • Sticky King: Nenji
  • 83: Hassan Furubushi
  • Flat Vassal: Adele Balfette
  • Vice President: Honda Masazumi
  • Bell: Mukai Suzu
  • Hori-ko: Horizon Ariadust
  • Mar-Ga: Marga Naruze
  • Marube-ya: Heidi Augesvarer
  • 847: Mishina Hiro
  • Novice: Toussaint Neshinbara
  • Musashi King: Yoshinao
  • Four Eyes: Shakespeare
  • Worshipper: Ohiroshiki Ginji
  • Laborer: Noriki
  • Unturning: Date Narumi
  • Kagetsuna-kun: Katakura Kojuurou
  • Fang: Oniniwa Tsunamoto
  • Caretaker: Rusu Makikage
  • Taki: Takigawa Ichimasu
  • Great Upperclassmen: Shibata Katsuie
  • O12: Oichi
  • Lily Flower: Sassa Narimasa
  • Omaeda: Maeda Toshiie
  • Fuwaa: Fuwa Mitsuharu
  • Mory: Mori Nagayoshi
  • Nine Tail Girl: Mogami Yosahiaki
  • Shigeko: Honjou Shigenaga
  • KageV: Uesugi Kagekatsu
  • Tomo-no-Bu: Saitou Tomonobu
  • Nagaya-Stable: Ookubo Tadachika
  • CAN: Kanou
  • Llaf: Fukushima Masanori
  • Kiyo-Massive: Katou Kiyomasa
  • □□凸: Katagiri Katsumoto
  • Kuro-Take: Takenaka Hanbei
  • Kimee: Katou Yoshiaki
  • AnG: Wakisaka Yasuharu
  • 6: Hachisuka Koroku
  • An-Ri: Henri
  • Ar-Man: Armand
  • Super Justice: Ootani Yoshitsugu
  • Nari Nari Nari: Ishida Mitsunari
  • Kanitama: Kani Saizou
  • Nine Horns: Kuki Yoshitaka
  • Three Legs: Suzuki Magoichi
  • Black Wolf: Kasuya Takenori
  • Nabe3: Nabeshima Naoshige
  • Asano: Asano Yoshinaga
  • IT: Ikeda Terumasa
  • Okaaa: Nagaoka Tadaoki
  • Koni-ko: Konishi Yukinaga


Far Eastern Powers: [Same map as before]


Relationships Between the Major Powers: [Same as before]


Musashi’s Plans:

Toori: Sis! Sis! We’ve gotten ourselves into this Kantou Liberation mess, so what do we do now!?

Kimi: Heh heh heh. Mess brother? First, we will arrive at Edo Bay and see Yoshy’s group off to Satomi. Then we kidnap Nagabuto and make a mad dash for Nördlingen! I’m guessing Yoshy, Naomasa, Ookubo, and the Tachibana Couple will be working hard in Satomi.”


Study: Kantou Liberation Layout[edit]

Horizon7B 018.png

Toori: Sis! Sis! What’s the battlefield in Edo and Satomi like right now!?

Kimi: Heh heh heh. Battle brother, things are going like this in general. Compared to last time, Mouri has begun taking over the Miura Peninsula and the Musashi forces have moved from outside Edo to the Edo Bay area.


On map:

Left of 9: Great Edo Ruins

Above 8: Edo Bay

Above 4: Miura Peninsula

Right of 7: Bousou Peninsula


Map key:

1. Mouri Fleet – Pension Versailles

2. Yamagata Castle

3. Mouri Fleet’s Route: 3 rows following the coast. North row made of transport ships for defense. Middle and south rows made of warships.

4. Mouri Maids God of War Unit vs. Nabeshima’s Mechanical Dragon

5. Kuki’s Ironclad Ships. 9 ships arranged in 3 rows of 3.

6. Cannon Foothold on the Uraga Channel

7. Cannon Foothold in Edo Bay.

8. Great Bridge of the Edo Bay Ruins. Nagaoka is here.

9. Fleet above Edo to monitor things from the north.

10. Transport ships supplied by Mouri.

11. Musashi’s Wild Riders – A Nagabuto Kidnapping Team and a Satomi Liberation Team


Toori: This battle is really complicated and a pain in the butt, isn’t it?

Kimi: Pretty much, yes. Once the Nagabuto kidnapping mission is complete, we’ll be returning to the Musashi before things get too hard. Then the situation will change again.

Toori: Getting hard with Nagabuto, huh?

Kimi: I had a feeling you would say that, but try finding something cleverer to say.

Chapter 26: Observer of an Explosive Region[edit]

Horizon7B 019.jpg

If you do not want to answer

Say something entirely unrelated

Because

Silence is a form of agreement

Point Allocation (Gossip)


“Hey.”

A female voice spilled out into a garden at night.

“Do you know how the star that fell in Nördlingen was handled for the history recreation?”

It was a large garden with a pond and little more than that.

It was presently formed from dark blue shadows and moonlight.

A tall woman sat on the porch of the home bordering the garden.

She was the one who had asked the question.

She wore a purple M.H.R.R. girl’s uniform with a hat pulled deep over her eyes.

“Yes, Tomoe Gozen. I do indeed know that. Yes.”

Tomoe Gozen was accompanied by someone in a white M.H.R.R. girl’s uniform worn in a Far Eastern style.

The woman walked silently from the hallway and onto the porch. Her brown hair was worn to above her collar which was shifted front and to the left. She opened a lernen figur as she spoke.

“The real Nördlingen star exists in the outside world and we receive its divine protection through the ley lines, but because the city decided it was worth doing a history recreation, spell users created a meteor and summoned it high in the sky. Yes.”

However…

“The city already existed at that point, so the plan was to drop it on the outskirts. But…”

“The mayor and the other realists assumed it was only natural to drop it on the outskirts, but the spell users were originalists and assumed it was only natural to use the proper coordinates since it was a history recreation. In the end, the city was blown up and utterly destroyed.”

“Yes, the story is often taught in the academies because it taught us that humanity can evacuate a town in only two minutes and it taught us to always make sure everyone is on the same page.”

“Then,” said Tomoe Gozen while looking back toward the other woman. “How about you get on the same page as everyone else, Swedish Chancellor Christina?” She was mostly focused on how the woman was dressed. “For one thing, what kind of woman wears explosives strapped to her stomach and head?”


“Oh, do they not look good on me? I tried to arrange them in a decorative fashion.”

Tomoe Gozen sighed at Christina’s response.

She can make some unbelievable assumptions sometimes, she thought while lifting the brim of the hat she was wearing to hide her identity. The hat was mostly pointless since it did not hide her horns, but it was important to keep up appearances. After all, this was the Protestant Representative visiting a legit Catholic Chancellor. That said…

“Since I know you fairly well, let me ask you this: are you sure you understand the current situation?”

Horizon7B 023.jpg

“I am dressed like this because I understand. I also brought some floral patterned ones.”

“I see.”

They both looked up into the southern night sky. Several ships were lined up there and their numbers only continued to grow.

“A battle over you is about to begin…but do you really plan to die? I mean, you could always-…”

“Becoming a ghost like you would only confuse matters in a different way,” said Christina. “Also, I have cut off a number of ties. No one needs an old lady like me at this point.”

“Hey, if you’re an old lady, what does that make me? Hm?”

Tomoe Gozen raised her voice, but there were some things she could not let slide. Also…

“Are you sure about that? Did you know Musashi is on their way to rescue you?”

“Musashi is? Oh, yes, I did receive that information. It’s just…”

“Are you more interested in that boy I’ve heard rumors about?”

“No. I most definitely am not.”

“That was an awfully quick and decisive no.”

Christina fell silent at that. And Tomoe Gozen said more to her.

“So are you sure about what you said? Why not wait until Musashi arrives to find out?”

A maid ran in from the house. “Maria,” called Christina and the redheaded maid pushed up her glasses.

“M-ma’am! We just received information related to Kantou via Hexagone Française! Musashi’s main force sent some transport ships to assist in liberating Satomi instead of coming here!”

“So what was that about Musashi, Tomoe Gozen?”

Tomoe Gozen crushed her hat in her hands as Christina glared at her.

“What in the hell are they doing!?”


West of Kantou, seven transport ships had been launched in a line from the Musashi.

They were descending, landing, and racing along the main road and Musashi’s main force was aboard the lead ship. The shock of the landing had been negated, but Asama, who was in charge of divine transmissions, tilted her head while the people around her quickly prepared for battle.

Asama: “Um, Masazumi? We are receiving a protest from Tomoe Gozen in Nördlingen. She says, ‘Are you still not on your way!? Do I need to go kick your ass!?’ ”

Vice President: “Eh!? Didn’t I send her a strategy plan?”

Mar-Ga: “I thought you put that off until later because you didn’t want the divine transmission intercepted.”

Me: “Uh, oh. Seijun-kun’s in truuuuuuble. She’s gonna be puuuunished.”

Vice President: “Enough of that singsong voice, you idiot! And Asama! Tell her we just left!”

Almost Everyone: “Are we a soba shop now!?”

Righteousness: “Why do I feel like we’re liberating Satomi in secret?”

Flat Vassal: “D-don’t worry! It isn’t a secret! We’re already very much in the public eye!”

That seemed dangerous in its own way to Asama, but there was no helping that.

The enemy fleet was beginning to move to the south and east. That was to observe and respond to Musashi’s actions, but…

“That means we’re participating in this battle too, doesn’t it?”

“It does.” Masazumi raised her right hand on the bow and gave everyone their instructions. “I will find an excuse for Tomoe Gozen. The rest of you check on our surroundings and the situation on the battlefield!”


At the scene of the Kantou Liberation, several smaller battles were underway or beginning.

To the south of Edo Bay, Kuki Yoshitaka’s ironclad fleet and Murakami Motoyoshi’s Mouri fleet were clashing in the air while Nabeshima Naoshige’s mechanical dragon and Mouri-01’s god of war unit were battling on the surface.

Meanwhile, the Musashi transport ships were racing to the east of Edo.

They traveled along the road using the wheels attached to the bottom of the ships. Some people in the south were watching those seven ships.

Those people were almost all of those continuing the fighting there.

It looked like the seven transport ships had accelerated on their land route to the east. It was actually an optical illusion caused by their approach along the ground, but…

“They are moving fast,” said Suzuki Magoichi while going through Yatagarasu’s cooling process.

She used this time to schedule out her shooting for once the cooling was complete and she sent those instructions to Yatagarasu via insha kotob while looking to the north.

“They are not going to be easy to stop.”

Kuki agreed with her assessment while commanding the fleet. He rubbed his prosthetic left arm as he spoke.

“But we must stop them. Although that is in the northern group’s designated area, so we must entrust this with them. Now, it takes guts to charge into the battlefield like this, but is this due to the Musashi warriors’ willpower or is it due to the backing of that giant ship? It is a shame they have not engaged any of our forces yet.”

“It would be best if that shame remained. Musashi has some powerful fighters at their disposal.”

“You once fought alongside Musashi during the Battle of Fushimi Castle, didn’t you?”

“Testament, although it would be more accurate to say I was greeting an old friend. …But getting back to the present, which part of the battle do you think is the diversion?”

“The battlefield is split between north and south, but both of them are very real, Suzuki-kun. …The question is how to stick it out and win or at least last long enough for Hashiba-kun to arrive,” he said. “Now, we must focus on our own crucial battle.”


Meanwhile, Murakami Motoyoshi pushed up his glasses in the Mouri fleet. He detected the scent of scorched metal on the wind and he kept his eyes on the enemy.

A divine transmission brought observation data from his allies.

“Motoyoshi-sama! Musashi’s unit is apparently reaccelerating after landing.”

“We need them to. We spent a lot of time drawing in the enemy. They have the Satomi forces with them, so we need them to move to the front.”

Indeed.

“With the battlefield split, it is a shame they could not act as a diversion for us.”

A voice spoke up in a disagreement with him there.

It was Mouri-01’s group fighting Nabeshima’s mechanical dragon on the eastern slope of the Miura Peninsula. Since they were in battle, those maids were quickly exchanging opinions via their shared memory.

“The battlefield is split? …Lady Mouri-01! Did you hear what Sir Motoyoshi said!?”

“That’s right! The enemy recognizes us as a proper fighting force and that is how we managed to draw them in. If we are defeated here, everything will return to the way it was before! And if that happens…”

“Testament,” replied Mouri-01 while dodging a charge from the mechanical dragon and checking the northern sky with her Lourd de Marionnette’s wide-range vision “Then we only need to demonstrate our ability and take back the Miura Peninsula. That will simultaneously ensure our survival and overall victory, so there is no problem here at all.”

So…

“We have not lost anyone yet, have we? We will make sure that does not change and we will win this, everyone.”

“Testament!”

Mouri-01 nodded at their response, stepped forward, and asked a question.

“Now, what will happen in the Satomi Student Council President’s battlefield to the north?”


Yoshiyasu sensed a familiar atmosphere from the deck of the racing transport ship.

The Satomi liberation force she led numbered about 4000 when including those with the Vice President’s group.

That seemed like a lot, but only two transport ships were necessary to carry that many.

That number included a mixture of Musashi, Mouri, and Mogami warriors and the bare minimum of administrative and supply workers needed to fulfill the win conditions for the “liberation” of Satomi.

While leading them, Yoshiyasu currently felt the shaking of the ship and the blowing wind from their movement.

The scent she occasionally sensed on the wind was not the atmosphere of gunfire created in the unique environment of a battlefield.

This is home.

It was the smell of the sea near Satomi.

Her mind warned her it was only an illusion. Her homesickness was trying to turn her focus away from the reality of war.

So this homesickness is a form of escapism.

She checked the sign frames around her as a way of focusing on reality. And…

“Hey! Seijun! Can you ask Nagabuto if he took a bath while in P.A. Oda!? I need to figure out what to do after getting a little carried away last time!”

“There’s no way I’m asking him that, idiot! You colored it black, so you ask him!”

“Mitotsudaira!” added the Chancellor’s sister. “You’re partially responsible for the ‘I love you’ in lipstick, so you ask him!”

“Kimi, don’t just pull out the prototype like that!”

And when Yoshiyasu saw all that…

Is this my reality?

The scariest part was how none of the nonsense on the sign frame was escapism for them. They were like that all the time. Is this real life? Say it isn’t so. If she got caught up in it, the crucial Satomi event of reclaiming their land would be dragged down to the level of coloring a dick. But…

“Hm, if you ask me, our options were pretty limited because Toori only had the black ink to work with,” said the half-dragon. “So what color should we go with next time?”

“Do you have a preference, Kiyonari?” asked the Date Vice Chancellor.

“If we gave it a silver coating, don’t you think it would come as a nice surprise? Like you just encountered a special Shiny Dick in a video game.”

“Okay, that’s enough!” cut in the Asama Shrine Representative. “We girls need to stop thinking about this, okay? We need to keep our minds clear and our hearts a pure white.”

“Foolish brother? Asama wants to color it white.”

“With the bottom colored red for a shrine maiden coloration?”

“Kimiiiii! Wait, um, uh…”

What now? wondered Yoshiyasu as the Asama Shrine Representative continued.

“I’ve more or less located the Nagaoka boy!”


“Really!?” asked Masazumi while turning toward Asama. “How did you figure it out this early!?”

“Well, to word this as nicely as I can, when Kimi and Toori-kun were traumatizing the Nagaoka boy, they wrote ‘I love you’ in lipstick, right? That was made at Mito’s workshop and included a divine protection, so any, uh, symbols or prayers drawn or written using it can be tracked to a certain extent. If a god overlooks something like that, the musician won’t be too happy with them, so they have to locate them. …Anyway, I just received a tracking report from our god.”

<Divine Transmission : “Don’t make me do this again.” : By, god>

“Now you two are being a nuisance to gods!?”

When Masazumi pointed at them, the idiot and his sister high-fived and pointed right back at her.

“But without us, we couldn’t have tracked down Nagabuto!”

“That’s right! And, Asama! It wasn’t just ‘I love you’!”

The idiot sister held her own body in her arms and pushed her chin forward as she moved her lips.

“Iiiii love you. …Like that! Got it!?”

Asama raised her clenched fist and the two idiots shouted and fled.

At any rate, there was only one thing for Masazumi to say.

“Now we know what we need to do beyond supporting the liberation of Satomi…!”

She made sure to give it a weightier ending with the “…!”


These people, silently thought Yoshiyasu.

If they liberated Satomi like this, the nation could wind up terribly undisciplined. The most fundamental solution would be to cut all diplomatic ties with the Far East after the liberation, but that might seem a little too ungrateful. Then again, the other nations would understand if they knew Musashi and understood the risk those crazy people posed.

Which other countries knew Musashi and understood how frightening those crazy people were? She spent a few seconds in thought.

P.A. Oda and Hashiba!

Then what’s the point!? Wait, does this mean I’m about to go crush my psychological allies? she wondered while mentally holding her head in her hands.

“…I just had a thought.”

“Hm? What is it Flatty?”

“The world is currently caught in a conflict between crazy people and people with relatively normal brains.”

“Satomi Student Council President.”

Yoshiyasu tilted her head when the Musashi Vice President addressed her.

“Yes?”

“Judge. I am normal, so fear not.”

“Oh…right. I guess you are kind of normal. Relatively speaking…maybe…”

Meanwhile, the wind changed.

They had left the outskirts and the ruins there to reach a wide open area right in front of the great ruins.

The wind was damp and the smell of the surface was much stronger.

Yes, I was right.

The scent from before had been an illusion.

This was the air of the surface. With the great ruins there, Kantou had a scent of abundant greenery, dirt, and water.

But this was not the air of Satomi with its ocean. She knew how she needed to view it for now:

“This is the air that leads me home.”

Musashino: “Excuse me. This is ‘Musashino’. I am still on the Musashi, but I will be assisting the piloting and course plotting for the transport ships. Over.”

“Oh,” said Yoshiyasu with a nod.

Righteousness: “Thanks. Do you not have anything to do?”

Musashino: “No, it is not that. I…oh. Over.”

Righteousness: “What is it?”

Musashino: “Judge. You are about to enter Choufu and the road rises to the standards of the ruins around there, so there will be a bounce as you-…oh, there it was. Now you know. Over.”

That was exactly what happened, so Yoshiyasu and the others quickly braced for impact.


Wow, that was maybe not so good…

On Musashino’s bridge, Suzu was hurrying through the data processing and organization needed to pilot the transport ships.

The Musashi had already been gathering detailed data on Kantou and the Great Edo Ruins. That would later become Matsudaira’s territory, so they had wanted terrain data on the coastal and central region.

The work was trickier this time because the Musashi’s ships were arranged in a single long line.

They had to rely on Takao in the very back for sensory data on the Edo region.

It kind of felt like crawling and stretching your body forward. Or like rolling some paper into a megaphone and holding it to your ear.

Either way, sensing things was a little difficult. So…

“Um, can you…help me out some…everyone?”

Suzu held a hand out toward the models she had made within the bridge. They were based on the ones provide by the Musashi and she had retouched them a bit. However, she had not done it by hand.

“There are tall buildings from here…to here? And a sidewalk…”

She added the details in batches. Height differences were given to the designated parts of the sidewalk and windows and doors were added to the buildings. The leaves, type, and amount of sunlight were even calculated for the trees. The automatons added all the details automatically.

The details were based on the work libraries they had built up in the past. In the time that freed up, Suzu detected the moving objects, the wind, and the flowing rivers and added those as analog moving elements on the battlefield.

Those would be made into libraries next and the details would be added without limit.

“Musashino” suddenly spoke while viewing Suzu’s handiwork.

“Even if you had a base to start with, you have learned to make some very detailed shapes very quickly, Suzu-sama. Over.”


“A-am I being…lazy?”

“Musashino” shook her head at Suzu’s question.

“I have determined details can be limited to what is necessary and what you feel motivated to do. Adding further details would mean you were not selecting what data is important, and that would defeat the purpose of selecting you as an operator in the first place. …Make the parts that you want to make, Suzu-sama. We will use that to create libraries which can be applied to the whole. Over.”

She appreciated it when Suzu nodded. But…

This method is finally in a usable state.

The Battle of Mikatagahara had changed things.

Suzu’s modeling had proved useful during the Armada Battle, but despite perceiving everything during the high-speed movement of the Battle of Mikatagahara, it had only been a passive thing.

Suzu’s modeling speed had increased since then, but the automatons had wondered if there was any way to assist her further, so they had worked out this division of labor system where they built up libraries of her models to take care of the parts not worth her direct attention.

That way Suzu would not have to hesitate because she worried something might become necessary later.

This has helped her speed up quite a bit.

Suzu created the 3D models while she walked. She could model motionless objects and environments with a resolution down to a single meter almost instantaneously. Her speed was impressive.

Also, she would add colors to the models. She had no concept of color herself, so the color was recorded using the pressure of her fingers when creating the models. She applied just the right amount of pressure to represent the strength of the wind or the sturdiness of the buildings. With objects found in the libraries, the automatons only had to read in the pressure she supplied and set the appropriate range from the library, so it simplified the work significantly.

Since the current action was happening on a path that was essentially a single line, this was being used as a test of the system, but “Musashino” decided they could expand the test to a full two-dimensional surface. And…

“From now on, it will be possible to actively acquire data on the changing battlefield while we move at high speed. Over.”

That meant they could sense everything at superior speed if they were being pursued and not just in cases like the Armada Battle where the enemy forces were in view.

That was bound to put the passengers’ minds at ease. And more importantly…

“I have determined I am glad we can assist you, Suzu-sama. Over.”

“Yes…thank you.”

Suzu said that while moving the transport ships with her hands.

The seven landed ships were racing toward the Great Kantou Ruins on the wheels attached to the bottom.

They were using a road that had been a highway in the distant past.

“I believe it was known as the Central Expressway. I am not entirely sure what about it is ‘central’, but it looks like the enemy’s interception attacks will begin soon, Suzu-sama.”

Suzu nodded in agreement while reaching a hand toward the path of the transport ships.

The enemy was in the sky above the countless ruined buildings towering above the surface ahead of the elevated highway.

That was…

“An M.H.R.R. and P.A. Oda interception fleet!”


6 warships, 18 light warships, and some accompanying defense ships and transport ships had been sent to the north of Edo Bay. The interception fleet had the transport ships provide by Mouri far behind them and they began firing once the Musashi transport ships arrived within 20km of them.

The firing was done by the warships with long-range main cannons. Their ether cannons provided homing and increased power.

Several dozen beams of light raced east to west in the sky north of Edo.

And not just once. The initial volley had not used every last cannon. Every other cannon had fired and the others fired while the first group was being reloaded.

They continued repeating those alternating volleys.

“Set up a barrage from long range! The enemy ships are way too low! Be careful!”

As soon as that warning was sent out, light exploded on the western land.

The first half volley had reached the transport ships moving along the road. The explosion struck the ships.

Light shattered and a solid sound scattered.

“8 direct hits!! 3 near hits!!”

The light blowing in the wind and scattering was ether fragments.

They burst.

The fragments created within the direct hit range instantly became a glowing wind over a range of several hundred meters. There were seven base gusts of wind and several explosions branched off from there.

But the artillery bombardment was not over yet. Because…

“They used defense barriers! We still can’t detect the enemy, but there is nothing mixed in with the ether fragments! …They are unharmed!”

“Then keep firing!”

Keep firing they did.

Repeated glowing explosions and deafening booms fell atop the road traveling down the flat land west of the Great Kantou Ruins.

But it was the rangefinders in charge of locating the enemy who sensed the danger in the enemy’s strong defenses.

They could not use ether detection with all the ether in the air, so they used optical sight spells to view the enemy location themselves.

“Request an extreme high altitude ballistic attack from the light warships!”

One of the others gasped upon hearing that.

“Yeah, that’s right! I was just thinking that! For real!”

“Me too! …C’mon, quit stealing my ideas like that.”

“Just explain why already!”

“Testament! The enemy transport ships have not lost any speed! …They will enter the great ruins in 112 seconds! We need to launch an extreme high altitude ballistic attack that falls right on their heads before they can use the ruins as cover!”

They zoomed in on their lernen figurs while speaking.

They saw something in the center of that real-time footage of the cannon hits and explosions.

Musashi’s transport ships were there. The artillery commander raised their eyebrows at that.

“They made sloped armor out of their defense barriers!?”


“We actually did a number of things beyond sloping the defense barriers. Over.”

“Eh!? What do you mean!? Was it magic!? Was it, ‘Musashino’!?”

Suzu heard “Musashino” give a serious response to the boke divine transmission from the battlefield.

“It was tactics, not magic. Sending the transport ships along the horizontal road was always meant to allow the use of sloped armor. Because we cannot allow the enemy to fire on them from below horizontal. The rest is classified. Over.”

Suzu nodded while sensing the automatons’ “classified” assistance.

Cannon fire from 20km ahead was flying toward the seven models she was moving along in front of her.

There was a lot of cannon fire.

But the automatons were doing something in response to the shells and explosions she was forming above the models.

They were fast-forwarding them.

When she sensed the artillery fire and gave the instructions, the automatons would calculate out their trajectories and strength.

It only took a moment for the hit trajectories to be redrawn as a predictive model showing their position in a few seconds’ time.

The automatons worked fast. And when they created those models ahead of time…

I can sense reality a few seconds in advance.

Those few seconds were extremely useful when it came to guiding the ships and deciding on the angle and timing of the sloped armor. Even now, she was modeling and guiding the transport ships along a route that would be safe in a few seconds.

“They are clear, Suzu-sama. Over.”

Once “Musashino” said that, the automatons pre-inputted the defense barrier angles to match the path of the transport ships in a few seconds.

That allowed the defense barriers to deflect shell after shell.

The basic idea was simple enough.

They located the shell, predicted its path, analyzed the situation, responded appropriately, and moved on to the next one. Predicting and then moving toward the danger to defend against it at just the right angle felt a little self-destructive, but it was kind of like a sport.

It took until the 17th shell before she realized moving forward deflected them better, like in ping pong.

“Will this…work?”

“It will, Suzu-sama. Over.”

As “Musashino” responded, she, the other automatons, and Suzu were already living in the battlefield nearly 10 seconds into the future.

And Suzu realized something else there.

It happened when she raised the sensor resolution and fast-forwarded into the future.

I can…tell.

She could hold the explosions in her hands.

She could touch the shockwaves and secondary damage that all crashed together on the battlefield 10 seconds into the future.

“ ‘Musashino’…-san.”

She could not stop pushing further and further forward, but she did have the explosions “extended” further through time instead of disappearing right away.

That allowed her to grasp the extent and direction of the explosions.

At first, she tried to have the transport ships escape the blasts. She had succeeded at that, so the transport ships had buffered against the shockwaves while being pushed onward by her fingertips.

However…

Huh?

When they passed through a few explosions at once, the transport ships would end up further forward than her pushing fingers.

She was not imagining this. The more enemy shells hit, the more the ships were pushed ahead by the surrounding explosions.

“Could I…use this?”

Suzu considered it, but it worried her that the idea she had seemed a lot like what the others would think up. But “Musashino” must have noticed her hesitation because the automaton spoke up.

“Suzu-sama, you seem to be thinking about the effect of the explosions, but Musashi’s official transport ships are designed to withstand the Musashi’s gravitational cruising. Since they have a buffering spell active, a direct hit would be a problem, but I believe they can endure most any other shockwave. Over.”

“Then,” said Suzu. “Can all of you…handle the calculations?”


The Hashiba forces had prepared firing control and tactical command posts at a few different interception points on the Edo plain.

At one of those, light warships had been landed to the side of the road as ground gun turrets.

That was one of the critical points on the Central Expressway that left the Great Kantou Ruins to the west.

That was where the highway rose from the ground to travel along an elevated roadway. And that area was known as…

“Choufu! We can intercept them from there.”

A land dock measuring more than a kilometer had been built using the ruins on the north end of Choufu. So…

“Is everything ready!?”

“Their front two ships have their defenses up!”

Everyone already knew that the enemy transport ships were defending against artillery by sloping their defense barriers. So they had to overcome that.

“The landport is located below the enemy transport ships on the elevated roadway. Prepare to fire on them from the side! The enemy is focused on defending from above and from the front! An attack from below on the side will break them!” The North Edo Tactical Command Officer barked orders while viewing a map showing the movement of the enemy ships. “We will fire on them from above to hold their defense barriers in place! After that…”

Fire.

“Use quantity to beat them down!!”


Yoshiyasu realized what the enemy had decided to do.

The map at her hands showed a landport to the north, which was left of their current course.

Musashino’s bridge had already detected what looked like a ship there.

On the map, the model imagery sent from Musashino’s bridge was gradually growing clearer. Before long, Yoshiyasu recognized what this was.

“A Hashiba light warship!”

She knew what the enemy was trying to do.

The ship in the northern landport would fire on the elevated roadway.

The Choufu Landport was at one of the residential bases west of Edo.

It was a crucial point between the bayside city center within the great ruins in the east and Okutama, Takao, and Oume (the regions that the Musashi’s rear ships took their names from) to the west.

Satomi had occasionally used that landport for trade, and…

“That landport is large enough for two light warships with enough space in between to fire!”

Two light warships.

That’s enough to destroy our transport ships!

The enemy appeared clearly on the map as if to confirm her fears.

She saw exactly what she had predicted and their cannons were already facing this way.

Meanwhile, the transport ships were moving at 270km/h. They would pass in front of the enemy ships in an instant, but they had no way of fighting back against the enemy artillery.

“And…is this something new!?”

The light warships positioned at the back of the fleet in the eastern sky had just fired their cannons.

The cannon blasts were visible directly overhead.

“Extreme high altitude ballistic shots!?”

The ether cannon volley rose into the sky like upside-down rain.

But they were not firing at the night sky. These extreme high altitude ballistic shots took a steep arch to fire on the surface. This method was normally used when the enemy was too close by or below you. But at the moment…

Are these ballistic shots from above meant as insurance!?

The enemy warships continued firing their main cannons to hold the Musashi transport ships’ defense barriers at the front.

Then the enemy ambush would fire on them from the side.

And even if they escaped the side attack, the enemy likely intended to finish them off with the ballistic shells from above.

Predictive hit locations for the falling ballistic shells were sent in from Musashino.

Mar-Ga: “What is this? Did you screw up with the fill tool and color everything red?”

Flat Vassal: “That’s just how highly concentrated the attack is!”

A concentrated volley of shells was arriving on the road and the surrounding area.

The attack from the sky covered a length of 5km and a width of about 1km.

Here it comes.

They had one attack from the left and an all-encompassing attack from above. The massive barrage from the sky also had homing applied. That gave the overall grouping of shells a V-like constriction.

There was only one thing for those on the transport ships to do:

“Leave everything in Musashino’s hands! Everyone, grab onto something, it doesn’t matter what!”

As soon as Yoshiyasu shouted that, the racing transport ships arrived at a corner of the elevated roadway. And just as the seven ships charged into Choufu…

“—————”

First, the attack from the northern landport broke the sound barrier as they flew in.


“Hit them!”

The two light warships in the landport were fixed in place with nothing more than their stands, so they tilted quite a bit when they fired their main cannons and secondary cannons.

The metal stands gouged into the hardened ground and the ships slid a few meters back.

But they had managed to fire. The roar of launching the shells blew away the ropes marking out the different zones in the landport and swept away all of the sand and dust. Even the surrounding grass was torn up as a total of 36 shots were fired when the secondary cannons were counted. They were all targeted at the side of the transport ships passing by in front of them.

The shells flew and their trajectories took them straight toward the enemy ships. That just left one thing.

“Hit them!!”

That shout was more of a prayer than anything and something happened soon thereafter.

The seven transport ships suddenly vanished.


“Huh?”

The crews of the light warships at the Choufu Landport were puzzled by the sudden disappearance of the enemy.

Why had their targets vanished like that?

None of them could find an answer, but they did hear a sound.

They heard the artillery fire from the warships in the eastern sky.

The noise of those hits and the resultant destruction had not disappeared.

That meant the transport ships were still there.

The shellfire from above continued.

In that case, the targets had to be visible from the sky but not from the ground.

“What happened!? Did they use a stealth barrier to hide from us!?”

“No,” someone else shouted “Those stealth barriers don’t work at high speeds.”

“In that case” said the enemy location team while zooming in on their optically amplified image.

The elevated roadway ahead of them was awash with the wind of ether cannon hits and the shards of ether light.

But they could make out some shaky silhouettes moving through the center of it all.

That was the transport ships, but the silhouettes were different from before. They were traveling west to east, so their sides had been turned toward the landport. But the lernen figurs showed something different now.

“That’s the front!!”

They all realized what the enemy had done.

“They performed a 270-degree drift to turn their bows toward our shells!!”


Chapter 27: Sensor of Corners[edit]

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Gwooooooosh

Squeeeeeal

Grooooooar

Point Allocation (Mental Sound Effects from Noriki Back on the Musashi)


We did it! thought Suzu while breathing a sigh of relief at the comparison between the predicted world ten seconds into the future and the reality ten seconds later.

What they had done was simple enough.

They had put the transport ships into a high-speed drift and controlled that drift.

They had used the artillery shots the enemy had fired on them from above.

The combination of a 5-second delay and the automatons’ calculations had managed to analyze the explosive blasts they produced. From there, they only had to turn the transport ships in the direction of the blasts instead of trying to fight it.

They turned the ships 270 degrees. They began a reverse drift around the corner with the bow turned toward the Choufu Landport. That meant the shots from Choufu came from ahead and below, so they only had to shift the defense barriers forward and down to catch them.

The problem was the different time lag for the turning of each ship.

They had to start their turn at different times, but the shells aimed at their sides would hit very nearly simultaneously.

They handled that by selecting the explosive blasts to use 10 seconds in advance and by altering the speed at which the drift’s understeer began.

The spacing between ships was a bit of a problem, but the slower turning ships poked lightly at the faster turning ships to speed up the turning process. That was a dangerous form of control, but she had given them a warning.

“Sorry.”

Flat Vassal: “Eh!? For what!? For moving to the next hook up on your chest fastener!?”

She poked at the ships.

Her senses showed the poked ships turning faster while everyone onboard either danced or rolled around.

Asama: “W-wait, Adele! Don’t say things that make Suzu-san want to try out dynamic new forms of tsukkomi!”

Wise Sister: “Heh heh heh. But it isn’t often you get to spin on a stage this big! Oh, dear. I’m just like the food on a Chinese restaurant’s table. How cute! I’m a century egg! C’mon, Mitotsudaira! Bring me an appetizer! Hurry! And not wolf brand roast pork or cubed pork! I want a chocolate cornet! You know, those lovely things with chocolate shoved right up the ass! Take a turn in the opposite direction and you have chocolate left up the ass!”

Silver Wolf: “What kind of Chinese restaurant is that!?”

Gold Mar: “The Blue Thunder, probably.”

An automaton on the far right side of the bridge muttered to herself.

“Those lunati-…oh, um, never mind. Over.”

Suzu followed everyone else’s lead in pretending not to hear it. Besides, that was the normal reaction.

But the battle was still in motion. They had survived the shellfire from the Choufu Landport, but…

“Suzu-sama! The extreme high altitude ballistic attack is coming! That includes multiple homing shells!”

“Okay,” said Suzu.

What happened next was crucial, so she slapped both her cheeks once before speaking.

“Everyone…let’s do this!”


Tenzou felt their transport ship end its drift by completing a full rotation.

The 300m transport ship spun around while moving rapidly down the highway.

And it used the surrounding explosive blasts to do so.

This is unbelievable!

He was generally aboard the Musashi when on the receiving end of artillery fire. The size of the ship provided more stability, the blasts were further away, and…

“This ship turns a whole lot faster! Make sure to keep your balance!”

When he raised his voice and warned the others, Kimi smiled at and high-fived the idiot.

“C’mon, foolish brother, let’s spin!”

It looked all the world like she tripped him.

The idiot spun around.

“My,” said Mary in surprise, but Kimi continued to spin her brother around while she too spun. She spread her arms and danced while continuing to catch the idiot with her legs to spin him through a variety of silly poses.

“Here we go!”

The ship began spinning even faster.

The next attack from the warships was arriving from above and up ahead.

But the transport ships were already spinning and could not catch this attack on the front. However…

“Excuse me, Mary-dono!”

“Eh?” said Mary while Tenzou snatched her up in his arms. He picked her up and used the momentum to make a jump.

He jumped straight up. It felt like Mary was sinking down in his arms, but he managed to hold onto her. Then the ether cannon light from the enemy warships arrived in front of them.

It happened just as the transport ship’s drift turned its side forward.

The enemy attack was targeted at the bow, so the drifting turn meant there was nothing in the spot the bow should have been in and the blast erupted just in front of the ship’s side.

They used that blast for something.

“To jump!?”


Naito saw the transport ship hop up exactly like Tenzou said it would.

Those of them with wings had already flown up a bit within the transport ship’s airspace, but now the air pushed up at their feet and backs.

The transport ship had hopped up.

Bell-rin and the automatons are controlling this from Musashino, right?

They had made a great choice there.

The transport ships were originally aerial ships, so there was nothing wrong with having them fly.

But they were not built to make a rapid ascent at high speed as a form of evasive action.

That was why Suzu had used the enemy’s explosions.

“She had the ship drift and then let the blasts ahead of us hit the ship’s side from the bottom.”

The defense barriers were open. Three of them were open on the side, but they were angled down instead of up.

That was meant to guide the coming blasts below the ship.

That lifted the transport ship from the side, starting from the front, and the ship used that pressure to hop upwards.

“Whoa!”

The floor suddenly hit the bottom of Naito’s feet.

She nearly tripped, but Naruze descended behind her, took her hand, and gave it a tug.

“Margot, the ship has a lot of momentum, so be careful!”

This was not an ascent. It was a jump made using an explosion.

And the rotation of the ship had not stopped. Tenzou stepped across the deck while holding Mary, Asama and Mitotsudaira braced themselves, and Kimi spun the Chancellor around while dancing, which was honestly kind of impressive.

But Kimi’s movements were precise.

As the ship rotated and ascended, she made swimming motions while keeping her hands constantly turned in the direction of the ship’s movement. It looked like she was spinning, but she was actually facing the same direction the entire time.

“Heh heh. The world revolves around meeee!!”

As soon as she yelled that, an explosion erupted directly below them.

It was a cannon blast from one of the enemy warships. Their transport ship had jumped straight over it. And not just that one.

All of those were aimed at the surface, so jumping over one means jumping over all of them!

The rest was simple.

The transport ship rode the series of explosions below it to leap ever higher as if climbing a set of stairs. And…

“Here we go!”

Suzu’s voice reached them via divine transmission.

At the same time, the glowing downpour of ballistic shells arrived overhead.

Their homing ability had them clustered in a V-shape and they looked almost within arm’s reach.

Wow!

A hit from these would be no joke, thought Naito as the floor moved below her feet.

Just as Suzu had said, the transport ship began maneuvering through the air for the first time.

It forcibly stopped its own spinning dance.

It landed back on the rising explosive blasts and lifted up its bow.

“Are we making a backflip while continuing forward!?”


Suzu sent the forward-flying transport ship through a flip.

It was a vertical backflip. It made a full 360 degrees while continuing forward.

The forced flip made use of the explosions below, but there was a purpose behind it.

“The homing shells!”

She had learned how this worked during the mock battle against Oriotri while running across the Musashi.

Homing spells were generally divided into two types.

The first recorded an object’s ether reading and followed that.

The second recorded the object’s shape and movements and followed those.

There was a crazy amount of ether flying around on this battlefield, so these shells would never use ether readings. That meant they used kinetic tracking based on shape and movement.

In that case, thought Suzu. Breaking free of their kinetic tracking is as easy as changing the object’s shape.

There was a way of doing that: spin the transport ship toward the shellfire raining down from the heavens.

That meant turning the bow toward the falling shells. That would change the ship’s rod-like shape into a dot.

Then the kinetic tracking would lose sight of the transport ship.

So that was what she did. She spun the transport ships in midair and pointed the bows toward the enemy shells coming from above.

Miss them!

Despite her wish, the enemy shells continue to fall and cluster together.

Would they hit or not?

Would the homing ability fail or not?

The answer had yet to be revealed, so she did not know. She could see 10 seconds into the future, but she still did not know if the spell’s effects would work or not.

But she did not just watch. She refused to simply do nothing. Sitting still was not an option. She had learned that during everything that happened from Mikawa to the Battle of Mikatagahara.

So she provided an instruction.

After making a full rotation, the transport ships were starting to point their bows skyward once more.

She gave one additional instruction to help them survive.

“All ships, ascend!”


Oh?

Kimi saw the color white as she danced and moved her body.

It was mist.

Mist spread out horizontally as if taking a cross section of the ship at the bow.

A virtual sea was forming at the front of the ship to pull up the bow.

Some ether side effects had been appearing around them for a while, but that would be Suzu’s work. She was not just trying to send the transport ship through another rotation.

“Time for a vertical ascent!”

Transport ships were not built for rapid maneuvering.

But the second time the ship rotated to face the heavens, the virtual sea pulled it skyward. Also, the shellfire launched at them exploded at the ground below.

“Oooooonce morrrrrrrre!!”

After standing up vertically, the transport ship was pushed up by the explosive blasts and made a second leap upwards.

This one movement was directed straight up, but due to their previous speed, they actually moved diagonally up.

The ship bounced.

And the momentum sent it soaring right through the gaps in the bombarding downpour of shells.

Suzu has guts.

“We’re passing above the barrage before they can cluster together!”

By reducing the ship’s hittable surface area and allowing the homing spells to adjust, the one quick leap took them right through. Kimi knew this evasion method quite well. Because…

“That was the same as Mitotsudaira’s Flat Chest Evasion!”

“You don’t have to shout!”

After the wolf protested what Kimi had yelled while striking a Y-pose, the idiot sister noticed a change in the view.

She saw the glowing wasteland below and the black heavens above.

After passing through the barrage, the transport ship had arrived in the sky.

The barrage had lost sight of their target, so they collided with each other, triggering an explosive chain reaction. That shook the air and launched a cascade of light into the sky.

The series of roars pushed on the transport ship and Kimi viewed their opponent while the ship soared with the wind.

When looking out ahead of the transport ship, she could see the enemy down below.

While viewing those warships and light warships, she grabbed her brother’s arm and stood him up.

“Heh heh. Fine, then. Let’s show all these warships and light warships what we can do!”

The transport ship’s movement changed as she said that.

It had been standing up vertically, but now it tilted forward and even angled downward as it faced toward the warships. It was moving fast and showed no sign of slowing, like it was traveling downstream.

“Yeah! Let’s get this show started!”


The transport ships rapidly ascended and then charged toward their enemy.

The Hashiba ships quickly responded to those actions.

The warships re-aimed their downward-pointing main cannons upwards.

The light warships in the back had already been aiming up, but now they aimed even further up.

They were targeting the transport ships soaring toward them.

“Do not allow those transport ships to score a direct hit!”

They were still about 12km away.

All of the warships hurriedly backed away to give them room to fire and to prevent the enemy’s charge.

They were not withdrawing. The Hashiba ships backed away calmly to strategically readjust their distance. The tactical commander gave new instructions as the transport ships arrived in the distance.

“Aim their way!” shouted the tactical commander. “Add new data to the kinetic tracking while you re-aim! Fire as much as possible before they enter the great ruins! Light warships in the rear, send them another attack from above!”

“Testament!” they all replied while aiming at the descending transport ships.

The enemy ships were getting closer and their shape had been recorded by the kinetic tracking spells.

“We’ve included multiple patterns this time! We can continue tracking them no matter which direction they turn or what shape they have!”

“Really!? So it’ll work even if they’re shaped like this or like this!?”

“I’m not up to much in the way of acrobatics, but if it’s possible for the human body, then yes!”

The firing control officer ignored the voices asking “Wait, what?” and shouted instead.

“Readyyyy! Fire!”

Their ship shook.

They had launched a volley of artillery fire toward the enemy transport ships.


The Musashi transport ships took a defensive formation while gliding.

The seven ships moved close together.

“This will overlap their defense barrier ranges. Over!” explained “Musashino”.

The defense barriers were packed in together while the ships lowered their bows.

That increased their defenses.

The enemy shells arrived with a time lag of about seven seconds.

Light shattered into sound. The sound of breaking glass continued over and over, but new barriers opened each time.

Explosions pounded on the ships from above and buffering spell sign frames opened.

But Kimi moved atop one of the ships. She swung her arms around as she danced alone.

“I see. I see. I see.”

She spun around, took smooth sliding steps, and moved forward along the deck.

The sound of crashes and collisions repeated ad nauseam, but Kimi only let her hair blow in the wind.

“La…”

She passed through the wind while humming.

Her hair danced in the night breeze, but the pressure of the wind did not reach her. And as she danced near the bow…

“Suzu! Over here!”


Suzu heard Kimi’s voice. And she read the instructions in the girl’s movements.

Incredible…

Suzu could sense Kimi’s dance from here.

And she quickly realized that these movements were more than a mere dance.

Those movements were predicting the shellfire.

It was similar but not quite the same as how Suzu and the automatons were checking the shell trajectories to predict where they would land.

Kimi was giving evasion instructions before the shells were even fired.

“What is this? Over.”

“Musashino” seemed to have noticed as well.

Something happened now that Kimi was directing the transport ships with her movements.

The enemy shells and their explosions stopped hitting the ships.

The barriers were shattering and countless explosions were occurring, but not one of those was breaking for defensive purposes.

The barriers could not keep up with the ships’ evasive actions and some had the misfortune of being hit by the enemy shells.

The ships themselves did not have much speed. They had risen high and were now gliding down toward the Great Kantou Ruins.

That was why they had tried to forcibly use the explosions to accelerate, but…

“Kimi-chan!” said Suzu. “Are you using the barriers!?”


Mitotsudaira saw Kimi spread her wings within the wind.

They were fans.

She opened a feather fan made of ether in each hand. Each one had seven movable feathers and they represented the barriers on either side of the seven ships.

Kimi was already using her spell…no, her “technique” to tell Suzu what evasive actions to use.

The result was clear.

The ships aren’t being hit by anything at all.

There was noise and the air was shaking. There was also a wind that seemed to forcibly wash over everything. But no shells scored direct hits on the defense barriers. Because Kimi was predicting the enemy attacks.

“Is this that thing?” asked Adele. “Y’know, that thing Kimi-san used when fighting the Vice Chancellor at Mikawa.”

“This is not the Summit Dance.”

The Summit Dance was a spell, but what Kimi was using now was not.

These were her combat instincts that formed the foundation of the Summit Dance.

It was a form of harmony.

It was used to predict an audience’s intensity and respond appropriately when on the stage.

“The audience is always sending some kind of action your way. They are a part of the performance in that sense. Kimi is predicting how the audience will respond to her actions.”

When using a theatre ship or a special stage in a nature park, a performer could be dealing with an audience in the thousands or even tens of thousands.

“By being aware of the massive audience and focusing on their responses, Kimi can control the stage. If she simply responded in kind, the audience’s excitement would send her out of control, but she instead controls the audience’s excitement and transforms it into a single giant audience participation event. So…”

So this was the same.

It probably helped that the enemy was mostly fixed in place and had the same gunners continually firing on them. For Kimi, that created a battlefield with a minimal number of unknowns. From there, she only had to read and predict the enemy’s reactions.

When compared to the vast audience at a theatre stage where a lot of adlibbing would be required, the number of gunners here was like the cheers of a small scale concert audience.

So she only had to focus on their actions. And…

It’s just like Kimi to only get started after we “stepped up onto the stage” with that ascent.

The first things she had worked out were the trajectory and timing of the shellfire.

Each cannon took some time to reload and could only turn so far when aiming. She read all of that and incorporated it into her actions.

Then she had the transport ships evade while guiding the pursuing “audience”. All while they moved ever forward. She predicted the enemy’s actions two steps in advance and set things up to lure them in, break free from them, and advance.

Kimi was probably guiding the enemy in the still unseen future.

The enemy would have no idea what was happening. That consternation could be seen in the shells that resumed falling from directly above and the beams of light approaching from straight ahead.

“Yeah!”

But none those attacks could touch the dancer. They only lit her up as she danced and sent sweat flying. And…

Ah.

The ships were beginning some occasional acceleration.

The light was scattering everywhere.

Kimi danced with control sign frames on top of her feather fans and she used those to direct the defense barriers.


“Ehhh?”

Kani heard Asano’s confused voice.

They were on the east side of Edo Bay. They had started a bit further north, but now they were hurrying eastward along the coast on instructions from Konishi, who was in charge of the Bousou Peninsula.

Asano was viewing a lernen figur in a cart pulled by running mechanical horses.

“Did something happen, Asa-chan!?”

“Yeahhh, just look at this.”

Asano tossed over the lernen figur and Kani caught it two steps up onto the canopy.

After sitting next to Asano to view it, she saw footage of the counterattack against the Musashi transport ship taking place in the western sky.

Asano held up a portable snack, a Delectable-Bou – Fruit Flavor.

“Want one?”

“Testament! Thank you!”

Kani took it while looking at the screen. Something had been visible in the center for a while now.

A bird!?

A phoenix was flying through the night sky while scattering light.

No, it was too big to be a bird. Given the scale of the footage, it would have a wingspan of nearly a kilometer. Also, it looked like it was made of several things stacked on top of each other.

Wait, is that what I think it is!?

“Is that the Musashi transport ships and their defense barriers!?”

“Yup, it iiis. We can see it from herrre, but see that exploding light? It’s pretty coooool, but this is what it looks like when you zoom iiin. They’re opening their defense barriers like wiiings to accelerate from the explosions,” explained Asano. “And the thing iiis, they’re coming this way.”


Yoshiyasu saw a change come over the stage.

The transport ships they were riding began to ride atop all the noise in order to slowly move forward.

They were pushed on by the reverberation of explosions, destruction, and…

Song and music!

The flapping defense barriers kept audibly shattering and the dancer controlled those noises like a drumbeat.

“La, la la…la la la, la.”

The movements of her fingers controlled the scattering of the light. The glowing fans in her hands also shattered, but…

“Ha ha.”

She laughed while bathing in that light and spinning it around her like she was wearing it.

And the ships used the explosions to move forward. Giant wings flapped in the sky. The wind always came from the front. Light was everywhere, but the waves of it were all headed toward one point in particular.

They’re targeting that dancer!

Ether cannon beams flew in to the front of the transport ships.

There was no longer any time lag from the sound of them being fired.

But the dancer used even those approaching sounds as a drum section. And…

“————”

She raised her voice.


“It is such a simple, simple thing.”

Kimi sang. She flapped her wings and stroked her own cheeks.

“I rest my head upon your lap.”

She seemed to move her head toward the approaching beams, but she avoided them.

“Will the signal of my gaze reach you or not?”

The wings met the wind and shattered. An explosion pushed on their back.

“Just tell me this isn’t necessary.”

They moved forward. Suzu kept careful control of the seven ships and Kimi spread her wings once more.

“That simple statement would change everything.”

She looked straight up where a downpour of ballistic shells was approaching. She placed them all in her field of vision.

“When I look up, the signals of our gazes intertwine.”

She raised her arms as if to embrace herself and she stepped forward.

“I will not pretend to sleep.”

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She kept her arms raised and spun around.

“Because I know what will happen.”

Immediately, she cast the two wings out into the sky and clapped her hands once.

“I can tell you’ll say something while I sleep.”

She slowly raised her palms toward the sky.


The Hashiba fleet saw wings of light thrown up into the heavens.

The abandoned defense barriers rose like scattering feathers. They hit the downpour of falling ballistic shells and created a spray over a wide area.

The night sky was adorned by an explosion of light that looked a lot like a rupturing waterfall.

But the gasps were not in response to their artillery fire failing to hit.

Just before that glowing mist covered the enemy like an umbrella, they had seen something on one of the enemy transport ships. It was at the bow of the lead ship.

“Was that a firing spell!?”

“Oh, no!” someone yelled. “Close up the main cannon! It’s Musashi’s Eraser Shaman!!”


The warning was too late.

Light flew into the main cannon of the warship just a bit right of center.

An arrow measuring more than a meter had accurately followed the path of a cannon blast back to its source. But instead of showing off its power, it slipped smoothly into the muzzle.

“Abandon ship!!”

A voice reverberated through the ship and alarms blared just before the warship’s main cannon exploded from an ether overload.


“Hit,” muttered Asama while watching a silhouette slanting in the sky far to the east.

That Hashiba warship was spewing yellow glowing smoke after a hit from her arrow.

The ship was not actually sinking. The explosion of the main cannon had triggered a secondary explosion from its internal fuel, but it would survive. The crew was starting to evacuate to nearby ships and the surface, so she had successfully neutralized it.

I meant that as a warning, but it seems to have worked well enough.

A shrine maiden shooting down an enemy ship was a ridiculous thought, so she wanted them to let it descend naturally.

However, they had only avoided the enemy cannon fire thanks to Kimi’s evasive maneuvers.

Silver Wolf: ‘Is that the same thing you did against the Tres Españan light warship back at Mikawa?”

Asama: “No. That time, I used a targeting spell to aim at the front of the enemy’s attack. But this time, I used reverse homing after the enemy’s ether cannon blast had already passed us by.”

Kimi turned toward her while spinning around out front. Then she bent back to look Asama in the eye.

“Heh heh. Well, Asama!? Feeling better now that you’ve sunk a ship!?”

You aren’t helping…

Asama decided to argue her case.

“I didn’t sink it, you now? All I did was take out the enemy’s main cannon as a warning. To be clear, I was never targeting a person.”

Asama closed up her binder skirt while she spoke. She lowered the tail ballast in ballast mode and cancelled the fixed position spell. Then she gestured into the eastern sky with a smile.

“See? All I did was neutralize the enemy ship.”

At that very moment, an explosion erupted in the sky there.


“Eh?”

Asama looked back to see the warship’s deck blown off from an internal explosion. Ether light erupted upwards and the ship finally split in two as it fell.

Everyone watched in awe.

“Incredible, Asama Shrine Representative.”

“That takes a lot of skill, Asama-chi.”

“Big explosion, Asama-sama.”

She did appreciate how excited Tonbo Spare seemed with that last comment.

“Umm,” she began. “N-now, it is true that their ship sank, but that was due to the secondary explosions and such, so it wasn’t my fault. I only destroyed the main cannon and then they, uh, exploded all on their own?”

“Why don’t you sound convinced yourself?” asked Mitotsudaira.

“Heh heh heh. In other words, you don’t need to bother yourself with the destruction because your very presence brings down enemy ships, right!?”

“Why do you have to spin it like that, Kimi!?”

Asama raised her eyebrows while gesturing as if pushing Kimi forward with her palm.

“C’mon, Kimi. Aren’t you guiding the ships? Please continue your dance.”

In truth, she was interested in Kimi’s song. It had sounded all adlibbed, but she must have had a rough draft of the song in the works already.

I’m a little curious where those lyrics were headed!

Kimi’s songs were generally based on her personal life. If she was resting her head upon “your lap”, that “you” had to be him. Which meant…

She “knows what will happen” and that “you’ll say something”. What does it mean?

Asama knew she was only so curious because she had moved in with them. She could not make any excuses to herself about this desire to know more, but she did come up with an excuse for everyone else.

“Y-you have to continue the song, right? So keep going to protect our ships!”

Just as she hurried Kimi along, Toori looked back while using a sign frame to fine tune his sister’s audio spell.

“Huh? Sis, is there more to that song?”

“Eh? What do you mean, Toori-kun?”

Since Mitotsudaira turned around in sync with Asama, she must have been curious too.

He responded by nodding and sticking his little finger in his right ear.

“Sis came up with that song while having me clean her ears. That’s a monthly thing and she’s so ticklish she ends up wriggling around like a cat, but that time, she sat up and shouted ‘eureka!’, so I nearly stabbed her in the ear.”

“Kimi, what do you make my king do!?”

“Heh heh. The opening came to me while he was doing my right ear and I thought I could come up with the rest when he did my left ear, but it wasn’t quite enough.”

“I see,” said Asama as she looked to the others.

The look in their eyes said “you ask her”, so she decided to do so.

“Um, Kimi? Does that mean the song is over?”

“Judge, it does. Is that a problem?”

“Then what about the evasive maneuvers for the ships?”

Still smiling, Kimi grabbed the air to her left between her hands and then threw it to the right.

“All – done.”

“Waaaaaaahhh!!”

Everyone made a mad dash for the rear of the ship.

“Enemy attacks incoming!”


“Damn!” someone cursed on the Hashiba divine network. “I didn’t expect Musashi’s Genocide Archer to sink one of our ships by blowing up the cannon with a reverse homing spell!”

“I-I’ve heard of her! If you defy Musashi’s shrine, their divine punishments shove stuff up your ass!”

“Eh!? Ah, waaahh! I-I wasn’t firing on you! I wasn’t doing any defying!!”

“Silence, all of you!” shouted the strategic commander in the command center full of lernen figurs. “All that about having things shoved up your ass is just superstition!”

“But commander! There were rumors of a thread on Musashi’s divine network called The Fate of a Loser’s Butt: Udon!”

“Rumors are just rumors! That couldn’t possibly be…no, I refuse to believe it…”

“Y-you just considered it for a second, didn’t you!? And I didn’t miss how far your tone dropped at the end there!”

“Just get back to firing!” shouted the commander while punching a lernen figur. “The enemy is right there! So fire!”

However, he could not continue speaking for long.

The lernen figur displaying the enemy transport ships showed them taking an unexpected action.

“Huh?”

The sensor officer saw it first, but everyone else was not far behind.

The transport ships had maintained their momentum with their bows aimed this way, but…

“They’re rapidly descending from their glide!!”

“Was their ascent just a feint meant to put us on our guard!?”

No one could answer that question as the transport ships descended, leaving the bright explosions and raining light behind. They were following a straight line down.


Mar-Ga: “We were really just running away in a panic, but I bet the enemy will read too much into it.”

Uqui: “Yes, like Neshinbara always does.”

Novice: “Ha ha ha. Don’t be ridiculous. I never read too much into anything.”

Gold Mar: “Is he going to his grave without ever doubting all that nonsense he says?”

Four Eyes: “Hm, that was quite the indirect way of confessing.”

Laborer: “I’m not sure that-…eh sure, why not?”

Novice: “Noriki-kun! I feel like you’ve really lowered the bar recently! And it might be nice getting to sit at home while on standby, but wipe that weirdly refreshing smile from your face! Please!”


“The enemy ships are accelerating! They’re headed for the Great Kantou Ruins!”

“Damn,” groaned a voice in Hashiba’s North Edo Command Center.

The Great Kantou Ruins were a forest of tall structures. Once the enemy flew into there, they would be difficult to see from above. And…

“This is a message to Hashiba’s North Edo Commander!”

A staticky voice arrived via divine transmission.

“This is the Musashi Vice President with a warning for Hashiba!”


Masazumi saw a forest of giant shapes ahead of their descent.

That was the Great Kantou Ruins.

This was her first time seeing them.

A vast city of steel beams and other long-lasting materials covered her field of vision from one side to the other.

These giant buildings had been built long ago during the Age of the Gods.

She opened her mouth before that grand sight.

“We are entering the Great Kantou Ruins which will eventually belong to Matsudaira as a part of Edo!”

However…

“Due to the value and contents of the materials found here, preservation of the ruins is guaranteed by a pact formed between every nation! After all, you can supposedly find plenty of legend-class porn games and manga here! So any hostile action that will harm the great ruins is banned by the Testament Union!”

She swung her right hand.

“So you are not allowed to fire on the ruins from the outside, Hashiba! Keep that in mind as you continue this battle!”

With that said, Masazumi closed the sign frame, clapped her hands, and relaxed her shoulders.

“Now, that should buy us some time.”

“Seijun? Is that true? About the legend-class stuff I mean.”

“You’re focused on that!? Anyway, pretty much everything I said is true.”

The Date Vice Chancellor nodded at that.

“Judge. ‘Pretty much’ is a good way of putting it. They are allowed to attack if they have confirmed someone is inside the ruins and they take measures to not destroy the ruins in the process. Meanwhile, we can’t fire on them from inside the ruins because that would count as using the ruins as a shield. We need to think of a way to fight back while inside the ruins.”

“Most likely, the enemy will gather near the exit to lie in wait,” said Tenzou.

“Judge,” replied Masazumi. “Stay alert and prepare to fight back.”

She focused her ears while the wind washed over her.

Has the bombardment from above stopped?

The rows of tall structures functioned as a ceiling for the ruins and they had already matched their altitude to that. The ruins would shield them from any cannon fire now.

“This is the opening phase of our journey though the ruins.”

So…

“Now we see how long the enemy’s carelessness will last.”

Just as Masazumi said that, the color red appeared in the night sky.

The enemy warships were now overhead and one ship to the left of center had erupted in flames.


No one inside Hashiba’s North Edo Command Center understood what had happened.

The enemy had descended already, yet the attack that sunk their ship had come from somewhere else.

“It was a horizontal shot!?”

How? they wondered. Had an enemy homing shot circled around to attack them?

There had been no sign of any new enemies, and yet…

“It’s a transport ship!”

A voice reached them from the west.

It came from Ikeda’s unit repairing and inspecting the Shirasagi Castle. Ikeda Terumasa contacted them to explain. But what he said should not have been possible.

“A transport ship fired on you after staying up in the air!”


Chapter 28: Wielders at an Observation Point[edit]

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Would you like a warship?

A light warship?

Or perhaps a transport ship?

Point Allocation (All of the Above)


Terumasa was tall to begin with, but he still stood on his toes to look to the east.

The observation lernen figur in front of him had a magnification spell active, but the spell was meant for M.H.R.R. Catholic warriors. The magnification maxed out at 10x and it only provided an average level of night vision image processing.

Wow, I really screwed up in the preparation phase here!

He would not be participating in the fighting this time, so he had assumed an average observation spell would be enough to view the battlefield.

But he was a name inheritor.

He was the only member of the Ikeda Unit that could actively wield historical authority in an emergency.

The current situation qualified as a historical emergency, but he could not gather enough data to support his allies.

But he had to do his duty.

The image before his eyes showed a black silhouette in the eastern sky. That was…

“A transport ship! A Far Eastern model! It is one of the seven that ascended earlier! It is at a distance of…”

He could not measure his distance from the target. The result was uncertain. The remnants of the ether light cascade caused by the descending transport ships were negatively affecting his spell’s optical amplification.

But his allies would want data right now.

What do I do!?

Just as he wondered that, another lernen figur appeared over the one he was already holding up.

It was a range finding spell. More than that, it provided much greater precision and much more data than the one he had.

What?

What just happened? he wondered. Who sent this? he also wondered. But he soon saw the answer at his feet.

The Shirasagi Castle’s piloting program was there. Shogyobu had become a ghost Mouse and several lernen figurs were opened around her. She looked up at him and…

“I’ll help help help help help help.”

“Testament,” said Ikeda in slight surprise before looking her in the eye. “Thanks a lot lot lot lot lot lot.”

As soon as he said that, Shogyobu grew taller.

She was now as tall as he was and the blue eyes in her slender face turned his way. Her body was made of ether light and her long hair swayed as she grabbed his jaw with her right hand.

And she spoke with a complete lack of expression.

“Don’t make fun fun fun fun fun fun of me and fix it it it it it it.”

“Is your language program spell on the fritz?”

She shrank back down instead of answering. When he saw her sigh and sit down on his shoe, he sighed too. He turned back toward the lernen figur in front of him, placed the range finding spell from Shogyobu over it, and checked on the enemy. He sent the data to his allies while repeating the answer.

“The enemy transport ship attacking you now is one of the ones that ascended earlier!”

It was barely even a trick. Seven ships had gone up and only six had gone back down.

The one that had stayed up was attacking the warships above Edo.

But why had no one noticed it until now?

Ikeda could tell what the enemy had done thanks to his viewpoint from the west.

“The enemy hid one of the transport ships in the middle.”

It had probably been done while the seven ships were being piloted as if by flapping wings. They had made it look like they were moving the ships to defend against the artillery, but they had actually hidden one ship in the center.

They had lowered the speed of the hidden ship so the other six moved away from it. Then the other six would have moved to keep the seventh ship in a blind spot at all times. So…

“The one attacking you now is the one they kept in a blind spot! Its speed is…”

Ikeda was interrupted by an explosion blossoming in the eastern sky. A second warship had started to sink from an artillery blast and it completely fell apart when further explosions erupted within it.


“I would like to say that is one ship down, but the next turn is beginning. I have past experience firing on a moving ship thanks to our battle against the Shirasagi Castle, but this is much easier as it is much closer range.”

Gin’s voice danced in the blowing wind on the deck of the small accelerating transport ship.

She had one of her large Cuatro Cruz cannons above her right shoulder and the hemispherical targeting diagram of Branch and Leaf Connection was raised over her head.

She cleared her vision and looked down on the explosive flames they were passing above. However…

“Master Muneshige, allow me to show you something amusing to stave off boredom.”

She smiled toward Muneshige who stood by her side.

Their transport ship was picking up speed and flying eastward.

The enemy warships had been reduced to four and they could not turn to face the transport ship quickly enough. They could only use the secondary cannons on the rear of the ships to fire shells that could not keep up.

Also, those on the transport ship had to make their next move.

The other transport ships were descending into the Great Kantou Ruins below.

“I believe we will regroup with those headed to Satomi. But…”

They had their own task to complete.

“For now…”

The transport ship smoothly accelerated while Gin readied Cuatro Cruz and…

“Arcabuz Cruz.”

The two smaller cannons were ejected from the empty air.

And she aimed those weapons at the enemy.

But that enemy was not the warships turning and attempting to give pursuit behind them.

She directed those cannons toward the light warships ahead of them in the east.

When she opened her mouth next, she uttered a pre-battle greeting.

“I am Tachibana Gin. Prepare yourselves.”

With that, she fired on the enemy.


Suzu sensed the light warship fleet’s delayed reaction to Gin’s attack.

Since the warships had been in front of them and they had been launching an extreme high altitude ballistic attack, most of their main cannons were still aimed upwards.

Then Gin and Muneshige’s transport ship had charged in.

Suzu was in charge of piloting the ship. The other transport ships entering the ruins below were left to “Musashino” while Suzu sent that one ship along the course Neshinbara provided her.

Meanwhile, all of the enemy light warships re-aimed their secondary cannons. However…

“Can they…fire?”

She was not sure and the light warships seemed just as hesitant. Because…

“Suzu-sama, I have placed a heat source at the intersection point for the enemy lines of fire on the model. Over.”

“Musashino” had activated a heat source spell in the model sky. That was of course not meant to heat up this space. It indicated the intersection point of certain paths in the actual sky.

Suzu pushed the Tachibana Couple’s transport ship there.

A moment later, something happened.

All of the enemy’s firing and cannon movement came to a sudden stop.

It worked!

“Well done, Suzu-sama. The enemy ships’ fleet management program activated the safety lock to avoid firing on each other. Over!”

Neshinbara had said that was a standard safety feature for combat ships.

So they had taken advantage of it.

That was what “Musashino” had been indicating with the heat source.

Suzu could sense the heated air space by touching it.

That is the intersection point…where cannon fire from the light warships would hit the warships.

When targeting Gin and Muneshige’s transport ship, any shells that passed through that heat source’s coordinates would end up firing on the warships on the other side.

The opposite was also true.

Also, the intersection point found by the automatons was calculated using the greatest common divisor. At that point, almost all of the warships and light warships would be targeting each other when they aimed for those coordinates.

The safety lock would activate if they aimed at the transport ship passing through there.

That was indeed what happened. Of course, the transport ship was only there for an instant and most of the safeties were soon released, but…

Bell: “Gin-san…please!”


“Well, I cannot ignore a request from the acting captain.”

Gin aimed the two Arcabuz Cruzes with her right prosthetic arm and the Cuatro Cruz with her left shoulder.

“Master Muneshige, watch my castle assault mode.”

With that, she lowered both her prosthetic arms.

The Cuatro Cruz on the left made a half rotation to aim the front muzzle backwards.

“Fire.”

She did so.


The central one of Hashiba’s light warships saw an enemy attack arriving head on.

It was a cannon shot, but at the same time, it was not.

The sensor team had this to say based on what they saw flying toward them:

“A flying object is rapidly approaching! It is not a shell. It is…”

They saw it.

“It is a giant cross!!”

After that confirmation, something crashed into the light warship’s bridge.

The cross accelerated its flight by firing over and over. This was how Cuatro Cruz functioned as a battering ram.


Cuatro Cruz repeatedly fired to fulfill its castle assault function.

The light warship bridge was an angular tower of about 30 square meters. After piercing into the center of that and destroying the structure, Cuatro Cruz automatically checked its own damage.

The armor at the point of collision was undamaged. The side armor had some light scrapes, but not enough to affect the weapon’s functionality.

Cuatro Cruz instantly determined whether or not it would have any trouble and automatically decided to continue its castle assault action.

First, an internal barrier closed up the muzzle and the firing device slid down from the barrel. The firing device rotated 180 degrees and then the back end of the cannon opened up. A large caliber muzzle opened at the rear of the cannon.

Then the reversed firing device activated.

“Fire.”

Cuatro Cruz obeyed its owner’s remote command.

The attack was less about firing a shell and more about releasing a shockwave from the large caliber opening.

Shockwaves pounded into the enemy bridge again and again.

All of the shells supplied by the left and right magazines were fired.


In the night sky, a mass of metal expanded like a balloon.

The light warship gained immense internal pressure from the shockwaves sent into it from the bridge.

The frames and armor were meant to withstand external attacks, so they were all designed to resist things coming from the outside. None of the bolts, welds, or joints was made to be inward facing.

All of the frames and armor were stripped away, starting from the bridge. That metal was torn apart and everything on the outside was pushed out and blown away.

“Abandon ship!”

The crew hit by the wind and pressure relied on their descent spells while jumping off the ship or were knocked off the ship against their will. Not long afterwards, the light warship expanded out starting with the weaker portions and then split from within.

“Evacuate!”

It burst with a great din and shockwave instead of an outright explosion.

The falling warriors looked up to see something illuminated by the brilliant flames and ether light of the previously sunk warships.

“A cross…”

However, they were not given a chance to pray to or gaze upon that large cross.

A ship flew in from the west and quickly snatched it away.


“Was that to your liking?”

Gin used her prosthetic arm’s gravitational control to snatch up and swing Cuatro Cruz back into place. Then she bowed toward Muneshige.

The light warships were firing on them within the wind. To avoid damage from hitting each other, these were effectively warning shots from the secondary cannons.

Of course, those secondary cannons could not reach them. The transport ship was protected by the defense barriers controlled by Suzu and “Musashino”. It shook from the endless impacts, but…

“That was splendid, Gin.”

She appreciated the way Muneshige nodded without a smile.

He is always so serious on the battlefield.

She was having a wonderful time. She could feel the tension of battle, she had plenty of enemies, Muneshige was with her, and…

None of those weirdos are with us.

Who would have thought a night sky full of incoming shells would feel so relaxing?

But she hated how she kept glancing over at her sign frame to try and see if Class Plum was up to something. I feel like the manager of a monkey house, she thought, but it did mean a lot that she had so many people to share her everyday life with.

And he spoke while the defense barriers shattered into light.

“I had not seen that castle assault mode in a while. Are you not going to use Arcabuz Cruz?”

“The battering ram is meant for use against an unmoving opponent or a large army in a defensive formation. Arcabuz Cruz is not quite heavy enough for use against a light warship, so I would prefer to keep them nearby to use as a shield and to fire warning shots.”

Muneshige smiled a little at that.

“Preparing enough spare parts must have been difficult with all the fighting you have been doing lately.”

“Why must you harm your wife’s reputation like that, Master Muneshige?” asked Gin. “I resent being talked about like I am a violent woman.”

Almost Everyone: “Eh?”

She gasped and turned around in time to see the lingering light of a vanished sign frame.

Wh-when did that appear!?


Flat Vassal: “That was close! She just about noticed us!”

347: “Damaged weapons are a pain for the engine division’s maintenance team, so we really like to know what’s happening in real time. Oh, but with Arcabuz Cruz and Cuatro Cruz, we’re starting to create a bunch of spare parts in advance instead of simply repairing their current parts.”

Silver Wolf: “Judge. They were not originally designed with battling Celestial Dragons in mind, so they break pretty badly when they break, don’t they?”

Mar-Ga: “In that case, why doesn’t our Wolf Hammer ever break?”

Gold Mar: “Doesn’t it mean Adele’s dad’s doting parent power was greater than a Celestial Dragon’s destructive power?”

Flat Vassal: “Wait, wait. When was I placed on the altar as an offering to you ravenous beasts?”


Gin felt certain Class Plum was up to their usual antics down below, but she spun Cuatro Cruz around once.

“Master Muneshige, even if we will regroup with them later, we must do our duty here first.”

“I just wish there was something for me to do.”

“No, this is a wife’s job. You are the master of the Tachibana castle, so you focus on defense.”

“Judge,” he agreed. “Then I will protect you when we descend.”

“That would make me feel like I am getting in your way… And am I a castle?”

“You are a necessary part of what I consider to be ‘home’.”

It was scary how smoothly he could pull out lines like that.

A few years ago, those lines would have filled her with fear, disgust, and contempt, but she had changed a lot since then.

“Honestly,” she muttered while aware she was blushing in her heart. “You never know where life will lead you. This was meant to be used against castles and large armies. I was thinking it would be used in the defense of the Tachibana castle when the Nabeshima forces attacked.”

“It is good that you are finding more opportunities to use it. Just like you did in the New World.”

“But that makes me sound violent again.”

She wanted to make one thing clear.

“I used to consider protecting the Tachibana clan to be my one and only duty.”

“But that has changed, hasn’t it?”

“And that is your fault, Master Muneshige.” She sighed. “I intended to protect our home while you fought outside, but the next thing I knew, I was out on the front line and you were taking care of the home. …That is somewhat similar to the Testament in places, but that is not the point here.”

“Gin, it is normal for both the husband and wife to work these days.”

“Doesn’t that mean the Tachibana clan has become no more than an ordinary household?”

Yes, she thought while mentally hanging her head. I have no on to blame but myself since I have started meeting up with friends after my afterschool job and then visiting the bathhouse and training with them.

A shell arrived nearby and shattered a defense barrier.

Gin sighed while the light washed over her.

“Master Muneshige, I feel like I am gradually being swept away…”

“Change is never easy. …But I think this has taught you a valuable lesson in how to adapt to your environment.”

“So I have gained a skill I would rather not have…”

“Now, now.” Muneshige smiled. “This is the perfect time and place to get away from all that. …Look, Gin.”

He pointed into the northern sky.

“Isn’t that ship there perfect?”

“…Master Muneshige, do you think I am the kind of woman who relaxes by shooting down ships?”

“No, but I would enjoy it.”

“You would?”

“If you are the one who shoots it down.”

“You can be so childish sometimes. Besides,” she said while pointing at the same enemy ship with her prosthetic arm. “A ship like that might seem easy to hit, but it would actually be quite difficult. Cuatro Cruz is not programed for autonomous flight, so I need to have a plan for retrieving it afterwards.”

“Then what about that ship? It is aiming its main cannon our way and it appears to be in the perfect spot.”

When she looked over, she could tell what he meant, so she raised Cuatro Cruz.

“If you insist, Master Muneshige, then I will take down that warship.”

Gin fired the large cross toward the enemy ship that was a bit to the left of their course, meaning they would pass by it soon.

“Honestly,” she sighed while operating Cuatro Cruz. “It does seem a little weird for a couple to have a nice private moment while on the battlefield.”


Firelight lit up the northern sky. Some people saw it from an elevated position to the south.

On the Miura Peninsula’s slope, a unit of automaton-piloted gods of war fought Nabeshima’s mechanical dragon.

The Satomi forces were to the north. They were not large in number, but the progress they had made was enough to know they were meant to break through the enemy forces instead of outright conquering that land.

“So the battle’s started in the north too.”

Nabeshima clicked her tongue while operating the controls to fly the mechanical dragon around.

She was engaged in an intense battle of her own.

Above the Miura Peninsula’s eastern slope, the ironclad fleet and the Mouri fleet were firing on each other and positioning themselves in relation to each other. The ships floating on the ocean as turrets were firing as well.

The flying ships and their shells made no attempt to silence their noise, and…

“…!”

Nabeshima’s enemy was the Hexagone Française god of war unit.

The company of heavy gods of war led by Mouri-01 was fighting her for control of the Miura Peninsula. Meanwhile, she raised her voice in the cockpit which was colored a lacquer black so the lernen figurs were more visible.

“Hey, you old geezers. This flight is about to get rough, but don’t any of you die, okay?”

“We’ve survived this long, so there’s no way something like this’ll kill us, my lady!”

“That’s what I like to hear,” she said with a bitter smile while sending the mechanical dragon forward.

But the mechanical dragon was already moving forward, so what she did was accelerate.

To increase her forward momentum, she pushed forward on the controls that had a pressure-sensitive cloth-wrapped grip.

“Here we go!”

The mechanical dragon raced above the Miura Peninsula.


Chapter 29: Dragon Pilot on the Hunting Ground[edit]

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Isn’t there

Something?

Y’know, a reason to do this

Even if I don’t really want to say it more clearly

Point Allocation (Burden)


Nabeshima ran along the Miura Peninsula’s slope, destroying it as she went.

She raced toward and targeted the enemy gods of war.

Her mechanical dragon was much faster than the gods of war. And its greater mass meant even a glancing blow would tear away body parts. However…

…’'I can’t seem to hit them!

While she kept moving, the white gods of war were all moving quite quickly.

Their movements were abnormally precise. This was supposed to be unfamiliar land to them and it was night, yet there was no fear at all in their movements and attack preparations.

All of the gods of war were supplementing each other’s view of their surroundings and the ground below them. When Nabeshima fired, one of them would sense it and they would all react. Now, for example…

“Toh!”

She ran forward and spun around, but the enemy made multiple attacks meant to drive her away.

She sidestepped out of the way while opening up her weaponry.

The mechanical dragon’s great size was not its only means of attack. It had cannons and other weapons installed all across its body.

But accurate firing was difficult while moving so quickly.

“My lady! Can’t you keep us steadier than this!?”

“How about you old geezers turn into automatons for me!?”

She said that, but she left the firing control with the Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji.

“My lady!”

“I’m releasing an explosive!”

She dropped an explosion spell behind her to slow the pursuit of the gods of war. Meanwhile, she made a dash to pull away from them.

Next, she made a turning slide.

Inside the mechanical dragon’s cockpit, she spun the giant metal body around while checking on the state of the battlefield.

The red of shellfire and explosions filled the southern sky where she was. And in the north…

That’s where Asano and Kani are!

It was not that she did not trust those name inheritors that were her same age, but she knew that was not enough when the Musashi forces were to the north.

“Damn, that should really be my job.”

Her dragon was 80m long. It was well suited for taking on enemy fleets and she had repeatedly trained for that.

But right now, she had to take back the Miura Peninsula.

She had allies over there, but she was the only one here.

“Kh…”

Their main fighters were the four fighting at close range and the support fighters were the six fighting at a distance.

The closer four used ether swords. They had abandoned their shields and they came at her while wielding their swords with pure martial arts. This was especially troublesome because the length of the swords was variable. They could extend to about 20m long, so they could make attacks well beyond their apparent range.

But the shape of the swords was bizarre. A closer look revealed…

Those are pseudo-anti-ship cannons at the end there!

Pseudo-anti-ship cannons were spell cannons that used ether, so they must have swapped out the barrel of the cannon for an ether blade emitter to use them as variable-length swords.

The magazines had to be swapped out. She had been counting the cocking sounds for a while now, but the enemy never swapped them out early or late.

The blades could be swapped out when they broke, so they seemed like good weapons to her.

More than that, they could be made compact for transportation and they had multiple uses despite being so large.

Just as aerial ships could transport and defend in addition to fight and just like a mechanical dragon had to perform aerial combat and bombardments, gods of war had to use both swords and cannons.

The enemy clearly had the same idea her side did.

They would do whatever they could on the battlefield. So…

“Come at me, dolls!”

The enemy did as she asked.

The gods of war charged toward her while avoiding a head-on course and swapping out their sword magazines.

Those were the ether magazines also used for cannons.

“My lady, as far as I can tell, those are used for ether cannons as well and their design is very similar to those designed by Europa’s god of war brand, Couronne é Marionnette!”

“They’re four-round magazines! How about that, my lady!? We’re pretty knowledgeable, aren’t we!?”

“If only you had some wisdom to go with that knowledge!”

Based on her count of the blade swaps, there were indeed four rounds in the magazines.

“Old geezers!” she shouted. “Count the enemy’s shots for me! That alone will help me a lot!”


What a pain, thought Nabeshima.

She was a mechanical dragon pilot.

That machine was a giant weapon in and of itself. It could sink the average light warship just by running into it.

But, she thought while pursuing and being pursued by the gods of war.

That isn’t enough for some opponents.

These gods of war were crisscrossing their paths while repeatedly charging at and withdrawing from her.

They were under the command of Mouri-01, the name inheritor of Hoida Motokiyo.

She was an Hexagone Française officer. That was a worthy opponent for a name inheritor like Nabeshima.

But she sensed a difference in skill here.

They were numerous and she was much larger, yet she had yet to damage even one of them.

The enemy had not gotten a clean hit on her yet either, but…

They’ve torn off some armor and a few of those shots were way too close!

She could say it did not matter because they had missed, but that was only an excuse.

Unlike the automatons, she would grow weary. Her odds of being hit would rise as time passed.

Being a mechanical dragon pilot was no help at all right now.

“It’s meaningless if I’m not a victorious mechanical dragon pilot!”

“My lady! We’re working to make sure you are!”

“Testament,” she said before deciding to check on something. “Old geezers, how long until the support ships are in safe firing distance?”

“They could fire now if we gave the word, so should we!?”

“Single shots aren’t going to hit these gods of war. How long until they can maintain a barrage of the entire area!?”

In the worst case, she could still “win” by drawing out the battle until then.

She would not have defeated her opponent, but she would achieve a circumstantial victory.

So she wanted to know how long until then.

“Around seven minutes, I’d say! But I’ll ask them!”

“Please let it be less than seven minutes!”

“We’ll see!” they replied while Nabeshima pushed the pressure-sensitive control grips forward along with the pressure-sensitive dampers at her shoulders.

She had the mechanical dragon race toward the enemy.


Here she comes, thought Mouri-01.

She instructed the others to guide the enemy while she commanded the vanguard group of four.

The woods scattered across the slope were not enough to stop the enemy. Nabeshima knocked them all out of the way to fight as she saw fit.

“Lady Mouri-01! I have determined there is no cover to hide behind!”

“Testament. Approaching the woods would be dangerous. The felled trees could hit us or block our way.”

When fighting on a slope, simple positioning and the transportation of weaponry made all the difference.

She knows what she is doing.

Mouri-01 had assumed the enemy would be piloting the mechanical dragon from a human perspective.

But she was not.

She did not seek shelter from the enemy like a human would.

She was a mechanical dragon. That giant thing could not hide behind or inside cover.

Plus, the Lourd de Marionnettes had a full grasp of the battlefield and were trained in forest movement. The woods were no obstacle for them.

So the only thing Nabeshima would gain by moving behind the trees was a meaningless sense of relief.

And that would create an unnecessary opening.

So she’s tearing down the trees to level the battlefield.

That was how a mechanical dragon fought.

With that high-speed mobility and heavy armor, she had decided she did not need cover.

Human senses were not enough to use that giant presence to its fullest in battle.

“I have determined Nabeshima Naoshige knows how to fight from the viewpoint of a mechanical dragon.”

Mouri-01 moved as she spoke.

Just like the enemy was a mechanical dragon at the moment, she was a god of war at the moment.

And…

“I will take you on as a maid Belle de Marionnette of Hexagone Française and Mouri.”


Here they come!

Nabeshima saw a change in the enemy’s movements.

Before, the enemy gods of war had alternated between making attacks while passing by and taking curving evasive action.

It was a stereotypical example of the hit-and-away tactics used against dragons.

But that had changed. The two support automatons on the shoulders of each god of war moved to the backs for shelter and four gods of war stepped forward.

And they had supporting gunners up on the hill.

It was not quite a barrage, but they provided unending fire while the vanguard gods of war made attacks in groups of two.

The attacks were simple charges.

They held their swords to their sides in both hands and thrust them forward while extending them.

And when Nabeshima fell back to safety, they would make another thrusting attack.

They never intended those attacks to hit, so when she dodged, they would circle around on either side. That was quite troublesome. While the rear guard charged straight ahead, the vanguard would charge in from the left and right.

If she tried to move forward, the covering fire from atop the hill would aim at her face and…

“–––––”

Another charge came her way from the front.

The thrusting swords of light extended to 20 meters.

It was like an ultra-shortrange cannon blast. Just when she thought it could not reach her, they would extend further.

So she dodged again.

When she fell back, they pursued. When she moved forward, the four on the vanguard circled around and attacked her simultaneously.

So she had to dodge by using a tail drift to perform a sliding turn to the left or right. That did not move her head much while sliding her rear end around toward the two circling to that side of her.

When the four enemies turned toward her, she would swing her entire body in a fan shape to aim toward them. And while those four swung themselves around…

Their swords!

They fired on her as a deterrent. That showed they had their guard up. The shots would never actually hit, but she still had to move to dodge them.

Pretty good.

They understood her instincts quite well.

Even if it would not hit, she would dodge just in case when she sensed danger. That was her instinct.

She did the same now.

She swung her hips around to circle to the side of the enemy and made a short dash toward them.

The enemy split to either side and rushed after her.

She forcibly spun herself around to face them, but…

“Kh!”

What an awkward time, she thought while sensing the inertia.

Her great mass made it hard to bear being on the surface like this.

I should have used a vertical weight permeation spell!

But she never would have thought to do that. After all, she had been deployed here to attack the enemy ships.

Vertical weight permeation would plant her feet more firmly on the ground, so it made it harder to escape a sinking ship and she might get caught in their destruction.

Also, mechanical dragons had four legs. Even on the inconvenient surface, she could make up for a lot more of the inconvenience using her skill than a god of war pilot could. So…

“Oh, hell!”

She could not complain.

When she complained, it was easy to believe what she was saying and that would make her lose.

The enemy was pursuing her.

They still had the four main fighters and six support fighters. When the support fighters fired at her face from up the slope, the main fighters targeted the mechanical dragon’s sliding feet.

They worked well together.

“…”

Nabeshima briefly shifted the mechanical dragon’s balance backwards while it rotated out of the way.

Mechanical dragons had two centers of gravity.

The first was the front center of gravity located in the large head and around the neck that supported the head.

The second was the tandem center of gravity located in the rear legs and the hips that supported the entire machine’s movements.

Nabeshima released the anchoring force from the front joints while swinging them back.

She released the front weights while rotating and pushed the weight of the neck and shoulders toward the rear.

She only did it for a moment, but that was why it put her into a power slide. Her rear end drifted quite a bit.

As a result, the mechanical dragon turned to face the pursuing enemy while also falling quickly back. However…

“My lady, the enemy is targeting the front legs!”

“I’m aware of that!”

The tail!

She sent the entire center of gravity to the withdrawing rear legs. And this time she did it for more than just an instant.

The rear legs immediately gained a solid grip, as if they had stabbed into the ground. And…

“Toh!”

Her backwards-sliding inertia lifted the mechanical dragon’s upper body.

That dodged the enemy attacks meant for the front legs.

That still left the supporting fire toward her face, but…

“I can jump!”

The excess weight on the rear legs planted them solidly in place, so she used her claws to lightly hop up.

For a human, this would have been a simple vertical jump, but a mechanical dragon had a tail. The long metal tail was already swinging.

“Ohhh!?”

It flipped sideways in the air to move right.

And it landed.

By the time its four legs shattered the ground, the enemy gods of war were already charging toward her.

When she saw their movement, she voiced the fact she had realized over the past few exchanges.

“The enemy’s positioning has grown a lot cleverer!”


They’re good at this, said Nabeshima in her heart. And…

“What do you mean by ‘cleverer’, my lady!? Is that an excuse for when you lose!?”

“It’s a sign of respect! You wanna deal with this!?”

She looked forward to see the enemy with their back to the ocean.

The gods of war always chose the lower part of the slope.

That was what Nabeshima called clever.

Height was a crucial factor on the battlefield.

In most cases, the higher ground was preferable. Firing from below shortened your range and any cover prevented you from seeing what was above.

But things were different in close-range battles.

Those with the high ground had a height difference they had to cover before their attacks could hit their opponent.

But those with the low ground only had to aim for their opponent’s feet.

Also, those with the high ground would see their opponent’s attacks thrusting up at them.

All of that added up to a lot of trouble for Nabeshima.

Especially with this enemy who was trying to stab her with their swords.

They generally aimed for her feet, but they would aim for her throat when she prepared to counterattack.

Dodging those stabbing attacks from below was not easy.

Leaning back for a sway-back evasion was difficult with a dragon body.

Besides, a sudden attack to the face triggered an instinctual reflex. And these difficult-to-dodge attacks were all the more painful because her experience as a mechanical dragon pilot told her when they were coming.

She would predict them and dodge almost subconsciously.

She knew what the enemy was trying to do by making those attacks over and over.

They were creating a state of constant tension with their relentless attacks.

“Not bad.”

They were automatons and she was human.

The mechanical dragon was powerful and its armor was thick, but she would eventually grow weary.

“My lady!”

“What!?”

“We’re tired!”

“It’s too soon for that!!”

She kicked and shattered the divine transmission lernen figur and swung her hands side to side just once. After her palms had relaxed, she grabbed the pressure-sensitive grips once more.

“Here goes!”

She decided to settle this before the enemy wore her out.

She hunkered down in the cockpit for no real reason and moved the mechanical dragon.

But unlike before, she did not move forward and swing herself around.

She simply behaved like a dragon.


Mouri-01 saw the mechanical dragon’s movements change again.

What is this?

Immediately after landing on the slope, it moved like a powered tank shaped like a dragon.

Before, the enemy had acted like a person moving with a mechanical dragon’s viewpoint.

But that had changed.

“Lady Mouri-01!” shouted one of her fellow vanguard fighters. “The enemy has stopped worrying about what damage they take!”

That was exactly it.

A mechanical dragon had just two ways of negating stabbing, surrounding, and projectile attacks.

The first was to use the top speed of its giant body to shake free.

The other was to ignore it all using that heavy armor.

That was what the enemy had done during her first shift in behavior, but that was different from moving like an actual dragon. The pilot had only been moving like a human who had become one with a mechanical dragon.

This was different.

A mechanical dragon was a weapon.

A dragon was a combat species.

The mechanical dragon was now fighting like a dragon instead of like a mechanical dragon.

In other words, it did not fear its enemy’s attacks.

A dragon did not fear damage while fighting. Fighting with everything they had was their way of showing courtesy.

They were beasts.

They were strongest when injured.

So to do that, this enemy no longer ran or spun herself around.

She exploded as a beast instead of a weapon.

She dug into the ground with her four legs and worked to crush her opponents.

“…!”

Mouri-01 had to make full use of her high-speed thoughts as a Belle de Marionnette to keep up with this great acceleration. The enemy’s charging speed broke the sound barrier, so thinking at several thousand times normal speed did not seem sufficient to grasp the scattering rubble and shards of the ground.

Did this mean the enemy had finally reached a point where she could pursue them in their real time?

She was an impressive person. The mechanical dragon charged toward them and forcibly bent its body around for a sliding turn. The pilot did not have high-speed thoughts like the Belle de Marionnettes.

But that human had used the mechanical dragon’s attack system to turn the Belle de Marionnette’s high-speed thoughts into the normal battlefield speed.

In that case, there was one thing Mouri-01 had to praise the girl for.

Such splendid mastery of a mechanical dragon!


From a Belle de Marionnette viewpoint, there are a few pointless aspects to humans, thought Mouri-01.

One was how they would “get serious” about something.

If they had started out that way, they would generally solve everything faster, fail less, and have fewer regrets.

Why did humans limit their skill with both reason and emotions?

Probably because they were not animals.

Wild animals did not limit themselves in that way. That was why they could use several times – or several dozen times – the strength of humans.

They looked so much more powerful than humans, but they were not really.

Humans could demonstrate that kind of strength too, but they lacked the recovery ability and endurance of animals, so they needed to ensure they did not destroy themselves with their own strength.

If they punched a wall with all their might, their fist would break. Humans knew that on an instinctual level.

But they could release those limits they placed on themselves.

Emotions and reason.

When their emotions told them they needed strength, their reason would accept the self-harm and grant permission.

Mouri-01 understood that the will born from those two things was what humans called “getting serious”.

Belle de Marionnettes lacked that process.

That was what made humans so wonderful. She had seen so many examples of the unnecessary fuel of emotions and reason surpassing the optimal decisions of Belle de Marionnettes.

They were worth serving.

But, thought Mouri-01.

They are a pain in the butt as an enemy!

“Here she comes!”

The dragon twisted its body to make a sweeping turn across the ground, but it converted that into a charge instead of braking. The drift was so powerful it nearly rolled over, but…

Its front leg!

The dragon bent its forward-thrust right leg to pull its body out of the drift after turning.

Pulling in its front right leg like that allowed it to immediately start forward with its full speed.

That was only possible thanks to the dragon’s great strength.

Its rear legs were still swinging around and dragging, but its crawling upper body tore up the ground.

“Fall back!” shouted Mouri-01.

Dragons were different from other beasts in one crucial way: they could fly with their wings.

After kicking off the ground with its upper body, the dragon spread itself out in the night sky. Or it seemed to.

The main wings on its front arms had rapidly expanded.

The mechanical dragon made an instantaneous short jump of several hundred meters, but instead of toward Mouri-01’s group, it was headed toward…

“Supporting team, fall back!!”

The mechanical dragon rushed in from the left to clash with the six Lourd de Marionnettes providing supporting fire up the slope.


Mouri-01 and the others had never expected their enemy to target their supporters. They were slow to react to the mechanical dragon’s action because they had assumed they had drawn its attention.

They heard their fellow Belle de Marionnettes’ screams in their shared memory.

“Kyah!”

But those screams accomplished nothing. Mouri-01 adjusted for their carelessness and raised her voice.

“Provide a damage report!”

They were fortunate that someone had noticed the mechanical dragon’s leaping charge. The Lourd de Marionnettes had received a direct hit, but none of them had been crushed.

After performing an immediate reinitialization and adjustment, they moved away while the mechanical dragon got back up. But they had to cover for and drag along their damaged allies as they did so.

The damage report arrived.

“Serious damage to three! Minor damage to three! I suggest we withdraw!”

“Approved.”

A single attack had done this.

They still had Lourd de Marionnettes waiting on the western slope that could be swapped in, but another attack like this one would mean the majority of their unit was damaged.

That would harm Hexagone Française’s position here.

They were here to win. And to win as an elite Lourd de Marionnette unit.

They were essentially here to advertise Hexagone Française’s national and military strength, but more importantly, they were here to advertise Mouri Terumoto’s presence.

They were not allowed to lose.

“The life of a maid always presents some worthwhile challenges.”

Mouri-01 watched the mechanical dragon’s movements.

It must not have wanted to pursue the six withdrawing supporters.

Given its great strength and size, it could have caught up to them almost instantly.

Had the pilot decided that damaging them to slow them down was better than wiping them out to the point that reinforcements were called in?

No, that is not it.

The dragon got up and watched the Lourd de Marionnettes withdrawing toward the ridge. And as soon as it withdrew and lowered its head rather than its entire body, Mouri-01 gave a shout.

“Get down!! Incoming attack!”

Immediately afterwards, the mechanical dragon fired a ferocious roar.

It was a dragon cannon.


Now that’s incredible!

Kuki’s position in the Bousou Peninsula side of the sky gave him a view of the light rising diagonally into the sky on the opposite bank.

The attack was targeting the enemy gods of war that were fleeing to the ridge at the top of the Miura Peninsula’s slope. It tore into the terrain and clearly damaged the ground.

Dust flew into the air and cast a slight shadow over the western sky.

Three Legs: “I feel like that first year is going a little overboard.”

Nine Horns: “No, she needed to show the world that Hashiba is superior to Mouri. …Nabeshima-kun learned all about those political dealings in Ryuuzouji, so she would not make a meaningless show of force. Still…”

“Testament,” replied Magoichi. She was closer to the scene, so she sent him staticky footage of the Miura Peninsula’s eastern slope zoomed in a few levels.

The image processing had been rushed, so it was mostly too dark to make anything out, but an arrow had been added to point at one thing.

Is that where the enemy gods of war were blown away?

Those enemies had collapsed all at once while trying to withdraw. However…

Three Legs: “She got the timing wrong. They avoided a direct hit. The leader of Mouri’s god of war unit is a good decisionmaker.”

“True enough,” agreed Kuki while giving a firing order.

There was no sign of the enemy gods of war beyond the massive blast and shockwave.

They had likely gotten down on the ground instead of trying to move out of the way.

They were on a slope, so trying to escape upwards would not help. But if they got down on the ground…

“The blast itself will hit them and roll them across the slope, but that will put some distance between them and their enemy. And if they’re buried in the dirt, they can use that to hide.”

From an instinctual perspective, it was really hard to stay in place and “get down” when a dragon cannon was fired on you from behind.

That would be one of those optimal choices that automatons excelled at. However…

“That is quite an energetic dragon we’ve got there.”

His comment was proven by the beam of light rotating around in the sky.

Instead of firing the entire cannon blast into the sky, the dragon swung it around toward the four main gods of war diagonally down the slope. The dragon attack took a large curve and tore into the peninsula slope to target them.


Nabeshima slammed a forcible action into the mechanical dragon.

The dragon cannon took all the machine’s internal power and sent it from the torso to the maw as a cannon. It was a mechanical dragon’s greatest attack, but the dragon could barely move while performing it.

However, Nabeshima had spun that dragon cannon around.

She swung the balancing tail, tilted the body and head as much as allowed while firing, and took the resultant drop in power into consideration. And then…

“Reach them!”

She did not target the withdrawing gods of war she had blown away already.

She had not managed a direct hit on them, but she was pretty sure they had all taken serious damage and therefore could not withdraw.

So she instead targeted the main four gods of war.

She had to win this.

She knew the enemy had a similar reason, but that was all the more reason.

“My lady!”

The Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji called out to her.

“We will support you!”

Indeed.

She had a home in Ryuuzouji.

While her birthplace was in M.H.R.R., that place was just as important to her now.


Chapter 30: Searcher for a Destination[edit]

Horizon7B 127.jpg

Instead of searching for yourself

Test yourself

Instead of testing yourself to learn about yourself

Accept yourself for having been tested

Point Allocation (Self Test)


The originator of my name, Nabeshima Naoshige, is known for overthrowing his lord, thought Nabeshima while fighting.

When people spoke of Nabeshima Naoshige, they described him as someone who essentially ended up hijacking the Ryuuzouji clan.

But while fighting, Nabeshima thought he must have originally been a faithful servant of Ryuuzouji.

Nabeshima Naoshige.

After his master’s clan lost its heir, he had supported it and everyone had gradually started to follow him.

Naoshige had held connections with Hashiba and had maintained the Ryuuzouji clan in Kyushu during the rise of Shimazu.

He had indeed overthrown his master, but he had generally been faithful to his master’s clan.

What about her?

She had gone to Kyushu on Hashiba’s orders so she could learn Ryuuzouji’s mechanical dragon construction techniques.

Hashiba was guaranteed a secure future and she had been a messenger from there, but she had not been naïve enough to think she would be welcomed.

She had been an outsider placed in a position of authority. Plus, she had been a child. She had assumed they would look down on her and she would have to prove how hotblooded she was.

She had been nervous about a lot.

She had passed quite a few reviews before being chosen. She had ended up an exchange student, but she had not really accomplished much of anything before that. So…

I thought I might not accomplish anything there either.

When hanging out with her friends in her hometown, she had felt like she could accomplish anything, but she had known that was simply bluster.

But once she arrived, she found Ryuuzouji to be very different from what she expected.

After all, there were almost no young people there. And almost all their work was as a subcontractor for Tres España. Most of the young people had apparently gone to Tres España or the New World.

The academy had been full of middle-aged and elderly people and it was closely connected to the reservation there, so they had actually welcomed this girl from the mainland like she was an urbanite.

“If you want our techniques, then take as much as you want!”

She had heard that a lot back then. In fact, it had been the overall trend at the time.

They worked as mechanical dragon construction subcontractors, but every nation was doing R&D for that. During the Warring States period, secrets did not provide a long-term advantage. Ryuuzouji in particular would become part of Hashiba through Nabeshima Naoshige and the other nations had no real access to them.

Once someone from Hashiba arrived, they had intended to leave everything with that person.

So they had taught her so many technical skills and given her technical documents. Those older people had also taught her many new ways to look at the world. She had learned so much there and she had gained much more than she had expected.

Primarily, she had gained real maintenance and piloting skills.

Back then, she had feared she would never accomplish anything, so those real results had meant so much to her, even if they were not some major event in the history recreation.

She could accomplish something.

But while she realized that, she had received a different emotion from the others as they celebrated her accomplishment.

“Now our future is safe too.”

Nabeshima had wanted to say something in response to that.

They had taught her that she could accomplish something when she feared she could not.

But why could they smile like that when they thought things were over for them and thought they could not accomplish anything?

They were wrong.

They had all accomplished something.

Their accomplishment was allowing me to accomplish things.

She felt like saying it out loud would be meaningless, but she still felt like she should do something about it. And before she could find an answer, her time as an exchange student had come to an end.

She had been there for half a year, but after returning to M.H.R.R. with so much to show for it, she had asked her hometown friends for advice.

She had told them she was thinking of going back to Ryuuzouji.

Asano had been a voice for the displeasure lurking somewhere in her heart: “Ehh? Aren’t you just letting them influence youuu?” Ikeda had supported her decision: “If that’s what most of you wants to do, then go do it.” Kani had given her a weird sort of confidence: “I know you can do it, Nabe-chan!” Nagaoka, who had only just joined their group back then, had told her to “just do whatever you want”, but she wondered if he could tell his wife that now.

Halfway through the second term, she had returned to Ryuuzouji as a transfer student instead of an exchange student. That was when she had begun designing a new mechanical dragon.

Instead of just maintaining Ryuuzouji’s technical skills, she had wanted to develop them further and take them beyond the standards.

The Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji had been in charge of the development site and all five of them had opposed the idea. They had said it would only be a burden on them and that it was pointless to start on that this late in the game.

She had known how selfish she was being. She had simply been dragging those people back to their old ways instead of letting them have the peaceful ending they wanted.

But she had done it anyway.

“What, you can’t give me the power I need to fight in the future?”

She had argued back against their protests and sometimes even dueled them, but that was where it had all begun and the result was in her hands now.

So in the end, Nabeshima Naoshige had hijacked the Ryuuzouji clan.

She was literally holding the controls of a Ryuuzouji dragon.

And that was why she felt the beginning of her history recreation could be found in actually giving Ryuuzouji a meaningful future instead of some history recreation interpretation.

That foreign land had taken in a delinquent middle school girl and shown her a new way to look at the world. But…

“That place taught me I could accomplish anything I set my mind to and gave me the power to do it, so now I have to do the same for them!”

She would demonstrate Ryuuzouji’s might.

Those old and friendly people had given her anything she wanted, but…

Don’t give up.

Don’t say there’s nothing left for you and you can’t accomplish anything.

I thought I was all bluster and couldn’t really accomplish anything.

But you gave me strength!

With that thought, she swung the mechanical dragon around.

She rotated and swept along the surface to move down the slope from north to south. That route took her toward…

“The god of war leader!”

She first blew away three of them and the dragon cannon definitely reached the remaining white one.

It hit.


Mouri-01 realized she had taken a direct hit.

The dragon cannon attack was fast.

With a machine like a mechanical dragon, swinging around the dragon cannon was not the optimal action. That would place a heavy burden on the power system and the inner shell that supported the attack.

It was a reckless action. And more than that…

That was not the act of a dragon.

It was a forcible action of a human pilot.

Even though the enemy had been a “dragon” until now.

That was how Mouri-01 had seen it up until the dragon cannon blast, but something had changed partway through. Instead of someone who had become one with the dragon, this was someone who harnessed the dragon’s power. In other words…

“A mechanical dragon pilot!”

Was this that opponent’s completed form?

That uncertainty brought a slight disturbance to Mouri-01’s reaction. And…

Oh, no.

The data from some of her fellow Belle de Marionnettes had been cut off.

Until now, she had been following the enemy mechanical dragon’s movements using the information from the supporters.

The six Lourd de Marionnettes of the rear guard each had two Belle de Marionnettes with them, but that total of 18 assistants had been lost.

She only knew what could be seen by her, the other three main fighters, and the two Belle de Marionnettes that had withdrawn from each of them.

Those 12 viewpoints were enough to grasp the situation, but it was not enough for a detailed scan.

She had been the one viewing the enemy, so…

“Fall back!”

Just as she raised her voice, one of the assistant Belle de Marionnettes spoke.

“Lady Mouri-01!”

When her name was called, she realized her vision had opened up.

The withdrawn support Belle de Marionnettes could see the enemy.

That mechanical dragon was sweeping its dragon cannon down from farther up the slope in order to hit her.

Now she could see the instantaneous swinging motion.

She had lost her chance to evade and she had seen her fellow Belle de Marionnettes hit by the blast, so…

“…!”

She thrust her right sword toward the dragon cannon that approached like a great wall of light.


There was an explosion.

Mouri-01’s ether sword had shattered after stabbing into the dragon cannon.

But that was not simple destruction.

It had broken while extending. The exposure to the powerful ether cannon blast triggered a reaction in the blade. It was influenced by the dragon cannon.

The ether meant to form the sword instead took on the traits of the dragon cannon.

The traits of sword and cannon conflicted with each other inside the ether sword and reached saturation at the midpoint.

This caused an ether explosion.

Mouri-01’s Lourd de Marionnette was blown away by a bursting power similar to a small dragon cannon but also similar to a giant sword slash. Mouri-01 used that force to move herself.

But it was not enough. The sweeping dragon cannon was still quite large and threatened to swallow up her Lourd de Marionnette like a great wall.

So she did something else.

She extended her sword three times in quick succession.

She fired it.

The resultant sound was like the previous blast multiplied four times or played four times back to back. The multiplied flash of light and multiplied rumbling reflected and echoed off of the dark slope and blew away the torn-up ground.

And her Lourd de Marionnette flew.

Pushed four times by the explosive blasts in midair, the white metal giant took flight.

The dragon cannon shot by so close in front of her it seemed to graze her.

She had dodged it.

Her wide-range vision saw the color white pass by from right to left. Then she saw the black of the night. But she did confirm the enemy’s location.

The mechanical dragon was no longer on the Miura Peninsula’s eastern slope.

It was up above.

It had bent its entire body to make a great leap as if slamming its front legs against the night sky.

The metal dragon had fired a dragon cannon, but it had continued attacking without even checking on the result.


Fire, thought Nabeshima.

To make sure the enemy could not escape, she leaped over to crush them.

Now was her chance. The enemy had just used up their sword magazine. She had heard four sword extension blasts while leaping.

The enemy had no way of attacking with their magazine used up.

Of course, the enemy would now fall back in order to reload.

She could not let them escape, so she spread her front legs and moved to crush them.

She would make sure this attack reached the enemy and she would win.

I’ll prove here that we have a place in this world!

She would show that you could fight using a mechanical dragon.

After all, the Warring States period was based around experts instead of machines like gods of war and mechanical dragons.

Individual fighters who were familiar with the use of ether and had trained themselves could influence the outcome of a battle even if they were not a nation’s combat-oriented Vice Chancellor.

In other words, experts.

Experts could fly, fight, and protect.

To prevent those individual fighters from tipping the power balance too far, mechanical dragons, gods of war, and warships gave power to the people and nations that needed it.

The powerless needed weapons.

But, thought Nabeshima.

This Warring States period and Thirty Years’ War period has reached a point where non-experts can be proud of providing supplemental power!

The times were changing.

As intense fighting grew more frequent across the land, there simply were not enough experts to go around.

That had led to the use of replacements who could use weapons to reach an equal or at least similar level as the experts.

So now a new type of “expert” was being recognized: the pilots who could control gods of war, mechanical dragons, ships, and other sorts of weapons.

She was a mechanical dragon pilot. She belonged to the Ryuuzouji clan which was a factory for mechanical dragons.

And now she felt like they were climbing onto the stage of “experts”.

That nation had gathered their power around her, so now the fighting was her job.

She was a first year in high school. When she looked above her, she saw nothing but monsters. And the automatons continuing to attack her here were literally superhuman fighters.

That was what she was up against, but…

“I’ve just gotta do it.”

We’ve both got cutting edge equipment here, she thought. And we’re both using the latest tactics.

If she was going to prove they had a place in this world, now was the time.

She would prove them capable of accomplishing something to repay them for everything.

She would prove their accomplishment through her own accomplishment.

“You’ll see!”

With that, she slammed the entire mechanical dragon against the enemy.

On the east side of the Miura Peninsula, she finally caught the enemy down the slope from her.

She crashed into them.


Got them, realized Nabeshima.

There was a loud crash and powerful impact as the mechanical dragon slammed into the god of war with unstoppable speed.

The god of war was caught on her spread-out front left leg. From there, she used her great weight and speed.

“…!!”

She would not let herself slip away. She had to make sure the weight and solid armor did nothing but damage her opponent.

She hit them.

She heard components breaking and the earth crumbling below her. They bounced in a tangle for a bit, but that was all. From there, it was all the sound of breaking metal along with a loud straining sound.

Yes. I got them!

The lernen figur displaying her lower vision showed the damaged enemy god of war lying sprawled out on the ground.

The chest armor had been stripped away, the right arm had snapped, the right shoulder had been crushed, and…

“My lady!”

That cry was followed by an even louder metallic sound.

Nabeshima felt the enemy break. The vibration reaching her through the mechanical dragon’s left side was definitely from the enemy god of war’s frame breaking.

The god of war below her stomach was in a blind spot for her secondary cannons, but the main dragon cannon could still hit it. She could also just crush it like this. At this point, she could do whatever she wanted. However…

“Huh?”

The cockpit suddenly went dark. The lernen figurs were colored black so the displayed images were easier to see, but that was not what this was. Several of the lernen figurs themselves had disappeared.

What the hell!?

Her question was immediately followed by lernen figurs opening all around her. They all contained the word “warning” in orange. Then an alarm began sounding and she saw something in the left side of her vision: light.

Something jutted up toward heaven from within the crouching dragon’s left shoulder.

It was a blade.

It was 20m long. The enemy god of war’s ether sword had pierced her left side from below.

“Huh!?”

She heard a metallic sound from the left. Instead of coming from the enemy, this was her own left side. The warning lernen figurs told her of damage to the shoulder power system.

What happened? she wondered.

No, she knew what had happened. She had been hit by an attack, but she did not understand how.

“They should have been out of ammo, so how’d they fire their sword!?”


“Was that their teamwork!?”

Magoichi was listening to the battle on the Miura Peninsula while she fired Yatagarasu.

The enemy was a step above!

That god of war unit led by Mouri-01 was using ether light swords. The swords had originally been pseudo-anti-ship cannons. By abandoning the barrel of the cannon, they could be used to produce disposable ether blades instead.

Their fuel came in four-round ether magazines, so after four shots, they had to swap out the magazine.

“Gods of war can’t swap out magazines with their limbs pinned down. Nabeshima-san was right about that. That was why she leaped in and crushed the enemy’s leader. But,” said Magoichi while opening a divine transmission lernen figur. “Hexagone Française’s gods of war have a way to swap out magazines without using the god of war itself.”

Namely…

“Automatons.”

Magoichi shouted over the divine transmission to reach Nabeshima who likely did not understand the situation in which she found herself.

“The withdrawn automatons ran back onto the battlefield and swapped out the magazine with their gravitational control! Withdraw immediately! The enemy can still move and attack you!”


“Lady Mouri-01! I have completed the magazine swap!”

Mouri-01 heard an ally’s voice while her thoughts reinitialized and adjusted after the impact she had received.

Everyone had run over to her in the middle of the battle and were shouting while the mechanical dragon’s secondary cannons fired on them.

“Please get out of there!!”


Mouri-01 heard a dragon’s roar as she reawakened.

Her Lourd de Marionnette was lying on its back as if looking into the sky and it was badly damaged in several places. She found it fascinating how she felt heat from the damaged areas, but now was the time for action.

The dragon was preparing to fire its second dragon cannon.

It likely intended to hit her with it and use the recoil to fall back.

Meanwhile, her right shoulder on down was crushed and held in place by the dragon’s front left leg. The sword in that hand had pierced the mechanical dragon’s left side with a glowing blade thanks to the magazine the others had swapped out for her.

Her right arm would be crushed soon, but there was something she had to do before that happened.

She instantly lifted up her wrist and squeezed the sword’s trigger.

She fired all three remaining light swords in quick succession and at different angles.

She heard more sounds of breaking metal. From both her and her opponent.

Her right shoulder had been crushed, but the enemy’s left side had been sliced through.

The mechanical dragon’s front left leg was purged with a sound of impact. The dragon leaned back, which meant…

“Lady Mouri-01! The dragon cannon is coming!”

Hearing that, Mouri-01 made up her mind: We must win this. So…

I will make it in time!

She could not swing her arm, so that sword could not get a clean hit on the mechanical dragon’s body and thus could not stop the dragon cannon.

But she could still use the functioning right hand and the magazine connected to her left hip hard point. That was all she had. And the others had taught her how to swap out the magazine. So…

“Testament.”

Mouri-01 purged herself from the Lourd de Marionnette.

She released her connection and leaped out of the cockpit.


Nabeshima saw the enemy’s decision.

She saw an automaton. Blonde hair fluttered around a tall figure wearing a combat maid uniform.

The automaton emerged from between the collapsed god of war’s back and the ground and she hopped up onto the unmoving god of war’s chest.

Her left arm was not moving, but she spread out her right hand and swung the arm while removing the decorative patterned visor that had connected her to the god of war.

In sync with the action of removing the visor, the magazine on the god of war’s left hip moved.

Gravitational control!

Nabeshima was just about to fire her dragon cannon.

It doesn’t matter if she swaps out the sword’s magazine!

If she could not swing the arm, the sword could not accurately target the mechanical dragon’s body. Even if the attack did hit, that blade made pinpoint attacks. That would not stop her from firing the dragon cannon while leaning back.

But the automaton was still moving.

Her blonde hair fluttered as she swung the giant magazine around.

The four rounds would be inserted into the base of the sword. After purging the old magazine, the sword’s lights went out.

At the same time, it released Nabeshima’s left shoulder, freeing her body. Now the only problem with aiming down for the dragon cannon was the weakness in her left side. The enemy was going to insert the new magazine in the sword, but…

“That blade can’t stop my attack!”

She could do this, so she did.

She fired the dragon cannon. Since she was aiming down, the energy could not take straight path down her throat and that weakened it. However…

“Fire!”

Then she saw something at the base of the enemy sword where the new magazine had been connected.

“Switching to pseudo-anti-ship cannon mode. Firing barrelless pseudo-anti-ship cannon. How would you like four blasts not shaped into blades?”


Mouri-01 fired the pseudo-anti-ship cannon into the mechanical dragon from point-blank range.

The blast hit her too and the idea had come from a certain memory.

When the Musashi Chancellor had been abducted by the Reine des Garous, she had fought the Musashi group pursuing those two.

At the time, Musashi’s Schwarz Hexen had done something very similar to take out Mouri-03.

Using a cannon spell in barelless mode was guaranteed to hit.

She gave no thought to her own damage and fired that great force directly into her opponent from point-blank range.

This was not the optimal method.

It was not a tactic a Belle de Marionnette could have come up with.

But there it was in her memories. That had been the optimal method for their enemy at the time.

Knowing that was enough for a Belle de Marionnette to select it as an inconvenient tactic.

She could say this was the optimal choice for them here.

So she unleashed the four optimal shots in quick succession. And while she used her gravitational control to squeeze the trigger in the Lourd de Marionnette’s hand…

“…!”

The metallic noises were deafening.

Parts and lubricant flew skyward. The heated liquid threw steam into the summer night air. The sounds of destruction chained together and the metal bones rained down with a sound like splashing water.

Below it all, Mouri-01 continued the attack and watched the light.

The color white burst in the sky.

That was a dragon cannon.

It had been meant for her and a direct hit would definitely have utterly destroyed her.

The enemy had not hesitated to fire it and fall back.

That was a dragon tactic and a human tactic.

Well done.

Ryuuzouji had indeed built a mechanical dragon capable of keeping up with an elite Hexagone Française Lourd de Marionnette unit.

And more importantly…

“Ah!”

The cry in response to the impact carried the pilot’s anger.

Mouri-01 had praise for her as well.

Ryuuzouji had not just created a mechanical dragon. In that pilot…

They created the kind of person who should use that dragon.

That enemy was sure to strengthen herself after this battle. Mouri-01 felt pursued by that, so she decided they needed to strengthen themselves as well. With that thought, she pulled the trigger one last time.

She fired the final shot.

“Vive la Annnne!”

A great noise burst in the sky and light exploded.

The cannon’s destruction had reached the mechanical dragon’s body and damaged the dragon cannon’s power system.

The dragon cannon exploded.

A great roar scattered everywhere and the wind crashed into everything.

“…”

Mouri-01 was blasted a good ways down the slope.

In the instant before she was slammed down onto the dirt ground, she saw the mechanical dragon broken from the left side by its own dragon cannon. The recoil blasted it toward the sea and it splashed into the water there.

Then Mouri-01 hit the ground.

“I did it…”

She rolled, could not get up, and continued rolling a few more times before finally ending up on her back.

She looked up at the night sky lit by the raging battle, raised her right arm, and spoke the proper words.

“The Mouri Maid Lourd de Marionnette Company has taken the Miura Peninsula!!”


Chapter 31: Preparers on the Map[edit]

Horizon7B 149.jpg

Announcements are external

Vows are internal

Point Allocation (The Raised Hand is Fairly Meaningless)


“Dammit!”

Nabeshima got her mechanical dragon to its feet in a part of the ocean that was shallow only for that giant machine.

She had rolled over. After hitting the water, rolling, and sliding along the ocean floor, she had scooped up a lot of sand. That was more weight than expected and the front left leg was gone, so getting up was a lot like throwing her body in the opposite direction.

Once she had righted herself, she could see the cannon fire flying back and forth in the sky. This was definitely a battlefield, but…

I’m outside it.

The area around her was horribly quiet.

She was about 300 meters from the Miura Peninsula’s coast. Any further and she would quickly sink to the bottom of the ocean and a damaged mechanical dragon was not where she wanted to be if she was sinking.

She was not sure if this counted as being lucky or not.

“Goddammit…”

The mechanical dragon got up as she muttered that curse. And…

“My lady. We should withdraw.”

“What are you-…?”

She did not get a chance to add “saying”.

When she finished getting up, she saw the aerial warships that had arrived from the Bousou Peninsula and Edo Bay to assist her.

In another seven minutes, they would open fire on the Miura Peninsula to prepare for its recapture.

Or that had been the plan. But now…

“Why…aren’t they doing anything?”

The ships had started their approach earlier, but they had stopped since.

The reason why could be seen in the western sky.

She could see it with the naked eye from the mechanical dragon’s cockpit. There was a silhouette beyond the Miura Peninsula’s slope.

It was far larger than a mechanical dragon and it was an entirely artificial structure.

“The Pension Versailles.”

Now that the Miura Peninsula had been taken, the Mouri fleet had begun deploying above the peninsula while using the slope as a shield.

Hashiba’s light warships and warships had inferior range to the Pension Versailles. The enemy was using the same tactics they had used with their ironclad fleet.

In that case…

“Was everything we did a waste of time? Or…did I make it a waste of time?”

“My lady,” said the Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji. “This is not over yet, so do not worry.”

“But!”

This isn’t the extent of the power we gave you.”

So…

“Don’t cry, my lady. If you cry, we can’t win.”

After a pause, Nabeshima nodded.

“Testament,” she said. “I’m not crying. I was just a little surprised at being blown away and rolled through the ocean. Dammit.”

She wiped off what was flowing from the corners of her eyes. “Dammit,” she said again. “Goddammit,” she added. “Agh!” she shouted.

And finally…

“Just you watch!”

Kuki had sent her instructions to withdraw and return home. She grabbed that lernen figur, swept it aside, and had the mechanical dragon stand tall.

The power system was functioning. She could not fire the dragon cannon, but she could fly for a short time just fine. So…

“Nabeshima Naoshige here. I will withdraw as instructed!”

I’m not gonna cry anymore, she thought while raising her voice. She no longer had a part to play in the Keichou Campaign, but…

“I won’t let this be the end. Just you watch. …This is where it all begins!”


“Nabe-chan is withdrawing!?” groaned Kani while viewing a lernen figur from the PR Committee entitled “Breaking! Hour 4 of Our On-Site Keichou Campaign Coverage!”

The screen showed footage of the Miura Peninsula that had been brightened since it was night. A photo of Nabeshima’s face, her age, and some other information was displayed alongside that and the newscaster was speaking over some recorded footage of Nabeshima walking to school.

“Let’s see, Nabeshima Naoshige is currently an exchange student in Ryuuzouji, she is always cheerful, her neighbors speak highly of her, and she recently said she is looking forward to the potato stew party at the Takase River. …Oh! Has she finished withdrawing!? She has!? Yes, very good. Then let’s return to the studio! Nn~, Keichou♪!!”

From there, the footage shifted to the PR Committee’s special studio in their home nation where war researcher priests, nobles, and courtiers discussed the state of the battlefield.

“In my priestly opinion, the Satomi aerial ships should really start moving soon. Because…

“No, that is not nearly enough! You are being far too conservative for my noble tastes. You see…”

“Stop! Stop right there! We must reach an agreement! For the courtly thing to do is to reach an agreement!”

Asano glared over at it.

“Therrrre is no wayyy, they’ll ever agreeee, is there?”

“Why not!? Don’t important people like that know how to talk things out!?”

“Oh, they’rrre not important. They’ve only beeeen given some authorityyy.”

That sounded confusing, but Asano knew a lot about how the world worked. Kani decided she could take her word for it.

“But Mouri’s invasion has temporarily stopped!”

“It haaas? But they took the Miura Peninsulaaa.”

“Testament!” said Kani, but…

Huh!?

Kani realized she and Asano were looking at the situation differently. So…

“I mean, look! Nabe-chan had to withdraw, but the Pension Versailles came to hold the Miura Peninsula, so they haven’t fully taken it by deploying troops and everything!”

“Buuut aren’t they about to dooo that?”

“Maybe, but it’ll take time! And once they deploy their troops, the Pension Versailles won’t be able to move out front anymore! Because they have to recover and defend their personnel!”

That was probably true, but in that case…

“I seeee. Kani-saaan? Will our attack on the Miura Peninsula be stalled toooo?”

“Testament! It will!”

Both sides had taken territory on opposite banks with the ocean between, so they would primarily be firing on each other from that land.

That would make it difficult for either side to cross the Uraga Channel between Miura and Bousou.

“Now that it’s hard to approach, it would be a waste of our strength to use any on retaking the Miura Peninsula!”

So they needed to instead focus on the transport ships and warships under Murakami Motoyoshi’s command.

“Those shiiiips are doing a bunch of stuff to stallll for time, but won’t they lose a bunch of their forrrrces doing that?”

“That’s true! But troublesome as it is, I think Mouri must have taken that into consideration! From now on, we won’t be able to attack them from the Miura Peninsula, after all.”

While Kani said this, there was one aspect of the battlefield that was not in motion. That was…

“Mogami Yoshiaki-sama’s Yamagata Castle! They’ll send that out for some extra help!”


Here it comes, thought Kuki while viewing the sky straight ahead.

It was beyond the wall of ironclad ships and to the left of the enemy ships headed this way.

A giant ship was slowly approaching above the southern ocean: the Yamagata Castle.

From the beginning of the battle, that Mogami flagship had stayed at the back of the enemy fleet along with the Pension Versailles. There was only one reason why it would be moving forward to lay on the pressure now.

“Because the Pension Versailles took the Miura Peninsula.”

The enemy could now freely use their forces on the north side. Which meant…

The Mouri fleet has a lot more leeway in how many ships they can afford to lose.

The north side of the Mouri fleet was where they had their transport ships. They were meant to defend against the cannon fire from the coast, but now they would not receive fire from the closest area of land.

From now on, the defensive formation of transport ships could focus on the attacks from the ironclad fleet.

Of course, it was obvious to both sides that the north would be the center of the action now.

That was why the Yamagata Castle had arrived from the south.

It was a warning: Focus only on the northern ships and you will leave an opening for us to attack.

This is trouble, thought Kuki while raising his right hand and giving the first command necessary to deal with this.

“Move the ironclad fleet. Have them fall back a bit toward the Bousou Peninsula.”


Murakami Motoyoshi could tell Kuki was taking this seriously.

He’s ready to do this.

Beyond the long line of Mouri ships, Motoyoshi saw the ironclad fleet falling back.

But that was not a retreat.

“Motoyoshi-sama! Are you seeing this!?”

“I am. …They are rearranging their formation for a truly solid defense.”

The ironclad fleet moved as if to block off the area in front of the Bousou Peninsula, but their formation was different from before. The total of nine ships was still arranged in a 3x3 formation, but the left column of three was facing the Mouri fleet while the other two columns were arranged in a shallow fan shape to match the tip of the Bousou Peninsula.

That would prevent anyone from circling around from the south.

You can tell it’s a response to the Yamagata Castle.

But that would thin out their forward barrage, so…

“The warships from Edo Bay are going to join Kuki’s ironclad fleet.”

The enemy ships had held the sky above Edo Bay. They had failed to take the Miura Peninsula, but now they formed a wall in the northern sky to the left of the ironclad fleet.

Those ships had less firepower and defense than the ironclad fleet, but they were more numerous.

However, the enemy was not done yet.

Motoyoshi saw the ships to the north of Edo Bay moving south. And that was no small movement.

“Hey, Motoyoshi.”

“What is it, Student Council President?”

“Testament. …If you ask me, it looks like the Hashiba fleet is trying to surround that half of the Bousou Peninsula, but what does it look like to you?”

“Testament. It looks the exact same to me, Student Council President.”

Motoyoshi opened up a map centered on the Bousou Peninsula and Edo Bay.

The enemy formation was clear. The ironclad fleet was spread out in a fan shape reaching the southern tip of the Bousou Peninsula. A group of mostly light warships was filling in the gaps that left to form a wall along the southern and western sides of the Bousou Peninsula.

And at the northern extent of the wall was…

“The great bridge crossing Edo Bay. The line extending east from the bridge and dividing the Bousou Peninsula will be the enemy’s north defensive line for the Bousou Peninsula.”

“What do you think they’re doing?”

“I believe they are holing up there like the Bousou Peninsula is a castle. In the end, everything should trend southward.”

So…

“We must either break through their ironclad wall or have Satomi break through the north to take the peninsula. Either one will mean our victory.”

And…

“Look at this, Student Council President. …The enemy at the Great Edo Ruins is moving too.”

That was happening in the northern sky.

The ships that the Musashi and Satomi unit had broken through had finished turning.

They were headed for the sky above northeast Edo Bay where the one Musashi transport ship had broken through. The transport ship took some light hits while pursued by many ships, and…

“I am not sure if I should call that a masterful move or a reckless one.”

Motoyoshi smiled bitterly while viewing that end of the battlefield.

“Mouri Terumoto, my leader. Musashi will offer you a future. …Please watch. This should be the beginning of the Satomi Liberation.”

Just as he said that, fire rose into the sky above northeast Edo Bay.

The Mouri transport ships evacuated to the sky there – the supply transport ships that Mouri had provided at Hashiba’s demand – burst into flames after taking fire from the Musashi transport ship.


“Huh?”

Nagaoka looked to the northeastern sky from his base on the bay.

He could tell there was fire spreading in the sky. From his position, it appeared to be happening directly above him and a bit northeast.

The Mouri transport ships were taking cannon fire and going up in flames there.

But who was doing the firing made no sense.

“Why is Musashi shooting them!? Isn’t Mouri on their side!?”

No one answered his question. The situation simply continued with time.

And despite Nagaoka’s question, he heard more cannon fire from the distance.

Those had to be pseudo-anti-ship cannon blasts. The reverberating booms were hard to make out with all the blowing wind obscuring it, but Nagaoka was a gunner. He had been taught how to hear the difference and he could subconsciously calculate out the number of shells fired.

The blasts did not stop. With each consecutive boom, more fire filled the sky. And...

“Are you serious?”

The next thing he knew, nearly a fifth of those many transport ships were on fire.

What is going on?

Those supply transport ships had been sent to Hashiba, but they were originally Mouri’s. So why would Musashi be sinking them?

Nabe3: “They’re trying to throw our supply line into chaos.”

Asano: “Oh, Nabe-sannn. You okayyy?”

Nabe3: “I’m perfectly fine, which makes me wonder just how sturdy this mechanical dragon is. Anyway, I’ve joined our transport ships, so I’m helping monitor the battlefield with the mechanical dragon’s sensors while it’s being repaired.”

Knowing a friend was safe brought relief to Nagaoka.

I’m hopeless.

He had become such a coward when it came to matters of life or death.

But Nabeshima kept talking while oblivious to how he felt.

Nabe3: “The transport fleet sent by Mouri was working with the Bousou supply line under Konishi’s command. When the Bousou supply line isn’t going to make it in time or an emergency change to the supply line is needed, the Mouri transport fleet rushes out there.”

Asano: “So whaaat happens nowww?”

Nabe3: “Our supply line can’t rely on the Mouri transport fleet anymore.”

Nagaoka looked overhead as he listened.

The Musashi transport ship in the sky was headed toward the transport fleet while taking some hits from the west.

The transport fleet was turning and attempting to fall back, but they were too slow. Yet more flames erupted among them.

Are they gonna fall?

A few ships fell toward northeast Bousou.

They were not sinking. The ships were still controllable, so they were attempting to land before the power system grew too weak.

The burning ships lit up the night sky as they descended.

Nagaoka started counting the falling ships and reached the double digits in no time. He realized what Musashi was doing while he viewed that light.

Okaaa: “Oh, I get it. Mouri doesn’t care if the transport ships fall as long as their cargo survives.”

Nabe3: “If they plan to stay in Edo for a while, it only changes whether their supplies are up above or down below. As long as they have other transport ships, they can go collect the supplies. So…”

So…

Nabe3: “Even in a short-term battle, disturbing our transport plans will affect our entire fighting force. Musashi might have some other ideas in mind, but that’s all I can predict at the moment.”

“Then,” said another voice.

Asano: “I’ll leave Kani-san herrre and go fortify Bousouuuu. Do you know what the enemyyy is gonna do now?”

Kanitama: “Asa-chan, I’m sure they’re gonna be coming! …Ah! Oky-kun, I can see you from over here!”

“Oh?” said Nagaoka while looking behind him.

The middle of the Bousou Peninsula was engulfed in shadows to the east. The south was illuminated by the battle, but this part was still dark and it looked like there was something hidden there. But he could see some moving figures on the east end of that.

He saw a largescale land unit led by a group of transport mechanical horses.

Asano: “Ohhh, I’m headed to the innerrr edge of the Peninsulaaa.”

Kanitama: “Testament! We’ll head toward Oky-kun and protect the middle of the bridge!”

“Oh,” said Nagaoka when he figured it out.

The Bousou Peninsula was being surrounded by the ships that had withdrawn from Edo Bay. The northern line of that was the great bridge he was on.

And if Musashi was coming from the west, this bridge would be their shortest route to Bousou.

To respond, some defensive warriors had taken up position on the coast to his west and a few light warships were waiting.

That put him on the frontline.

Asano: “Can’t we just destroy that briiidge?”

Nabe3: “Bad idea. It’s a shared trade route for the surrounding nations, so if non-locals like us destroyed it, we’d only be earning ourselves some grudges.”

Asano: “Whose side are you on, Nabe-sannn?”

Nabe3: “I’m on the current situation’s side. You need to calm down a little, Asano.”

Nabeshima’s words helped Nagaoka relax his own shoulders.

He could really feel Nabeshima’s leadership.

It’s incredible.

She was only about two years older than him, but she could follow the flow of the battle and she had fought a fierce battle on the Miura Peninsula earlier.

He wondered if he would be on that level in another two years. Or…

Kanitama: “Oky-kun! To the west!”

Just as Kani’s words reached him, Nagaoka sensed a small light.

It did not come from the northeastern sky where the transport ship was being hit.

Nor did it come from the southern sky where two fleets were clashing.

It was a much smaller but quite distinct light. It came from…

The west!?

He had looked back to the east, so that was the direction he had originally been facing.

On the opposite coast there, a few white lights had risen from the great ruins sprawling out there. The narrow beams of light moved like pillars searching through the sky.

Kanitama: “That’s the ether light from transport ships! The Musashi ships are rushing this way through the ruins!”

That warning was immediately followed by an explosion of light on that coast to the west.

The transport ships passed through the ruins, and…

“They’re clashing with the defensive warriors there!?”


Futayo saw the city and the road leading to the battlefield.

She was in the Great Edo Ruins. They had left the central road partway through and took a southwest path toward Edo Bay.

She guessed the road was about wide enough for three transport ships to fly abreast. The ruins of tall buildings stood up on either side of the road.

“This is most impressive.”

The ruins of her hometown of Mikawa had generally been residential areas. The tall buildings had been gathered in the central area.

But the Great Edo Ruins were different. It probably helped that they had started by flying in on a transport ship, but walls had towered up on either side of them from the beginning.

It felt like racing down the bottom of a canyon.

This was probably the first time she had been surrounded by such tall structures since she had started living on the Musashi. Of course, the Musashi had its own giant structures to see, such as the Musashino’s bridge or the movable thrusters on either side of each ship, but…

“These are packed much more closely together.”

After they passed a curve in the flowing canyon, she saw a straight path extending ahead with another road meeting up with it along the way.

This was so incredible because the “current” they were riding came from the piloting of the transport ship rather than a river.

That would be Suzu-dono.

The piloting was impressive.

She felt like she had spent her entire time enthralled by the ruins rushing by around her, but those standing on the lead transport ship’s deck noticed something. The idiot wiggled his nose and spoke.

“Is the ocean nearby?”

“I hate that I agree with you,” said Futayo.

Edo Bay was nearby.

Futayo had never seen it, but Edo would one day be the Matsudaira hometown.

She was curious how similar this bay would be to her own hometown which had become a bay after its destruction.

Would Edo’s marketplace have lots of signs saying “freshly caught in the bay”? Would it be a good thing if it did? Would she feel homesick when she saw it?

It is hard to say.

She had first visited Edo during the Battle of Mikatagahara. They had passed by in the middle of the night, so the only thing she remembered was the Bousou Peninsula backlit by the dragon line reactor explosion.

Ever since, this had been too distant to see when looking south from the Mito land where the Ariake had been.

But…

Her hometown had not just been lost. It had been erased.

And the city that would become her second hometown had been damaged and stolen. So…

“If it still exists, we can take it back.”

Hm.

While setting a goal for herself, Futayo heard a certain noise.

“Masazumi, it seems the enemy is approaching.”


Based on Futayo’s warning, Masazumi checked the divine transmission from Mukai. She checked the situation around them. And…

How could she tell?

Futayo was right: the enemy was coming. Mukai probably thought they were still quite far away, but the enemy was approaching to intercept them from directly ahead.

There was just one ship. On the way to the bay, there was a giant intersection before the road took a shallow right turn. What was likely a light warship was moving ahead of them from around that turn. It probably was not driving along the ground like them, but it was very low to the ground.

What would the enemy’s tactics be given the situation?

Vice President: “What do you think!?”

Me: “I-it feels good?”

Silver Wolf: “My king, why not wait for a second hint instead of forcing an answer?”

Mar-Ga: “Then the second hint is ‘woof woof’.”

Still Got It: “My. Have Nate and her king been having some woof woof fun that feels good? My husband and I haven’t done that recently, come to think of it.”

Silver Wolf: “Why do you have to look my way when you say that!? Also…Masazumi, give us a real hint!”

Bell: “Oh, the enemy…is about to be…right in front of you.”

Mukai’s time limit had arrived. A map with all the information on the enemy arrived at everyone’s sign frame. An enemy ship was rushing in from the right turn a little over a kilometer ahead.

Gold Mar: “Is it a light warship? Do you think it’ll open fire the instant it appears?”

Vice President: “I do, but I doubt they can make it too intense. Like we said before, the other nations have an interest in these ruins. Since the Testament Union has declared this a protected area, they can’t make any attacks that are guaranteed to damage the ruins.”

Me: “Huh? Then can’t we just stay in the ruins and fire on them from here? That sounds like a great idea.”

Uqui: “How are we supposed to aim outside the ruins without hitting them when these tall buildings form something like a canyon around us, you idiot?”

Me: “I-if you call someone an idiot, then you’re the idiot! You iiiiidiot! You iiiidiotic iiiidiot! Yay! Uqui’s the real iiiiiiiiiiiiiidiot!”

Smoking Girl: “It’s not often someone doubles down in such a pathetic way.”

Unturning: “Kiyonari, I don’t care if you’re an idiot. Just do this right.”

“Ohhh…” said the girls while someone nodded.

It was Futayo.

She checked the situation on the sign frame map and then turned toward Masazumi.

“Masazumi, does that mean we can assume very little exchange of artillery fire?”

“Yes, I doubt they’ll shoot at us unless it’s a head-on shot that’s basically guaranteed to be a direct hit.”

“Judge. Then I will be going.”

“Eh?”

Before Masazumi could ask what the girl meant, Futayo leaped out into the empty space in front of the deck.

She jumped down ahead of the racing transport ship.


Mitotsudaira heard Masazumi lean over the edge of the deck and shout.

“Wait! Futayo!?”

It happened so suddenly it must have looked like Futayo recklessly jumped off of the ship. Naito nodded and spoke up.

“Uh, just FYI, we’re currently moving at 240km/h.”

“Futayo’s acceleration spell is not the type to provide speed right away, is it?” The idiot sister held her face between her hands. “Kyah! She was splattered!”

“K-Kimi why are you so good at mimicking people!?” asked Asama.

“I’m not sure that’s the main point here,” said Naito.

“Anyway.” Mitotsudaira pointed out ahead. “Futayo is right over there.”

That she was. Instead of directly below where Masazumi was looking, she was on the road up ahead. In fact, she had already made it more than 200m ahead.

She had accelerated using Soaring Wings. And she continued to accelerate and move further ahead.

Mar-Ga: “Wait, does that acceleration spell really give a blast of speed as soon as she lands?”

It could not do that. Soaring Wings was a Shinto acceleration spell that increased the user’s speed through repeated purification. She would have started at normal running speed upon landing.

But the acceleration begins once she “lands”.

Mitotsudaira knew what Futayo had done.

She had run down the keel along the tip of the bow.

She did that at England too.

When the transport ship had been crashing onto England, Mitotsudaira had seen Futayo accelerate toward the bow by running up along the inside.

And now that Futayo knew how to use ideal movements, she could store that acceleration in her actions. She must have spun her body while running down the ship to gain the distance she needed to accelerate.

As a result, Futayo had leaped ahead of the ship with far more speed than Masazumi had imagined.

Up ahead of the transport ship, there was an intersection of canyons and then a right turn.

If they made that turn, it would be a straight shot to the ocean.

But the enemy had appeared there.

Except it was not the warship arriving from beyond the upcoming turn.

Mitotsudaira looked at the map that was constantly updated with data sent from Musashino’s bridge.

Bell: “…! They’re coming…all of a sudden…from the sky on the left and right!”


These were new enemies.

They arrived from the left and right sky at the intersection up ahead.

They had not been hiding within the great ruins. Two transport ships were rapidly descending from the north and west.

The two giant shapes moved like the tongue of a bell. They charged in with greater speed than the Musashi transport ships, and…

“They intend to either catch us between them or block the way ahead!”

Just as she yelled that, Mitotsudaira heard a voice.

It was her king.

“Nate,” he said. “Someone needs to clear the way, don’t they?”

“Judge!”

She responded with that one word and her actions.

She looked her king in the eye and then nodded toward Asama and Kimi.

“Lady Mitotsudaira!”

Mary tossed her Ex. Collbrande, so she caught that and leaped forward.

She jumped.

She threw herself into the empty space in front of the transport ship and saw movement ahead of her.

Far ahead, the ether light of the enemy ship was reflected off the ruins at the corner. Closer than that, Futayo looked back her way after crossing the intersection. And just as the other girl glanced into the sky on either side…

“Here I go!”

Mitotsudaira ran down the bow to accelerate like Futayo had and then moved forward.

The wolf followed the dragonfly to clear a path for their king.


Chapter 32: Leader at the Intersection[edit]

Horizon7B 173.jpg

I spin around

And, um

What comes next?

Point Allocation (Bind)


Suzu performed some work with her hands and gave some instructions on Musashino’s bridge.

There was a lot of movement at and around the transport ships she was controlling, so she had to manage and comprehend it all while delegating what she could.

That was why she had a sign frame saying “Work Complete / Transfer” next to her. When she had finished something herself, she hit “complete” and, when she was delegating it to the automatons, she hit “transfer” to control each movement in turn.

“Musashino” was the most reliable one when it came to this. When the enemy transport ships arrived from the sky on the left and right, Suzu was unsure what to have their transport ships do, but…

“Suzu-sama, let those on the ship deal with that one. Over.”

“Those on the ship…? B-but…the lead ship…is going to be caught between them?”

Did that mean the enemy was doing a good job?

The two ships charging in from either side were trying to destroy the lead Musashi transport ship instead of just acting as an obstacle. The enemy did not have automatons to handle the data processing for the timing, so all the work would have been done by their navigation students. With that in mind…

“They’re really…experienced.”

“Suzu-sama,” added “Musashino”. “Machines were created as a form of assistance to allow the less experienced to produce decent results. And unlike experienced people, machines do not grow tired and can provide the same level of results indefinitely. With machines like us assisting you, you need not view the experienced enemy as a threat. Over.”

“Oh, um, uh.”

That was not quite right.

Will this hurt her feelings? wondered Suzu as she spoke to “Musashino”.

“Not a…threat. I was, um…i-impressed.”

She finally found the word she was looking for.

“I respect them?”

She could see the automaton’s expression change. Her eyebrows rose a little and she nodded toward Suzu.

“My apologies. You are correct, Suzu-sama. When faced with an opponent’s skill, we should pay them respect rather than view it as a threat. Because…”

Because…

“I have determined we wish other people to respect rather than fear the power we are offering you. Over.”

“Musashino” then changed the subject.

“Now, Suzu-sama. Let us show something worthy of respect to the experienced enemy responsible for this timing. I will present you with some options, so please choose whichever plan you like. Over.”


Naito was unsure if she should take flight.

She was on the lead transport ship which really looked like it was going to get squished from either side.

She would rather not be squished, so it would be much less nerve-racking if she just flew away. But…

“Hey! Everyone! We’re all about to die! Adele! Can you get in the middle with your mobile shell and save us by taking those big things from both ends for us!? Oh, but don’t do a search on ‘taking big things from both ends’, Adele!”

“I-if that’s how it’s gonna be, Chancellor, then I’m getting in the mobile shell to save myself and you can get squished together with the 1st Special Duty Officer so you two have the flattest chest of all!”

“Why did you have to drag me into this!? I will be evacuating with Mary-dono!”

“Tenzou… This is why you have no friends.”

But as nerve-racking as staying would be, Naito felt like leaving this group to their own devices was a bad idea in general.

Plus, she would probably feel a little guilty if they were all squished, but…

I’m pretty sure they’d survive just about anything.

She felt like it would be harder for them to die. There were normal warriors on the other transport ships, but this lead one was being controlled almost entirely remotely. That was so it could be disposable, so…

“Hmm.”

“What is it, Margot?”

“Judge. I was just wondering what it would take to actually kill all of us. Is that a dangerous thing to think about?”

“Even if something like that happened, there’s Trigger Happy Gin and her group up there, so it wouldn’t be all of us.”

“Good point,” said Naito. “Then I guess I won’t fly. I’m not really ready for it anyway.”

“Eh? What do you mean?”

“Well, you see,” said Naito just before the transport ship entered the intersection. “Oh,” she added as the enemy ships rushed in from either side.


They’re going to hit us! thought Adele.

The large enemy ships were on a collision course in the left and right sides of her vision.

Oh, no!

She was not in her mobile shell. Her reasoning was fairly dull: it’s too hot in there. After all, cooling spells were expensive, so they simply were not an option for her.

Also, was there any real reason for me to be here at all? she belatedly wondered.

They were originally only supposed to abduct Nagaoka Tadaoki, but she also had her connections with Yoshiyasu and Yoshiaki to consider. Still, if everything was going to happen on this transport ship…

“There’s no real reason to have me or Raging Beast here, is there?”

When she looked back at where Raging Beast was fixed to the deck, she saw Persona-kun wildly gesturing toward the back hatch he had opened.

Yeah, I’m grateful, but it’s a little late now.

Then she remembered the situation and turned toward Asama.

“A-Asama-san! We’re about to be squished or splattered or whatever! Don’t you have to do your running gag!?”

But while Adele tried to distract herself from their impending doom, Asama had opened several spell sign frames. They were directly linked to the transport ship’s divine protection system, so…

“Everyone! Please get down!”

As soon as Asama said that, Adele felt a hand on the back of her neck.

“Now, now, Adele. This isn’t the time to panic.”

Kimi pulled her down into a sitting position. And…

Bell: “Here…goes!”

With that, the transport ship did something.

It dove into some water to stop itself.


The transport ship crashed into the water.

After being sat down on the deck by the Reine des Garous’s hand pushing on her shoulder, Masazumi saw a wall of water rise from the bow like an arching bridge.

That was the virtual ocean.

That virtual ocean had already been active to support the ship from directly above it.

This arch of water had probably made a full circle of the ship to surround the bow.

It was thick for a virtual ocean. That was why it caught the ship and rapidly slowed it.

And Masazumi belatedly realized something about the way the water was placed.

It’s like at England.

After the transport ship had crashed on England, they had needed to stand it up so it would not fall over. That had been accomplished by focusing the virtual ocean on the stern to keep the ship vertical below it.

But this time, the thick ocean had been created in front of the ship.

Musashino: “The calculations and control for the virtual ocean buoyancy are being completed with a 2% margin of error. Over.”

Unturning: “This is nice and exciting.”

That’s your only reaction!? thought Masazumi in shock, but perhaps this was not enough to let it surprise her.

After all, the virtual ocean was a mass of buoyancy. So…

Bell: “You will soon be…launched forward!”

That was the natural result.

On the diagram, she could see the rest of the transport ships approaching from behind this lead one that had come to a sudden stop.

The speed calculation at the top of the sign frame showed a reacceleration after the virtual ocean braking. The speed of the lead ship quickly shot up to 240km/h.

But just as she sensed the ocean growing even thicker, she saw a collision in front of her.

With their timing thrown off, the enemy ships collided head-on with each other.


The attack had not hit.

Adele saw the enemy ship hammers crash into each other at about 400m ahead of them.

“We’re saved!”

Her joyful cry was drowned out by the din of breaking metal.

The shockwave and light produced by the collision struck their ship and the ruins. The dust coating the surface of the ruins was blown away and the buildings of a former age were revealed.

Novice: “Data! Precious, precious data!”

Mar-Ga: “Couldn’t you see this by visiting the mine at Akihabara?”

Novice: “No! The buildings at Akihabara are too strongly influenced by the weird religions they had back then! Just the other day in the west area, they discovered a statue of High Priest Onoden riding a moving wooden horse with an elephantine nose attached, so we have to question the validity of our findings regarding the great faith of Soft Map even though that research had even managed to recreate their primary hymn!”

Worshiper: “They have found ridiculous things in the older layers! They just recently reached a layer from an era where life worship was banned! Honestly, what were the people from the Age of the Gods thinking!?”

Flat Vassal: “So life worshipers were heretics back then too, huh?”

Vice President: “Can we please focus on the danger right in front of us!?”

She saw it there.

There was a wall right in front of them.

A metal wall. They were facing the thick metal created by two ships crashing together like two long paper boxes. The crushed and bent portions stood out because their great heat caused them to glow a dull red.

But as they flew toward that metal wall, the ring of virtual ocean raced toward the stern.

“Oh.”

Some wind blew in from the front with the force of a surprise attack.

No, that was not wind.

Their own transport ship was accelerating forward thanks to the virtual ocean ring. And that metal wall was still right there in front of them.

“We’re gonna crash!”


“They are going to crash, aren’t they?”

Mitotsudaira threw herself in between the accelerating transport ship and the colliding enemy ships.

The border between the two ships was right there in front of her, but there was no prying them apart now. The pressure and heat of the crash had fused them together and their frames were sticking into each other.

However, there was a reaction to their collision.

But instead of being a reaction to their own hit, it was a reaction to the other ship hitting them.

Mitotsudaira saw all of their armor panels strip away toward the bow.

The armor on the stern was stripped from the frame by their own weight and it flew in the direction of the collision.

Each time the armor panels left the frame and slid, she heard the metallic sounds of welds and connections breaking.

But the destruction was not limited to the exterior. The interior structures like walls and floors would either act as weights that bent the frames or break loose and form an avalanche toward the bow.

And something happened once the armor panels and interior structures pushed in toward the bow, giving the ships a wrinkled appearance.

The force of their mutual collision exploded.

While the armor panels and other detritus piled up, the frames at the core carried the force from the other ship.

An instant later, the metal frames forming the ships ruptured. Instead of a solid impact, it was more of a wing-like tearing sound. The ships’ metal bones could not bear the force passing through them and they burst.

Next, the detritus struck.

The armor panels and interior structures applied pressure to the bow like a single great mass. That force had tried to follow the frames to each ship’s bow, but not all of it had made it through and it instead accumulated.

In an instant, everything in the crashed ships seemed to stop.

But that stillness and silence did not last long.

The energy rapidly filling each ship’s bow resulted in something like dual detonations.

Both forces were accompanied by voices. And those voices had the same timing and intensity.

“Bind! Tonbo Spare!”

“Slice through, Silver Chains!”

From the front, the Silver Chains threw Ex. Collbrande in to slice through the right ship.

From behind, an attack from Tonbo Spare sliced through the left ship.


Futayo saw it while running further ahead.

She looked back while moving. That meant making a spin step to preserve her acceleration spell while checking behind her and she saw the enemy ships crashing there.

She targeted the one on the right from her perspective. Since she was holding Tonbo Spare in her right hand, she was confident that was the fastest and best choice.

But she only sliced the right one. She did not slice both.

Because she knew one of her classmates would do something about it.

One of them would find it natural to slice through that left ship. Even if every single one of them missed the best timing because they assumed someone else would do it, they would still do it.

This was the same.

Someone made their attack on the left ship from Futayo’s perspective.

Excalibur had two Silver Chains wrapped around it. The sword of English royalty initially flew straight up in the night sky before swinging down along a scythe-like curve.

It only took an instant. Futayo saw Excalibur slam into the bottom of the bow, which was sort of like the ship’s throat.

Then the Silver Chains moved.

Ohh.

She gasped in her heart because that was not just a slicing blow.

The Silver Chains holding onto Ex. Collbrande’s hilt slashed all the way around the exterior of the enemy ship.

It was almost like slitting someone’s throat, but this slash was extremely precise.

This technique would not be possible for person or beast. It was only possible with the combination of Silver Chains and blade, so Futayo felt blessed to have seen it up close.

And just as the sparks scattered from that arc of a slash around the ship, Futayo’s own cut collided with the other ship.

Both ships were sliced into. The gashes their attacks left were split further by the force built up within and the ships sliced themselves the rest of the way.

A tearing roar shook the dark city, but Futayo turned her back on that.

She had completed her spin step. She had built up enough speed to cover the length of 70 paces in a single step, so she had to face her next enemy.

She did not look back because she knew what was happening behind her.

The bows would have been bisected and the colliding forces within would burst out there since they could not escape through the back of the ships.

“The two severed bows will explode.”

She heard the cacophony of destruction behind her.

Her words became reality and the path was cleared while debris flew everywhere.


Suzu gasped.

All she had done was lower the transport ship’s speed.

The rest had been a combination of adlibs by those on the scene. And as a result, the bows of the enemy ships blocking the way forward had exploded.

She honestly did not understand what had happened.

Futayo-san looked back, Mitotsudaira-san moved forward, and then it all blew up?

It scared her how she was tempted to just say “sure, why not” when it came to those two.

The gap those two had opened was about 47m wide. That was barely enough space for a Far Eastern transport ship.

Suzu hurriedly directed the lead ship toward that gap.

It had already started to reaccelerate and the other ships were arriving behind it. Also…

“Wow…”

She briefly leaned back and covered Noise Neighbor with her hands. The high-resolution sensory data she was receiving had just increased considerably.

It was the debris.

The pieces of the two exploded bows was essentially pummeling her with data.

The ability to quickly cut through to the gist of things was a major strength of humanity, but this felt a lot like facing up toward the sky in the middle of a downpour.

Of course, she could handle this if she mentally prepared herself first. It was a lot like taking a breath before diving underwater.

Gold Mar: “Hey, Bell-rin? We’re gonna clean things up out front, so cover your ears.”

Eh? thought Suzu when Naito suddenly spoke to her, but she soon remembered something.

Everyone in their class had a way of doing crazy things. And if they gave warning, it was best to do as they said even if she did not understand what they meant.

I-if you try to ask what they mean…it never ends well!

So Suzu quickly lowered Noise Neighbor’s auditory sensory power.

A moment later, a sudden explosive roar rumbled through the lowered auditory device.

Someone had fired an attack forward from near their transport ship’s bow.

It was a Technohexen blast.


Mitotsudaira used her instantaneous acceleration to move forward.

She slipped below the falling debris of the two shattered bows and looked back over her shoulder to see an attack launched from the front of the deck by the two Technohexen.

Two blasts were fired in quick succession. The first one was a scattering cannon blast made by Naito.

She placed the end of her schale besen on the bow so all the recoil would be absorbed by the transport ship.

“Is this gonna be too much for the brush!?”

The Schwarz Hexen had fired the blast with the rear nozzle almost fully opened and five rolls of coins exploded near the flying debris.

With a sound like a ringing bell, the enemy ship debris was pushed away from the center.

That blast cleared the way.

There was still some wreckage there, but…

“C’mon, Margot, you can’t leave so much behind.”

The Weiss Hexen pressed the back of her schale besen against the bow to absorb the recoil and fired several homing shots.

Some large pieces of wreckage were still floating in the air after the push from the Schwarz Hexen’s attack, but the Weiss Hexen’s attacks struck them like a kick to the rear.

Technohexen schale besen were capable of taking on warships, but here they were used to clean up the air.

Bell: “Thank…you!”

Suzu’s words were everything. The obstacles in the air had been swept away.

The transport ship’s armor could handle what debris remained.

Mitotsudaira saw the Technohexen pair high five while standing on the edge of the bow.

And as the transport ship moved forward…

“You two!” Mitotsudaira called out to the Technohexen. “There’s still an obstacle up ahead!”

An enemy transport ship had turned the corner past the intersection. And…

It’s firing!

The long cannon installed on its deck released white spray visible even in their night vision.

An initial shot was fired straight at them.


Yoshiyasu clicked her tongue at the enemy’s decision.

They’re so damn clever!

First, the enemy had tried to crush them using the transport ship hammers from either side.

Whether they were hit by or slipped past that, this attack was ready for them from straight ahead. Meanwhile, their path through was restricted by the enemy ships forming walls on the left and right.

Of course, they could guard against the cannon blast with their defense barriers, but while they repeated that process…

“The enemy will crash into us!”

They could not ascend using the blast this time. In fact, these head-on attacks actually lowered their speed. That would make the lead transport ship an obstacle for the others behind it.

What do we do!?

Yoshiyasu considered sending out Righteousness.

Righteousness could cut down the enemy cannon blasts and destroy the enemy ship itself.

But she heard a certain voice.

“Flatty, it’s not your turn to fight yet.”

“But!”

An enemy shell burst in front of them. The lead ship’s defense barrier shattered and the ether light dust turned to wind and blew around them, but the idiot was smiling beyond that.

“We’re still doing Operation Kidnap Nagabuto, so you just go snack on a potato and enjoy the show,” he said. “I mean, the ocean’s right past here, so we’re all in an Edo Bay mood already!”


The ocean, thought Yoshiyasu while hearing the next shot shatter another defense barrier.

Honestly.

She definitely felt impatient given the situation, but more than that…

I can’t believe this.

This was her response to the idiot’s words: Yeah, I guess so.

“None of you are taking this seriously enough.

But taking things seriously did not necessarily mean they would turn out any better. She had learned all too well recently that taking things seriously was not a necessary part of accomplishing something.

If you had skill, then attitude and method did not really matter.

But what about with her?

She felt like she understood, but she did not really.

However, she had taken things seriously, failed to reach her goal, and lost. So…

“Hey, Musashi Chancellor.”

“Yeah!? What is it, Flatty!? Feeling lonely? Hm?”

“Oh, shut up. But for now…”

Yoshiyasu spoke while listening to the cannon blasts and shattering barriers from up ahead.

“Show me the ocean. The ocean leading to Satomi.”


Futayo received the Satomi Student Council President’s instruction via Masazumi.

“Judge!”

The Satomi Student Council President had asked them to show her the ocean.

Futayo honestly wanted to see it too. She wanted to see how Edo’s bay differed from and resembled Mikawa’s bay.

It did not matter that it was nighttime. She had often seen the ocean ahead of or behind her while training at night back at Mikawa.

But when she tried to do that here, there was an obstacle approaching from up ahead.

“You are in the way.”

The armed transport ship was in the way.

It blocked her view, her actions, and her mood. That last one was especially important.

Because your mood is everything in combat!

A good mood means good results. Masazumi and Mitotsudaira-sama clearly understand this. When Masazumi really gets into her negotiations, she starts wars. And when Mitotsudaira-sama gets into her ‘loo loo loo’ wolf mode, it never ends well for her opponent.

But then how do I explain Gin-dono’s serenity in battle?

That was strange.

Futayo spoke to Masazumi while running along the straight road as shells passed by overhead.

Tonbokiri: “Masazumi! Can I hear what is going on with Gin-dono’s group!? I would like to check on their battle excitement!”


Masazumi turned toward Asama.

The shrine maiden had been teaching the idiot how to follow Mitotsudaira’s battle progress on his sign frame, but she managed to respond while performing that task.

“Oh, Masazumi? You can check on Gin-san if you want, so go ahead.”

Her skill really is impressive, thought Masazumi while having Tsukinowa open a sign frame.

While she did that, a defense barrier shard passed by right next to her. She was used to seeing that by now, so she did not even flinch. Soon, her sign frame displayed the Tachibana Couple’s status.

Their battle excitement, huh?

The Tachibana Couple were very much the combat type. The wife remained clam and serene throughout. Following their fighting would probably be pretty exciting.

Futayo must have some kind of idea, figured Masazumi while viewing the Tachibana Couple’s conversation.


Tachibana Husband: “Oh, look, Gin. That ship over there looks about ready to sink. Yes, and it’s in a good position too. I’m starting to figure out how this works, I think. Your artillery fire seems so much more vivid than usual. …What a wonderful night this is.”

Tachibana Wife: “Master Muneshige, please do not get so excited. By the way, this is a new armor-piercing shell I developed in secret, so would you like to see it in action? Or would you prefer I opened up the bento I brought to eat during a break in the fighting?”

Tachibana Husband: “Oh? Gin, were you storing that bento box in the space meant for your weapons? What a wonderful surprise.”

Tachibana Wife: “Which shall it be? The armor-piercing shell, or the bento?”

Tachibana Husband: “Ha ha. Why not fire it while we take a break, Gin?”

Tachibana Wife: “You are much too pure, Master Muneshige. But if you insist, I will up the recoil reduction so we can drink some tea while firing it. …Is that the ship you had your eye on?”

Tachibana Husband: “Indeed it was! …Oh, look at it burn. It’s so pretty, Gin.”

Tachibana Wife: “ ‘Pretty’ will get you nowhere with a warrior woman. But more than that, I am glad you enjoyed it. Now, I have some other newly developed shells with me, so would you like to try them out as well?”


Mar-Ga: “Why are those two flirting on the battlefield with their commando mentality intact?”

Gold Mar: “And aren’t they doing that on a transport ship that’s taking hits?”

Flat Vassal: “They’re a real stereotypical battle-happy couple, aren’t they?”

Uqui: “Hm? What is that look for, Narumi?”

Unturning: “Why is that common enough here to be a stereotype?”

Gold Mar: “Narumin, they’re doing it with a cannon, so do you want to do with your swords?”

Vice President: “I’m pretty sure this is more disturbing than exciting!”


Futayo listened to the couple’s intimate artillery session via the divine transmission.

Leave it to Gin-dono to take things to another level!

She was firing on enemy ships while having a couple’s talk with Muneshige. Did that mean firing on ships was such a common occurrance for her that it was not worth getting excited over?

The Tachibana clan could be frightening sometimes.

Then I need to take things to the next level too, thought Futayo before realizing something.

Gin-dono always has a way of putting me in the right combat mood!

She felt a smile on her lips as she gave a deep nod. Then she faced forward.

“Oh, when did the enemy transport ship get so close?”

She crashed right into it.


Chapter 33: Jumping Girls Above and Below the Arch[edit]

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Cr-

Cr-

Cr-

Cr-

Craaaash

Point Allocation (Should I Have Done That…?)


Adele saw the transport ship slam into Futayo.

“She was hit!”

That was clearly a direct hit. The transport ship had been flying in at extreme low altitude to fire on them, so there had not been room for Futayo to fit below it.

She was hit.

She flew through the air while leaning backwards. The back of her head collapsed backwards, her navel pointed up toward the heavens, and she formed a large curve with her body.

“Eh?”

Something isn’t right, thought Adele as she stood up. And then…

“Like this, Adele.”

Kimi lightly struck her hips. Or so she thought.

At the same time, Adele flipped back starting from her feet.

Wah!?

The next thing she knew, she was standing up.

The world was back to normal with her legs below her. But the hem of her summer uniform was falling from the tug of gravity. And more than that, her pulse was racing.

What was that?

“Heh heh. Futayo just did that same thing. In the instant of impact, she lifted her knees and lightly kicked off the transport ship’s bow. From there, she spun herself around in a 450-degree backflip.”

Kimi pointed toward the enemy transport ship. There was a straight line path up from the bow.

“Is the Vice Chancellor trying to run up the bow to reach the top of the transport ship!?”

That was exactly what she saw happening.

After swinging her long ponytail in a 450-degree circle, Futayo landed on the approaching transport ship’s bow.

“––––”

And she suddenly ran straight up the bow.


Futayo entered a fighting stance the instant she hopped up onto the transport ship’s deck.

But that stance was meaningless when it came to intercepting attacks and she could not afford to lose her speed, so she left the stance again. Adapting to the situation is an important skill.

So her charge was done freestyle. There was a good chance they would shoot at her, so she angled her body to the side and relied on her shoulder and skirt armor while holding Tonbo Spare up as a shield.

And she realized something while flying across the enemy ship’s bow.

“There is no one here?”

Was the ship deserted? It was still firing and the cannons were making minute adjustments to remain aimed at the Musashi transport ships.

But the ship could be controlled remotely, so if there was no one on the deck…

“Do they intend to ram us!?”


Tonbokiri: “You need to figure out what to do in a hurry! Thish ship…this sip…this ship intends to ram you!”

Asama heard Futayo struggle to get the right words out.

And she exchanged a glance with the others on the transport ship.

“So what do we do?”

They all gasped as the enemy ship arrived right in front of them.

But despite the pressing situation, Asama heard Narumi while she tilted her head and tugged on Urquiaga’s sleeve.

“The two of us will be fine either way, won’t we?”

Incredible! thought Asama just before something other than a collision happened.

Their transport ship was blown away. All on its own.


Suzu focused on the movement of the ships.

The ship debris had disturbed her senses a lot like chaff, but that was gone now. The long distance meant her senses were a little rough, but the models she had were plenty clear for her purposes as she moved the transport ships.

She had a single goal.

“Jump…over it!”

Of course, the transport ship had fairly low buoyancy. Even with the thick virtual ocean surrounding it, it took time for it to float. So if she was going to do this, she had to use speed.

Roll!

There were three methods necessary.

First, she caught the enemy’s cannon fire on diagonally-oriented defense barriers to knock the bow down.

Next, she created a diagonally-oriented virtual ocean with the lower end toward the bow and the higher end toward the stern.

That would cause the rear of the transport ship to float.

The next part was kind of rough. She sent forward the transport ship following the lead one.

“Suzu-sama. We will control the hits, so you need not hold back. Over.”

“O-okay!”

Suzu jabbed the lead ship’s raised rear with the next ship’s bow.


This caused a rear-end collision.

The second ship crashed into the bottom of the lead ship’s raised stern.

Instead of a roar, this simply caused a heavy noise and two things happened afterwards.

The lead ship skidded up and forward with its back end raised and the rear ship pitched forward.

Then the process repeated.

The second ship’s forward tilt lifted its rear and the third ship hit there and tilted forward as well. The fourth ship hit the third’s raised back end and the fifth and sixth ships did the same.

Soon thereafter, the first through fifth ships hopped up as if thrown forward.

They flew.

The Musashi ships passed by above the enemy ship that had tried to ram them from head on. And those five ships all performed a flip as they did so.

But the sixth and final ship had no one to ram it from behind, so it could not jump.

But the sixth ship had time instead. Unlike the ships in front, it had time to float up normally.

So it did.

That would allow the sixth ship to pass by above the enemy ship as well.

But the enemy ship made a hurried action.

From the moment the lead ship had hopped up, the cannons on its deck had been aimed upwards.

It did not have time to take aim then, but that would change when it came to the sixth ship. All of the enemy ship’s cannons were aimed skyward in order to target the lead ship.

And it opened fire.


Everyone saw it happening from the large boxy structure that was the flipping lead ship.

The cannons meant to target them opened fire.

The cannon turrets fired from close enough for a kiss.

“Hey! Adele! That’s your cue!! Become a shield!”

“A direct hit from that will peel off a lot of the armor! And what if I get stuck in the deck!?”

That’s your worst-case scenario? everyone muttered while two overheated shells flew toward them.

“Wah!”

Everyone cried out and started to move, but then a brief but definite change came over the two shells.

They were split down the center to create four total pieces.

“Bind! Tonbo Spare!”

The cutting power destroyed them.


Futayo looked up at the spinning transport ship from the enemy ship’s deck.

The rotation had already moved the deck out of view.

Everyone was safe. She could not see any sign of damage from here.

That cut must have reached them.

Although, she thought. That one was a freebie.

“I know I am not the only one of us who can intercept shells!”

There was something else she needed to focus on while on the enemy ship.

“I must destroy the cannons!”

With that, she accelerated. She ran across the enemy ship as if pursuing her allies’ ships passing by overhead.

“Soaring Wings!”

She provided herself further acceleration to move forward.


Futayo first destroyed one of the enemy cannons with a surprise cutting attack.

The enemy ship had three main cannons and a few secondary cannons on its deck. The main ones were the real threat. The secondary ones could be easily blocked with defense barriers, so she could ignore them.

Meanwhile, her allies could not get in any solid hits with their own defense barriers in the way.

That was why she had boarded the enemy ship.

I must hurry, she thought.

Her race across the deck arrived at the second cannon installed at the center. The cannons had been attached to the transport ship’s deck in a hurry. The base was built up as a package and a 15cm cannon was affixed to that. The barrel appeared to be around 38 calibers long.

That cannon was attempting to fire on the transport ship passing above it.

She could not overlook that. Even if the enemy did not fire here…

“You never know what will happen as the battle continues!”

She ran and leaped past the cannon while activating Tonbo Spare.

“Bind!”

She slammed the cutting attack into it. And in that same instant…

Mh?

She sensed something like wind approaching from the stern ahead of her.

She knew what it was.

A flying shell!

This had the same intensity as the ones Gin had fired at her.

And Futayo saw the rearmost main cannon aiming at her rather than up.

Just as she had predicted, two of its shells were flying her way.


Narumi saw something atop the rotating ship as it passed over the enemy ship.

She saw the Musashi Vice Chancellor’s decision.

The girl took a certain action when the shells were fired at her from the stern.

Will she dodge out of the way? Or will she jump over them?

No, in the records of her battle with Sanada’s Celestial Dragon, she had used one of Tachibana Gin’s shells as a stepping stone and jumped off of it.

That was insane.

But the Musashi Vice Chancellor would do things like that.

Narumi could tell just how troublesome an opponent that girl would be if she ever had to fight her.

I really thought she would dodge out of the way.

If she had done that, she would have been safe.

But that would have put the rest of them in danger. Even with defense barriers, this was far too close.

Narumi had thought the Musashi Vice Chancellor was that sort of person.

Heroes who made the battlefield their own had existed since antiquity.

They would run whichever way they pleased, bring down enemies wherever they passed by, and never take any damage themselves. They were heroes because they were an exceptional force on the battlefield.

Of course, that fighting style did not take those behind them into account. The others would have to protect themselves in order to respect the hero’s results.

The Musashi Vice Chancellor tended in that direction.

She would always rush forward, ignore the plan, and singlehandedly adlib her way through.

But that was not all she did.

She had prioritized protecting the others over herself.

That decision may have looked like she did not even consider the danger to herself.

But looking at the big picture, she had done the right thing. Their overall goal was to reach the end of this road.

If she had protected herself but the transport ships had not made it through, they would have lost the battle.

“Yes.”

But perhaps the Musashi Vice Chancellor had simply not forgotten something else.

The Satomi Student Council President asked us to show her the ocean.

Narumi shut her eyes.

The transport ship’s rotation settled down and the bottom descended to the road once more.

The enemy ship was already behind them.

The two shells would have flown the Musashi Vice Chancellor’s way from the stern of that ship, but…

“She really is troublesome.”

That girl was troublesome for more than just her grasp of their battlefield objective. She had such exceptional power and she fought as an individual, yet…

“She does not forget she has allies with her.”

Just as Narumi said that, an explosion erupted behind them.

The two shells flying toward the Musashi Vice Chancellor had exploded.

But not because they had hit her.

“They were destroyed.”

Something had torn into and eliminated the shells.

“The Mito Lord’s Ex. Collbrande.”


Futayo spun herself around while destroying the central cannon.

Smoke and scorched metal shards scattered below her flowing hair and swinging arms.

The shells aimed at her had been destroyed. That was thanks to…

“Mitotsudaira-sama!”

“Judge!”

But more than one voice responded with that word.

First, Mitotsudaira landed on the stern as if chasing after the Silver Chains and Ex. Collbrande.

She looked back a bit while Futayo spun herself around to build up acceleration.

“I will be going on ahead.”

She was not speaking to Futayo alone. The wolf was addressing her and…

“Naito-dono and Naruze-dono?”

“Judge! It can be hard to tell whether you’re moving too fast or lagging behind.”

With that, the Schwarz Hexen stepped up beside her.

And the Weiss Hexen lined up on her other side, placing her between the two Technohexen.

“How did you end up behind everyone after running out ahead?”

Fair point, thought Futayo as she ended her spin and moved forward.

She ran.

As she kicked off the deck, the rear cannon up ahead suddenly transformed. The silver wolf had used her chains to spread and bend the cannon to either side.

This transport ship was no longer a threat. With just one exception:

It could ascend, turn around, and ram us.

That just left escaping.

The fourth ship was spinning by overhead. If she ran to the stern now, she would have plenty of time to reach the sixth ship as it landed.

The Technohexen called out to her while accelerating behind her.

“Are you hopping aboard, Nida-yan!?”

“You two go on ahead to guard its surroundings!”

“Judge!”

The Technohexen left. Up ahead, Mitotsudaira launched a Silver Chain toward the descending sixth ship.

The silver fingers grasped the back of the transport ship and the wolf looked back as the chain grew taut.

“You can jump on by yourself, can’t you!?”

Futayo raised her eyebrows at that.

No help for me!?

But she was Vice Chancellor. Even if Mitotsudaira was the Mito Lord, she was still only the 5th Special Duty Officer, so Futayo could not get her help when she did not need it.

In other words, she could jump on by herself. So she responded with her eyebrows raised in a smile.

“Of course!”

She had learned how to do this while training with Kimi.

She corrected her axis, aligned her center of gravity along a straight line, and passed her strength through a single point to leap.

She unleashed enough jumping force to fly a few dozen meters in a single bound. This was her version of the Hassou Tobi.

The silver wolf flew off ahead of her as the chain pulled her. Futayo matched her pace as she pursued.

Right, left, right, left.

“Mh?”

When she prepared to leap to the right again, the deck moved faster than her.


Mitotsudaira saw Futayo trip and fall off of the enemy ship.

What are you doing!?

The girl had screwed up.

No, it was Mitotsudaira who had screwed up, not Futayo.

Urging her to jump out of some weird concern for her position as Vice Chancellor had been a mistake. Because…

Futayo is useless when she tries to use her head!

If Mitotsudaira had said nothing, Futayo would not have tried to think and would have used her wild instincts to jump, but Mitotsudaira’s words must have made her think something. And as a result…

“Silver Chain!”

She extended it, released it, and sent it out straight, but…

Will it not reach her!?

Just as she thought that, Futayo spun herself through the air and prepared her spear. She aimed it backwards, toward the stern of the departing enemy transport ship.

She deactivated Soaring Wings during her fall, and…

“Bind and cut…Tonbo Spare!”

The rear of the enemy ship was cut through.


Mitotsudaira saw what Futayo had accomplished.

She had cut.

A horizontal line was sliced diagonally down into the stern.

That shattered the ship’s rear armor.

Next, some light was destroyed.

The rear virtual ocean scattered and the ether forming it burst and exploded in the air.

The enemy transport ship left a trail of light behind, its rear shook, and its bow hit the road.

Sparks flew and a creaking sound echoed through the canyon created by the ruins while text appeared on Mitotsudaira’s sign frame.

Musashino: “I have determined that worked well. Without a stable current in the back, there will be a disturbance in its acceleration and it will be unable to fly properly. Over.”

That was not the only effect.

The explosion’s shockwave hit Futayo and sent her flying toward Mitotsudaira.

“Honestly…”

Futayo’s hand reached the end of the Silver Chain that Mitotsudaira had sent out for her.

She had it grasp the girl’s hand and pull her up.

“That was not how I expected that to go, but you did make the jump.”


“Oh?”

Gin heard her husband’s voice.

They had just taken a break and were preparing to begin the invasion of Satomi. Their transport ship was already on fire.

Their break was complete and they had shot down lots of enemy ship.

Master Muneshige appears satisfied and I am satisfied too.

After all, it had been so long since they had fought with no sign of the Musashi group nearby. It felt a little lonely to be the only ones fighting, but it was also a valuable time.

And Gin saw Muneshige look back at her on the burning deck.

“Gin, it seems the Vice Chancellor just sunk an enemy transport ship.”

“Maybe so, but I just sunk-…”

Gin started speaking, but decided to stop. The daughter of a warrior family was not some barbarian who could be dragged into a contest of destruction. Besides, that girl was a close-range fighter and she was an all-range fighter who could even bring down castles. Of course she had the superior results when it came to destroying transport ships. So…

You did well using that cutting power, Honda Futayo.

She was certain and not just guessing that the girl had used Tonbo Spare’s power. That girl had the strength to do that and to use herself as part of a larger strategy.

So Gin spoke.

“You cannot let her get ahead of you, Master Muneshige.”

“I hope I will I have the chance to prove she has not.”

He meant a chance to face a transport ship like that. The fact that he had responded so quickly made Gin smile on the burning deck. She used her knees to absorb the shaking of a small explosion in the engine division.

“Hee hee. This reminds me of the Armada Battle.”

“I did not have the opportunity to join that one. But it did bring me back to you.”

“Judge. That was also when Sir Segundo and Madam Juana exchanged a passionate kiss (initiated by Madam Juana) as their ship burned and prepared to sink.”

“Was it that passionate?”

“Yes, their passions burned just as hot as the flames around them.”

“What a coincidence. I believe that was the same night when I shouted amore to you five times.”

“Master Muneshige…”

She told herself not to look back on the past, but she also felt like it was relevant to their present situation. And she also also thought she was truly hopeless if she had started making excuses like that. But…

“Master Muneshige…”

She called her husband’s name again and then looked around them.

“I just wish these flames had some practical purpose for us.”

“Spain is known as the nation of passion, so we tend to go over the top in everything we do,” he said. “But being with you is more about giving life meaning than about practicality.”

“…You do have a way with words, Master Muneshige.”

She could feel heat rising in her cheeks, but she decided to blame it on the fire surrounding them. Otherwise, she would be reacting like he had asked her for a kiss or something more.

Honestly, she thought with a sigh. And then…

Tonbokiri: “Gin-dono, we just made it through, but what about you?”

Tachibana Wife: “We have long since finished.”

Tonbokiri: “I would expect no less from you! Oh, and, Gin-dono! I just incapacitated a transport ship!”

She’s clearly angling for my praise!

Be strong, Tachibana Gin. You stayed calm while discussing this with yourself, so you need to give a proper response now that she herself has hit you with a surprise attack.

Tachibana Wife: “W-w-well done.”

Oops. I stuttered a bit because that is not what I really wanted to say. I hope she does not think I am weird.

Tonbokiri: “No, no. I am still no match for you, Gin-dono. And I couldn’t have done it without a memory of you putting me in the right mood, Gin-dono. I am in your debt.”

“–––––”

After a short silence, Gin clung to Muneshige.

“Master Muneshige! Master Muneshige! Am I a narrow-minded girl!?”

“No, no. You are open-minded enough to take in a boy you barely knew.”

“I am fairly certain that used up what open-mindedness I had! My mind is like a tiny single-person room, so I am just sure of it, Master Muneshige!”

“In that case,” he said with a smile. “Together, we have a great castle, so that is not a problem at all. Keeping that in mind is what matters most. And once you have settled in some, you can clean things up and put things away to clear out some space.”

“…You really do have a way with words.”

“Now, now.” He placed a hand on her shoulder and then viewed the sea of flames around them. “Let’s go save the people who see meaning in these flames.”

“Judge. But disembarking would be a pain, so how about we do this instead?”

She pulled Cuatro Cruz in with her right hand and spun it around with her fingers. She aimed it at the deck as a siege hammer. She pressed the striking portion against the very surface they stood on.

“Now, let us head down.”

Gin added another transport ship to her kill list.


Chapter 34: Round Girl at the Exit[edit]

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If you can follow me

You have my praise

If you can catch this

You have my laughter

Point Allocation (Traveling)


After lowering Futayo onto the sixth ship’s deck while the girl spoke with Gin via divine transmission, Mitotsudaira made her way to the first ship.

She was in a hurry.

It was her duty to stand before her king.

This was Satomi’s battlefield, but her duty remained as long as she was participating. Her orders only came from her king, so she had to hurry back to him once she had completed something. After all, he was defenseless.

I need to hurry.

Running along the deck was dangerous because of all the warriors moving here and there, so she attached her chain to the edge of the deck and jumped off the side of the ship to swing like a pendulum.

She swung her entire body over a long distance. She only used the one chain since one hand was filled by Ex. Collbrande. She would have felt more comfortable with two, but the lower weight meant greater speed.

She moved quickly. After about the third swing, she had arrived at the first ship.

Instead of just swinging herself on the chain, she planted her feet on the side of the ship and accelerated. Then she heard a voice.

“Nate!”

It was her king.

While she started to climb onto the deck using her Silver Chain, he reached a hand down from the edge of the deck. He smiled, and…

“Over here!”


At first, Mitotsudaira could not react to her king’s words and outstretched hand.

She had stood before him and he had given her orders plenty of times before, but…

Is this the first time he’s ordered me to return to him?

She was not sure.

But while everyone watched her, she realized she was the knight whose place was with her king.

So…

“J-judge!”

She held Ex. Collbrande in her left hand and used her right hand to launch a Silver Chain toward her king.

She was using the chain that had been supporting her. That felt dangerous, but her king did indeed grab the Silver Chain in his hand.

And he pulled.

But…

It would clearly be faster for her to pull herself closer to him by storing the Silver Chain in its storage device.

But he did not stop pulling the Silver Chain up like a net. She also stored the Silver Chain, which brought her back to the deck at an accelerated rate.

“There.”

She made a light jump back onto the deck.

The transport ship was moving quickly. The exit from the great ruins was already visible up ahead.

Of course, the enemy was there too. Warships and warriors could be seen blocking the canyon formed by the ruins.

She would have a new job soon enough, so once she landed, she needed to greet her king and prepare to head out again.

But she failed to do so.

Because her landing spot was already occupied by her king.

“Okay!”

Eh!?

He caught her. And he caught her high up, so he was hugging her waist to his chest.


Oh? thought Narumi.

The Chancellor had caught his returning knight.

It was a lot like embracing her, but…

“Oops.”

He could not support her.

He staggered a few steps back and the knight placed her hands on his shoulders and bent backwards.

“Kyaaahh!”

As everyone gave the king accusatory looks, Narumi spoke to Urquiaga.

“Animals like dogs and cats don’t like being held up in strong winds, right?”

“Narumi, look more closely.”

On his prompting, she looked at the king who had collapsed after failing to support the knight’s weight and the confused knight who was straddling him.

The wolf’s cheeks were red and she did not seem to know what to do. But based on the way she was sitting on him…

“She must like it after all. She looks quite happy.”


Mitotsudaira had no idea what to do.

Not only had he suddenly caught her and held her up, he had collapsed underneath her.

I-I’m not that heavy, am I!? It was just the weight of the Silver Chains pushing things over the edge, right!?

Her chest weight had to be significantly lower than Asama or Kimi’s. And while she actually had some confidence in her hips, she had a feeling that was more about the line formed by her pelvis than anything.

But once she thought about it, she realized Horizon would weigh a lot too since she was an automaton.

Silver Wolf: “Huh? Does that mean I’m the lightest member of the Main Blue Thunder group?”

Asama: “Ohh? Is that how we’re playing this game now? Mito just made her move!”

Wise Sister: “Not so fast. Thanks to my divine protections, I maintain a weight of under 48 kilos.”

Eh?

Mitotsudaira had known that girl was ridiculous, but she had not known it went this far. Even if she assumed dancers had weight-reduction divine protections…

Wise Sister: “And I was pretty certain my foolish brother weighs about that much too. I mean, he has no chest.”

“Eh?”

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She voiced her shock out loud this time. She also noticed Asama opening a sign frame, but…

“Tomo! Tomo! Are you checking his personal information!?”

Well, we are living together now, so you have to expect this kind of thing. …Although I’ll only do it when it’s convenient for me.”

“N-now you’re just doubling down, aren’t you!?”

At any rate, Asama only said “interesting” and showed no intent of sending the information Mitotsudaira’s way. Then Mitotsudaira noticed everyone’s eyes were on her.

“Naruze!?”

She looked back and found the Weiss Hexen already working on her fifth drawing while riding her broom.

“Oh, she noticed,” said Naito next to her. “Hurry up, Ga-chan. She’s gonna fix her skirt and take a less candid pose!”

“It’s okay, Margot. I’ve gotten plenty already.”

“Wait,” said Mitotsudaira while trying to stand up, but…

Eh?

Her king reached out a hand to help himself up. He grabbed her waist at the hipbone below the hard point and inside her skirt’s slit.

“Nh…”

It was through her tights, but it was still a reminder that he was touching her.

All confidence in her hips vanished in an instant. She only felt a ticklish feeling that kind of made her want to press her body against his.

“U-um, my king?”

“Oh, sorry, sorry.”

He got up. She removed her Silver Chain to the side and slid her upright upper body back. Once she was sitting on his hips, Naruze gasped and began drawing something, but she decided not to worry about that anymore.

“Why did you suddenly decide to catch me like that?”

“Well, you know?”

“No, I don’t.”

“I thought that was something I could do now.”

For some reason, Asama’s face grew red while watching them.

Wh-what was that for!?

Asama began fanning herself with her hand, but she must have thought of something similar for herself. There was the suspicious shirt incident, after all. Kimi’s shoulders were shaking with laughter, but as for their king…

“I mean, I felt like I had to show off some with your mom and papan here, but it didn’t work out all that well. …It always works when I do it with sis.”

“I can balance myself for you, but Mitotsudaira really did just fall into your arms.”

“What have you two been doing!?”

When she thought about it, she could guess they had probably been singing on stage together while he crossdressed. But once he sat up, his face moved a lot closer to hers.

A minty scent came from his hair, which reminded her they had recently taken a bath. And…

“You smell nice, Nate. Is that vanilla essence?”

“It is body milk that provides a fire-resistance divine protection.”

Having him smell her was weirdly embarrassing, but he actually brought his nose closer to her throat.

W-wait, not the neck!

She realized everyone had crouched down a bit to watch them. Past that wall of people, she could see her mother giggling and wiggling while having her father rub her throat, so she had to question whether this was an issue of nature or nurture.

But as the area from her armpit to her throat trembled from a heated chill, the scent of her king’s hair moved away. She was relieved, but she could not help but feel a hint of disappointment as well.

And on the other side, her mother looked over at her, grabbed her father’s shoulders, and…

Why are you giving me a “take him now” gesture!?”

It was incredible that her father was actually smiling. But…

“Okay.”

Her king made a sudden movement.

He brought her into his arms again and picked her up. He briefly placed her on his hips and then held her by the back of the thighs instead of the butt.

“There we go.”

Ah, she thought as she was lifted up a head height or two above everyone else.

He really can do it.

Was it rude to find this somewhat surprising? Regardless, being picked up like this caused the wolf’s pulse to race and her cheeks to flush.

But she also heard her king’s voice.

“A knight is a king’s pride, right?”

“That doesn’t mean you have to show me off like this.”

“So you only want to do this when we’re alone?”

She thought about that, looked to her fingers on his shoulders, and focused on the color of the nail polish.

“Make it so I feel like I am looking up at the moon.”

“In that case,” he said with a smile. “Today’s moon is a good one.”


Narumi heard the Chancellor speak while raising his right thumb.

“How about that!? Give her your praise!”

“Um, my king? Just to be clear, I only did what I was ordered to do.”

“No,” replied the English Princess who was wearing Ex. Collbrande at her hip again. “A knight is their king’s power. A king should be proud of not just their knight but the power that comes from their relationship with their knight. So both of you should be proud here, Lady Mitotsudaira.”

10ZO: “Well, if Mary-dono insists, I guess I can praise Toori-dono too…”

Mar-Ga: “Yes, if Mary insists…I’ll praise the Chancellor too.”

Worshiper: “Well, if that’s what we’re all doing, I guess I could praise Toori-kun too…”

Me: “Whaaat!? Why do you all sound so reluctant!?”

But Narumi also saw the knight let out some quiet laughter and take her king’s hand after being lowered down.

“My king, I think we will have a chance to fight again soon. If you rely on my strength again then, everyone should accept it.”

“Ohh…” said the Asama Shrine Representative with a deep nod, so Narumi nodded too.

Yes.

They were currently trying to steal away Nagaoka Tadaoki, but they were also trying to pave a path for liberating Satomi.

They would primarily be breaking through enemy forces, but…

“Here they come. They’re straight ahead.”

After passing the intersection and turning the corner to the right, the enemy came into view.

“Okay,” said the Chancellor while raising both hands and staring at the incoming cannon fire. “Everyone, run away!”


Tadaoki saw the enemy’s movement using a telescope spell strengthened for sniping.

He was high up in the ruins in Edo Bay. The ground had sunk in a lot of places around Edo Bay and the ground was low regardless, so his elevated position gave him a clear view of the enemy on the transport ship.

Asano: “Nagaokaaa? Whaaat’s going on?”

The answer to Asano’s question was obvious. The Musashi group on the lead transport ship (even those who had been inside the ship) were lined up on the deck.

The Hashiba defenders waiting at the entrance to the ruins were using a grounded transport ship as a barricade and they had three light warships in the air as well.

The cannon fire from those flew accurately down the road in the ruins. They could easily claim this attack was not targeting the ruins.

And the Musashi group responded by…

Why are they lining up on the deck!?

Okaaa: “Are they preparing for a ground battle and they’re going to charge in using the ship’s defenses?”

Asano: “Do you think they might ram us with their transport ship?”

Okaaa: “As things are, I doubt it. Besides, the ships are too close together for that.”

“Then what are they going to do?” he wondered aloud while seeing a few different movements.

The enemy’s fourth, fifth, and sixth ships had ascended.

So…

Okaaa: “Are they responding to the barricades on the ground and in the air?”

Then are they starting a surface battle from here on?

That would give him plenty of chances to snipe them. He could activate Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry with his voice and he would have to move once they noticed him, but this position would give him plenty to do.

Okaaa: “Okay, I’m gonna prepare to fire. I’m in charge of the bridge-top area after all.”

With that, he started to draw Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry.

But then he saw more movement. It came from the people lined up on the deck of the lead enemy transport ship.

“Huh?”

All of them – gods of war and mobile shells included – ran toward the next ship behind them and jumped onto it.


Huh!?

What are they doing? wondered Tadaoki.

The enemy transport ships were currently arranged in two rows of three, one up top and the other down below.

But the Musashi group on the lead ship of both rows had just jumped to the next ship back.

And it did not end there. They continued running toward the third transport ship.

“Hey!”

They were completely abandoning the first and second ships. They turned their backs and took off running. And…

Oh?

Something odd happened. What was likely the full crews of the enemy’s second and third ships and their fourth through sixth ships turned around and began running along the deck. The groups from the first ship were already running, so…

Okaaa: “Are they really going for a transport ship collision!?”

But transport ships did not have much penetrative power. A collision would only create a barrier for both sides and begin a ground battle.

The next move began while he tried to figure out what to do.

The Hashiba ground formation left their barricade ship in the center while falling back a bit to open up the center area. They were likely preparing for a transport ship collision. They wanted to make sure they were not caught in the destruction of their barricade ship, but they also did not want to let the enemy through.

The three warships in the air were the same. The central one must have decided it would act as a barrier. It dropped down a little and sent its center of gravity to the bottom while preparing to take a collision from the rising transport ships.

Asano: “Nabe-saaan, what do you do if you want to craaash into the enemy with a transport shiiip?”

Nabe3: “I only know about mechanical dragons, but it would be best to ram it at full speed. But doing that’s dangerous if there’s anyone on board.”

That left two options.

Okaaa: “Jump down for a ground battle while it crashes at full speed…or ram the enemy more softly and fight a ground battle if it isn’t enough, right?”

Nabe3: “Well, there’s no way you’re getting through if you do anything softly. Even at full speed, a single ship isn’t going to get you through.”

Kanitama: “Um! Nabe-chan!?”

Nabe3: “Yeah? What is it?”

Kani asked the same question that had occurred to Tadaoki.

Kanitama: “How many ships would it take to get through!?”

Nabe3: “Don’t be dumb. If they did that, they’d lose their transportation before even arriving at Satomi. They wouldn’t do that. At most, they’ll ram the lead ship.”

Is that how it works? thought Tadaoki.

But it really looked to him like the enemy was on a collision course.

On the lower row of the enemy ships, the Musashi Vice Chancellor took the lead while running back. She jumped to the third ship with the Vice President draped over her shoulder, but she did not stop there.

“Huh!? But the third ship’s the last one!”

How far were they going? And…

Slow down!

But Tadaoki knew what was going to happen next. And he realized what he was seeing could not be seen by the Hashiba defenders on the ground.

It was possible the airborne light warships could not see it either because they had activated a thick layer of defense barriers to prepare for a collision.

Okaaa: “Warning! Great Ruins East Entrance Corridor Blockade Unit, at least two ships from each row are going to hit you!”

A moment later, the probably-empty lead ship and second ship sped up. And…

They’re really doing the third ship too!?

Tadaoki watched as exactly that happened.

The third ship from both rows accelerated with the runners still on them.


Asama ran with the others.

S-Sensei was right to have us run a lot in our mock battles!

Everyone ran at their individual top speed and jumped to the third ship. She did the same, but…

“Mito, are you okay!?”

Mitotsudaira was having difficulty because she was using a Silver Chain to carry Adele who was inside Raging Beast. She was also using a Silver Chain to carry Toori. She was using her instantaneous acceleration, but she still could not draw out her usual speed.

Asama called out while running.

“Toori-kun! Can’t you run on your own!?”

“Just FYI: I’m really slow!”

He was being a little too honest, but she had seen how slow he was back at IZUMO. So…

Mar-Ga: “Wouldn’t Adele be safe even if we abandoned her?”

Flat Vassal: “I knew someone was going to say that! I just knew it!”

Gold Mar: “Yeah, but that might make it hard to sleep at night, Ga-chan.”

In that case, thought Asama just before someone passed her by. It was Kimi. The girl kept a light step for such high speed, circled behind Mitotsudaira, and shook her hips while she ran.

“I’ll be taking that!”

She dashed away with Toori held in her raised hands.

“Ah! My king!”

“Heh heh heh. Just try and catch me!”

The way he lay stiff and face up on top of her raised hands was impressive in a way. But the wolf frantically pursued the two of them.

“W-wait! You just stole my king, didn’t you!?”

Kimi nevertheless took the lead while spinning him around for fun. When Asama saw that…

“H-hold on, Kimi!”

She ran forward and tried to catch up, but Kimi lightly spun around in midair and asked a question.

“Heh heh. So you want him?”

“Well, yes, I-…”

She just about answered, but the other runners eyed her like prey.

That was close! I nearly fell for it!

“I-I don’t mean it like that. And come to think of it, I wouldn’t be able to run with him in my arms anyway.”

“Oh, that’s too bad. …Mitotsudaira, do you want him back?”

“Judge!!”

The silver wolf did not hesitate to answer.

“In that case,” said Kimi while running and making a large jump.

She launched herself into the air leading to the third ship. When Mitotsudaira jumped next, Kimi tossed him to her as if setting up an alley-oop.

“Here, Kill Pass!”

“Wh-what moron would toss him to me here!?”

It was even more wrong that she managed to catch him with a Silver Chain. But after landing on the third ship, Mitotsudaira supported him from below to keep her speed up as she ran. And…

“They’re about to hit!”


Tadaoki saw the sky shaking.

Two flying objects crashed at high speed.

The Musashi transport ships had sped up and smashed full speed into the light warships forming barricades on the surface and in the sky.

The first thing he saw was the starboard side rupturing on the light warship facing him.

The shaking continued from there, the internal frame pierced the outer hull and jutted out, and most of the armor was blown out from within.

Only then did the sound finally reach him. However…

“Here comes the second one!”

The two second ships crashed right alongside where the lead ones had.

It sounded like a second blow from a striking weapon, but the second round of destruction continued even after the sound had ended.

Another great mass had collided right next to where the first ship had and the transformed light warships could not transfer the energy in a straight line anymore.

So the two barricade light warships were transformed further.

The embedded first ship acted as a fastener as the second ship pushed and tore apart the light warship.

The sound arrived. He heard metallic impacts and the tearing and creaking of bending metal. And…

Whoa.

This was his first time hearing metal beams bending and breaking. The straining was almost sticky and the breaking was deep and carrying.

Kanitama: “The light warships are going to break apart!”

The next hit arrived immediately after Kani’s words.

It was the third ships.

Two ship pairs had already hit alongside each other, but now the third ships slipped between the previous pair of attacks.

The first and second ships were fasteners holding the light warships in place on the left and right. The third ships were trying to crash into the middle that had been stretched and softened by the other hits.

But, thought Tadaoki. Even if the third ships destroy the light warships, they can’t break all the way through.

The collision would greatly reduce their speed and the transport ships would not escape unscathed themselves. Even if they could reach Satomi, the enemy could not make a proper attack with half-destroyed transport ships. But…

“What are they doing?”

Tadaoki was watching from above.

The Musashi group was continuing to run along the third and final ship. They were running toward the stern, so there was only one thing they could be planning.

Are they going to jump off!?

It had to be that. If they were going to switch over to a ground battle, this was their only chance.

But that was not what they did.

They did not jump down.

The Musashi group made a great leap behind the third ships. And waiting for them there were…

“Smaller transport ships!?”


Tadaoki saw smaller transport ships that had been ejected from the back of the normal transport ships.

“They loaded their transport ships with transport ships!?”

These were smaller, but they were still more than 200m long. They had begun accelerating from the moment they were ejected and warriors were loaded on their decks.

Kanitama: “Here they come!”

Ahead of the smaller transport ships carrying the Musashi forces, the empty third ships crashed into the barricade light warships. That final blow split the light warships in two. That stalled the transport ships, but…

They’re still coming!

The smaller transport ships passed through the top of the destruction and shot out the other side with great speed.


Naomasa fired. She applied Asama’s Branch and Leaf Connection on the sniper rifle that Jizuri Suzaku held and she shot down the enemy shells.

She was on the small transport ship ejected from the top row of ships.

The approximately 2000 members of the Satomi liberation force were on that ship.

There was also a god of war unit with three armored heavy gods of war. Righteousness and the others had brought the overall weight right up to the small transport ship’s limit.

With her included, all four had come from Musashi and they were linked with Branch and Leaf Connection, so…

“Supplement each other’s view while you fire!!”

They were targeting the light warships hovering to the left and right overhead.

Branch and Leaf Connection had linked their eye movements to their targeting.

The firing was not handled manually. The targeting spell opened in front of her created a hemisphere of stitches that divided up the visible scenery. According to Asama, those symbolized the spread of the ley lines. And the sight in front of her eye would turn red when it crossed one of the stitches.

According to Asama,

“The color changes when the ley line ‘connects’ you with them. Ley line disturbances and fluctuations can have an effect, but you should be nearly guaranteed a hit even if you are targeting the tip of a needle.” The problem was the distance. A distance of less than 300m was ideal for establishing that “connection”.

That was impossibly close range for ship-to-ship combat, but…

It should work in this situation!

Work it did.

Four of them were firing. Two were positioned on either side of the ship.

Their targeting spells were linked. When two stood side by side and supplemented each other’s targeting, they could view the ley lines more accurately and aim more harshly.

They fired on the engine division.

Musashi’s god of war unit was made of engine division workers, so they were very familiar with the internal structure of aerial ships. They could analyze a ship’s exterior to determine where the armor was thinnest and thus where they should attack.

Right now, they had to target the stern of the enemy ships. Specifically, the keel running down the center. In order to let the wind flow more smoothly to the back and gain power for the rudder, the bottom of the stern rose up above the keel a bit like a fish’s fins. That was the central point of the ship’s balance.

Break that and it would grow unstable at high speeds. And…

“There it is!”

During the destruction, Naomasa saw the layered structure of the interior on her sign frame.

If they broke the part that lifted up from the keel, they could fire inside by slipping a shot past the keel. That would require some pinpoint shooting while they were moving quite quickly, but…

“Get in there!!”


Suzaku and the god of war unit’s sniping slammed into the enemy ship from close range.

Two then three shells veered off target and threw sparks into the air, but that helped destroy the armor further. And the fourth one clearly spread the damage.

“–––––!”

The red target emblem in the targeting spell suddenly grew much larger.

That happened at about the same moment as they passed those ships by on either side. Which left…

“Just keep shooting!”

They did so. They could only continue targeting those ships for four more seconds.

“Tear into their cannons!”

On Naomasa’s instructions, the god of war unit began destroying the enemy ships’ cannons while they rapidly flew away. But the light warships did not make any clear response as they moved away.

“How about that!?”

Naomasa’s question was answered by a silent battlefield.

But the wind was moving.

“Chief!” said one of the god of war pilots. “We’re out on the ocean!”

Just as she heard that, two lights raced out.

The two enemy ships they had left behind rose up as if from a blow to the bottom and then ruptured.

Internal damage sent explosive flames spewing from their stern.


Asama watched the higher small transport ship fly off into the distance.

She and the others were on the lower one, but it was slowing down. And…

Futayo and the others jumped down and went on ahead to secure an escape route.

Neshinbara’s plan for the Satomi Liberation was a simple one for the most part.

First, the small transport ship carrying the Satomi forces and the gods of war was sent to the center of the Bousou Peninsula which was the enemy’s front line. Then they would advance south under Ookubo’s command and Yoshiyasu’s lead in order to break through to Satomi.

But the Hashiba forces around the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay could not be allowed to push in from behind them.

So Asama’s group here would deal with the enemy in that area while also rescuing Nagaoka Tadaoki.

The idea was simple enough, but it was a race against time.

That was why this group had been given powerful fighters like Futayo, Mitotsudaira, and Mitotsudaira’s mother.

Their small transport ship was facing Edo Bay at the moment, but it had not ventured out over the water. It had slowed down and those who had been dropped off would take care of the enemies at the exit from the ruins behind them.

Mar-Ga: “Looks like the enemy didn’t expect us to jump over them and attack from behind.”

Gold Mar: “The people we dropped off are nearly defenseless, so we still have to be careful.”

Novice: “Precisely!”

Someone was sounding in top form.

Novice: “Let us move on to the next phase! But first, does anyone need an explanation of just how much of a rousing success the current phase was!?”

Four Eyes: “Hurry on to the next phase.”

Novice: “You see, that vertical triple attack from the dual-stage iron transport ship shells worked so well because-…”

Four Eyes: “Next phase, please.”

Novice: “…it took advantage of how the enemy would never expect us to abandon every last one of our transport-…”

Four Eyes: “ ‘Ah ha ha,’ rosily laughed Craneberg, leading everyone to turn his way. Maastricht felt like there was a wind blowing through his heart. And…”

Novice: “Don’t read thaaaaaaaaat! Isn’t that the climax of the White Crane of Venice that I wrote in my first year of middle school!? Why do you even have that!?”

Four Eyes: “Now, the next phase. You must always rush onward in battle.”

“Impressive…” sighed Asama as Neshinbara reluctantly continued on.

Novice: “Next, we will mop up the enemy here and then take the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay. But pay careful attention to yourself and the others when you descend. We will need to descend from a ship at Nördlingen as well, so use this as a test to see how everyone does. I set this up so it would be as safe as possible.”

“Honestly,” he said.

Novice: “We will not ram transport ships into enemy personnel, so the most we can do there is use them as a battering ram. Those conditions are surprisingly hard to meet, so I hope you are thankful.”

He was right about that.

Breaking through the barricade had cost them six transport ships, but it had been worth it.

They had saved themselves a battle’s worth of fighting by destroying those troublesome ships.

Breaking through the first line of enemies means a lot.

Smoking Girl: “Uh, hey, Asama-chi?”

Asama: “Huh? What is it, Masa?”

“Judge,” said Naomasa from the acceleration ether light crossing the bay.

Smoking Girl: “Our god of war unit is pretty excited after those results, but just between us, those enemy ships only went down because you fired a finishing blow, didn’t they?”

She was awfully sharp. But…

Asama: “Noo, not at allll. I would never fire directly on an enemy ship. Never ever.”

Smoking Girl: “I’m not so sure…”

“Now, now,” said Asama while switching over the divine transmission. And…

Unturning: “Oh, she noticed, did she? She has good instincts.”

Uqui: “Your mandible swords are primarily vermilion, but they still can’t be easy to see at night. A testament to Naomasa’s skill, I suppose.”

True, thought Asama.

Narumi had “brought down” the ships that would have eventually “sunk” due to internal damage.

Naomasa’s group’s attack had had results, but…

If the cannons survived, they could have functioned as gun emplacements.

So Narumi had completed Naomasa’s results.

Those two enemy ships were currently breaking apart from within and falling on either side of the exit from the ruins.

Narumi must have seen that from the ground because Asama saw her post “well, whatever” on the chat before saying more.

Unturning: “Our ruins group has cleared the enemy. …Main unit, get going to the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay.”


Chapter 35: Hammer Girl of the Ranks[edit]

Horizon7B 249.jpg

There’s a weight inside

So it hurts when it hits!

Point Allocation (Hurts Me)


Asano watched the enemy’s movement from the other side of the bay.

She had been ordered to defend Bousou, so she and Kani had gone separate ways.

Ahhh, I’m worried.

The Musashi forces were good at breaking through. They had clearly learned a thing or two while fighting various nations since Mikawa.

And Mouri was impressive too. If she was being honest, she had not expected Nabeshima’s mechanical dragon to be defeated. After all, it was so big. And comfortable too.

“III can’t believe iiit.”

Kani had gone to the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay where Nagaoka was while Asano was defending the Bousou Peninsula.

That meant Kani and Nagaoka would be up against the Musashi forces.

As for her…

“I gueeess it’ll be the Satooomi forces!”

That could be tough. And if she was being honest, she did not want to do it very much.

She did have some combat experience. She had fought along the border a few times, she had gotten into a few skirmishes, and she had even fought duels meant to settle domestic problems.

But in her opinion, It’s sooo exhausting and it just isn’t for meee.

She had only gotten her inherited name because all her friends had been doing it.

She had been friends with Nabeshima, Kani, and Ikeda for a long time.

Of those, Kani had been the first to leave to inherit a name.

But Kani had not done that because she was interested in climbing the ranks or anything like that. Due to her athletic prowess and good results in club activities, there had been an inherited name set up for her. Her family had originally seen it as an extension of their child’s club activities, but Kani had been interested in seeing how far she could take her abilities and her family had decided to support her in that.

Nabeshima had decided to get an inherited name almost in response to that.

Nabe-san’s a delinquent, after allll.

Even in the first year of middle school, she’d already made herself an influential presence in their local marketplace, but she must have felt like Kani was growing more distant as the girl focused more on her club activities. And once the term “inherited name” showed up in relation to Kani’s departure, Nabeshima had started thinking about getting one herself.

Nabeshima had definitely seemed like the kind of person who could bring people together to accomplish something, but she must not have seen it that way herself. Their relationship had changed once they entered middle school. Nabeshima had decided to try getting an inherited name not as an extension of her current life but to see if she could accomplish anything.

Of course, a delinquent like her did not have the best grades and she was not part of any club, so she had gone the exchange student route.

In the end, she had ignited the flame of revival within the Ryuuzouji clan and obtained an inherited name before even Kani.

Then there had been a problem for Asano.

Once Kani and Nabeshima were actively trying to inherit a name, those two stopped showing up when “everyone” was gathering together.

The total number of friends had increased when Nagaoka moved there, but the local girls she had been able to chat with were gone. And on top of that…

IT: “Hey, how are things on your end? You okay?”

It was all that boy’s fault.

With Nabeshima and Kani gone most of the time, she had naturally ended up hanging out with him a lot, but during the summer of their third year of middle school…

“Hey, hey. It’s looking like I might be able to get an inherited name.”

“Huh? For reeeal? What do you mean?”

“I mean, it’s still only a possibility, so I can’t say anything for sure.”

But…

“Now the rest of you can’t make fun of me anymore.”

“Huh? Make fuuun of you? And wait, ‘the rest of you’? You mean me toooo?”

“I mean.” The idiot had smiled. “Your name’s Asano, so you’re trying to inherit one of those names, right?”

No, I am not!!

“Well, I’m gonna work at it too. Nothing’s set in stone yet, though.”

I hope you don’t get iiit!!

“It’ll probably be easy for you since you’re smart, but I’m not.”

Yeah, you diiid kind of just prove you’re an iiidiot!

“It’d be neat if we ended up all together again. And I guess Nagaoka would be with us too, huh?”

That comment had weirdly stuck with her.

Oh, so thaaat’s it.

I just haaave to inherit a name toooo.

She had good grades. Really good.

She had figured she could manage some little-known non-combat inherited name.

But that old friend had unfortunately kept talking.

“But I never imagined I would be going for the name Ikeda Terumasa. That’s one of the Seven Generals, you know? Oh, Nagaoka is too, come to think of it.”

Wwwaaaiiittt.

Someone as hopeless as hiiim will be one of the Seven Generals while a straight-A student like meee has a little-known name!? Do you realllly think the group dynamic can hold up to thaaat!? Are you listening to this, meee!?

But…

“Now, I’m sure you already have a plan, so I bet you have nothing to worry about, huh?”

She still remembered how she had answered that question.

“Yeah, I’ll be fiiine. Asano Yoshinaga, was it? Nothing to worry about at allll.”

She had mentally slapped her forehead and then looked up Asano Yoshinaga once she got home.

I lucked out, she had thought. Because…

He’s pretty nondescript!

Yes, Asano Yoshinaga was the most forgettable member of the Seven Generals.


Asano rested her head in her hand on the transport wagon headed south along the Bousou Peninsula’s Edo Bay coast.

I’m prettyyy nondescript myself…

She was smart. And that was not just her saying it. The ranking proved it. She was not just top in her academy or top in her region. She had never dropped below the top 3 out of everyone in her year across M.H.R.R.

But being smart did not guarantee you could become a name inheritor.

That came down to a special talent.

Yes, the key to inheriting a name was doing a better job than anyone else in reproducing some distinctive story or weapon of the name’s originator.

That was difficult to do if you were simply smart. She had thought she could manage with a little-known historical figure with no real stories about them, but…

“Asano Yoshinaga-saaan.”

She called out to her name’s originator in the distant past.

“You were Hashiba’s nephewww, people said you were courageous, you were skilled in both literary and martial pursuits, and you have that one storyyy about the formation you refused to let withdraw.”

But…

“There’s pretty much nothing about you fighting anyyyone in single combat, having any major successesss in battle, or being leffft with an important job…”

Asano Yoshinaga had been pro-Hashiba, partially due to his family ties, so after Hashiba’s death when Ishida Mitsunari had acted like the pro-Hashiba representative, he had attacked Mitsunari and moved to the Eastern Army during Sekigahara because he was so anti-Mitsunari.

Matsudaira had been wary of his actions after Sekigahara since his pro-Hashiba stance had remained, but…

But there’s stillll no standout stories there…

That was why she had needed to supply a reason why she should inherit the name.

She had ended up getting her homeroom teacher to show off her good grades to the Testament Union while she emphasized how close she was to Kani, Nabeshima, Ikeda, and Nagaoka.

She had been prepared for people to say she got the name through grades and connections instead of skill.

But, she thought. The original Asano Yoshinaga probably haaad it pretty tough toooo.

After all, he had been surrounded by people with impressive military records. Some of them had been second or third generation daimyos, but most of them had made a name for themselves in some way or another.

He had supposedly been “skilled in both literary and martial pursuits”, but that applied to most any famous commander from the time.

“The really impressive ones essentially had a +5 in both literary and martialll pursuits. Although there werrre some who had a -6 in literary and a +8 in martial.”

But Asano thought her name originator had only had a +2 or +3 in both.

She felt like he had really only become a member of the Seven Generals because he had managed to keep his pro-Hashiba position as Hashiba’s nephew. So…

He was probably a pillar of psychological support for the pro-Hashiba group.

He had not been an outstanding genius, but he had above average talents, family connections, and a strong spirit.

That must have been the kind of person the geniuses wanted by their side because they were aware of their own weaknesses.

And for those without enough strength, that must have been the kind of person they could always rely on.

To put it another way…

Lubricaaant for the geniusesss and a point of reliance forrr those below them.

That might be a surprisingly nice position. But, she thought.

I really don’t like going to the battlefield to fighhht.


I caaan’t believe this, thought Asano while sitting on the back of the moving wagon.

After all, her parents ran a simple fruit store. She was smart, but her talents were in textbook-defined challenges. She had only inherited this name because she happened to fit nicely there thanks to who her friends were.

Of course, that was normally fine with her. She could continue her old friendships and she had preserved her pride among those friends. She had felt kind of embarrassed at everyone’s surprise when she had received the inherited name.

But things were a little different when it came time for battle.

That was when the straight-A student had to face off against real geniuses.

She had a lot of trouble even with normal warriors. She had a variety of spells as a name inheritor and she could strengthen her body with those, but her base-level strength was low.

She had achieved the bare minimum of standards necessary for an inherited name, but was that a good thing or not?

“III’m not surrre.”

Would her opponents be the Satomi forces on that small transport ship arriving from the east? Or…

“Whiiich will it be?”

A flaming transport ship was practically crashing as it arrived from the north. It contained…

“The forrrmer name inheritor of the Tachibanaaa clan who will eventually have to fight Nabe-sannn.”

So which is iiit? she wondered. But then…

Kanitama: “Asa-chan!”

Asano: “Hmm? What iiis it?”

Kanitama: “Let’s go shopping in Edo once this is over! Only if we have time, of course!”

“Had you heard!?” asked Kani.

Kanitama: “They’ve apparently opened up some of the ruins in Edo’s Harajuku!”

Asano: “Yes, I’d hearrrd. But I’d heard that area was occasionally invaaaded by Saitama by way of Ikebukuro durrring the Age of the Gods.”

Kanitama: “I hear there’s a group of spirits there called the Takenoko-zoku, so let’s go see them!”

That girl always had some wild ideas. They were fighting a war right now, yet she was viewing it like an extension of a school grip or club activities.

But, thought Asano. There was one thing she wanted to ask given the situation.

Asano: “Kani-saaan? Are you okay? This is a battlefield where people might diiie.”

Kanitama: “Testament! That’s what it means to be a warrior! But…”

They timing with which Kani spoke made it clear she was running. She was on her way to the battlefield, so what she was saying here was the real deal.

Kanitama: “But you can die in an accident during club activities! Not to mention traffic accidents! And illness! You could also get fed up with life and kill yourself…and even if you inherit a name, you could have death forced onto you!”

Asano: “Yes, but…”

Kanitama: “I studied up! On Yoshiaki-sama!”

Kani was running. Her quick, choppy statements were almost like footsteps.

Kanitama: “But Yoshiaki-sama accepted me and also cares for the Satomi Student Council President!”

Asano: “But…”

Asano spoke up.

Asano: “That’s because Yoshiiiaki-sama is kind and powerfulll. That doesn’t seeeem like an answer you can give if someone diiies. Like…Nagaoka for example.”

Kanitama: “Yeah! I thought the same thing as soon as the words were out of my mouth!”

This is the problem with those geniusesss!!

Kanitama: But!”

She was clearly running even faster now.

Kani’s energy level was rising along with her focus. At times like this, the rest of them had trouble keeping up with her.

But there must have been someone who had overwhelmed and then accepted that Kani. So…

Asano: “Buuut what, Kani-sannn?”

Kanitama: “Testament! But I had a thought!”

Namely…

Kanitama: “I need to work even harder to do my best! I don’t think I was accepted by Yoshiaki-sama properly! Not in my case!”

“–––––”

Kanitama: “The Satomi Student Council President works really hard too! So I think Yoshiaki-sama must have started caring for her after seeing how hard she works and how determined she is!”

Kani was accelerating.

Kanitama: “Asa-chan!”

Asano: “Yesss?”

Kanitama: “I’m going to give it my all and do my best even if you’re feeling sad! And if you’re feeling sad, I just have to make you think something!”

Asano: “Think what?”

Kanitama: “That you need to accept me! The more you think that, the less time you’ll have to think about how sad you are!”

So…

Kanitama: “I’m proud that I made Yoshiaki-sama feel that way!”

And…

Kanitama: “I hope Oky-kun and the others are the same!”

That explanation is a compleeete mess, thought Asano about Kani’s words.

It felt like someone trying to find a logical explanation for their emotional response.

What Kani was talking about probably did not apply to everyone.

But it probably did work that way between her and Yoshiaki. And Asano could tell there were likely other similar cases out there.

She could not fully accept the idea, but rejecting it would be wrong too.

And even if Kani ran across a case where her reasoning did not apply, she would probably do her best to figure something out and find an answer somewhere.

It was inefficient, but through that process, Kani would eventually become not perfect, but more well-rounded.

And if something sad happened to her along the way, she might end up like Yoshiaki.

At any rate, she just had to take it a step at a time for now. That was what Kani had gained at the Siege of Odawara.

“III can’t believe iiit.”

Asano was supposed to be the smart one, but she felt like everyone else was getting ahead of her in actual practice.

Oh?

She realized the divine transmission from Kani had ended.

The girl had entered the battlefield.


The Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay were a large bridge made of hardened wood. It was approximately 50m wide and 15km long.

The top of that bridge had become a battlefield.

There was a formal agreement not to actively destroy the ruins, so neither side could fire on the bridge from the sky. But firing horizontally from the road was a different matter.

“Fire!”

Cannons were loaded on high-speed wagons lined up near the west end of the bridge. The secondary cannons used on M.H.R.R. aerial warships had been removed from their turrets and brought here.

There were seven of them lined up horizontally. And between them…

“We need to fire too!”

Rifle-wielding warriors placed their shields between the cannons and fired from behind those.

This formed one large volley.

The louder booms and quieter bangs joined together to tear through the air over the bay.

The wooden blocks forming the bridge shook and their seams and joints became visible.

More than a wind, it was like air pressure that blew through while the noise launched the bullets and shells. The recoil was enough for some of the shooters to flinch or get down. And…

“Hit them!”

The enemy was there. The Musashi forces were on the Edo side of the bay and headed this way.

They were trying to clear the bridge. They would defeat the M.H.R.R. defenders in order to prevent those defenders from circling behind the Satomi forces that were already on their way to the Bousou Peninsula.

“What the hell is going on!? Weren’t they supposed to go to Nördlingen!?”

“Testament! You shouldn’t break your promises, should you!?”

“No, you shouldn’t! Which is why you need to return that copy of Tris-tan and Stepmother Isolde I lent you!”

“On that note, they just put out a multipack with #1 and #2 at Edo’s Akihabara, so let’s buy that before heading back!”

“I don’t want the Far Eastern version that hasn’t been localized for M.H.R.R.! Why not, you ask!? Because theirs is censored! What good is it when half the images are covered up!?”

“Ah!” someone shouted. “Tadaoki-sama has some real-life censorship going on! Probably because he has a super mature taste in women for his age!”

“I should’ve known!”

Everyone exchanged a glance and looked up at the bridge ruins’ central tower where Tadaoki was.

“Nice censorship, Tadaoki-sama!”

When a few of them said that in unison, they were answered by a loud sound from the enemy out ahead of them.

It was the sound of the seven shells hitting.

“All shells hit!”

Up ahead, a shockwave bent the air and sparks flew from left to right. The ocean burst on either side of the bridge and the remnants of the waves scattered through the air like they were trying to push in at everyone there.

But the aide in charge of artillery observation noticed something odd about that.

“The sparks flew…from left to right?”

Those sparks had been produced by the shells hitting.

It looked like red glowing dust to him and it had definitely appeared to race from left to right. However…

“Weren’t those fired simultaneously!?”

No one answered his question. He simply saw what was happening out ahead.

“The enemy has not stopped! And their numbers have not dropped! There was no change to their charge whatsoever!”

There was no point in asking how that was possible. The aide student raised his voice while holding down the soundproofing spell circles over his ears.

“Just keep firing!”

A moment later, they all did so. Just like before, they fired on the enemy who were actually setting foot on the bridge this time.


As the firing continued, the M.H.R.R. students first saw a silver form on the bridge.

All of a sudden, they could see a silver wolf standing on the red-painted wood of the left-side railing.

All the shells and bullets were being shot horizontally across the bridge.

That did not cover the railing, so the wolf had been moving along that safe zone.

The M.H.R.R. group put up their defenses because they knew how quickly that girl could make a charge. So one of the students gave a warning while setting up a defense barrier.

“She might jump over this, so be careful!”

They defended, but the odds were good she would clear their defenses.

So the defenders within firing range swung their bodies to the left while remaining wary of the wolf.

But that was not what happened.

The wolf simply spun atop the railing. She swung her arms and let her hair dance in the wind.

Soon thereafter, the shells they had fired slammed into the enemy’s charging line.

But yet again, that was not what happened.

Sparks flew in front of the approaching enemy. They flew from right to left and were accompanied by a solid sound.

They knew what must have happened.

“The shells were deflected!?”

There had indeed been seven sounds of interception.

And those sounds came with a voice this time. The M.H.R.R. firing line saw and heard something:

“Owwww!!”

It was a mass of metal.

A round mass of blue and white metal had rapidly cut across the 50m-wide bridge while a chain swung it around.

This was what had defended against their shells last time and this time.

The wolf had used the arcing path of the swinging chain to intercept the shells flying toward her.

That required enough physical strength to swing that intercepting mass of metal horizontally, but the silver wolf had that.

The weapon she swung around had a diameter of greater than 3m if it was viewed as a metal ball. Also…

“Damn them! They put a weight inside!”

“I’m not a weight! I’m a pilot!”

The metal ball made a full rotation through the air while using its pilot as a weight.

The silver wolf moved forward and the metal ball was headed for the M.H.R.R. defenders next.

Its horizontal arc sent it toward the leftmost student, the one who had set up that defense barrier earlier.

They all gasped, looked to him, and…

“She didn’t jump over it!”

“Testament.” He looked back at them with a smile and raised his right thumb. “I’m a goner now.”

“Don’t give up yet! It’s all over once you give up!”

“I’m giving up because this is clearly the end for me!! Or are you volunteering to take my place!?”

“Hey! Someone take this gutless guy’s place! Cause I sure don’t wanna do it!”

“You could be a little less obvious about it!” everyone shouted back just before they saw two things: The metal ball flying toward them and…

“Eh?”

…someone leaping over it.

The female warrior wore blue armor and held a spear.

“That’s the Musashi Vice Chancellor!”


Futayo jumped on top of Raging Beast.

I fell behind.

That was because she had been dealing with the enemy at the great ruins while the others formed a wall and charged forward.

Her cutting power and the Date Vice Chancellor’s rapid-fire mandible sword attack had been effective against those who persistently tried to use the wreckage of the landed enemy ship as a barricade. Then the 2nd Special Duty Officer had charged in to accurately mop up those who remained, but it had still taken some time.

They had needed to form a wall and move in before the enemy could fortify their position on the bridge, but…

“My delayed arrival allowed the enemy to fire on the others. …It is a good thing Mitotsudaira-sama and Vassal-dono were here.”

“Yeah, I honestly never thought I’d be deflecting shells instead of just being thrown at the enemy like normal.”

“Judge,” replied Futayo while sitting atop Raging Beast with her legs politely folded below her. After all, this was someone else’s mobile shell. I am touching her weapon, so I must not be careless.

But this gave her a virtual experience of what it felt like to crash into the enemy like this.

“I am impressed you managed to think up this fighting style, Vassal-dono.”

“I didn’t think up anything! It just kind of turned out like this!”

“Judge. You never know what life has in store for you.”

“I will admit I have no idea what in the world is going on in my life these days!”

“Vassal-dono. …I will admit that I have no idea what on earth will happen to you in the future. But…”

“Yes?”

“I do know you will be thrown at the enemy soon. Aren’t you glad to have a predictable future?”

“What matters is a good journey, not a good destination!”

What a nice saying. I hope I will have a chance to use it someday.

Now, then.

Futayo instantly counted the enemy.

One, two, three…

Once I reach four, I can probably just sum it up as “lots”.

“Okay.”

She tilted her head to dodge a bullet flying toward her face from the distance.

I do not know who did that, but they have good aim. That was a close one.


At the top of the tower-like viewing platform at the center of the bridge ruins, Tadaoki spread his mouth horizontally.

He was in a sniping pose and he held Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry’s first transformation.

The two halves made from 18 connected barrels had become a single large sniper rifle. By attaching an automatic reloading device, he excelled at sniping with the barrel swapping out each shot, but…

“That wasn’t enough to hit the Musashi Vice Chancellor!?”

She was on top of a mass of metal. She was just sitting there while it flew in an arc. And he was pretty sure she had ben counting the people in the firing line in front of her.

So how did she notice!?

He had torn into the enemy assault unit a few times already.

When everyone in the M.H.R.R. firing line moved, he would fire a bullet that no one would know was from a sniper. That had slightly slowed the enemy charge, but…

“Wow.”

The metal ball crashed into their front line.


Adele’s crash launched Futayo from Raging Beast, so she tumbled through the air still in her seated pose.

She had estimated the number of enemies as “lots”.

I can destroy the cannons quickly enough with my cutting power, but Vassdele-dono just blew away about a third of their formation.

But does this count as a charge by Vassal-dono or a throw by Mitotsudaira-sama? Who gets the credit?

Regardless, that blew away a third, so I need to deal with the remaining two-thirds.

Two-thirds of “lots” would be…

Oh, no.

I didn’t count properly, so now I can’t do the math.

Well, I can use “lots” as a general estimate.

“Hm.”

She straightened herself from her sitting pose and made a single rotation in the air. She twisted her body so she flew past the enemy cannons along the side. She chose to land on the ground past the second cannon, but…

“Bind, Tonbo Spare!”

“Understood.”

Just as the second cannon was sliced from above, she heard the crashing sound of Raging Beast destroying the row of cannons behind her. After being thrown into the enemy formation, the mass of metal pushed through the repulsing force and the enemy’s weight to continue onward.

“Owwww!!”


At least Vassal-dono appears to be enjoying herself!

With that thought, Futayo passed above the destroyed second cannons.

She intended to land on the floor past that one she had destroyed.

But her jump was not long enough, so she used her hand. She lightly pressed the fingers of her left hand against the edge of the slice in the cannon she had split open herself.

“Oh.”

She pushed herself up enough to gain more distance.

She descended on the left side of the bridge. When counting from the left, she was between the third cannon and the destroyed fourth cannon.

The area between the cannons formed a path where the enemy defenders and gunners waited. But they had not expected someone to drop down from above, so…

“Eh?”

She dropped feetfirst and used her weight to crush the closest defender.

At the same time, the rest of the enemy noticed her.

The lead gunner quickly aimed her way and pulled the trigger.

That was a good decision, she thought. They had clearly been trained well enough to assume anything unexpected on the battlefield was an enemy.

But she had lowered her center of gravity when jumping down and crushing the defender.

She was crouched down, so the enemy bullet passed by overhead.

The gunshot was awfully loud echoing between the cannons, so she released Tonbo Spare’s extension device as if to brush away that noise.

She held the butt of the spear forward and the tip backwards, but she did not hold it horizontally. She held it diagonally like a pike.

“Extension device!”

The launched spear butt struck the lead gunner at the bottom of the chest.

She had a good reason for not using the spear tip. The butt knocked the gunner backwards instead of stabbing into them, so…

“…!”

The gunner crashed into the others behind them.

The other gunners cried out as they supported the fellow gunner collapsing toward them. That tilted them all back diagonally, but…

“Excuse me.”

Futayo moved ahead. She stepped on the foot of the enemy leaning diagonally back in the air to briefly stop them and then launched them back with a kick to the chest armor.

The enemy collapsed. And she flew through the air.

But her light jump was not made forward or back. She launched herself straight up.

Then the gunners behind the cannon saw her. A student who was likely an aide held a hand up toward her, and…

“There she is!”

She saw a targeting spell opened in his hand.

Are they linked!?

Several of the gunners’ targeting spells automatically turned her way. They likely had guidance spells applied to their bullets, so those would hit as long as they were not aiming their gun in the entirely wrong direction.

I get it now, thought Futayo. This area has some with proper training, but it also has a lot of rookies.

Then she heard the gunshots.

Guided bullets flew her way from extreme close range.

She was in the air, but she did have a way to dodge.

She had multiple options, including Tonbo Spare’s extension device and the midair use of martial arts, but for now, she stuck to her original plan.

“There.”

Something flew toward her from the right side of the bridge.

It was the mass of metal using the vassal as a weight.

After crashing into that cannon and the enemy formation, her momentum had remained and she had bounced.

Her short but sturdy limbs were still caught on cannon and gun parts while she flew in a parabolic arc toward Futayo.

“I’m gonna hit youuuuu!!”

“Judge,” agreed Futayo while spinning her body.

She placed the bottom of her feet on the flying mobile shell hammer.

“There.”

She absorbed the impact with her ankles and lightly stood there.


Adele was not quite sure what had happened.

But she did know she had hit Futayo in midair.

It was an accident!

Traffic laws naturally applied to mobile shells as well. In any Testament Union nation, a ground mobile shell in motion was regulated by the same laws as a mid-sized wagon, so when vassals like Adele were given their title of vassal, they were required to earn a license for the type of mobile shell they would be using.

How many points were taken from your license if you hit someone due to inattention? Then again, even if she lost her mid-sized carriage license, that only prevented her from operating the mobile shell on public roads. If she had it transported to the battlefield, she could still use it. Not to mention…

“If I’m only being used as a hammer, I don’t have to use it as vehicle at all!”

She made the joke herself since no one else was around to do it, but…

“Eh?”

She heard a few sounds.

The first she heard were the many metallic sounds of the bullets meant for Futayo hitting her instead. Those sounds of deflected metal meant that Futayo had not been hit by Raging Beast. Then…

Where’d she go!?

Just then, she heard a solid sound on her back armor which was pointed toward the sky. Something had hit a piece of cannon wreckage caught on Raging Beast. Futayo had probably circled behind her and kicked off one of the broken cannons.

“Vassal-dono.”

Futayo’s muffled voice reached her inside Raging Beast while the machine was being swung around in the air.

“I will not damage the mobile shell…so bear with this.”

“I-I don’t like where this is headed!”

But she realized what Futayo was going to do. What would Futayo do in a situation like this if not use her cutting power?

But she said she wouldn’t damage Raging Beast!

The answer was simple: she would slice through the cannon wreckage caught on Raging Beast and…

“Bind, Tonbo Spare!”


Mitotsudaira saw it happening while she swung Raging Beast around with a Silver Chain.

While standing on the back of the bouncing mobile shell, Futayo sent her cutting power toward Raging Beast.

Asama: “Kyaaaahh! Adele was sliced open!”

Gold Mar: “Slicing her up for cooking?”

Silver Wolf: “Glad to see none of you are actually worried!”

But the result was not what everyone was implying.

Futayo had attacked the cannon wreckage caught on Raging Beast’s arms and back. The melted-on metal was accurately bisected and struck. The force of the blow went on to push at Raging Beast below.

“There!”

Raging Beast changed direction with enough force that Mitotsudaira had to loosen the Silver Chain.

Until now, it had been mostly bouncing with lengthy airtime, but this was a direct diagonal blow.

Raging Beast took the trajectory of a sharp karate chop to hit the remaining three cannons.

There was nothing to stop it, so the mass of metal flew in with its left shoulder out front. It swept away the gunners and crashed into the metal cannon.

“Owwwwww!!!”


Futayo jumped down into the center of the enemy formation.

There were a lot of them, but she had her back to where Raging Beast had hit. The mobile shell had crashed into the cannon while taking out the nearby gunners with it, so she barely had to worry about anything behind her.

That just left crouching low, and…

“I am Musashi Ariadust Academy Vice Chancellor Honda Futayo!”

She moved forward.

The enemy still qualified as “lots”. Their numbers had been reduced considerably, but they were still not down to three.

By her second step, Raging Beast had hit the third cannon.

Vassal-dono has such an excellent mobile shell. Its destruction efficiency is fantastic with a weight inside.

The tearing and popping of bolts joined the breaking and creaking of metal like strange wind instruments. All the noise created the background music for Futayo’s charge.

With the enemy group packed in so close, she could not hold her spear horizontally.

But that was fine. She had already been holding it vertically. With Tonbo Spare raised on her right side, she jabbed it forward from below and spun it around.

“There!”

She hit the gunner in front of her in the arms, knocking those arms and the gun they held upwards.

His expression froze on his face as his arms were forcefully raised overhead, but Futayo…

“Toh!”

She moved forward and brought her left shoulder toward him.

He functioned as a shield.

With both arms raised and his weapon held up, he could do nothing to her. He could not even tackle her with his body stretched upwards like that.

So she pushed her right side against his right side and spun her legs around him.

Kakei-dono did it like this, didn’t he!?

She made a 360-degree turning slide with someone acting as a shield at the central axis. It was a forceful action that required spinning the enemy being used as a shield.

But even while doing that, she did not go easy on the enemy. She held her spear out to the left to knock the surrounding enemies’ arms and weapons up. And…

“Toh.”

She passed through.

Futayo slalomed through the defenseless enemies and she made sure to lightly strike up at them with her shoulders to prevent them from returning to a fighting stance.

She did not knock any of them down.

With this many enemies packed in this closely, knocking just one of them down with a powerful blow would create a barrier for her and randomly change the movement of the enemy formation.

That would be annoying.

So she instead knocked their arms and weapons up to clear space for herself.

By using an enemy as a shield, the others would change position and clear more space in order to aim at her properly.

If she could repeat the process, continue moving, and push the enemy shield around, something would come into view.

“There!”

The aide student was at the center of the enemy.

He was aiming a targeting spell toward her. That was sending guidance data to the others.

The distinctive four-way cross of a Catholic gunsight settled on the center of his lernen figur.

That meant it had locked onto her. So…

“Fire!”

But by the time she heard that word, Futayo had already passed by the aide.

She did not bother with him. Because…

“You should have been looking ahead.”

“Eh?”

It happened just as the aide uttered that confused sound.

“Ohhh!”

A great force rushed in from beyond the destroyed cannons.

The Musashi charge had arrived.

The force struck the cannons, pushing them off the wagons, and sending them through the air.

Everyone was here, so Futayo knew what she had to do next.

“Deal with the enemy’s second line.”

She could see enemy reinforcements arriving from the opposite bank, so she ran toward them.

“Oh.”

A mass of metal flew past her overhead.

“Will Vassal-dono get there first!?”

That was indeed what happened.


Mitotsudaira saw Adele’s results when she crashed horizontally into the center of the enemy formation.

The enemy reinforcements were hit by a left-side throw performed with a mobile shell.

That was exciting.

The reinforcements probably thought they could arrive before the frontline was defeated, but they were wrong.

The line of cannons had been cleared before they arrived. The rest of the Musashi forces were mopping up the remaining enemies, but Mitotsudaira and Futayo had continued forward.

The two of them had a certain rule to follow here.

They would focus only on assistance.

After all, they had another battle waiting for them in Nördlingen in a few hours’ time. Even if they had time to get some sleep first, they would not have time to fully heal any physical wounds.

And discrepancies in your intuition can be frightening.

Every battle had its own battlefield and enemy.

The battlefield and enemy were never the exact same.

So no matter how much you trained, you had to work to understand the current battlefield and enemy and then adapt to that. Blowing through everything like a powerful gale might sound nice, but it did not always work like that.

When you fought a battle, you picked up habits from adapting to that battlefield and enemy.

Breaking free of that required time and training to adjust.

If she learned anything in a battle, it could take some time to “reset” herself.

That could be scary when it came to back-to-back battles like this.

If she ran into a powerful enemy here, it could easily create a disturbance in her while in Nördlingen.

“But…”

While running, something came into view: the large facility rising up from the center of the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay.

Nagaoka Tadaoki was at the top of that.

It looked to be about 5km away.

She had to destroy the enemy reinforcements before arriving there.

“…!?”

But then she heard a sound. It came from near where Futayo had charged out ahead. It sounded like the air rupturing, and it was…

“Futayo! Something is being spatially ejected!”


Futayo responded to Mitotsudaira’s shout by suddenly springing her body from the ground.

She made a rightward spin while running and then threw herself into a side flip.

What is this!?

She wondered that as wind passed by right in front of her eyes.

It was a red and white cowling spear and it was large enough to call a knight’s spear.

The spear had suddenly stabbed out in front of her.

It had been spatially ejected.

Futayo knew of someone who could send giant spears like this out of empty air. The girl had been a Hashiba representative during the Siege of Odawara. Her name was…

What was it again?

Oh, no. I remember what she looks like, but I forgot her name.

At any rate, a short figure jumped out in front of her. The girl had short hair and wore an M.H.R.R. summer uniform. Her large eyes were directed at Futayo.

“I’ll do my best, so please fight me!!”

“Judge.” Futayo nodded. “I like your attitude!!”

As soon as she said that, the second spear was ejected.

The metallic noise of her interception echoed across war-torn Edo Bay.


Chapter 36: Stubborn Girl with Three-Dimensional Footing[edit]

Horizon7B 285.jpg

Um

I do that like this

And this like that

And then what was it?

Point Allocation (Do My Best)


From the very first move, Kani did not hold back.

She had eight cowling spears she could launch. They had all been rebuilt from ready-made parts after Yoshiaki had destroyed them during the Siege of Odawara.

Of course, these ready-made parts were all of the highest quality since they were meant as spare parts for the weapons brought to Kantou, so they were honestly more expensive and functional than the ones she had been using before.

They’re wasted on me!

But according to Big Katou…

“You’re here in Fukushima’s place, so you should expect this kind of treatment.”

It was true she would expect Fukushima to use the highest quality parts.

The thrusters were working well and the spears felt nice and light when she pulled them toward her after the ejection.

In fact, the various parts were moving a little better than she expected, so she had to move faster than she was used to.

The only real problem was that she had not had time to adjust the weight balance.

She had overslept.

Well, no. She had woken up on time. She had set an alarm clock spell on her lernen figur, so she had woken up. But when she did, she had found a cat sleeping on her belly, she had not known what to do, and she had ended up falling back asleep.

And when she fell back asleep, it had been a very deep sleep.

The next thing she had known, it was seven minutes until the meeting time, so she had frantically run up to the deck and found Big Katou and Ootani with her new Sasamura.

Big Katou had given her the usual look while inspecting her schale besen.

“Did you sleep well?”

“Sorry! I really did oversleep!”

“Because of the cat?”

“No! Because of my own indecision!”

“Leave the cat with Ootani. And if you got enough sleep, it all works out. You can finetune your equipment on the scene, but you can’t catch up on your sleep once the battle starts.”

That had been the end of it for her, but Ootani had said he was going to break through the defenses placed on Kantou’s divine transmission network and head to Nördlingen. He had said he was going to assist Ishida Mitsunari.

And now…

“Here I go!”

Kani was fighting the Musashi Vice Chancellor.

This girl had repelled Fukushima Masanori, who Kani looked up to as a superior.

This was an enemy.

But Kani was pleased to face this enemy. After all…

She defeated Fukushima-san!

She must be an incredible fighter!


Oh, said Futayo in her heart.

The enemy was quickly moving both in front of her and all around her. But what was her name?

All I remember is that it was seafood related.[1]

But what was it?

Seafood.

Bonito!

No, it was not bonito. I would definitely remember it if it was that. I could also go for some ginger.

Besides, I feel like it was a shorter name. Bonito is pretty long. Seaweed is pretty long too. Cod is nice and short, but it is not a name. In that case…

Squid!

No, that does not seem right either. And I feel like I am moving further from the answer. But…

Octopus seems weirdly close.

Why is that? Because they squirt ink? No, squids do that too.

In that case, she thought. The difference between a squid and an octopus is the color, the flavor, and the number of legs. And my opponent here is using eight spears.

I see. Was it the eight spears that made me think of an octopus? In that case, her name must be…


Kani did not let up on her attacks.

Sasamura still needed tuning, but that meant tuning for her. They had already been tuned to the maintenance team’s standards and she was gradually growing more accustomed to that.

The maintenance team’s tuning made them front heavy by shifting the weight toward the tip.

That was meant to deliver a heavy blow more than supply penetrative power.

These would send something flying at a touch instead of piercing or slicing it.

They might not provide critical damage, but the bare minimum of damage on contact was quite high and over a wider area. The impact would propagate outwards, so if she slammed one into a large group, she could hit them all at once.

The problem with the heavier front end was how difficult it was to get it moving.

That meant she had to eject them pointing downwards whenever possible.

If they hit the ground, that impact would stay with them for a bit even if she re-stored them, so she had to re-store them immediately after ejecting them.

That made her movements a little rushed, but…

“I’ll do my best!”

The enemy was also moving quite quickly.

She was the Musashi Vice Chancellor.

“Fast” was Kani’s first impression of her.

She dodged Kani’s attacks. And instead of desperately ducking below them, she slipped past them with flowing movements.

The eight cowling spears carried enough force to send the girl’s entire body flying at a touch, yet…

“–––––!”

She slipped past them. When Kani sent them in for a direct hit, the girl would spin out of the way and come for her.

When she launched them where the enemy would soon be, the girl would speed up to pass through before it arrived.

And if she let up on the attack for even a moment…

“Kh!”

The girl arrived right in front of her. With almost casual movements.

At this rate, they would run into each other.

The advancing Musashi Vice Chancellor had her right side turned forward a bit and she attempted to press that shoulder against Kani’s chest.

This is crazy! thought Kani.

There was a lot of distance between them. She was keeping a distance of five or six meters at all times. However…

She can reach me!

She could tell the girl could hit her with the next step.

Sensing that imminent impact, her pulse quickened a fair bit. Because…

What’s going to happen!?

What kind of attack would the Musashi Vice Chancellor start using if she managed to get close?

Would a spear user normally try to tackle you with their shoulder?

Kani could not do that. She had never fought like that before.

Not even Yoshiaki had fought in a way that made Kani sense an impact like this coming.

But this opponent was different.

She stepped forward in a testing way that said “I can hit you” and that sense of imminent danger messed with Kani.

It happened again. The girl lightly sidestepped a cowling spear launched at extreme close range. Her flowing hair and swinging arms found no obstacles, almost like this attack had been built into her series of movements from the start.

The way her hair flowed was especially beautiful and cute. It did not seem tugged or stretched at all; it constantly danced and occasionally accelerated into a long arc.

Here she came.

Her hair drew a long arc.

She charged in toward Kani and prepared to hit with the next step. In response, Kani launched an attack toward-

“Thinking Time!”

The Musashi Vice Chancellor suddenly stopped moving, held out her left palm, and shouted those words.

“Huh!?”

Kani came to a stop and the other girl calmly spun around in front of her. And while she did so, she placed her left index finger on her brow to think.

Precisely three seconds later, the Musashi Vice Chancellor made a move toward unmoving Kani.

She pointed her left index finger at her.

“Shrimp!!”


Gold Mar: “Is something weird happening?”

Unturning: “When is there not?”

Righteousness: “Y-you all had better not be doing anything weird behind us! I swear!”

Me: “Hey, Hey. Whatcha gonna do, Seijun? Flatty doesn’t trust us.”

Vice President: “And whose fault is that!?”


I found the answer! thought Futayo while spinning.

She praised herself while including a quick turning step to preserve Soaring Wings.

I am glad I could remember that!

Yes, it was seafood. And when it came to the red and white coloration of those eight spears, it had to be shrimp. She was also quite fond of tuna, but she had to think in turns of her opponent right now. That girl had the face of a shrimp-lover. Besides, tuna was a bad idea. According to Kazuno…

“The Testament says tuna was considered a bland fish in this age, so the fatty part was thrown out.”

So her father had insisted he was moderating his diet as he bought up the fatty fish, pickled it for long-term preservation, and sold it off. In the end, Lord Motonobu had secured a more efficient market and stolen all the profits. Which is why pickling became taboo in my family.

But her current opponent was Shrimp.

I solved the mystery! she thought with great relief, but then she noticed Shrimp looking at her.

Shrimp raised her right hand and spoke.

“Excuse me! …We’re fighting a battle right now, so why are you calling for a time out!?”

“You did not know!? This is the age-old tradition of Thinking Time!”

“That’s a thing!?”

“It is!”


Gold Mar: “It’s really not. That sounds like something out of a nightmare.”

Asama: “Um, Masazumi? Did you, uh, hear what Naito just said?”

Vice President: “Didn’t I do that joke before? Y’know, about a Naito-mare.”

Uqui: “Hard to say. Even if you did, we may have all suppressed the memory.”

Silver Wolf: “Some of us are trying to fight!”

Flat Vassal: “That’s right! We’re trying to fight! And 5th Special Duty Officer! Don’t forget how important it is to take good care of your weapon! Now more than ever!”


Futayo spoke to Shrimp.

“Attacking during Thinking Time is a cowardly act! Surely you knew that.”

“Eh!? I-I don’t recall being taught that bit of etiquette!”

“Hm… Which school of combat were you trained in?”

“Houzouin!” replied Shrimp without missing a beat. “And they didn’t teach me anything about Thinking Time!”

“They would not teach you this in a Buddhist temple!” Futayo pointed at Shrimp while realizing what was going on here. “The name is in English after all! And it did in fact work in England!”

“It did!?”

“Indeed it did. Walter-dono of the Trumps realized what I was doing and waited for me. That means it is a global thing and they would not speak of it in a Far Eastern temple!”

“Th-then,” said Shrimp while clenching both her fists. “How long does it last!?”

“Until just now.”

Futayo slammed an attack into Shrimp.


Kani was legitimately surprised.

...Wow!

Incredible! was her first impression. She could not quite put to words how it was incredible, but it definitely gave her an extremely strange feeling.

This girl was clearly different from Fukushima, Yoshiaki, or the others.

Kani’s tempo had been completely thrown off.

The attack coming her way used the tip of the spear. And it flew toward her like an artillery shell thanks to the extension device.

It was targeting the center of her torso, the hardest location to evade.

And she was also in a state of surprise. Her fighting stance had slipped because she had grown careless. Even though Fukushima had told her to read the progress of battle beforehand.

That was a failure, but she wanted to avoid making any further mistakes.

So she took action as the spear tip rushed toward her.

“Here I go!”

She launched Sasamura, but not toward the enemy’s spear. Her observation of the Musashi Vice Chancellor’s grip on the spear told her attempting to intercept the attack would be dangerous. Everything from the girl’s hands to the spear tip was wobbling slightly.

That meant she was not holding it tightly.

That was the best way to perform a jab if you intended to make a high-speed snap. She would probably pour on the strength at the instant of contact to push past any defenses.

Allowing it to hit her cowling spear like that would be dangerous.

That loosely-held spear would easily deflect whatever strength she sent its way. So instead of being knocked away, the spear could be pulled back in to reach her.

So Kani controlled where Sasamura would be ejected.

She positioned it behind her on the left so it would graze her side.

Sasamura was currently set up to provide a powerful impact, so Kani decided to use it to knock herself out of the way.

The problem was the accuracy of the ejection.

She was pretty sure she could secure a position where it would only just barely hit her. She had yet to tune Sasamura, but the feeling that ruled her heart was not worry. It was…

I’ll do my best!

She would try.

There were things she had to do even if she was worried.

And if she was going to do it, she thought she might as well do her best to succeed at it. I mean, what’s the point of doing your best to fail!?

So she focused herself on producing the best possible result instead of on her worries.

She lightly twisted herself to the right and braced for impact while also drawing in the incoming spear tip. And…

“Eject!”


Mitotsudaira saw Kani Saizou’s decision while she slammed Adele into the enemy.

At first glance, it looked like…

Suicide!?

But that was an illusion.

She had ejected a cowling spear behind her. It looked like she had ejected it too close to herself and torn into her own side.

But Kani’s body was instead sent flying.

Her short and slender body doubled over and flew into the sky on the left from Mitotsudaira’s perspective.

“She hit herself with her own spear!?”

That was exactly it.

The cowling spear was quite large and it had probably been forcibly accelerated upon ejection. After all, the ejection was louder than it had been at Odawara.

If the acceleration came from the tip being made heavier, then the cowling spear’s attacks would be in the form of impacts.

That explained why Kani had been sent flying just now.

It also explained why she had chosen this course of action.

“Futayo!”

The ejected cowling spear was not targeting Futayo.

But Kani had escaped Futayo’s Tonbo Spare.

What would the enemy do after dodging? Mitotsudaira knew all too well.

“She is going to attack!”


Kani performed a midair side flip.

She flipped herself upside down to not expose her body to the enemy after receiving that impact.

As soon as her side flip turned her upside down, she rapidly ejected cowling spears.

The enemy was below her, ahead, and to the left, so she directed them that way.

Eject!

She launched them from “below” her upside-down feet. She ejected Sasamura spread out like a fan and like a spiral staircase.

She also kicked off the bottom of the cowling spears to run while upside down. She took exactly seven steps. By gaining the launch speed of the spears, she circled behind the Musashi Vice Chancellor.

The pain of being hit had yet to reach her body.

But she could feel it coming. Her left side felt tense and she could not stretch it any further than it already was. That would definitely become pain later and forcing it to move would only damage the tendons.

But she moved nonetheless.

She could see the Musashi Vice Chancellor at the center of her launched fan and spiral.

But Kani did not hold back with the concentrated attack of seven spears directed at that girl.

She made the seven attacks after hitting herself to evade. That would have been a surprise for the enemy and the Musashi Vice Chancellor never could have expected the timing of this attack.

She had the advantage, so she did everything she could.

Her first action was related to the cowling spear that had hit her.

As it flew out ahead, she did not re-store it like she had previously.

This was not a feint.

Nor was it to distract the enemy.

That spear had been launched ahead from the left side of her back rather than at the Musashi Vice Chancellor in front of her, so it would pass by that girl on the right side instead of hitting her.

Contact with that spear would provide an impact powerful enough to send her flying, so the Musashi Vice Chancellor could not move to the right.

Then Kani only had to send in the seven cowling spears as if pushing that impact into her.

She did not launch the spears in a simple fashion.

This was a lesson she had learned from Yoshiaki. She primarily used trajectories from diagonally above but she also had them crisscross.

She also gave them a slight rotation so the enemy could not run up them.

That created a bed of thorns made from eight cowling spears.

This was not a cage. It was meant to defeat, not capture.

Got her!

Kani controlled the spears’ movement with her fingers to weave together a space of multiple intersecting paths.

There was no escape for the enemy. Once this hit, they would tear into her. And she saw the Musashi Vice Chancellor in that space.

She also noticed the girl was looking up at her.

“––––!?”

But the corners of her tight lips were definitely angled upwards.


Futayo was impressed by Shrimp’s skill.

Well done!

The way she had woven together the attacks had been clever. She had produced some nice sounds during the Siege of Odawara, but you had to experience it for yourself to understand how sharp it really was.

Futayo had held a bit of a bias against spatially-ejected spears. She had thought they were little different from short-range cannon blasts.

But that was wrong.

By linking the ejection direction to your hands, the attack could be changed on the fly. That ejection control was especially crucial. And Shrimp went beyond that and controlled their approach even while she was removing them from space, but instead of lowering their speed, she would aim them and twist them to actually increase the impact they would provide.

Shrimp also controlled them after they had been ejected.

And she did so with more than her hand movements. She would hop on top of them or kick them to change their trajectories in unexpected ways. At this point, they were more like spear-shaped claws than cowling spears.

Of course, there were things she could not do, like draw them in close. But from what Futayo had seen, she could pull off most any attack, including vertical rotations and striking with the base of the tip.

The elaborate attack here was another example.

Shrimp sent the cowling spears down while woven together like a dense bamboo thicket.

She was trying to pin Futayo in place.

And once Futayo could not move, each cowling spear could go in for a finishing blow.

This was not about accuracy. Only three of the spears could directly hit her body, but the other four were being used to keep her from escaping. And they did so both horizontally and vertically.

Well done, thought Futayo again.

The world was a large place. Or should she say the times were changing quickly? She had never expected to see such great variation on the concept of spears.

It made sense this girl was named Shrimp.

Those symbolized long ¬life and good fortune. A long time ago, her father had killed a 7m one in Mikawa Bay and Kazuno had had this to say:

“Tadakatsu-sama, that is not a shrimp. It has pincers, so I would say it is more of a lobster monster.”

But it had tasted good when they cooked it, so it all worked out in the end.

But at the moment, Futayo had to intercept these Shrimp Spears.

She had one way of doing so: gently spinning her body and…

“What is the best way of cooking shrimp on the beach?”

You could not throw them into the campfire. So…

“You must skewer them.”


Kani saw the Musashi Vice Chancellor twisting her spear.

And instead of a normal twist, she first rotated it in front of her and then swung it out from her.

Kani thought of it like building up power in the spear and releasing it.

And indeed, something was released from the Musashi Vice Chancellor’s hand: the spear itself.

She sent out the tip with the extension device and then the tip popped off of the shaft and the core part inside.

The spear was fully extended, so it could not throw the removed end parts very hard. What could be called the main part of the spear floated out in something like a light toss.

Then the Musashi Vice Chancellor made her next move.

The multiple cowling spears had been woven tightly together on their way toward her, but…

“Nh!”

She swung her own spear’s shaft up and into the cowling spears.


Narumi saw the Musashi Vice Chancellor’s counterattack while helping mop up the enemy’s front line.

Her mobile shell, Unturning Centipede, had locked onto the spears Kani had launched toward the Musashi Vice Chancellor. Inside the sealed piloting space, a sign frame appeared in the head area.

And here I thought three of them were going to hit her.

The Musashi Vice Chancellor had made a diagonal thrust of her extended spear.

That one spear disturbed the other seven.

“She reversed the calculation.”

She had struck one of the spears meant to cut off her escape. Specifically, the final one meant to prevent her from moving vertically.

That spear had been falling nearly vertically toward her, so an attack from below would shift its path to the side.

That was what it did.

That spear had been launched as a final assurance, so it had been thrown into the densest portion of the spear group. That meant even a slight shift to its path caught the others.

The one spear hit the others and sparks flew.

Those spears were tuned with a focus on powerful impacts.

The impact of that collision in the center of their densest point spread across the entire space.

A great noise rang out.

First just one, but then three at once. Or so it sounded to Narumi.

The first spear was bent and broken.

Then the three it had hit strained.

The broken one and the straining three shook from the impact and clearly floated up a bit. Their paths spread outwards, and…

“Ohhh!”

The Musashi Vice Chancellor swung up her raised spear shaft.

And along a path meant to catch on the other spears.

Narumi could tell it had hit.

All of Kani’s cowling spears shook violently as they were deflected outwards.

All seven were thrown from their intended path and collided with each other.

“It’s like a flower.”

That was exactly what happened.

The seven spears scattered like a blossoming flower above the Musashi Vice Chancellor’s head.

It looked like they hesitated for a second while trying to figure out which way their force should spread, but…

“Judge!”

Seven loud metallic sounds rang together and Kani’s cowling spears flew outwards.

It had all happened almost simultaneously. It was all nothing more than the continuation of what the Musashi Vice Chancellor had predicted and launched.

And the result lay before them.

Kani had a weapon in her hand as she began to fall.

It was a cowling spear.

That was the one she had launched horizontally to cut off the Musashi Vice Chancellor’s escape earlier.

She must have quickly re-stored it and re-ejected it.

This was different from the Siege of Odawara. According to the records from then, Kani had lost her weapons against Yoshiaki and been forced to rely on a tackle in the very end.

She had learned from that and was demonstrating the result of that lesson here.

As soon as she decided her attack might not work, she had prepared the next attack.

She was beginning to read the flow of battle as well as a first year could.

Narumi could recognize Kani’s skill, but on top of that, she spoke to the girl’s opponent.

“Now, show her what it was you read, Musashi Vice Chancellor.”


Kani saw movement.

The extended shaft was shaking while held up by the Musashi Vice Chancellor.

That was due to the force and kinetic energy supplied by the multiple cowling spear hits.

In a fraction of an instant, the metal shaft shook, the bend moved back in the opposite direction, and finally…

“–––!”

All of the six-piece shaft’s connections burst and blossomed.

The metal stem split and spread out from the bottom and the very top became a flower.

A metallic noise rang out.

That was the sound of the blossoming destruction as the force sent into the shaft caused it all to disappear and radiate outwards.

The metal stem, leaves, and flower floated at the center of it all. The bursting power must have been strongest at the metal pipe which produced a clear tone in the night air, but…

The Musashi Vice Chancellor!

In the instant that girl was hidden behind the metal blossom, she disappeared.

She was gone.

No, she had moved somewhere. Probably to one of Kani’s blind spots.

In that case, decided Kani.

What was it she needed to do?

“I’ll do my best!!”

She had not lost yet.

She could still think up something to do.

She could come up with the best possible move for her in this situation. Which was…

“…!”

She stored the cowling spear she had been preparing to send at her opponent.

She chose to immediately re-eject it toward…

“Where the Musashi Vice Chancellor’s spear flew off to!”

The enemy had tossed the main part of the spear into the air before swinging up the shaft.

It had flown behind where Kani was now, so…

“She has to be there!”

Kani turned around in midair and sent out a cowling spear.


Please hit!

As soon as she landed, Kani controlled the cowling spear being ejected and pushed it forward.

She swung her left arm and a large white and red spear was ejected out ahead of it.

It had plenty of initial speed, but was her opponent in its path?

“Musashi Vice Chancellor!”

She was.

Her opponent had already grabbed her own spear and was preparing to swing it.

This enemy could use a cutting power which would smash the cowling spear.

Kani had to hit her before she could swing that spear, so…

I’ll do my best!

She was still inexperienced, but that was no excuse on the battlefield.

Of course, she did not strictly need to win this battle there.

But I do need to be useful!

Even if she was defeated here, it would be meaningful as long as it bought time for someone else.

The results and credit could go elsewhere.

She was here in Fukushima’s place after all. So…

“I’ll do my best!”

She controlled her cowling spear to demonstrate her role.

She controlled it to the point that her fingernails strained in protest.

“Reach her!”

She launched it.

In fact, she launched two of them.

She had already retrieved all seven of the ones that had flown up into the sky, even the broken one.

She fired another of those immediately after the initial one here. So even if the first one was sliced through, the next one would hit.

Kani recalled the final moments of her battle against Yoshiaki during the Siege of Odawara.

Surrounding her enemy with spears form the sky had been an improvement on a technique she had used in the Yoshiaki battle.

That had been defended against, but the “current battle” was the continuation from that.

She had not lost just because her attack was defended against or a cowling spear had been broken.

Fukushima-san and Yoshiaki-sama taught me that!

They had taught her that she had only lost once she could no longer read the flow of battle.

So in order to continue reading ahead in this battle…

“––––!”

She observed something in front of her.

The Musashi Vice Chancellor had stabbed her spear tip below her own left arm instead of counterattacking.

What is she doing!?

It looked like suicide, but Kani knew better.

That was the same thing she had done earlier: hit yourself with your own attack to forcibly move yourself.

In the Musashi Vice Chancellor’s case, she used the spear tip to strike the armor panel hanging from her hip hard point.

And Kani heard the following words:

“Bind…Tonbo Spare!”


Futayo felt the impact of the cutting power striking her.

She had tried quite a few ways of moving herself around in the past. She had run, jumped, spun, and even kicked off a shell, but this was her first time doing it this way.

She received an impact to the hipbone.

She learned just how painful that cutting power was. Fukushima-dono could not have had a good time receiving a nearly direct hit from this, she realized.

But this was the method she needed now. Using an external force to move herself would not destroy Soaring Wings.

This provided more than enough force. Her left hip armor shattered and her skirt was shredded, but…

Make it!

The two cowling spears passed by her on the left.

She spun her body toward Shrimp and accelerated.

“…!”

Her attack ended up with a backhand motion due to the rotation of her body.

That was fine. The main portion of Tonbo Spare was a short spear. The core was normally stored in the shaft, but it did have a proper butt end attached.

She would use that striking end to hit Shrimp in the gut.

She aimed at her opponent’s right side from her own perspective. That was the same side Shrimp had hit with her cowling spear before.

Her movements were oddly stiff when it came to her left side.

That injury may have been a sign of her resolve, but there was no reason to show mercy or go easy on her.

They both had an objective beyond themselves in this battle. Plus…

She said she would do her best!

When your opponent said they would give it their all, you could never assume it was over. You had to assume something else was coming to the very, very end.

So Futayo went for it.

While spinning her body to the right, she struck with the butt end of Tonbo Spare’s main portion.

In that instant, she saw something.

Shrimp looked at her, and…

“––––!”

Her shoulders lowered in relief.


Futayo made an immediate decision in response to Shrimp’s reaction.

She made a snapping motion with the right hand holding Tonbo Spare.

She had been swinging the spear backhanded toward the girl, but now she reaccelerated it.

And not toward Shrimp!

“Up!”

She had a reason.

Shrimp had said she would do her best and now her shoulders had lowered in relief.

It had looked like she was no longer doing her best, but not because she had given up.

They both had an objective beyond themselves on this battlefield.

For Futayo’s side, that was the Kantou Liberation.

For Shrimp’s side, it was to retain control of Kantou.

Objectives like that introduced a certain factor to your tactics: assistance.

Instead of prioritizing your personal victory, you could work toward an overall victory or toward passing things off to the next fighter on your side.

Shrimp had learned she had succeeded there. Which meant…

Reinforcements!

If a group of enemies had arrived, they would naturally have a commander, but Futayo had sensed nothing of the sort. Then why had Shrimp still demonstrated such relief?

They must be on their way.

Most likely, the enemy would reach her at about the same time she struck Shrimp.

And this was an opponent whose presence Futayo could not sense.

So she gave up on defeating Shrimp.

If the enemy was charging in at her, the enemy would not use a jab to avoid hitting Shrimp. They would wait until just before passing her by and then make a horizontal strike or a downwards strike from directly behind her.

With a horizontal strike, she only needed to duck down.

With a downwards strike from above, she had to dodge to either side while intercepting the blow.

Would it be from the side or from above?

The answer was simple. Shrimp stood on the other side of her from the new enemy, but the girl had not ducked down.

That meant the enemy behind her was going to use a downwards strike.

“In that case…”

Her body moved. Futayo performed a turning slide to the right and held Tonbo Spare overhead.

Her voice rang out in a dignified tone a moment later.

“Bind, Tonbo Spare!!”


Sound raced through the air.

It was a loud metallic one.

The light that scattered came from small shards of ether.

And in exchange, a single power was stopped and prevented from activating.

Tonbo Spare’s cutting power had been canceled.


It had not hit.

The change of movement and the cutting power had essentially been a surprise attack, yet it had been shattered.

What happened?

Futayo shifted into a turning slide that spun her around and her brow furrowed in doubt.

Her cutting attack had been canceled by something.

“Was it canceled by a reverse reflection!?”

She spun her body around and leaped to move behind Shrimp.

She maintained her acceleration. While taking a rapid curving path toward the girl, she saw something.

A silver path was racing through the spot she had just vacated.

Is that…?

She recognized the movement this newcomer had used to pursue her and cancel Tonbo Spare’s cutting power.

“That is a werewolf’s instantaneous acceleration, isn’t it!?”

“Indeed it is.”

The response came from shockingly close by. And…

In front of me!

“I am right here.”

It came from below.

She looked down and saw the enemy directly below her throat. They were in the very shadow she was casting in the darkness.

It was a wolf.

The silhouette was similar to Mitotsudaira and her mother, but one thing was very different about the wolf who had moved right up to Futayo here.

“I am Hashiba Ten Spears #8, Kasuya Takenori.”

She swung her right hand toward Futayo while wielding some kind of weapon and her hair danced along with the motion. That hair was plentiful, but…

Black!?

It was the color of darkness instead of the moon.

A line of silver raced from the black wolf.

The swift attack was aimed at Futayo’s throat.


Kasuya’s black hair swayed as she launched her accelerated attack.

And she thought, I managed to avoid anything as rude as a surprise attack.

She felt some relief at that.

And I managed to name myself.

She had explained her position and given a greeting. If an attack launched after that qualified as a surprise, it meant that Vice Chancellor had been far too careless.

So Kasuya felt no reluctance to use her strength.

She placed even more acceleration on the instantaneous attack.

She divided the close-range attack up into smaller movements for instantaneous acceleration.

“This is the speed at which wolves fight.”


Chapter 37: Wolves on the Bridge[edit]

Horizon7B 319.jpg

That is an unapproachable past

It is something you can never forget

Even as you move away from it

Point Allocation (Manners)


The sound of clashing minerals rang out.

And two forms moved far away from that reverberating tone: Kani and Futayo.

The two of them moved about 15 meters away while looking at something between them.

They saw two other forms there.

The first was the werewolf with black hair dancing in the night wind: Kasuya Takenori.

The other was a werewolf with silver hair flowing in the night wind.

The silver wolf’s name was…

“I am Musashi Ariadust Academy 5th Special Duty Officer Nate Mitotsudaira. I shall be your opponent.”


Mitotsudaira gasped lightly while keeping a distance of three meters from her enemy.

She could not make any careless moves. Because…

I do not know what her weapons are.

As far as she could see, her enemy’s weapons were attached to her two arms.

Their shape was similar to Mitotsudaira’s Silver Chain obelisks and her mother’s Silver Cross.

Tower-shaped crosses were attached to the outside of this werewolf’s arms.

If they were Silver Crosses, then were they striking weapons?

Or were they like tonfas and used as sword blockers?

Mitotsudaira was unsure.

But she was sure of one thing.

I am a bit faster than her.

She did not know what this enemy’s top speed was, but she had managed to intervene as the werewolf charged at Futayo.

That meant she had an advantage in at least one area. She could use that as a tactical starting point. That would let her face this unfamiliar opponent while remaining cautious.

They glared at each other.

Then she noticed her opponent’s appearance.

Mitotsudaira honestly did not know many fellow werewolves. There were wolfmen and Hard Wolves on Musashi, but the few werewolves had an unknown small percentage of werewolf blood in them, so they looked almost identical to humans.

The one she knew best was her mother, but she suspected that woman was too much of an exception to draw any general conclusions from. Yes, I refuse to accept her as the standard. Yes, there’s such a difference between us it can be easy to forget I am her daughter.

But then she heard a voice.

Me: “Nate! From the looks of her, is that another werewolf?”

Silver Wolf: “Judge! I believe so.”

She was sure of it. After all…

Silver Wolf: “Her eyes are the same animalistic gold as my mother and me.”

But the animal pupils in those shapely eyes were not closed. The girl was probably feeling some tension, but she had not tensed up.

I see, replied her king. And…

Me: “Win this.”

Those final words brought a trembling feeling to the hair on the back of her neck.

That was her king’s second command to her since the Kantou Liberation began.

And this time, he was asking for definite victory.

He isn’t asking me to win this all on my own, is he?

Her king was with her in this. That was what it meant.

But while her excitement grew, Kimi sent some words too.

Wise Sister: “Heh heh. Mitotsudaira? Do you have anything other than your wagging tail to suggest you can win here?”

Silver Wolf: “Kimi? Just to be clear, teasing me like that will have the opposite effect.”

Wise Sister: “Silly girl, that’s why I’m saying it. But what is your answer?”

“Judge,” said Mitotsudaira while moving and watching to see what her enemy would do. They both moved in a large circle to see what the other would do and find an opening to attack.

Mitotsudaira responded within that watchful tension.

Silver Wolf: “I will be fine. …I believe I have the greater speed.”

“Yeah,” said Naruze.

Mar-Ga: “I mean…your opponent actually has a chest.”


Asama suddenly grew curious and opened a telescope spell.

They were on the west end of the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay. Specifically, they were on the bridge of the small transport ship waiting at the bridge’s entrance. The ship was already surrounded by its virtual ocean so it could take off at any time.

“Musashino” was in charge of managing that, but Naito was in charge of setting up the initial acceleration. She was opening pairs of large repulsion acceleration spells from the bow to the stern.

“Okay, now we can leave at any time. ‘Musashino’, we’re going up this time, so you can give us the initial speed we need by using these from back to front, but doing it too quickly will destroy the ocean, so do it a little slower.”

“Judge. I have received the seal authorizing activation of the Technomagie. I will use it well. Over.”

All of that was being done in preparation for returning to the Musashi.

Now they just had to win, grab Nagaoka Tadaoki, and head on back. But…

Asama: “Mito…are you sure you can handle this?”

Silver Wolf: “Wh-why wouldn’t I be?”

Mitotsudaira had said she was faster.

And Asama could indeed see a basis for that conclusion on the sign frame. But…

Asama: “Mito, aren’t you still the loser in this comparison?”

Her opponent really did have quite a chest on her.


Me: “No, Nate’s have been growing a fair bit recently, so she’s fine.”

Silver Wolf: “Y-yes, that’s true, isn’t it!? Isn’t it!? I’m not the loser here, right!?”

Novice: “But by that logic, Mitotsudaira-kun has grown heavier and thus slower, hasn’t she?”

Wise Sister: “That’s right… And if she and her opponent look too much alike, they end up looking like 1P and 2P character variations, which is pretty boring. Now, if we added my foolish brother in there with them, what would we have, Asama?”

Asama: “Eh? With Toori-kun, it would be 3P, right?”[2]

Almost Everyone: Discussing.

Asama: “W-wait, no. I was talking about video games. I mean, why would a shrine maiden bring up something like that in casual conversation!?”

Wise Sister: “Heh heh heh. But in that scenario, I guess Horizon would be Player 1 and my foolish brother would be Player 2.”

Me: “I get the feeling it would be everyone ganging up on me.”

Wise Sister: “Oh? You wouldn’t like that, foolish brother?”

Me: “Well, uh, if you were all gentle with me…”

Still Got It: “You can promise that, Nate! C’mon! Raise your hand and say you will! Say you will! Raise your hand like your mom here!”

Silver Wolf: “What are you talking about, mother!?”

Still Got It: “What are you talking about!? You both need to be ready for ‘battle’ at a moment’s notice at all times! That is what it means to be husband and wife! So you need to be nice and gentle! Yes, gentle as can be! Isn’t that right, Asama Shrine Representative!?”

Asama: “Eh!? Oh, u-uh, well, I guess so. As much as possible, anyway.”

Flat Vassal: “…We are talking about fighting games here, aren’t we?”

Still Got It: “Testament! Of course. This is all about a sort of game that has many similarities with fighting.”

Mar-Ga: “Continue. I would like to hear your plan.”

Silver Wolf: “I am trying to fight!”


Horizon7B 327.jpg

Kasuya sensed something odd about her opponent’s behavior.

Wh-what is she doing?

Her equipment was primarily on her arms, but for some reason, her opponent was looking elsewhere.

Wh-why is she staring at my chest instead of my weapons or my footwork?

This was strange. Was she going to target her there?

Black Wolf: “Um, everyone? Do I have an opening at the very center of my body I am unaware of?”

6: “Huh? Kasuya, you’re a close-range fighter.”

Hachisuka was sort of right, but not quite.

She was saying that a close-range fighter would not have an opening so close to their body.

But that was from the viewpoint of a god of war pilot. She would also have gone through the defense training of a heavy knight, but that would mostly rely on the god of war’s autonomous defenses. To her, any close-range expert would appear to have themselves well defended.

But that was not actually true.

Just like Kasuya and her opponent were observing each other’s actions and searching for a good position for themselves, openings were actually created as a form of “gap”.

A spot you did not observe as closely.

A spot your hands were just a little slow to reach.

A spot where your balance was subtly off.

In those tiny gaps, there was a single point that was weaker than the ideal and close-range fighters would sometimes search for those openings in each other.

This was one such time.

Musashi’s 5th Special Duty Officer, the Mito Lord, and the Reine des Garous’s daughter.

There was no opponent more worrying for a werewolf like Kasuya to face off against.

After all, they way they moved their bodies and thus the foundation of their fighting styles was nearly identical. Their muscle quality and their skeletal span were about the same as well.

Same for the way they saw, smelled, and tasted things.

They could think of plenty of possible openings in each other while aware the same existed in themselves. So…

“–––––”

I cannot move.

This was more difficult than expected.

Given their physical strength, both of them could probably defeat the other in a single blow.

They were currently walking in a slow circle around each other.

It was a lot like two wolves glaring and growling at each other during a territorial conflict.

But, thought Kasuya.

This is fulfilling my role well enough.


Kasuya’s mission was to intercept the Musashi forces.

But it was more than just that. The unit waiting on the Bousou Peninsula, which was primarily composed of 2nd years like her and even older students, had to move forward to retrieve the freshmen unit that had gone to Edo.

This might be a harsh experience for those freshmen, but they needed to withdraw while their upperclassmen finished things off for them.

The overall flow of battle was focusing in on the Bousou Peninsula, so once they had stopped the enemy’s charge, they had to delay them and eventually pursue the Satomi forces that had entered Bousou.

That was their current job.

Everyone had suspected the Satomi forces would be coming. They had suspected those forces would attack along a different route from the Mouri forces to the south.

But they had not expected the Musashi forces to attack when they were supposed to be on their way to Nördlingen.

They did not have the room to consider how to respond to unexpected occurrences like that.

And here they were.

The Musashi could reach Nördlingen in four hours. The Battle of Nördlingen was set to begin at 6 in the morning, so…

What will they do?

It was already well past 2 AM, so Musashi had made a major gamble.

The Battle of Nördlingen would likely end after an hour or two.

That meant between 7 and 8 AM.

The Musashi could reach Nördlingen in four hours, so they had to leave at three.

Two o’clock had long since passed, so how much time did they have left?

Of course, since Musashi was still here, they may have had some plan to hasten their arrival in Nördlingen.

But even with something like that, surely they could not reduce the travel time by an entire hour.

So was it 30 minutes? 20 minutes?

Regardless, thought Kasuya. If I can stop the Musashi forces here, I can support the Catholic forces fighting in Nördlingen.

If she and her opponent spent even a minute glaring at each other like this, it was as valuable as clashing with a great army.

But…

Kasuya thought, Why is this person in front of me so focused on my chest?


Mitotsudaira looked at Kasuya’s chest.

I wonder.

How much did those two masses weigh?

She and her opponent were about the same height and she decided to assume their equipment weighed about the same.

If there was any difference, it had to be those weights attached to her frame.

That’s right.

The chest always had an influence on the body.

Take her mother for example. When she moved, she would make extra movements to stop the swaying of her breasts, hold them with her arms, or use her hard point parts to control them.

Asama and Kimi were the same in that regard. When Mitotsudaira looked over in class and saw Asama’s breasts somewhat squished from below while they rested on the desk, it would bring some tactical considerations to mind like how that girl had so much less usable space on the desk and how she had to hold the test forms so much further away from her.

And of course, those breasts had weight.

Yes, breasts were a burden.

The two of them were currently walking in slow circles while searching for an opening.

Her opponent’s chest was shaking in time with her footwork.

And not side to side. Moving your body side to side would interfere with your attacks. It made it harder to send your body in the direction of your swinging arm.

So the trick to combat was to move your body up and down.

Kasuya was doing that here. Her body was slowly moving up and down.

And that caused her breasts to shake as if bouncing.

It was a vertical jiggling.

But, thought Mitotsudaira. When the breasts reach the bottom of their vertical jiggling, their weight is entirely placed on the body.

All of this opponent’s actions would be tugged down by the weight of her breasts.

That meant there was a time when she would have trouble attacking or defending upwards.

Did that qualify as an opening?

No.

The dropping weight would also allow her to accelerate downwards. And since the girl was leaning forward right now, the weight of her breasts would supply a force tugging her body down and forward.

It would be a problem if she used the motion of her breasts to counter Mitotsudaira’s attack. It would likely end up being a head-on tackle from a crouching pose.

Then should Mitotsudaira attack when her opponent’s breasts were rising?

“––––”

That might be a good idea, she thought.

The vertical jiggling would place those two weights in front of her opponent’s body.

They would be an obstacle when the girl tried to move her arms or move her body forward.

With Kimi or her mother, this might qualify as the Giant Breasts Defense, but Kasuya’s were not that large. She was Futayo’s size at the very most. So even if hers were larger than-… W-wait, why am I thinking about myself here? I am still growing and my king even admitted it. Yes, so I can have more confidence in myself. So…

Asama: “Mito! The enemy!”

“Eh?”

The color silver was right in front of her.


Katou Yoshiaki watched the battlefield’s sky while summoning and tuning her schale besen called Weiss Fürstin.

The sky above the Uraga Channel to the south looked like a complete brawl.

The line of enemy ships continued far into the western sky. It had been shortened by about 40%, but there was still a lot of them.

She could see two things approaching: the enemy fleet and the artillery fire from the Pension Versailles and god of war unit on the Miura Peninsula.

And in front of those things…

“Our upperclassmen are holding the defensive line.”

It meant a lot that the ironclad ships had survived. Those black warships had yet to take any real damage, so they covered the western Uraga Channel while spread out in two dimensions.

Yoshiaki started wondering what it would take to bring them down, but she imagined the commanders and Kuki would be considering that quite seriously and putting together countermeasures against any answers they came up with.

She needed to focus her mind so she could complete the strategy those commanders came up with and put together her weapons so she had the tools for that strategy.

First, she loaded most of the cargo she needed and prepared piloting and firing program spells. She had a few different versions of those she had built up during training and real combat, so she chose the star-shaped one from among the other icons designed to look like a flower, a spear, or Angie’s face.

Once she activated that, a blue light ran through Weiss Fürstin next to her. With a sound like a never-ending breath, gravitational control began to slide and rotate various components.

That created the long and slender silhouette of the craft’s high-speed cruising form.

Now she only had to perform some finetuning, but…

AnG: “Was Kanitama really beaten!?”

It was just like Angie for that to be the first thing out of her mouth after not contacting her for so long.

Yoshiaki responded while trying to decide whether to load five or three spell bullets.

Kimee: “I wouldn’t say she was beaten. She did everything she could, Angie.”

AnG: “And how much was that!?”

Kimee: “Point the end of your right hand toward yourself, point your elbow out, and place the end of your hand on your head. Then raise your left elbow to the side of your face, stick it out to the left, and bend your left hand sharply inwards so it’s right next to your right hand from before. …That is the ‘just kidding’ pose that dates back to the Age of the Gods.”

Ang: “Whoa! I just about lost control and stalled, Kime-chan!”

Kimee: “Did that wake you up?”

AnG: “Testament! Like you wouldn’t believe!”

“I see,” said Yoshiaki.

Kimee: “Then you won’t worry about Kani, will you?”

AnG: “Nope! I’ll praise her! I’ll shower her with praise!”

“Very well,” said Yoshiaki while switching her communication Magie Figur to contact Kani instead.

Kimee: “Kani, Angie says you did well.”

Kanitama: “Oh, thank you very much! But, um!”

Yoshiaki knew what she wanted to say.

Kimee: “Withdraw, Kani. …This is turning into a battle between fighters of a very different sort.”

Namely…

Kimee: “Kasuya Takenori. …Her instantaneous combat strength is even greater than Fukushima’s.”


Mitotsudaira heard a silver sound for the very first time.

It was likely a first for her enemy as well.

This was the ring of her defensively-positioned Silver Chain colliding with the enemy’s weapon.

Her chain had come in contact with her mother’s Silver Cross, but that had not been a collision.

This was different.

Their weapons clearly crashed together.

The silver color and sound of impact came from her chain and the enemy’s…

“Claws!?”

The enemy, Kasuya Takenori used the three claws on her hands to tear through the night air.

They appeared to be about 60cm long and there were three on each hand. They came from the end of the thin, cross-shaped tower attached to the outside of her arms.

Their eyes met, and…

“–––––”

They moved back.

Mitotsudaira was faster.

So she immediately took action. She swung her Silver Chain while moving forward from the left and right. She added in her instantaneous acceleration to move her opponent’s gaze around.

Would she leap in from the left or the right? She moved side to side as she approached, but the entire approach was a feint.

The front!

Except making the approach look like a feint was the real feint.

The silver wolf sliced through the wind as she moved forward.

Her destination was right in front of her opponent. Since her enemy’s weapons were on the outside of her arms, the center of her body would be nearly unguarded. The weapons on the outside of her arms could not reach the inner side of her fists.

And even if she brought her hands together, there was a nearly 10cm gap between the claw-shaped blades. That distance would delay the weapons’ arrival and require special movements to cover everywhere.

Given the difference in their speeds, 10cm was a lot.

So she made her move.

She prepared to jump toward the center and use her knee to attack. She could tack that onto the end of her instantaneous acceleration and it was more useful than a lot of weapons for a short-range strike.

That was when the enemy did two things.

First, she accelerated backwards.

She swung her head forward and acted like she was trying to hold it in place. Mitotsudaira recognized that.

Instantaneous acceleration!

It was a bit different from her own method. She did it with her entire body and its axes of motion, but Kasuya required recoil. This motion was somehow like what Mitotsudaira’s mother had shown her on the outskirts of Magdeburg.

This recoil-inclusive instantaneous acceleration was slower to get started, but it had an advantage.

It worked over longer distances and it had a higher initial speed.

This opponent could get away.

“Kh…”

Mitotsudaira had to dig her toes into the bridge’s floor and immediately make her second acceleration.

But before she could shift into that next motion, her enemy did the second thing.

The first thing Mitotsudaira sensed was the sound of blowing wind in her ears.

This was the cold and dry ring of something slicing through the air.

Is that…?

Just as she thought that, she did something.

She stopped accelerating after the enemy and accelerated her entire body in the opposite direction.

“…!”

She straightened the knee she had planned to strike with and kicked at the floor with her heel.

The rebounding force launched her hips and upper body backwards.

She withdrew.


The movements in that instant literally intersected.

The silver wolf suddenly stopped and moved back like she had hit a wall and the black wolf’s silver lines split the air along either side of the first girl’s path.

They were claws.

The silver claws extending from the outside of the black wolf’s arms were angled inward.

They tried to grab at the silver wolf like they really were claws growing from her fingers.

These were not just blades. Their movement eliminated the left to right gap and moved further inward.

If the silver wolf had carelessly rushed in, her 10cm misreading of the gap would have gotten her carved.

But the silver wolf had realized her mistake.

Her silver hair fluttered in the wind and she escaped the embrace of the claws arriving from the blind spots behind her on either side. And…

“–––––”

They once more faced each other with seven meters between them.

No.

The black one had recoil from her jump back.

The black wolf’s acceleration and speed were greater than the silver one’s. And to prove it, the black wolf produced a burst of speed.

Her claws moved to tear into the silver wolf who had just fallen back.

And her claws shook. The cross towers on the outside of her arms activated. A wind of exhaust blew out while the silver claws jutted out from the intersection at the end of the crosses.

“Roar, Argent Clou.”

This was not a simple method of attack. She lowered her hips while accelerating and changed to an upwards strike with her lowered left arm. After that, she raised her right arm to face height to send it down from above.

“…!”

The up and down combo with the silver claws reached the silver wolf.

“––––––”

And was evaded.

The silver wolf used an instantaneous acceleration resembling a swayback. The claws from below did not reach her chest and the secondary attack from above did not reach her jaw.

In fact, she sent out an attack of her own while falling back.

She accelerated her right hand with a single snap and targeted the black wolf’s left side.

Of course, her hand could not reach the black wolf, so she was using a weapon.

“Narumi, thanks for the assist.”

A Silver Chain had grabbed this and tossed it to her.

It was a vermilion mandible sword.


Mitotsudaira did not hesitate to make her attack.

She knew how fearsome a fellow werewolf could be. She was aware of her own skill and she had fought her mother.

This was a formidable foe, so she had to defeat her when she could.

Besides, her king had asked for victory, so she could not afford to lose and even a draw was not acceptable.

So she sent in a strike from the right.

It was a horizontal attack with the mandible sword. A hit might not bisect her opponent, but it would likely slice into her left side nearly to the spine.

But she saw something.

The enemy did something with her hands.

The right and left combination had failed to reach Mitotsudaira, so she instead snapped her right hand to knock her left hand outwards with the palm.

With a loud slap of impact, her left hand raced out toward the mandible sword Mitotsudaira had swung.

The silver cross tower hit the mandible sword.

White sparks flew and the impact reached Mitotsudaira’s fingers.

The mandible sword was deflected outwards.

In the next moment, Mitotsudaira relied on her instincts.

She had not seen her enemy’s attack and she had barely seen anything from this girl in the short span of this battle, but…

It is coming!

They were at close range and the enemy’s left hand was turned inwards after hitting the mandible sword.

And her right hand had lowered a bit after hitting her left hand.

Mitotsudaira realized what attack would come from the stance the enemy had naturally taken.

So she moved.

She let go of the deflected mandible sword and immediately dropped her hips down.

“––––!”

Just then, a wind raced by overhead.

The enemy had made a left and right combination blow.


Kasuya realized the enemy had dodged the combination meant for her face.

Did I screw that one up!?

Allowing the attack to be dodged was not the mistake.

Deflecting the mandible sword outwards was.

Without the mandible sword, her opponent could not counterattack or resist in any way.

Of course she would choose to dodge.

It would have been better to deflect it downwards or stop it. At the very least, she should have made sure the enemy did not let go of the mandible sword.

Then the enemy’s hand would have been pulled by the mandible sword and she could not have dodged so quickly.

She was not yet reading the flow of battle properly.

Honestly.

She could not manage it as well as Fukushima or Kiyomasa.

Those two described her fighting style as “overwhelming”, but did that just mean she was a berserker?

Well, it is true I kind of do whatever comes to mind. I mean, I can reach them and I’m plenty fast. Waiting around just seems like a waste of time.

But that also led to mistakes like this one.

That was why she had tried leaving the front line to focus on training while also getting combat experience by resolving conflicts in various parts of the world, but…

“Kh!”

Her opponent was indeed strong.

That opponent had ducked below her arms with her left arm forward in something like a finishing blow pose. She was directly below Kasuya’s left arm like that.

Kasuya’s left arm and equipment blocked her view, so she could not fully see what her enemy was doing.

Of course, the same was true for her opponent.

With that left arm in the way, her opponent could not see or move like she wanted.

So what should Kasuya do about her?

She sent out her left knee close to the ground.

At the same time, she used the recoil of that movement to swiftly pull her upper body back. That was a swayback to dodge whatever her opponent might do from below.

After her left knee had moved far enough, she lifted it up instead. Once it was back up at knee height, she dropped her heel down from extremely close to the ground. She made sure her leg was not caught while…

I begin a backstep!

Just as she thought that, the enemy moved forward.

The silver wolf leaned forward to approach while slipping below Kasuya’s left arm that had started to pull back.

But she could not perform her instantaneous acceleration while crouched down like that.

However, there was great pressure behind the light step she took forward. The tension behind it told Kasuya this battle was over if the silver wolf caught her here.

But Kasuya was faster.

She had already folded up the knees and legs that could be caught.

She was about to perform an accelerated backstep. Her dropped heel stepped on the bridge’s floor.

Or she meant for it to.

“…!?”

She weirdly felt like the floor arrived too quickly. No, the floor was in fact closer than expected.

The spot her heel stepped on was definitely too high.

That sped up the flow of her back step and shook her hips. The axis of motion she used for her instantaneous acceleration was shaken and her acceleration collapsed.

Oh, no, she thought needlessly. Her body was partially floating up as she moved back.

And she saw something.

She saw a line of silver passing below her foot.

It was a Silver Chain.

The chain’s arm had grabbed onto the floor and it extended from below her foot to the silver wolf’s right hand.

Instead of the floor, she had stepped on the chain.

Now she understood why that girl had moved forward earlier.

She hid the chain’s movement with her body!?


Kasuya could see what tactic the enemy had chosen now.

The enemy was not trying to grab her.

The silver wolf had only wanted to knock her off balance so her instantaneous acceleration would fail.

If the chain arm had tried to grab her, Kasuya could have dodged it or kicked it. And even if it had grabbed her, they both had the same physical strength. In a tug-of-war with the chain attached to her leg, her leg would have the greater strength.

But she had not expected it to act as a platform for her to step on.

After the failed backstep, her body floated up a bit.

In the very next moment, Kasuya saw the silver wolf straighten her body as if springing up, bend back with the right chain still holding onto the floor, and raise her left hand.

The left chain had been behind her and it now pulled something rapidly forward.

It drew an arc in the air to bring something to its master’s left hand: the mandible sword she had let go of earlier.

She had swung it with her right hand and let go of it with her right hand, but she grabbed it with her left hand behind her back.

She had only managed to reclaim the sword while hidden by Kasuya’s left arm because she used a chain as a weapon.

The only ways she could attack on her own were with strikes and holds utilizing her wolf’s strength, but she could use the chain to make attacks that would otherwise have been impossible for her.

With the chains, she was like an entire wolf pack.

And the silver wolf moved as the tactical leader.

She pulled on the right chain that was still grasping the floor.

She used instantaneous acceleration.

She pulled to the right for a powerful burst of acceleration. And she brought back her raised left hand which now held the mandible sword.

“…”

She accelerated that as well.

She accelerated her tugging right arm, her body, and her left arm.

The three-stage accelerated attack was sent toward Kasuya’s floating body.

The swift vermillion arc of the mandible sword’s movement was too fast to see properly.

Kasuya sensed a chilly presence toward the upper center of her torso. That killer intent she sensed was the fate that awaited her.

But she made a decision.

She counterattacked with her right arm. She struck with the three tearing claws sent out from Argent Clou.

They struck.

And they shattered.

Her opponent’s blade was moving faster and with a more accurate trajectory.

The three silver nails were broken and shattered. A slippery feeling reached her right arm, like a knife had cut through her fingernails.

She had lost her right weapon.

But that had bought some time, albeit not much.

So she moved. No, she was already moving.

Thanks to her reflex speed and quick movements, any empty time in combat felt wasted to her. So she had made the necessary movement even as she defended.

She used the Argent Clou on her left arm. She reactivated the cross tower to produce the three nails.

“Tear into her, Argent Clou!!”


Mitotsudaira felt a wind on the right side of her vision.

She had not actually seen it. Her eyes were focused on her opponent.

She had to imagine what she felt in the right side of her vison. Something large was coming her way from outside her field of focus.

What is that?

She was not quite sure if she had seen this before or not.

The silver claws would be moving along the path of her enemy’s left arm. Those three sharp nail-shaped blades would be flying her way.

But they were not.

The cross tower on her enemy’s left arm had changed form. It now had a single ejection point, the cross had grown wider, and it had slid back.

That looked a lot like how the Silver Cross had activated for a strike.

But this had originally launched nail claws, so…

It can’t be.

It was. It was exactly what she had imagined: a nail.

Since long ago, that was the tool used to pierce and bind gods and monsters alike.

And that was exactly what was coming for her now.

The nail had to be at least two meters long. That was what the enemy’s cross tower had ejected.

But this was not a projectile weapon. This was a pile bunker that drove the Argent Clou into the target.

The accusatory roar of the launch rang out.

With the sound of racing metal, the left silver spike rushed toward Mitotsudaira’s torso. And in response…

“…!”

The mandible sword was faster.

But at this rate, she would not be able to move her body back in time. Even if she took off her opponent’s head, the Argent Clou’s momentum would remain. She realized they would simply kill each other like this.

That is not acceptable.

That was her decision.

So she let go of the mandible sword.


Mitotsudaira chose to dodge.

She lowered her hips to lower her overall stance, but it was not enough. So…

“Silver Chain!”

She used the Silver Chain grasping the ground to pull herself down while also grabbing her hips with the left Silver Chain and pulling herself down with that.

She seemed to sink down.

Then the silver spike grazed her right cheek and flew behind her.

She had dodged it.

So there was no point in ducking any lower.

Of course, she had no weapon in her hand. But…

“––––!!”

She moved.

How dare you!

There was one of her enemy’s acts she had to reject.

This was the Kantou Liberation. There was something she had to show her absolute rejection of as someone with a connection to Satomi and as the knight who acted in her king’s stead.


Kasuya realized the enemy had dodged her attack.

She had missed.

She had been prepared for mutual destruction there, but her enemy had abandoned her attack and dodged instead.

She got away, she thought, but…

“Ah.”

The enemy was faster.

That was proven by how the silver wolf had rushed right up to her.

Of course, that girl had no weapon. But she could grab and strike her and a werewolf’s physical strength could make such attacks fatal.

Kasuya was just now landing. The soles of her shoes were touching the bridge’s floor, but her body was still floating.

And there was the enemy right in front of her, with eyebrows raised.

Here she comes!

Just as Kasuya thought that, she sensed a sharp pain and noise coming from her skin.

A powerful slap had hit her on the left cheek.


Eh?

Kasuya was filled with surprise while landing and feeling the weight of her body on her knees once more.

This was a battle. It was kill or be killed.

Yet the enemy had hit her with…

A slap?

Yes.

That was a weak technique. It provided pain, but it did not remove your opponent’s ability to fight. It was only used to show hostility or make an admonition.

Why had her enemy used that here?

And why was she so hesitant in the middle of battle?

She could see the enemy standing right in front of her. The silver wolf’s eyebrows were raised and her eyes were turned sharply toward Kasuya.

This was a battle.

The enemy was not defenseless, of course. She was in a relaxed pose that allowed her to move at any moment. But…

“Why…?”

Why had she stopped her attack?

And why did Kasuya find herself not trying to fight?

But she suddenly realized no one around her was moving either. They were all focused on this battle. The enemies exchanged a glance and stopped moving.

The silver wolf’s action must have been quite a surprise and it must have held great meaning.

Then the silver wolf howled.

“Loo.”

She opened her mouth toward the sky and let out a long howl.

This was the howl of a wolf – a fellow wolf – that passed through the throat and shook the night air.

The enemy lightly turned her head so the howl tore through the air and sea. And…

“…!”

She forcefully glared at Kasuya and opened her mouth again.

“I, Nate Mitotsudaira, First Knight of Musashi Viceroy Aoi Toori, will now speak on my king’s behalf!”

She powerfully roared the words at her opponent.

“You chose to accept mutual destruction! Know that your decision dishonors the name of Satomi Yoshiyori, the leader of Satomi who lost his life in this Satomi land and protected Musashi from our enemy!”


Chapter 38: Approachers at the Crossing[edit]

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If the howl of rebuke

Is shouted to the earth

Then the scream of accusation

Is released into the sky

Point Allocation (What a Pain)


Mitotsudaira lightly swung her right hand and continued speaking.

“This is the battlefield – the survival of nations is at stake and lives are taken here. But when the previous Satomi Chancellor set the stage for this, he faced the battlefield to bring life.”

She had been helpless then.

Even though her king had told her to stop him.

But was even the greatest speed and strength no match for the speed of willpower?

She decided to stay by her king’s side whenever he was reminded of that time.

And she decided she could never become someone who would remind him of it.

She also gave her response to the previous Satomi Chancellor’s willpower.

“Everyone, carry your own willpower. And I want every last one of you – enemy or ally – to live and to win.”

Yes.

“We are a group. We are not alone. We are all here because of our connection to someone, be it the person standing by our side, a classmate, our academy, or our nation. Even if you feel powerless, those connections will not leave you. You can keep living without needing to think about buying victory with your death.”

That was what the Satomi Chancellor had taught them.

They could not rely on heroes or geniuses and they could not reject them either.

We all must work together and do what we can!

So…

“If you are trying to sacrifice yourself or you insist that the battlefield is a place for you to die, then leave this place!”


Asama listened to Mitotsudaira’s words and turned toward Kimi’s bitter smile next to her.

Kimi leaned against Toori and rested her chin on his shoulder.

“My, my, foolish brother. Your knight is saying some bold things there. …Are those the kind of things you’re always thinking about? Are they?”

“Well…”

Asama saw him scratch his head. His cheeks were faintly flushed as Kimi watched him with eyes narrowed and lips smiling.

“Wait, no, no, no. Nate’s the one saying it, so I’m only telling her.”

That seemed to give away the answer right there and Kimi likely saw it too. She embraced his head from behind, pressed her cheek against his, and spoke.

“We will reclaim what was taken.”

That’s right.

That was the kind of life they had decided to live. And that may have been why…

“Judge.”

She heard several voices. Everyone on the battlefield replied with that word.


“Judge!”

Yoshiyasu heard the voices of everyone on the battlefield with her. It was not just Class Plum.

They were above the bay and headed toward the center of the Bousou Peninsula.

The starboard bow of their transport ship was a flurry of defense barriers opening. However…

“…!”

On the current front line atop the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay, voices cried out as they charged.

The sound of collision reached her from across the bay and she could tell the enemy was being pushed back.

Of course, the enemy was not just going to take it. They were working to withdraw in a way that retrieved their freshmen while they fought back to slow the advance of the Musashi forces.

Everyone was desperate to fulfill their role.

The Musashi forces were clearing the area behind the Satomi forces and securing a front line.

The Hashiba forces were leaving some fighters behind while regrouping with their main forces on Bousou.

When viewed as the actions of nations, the Musashi forces were assisting the retaking of Satomi while securing Edo as their future home base.

Meanwhile, if the Hashiba forces lost Bousou, they would lose a Kantou foothold for suppressing Musashi.

Musashi was trying to grasp the future.

Hashiba was trying to stop Musashi’s future.

The future and the past. While Yoshiyasu considered that comparison, she suddenly thought of a certain boy.

Yoshiyori.

She also thought deeply about her sister.

She was currently trying to reclaim the home of those two older leaders.

She was still no match for those two, but she wanted to work toward reaching their level someday.

And now those idiots had cleared the way for her to reach them.

Of course, this was all part of Musashi’s political plan. She was only allowed this because it was convenient to those plans.

That was why Musashi would also go to Nördlingen in accordance with their policy.

Musashi was Satomi’s guardian, but they were not Satomi’s sword or shield.

If they were traveling the same path, they would walk side by side. If they were walking different paths, they would help each other out until they absolutely had to part ways. But in either case, they would approve of each other’s destination.

Right now, they were securing a front line.

Once they finished with that, they would leave.

But, thought Yoshiyasu.

Yoshiyori. Sister.

“The two of you are still a distant goal I can’t hope to reach.”

But…

“I am certain this is what the two of you would have wanted me to do.”

It’s strange.

Those two were so sociable and had so many friends, while I was so narrowminded and never branched out from those two, but at some point, I’ve built up relationships with more nations than they ever had and I’ve found so many people with whom I can share my goals.

I might never be like them, but…

“––––––”

She stopped thinking there. Because she had heard a familiar noise. It was…

“Enemy attack! Open defense barriers overhead to both port and starboard!!”

“Judge! Over!”

After that response from “Musashino”, the defense barriers opened like a ceiling covering the left and right sides of the ship.

Then two things happened.

Figures took curving approaches toward the ship from the left and right in the sky. They were…

“Gods of war!”

But these were not just any gods of war. Yoshiyasu recognized them. She knew this enemy arriving on a hit-and-away course.

“One of the Eight Dogs gods of war and a composite of them!?”


Naomasa could see the enemy.

Two gods of war flew swiftly in to attack the small transport ship.

They looked a lot like Yoshiyasu’s Righteousness and Yoshiyori’s Loyalty.

But while one of them looked normal enough, the other looked wrong. Its arms and legs seemed to match, but the silhouette of the torso and other parts did not fit. It was probably a collection of different parts, so…

They must’ve added a hub or drop tank to force it to work!

Their original specs must have been quite high because they approached with acceleration the likes of which she had never seen.

“Fire!”

Their own god of war unit’s counterattack tore into the enemy.

They were hit while moving at high speed. Sparks flew just off the ocean surface and pillars of water rose.

But the enemy looked up toward the attack, and…

A cannon!?

The starboard unit had a sword cannon.

It could be used as a sword, but air could be compressed within the blade and fired as a shockwave cannon. Satomi Yoshiyori’s Loyalty had used a sword-shaped one, but this unit’s was machete shaped.

Naomasa saw Yoshiyasu’s expression change when she looked up from the deck and saw the enemy and their weapon.

“It can’t be…”

“Do you recognize them, Satomi Student Council President!”

“Judge! That is Integrity, the assault unit of the Eight Dogs that excelled at aerial combat and was piloted by our 3rd Special Duty Officer! And since it remains intact…”

Her next words came only after observing the way the god of war moved through the air.

“Masaki Tokishige!? You survived!?”

The enemy did not respond, but this told them one thing.

“The Satomi survivors have sided with Hashiba!”

There might be some annoying internal affairs at play there, so Naomasa wondered what she should do about that.

No, it doesn’t matter right now!!

There was no time to think. Another enemy was approaching the port side. And that one had a unique shape.

That distorted shape came from using the parts of several Eight Dogs gods of war.

The misshapen craft raised both its arms and opened a spell sign frame between them.

“That is…”

Novice: “The god of war that fell into darkness’s grasp! Right, Satomi Student Council President!? Its name is Hell!”

“…the spell-specialist god of war Filial Piety!!”

Just as Yoshiyasu corrected Neshinbara, the enemy’s attack exploded out.


Suzu was honestly flustered.

The appearance of the enemies around the Satomi small transport ship had simply been that sudden.

She could see the general flow of events and most everyone was having an exciting time on the bridge. The bridge was half cleared of enemies at this point. And earlier…

Ah.

Suzu had noticed something.

There was a ruined building at the center of the bridge. It stood tall like a tower and she had found a familiar presence there: Nagaoka Tadaoki.

He was alternately using two rifles to take aim and fire.

He was an enemy.

But he was carefully choosing what he would shoot before he took aim.

His sniper targets were not the captains and officers of the Musashi forces.

He was primarily targeting anyone who tried to further attack his withdrawing allies. He was prioritizing his allies over any possible credit.

He really is a good person.

Bell: “Toori-kun, Toori-kun. Um, look at this.”

Me: “Eh? …Ohh, would you look at that. Pretty badass there, Nagabuto. Nice find, Bell-san.”

Asama: “Oh, that’s incredible, Suzu-san. Nice job noticing that.”

Wise Sister: “That’s right. Only Suzu could have noticed it. You don’t see talent like that every day. Heh heh.”

Bell: “N-no, not…me. Nagaoka…-kun.”

Me: “Yeah, we know.”

He had paused before continuing.

Me: “Time for our official bonus mission: Kidnap Nagabuto.”

“Judge!” they had all replied.

Okay, this part…is going to be tough.

They really had to take the bridge and remove him from the top of that tower. But…

Me: “Thanks, Bell-san. We had a general idea of his location with Asama’s spell, but if we couldn’t find him, we would’ve had to leave after only helping out Flatty.”

“Right,” Suzu had said with a small nod.

That was when two giant humanoid forms had taken off from the bay coast.

They were the gods of war attacking the small transport ship.

They had appeared from the Bousou coast. Specifically from an enemy light warship landed in a position overlooking the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay.

She had assumed it was abandoned since it had not done anything this whole time, but she had been wrong.

And the gods of war flew really fast.

Suzu had created models, but they had unfortunately been on the west side of the bay where everyone else was. By the time she had frantically arrived at the small transport ship carrying the Satomi forces and tried to control its evasive action, the enemy gods of war were already right on it.

Suzu made a flustered decision.

“W-we’ll draw them…in and…dodge them!”

“Musashino” nodded. And…

“A rapid descent, correct? Then, Suzu-sama, give your instructions using that model. Over.”

“Eh?”

“Musashino” looked her in the eye and answered her confused voice.

“We cannot judge the vaguer aspects such as how quickly they should descend. So, Suzu-sama, we will use the action you provide that model to guide the actual small transport ship. So go ahead. Over.”

Umm, she thought.

How was she supposed to make the ship rapidly descend?

After some hesitation, she placed her hand on the small transport ship model.

“L-like this?”

She gathered some strength and pushed it down so it would not float up. However…

“…………Over.”

That was apparently not quite what the bridge automatons had been expecting.

They all gave “Musashino” a look, so the automaton held out both hands in a “wait” gesture.

Wh-what am I supposed to do?

“Suzu-sama. To be completely honest, that descent does not really qualify as ‘rapid’. Over.”

“Um, th-then…how should I do it?”

“Well, to use our statistical expressions, something with more of a ‘thud’ to it would likely be more welcome given the small transport ship’s situation. Over.”

“Thud?”

Suzu said that while lightly tapping the top of the small transport ship, but “Musashino” brought a hand to her forehead.

“No, um, Suzu-sama, it is your hand movement that matters, not what you say. Hold it with your wrist held in place like this…oh, and it might be good to spread your legs to shoulder width. Yes, and then drop your hips straight down. Oh, yes, very good. That is exactly it, Suzu-sama. Go at it with all your strength like that, okay? Ready, set…go!”

She did so.

“Suzu-sama! Well done! Now that was a thud! Yes, I can practically hear the trailing ‘d’ lingering in the air, so I have determined it was a splendid attack. We have just received an order for a nice thud. It has arrived in our shared memory! Thank you very much! Thank you very much! Over.”

They applauded, but she was unsure if she had really done that right.


Yoshiyasu felt the small transport ship take evasive action by “dropping with a thud”.

The virtual ocean rising to the ship’s waterline had transformed.

Instead of disappearing, it had flipped upside-down.

“You can do that!?”

The virtual ocean was created by the emblems placed on the surface and inside of the armor panels. Generally, aerial ships were only installed with that kind of armor up to the waterline. Especially with transport ships.

But…

Smoking Girl: “We wrap the ocean vertically around our ships to support them from above, right? So our ships can do this.”

347: “That’s right. Musashi’s transport ships are a different beast. The Testament Union ordered us to apply emblem processing to all of our armor because we might be attacked by other nations.”

Smoking Girl: “And you only learned that recently yourself when you came to Musashi.”

“You didn’t have to mention that!” protested Mishina while Yoshiyasu chose to trust in the rapid descent.

“Maintain this descent! Drop us to the bay’s surface!”

The virtual ocean hopped up into the sky around them. That ether ocean sprayed into the air.

Can we dodge it!?

Just as she wondered that, the god of war attacks from either side burst through and split the virtual ocean that stood up like canyon walls.

But the two of them crossed paths in midair and passed by with ether shards surrounding them.

At the same time, the transport ship slammed its belly into the bay without lowering its speed.

For the span of a breath, the air caught between the ship and the sea gently carried the transport ship, but it did not last long. The sound of exploding wind rang from below the ship on either side and the bottom of the ship entered the water.

The ocean resisted as if rising up around them and that slowed the small transport ship.

The structures atop the ship groaned, and everything on and in the ship was nearly blasted toward the bow.

The ship began to tilt as if pitching forward. At this rate, either the bow would pierce the water or it would fail to pierce the water and the impact to the bow would crush the ship.

But Yoshiyasu saw Musashi’s god of war unit make their move.

“Ohhh!”

The Suzaku and the other three leaped to stern and positioned themselves in the air.

The Musashi was a giant transport ship that spent almost all of its time airborne. Countless transport ships flew all around it on a daily basis. And gods of war had to move between those ships. Even when they had no flight devices.

The way those four leaped made it clear they had predicted the descent of the ship.

And as if to say this kind of ship movement was perfectly normal for them…

“Stern hiking!”


On the Suzaku’s instructions, the four gods of war grabbed the jib crane hooks hanging from the mast.

Then they landed on the very edge of the stern. The ship shook with a great roar as it started to tilt forward, so…

“Pull!!”

The four gods of war planted their heels on the edge of the stern and leaned into the space behind the ship. Their hands held the hooks and hardened hemp cables they had pulled from the crane.

“Show ‘em what you can do!”

The four activated their arm motors. The Far East’s unique gravitational control rails overheated and smoked. The ship’s forward tilt did lose momentum, but it did not stop.

“Give it 120%!!”

Just then, the dodged enemy shells fell into the sea on either side of them.

They were near the middle of the ship and their blasts pushed up on the ship from below.

“––––––”

The god of war unit’s hiking pulled the bow from the sea all at once.

It floated.

Of course, it had lost the momentum needed to move forward with any kind of speed, but the stern bounced once on the ocean.

The ship hopped forward while seemingly leaning backwards.

To preserve the ship’s positioning, the gods of war and everyone else moved forward. The god of war unit used the mast hook cables to fly through the air like pendulums. And while doing that, Naomasa shouted into the sky.

“Suzu!”

The Suzaku emitted her voice and it received a definite response via divine transmission.

“Right!”

That was enough.

Water sprayed all around the ship. And it sprayed from top to bottom instead of upside-down like before.

The transport ship’s full weight was supported by the virtual ocean created thickly up to the waterline.

At the same time, the upside-down ocean that had existed on either side of the ship shattered into light.

The small transport ship moved forward as if shaking off the canyon walls of breaking ether light.

They moved.

Shortly thereafter, the god of war unit landed on the deck and quickly picked up the long cannons they had placed there in advance. They took seated firing poses to aim for Bousou from the bow, and…

Smoking Girl: “We dodged it! Give a word of thanks to the Testament Union while launching those bullets!”


They immediately fired on the two gods of war fleeing toward Bousou.

Yoshiyasu listened to that cannon fire while thinking about everything the ship had just done.

Give a word of thanks to the Testament Union, huh?

That was exactly right.

Having Musashi apply emblem processing to the full surface of their transport ships had to have been a way for the Testament Union to place an undue burden on the Far East and Musashi.

Yet here it had come in handy.

The god of war unit fired and the two leaving gods of war turned back to raise their defenses.

Those two who whizzed past each other on the way to Bousou were based on Filial Piety and Integrity. Their specialties had made them both frontline fighters among the Eight Dogs.

She could confidently say that they were more powerful than her Righteousness.

Those two would be her enemy here. But…

“Satomi Yoshiyasu!”

Musashi’s 6th Special Duty Officer spoke to her via divine transmission.

“Let me handle that one on the left! Integrity!”

“Why!?”

“No reason!”

Me: “Hey, isn’t Flatty the type who won’t get it if you don’t explain? She doesn’t get by in life on nothing but guesses like we do. Right, Sis?”

Wise Sister: “Heh heh. That’s right! You need to stop eating all the time and do some studying, Yoshy!”

Righteousness: “Don’t join the conversation after just guessing what we were talking about!!”

Asama: “Um, Toori-kun? Kimi? We don’t get by on nothing but guesses either. It’s just that most of us do and say things that are difficult to explain using logic.”

Gold Mar: “And what makes you so sure you’re not one of those?”

Their cannibalism had begun.

Yoshiyasu decided saying much of anything in the chat would only drag her into it, so she sighed. She began to talk while listening to the artillery battle in the distant southern sky and the clash on the northern bridge.

“6th Special Duty Officer, why is that?”

“Judge,” said the girl directly rather than via divine transmission. “I just remembered something about when I first got Suzaku so long ago.” She added “honestly” while covering her face with her prosthetic hand. “I woke up one morning to find some nation’s transport ship had crashed in Takeda territory where our village was. Its cargo had been scattered across 70km. The transport ship had flown in from P.A. Oda, so Takeda did not want to make any careless actions and P.A. Oda was watching over it all. So people interested in such things gathered from all over and made off with the cargo.”

“And that’s how you got the Suzaku?”

“It was hard to judge its quality as a god of war. It was almost entirely dismantled, so everyone assumed it was just the spare parts for the work heavy gods of war loaded on the transport ship. I figured I could get it working by the time I entered high school and use it to expand the village’s cultivated land after I graduated.”

But…

“One of the fallen parts was too badly damaged to salvage and had to be thrown out. At the time, I assumed it was a multi-binder that attached to the hips to help carry things.”

“Was it a flight device?”

“Judge,” confirmed the 6th Special Duty Officer. “A portion of the design data from the scattered parts made its way to Satomi, didn’t it? That would explain the flight device I saw Integrity using there.”

Because…

“There are some made for female gods of war, but I bet they’re based on the Suzaku’s.”


Yoshiyasu did not know how to respond to what the 6th Special Duty Officer said.

She could not bring herself to say “I see” or “understood”, but a thought did come to mind.

I’m not the only one.

Satomi was a small nation. Its leaders and citizens had been almost entirely separated, but there was still someone here with a connection there.

This was probably as important to the 6th Special Duty Officer as the retaking of Satomi was to Yoshiyasu.

She carried the past with her.

Yoshiyasu tried to figure out what to say to someone like that and then it came to her.

She simply had to show what connection they had here.

So this is what she said:

“Then take care of it.”

That was all.

What the 6th Special Duty Officer wanted to do and what Yoshiyasu wanted were aligned, but Yoshiyasu had much, much more she had to do for herself. So instead of taking what that other girl had to do…

“I’m counting on you.”

She worried saying it like that was making it too convenient for herself.

But the 6th Special Duty Officer looked down at her from the Suzaku’s shoulder. Even in the darkness, Yoshiyasu could see the smile in the narrow eyes glimpsed between the fingers covering her face.

“I want to study that flight device along with the Eight Dogs. …Wait for the results, underclassman.”

That’s right, thought Yoshiyasu. They were walking the same path here.

Yes, I’m the same as the Musashi group here.

She was the same as that group who were helping with the Kantou Liberation but also headed to Nördlingen to follow their beliefs. She was guiding Musashi’s 6th Special Duty Officer but still prioritizing the personal goal of retaking Satomi.

They were the same.

She took a breath atop the transport ship that had turned its course toward north Bousou.

I need to do this right.

She felt all sorts of meaningless reassurance surrounding her tonight. And just then…

“Hm?”

She heard a voice.

It came from near the center of the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay to their north.

A howl?

It was a bestial roar.

An obvious wolf cry traveled through the night air and across the bay.


Mitotsudaira viewed her enemy.

Kasuya Takenori.

#8 of the Ten Spears. A werewolf girl with black hair.

But Mitotsudaira saw and heard something odd.

It was Kasuya’s howl.

She did not know why, but as Kasuya turned her throat toward the sky…

“Loo.”

An extended “oo” followed.

However, this howl was not very loud. As something more like a flute, it quietly pierced the air and reverberated as a definite howl.

They were on the battlefield. They had arrived on the front line as the flow of battle continued.

But the black wolf extinguished her voice at the center of that fighting.

“…”

That quiet cry sounded like she wanted to continue forever if the breath would have kept coming from her throat, but she suddenly ended it.

Mitotsudaira saw the black wolf staring right back at her.

However, she saw something in those eyes directed her way.

Accusation?

Weak and almost blank-looking eyes looked her way.

Almost like she wanted to say Mitotsudaira’s previous words had been a lie.

While Mitotsudaira returned the look, Kasuya Takenori’s expression changed. Her mouth twisted, her eyebrows shook, and her eyes grew damp. Those were tears.

Eh?

But Kasuya hung her head. Her fang-like row of bangs swayed down and her arms lowered.

“Loo.”

This time, the howl continued with an extended “ah” and Mitotsudaira knew what that meant: battle.

The girl had made some kind of decision.

Mitotsudaira’s slap must have reminded the black wolf of something, but she had made up her mind and chosen to continue fighting. And…

Here she comes!

She used a burst of acceleration at close range.

Mitotsudaira picked back up the mandible sword with a Silver Chain and then grabbed it.

As soon as her right grasped its grip, the enemy lightly pulled her body back as if nodding. Both her arms launched three silver nails.

Mitotsudaira belatedly realized those were the same as her Silver Chains.

The crosses on the black wolf’s arms were supply devices.

Mitotsudaira did not know that much about the werewolf species, but perhaps each family had a silver weapon or even one of the weapons with its origin in Joan of Arc.

She hoped she would have a chance to ask about it once the battle was over. But…

“…”

She made her own a burst of acceleration. And a moment later …

“––––”

Her attack intersected with the approaching enemy’s attack.

Or it should have.

Eh?

The next thing Mitotsudaira knew, she was looking at two black surfaces: the night sky and the night bay.

At some point, she had been thrown into the air.


Kasuya all of a sudden found herself in the air. And she had likely been thrown such that she would flip two or three times.

U-um, when did this happen!?

She had no idea why her vision was flipping around like this and she could not figure out which of the two black surfaces she saw was the sky and which was the sea. Before she could figure it out, she felt like the deeper black one was approaching.

She chose to trust that that one was “down”. She somewhat spread her arms, thrust them out ahead, and pulled her knees forward. And…

“My hair!”

She used the fluttering of her hair to determine which way she was rotating. Then she moved her full body weight in that direction.

Immediately afterwards, she landed arms first.

On the bridge!

Landing on all fours meant hitting her knees, but she felt more relief than pain. And the surrounding noise returned to her ears.

She was on the front line, so she was surrounded by a cacophony of pounding footsteps and clashing weapons.

But when she hurried to her feet, she found two figures ahead of her.

One was curled up as if sleeping in midair.

He had silver hair, he wore an Hexagone Française boys uniform, and he looked like a skinny boy.

Behind where he floated in the air, a woman had both her arms somewhat spread and raised.

Kasuya realized what had happened: this woman had thrown her and the silver wolf into the air.

She had intervened in the moment of their clash and tossed the boy she was holding into the air. Then, all in the time he remained airborne, she had tugged on the black and silver wolves’ attacking hands to knock them off balance and sent them flying.

Even after knocking them off balance, it was far from normal to fling them into the air just by grabbing their hands like that.

But now the woman caught the boy she had tossed up, held him tight, and took a breath.

Kasuya knew the name of this woman whose great quantity of golden hair swayed around her.

“The Reine des Garous!”


Chapter 39: Wild Girl in Her True Form[edit]

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Um

I smell gooood

I don’t smell weirrrrd

Point Allocation (Is That a Hint of Alcohol?)


The Reine des Garous watched the enemy’s movements.

The werewolf named Kasuya Something-or-Other had rushed toward her.


Mitotsudaira munched on the combat food she had brought with her while she watched her mother dodge Kasuya’s attack while lowering her father to the bridge, dodge Kasuya’s attack while kissing her father, dodge Kasuya’s attack while rubbing her cheek against him, dodge Kasuya’s attack while pushing on his shoulders to move him away, dodge Kasuya’s attack while waving her right hand to tell him to wait for a moment, dodge Kasuya’s attack while fixing her somewhat disheveled hair, dodge Kasuya’s attack while fixing her clothes, dodge Kasuya’s attack while using a finger to reapply her lipstick, dodge Kasuya’s attack while placing a hand on her cheek and making a turn, and grab Kasuya’s attack while giving Kasuya a super powerful middle finger forehead flick.


Flat Vassal: “I’m waiting for someone to come collect me, but what was that that sounded like a cannon going off?”

Uqui: “It sounded more like an impact to me.”

Unturning: “You would need to send out a god of war to produce a sound like that.”


Mitotsudaira heard a great roar and saw Kasuya dangling by the right arm from her mother’s left hand. The black wolf was also knocked upwards by the impact.

And when the black wolf fell back down, her mother let go.

Kasuya nearly fell to her knees.

“Kh…”

She staggered a few times but managed to stay on her feet.

Werewolves really are tough, aren’t we?

The smoke of frictional heat rose from the forehead where the blow had landed. A werewolf would be able to recover from that almost immediately, but even so…

“Y-you…”

She wobbled on her feet and swung a fist toward Mitotsudaira’s mother.

For Kasuya and the rest of the Hashiba forces, Mitotsudaira’s mother and father were enemies. In that sense, Kasuya’s response to this new fighting force on the bridge was an appropriate one.

But Mitotsudaira’s mother’s reaction was strange.

She crouched down and dodged Kasuya’s attack while…

“Snifffff.”

She lifted her nose and began sniffing at Kasuya.

First, the arm swinging the three claws, then up the arm to the shoulder, on to the neck, and a quick twirl around an attacking elbow to reach the hair.

“Sniff.”

She pulled the hair close and inhaled.

Kasuya stepped lightly forward to fill the gap between them and made a savate counterattack, but Mitotsudaira’s mother crouched out of the way, fixed the wing of her shoe while sniffing at Kasuya’s leg, worked her way up the leg, and…

“Kyaaaah!”

“Mother! Where are you smelling her!?”

“What’s the big deal, Nate? Marking is an important way of spicing things up.”

Continuing this conversation would only make her want to die when she had not come here to die, so she ignored that.

But her mother let out a breath, and…

“Hm. Nate, can you look after your father for a moment?”


Asama suddenly realized Mitotsudaira’s mother was standing on the transport ship they had waiting at the entrance to the great ruins.

Huh? When did she get here?

“Um, Mito’s mom? Should I make you some tea?”

“No, no. That won’t be necessary.”

The very next moment, she was gone. “Ohh,” said Asama when she noticed the woman standing next to her daughter’s king. In other words, next to him.

“Snifffff.”

Her shapely nose moved as she began smelling him.

Shoulder, cheek, forehead, hair, chest, armpit, and…

“W-wait, Mito’s mom! How far are you planning on taking this!?”

“Oh, whoops. Sorry, but there is something I want to figure out.”

“Y’know, Nate Maman, you smell pretty good.”

Eh? thought Asama as she saw him start to smell her too. Kimi did the same.

“Oh, you’re right. Is this an orange scent?”

Meanwhile, Mitotsudaira’s mother also sniffed at Kimi. And…

“Wait.”

Asama suddenly found the woman had come to her.

She was smelling her. She brought her nose to Asama’s neck, hair, cheek, armpit, and even below her chest.

Wow.

Kimi was right about the woman having a citrus scent, but there was also a smoky fragrance that may have come from burning a fragrant wood. That added a more mature smell on top of the sweetness.

“Hm.” The woman nodded. And, “I apologize for the interruption. I was curious about something is all. Now, I need to head back.”


Mitotsudaira saw her mother return almost immediately.

She must not have gone far.

Where had she gone?

After rubbing her cheek against Mitotsudaira’s father to readjust herself, she approached Mitotsudaira.

“Snifffff.”

“W-wait, mother, why are you smelling me too?”

“Hee hee. I just wanted to check on something.”

Mitotsudaira’s sense of smell detected a familiar scent from the past. And after leaving behind that aroma, her mother was standing in front of Kasuya once more. She placed a hand on her there.

“I have two things to say.”

“Wh-what are they?”

“Testament. First, do not forget that I am more important than you. I am the queen and, while I do have a daughter with a small chest over there, I am the most important one here.”

“Did you really need to include me in this!?”

But after establishing her superiority, her mother reached out toward Kasuya again.

She grabbed a lock of the black hair and held it up in the moonlight.

“A werewolf’s hair color can be inherited from a parent, but do you know what more often determines it?”

Eh?

Mitotsudaira had assumed her hair color came from her father rather than her mother.

But was there more to it?

Her mother answered that unspoken question with her eyes still on Kasuya.

“Werewolves were originally born from humanity’s fear of nature and the dark. And we remain greatly influenced by those things… In other words, you could say we are spirits of the entire world. We have no role given us like the gods do. You could describe us as overwhelmingly superior beings that act as miracles of nature.”

Which meant…

“Our form is based on the state of the world first and takes after our parents second.”

“Mother, what do you mean?”

“Testament. For – ex – am – ple.” Her mother shook the golden hair at her shoulders. “My generation was born into the twilight years of the werewolf species, when nature was greatly restricted by humanity. That world and the thoughts within it produced this hair color. So…”

She looked to Kasuya and viewed the black hair she still held in her hand.

“Just how hopeless a place did your parents live in?”


Mitotsudaira listened to her mother’s words.

When Kasuya gasped and looked up, the woman peered straight into her eyes as a queen.

“Among werewolves, the black wolves are those who live in lands of persecution or other extreme circumstances. The color is so different from the norm that there was a time when even others in the species would have shunned you as an ill omen. …There were some with your hair color as the forests shrank during my and my mother’s generations, but in a way, that was because we did not use our queenly power against the humans.”

So…

“If that is what led to your hair color, then it is me you should resent. My daughter over there has already taken a lifetime’s worth of psychological damage with the whole boobs thing.”

For some reason, Kasuya gave Mitotsudaira a look of sympathy, so she made a sideways flick of her hand in the air. It was a “don’t look at me” gesture.

“But,” her mother said to Kasuya. “There is one silver lining.”

“Silver lining?”

“Testament,” confirmed her mother. “You must have come from a nearly hopeless environment, but your parents must have seen great hope in you.”

She held up Kasuya’s hair again.

“This sheen seen under the moonlight is a sign of elegance in a wolf. That is given to you by your parents, not created by your environment.”

Really?

Mitotsudaira surreptitiously moved her left hand to place her own hair in the moonlight.

There was indeed a sheen there.

That had always been there, but now that she paid attention to it, she liked the way it looked. Although part of it was how carefully she had looked after her hair to keep it looking nice. And…

Ah.

Her father was smiling at her from a short distance away.

He must have seen her checking her hair after hearing what her mother said. She felt a weird mixture of embarrassment and uncertainty, but it was not a bad thing.

She spoke quietly so only he could hear her.

“Thank you.”

Her mother’s ears twitched right afterwards, so how many secret abilities did that woman have?

But she was most interested in Kasuya.

The black wolf hung her head and grabbed her dangling hair in both hands.

She used both hands to hold that hair up in the moonlight in a way that felt somehow childish to Mitotsudaira.

Kasuya must have found the light in her hair because she nodded to Mitotsudaira’s mother after a bit.

And the woman asked Kasuya a question.

“Who are you?”

“Wh-what?”

“Testament. Could you provide an answer for the queen of your species? I just want to know your parents’ names and where you were born. To be clear, I am familiar with all the families, so I might be able to tell you something.”

“Well…”

Mitotsudaira clearly heard Kasuya hold her breath.

There was tension in her words. And just then, her mother moved without warning.

The woman pushed on Kasuya’s shoulders.

“Well, I will grant you this isn’t the place for that. And you are in a bit of danger here.”

Immediately afterwards, a long beam of light raced horizontally from the southeast and passed through the spot where the woman had been standing between Mitotsudaira and Kasuya.

It was a ship’s cannon class of ether cannon.


Adele saw it while using Raging Beast to move the broken cannon blocking the way across the bridge.

The horizontal attack from the opposite bank most likely had the world’s greatest volume and it scored a direct hit.

It was an ether cannon.

It had been fired by the light warship on the Bousou Peninsula’s eastern coast. It was the same one that had sent out the two gods of war to attack the small transport ship carrying the Satomi forces.

Ether scattered, light raced, and residual light scorched the air.

Eh!?

Something had disappeared from Adele’s vision.

Mitotsudaira’s mother was gone.

Flat Vassal: “W-wait, this is bad! Main unit! Did you see that!?”

Asama: “Kyaaaaahh! Mito’s mom got roasted after smelling people!”

Wise Sister: “Silly, Asama. That’s all wrong! Mito’s mom got roasted after sniffing my foolish brother’s and your armpits!”

Asama: “Y-yours too, Kimi! She got roasted after sniffing you too!”

Things over there had been crazier than she thought. In fact, she had no idea what they were talking about.

But one problem in particular was most pressing.

The 5th Special Duty Officer!

She could see that silver-haired girl standing within the fragments of scattering ether light.

And she was facing the black wolf.

But Adele heard a sudden voice.

It was the 5th Special Duty Officer.

Hair swayed on the back turned toward Adele as the silver wolf raised her voice.

“Everyone, withdraw!!”

She swung her arm and howled.

“Quickly now! Hurry back here!”


You idiot!

Tadaoki opened a divine transmission lernen figur.

He was still sniping and he was using his voice to fire, but there was something else he had to say.

“Who just fired on them!? I’m in charge of this area!”

The Hashiba forces had light warships landed on the bay coast. The one closest to the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay was supposed to be under his control.

Of course, this was a chaotic battle. He was positioned further back than the enemy’s front line, but his elevated position gave him a view of his defeated allies. That was why Kani and Kasuya were buying time while a withdrawal was rushed through. After that, he was supposed to fire horizontally to stop the enemy front line, but…

“Damn!”

When he checked his targeting spell management, he found that light warship was no longer under his control.

In fact, all the light warships had been incorporated into the south Bousou Peninsula aerial fleet. The transfer had been made by…

Konishi!?

She was in charge of defending the Bousou Peninsula.

She was a merchant. As the peninsula’s defender, she would have wanted to keep the Reine des Garous from reaching it. She had also sent those two gods of war to attack the Satomi forces earlier. He now wished he had told her not to intervene in his jurisdiction when that happened.

But he had to say it even it was too late.

Tadaoki continued sniping to stop the enemy’s front line from reaching his withdrawing allies, and…

“Firing on the bridge is my jurisdiction! No one else interfere!!”

Koni-ko: “Oh? What are you talking about? Did we fire on the bridge?”

Okaaa: “Yes! Did you not know where you were aiming!?”

Oops, he thought as soon as the words were out of his mouth. Because…

Koni-ko: “My bad. I really didn’t know. …I’m a bit busy defending the peninsula, after all.”

She established an excuse for herself, but she was not done speaking yet.

Koni-ko: “Sorry. I need to send Kuki-kun as many warships as I can. Also, that was a warning shot against the approaching Satomi transport ship. …As an upperclassman, I was told to help you out, so is there anything else you need?”

Okaaa: “No, there isn’t. I was trying to guide them with my shots, so I don’t want any interference from anyone, even an upperclassman!”

Koni-ko: “Fine, fine. You sure are energetic.”

He heard laughter.

He could tell she was sidestepping responsibility, but he could tell something else as well.

Our superiors at Bousou are taking a pretty serious view of the situation.

The group here was fighting for control of the front line and planning an efficient withdrawal, but for the Bousou group, the question was whether or not they would have to fight that enemy.

This front line battle would greatly influence whether or not they could last long enough for Hashiba to arrive.

If they could interfere and reduce the enemy numbers, they would want to do so and they would not particularly care about the efficiency and plans of the group already fighting here.

That attack had made that clear enough. So…

“Damn.”

Tadaoki knew Konishi had made a good decision there.

She had sent a warning shot telling his group to shape up and she had also used it to remove an enemy as powerful as the Reine des Garous.

Loup-Garous were spirits. And their existences were strongly defined, so certain conditions were needed to defeat them. With Loup-Garous, that meant silver weapons, but unfortunately, he had no such bullets with him. Plus…

Would a bullet be enough to kill her?

The other option was an ether attack. Since all things were made from ether, hitting them with something powerful enough would destroy and overwrite the target. Konishi had been trying to help him out when she fired that light warship’s main cannon on the Reine des Garous.

Dammit.

He had not expected the Reine des Garous to come here since she was with Mouri, but he had trouble with this feeling that everything was going according to plan. And…

“Hm?”

He removed his eyes from the sniper targeting spell.

He had sensed something odd about the enemy’s overall movement.

The Musashi forces were moving back toward the opposite bank with just two of their own people left behind.

All that remained were the retreating Hashiba forces, Kasuya, and…

“Musashi’s 5th Special Duty Officer and the Reine des Garous’s husband?”


Kasuya sensed an odd presence while facing Musashi’s 5th Special Duty Officer.

The Reine des Garous had disappeared.

She had been obliterated by the cannon blast.

But Kasuya could not move.

The Reine des Garous had pushed her away just beforehand. So she would not be caught in the blast.

Of course, she doubted it would have actually hit her even without that push.

But she would not have escaped unscathed.

And Kasuya saw something falling through the sky.

It was a small silver box.

“The Silver Cross.”

That was the Reine des Garous’s personal weapon. That divine weapon could open up to form a cross-shaped striking weapon and supply a pressurized strike from mid-range.

It slowly fell from Kasuya’s eye level.

And it landed.

With a solid thud, the Silver Cross box bounced a few times before coming to a stop on the hardened wood of the bridgetop floor.

The silver box’s edges and corners shined in the moonlight.

But its owner was no more, so that object in front of Kasuya held new meaning now.

This is…

It was proof that the Reine des Garous had been erased from existence by the cannon blast.

And Kasuya heard a voice.

“Miss Loup-Garou…”

It was the Reine des Garous’s husband. Was he considered the Prince of Condé or Shimizu Kageharu here?

He looked around and raised his voice as if searching.

“Miss Loup-Garou!!”

Kasuya could tell he and Musashi’s 5th Special Duty Officer had gone noticeably pale even in the dark. Instead of the blood draining from their faces, it was more like they never had blood in their faces to begin with.

The husband’s shouts continued.

“Miss Loup-Garou, where are you!?”

She was gone. She had disappeared. No, she had been erased. But…

“Miss Loup-Garou!”

Kasuya heard him say more.

“Don’t get mad!!”


Kasuya first looked toward the voice.

The Reine des Garous’s husband was there. He was looking her way.

Why her way?

Confused, she resumed viewing the space between herself and him.

Then she noticed something.

The Silver Cross.

The small silver box was gone. And…

“Ah…”

Some of the scattering ether light fragments brushed against her cheek.

She detected a citrus scent. So…

“It can’t be!”

There was light to her right. She looked over to find a werewolf there. However…

“A queen-class great spirit?”

This ether being was the Reine des Garous’s true form. A spirit measuring more than 2m tall had manifested and she rapidly took physical form along with a misty storm of ether light.


This is no joke! thought Asama.

As proof, Hanami had autonomously emerged from one of her hard point parts and begun some emergency power control work.

The Mouse indicated a sign frame displaying live footage of the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay overlaid with the colorful frames of a ley line change graph.

The ley line current had grown strongest in the area around Mitotsudaira and her father, but it was shrinking more rapidly than she had ever seen in the area around that.

Something there was absorbing the surrounding ley lines and concentrating the ether.

Needless to say, it was doing more than just absorbing the ether.

This is a great spirit manifestation!

A high-level species with an existence very similar to the ley lines was appearing in a single point and reestablishing a physical form. The ether of the ley lines within a 20km radius of the appearance point was being concentrated there.

The absorption was faster than Asama had expected.

And something happened when the ley lines were rapidly absorbed and concentrated.

The rapid tidal current of ether would collide with everything in the area.

That massive current would not do much to things that physically existed, but it had a powerful effect on anything that utilized ether.

That meant divine transmissions, power systems, and spells. So…

“This is going to shake the transport ship a bit, so brace yourselves!”

Asama prepared for the problem. When the massive ley line current hit the ship, the virtual ocean would be filled with fuel from an outside source. Shinto had of course experienced phenomena like this many times in the past. Recent examples included the destruction of Mikawa and the detonation of the dragon line reactor at Edo.

Asama performed batch adjustments to the power and divine protections for the ship and the personnel. But shutting down the external supply would make it a pain to restart everything, so she instead set a power cap and applied a “temperance” filter on any supply past that threshold. To be extra sure, she used a substitution to have the management done by a supervisor god with good eyesight.

Okay!

Just as she thought that, the air around them roared loudly and the transport ship shook. It felt like the first wave had arrived.

The wave was larger than she expected. She also saw a few lights rising in the darkness of the opposite bank.

Those had to be weapons and engines bursting into flames when they instantaneously overloaded.

“This is pretty bad…”

But the amount of damage done was not the main point at hand. At the very least, their side would not have too much trouble thanks to her management. She checked the divine network to make sure.

10ZO: “Ah, the ‘Kowakamai for the Unlucky’ I was listening to for battle mood music just reset!”

Worshiper: “More importantly, the divine figurine I want to bring with me when I die just started talking!”

Mar-Ga: “Ohiroshiki, why is there a voice saying ‘Throw me away! Please, throw me away!’ coming from your pocket?”

What is going on out there? Oh, come to think of it, this is a lot like the mysterious phenomenon system. This is a ley line disturbance after all.

In Kantou, mysterious phenomena were reported a lot around the great ruins, so that may have played a role.

But something else required her attention right now.

“An individual being is causing all this!”

Mitotsudaira’s mother was manifesting right now.


Mitotsudaira saw her mother.

She was a werewolf. She was still humanoid, but this was her true form.

She was two heads taller than normal and she had far more hair. And…

She has animal ears and a tail.

That person wearing fur-decorated clothing made from ether was Mitotsudaira’s mother.

She had made a complete beast transformation as a werewolf. And instead of basing it on a human body, she now existed as a spirit with an ether foundation.

This was a werewolf’s true form and she was no longer bound by the restrictions of a human body.

Mitotsudaira’s mother had shown her this beast transformation form a few times long ago. Her mother had stopped once it became clear she could not do it herself, but…

But she does it to spice things up with father, doesn’t she!?

But as their child, that was none of her business.

Still, this spirit-based version was a lot more impressive than the one she had seen. While her mother’s form was constructed and made physical, the surrounding ether currents were drawn in and a vortex formed low to the ground.

“It’s like a pack of wolves,” she muttered before seeing some slight movement.

It was Kasuya. The girl took a few steps back while looking around at the ether light swirling around her.

“What…is this?”

“It is simple,” said Mitotsudaira. Her mother still looked somewhat sleepy, but there was a smile on her lips. “Werewolves are humanity’s fears given shape. Did you really think our queen could be killed by a mere ether cannon? A single cannon blast is no match for the sum total of humanity’s fears, right?”

“Then what is this manifestation?”

“Judge. This is the immortality of a pure-blooded werewolf.”

Just like with her Silver Chains, her mother could recover from her wounds using the moonlight.

When thinking of werewolves as living fears, her mother’s body was far smaller than the total level of injury her entire existence could handle. Especially when that body was based on a human one.

That remained true.

Her mother had not lost her “body”. For her entire existence, this had been like having the very tip of her finger cut off. So she only had to use a different finger now. That was all.

All she is doing now is retuning herself after the ether cannon hit caused a bit of a disturbance.

Since she had to reset herself, she had appeared in her true form. Once she had finished absorbing the ether and tuning herself, she would reacclimate herself and return to her normal body.

The process was the same as activating and deactivating her beast transformation below the full moon. The ether change was just on a much larger scale this time. However…

“Now, then,” her mother said all of a sudden. “That woke me up a little.”

She looked to Mitotsudaira, smiled, nodded, and then looked to her husband.

“Honey.”

“Yeah, you look amazing!”

“But this is my true form as a werewolf.”

“And you look cool! Super cool!!”

“Then let’s have lots of fun like this tonight, shall we?”

“Yeah!”

Mitotsudaira’s awful classmates sent a rush of sign frames that appeared next to her face, but she broke them all at once. Kasuya gave her a “what was that?” look. If you don’t like it, then how about you try joining us?

At any rate, Mitotsudaira’s mother placed a hand on her cheek and bent toward her husband.

“But this is my first time seeing this form as well. …Although it is possible it was briefly visible on that night when you brought that silver stake.”

“Then I’m a lucky guy!” said Mitotsudaira’s father with a smile. “I thought you were beautiful when I first saw you, Miss Loup-Garou, but now I get to see you looking even more beautiful.”

Ah.

Her mother had been a “werewolf” when her parents had first met.

Her mother narrowed her eyes.

Mitotsudaira suddenly found her mother kneeling in front of her father with her massive hair and clothing fluttering behind her.

“Honey? Can I take the smell of your lips with me?”

“How?”

Her mother placed her own lips around her father’s. After moving her lips along his a few times, the woman removed her mouth. And she pressed her forehead against his.

“When I get back, you can show me the results of your daily training.”

“Yeah! This time I’ll pick you up!”

“Testament. You’ll be fine. I am as light as a bouquet of flowers tonight.”

And…

“Nate?”

“Wh-what?”

“You too are a bouquet of flowers to me.”

That reminded Mitotsudaira of the past.

She had indeed been picked up…no, carried by her mother. Long ago when she had gotten lost in the woods, her mother had brought her home while carrying her on her back such that she could see the starry sky above.

Her mother had not brought her father along then and she had not been acting on his instructions.

That point alone showed just how much her mother cared for her. So…

“You shouldn’t be raising death flags like that after you were blown away once.”

“What, no ‘shall I help you, mother’?”

“I highly doubt you will be moving slow enough for me to keep up.”

“That just means you have to work harder, Nate. But not to worry. As promised, I will stay with your father as I do this. So to stay within those bounds…yes, I know.” Her mother pointed forward. “I will clean up everything to the end of the bridge. …Nate, is there anything you want as a souvenir?”

“A peaceful life would be nice.”

“Testament. …That will be a tricky one, Nate, but understood. I will do whatever I can to remain by your side, okay?”

“That’s the opposite of what I want!!”

By the time she shouted that, her mother was already gone.

In less than the blink of an eye, the Reine des Garous made her way to the battlefield. And…

“U-um…”

Kasuya looked around like she did not understand what had happened, so Mitotsudaira nodded her way and spoke.

“You had better hope you can catch up.”


Kasuya nodded at the Musashi 5th Special Duty Officer’s words.

The Reine des Garous may have revealed her true form, but if that woman was going to interfere with her allies’ withdrawal, she had to be eliminated.

Kasuya had to pursue her.

Really, what is even going on?

So much is happening tonight, she thought.

But that was when an unexpected question reached her.

“Will you appear before me again once you have fully recovered from the injuries received fighting Takigawa?”

Kasuya’s pulse pounded at that question.

She knew about that?

No. This other girl was also a Loup-Garou, so she would have a good nose. Was it Takigawa’s blood or her own blood? She must have noticed one or the other. And the Musashi 5th Special Duty Officer brushed a hand through her hair.

“Even with a grooming divine protection, it still takes a night to fully eliminate the smell, doesn’t it?”

“Does it?”

“It does. Wait…you couldn’t tell?”

After a pause, Kasuya nodded.

And she started to say something.

She felt like she would be able to say something if she looked to that silver hair and golden eyes and opened her mouth. But…

“––––––”

She could not say anything. She shook her head once to refocus herself.

And she reworked the confused words in her head to match her current goal.

“Grow too interested in your enemy, and you will be drawn in.”

The other werewolf paused for a moment after that.

After taking a breath, she raised her eyebrows and nodded.

“Withdraw. …Not that you really have a choice here.”

“Testament. I hope we can have a proper battle sometime. I was too unprepared this time.”

Kasuya then bowed toward the Reine des Garous’s husband.

“I am glad I had this opportunity to greet the leader of the werewolves.”

“I’m not their leader.”

“Father? You effectively have a lot of control over her.”

The way he tilted his head suggested it was a very give-and-take relationship.

Kasuya bowed again. And…

“––––––”

She turned her back and ran off. She pursued the Reine des Garous to support her withdrawing allies.


What had happened was quite obvious from a distance.

A forest made of ether was spreading out from the center of Edo Bay.

On the Pension Versailles landed near the ridge of the Miura Peninsula to the south, Mouri Terumoto looked north using a targeting spell.

Since she could not officially participate in the battle, she still left all the artillery fire to Motoyoshi. That was why she was here speaking with Mouri-01 who was observing the eastern Miura Peninsula after leaving her Lourd de Marionnette.

“Hold on. Anne never mentioned this.”

“Knowing Lady Anne, she probably summed it all up by saying the Reine des Garous is ‘an incredible person’.”

“Probably so,” she muttered while watching several numbers dancing on the wide-range screen of her targeting spell. Most of those were the Catholic spell warning of strong enemy species readings.

The Gallican settings were supposed to have werewolves listed as friendly, but after the Reine des Garous revealed her true form, the reaction may have been more emotional than by species classification.

Changing the settings would be a pain, so she just let the warnings stay there as she viewed the screen. She saw…

“Is that…a European forest?”

There were trees and a ground. Even streams and rocks were formed from ether as the forest spread.

“I believe that is a portion of the Reine des Garous’s territory,” said Mouri-01. “To establish her ley line territory as an ether species, she normally draws the data in to herself, but her retuning here has caused that data to expand out from her so that she can properly adjust herself to match her ‘forest-dwelling nonhuman mold’.”

“Sum it up for me in about 10 words.”

“Do you like long text reading comprehension problems?”

That was a pretty awful response, but the ether forest was even creating a sky now. It was thinning out toward the edges of its expansion, but how would it effect the people on the scene?

“Is this dangerous? Do you know, Mogami?”

“Ohh,” replied Yoshiaki via divine transmission. “The Reine des Garous is having some fun.”

“Can you do this?”

“The royals of any ether-rich species can. As the ruler of a species, you carry the mold of your species’ land and habitat. The kingdom exists where the king is, after all. In my case, I have a mold of the forest and plains.”

“Man, humanity got a raw deal. If I could produce a weird space around me like that, it would probably only be the books and clothes scattered around my room.”

“Oh, dear,” said Mouri-01. “We need to set aside some cleaning time before the victory celebration when we get back.”

Now Terumoto felt even more trapped.

She was afraid any careless statement she made would be used against her, but then Yoshiaki’s bitter laughter reached her ears.

“What we do is no different. We are also creating a space that is to our liking. And you humans do the same thing in reality by selecting what connections to keep and which to end.”

“If you’re talking about society, you participate in that too. And even without your connections to us humans, you still have a hierarchy set up, so those connections aren’t exclusive to humans.”

“But nonhumans cannot take it very far unless they are a spirit species of the kind people tend to like. …In the Far East, you talk about asking your gods for help, right? Generally, the gods view the human world but not the individuals living there, but if you can make a request and get them to turn your way, you can gain a god’s divine protection using that connection. Using your connections for something so brazen is a human principle and virtue.”

And…

“When it comes to the relationship between predator and prey and selecting a mate species, highly predatory species like us are very set in our ways. But you humans readily accept changes to those arrangements based on circumstances and personal emotions. In some cases, you will change your value system or social structure or use such things for entertainment or political problems,” said the fox. “Now, it takes a call from the human side to remake the relationship between wolf and human into anything other than predator and prey. I have no interest in glorifying that act since the results are sometimes good and sometimes bad, but…”

“But?”

“There are souls that have been saved by the forcible creation of such connections.”

Terumoto heard Yoshiaki sigh.

“That is my prey, that is an enemy targeting my territory, this is my precious child, and protecting my territory and living out my life there is my greatest happiness as a nonhuman who lives in this land and will return to this land once I rot away. …One way to escape the sorrow of losing something is to think of it as no more than one chapter in the history of that land.”

“Are you saying nonhumans are a portion of the unchanging nature of their land, so if anything changes, they’ll no longer fit into the modern age and they’ll disappear?”

Anne had mentioned that the Reine des Garous has started using that trend to her advantage.

And this fox nodded at her question.

“Testament. They say we nonhumans give up quite quickly when faced with change. We see it as the shifting nature of the world and we leave our native land where we were born and found purpose. Yet you can then decide to carry that burden, gain many more connections, and enjoy yourself instead of wallowing in sadness. …Even though eliminating and rejecting those connections works well enough if all you wish to do is rid yourself of the sadness.”

“I see,” said Terumoto. “Are you trying to convince me to join Musashi?”

“Ko ko. Why would a fox invite someone to the comfortable spot she has discovered? I was bragging about how good I’ve got it.”

She continued.

“Look. You can see those inexperienced ones preparing to clash with the head wolf, can’t you?”


Chapter 40: Princess of Primal Fear[edit]

Horizon7B 414-415.jpg

I race through the blameless night

I am a queen

I dance in the moonlight and the deep shadows

I am the werewolf queen

Point Allocation (I’ve Still Got It!)


Kasuya felt a mixture of relief and tension when her attack made it in time.

She was up against the Reine des Garous. Plus, that woman was in her great spirit form and moving through a forest made of ether.

She was headed for the other end of the bridge. So was Kasuya. All the withdrawing people were hurrying toward the Bousou Peninsula while the ground and trees rising from the land and sea held them back.

But the oddity following the Reine des Garous was on an abnormal scale.

It started at the middle of the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay and stretched deep into Bousou. An area with a radius of about 20km had become a forest of bluish-white ether and it was continuing to spread in places.

It was a night forest.

Everyone fled in the underbrush below the tall trees where there was nowhere to hide.

Some gunshots rang out as a form of resistance and some arrows, throwing knives, and the like flew through the air.

But the wolf queen consumed them all.

She snatched the bullets, arrows, and knives from the air, and…

“Yes, I could use some iron.”

Kasuya had never before seen a living creature eat blades with a light crunch more suited for a soft rice cracker. For one thing, the blades and arrows did not break when she bit them. How sharp had she made her teeth using divine protections?

She took bites out of the arrowheads and knives as smoothly as if they were pears.

She even crunched the bullets between her back teeth like cooked beans. Kasuya could only think of one explanation…

Is she softening them with her saliva?

How powerful was her digestive system?

For her, normal weapons were only food to be chewed up and swallowed.

Of course, that was only the beginning of the threat.

Kasuya wanted to pursue her and protect her withdrawing allies, so the Reine des Garous’s ability to traverse the forest was the bigger problem.

The queen walked lightly along the bumpy unpaved dirt and grass.

But each and every step was abnormal. She easily traveled 10 meters with each one. Yet her stride was calm and she did not shake around all that much.

Her attacks were also unfair.

This was not about her weapons or power. She only had to send out the ether current surrounding her and have it reach the others.

That was enough for Kasuya’s allies to collapse and stop moving.

They were not dead.

But they all looked haggard and dripped with a cold sweat.

“Ah, p-please stop! A-any more of this and I’ll be too traumatized for anything but 2D!”

Based on their comments, they were being “eaten”. Right up to the very verge of death.

The queen was a predator, but since she currently had a partner, she did not seduce them. She instead used her original image of fear to forcibly rob them of their lifeforce.

She was fear itself.

But Kasuya’s allies’ efforts were not entirely wasted. Each time the Reine des Garous consumed one of those bullets, shells, or other small weapons, her pace would slow somewhat. Kasuya had to scold herself for needing their help to catch up when she was supposed to be protecting them, but…

“I made it!”

Between the tall trees of that forest, Kasuya circled in front of the Reine des Garous.

And she sent out her Argent Clou pile bunker without warning.


I want a single instant, thought Kasuya.

Not an instant to settle this.

An instant to make an accurate attack.

If she managed that, she could move on to the next attack even if the first was dodged. She could begin a series of instants that might eventually lead to a hit. However…

How is she fighting!?

Not even Kasuya’s speed was enough to capture the Reine des Garous.

She attacked at close range, but the woman was still only walking. She would occasionally shake her body, brush back her hair, greet the animals living in the ether forest, or let a small bird alight on her hand, but all of those actions ended up dodging Kasuya’s attacks.

She was predicting the attacks and then performing everyday actions that would also dodge them.

“Kh!”

It was not that the Reine des Garous was ignoring her.

She just was not worth any more attention than this.

She had had been successful against Takigawa and that had built up her confidence a fair bit. Even Katou Yoshiaki had recognized that result.

But this opponent was different.

Probably on a fundamental level.

Takigawa was powerful for a human, but this opponent…

She is powerful for a nonhuman.

Being a match for a human did not make you a match for a wolf.

They were not the same thing. Just like she had fought Takigawa as an anti-Takigawa fighter, she had to face this opponent as an anti-Reine des Garous fighter if she hoped to achieve similar results.

It was all meaningless if she did not specialize her fighting style for each opponent.

She had werewolf blood herself and she had fought this opponent’s daughter. So…

“A simple exchange of attacks would be meaningless.”

Kasuya prepared to fight as she ran.

She used her left nail device as a shield and readied the right one like a spear.

“Here I go!”


The Reine des Garous kept her eyes on her enemy’s movement.

She was reexamining the girl.

She was in her spirit form and this was her first time making a complete manifestation like this.

Back when she had eaten people, she had surrounded herself with an image of herself as a seducing barrier, but she had not even done that recently.

She would sometimes enter a similar werewolf state when having fun with her husband during the full moon, but…

Maybe I should start using this on special days like our anniversary.

She wanted to learn how this complete manifestation felt so she could reproduce it.

The increased power raised some concerns about the effect on her husband’s health, but he would probably be fine thanks to the circulated divine protections. Although their sensitivity would also increase, so they would have to make sure they did not both pass out. And she needed to make sure the effects did not spread to the surrounding area like they were here. A couple’s fun is best done in private.

Now, as for her enemy…

She’s changed.

She was no longer fighting like a wolf.

The Reine des Garous could also turn herself into a beast using instantaneous acceleration. That was originally used as a way for less powerful beasts like her daughter to take advantage of their light weight. She used it to dash over short distances, but she usually let her superior strength do the talking for constant acceleration.

If both sides were fighting like a wolf, her opponent would have to be very well trained to reach her level.

Her daughter had managed it after getting over her slump in her battle against Rudolf II, but…

“When she did, she fought in a different way.”

She had changed how she fought.

Since fighting as a beast was not enough…

“She also fought as a human. And…”

And…

“Humans can reach the level of werewolves using fighting styles designed for use against nonhumans likes werewolves.”

The Reine des Garous saw that the enemy’s weapon had changed.

The cross tower on her left arm had opened up. The silver armor at each corner had expanded out.

It was now a cross shield.

And the right cross tower had transformed again after making its long nail attack. The central line of the vertical bar bent in a mountain shape while its contents grew thicker. The silver shape visible at the end of the cross was no longer the point of a nail.

It was a flat cross-shaped…

“Cross drill!”


Kasuya swung Argent Clou.

She was 12m away from the Reine des Garous.

That was too far for the reach of her arm and Argent Clou, but…

I have to check something!

There was something she needed to do before piercing her enemy.

And the attack she made was not simply meant to deliver a blow.

She had put Argent Clou in anti-nonhuman mode and she used the drill at the end of the cross shape.

“And an anti-nonhuman spell!”

That was attached via divine transmission. The anti-nonhuman spell installed into Argent Clou’s memory device guaranteed striking power against a nonhuman’s personal barrier or divine protections.

A Klassisch Kunst was drawn in ether in the air. Kasuya accurately struck the approval stamp spot to apply the divine protection to Argent Clou.

“Take this!”

She attacked.

The cross drill was launched from Argent Clou and it rapidly rotated while slicing through the air. It wrapped the surrounding ether light around it like a vortex as it raced straight from her to the Reine des Garous.

But that attack struck something: the empty air.

“…!?”

The attack should not have hit anything due to the distance, yet the drill tore into the air far before reaching the enemy.

The sound of impact rang out at 12m.

“You have a barrier, don’t you!?”

That was a divine protection that nonhumans had. Its range of effect extended beyond the body in a way that allowed them to sense and rule over that space.

It would be very bad if the Reine des Garous’s had a range of 12 meters.

When fighting a nonhuman with a special trait, there were two basic strategies to choose from.

The first was to get in a critical blow with a weapon that took advantage of the nonhuman’s weakness. This was the simplest and most effective method, so as long as you had an appropriate weapon, even a child could slay the nonhuman.

However, this method had its risks.

If the nonhuman could activate their divine protection beyond their own body, you would be trapped by that before you could approach with the appropriate weapon.

It was like a spiderweb.

The closer you got, the more the entangling divine protection would have accumulated and the less you could move. Then the nonhuman could either ignore you or deal with you at their leisure.

Humanity could not win like that.

Thus, a second strategy had been developed.

“Breaking the barrier.”

The second strategy was to use a charm, a spell, a catalyst, or a weapon to destroy or restrain the enemy’s barrier and then get a critical attack in on them.

And since the enemy’s barrier was removed before the attack was made, you did not always need a specific weapon to get the job done.

However, this method had its flaws.

First, the enemy would notice when their barrier was brought down.

And worse, it could take time to bring down their barrier.

The latter problem could allow them to do even more damage in the time it took you to bring it down.

If you were going to do it, it had to be all at once and quickly.

But that was far from easy when the divine protection increased their defenses, put you to sleep, or applied hypnosis.

Then you had no chance of winning unless you suppressed the divine protection in advance. And…

The Reine des Garous is that type!

This was abnormal.

Kasuya’s attack must have hit the woman’s defensive divine protection.

Normally, a defensive divine protection affected the nonhuman themselves or the area around them. Even a high-level demon’s divine protection barrier only extended about 10cm from their body.

So how was hers 12m?

This meant she was surrounded by armor 12m thick.

Kasuya had set Argent Clou in anti-nonhuman mode to break through that barrier, yet she had failed to break through.

Besides, at this distance, the barrier’s divine protection should have thinned out quite a bit, yet it had solidly stopped her blow.

When applying the divine protection to Argent Clou, she had instructed it to ignore weaker barriers. If it detected and reacted to even the faint ones, it would use up all its power before breaking the barrier she was targeting.

But the very first reaction had fully stopped it.

She had a lernen figur perform an automatic search for the divine protection her enemy was using.

<Result: Fear.>

A psychological one!?

<Result: Fear! Fear! And more fear! Scared, ain’tcha!? Shocked, ain’tcha!?>

This useless piece of junk!

But after giving it a farewell, the search’s final result popped up.

<Matches: Unsearchable – Avoid Connection – Limited Release Level 6>

“What is this?”

It provided no information, but that did not mean none existed.

“Unsearchable” was telling her not to look into this, “Avoid Connection” was telling her not to get involved, and “Limited Release Level 6” was telling her…

<If a corresponding threat manifests and you believe it will continue to harm civilians, all Catholic combat personnel are to gather at Testament Union HQ to prepare for a joint strike.>

That was one step below Level 7, which referred to an ultimate showdown.

According to Testament Union records, Limited Level 7 had been used to gather the Party of Seven Hundred during the Age of Dawn before there was any such thing as “Catholics”.

A Level 6 Summons had been used for the end of the Harmonic Unification War.

Even during the fight against the European dragons during the Middle Ages in the Harmonic Divine States, Level 5 had been the highest used. Of course, that was probably because the problem was spread out across Europe so their forces could not be gathered at a single point.

She really is a monster.

She was Europe’s night and shadows. She was the presence felt behind you and the threat felt in the mountains and the wild. She was the man-eating beast and a manifestation of its will. The oldest threat to humanity was the wolf.

For this brief moment, she had stripped away the human shell and let that out.

The wind blew.

It was the stormy wind of the Loup-Garou.

But the queen walked down the center of it all and smiled while knowingly wielding her power.

She was an overwhelming presence, but her actions supported a war against an entire nation and against the allies and families belonging to that nation.

That immense fear was physically converted into a presence capable of consuming lives and it was controlled by…

“Relationships?”

The queen’s smile grew as if to answer that question.

She smiled because she saw her actions as absolutely necessary. Kasuya did not know if she felt bad about striking down her enemy, but she definitely saw justification for it. So…

“Hee hee.”

The queen lightly spun around while walking through the forest. She placed a hand on her cheek, swung her waist, held her little finger between her lips, and breathed a blushing sigh.

Wh-why is she getting turned on!?


Mar-Ga: “Mitotsudaira, is it just me or is your mom getting horny?”

Gold Mar: “I thought she might be pushing herself to hard, but yeah, this looks different.”

Me: “She’s got a lucky husband.”

Asama: “T-Toori-kun, let’s not say things like that about other people’s families!”

Wise Sister: “But Mito’s mom is always super cute, so her papan must be a busy man.”

Silver Wolf: “How am I supposed to respond to any of this!?”

Tonbokiri: “This makes my job really easy. If only it was always like this.”

Vice President: “But we can’t exactly ask her to get hit by a cannon every time…”

Flat Vassal: “Vice President! Vice President! Can you say that again!? Except about me this time!?”


Narumi removed Unturning Centipede.

She was on the western side of the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay, which were safe now.

She breathed a sigh that vanished into the summer night. Even after fighting late at night, her breaths were not white in this place. She made a mental note to make sure she did not overheat.

“Looks like we can secure the bridge now. …Although it feels like we sort of cheated toward the end there.”

“Hashiba has used those dragon line reactors in the past, though. But the Reine des Garous is environmentally friendly and this is a one-off thing, so they cannot really complain.”

“Judge,” replied Narumi while thinking.

What should I do if I ever have to fight her?

“Narumi, do not waste your thoughts on such things.”

“I should have known you would know what I’m thinking.”

“Judge. Wondering if the Reine des Garous has an elder sister is meaningless. Because she belongs to the mother genre.”

“I should have known you were thinking something stupid.”

But I guess it’s fine since he considers me an elder sister, she thought before getting back to her previous thoughts: what she would do if she ever had to fight that woman.

Date and Mogami were neighbors, so she had considered a fight against Mogami Yoshiaki if she released her nine-tailed monster fox power.

But even the Testament says the monster fox is primarily used to confuse the central governments of large nations.

Precisely manipulating and confusing human bases was the true nature of the fox that cursed people. A werewolf was different. If that werewolf was an embodiment of the fears common to the vast land of Europe, she would be powerful even for a god.

She had retuned herself to a human form, but that was only because she wanted to live like a human.

“What a pain.”

“What is?”

“Well,” said Narumi. “That human relationships trump all. …I can see why political marriages are so popular.”

“Not necessarily,” he said while crossing his arms. “The strength of a relationship comes from the strength of the action that brought the two parties together. …Look at that.” The half-dragon pointed at the 1st Special Duty Officer and the English Princess standing next to him. “Mary Stuart and Tudor were both married on paper to advance England’s policies, but she ultimately went to be with that breast worshiper. In other words, breast groping is a stronger action for forming a relationship.”

“Is that your way of saying what you did was no accident?”

“With you, it was an accident. Or, to put it another way…”

“Yes?”

“You could say my god granted me a grope to reward me for how much I love elder sisters.”

“So you refuse to accept responsibility for your own actions, is that it?”

“That is how it is for inquisitors.”

“I chose quite the troublesome idiot, didn’t I?”

He continued despite her comment.

“That troublesome aspect exists because of our relationship, Narumi. And if relationships are the strongest, we can find a reason why that is.”

Such as…

“We argue, fight, and disagree, but a lasting relationship is built from exactly those conflicts. If that is what you want, then seek out that sort of relationship. …I do apologize for being so much trouble, though.”

“Oh, I am lots of trouble too.”

“Which is why we get along so well.”

“I am in a very good mood right now.”

The Technohexen were giving them quite a look while fanning each other with Magie Figurs that had “Cool Breeze” written on them, but Narumi chose to ignore it.

Besides, she had arrived at an answer for her previous question.

She heard a metal sound from across the bay and deep within the spreading forest.

Most likely, Kasuya of the Ten Spears had begun battling the Reine des Garous.


Kasuya made an attack.

She struck the Reine des Garous’s barrier.

She did not actually know if she could break through a barrier formed from a seemingly endless supply of ether, but continuing the attempt was the only way to get the woman to pay attention to her, not to mention stop her.

Her enemy was nonhuman.

Spirits, gods, and werewolves were all considered nonhuman.

And through much sacrifice and praise, humans had developed and perfected methods of fighting nonhumans.

Kasuya herself had nonhuman blood, but she had lived as a human and learned techniques for use against both humans and nonhumans.

Her strikes were generally head-on. She placed her right elbow below the right side of her chest and, to guard her face, she moved the fist so close to her cheek she could bite the thumb.

Then she threw a punch.

She made rapid-fire strikes. She made the bare minimum of approach from her foot to her hips. Placing her right leg a bit ahead was perfect. But she pushed her shoulder out front. And instead of swinging it, she seemingly pushed the shoulder blade forward from behind.

She treated her shoulder like a gun turret to stabilize the thrusting punches and reduce the exhaustion.

This was a human technique, not the brute-force technique of a beast.

And when she thrust her arm out, she would eject Argent Clou from the right cross tower.

It took the form of a rotating cross drill.

She suppressed the recoil with her arm and supported it with her shoulder. And once the resistance from a certain point was gone…

“…!”

She struck.

The ejected cross drill would crash into seemingly empty space.

A solid sound would reverberate out, ether light would shatter, and the drill would be deflected.

But Kasuya did not pull back there. She kept swinging her fist to push it forward.

“I will break through!”

The cross drill tore into empty space.

It left a long “hole” of ether light in its path.

And she did not let up even then.

The hole left by a single punch was not even scratching the surface of this enemy’s true power.

So she repeated the process. If the hole was too small, she just had to keep drilling.

I will reach her!

She was 12 meters from the enemy How long would it take her to drill that far through the barrier? But while reaching her was important, getting her attention was more important.

If Kasuya made it clear she could reach her, the Reine des Garous would have to focus on her over her withdrawing allies.

So she breathed in.

“…”

And struck again.


Kasuya focused on her attacks.

The enemy was not stopping, so her own feet carried her back.

Giving her attacks the proper strength while also moving backwards took a lot of practice and experience.

But Kasuya could do it.

She struck.

She fell back and struck.

She would take a step and dig her toes into the ground to secure her footing for the attack, but once the attack landed, she would let the recoil push her back.

She was entirely going for counterattacks.

She used the strength of her approaching opponent to deliver a flurry of blows.

She tore into the barrier.

She kept the left cross tower in the form of a shield. Using both arms for drilling would have been more efficient, but a wolf was sure to “devour” her.

The shield’s silver armor would occasionally block a torrent of light.

Those gusts of glowing wind resembled wolves. It was almost like a pack of wolves was running around the Reine des Garous and devouring Kasuya’s allies.

When they were devoured, their power was stripped from them, so she had to maintain that shield.

She felt like the density of wolfish wind was growing and she hoped it was. That would mean the Reine des Garous was focusing more on her now.

A wolf approached.

She added a side-stepping sweep to her falling back motion. She used her toes to give herself a backwards burst of acceleration and landed on toes then heels while the bottom of her feet slid a bit back.

She built up her strength.

While sliding, she built up strength in all the bent parts of her legs: the ankles, the knees, and the toes.

“––––––”

That would give weight to her counterattack strike.

She repeatedly made that kind of minute adjustment while moving so quickly.

I have to stop her.

She attacked from the right.

And she stopped the approaching wind on the left.

The wind sprayed out and shook the forest’s trees. The rustling of the leaves sounded cold in the night and seemed to echo in her bones.

But she attacked from the right again. And she made a third attack from the right.

“Left.”

She kept up her combination of attack and defense.

Left.

Then right.

Another right, right, an immediate left, and left again.

She threw a right. She prepared a left. Now was the time for right. So right. But she knew that was bait. So she went with right anyway and worked to push it through by…

Left!

She shoved her shield forward where it crashed into a wind wolf.

The shield bash worked. In that case, she thought while adding in a new motion. Whenever she saw an opening in her defensive actions, she would make an attack with that left shield.

She was focused on just one thing: breaking through the barrier.

Her weapons were the fangs and claws of a wolf, but she used them with human techniques.

An inhuman terror unleashed what humanity used to confront the inhuman. And if she could do that…

“I just need to keep it up!”

Kasuya did not let herself stop and even accelerated.


The Hashiba forces withdrawing from the ether forest could see it happening.

Kasuya had been tasked with being their rear guard and she had begun producing a series of loud blows.

She was fast.

Each sound blurred together with the next. The metallic noises sounded a lot like several bells ringing. And…

“Hey.”

As Kasuya swung herself side to side while falling back with bursts of acceleration, she would seem to blur and then reappear. And by repeating the process…

“I can see more than one of her.”

It started as just two or three, but it soon passed four and even five.

She was only visible in the instant one of her blows landed. The sound and the image coincided at first, but eventually…

“She’s outpacing the sound!”

Her movements surpassed the intense sounds they produced.

She was definitely falling back as she struck, but she was gradually stepping further and further “forward”. However…

“…!”

Everyone cried out and hurried their withdrawal. The whirlwind blowing around the Reine des Garous quickly grew stronger and larger.

The ground had been visible before, but now it was hidden by ether fog. And that fog had the unstoppable force of waves splashing up onto the beach. So…

“Fall back!”


The Hashiba forces withdrawing from the bridge looked back at the pursuing fog while they ran as fast as their legs would carry them.

“If that fog reaches your feet, it’ll suck you dry!”

“Suck me dry!?”

“Of lifeforce! So not the fun way!”

They laughed and bumped their fists together before looking back again.

“Hurry!!”

“We aren’t gonna make it in time!”

That was true. The fog was picking up speed. The freshmen were still not used to moving through a forest, so they were falling behind and the upperclassman had to push on their backs or pull on their hands.

But the wolves were still faster.

“Here they come!”

The mist raced forward while ducking below branches and between tree trunks.

“Damn,” everyone said as they ran. The forest seemed to continue forever out ahead of them. They were probably still on the bridge, but they had lost track of which direction they were running. And…

“Wah!”

The fog nipped at their heels as if testing them. And they could see the very front of the mist occasionally taking the shape of a wolf’s front legs or head. Now, that might have been an illusion brought on by fear, but…

“D-dammit.”

They all felt like their legs were not taking them anywhere.

“Hey,” one of the running boys said. “At this point, wouldn’t it be easier to just let her suck us dry!?”

“No, thank you!”

“Really!?”

“Yes, really! Come back to your senses, everyone! We’re trying to withdraw from here so we can be useful in the rest of the battle! So why are you acting like we can turn a blind eye to our current hardships and accept defeat? I’m not going to accept that kind of loser’s talk! Besides, I’m not into wife stuff! 18’s my age cutoff!”

The fog wordlessly sped up and swallowed him up.

The others screamed and exchanged a glance. Then another boy suddenly raised both hands.

“I-I’m super into wife stuff! 4/5 of the data on my dorm computer is wife stuff! You’ll spare me for being such a big wife-lover, won’t you!?”

He was swallowed up.

They all screamed and leaned forward to run even faster. They leaped over a small stream and used tree roots as footholds to propel themselves forward.

“D-damn! This fog swallows you up whether you’re into wife stuff or not!”

“Wouldn’t it be weirder if it did choose based on that!?”

They hurried on while discussing the matter, but some of them were falling behind.

The freshmen were having trouble keeping up.

“Damn! The freshmen can’t keep up with our banter!”

“Literally, you idiot!” snapped back another as the upperclassmen worked to help the freshmen.

“Our job here is to get them safely out of here!”

But the fog was coming. Just as it swallowed them up, it grew much taller and tried to bite at them.

“Damn you!”

But just as they roared that at the fog, the light burst.

And they all saw who had circled between them and the pursuing fog to strike it.

“Kasuya Takenori!”


A girl among the freshmen saw it happen.

Something stood in the way of the fog that was trying to bite at her and swallow her up from behind.

A shadow!

This was not the forest or fog made of ether light. The color black blocked out all that light.

And that was not all.

“You forgot something.”

With that, some of the allies who had been swallowed by the fog were tossed their way.

There were three of them and this person had carried them all this way. And…

“…!”

She made an attack.

The fog shattered and her attack tore into the barrier beyond it.

The girl realized this name inheritor’s actions might only have the smallest of effects on the threat pushing in toward them. After all, this threat was massive. It was possible not even a name inheritor’s high-speed movement and attacks could defeat an opponent like this. However…

“Get going!”

Pushed by those words, the girl took off running.

“Hey,” called one of the upperclassmen. “Let’s go,” added everyone around her.

The girl looked back while speeding up again.

The black wolf was making attacks while the bluish-white fog nearly swallowed her up.

The spray of light and shattering sounds were both swallowed up by the black guardian standing in their way.

The black wolf vanished beyond the fog while making sure all the others could escape, so the girl raised her voice.

“Someone…”

She could tell just how powerless they were as she did so.

“Someone help her!”


I am fine on my own, thought Kasuya with a smile at the voice from behind her.

Right now, she had to focus on attacking.

She was definitely approaching the enemy.

She had drilled a good ways into the 12m barrier. And…

“I was told not to aim for mutual destruction.”

She had no intention of being defeated.

But her allies were in danger if she did not do what she could here.

If she could draw the attention of that fog, she could at least keep it from pursuing one extra person.

And if she went on an even larger rampage, she could draw it away from a second and third person too.

Rampages were her specialty, so she kept up the attack.

“Kh!”

She struck.

She drilled into the barrier with her right arm and pushed it away with her left. She could feel real progress being made as she repeated that process.

This was the Reine des Garous’s forest.

Kasuya suddenly saw a silhouette. She saw the shape of a woman carrying a child on her back while walking through the forest made of similar dark blue silhouettes.

What is that?

Was it one of the Reine des Garous’s memories?

She soon noticed other silhouettes as if to prove her guess right.

She saw the silhouette of a woman watching from a distance as a boy using scissors to cut the fruit from a tree.

She saw the silhouette of a woman looking down to the foot of a mountain while waiting for someone on a small forest path with a view.

She saw the silhouette of a woman holding hands with a boy to pull him along while also pressing their shoulders together.

These many silhouettes passed her by and vanished into the distance.

“Is all of this a part of that werewolf’s true form?”

Kasuya found it strange.

Werewolves ate people and were the very fear of the darkness and the wild, so could they really contain such happy images as well?

Can fears and threats begin to carry things like this once they develop a personality and live their lives?

A will and a life residing in something inhuman was not an unusual thing what with automatons and data entities, but Kasuya was still surprised to see what was allowed inside them.

Even though she had werewolf blood herself.

But if this was allowed…

“It means I can have something like this in me too.”

She made another strike while speaking to herself.

But just then…

Eh?

She sensed someone’s gaze on her.

It was coming from straight ahead, it was powerful, and it felt like a great heat. And a moment later…

“Ah.”

Something leaped over to her side.

The Reine des Garous!”

The woman had charged in with her instantaneous acceleration, so Kasuya turned toward her.

But then the Reine de Garous’s presence shattered.

It was only a silhouette.

That was only a memory contained within the Reine des Garous. Most likely…

When she fought Musashi’s 5th Special Duty Officer!

Kasuya had heard rumors of that unofficial battle. If that had been a part of it…

“Just how fast were they moving as they fought!?”

That had to be something the Reine des Garous never wanted to forget. She replayed it while retuning herself because it was such a precious memory, but it filled Kasuya with an emotion similar to frustration.

Her enemy was enjoying her past memories instead of focusing on her.

Thoughts of “I cannot let this stand” and “can I really hope for anything more” filled her mind simultaneously.

She kept moving.

But not just to attack. Attacking was just one of the many movements she was making.

She struck, blocked, swept aside, move forward, stepped to either side, and repeatedly dodged and attacked.

She could repeat those actions so accurately thanks to her training.

These were human techniques.

But the enemy would not stop.

The pack of wolves snapped at her with a density and length that seemed never-ending.

She moved.

“Ah.”

She was out of breath, but that was all the more reason she could not stop and she focused on keeping her balance. And once she was in a stable position once more, she took a deep breath.

“Nh.”

And she moved some more.

She could no longer hear the withdrawing footsteps around her.

She felt like someone was calling to her from the distance.

But she was confident that she was approaching the enemy.

This was a test.

The leader of the werewolves was testing this ignorant newcomer who had lived as a lone wolf for so long.

The queen was showing her what it meant to defy her. So…

“Reach her!”

Something approached as if in response to her shout.

It was a pack of wolves.

It was even larger than before and, while the previous ones had all rushed straight toward her, some of these circled around to her sides.

This fierce attack was proof that she had reached the deepest part of the Reine des Garous’s fog.


Kh!

Kasuya saw the enemy’s attack.

At a glance, she could tell the fog had grown into a wave that towered above her.

Many wolves were jutting out in front of it. And since some were circling around to her sides, she had to respond to more directions at once now.

There were too many to see past and she also had to respond to the left and right, but Kasuya sent out a combination with her right arm.

She drilled into them and then thrust out the shield on her left arm.

She moved.

She stepped back while striking to the left and right, but…

Above!

The wolves were coming so fast it looked like they would leap over her.

And just as she moved to respond, a figure rushed in next to her.

“–––––!?”

It was the Reine des Garous, but not the real one. It was only a silhouette.

This was the woman when she had fought Musashi’s 5th Special Duty Officer.

It was a fake.

That silhouette of course quickly vanished.

But Kasuya’s reaction had briefly stopped her movement.

Oh, no!

The fog was not about to overlook that opening as it rushed in from overhead.

Kasuya reacted to that by raising the shield in her right arm and using the right cross tower as a deterrent in the other directions. However, this choice was akin to defeat for her.

Why am I defending myself!?

She was supposed to be drawing the enemy’s attention so her allies could escape, but if she started focusing on her own defense, she made herself ignorable.

She still could not fully read the flow of battle. With so many enemies rushing in, she should have been using more circling motions instead of straight-ahead ones, but it was too late to realize that now.

“…!”

It really was too late. She had frozen up.

Why did I do that?’' she wondered.

But then someone else arrived.

“Kasuya!”

A small form tore into the surrounding wolves and leaped onto the battlefield.

It was Kani.


Chapter 41: Interceptor in the Wild[edit]

Horizon7B 451.jpg

When the clang of interception rings out

You know

You are not alone

Point Allocation (Pierce and Stab)


Kani used every single Sasamura.

This was clearly not an opponent she could handle by focusing on just one or two of them. She had to be using all of them at all times while predicting the enemy’s actions as much as possible.

Currently, she could only eject the seven less-damaged ones.

None of them had managed to reach the Musashi Vice Chancellor, but she felt they were necessary here.

She struck.

Sasamura was currently set to provide powerful impacts. But…

They were deflected!?

She felt like this had to be some special something-or-other that nonhumans had. And that something-or-other reflected Sasamura’s impacts.

Wow! she thought. There are kinds of strength out there I don’t even understand!

The Reine des Garous was Hexagone Française’s Vice Chancellor.

However, her strength was entirely different from the Musashi Vice Chancellor that Kani had fought earlier.

Her strength was also different from Mogami Chancellor Yoshiaki.

This was an incredible experience.

Kani smiled at the bristling emotion filling her heart.

I need to do my best!

If she did that, she could see even more. She could experience more of these ridiculous forms of strength. And she could make herself stronger and gain more stories to tell her parents and the others back home.

This is so cool! she thought. There was so much she could gain by fighting so many Chancellor and Vice Chancellor level fighters in a little over a day.

She could barely believe any of it was happening, so everyone back home might not believe it either. But…

“It’s all true!!”

She swung her hands in the air to send out a combination of blows.

Those blows tore through the fog approaching Kasuya and eliminated the wolves there with metallic sounds.

She broke them.

And she considered the skill of this upperclassman named Kasuya.

Kani had only managed to return here thanks to Kasuya’s strength.

It was Kasuya’s attacks that had created a wave-like difference in density within the fog. Kani had only needed to slice through the fog with her attacks while running down the path created by the density differences.

But there were still some dangerous areas and Kasuya was taking on the densest of those.

Her attack power was impressive, but so was her ability to endure the pressure.

Kani could see why she was a member of the Ten Spears just like Fukushima.

“Kasuya! I’m here to help!”

“Does your weapon have divine protections applied!?”

“It does! The other upperclassmen applied them before I came here!”

“The other upperclassmen?”

Sasamura was meant to provide physical blows. She did not install ether interference spells for spell destruction unless she knew she would be fighting an ether species.

But this was different.

“The ones who had already withdrawn! They asked me to help you out since you saved all of them!”

Kasuya did not look back in response.

But Kani felt like she saw a smile on the one cheek that was angled toward her enough to see. And…

“Kani-san?”

“Testament! What is it!?”

“Could you please fill in the gaps? I will not demand that you do it. Because…”

“Testament! I will do my best! I’m good at doing my best!”

“That is what I like to hear. So…”

Kasuya swung her left arm.

The shield on that arm transformed with the sound of scraping metal.

It returned to its drill form just like the right one.

She had abandoned defense in order to double her attack power. So to make up for that…

“I need to do my best!”

The black wolf did not give a verbal response.

Instead, she swung her arms and brought destruction to the enemy.


The Reine des Garous saw the enemy breaking through her manifestation of fear.

Her “devouring” created an impenetrable fog that swallowed people up and her “seduction” filled them with resignation so they would let it happen. Yet these two girls were not being devoured and felt no resignation as they charged through it all.

They were good fighters. In the past, she had run across similar youths who hoped to be a hero or at least acted like it. They had come at her as an individual, in a small group, or sometimes in a full army.

Of course, she had not been in this spirit-like state back then and her barrier had not been this thick.

But modern equipment and techniques had not existed back then.

Humanity had a way of increasing their overall combat techniques whenever they found themselves in a crisis. And sure enough…

“The Warring States period and the Thirty Years’ War seems to have worked well in that regard.”

Two figures were rushing toward her within the current of fog.

One was the black wolf from before and the other was the girl who had watched the Reine des Garous’s ping pong game against Mogami Yoshiaki. That girl had also fought the Musashi Vice Chancellor earlier.

Yes.

This teamwork reminded the Reine des Garous of her daughter.

My daughter got help from a friend for the finishing blow, didn’t she?

These girls were the same.

They already had what had been so hard for the Reine des Garous to acquire.

“Let’s do this!”

“Testament!”

Strength and technique were not the only ways to resist a great power.

These two subconsciously understood that as they resisted.

How lucky they were.

They were not solitary or restricted to a single pack like with an animal. These two were not part of the same pack, yet when they saw the need, they used their strengths to make up for the other’s weaknesses.

“They work together. Hee hee.”

The Reine des Garous laughed.

Because she was the same now.

The Siege of Odawara had primarily been fought with individual duels, but she was doing things differently tonight.

She had been left in charge of this area as someone halfway between Mouri and Musashi.

She had comrades, allies, and family behind her waiting for her results.

In the big picture, the Mouri fleet, the Satomi forces, and she were acting as diversions for each other while attempting to accomplish something.

This is nice.

She was acting as an individual, but she was not alone. So she had one thing to say.

“Show me what you can do.”


Mitotsudaira hurried through the expanding ether forest with the others.

She could hear the deep and carrying sounds of battle coming from beyond the dark blue shadows of the forest.

She hurried forward while her father sat on the stage the Silver Chains had created behind her. Narumi ran up alongside her without Unturning Centipede on and Urquiaga was with her.

When her father saw the two of them…

“Are you Nate’s friends?”

Mitotsudaira was a little worried about how they would respond, but Narumi gave a quick nod and answered.

“It is a pleasure to meet you.”

A safe answer, but a good one!

Naito or Naruze would probably have made some kind of joke that would only lead to misunderstandings. Naomasa probably would have said “Huh!?” which was an even more frightening thought.

But what scared her most of all was her king. She knew for a fact he would have said “No, I’m her king!”, but her father would use that to start a conversation that would reach some dangerous areas real fast. She was glad she had gotten that initial meeting out of the way the other night.

But her father seemed satisfied with Narumi’s response.

“Thank you,” he said with a smile before facing forward.

Then Narumi continued the conversation.

“Prince of Condé.”

Mitotsudaira was curious what she was going to say.

“How could someone defeat the Reine des Garous in that state?”


Uqui: “Well done, Narumi. Her husband would be the most reliable source.”

Wise Sister: “My, my. Such a cement-like girl. I almost feel bad for Mitotsudaira. Heh heh heh.”

Silver Wolf: “I didn’t miss those last three words, you know!?”

Me: “So is it even possible to beat maman when she’s like this?”

Asama: “Well, she does have a bit of a weakness. Or one should have been added to her.”

Unturning: “I would love to hear what that is.”

Asama: “Right now, Mito’s mom is in a state very similar to a spirit, but that means her physical body is very thin. So…”

Me: “So she’s all see-through!? Oh, sorry. Ignore that overly serious look on my face right now.”

Asama: “Um, she is a lot like a data entity right now, so her entire body – clothes included – should be see through. It is possible that her clothes and body would have different levels of transparency or that we could see her internal organs through her, but that really comes down to how she views herself as a data entity.”

Me: “What does that mean?”

Asama: “It means you aren’t going to get what you were hoping for, Toori-kun.”

Me: “Are you mad?”

Asama: “N-nooo, I’m not. But I do think you need the usual, so I will be telling Horizon about this later.”

Silver Wolf: “I-isn’t that a bit much, Tomo!?”

Mar-Ga: “We’re talking about your mom here.”

Asama: “Kimi, I’m not mad, so stop dancing around singing about jealousy. Anyway, um, the point is that Mito’s mom is somewhat physically unstable right now.”

Silver Wolf: “Are you talking about the fog she has around her?”

Asama: “I think you should be able to do that yourself, Mito. …But until her conversion to a physical body is complete, her strength, physical durability, and speed will be reduced from normal by the special traits of that fog. …What is it, Adele?”

Flat Vassal: “If this is the reduced version, then how physically strong is she with her normal body?”

Silver Wolf: “I-it’s best not to think about it! Now, we need to hurry to the front line!”


I see, thought Narumi.

She was pretty sure she mostly could tear through the barrier if she used Paths of Countless Hundreds’s compression twice. It would take a truly stupid opponent to let her hit with that twice, but she was confident she could do it once.

So afterwards, she only needed to use Countless Hundreds of Paths or several mandible swords in quick succession to manually break through the rest.

For the battle after that, she would have to remember that Unturning Centipede was primarily made for physical attacks. It did have some defenses from special spells like lightning resistance, but she would need to include some special settings to deal with that “fear” which was essentially a raw ether attack. And she needed to gather data to make sure she got those settings right. That would require others to go in first as if sacrificing themselves.

Facing the Reine des Garous in this form seemed little different from facing the Seiryu. To sum it up…

What a pain.

“In that case,” she said. “Kiyonari.”

“Yes?”

Forcibly restraining the Reine des Garous in a direct attack would be a huge pain, so she decided to look at this differently.

“I know how to cook curry and the rules to ping pong. Which one do you think would be faster and less of a pain?”

“Wouldn’t it be easier to let Mitotsudaira handle it?”

“Good point.”

Narumi turned toward Mitotsudaira running alongside them and raised her right hand.

“You heard him.”


Silver Wolf: “What!? What was that about!? Are your brains breaking!?”

Asama: “You’re in luck, Mito. Toori-kun can teach you how to make curry.”

Me: “Yeah, but I can never beat sis at ping pong.”

Wise Sister: “Well, if you insist, I can help you practice using the same rules I use with my foolish brother: remove an article of clothing after each set.”

Gold Mar: “Aren’t those the rules that brought Adele to her knees after she was so confidant she could win?”

Flat Vassal: “I-I’m a lot better than I was in middle school!”

Mar-Ga: “Sounds like she’s setting herself up to lose again three years later. …Okay, Mitotsudaira, will it be curry or ping pong? That will change what I have to draw, so let me know soon.”

Silver Wolf: “Have you all forgotten they’re fighting over there!?”


Kasuya clashed with the Reine des Garous.

She received Kani’s support while rapidly moving herself side to side and sending out a drill wherever she saw an opening.

Each attack was powerful enough to bring down a city wall.

However…

“Kh.”

The wolf danced.

She swung her arms, bathed in the ether light pouring down from the trees of the forest, sometimes moved into the shadows, and kept her dance steps going in the night. She occasionally lightly grabbed her skirt and swung it around.

Her dancing hand and body movements worked to deflect Kasuya’s attacks.

She supposedly existed as something similar to fog.

A blow from Argent Clou’s cross drill should have been enough to scatter her, but she must have already gained a physical body because she deflected the weapon with a solid noise and spun around.

And that was not all.

The same happened to Kani’s cowling spears. Kani had been rapid-fire launching them without rest this whole time and she was targeting the Reine des Garous while scattering the fog around her, but they were all deflected by the woman’s dance.

How was she doing this?

Wait.

After a few of her blows were deflected, Kasuya understood what she was feeling in the moment of deflection.

She used the tactile feedback to determine what this was.

“She’s spinning them, isn’t she!?”


Kani understood what Kasuya meant while she wiped the sweat from her brow.

It was the fog.

The Reine des Garous was sending her fingers of barely-physical fog crawling across the drills and cowling spears.

It was like wrapping the thread around a top. Once it was in place, only a snap of the wrist was needed to briefly stop their attacks for just a moment. It should not have mattered since she was made of fog, but the instantaneous recoil was so intense that it deflected their attacks.

But was it really possible to touch all of her rapid-fire attacks and redirect them like that?

It is!

This opponent was in fact doing it.

She was Hexagone Française’s Vice Chancellor. And she was also the leader of the Loup-Garous, so she would be more powerful than Kasuya here.

But battles were not decided by those kinds of titles. In fact, at the Siege of Odawara…

“Kasuya!”

“Yes!?”

“Curry! You can beat the Reine des Garous with curry!”

“Like, throw it at her!?”

“I will beat you up if you do something that rude.”

“That would be rude, wouldn’t it, Reine des Garous!? See, Kasuya!? You shouldn’t waste food!”

“Why is our enemy joining our conversation!?”

At any rate, that told Kani that curry was not an option.

She did not have time to explain to Kasuya, so…

“Kasuya!”

“Yes!?”

“Ping pong! You can beat the Reine des Garous with ping pong!”

“Like, throw the balls at her!?”

“I will beat you up if you break the rules like that.”

“That would be against the rules, wouldn’t it, Reine des Garous!? See, Kasuya!? You should follow the rules!”

“Why am I being lectured here for no reason!?”

That told Kani that ping pong was also not an option.

She did not have time to explain the rules to Kasuya.

And Yoshiaki-sama is a Chancellor, so it makes sense she could beat a Vice Chancellor like the Reine des Garous!

That left just one option for them:

“Let’s do our best!”

They had to figure something out on their own.

So Kani went for it while her sweat scattered into the air.

“Kasuya!”

“Yes!?”

“Let’s beat her on our own!”

Kasuya responded to that while leaping up and forward.

“Testament! That was my plan from the start!”

She went for it too.


Kasuya inhaled.

She moved forward with a burst of acceleration. There was one thing she needed to do.

Deflect!

Her own attacks had been deflected this whole time, but it was now time to do the deflecting herself.

She had both cross drills rotate inwards.

She sent them in and they were deflected.

Like usual, there was a loud noise and her arms were nearly knocked outwards, but…

“Bear with it!”

She endured.

Her arms strained and an unpleasant floating feeling reached the underside of her shoulder blades, but she sent her arms in the opposite direction with a burst of acceleration without even wiping off the sweat soaking her.

She returned her arms back the way they had come.

Her fists reached her shoulders, so she immediately threw them out in front of her.

Rapid fire!

She unleased a combo.

Of course, each individual strike was deflected by the Reine des Garous, but Kasuya restrained all of the impacts with bursts of acceleration.

Her arms started to widen at first, but the more she did it…

“Lu…”

…the more they moved together.

“Ah!”

She would strike and then return her elbows to their original position as soon as the attack was deflected.

She used bursts of acceleration both for the attacks and to keep her arms in position.

That created…

A high-speed combo!

Kasuya pushed on.

Her body cried out in protest as the impacts rang loud, but the black wolf moved forward.

She was deflected, but in exchange for some bursts of acceleration, some exhaustion, and some straining, she suppressed those deflections and advanced.

As strong as the Reine des Garous’s deflecting power was, she was essentially made of fog right now. Kasuya could resist strength of this level.

So she pushed on. She breathed heavily and swung her entire body around to leap in toward the Reine des Garous.

“–––––!”

And she struck.

In that instant, the Reine des Garous took a certain action.

Until then, she had been spinning her body as if dancing, but now…

“Oh, dear.”

She made a light step to stop facing straight ahead.

“Did you want to take my hand?”

She accepted Kasuya’s counterattacks with both hands.


A deafening noise rang out.

Kasuya had made two strikes simultaneously and the Reine des Garous had worked to deflect both at once.

That was a nice combo.

The woman gave that assessment while reaching out and lightly spreading the fingers of her outstretched hands.

Her hands touched the launched cross drills.

“Now.”

And deflected them outwards. The drills were briefly stopped, threw sparks into the air, and…

“–––––”

Something was deflected from the outer edge of her hands.

There were four things.

Two were the silver cross towers that had been equipped on Kasuya’s arms. The two of them had been purged from the girl’s arms and thrown into the air.

But…

“Oh, dear.”

The Reine des Garous had not torn them away. Kasuya had removed them herself in the instant of deflection.

I bet I know why she did that.

Until now, Kasuya had used a burst of acceleration upon deflection to put up a powerful resistance.

That was why the Reine des Garous had used both hands to intercept her this time.

But Kasuya had prepared a trick up her sleeve.

Even as she attacked with the cross drills, she had stopped resisting the deflection in any way.

It was obvious what she had gained by abandoning her weapons: the other two things that had flown out from the Reine des Garous’s hands.

Those were her two arms which were no longer attached to the targets of deflection.

“Oh, dear.”

Simply put, the Reine des Garous’s defense had failed.


Kasuya saw her trick succeed.

The Queen’s arms were not spread wide, but they were spread a little, like she was carrying some flowers.

So it all comes down to this!

Kasuya left her fighting stance, turned to the side, and lowered her hips.

She left as much space on either side of her as she could while yelling a single word.

“Kani!”

A moment later, something was ejected forward from behind her on either side.

They were cowling spears. Three shot by her on either side to reach the Reine des Garous’s arms.


Kani realized this was the key moment.

She pushed her hands forward along with her arms to control Sasamura’s ejection.

She used both speed and precision to aim for the Reine des Garous’s arms.

She did not target the center of their opponent’s body.

Those spread arms would soon return to their original position. Seeing that nonhuman wife ping pong game was enough for Kani to grasp this woman’s speed.

This enemy would never do what she expected, so first…

I have to stop her arms!

She slammed the spears into them.

They hit. However…

Whoa!

She saw something frightening.

The spears had been launched with almost zero time lag after Kasuya’s attack, but the Reine des Garous moved to grab them.

And she was already eliminating the outward motion given to her arms by Kasuya’s attack.

She used a burst of acceleration.

Kasuya had worked so hard to learn how to return her arms to the center like that, but this monster managed it in a split-second adlib.

But Kani’s spears had a power of their own.

A total of six sounds of impact rang out as they reached the Reine des Garous’s arms. They sounded like the loud notes produced by throwing wind instruments at someone. There were enough impacts to disturb the Reine des Garous’s acceleration, so…

I slowed her down!

And she was not going to let it end here.

It was only for a moment, but she had stopped the Reine des Garous’s arms.

But that was not the same as getting an attack in on her.

To get a definite strike in, she had to aim for the center point between those spread arms.

She had one cowling spear left.

However, her own arms were spread.

She could launch the spear like this, but she could not control it without her hand.

Even if she did send it out, it would be moving slowly enough for the Reine des Garous to have time to return her arms to normal.

But Kani still decided to do it.

“Sasamura!”

She launched her final spear directly ahead of her.


Kani heard the acceleration and saw the cowling spear split the air as it was launched.

The Reine des Garous was already moving in response. She made a new burst of acceleration to try and grab the spear coming for the center of her body.

If she caught it, it meant they had lost, so Kani raised her voice to keep that from happening.

“Kasuya!”

Reach her, my will.

“Do your best!”

Her shout raced through the ether forest to reach a black form.

The black wolf had crouched down while turned to the side, but she now sprang back up.

She used a burst of acceleration. Plus, her standing up, the arm she raised behind her, and every other movement was part of a single action.

“You did exactly what I predicted you would!”

She said that while taking a javelin-throwing stance.

The sequence involved springing up, swinging her arm, and throwing her entire body forward with a snapping motion.

The black wolf poured her bursts of acceleration into every part of it to grab and throw the cowling spear.

She did not hesitate to aim for the face.


Not bad at all, judged the Reine des Garous.

Bearing with pain, making feints, and performing multiple simultaneous attacks were all human techniques.

And the trust-based coordination produced by those things was also distinctly human.

That this girl had aimed for the face was especially wonderful.

The Reine des Garous was in an uncertain state similar to fog, so aiming for her torso would not do any real damage. That part of her would be scattered and then be remade.

But things were different if she lost her head.

At the very least, she would lose the ability to think clearly and she would lose her senses of sight and smell.

She would not cease to exist, but she would have to regenerate herself from the ground up.

Of course, the face was one of the first areas one considered when it came to dodging, but that was not so easy with her arms temporarily stopped. She had fixed her central body in place to accelerate those arms back to their normal position.

The enemy had made no mistake in their split-second decision.

It was wonderful.

Those two were using their relationship as comrades to fight appropriately against a beast. And one of them had werewolf blood.

How lovely.

The Reine des Garous had once considered dying to eliminate the werewolf species, but she could now tell how much that emotionally-driven action had been about self-satisfaction.

Even if she was destroyed, there would still be more werewolves and they would even work with people who had been her enemy.

Should she thank her precious husband for her change of heart? Or should she thank her daughter who was the first evidence of it? Or should she thank these enemies here? Or…

“This is such a fantastic night.”

So…

“It is fine if I give myself a compliment, isn’t I?”


Kani saw the spear on course for a direct hit.

She could tell Kasuya was letting go of Sasamura’s shaft.

Kasuya even used a burst of acceleration on each finger holding it to thoroughly accelerate it to the very end.

But the Reine des Garous worked to resist even an attack with that much speed.

Her arms were still not back in place and she should not have been able to move her body, but…

“Take this.”

There was still something she could move: her chest.

She leaned back for a bounce of her chest. It was not so much a jiggle as a…

Boyoing!?

Kani could not help but think of it in term of sound effects, so she decided she should try to read less manga.

But the next term that came to mind was a dangerous one.

Was that the Giant Breasts Defense!?

She had heard of this before.

When Fukushima and Massive Katou had attacked Mito, the Musashi Chancellor’s sister had blocked Fukushima’s attack with the Giant Breasts Defense. But if that was what this was…

“That isn’t high enough!”

Kasuya had already accounted for this.

Oh, I get it!

Aiming for the face had also been a way of avoiding the Giant Breasts Defense.

Kani realized that the records of Fukushima’s battles had laid the foundation for this.

The Ten Spears are incredible!


Kimee: “…”

AnG: “What’s wrong, Kime-chan?”

Kimee: “Well, we’re receiving the battle records in real time, but…how should I put this? Um, Kasuya has, well…hmm. It’s not a bad thing, but I’m not so sure about this. Or maybe, hmm…”

AnG: “Kime-chan, it’s best not to think about these things too much.”


The Giant Breasts Defense was not going to reach the attack. That much was certain.

So Kasuya raised her voice while sending the final acceleration into the shaft using her index finger.

“Our attack will reach you!”

She looked up to see the spear and the bottom of the enemy’s bouncing chest.

What she saw there seemed like it should not have been possible. It was a miracle the woman could manage any footwork or make downward attacks.

But then Kasuya heard a voice. It was Kani’s.

“Kasuya!”

It was going to hit.

“Fall back!!”


Kani had seen it.

When the Reine des Garous’s boyoinging breasts rose to their peak and fell back down, something floated up from the cleavage.

The movement of her breasts had tossed it upwards. The airborne object was silver and boxy.

“It’s the silver cross!!”


The Reine des Garous caught the spear on the silver cross box she had essentially pressed against her forehead.

They collided.

But she could use the full strength of her body. She could not move it side to side, but she could move it forward or back. So…

“There.”

She was capable of jumping into a spring without producing a splash, so she could stop that swift spear as long as she had something to act as a barrier.

So that was what she did.

She bent back and absorbed the force with her head.

She twisted her forehead a bit to sweep the cowling spear behind her after it started to dig into the silver cross.

Then she shook her head.

“Pierce them, silver cross.”

With those words, the cross opened up and she bit the shorter segment between her teeth.

The silver cross cannon had gained the momentum of the spear, so it was trying to move backwards, so she bit the shorter segment and swung it forward.

To cock it.

The rest was simple. She swung the bitten cross forward as if dragging it through the air. And…

“…!”

She used it like a pile bunker.

She sent a blast with a diameter of 15m toward the enemy.


The striking blast made of ether was released in an instant.

It expanded just as quickly as an explosion.

But the Reine des Garous saw something just before it struck and blew away the enemy.

She saw more people.

Those people rushed through the forest and leaped between her two enemies and the blast.

They were Hashiba warriors.

Some were boys and some girls, some were unharmed and some injured, some were novices and some experienced.

“Show you’ve got the guts to arrive in the nick of time!”

They used bodily strengthening spells to run, they activated defense spells, and they moved in between.

Of course, most of them did not arrive in time. They were too late and were simply hit by the blast. But a few did arrive in time.

“Focus on defense!”

The barriers they readied were destroyed by the impact.

The silver cross was a divine weapon. And a high level one at that.

Mass-produced defense spells could not defend against this ether impact. The barriers were instantly blown away by the difference in ether density.

Even so, they took defensive stances.

“Brace for impact!”

They crossed their arms in front of them to resemble crosses, they turned their hips to the side, and they adjusted the direction and angle of their body by swinging a leg behind them.

The attack hit.


The expanding blast easily blew away the warriors taking low defensive stances.

The dry sound of straining bones and the deep noise of struck flesh rang out simultaneously from several different people.

Their defensive formation collapsed, but their formation had somewhat slowed the expansion of the blast, allowing Kasuya and Kani to fall back at the urging of the others.

That had been the correct choice.

Because something was flying in the air on either side of Kasuya: Argent Clou’s cross towers.

Kasuya grabbed both of them out of the air and did not bother to properly equip them.

“We made it in time!!”

She moved forward with them both in shield mode. She spread out her arms and threw herself toward the blast.

“Kani!”

“Testament!!”

The first year was breathing heavily and practically coughed out the words as she pushed on Kasuya’s back. And…

“…!”

The two Argent Clou shields produced clangs of interception against the silver cross attack.


Kimee: “Ah.”

AnG: “Are they dead?”

Kimee: “Angie, don’t just come out and say it.”

AnG: “Then I’ll say it euphemistically. …Did Kanitama reach her expiration date?”

Kimee: “What about for Kasuya?”

AnG: “Did she become a dog?”

Black Wolf: “I did not!”

AnG: “Sorry, I’ll find a better way of saying it. …And wait, you’re alive!? How!?”

Kanitama: “By doing our best!”

AnG: “FYI, Kanitama, if you write that in your report, the higher ups will not be happy. You should’ve seen how mad they were when Angie just used the word ‘skill’ as an explanation in one of hers.”

Kanitama: “Okay! I’ll do my best!”

AnG: “I’m kinda worried…”


Kani viewed their situation.

She was on the front line.

She was in the ether forest and she could see Kasuya’s back in front of her.

The Argent Clou shields were gone. The cross towers were now emitting ether light mist like smoke.

Around them, some of the others were still in their defensive stances and others had collapsed. Some had lowered their hips to catch their breath but could not get back up.

But they had all stopped moving.

They were all looking straight ahead.

Horizon7B 485.jpg

The Reine des Garous was there.

Space had opened up between them, so there was about 20m there now.

But not because the Reine des Garous had fallen back. It was obvious this was due to her tearing up the forest ground toward them.

The silver cross’s blast had caused them to pull back. And…

“This battle is over, isn’t it?” she said while wiggling her animal ears.

Kani knew what that meant.

Two things were visible below the ground torn up by the silver cross’s blast.

The original ground was split between two varieties in between them.

On the Reine des Garous’s side, it was a floor made from orderly boards of hardened wood.

On their side, it was a paved road.

“Do you understand?” asked the Reine des Garous. “I am on the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay and you are on the Bousou Peninsula. In other words, the Musashi and Mouri forces have taken the bridge.”

She added a “so” while spinning a silver weapon in her hand.

It was the silver cross.

The scene around them changed as it spun.

The ether forest faded, turned to mist, and receded toward her. It moved just like a pack of wolves gathering around its leader.

Kani could see Kasuya take a deep breath. That breath was meant to let her take action no matter what happened.

Kani realized her own knees were lightly trembling.

She did not know if it was from fear, exhaustion, or accumulated damage.

Regardless, it made it difficult to gather her strength. But when she looked to Kasuya in front of her…

Her knees aren’t shaking at all!

Impressive! she thought. I can temporarily fight alongside her, but I’m still no match for her true potential!

How could she help out with whatever was to come? She started wondering that as the forest vanished toward the bridge.

The city returned.

She had not been here long enough to call it a familiar sight, but they were now on the Bousou Peninsula’s coast. They were on a coastal road in the ruins.

There was a forest in front of them and the Reine des Garous stood at its edge.

“Now,” said the woman while propping up the silver cross with the Loup-Garou forest gathered behind her. “I will not allow a single person though here.”


She sure knows how to talk the talk, thought Mitotsudaira. Her group was in the forest. They were close enough to the edge to see her mother’s back.

Her mother was currently threatening the enemy, so it would lay on the pressure if the rest of them stepped out, but…

Novice: “It would be best not to provoke the enemy too much. Most of them were worn down by all this, so it would be better to let them reach a standstill here. We don’t want to provoke them into fighting some more or heading to Satomi.”

That was true.

And their group could not head in any deeper anyway. Also…

Satomi’s small transport ship should have landed in northern Bousou by now.

She opened a sign frame and saw the small transport ship carrying Yoshiyasu and the others was indeed landing in the center of the Bousou Peninsula. If they could attack and take the Hashiba ground base there, they could claim the Satomi Liberation a success.

Of course, they also had to do something about the enemy’s aerial forces, but that was a separate issue.

Mitotsudaira’s group could not participate in all of that. After all…

Me: “Hey, what’s going on with Nagabuto?”

Scarred: “Master Tenzou, um, went to get him.”

Wise Sister: “Oh? You’re not with him, Mary?”

Silver Wolf: “That would have been difficult. Because…”

Mitotsudaira looked up while lowering her father from the Silver Chains stage.

She could see something between the trees when she looked up from the ether forest.

The ruins of a tower jutted up into the night sky.

“Nagaoka Tadaoki was probably sniping at us from the top of the tower ruins in the center of the bridge.”

But that had ended when her mother created that forest. There would have been too much cover to snipe at them.

So if the 1st Special Duty Officer had gone for him…

Tachibana Husband: “Is he going to scale the wall? That sounds like the 1st Special Duty Officer.”

Smoking Girl: “Are you saying everything’s settled on the bridge? How are you doing, Tachibana Couple? We’re going to be attacking central Bousou soon.”

Tachibana Wife: “We will attack from the northeast. If we decide you require support, I will fire on your enemy, so please dodge it.”

Tonbokiri: “Gin-dono’s aim is accurate, after all.”

What did she mean by that?

But they did know one thing now.

The 1st Special Duty Officer should be arriving at the top of that tower soon.

So…

“Bringing Nagaoka Tadaoki back to us is the 1st Special Duty Officer’s job.”


Tadaoki faced someone.

They were right in front of him.

But the angle was different.

This person was positioned perpendicular to him.

The enemy stood on the wall of the tower ruins rising from the ocean.

He was aiming his rifle at that perpendicular opponent from a distance of 16 meters. He leaned out over the edge of the roof and readied one of his Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry.

He aimed at the center of this opponent’s torso and then asked a question.

“Who the hell are you!?”

“H-huh!? We met not long ago!”

Several lernen figurs opened around the enemy and Tadaoki asked a further question while watching his opponent persistently break each one.

“We met!? Got any proof of that!?”

“Judge!” The opponent crossed his arms while standing on the wall, raised his right upper arm, and raised his index finger. “I was the one who wrote ‘Abs!’ on your stomach!”

Tadaoki responded with a bewildered “huh?” and a gunshot.


Chapter 42: Boy at the Boiling Point[edit]

Horizon7B 491.jpg

Ahh

Master Tenzou did it again!

Point Allocation (How Many Times Is That Now?)


Mary placed her hand on her cheek when she heard the gunshot coming from the tower ruins above the ether forest.

“Master Tenzou!”

“Yeah, that wasn’t a very good gag.”

The Far East really was strict about their gags. As for Mary…

“Is Master Tenzou okay?”

“He’s a ninja, so a single hit probably isn’t enough to kill him. What do you think?”

“Toori-kun? Tenzou-kun has been raising way too many death flags lately, so from a Shinto perspective, he’s gathered a lot of bad luck. He’s in a bad enough state that I was thinking about getting our god to physically purify him here.”

“U-um, is Master Tenzou all right?”

“Eh?” Asama turned toward Mary and waved her hands side to side with a smile. “He’s fine, he’s fine. As long as you’re with him, all his back luck is eradicated, so you just have to stay with him. And that will make everyone else happier too.”

“Um, but I’m not with him right now.”

“Hmm.” Asama crossed her arms before smiling and providing her answer. “He’ll still be fine. Probably.”

Shinto could seem a little too careless at times.


Tenzou was alive.

That was a close one!

He was lucky the bullet Nagaoka had fired had not had a homing or guidance spell applied.

He was pressed against the wall. That was the standard evasive maneuver for enemy bullets while on a wall.

Even if the enemy moved from the edge of the roof and onto the wall, they would have to aim “down” at the wall to hit him there.

It was the same concept as ducking down on the ground to make yourself hard to hit.

But Nagaoka was indeed a skilled shooter.

While leaning out from the roof, he pressed his elbows against the edge to fix his upper body in place.

Then he used his right hand to support the barrel of the rifle from below to fix the barrel’s height. He had held the stock under his arm to stop the line of fire on Tenzou.

He had instantly taken that firing pose and he had used both the current situation and his own body to their fullest.

Impressively done!

The unspoken compliment was answered by a gunshot.


Mary placed a hand on her cheek when she heard the gunshot coming from the tower ruins above the ether forest.

“Master Tenzou!”

“Yeah, sounds like he’s having trouble.”

“U-um, is Master Tenzou all right?”

“Judge.” The Chancellor’s sister turned toward Mary and pointed at Ex. Collbrande at her hip. “Heh heh. If you’re worried, why not solve all of this by sending a Master Tenzou Love Love Homerun toward that tower?”

“Master Tenzou Love-…wh-what is that!?”


Asama: “Um, Kimi? I don’t think Mary knows the name of that technique.”

Wise Sister: “Oh? Really? I thought everyone knew.”

Musashino: “It has in fact been added to Musashi’s internal dictionary and registered in the weapon deployment list. Over.”

Vice President: “The automatons already have it all listed up and everything, huh? That can’t be fun.”

Musashino: “Judge. Masazumi-sama, your army-destroying puns are being recorded as Shoten Ogiri, so feel free to use as many as you like. Over.”

Vice President: “I didn’t expect that comment to come back to bite me!!”


Mary was embarrassed.

After turning her back on England and coming to Musashi, she had tried her best to behave in a modest and reserved fashion while doing what she could to help out the boy who would be her husband. So…

“I never imagined I was behaving in a way that would earn such a bold name.”

“I think you’re looking at this wrong, Ma-yan.”

“No!” said Mary while brushing away the flowers appearing around her. “I defected and I am trying to look to the future in how I live my life, so how could I end up with a M-Master Tenzou L-Love Love…Lo-…”

“Love Love Homerun,” supplied Naito.

“Wh-why would you say the whole thing!?”

“Sorry, Ma-yan, but the way you’re shaking me has me confused about some things. What are you saying is the problem with all this?”

“Good point,” said Naruze while turning to Mary. “Say it.”

“Eh?”

Mary breathed in while confused.

Master Tenzou Love Love Homerun!

This was fine. She could say it in her head without issue. So she should be able to say it out loud as well.

“M-Ma-Master…nzou…Lo-…”

That was as far as she got. When she touched her cheeks, she felt nothing but heat. She could also tell she was smiling.

“You’re all so mean…”

She wanted to hide everything, so she crouched down.

And she heard a gunshot.


That was a close one!

Tenzou had rolled along the wall to dodge the first gunshot.

He had placed his palms on the wall for a shallow cartwheel for the second.

This was dangerous.

Nagaoka’s rifles used a standard rifle format, so each shot had to be muzzle loaded. Tenzou had assumed he would be fine as long as he avoided one shot, but…

I didn’t expect him to pull out another rifle so quickly!

That would be the results of his training. Since he could manage all that without looking, he must have trained shifting between and using his guns while blindfolded.

The boy could look a little delinquent-y, but he was a hard worker deep down.

But now was not the time to be impressed.

That had almost gotten Tenzou shot before.

Besides, Tenzou was here to bring the boy back to the Musashi, so getting shot at was meaningless.

So he chose to call out to the boy to negotiate. He spread his arms to show he had no intention of fighting and decided to call out to the boy in a casual and friendly tone.

“What’s up, Nagabuto!?”

He was shot at.


Mary placed a hand on her cheek when she heard the gunshot coming from the tower ruins above the ether forest. She was crouching down, so the flowers on her head and shoulders scattered as she stood up.

“Master Tenzou!”

“What is he doing?”

“I am pretty sure Crossunite was trying to negotiate with Nagaoka to get him to surrender.”

“Man, Tenzou really sucks at negotiating.”

“Th-that is not true!” Mary took a step forward and placed a hand on her chest to defend Tenzou’s honor. “Master Tenzou convinced me to defect!”

“But.” Naruze placed a hand on her chin. “What did Tenzou even do back then?”

“Well,” said Naito. “He convinced her by telling a whopper of a lie, groping her boobs, and fumbling the most crucial line.”


Mar-Ga: “You’re the worst.”

10ZO: “Wh-what is this about, Naruze-dono!?”

Tenzou spoke into the sign frame while rolling along the wall to dodge the bullet.

10ZO: “I am engaged in some crucial persuasion at the moment!”

Asama: “Um, Tenzou-kun? I am going to phrase this as kindly as I can since that is a crucial job, but if Mary was not madly in love with you, you never would have gotten away with what you did. You normally would have gotten a slap followed by the person’s special move.”

10ZO:That’s phrasing it as kindly as you can!?”

Vice President: “By the way, Crossunite, how is the negotiation going?”

10ZO: “Hm, it certainly isn’t going as well as it does for you, Masazumi-dono. …I mean, I really am not sure how I am supposed to start a war with this negotiation.”

Vice President: “No one asked you do that!”

Tonbokiri: “Masazumi, it is not healthy to bottle up your feelings. Be more honest with yourself like I am and you can live a stress-free life.”


While running through the mountains on the northwestern end of the Bousou Peninsula to support the Satomi forces, Muneshige saw Gin suddenly punch a tree in the forest.

The summer insects briefly stopped chirping and the birds cried out and took flight.

That would normally be dangerous, but they were moving quite quickly. The different units of warriors were also on the move and some stray shots from the fleets in the southern sky were falling on Bousou.

They did not need to stop and Gin was back by his side before long.

“I apologize for that ugly outburst, Master Muneshige.”

“Ha ha ha. I know that is who you are on the inside, Gin, so don’t worry. It means you are living a stress free life around me.”

“You do have a way of taking a positive view of things, don’t you?”

Gin sighed and lowered her shoulders, but…

“Master Muneshige.”

“Judge,” he immediately replied.

The mountain path they were on took them down the ridge.

They were following it from central Bousou to the eastern slope, but…

“I see it.”

There was some fierce fighting in the distant southern sky.

They could see light past the leaves of the trees and chirping of the summer insects.

The southwestern coat of the Bousou Peninsula seemed to lift the battling fleets into the sky. The lights of a city were visible on the inner side of Bousou once inside the Uraga Channel.

That was Satomi.

The city was maybe a kilometer across, but the coast gouged inland into it, giving it a thick crescent moon shape.

“That would be due to dragon line reactor.”

“It was damaged that badly? I am impressed they recovered at all. …The local representative must have sided with Hashiba and worked to minimize the chaos.”

That was not all.

There were silhouettes visible on the Satomi side of the forest between them and Satomi.

Those would be the warriors defending Satomi from the ground. And…

“Those are our opponents, Master Muneshige.”

“Judge. Finally.” Muneshige could feel the smile on his face as he said it. “Finally, I can let you take it easy, Gin.”

“That would be careless, Master Muneshige. But,” said Gin while running and glancing toward Edo Bay behind them. “The Musashi should be departing soon. …I wonder if they managed to get Nagaoka Tadaoki to surrender.”

And…

“I am also curious what the enemy behind us – the ones that were on the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay – will do now.”


The southern battlefield’s atmosphere has really changed, noted Tenzou.

They must be figuring out how to arrange their ground defenses.

He was curious about a couple of things, but he had to leave that to the people on the scene. Anything he said now would only make him a nosy outsider.

Plus, he had to focus on Nagaoka right now.

He had to persuade the boy to come with him, but…

“Dammit! You were part of that too!? You were one of the ones to color my dick black!?”

“Wait! The dick was a one-man job!”

“What guy has the lipstick to use on something like that!?”

“It is a long story and you probably wouldn’t believe me anyway, but he definitely does!”

Me: “Heyyy, Tenzou! What’s the hold up?”

10ZO: “Y-you are!”

Wise Sister: “Heh heh. But really though, Tenzou, what are you doing? This is taking forever. Mary is half in tears, you know?”

10ZO: “I-it’s as much your fault as Toori-dono’s!”

Mar-Ga: “Oh, you’re not dead?”

10ZO: “You don’t have to be so blunt!”

Vice President: “Okay, Crossunite, quit responding to every little thing. Oh, but do respond to me.”

10ZO: “J-judge! It is true responding to all the nonsense those crazy people say would kill me!”

He was shot at.

He quickly side-stepped along the wall to dodge it.

Me: “Tenzou, quit responding to every little thing. It’ll kill you.”

10ZO: “You know exactly what you’re saying there, don’t you!? Don’t you!?”

Vice President: “Anyway, Crossunite, how is the negotiation going?”

10ZO: “To be honest, not well.”

Hiding that would only make things worse.

So he was forthcoming about his situation and asked Masazumi for advice.

10ZO: “Nagaoka Tadaoki is currently focused on his job for Hashiba. He does not respond when I ask him to surrender and it only inflames his hostility. I intend to continue my attempt to talk it out, but I do not see it going well.”

Vice President: “Why did we send you?”

10ZO: “D-do you have to question my very presence here!?”

Vice President: “Well, whatever. Crossunite, you did tell him what you’re here for, didn’t you?”

10ZO: “Eh?”

Oh, no. Come to think of it, I showed up without explaining why.

Mar-Ga: “Did this guy just get shot at several times before even saying hello?”

10ZO: “I got shot at for saying hello!”

Uqui: “In that case, we can only conclude the problem lies with you.”

10ZO: “Enough with the personal attacks!”

Vice President: “Start by introducing yourself and then persuade him.”

10ZO: “A personal introduction then!? That I can manage!”


Tadaoki saw the ninja suddenly stand straight up in his sights.

The ninja spread his legs to the right and passed his arms in front of his chest.

Allow me to introduce myself! I am Musashi Ariadust Academy Class 3-Plum 1st Special Duty Officer Tenzou Crossunite! My favorite thing is busty blondes!”


Mary heard a distant gunshot.

“W-was Master Tenzou just shot!?”

“No, no, no. Logic holds too much sway on your thoughts, Ma-yan. Life’s a lot easier if you don’t allow that. Life with us is, anyway.”

“Aren’t you giving up a little too quickly there? And Mary, how could introducing himself have gotten him shot at?”

“Well.” Mary thought for a moment. “Maybe he is speaking with a very violent person.”

“W-whoaaaa! Nagabuto’s super scaryyyyyyyyyyyyy!”

Wet Man and his sister suddenly stood straight up and raised their voices, prompting Masazumi to raise her fist. Mary placed a hand on her cheek while watching the two of them let out some mock screams and flee.

“Is Master Tenzou okay?”

“Are you that worried?”

“Judge. It is a wife’s duty to worry about her husband when he is fighting on the battlefield. Even when you trust him and yourself, it is times of crisis that draw those things out. It would be better if those times never came, but that is not always possible. So I am worried.”

Everyone exchanged a glance.

“–––––”

And they applauded with straight faces.

She did not really understand why, but she blushed because it felt like they were complimenting her and him.

Then she asked Masazumi a question.

“Does that gunshot mean Master Tenzou’s personal introduction did not work?”

“How is it even possible to be bad at personal introductions?” asked Wet Man.

“W-we must not judge people based on first impressions,” said Adele.

Naruze raised her right hand.

“Isn’t ‘busty blonde’ a first impression?”

“M-Master Tenzou made the right decision, so it worked.”

She responded immediately.


Uqui: “Yeah, it’s kind of hard to misjudge whether or not someone’s a busty blonde based on a first impression.”

Unturning: “So when a certain idiot I know asks people if they are an elder sister, does it mean he does not trust his own judgment?”

Uqui: “Being an elder sister is not a visible trait. It is part of the character profile.”

Flat Vassal: “This just took a weird turn, didn’t it!?”

Gold Mar: “So, uh, what’s Tenzou going to do now, Seijun?”

Vice President: “Hmm, that is a good question.”


“Crossunite.”

Tenzou heard Masazumi’s voice. He was pressed against the wall after leaning back to dodge the bullet and Masazumi’s voice had an admonishing tone to it.

“Listen, Crossunite. I have some advice since you are incapable of saying hello or introducing yourself properly.”

“Wh-why must you make me sound like an incredibly incompetent person!?”

“Just listen, okay? …You need to draw him out with bait.”

“Bait!?”

“Judge,” confirmed Masazumi. “Like money, land, or special privileges. It has to be something we can actually give him of course, but it’s still worth showing him the value of negotiating. I mean, it’s gotta be better than counting on your social skills.”

“Y-you didn’t have to add that last part!”

At any rate, Tenzou got up.

Offer him something, huh!?

Tenzou turned his right side forward and raised his right index finger toward cautious Nagaoka.

“Nagaoka-dono!”

The boy did not respond. He was refusing to give Tenzou any control.

But that was fine. Tenzou had some bait to lure him in.

“Here in my pocket, I have ‘Ero-izu!’ a porn game rated R-Coming-of-Age. I will give it to you if you surrender! As you can tell, the title is a play on words between the name Eloise and all the erotic things that happen in the Izu hot springs over the course of the game! It has the busty blondes I like and the older woman you like! And it even comes with some preserved gator meat from the famous Banana Alligator Park ruins found in Izu!”

Now.

“What do you say!?”


Mary heard a distant gunshot.

“M-Master Tenzou really was shot, wasn’t he!?”

“Ma-yan, you’re getting used to this, aren’t you?”

“And does this mean Crossunite just got shot at for offering some kind of reward? What did he offer?”

“Hmm,” everyone said while hanging their heads, but Mary placed a hand on her chest and spoke.

“D-do not worry! Master Tenzou is…”

Mary was unsure how to phrase this.

She knew firsthand how strong Tenzou was when it really mattered.

He would always act when the time was right.

She wanted a good way to describe that.

She recalled one phrase Tenzou had used to say he had acted too rashly when making a shot in a soccer video game he was playing. He had then showed her how he should have done it. She did not know anything about the culture of video games and she only accompanied Tenzou a bit when he played, but the images on the screen looked like real people and it felt a lot like watching a real game.

The in-game match had been between Scotland and England. He had been playing as Scotland and she belatedly realized that may have been his way of thinking about their future together. But England was a difficult team to beat in the game because an Ex. Caliburn beam would sweep across the pitch when they started to lose. And her sister very well might do that if she got too caught up in the game.

The phrase he had used literally talked about doing something halfway, but she was pretty sure it would mean what she wanted if she changed the “half” to “full”. Far Eastern was a tricky language and she was not entirely sure this was right, but it had to be close.

“Don’t worry!”

She continued once everyone was focused on her.

“Surely you all know how Master Tenzou is.”

She spoke up in order to allay their fears about him.

Yes, he does not go off half-cock.

“He goes full-cock in everything he does.”

“Is he still pulling that crap!?”


Flat Vassal: “What has he been doing in front of Mary-san?”

Wise Sister: “Heh heh heh. He has it really bad. But, Asama! Is there a Shinto divine punishment for this? You know, like pulling your full cock out in public gets you castrated?”

Asama: “Hmm, there are nudists in Shinto mythology, so I don’t think castration would work there. Plus, that would probably apply to Toori-kun as well.”

Vice President: “Wait! That can’t be right! Someone double check!”

Novice: “But the person who brought it up should have to do it. …Okay, go.”


Masazumi stepped forward while everyone stayed silent.

She spread her arms in front of Mary as a welcoming gesture while working to keep a smile.

But the idiot and his sister mimicked her pose behind Mary.

Curse them!

Still, Masazumi put the completion of her job first and foremost.

“Um,” she began while standing in front of Mary. “L-listen. Mary? Umm, it’s about Crossunite.”

“Oh, judge. What about him?”

“Well, uh…so Crossunite was, uh, pulling out his c-c-…well, um.”

She could tell she was blushing and that reaction embarrassed her more than what she was saying.

“H-he really was doing what you said!?”

“Judge!”

She did not hesitate to answer. It was a nice, confident answer. But everyone began whispering behind her.

“I was really hoping we would get more of a chance to enjoy Seijun’s reactions.”

“Either way, what kind of useless politician can’t even say one measly dirty word?”

“Seijun’s not being any fun this time.”

Oh, shut up, all of you!

But Masazumi saw Mary nod in front of her.

“Judge, he showed me what it means to go full-cock.”

And…

“It was while he told me the best way to kick his balls.”


Me: “Wouldn’t that hurt?”

Mar-Ga: “Wait, was he kicking his own or was he having Mary kick them? Which was it, Masazumi?”

Vice President: “Please don’t expect me to ask things like that!!”


Mary was a little confused by how much everyone was whispering.

A thought occurred to her.

“Um, did I get my Far Eastern wrong somewhere?”

“Eh? No, I think you got that all right.”

“Good.” Her shoulders drooped in relief. “I am glad you all understand that Master Tenzou likes to go full-cock. When he did that during the ball-kicking, he would cheer loudly and throw his hands in the air when he won.”

“When Tenzou ‘wins’ while going full-cock, he throws his hands in the air!?”

“Yes. When he puts his balls in the net.”

Everyone froze in place and eventually Ohiroshiki looked asked the others a question.

“Does that mean Tenzou-kun likes wearing fishnet stockings?”

“Shh, quiet. We need to watch and see what happens, Ohiroshiki.”

That reaction worried Mary once more. She had her translation spell turned off, but…

“Um, I really think I might be getting my Far Eastern wrong…”

“No, I don’t think you’ve done anything wrong, Ma-yan. Tenzou’s the one in the wrong here.”

“Master Tenzou is!? What is wrong with him going full-cock?”

It took three long seconds before anyone could say anything. Finally, Naruze commented without looking Mary in the eye.

“That’s love for you, I guess…”

“Yeah. They do say love is blind… She even accepts it when Tenzou goes full-cock…”

She was not quite sure what they meant, but she did enjoy the time she spent with him.

“Maybe so… It is true that he can be really childish and adorable when he goes full-cock like that.”

“Asama, could you look at my foolish brother so warmly if he went full-cock?”

“Well, um, he’s not allowed to be a nuisance to others, hurt people, or do anything that leaves a mark.”

“Man, Tenzou is a lot different than I remember him…”

“Wait, wait,” said Masazumi. She waved a hand toward the others and then turned toward Mary again. “Um,” she began while slapping her flushed cheeks. “Mary? Well? I really don’t think your Far Eastern is wrong.”

“Seijun-kun, which word are you referring to there?”

“Shut up, you! …So. Just a word of warning here. It isn’t wrong, but I do think it’s a little too direct.”

“Direct!? Saying Master Tenzou does things full-cock is too direct a phrasing in Far Eastern?”

“Is it even possible to be more direct than that!?”

“By drawing a picture, obviously.”

Naruze started to demonstrate, but everyone stopped her.

But after a bit, Asama smiled toward the others.

“I know what this is. Mary is from one of the uncensored countries, so she probably doesn’t know how we handle things here.”

“By the way,” added Naito. “We’re about to interact with Sweden, but they’re known as the most extreme nation in Europe when it comes to those things.”

“Gulp…”

“Anyway,” continued Masazumi. “Why did Crossunite start doing that? I would like to know what caused it. He might be a victim of the stressful conditions on the Musashi.”

“Oh, I don’t think he was doing it because of stress.”

Mary was certain about this.

“One day, he said ‘the season has started’ and he has been doing it after dinner ever since.”


Masazumi listened to Mary’s testimony.

“I mean, um, remember when I told you he has been feeling himself down below in the mornings lately?”

“It’s an extension of that!?”

“Judge. So to give himself a change of pace, he used his spending money on what he called a gaming PC. And on the days when he is feeling himself down below in the mornings, he tends to go full-cock playing that in the evenings.”

Uqui: “So he’s just playing with himself all day long, huh?”

Smoking Girl: “Stop having such interesting conversations when I’m about to head into battle.”

I’d call this distracting background noise myself, thought Masazumi. And…

“So he does it a lot, does he?”

“Oh, judge. But, well, it’s more like he started doing it a little bit but has been getting more and more into it.”

“And what do you do during all this, Mary?”

“Judge. At first, I sat next to him and had some tea ready for when he was finished, but he got so worked up with it, it didn’t really seem like the time for tea.”

Silver Wolf: “Yes, that would be an awkward cup of tea.”

“That it would… So what happened then, Mary?”

“Judge,” she said while placing a hand on her cheek and lowering her eyebrows in a troubled look. “I made the mistake of calling out to him when he was trying to focus.”

“Oof. That couldn’t have been fun for him,” said the idiot.

“I-I feel bad because I may have been feeling a little jealous that he was so focused on his activity. And then he got carried away and accidentally kicked his ball really hard.”

All the boys nearly fell to their knees.

But Masazumi asked a question while watching them recover. She wanted to get Mary to continue while staying uninvolved in this topic of conversation herself.

“And what happened then, Mary?”

“Judge. He did manage to recover from there, but I still felt like I had interrupted his fun. And when I told him as much…”

“Yes?”

“Judge.” Mary shook her head with both hands on her cheeks and flowers scattered all around her. “He said, ‘It is true I got a little too focused there, but do know that you were on my mind the entire time, Mary-dono.’ ”


Yoshiyasu ordered them to abandon the landed transport ship while quickly preparing to disembark. But…

“Hm?”

She realized Musashi’s 6th Special Duty Officer, who had put her kiseru in her mouth for “one last smoke”, was breathing in smoke fast enough for the end of the pipe to glow red.

What was that about? Yoshiyasu grew worried when the girl continued inhaling for more than ten seconds.

“Hey, we don’t need to hurry quite that much. Are you trying to get all the smoke inside you now?”

“Don’t say anything,” said the 6th Special Duty Officer while holding out her prosthetic hand’s palm.

While narrowing her eyes, she finally turned to the side and blew out all the smoke. And she spent twice as long exhaling as she had inhaling.

“Hey, are you okay?’ asked Yoshiyasu.

“Hm? Yes, I’m perfectly healthy. It’s sometimes nice to run across a need to smoke like ‘this is so embarrassing I think I would fall over dead if I couldn’t smoke’.”

Is that how it works? wondered Yoshiyasu with a tilt of her head. Then she looked to the sign frame by her hands.

“It’s about time for the next stage. Hurry!”


Mary reached her conclusion while aware the white flowers around her spoke her innermost thoughts.

“Master Tenzou is unbeatable when he goes full-cock. So he will be fine.”

A gunshot rang out.


Tadaoki was irritated.

He was a skilled gunner. He had even earned an inherited name with that skill. It was true he was distracted by the trouble with his wife in that western country, but still…

“Why can’t I hit!?”

For some reason, his bullets would not hit the ninja standing on the wall. And that ninja raised his right index finger.

“Hah ha ha ha! Did you really think your attacks could hit a ninja who has spent his whole life dodging unearned attacks!?”

“Hey, you’ve been jumping and rolling all over that wall! Quit ignoring gravity!”

“Don’t be silly! Are you unfamiliar with the refined culture of triangle jumping and midair triple jumping!?”

The ninja pointed and shouted at Tadaoki.

“As far back as the Age of the Gods, Asian martial artists and Far Eastern ninjas have been allowed to ignore gravity!”


Mar-Ga: “Tenzou.”

10ZO: “Hm? What is it?”

Gold Mar: “Well, I really thought you had proven yourself to be scum on a truly impressive level, but you made yourself look pretty good at the end there. Maybe we should give you a second chance after all.”

10ZO: “Wh-why do I need a second chance!?”

Asama: “Hmm, but we really have Mary to thank for this, don’t we? I mean, just think how crazy Tenzou-kun would have gotten without her.”

10ZO: “I really have no idea what you are talking about!”

Wise Sister: “Cocks! We’re talking about cocks! And not just part of one! Full cocks!”

10ZO: “Now, I know that can’t be true! Tell me the truth already!”

Vice President: “We touched on a subject none of us wants to pursue, so I’ll leave it at this: rethink how you live your life. …Now, then.”

10ZO: “Wh-what was that pause for!? What was it you were talking about!? Tell me!”

Vice President: “Please don’t make me think about that anymore. …Anyway, Crossunite, we have a new strategy for you since you screwed up saying hello, introducing yourself, and gift-giving.”

10ZO: “Can you stop insulting me as a way to start a conversation?”

Vice President: “Calm down. …Now, Mary actually came up with this idea.”

10ZO: “Mary-dono did? What is it?”

Vice President: “…”

10ZO: “Wh-why aren’t you saying anything!?”

Vice President: “It’s well…you know? Um…I guess you could call it a game you play with yourself. Yes, a game. A game that makes you cheer and throw your hands in the air. Yeah, try doing that.”


Tadaoki saw the ninja change the way he moved.

His stance was less stiff now.

“He’s going for it.”

Tadaoki could tell that much. In training and sparring, he had learned what different changes to the atmosphere meant.

This is a duel.

And the ninja spoke.

“Nagaoka-dono.”

“What?”

“Judge,” responded the ninja while crossing his arms and reaching into his pocket. “I challenge you to a match in the soccer game Winning Eleven 48!”

Tadaoki used his voice to fire.


That was a close one!

That shot was especially bad, thought Tenzou while side-flipping out of the way.

He had not expected his video game challenge to be rejected.

“W-wait! Nagaoka-dono, are you the type of person who does not own a game system and whose sign frame is not set up for games!?”

“I prefer watching baseball!!”

That was a fundamental failure! thought Tenzou.

“B-but I already summoned two of the controller sign frames, so how about it? Why not try it out? I am willing to give myself a major handicap.”

“I don’t know the rules! And I know there’s a ton of picky little ones like that you can’t take three steps while holding the ball!”

“You are confusing it with another sport! Besides, the assist mode in Eleven is super helpful, so you’ll be fine! You can just hold down the button and watch your points rack up all on their own!”

Yes. Games these days went a little far in assisting new players. None of his friends were willing to play Eleven with him, so he had been thinking about having Mary do it and finally tried it out the other day.

The way she had linked arms with him while they played had pressed her chest into his arm in the most wonderful way, but the game screen had shown hell itself. He had set all the handicap settings to the setting above “Nightmare” which was called “Apocalypse!”, so the field grew 3km long when he was dribbling the ball, the ball was suddenly filled with iron when he kicked it, breaking his player’s foot, the shots made by Mary’s center were on the level of a warship’s main cannon, and his goal grew 80m wide. The handicaps were definitely on a different level.

The worst part was how Mary-dono’s goal jumped straight up into the air to dodge the ball when I made a shot.

The final score had been 72-to-2 with his 2 points being own-goals on Mary’s part, but she had been the type to move around when she operated the controller sign frame, so…

Her boobs squished against my arm and shook all over the place. Plus, she made the cutest grunts of effort, so it was a good time overall.

He was shot at again.


“N-Nagaoka-dono! Surprise attacks are cheating!”

“Quit wiggling around in midair like that!”

“I was only expressing my emotions! I am a very expressive ninja! Got that!?”

After making that claim, Tenzou took a fighting stance.

Well, despite everything, I have to do this.

He had to win here.

He had wanted to avoid fighting with Nördlingen coming up, but he had no choice. He would do what had to be done and he would achieve the necessary results. That was what it meant to be an officer.

“Now, then.”

He controlled his breathing.

He kept his hips a bit low, but lifted his heels.

He gathered strength in his downward-pointing toes to support himself on the wall. And…

“Bring it!” shouted Nagaoka.

That’s the spirit, thought Tenzou.

This was the same as the boy’s duel against Honjou Shigenaga. That had happened just a few hours before. It had been a painful loss for him, but he had not let it get to him. So…

Judge.

Tenzou thought, This boy named Nagaoka Tadaoki carries within him a version of himself that can continue looking to the future no matter how badly he loses.

It was possible most of the people now known as freshmen were like that. After all, they would all live past the Warring States period and fulfill themselves there.

Which meant…

They can walk the same path as us.

With that thought, Tenzou stepped forward.

The next gunshot signaled the beginning of their battle.


Chapter 43: Considerate Boys Above and Below[edit]

Horizon7B 525.jpg

You should follow the fundamentals

But

How much of this counts as “the fundamentals”?

Point Allocation (Individual Opinions Differ)


Tadaoki saw the ninja running along the wall from a distance of 15 meters.

The ninja would cover that distance in an instant. Tadaoki had fired once at the start, so he only had one shot left. He could reach for another gun, but he did not have time to raise it and aim it.

That said, he had taken the initiative.

He had done so by provoking the ninja with his yell of “bring it”.

When he had fought the Uesugi representative a few hours ago, he had learned just how important it was to take the initiative.

His shout may have been meaningless when they were moving at the same time, but he felt it was surprisingly important to define the order of their actions like that.

After all, he had no combat experience. There were no actual rules governing the order of actions, but it meant a lot to be aware that combat was like running through a list of steps.

His actions and his opponent’s.

That’s a short list.

He had learned in his previous battle that combat was made up of his list and his responses. Even if that was not quite accurate, he wanted to use that as a starting point.

And he had found a definition for himself.

As a sniper, his tactics were generally composed entirely of responses.

He would not have to put together a list of steps for himself.

He decided that was how sniping worked.


“Okay.”

He would not rush things.

He tasked himself with that standard rule of sniping.

He had to watch his enemy’s movements, adjust his aim accordingly, and fire when the time was right.

He already knew when to aim for, so he kept his opponent in the targeting spell, and…

Here he comes.

He had gained this perfect timing by waiting.


Tenzou was impressed by Tadaoki’s decision.

He is not moving!

When approaching, he would generally move side to side. That would divert his opponent’s aim and also shift the timing and positioning of his own attacks.

But when he initially jumped to the right, Tadaoki did not follow.

The boy remained motionless.

Only his eyes glanced at Tenzou’s feet before looking straight ahead again.

His gun was aimed not at where Tenzou had jumped to the right but at a point along the central line of his overall path.

Well done.

There was a distance of 15 meters between them.

Tenzou would travel down the center of that while jumping to the right, back to the center, and then to the left.

He could advance 3 meters with each action, so he could perform 5 actions total before covering the 15 meters.

Those five would be jumping right, returning to the center, jumping left, returning to the center, and jumping right.

But that final jump to the right would place himself alongside his opponent.

That would not work.

When he returned to the center with the 4th action, he had to leap toward his opponent.

So his five actions would actually be jumping right, returning to the center, jumping left, returning to the center, and charging at the enemy.

It would turn out the same if he started from the left. This was one of the standard methods for a ninja to approach their enemy. After all, if you would charge straight at the enemy in the end, you only had to learn how to attack with a head-on charge.

But on that first action, Tadaoki had looked to his feet.

He had likely been checking the distance Tenzou moved.

The wall of the ruins was not made of clearly-defined stone blocks, but it did have panel lines. Using those would make judging the distances easy.

Also, Nagaoka was hiding most of his body behind the roof.

It was like being in a trench. His textbook stance also hid himself behind his rifle.

And he remained motionless like that.

He was a small but sturdy and accurate turret.

It can be hard dealing with someone who follows the fundamentals, thought Tenzou.

Couldn’t he be a little more careless about this?

There were things he could do.

When the enemy was motionlessly reading his movements like Nagaoka here, there was one thing a ninja could use: projectiles.

He could throw a shuriken, a kunai, or a stone picked up from the ground when moving left or right.

That would force his opponent to move and create an opening.

So Tenzou…

Now, then.

…tried it out.

While swinging his body, he dropped a kunai into his right hand from his sleeve and threw it toward Nagaoka.


Nagaoka saw the enemy’s attack.

A kunai!?

The ninja was trying to keep him from sniping.

When he had fought the Uesugi representative, he had been helpless against her long-distance attack.

Since she had used something as a large as a shield, dodging had been the only option that came to mind.

But this was different. It was only a kunai.

He was glad it flew so straight because it flew much like his own bullets. He was used to those straight lines. So…

“––––”

He responded to the kunai thrown by the ninja.

He read its trajectory and caught it with his gun’s muzzle.


Tenzou saw what happened in the instant of the hit.

The Kunai he had thrown was deflected up by Tadaoki’s muzzle. And…

Did he use the edge of the muzzle!?

If it went into the actual hole, it would damage the inside of the barrel and slightly alter the trajectory of the bullets.

But Nagaoka had caught it on the edge of the muzzle.

Sparks flew and the kunai bounced up into the air. However…

“Oh!”

Nagaoka had lifted his gun barrel slightly, but it was accurately targeting Tenzou once more.

He could only see the dark hole at the end of the metal tube.

The boy did not shoot.

This was about deterrence and a show of force.

Nagaoka was saying he could handle any projectile sent his way.

He could read their trajectory and sometimes make a counter shot at the same time.

His response showed he was a projectile expert.

He is very different from before.

In his duel with Honjou Shigenaga, he had started standing up and there had been no cover. That had not been conducive to sniping with his weapon that had a name Neshinbara probably loved.

And more importantly, their respective positions and situations were different this time.

He had cover similar to a trench and he was shooting down from above.

For an elite built up in training, this had to be very similar to what he had trained for. Tenzou’s actions and thrown kunai had to be things he had dealt with countless times while training to be a name inheritor.

I see.

I see, repeated Tenzou.

This boy was inexperienced, but he was strong once he was in his element.

He was faithful and diligent. We don’t have many people like that in our class, realized Tenzou.

This would not be easy, but Tenzou was trying to behave in the same way: true to the fundamentals.

He chose to continue jumping side to side. He jumped right, returned to center, and then…

Let’s see what happens when I go with the standard move.

With that he moved to produce his standard technique.


Nagaoka saw his enemy disappear.

Huh!?

The ninja had vanished.

The ninja had been jumping side to side in a standard feint, but just as he returned to center from the right…

“–––––”

He disappeared.

Where is he? Nagaoka wondered in surprise. That showed just how inexperienced he was. He only had the textbook knowledge inside him and he knew his confusion came from having to rely on that.

But, he corrected himself. This enemy is trying to get me to surrender.

In that case, the enemy’s disappearance could not be to run away or defend.

It was an attack.

The enemy had vanished in order to attack him.

And…

“Kh…”

He had a renewed awareness of the fact that this was an “enemy”.

This was not a sparring partner who wanted to see who could beat who.

This person was trying to defeat and control him.

If he lost, he would be taken to the Musashi group. Which would mean…

I can go to Nördlingen.

But that did not please him.

Why not was obvious.

I haven’t done what I can do yet!

Nabeshima really was a natural leader. They had only spoken for a few minutes in that corridor on the Toba Castle, yet she had firmly placed a collar around his neck.

He could not run away without first doing what he could.

He had managed to assist the other Hashiba forces as they withdrew from the bridge, but he had something else to do as a Hashiba warrior right now.

“So I’ll do it!”

He had to defeat this enemy in front of him.

And just as he refilled his lungs with air, the enemy arrived.

The ninja appeared on the right side of the wall.

No.

He did indeed appear there, but not just there.

Another identical ninja appeared on the left side of the wall.

It was a copy.

This was a standard ninja technique while also being referred to as a secret technique.


Tenzou did not hold back after nailing his tactic.

This boy was definitely an expert. He could not display that expertise quite yet, but after fighting a few battles, he was sure to improve.

After all, he was diligent and he had solid fundamentals. Plus, he could think about how to respond to new and unknown things. Also…

He has definitely improved his ability to respond to the unexpected since his battle with Shigenaga-dono!

He was growing.

So, thought Tenzou.

I must bring him back with me!

Tenzou understood the boy’s situation.

Nördlingen. A doomed wife. Positions on opposite sides of a conflict.

Tenzou had been in a similar situation once.

Of course, he and the boy were not the same. If he sympathized with and claimed to understand the boy, it would only come off as condescending. But…

“Judge!”

Taking this boy with him would help save a life and that was a positive thing.

That was not sympathy or personal feelings.

It was a fact.

So he would not hold back He had decided to do everything he could to ensure that fact.

He exhaled.

The copy technique he was using here was not the physical copies that Takigawa had used against Mitotsudaira. This was a virtual technique.

Physical copies were used to get a barrage in against enemies with superior defenses or evasive abilities, but they were fairly meaningless against a sniper who did neither. So he had selected a virtual copy that let him attack without taking damage himself.

This was part of the fundamentals.

Tenzou inhaled while disappeared.

The virtual copy technique made copies of yourself by hiding your body while moving and revealing it while stopped. It required moving his entire body to immediately switch between stop and go, so breathing was an important part of keeping himself in motion.

Inhaling filled his body with strength, but it slowed his movements. So he let out his breath and strength before moving.

That was the trick to the fundamental copy technique. And if he did it right…

“–––––”

He could do this.

He started out with two.

But, he thought. It would be silly to think this is enough to count as fundamental.

He was not a name inheritor himself, so he had to use everything he had if he was going to face one.

And more importantly…

That was quite impressive.

He was thinking about the P.A. Oda Leader named Takigawa Ichimasu.

The physical copy technique she had used was on a higher level than what he was doing here.

He could only create two or three copies for about 5 seconds.

But Takigawa had created five and fought a lengthy battle. Plus, her battle against Mitotsudaira had likely been her second one.

Nagaoka would know that powerful woman had been on his side.

So Tenzou could not half-ass this.

Takigawa had left. He could not act as a replacement for her, but as Musashi’s 1st Special Duty Officer…

“I accept your challenge.”

Tenzou moved forward.

By repeating the fundamentals, his numbers passed 30.


Tadaoki felt like he was surrounded.

That was partially due to the distance between them dropping below 10 meters, but it was also due to the great number of enemies who seemed to be leaping toward him to knee him instead of just dashing toward him.

What do I do!?

They were virtual images, but these copies were still afterimages of the real one. They were not made of ether by a spell.

But his Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry was currently in sniper mode and it was too late to use the other one now.

He knew the textbook answer was to blow away the virtual images.

Virtual copies were made by moving back and forth at high speed while stopping, so to prevent that…

“Will this work!?”

Tadaoki took action.

This was only an idea he had and it was not found in any of his textbooks or training lessons, but…

This has to be the right way to handle this!

He separated his rifle’s firing mechanism from the barrel, pressed the firing mechanism against the wall, and…

“I set it off.”

He used his voice to fire.


What erupted on the ruins wall was not so much the bullet as the compressed explosion of the spell gunpowder used to fire it.

The boy used a combination of actual gunpowder and a spell charm. To increase the explosive force and stability, the attack functioned like a shockwave gun at extreme short ranges and it would reflect and scatter if it hit a wall.

He tried to pull his left arm back with the barrel to avoid the strength of the recoil, but he was a little slow.

The shockwave tore his left sleeve and his arm was knocked upwards by the hit.

But he did not let go of his barrel.

Instead, the energy scattered across the wall. There was a deafening sound as the bursting of the air became energy that carved into his surroundings.

The result was undeniable.

All of the ninja’s copies wavered.


Tadaoki viewed the enemy with his full field of vision.

I can tell which ones are the copies!

The copies were made while moving and they were always thinking of how they would move next. So when the shock hit them, they were hit on the way to their next move and were shaken.

The ones that shook were the afterimages.

But one did not shake. That one was at the leading edge of the movement and had moved past the shockwave.

“So it’s you.”

Tadaoki saw someone to his left swinging a short sword down toward him.

That one individual was not shaken by the shockwave.

That’s the one!!

The blade came toward him while he reacted. The falling strike dropped the tip of the blade vertically toward him from above.

So Tadaoki dodged.

He used his left arm. His left elbow and forearm had hopped up from the shockwave.

He used that movement to spin his body to the right as if rolling his waist along the edge of the roof.

A moment later, the blade being swung down from the left stabbed into the roof’s edge.

I avoided it!

He was now nearly lying on his back, so he moved again.

He slammed the rifle in his hands against his hip hard point and grabbed the other one he had prepared.

He would not have had time to shoot if the enemy had made a charge, but he had time now.

By flipping himself over, the enemy was now to his right.

He looked that way and saw his enemy there on the wall where all those copies had disappeared.

The ninja had carelessly stabbed the short sword into the roof’s edge there, and…

“Huh?”

There was no ninja there.

There was simply a short sword stabbed into the roof’s edge.


What?

Don’t let it surprise you, Tadaoki told himself.

What he saw here was not a lie. It was very much the truth.

The multiple copies were gone now and he had seen the unwavering ninja swinging down that short sword. However…

What is this?

He only saw the short sword there now. It must have been swung down with a lot of force because it remained standing while the hilt vibrated a little.

The edge of the roof the blade had pierced looked white even at night.

Tadaoki realized something now that he viewed the roof’s edge: there was no footprint from the ninja landing there.

Which meant…

“It was an optical illusion!?”

The ninja had used one trick beyond the copies. He had snuck a different kind of “copy” within the many virtual ones and sent that toward the boy.

It could perhaps be called an act. By manipulating the movement of that one object, he had made it look like someone was holding and controlling it.

When Tadaoki had seen the blade falling among the many copies, he had first reacted to it.

And while the other copies were shaken, the unshaken short sword had created the optical illusion of there being an “unshaken wielder” holding it.

It was an optical illusion copy.

That optical illusion had been hidden within the many virtual images. The proof was right in front of him.

Damn!

The ninja had used Tadaoki’s hope for how his attack would turn out.

He got me!

Where was the enemy?

“He must be…”

“I am here.”

The voice came from behind him.

It came from the wall just short of reaching the roof’s edge. Tadaoki was lying on his back looking up at the night sky from the edge, so this put the ninja right behind his head while pressed against the wall.

Are you serious!?

Tadaoki finally understood what his enemy had done.

The enemy had used the copies and the optical illusion, but at the same time…

“He remained ‘vanished’!?”


He understands this well, thought Tenzou.

It was true he had remained vanished.

It had begun when he disappeared after the initial feint.

He had used a simple stealth technique then.

He had made it look like he was quickly moving side to side and instead flattened himself against the wall.

Getting down on the ground was the most fundamental of stealth techniques.

But after the obvious feint, he had suddenly done something else.

The copies.

His copy technique had been a fundamental virtual one. He had produced a lot of them, but his intent had been to hide himself crawling along the wall to reach Tadaoki. The following short sword optical illusion had been done by stabbing the sword into the edge using the final swing of his hand in his crawl.

He had done nothing exceptionally out of the ordinary. But…

“I will be taking you with me.”

Tenzou had already made his next move.

He grabbed his spare scarf and caught Tadaoki’s neck with it from the wall.


Tadaoki resisted.

He was on his back at the edge of the roof facing the heavens. At this rate, the scarf thrown from the wall and around his neck would be pulled down so it tightened around his neck.

He would not let that happen.

He stuck his hand between the tightening scarf and his neck to avoid the constriction.

His right hand held one of the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry. He canceled rifle mode to transform it into a gun chain sword.

At this close range, he was bound to hit. He had to aim back over his shoulder, but…

I’ll do it!

Tadaoki raised the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry to aim at the ninja on the wall.

He was firing blind over his shoulder, but the ninja was on the wall and close enough to reach him via the scarf.

He would not miss. And he had decided this was what he had to do.

He prepared to fire.

The key to firing the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry was his voice, so he opened his mouth.

“––––”

But no voice came.

It was the scarf.

He had tried to protect his carotid artery by slipping his fingers below the scarf, but it was not enough.

The ninja’s constriction had caught his windpipe.


Kh!

Tadaoki felt himself panicking.

He belatedly understood why the enemy had used that scarf.

It was not to kill or defeat him. It was to neutralize him.

It was to keep him from using his voice to fire.

This meant the ninja had perfectly predicted his actions and acted accordingly.

Damn.

But Tadaoki raised his voice. The scarf had already pulled him to the edge of the roof and he was essentially plastered to it, but he opened his jaws wide.

He cleared his throat and shouted.

And his voice did make it through.

“Kah…”

It was only a distorted breath thanks to the pressure on his throat.

Not even he recognized it as his own voice and it was not actually saying anything.

It was no more than a cough that caught in his throat. And…

Eh?

He realized his legs were rising from the roof.

He had been pulled to the edge of the roof as if he were being hanged and now his hips were lifting up to rotate through the air.

“–––––”

He was thrown into the air with his neck as the pivot point.

It was a neck throw.

And he heard a voice as he was launched into the empty air.

“I will not let you surrender.”

“Wha-!?”

Why not? wondered Tadaoki. Isn’t that why you’re here?

But the enemy had more to say.

“It would be better if you ‘died’ here.”


Tenzou thought back to the past as he threw Tadaoki from the wall.

This was the same thing that had once happened to someone important to him.

They had “died” and renewed themselves. But this “death” was not to eliminate yourself. It was to renew yourself while carrying the past with you.

Perhaps you could call it a purification.

Tenzou doubted this boy understand that yet, but he spoke quietly to him as he fell toward the ether forest spread out below the darkness of the night.

“You did find some success, Nagaoka-dono.”

Tenzou slapped his left shoulder while still plastered to the wall.

Something sprayed into the night from that shoulder.

It was blood from the wound received from the bullet Nagaoka had fired earlier.

“Nagaoka Tadaoki injured Musashi’s 1st Special Duty Officer for a draw.”

With that, Tenzou looked down where the boy had fallen.

He took a breath, scratched his head, and stood up on the wall.

“I am no good at this preachy stuff.”

He opened a sign frame.

10ZO: “Hey, Mitotsudaira-dono? If possible, could you retrieve Nagaoka-dono with a Silver Chain?”

Silver Wolf: “I already caught him. And the Hashiba side captured that footage. …Word must be spreading among them that Nagaoka Tadaoki was taken out by our 1st Special Duty Officer throwing him off a tower by the neck. Also…”

10ZO: “Also?”

Scarred: “Master Tenzou! You were injured, weren’t you!? H-hurry down so I can heal you!”

It felt like so long since Mary had gone out of her way to speak to him. But…

Still Got It: “Oh, dear. But he will be fine as long as he is in my forest. My allies will be given a divine protection to quickly heal them.”

Scarred: “N-no!”

Mary raised her voice but quickly realized what that meant.

Scarred: “Oh, w-well, I mean, I am not saying I do not want Master Tenzou’s wound healed. But, um…”

Gold Mar: “Ma-yan’s super passionate today.”

Mar-Ga: “Are we about to see a battle between the great spirit of fear and a descendent of the great spirit that supports England?”

“Well, uh,” said Tenzou.

10ZO: “I will perform first aid on myself before climbing down, so could you help clean up the wound once I arrive, Mary-dono?”

Scarred: “J-judge! I can do that, Tenzou-do-…Master Tenzou!”

He could vividly imagine the looks on everyone else’s faces down there. But…

“Mission complete.”

He said that while a mass of metal came into view in the western sky.

It was a small transport ship. The one stopped at the eastern entrance of the great ruins was ascending in order to pick everyone up from the bridge. Which meant…

“The Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay mission has been cleared!”


“Reine des Garous.”

Narumi spoke to the person standing on the front line while her sign frame displayed information on the impending pickup by the small transport ship.

An ether forest covered the 50m-wide bridge from one end to here. The Reine des Garous had moved out ahead while everyone else hid behind the slope and other cover to see what the enemy would do.

If anything happened, they would move out to deal with it.

But they could not carelessly head out and provoke the enemy.

“Reine des Garous.”

Narumi quietly called out that name once more.

“I am sure you can drive back the entire enemy front line on your own, but please do not provoke them too much.”

“Testament. The enemy unit in front of me still has a small fighting force remaining if you include the gathered survivors. I do hope they give up because I am here, but it would also be a problem if they stay here or leave to attack the Satomi forces.”

The woman understood the situation well. But…

Silver Wolf: “Mother, does that mean you will be staying here!?”

Still Got It: “Nate? If you are feeling lonely, I can run to you immediately after the Satomi Liberation. I can manage that if I refuel twice with your father while on our feet. Oh, or in an abandoned building if we can find one.”

Silver Wolf: “Mother? It would be an international incident if a Vice Chancellor ran across national borders.”

What if I did it? wondered Narumi.

Everything is like that recently.

Probably because she was not acting with a focus on herself. She realized anew that she worked best on the battlefield.

“Narumi, what is it? Do you want to eat some yakisoba?”

“That is quite a wild guess, but if anything, I feel more like some chicken toshomen.”

Oh, but…

“When we get back, I will probably want curry.”

“So we’ll need some curry yakisoba and curry chicken toshomen.”

“You want to eat all that before going to sleep?”

“Then that’ll be breakfast.”

“That does sound nice.”

The Musashi Vice Chancellor was giving her a look like that was the best idea she had ever heard, but she decided not to think about what that meant. And…

“Um, excuse me!”

A voice reached them from across the bridge. The person who approached with a raised hand was the Hashiba freshmen named Kani. She pointed toward the tower ruins visible through the forest.

“What are you going to do with Oky-kun!? Are you taking him prisoner!?”


Chapter 44: Landowner on the Bridge[edit]

Horizon7B 553.jpg

I thought I had

Grown up enough

To simply feel exasperated

Point Allocation (Memory)


Tenzou saw the small transport ship approaching above the ether forest from the west.

He was on the ruins wall attaching a first aid charm to his left shoulder, but now he was thinking about what Kani had said.

“What are we going to do with Nagaoka-dono?”

He placed a hand on his chin because Mitotsudaira had already collected Nagaoka with a Silver Chain.

The boy would be unconscious and safely down in the forest, but…

We can’t let them find out we are taking that boy to Nördlingen.

Bringing Inadome Sukenao to the site of the attack on the Nagaoka estate was their pretext for going there.

But he was currently working for Hashiba.

It would be trouble if it was found out they were using another nation’s warrior without permission.

We should have gone through the defection procedures in advance.

He did not know what Nagaoka himself wanted, but making him part of Musashi would have been best for avoiding trouble on both sides.

That was why their best bet now was to keep their capture of Nagaoka a secret and have him defect once he came to.

Of course, defecting meant leaving Hashiba. He would be at least temporarily cutting his ties with his family and friends, so it was unclear what he intended himself. Which meant…

“That is a difficult question to answer.”

It was somewhat similar to when Mary had defected to Musashi.

But Mary had done it because the history recreation put her in danger if she stayed in England.

Things were different for Nagaoka. He was defecting to keep his wife out of danger.

How will that difference affect things?

Curious, Tenzou tried asking via divine transmission.

10ZO: “Toori-dono.”

Me: “Wh-what is it, Tenzou-do-…Master Tenzou?”

10ZO: “That is so very creepy.”

Me: “Huh!? What’s with you, Tenzou!? I went to the effort of doing my Mary impression for no real reason, so why are you calling Mary creepy!? Well!?”

10ZO: “Mary-dono is fantastic. I was calling you and only you creepy, Toori-dono. Only you.”

Me: “Stop driving the point hoooooooooome!!”

10ZO: “Now, Toori-dono, what are we going to do with Nagaoka-dono?”

“Well,” cheerfully replied the idiot.

Me: “I was thinking of coloring it blue this time.”


Wise Sister: “Heh heh. Foolish brother! I had a feeling you would say that, so your wise sister brought some sky blue and mint blue ink! Feel free to use them! And make sure to thank me!”

Me: “Ohh! You’re incredible, sis! I dunno how exactly that makes you wise, but doesn’t Dick and Mint sound like a song title!? Doesn’t it sound kinda bubbly!? Is it about bringing carbonation into the bedroom!?”

Wise Sister: “Heh heh. It does sound kind of techno-y, doesn’t it! But come to think of it, Dick and Herb sounds kind of like a cough drop, so you’ll be apologizing to those Swiss dick candies now, won’t you!?”

Uqui: “Now you’re just equating dicks with herbs, aren’t you?”

Vice President: “And just to be clear, Switzerland isn’t fully independent yet.”

10ZO: “Hey!”

Me: “Huh!? What is it, Tenzou!? Feeling lonely!? Wanna come join us!? Hm?”

10ZO: “I will report all of this to Horizon-dono later.”

Me: “Okay, everyone, stooooop! Yes, yes, no crossing this white line.”


Tenzou saw the divine network suddenly grow quiet.

Me: “So what color did you have in mind, Tenzou?”

10ZO: “You haven’t learned a thing, have you!?”

Me: “Huh!? Even if Horizon’s standing in front of me with fist at the ready, I’ve got Asama and Nate on my side and I’m ready to try out a prostration!”

Asama: “Oh, Toori-kun, if you’re looking for comfort, make sure it’s after you’ve been hit. It wouldn’t make much sense otherwise.”

Silver Wolf: “That sounds like a problem between you and Horizon. And if I got involved, Horizon’s arms would probably attack me for allowing you to use my prototype products.”

Me: “Is anyone on my side!? Anyone at all!? B-but, Tenzou! You’ve never been punched by Horizon, have you!? Heh hehh! Bet you’re jealous! I win this round! Take that, loser!”

I never knew a human being could be so pathetic, thought Tenzou while actually feeling impressed, but Mitotsudaira said more from down below.

Silver Wolf: “Anyway, it would be best to have something I can use to support the Nagaoka boy while lifting him onto the transport ship with my Silver Chain.”

What could she use for that?

Maybe I could descend into the forest and throw together a stretcher or basket out of branches.

But just as he considered that, he heard the Reine des Garous’s voice.

Still Got It: “Heh heh. In that case, Nate, I have recreated my home in the forest, so you can go there. The things there are only ether reproductions, but they should last until you have him in the transport ship.”


Mother can actually be useful from time to time, realized Mitotsudaira.

She needed something to carry the Nagaoka boy.

Silver Wolf: “Mother, what is inside your home in this recreation of the past?”

Still Got It: “Good question. This is a recreation of shortly after your father and I spent a very fulfilling 24 days together starting in the front garden. Nate, do not fix the bed, okay?”

Silver Wolf: “S-so we’re just starting with that kind of thing!? Anyway, is there anything we could carry the Nagaoka boy on? It only has to be about the size of a tatami mat.”

“Good question,” repeated the mother wolf on the sign frame.

Still Got It: “If you go into the kitchen – take a right after walking in the front door – and you will find a pile of straw in the storage space in the back. Move that straw and you should find it.”

Silver Wolf: “Find what? A stretcher or something? Did you use it to rescue father?”

Still Got It: “Yes, you will find a tatami-sized slice of bacon taken from a giant elk.”

Silver Wolf: “How is that a ‘yes’!? And what kind of mother recreates some absurdly large bacon as part of her memories!?”

Still Got It: “Nate, what memory is more precious than some delicious meat?”

Mitotsudaira started to think that was a good point, but shook her head instead.

She had found the house in question and it was in front of her now.

The ether forest looked just like the forest around her mother’s house. The growth of the trees was different, but she could still recognize it as the forest she had seen when pursuing her mother from IZUMO.

She placed Nagaoka in a small boat made from the Silver Chains and pulled that boat with what remained of the chains.

The small transport ship was approaching overhead.

The small boat used a lot of the Silver Chains, so she could not lift the boy with it. So…

I hoped I could find something else to use.

She found herself at her mother’s house.

That candy house looked identical to the one she had seen in the present.

“It may have had more chocolate back then, though.”

The orange tree in the garden was shorter than when she had seen it. And…

Mother was right. It does seem to be shortly after that.

A Silver Chain obelisk stood in the garden. It was larger than the ones Mitotsudaira had and the attached chain supplier was also quite large.

Mitotsudaira’s could be combined with her combat dress and hard point parts, but this older one was made to form the tall silhouette of a proper obelisk.

This had to be its original, stationary form.

Hers must have been slimmed down to make it portable.

“That makes sense given the Silver Chain’s origins.”

The weapon had originally been used to bind and execute an angel.

It had originally been a stationary object placed on the execution ground instead of a portable weapon.

From the looks of this, the obelisk containing the chain’s ether metal is the main item and the chain supplier is altered for each generation or user.

She tugged with her fingers to stop her Silver Chains from showing too much interest in the reproduced obelisk.

Studying my weapon here would not accomplish much.

If necessary, she could always visit her mother’s house again and look into it there.

Something else mattered now.

Silver Wolf: “Mother, is there maybe a bucket large enough to hold someone?”

If so, would it be by the faucet or watering hole?

She did not know.

Her visit during the IZUMO battle had been her first, so it might as well have been a stranger’s house.

But when she peeked in through a window, she could see the inside of the house switching between a few different scenes.

The figures in the scenes were her parents.

It was hard to tell since they only appeared as shadows, but she could spy on the two of them studying together, playing musical instruments together, and viewing the same signe cadre together.

They really do get along well.

They were a feudal lord and a Loup-Garou – the hunter and the hunted. Her mother had often told her the story and it had even been made into a song. Yes, I used to sing it a lot without knowing what it was about and, now that I have gotten over my issues with that, I have learned to sing the remake in karaoke using my own personal style. But…

“–––––”

The scenes of those two would appear and disappear.

Something occurred to her whenever she saw one of those memories or felt their presence.

I’ve never really seen mother and father like this.

They were a feudal lord and the Reine des Garous.

How did that differ from a king and a wolf knight?

Her mother circled behind her father and embraced him from behind. They were watching a signe cadre.

“…”

They both scooted back the chair her father was sitting in, so they were probably watching something surprising or a horror show. Her mother pushed the chair back forward with her father in it and they were clearly laughing together.

I see.

Mitotsudaira thought, Maybe I could be that close to my king.

Still Got It: “Nate.”

Silver Wolf: “Eh!? Oh, yes, wh-what is it!?”

Still Got It: “Circle around behind the kitchen. You should find a large bucket I used when butchering my prey.”

Silver Wolf: ‘You want me to carry someone in a blood bucket?”

Still Got It: “It is only made of ether at the moment. And purifying the unclean instead of fearing it is how you do things in Shinto, isn’t it?”

Asama: “How very knowledgeable of you, Mito’s mom! Shinto has no trouble with an adherent who holds another religion, so if your daily impurities are bothering you, please come to me! I can introduce you to the Mitsumine or Kinoyama Shrines since they worship wolf gods!”

Silver Wolf: “Why are you butting in to give a Shinto sales talk!?”

In a way, she appreciated that her mother only said “my, my’ and did not directly refuse the offer.

It was nice to have that kind of leeway. But…

“Oh.”

Behind the kitchen was where she and the others had removed the house’s candy materials when they visited before, so she pulled the Silver Chains along while circling behind there.

This has to be it.

A large bucket was leaning up against the wall next to the kitchen entrance. She felt like she had seen it there when visiting before, but she may have been inventing the memory.

At any rate, she grabbed it with the Silver Chains and lay Nagaoka Tadaoki inside it.

That completes my mission.

Just as she thought that, she saw something there.

Something large and silver was leaning against the side of the shed. It had likely been used to drive the obelisk into the ground.

It was the Silver Cross.

“It’s so big.”

It looked the same as it did now. Since it was her mother’s personal weapon, there must not have been any need to remake it.

But when Mitotsudaira moved her gaze again, she saw something else there.

“Argent Clou?”


Two cross towers were leaning against the shed alongside the Silver Cross.

They were Argent Clou.

That was the weapon Kasuya Takenori had been using before. But…

“They’re shaped differently.”

That realization did not even require a close inspection. These were not made to open up and they were a size bigger.

They likely only functioned as weapons to drive in the nail spikes. They could not produce claws or become a shield.

They looked similar, but there were different.

Silver Wolf: “Mother.”

Still Got It: “Nate, I take it you noticed.”

“Judge,” confirmed Mitotsudaira.

Silver Wolf: “It would have been hard not to notice this.”

Still Got It: “Yes, anyone with half a brain would have noticed. …Noticed that your father managed to take the dominant position even if for a short time. Oh, but it was only for 12 turns out of a total of 480 turns.”

Silver Wolf: “You were doing it that much!?”

Still Got It: “Don’t be silly, Nate. It was those 12 turns he stole from me that gave us you.”

Mitotsudaira realized that continuing this conversation was a no-win scenario, so she changed the subject.

Silver Wolf: “Kasuya Takenori’s Argent Clou were here, weren’t they?”

Still Got It: “Testament. She was such an energetic girl. So what’s this about her weapon?”

Silver Wolf: “I found something similar at your house.”

Still Got It: “Come to think of it, those were there.”

That confirmed it, so Mitotsudaira decided to ask about it.

Silver Wolf: “These seem to be different weapons since the shape and function are fairly different, but is equipment like this common among the Loup-Garous?”

She heard her mother groan in thought and she could easily picture the woman holding a finger to her lips.

Still Got It: “To be honest, I don’t really know.”

Her mother readily gave up.

Still Got It: “Our silver equipment was acquired during my mother’s generation. They were made by modifying the silver execution tools recovered from Joan of Arc’s execution site during the war between England and Hexagone Française. We are from the queen family which was in charge of the left wing of the Hexagone Française army at the time, so we would have had the authority to claim them.”

Silver Wolf: “You have never heard of any others?”

Still Got It: “The European forests had already been split up by my generation. Most of the Loup-Garous had scattered and I am not familiar with those who live in distant forests, even if I am technically their queen. …I am not familiar with that black-haired Loup-Garou or her family.”

“I see,” muttered Mitotsudaira while viewing that ether reproduction of the past.

The Silver Chains here had been used to restrain her mother for some bonda-…well, to tie her up. The Silver Cross must have been used to drive the obelisk into the ground.

Silver Wolf: “What did you use Argent Clou for?”

Still Got It: “That would only shame your father, so I am not saying a thing.”

Oh.

If her father had not brought a “stake” with him, she would have told him to use that.

Had her father realized that?

Or was he still oblivious?

She did not know.

But something else bothered her now.

Silver Wolf: “Mother, are those weapons still at your house?”

Still Got It: “Hmm. I think I threw them in the shed.”

You could treat them more carefully than that.

Silver Wolf: “What if someone stole them?”

Still Got It: “Not to worry. I cast a native punishment spell on them. Are you curious what it does, Nate?”

Silver Wolf: “No, I’ve heard more than enough of that from Shinto.”

But Mitotsudaira said more.

Silver Wolf: “How about I go check on them during summer break?”

Still Got It: “Would you do that for me, Nate? …Oh, I just had an idea. I can ask your king to go too, so you can visit together.”

Now you’re just asking for trouble!!

That made her nervous.

Her mother said nothing and an odd silence fell, so the woman was definitely contacting her king.

Her king would probably have to speak with Horizon before making a decision.

S-so he won’t have an answer for me until then.

Me: “Okay, Nate, let’s go visit your maman’s candy house during summer break or something. I’d love to make some jam while we’re there.”

Silver Wolf: “W-wait, my king!? Don’t you have to ask Horizon!?”

Me: “Don’t make it sound like Horizon completely controls my liiiiife! Plus, this is a request from your maman. It’s true the spot by my side belongs to Horizon, but if I couldn’t do anything without speaking with her first, we’d still be parallel. So we’re definitely going. I’ll tell Horizon about it later of course, but that won’t change that we’re going. That’s how these things work.”

Mitotsudaira paused but eventually nodded.

He could not see her, but she still nodded.

Silver Wolf: “I-if you are going, then I will accompany you.”

If her king was going, then Horizon would too. What about Tomo and Kimi? And most likely, all those other weirdos would come too.

That will be hell on earth.

At least it sounded like there would be plenty to eat. Would there still be any of that giant elk bacon? In fact, she started to picture it as something like a summer vacation camp.

Wh-why am I incapable of imagining anything remotely resembling a knightly romance!?

Was it her personality, the habits she had formed, or just Musashi’s culture? Whatever the case, she doubted it would ever change. And…

“Ah.”

The small transport ship had arrived overhead.

She had to withdraw from here too.

She could see a hook lowered from the transport ship by a towing belt.

While attaching Nagaoka Tadaoki’s bucket to that and letting it lift him into the air, she suddenly looked to the side.

Her parents’ memories were being recreated inside the candy house.

Those are precious memories for the two of them.

And she saw something else through the window. She had attached a Silver Chain to the towing belt hook, so this was the last of her mother’s memories she would see before she left.

She saw herself there.

This was from the other day when she had met with her mother in the morning and eaten breakfast in the candy house.

Her king had cooked and served it.

The image of her there was blatantly wary of and hostile toward her mother.

Nevertheless, that scene was replayed here via shadows.

Mother.

She had felt defeated by her mother so many times before, but this may have been the worst of them all.

“Honestly. And I know you’re going to do or say something five seconds from now to make me reconsider how I’m feeling about you.”

Mitotsudaira spoke to herself while rising up and out of her mother’s forest.

“I will take this as a lesson. Instead of making more and more enemies, I will view everything through the lens of happiness.”


Kani saw Musashi’s small transport ship approaching.

She had been watching it for a while now and one thing had caught her attention.

Just before it passed the ruined tower, it had picked up something like a bucket and the Musashi 5th Special Duty Officer from the forest.

Was Oky-kun inside that!?

She wanted to prevent an acquaintance from being taken prisoner. For a name inheritor, being carelessly captured could be seen as enough to lose that inherited name.

As his upperclassman…no, as a local acquaintance, she spoke up.

“Excuse me! What was that bucket just now!?”

The Reine des Garous turned her way after using a horizontal karate chop to slice through a tree growing from the ground. She sat on the 2m-wide stump and held her knees diagonally together.

“That was my bucket.”

“That’s not what I meant!”

“Then I will be more precise.” The Reine des Garous nodded. “That is my home’s family bucket of which I hold ownership.”

“Th-that’s the same thing!” Kani tried to use the right Far Eastern word. “Um, what is that bucket’s true identity!?”

“Well, it is an S-size wooden cooking bucket made of ether.”

“That’s the S-size!?”

“Yes, when butchering even bigger animals, it is faster to just do it out in the yard.”

“Really!?” she asked, prompting Kasuya to wordlessly slap her on the shoulder. “But that isn’t the point! What is that bucket for!?”

“Well, if you insist.” The Reine des Garous placed a hand on her cheek and laughed. “It is for cooking.”

We’re going backwards! realized Kani. It felt like taking two steps forward and three back.

What do I do!? she wondered until a divine transmission arrived.

Asano: “At thiiis point, you should realllly just ask her directly, Kani-saaan.”

Asano apparently knew what was happening here, so Kani did as she suggested. She directly asked the question on her mind.

“What do you cook using that!?”

Kasuya placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Wait, no!”

“Oh, dear. That’s too bad.”

Um! she thought while choosing her words.

“Is Oky-kun in that bucket!?”

“My, my.” The Reine des Garous tilted her head. “You are a sharp one, aren’t you? No, he is not.”


Gold Mar: “Did she just admit it and then deny it immediately after?”

Silver Wolf: “Exactly what I was thinking! Like, word for word!”

Asama: “Mito, I really think you should just give up with these sorts of things.”


“Besides,” Kani heard the Reine des Garous saying. “Listen up. My forest is spread out before your eyes. …Hee hee. That sounds kind of dirty, doesn’t it? But that aside, all of this belongs to me, doesn’t it?”

“Testament! It does!”

“Testament,” the woman agreed. And, “A moment ago, Musashi’s ninja threw a boy into my forest from that ruined tower, didn’t he?”

“Yes! That was Oky-kun!”

“Then,” said the Reine des Garous. “Anything that falls into my territory belongs to me.”


Laborer: “Hey, Mitotsudaira?”

Silver Wolf: “Qu-questioning it is what she wants!”

10ZO: “Also, isn’t she pretty much admitting that we picked up Nagaoka-dono?”


“W-wait just a second!” said Kani. “The Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay are public ruins! You created that forest here without permission, so any ownership and management rights of the forest are null and void!”

“Kani? I am impressed you know that,” said Kasuya.

“My family works in the city market and the competition over space there is fierce! And my family became one of the regional leaders this year, which just makes it all the more trouble!”

Even when territory was clearly mapped out, there was always some loophole in the rules governing the right to open a store. A few different people took turns as the Commerce and Industry Guild Representative who managed that, but her hometown was a region where the distribution and flow of money were solidly entrenched. That meant the representative was required to supervise those things and provide support for any festivals while getting very little in return. She knew her parents had tried to avoid that.

But it turned out they’d held the position less than anyone else, so the others forced them to do it!

She had heard them discussing it while handling the related paperwork after dinner.

So she used the knowledge she had gotten from them.

“Your claim here was made without authorization, so it is null and void!”

“But I have effective control of this place. It essentially belongs to me.”

“Eh!? No fair! Please give it back!”

“Hm, but I only need it for the one night, so I will return it tomorrow morning.”

“Eh!? Really!?”

“Testament. And one other thing. Do you have a festival or another public event you must hold here before tomorrow morning?”

“No, I don’t!”

“Then,” she said. “There are no public problems with me holding effective control of this place until then, right? I mean, my effective control should have gone unnoticed and caused no one any trouble. You are only lodging this complaint because you just so happened to notice my effective control. And even if you are legally correct, your complaint is essentially meaningless, don’t you think? I mean, it began without anyone noticing and it will end without anyone noticing.”

“When you put it like that, I guess so!”

Kasuya placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Wait, no! That place legally belongs to everyone! Please hand it over!”

“Then how about this?”

The Reine des Garous made a suggestion.

The fog rising around her took the form of wolves.

Everyone on the Hashiba side prepared for a fight, but the wolves paid them no heed. The pack of bluish-white ether beasts walked through the forest, stuck their faces into the bushes and hollows, and picked things up in their mouths.

They were pieces of broken weapons and bullet cartridges.

The Reine des Garous held her hands together and spoke.

“I am working to clean up this public space. Now you have no reason to stop my effective control, do you?”

“You’ll leave it cleaner than when you arrived!?”

“Of course. Do you think the Reine des Garous would leave a single piece of trash behind?” she said. “Also, most of this trash was left by all of you. You littered in a public space and just left it there… So when I clean that up, I am doing a public service, aren’t I? That means my effective control until tomorrow morning will be spent on public service. …Am I wrong?”

“Then I’ll leave that to you!”

Kasuya slapped her on the back of the head.


Kanitama: “What do we do!? She’s a really nice person!”

Black Wolf: “Um, Kani? She is only saying that to protect the bridge. It has no bearing on her personality.”

Kanitama: “Eh!? Kasuya, are you saying you can clean up all the trash we left on the bridge by tomorrow morning!?”

Kimee: “Can you, Kasuya? If you can, then get working. …Cause I’m definitely not doing it.”

Black Wolf: “Of course I can’t!”

Asano: “Ummm, excuse meee. I think this goes beeeyond our local authorityyy.”

Kanitama: “Really!?”

Asano: “I meeean, that bridge was originallyyy Nagaoka’s responsibilllity.”

Nabe3: “Nagaoka was defeated and the bridge has been occupied. There’s nothing we can do if he was captured by the enemy. This is their territory now.”


Nabeshima thought to herself while performing emergency repairs on her mechanical dragon atop a transport ship next to the Uraga Channel.

This is goodbye, Nagaoka.

He must have done what he could. Most everyone on the bridge and beyond the bridge had withdrawn and the injured were being protected. That would partially be due to the enemy showing restraint, but…

Nabe3: “According to the report from Musashi, he injured their 1st Special Duty Officer and it ended in a draw. …That’s really good for a rookie.”

She was a rookie too, but Nagaoka was in middle school.

He had done very well indeed.

“Although I bet it won’t be enough to satisfy him.”

With that, Nabeshima attached a repaired mechanical dragon front arm to the hook of the transport ship’s cargo-lifting jib crane.

She did not have a spare for the destroyed arm. She had only cut apart and fit together some warship armor to create something with equal weight. It could almost be seen as a prosthetic arm for a mechanical dragon.

One of the Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji was standing on the shoulder to guide the approach and he looked over at her.

“You’ll be able to move it with the shoulder and it will function as a fixed wing while in flight! But the transport ship’s hatch panel material was the closest match, so we had to forcibly match the divine protections!”

That meant it could move. That was all for now, but…

I just have to do what I can, right?

Right now, that meant repairs.

“Now, then.”

She felt Nagaoka had fought well. And as a result…

Musashi will have a hard time using their 1st Special Duty Officer in Nördlingen. Or so I hope.

His partner, the English Princess, was a healing expert. And the Asama Shrine was the main shrine of the mother goddess, so they had plenty of those sorts of spells.

So Nagaoka’s accomplishment would not really amount to much. But on the other hand…

“Well, he took things a little far for a middle schooler.”

She smiled bitterly.

“A name inheritor refused to surrender while surrounded and isolated inside the Reine des Garous’s forest, dueled Musashi’s 1st Special Duty Officer, and even injured him. …You are one hard worker, Nagaoka.”

Nabeshima said “now, then” again.

Nagaoka would be going to Nördlingen.

She did not know whether or not that was what he wanted, but she did know one thing.

“You’re going there to do what you must do. Isn’t that right, Nagaoka?”

And…

Nabe3: “Kani, what are you going to do?”


What am I going to do!? wondered Kani.

She had to assume Nagaoka had been captured. She would just have to leave him with the enemy.

Whether or not that that would harm his position as a name inheritor depended on the enemy.

So for now…

Kanitama: “If Oky-kun is gone, what are we supposed to do here!?”

Nabe3: “To be honest, things there are not looking good.”

“They really aren’t,” agreed Big Katou.

She sent a simple map via divine transmission. It depicted the center of the Bousou Peninsula and the arrangement of both sides of the conflict.

Kani grasped the situation at a glance.

Kanitama: “We’re just about isolated here, aren’t we!?”


Yoshiaki agreed with Kani’s assessment.

She is not at all wrong.

Fukushima had been right about the girl learning to read the flow of battle.

That was why she had rushed in to support Kasuya earlier. Since that had allowed everyone to successfully withdraw, she must have read the timing correctly.

She had done well.

But that successful withdrawal was causing them trouble now.

There were a lot of them, but many were injured or exhausted after crossing the long bridge.

They had collected all the personnel they normally would have been forced to leave behind.

That left them with a considerable handicap. Their movement would be slow and their offense and defense would be weak.

The number of people they had saved would restrict them from here on.

The Musashi forces were still in front of Kani’s group. As was the Reine des Garous.

What would happen if they used their momentum to make a charge now?

Kasuya and Kani could protect anyone within arm’s reach, but everyone else would be in danger.

After all, the battlefield will be on the peninsula from here on out.

The casualties on the bridge had been minimal because the Reine des Garous had been their only enemy and because the battlefield had been limited to the bridge.

With the battlefield so narrow, Kasuya and Kani could cover everyone.

But from here on, they would be on the vast land of the peninsula.

On a wider battlefield, Kasuya and Kani could not cover everyone.

And there was another problem:

Kimee: “Musashi’s landing unit has arrived in central Bousou. …Kasuya, Kani. Your northern unit has been cut off from the main Hashiba ground unit to the south of central Bousou.”

That meant Kani was right.

Kimee: “Despite maintaining your numbers, you are effectively isolated with many exhausted and injured warriors.”


Black Wolf: “Um, Yoshiaki? Are you trying to scare us?”

Kimee: “Now that you mention it, it did come off that way, didn’t it?”

Kanitama: “It’s like the characters in manga or anime that always think about what happens if they fail instead of how to overcome the crisis they find themselves in! When we watched those things during dinner, my dad would always say they’re the type to drive themselves to an early grave from stress!”

AnG: “Kime-chan, are you the type to psychologically corner yourself?”

Kimee: “No, I only do it other people. …I am very kind to myself.”

Nine Horns: “Is that something to sound so proud of?”

Three Legs: “Oh, but, Kuki-kun. You do talk a lot about how bad your situation is.”

Nine Horns: “I am setting the stage so my ultimate victory looks appropriately impressive.”

Asano: “So has anyooone decided what to dooo?”

Almost Everyone: “Ah.”


The night wind carried a female voice saying “I have no choice then”.

Below the darkness, someone could see the aerial fleets exchanging fire in the sky to the southwest and the Reine des Garous’s forest on the bay to the northwest.

She stood on Satomi land.

“Konishi-sama! The nearby surviving ships and other forces have been gathered together!”

Horizon7B 585.jpg

She stood on the deck of a landed light warship and she waved at that report with two gods of war behind her.

“Good job, everyone. We won’t be as busy now, so get something to eat. I’ll hand out the takoyaki I cooked.”

“Testament! Thank you! We will now release the cargo in order!”

“Right, right,” said Konishi before looking up at one of the gods of war behind her. “Tokishige-kun?”

“What?”

Konishi spoke to the girl sitting on the shoulder of the god of war named Integrity.

“Tokishige-kun, this is going to be a big battle, but can you handle it?”

“What would you do if I betrayed you?”

“Hmm.” Konishi tilted her head. “Did you learn nothing in the time since Satomi was destroyed?”

“Well…”

“Hmm,” said Konishi again. “If you betray Hashiba, Satomi probably could attack us from behind and claim the Satomi Liberation a success. The Kantou forces would probably be delighted. Satomi really would be the hero who drove Hashiba out.”

But…

“That’s only in Kantou.”

“I get it. I get it.” Tokishige slowly breathed a sigh and spoke from higher up in the night. “The non-Kantou nations couldn’t share the benefits of that betrayal, so it would only be seen as a betrayal. …After liberating Satomi, Europe would see Musashi as a nation that sides with traitors.”

“That’s right. But…you understand, don’t you?”

“Understand what?”

“If Satomi is going to lose, wouldn’t betraying us be the better choice?”

“Why?”

“I’m from Sakai.”

“Right,” said Tokishige. “Sakai was originally a free commerce city, but it was swallowed up by P.A. Oda.”

“That’s right.”

This is such a valuable time, thought Konishi while speaking.

“This is our first time speaking like this, isn’t it?”

“You only arrived here five days ago. Of course it is.”

“It’s too bad.”

“Too bad?”

“Testament,” said Konishi, but she did not clarify what she meant. “Let’s get back on topic.”

“You mean Sakai?”

“I do,” confirmed Konishi while looking to the west. In the western sky, the Musashi was beginning to retake its three-row formation.

She opened her mouth while looking up at its giant form.

“Sakai will never regain its original form.”

“Why not? Won’t it have a chance after the fall of Hashiba?”

“It used to be a city that claimed to be free but was actually ruled by the biggest merchants, but now it’s become a free trade city that obeys a certain nation. The thing is, the latter means more profit for more people, so that’s probably how it will stay even if the specific nation changes.”

“I see,” was all Tokishige said. She did start to say something.

“––––––”

But she stopped.

She looked up into the western sky from the god of war’s shoulder and finally did speak with her gaze flat.

“Having enough wealth to redistribute must be nice.”

“Why yes, it is. …I really wish I could have spoken with you more. It honestly felt like it took these five days before you finally got fed up with being too cautious around me to speak.”

“It’s probably because it’s late at night. And the battlefield mood seems to have you talking more than usual.”

“Same for you.”

Hearing that finally put a smile on Tokishige’s face. Or Konishi thought she saw one there.

“I couldn’t help it,” she said. “You’re not quite allies, but not quite rulers either. You’ve surrounded us in such a strange way. You’re a representative we can’t even think about defying, so how was I supposed to speak with you?”

“That’s just the weak declaring themselves weak as a nasty weapon.”

“When the weak start naming themselves weak, it means they’ve found the strength to use it to their advantage. But there are times when you can’t claim that name and are just too exhausted to do anything at all, merchant.”

“That doesn’t make you weak.” Konishi shrugged. “To be clear, taking a break and slacking off are not the same thing, politician.”

“True enough.” Tokishige sounded bored. “I really do wish I’d spoken with you sooner.”

“Have you discussed this before?”

“A long time ago with the other members of the Eight Dogs.”

“How did they respond?”

“They either gave a troubled smile or they fiercely opposed the idea.”

“The former were thinking ‘yeah, I know’. The latter were just morons.”

“Yeah,” she said. “But the latter response was more comforting.”

“You are a difficult girl.”

“Not as difficult as this situation. I thought I could take things easy once we were surrounded, but now we’re at war and the tables have turned.”

“I agree with you there.”

Konishi had felt similarly about Sakai for a time.

In that sense, she was in a position to teach this girl something. So…

“Well, it’s not surprising, but you’re not accustomed to these situations. You can’t help it.”

“True. …Even in the Eight Dogs, I normally fought with the general warriors. I honestly feel in over my head fighting a battle with politics involved like this.”

But…

“Can’t we fix this system where doing the difficult things is easier in the long run?”

“What do you propose?”

“Satomi was crushed and conquered by you, but we still have our rights and you gave us some rules to follow. If cleverly pretending to be weak isn’t going to overturn those rights or rules, then finding excuses to stay put really was a waste of time. If we could have demanded something, we should have done so.” Bitter laughter shook the air. “Just like taking a break and slacking off are not the same thing, weakness and inaction are not the same thing either.”

“True enough.”

Konishi thought, This conversation is based on the assumption that we’re going to lose and part ways.

Of course, she was not generous enough to state that out loud.

“Strong or weak and exhausted or lazy, the heart does what it wants.”

“Your thoughts aren’t really in your heart, though.”

“You can’t see other people’s thoughts, but they’re acting on them all the same.” Konishi stretched and viewed the aerial battle to the southwest and the ether forest to the northwest. “We’re all just doing what we can when we can. That’s how business opportunities work.”

“Will we ever have a chance to speak again?”

“Well,” said Konishi while scratching her head and shaking her long hair. “I’ll be captured and executed at Sekigahara.”

“And?”

“If we discuss this after that, we’ll only be sharing memories. Our political discussions will have no authority behind them.”

“In that case…”

Tokishige shook her legs impatiently. Her heels kicked at Integrity’s armor, but the sound was drowned out by the distant cannon fire.

The battle was approaching. And in that atmosphere, Konishi opened a lernen figur.

“Let’s talk a bit about what I can do now.”

She opened the divine network and sent out an external divine transmission instead of limiting it to the Hashiba group.

“There is something I must discuss with the Musashi and Satomi forces.”


Koni-ko: “Um, excuse me a moment. I would like to speak with a representative of the Musashi or Satomi forces concerning the future of the Hashiba unit on the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay and at the north end of the Bousou Peninsula. So how about it?”


Masazumi took a deep breath atop the small transport ship flying above the great bridge ruins.

She was surrounded by an ocean of light. The small transport ship was half submerged in the ether forest so the Hashiba ground forces could not get a good firing angle.

Asama was in charge of controlling the interference on the ship’s power, but Masazumi had her own job.

“Here it is, Crossdressing Honda-kun. …It’s Konishi Yukinaga. That name inheritor is probably the commander of the ground forces of the Bousou Peninsula of the Keichou Campaign.”

That’s too many ‘ofs’… she meaninglessly thought, but then she realized something.

“Oh, sorry. I got distracted by something dumb and forgot to focus on what you were actually saying. So who is this Konishi?”

Everyone glanced around and Asama finally spoke up.

“Oh, without Horizon here, there’s no one to shout ‘Mitotsudaira-sama!’ ”

“Y-you all need to stop letting Ariadust-kun get away with being so mean!”

The Aoi Sister struck a Y-pose and shouted while Neshinbara said that.

“Mitotsudairaaa!! Ahaaaahn!!”

Silver Wolf: “I-I am busy dealing with the Nagaoka boy right now!”

Me: “So, Nate, who’s this Konishi person?”

Silver Wolf: “Judge! She is a merchant-turned-commander and one of the primary representatives of the Keichou Campaign. She should be in charge of the Bousou Peninsula ground forces during the Kantou Liberation.”

“But,” continued Mitotsudaira.

Silver Wolf: “The only name inheritor on the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay was the sniper Nagaoka Tadaoki. That means he would have been in charge of protecting it. But since Konishi has come forward with him gone…”

Vice President: “The jurisdiction falls to her when the original person in charge is missing. So is she his superior?”

Silver Wolf: “Judge. Kuki is probably the effective supreme commander, but he needs a second-in-command since he is focused on the fleet to the south. I think that would be her.”

“Then,” said Adele.

Flat Vassal: “What kind of negotiation would someone with her authority want at a time like this?”

Nagaya-Stable: “That is a simple matter.”

It was Ookubo. She was sending her words here while entering Satomi on the other small transport ship.

Nagaya-Stable: “Vice President, you prepare to leave. You have accomplished more than enough here, so I will use this as my first official appearance.”


Konishi saw the enemy’s response.

Musashi’s small transport ship rose up a bit from the ether forest to the northwest, and…

Nagaya-Stable: “Hashiba Negotiator Konishi Yukinaga. I am Ookubo Nagayasu/Tadachika and I will be the Musashi/Satomi negotiator. I would like to respond to your request and negotiate.”

Negotiate about what?

Nagaya-Stable: “Your northern unit in front of the Reine des Garous? I recommend they withdraw.”


Chapter 45: Battlefield Decider[edit]

Horizon7B 594-595.jpg

I can do what I want right now

All of what is happening here

Is what people call a battlefield

Point Allocation (Battle Negotiations)


“Now, then,” said Ookubo while taking a deep breath in the darkness.

She was somewhat northwest of the Bousou Peninsula’s center.

The enemy was preparing for a counterattack, but she could see their destination.

It was to the south.

The enemy base was on the southeastern coast, but before heading there…

“It’s time for negotiation.”

They had already begun to move. One unit led by Kanou was en route to a safe location on foot while Yagyuu Munenori had been sent out as a scout.

“Milady, Yagyuu-sama has sent word that the route is safe. We should start by heading 2km south.”

Kanou held up a sign frame that revealed the surrounding scenery with a night-vision guidepost spell. And she traced her finger along that sign frame to draw a line that looked like red ink.

“This is our route. It will give us a view of the enemy base, by which I mean the Satomi stronghold.”

“Then we need to split up our forces for now.”

Ookubo looked up to see the small transport ship they had flown in on.

It had forcibly landed in the middle of the forest and the enemy knew where it was. It had not been attacked because the enemy would be shifting to a focus on fortifying their defenses.

The enemy had concluded this group had no real aerial forces. However…

“I will be moving on ahead.”

With that comment, a few large forms began to move.

They were gods of war.

Their movements added four ribbon lines to the sign frame they were viewing. Two moved out ahead and three followed behind them. And the biggest line of all took up the rear.

The two taking the lead were Righteousness and Suzaku.

The following three were from the heavy god of war unit. They were equipped for long-range combat and were meant to protect and cover for the lead two.

All of them were protecting the largest line taking up the rear. That was the ground unit comprised mostly of the warriors.

Their plan was to use the gods of war for a powerful assault that expanded their controlled territory. Then the individual personnel could establish a more complete control.

Ookubo’s group was commanding the group while both exchanging and gathering information from one side of the ground unit. Plus…

“We’re handling all the administrative work needed to ensure our safety,” said Ookubo while climbing the ridge of Bousou with the Public Morals Committee’s elite unit.

Nagaya-Stable: “It’s time to negotiate, Konishi Yukinaga.”


Konishi watched the enemy’s movement.

She knew the enemy’s small transport ship had been landed and abandoned on the distant northern slope.

The slope itself obstructed her view of that area, but they would be able to climb up to the ridge to overlook this area.

The enemy invasion was a problem, but…

What comes after that?

How much of a land unit had been inside that small transport ship? While it was called small, it was still 200m long. It could easily carry a thousand personnel and could carry as much as two thousand.

Two thousand nearly unharmed troops with high morale and some gods of wars between Hashiba’s main unit and the northern unit would be very bad news.

Also…

There was something else Konishi had to consider.

How was she supposed to bring this battle to an end?

There were a few different options, possibilities, and uncertain factors. As a merchant, she wanted to examine things much more closely before taking action, but she had actually already made some preparations and started to arrive at the situation she wanted.

“And I can predict more or less what’s gonna happen, so I need to go in strong to start with.”

The lernen figur by her hands had already received her opponent’s words, so she gave a response.

Koni-ko: “You will negotiate with me? I appreciate it, Musashi Representative Council Head.”

“But,” she added.

Koni-ko: “You said you recommend we withdraw, didn’t you? Who do you think you are?”


“Fair enough,” muttered Ookubo.

Although from a history recreation perspective, the Hashiba forces really should withdraw.

But withdrawing when Musashi demanded it and withdrawing as a part of the history recreation would entail very different things and the other nations would view them very differently.

The sounds of the god of wars moving out ahead vanished into the forest. But not because they were growing more distant. The stealth spells that activated in time with their movements were beginning to mask the sounds.

Without the route information being sent to her map, even Ookubo would not have known they were there.

And while listening to those noises fade, she thought about what Konishi had just said.

Does she really not intend to accept our recommendation to withdraw?

They could not openly accept it because these divine transmissions would remain in the records, but what about below the surface? She decided to ask.

Nagaya-Stable: “You refuse to accept our recommendation to withdraw?”

Koni-ko: “We still have the upper hand here. Shouldn’t you be the ones withdrawing?”

The other girl asked a probing question.

I see.

It was true they were on the losing end in the aerial fleet battle when viewing just the number of ships sunk.

They had taken the Miura Peninsula and the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay in the land battle, but they had not taken the Bousou Peninsula.

When it came to controlling Edo and Satomi, the enemy did indeed have the upper hand.

The ground units were finally about to clash. It was unknown how that would turn out, but the other side was sure to have prepared a large number of troops. So…

Nagaya-Stable: “Then you are saying your northern unit still intends to fight, I take it?”

Koni-ko: “Of course. No one in Hashiba would run away when they can still fight.”

Do you really intend to do this?

Based on Konishi’s words alone, it seemed that way. And Ookubo also sensed a challenge in her words.

Why?

The northern unit had been worn down by their battle with the Reine des Garous and now their numbers were more of a hindrance than anything.

“I imagine their original plan was to have them withdraw unharmed and then pursue us from behind.”

Of course, the less-exhausted members of that unit could still be used for that purpose.

But if they did that, the exhausted majority would be left behind as prey for the Reine des Garous.

That means their northern unit can’t move at the moment.

Then why was Konishi claiming that unit would continue to fight?

“She has something set up or has some kind of idea.”


“What does this mean, Masazumi?”

Asama asked that while calling up a map of the area around Edo Bay. Based on the positioning of the enemy forces and their own forces that Ookubo had sent them…

“The enemy’s northern unit is doing well when it comes to numbers, but they are exhausted. If they are still going to fight, does that mean they were ordered to fight until the bitter end?”

Masazumi’s initial response to that question was a tilt of the head. And then…

“Nagaoka did seem to be fighting that way, but…but in that case, they would have fought harder to hold the bridge. So I expect there is some hidden meaning to what Konishi is saying.”

Such as…

“There must be some special meaning to the northern unit fighting to the end in some way.”

Meaning?

The simplest idea was for them to move south. They had lost the bridge thanks to Mitotsudaira’s mother and leaving their injured behind would be too dangerous.

“But,” chimed in Naito. “Whatever they might want to do, they won’t be able to keep up, will they? They’re moving an exhausted group, so moving through the forest at night would be pushing them too hard. Plus, transporting the injured and extremely exhausted will absolutely kill their speed.”

“That is true,” agreed Mary. “Even a single exhausted person will reduce the mobility of a unit.”

Silver Wolf: “I am ashamed to admit it, but I proved that well enough back in Hexagone Française.”

Then what are they thinking? wondered Asama.

That exhausted northern unit would be unable to fight or move very well.

The only thing they could do is…

Once thinking it through that far, Asama noticed something about the arrangement of the forces on the map.

“Huh?”

Something about the arrangement bothered her.

The individual elements were meaningless, but when she linked them together…

“Um.”

She tossed the contents of her sign frame to Masazumi. She had drawn a red line between the two worrying forces, but would that be enough for Masazumi to catch on?

“Masazumi.”

She looked over to see Masazumi was already taking action. She petted Tsukinowa on her shoulder, and…

“Huh? It didn’t go through. Hey, Asama, how do you send a message to a specific person again? Don’t give me that look, everyone! I’m a divine transmission beginner!”

“Yes, yes,” said Asama as she gave herself access to Masazumi’s divine transmission controls using her assistance management setting.


I had a feeling that was it.

That was Ookubo’s thought as she read the divine mail from the anteater.

The message contained the Vice President’s thoughts, which supported Ookubo’s speculation about Konishi’s plan. So…

Nagaya-Stable: “Konishi Yukinaga. …Do you have a moment?”

Koni-ko: “What is it? I will listen to you for free just this once.”

Nagaya-Stable: “I intend to win the Keichou Campaign.”

Konishi did not send a response.

That meant “get a clue”. Ookubo could tell that much at this point.

So she rejected Konishi’s advice.

She would not get a clue. And to prove it, she said more.

Nagaya-Stable: “The Mouri transport ships shot down by our Vice Chancellor’s Aides are located northeast of your northern unit, aren’t they? A lot of those ships are still functioning, but since quite a few were shot down, the entire group of transport ships is considered immobilized.”

Koni-ko: “True enough. What about it?”

“Judge,” casually responded Ookubo.

Nagaya-Stable: “You intend to have the northern unit fall back to the transport ships and preserve the battle line there with a focus on defense. That way, even if we do take the Bousou Peninsula, you can claim their presence means the Keichou Campaign is still ongoing.”

In other words…

Nagaya-Stable: “We will be unable to complete the Kantou Liberation even if we take Bousou. And while we are sending our main forces back to the northeast, Hashiba will arrive to retake Kantou. …That is your plan, isn’t it?”


Konishi smiled a bit at Ookubo’s words.

That idea was obvious enough when looking at the map.

Of course, the battlefield had changed a lot in just the past half hour. The Hashiba forces had not expected Edo to be taken so quickly and neither side would have predicted that would lead to a situation like this.

But she had noticed something.

She had noticed it when those ships being shot down had presented problems for receiving supplies from the northeast.

She had noticed that, if the northern unit did have to withdraw from the bridge, those transport ships would be to their northeast.

Most people would assume the battlefield would shift to central and southern Bousou.

But I noticed it.

So she had made a few arrangements while the battle was underway on the bridge.

When the Satomi forces had been attacked by the launched gods of war, it had not been a coincidence or meaningless. She had thought that attack would guide the Satomi forces to central Bousou.

“Do you see now why I gave you central Bousou for free, despite the danger it posed?”

Konishi did not ask these questions over the divine transmission.

“You thought you could isolate our northern unit by placing yourselves there, didn’t you? You thought the northeastern transport ships weren’t a threat because they have no weapons, didn’t you?”

But you were wrong.

“Combine the unarmed transport ships with the exhausted combat unit in need of supplies and you get a powerful fighting force.”

Koni-ko: “Good job, Kasuya-kun and Kani-kun. Now we will win when they run out of time. The checkmate is in view.”

Then she lightly slapped herself on the cheek.

“I mustn’t get complacent.”

She smiled bitterly.

“All I’ve done is restore the one fighting force. Fortunately, I have already prepared a different checkmate for you. But have you noticed that yet, Musashi?”


Ookubo stopped on the mountain path.

Kanou soon looked back from up ahead.

“What is it, milady? Is something not to your liking?”

“I really wish I could complain about how tired my feet are.”

“It is because you say things like that that I cannot allow you to go to Satomi.”

While Kanou said that, everyone around them took up positions to monitor their surroundings.

No actual threat was approaching, but they were protecting and creating a spot for her to think on the battlefield.

“Thanks.”

She had told the Vice President that they could settle this quickly, so there was little time to think.

Besides, I’ve got a good idea what they’re thinking.

Vice President: “Ookubo.”

Nagaya-Stable: “Yes, you can leave for Nördlingen.”

The Vice President must have realized what Konishi was thinking as well.

But it seemed like she had yet to get a good grasp of Konishi’s character.

Nagaya-Stable: “Please, Vice President. Can you leave this to me and complete your preparations for Nördlingen? To be honest, that’s more convenient when it comes to dealing with Konishi Yukinaga.”

Vice President: “How do you see her?”

Nagaya-Stable: “An adlibber always looking for a chance to get rich quick.”

The span of a few breaths passed before the Vice President responded.

Vice President: “Judge. …Ookubo.”

Nagaya-Stable: “What is it?”

Vice President: “Go get her. It looks like she has us in checkmate, but instead of letting her guard down, she’s already thinking up her next move, right? Then don’t hold back and go get her. You have my permission.”

“You moron,” said Ookubo while feeling some heat in her cheeks.

Nagaya-Stable: “I was gonna do that whether I had permission or not.”

Vice President: “Yeah, you are pretty mean.”

Nagaya-Stable: “I don’t want to hear that from a superior who abuses her power as easily as breathing!”

Vice President: “Huh? I only give you all that work because I know you can handle it, so that doesn’t count as abuse of power.”

She is the worst, thought Ookubo with a click of her tongue and a sigh. And…

Nagaya-Stable: “At least you’re quick to make decisions.”

A sound began to fill the sky.

The small transport ship above the ether forest to the northwest was starting to turn toward the Musashi.


The small transport ship was returning to the Musashi.

The right corner of Konishi’s lips curled up when she saw it.

“My, my.”

The breath that left her throat was more of a choke than a bitter laugh.

“You figured out what I was thinking that quickly? You are quite the mean person, Ookubo Nagayasu!”


A commotion had broken above and below the small transport ship. The people remaining behind and those returning to the ship were moving in and out in time for the rushed departure.

Most of those headed down had always intended to participate in the Satomi Liberation.

They would stay on the ground while Futayo, Mitotsudaira, Narumi, Urquiaga, and others like them were returning to the ship to head to Nördlingen.

Toori asked Masazumi a question while the coming and going people greeted each other.

“Hey, Seijun, why are we calling it quits all of a sudden?”

“To dumb it down enough for an idiot to understand…our presence here will only get in Ookubo’s way. Do you get it now? Basically, we’re being used as bargaining chips.”

Toori started to nod and say he understood, but…

“Wait a sec.”

“What is it, super idiot?”

“D-damn you! But I’m fine being a super, duper idiot…maybe.”

“Toori-kun, you really will turn yourself into an idiot if you try too hard, so how about you stop?”

Asama’s response was half understanding and half exasperated. And…

Silver Wolf: “All the returners have boarded via the lower hangar. We are leaving around 1500 people behind.”

And…

Silver Wolf: “Now we will not trip up the Representative Council Head. My king, that is what Masazumi is trying to explain, but do you understand it or not?”


Mitotsudaira was inside the small transport ship’s hangar. The main cargo hatch was open on the bow end, so she could see the night scenery spread out below them.

She saw the ether forest that was essentially a part of her mother and she saw the terrain near the foot of the Bousou Peninsula.

She was interested in the northeast area to the far left of the bridge’s end. Some scattered flame-like red lights could be seen in the sky and on the ground in that direction.

That would be the transport ships Gin shot down.

The enemy was trying to get their northern unit to those transport ships.

They planned to create a single great fighting force that could continue the Keichou Campaign.

Mitotsudaira thought that was a fairly troublesome idea.

After all, Konishi’s plot contained a certain “checkmate”.

Silver Wolf: “My king, are you listening? The enemy Konishi’s strategy is to prevent us from going to Nördlingen.”


Me: “Nate, what’s that supposed to mean?”

Mitotsudaira listened to her king’s words while the wind blew in from the open hatch.

Me: “Seijun’s being a meanie and won’t tell me.”

Silver Wolf: “My, my, Masazumi.”

Oh, that sounded just like my mother, she thought while smiling bitterly at Masazumi’s response to her king.

She’s too smart for her own good.

Although that was not too surprising when she was the one who negotiated with people like that and also worked to keep Musashi in line.

But she did often fail to explain things properly to her own people. She was likely aware of that, which was why she had gone to the effort of getting a consensus in the bath before this battle.

In a way, she may have been letting her guard down and assuming someone would always fill everyone else in when she was vague about things. If so, was that trust something they could be proud of?

“Then this would be a job for me.”

Mitotsudaira looked down below.

Those who were staying behind were moving through the ether forest to reach the end of the bridge. But…

Silver Wolf: “Listen, my king. The number of personnel down there cannot immediately defeat the enemy’s northern unit. They outnumber us there. And even if they are worn out, they have two name inheritors in Kasuya and Kani. Most likely, they will make it to the transport ships even as their numbers are whittled down.”

Me: “Huh? Your maman isn’t gonna attack too?”

Silver Wolf: “She must protect the bridge. If it is taken, the enemy can cross Edo Bay and reach the Miura Peninsula. She must stay where she is to keep that option off the table.”

“Also,” said Mitotsudaira.

Silver Wolf: “Just as our ground unit cannot immediately destroy the enemy’s northern unit, she cannot do so immediately when they are not crammed into the narrow space of the bridge. She is just one person, so if the enemy is spread out, she cannot destroy them immediately.”

Still Got It: “That is true. The best way to hold a large area is to expand my forest, but I have calmed down a fair bit and it will take time before I can do that again.”

Me: “Then what can we do?”

Silver Wolf: “There is a simple solution.”

Namely…

Silver Wolf: “We send in more ground forces. In other words, we make another attack.”

That would end it relatively quickly.

They have name inheritors, so Futayo and I could go.

It would be a lot easier if they could use Narumi, Urquiaga, and Mary’s MTL2H (Master Tenzou Love Love Homerun), but that last girl was busy treating the 1st Special Duty Officer’s wound. Naito and Naruze had to protect the ship, so they would probably have to send someone like Neshinbara.

They could also have Adele fight (or at least act as a weight), and…

Silver Wolf: “I bet it would be over in record time if my king and Kimi provoked Asama into acting.”

Asama: “J-just so you know, I would do nothing of the sort!!”

Everyone muttered “yes, you would” and Mitotsudaira had to agree, but if they had all that…

Silver Wolf: “If we left my mother on the bridge, we could probably clean them up in half an hour. But that half hour could end up being a critical time loss in regards to Nördlingen.”

So…

Silver Wolf: “If we are there, the enemy is sure to use us in their negotiations. And even if we can break free of that, it will only waste our time. …That is why the Representative Council Head is telling us to leave as soon as possible.”


Konishi narrowed her eyes in a smile as the enemy’s small transport ship turned.

That second year named Ookubo does not like to lose, does she?

“She is removing the ‘checkmate’ I was trying to set up.”

She was certainly decisive.

After all, Musashi’s main force could crush Hashiba’s northern unit, but they had a time limit if they were to reach Nördlingen.

Konishi had thought those two conflicting factors would make for a very tasty bargaining chip.

But Ookubo had eliminated that.

Was it meant as an expression of her intent? Was she saying she refused to let Konishi have her way?

Konishi could tell the girl was the strong authority type, but…

Now, then.

Konishi took a breath.

Their negotiations had more or less fallen apart.

Ookubo of the Musashi forces was recommending that Hashiba’s northern unit withdraw. She was negotiating to say that unit had no more purpose on the battlefield.

That was why Konishi had done the opposite. She had given that unit military meaning and also set up a means of continuing the Keichou Campaign.

Her orders and understanding were essentially adlibs, but there had been a meaning behind it all.

Koni-ko: “Sorry about this, Kuki-kun. You can scold me when I get back.”

Nine Horns: “About the Reine des Garous?”

“That’s right,” agreed Konishi.

The state of the northern unit – their exhaustion and their current formation and position – were all the result of the Reine des Garous revealing her true nature. Without that, they might have reached this situation eventually, but they would have been able to take up more time delaying the Musashi forces on the bridge. However…

Koni-ko: “That is why I am turning it all around.”

Nine Horns: “We do not yet know if that will work.”

He was a strict one, but she was prepared for this. That was why she had not let the negotiations break down. To be safe, she had to watch and see what the enemy decided on.

Nine Horns: “The battlefield can change in an instant and that is even more true for negotiations fought via words.”

“Which is why,” continued Kuki.

Nine Horns: “Make sure you consider every facet of this as you negotiate, Konishi-kun.”

Koni-ko: “Testament. I will interpret that as you leaving all authority with me.”

Just as she said that, words arrived from Ookubo.

Nagaya-Stable: “Hey, Konishi Yukinaga. Do you have a moment?”

The text continued without a pause.

Nagaya-Stable: “Five minutes from now, our ground forces on the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay will charge at your northern unit. …Got that?”


Konishi frowned.

Why is she announcing the beginning of their attack?

Koni-ko: “Are you saying negotiations have failed?”

Nagaya-Stable: “No, I am always prepared to negotiate. I am simply telling you what we will do in advance. …Think of it as a free service.”

Ookubo went on to say more.

Nagaya-Stable: “We benefit from this charge in the following ways:

1: Reducing the numbers of the enemy’s northern unit.

2: Expanding our held territory in the northern region.

3: Covering the Satomi forces from behind.

“Combining #2 and 3 in particular will allow Musashi to take the large area between the bridge and the Satomi forces, which will greatly open up the battlefield.”

So that’s it, thought Konishi.

She’s accelerating the negotiations.

By listing out the benefits of her actions, she was revealing her hand and her objective.

She was eliminating most of the “unspoken understandings” and “under-the-table dealings” so common in negotiations.

That would naturally accelerate the negotiation.

They both knew what the other wanted, so they only had to decide whether or not they would go along with that and play what bargaining chips they had on hand.

It was more like collusion than anything.

But this was a bit tricky for Konishi to deal with.

She excelled at negotiations built up from adlibs. Finding the crux of the situation and turning everything around with a split-second decision was unbearably entertaining in her opinion.

That was a lot trickier when everything was revealed from the beginning.

It felt like having her freedom restricted.

Ookubo was saying something by revealing her own hand.

She’s saying she can see most of what I am trying at with my adlibs.

And that’s fine, thought Konishi. Working your brain in overdrive was a merchant’s special skill.

Whether she would endure this or go on the attack, this kind of battle was her forte.

Koni-ko: “Thank you for the information. In exchange, I will tell you something nice.”

Her opponent was trying to get the northern unit to withdraw.

Konishi was trying to send the northern unit to the transport ships and use them to keep the Keichou Campaign going.

And to do that…

Koni-ko: “I will have the northern unit leave a delaying defense unit while most of it moves northeast to reach the transport ships.”

And…

Koni-ko: “The Bousou Peninsula base’s defense unit will move south and fortify our defensive line. …Got that?”


Masazumi drew the two announced actions on her map.

When she viewed it like this…

“The enemy is leaving the middle of the Bousou Peninsula entirely open?”

“Ho ho. So you noticed, Crossdressing Honda-kun! Yes, this means that…”

Neshinbara trailed off and then looked side to side in suspicion.

“Why isn’t anyone interfering?!”

“Do you want us to? …Now, what does it mean that they are leaving the middle open?”

“The obvious meaning is that moving south buys some more time until the group invading Satomi reaches them.”

Masazumi realized what that would mean.

“That delays the beginning of the Satomi Liberation, doesn’t it?”

“Not just that. …This will fortify their defenses, so our group will have a harder time conquering Satomi. And it will take longer to redirect our attention to the north.” Neshinbara shrugged. “They apparently have a sure thing in sending their northern unit to the transport ships. A fleet battle is underway in the southern sky and the ground unit is traveling south from central Bousou to make an attack, but Konishi Yukinaga is acting based on the assumption that all of that fails.”

“So she intends to win in the end, does she?”

If so, what were they supposed to do about it?

Neshinbara opened several sign frames and typed on his keyboard.

He spoke based on his observations of the overall situation.

“Even if we do send the god of war unit and the main unit south, I think it would be best to send the Tachibana Couple’s group north. Two fighters on a name inheritor level might be enough to crush the northern unit.”

“I see,” said Masazumi with a nod. But then…

Nagaya-Stable: “Then we will send the god of war unit and main unit south. The Tachibana Couple will also continue south and they will all form a solid barrier.”


Gold Mar: “So doing the opposite of what Bara-yan says is the right choice?”

Mar-Ga: “A simple and thorough policy. I like it.”

Novice: “Why must you reject everything I say out of hand!?”

Vice President: “Ookubo didn’t reject your idea out of hand, Neshinbara. …She took it under consideration and decided to do the opposite instead. This was a well-thought-out rejection.”

Novice: “Dammiiiiiiit! The dark shadow gauge in my heart is filling up!”

Me: “Got any normal gauges in there? Well, do you?”


The Musashi group is as lively as ever, thought Ookubo while focusing on her own work.

Nagaya-Stable: “I will continue with the original plan.”

The ground unit’s invasion would continue as planned.

There would be no hesitation in their movement.

Nagaya-Stable: “We benefit from this in the following ways:

1: They are following their original orders, so there will be no confusion.

2: Greater assurance of the Satomi Liberation.

3: Following from #2, the greater density between different units will increase the density of defense and offense.

And another benefit was found by combining #1-3. And this opponent was sure to know what that was.

But Ookubo went out of her way to state it out loud.

Nagaya-Stable: “Combining #1-3 creates a secondary effect:

4: The Satomi Liberation will occur more quickly.

“Those are my reasons.”


“Hm,” said Konishi with a hand to her mouth.

She really does hate to lose.

If Konishi had her troops pull back and increase the density between formations as a delaying tactic, the enemy would increase their own density in response.

That would eliminate her advantage.

But that would not change much in the big picture.

The northern unit would still leave behind a defense unit to delay any attackers while most of them moved to the transport ships.

Konishi saw that as a foregone conclusion now.

After all, the enemy had no way to stop them. Sending in the Musashi forces was their only way of doing it, but they had chosen to go to Nördlingen instead.

So how would they crush the northern unit? The enemy had no options outside of figuring that out.

Also, Konishi began in her heart.

Koni-ko: “I suppose I will present my plan to you as well.”

It was…

Koni-ko: “The surviving transport ships in the northeast will form a column and move toward the northern unit. The column will extend out so as not to actually leave the landed ships and the ships that reach the northern unit will collect them and return.”

She went on to explain what that would accomplish.

Koni-ko: “The benefits are as follows:

1: It hastens the northern unit’s arrival to the transport ships.

2: It ensures the northern unit’s safety, resupplies them, and helps them recover much earlier.

And…

Koni-ko:3: It ensures the Keichou Campaign can be continued.

“That about sums it up.”


What a persistent opponent, thought Masazumi regarding Konishi.

Konishi bringing the northern unit and transport ships together would act as a form of insurance for the Hashiba forces.

It would allow them to continue the Keichou Campaign even if they lost their base in Satomi and the aerial ship battle.

And if they could buy time with that, Hashiba would be able to arrive.

She was making up for drawing out the Reine des Garous’s true nature, even if she had not done so intentionally. And for the Musashi side of things…

Still Got It: “Hm, to be honest, I think I overdid things.”

Tonbokiri: “No, if anything, it is the enemy that did quite well. It was thanks to the power of their name inheritors that most of them remain despite being so exhausted.”

Masazumi felt both of them had a point.

Without the Reine des Garous revealing her true nature, it would have taken a lot longer to take the bridge.

On the other hand, she had pushed them all back on her own.

And the valiant efforts of the enemy’s defenders had kept the damage minimal albeit widespread.

That would be because they had been ordered to withdraw.

If they had been ordered to defend the bridge with their lives, it would not have turned out like this.

And who would have given that withdrawal order? Nagaoka had been unable to function as a commander with the bridge more than half taken, so…

Was it Konishi since she was in charge of the opposite bank!?

This is bad, thought Masazumi as she belatedly sensed the danger.

This opponent was most likely working to “restrict” them.

She restricted what factors could be used for negotiation, thought, and tactics and she put together adlibbed tactics of her own based on her understanding of those things.

And when a tactic looked promising, she would go all in on it.

She was a merchant.

“That’s right.”

She had a feeling some merchants had started producing udon of late, but not this one. This one would not. Well, our merchants can technically negotiate, but they side against us 80% of the time.

Come to think of it, there’s something seriously wrong with our merchants!

Suddenly curious, she decided to ask.

Vice President: “Asama, what are Bertoni and Augesvarer up to?”

Mar-Ga: “Wasn’t their execution scheduled for this morning? I imagine they’re eating some fried tofu or something to go with it.”

Asama: “Why do you have to make such disturbingly realistic comments, Naruze? …Eh?”

Gold Mar: “What’s the matter?”

Asama: “Well, um, for some reason Shirojiro-kun and Heidi’s divine punishment is set for tomorrow morning. They were given a one-day extension.”

Vice President: “Did they perform some devout act to earn that?”

Just then, a sign frame popped up with a divine transmission from the Musashi group.

Marube-ya: “Wait, wait, Masazumi! Don’t make it sound like we kowtowed to that god!”

Vice President: “Huh? What other way was there?”

Marube-ya: “Judge! Just as the date changed, we used a bit of a trick to embezzle public funds again! And then, y’know, they needed time to calculate out the cumulative punishment, so we get to wait until tomorrow! Hooray!”

Flat Vassal: “Guarrrrrds!!”


Masazumi heard the Treasurer’s Aide doubling down.

Marube-ya: “What, the guards? Don’t be silly, Adele! We were long since arrested and Shiro-kun is doing the ‘if you won’t pay me, I will exercise my right to remain silent’ bit!”

“But,” said the Treasurer’s Aide.

Marube-ya: “How about that, Asama-chi!? Now we get a one-day extension on the udon! If we keep this up, our crimes will pile up, but the extensions will keep us safe. We don’t need to fear your stupid divine punishments anymore!”

Wise Sister: “Heh heh. The merchants are going for an extreme record in cumulative crimes. But, Asama? What does Musashi’s Shinto Representative have to say about that?”

Asama: “Well…”

Five seconds passed.

Asama: “Oh, I just got confirmation. The update confirms exactly what Heidi said. …Um, Heidi?”

Marube-ya: “Huh!? What!? Are you finally ready to admit that Shinto has succumbed to our greedy merchant powers!? Yay!!”

Asama: “No, it’s not that. Your god contacted me to say the udon is going to be upgraded to the thick variety.”

Marube-ya: “Waiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit! No one told us that!”

Of course they didn’t, silently commented Masazumi, but there was something she had to ask.

Vice President: “Asama, just out of curiosity, what’s that about?”

Asama: “Well, it starts at the thin and hollow Inaba udon, but their obvious malicious intent this time led the Inari Shrine to say ‘You really shouldn’t have done that, kon’ in fox language, so they were just upped to Ise udon.”

Me: “Is there ever a class change to kishimen?”

Marube-ya: “W-wait, Toori-kun! Don’t egg Asama-chi on! No kishimen! My shape will forever change if I start expelling that!”

Wise Sister: “Yeah, you probably would end up as something like a female version of a flathead screwdriver. So why not do it again to get the cross shape of a Phillips head!? And you can gradually go for something more complex, like a naruto shape!”

The boys fell to their knees when they imagined it, but that surpassing human language was the usual way of things for that girl.

Asama: “Anyway, Heidi, please be careful. …Do it again and it might be sara udon, which means the noodles are fried crispy.”

Marube-ya: “Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow! I can almost feel it just from imagining it! And Asama-chi! What did we ever do to deserve this!?”

Asama: “This wasn’t my decision. It was the god’s.”

Marube-ya: “Th-then what would you do if it were your decision!? C’mon, your humanity is being put to the test here! Now, answer!”

Asama: “Since this is a punishment for cumulative crimes, I would probably give you an extra serving for each additional crime instead of making them thicker.”

Marube-ya: “But then it would never stop! Do you really want us turning into nonstop udon machines!?”

Vice President: “Anyway, Augesvarer, what’s your opinion of the current situation?”

Marube-ya: “Eh!? The current situation!? To be honest, it’s really making me sweat!”

Vice President: “Not what I meant! The battle situation!”

“Eh?” said Augesvarer. And then…

Marube-ya: “Judge. I think you can leave them be.”

Because…

Marube-ya: “One of the Representative Committee Head’s inherited names is Ookubo Nagayasu. According to the Testament, he was given rights to all the nation’s gold mines by Matsudaira and he was really good when it came to working with money. In fact, after his death, Matsudaira suspected he had illegally stockpiled money, so they executed his entire clan, dug up his grave, and posthumously executed him too.”

Vice President: “Yeah, that’s the one that the Testament says was probably secretly carried out by me and my dad.”

I see, thought Masazumi.

Konishi had said she was sending out the surviving northeastern transport ships so they could join with the northern unit more quickly. That would be a way to force her tactic through, but as a merchant…

“Are those two essentially making additional investments in their tactics?”


Masazumi thought about it.

Konishi’s tactic is to get the northern unit and the transport ships together as soon as possible.

That would leave some insurance in case Hashiba’s main unit was defeated. Kuki and the others had agreed to it.

Musashi would have to respond quickly since it changed the initial layout of the Kantou Liberation. Ookubo was acting as the negotiator there, but…

What will she do?

Just as Masazumi wondered that, two things happened.

The first was their small transport ship finishing its turn.

And the second…

Nagaya-Stable: “Now, how about we get moving too?”

It was Ookubo.

She gave a certain command.

Nagaya-Stable: “Satomi, have your small transport ship ascend.”


Ookubo spoke.

Nagaya-Stable: “The advantages of having this transport ship ascend here are as follows.”

She listed them out.

Nagaya-Stable: “Are you listening?”

1: We can ram the transport ship into the isolated northern unit.

2: The Satomi Liberation god of war unit can be brought back onboard to hasten their invasion.”

And…

Nagaya-Stable:3: The extra elevation gives me many more options.


The roaring of the virtual ocean and the rumbling of mechanical parts came from the north as the small transport ship ascended.

Ookubo saw a 200m ship above the forest. That was small as far as aerial ships went, but it was quite large compared to a person.

It made a calm ascent. The movement of the air was clear and the forest’s air was sucked away to the north.

She spoke while feeling that slight breeze.

“Now, what will you do, Konishi Yukinaga?”

She knew Konishi was the type to make improvised decisions after gathering up a great many options. That was why Ookubo revealed everything she was doing and did not alter the original form of the invasion.

She would not give her opponent any options. And on top of that…

“This was the one option we had not used. …So how will you respond?”

Koni-ko: “Heyyy.”

The response arrived quick.

Koni-ko: “That’s an interesting move you’re pulling there. But…is Musashi really willing to ram a transport ship into people? I’d like to hear about that.”


I knew it, thought Ookubo.

Musashi had never rammed a transport ship into actual people. Even in the battle against the Shirasagi Castle, that had only been preparatory blasts meant to shake the Shirasagi Castle. And when leaving the Edo ruins, they had used it like a battering ram.

The Vice President had worked to give this kind of attack a dirty image.

The other side had of course noticed that, so…

Konishi is here to call our bluff.

But there was one way to respond when someone called your bluff.

Nagaya-Stable: “Konishi Yukinaga.”

She said it.

Nagaya-Stable: “Are you really willing to test me here?”


Chapter 46: Gambler in the Debate Room[edit]

Horizon7B 633.jpg

The more trouble

I think this is

The more trouble I am for them

Point Allocation (Stratagem)


“That girl certainly has a way with words,” said the Reine des Garous in front of the enemy forces.

They stood at the end of the bridge while she was in the ether forest that almost felt like the realm of the dead.

She and her husband sat atop a stump and she extended her left hand outwards.

The enemy prepared for an attack, but she did not mind. The spread fingertips found their way to a small trumpet-shaped flower wet with night dew.

She plucked it and brought the bottom to her mouth. She lightly sucked at it.

“Honey? Suck at these flowers like this and you can taste the nectar.”

“Oh?”

He took the flower and stem with interest and she got back on topic.

“Is she willing to test you? …Putting it like that is hardly fair.”

After all…

“If you ram them with a transport ship now, you could say it was because Konishi Yukinaga wanted you to.”


Silly girl, was Konishi’s assessment of Ookubo’s statement.

“If it were me, I would have made the suggestive comment and then changed the subject without saying anything for certain.”

Ookubo’s statement was an effective response, but by leaving the decision up to her opponent, she was effectively saying she would not make the attack on her own.

Konishi was not about to rise to the bait.

She did not want to be used as an excuse if they did make an attack.

The enemy would not attack on their own.

That was more than enough of an accomplishment.

She needed to hurry up the transport ships, so she sent a route instruction to the northern unit that had already started moving.

Splitting them up would be best. As a single group, they would be wiped out in the unlikely event that Ookubo really did ram a transport ship into them.

Besides, the enemy’s ground unit is approaching from behind. They need to hurry.

She sent out the instructions while considering all that, but then Ookubo spoke up again.

Nagaya-Stable: “I have one correction to my previous statement.”

That correction was…

Nagaya-Stable: “I have a change of course for the ground unit on the bridge. In five minutes, they and the Reine des Garous are to head southeast to assist with the Satomi Liberation.”

“…Huh?”

For a moment, Konishi had no idea what Ookubo was saying.

After all, that meant…

Nagaya-Stable: “Our forces will currently abandon the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay as they have already been secured. The Satomi Liberation will be our top priority. Got that?”


Silly girl.

Konishi had the same thought about Ookubo’s statement.

It was obvious now what Ookubo was trying to do: hurry along the Satomi Liberation.

By ending the Satomi ground battle quickly, they could turn their attention to the northern unit and transport ships.

That was why she was prioritizing and accelerating the Satomi Liberation over pursuing the northern unit.

They were even abandoning the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay they had worked so hard to take.

It was silly, but it was a good decision.

Of course, if they abandoned the bridge, it might be taken from them.

“But our forces are too scattered to accomplish that.”

The northern unit had to hurry toward the transport ships and the bridge was essentially unneeded at this point.

Ookubo had hurried the Satomi Liberation because she understood that.

But this is not just a simple gamble.

The small transport ship she had sent into the air above Bousou was a problem. It had many uses.

If the bridge ground unit and the Reine des Garous boarded it, their travel time to the Satomi Liberation could be drastically reduced.

“Now, what are you planning?”

Konishi asked Ookubo a question.

“It is about time you showed your skill as a politician, Ookubo Nagayasu and Tadachika.”


Ookubo took a breath.

She filled her lungs with the air of the forest night. It was summer, but you would find no heat in the depths of a forest at this time of night.

Once inhaling the chilly air, she opened her mouth.

Nagaya-Stable: “As Musashi’s representative for the Kantou Liberation, I have a warning for the Hashiba forces.”

There was something she had to say now.

Nagaya-Stable: “The Musashi forces will follow the history recreation by not accepting Hashiba’s surrender. However, you can decide individually to withdraw if you so choose. It would be easier for us as well to accept that. Denying you the chance to surrender is a bit harsh, but even the Testament says you withdraw, right? So do the best you can, Hashiba.”


Me: “Huh? I thought we were trying to win this thing? Why is she telling them to withdraw?”

Silver Wolf: “My king? Wiping out the enemy is not the only way to win something. Besides, the Keichou Campaign ends with the Hashiba forces withdrawing. That is why the Representative Committee Head has told the individual fighters to withdraw if they feel like they have lost.”

Gold Mar: “By the way, this is also a way of speeding up the Satomi Liberation. Because it’s a lot faster to get your enemy to withdraw than to wipe them all out.”

Asama: “And speeding that up will let them direct their attention back north sooner?”

Vice President: “…”

Silver Wolf: “Is something the matter, Masazumi?”

Vice President: “Not really. But something about what Ookubo said is bothering me.”

Wise Sister: “Heh heh. What was wrong with what our underclassmen said?”

Vice President: “Judge. I was just thinking that she really likes getting herself utterly immersed in trouble.”


You are going to a lot of trouble here.”

Konishi looked to the northern sky from the edge of the deck.

A small transport ship hovered above the forest in the distance. Ookubo had to be somewhere between it and her.

If she could see where that girl was, she honestly wanted to fire a shot there to end this now.

That was how much trouble this enemy was causing her.

“I can’t believe she is suggesting we withdraw while refusing to accept a surrender.”

The Hashiba forces did have to withdraw for the history recreation.

But why would that girl want them to withdraw without surrendering?

Plus, she was asking the individuals to make the decision for themselves.

Needless to say, it was the higher ups like Konishi who had the effective authority to decide on a withdrawal.

But she also knew how effective immediate decisions on the scene could be.

So Ookubo’s statement here was accurate for those on the scene and the higher ups agreed with it too, even if they could not admit to it.

She was basically providing them with what they wished they could say. However…

She’s getting other people involved.

Konishi loved working with as many factors as possible. That may have been her nature as a merchant. A full inventory made her feel at ease and also quite happy.

When she was carrying all those factors in her head, she could make the optimal connections and reach a solution when necessary.

But some factors could be a problem: other people.

She honestly did not want to work with any factors related to other people.

Because those factors could change drastically depending on those people’s moods.

No matter how many factors she had to work with, she could not trust those uncertain ones. Once there was an uncertain factor in her plan, everything from that point onwards was built on a foundation of speculation.

But Ookubo had brought that into this.

Progress on the battlefield would likely accelerate just like she wanted, but…

“…?”

Konishi sensed something odd about Ookubo’s decision.


What is this?

Ookubo was accelerating the Satomi Liberation. That was true enough.

“Everything she’s done is clearly to that end.”

She was focusing on the Satomi Liberation instead of splitting their forces between attacking the northern unit and the Satomi Liberation.

She had abandoned the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay for that.

She had prepared the small transport ship to send the bridge troops to Satomi.

She had recommended the other side withdraw and made preparations to end the battle early.

It was all very decisive and it could all be explained as a way to accelerate the Satomi Liberation.

But something felt off. Konishi could not quite put it to words, but she sensed an intentional failure in Ookubo’s strategy.

Perhaps you could call it a gamble.

“But is that really it?”

The negotiations were going well from Konishi’s perspective.

After all, while the bridge had been taken, she had adlibbed her way into another move.

The northern unit would board the transport ships.

That means we can continue the Keichou Campaign.

Ookubo was working to reveal and destroy that attempt, but it was too late.

The northern unit and the transport ships were already moving toward each other.

Time was the only factor now, but…

“They will clearly arrive in time.”

So, Konishi thought.

Ookubo gave up on stopping them and focused on the Satomi Liberation.

Had she decided there was no stopping those two forces from joining? That meant her strategy was to take back Satomi as quickly as possible so they could focus on the north.

What was the key to that?

“The small transport ship.”

That could move and transport a large number of troops.

Ookubo was not like Konishi. She liked to narrow down the factors at play before she made an attempt.

The simplicity made it easy to understand, but there was little room for adjustment.

She only has that one small transport ship as a means of transportation.

She had narrowed it down too far. No, not even Konishi had predicted things would turn out like this, so Ookubo had probably narrowed things down for the invasion of Satomi and then found herself in this troublesome situation.

But something still felt off.

Ookubo had narrowed things down to this point, but…

“I see. It looks like she’s assuming success in everything she does.”

Konishi realized what felt off to her.

“I would never do it like this. I would ready many more factors to prepare for possible failure.”

So…

“It’s time to find out what you do when your plan runs into failure or other problems.”

In other words…

“If you ask me, what you are doing here looks like a road straight to failure, so it’s time to find out whether or not that’s all a bluff.”

Konishi sent the words necessary to find that out.

Koni-ko: “Kuki-kun, how are thing going on your end?”

Nine Horns: “Testament. We are trending a bit toward Bousou, but we are fighting well enough. The enemy ships are circling around a bit toward the ocean – partially due to the Yamagata Castle’s presence – but I can tell they are increasing the number of ships capable of firing on our ironclad ships while attempting to concentrate their fire.”

The map sent by Kuki showed exactly that.

The line of enemy ships was pushing out toward the south of the Bousou Peninsula more than before. Perhaps due to the wheel formation formed by the southernmost column, they appeared to be moving too far forward to the east, but…

They have to move forward for the wheel formation to have a line of fire from behind the two columns to their left.

The structure of the wheel formation made it impossible to send just two or three ships forward. They had to send forward enough ships to form the curve.

Nine Horns: “That is an unexpected deficiency or weakness in the wheel formation.”

“Yes, it is,” agreed Konishi before making a suggestion to Kuki.

This was why she had contacted him and it was a way to see what Ookubo was really planning here.

Koni-ko: “Kuki-kun? It only has to be one shot, but can you fire on that small transport ship?”


Kuki checked the Bousou Peninsula situation on the map.

The movement of the enemy’s ground unit was not yet clear. He could only see the ascended transport ship, the enemy gathered near the bridge, and their own forces.

I am curious what the enemy’s ground unit will do.

But Konishi was fortifying their defenses. And their northern forces would be free if Musashi’s ground unit moved south.

The most worrisome part of the enemy forces moving from the north was of course the Reine des Garous. Even the gods of war would have a hard time handling her when she revealed her true nature like before.

Thus, Konishi had made sure she and the other name inheritors could move out ahead at any time.

She was quick to act. Perhaps that came from being a merchant commander.

Her defensive formation was positioned to fill in any gaps and felt settled in.

She intended to stick to this.

She intended to stop the Satomi Liberation, but even if she failed, that defensive formation would at least eat up a lot of the enemy’s time.

And in the north, the transport ships and northern unit were moving together.

She had divided the battlefield into a southern and northern section and was taking action in both.

The north end would act as their next base if things took a turn for the worse.

If they had to use that, their primary tactic would be to stall until Hashiba arrived. But…

If she focused on defense, she has a shot at victory using those well-supplied transport ships.

That was Kuki’s view, but Konishi must not have been convinced quite yet. She had told him to fire on that small transport ship.

She must have sensed something odd about the enemy strategy.

Kuki too felt it was better to be safe than sorry, so…

“Northernmost light warship at the Uraga Channel, aim your #2 stern main cannon to the north.”

Konishi sent him the enemy’s location data, so he relayed that to the light warship that would fire on them. The light warship sent acknowledgment and suggested they use a guiding spell.

He gave approval.

He prepared to give the command to fire, but just then, a lernen figur appeared next to him.

Konishi was relaying him the negotiation with Ookubo.

He saw the enemy negotiator’s words on the screen:

“My recommendation for the Hashiba forces remains unchanged.”

Which meant…

Nagaya-Stable: “I recommend the withdrawal of your northern unit – the ones in front of the Reine des Garous.”

But she made a different approach than before. She had more to say.

Nagaya-Stable: “You have three minutes left. Once we have taken action, you will have lost your chance.”


Go right ahead, thought Konishi.

They might take action in three minutes, but she was already taking action.

Victory would be hers in the end. And to prove it…

“Do it, Kuki-kun.”

Her words were answered by a boom that shook the night air and the forest.

Except this was not just the one cannon blast.

It was two.


“Oh!?”

Konishi saw the two cannon shots.

The first was from the light warship that Kuki had designated. It was positioned north of the Uraga Channel’s entrance, so it was nearly due west for her.

The guided shell it fired took a curving path toward the enemy’s small transport ship.

As for the other shot…

“That was from the forest!”

It was close by. Just a few kilometers away on the western slope of the peninsula, a glowing shot flew toward that light warship.

It had not reacted to the light warship’s cannon blast. This attack was meant to interfere with that blast after predicting it based on the preparatory movements.

This came from close range.

The shot meant to stop the attack on the small transport ship did indeed fly toward the cannon on the stern of the light warship’s deck. However…

“What are they doing?”

The enemy failed in their attempt. The glowing projectile was deflected before it hit the ship.

“Testament! Even a light warship will have defense barriers set to open automatically during battle!”

Meanwhile, the guided shot flew toward the enemy’s small transport ship.

The soaring shell traveled in an arc. It was an ether shell with a guidance spell. Kuki had not used a simple spell cannon because he wanted to give her the result she wanted.

The enemy put up their own defense barriers.

But this was a main cannon blast, even if only from a light warship. A small transport ship’s defense barriers were no match for that.

Light scattered through the northern sky.

The shell had shattered the defense barriers.

In that instant, Konishi saw a lernen figur appear by her hands and Ookubo’s words there.

Nagaya-Stable: “Thank you for that. You really reduced my options there. I would have felt guilty getting rid of that one myself. But that aside…a warning.”

The girl spoke from somewhere in the forest below.

Nagaya-Stable: “With that attack, you lost your final chance of victory.”


The small transport ship’s defense barriers tried to block the enemy shell.

But the ship itself was only built to move through the Musashi’s airspace or around a landport. Its defense barriers were not built as thick as an official transport ship’s.

That wall shattered.

At the center of the barriers that broke one after another, the physical core of the shell arrived at the small transport ship.

It hit.

After taking the hit, the ship’s starboard center side floated nearly straight up.

The shape of the ship bent the same amount that side floated up.

Then the port-side armor tore from the frames and burst off all at once.

The creaking of metal sounded like pure destruction.

Then it exploded.

What would happen when a 200m transport ship took a direct hit from a light warship’s main ether cannon?

It broke apart and scattered through the sky.

The blowing of the wind and the rustling of the trees came after that.

The light of ether fuel and flames from the ship lit up the night while tumbling sideways through the sky.

The small transport ship crashed near the ridge of the Bousou Peninsula’s western slope. Its own weight flattened it like a crushed fruit and pressure built up inside.

That pressure burst into the sky and the entire ship finally exploded.

The small transport ship had been destroyed.


Ookubo did not look back at the explosion occurring higher up on the slope than them.

“Milady, the pieces are falling.”

She heard solid sounds and the rustling of leaves in the forest around her. It sounded like metal rain to her.

Ookubo shook her head with shadows and a flickering red light behind her. And…

Nagaya-Stable: “Konishi Yukinaga. I have two new commands now that you have sunk the small transport ship.”

Koni-ko: “Sure, go right ahead. Are you sending your troops on the bridge after our northern unit?”

Nagaya-Stable: “No.”

Ookubo responded.

A piece of shrapnel grazed her cheek from behind.

Would that have killed her had it been a direct hit? Or would her defense spell have automatically reacted and saved her?

She did not know, but this was the battlefield. That meant she had to speak as a negotiator.

Nagaya-Stable: “Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay unit, begin moving in two minutes. Construct an east-west line across north Bousou. And…”

She drew a red line right-to-left from the bridge on her map to cut across the north end of the Bousou Peninsula.

Nagaya-Stable: “Use anti-air equipment and spells. …Aim to the northeast, along the route the enemy transport ships will use to reach the Bousou Peninsula.”


Konishi did not understand what Ookubo was doing.

They’re targeting the transport ships to the northeast?

No, they were technically aiming for those ships while they traveled south to reach Bousou.

But Konishi had a question about that.

“That isn’t part of my plan.”

She was sending the northern unit to the northeastern transport ships. She was in fact sending the surviving ships toward the northern unit to hasten the unit’s arrival, but…

They will too far away for the enemy to attack.

That was when Ookubo said more.

Nagaya-Stable: “Now for my other command.”

Oh, that’s right, thought Konishi as she recalled that Ookubo said she had two commands.

The other one was not to the ground unit on the bridge.

Nagaya-Stable: “Satomi Liberation unit, return the favor.”

Sound and light raced out in response.

The attack that had previously tried to hit the light warship raced through the northern sky once more.

It’s moving?

The sound was the same, but the location was quite different. And…

“It’s more than that one, isn’t it!?”

It all happened on the east-west line about 2km out in front of her.

Several forms of anti-air fire shot out as if drawing a line across Bousou.

Those were pseudo-anti-ship cannons. Most likely, gods of war had used targeting spells while also taking sniping positions. And something arrived from beyond the easternmost slope as well.

“Is that…?”

This was the same sound that had shot down the warships and transport ships in the northern sky earlier. It was reaching them yet again.

That was Tachibana Gin’s Cuatro Cruz.

Those attacks joined together and repeatedly slammed into the previous light warship.

It only took an instant. Unlike before, a group of shells hit the defense barriers and they shattered. One, two, three, or even more were breached all the same. And…

“Another shot!?”

A second shell from Tachibana Gin – a specialized high-speed shell with no guidance – crashed into the ship.

The light warship was shot through.

The shell reached the armor, passed through the gaps in the internal frame, and broke out the other side.


The sound of shellfire rumbled through the distant sky.

On the eastern slope of the Bousou Peninsula, Gin opened her closed eyes after firing Cuatro Cruz with its back end pressed against a rocky area.

“It appears to have hit. The frame does not seem to have been destroyed, so the shell must have used its speed to punch through.”

“Well done, Gin. Were you actually trying to do that?”

“It was given range data, but I did not think I could pull it off so flawlessly.” She smiled bitterly. “But I was told to give them a warning, so I took into account the distance I moved using the recoil from firing on the light warship earlier.”

“I think it was a splendid warning. Also…that piercing attack was a beautiful accomplishment.”

Gin’s cheeks reddened and she looked down at Muneshige’s feet. The soles of his Far Eastern shoes were modeled after toes, so they were very useful in the mountains and other areas with poor footing. She stared at the dirt and night dew on the toe tips of the shoes.

“Master Muneshige, you are quite adept at traveling through the mountains.”

“Judge. When I came to Musashi, I shouted ‘amore’ five times and ran through Tres España and Hexagone Française, so I got plenty of experience then.”

Gin cleared her throat and Muneshige continued.

“I tripped a lot then, but carrying you seems to make all the difference. I was a little unsure of myself in that dried stream earlier, but I did not trip even once. Having you to look at really improves my focus.”

“What am I, a good luck charm for your entrance exams? Also, try to think what clearing my throat was supposed to mean.”

“Hm? Would you have preferred I carried you on my back so you I could not see your face?”

“No, in front is best. …I am not a backpack. But,” said Gin as she lifted Cuatro Cruz overhead and crouched down as if sitting in midair. “Please do it once more, Master Muneshige. …It would be best if we moved further forward. That would make the Representative Council Head’s plans more convincing.”


Kuki saw the light warship descending near the northern entrance of the Uraga Channel.

The bottom center of the ship had been shot through. Since that was the central line, the armor was thickest there, but this had accurately hit where there was an opening in the center of the frame.

The lernen figur in front of him was an endless stream of text and lists reporting on the damage.

The distant alarm he heard would be telling the crew to abandon ship.

Even if they were concentrating their fire, it only took them one shot to break through the armor!?

The ship had been stopped in the air, but that accuracy was still abnormal.

It would have been one thing if the frame had been hit. That metal framework would have caused serious damage as the impact was distributed across the ship, but little of that damage would have remained in the flight system.

That piercing attack was a problem.

It had torn through the power conduits connecting the ship from front to back and the various supply lines to the central area.

The power supply to and through the center was quickly shut down, so the front and back of the ship were isolated from each other.

From the outside, it only looked like there was a hole in the side with the armor shattered, but on the inside, the central section was splattered with ether fuel, oil, and water heated in the boilers. According to the reports, the escaped heat was especially bad and that rapidly-rising temperature was causing the fuel and such to ignite and expand.

The captain had decided they could not isolate the effects to the center of the ship, so they ordered the ship to descend and Kuki had given authorization. However…

“Now we have to consider cannon fire from the Satomi forces!?”

He knew what had happened and what they were trying to do.

That was their intent.

But he also looked at the map by his hands.

That map of the Bousou Peninsula showed the movements of the enemy’s ground unit and predictions of how they would move next. In the north, the ground unit planned to move from east to west and then turn north. In the south, the ground unit had already formed an east-west line and was moving south. They appeared to be spread out quite a bit with their god of war unit scattered amongst them.

The problem was the eastern coast which was bound to be shorthanded. Tachibana Gin and Muneshige were there. Those two rivaled a military division as a ground unit and they had already fired on the ships as well.

Plus, the Satomi Student Council President and 6th Special Duty Officer’s gods of war had to be out there somewhere.

They also had a strategy to use on top of all that:

Nagaya-Stable: “Reine des Garous, I know it will be a pain, but could you move to the center of Bousou? It would be great if you could activate your forest once there.”

Still Got It: “Hmm, that is a simple task as long as I can bring my hubby with me.”

Kuki responded to that by placing a red dot signifying the Reine des Garous in the center of the central east-west line drawn between the north and south portions of the enemy ground unit.

But it would end up being more than that.

“The ether forest.”

Even if the ether forest did not cover the entire large area of land between the enemy’s northern and southern lines, that would still be the Reine des Garous’s territory.

And when Kuki viewed the completed picture, he realized something.

“Konishi-kun!”

He raised his voice and did not bother hiding how dangerous he thought this was.

“Bring the northern unit back immediately! Also, have them take a defensive formation against the enemy warriors waiting on the bridge! Do not allow them into Bousou!”

Otherwise…

“We will lose this!!”


Konishi shoved aside the lernen figur producing Kuki’s words.

Her completed map of Bousou was already there in front of her.

She could see better than anyone where the enemy was, what they were doing, and what Ookubo had ordered them to do. But that was why she could say this.

“She got me good.”

The enemy sinking that light warship had made one thing clear.

“Ookubo Nagayasu…no, this may be more of a Tadachika thing. You…”

This was how best to describe the situation for those in the ground base on Bousou.

“You intend to surround us so we can’t escape, don’t you?”


Konishi clicked her tongue.

This battle had begun when they prepared for the enemy invasion in southern Bousou.

If they had gone out to fight, it would only have sped up the battle. So staying put and holing up had been the best plan. That would give Hashiba time to arrive, so they only had to wait.

But the enemy had a god of war unit.

The trouble with gods of war was how they could jump over or break through the base’s outer walls. Size differences often overturned the very concept of holing up in a fortress.

That was why Konishi had prepared a counterattack. She had placed troops outside the base, including gods of war.

But the enemy had made it even closer than that.

They had formed lines with their different ground units and moved to clear the Bousou Peninsula. And not just to pass through.

“They intend to surround us so we can’t escape.”

They had surrounded this base with name inheritors and gods of war.

That alone was common enough.

When you holed up in a fortress, you were going to be surrounded. That was why she had ordered her troops to fall back and move in closer together to buy time.

But she had been wrong.

The enemy was not simply trying to surround them.

The sky.

The enemy’s aerial fleet had greatly changed what it was doing.

The southern wheel formation was especially dangerous. It had already passed the barrier of ironclad ships to the southeast and could now target a certain something.

“Our base.”

The ironclad ships were of course responding, which prevented the enemy wheel formation from concentrating on their base.

But you did not always need to concentrate on something to be effective.

Such as when you were firing on transport ships instead of warships.

This prevented her from launching any transport ships from their base, but…

“It also means we can’t withdraw.”

What would happen in the unlikely event that the base did fall?

Then the northeast transport ships would be their next base. She had set that up herself.

But what would happen to everyone who abandoned the base and withdrew?

They will use some route or another to withdraw from the base.

But the ground routes were cut off.

The enemy’s southern line was in the way and the Reine des Garous would hold the center. The enemy’s ground troops also had a line set up to the north, even if they were facing the other way.

That left only an air route, but…

“The wheel formation prevents that!”

The enemy fleet could target them now.


They got us, concluded Kuki.

He was referring to both the enemy in front of him and the enemy below.

Kuki had predicted they would be working together, but he had misread how.

“I assumed Murakami Motoyoshi was buying time and deterring us so we could not fire on the ground units.”

The enemy had found even more use for their aerial fleet.

From the west to the south, they exchanged pressure and shellfire in an intense battle.

And from the south to the east, they moved in along a large circular path to take control of the skies above Bousou.

Warship cannons could easily punch through the transport ships that would be the foundation of an evacuation. And since all the Hashiba warships were being used to the west, they could not be used to evacuate personnel.

That meant no one could escape from the base on Bousou.

Nagaya-Stable: “To reiterate.”

He heard Ookubo’s voice.

Nagaya-Stable: “We will not accept your surrender. …And good luck withdrawing.”

Kuki’s conclusion about the current situation grew even worse.

“Everyone in the ground base is entirely surrounded and they cannot even surrender.”


“No surrender. …That is what she said before.”

Konishi wondered if the “unlikely event” of a loss was about to occur here.

Will it?

She did not know. But if it did, the Bousou base would be obliterated.

After all, the ground and sky were cut off.

“Not bad.”

If the Satomi forces succeeded in their invasion, her allies would be forced to continue fighting with no hope of withdrawal or surrender. That left only two options: the enemy spared them, or they were wiped out.

Of course, you could say she had been prepared for this.

She had set up the northern transport ships as a new base if this one was destroyed.

“But now that requires everyone here being wiped out.”

They would have to fight while knowing beforehand there was no hope for them. And that situation was the direct result of their own mistakes.

She was in charge of the ground forces and Kuki the aerial fleet.

They had thought they understood how both sides were working together.

And yet…

How did this happen?

The enemy had not had much to work with to build up to a situation like this.

With only a few limited pieces at their disposal, they had made a foolishly straightforward invasion.

But that must have been the result of their trust in the distant aerial fleet.

Something had seemed off to Konishi. It had looked like Ookubo was rushing straight toward failure.

Her senses had been accurate.

After all, Ookubo had not been fighting this battle alone.

She could see it now.

Ookubo had initially sent the ground unit on the bridge toward the northern unit in order to move the northern unit toward the transport ships.

Just like Konishi had planned to bring the northern unit and transport ships together, the enemy had wanted to safely trap this ground base.

When Konishi had ordered her troops to fall back and fortify their defenses around the base, the enemy had thanked her because it helped them surround the base more tightly.

And the enemy had listed off the advantages of their actions.

“Those were all real advantages, but they were nothing but bait, weren’t they!?”

Ookubo had played the foolishly honest commander right up until the moment all the pieces were in place.

Once the Satomi forces were in place to attack, the base troops were in danger.

Until now, Konishi had simply assumed they could withdraw if things got bad. That was because Ookubo had said she would allow them to withdraw even if she would not accept their surrender.

But that was a shameless lie.

The enemy had built a situation where withdrawal was not possible.

Kuki had supposedly had the enemy’s aerial fleet “under control”, but some of those ships stuck out just enough from the intense fighting in the west for them to surround the Bousou sky. That meant the fleet was meant to surround them from the air.

Meanwhile, Ookubo surrounded them on the ground.

One or the other would not have been enough, but like two L-shapes fitting together to form a square, the two invasions together had them perfectly surrounded.

Now the ground unit simply had to make their attack.

Musashi would follow the history recreation by not accepting their surrender. If the base did fall, withdrawal was not an option, but breaking through the ground or air forces surrounding them would be hell itself.

So.

So Kuki told her to hurriedly put together a defense.

Nagaya-Stable: “You have one more minute.”

Ookubo spoke again.

Nagaya-Stable: “So let’s negotiate, Konishi Yukinaga. …Negotiate about this serious battle we finally have on our hands.”


Chapter 47: Reverser at the Eleventh Hour[edit]

Horizon7B 665.jpg

March onward, invaders

The incessant footsteps of longing

Will not necessarily be ended by a simple resolution

Point Allocation (Scheming)


This is crazy.

Yoshiyasu sighed within Righteousness after moving through the forest.

Ookubo knew how to play the game.

She looked like the mature type and she could be level-headed when it mattered.

That could make her seem stiff, but it worked well against the enemy.

“Now, then.”

Yoshiyasu sighed in the small room created as a virtual cockpit inside Righteousness.

“What will you do now, Ookubo? Crushing the enemy is not victory; it is merely elimination.”


Ookubo sighed in the forest.

I need to thank Aerial Fleet Commander Murakami Motoyoshi once this is all over.

This situation was only possible thanks to his precise delaying tactics and invasion. They appeared to be a little behind schedule, but they had in fact made it in time.

That was why she had started on what they needed to demonstrate in this battle.

She formed the words needed to fulfill her thoughts.

Nagaya-Stable: “Listen, Konishi Yukinaga. This is a simple deal.”

She gave her initial offer.

Nagaya-Stable: “First, the transport ships in the northeast. How about we claim possession of those?”


She’s working to finish us off now.

Konishi smiled bitterly in front of her lernen figur.

Koni-ko: “It was smart of you to not recommend the withdrawal or surrender of our northern unit.”

Nagaya-Stable: “Even if you did that, some other unit could still join with the transport ships. I am nipping any future possibilities in the bud. That is all.”

Koni-ko: “Is that so? …Then what are you offering in return?”

She answered that without a moment’s delay.

Nagaya-Stable: “I will forbid our ground units from attacking your aerial fleet.”


Konishi was briefly dumbfounded by Ookubo’s suggestion.

Hold on now.

The anti-air effectiveness of the enemy’s ground units had been proven well enough by the earlier sinking of the light warship.

Had even that been a product demonstration?

It was true Kuki’s fleet had its hands full dealing with the west and south fronts. They would badly want to avoid being struck from behind. But…

Koni-ko: “You will forbid your own forces from attacking? What do you think war is? And how do you benefit from that?”

Nagaya-Stable: “Are you dumb?”

The enemy responded.

Nagaya-Stable: “All that matters is that the benefit of firing on your fleet is outweighed by the benefit of the deal I make with you. …Nothing says we have to fight. War refers to how both sides of the conflict interact. In that case, it can easily take the form of a deal made through negotiation, can’t it?”

“Listen,” she said.

Nagaya-Stable: “Unlike our Vice President, I am a pacifist.”


Gold Mar: “Treason?”

Vice President: “N-no, peace is good! There’s nothing wrong with that!”

Me: “Don’t think we can’t hear the ‘but war is good too’ you added in your head.”

Asama: “Toori-kun, you don’t have to say it just because we’re all thinking it.”

Vice President: “I feel like Asama has turned against me lately!”


Koni-ko: “That deal is not good enough.”

Konishi crossed her arms as she spoke.

Ookubo’s suggestion would be enough for her to make up for her mistake to Kuki, but…

Koni-ko: “Bringing the northern unit and transport ships together was meant as a way to keep the Keichou Campaign going. I cannot eliminate that lifeline even if our main base is threatened.”

Nagaya-Stable: “So as long as you can keep the Keichou Campaign going, you are saying the Hashiba forces are willing to accept the slaughter of their comrades in their Bousou base? All because of their commander’s mistake?”

Koni-ko: “If I must be punished for my mistake, that will come after the battle, moron.”

Konishi explained.

Koni-ko: “A mistake is a mistake, but wars must be won. So I will win despite my mistake and then accept whatever punishment that mistake requires afterwards. …That is the deal I have made with myself.”

That was the worst kind of decision for a commander to make, but she was in the Bousou base as well.

One thing was clear about this negotiation.

I have the upper hand.

The pieces were still in place to keep the Keichou Campaign going.

The other side could only continue making suggestions.

A breakdown in negotiations would mean her side might be wiped out, but…

Koni-ko: “Either way, those of us at the base have to do the best we can. We can never eliminate the possibility of being wiped out in the end.”

Nagaya-Stable: “Then I will offer something else as well.”

What possible deal would be worth giving up the continuation of the Keichou Campaign?

Nagaya-Stable: “Vice Chancellor’s Aide Tachibana Muneshige and his aide Gin will open up the eastern coast as a noncombat zone to be used for withdrawals.”


Konishi gasped a bit at what Ookubo had offered.

They will open a hole in their siege of our base?

And she was offering to open up the entire east side.

Agreeing to a noncombat zone would safely open up the coast and they would be able to withdraw from the beach.

Wait, thought Konishi, although she did not know if it was the enemy or herself she wanted to stop. Either way, she sensed some kind of danger.

The enemy saw war as a kind of deal.

She was willing to use sacrifice, strategy, and war results as bargaining chips in that deal.

She was not a merchant.

She was a politician.

But, thought Konishi to change her train of thought.

Can she really offer us anything more valuable than keeping the Keichou Campaign going?

She can’t.

That settled it then.

These negotiations had failed.

So this was only meant to buy time and delay the opening of hostilities. But…

Nagaya-Stable: “Are you listening?”

Koni-ko: “What is it?”

Nagaya-Stable: “Judge. I am currently waiting to send out our northern siege line. And a minute has passed.”

Koni-ko: “I am aware of that!”

She had actually forgotten, but she could think faster than anyone.

She hurriedly considered the situation.

If the northern siege line was put in place, withdrawal would become even more difficult.

And with an anti-air line included, it would be difficult for the northern transport ships to move south.

That had been the original plan, but…

Has it not happened yet?

This is bad, she realized.

What was bad? The fact that she was thinking she could actually fix this.

If she regained the option of withdrawal, she could make up for her mistake as commander.

Nagaya-Stable: “What do you gain by us not putting our northern siege line in place?”

Ookubo explained it.

Nagaya-Stable: “That is simple:

1: The transport ships in the north can come and go.

2: You gain a withdrawal route from the south.

3: You regain the withdrawal route you lost due to your command mistake.

“Isn’t that right? And #3 seems especially important, if you ask me.”

She was right about that.

Nagaya-Stable: “So how about it?”

Koni-ko: “How about what?”

Nagaya-Stable: “Your command mistake has left the base unable to withdraw in the face of certain doom, but a backup base can continue the Keichou Campaign in your stead. …Isn’t that more of a last resort meant to ensure victory in the end?”

Koni-ko: “Testament. And what is wrong with that?”

“Judge,” replied Ookubo.

Nagaya-Stable: “Wouldn’t it be better to eliminate your command mistake and win with your main base, thus ensuring you take no blame whatsoever?”

That girl knew what to say to hurt her.

She understands this perfectly.

It would be a lot easier if she accepted Ookubo’s offer. In exchange for opening a withdrawal route and eliminating Konishi’s mistake, Konishi would cease her own actions in the north. That would eliminate the biggest problem for both sides and they could resume fighting on more equal footing.

But this was war.

However it happened, whoever survived to the end was the winner.

She had made a mistake, but if she could win like this, then she would do so. That was how war worked. She knew what her fate at Sekigahara would be, so she was prepared to take responsibility and drag other people down with her.

She inhaled, filling her lungs with the night air.

Koni-ko: “Are you dumb?”

She said it.

Koni-ko: “Winning with this base and winning with the northern forces is the same in the end. The latter just means I was appropriately cautious. …Or are you saying you will let me win with this base?”

Nagaya-Stable: “If you will withdraw after winning, then sure.”

Konishi realized how frightening an opponent this was.

She really did only see war as a deal to be made.

But that was why this would work here.

Koni-ko: “Sorry.”

This is war and there’s no getting around that, she thought.

Koni-ko: “But I can’t do that. If I will win in the end either way, then this is a surefire business opportunity. I cannot throw that out because you dangle some bait in front of my eyes.”

Nagaya-Stable: “Even if the victory that gives you is a lot less ‘profitable’?”

Koni-ko: “We’ll have been wiped out by then, right?”

A laugh escaped her mouth as she said that.

It was not a laugh of desperation. It came from the calm of having made this deal with herself. So…

Koni-ko: “Sorry, but I will be letting out anyone who wants to withdraw. They will no longer be part of our Hashiba forces. They’re on temporary leave from the academy and they simply came here for an early summer break.”

A low stir ran through her surroundings.

The others were listening to her negotiation. She had of course left this divine transmission open so everyone could understand the situation and that may have been why this happened.

“Konishi.”

Everyone in the main base spoke up on the divine transmission.

“We have no intention of losing!”

“Testament! We just have to win here, right!?”

“What’s the big deal!? If we need to escape and withdrawal is ‘impossible’, that just means we have to try harder to find a way to escape!”

That’s right, thought Konishi as she looked down from the deck of the warship in the base’s central plaza.

2000 warriors were gathered there with their lights extinguished.


Konishi looked down in front of her.

Some of them would of course want to withdraw, but the others spoke to them:

“Hey! Take this guy with you. He plans to stay, but he failed his midterms.”

“If you’re going on ahead, then wait for me in Akihabara. There’s an unwritten rule that it’s neutral territory!”

“Go on ahead, captain! The Representative Committee Head wants some observation results during summer break!”

They quickly divided themselves up between those being kicked out and those kicking the others out.

They all understood.

Whether or not Hashiba could leave some forces in Kantou would be a turning point in the conflict between Hashiba and Matsudaira.

She would not thank them. This was their decision.

She would not forget her mistake. She would make up for that.

If it came to it, she would drive all the others out so she could act as a one-person “base”.

Those were the decisions she considered.

So she relaxed her shoulders and spoke.

Koni-ko: “Sorry.”

Nagaya-Stable: “Have negotiations failed?”

Koni-ko: “Testament. They have. …Ookubo, you can tear up every agreement we have made thus far if you like. We will fight our war, not craft a deal in place of war.”

Nagaya-Stable: “Are you saying you will continue fighting there instead of withdrawing?”

Koni-ko: “I am.”

After Konishi said that, Ookubo paused for a moment and spoke.

Nagaya-Stable: “Then I will continue my war as well.”


Konishi nodded at Ookubo’s use of the term “my war”.

So she will do this in her way as well.

Then Konishi realized they had entered another “pause”. Based on the flow of negotiation thus far, this “pause” would be for Ookubo to state what they would do next.

But Konishi felt something click into place in her mind.

It was like the many scattered gears and springs suddenly fitting together. And it sent a word quickly rising from her chest.

Koni-ko: “Wait.”

A vague thought filled her mind.

Something was being built up there, but she could not quite picture it yet.

It was massive and she could not quite grasp it yet, but she knew she could not let this slip away. And she knew what she had to say in order to grasp it.

This was a ridiculous adlib that skipped past so many steps.

She could figure out the shape and reason for this idea later, but for now there was something she had to say.

Koni-ko: “On second thought, I accept all of your conditions.”

She said it.

Koni-ko: “I will give you possession of the northeastern transport ships!”

She heard some confused voices around her.

Kuki was hurriedly sending her a message as well.

But none of those would help her with this business opportunity, so she did not listen to or read them. She had to focus on something else right now.

What is this?

Something like impatience filled her heart.

The one thing she knew for sure was that throwing out this situation would be dangerous and it would mean losing something crucial.

She would lose the first thing a merchant had to buy.

That was not victory, money, materials, or people.

This is…

Nagaya-Stable: “You have just claimed your future, Konishi Yukinaga.”

The irritation in Ookubo’s voice told Konishi she had chosen correctly.

This was a product that made discarding a winning hand the correct answer.

Yes.

She could see it now.

The gears and puzzle pieces fitting together in her mind had taken their ultimate form.

So she opened her mouth.

Koni-ko: “I’ve finally caught up. You are Ookubo Nagayasu, the most powerful gold mine magistrate who was even ostracized by Matsudaira. And…”

This enemy dealt with more than just money.

Koni-ko: “You are also Ookubo Tadachika, a scheming politician. …A Catholic merchant commander, and the Hashiba forces that will fail at Sekigahara, have finally caught up with you.”

“You,” began Konishi.

Koni-ko: “You planned to sit here until the Azuchi Castle arrived, didn’t you!?”


Masazumi looked back east from atop the small transport ship that had started to ascend and accelerate.

The battlefield was there.

On the opposite side of vast Edo Bay, cannon fire lit up the sky by the southern bay entrance.

But she was focused on the forested peninsula in front of that.

Ookubo.

Her underclassman was fighting her own war against the enemy representative. But…

“Hey, Seijun, isn’t that Koni-tan’s daughter on the other side? What’s got her so worked up all of a sudden?”

“Judge. Konishi noticed at the very last second what Ookubo had been secretly setting up all this time.”

“Eh?” said everyone with a tilt of the head.

Ookubo does love secret scheming like this, so it can be hard to follow.

Especially when some improvised decisions were thrown into the mix.

Fine, then, thought Masazumi while lightly pointing toward the Bousou Peninsula.

“The truth is, the Satomi Liberation is entering a situation that’s difficult for Musashi Ariadust Academy, Mouri, Mogami, Satomi, or really any single nation to judge.”

“Heh heh,” laughed Kimi. “I know what you mean! After all, everyone is pulling an all-nighter fighting, so no one’s following the academy rule suggesting 8 hours of sleep a night! That’s it, isn’t it!?”

Was that a rule? Masazumi felt like it might be, but she had forgotten because it had nothing to do with politics.

Regardless, the current situation was more serious than that.

“Listen. According to the Testament, the Hashiba forces fully withdraw from the Keichou Campaign. Do you get what that means?”

“Judge,” everyone replied. But some of them…

Silver Wolf: “Ah.”

Me: “Eh!? What is it!? Did you figure it out, Nate!? Then tell me and only me!”

That idiot moves fast. But at this point, the problem was clear.

“The withdrawal must happen to follow the Testament, but you saw Ookubo and Konishi’s negotiation, right? Konishi is unable to withdraw.”

And…

“Ookubo tried to negotiate so they could withdraw, but…”

Everyone caught on as she said that, so Asama raised her hand.

“Konishi…-san? Um, she rejected that withdrawal, didn’t she?”

“Judge. That puts the Hashiba forces in violation of the Testament, so Ookubo will stay where she is to preserve the status quo rather than assist in that violation. And…”

The idiot raised his hand.

“If she waits there, won’t Monkey Girl show up?”

“It’s fine if she does. In fact, that’s exactly what Ookubo wants.”

This was Ookubo’s plan.

“She intended to let Testament Representative Hashiba arrive and force her to punish Konishi and the Hashiba base for their decision.”


You just about got me, thought Konishi while breathing a heated sigh.

For some reason, her back and neck were soaked with sweat.

But she had done it. She had seen through her enemy’s continuous scheme at the very last moment.

“Honestly…”

She spoke.

Koni-ko: “Hashiba-kun is the Testament Union Representative, so if she arrives and punishes me, it would be a rebuke of my violation. And if my violation was rebuked, I would be forced to withdraw.”

Nagaya-Stable: “Hashiba could always start the battle then while taking your side.”

It was true the withdrawal was described in the Testament, but even if they were completely surrounded, they could still fight as long as the battle had yet to actually start at that point. But…

Koni-ko: “If we used an interpretation like that, the entire world would turn against Hashiba-kun for using the interpretations to her advantage. Of course, she is not the type to feel fear even if it does harm her, but…”

She went ahead and said it.

Koni-ko: “I am not such an inept merchant that I must rely on my superior’s good nature and accept great harm to her reputation. …The world trembles at the sound of Hashiba’s name, so I would much rather be known as the merchant who put herself at risk to protect that reputation from harm.”

Also.

Koni-ko: “Even if we did start the battle then, we would still have to withdraw after it was over. Because the Testament says so. Which means…”

That settled it.

Koni-ko: “After accepting all your conditions, I too will forget everything we discussed so we can fight this like normal. …Got that?”


Ookubo moved in the forest. She raised her right hand.

“Oh, god.”

She smacked her own forehead. Hard.

“I wasn’t trying to look down on her. Did I get careless?”

“You did your job well,” said Kanou. “Because even if you abandon everything you discussed, our siege forces cannot be moved back. And of course, we cannot make up for the loss of the small transport ship.”

“Don’t bother, Kanou-kun. Don’t bother.”

“You are sulking again, milady.”

Ookubo averted her gaze at that. She took a sip of the lightly plum flavored sports drink in her hip bamboo bottle.

“And I was just thinking I had ended this.”

She would have been leaving the aerial fleet battle to Murakami, but waiting for Hashiba’s arrival would have meant avoiding all losses from their ground forces.

And once the enemy withdrew after Hashiba’s arrival, they would have won Satomi almost bloodlessly.

That would have been the best result for the Kantou Liberation.

“But that inept merchant went for the option with the most losses.”

“Milady, can’t you just think of this as simply returning to square one?”

“A politician’s skill can be seen in how far they reduce the damage from ‘square one’.”

Ookubo groaned “oh, god” again.

Vice President: “Hey, Ookubo.”

Nagaya-Stable: “What? Here for an inept attempt at praise?”

Vice President: “No, well, how should I put this?”

Nagaya-Stable: “Out with it already.”

Vice President: “All of that about refusing to accept their surrender was just your way of guiding things toward the least damaging result, right?”

She said it.

Vice President: “Fighting to avoid loss is our policy…so you did well.”

Nagaya-Stable: “I did nothing of the sort! Moron!”

She had thought she had managed to pull that off across this battlefield.

Yeah.

She had believed it during the negotiation when the enemy had fortified the base’s defenses and gone along with her plan.

She felt so stupid for getting even a little excited back then.

“I really can’t stand it.”

Hearing that, Kanou placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Milady, when she said you ‘did well’, she was not referring to the result.”

Instead…

“She was assessing the conviction behind your negotiation.”

“I know that. …Besides, doesn’t that mean she didn’t trust me to do that?”

“To be honest, milady, I do not think you should be asking whether someone trusts you when you recently used the student general assembly to very nearly strip her of her authority.”

“Well, okay, I don’t really have a comeback for that…”

What a pain, she thought. And…

Ah.

She was feeling a lot better now. She must have blown off some steam with all that shouting.

“Thank you, Kanou-kun. …Besides, I do know what the Vice President was saying.”

“Then let me tell you something else you already know.”

“What is that?”

“You tend to explode with emotion when it comes to the Vice President.”

She shouted “What!?” loud enough for everyone around her to look back her way.

“…”

And they turned back toward the forest without saying a word.

Dammit!

She was supposed to be the schemer, yet she felt like she was being controlled by something even bigger.

But whatever the case, the war was not over yet.

“I need to stay focused.”

She took a breath and put herself back in a warfighting mood.

She lightly slapped her cheeks and opened a sign frame to say what had to be said.

Nagaya-Stable: “Konishi Yukinaga.”

There was something she had to do while the divine transmission was still open.

Nagaya-Stable: “There is one thing I would like to negotiate or suggest. Is that okay?”


Kani opened a few lernen figurs while looking alternately between the sky and straight ahead.

The lernen figurs showed the negotiation and a map of Bousou. They also showed their formation, the distribution of personnel, and the level of injury calculated from their divine protection management.

As one of those people, a number of feelings and decisions came to mind while she viewed it all, but she also moved her eyes.

There was an ether forest 30m in front of her. The Musashi forces and the Mouri warriors were in that forest and the Reine des Garous was seated in the center of it all, enjoying a late-night meal with her husband.

The two of them were eating the fruits she produced just by waving her hand.

“Delicious! I could swear it was warming my body!”

“Oh, dear. How embarrassing. Is that anything to say after eating a part of me?”

It was incredible how they created their own little world there, but Kani recalled the Reine des Garous being like that at Odawara too.

However, the real problem was in the sky. Specifically, in the northeastern sky behind her.

There was a long row of black shapes there.

Those were the transport ships that had landed to the northeast. The ones not sunk by the Tachibana couple were lining up to approach them, but they had stopped.

That was because they now belonged to Ookubo and the enemies.

But the enemy said something unexpected.

Nagaya-Stable: “I would like to transfer the flight-capable northeastern transport ships to Hashiba.”

Eh?

A stir ran through everyone around Kani.

Why would the enemy do that? Further words arrived to explain that.

Koni-ko: “I accept. And in exchange…”

Konishi spoke as the commander on the scene.

Koni-ko: “Our entire northern unit will board those ships. That will count as ‘withdrawing’, so they will all be protected from the battle. …Is that okay?”

“What!?” shouted Kani. “I can still have more of my best to do!”

But then the person next to her held out a hand.

It was Kasuya. Her right hand touched Kani’s left shoulder.

Ah.

Kani was only slightly knocked off balance, but her knees gave out below her.

Just before her knees slammed into the pavement on the ground, Kasuya stuck a hand below her arm and lifted her up.

The girl was strong. Instead of simply supporting her, it was more like Kani was bounced back up onto her weak legs.

When she looked back, she saw Kasuya giving her a still look.

“You have done plenty of your best already.”

“I-I can keep going!”

“Then you should train more so you can keep going without wearing yourself out.”

Kasuya looked up into the western sky as she said that.

Eight giant ships were spread out across the heavens there. The bottom was colored black and Musashi’s small transport ship was flying toward that great form.

Musashi’s main force was boarding that ship.

They were going to Nördlingen after already fighting the Hashiba forces here.

“They already fought the Sieges of Odawara and Kanie Castle during the day, so they sure are tough.”

Kani agreed with Kasuya’s assessment.

She heard something in the sky. With ownership of the transport ships back to Konishi, they were descending once more.

The deep sound of the wind shook her body. And that sound meant something for them.

“Our part of the Keichou Campaign is over!”

“My, my. We are not done yet.” Kasuya smiled a little. “The cargo on these ships is meant as supplies for the fighters once the battle is over. We must prepare for that and we must also prepare for their healing and rest. …Can you cook?”

“Testament! I can!”

Kani did not hesitate to reply. This meant there was still something she could do. She could still be of use to the others. So she looked to the battlefield and shouted to the people she knew were causing the lights of battle to the south.

“Please do your best!”


Chapter 48: Happy Conscious One[edit]

Horizon7B 691.jpg

O-oh?

What am I doing sleeping

At a time like this!?

Point Allocation (Grooming)


“Good girl, good girl. You did really well.”

Mitotsudaira heard her king’s voice while lying down.

She was on the deck of the small transport ship heading back toward the Musashi. She was curled up on her side with her head resting on her king’s lap.

After returning to the deck, he had sat on the edge of the deck and slapped his thigh. When she approached and sat next to him, wondering what this was about, he had rubbed her head and brought them to their current situation.

He was combing her hair while rubbing her head and neck.

The comb was a hair-combing charm provided by Asama. One side of the comb had a comb shape, a combing god would reside within it when it was activated, and it would provide cleaning and treatment using a washing spell based on pure water. Since Asama had provided it, there was no conflict with her grooming divine protections.

Th-that tickles.

There was some interference and acclimation with the innate divine protections of her species, plus she was busy restraining herself while resting her head on her king’s lap.

Besides, this was a reward from her king. This a sign of my hard work.

He had caught her after she broke through the transport ship earlier and now he was combing her hair while she rested her head in his lap. Part of her wondered excitedly what it would be next time, but doing this in the public eye was also quite dangerous. After all, it really did tickle, his lap felt so warm, and the way she left everything up to him meant everything came as a surprise.

S-stay calm, stay calm!

Asama: “Um, Mito?”

Stay calm!

Calm down, me. Take a deep breath and…go!

Silver Wolf: “Oh? What do you need during such an emergency, Tomo?”

Wise Sister: “Heh heh. Every time my foolish brother touches you even a little, your butt wiggles around, which has placed your skirt is in something of an incredible position. Does this mean your mind and body are separate creatures?”

Silver Wolf: “It does not! Not at all!”

“Oh, does it itch here?”

Ahee!

Asama: “Mito… You’re a little too straightforward…”

Silver Wolf: “Th-that one caught me off guard!”

Gold Mar: “The Chancellor commented on it before doing it, didn’t he?”

Mar-Ga: “I didn’t know Mitotsudaira could make faces like that.”

Wh-what kind of face is that!?

She of course had no intention of asking. But her king suddenly spoke to her.

“Nate, you’re stretching out a little too much. You’re getting in people’s way.”

She knew what he was going to do. He pulled in her bent legs, and…

“Oh?”

He could not manage to pull them in. But not because they were lacking in weight.

Nor was he too weak. The human body was poorly balanced, so when you tried to manipulate someone else’s body, it was not going to go well.

That was why she placed her hips on the arm he was using and nonchalantly pressed her toes against the floor.

She slid herself up onto his lap.

She brought her face to his left side and her hips on his right thigh.

He was now effectively holding her in his arms, so when he shifted his right thigh out from under her…

“Ah…”

Her curled-up body sank down into his crossed legs.

She was lying on her side while facing toward him.

She could not move while sinking down into his crossed legs.

It reminded her of lying in a shallow and narrow bathtub, but that may have been because of the heat. The heat came from her own body. It scared her how rapidly it was rising.

The main issue at hand was what to do with her arms. If she extended them outwards, they would catch on his legs and she would be unable to bend them, so they would be sticking out completely straight. That would look really lame. But if she pulled them in toward her body, it would put space between her and her king and make it harder for him to comb her hair.

The only other option was…

“Here.”

Her king placed the side of his face on her bent left arm. Then he pulled her head in a bit and lifted her hair up from below with his left arm.

“Your hair smells really nice.”

“I-it does?”

“Yeah, it smells a lot like yakiniku onions.”

“You’re just smelling what I ate during the battle!”

There was nothing she could do.

But her lower right arm was free because he was holding her head and hair in his arm.

So she corrected her position. She moved that lower right arm from atop his thigh and wrapped it around his hips while she stuck her left arm between his right shoulder and arm and bent it to support her own resting head.

That allowed her to see her king’s face from below.

It also allowed him to see her face, but…

This is a luxury.

This was a lot like how a noble lady would have a maid groom her, so it was probably disrespectful to have her king do it. But she was having him do it nevertheless.

Due to her large quantity of hair, no one else could see her looking at her king.

He would sometimes look at her, but she had no idea what look she gave him in return. However…

“Oh, you can make that kind of face, Nate?”

“Wh-what kind of face is that!?”

“Well, let’s just say it isn’t something I want to let anyone else see.”

What kind of face is that? she wondered, but perhaps this too qualified as a shared secret.

She also had a feeling the others had already seen it a moment before, but that was an issue for later.

There is so much more to come.

With that thought, her body relaxed as if it had grown accustomed to its own heat.

“Did you fall asleep?”

“I am still awake,” she tried but failed to say.

She was aware she was in fact gently falling asleep.


Asama blushed in her heart as she watched Mitotsudaira drift off to sleep.

Mito can be bold when she wants to.

Maybe I’m not one to talk after kissing him, but is lying in his lap and having so much mutual contact really all that great?

But, she thought.

With Mitotsudaira, pressing her cheek against him or holding each other probably was the greater form of “joy”.

Was that because animals associated using their mouth with eating prey? Her mother did seem nearly inseparable from her father, but…

She goes for a kiss when they have been apart, but they are always touching each other.

Wanting someone and wanting to share your happiness with them were probably different things to them.

They probably saw them as separate emotions or separate levels of desire.

“Ah.”

Asama realized something.

When Mito goes all out for Toori-kun, it’s when she’s feeling withdrawal symptoms or when her emotions are in overdrive, isn’t it?

She felt bad analyzing her friend’s emotions like this, but she had to prepare herself mentally.

She might have to help out Horizon or the others with this kind of thing depending on the situation.

Oh, this is yet another job for me, isn’t it?

She never seemed to be free from work.

But she could now see that was due to her own personality.

Yes, that’s it, she told herself while crossing her arms, but that was when Kimi poked at her shoulder from the side. Curious what that was about, she looked over to find the girl pointing at Mitotsudaira.

“So what do you do, Asama?”

“What do I do when?”

“Judge. When you can’t restrain yourself any longer.”

Eh!?

“Wh-what could you possibly mean? Restrain myself from what?”

“You know, like with Mito’s mom when she can’t restrain herself any longer and is nearly in tears over it.”

Wow, thought Asama.

Thinking back, that was what had happened in Yomi. The situation and emotions had been different, but that was what had happened when she had stopped hesitating when it came to him.

She had been conflicted right up until she did it, but when she had seen him unable to breathe, all of that had gone away.

“Ahh.”


Asama was left speechless, so Kimi placed a hand over her mouth and smiled.

“My, my. Look at that blush. Heh heh. Why not try hiding your face behind your hair like Mitotsudaira?”

“No, I, um…so what do you do at times like that, Kimi?”

“Eh? My foolish brother is always within firing range, so I just have to head back home.”

Why does she get to have an absolute safe zone!?

That irritated her a bit, but that only caused the idiot sister to wiggle around and provoke her further.

“Heh heh. Does that sound unfair? It does, doesn’t it? But you too were granted the right to be near him, so you don’t get to be jealous! Oh, but I guess you can’t help but be jealous when you see my excellent, sexy, and dynamite body and mind, can you!?”

“I will admit you probably do have the equivalent of a million tons of dynamite in your mind and that I am extremely jealous of you at times, but your mind follows a special set of rules.”

“Oh, dear,” said Kimi while placing a hand on her cheek.

But then she looked at the two on the floor.

Mitotsudaira was sleeping curled up on his lap like a large wolf.

A short distance away, Naito was watching her as well.

“Mito-tsan’s amazing, isn’t she? I’ve heard of animals hiding their head but leaving their butt exposed, but she’s hiding her face behind her hair while her butt wiggles all over the place from the Chancellor’s combing.”

“Yeah, Nate isn’t the type to say when things make her happy, so I’m really glad I can pick it up from those reactions.”

“Chancellor, she’s gonna eat you one day.”

Naito laughed, but he responded while showing off his teeth in a smile.

“I’m just so happy,” he said while pulling Mitotsudaira’s curled-up body closer to him. “So happy she wants to be with me and can’t bear to leave me be.”

“You and Mito-tsan have a pretty close relationship.” Naito then asked something like it just slipped out. “But what do you think would’ve happened without the Battle of Mikawa? Just between us.”


“Good question,” said Toori while looking up into the night sky with the silver wolf on his lap.

He had discussed this with Horizon back in England. That was a secret he shared with Horizon, but…

Well, I guess it’s fine now.

He looked to Kimi and she smiled back with her eyebrows lowered.

She seemed to be saying it was fine, so he felt more at ease with saying this.

“Well, after graduating, I could’ve left the Musashi to reset things and study things.”

“Oh, sounds like a grand adventure, Chancellor.”

“Yeah,” he replied. “I thought I’d head down to the surface and do what I needed to do.”

Oops, I said too much. Well, it’s fine. Given what’s happened.

“Anyway, there was a time when I was thinking I could reset things for myself like that.”

But…

How should I put this?

He was unsure how to put this to words.

What was it?

Something had become clear during the Battle of Mikawa.

When he had said he could do it himself and descended those stairs, everyone had followed him. Thinking back, it seemed wrong to assume the same thing would have happened with his plans from before all that, but…

“If someone had stuck with me after that, it would’ve been a lifelong thing, right?”

Because…

“They’d be telling me our current relationship was important and didn’t need to be reset.”


“Heh heh.”

Asama heard Kimi laugh.

“Quite a complicated adolescence you were having there, foolish brother!”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Judge. After all, you invited a lot of the boys to go along with you, didn’t you?”

“Sis, how do you know about that?”

Asama was pretty sure the only answer was “because she’s Kimi”, but the idiot sister slapped her chest and spoke up.

“Big boobs fortunetelling! You can divine the truth of the cosmos in the sounds they make and how they feel when you grope them!”

“Hell yeah, sis! It’s been a while since even I thought you sounded insane! Hell yeah!”

“Heh heh heh. If you want to praise me, you need to be louder than that. …But anyway.”

Kimi put on a serious expression, slapped both her breasts, and continued.

“Use both boobs and the accuracy doubles! Keep that in mind, foolish brother!”

“Got it, sis! So you know someone’s serious when they pull out the full pair, right!?”

“Um, you two? I thought we were having a serious discussion here.”

Kimi dug her fingers into Asama’s breasts and shouted “yeah.”

“You know what, foolish brother? Asama knew about it too!”

“Eh!? For real, Asama!?”

“Ugh,” groaned Asama because she was unsure what to say.

She could tell Kimi had set her up here, but…

“No, um, that was back during the middle or end of our second year, right? You were dropping some hints about some plans of yours, remember? Like you asked Mito what she would do if you went down to the surface. And you asked me something similar.”

“Wh-why do you have to remember that kinda cringy stuff!?”

“Wow, you are super cringy, Chancellor.”

“I’m sorry!” he apologized to Naito, but then Tenzou spoke up.

He was being treated by Mary on the edge of the deck.

“Toori-dono, that makes you sound like a shy girl in love.”

“Yes, I know what you mean,” added Neshinbara. “The kind of girl that wants to know how her crush feels about her, so she drops hints that she will be transferring schools soon and watches to see how they react. I don’t like writing characters like that, but what were you thinking back then, Aoi-kun?”

“Y-you’re here for revenge too, aren’t you!?”

Meanwhile, Mary raised her right hand.

She was blushing and hanging her head.

“Um…I kind of did something like that to see how Master Tenzou would respond…”

“It’s fine when you do it, Mary-dono! I only just now learned you did it and it felt like having the cutest of fairies descend into my heart!”

“Tenzou, you are just the worst for not realizing what she was doing at the time.”

“I can see why her sister ordered to have you skewered with a gravity sword.”

That turn was not complete until everyone had had their say.

Some of them started fighting, but once things calmed down, Kimi asked him a question.

“But that was in the second year, right? What were you planning to do until graduation?”

“I don’t know. I can say whatever I want now, but at the time, my attitude really was ‘I can wait until I graduate to make up my mind’. Plus, Horizon had arrived at mom’s café.”

He turned to Asama.

“But I did hope I could pull it all off. I wanted to confess to P-01s and, if it went well, go from there. And if it didn’t go well, I’d go from there. If I was heading down to the surface, I wanted to ask everyone to join me, but that would mean I had been rejected by P-01s, so asking Nate or Asama to join me felt kind of like I was looking for a replacement, so…”

“That is not true.”

Asama finally spoke.

Ah.

This was it.

This was when she lost her hesitation regarding him.

It was when she wanted to tell him something about herself.

Wow.

She was aware of that now as she spoke.

“We are different people and you approach us as separate individuals, so we are not replacements. I have understood that for a long time.”

He responded with a bitter smile.

“I really wish you’d told me that back then.”

Kimi smiled bitterly too.

“Foolish brother.”

She was not speaking to him. She was simply calling her brother foolish. So…

“I mean, well, things are different now, but back then, I was thinking a lot about responsibility and stuff.”

“Um…Toori-kun? Please think about responsibility now too.”

“Oh, well, I’m open to pretty much anything now. Yeah.”

“I see,” was all she could say.

Meanwhile, he continued while lightly patting the wolf’s back.

“What would’ve happened to me without the Battle of Mikawa? I might’ve gotten so hung up on doing things right that I never did anything at all and just ended up trying to please everyone.”

“Not necessarily.”

That comment came from Masazumi who had remained silent until now. She stood next to Futayo who was still retrieving the food supplies.

“We experienced a lot during our second year and that placed us in the positions we ended up holding, but the same thing would have happened during our third year. So, Aoi, when I think back to our second year, you were an unbelievable idiot and hopelessly annoying, but…”

“What kind of person am I in your memories!?”

“Even this is the cleaned up version I can bear to remember, so do not remind me how bad it really was,” she said. “Listen. If the Battle of Mikawa had never happened and you had tried to do things right, by the time you graduated, you might have ended up in an even better position than you have now.”

But…

“Based on how much we are experiencing and how many people we are meeting now, you are sure to end up in an even better position in the future than you would have been at graduation without the Battle of Mikawa.”

“Seijun-kun…sometimes you just really know the right thing to say.”

“Stop being so creepy!”

“I can’t help it,” he said without a hint of shyness, but then he took a breath. “But anyway, I was thinking about doing things right. It’s just that the opportunity I was looking for then isn’t ever going to happen. Still, I was planning to do things right. I knew it wouldn’t be easy and there would be some painful goodbyes, but I really believed I could do things right.”

And…

“Now, things are like this.”

“That is all thanks to Horizon,” said Asama.

This situation had happened because of Horizon. But…

“Silly Asama, it was thanks to all of you as well,” said Kimi. “If he had called out and no one answered, it would all have been meaningless.”

“You’ve got a point,” he said with a smile. And to Naito, “You can’t have her.”

“I don’t want her. I’ve already got someone.”

Naito showed off her own teeth with a smile back. Naruze looked unbothered next to her, but Asama knew she had to be reacting in some way on the inside.

But, thought Asama. I care about him too.

But instead of “you can’t have him”, it was “I don’t want to lose you”, wasn’t it?

The touching or the kissing were like the distance of their relationship and they all had their own distance in how they dealt with each other. In that case, what about with Kimi and Horizon?

They must have their own unique “distance” as well.

Oh, she realized. I can think about this a lot more calmly than before.

Her thoughts had only been about herself before, but now she could think about him and her friends.

Would she eventually calm down even more and not even feel anything about it?

On the other hand…

“Toori-kun, you should tell Mito all this the next time you’re alone together. She won’t say anything out loud, but I know she would love to hear it.”

“Sure. And I’ve got a lot to tell you too, so keep that in mind.”

“R-right. Bring it on.”

Kimi smiled bitterly next to her, but Asama decided this was about right for now. And…

“Ah.”

She realized an enormous white and black ship had come into view.

The Musashi was already moving.

The gravitational acceleration thrusters were in standby mode.

Musashi: “Well done making it back, everyone. You are 7 minutes late. …‘Musashino’. Over.”

Musashino: “Eh!? Oh, y-yes! I have calculated a way to make up for the delay, so please dock as quickly as possible! Over.”

“Judge,” they all replied while their king started to lift up the sleeping knight.

There was only one thing Asama could do here:

“Don’t push yourself too hard.”

She attached a physical strengthening spell charm to his back. “You got it,” he replied while picking up the wolf. He was too tense, so Kimi lightly tapped him in a few places to make some corrections.

He could probably manage the remaining 10 minutes now. So…

“Once they get refocused, the Satomi Liberation battle will begin.”


The Reine des Garous watched the ground unit’s warriors meet up and then spread out across northern Bousou.

As per the negotiation, they left eastern Bousou open for enemy withdrawal, but they did construct a line along the western half.

She watched it all while seated on a stump and most of them would bow or clap their hands together as they passed by.

“You do not gain anything from praying to me, you know?”

“I am from the Kinoyama Shrine that worships wolves!”

“And I’m from a nonhuman family!”

“Me!? I worship big breasts!”

“You sure are honest!” the others said as even more worshipers arrived. Meanwhile, Kani, who the Reine des Garous had met during the Siege of Odawara, spoke up from the enemy group.

“Reine des Garous! Can I get a photo with you to show my parents!?”

“My, my. If you had done this back at Odawara, you could have gotten Yoshiaki-san in the photo as well.”

“But now is the only time to get a photo of you looking like that!”

“I see,” she said before agreeing to the photo. The girl took a reflection photo using a signe cadre and added a Far Eastern multicolored woodcut filter which really showed off the ether blue and downplayed the yellows.

Her husband said she looked “soft” in the photo. Sounds like I can look forward to more fun tonight.

Then some young Mouri girls who had apparently joined the Musashi warriors for this fight spoke up.

“C-can I get a photo with you too!?”

“Me too please!”

“I’ve been a fan of yours since IZUMO!”

The photo they showed her with the school emblem added onto it was of her slamming her daughter against the ground like a blanket, so she could not help but smile bitterly.

A great many people arrived and then moved on to reach their posts. It did not feel like they were leaving and going way, so was that a sign that she had changed?

“The other werewolves might still be living somewhere beyond my forest.”

The ether forest was only opened around the bridge, so she felt like it only had room to show the most basic part of herself.

If she left this forest, would she find her current home? And if she went beyond that, would she find the places where she had talked with old friends?

“If so…”

“They definitely are.”

He squeezed her hand, so she squeezed back.

“Honey.”

“Yes?”

“I can’t wait a second longer.”

A fence of tall trees suddenly rose up around them and she prepared to roll down from the stump, but…

“I’ll lead.”

He pulled on her hand.

Oh, my.

He lifted her up. She was the one who had led him to do this kind of thing, but…

“You actually did it.”

“Yes. …I picked you up like a bouquet of flowers like you told me to. You smell nice.”

“I was talking about the light weight of the flowers, not the smell.”

“You’re so cool and pretty, so you really are just like a flower.”

Then he spun around as if lightly swinging her around.

She could see the night sky.

That sky had once seemed so empty when she saw it up through the dark forest.

But this forest was made of ether light and its brightness seemed to accentuate the sliver of the sky she could see.

The Reine des Garous looked to him. Their lips naturally came together and she pressed her cheek against his neck.

“I am so glad we came to Kantou.”

“There will be plenty more reasons to be glad in the future.”

“Yes,” she agreed just before a signe cadre appeared between the two of them.

It was from her daughter’s friend. It was a thank you note for her assistance and it had a single photo attached.

The screen showed a sleeping wolf being lifted up and carried by her king. They were surrounded by plenty of familiar faces.

“Oh, that girl. That is not the time to fall asleep.”

Meanwhile, she was slowly lowered onto the stump.

He took a deep breath and she reached out to him. Their removed clothing was laid across the stump in place of a blanket.

“How could you possibly fall asleep?”


“I’m definitely not getting any sleep anytime soon.”

Konishi looked north from their base in southern Bousou.

The fleet battle in the sky appeared to be taking a new action. The map sent by Kuki showed the enemy’s southern wheel formation stopping its southeastern movement and instead targeting the ironclad fleet from the outside.

The defensive line of ships to the north was apparently using the Miura Peninsula as a supply stop.

They used the peninsula’s ridge as cover while their worn-down defensive ships received emergency repairs and supplies.

She was wondering where they got all those supplies from, but…

Nine Horns: “They are dismantling the more badly-damaged ships and using them for parts. That would normally be done in a landport or somewhere similar, but they appear to be using Hexagone Française’s god of war unit.”

Koni-ko: “Gods of war piloted by automatons would probably be good at construction like that.”

And straight ahead, the enemy was beginning to move in the forest of central Bousou.

The land unit that had set up a line in northern Bousou was starting to march south.

The previous negotiations were at an end, so the next phase of the battle was beginning.

The east was a noncombat zone. That agreement was being honored, but…

“Now, then.”

Konishi called out to someone.

“How about it, Tokishige?”

“You seem a lot less harsh than before.”

“Testament. After some thinking and fighting, I came to understand something.”

“What is that?”

“Testament.” Konishi smiled bitterly. “You can’t hold back, not even with the more underhanded things.”

So…

“It’s our turn!”

Konishi held up a lernen figur with both hands.

The screen displayed a monetary counter and a pointer with the five fingers held together. A gravity ballast anchor also appeared at her feet.

Then the vast sum displayed on the monetary counter began to rapidly move.

“Come!”

With those words, something appeared.

On the deck behind her, a giant form landed as if crashing down from the sky.

A loud boom rang out, the deck creaked, and a single god of war could be seen crouched in a landing pose. It was the spell-guided unit created by combining a few different Eight Dogs gods of war.

And it was named…

“Filial Piety. It’s time you fought on a battlefield where you can take responsibility.”


Chapter 49: Dreaming Dodger[edit]

Horizon7B 717.jpg

With a bridge

You lift your body with your navel

Point Allocation (Gym 101)


Kiyomasa was soaking in the bath.

She could not quite remember why, but she had missed her chance to take a bath earlier.

So now she was taking her time as she soaked. She massaged the stiff parts of her body to loosen them up and then sighed with her elbows resting on the bath’s edge.

Um.

She felt like she had forgotten some important things.

But as she soaked, she felt like she was slowly dozing off.

“…Oh.”

She had to stay awake.

They were on the Azuchi which was on its way to Kantou. Once they arrived there, it would be time for battle. Or that was the plan.

Kuki, Konishi, Yoshiaki, Kani, and so many others were fighting there already.

She wanted to arrive in time.

If they did, they could start summer break with the Keichou Campaign ongoing.

Please do your best.

With that thought, she decided to wash her hair.

But that was when she heard a voice coming from the changing room.

This bath was reserved for the Ten Spears, so this would be one of her usual companions. But…

“Yeah, that’s the thing. This Kyushu defense game has been pretty popular with our classmates recently, but in the late stage of the game, the Mongol troops make a cross chop at Dazaifu, so…”

It was Katagiri’s voice she heard. It was unusual for him to enter the bath with someone else. However…

“Um.”

The idea of sharing the bath with Katagiri seemed like a bad thing to Kiyomasa right now.

But why?

She could not remember, but she did know she associated the idea with some unpleasant image.

It was vague, but she knew she had to avoid this. So she obeyed the feeling and decided to leave the bath.

She hurried.

She heard voices coming from the changing room, but she did not actually “hear” them.

She could tell she was trying to avoid something. Like she was trying to distance something that should be close by.

And as soon as she opened the door to the bath, she ran into the person who had been coming the other way.

“Kyah!”

She was the one who cried out. The floor of the bath was a bit lower than the changing room, so her body ended up pushing up on theirs.

“–––––”

And she tripped.

Ah, she realized as she fell on her butt in the changing room. She ended up sitting on her lower legs with the knees spread. And someone was sprawled out in front of her with knees raised.

It was Fukushima.

The girl must have hit her head because she was dazed and making no attempt to cover up her body.

Eh!? W-wait, what this this?

Kiyomasa suddenly realized there was someone next to her.

It was Katagiri.

He was of course not wearing any clothes, and…

“Hey.”

Koroku suddenly entered the changing room.

And when she saw the situation…

“This was Katagiri’s fault.”

Kiyomasa finally remembered to scream.


Kiyomasa shot to her feet.

It was dark around her and there was a wall-like surface right behind her.

The track suit fabric on her back slid along the wall as she stood up.

“Eh?”

Something was different from before. Just as she realized that, she found her foot was caught in something after standing up.

It was a bucket.

That cylindrical container was not quite a wheel, but it did slide along the floor on its edge.

She tripped forward and slammed into the floor with enough force for her legs to rise up behind her. However…

Eh!? Eh!?

She had no idea what was happening.

This was odd.

How had she ended up like this? She was pretty sure she had not been here a moment before. Besides…

Where am I?

She wanted to get up to figure out where she was, so she placed a hand down in front of her.

“Eh?”

But that hand found something other than the floor.

It was not soft, but it was slippery.

It was soap.

Her hand slipped.

“––––––”

She fell back to the floor just as forcefully as she had tried to place down her hand. She landed on her chest, but her chest did not bounce. It squished like two water balloons and gently pushed out to one side.

That caused her to roll onto her side where she stayed for a few seconds.

After that short break, she finally realized where she was.

My room?

“Hm?”

It was. Now that she was on her side, she could clearly see that this was her own room. However…

“Oh?”

Something still seemed odd to her.

Well, it was normal for her to be in her room, but…

“Um?”

Was this really where she should be?

She felt like there was still a lot she was not remembering and it all felt kind of weird.

Where else had she been thinking of going? She tilted her head as she stood up, unlocked the door, and checked outside. She of course found a hallway out there.

It was a quiet night.

No one was out in the hallway. The Azuchi may have been docking since there was a gentle vibration in the floor, but that was a constant thing while it was floating, so it could be hard to tell.

Um.

She stepped back into her room, leaned back against the open door, and tried to remember some things.

Why was she in her room right now?

“Um, I…”

Oh, right.

“Right! Wasn’t I trying to go to the bath?”

The material evidence fallen to her feet supported that theory.

Then why was had she stayed in her room instead?

“Well…”

She tried harder to remember.

Ah.

And she did.

A scene suddenly replayed in her mind.

F-Fukushima-sama!

That girl was naked with her knees raised and legs spread toward her. She did not know where that scene was set, but it was on top of some wood flooring. Did that mean it was her room?

Was it? she wondered while frantically looking around her room, but she did not see anything to suggest Fukushima had been here or that anything had happened. In that case, what was that brief image in her memories?

“A dream?”

She immediately blushed and covered her face with her hands. But that only let her feel the heat in her cheeks.

W-wait.

What did that mean? Was she sleeping in her room when…

“I had a serious dirty dream!?”

“Hey.”

She heard Koroku’s voice from directly behind her, so she screamed.


Koroku quickly shut the door to Kiyomasa’s room.

That was close!

After all, the Azuchi was suffering from some odd paranormal phenomena tonight.

She felt bad doing this to Kiyomasa, but if a mysterious phenomenon was occurring in there, that girl would have to deal with it herself.

However, the Azuchi’s doors were the European style. They were made to open when pushed inward, so how useful was it for her to hold it shut from the outside?

Still, she was the only one here. She had to keep that door shut to ensure the damage did not spread.

And from inside the room…

“H-Hachisuka-san?”

That trembling voice sent a chill down Koroku’s spine.

She recalled what the exorcists she had called to her room earlier had said:

“If you hear a voice calling your name, do not answer it. You will not like what happens.”

“What happens?”

The Shinto one had raised his hand to answer, but the Catholic and Mlasi ones had stopped him.

“N-no! This is too much for her!”

“Indeed! Our nude bondage in the desert is a much less horrifying fate!”

“Ha ha ha ha! Shinto wins again!”

She did not really understand, but that was apparently how it worked.

She used a generic locking spell on the doorknob while reaching her other hand to a lernen figur to summon those exorcists.

But the doorknob started turning from the inside. Her heart skipped a beat, but the locking spell glowed and activated. The door remained locked.

“H-huh? I-is someone out there!?”

She must not respond. But she heard something running around inside the room. This seemed like an awfully lively mysterious phenomenon.

“There must be something out there! I will now pierce the door with Caledfwlch, so consider yourself warned!”

And a very active one as well, thought Koroku just before a voice arrived from down the corridor.

“Huh? What are you doing there, Hachisuka-san?”

Stay back, Katagiri!!

Koroku hastily wrote up a message on her lernen figur:

“Stay away. Impure.”

“I-is that any way to talk to someone!?”

Just as Katagiri’s shout echoed down the hallway, the voice in the room responded.

“Eh!? K-Katagiri-kun!?”

It was Kiyomasa’s voice, but…

Don’t respond!

But Katagiri smiled and did exactly that.

“Yes, Takenaka-san wanted me to tell you-…”

“Kyaaaaaahhhhh! Impure!”

While set to extreme close-range, the light sword blasted the door from its hinges and sent it flying toward Katagiri.


Kiyomasa stepped out into the hallway with Caledfwlch in hand.

Right next to her, she saw Hachisuka, but out in front of her, she saw the blasted door and…

“Oh? Are you okay, Katagiri-kun!?”

He was sprawled out on the hallway floor.

Hachisuka tilted her head.

“He’s dead…”

“No, he is not. If he had been hit directly, then yes, he would be very dead. But it did not, so he is fine.”

“Are you sure dead and fine are the only two options here?”

Pretty much. That could be the boring part of using so much power at once. But…

“I-I am not dead!”

Katagiri got up.

The center of his shirt had been sliced right through. He must have fallen backwards to dodge Caledfwlch’s blade.

That had been a close shave. But…

Huh?

Why had she fired that blast on reflex after hearing his voice? She tried to remember.

Ah.

She could only picture Fukushima in that compromising position.

This is bad. Each time she remembered it, the details were somewhat rearranged in her memory. At first, Fukushima had clearly just fallen over and accidentally spread her legs with her knees raised, but now the girl was holding a hand up to her mouth and preparing to say something.

“Hey.”

“Kyaaaaaahhh!”

Hachisuka’s voice caught her by surprise so much that Caledfwlch slipped from her hand and flew through the air.

The spear was flying right toward Katagiri.

“Whoa!”

He quickly formed a bridge just as the blade stabbed in between his legs.

Caledfwlch audibly vibrated while he took a few steps back while still in his bridge pose.

Are you a bug? said Hachisuka, but then he collapsed back down onto the floor.

“Th-that was way too close!”

“Testament! Hachisuka-sama, could you please stop talking to me without warning like that?”

“How else am I supposed to get your attention?”

The girl had a point. But…

“What is this about?”

“Testament,” said the other two at the same time.

Hachisuka glared over at Katagiri, so…

“Y-you go first!”

“I do not want your charity.”

“Then why did you glare at me!?”

I think that’s just who she is, thought Kiyomasa, but she held her tongue.

Then Katagiri spoke while pointing aft.

“Hashiba-sama has returned from Kyoto.”

“Eh?”

That was the first Kiyomasa had heard of this. Hachisuka must have known because she nodded and explained.

“She met with Akechi to discuss what to do from here on out.”

“Oh, that makes sense.”

If she was back, then what she had discussed with Akechi was likely known as well.

“Akechi-sama apparently intends to send reinforcements to Nördlingen.”

“His own forces?”

“No, he ordered some from Hashiba-sama and Maeda-sama.”

“Oh,” said Kiyomasa while feeling her eyebrows drooping a little. “It’s like we can do pretty much anything at this point, isn’t it? So what will Akechi-sama be doing?”

“He asked for permission to do whatever he wants until it’s time to end his inherited name.”

Kiyomasa was dumbfounded by this.

Akechi was Akechi Mitsuhide, who controlled Kyoto. According to the Testament, he would assassinate P.A. Oda’s Chancellor and Student Council President Oda Nobunaga.

That assassination was known as the Honnouji Incident and they had a lot of set up in advance for that, but…

“Permission to do whatever he wants?”

“He must have his own thoughts on matters and his is a fairly thankless role, so Hashiba-sama presented him with one condition.”

“What was that?”

“Testament.” Katagiri stood up and nodded. “That he would carry out the Honnouji Incident on the scheduled day.”

“Testament,” said Kiyomasa as acknowledgment.

“I already knew that,” said Hachisuka next to her.

“O-of course you did! You came here to tell her that like I did!”

“Since you came later, was there any new info?”

The floor shook below their feet while she asked that.

Warning lernen figurs appeared at various points across the hallway and their destination was displayed in the air.

“Lake Biwa Azuchi→Kantou – Will stop for supplies en route – Currently preparing to depart – Some ships will accompany us temporarily.”

The ship would bend and strain from the acceleration, so arrows appeared on the floor to show the turn direction and movement direction.

The arrows showed them ascending first of all and Katagiri answered the question while watching that.

“There is some new info.”

Namely…

“The Musashi has finally left Kantou. They are apparently headed to Nördlingen using their gravitational acceleration cruising. It is even possible they will pass by the Azuchi on their way.”

“So they really are coming.”

They were the same. They were headed to Kantou to keep the Keichou Campaign going.

Kiyomasa hoped they arrived in time and Hachisuka tilted her head.

“There is one other thing.”

“Eh?”

Katagiri tilted his head forward.

Kiyomasa could see Hachisuka narrowing her eyes.

“There is one other piece of information. Did Takenaka not tell you?”

“No, I heard all this from the PR Committee.”

Hachisuka tugged on the right sleeve of Kiyomasa’s track suit.

“Let’s get to the bath. …You haven’t had one yet, right? We can talk there.”

That’s true, she thought. But…

Um.

She vaguely remembered what happened when she went to the bath before.

“Oh, right. Katagiri-kun is impure.”

“Yes. After seeing that, I also decided not to take a bath until the water had been replaced.”

“Wh-why are you treating me like some kind of virus!?”

“Calm down,” said Kiyomasa while waving to him. “How about you go see Takenaka-sama?”


“I just had a second dirty dream!”

Fukushima was sitting up while straddling her balled-up sheets.

Her room was illuminated by the same dark blue light as before. Her entire body was covered in sweat, but…

“Nh?”

She gasped.

I cannot remember my dream.

In fact, what did I say when I woke up just now?

She did not remember.

Waking up all of a sudden was not uncommon.

But did that mean she had been doing something quite fulfilling in her dream? The blanket she was mounting had been greatly transformed by how her arms held it and her legs tangled around it.

“Was I fighting a bear or something?”

No, maybe this twisting shape was a snake. Or…

“––––!”

She slammed her head against the wall because she felt like she had to for some reason. And…

“Oh, Fukushima-san, are you up?”

A lernen figur appeared on the small cathedral that doubled as a PC installed on the wall.

The screen showed Takenaka in the dining hall, but it was not sending video from her end yet. That was good since she had just been asleep and was half-naked.

She set the divine transmission to be voice-only.

“What is it?”

“Testament. Some big changes have begun in Kantou.”

A sub-display on the lernen figur showed a map of Kantou and there was a dotted line on the west end.

So the Musashi has left.

That was not all. When she looked to the Bousou Peninsula side of the display…

“The aerial fleet battle is fairly evenly matched, but on the ground, our base’s defenses have apparently started fighting the Satomi forces. Even Konishi-san is moving to the front line.”

Takenaka smiled and held up a paper bag labeled “Ero Bag”.

“I get the feeling we’re in for some real ‘high damage’ here!”


Yagyuu Munenori was a ninja samurai.

He served Ookubo by working with Kanou to protect her and gather information.

Kanou did the “indoor work”, while he did the “outdoor work”.

A first-year name inheritor like him was rare for the Far East. It was only a provisional inherited name since the name’s era of activity did not come until later according to the Testament, but he had almost the same rights as a full one.

That was probably because name inheritors like Ookubo’s father had recommended him for the position.

After entering high school, he had worked for Ookubo in her position of Representative Council Head more than for the Student Council or Chancellor’s Officers.

Ookubo and Kanou had taught him his manners and how to speak politely starting back in middle school when it looked like he would inherit the name, but…

They really trained me a lot.

He was originally from a reservation in M.H.R.R. He had moved to the Musashi for his parents’ jobs, but the reservation had been a rough place due to its proximity to the conflicted zone between Hexagone Française and M.H.R.R.

He felt he had calmed down a lot since then.

His “old self” would come out from time to time, but he had still calmed down a lot. However…

“Goddammit!”

He clicked his tongue as he ran.

He was running northeast through the forest at night.

He was from M.H.R.R. and he still had his memories of living in the Black Forest before moving to the Musashi. His father’s job had been to teach martial arts to the forest guard unit, so…

I thought I was pretty used to moving through forests!

But he had taken it too lightly. Or maybe he had forgotten how tough things were back then.

Either way, he had to hurry. Because…

The enemy is here!

The enemy had appeared behind him.

Of course, they were not directly behind him.

They were approaching from the east. The Tachibana Couple had been in charge of the east after moving to the bottom of the ridge, but on Ookubo’s instructions, they were moving south along the coast. The enemy must have used the gap that created to avoid a clash.

They were now moving back along the eastern route opened for their withdrawal.

He did not know if this was a long-range patrol for the enemy base, or an attack squad. Nor did he know how many there were or who their commander was.

Moving out ahead of Ookubo had been a mistake.

No, his job was to tell her what the enemy base was doing, but after entering Bousou, he had detected spells set up around the area to detect enemies like him.

The enemy was there.

He had to let Ookubo know, but…

“My divine transmissions…”

All of a sudden, his sign frame was failing to get a connection.

That was odd.

He had been able to contact her earlier.

It had started to fail after he noticed the enemy and moved east to investigate.

He guessed it was some kind of spell. Traps that activated based on a certain condition may have been set up around Bousou. So…

They’ve noticed me.

If it was a spell, the caster must have received word of its activation.

They were reading his movements. In that case, he thought.

“…”

He suddenly threw himself low to the ground.

He was taking evasive action.

He had sensed a rustling of the tree leaves up ahead. It was caused by…

A bullet!


The bullet hit the tree trunk behind him.

His hurrying legs brought him away from the dull sound of the tree being hit.

He immediately realized this attack had been aimed at the center of his torso. And…

“Kh.”

He placed a hand on the rock at his feet and made a high-speed side flip.

A bullet immediately flew at hip height where he had been crouched down a moment before. It whizzed by between the arms placed below him as he flipped around.

He had dodged it.

He was a ninja samurai. He had two different combat styles. He had primarily trained for places with poor footing and he was the best in his year at wall running and jumping.

He flipped his body through the air and kicked his right leg at one of the surrounding tree branches from below.

It was a thin branch, but that was fine. He made a single step that placed his entire weight on it without even shaking it. He then made another flip in midair, but he stuck his left leg out into the air partway through.

The kick hit the ground without losing any height.

That was the first step of a dash.

Without losing any of his speed, he raced through the forest. He swung his body side to side and darted between obstacles to take a path that avoided the enemy sniping.

But something was odd.

The enemy was supposedly tracking his location using a spell, yet he could not detect an actual spell

No, he did occasionally see something like an ether reading, but there were no charms attached anywhere in this forest, nor were there any barriers set up.

Was it something unseen or something hidden?

He did not know.

But there was one thing he did know: the enemy’s location.

He had seen which direction the sniper bullets came from.

What should I do?

He wondered whether he should hurry back to Ookubo, or attack this enemy.

The enemy only seemed to be sniping, so he guessed it was probably just the one individual.

And he had to remember that he was the one under attack here.

That meant the enemy had likely not located Ookubo yet. So…

“That would be dangerous.”

If he went to Ookubo, he might end up leading the enemy to her.

In that case, he had to inform her of the threat. Since he could not use a divine transmission, he would have to find some other way. And on top of that…

Let’s do this.

After deciding to take out this enemy, he took action.

He moved toward the enemy. He ran along the dark forest slope to arrive where the bullets were coming from.


Chapter 50: Comers and Goers on the Route[edit]

Horizon7B 741.jpg

No matter how tired I am

No matter how injured I am

As long as I can move

I can catch up to something

Point Allocation (Pride)


Asano was out of breath as she ran. She was racing east through the forest.

I caaan’t believe this!

She did not seem capable of hitting this enemy. They were fast and had a weak presence, which made it really hard.

She was thankful her spell had been a good fit here. If not, she would have been done for right away.

Hurrrry!

She ran. She had started moving toward the center, but the enemy had sent her back to the east.

She was glad the forest around her was brighter than M.H.R.R.’s forests.

If anything, it was more like the forest on the Mediterranean desert island where she had trained.

The Ogre teachers who had trained them there had chased after them while shouting “For the love of Onigashima!” and dealing with them had been really hard. And the students had ultimately lost and been thrown into the ocean.

“But have theyyyy had training like that toooo?”

She had assumed the Musashi residents would have difficulty fighting in a natural environment, but was that not actually the case? If anything, they seemed to have as much experience with it as her group.

Musashi did have a lot of immigrants from elsewhere.

III’m supposed to be smarrrt, so how could I forget abouuut that?

Had it been a case of wishful thinking on her part? But…

“I guessss I should do my best.”

Kani had said that too, but she had already withdrawn.

Nabeshima was more or less out of the fight as well.

And Nagaoka had probably been captured by the enemy. So…

I’m the onlyyy one left.

So I guess I have to do my best, she decided half in resignation.

She was the last of the rookie name inheritors.

“And,” she said while running and almost jumping through the forest. “All the otherrrs did their best alreadyyy.”


I can’t believe thisss, thought Asano.

I’m smart, but pretty average.

The enemy pursuing her was probably a name inheritor. That was the only explanation for how sharp their pursuit was. Given the enemy’s formation, it was probably…

“Kanouuu or Yagyuuu.”

It’ll be Yagyuuu.

Kanou was an automaton. She could of course make a pursuit if forest travel knowledge had been installed in her memory, but it made no sense to run into her when Yagyuu had been sent out ahead as a scout.

Yes. Her enemy was a ninja samurai. So…

“I’m in a realll bad position here.”

But she had to do something about it. She had to lose this pursuer and go defeat Ookubo.

If I can defeat Ookubo Nagayasuuu, it will chaaange things a looot.

At the very least, the negotiations would be easier after the battle ended in some way or another.

So she had to do her best here.

However, she did not know where Ookubo was.

So she had to figure that out from her battle with Yagyuu.

She had a general idea, of course.

The enemy had set up a line and advanced toward the Hashiba base.

Yagyuu had been a bit west of their center, so Ookubo would be behind that somewhere.

What she did not know was how far back from the Hashiba base Ookubo was.

She had seen the scattering wreckage when the small transport ship exploded.

Where the steel beams and armor panels had fallen told her where the “edge” of the safe zone was located.

Ookubo would be somewhere between the Hashiba base and that “edge”.

Asano ran as straight ahead as she could while also avoiding the attacks sent her way.

She felt like she was being guided to the northeast by this pursuit, but she had come from the east to begin with, so she knew the terrain here better than her opponent.

She was confident in her memory.

But not so much in my staminaaa.

But she still ran. She was running northeast now, but she knew she only had to make a single westward turn to face toward Ookubo again. Yagyuu’s reaction then would tell her where Ookubo was. So…

“Time to do myyy best.”

I’m letting her influence me, aren’t III? she thought. I need to make sure I don’t sayyy that in front of the others, she added. And…

“Testament. Well, I did make a looot of preparations. I even went to the water, so I have a looot.’”

As she said that, she realized the enemy was making their attack.

“Here he cooomes.”


Munenori nearly grazed a bullet.

He ran across the dirt, leaves, and stone and ducked through the branches, but he did not make a sound.

A bullet flew his way. Its aim was accurate but a little off.

Still, projectiles in the forest always had a presence to them. The animals would react and the wind pressure shook the leaves and the night fog.

And he nearly grazed the bullet.

He moved toward the flying bullet.

That did make him feel like he was getting closer to the enemy, but that sense of relief was not his only goal here.

By moving closer to the bullet and sensing how it flew from him, he could work out from which direction it had been fired.

The closer to the bullet he was, the better he could sense its sound and force.

The power contained in the bullets was gradually increasing.

That meant there was less distance between him and where they were being fired from.

In other words, he was approaching the enemy.

That was not a relief. That he was closing in on his enemy was a fact.

He ran.

He nearly grazed another bullet and inhaled.

He had to reach this enemy and deal with them quickly. Because…

It would worry her otherwise.

He hurried.

He actually grazed the next bullet.

The sound was loud. He thought it must have scraped his cheek.

A divine protection automatically activated to seal the wound instead of heal it. He would not heal himself in battle. It might be a relief if he did, but the healing process would “change” that portion of his body.

An injury was a change too, but after the initial change, it would stay the same for a while. When constructing a battle, he believed it was safer to understand the fixed changes more than the variable changes.

Healing might actually be better, but it was a matter of feeling.

So he sealed the wound instead. The smell of blood could decide a battle in some cases, so he made sure to stop the bleeding.

But he could only make that kind of decision in short-term battles.

In a longer battle, the injury could change his body through fever or necrosis. In cases like that, he had to heal himself, so he would have to leave the fight to do so.

Hurry, dammit he told himself before smiling bitterly.

“Oops.”

He should not be so crude.

Just “hurry” would be fine.

That was what Ookubo had taught him.

So he mentally corrected himself and hurried toward the enemy all the same.

He hurried to catch up.


“We need to hurry, don’t we!?”

Kani spoke with Nabeshima while preparing to carry the injured’s equipment on a rod.

Nabeshima was apparently considering whether or not she should join them here.

Kanitama: “Do you have a connection with Asa-chan!?”

Nabe3: “No, I’ve got some interference plus I have to deal with the mechanical dragon’s divine transmission environment, so wouldn’t you have an easier time connecting to her?”

Kanitama: “No! We can’t reach her either! How about you, Ikeda-kun!?”

IT: “Howw would I haave a connection?”

Kanitama: “That doesn’t sound anything like her!”

Nabe3: “Imagining it coming from Ikeda’s face ruins the whole thing.”

“Shut up,” said Ikeda. And then…

IT: “She’s probably studying like usual.”

Kanitama: “Studying!?”

Yes.

IT: “Y’know how she won’t hang out with us before a test? She stops talking and won’t tell anyone what she’s doing. She does that a lot at home. But she seems to think she loses if she lets it show.”

Kanitama: “How do you know about that!?”

IT: “Huh!? Well, my parents are friends with her mom, so…”

Nabe3: “You’re hopeless. You really are.”

Kanitama: “But you’re saying she’s doing that now, aren’t you!?”

Kani lifted up the rod that had four mobile shells hanging from it. She placed her right shoulder below it, lifted her hips, and then raised her body. She made sure to steady her balance before moving.

Kanitama: “Then she’ll be fine! Earlier, she said something about doing her best!”

“Oh?” said Nabeshima.

Nabe3: “It’s unusual for her to say something like that.”

So…

Nabe3: “We just have to wait for the top of our class to do her best and arrive on her own.”


Munenori heard the enemy’s gunshot.

It was close by.

The forest’s trees seemed to be getting denser.

But he pushed on. He continued his pursuit to push the enemy.

He could sense they were close.

I wonder who it is.

What enemy name inheritors were participating in this battle on the Bousou Peninsula?

Katou Yoshiaki would primarily be fighting in the air.

Kuki Yoshitaka and Suzuki Magoichi had been seen in the fleet battle.

Nabeshima Naoshige had lost in her mechanical dragon and both Kani Saizou and Kasuya Takenori had withdrawn with the northern unit.

Then was this Asano Yoshinaga who had visited the Musashi in Nabeshima’s mechanical dragon?

She was a girl in the same year as him.

But that was no reason to hold back.

She was an enemy.

That was the only reason he had, but it was a sufficient reason.

So he pushed on. He changed his path to run straight toward the enemy.

“…”

A bullet flew his way.

He dodged it. Some of his hair scattered in the air as he swung his body to circle around.

She’s there, isn’t she?

She would be beyond the grove of trees up ahead.

Here it comes!

It was a bullet and it arrived from so close the sound and force seemed to be within arm’s reach.

It was aimed at his face, so she was not holding back either.

He did not dodge to either side. He lowered his head and slipped between the trees.

“I know you’re there.”

He leaped right in front of the enemy.

And in that instant, he saw something.

Up ahead, at the point where the enemy bullet had come from, he saw the vast night sky.

Huh?

He only saw the eastern night sky as seen from Bousou and the forest spread out below.

He stood on an entirely abandoned cliff.


Munenori sensed danger in this.

At the same time, he had to ask why.

Why was there a cliff where the enemy should have been?

But he was not to question things in battle. So he left this up to his senses and took action.

The enemy was not in front of him, so what would he do?

He changed course.

He did not look back. He kept his back turned toward the forest while he shifted position with a rapid left slide.

A bullet passed through the spot he had just abandoned.

It had come from the forest behind him.

But something seemed off to him. All the previous bullets had come from one direction, as if the enemy were fleeing into the empty air beyond that cliff, yet this shot came from the forest behind him.

What kind of trickery is this!?

Just as he wondered that, he sensed a massive presence in the forest behind him.

He sensed more than just danger in this.

Ultra danger!

This time, he did turn around while reaching out into empty air.

“Golden Hammer!”

He pulled a massive hammer out of thin air. Ether acceleration light erupted from the back end as he leaped forward and swung it down from above.

Just then, something flew toward him while blasting away the forest’s leaves.

“A shell!?”

That should not have been possible.

This was a pseudo-anti-ship cannon’s ether shell. But as he sent a powerful blow toward that blast…

I get it!

He had figured out what the enemy was doing.

A moment later, his Golden Hammer crashed into the enemy shell.

The flying mass of metal ruptured.

The sound, appearance, and tactile feedback all told him he had destroyed it.

“Kh!?”

But then he and his Golden Hammer were blasted back into the empty night sky.

The ether shell’s spell portion had an air explosion effect.

Not good!

The Golden Hammer’s striking divine protection could have negated a bursting, a normal explosion, or a shockwave, but this was different.

It was an air explosion. And if the enemy had set this up…

“–––––”

He realized he had been completely set up as he was blasted into the empty air.


Yoshiyasu used Righteousness’s side head sight device to check on the explosion she heard in the distance.

A battle had begun in eastern Bousou beyond the ridgeline.

She did not know who was fighting who. If it was Ookubo’s group, then why had she heard a cannon blast in a ground battle?

She did not know, but now was not the time to worry about that.

She was facing an enemy of her own in a forest clearing on the western-facing slope.

“So you sent Filial Piety here, Konishi Yukinaga.”

“Testament,” replied her opponent.

Filial Piety was a head taller than originally thanks to the combined parts and Konishi stood on its shoulder.

She had gravity ballast spells opened across her body to hold herself in place and control sign frames were held in her palms. She also had a sign frame next to her with some kind of counter that was in constant motion.

“Would you have preferred Tokishige? Should I call for her instead?”

“No, someone else has business with her.”

The 6th Special Duty Officer had a connection there dating back more than a decade. That was a lot longer than Yoshiyasu’s own connection.

Of course, such things should not be judged solely by time. However…

“Do you want to avoid battling a fellow Satomi fighter?”

“I doubt we would be able to hold back against each other.”

“Huh?”

Konishi sounded confused, so Yoshiyasu explained.

“I would get mad at her for siding with the enemy and she would get mad at me for abandoning them to do something else.”

“What have you been doing anyway?”

“I seem to recall eating rice treats at a Far Eastern rice-producing region, observing a fox and a salmon, and more recently visiting a hot spring for karaoke and ping pong.”

“Okay, I don’t think anyone can blame her for kicking your ass now.”

Yoshiyasu had to agree. But the hot spring part had only happened yesterday. If not for that, she felt like it had all been fairly normal.

“Well, governments in exile tend to have a lot of fun like that. I’ll just have to tell her it’s better than becoming a puppet.”

“Didn’t you, though?”

“No, it isn’t possible to be a puppet for them.”

“It isn’t possible?”

“Judge.” Yoshiyasu nodded. “Not as long as you’re sane. Besides, no one’s better than them at filling you with an urge to speak up. If you tried to be a puppet for them, the unfair treatment would lead to so much stress you’d go insane and die.”

“…Can I ask one thing?”

“Were you thinking letting a group like that take over the world would be a bad idea?”

“I was.”

“Judge. Don’t worry about that. During peacetime, they stick to cannibalizing their own. The way I see it, external stimuli are the most dangerous thing with them. …In other words, if the world refuses to be peaceful, they’ll go around harassing everyone as a form of world domination.”

“I never knew world domination could sound so unambitious.”

The problem was how accurate it was. And during her time as a part of their group…

As long as I speak up, I can live pretty stress free.

That group would dodge things, but they generally did not put up any defenses.

But she had made it this far with them.

“Now, then.” Yoshiyasu placed a hand on the short swords at Righteousness’s hips. “Are you sure you want to do this? Using autonomous mode will reduce the reaction speed quite a bit.”

“Oh, I don’t mind at all. After all, it’s running on divine protections right now.”

“Divine protections?”

Several sign frames opened around Filial Piety. They were Catholic ones.

“According to the Testament, Konishi Yukinaga was a Catholic Tsirhc commander.” A name with an arrow symbol appeared in front of her. “The Catholic Saint Sebastian is the saint of combat skill, especially those using the bow and arrow. In the Catholic Spell Treasury, he is in charge of the high-level spells of that type.”

“So you reworked the autonomous program using combat divine protections to create something like a large combat automaton?”

“Testament. So this thing is directly linked to a saint’s soul. I can keep using the power-up spells as long as my money lasts. And that will provide the reaction speeds needed to overpower the average god of war pilot.”

Yoshiyasu muttered a comment on that.

“That’s really not playing fair. You all need to stop doing that kind of thing.”


Yoshiyasu could tell she was glaring inside of Righteousness.

“Hey, Konishi.”

“What?”

“Do you like strengthening yourself with money?”

“You know…if you’re going to go down that route, what are those god of war parts and equipment? You’re strengthening yourself with money as much as I am.”

“These are consumable goods,” replied Yoshiyasu. “Someone as rich as you probably wouldn’t understand, but my storage fees and living expenses have doubled since going to Musashi. The Asama Shrine has given me a loan, but I nearly made a serious mistake by going to these weird merchants for financial help. How weird are they? Let’s just say they’re going to be producing thick noodles pretty soon. Anyway, I need to have a full set of parts no matter what, so I’ve had to massage some numbers…no, I mean work to cut back on some expenses lately. And yet in Tale of the Eight Dog Idols, a game based on Satomi’s recent situation, I can easily pay for upgraded god of war parts to increase my stats. Besides, you need to start from the very foundation if you want to power up your god of war. You can’t just replace parts willy-nilly like that. …And what is with all those flashy weapons? Do you get what I’m saying!?”

“I get that you’re poor and mad about it.”

“Don’t call the representative of a nation poor!”

Me: “I know, right? Some people have no manners, Flatty.”

Righteousness: “You’re no better!!”

“Well, whatever,” said Yoshiyasu with a nonexistent sigh within Righteousness. “I will be taking Satomi back.”

Konishi smiled at that.

“I imagine it will be returned to you after summer break regardless.”

“You mean after the Honnouji Incident is complete and P.A. Oda and M.H.R.R. have established a new order?”

Konishi had no change of expression for that. However…

“You really are an enemy.”

“Do not underestimate me, do not look down on me…and do not forget me, usurper.” Yoshiyasu’s tone sank as she voiced her thoughts. “I have always been your enemy.”

She had Righteousness prepare to fight and leaned forward to take a quick first step.

“You can figure out the rest after I defeat you.”

With that, she launched herself forward.


Munenori heard an explosion of air in the distance.

He realized he had screwed up because the enemy’s cannon blast had not been meant to destroy him.

His Golden Hammer could handle an explosion or impact. That was only a “hunter chance”.

But an explosive blast of air was different. The pressure overpowered his hammer and he was thrown from the ground.

“Kh.”

There was nothing to support him in the air. After blasted from the cliff, he realized the enemy must have known a lot about him.

Did she know what weapon I use, goddammit!?

It was shame rather than anger that drew out his old self.

He was a ninja samurai and he had recently used his Golden Hammer when fighting Sanada’s Isa. This meant records of that battle must have made their way to Hashiba.

That was Sanada for you. But as a ninja himself…

“Dammit!”

He shouted and tried to resist.

There was nothing to grab onto in the air, so he had to prepare for a fall. This was a ground battle, so he had not brought any of the fall control spell charms that were standard on the Musashi. His standard divine protections would cushion his landing, but how much would that gain him?

Should he throw in some substitutions to increase the cushioning coefficient? And either way…

There’s no time.

“Oh? Now this is unusual.”

He heard a female voice out of nowhere and then he bounced in midair.

He bounced straight up. He had not felt any kind of impact, but his entire body had bounced upwards without warning.


Huh!?

Munenori was only aware of his moving field of vision. He felt no pain or recoil, yet his falling vision had bounced back up toward the heavens at some point.

How had that happened?

He had not figured anything out as his rising body lost its speed.

He was going to fall again. A gentle falling speed grabbed at his body, but then…

“Are you okay? And who are you?”

He was caught in midair by a large hand.

He looked over to see a boy running up the cliff face and a girl held in his arms.

The girl had two giant prosthetic arms.

“The Tachibana Couple!”


Gin nodded at the boy who fell from the sky and asked her question again.

“Judge. Who are you?”

“J-judge! I am…”

He hesitated for a moment, but then he abandoned all hesitation and looked straight at her.

“I am Yagyuu Munenori! I work as Ookubo Nagayasu’s bodyguard!”

“Is that so?” said Muneshige while taking long strides up the cliff. “In that case, you must want to hurry back.”

Munenori gasped at that. But when he responded…

“Judge!”

“That will be a ‘judge’ from us as well. Let us hurry. Besides…”

His vision spun widely around.

They had arrived at the top of the cliff and Gin saw something from Muneshige’s arms.

It was in the forest up ahead.

“That would be an enemy, Master Muneshige.”

Some figures were approaching them in that forest.

Those enemy warriors were a commando unit sent from their base as a diversion and to destroy whatever forces they could.

“What do you think, Gin?”

“This unit appears to have only just arrived. …Most likely, whoever Master Yagyuu was fighting realized we were approaching and called them here.”

“I see. In that case…”

“Judge,” replied Gin. “This is our enemy. …Master Yagyuu, take this time to heal your injuries.”

“Huh? I’ve sealed up my injuries.”

“I said to take this time to heal your injuries.”

Healing injuries as soon as possible was Gin’s policy. After all, once you reached the name inheritor level, it was perfectly normal to have an arm or two cut off in a simple love confession. It happened to me, after all. But if you ignore that kind of injury while the confession has your pulse elevated, you will die, won’t you?

Whether or not he knew what she was thinking, Muneshige smiled.

“Ha ha ha. You’re so kind, Gin.”

“Master Muneshige…I am not sure you should praise me in front of others like that.”

Why was Yagyuu Munenori giving them such a puzzled look?

At any rate, Muneshige set her down on the ground and took a step forward.

A gunshot rang from the forest, but he dodged it by looking back toward her.

“Now, Gin, Sir Yagyuu, I will be going on ahead, so follow after me however you can.”

“Huh? What do you mean however I can?”

Gin tilted her head at Yagyuu Munenori’s question.

“He means to figure it out based on the situation. What is so confusing about that?”

In other words…

“It is like a recipe telling you to use a pinch of salt.”

Gin then looked at the boy’s body.

“Now, go ahead and heal yourself however you can.”


Chapter 51: Runners on the Grading Desk[edit]

Horizon7B 765.jpg

Oh, don’t mind me

Don’t mind me and stay there

Please stay where you are

Point Allocation (No Wayyyy)


Muneshige leaped into the dark forest while ducking low and focusing on his own movements.

It had been a while since he fought alone in a battle.

And with so many enemies…

I have plenty of opportunities to see how much I can accomplish.

Gin must have understood that because she was not supporting him. But it did make him happy to know she was waiting for him to return.

So he went on.

There were 20 enemies, but his goal was not just to defeat them.

I must defeat them without letting them respond!

He had a reason for that: the enemy who had fought Yagyuu Munenori.

Gin was absolutely right. The enemy had definitely predicted the two of them would be climbing that cliff.

“Which means…”

They could not let the enemy track their movements.

If they let that happen, the enemy would prepare some kind of interception.

So they could not hold a “battle” here.

They had to silently break through.

That would negate any way for the enemy to detect their presence. And…

That is something that “Tachibana Muneshige” should be able to do.

He circled around most of the enemy group and leaped lightly through the night.

The enemy was hiding in the forest and they were on guard.

They were all facing outwards and holding their guns at the ready. They made sure a portion of their field of vision overlapped with the next person over to secure a field of vision larger than a single person could accomplish.

But Muneshige was already passing along the tops of the trees.

“Toh.”

He leaped directly above the center of the enemy group.

And he dropped down.

He used the underbrush to ensure he landed silently. He placed his center of gravity on each individual blade of grass in turn to “ride” them.

He softened the impact using his toes, ankles, knees, and hips. He had entirely eliminated his body weight by the time his feet touched the ground.

This was much easier than walking on a blade.

As a result, he dropped into the center of the enemy without even whipping up the wind.

The enemy group had their bodies and faces turned outwards and he had dropped into the center.

He could see the seated backs of the enemy arranged in 360 degrees around him.

There were 20 of them and a sub-commander stood at the center of each cardinal direction. One man was crouched down while holding up a sign frame used to send orders to the others.

He would be their commander.

When someone discovered something, his job was to use that communication channel to inform the others instantly.

Muneshige crouched down behind him.

Now, he thought. How should I defeat him?

The others might notice if communications were cut off, so…

In that case.

“Excuse me.”

When he crouched down next to the man and called out to him, the man turned toward him.

The confusion on his face was plain to see, so Muneshige grabbed his divine transmission sign frame and pulled it aside.

It was a Catholic one. Muneshige had used that type back in Tres España, so he knew how to operate it. This is an upgraded version, he realized, but he knew holding down the shift key was probably still how you unlocked it.

It was.

Now the communications would not be cut off. He activated a silencing spell he had on hand to shut out all the sounds they would be making.

Okay, he thought while turning toward the commander with a smile.

“Judge. Everything is fine now.”

A blade was suddenly thrust toward his face.


The commander thought to himself while making an immediate attack on the enemy who had appeared next to him without warning.

This is the exact opposite of fine!

To be honest, he felt more resignation than he did panic or surprise.

They had done everything by the book, yet someone had silently made it into the center of their formation. And based on the information from Asano Yoshinaga, who had told them to intercept the enemy here…

This is Tachibana Muneshige!

He had been Tres España’s 1st Special Duty Officer.

Tres España’s Vice Chancellor was the defense type, so their main attacker had been this boy since he was one of the Logismoi Oplo users known as the Eight Great Dragon Kings.

Could a non-name inheritor like this man really stand up to someone like that?

The textbooks said he could not know without trying, so…

Here goes!

At the very least, he had managed to make an attack. That would buy them some time. However…

Damn.

Tachibana Muneshige had vanished from the path of his right short sword.

He had dodged it.

But that did not make his attack a waste. Forcing him to move meant a time loss for that opponent.

Was that enough of an accomplishment against a name inheritor?

The commander knew he had at least completed one job while someone’s name came to mind.

Asano Yoshinaga.

She was a first year name inheritor.


The commander knew those first year name inheritors had probably only come to the Keichou Campaign to build up some experience.

And yet that girl was now fighting on the front line.

He knew why that was.

He and the other upperclassmen had not dealt with the enemy appropriately. That was why a first year had to pick up the slack.

Sorry.

That first year name inheritor was trying to make a surprise attack on Ookubo’s unit which was the enemy’s central command here.

According to the earlier communique from her, she was being pursued by Tachibana Muneshige, Tachibana Gin, and Yagyuu Munenori.

She apparently knew where Ookubo’s unit was, so now it was their turn.

But I’m pretty pathetic myself.

I lost my lernen figur, I allowed a silencing spell to be cast, and the others have no idea the battle is here.

But wait. We’re veterans too. They should notice that something isn’t right. Surely they will. Yes, notice it. Please notice it. You had better notice it. Turn around!

They aren’t turning around. This is hopeless. My men don’t know the first thing about looking after their superior officer.

But.

He knew they were all watching Asano’s desperate run and the messages she sent.

They were pawns.

Even she would only see them as tools to slow down the enemy.

Of course she did. They were covering their faces for this nighttime battle and they had barely spoken with her. Only someone with considerable battlefield experience would let a connection like that affect their emotions.

He and his group had that experience.

Go, name inheritor.

He spoke aloud as he recalled seeing that first year running away from here.

“Go.”

Go, first year name inheritor. Even if you don’t achieve the result you want, you will eventually reach the level of the person we’re facing right now and then you can protect us and achieve those results.

They had watched her desperately run away from here.

No matter their relationship, anyone would side with someone who showed that kind of desperate effort.

In that case…

He swung his body forward and swung back the elbow of his outthrust arm.

Can I still be of some use?

He was the commander, so he wanted to keep at it longer than this. But…

“Damn.”

When he threw his elbow back and turned around, he did not find the enemy there.

This was his limit.


Muneshige sensed the sharpness of his enemy’s action.

That man really was a veteran upperclassman.

Hashiba’s superior officers really are quite well trained.

He could tell they had fought in many intense battles. And one of their roles here was definitely to teach and assist their rookie underclassmen.

If he had stayed in Tres España, he might have fought alongside these fellow Habsburg warriors against Hexagone Française.

After dodging the elbow strike that nearly caught him off guard, Muneshige readied Kamenuki.

He moved his body behind this enemy.

He jabbed Kamenuki’s blade into the commander’s shoulder joint from below.

He did not hit the bone because he did not want to make the man collapse.

It was a piercing blow. That opened the tendons, causing the man’s arm to go limp and dangle down. And…

“…!?”

The man tried to raise his voice, so Muneshige sent karate chops at both sides of the man’s back nearly up at the armpits.

The impacts were light, but they were timed with the breath meant to raise his voice.

That will shake his diaphragm and give him trouble breathing.

That was exactly what happened.

The enemy lost his voice.

The rest was easy. The man quickly tried to move his legs, so Muneshige jabbed the blade into the back of his knees to make his legs go limp as well.

Now, then.

He grabbed the man’s back and shoved forward to get him to collapse onto the ground. But without making a sound. He silently controlled the man’s back so he landed on the ground using the same balance control he had when landing here.

He now had the man pinned.

Just to be certain, he made strikes to the outer edges of the man’s thighs. That was the starting point of the leg tendons, so numbing him there would leave his legs entirely unusable after the previous blows to the backs of the knees.

He could not use his shoulders either, so he could barely move with his four limbs sprawled out on the ground.

That left the enemy’s back. Muneshige dropped the butt end of Kamenuki into the center of the man’s back to knock the air from his lungs.

That sealed off his voice again.

But that was when Muneshige saw the commander man looking back over his pinned shoulder.

Muneshige saw a great power there, so…

“–––––”

Without nodding, he made a karate chop to the man’s brainstem.

There was no nod, sympathy, or praise there.

He simply defeated him. That was his courtesy to the man for not losing his fighting spirit.

His enemy had lost consciousness and that was enough.

He had needed to go that far with this opponent. They had both known it and it was the greatest praise he could have given him.

All of that was to suppress the one enemy.

Gin had taught him how to suppress others.

During the middle stages of their sword training in the past, he had repeatedly been suppressed by her after an incomplete loss.

That really takes me back.

He reminisced while moving on to the next enemy. He decided to simply focus on defeating the enemy this time so he could speed up the process.


Gin counted the enemies Muneshige had defeated in the forest.

There were no sounds or movements for her to observe. Muneshige was a skilled martial artist. Not even the 1st Special Duty Officer was better than him at eliminating the wind that would produce sounds and movement.

So she was instead counting his timing.

They lived together, so she knew his body quite well. And that included his skeletal structure and muscle distribution.

So she knew how many steps it would take him to move a certain distance and how far his arms could reach.

She could make a pretty good guess of where the enemy vanguard and the rest of their unit were located. She also knew how many there were.

From there, she just had to measure it all out based on him. She pictured the movements he always made in training and predicted how long it would take.

She could imagine it all.

His movements were a lot like her own. Because…

That really takes me back.

She had performed this kind of suppression technique on him from time to time.

In the beginning, the sword training had been enough to leave him unconscious, but once he learned how to block her attacks, things had grown more difficult.

He had started out unable to stand up to her with a sword, but once he had learned to hold his own with a sword, he had gotten cocky.

So to take him down a peg, she had shifted to grappling techniques once he blocked her swords.

Europe had close-quarters combat techniques too, but Muneshige had been young and worked as a newspaper and mail delivery boy.

She had often thrown him and he had often flown through the air.

After all, she had needed to convince him to never return.

But return he had. So she had slammed him against the ground even harder and pinned him down.

Once she pinned him down and got him to admit defeat, the day’s training was over. That simplicity may have been a lot easier for her.

Thinking back, she had felt a need to end it quickly. Because spending too much time on him would have meant admitting she was growing soft.

That may have been why she had decided at the time that she would only touch him with her hands. Even when grappling, she made sure never to touch him with anything else.

But one day, the training had come to a sudden end after she started grappling.

When she reached out to pin him down, he had grabbed her hand first.

He had grabbed her wrist. That kept her from holding a weapon, so it was a fatal mistake on her part. However…

“–––––––”

She had used her other hand to slam him to the ground. He had rolled two or three times from the force of the impact, but she had left that place without even bowing to signal the end of training. She had tried to catch her breath and suppress her racing pulse at the well behind her estate and she had not admitted it to herself at the time, but…

I was inexperienced.

She had refused to admit to herself that he had “suppressed” her when he grabbed her wrist.

She had only accepted it all when he had chopped off both her arms.

Stubbornness resided in the center of your body and it was worn on the outside. It was the armor worn when resisting something.

Only after he had cut away everything except her stubbornness had she found herself with no other armor to wear.

Her current wrists would be hard to grab.

She could also detach those arms, but…

When did we learn how to suppress someone by holding them in your arms?

She sighed while thinking about that. And…

“Is your healing complete, Master Yagyuu? Then we need to get going.”

“Eh? But Tachibana Muneshige-sama still hasn’t left the forest.”

“The battlefield is on the move, so we do not have time to wait for him to leave the forest. Once he suppresses that group, he will attack the enemy who was pursuing you.”

By her assessment, Muneshige still had to defeat about two more. However…

“We can build up some speed while he defeats the rest. Do you see why?”

She stepped forward and started to run while speaking to the boy who followed.

“If we do not build up speed now, we cannot keep up with him.”

They got going.

In her imagination, Muneshige had just finished defeating the enemies and was starting to run.

He was looking back toward her and calling to them with a smile.

She did not need to see him to know. That was how it had always been.

Even when he grabbed her wrist and she had turned tail and fled.

Master Muneshige.

Keep an eye on the path ahead.


Katou Yoshiaki saw two battlefields while viewing it all from the sky above the Uraga Channel.

One was a fleet battle and the other was a ground battle.

She was preparing to participate in the aerial one.

So she was waiting for an opportunity above the aerial fleet sticking half out over the Uraga Channel.

Kuki could order her to fly in at any moment, but as time passed, she began observing the surrounding situation using the Magie Figur open by her hands.

This is a real pain.

Kuki had decided earlier that the enemy’s aerial fleet was primarily meant to delay them. They were meant to keep the Hashiba aerial fleet busy until the ground battle was complete, hence the delaying tactics.

That was of course a strategy they had to consider. After all, the other side had the greater quantity while their side had the greater quality. And with the ironclad fleet in a defensive formation akin to holing up in a castle, the enemy could not actively make an attack.

So the enemy had found a way to use that siege-like situation.

They had realized the Hashiba fleet could not move out and attack, so they were preventing the Hashiba fleet from firing in toward the land.

They fortified their defenses and handled all of the cannon fire meant for the surface battle.

And Ookubo, the commander of the ground battle, had banned any ground forces from firing on Kuki’s fleet as part of her negotiations.

Musashi’s ground unit had shot down one of their light warships.

“Although the snipers need a fairly stable position to pull that off, so who knows if they could do it a second time.”

Still, it had been proven on-site that they could do it.

And then they had banned themselves from doing it again.

They’re bargaining.

After all, despite the enemy’s stance, Kuki’s fleet was not banned from firing on the enemy ground unit.

They were free to fire.

But firing would change the public opinion.

They would be firing on a non-resisting opponent who had stated they were dividing up the battlefield. Even if the negotiations never actually banned that, it would still harm Hashiba’s reputation. Especially in Kantou where anti-Hashiba sentiment was already common. They wanted to avoid stirring up more hatred than necessary.

But some situations would require they fire regardless.

Like if our ground unit is about to lose.

If that happened, Kuki was sure to insist he made the decision to fire all on his own.

That was their insurance and a way of feeling some peace of mind about the situation.

“Although that also means we’ve been pushed to the point where we need that.”

That was the situation.

Their fleet had lost the Miura Peninsula warships that the gods of war had shot down and they had lost the fleet shot down by the god of war unit over the Uraga Channel.

Plus the one ship shot down by the enemy ground unit earlier.

Meanwhile, none of their ships had been shot down by the enemy aerial fleet.

That was because the ironclad ships were taking almost all of the enemy fleet’s shells.

They had defense barriers and thick armor.

And it was no coincidence that they had survived with just those two things.

“Hashiba’s instincts were correct in not allowing Houjou to participate.”


Yoshiaki considered Houjou’s fighting force.

Their nation had more or less fallen at this point, but most of their fighting force remained intact thanks to the duels that took the place of the Siege of Odawara. Their gods of war had been delivered to Hexagone Française, but they still had their mechanical phoenixes.

“If they had fired those Descending Light Bombs, even the ironclad ships would’ve been in trouble.”

They likely had the battle reports from Takigawa to thank for this. The Sanada ninjas had also sent them a variety of information, so Hashiba had been able to take that strategy into consideration during the pre-battle negotiation.

The real problem was the battles to come. Houjou’s technology was sure to end up with Musashi.

Curious, Yoshiaki sent a transmission to the Azuchi.

Kimee: “Takenaka.”

The reply was a little delayed. After a roar from the enemy’s cannons, she had to wait the span of two breaths.

Kuro-Take: “Oh, yes, yes. What is it, Yoshiaki-san?”

Kimee: “Houjou was under P.A. Oda’s rule, so did they share any of their tech?”

Kuro-Take: “Testament. That would be Niwa-san’s jurisdiction. After all, she was made the superior officer in Kantou when she was managing Date. She’s sure to have received and been left with a lot of things from Houjou. We needed that for Mitsunari-san, after all.”

“In that case,” muttered Yoshiaki.

Kimee: “Does that mean they started developing new weapons after leaving Niwa’s control? Just how strongly are they betting on Musashi?”

Kuro-Take: “Not on Musashi. On the nation that provided Houjou an ending.”

“So,” said Takenaka.

Kuro-Take: “Musashi took that spot and Hexagone Française was rejected.”

Yoshiaki paused before finally agreeing with her.

Maybe I do need to have more confidence in how I talk about these international issues.

But, she added while looking to her Magie Figur.

Kuki had sent her a request to prepare to attack.

It would soon be her turn. But at the same time…

“I wonder what’s happening down on the ground.”

No one had been able to reach one member of her underclassmen for a while now.

Kani had told her about this.

“Asano Yoshinaga. …Will this be the first decisive move in the ground battle?”


Asano ran through the forest.

She was climbing a slope. It was a natural slope not packed down by feet, so it was more fragile than she had expected.

She had cast a physical strengthening spell on herself and she was using a lightweight mobile shell, but…

This is rouuuugh!

She had trained outdoors a lot more over the past year, but she was still the indoorsy type. She could not keep running at full speed like this.

But she had to hurry.

She knew where the enemy – Ookubo – was.

As soon as the cannon blast had hit Yagyuu Munenori, the ninja samurai who had been pursuing her all this time, she had turned to the northwest. By reflecting the path he had taken in regards to the cliff, she could almost perfectly figure out the angle he had last been facing.

He would have been constantly aware of Ookubo’s location while pursuing her. He would have wanted to take the shortest route to attack her and then take the shortest route back.

When he had sped up to catch her, she had predicted where that “turnback” point would be. The spot where he had decided he would pass “the shortest route” was where his turning point would be.

So when he had sped up, she had guided him to the cliff.

It had worked.

But she had made a mistake in confirming Yagyuu’s opening, even if it had been from a distance.

“I caaan’t believe Tachibana Muneeeshige caught uuup to…me!”

First the Yagyuu family and now the Tachibana family. It was too much. Also, Tachibana Muneshige was faster than she had expected. She had looked up information on him and learned he did have experience moving through forests, but his speed was still greater than she expected.

This was bad.

That was why she had asked the upperclassmen team to intercept him.

But she had not heard anything from them.

Whaaat happened?

She had given them that job, but she had not honestly expected them to stop the enemy. However…

“Yeah.”

The enemy was not immediately attacking her.

That meant those upperclassmen had done their job.

The enemy was only catching up because she was slow.

“Yeahhh!”

Honestly, she thought. This isn’t who I am at all.

Her grades in classroom subjects were the top in her year. She had used those grades as a shield to get by this far. So when she came to the battlefield, she had assumed a first year like her would be given a backup role in order to build up experience, but…

Here I am fighting on the front liiine!

Also, she had already been given a task and she had already given a task to others.

She had to show something for this.

Yeah, that’s right. This is so much pressure. I’m already exhausted, so much expectation is being piled onto me alone, and the problem I’m facing has an S difficulty level. But…

“Yeah.”

I’m always under this kind of pressure, she thought.


She had always been top of her class and in the best 3 for her age in M.H.R.R.

At school, she made it look like she did not do anything special.

But once she got home, she would crawl into bed, curl up, and go to sleep.

She would only sleep for a mere hour and a half, but that was what she needed to reset herself after getting home from school.

Once she awoke, it was like being in another world.

She did not watch TV and she did not chat with her friends on the divine network. She would only study.

She did not do anything fancy.

She would simply reread the textbooks from the start to however far they had gotten.

If problems were given, she would solve them.

If she needed to learn something, she would do so.

If she was supposed to understand something, she would make sure she could explain the logic behind it.

She repeated the process every single day. And that put her at the top.

She felt that was the result of her daily practice, but she knew the real reason she did it every day.

She was repeating the same thing over and over.

She would eventually learn everything and repeat it more for the peace of mind it brought than to actually absorb the contents.

You might could call it an addiction. And at that point…

You go forrr memorizaaation.

She would work to see how much of it she could memorize.

So before a test, she would challenge herself. She would see if she could recite the massive amount of content on the test and everything that came before.

If she forgot even a single thing, it filled her with unease.

She would not allow herself to miss anything at all.

She had lived like this for so long now.

Had she chosen to become a name inheritor as a part of that? Or had she gone crazy? She had always been the kind of person who only did karaoke on the weekend or in the first hour after school, and then she went and did that. But…

“Yeah.”

She was first at school.

But all those people who were not first were under so much more pressure than her, yet she was still doing her best, ordering them around, and trying to come up with an idea. Why was that?

No, she thought.

She was alone right now. She was in another nation, it was night, she was in the forest, and she was running fast enough to leave even her voice behind.

So she could think this.

She could think the thing she always felt when under the covers.

How long…

She moved her hand as she thought. The enemy was coming, so it was too late to worry about them noticing where she was.

She activated a spell and launched an attack while forming the words in her heart.

How looong am I going to keep doing this?


Muneshige saw the enemy’s attack.

Bullets suddenly flew in from his surroundings while he ran through the dark forest.

Does she use a gun?

He recalled the technique used by Kakei Juuzou of the Sanada Ten Braves. The bullets he fired were transported to a blind spot. That had given the Vice Chancellor and 5th Special Duty Officer some trouble, but his body movements had been impressive too.

Ever since the Battle of Kanagawa, all of their close-quarters combat fighters were showing signs of trying out more sideways movements.

Quickly sliding the feet, sliding them in a crisscrossing path, or making turning slides looked difficult, so had he been mistaken when he saw the Chancellor and his sister pulling it off quite easily during the Odawara festival?

No, they are a different category altogether.

Right now, he was using a variation of a side step.

Sliding was difficult in the forest or on slopes. The Sanada Ten Braves and other ninjas could pull it off, but he instead performed a somewhat crisscrossing side step where he took a step and pulled his other leg toward and a bit past the first one.

It somewhat reduced the number of steps he could take, but since it brought his legs together and then past each other, he could move with more stability. This was especially good because it did not give his upper body much vertical movement and that allowed him to dodge with his upper body while he ran.

“…”

He swung his upper body to slip through the enemy bullets.

But another attack arrived soon thereafter.

He heard the gunshots. There were six of them.

And that was not all.

Oh.

He was somewhat surprised by the rock.

A fist-sized rock suddenly rolled toward his running feet.

Dodging it would have messed with his pace, so he instead stepped on it.

“Toh.”

He used a balancing technique to step over it and accelerate.

Then another rock arrived.

And this time, it was at face height.

It had not been thrown from the distance. It had suddenly appeared in front of him and had seemingly been launched.

What is this?

Muneshige realized the rocks and the bullets were the result of the enemy’s spell.

“It seems Sir Yagyuu’s guess was correct!”

Just as he said that, he sensed a smell mixed in with the night air.

It was the gentle smell that moss and trees created in the night.

It came from overhead.

Three fallen trees had suddenly appeared in the sky.

After the rock was thrown in front of his face to distract him, these were dropped from above. With their size, they had the volume needed to crush him.

So she came prepared.

Muneshige thought about the spell the enemy was using.

It was indeed what Munenori had told him it would be.

“A phase space spell!”


Asano stopped showing any restraint with her spell.

Her spell was a simple one. It only allowed her to partition and open up a phase space the size of a transport ship container.

It was not meant for combat. If she had learned a combat spell, she had feared she would be placed on the front line. Of course, her present situation showed reality was not that kind, but at the time, she had assumed this spell would be safe.

And I thoughhht maybe it would come in handy at hooome.

Her family ran a fruit store. M.H.R.R. was a fairly carnivorous culture, so they ate some foods a lot more than others. That was why her family’s business was built around a primarily female customer base, but…

“I never imagined a spell I thoughhht might be useful for thaaat would come in handy herrre.”

The standard size of a container was 5x5x24 meters.

With a major contract, a person could possess a phase space of that size as a divine protection.

But she had made it so she could partition the space and manage the partitioned spaces separately. And she could partition it down to the centimeter.

That would be meaningless for the average person.

They would have no need to divide up, pack up, and transport so many things and they could not keep track of and manage it all anyway.

But she could do it.

She could memorize what was in that space and where.

That just left setting it all up.

She would load guns in just before they fired and she could also insert pseudo-anti-ship cannons. She also made sure not to forget a jamming spell to prevent her opponent from using divine transmissions. After that, she only had to load up the things she could procure on the scene.

Then I partition them out and uuuse them!

She would predict any possible battlefields, any paths the enemy might use, the timings at which they would step, and the heights at which their bodies would rise and fall. She would also observe them directly as she set things up in the air or on the ground.

She had even placed observation spells in the air.

The enemy thought they were running through a dark forest, but they were essentially running through a long tunnel-like space filled with her traps.

She was close to her goal now.

She had crossed the ridge.

She had seen eastern Bousou through the trees for just a moment.

Past the descending forest, she had seen Edo Bay below and the aerial battle above.

What looked like white clouds in the distant sky had to be the stern of the Musashi.

She could hear cannon fire.

She realized the wind had changed. A night wind rose toward the ridge and reached her head-on.

She could smell it. If she descended the slope below her, she was sure to find Ookubo.

She knew what that girl looked like. She also knew what weapons she used and how she fought.

She had her own weapon, but pursuit was approaching from behind. So…

“Howww will this work out?”

She resumed running as if collapsing down the slope ahead of her.

And she sent one of her best traps toward the enemy pursuing from behind.

“If they’re smart, I hooope this surpriiises them.”


“I need to use my head here!”

Muneshige chose to avoid the falling trees without relying on his body.

This enemy was doing quite well at predicting his actions.

But not as well as Gin does!

Confident of that, he used his chosen method of dodging.

It was a headbutt.

A rock had been thrown at his head as a feint, so…

“Nh!”

He bent his head back and then headed it like a ball.

Tres España’s Chancellor’s Officers primarily came from the baseball team, but soccer was also quite popular among the people there. Back when he had primarily worked as a delivery boy, he had been invited to join corporate soccer teams a few times.

He had never actually played outside of classes and had grown much more hooked on sword fighting, which took things three steps past a sport with the very simple rule of “kill them and you win”. But…

When heading a ball, you send it straight ahead or a little downward!

He actually remembered a lot from his athletic classes.

He felt some pain and the rock bounced straight ahead.

It flew.

And he aimed Kamenuki toward that rock.

“Fly and pierce it, Kamenuki.”


Kamenuki activated its power to accelerate toward the targeted object.

Muneshige balanced his body to match and took a step with his hips out in front.

He flew.

The rapid flight only lasted a few meters.

The long-bladed spear accurately pierced the flying rock.

As for the falling trees…

“–––––”

They fell behind him.

He had already moved out ahead. He swung his arm to slice through the rock with Kamenuki’s blade.

He ran. He was near the ridge and if he made it past that…

“Oh?”

Something appeared in front of him.

It was water. But this was not just some drips or a trickle. It was a massive…

“Waterfall!?”

Asano’s trap became a flash flood that crashed down the slope from the ridge.


Asano heard the muddy current erupt out.

That had been her biggest trap to leave for a pursuer.

She had compressed water taken from a forest stream and filled all of the gaps left between the other cargo, so she only had to release all of that when needed.

It also worked well to clean the phase space.

Of course, this was not guaranteed to stop the enemy.

However, she had done what she could. So now…

I keep going.

Please, my running feet, don’t stop until I reach the enemy.

I mean it. I beg of you, please don’t trip here.

But I’m still worried.

I haven’t memorized anything about this place. This isn’t a test and I’m not comparing myself to someone else.

Why am I still running when I’m feeling so worried?

“Kh…”

She realized her running had grown sloppier. She had managed to dodge out of the way of all the tree branches before, but now they were scratching at her arms and cheeks.

Don’t worry about it. She had been climbing the slope before, so she had been moving slower and had more time to dodge.

Now she was moving downhill and focusing more on speed. Also, the enemy was up ahead, so she no longer needed to worry about dodging the branches.

“Ah.”

Her breathing was heavy.

It isn’t possible, she suddenly realized.

I caaan’t do it.

She always thought this while lying under the covers. She would curl up, tell herself she would not feel that way once she woke up, and fall asleep.

But now she could not go to sleep. She had to stay awake the entire time and the world would continue uninterrupted as she ran.

Darkness surrounded her.

She could only keep running through her worries. But that was why…

Maybe I really caaan’t do it.

She was running, but pursuit was right behind her.

Tachibana Muneshige was after her.

He was at the level of a Vice Chancellor and his wife Gin was at the level of a Special Duty Officer. And for that matter, Yagyuu Munenori’s skill was real even if his inherited name was only provisional.

She had tried to act big with nothing but her grades to go on, so how were things supposed to work out for her with them after her?

Besides, would she even find Ookubo if she kept running this way?

What if she had misread her location or been chased in a different direction?

“Ah.”

Her breathing grew even heavier. No, she had felt this kind of worry countless times before. It was nothing new.

Oh, come on, she thought. This was so painful, pathetic, and agonizing, so…

“Why?”

Why did she see a group of people down the slope from her?


Asano had spotted the enemy.

Fouuund them! she cheered while still wondering why. But she actually knew the answer.

I knowww why!

Because I’m smart. That was why she found Ookubo’s unit. That was why she ran at full speed. That was why she prepared for a fight. That was why she readied her final spell.

Thaaat’s why!!

She did not stop running. She could activate her spell on the move and she did not want to leave herself vulnerable to an attack from a pursuer or interceptor. She would activate her spell and run on through. She could check on the result afterwards.

She was 12 meters away. She checked for pursuit, but…

None therrre!

She activated the spell and pulled something from the air.

“A pseudo-antiii-ship cannon!”

Just as she opened her phase space, she saw the enemy.

That was the person Konishi had been negotiating with. It was a glasses girl wearing a Far Eastern summer uniform with light armor attached.

She was a year above Asano.

That was Ookubo. She had the unique aura of a smart person. And…

What’s thiiis?

She had a boldness to her that Asano lacked.

And it was not a bluff. Her demeaner exuded a natural boldness.

Asano wondered if she would be like that next year.

She did not know.

But she had seen her target, so…

So!

She gave herself her final rationalization.

“I don’t need a reason anyyymore!!”

She only had to fire.

So she did.

The cannon blast passed by her as it raced through the air.

But in that instant, she saw a short figure rush in between her and Ookubo.

It was Yagyuu Munenori.


Chapter 52: Someone Looking up From the Gap[edit]

Horizon7B 801.jpg

Just how easy

And hard is it

To pursue someone

And catch up to them

Point Allocation (Depends on the Person)


I made it!!

Munenori had squeezed out every last ounce of strength.

Yagyuu Munenori had run here with the intent of draining his stamina.

He was not alone.

Tachibana Gin had accompanied him part of the way and had managed his incomplete healing spells to fully heal him.

Tachibana Muneshige had pursued the enemy and altered her route ever so slightly.

That just left him.

He had given Gin a nod before rushing forward and hearing a battle in the distance.

Two warriors at the name inheritor level had supported him, so he was not going to screw it up like last time. Besides…

I’m in front of Lady Ookubo!

Her #1 bodyguard could not afford to make a mistake.

“Yeah!”

He was out of breath, but moved his entire body all the same.

A great many things had allowed him to come this far. But, he thought.

That’s why!

His words became a shout that continued from the “that’s why”.

“I have to do this!!”

A giant hammer was summoned into his raised hand.

“Golden Hammer!”

His target was right there in front of him.

He used his full body to throw acceleration into the Golden Hammer and send it toward the enemy’s artillery blast.

“Hunterrrrr Chaaance!”


Asano saw something like sparks.

The ether cannon had been intercepted almost directly in front of her.

“Thaaat’s not good.

Based on past records, this enemy’s attack could fully deflect her own.

It created sparks, a roar, an impact, and a blast of air.

He had launched his attack.

It was the blast of air more than the impact that hit Asano.

Her body was immediately struck and her mobile shell was damaged. By the time the defense spells had opened across her body, she had been tossed into the forest where she found herself rolling along the ground.

But she had definitely seen Yagyuu Munenori looking straight at her from beyond the sparks.

His body had been covered in scrapes.

How hard had he pushed himself to pursue her?

Dammit.

She did not try to stop her roll. She only hoped she would end up on her back once she came to a stop.


Ookubo looked to her left while fixing her hair after the blast of air blew it.

She saw Yagyuu Munenori gasping for breath while down on his knees.

“Yagyuu-kun.”

She breathed a sigh and spoke to the heavily-breathing boy.

“Well done. You have changed the state of the battlefield.”

“Th-then-…”

“Don’t force yourself to speak.”

“B-but,” he said while letting his upper body fall a bit forward. “Why didn’t you…move elsewhere… You must have heard…my Golden Hammer…”

“Judge, I did hear it. And I knew you were telling me to withdraw.”

“Then…”

After hearing him ask why she had not moved, she responded while typing on her sign frame.

“I knew you would get here before the enemy. So that seemed like the better option. And since that is what indeed happened, Kanou-kun is over there laughing.”

“Milady…”

Yagyuu’s upper body really did collapse now. He supported himself with his head and knees.

He must have been exhausted, but he was gradually catching his breath.

I would expect no less from him.

Just then, someone approached from the underbrush near his head.

“The Tachibana Couple.”

She saw the husband carrying the wife as he stepped out onto the grass with a smile.

“Oh? Looks like you held off the enemy well enough.”

“What were you two doing?”

“Judge.” Tachibana Gin descended from his arms and nodded. She glanced over at Yagyuu before answering. “Master Muneshige was certain that boy would do his duty, so he went surfing.”

“Well, when that flash flood arrived, I looked behind me and noticed a large fallen tree there, so I figured that was a good a way of escaping as any. …I had seen Sir Yagyuu running off already, so I decided to let that job return to him.”

“Master Muneshige, you are trying to regain your inherited name, so please stop letting other people take the credit.”

But thanks to that, a new battlefield situation had been established.

“I didn’t expect our unit to get the first victory.”

Ookubo wrote up a report to inform the other units of Yagyuu’s success. After hearing the Tachibana Couple’s conversation, she added a note that their assistance had played a major role in that success.

“Yagyuu-kun, can you stand?” she asked while sending the report.

“J-judge.”

He stood up next to her. He must have been really desperate to get here because his body and clothes were scratched up by branches. However…

“When did you get so tall?”

He was a head taller than her. But he took a breath, and…

“Milady, I will make sure to arrive before they do next time.”

“That means I’ll be in danger, right? Do something before it reaches that point.” She smiled bitterly and pointed forward. “Onward. The god of war unit will also be advancing along this line, so let’s make this something of a charge. But make sure you don’t provoke the fleet having a shootout in the sky to the right.”


The enemy unit was on the move in the distance.

Asano could hear it over the sound of her breathing and pulse which had yet to settle down.

She was lying on her back.

She was fairly certain her left shoulder was dislocated. The elbow may have been broken too, but the broken power assist divine protection of her mobile shell was the main reason she could not move most of her body.

The standard divine protections in her hard point parts were working hard to stabilize her condition. She operated a lernen figur with her right hand to prioritize healing. She left just enough of the physical buffing to endure the healing and then focused on a sedative effect.

She purged the moving parts of the mobile shell. She freed herself from it while leaving only the hip part and the back part which contained her survival kit.

Then she felt a chill.

Her body had been released from the armor restricting it.

The armor had held the heat inside, so once it was gone, her body touched the forest night air and a damp chill reached her skin.

She took a breath and finally looked up into the sky.

She could see the night sky through the valley formed by the leaves of the summer trees.

She saw the stars there.

And her ears detected the thunder-like rumbling of distant cannon fire. It reminded her of festival fireworks.

She exhaled and then filled her lungs with the chilly air. And…

“Dammit.”

Her vision blurred and heat dripped from the corners of her eyes toward her ears.

I failed.

She knew this situation was a good summary of everything for her.

She knew all too well why she had failed.

“That’s riiight.”

Because I’m smaaart.”

Because I’m really, really smaaart.

That allowed her to come up with excuses for her failure. These were the thoughts she always had while curled up in bed with her eyes shut, except her eyes were open this time.

The footing had been poor.

There had not been much light.

The enemy had been in hot pursuit.

She could think of all sorts of reasons for her failure. And she was confident she could convince people of those reasons.

So I can protect myself even when I fail.

“But.”

But why did it frustrate her so much?

She had more than enough excuses to protect herself. Hadn’t she continually thought them up and memorized them while fleeing from pursuit?

She had done what she was supposed to do. The problem was the situation and her own inexperience.

See, I’m even placing some of the blame on myself. That means I’m being rational. Now no one can complain. Everyone is sure to say I did my best.

So why?

“Dammiiiiiit.”

Why did her left arm refuse to move? Her right hand was not enough to wipe away the tears.

“Ah…”

It was so frustrating.

She thought back to that final moment when she saw the enemy’s eyes on her when he charged out in front of her.

What was with him? He’s bound to have worse grades than me and he was even more desperate than me. But…

“Kh.”

That would be exactly why she had lost to him.

Had she actually returned his gaze back then?

She was not confident she had.

“That’s because…”

She tried to build up an excuse inside herself, but she could not.

Instead, she found a single word.

“Why?”


Asano asked a question.

“Why?”

This was not a reason beginning with “because”. It was the question used to find that reason.

Why did I lose?

She could come up with any number of reasons for it, but that was not what she wanted. This was a more fundamental issue. And…

“Why?”

Why am I crying when I have so many reasons to explain it away?

Yeah, she said while placing her right hand on her weeping eyes and slowly removing it.

She could see the night sky through the dark valley above her.

This was not the utter darkness below the covers. It was dark, but there were sounds, everyone was moving, and she could see into the distance.

She realized she could also hear the summer insects chirping.

She breathed while listening to that distant chirping and thinking to herself again.

I lost.

That would normally have been unthinkable.

“Dammit.”

She moved. She sat up with the mobile suit removed.

She felt an awful ache in her chest. Had she broken a rib too? She could see an anesthetic spell lernen figur on her chest.

But…

“Kh.”

She let her body fall forward to lift her hips.

She grabbed the nearby grass even though it would provide no support and she tried to stand on her trembling legs.

She managed it.

“Dammit.”

The tears would not stop. There were bound to be tear stains on her cheeks when she regrouped with the others.

But she did not care.

“Why?”

She asked that of herself again as she took the first step.

She was better than other people at some things and she could protect herself, so why?

“Why?”

She did not know. She did not, but this had to be her first time asking this question.

She had failed, but she had gotten over the fear and anxiety and she was not thinking about quitting.

“Why does it frustrate me so much?”

She wiped away the tears as she walked off.

If she crossed the ridge to the east, would she arrive at the coast by the time the tears had stopped?


Word of Asano Yoshinaga’s defeat arrived along with notification of Ookubo’s unit’s advance.

The Musashi forces reported it as the first real victory in the Satomi Liberation, while the Hashiba forces reported it as their first real loss.

And the owners of two giant forms received those differently-framed reports on Bousou’s western beach.

“Musashi Ariadust Academy 6th Special Duty Officer – Naomasa.”

“Hashiba Warrior – Masaki Tokishige.”

The god of war Integrity spoke to Naomasa who was riding Jizuri Suzaku’s shoulder.

“Sorry,” said Tokishige through Integrity’s external speakers. “It took me until this shift in the situation to make up my mind here.”

Naomasa nodded in response.

“Well, I’m sure you have your reasons. Some idiots out there are already fighting and getting fired up over it, but you’re different. Is that the right takeaway?”

“Are you close with Yoshiyasu?”

That question brought a certain thought to Naomasa’s mind.

I get the feeling she’s going to be a pain to deal with.


I’ve developed good instincts for when a person or a situation is going to be a pain, thought Naomasa.

She would really prefer not to deal with this. Unlike Tenzou, Toori, Urquiaga, and the others who had already reached the end of the sugoroku board and started on their second time around…

“I just want to live a normal life.”

“Then stay off the battlefield.”

Tokishige had a point.

But that had successfully dodged the question. A logical leap like that was a good way to change the subject. That was another skill she had learned while dealing with her classmates.

They can come in handy that way.

But as soon as she thought that, she realized she would not even need those skills if those awful people were not around her all the time.

I live in a really difficult place, she realized, so…

“Your life has been difficult too, hasn’t it?”

“That is why I have already decided to fight.”

“Do you want to fight Yoshiyasu?”

After a pause, the enemy shook her head.

“Explaining would take too long.”

“I see.”

“Sorry.”

“That’s nothing to apologize for.” Naomasa readied Jizuri Suzaku for battle. “So let’s do this.”

She looked behind Integrity to the flight devices visible there.

Those had originally belonged to the Suzaku. And…

If I had had those wings…

If the Suzaku had been equipped with that flight device…

I bet I could have stopped Satomi Yoshiyori.

Then that idiot would not need to occasionally stop and stare into the distance while he was teasing Yoshiyasu.

Honestly. It was because things had worked out that way that they were in this situation, that those idiots were the way they were, and that she was the way she was. But still…

“You can’t help but feel the weight of the things that were out of reach, can you?”

“No, you can’t.”

Did the enemy have something like that too? In that case…

“Let’s do this. I want to extend my reach just a bit for next time.”

Naomasa moved the Suzaku forward.

“So I’ll be taking those wings.”


Afterword[edit]

Okay, that was Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon VII-B.

I believe a book came out recently that said the next part would be the “final part” in the first part’s Afterword, but who wrote that again? Oh, right. It was meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Sorry. I thought I might try being Ujiteru for a moment since that’s so close to my hometown. Anyway, I write the afterword for each book when the first manuscript is done, but I had already finished writing Part B and was thinking about starting on the final part at the time, so I ended up writing that. If anyone overlooked there being a Part B and skipped straight to Part C, I’m really sorry. Not that they’d be reading this here.

Anyway, Part B takes place in the middle of the Kantou Liberation and it has the debut battles for a lot of people, but my image for this “just before summer break to the end of summer break” period is when all the upperclassmen retire from the sports teams and the younger players start rising to the forefront and learning how hard that can be.

Like I’ve said before, there’s a different feel to the Warring States period commanders between the early stages and the late stages. If you think of Nobunaga as from the early stages and Ieyasu as from the late stages, then Hashiba’s era falls in the middle and I think you can kind of see that as the summer break created by the absence of Nobunaga as a teacher to show them how to fight in the Warring States period.

If this is a time for sports, clubs, and free time for Hashiba and the others, then I think this would be the time when people retire and when Ieyasu comes forward to sweep aside the old generation and create a new one.

Anyway, the chat.

“Okay, let’s keep bragging about crimes like before. Last time was pretty bloody, so let’s not do that this time. Keep it cheerful.”

“Hmm. There’s a huge theme park in Tokyo’s colony, right? That one where a beast lives.”

“Yes, there is.”

“Right? Well during high school, we went there not for a field trip but for our third year orientation and I was at the age where I liked to make a show of how boring I found everything.”

“Is there any point in showing off your boredom in a beast’s kingdom?”

“Well, that aside, I was wandering around with the unpopular group when we saw a dancing dog, right? So we all captured it, did the butterfly with it, and threw it in the lake. Long story short, the school stopped taking people to the beast’s kingdom after that.”

“How can you describe something so shocking in so few words?”

He never does anything good. Now, my background music this time was DJ Noriken’s Neonlights. It feels like forever since I’ve listened to Beatmania music. My friend and I used to slap that thing like a couple of monkeys. But this time, I’ll ask this:

“Who was holding themselves the most?”

Next time it really is the last part, so wait just a little longer.


February 2014. A morning of melting snow.

-Kawakami Minoru



Notes[edit]

  1. Kani can mean crab.
  2. 3P is Japanese slang for a threesome.
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