Horizon:Volume 7C Chapter 56
Chapter 56: Sentencer at the Execution Grounds
If the sky is known as the night
Then what do you call us up here?
Point Allocation (Basking In It)
Two explosions blossomed in the sky.
Motoyoshi’s flagship had exploded at the back of the drifting Mouri fleet.
The first explosion came from the engine system being pierced.
The second came from the fuel igniting afterwards.
The second one was larger and it caused the giant ship to swell out from within before rapidly tearing apart and rupturing.
With a loud metallic noise, the flagship broke down the middle.
The spell system controlling and protecting the ship lost power and the armor literally broke apart.
From there, the flagship dropped as a flaming hulk with the roar of air being pushed out of its way.
Two people were watching from above as it dropped out of the drift: a white Technohexen who was catching her breath and dismantling a white cannon and a black Technohexen who was pulling the other close so they could support each other.
The Mouri flagship crashed into the ocean below, slammed flames into the water, and burst apart.
Crushed under its own weight, the ship entirely lost its original shape.
Kuki breathed a deep sigh at Katou Yoshiaki’s success.
Seeing Motoyoshi’s flagship sink did inspire some feelings inside him. In their previous fleet battle, he had destroyed Motoyoshi’s fleet and sent it crashing into the ocean.
…I suppose you could call this the same.
Given Yoshiaki’s history recreation, Murakami Motoyoshi would have a hard time returning to the battlefield after this.
Kuki almost felt disappointed at losing such a formidable foe, but he wondered if that was only because he had defeated the man in both their encounters.
“Well done, Yoshiaki-kun.”
“Testament. I couldn’t have done it without Angie showing up. I might have died without her.”
“Focus on the result, Yoshiaki-kun. And Angie-kun, you damaged your schale besen when you arrived, but can you still do the recreation of your loss in the Keichou Campaign?”
“Oh, right! The raft! I’ve gotta make a raft!”
“Can we just line up Weiss Fürstin’s acceleration panels horizontally?” suggested Yoshiaki.
They switch gears quickly, thought Kuki with a bitter smile. But…
The ironclad ships suddenly shook.
No, the shaking was not the issue. They were taking fire from port instead of from starboard like before.
The enemy Mouri fleet had lost their flagship and thus their chain of command.
If they were firing on the ironclad fleet now…
“We will crush you.”
He then focused on the starboard side.
What would the Yamagata Castle do in the western sky now that Motoyoshi’s flagship had been sunk?
He realized something when he checked visually and with an accurate rangefinder on an insha kotob.
“The Yamagata Castle is…moving away?”
The Yamagata Castle was moving back.
Kuki considered what that could mean while reviewing the actual information he had at his fingertips and before his eyes.
…Why would it do that?
He could think of a few different reasons.
The most likely was that they realized a pincer attack was not possible with the Mouri fleet falling apart.
The next most likely was that they were adjusting their distance for the effective range of their main cannon.
Beyond that, it was also possible they were simply being cautious as the ironclad fleet prepared to fire back.
The roars and booms of cannon fire were already sounding in the eastern sky behind him.
The ironclad ship had begun destroying the Mouri fleet that was no more than a doomed remnant at this point.
But, he thought. Is there any other possible reason for the Yamagata Castle to pull back?
He could think of one other possibility.
But he did not think there was any point in accepting it as a reason. Surely it couldn’t be that, right?
“Did they decide attacking us is not worth it because our defeat is already guaranteed?”
That could not possibly be the reason. But…
Three Legs: “Kuki-kun!”
Magoichi’s worried voice reached him.
Three Legs: “The Mouri fleet is charging us from the east!”
“Huh?” said Nabeshima as she viewed the progress in the sky from atop a transport ship rushing eastward at low altitude.
The Mouri fleet continued its largescale drift in the eastern sky, but they were no longer just rotating like the hand of a clock.
They curved like a snake to also charge toward the ironclad ships without losing any momentum.
They scattered waves from their virtual oceans along that curve and they took on a certain form.
“They’re charging in as three lines of ships!”
But those lines were different now.
The lines had been a mix of warships and transport ships before, but now the lines were separated between warship and transport ship. Plus, they now had a row of transport ships on either side.
They had focused their attack power in the central line while increasing their defenses to the sides.
The middle line was sticking out a bit because the other lines could not keep up with its speed, but the overall control of the ships was good enough. Their target was the center of the ironclad fleet.
They charged toward that target with perfect coordination. And Nabeshima realized that, if the drifting lines of ships had divided up their roles once more…
“This charge was always their plan.”
“Isn’t there a ‘but’, my lady?” asked one of the Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji from below. “But how are they so coordinated after losing their commander, right?”
He was exactly right. The enemy was still having their lines split apart and join together.
Their coordination was perfect despite the lack of Motoyoshi as their commander.
“Why is that?”
“You have a commander’s instincts, so it would probably be best to let you know this. In fact, it might be good to let Kuki know as well.”
“Even we can pilot this mechanical dragon to an extent without you here.”
In other words…
“Small nations, small forces, and groups tied together by something like a clan will fight using an elite few. In that case, the difference in skill between commander and follower is not all that large. …But that can’t happen for Kuki inside a group as enormous as the Hashiba forces.”
“And this time, Mouri is being assisted by some piloting experts from Musashi.”
In other words…
“The Mouri fleet is commanded by Murakami Motoyoshi. That means his role was to lead the strategy needed to bring everyone to this point. But the actual movements were left up to the elites who could view the big picture. Of course, they can only do that because they were trained so well by the leader of the Murakami Navy: Murakami Motoyoshi himself.”
“They’re finally doing it!”
On the deck of the Pension Versailles, Terumoto grabbed the prow railing with both hands while clenching and grinding her teeth.
“Honestly, I thought you were crazy, Murakami Motoyoshi, but you actually pulled it off.”
The general plan had been put together when they were back in Hexagone Française, adjustments had been made during the Siege of Odawara, and further adjustments had been made after seeing the result of the pre-battle meeting.
Throughout the frequent changes, Murakami Motoyoshi had never uttered a single complaint and constructed an excellent strategy.
However, he had insisted on just one thing:
…Some crew from Musashi.
Since they did not have a powerful navy to work with, they had needed to combine meticulous planning with surprise. They had to lie in wait and not let the perfect opportunity slip away, so they had needed the fleet to be managed by elites.
Most likely, Motoyoshi had only agreed to the multiple changes in the plan because he saw his role as a “strategy courier”. With elites who could carry out their individual strategies on their own and who could view the big picture, he could simply tell them which strategy to use and carry them all to the final “opportunity” they needed.
“The Murakami Navy is numerous.”
Terumoto repeated the words she remembered him speaking at the strategy meeting.
“We are the Murakami Navy. Watch as we use our numbers.”
They were numerous, but they were not a powerful navy. They were just the one group.
He was their commander, but he was no more than one of those numbers. “So,” she said with her eyebrows raised.
“We will show you the power of the largest delinquent naval force in Far Eastern history!”
All of the ships participating in the charge responded to Terumoto.
Some did so with “testament” and others did with “judge”.
“Our Musashi group will handle the separation and regrouping of the transport ship lines, so shove all the firing and charging stuff onto Mouri!”
“Don’t say you’re shoving it onto us! But if we’re doing it, we’re doing it right, so try to keep up!”
The ships were pushed nearly to their limits.
After the high-speed drifting, they returned to a straight line for the charge. They were already shifting to the side, but they forcibly tilted against that movement, which rolled them onto their sides or caused a highside from the recoil.
However, each of the ships banked themselves while only every looking ahead, never to the ships behind them or to either side.
“We can still do this!”
“Yeah, I can keep going too!”
They pushed their speed and balance to the limit in order to form a certain trajectory. And…
“We’ll be going on ahead!”
The ship in the lead saw the ironclad fleet up ahead, so they sped up and flew right into the cannon fire coming from those ships.
“We aren’t afraid!” someone yelled.
“Because we are the Murakami Navy!” they all replied. “And we are numerous!”
Magoichi realized she had a single chance to fight back.
She stood on the deck of the top central ironclad ship.
She prepared Yatagarasu’s large cannon.
She had used this already at the start of the aerial battle and she was going to use it again here. She had already cleaned the weapon and, if she was not going to use it here, when would she?
Of course, artillery fire was already flying from their fleet.
The ironclad ships were firing their main cannons. Those cannons had torn through and destroyed plenty of enemy ships so far, but now…
…They’re defending against it!
The enemy’s three lines of ships were different from before. Before, the left and middle lines from her perspective had been made up of warships. The right line had been the defensive transport ships.
Now the left and right lines were the defensive transport ships.
That meant double defense. Those two lines were shorter than before, but this was meant as a short-term battle anyway.
“I appreciate the gamble they are making here.”
But their preparations could use work, she added.
The enemy was low in the sky after leaving their largescale drift. Charging toward the Hashiba fleet from so low gave the Hashiba fleet an advantage.
A diagonal shot from Yatagarasu was enough to blast them head-on.
…Yata’s large cannon has a caliber of approximately 30m.
Standard warships were between 300 and 800m long and at least 50m wide. A head-on blast from Yatagarasu’s large cannon could only destroy a single ship at most.
However, it had a range of about a kilometer, even if it did grow weaker the further it traveled.
As long as she hit them from the right angle, she could shoot down two or three warships. That would allow her to completely eliminate their initial charge.
If she bought some time, the Hashiba fleet could manage. Kuki would take command and figure something out. So…
“Peck at and devour them, heavenly messenger.”
She opened a targeting spell in front of her eye and swung both arms.
A large cannon took form diagonally in the night sky behind Magoichi.
The Yatagarasu rifles flying in the sky above had connected their black barrels and expanded the barrel out to the bottom.
The virtual barrel they created was approximately 30m wide and more than 120m long.
Three Garudas standing on the barrel gave three squawks to establish its power.
Then Magoichi removed the bandages she used as an eyepatch. A prosthetic crow’s eye was revealed below.
She was a demoness, but she had adopted the prosthetic eye anyway so she could sync with Yatagarasu.
She raised her right hand toward her enemy and raised her left hand toward her prosthetic eye.
“Go, City Destroyer Yatagarasu! Open the beaks of your three barrels!”
Kani saw a beam of black light fire diagonally down and eastward in the southern sky.
She heard people raising their voices all around her.
This was their second time seeing this during the night’s battle, but that was why their raised voices carried so much expectation.
Kani also saw the result of the attack in the distant sky.
Yatagarasu’s enormous attack had resulted in…
“No damage to the enemy! They dodged it!”
She quickly magnified the nighttime footage on her lernen figur, which made it all too obvious what had happened.
“The Mouri fleet dodged Suzuki-senpai’s attack!!”
Asano looked up into the sky.
She used just her right hand to brush off her sandy clothes as she did so.
A black pillar of light had stabbed diagonally down into the ocean.
That powerful beam attack had lasted a full seven seconds.
The ocean surface was lifted up like flower petals a few kilometers away where the attack had hit.
Those waves would arrive here before too long.
But she checked on what had happened in the sky first.
The enemy fleet had dodged Magoichi’s counterattack.
They had not escaped to either side. Nor had they moved up or down. They had simply continued on ahead.
“The wheeeel formation!?”
The enemy had not ascended from their low position. They had only temporarily risen up like a snake rearing its head in order to construct a wheel formation toward the center column of the ironclad fleet.
The black crow’s attack had passed through the center of that wheel.
Asano realized something when she thought back to all the enemy fleet’s actions since the start of the battle.
“Three liiines of ships, swaaapping out, moving up and dowwwn, and the wheeeel formation.”
Everything they had used for their initial delaying tactics had been used to construct this final charge.
In that case, she thought.
“Murakami Motoyoooshi was making the final adjuuustments for this moooment.”
Just as she said that, a new result was added to the sky.
At the center of the grid formation that ruled the night sky, the central ironclad ship had its armor panels destroyed by a close-range attack from the wheel formation.
The ironclad ship exploded while only taking out a single ship from the wheel formation.
That was the Mouri fleet’s first win.
“Ohh, they did it. Did you see that, Shakenobe?”
“I did, mon! It is all thanks to you, mon!”
“I did nothing at all.”
“The enemy cannot run away because you have positioned yourself behind them, mon!”
Atop the Yamagata Castle’s bridge, Mogami Yoshiaki smiled at Shakenobe while he shouted too loudly to be drowned out in the night sky.
“I always end up with a positive outlook with you around, Shakenobe.”
“But are you not going to fire, mon?”
“I will be forced to if Kuki’s fleet falls back this way, but…for the time being, we can let Mouri have all the fun. Handing the credit to them is sure to come in handy down the road,” she said. “Also, Murakami Motoyoshi’s strategic planning is finally bearing fruit. Watching scenes like this is one of the best parts of the battlefield.”
“What do you mean, mon!?”
“You don’t know?”
“I don’t, mon!” shouted the Mouse.
“Good boy,” she nodded.
“I will bring you some sake, mon!”
“It is a little early for that.”
“Then I will bring it later, mon!”
“That sounds nice,” she said before looking out ahead into the sky.
The Mouri fleet was challenging the ironclad ships by moving in unbelievably close.
There could not have been more than 30m between them and the Mouri fleet was using a wheel formation at that close range.
“Generally, warships have cannons on the top and sides. And most of those will be the ones sticking out from the openings on the sides. That is especially true for galleys like Hashiba’s ironclad ships.”
“What if you move in real close?”
“You would be right next to them, mon!”
“Look,” said Yoshiaki while holding Shakenobe between her two fans. She lifted his face up in front of her right eye. “Shakenobe? You can see my right eye, can you not? But can you see my left eye?”
“I cannot, mon!”
“The same thing is happening to the ironclad ships.” She released him into the air. “The openings for the cannons on the sides are only large enough for that single cannon. They are kept small for defense purposes, but the cannons cannot aim to the blind spots on either side, can they? Now, at mid-range or longer, those cannons can get an angle of fire and focus all their shells on the enemy.”
“At extreme close-range, they can only use two or three of the cannons along a horizontal line.”
That was what Murakami Motoyoshi had taken advantage of.
…The wheel formation is very difficult to defend against.
“During the Armada Battle, not even Musashi could defend against it without their automatons calculating out the rotation timing, right? And at close-range, it is difficult to even observe their movements.”
Of course, the wheel formation required a lot of training on the attacker’s part. Getting the timing of the attacks right was hard enough, but having each ship target the same spot was even more difficult.
The strength of the Murakami Navy’s unity had made that possible here.
“The ironclad ships are using inexperienced rookies and only some of their ships can use their cannons. Also, Kuki decided to destroy the Mouri fleet with their cannons, so he placed all their defense barriers toward our Mogami forces. That means they will have very few barriers open on the port side facing the Mouri fleet.”
As a result…
“This is the completion of Murakami Motoyoshi’s strategy. Hashiba’s aerial forces are greatly feared, yet he has pulled off the seemingly impossible task of defeating those ironclad ships with no name inheritors and with only a few lines of weak ships.”
“This is the task Hexagone Française’s previous generation left for the current generation. So let us sit back and watch.”
A container was placed in her hand as she pointed to the eastern sky.
Shakenobe had brought her some sake.
“How about it, mon!?”
“I always get ahead of myself with you around, Shakenobe. The battle has not been won yet. But…”
She narrowed her eyes toward the exchange of artillery fire visible in the sky out ahead.
The occasional burning metal scraps flew this way like stray shells and those embers decorated the Yamagata Castle.
“Do not fall back, Kuki. If you do, the fox behind you shall burn you to the ground. Stay where you are and let your Hashiba forces collapse without my Mogami forces needing to lift a finger.”
She spoke without a smile as she watched a second ship sink.
“Tonight, you shall taste defeat, Hashiba.”
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