Horizon:Volume 7B Chapter 31
Chapter 31: Preparers on the Map
Announcements are external
Vows are internal
Point Allocation (The Raised Hand is Fairly Meaningless)
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.
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.”
“This isn’t the extent of the power we gave you.”
“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.
“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…
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.
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.
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…”
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.
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…
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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?”
She responded with that one word and her actions.
She looked her king in the eye and then nodded toward Asama and Kimi.
Mary tossed her Ex. Collbrande, so she caught that and leaped forward.
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.
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