Horizon:Volume 7C Chapter 57
Chapter 57: Duelers in Reserve Space
If you ask
What is necessary
I will answer by
Moving the counter
Point Allocation (Money)
A giant fireball appeared in the sky and dropped down.
The gaze looking up at it was high up and moving fast.
It belonged to a god of war.
Satomi Yoshiyasu’s Righteousness was being pursued by Konishi Yukinaga’s Filial Piety.
“That could not have been fun for Kuki-kun,” said Konishi before looking down again.
She pursued her enemy through the forest. She made minute adjustments to the flight devices to pursue the opponent who was waiting for an opening.
But she would not pursue her too far. If she left their base unguarded, the Satomi Liberation’s ground forces would attack.
“Honestly.” She smiled bitterly on Filial Piety’s shoulder. “War is a real pain in the rear.”
“Judge. It certainly is that,” replied Righteousness from the dark forest. “I used to be dying to accomplish some great feat, but now I just want it to end as quickly as possible.”
“That’s the opposite of me,” replied Konishi to establish their respective positions. “I want this to drag on until Hashiba-kun arrives.”
“I know. But that’s why I don’t want this particular battle to end as quickly as possible,” said Righteousness. “This is a battle to take back what was taken. This battle should never have had to happen in the first place, so I simply feel no reason to drag it out.”
Konishi used Filial Piety’s arms to deflect the short swords Righteousness thrust her way.
The arms had their outer shell strengthened so they could be used as a shield or a striking weapon.
And she had one other trick prepared.
“Arrow of Sebastian!”
Bows appeared from the sides of the shields. They stuck out of the shields from about halfway up, so they looked something like crossbows and there were four on each side.
Konishi pulled back Filial Piety’s arms so the artificial muscles and motors pulled the forearms back along the slide rail in the elbow to cock them. The bows pulled their spell strings taut within the shields and locked them in place.
Then the bowstrings were released.
With four on each side, a total of eight swooshing sounds sliced the air along with the loosed arrows.
The 7m arrows were made of ether and they were launched from atop Filial Piety’s arms.
Those arms were aimed at Righteousness.
The glowing arrows were loosed at close range and they flew toward the other god of war the instant they were created.
Meanwhile, Righteousness had just had its arms deflected along with the short swords, so it could not immediately intercept this attack.
Instead, it flapped its flight devices down and forward to fall back.
The arrows pursued while audibly slicing through the air. They corrected their course to match the extra distance to Righteousness and maintained a collision course.
They were going to hit, but that was when Righteousness did something else.
It swung its body side to side while falling back to use the trees as cover.
That high speed slalom did not bother dodging the leafy branches.
The green summer leaves acted as dark cover at night.
But the arrows pierced through and blew them away.
Out of the eight penetrating arrows, five had their course changed as they shattered a tree.
The remaining three continued toward Righteousness, but…
“I can see them.”
The holes pierced through the scattered leaves accurately revealed the arrows’ paths.
Righteousness made a counterattack with her short swords to take out two of the arrows. As for the last one…
She moved forward. By getting closer, her speed surpassed the arrow’s mobility and she dodged it.
The glowing arrow could not turn tightly enough and instead stabbed into a tree behind the god of war. Righteousness left that sound behind while moving straight forward.
It instantly moved in toward Filial Piety.
“Not bad, Satomi Student Council President!”
Konishi launched two arrows, but not at Righteousness. If she missed at this close range, she would be wide open to attack. And she had not had enough time since the previous arrows to prepare a homing divine protection for the arrows.
So she launched them down.
She smashed the crust with twin diagonal blasts. Rocks flew, their footing collapsed, and the trees shook wildly. Righteousness had to immediately apply attitude control against the shockwave of the arrows’ impact.
Filial Piety took that moment to fall back.
The wind swept out from between them, and…
The two of them charged forward and clashed.
Konishi had Filial Piety deflect Righteousness’s short swords.
Her battle funding counter was falling in the lernen figur in the upper right of her vision, but she still had plenty to spare. She could easily reach dawn while fighting like this.
And Hashiba would arrive with the dawn.
The eastern sky was already starting to change color.
It had been pure darkness before, but the dark blue was growing stronger.
The pitch black was being swept away and replaced by a gradient that grew darker from east to west.
Time was passing and that was a good thing for her side.
…It means Hashiba-kun’s arrival is drawing closer!
The Keichou Campaign had been like a bad dream, but she would wake from that nightmare come morning. In the morning, Hashiba and the others on the Azuchi Castle would arrive in Kantou and solve everything.
Of course, she would prefer to settle this before that happened, so…
“I’m not about to stop!”
She launched more arrows and a thought came to mind.
…I want to show off, don’t I?
She wanted to win as much as possible.
According to the Testament, she would side with the Western Army at Sekigahara and be executed after losing. She would fight for Mitsunari on the pro-Hashiba side and that was the end of it.
The history recreation could change the order of things by completing things early or putting them off until later, but with the standard order, her ending at Sekigahara was next up after the Keichou Campaign.
If she was going to win, this was her last chance.
“I want to win.”
She launched arrows with spells added on.
She used fire and incendiary spells. They were meant for use in attacking warships or burning down residential areas, but…
“I will win this with my money. Fire, Sebastian!”
She launched the fire arrows toward Righteousness at close range.
Yoshiyasu accurately dealt with Konishi’s attack.
She fell back to buy herself enough time and distance before they hit, she dodged as much as she could dodge, and she cut down the rest. However…
Incendiary spells would burn the target whether it was flammable or not. The degree depended on the level of the spell, but someone at Konishi’s level was probably using ones that could burn ice.
However, incendiary spells were usually used en masse. The point was for the fire to spread as far as possible, so they were generally scattered over a wide area to engulf the battlefield in flames.
But Konishi was different. She launched 16 fire arrows in quick succession. They appeared to be pursuing Yoshiyasu, but…
They landed in a large circle around her and set the trees there ablaze.
Of course, those fires were caused by the incendiary spells. The 16 campfires burned at a radius of 200m, but they did not spread to their surroundings and simply shined a crimson light on the battlefield.
This light revealed something.
It revealed Righteousness’s position in the forest.
“How about that?”
She heard a voice.
“Dodging and hiding behind cover isn’t much use anymore, is it? At the very least, dodging arrows with powerful kinetic homing isn’t going to be easy from now on.”
This was like a 200m radius cage.
Yoshiyasu wished she could shift the battlefield to someplace outside it. This opponent was formidable enough to warrant it.
But if she did not defeat this enemy, the dawn would come. She had to go on the offensive, so…
…What does it matter?
The enemy had created a stage for the battle and placed her inside it.
Even though she could have continued running away in the hopes of running out the clock.
…Of course, if she did that, we would only have to crush their base and declare victory.
Both sides had some troublesome facts to deal with here.
That meant one thing about their confrontation here:
“It is unavoidable.”
Yoshiyasu threw herself forward.
She opened the flight devices on her back and moved to slam her right shoulder into Filial Piety.
Ookubo saw the distant ring of fire illuminating south Bousou like a bonfire.
The intense battle between the large wheel formation and the ironclad fleet continued in the night sky overhead. The amount of sparks and armor fragments falling from the sky increased the further south they went, but Ookubo was more focused on the eastern slope’s ring of fire.
“That merchant keeps causing trouble. Doing that prevents us from deploying our ground unit in that area or in a parallel line along the slope.”
“Yes, the shadows would give away their location, milady. We should alter the formation and path of the unit using the central route. And we should move further forward.”
Kanou started forward, but someone stood out in front of her.
It was Yagyuu Munenori. He viewed the bright fire visible through the forest ahead.
“I will move out ahead, milady and Kanou-sama.”
“Are you sure? You can leave this to Kanou-kun if you are feeling tired.”
“The Tachibana Couple has already gone ahead, so I will do the same.”
He sure hates to lose, thought Ookubo with a bitter smile. And…
“How is the enemy base, Kanou-kun?”
“You can see that for yourself.” Kanou tapped Yagyuu’s shoulder to send him off and then pointed south. “The fishing port turned wartime city 5km from here was being used as a Satomi base and is now being used as the enemy base.”
There was a wall of light in that direction.
“That is a city defense barrier, but it is an open-top model.”
“It is on the coast and the forest-side border is also rather complex. They likely decided a hemispherical defense barrier could not cover it and would be wasteful. The protection of the ironclad ships overhead probably played a role as well.”
“Could we get in from above?”
“Jizuri Suzaku and Righteousness could. I have determined it would be best to have the ships fighting overhead drop us down.”
“That isn’t happening,” sighed Ookubo. And, “Can we get through the wall on the ground?”
“We could manage if a god of war cannon or Tachibana Gin-sama’s Cuatro Cruz broke through an 8m square hole with a close-range shot.”
Kanou displayed a diagram with a few possible destruction points indicated. There were 7 in all, but…
“Yagyuu-sama’s report says they are already building wooden walls and towers inside.”
“Yes, I suppose they would do that.”
A rumble of destruction sounded in the sky overhead. One of the ironclad ships and two of the Mouri warships had been destroyed.
It looked to Ookubo like they were falling her way, but…
“They are actually falling toward the Uraga Channel and the western beach, aren’t they?”
The three ships continued to fall while creating a roar of crushed wind and the continuing rumble of armor panels being stripped away. Something detonated inside them a few times and they could see the crew jumping overboard using descent spells.
Ookubo saw a few spell sign frames open in the sky and where the crew landed below.
“Kanou-kun, move the western unit forward. And have them hurry. Instead of sticking them between the three crashing ships and the enemy base, have them wait in front of there until the enemy tries to regroup with their base. Then have them follow these orders.”
Kanou’s eyebrows moved when she accepted the sign frame with those orders written on it.
“Milady, do you enjoy coming up with these strategies that might as well be gambles?”
“Calm down.” Ookubo waved her right hand dismissively. And, “We have no time, so we need to do whatever we can.”
The entire Satomi Liberation force had begun to advance.
Naomasa saw the report from Kanou out of the corner of her eye as she moved Jizuri Suzaku.
…They’ve started the actual attack on the base, haven’t they!?
She had Suzaku run along the eastern side of Bousou where she could see the enemy base. She was between the ridgeline and the noncombat zone.
Since she was so close to the noncombat zone, the Hashiba and Satomi formations were thin. And with the ridgeline acting as cover, the other combat zones did not affect her.
“Fly, Jizuri Suzaku!”
The flight devices on the god of war’s back were modified from those of a Tres Españan El Azor. She was using a single large pair of wings when it was meant to be used with two pairs, so the mobility was not the best.
But while she had worried the power of one pair would not be enough, she could manage with enough initial acceleration.
She ran as close to airborne Integrity as she could get.
Then she instantly launched Suzaku about 200m into the sky.
She flew. With her elevated viewpoint, she could see much more of Bousou’s terrain. She saw the defense barrier for the enemy base brightly outlining the city.
She had flown for combat before.
She had used flight devices during the battle against the Terrestrial Dragon the other day, when picking up the idiots outside of Magdeburg, and when battling Michiyuki Byakko.
But this was her first time outside of flight training to use them for such a long period and so frequently.
According to Hiro, “Those El Azor main wings are meant to provide long-term flight for a heavy male god of war, so they’ll have plenty of power for short-term flight with a light female god of war like Suzaku.”
That was more or less what she found now that she was up against Integrity which primarily fought in the air.
“I have to forcibly throw myself around!”
She had jumped up to 200m with a single flap of her wings.
But this had only roughly brought her closer.
She was approximately 300m from Integrity and it was about 50m higher up.
In addition to her light mid-sized wrench, she had a pair of god of war rifles held by the sniping arms attached to Suzaku’s back. She readied those as she pursued the enemy through a sky that had gained a slight blue coloration.
And the purple craft aimed its machete cannon her way with the cannon fire, flames, and sparks of the fleet battle in the background.
…Attacking, are you!?
It was. It fired with the machete cannon instead of charging in.
It fired sword pressure.
The air intake ports lined up along the back of Integrity’s blade could also be used as pressure emitters.
It made a horizontal slash toward Naomasa and that slash emitted a fan-shaped blast of sword pressure surrounded by white fog.
And it did not stop there. It released five blasts at once with slight vertical offsets. All of the launched pressure flew toward her while scattering ether light.
The attack was slow compared to a cannon. She had time to dodge after seeing it coming. But…
…That also means it sticks around as an obstacle for longer!
With low-speed attacks, you had to think of them as something to dodge, so you had to focus on them for longer.
This is real pain, she thought.
And she flew.
She struck the air behind her and sent Suzaku diving between the blasts of sword pressure.
But without any secondary wings, she could not adjust her course after flapping those two wings.
Once she flapped them, she was on a straight path. And she also lost speed faster.
When she passed by that sword pressure that looked like curved blades of fog, she forcibly made a second flap.
She wanted to escape that sword pressure as soon as possible, but those five paths restricted her options and so she wanted to regain her freedom.
Suzaku flew diagonally upwards.
With the fleet battle’s cannon fire booming overhead, Suzaku moved out ahead into the night sky. The distance to Integrity had dropped to about 150m. And…
Integrity took a backstep in midair while swinging its machete to launch another five blasts of sword pressure.
Being closer meant the space between the fan-shaped mist blades was smaller.
But she had to do it.
She saw enough room to send Suzaku between those five paths, so…
She accelerated Suzaku while slammed by an explosion of air behind her.
A moment later, she heard a voice.
“6th Special Duty Officer!”
It was Yoshiyasu and it sounded urgent.
“Do not charge toward Integrity!!”
Yoshiyasu heard a certain sound while dodging the flying arrows or cutting them down with her short swords.
She heard a sword cannon.
She was very familiar with the sword pressure blasts fired by the large machete wielded by Masaki Tokishige’s Integrity. They had been fired on her countless times during god of war combat training and she had seen them used on her side on the battlefield.
Yoshiyori and Tokishige were the sword cannon users of the Eight Dogs.
But since Yoshiyori had been skilled with any kind of weapon, the term “specialist” fit Tokishige best.
…That weapon is a real pain to deal with.
The sword cannon used by Yoshiyori’s Loyalty was powerful enough to take out warships and was generally a one-shot weapon, but the one used by Tokishige’s Integrity fired multiple blasts. It could fire them simultaneously or in quick succession.
…After all, it was originally designed for use against mechanical phoenixes.
Intercepting Houjou’s mechanical phoenix unit if it entered Satomi airspace was no easy task.
After all, not even the course corrections provided by homing spells could keep up when firing head on.
If you could not predict where they would be in advance, getting a hit in was difficult. That was just how fast and mobile they were. They outdid the standard flight of Satomi gods of war in both straight line flights and in top speed.
Tokishige fought them using her multiple simultaneous sword cannon blasts. They created a wall in the sky around her and limited the enemy’s course options.
Mechanical phoenixes could not make sharp turns, so dodging above or below the fan-shaped barrage set up across a wide area would take them far off course. And if they flew between the blasts, they could be intercepted along that limited area.
By doing it a second and third time, the net could be widened and the enemy intercepted.
Tokishige had used the same thing on the 6th Special Duty Officer here.
Yoshiyasu was familiar with this interception pattern, so she raised her voice.
“It’s too dangerous!”
Naomasa had some criticism of Yoshiyasu’s warning.
…Be more specific!
Just telling me not to “charge toward” it and that it’s “too dangerous” doesn’t tell me much of anything! When taking any kind of action, announce it in advance, do it where someone else can see you, and use hand signals to exchange instructions. That is the standard when working in the engine division. Of course, barely anyone actually follows those rules, but you still need to follow them when working somewhere new.
“Besides, I lost my chance to charge in anyway!”
That was partially due to the warning distracting her.
Naomasa used Suzaku’s flight devices to dodge Integrity’s attack. She flew above the five sword pressure blasts and her powerful acceleration brought her farther up than she would have liked.
She really did fly.
That was when she realized Integrity was no longer where it had been.
…Where’d it go!?
A moment later, she noticed something off about the air current behind her. It was like the air current created by her movement had suddenly been cut off.
“It can’t be.”
She looked back to see a thick blade there.
It was Integrity’s large machete.
It was drawn back for a horizontal slash.
She sensed danger.
…How did it get behind Suzaku!?
She knew that god of war had explosive acceleration and that was how it had managed this attack from behind.
But when had it done it? And as a question to herself…
…What do I do!?
She moved while considering how to deal with this attack and whatever came afterwards.
She forced Suzaku to rotate backwards.
Tokishige saw how reckless the enemy’s decision was.
The vermillion heavy god of war suddenly flipped back in midair.
Even though the standard decision when trying to escape would be to accelerate away.
But this enemy was different. She forcibly closed the wings and lowered them toward the god of war’s hips.
…And did she use that momentum to flip backwards!?
She made a backflip similar to leaning backwards. Meanwhile, Tokishige was making a horizontal slash. The blade accurately swept by just above the god of war’s arched belly.
She had thought it would hit and slice through those giant breasts, but the torso and back frames were surprisingly flexible. It likely used civilian shock dampers instead of combat ones.
The enemy had dodged her attack.
While her attack continued through empty air, she saw the enemy complete the flip in her rear vision. The god of war was trying to spin around and take up a position behind her.
Of course, accelerating from a flip would not be enough to keep up. But, thought Tokishige. It was my carelessness that let the enemy mistakenly assume she has a chance of winning here. So…
“I won’t let you!”
She forcibly reaccelerated with a flap of her wings that produced an explosion of air behind her.
The explosive blast slammed into the vermilion heavy god of war.
Not bad, was Naomasa’s assessment of the enemy.
An explosive blast of air at high altitude was more like being hit by pressurize cold water than a physical blow.
It numbed her hearing for a few moments until it recovered thanks to her body adjustment divine protection. And once she could hear again…
“I like your style!”
She laughed at how loud her own voice sounded to her.
Suzaku had just been hit and was falling while rapidly spinning backwards. It had probably dropped a few dozen meters in just a moment, but just as she recovered from the impact and began to slow her fall…
She read the direction of the rotation and flapped just her right wing. That sideways force shifted the rotation vector diagonally and then she raised both wings.
Since she was rotating backwards, spreading the wings was enough to take in air. So…
“Here I go!”
After striking the night sky and hopping upwards, she found the enemy had already launched their sword pressure her way. She repeatedly dodged those as if circling in from the outside.
After a few more flaps of her wings, the burden on her body was getting to be a bit much. The flight devices were heavy to begin with, so raising them took time and careful balance adjustment calculations were necessary. That meant the raising process could not always be automated and she had to take manual control at times.
But when she saw the enemy match Suzaku’s course and put some distance between them, she knew she had made the right decision.
…Staying still would be too dangerous.
She had to stay on the move with this enemy because Integrity fought by never letting up on the attacks.
From long range, it used sword pressure blasts to limit her movement. At close range, it would immediately use whatever attacks were within range. It never let its guard down.
That was not bad and she liked its style. She never had liked people who held back. Engine divine workers might slack off, but they never held back. They would do the job right even if it took some time.
This enemy was doing the same here. They had the kind of spirit the engine division liked to see.
“You’re pretty good at this.”
Naomasa had Suzaku flap again.
She had no intention of holding back either, so she closed the gap between them.
God of war guns were attached to her back arms so she could snipe from the surface. With one at each hip, she had two total, but she did not use them for sniping here. She loaded them with homing rounds and removed the barrel.
“These are aerial combat homing cannons!”
Each of the pair fired four shots in quick succession for a total of eight that trailed ether light as they flew toward Integrity.
Integrity chose an evasive route in a split second.
Tokishige did not choose it. The program inside Integrity chose the optimal route based on the incoming homing rounds.
Tokishige honestly felt surprised.
…Musashi’s gods of war can fire midflight!?
Firing in midair was certainly an option, but the rifles used by gods of war had a lot of recoil.
Firing midflight required slowing down and a lot of advance calculations by the god of war’s program.
When a Satomi god of war did it, they would fall back while sniping the enemy. If they did want to move in while firing, they were taught to use something like a sword cannon that fired sword pressure.
But this enemy had fired while flying toward her.
And Integrity had seen how.
“The Tres Españan method!?”
Naomasa fired, but not in the usual way.
She fired from the hip and also from the connection arm that was pressed against Suzaku’s torso.
…All to fire straight ahead!
Firing in the direction of your flight made for a lot of recoil. It put a large burden on the connection points.
But there was a way of alleviating that: firing perpendicular to or opposite of your movement.
The Tres Españan El Azors had used that firing method during the Armada Battle. When firing from the sky, they would pass by overhead and direct their bodies downward to fire that way instead of directly ahead.
In that case, the recoil would push them up from below and provide lift instead of reducing their speed. And firing backwards would speed them up.
One way of using this when you had to shoot straight ahead was to shift your direction of movement as much as possible before firing.
You could always fix your trajectory, but if you lost speed, you were more easily targeted. The method had been developed based on an understanding of those simple facts.
Tres Españan aces were so amazingly skilled because they could pull that off in any direction.
Naomasa had practiced it during her flight training and she was reminded of the enemy they had fought at Mikawa.
Smoking Girl: “I can see how they managed to nearly defeat Naito and Naruze.”
Mar-Ga: “Hm? What’s that about the opening act to our romantic sunset kiss scene?”
She sounded upset, but that just meant she was full of energy.
Smoking Girl: “What, you’re still awake?”
Mar-Ga: “Yeah, I’m drawing up some rough drafts for the storyboards that have been piling up lately. I didn’t do all that much today, so I can manage an all-nighter before Nördlingen.”
Her life priorities were so very different from Naomasa’s. But…
Mar-Ga: “So what, are you in a god of war battle?”
“Judge,” she replied while pursuing Integrity. She could not fire while turning immediately after flapping her wings, but as soon as her speed passed its peak…
Smoking Girl: “I’m currently…firing!”
She did so. The booms probably were not reaching Naruze, but…
Mar-Ga: “Those Tres Españans really are aces. I mean, they even adjust the angle of their wrists to avoid taking any recoil as they fly. The Technohexen group only hit them during the Armada by predicting the course they would take for their diagonal shots. It only worked because of how solid their technique is.”
Smoking Girl: “And now I’m claiming those techniques for my own. You don’t get to choose what course your growth takes, do you?”
Mar-Ga: “You’re supposed to say that kind of thing on your deathbed. Besides, if we could grow however we wanted, we probably would have been doing the Kantou Liberation the day after the Battle of Mikatagahara.”
Mar-Ga: “Take care of things there, Naomasa.”
Naomasa nodded and said “judge” to that. Because…
Mar-Ga: “I have my thoughts about Satomi too. I mean, the Naruse Masayoshi who died in that battle is from the Naruse clan my name is taken from. If I had gone on ahead back then, the Chancellor wouldn’t have had such a hard time with it, Yoshiyasu never would have had the chance to become the main character of one of my doujinshis, and that doujinshi never would have gone on to become a series. …So I guess it wasn’t all bad.”
Smoking Girl: “Don’t mention that in the afterword, okay?”
“Good point,” said the Technohexen.
Mar-Ga: “I’m counting on you. I’ll leave the work there in your hands.”
“Judge,” replied Naomasa while focusing in front of her. Now was the time to pursue the enemy.
“I’m not about to hold back either!”
Tokishige focused on dodging the eight homing shots flying her way.
This opponent was pretty good. She had assumed Musashi had no god of war pilots who could fight aerial battles, but Musashi was always flying. This opponent had excellent bodily control and balance for flying and fighting in midair. She was probably used to being in midair on a daily basis.
There was no hesitation in her actions and she sometimes made the smaller movements even more casually than Tokishige did.
Of course, there were a lot of uncertain aspects of her high-speed mobility, but…
…Those flight devices force her to focus on a single attack, so she barely has to think about maneuvering while accelerating.
Those powerful flight devices simply sent her flying in the direction they were aimed. If you had trouble with high-speed mobility control, you only had to blast yourself forward with a system that was really just an accelerator. You could alter your direction and fix your attitude after slowing down, so it all came down to guts and good judgment.
A 6th Special Duty Officer would not have any doubts when it came to combat.
“In that case…”
This enemy used a uniquely Musashi form of aerial mobility tactics that had been born in the unique environment of Musashi.
It had its roots in both Musashi and Tres España. She had probably also received aerial combat data from Yoshiyasu. This was more than just attaching wings to a civilian god of war. Everything about this had worked to create a god of war capable of aerial combat.
This enemy was thinking of attacking the base in Satomi.
She was a formidable foe.
Tokishige could not let her get away, so she could not put too much distance between them.
Integrity hopped up in the sky.
It drew in the homing shots and then fired a single sword pressure blast.
There was an explosion that triggered three more explosions. Five of the enemy’s shots made it through the flames, so Tokishige flipped around to dodge the leading two. But their homing spells had lost sight of her in the flames, so she could dodge them without even looking their way. The remaining three still had functioning homing spells, so they flew after her as she flipped around.
She accelerated forward. The explosive blast she sent their way caused two of them to burst. The remaining one lost sight of her as she rapidly accelerated away, and…
It lost speed and eliminated itself through self-destruction.
She looked below to see the enemy rising toward her. And while firing another barrage.
The enemy was not simply rising toward her. With each bullet she fired, the recoil shifted her course. However…
…She’s matching the timing of her flight with that, isn’t she?
Her course was both unpredictable and fast. It was honestly the most efficient method, but Tokishige had the following to say about the enemy’s flight.
…What a dirty way to fly!
Naomasa sped up her flight timing.
…What a great way to fly!
Because the Musashi generally flew quite slowly, she found moving quickly was more her style and she wanted to really zoom by if she was going to fly.
This was pretty nice. She felt the corners of her lips rising while directing her god of war to essentially reflect themselves.
“Y’know,” said Tokishige after seeing the vermilion god of war fly outside her field of vision again.
Flying is supposed to be more…how should I put it? Aesthetic? Like a bird or something. Besides, you’re flying on your nation’s tax money, so even if the end result is really all that matters, you need to be more careful about it.
…Come to think of it, how has Yoshiyasu been paying for Righteousness since defecting?
Would Satomi be billed for the full amount after the war? If so, that Student Council President seemed like an utter disaster when it came to government spending.
She continued her flight while angry about a great many things. And…
She realized what course the enemy was taking. Judging it by sight was not fast enough. After a few attacks, she predicted where the enemy would likely come from and fired her sword pressure there.
The vermilion god of war flew in right where she had aimed.
The sword pressure and the enemy’s attack intersected. They were close and directly facing each other.
The enemy’s homing shots were all shattered by the sword pressure. They exploded and Tokishige moved forward.
She had crushed the enemy attack and that enemy was right in front of her, so the rest was obvious.
“I’m in striking distance!”
They were at extreme close range. The enemy tried to dodge by using the recoil of the shots to forcibly alter her trajectory, but the unnecessarily large movements of her wings were easy to read. They both leaped in a direction 90 degrees removed from straight ahead.
“You aren’t getting away!”
Tokishige and the vermilion god of war took the same path as if approaching each other, and…
…Here it comes!
At 30m apart, nearly within arm’s reach for gods of war, they both launched an attack.
The exchange of attacks sent a barrage against a wall.
The vermilion god of war’s homing bullets were spread out at first and gathered together, while the purple god of war’s sword pressure was gathered together at first and spread out.
Neither one could stop the other attack and they took evasive action at the same moment.
The vermilion one used several forcible flaps of its wings to circle above or below its enemy’s wall of sword pressure.
The purple one flew in a rippling way that stored up energy before releasing it in order to trigger premature explosions in the enemy homing bullets.
But the sky was a cramped place.
The night sky was far too small to exchange attacks at this range.
So they both opened up the sky. They sent themselves in a double helix path where they seemed to repeatedly swap out positions.
Neither one withdrew.
The vermilion one drew a helix up into the sky with slicing movements.
The purple one drew a helix up into the sky with piercing movements.
And then their paths intersected and clashed. The vermilion one pulled a slender midsized wrench from its aerial skirt and the purple one struck with its large machete.
Sparks scattered and metallic sounds echoed out.
They both moved away and immediately fired while spinning themselves around to eliminate the recoil.
The very next moment, they chose a path that both dodged the enemy attack and took them toward that enemy.
The gunfire and cannon fire intersected once more.
That was close, thought Naomasa.
That last intersection had truly been dangerous. When Mitotsudaira or Futayo came to her for training, she had generally thrown them around and pinned them down to show them they were in her ring now, but those two had still occasionally gotten a good blow in.
She had just felt the same chill on the back of her neck as those times.
When she thought about it, she was in her opponent’s ring right now.
She was controlling her mobility better than she had expected, but…
…Ugh, it’s such a pain.
She did not have time to worry about it. If things were going well, she had to push on. If they were not, she had to push on regardless.
This was a job. A job known as the Satomi Liberation. She was one of the main team and the deadline was approaching fast.
Her payment would be Suzaku’s wings. If she screwed this up, they would be out of reach for the time being. If Hashiba retook Satomi, all of their technology could possibly be taken away.
That meant this deadline was absolute. She could not pull back now.
“Damn this unforgiving battlefield.”
She clicked her tongue, but then she laughed bitterly in the sky.
“But that’s fine. There are even more unforgiving things out there. I mean, our Chancellor is intent on world domination and our Vice President loves war. But,” she said while spiraling through the sky and keeping Suzaku with Integrity even as that enemy attacked. “If things aren’t going well, I still have to push on!”
Tokishige confirmed that Integrity’s movement had stabilized. The output and deterioration were both within acceptable bounds.
Things were going well.
She could aim for an even better situation, but she knew she would only have a moment to pull that off. She only wanted to try for it because of her doubts concerning how long she had maintained her best condition here.
But, she thought.
…That damn amateur!!
She knew this opponent dodging her attacks was Musashi’s 6th Special Duty Officer. She was a powerful enemy. But even if she was a Musashi resident, Tokishige did not like that she could keep up with her like this.
It made her feel useless.
Do not rush this. If you stay calm, you can defeat her.
Not “should be able to”. She had the skill to definitely defeat her, so she measured the distance between them.
And her sword raced out. Their paths intersected for a moment and both their weapons became close-range weapons.
Her sword cannon could be used as a large machete, so the shift was an immediate one.
She swapped out the program controlling the wrist and other joints from a firing one to an aerial close quarters attack one.
Then she had to strike the enemy with the blade. Machetes were nice. They could split the target as long as they hit. And during flight, the air would collide with even the smallest split, widening it until the entire device was unusable.
But her attack was deflected with metallic sparks.
…That midsized wrench!?
It was a tool. In Satomi, they were used more often for repairing aerial ships than gods of war.
That seemed like an awfully heavy thing to carry around, but the enemy god of war was not a purely combat one. It likely had some extra weight it could carry around. And…
“She thinks about this differently.”
Tokishige’s Integrity was a god of war capable of aerial combat, but it was not designed for aerial combat.
Even if aerial combat was her forte, Integrity was definitely designed with ground combat in mind. That was because Satomi’s enemy of Houjou was so close by and they would often invade Satomi territory.
A Satomi god of war could not do its job if it could only fly.
But Integrity was one of the more popular gods of war in Satomi territory. The most popular was of course Yatsufusa since it delights adults and children alike. The rest of the Eight Dogs knew we could never hope to defeat that, but when Loyalty took the second spot, what were we even supposed to do?
At any rate, Integrity was in fifth place. Third was Obedience, but you can’t really expect to beat the sexy one, can you? Now, the real question is why Righteousness was in fourth place. Yoshiyasu, you had shot down fewer enemies than me. I know during the voting it was the older demographic that voted for you most of all. Is that what happens when you focus on ground battles and make sure to do all the boring patrols and stuff!? I was more popular among the child and teen demographics, you know?
At any rate, she was angry, but whether a nation or a god of war pilot grew their strengths or eliminated their weaknesses came down to their individual policy and current mood.
She had decided to specialize in aerial combat.
But this enemy was different. She instead chose to eliminate her weaknesses.
The equipment she had chosen proved it. That god of war had originally been one of the Four Sacred Beasts, but it was really a lightweight god of war with mostly civilian parts. However, the enemy must have decided to use that light weight.
She responded to each battlefield by changing her equipment and using what fit best. If this had been focused on ground battles, she likely would have come loaded with that sort of equipment.
Of course, her armor was thin, so the damage she took had to be serious. When battling the Sanada Terrestrial Dragon, she had moved out ahead and gotten an attack in, but it had destroyed the legs.
But that was fine. She was not alone.
“She has allies she can rely on.”
Satomi had the Eight Dogs once, thought Tokishige.
But not anymore. The others had not been at the evacuation point and she had been the only one among the remnants gathered by Hashiba. Well, Yoshiyasu was still out there, but she was an enemy at this point.
She had no one else to rely on. And…
“That was all we ever had.”
Those eight were their main fighting force. They did have warriors, but that was not enough to defeat Houjou. The gods of war could hold a surface location fairly well and that had helped deter Houjou, but…
…You can only really feel the pressure in that location once the Eight Dogs are there.
But the eight of them could not stay on the battlefield forever.
They had set up a rotation, but it was generally only three and sometimes only two.
It was hard to say if Yoshiyasu had ever noticed, but she had ended up with the most shifts together with Yoshiyori. Some would have seen that as a sign of Yoshiyasu’s insufficient strength and others would have seen it as Yoshiyori’s favoritism.
But whatever their skill level, the two who were out there had needed to put up a defense together during the early stages of a battle when an emergency arose.
That was why the previous Yoshiyori had taken action to protect the nation and why Yoshiyori had decided to side with Musashi after hearing the divine radio broadcast of the Battle of Mikawa.
He had decided Musashi would be able to handle Satomi’s situation.
Tokishige had seen from the sky when he placed flowers at the previous Yoshiyori’s grave.
At the time, she had thought they would be freed from the pressure of losing things and having to protect things if Musashi took Satomi’s side.
An urgent divine transmission had arrived one night.
She had learned the night before that Musashi had gone to join the Sack of Magdeburg. That was all in some distant foreign nation, so she had simply thought of them as some good-natured people who liked saving people.
But the next news had been of the Battle of Mikatagahara beginning.
She remembered three of the Eight Dogs – Benevolence, Courtesy, and Knowledge – had been ordered to go protect the area Musashi would pass through and the others had been ordered to defend those areas afterwards.
She had wondered why the Battle of Mikatagahara was stretching all the way to Kantou.
The fateful moment had happened as she hurried from her dorm to reach her post.
The dragon line reactor had detonated.
The trees in front of the dorm had been knocked down, but she only realized after the fact that being behind that line of trees had saved her life.
The next thing she had known, she had been somewhere else entirely. The ocean had been in view. She had apparently been blasted to the top of some wide-open hill. When she looked down to figure out where she was, she had noticed a pile of rubble there. That rubble below her feet had been all that remained of the dorm after it took a direct hit from the blast and collapsed.
Everyone had gathered back together at the evacuation site, but they had been unable to escape the Hashiba search team.
When Integrity had been dug out of the academy hangar almost entirely unscathed because the other gods of war had protected it and when she had learned of Yoshiyori’s death and that the Musashi was docked at the Ariake in the northern sky, she had understood that she was Satomi’s local representative and that she had no choice but to do what she was told.
From there on, she had shut out all information about Musashi.
There had been so much she needed to do and most of it was still not complete.
Besides, what is with Musashi?
They’re always flying while I have to beg for Student Council money when I want to do flight training, so how could I not be jealous of them?
But based on the bits and pieces I’ve heard about their actions and from official announcements, they sound really strict about their gags. I could never manage that. I’m amazed Yoshiyasu can live there. I thought she was as straitlaced as me, so maybe the stress knocked a screw loose or something.
Right now, Tokishige was fighting.
Her state was the same as Satomi’s.
She knew Yoshiyasu was an enemy. That girl probably did understand the effort she had gone to and Satomi’s present situation, but she had not experienced it with them. So, thought Tokishige.
She could not fight Yoshiyasu.
If she fought that idiot and either one of them won, it would split Satomi apart. There would surely be a split between those who would continue with Tokishige’s efforts and those who wanted a new Satomi.
Yoshiyasu probably understood that as well.
That Konishi could be pretty harsh on the surface, but she was a caring person deep down. She understood Satomi’s situation and had set things up so Satomi would benefit no matter how things turned out.
Which side would win and which would lose? What form would Satomi take next?
Would their current efforts pay off and create something new?
Or would they choose a different path and create something new?
Which would it be?
It would be hers.
“Have you ever stood upon the ruins of your life, Musashi!!”
Naomasa heard the enemy’s words.
Is this supposed to be a misfortune competition? And if you want to go there, I have.
I lost my village, lost my family, and was picked up by Musashi.
But Naomasa did not say this out loud. Because Musashi had not come to pick up this enemy. However…
“I have no intention of apologizing.”
Whether or not someone else helped you was up to chance. And in a misfortune competition, no one could beat the dead. But in Naomasa’s opinion, you should not lament your misfortune when you died; you should rejoice in the life you lived.
That was what Yoshiyori had done.
His last flight was a flight for life, thought Naomasa about Satomi’s Chancellor.
He had refused any help, but if that was his way of life, that was how it should have been.
If someone had helped him, it would likely have influenced him as he left them. That was what it meant to get involved with someone’s way of life.
Even those who saw him off had been influenced by him.
She certainly had. A part of her had been influenced by Yoshiyori, just like her sister had influenced her.
She had been influenced by her sister’s request to “use me” for so very, very long.
But now she understood.
Her sister had not been trying to sacrifice herself.
That had been her sister’s way to live her life. So…
“I will teach you.”
She sent Suzaku through the air.
“Because I am older than you.”
And, she silently added. Our leader is an idiot who carried someone’s death with him instead of carrying the way of life they left with him.
There had been no life there, so he had asked himself if he had been born just to die.
That had to have been far more painful than what Naomasa had gone through, even if that person had returned recently.
…Now Horizon understands what life and death mean, she understands the importance of relationships, and she is with us again.
Of course, the idiot had also realized he was supported by other people and he understood what that meant.
And he seemed to have finally reached a point where he could face that directly, but…
That made this their job.
If Satomi had been broken and lost, then Naomasa had a lesson for them: You did not exist just to be broken and lost.
“I will teach you!”
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