Horizon:Volume 7C Chapter 63
Chapter 63: Ring Deployer
Point Allocation (Kani’s Mental Sound Effects)
Magoichi returned fire from the northern half of the split fleet.
She stood on the deck of a warship on the lower end of the fleet. It was positioned to fire on the enemy ships from below, so she was looking up at the Mouri fleet.
The wind blew in from behind because they were falling back to put distance between themselves and the enemy.
…I wish there was a good way of spreading out the enemy attacks.
On Kuki’s orders, all of the ships had positioned themselves with the ironclad ships as their rear guard while the southern ships fell back to the tip of Bousou and the northern ones fell back to the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay.
There were specific instructions for each variety and position of the ships, but that would be due to all the rookies in the fleet. That was exactly the kind of consideration she was used to seeing from Kuki.
But the enemy was pursuing them.
And the enemy continued to fire.
While she returned fire, she saw the enemy’s front line swell out as they began pursuing the north and south groups separately.
They had been slow to respond at first, but now they were pursuing and firing on Kuki’s fleet.
This is going well, she thought. The enemy was starting to split between north and south. The idea was to reduce the density of the enemy shells and use the newly gained distance as a shield to reduce the damage taken. One half of the fleet might be destroyed, but Hashiba was sure to arrive in Kantou before the other half was as well.
“And we can see her already!”
The Azuchi was producing white spray in the western sky as it accelerated.
That was the same ship that had driven Musashi to the north and demonstrated Hashiba’s might in Kantou before.
This was the final pressure placed on the shoulders of the enemy.
And it was the final support for Kuki’s fleet.
They won as long as they could hold out until the Azuchi arrived.
…It seems the enemy has already won on the ground.
The Satomi base below had gone almost entirely dark with only the occasional flash of gunfire or sparks.
It was a frenzy of battle on the inside, but once the important positions were taken, the M.H.R.R. troops would have to withdraw. Plus, the enemy had name inheritors there. Once those warriors knew they had the advantage, they would make a powerful charge.
Kuki’s fleet could no longer rely on the ground forces. So it all comes down to us, thought Magoichi.
They did have one advantage.
“We have a commander!”
They had Kuki.
His instructions were directing the fleet’s movement and actions.
Everyone else needed to rely on that now. Those instructions told them what they could do to hold out until Hashiba arrived.
The instructions changed from moment to moment, but Magoichi was thankful for that.
Directions from a commander was a definite strength. Because…
“The enemy has no commander. They were only directed up to the deployment of that wheel formation.” She continued firing on and damaging the Mouri fleet. “But without a commander, they can’t fluidly respond to Kuki-kun’s instructions.”
She sent out Yatagarasu, tore into the lead enemy ship, and blew away its armor.
The ship fled to the left as if looking aside.
She did not pursue the escaping ship.
…You don’t move to the side if you want to leave the front line.
That would block the view and movements of the ships behind them.
Was that another symptom of lacking a commander?
“If the enemy fleet is in disarray, then this is our chance!”
She collected Yatagarasu, spun it around in her arms, and sent it soaring into the sky once more. Then she prepared to fire on an enemy ship moving up to the front line.
But she received a sudden divine transmission from the two Ten Spears in the southern sky.
AnG: “Move the fleet faster! Like way faster!”
Huh? she thought as that warning displayed on an insha kotob next to her face.
Kimee: “We think the enemy is finally responding to your movements. No, they’ve completed their response!”
Yoshiaki heard Angie’s voice.
“This might be bad.”
When she said something like that, she was usually right. So this was bad.
Their distance gave them a unique vantage point that revealed something about the Mouri fleet’s movements.
For Kuki’s split fleet, it probably looked like the entire enemy fleet was pursuing them.
And it was true the Mouri fleet was splitting to north and south while ascending and pursuing the enemy.
However, the view from above revealed something different. And to confirm that…
Nabe3: “This is Nabeshima from the 1st Strike Company! I am currently observing the battle from a transport ship in southern Bousou!”
A first year’s voice reached them. It was an emergency report made while halting their withdrawal to the east.
This was what she had to say:
Nabe3: “The enemy fleet is currently attacking the northern and southern halves of Kuki’s split fleet!”
True enough, thought Yoshiaki.
“Attacking”, not “pursuing”. Because…
Nabe3: “The enemy fleet has shifted their wheel formation horizontally!”
Nabeshima gasped as she viewed the movement in the sky.
…What is this!?
The wheel formation had used a vertical rotation before, but now it was spread out to the left and right for a horizontal rotation.
It almost looked like a two-headed snake rearing both heads to pursue different prey.
“Could it be…?”
“The enemy has not changed their tactics, my lady,” said a bitterly smiling member of the Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji. “I thought Murakami Motoyoshi had simply modeled his tactics after Kawanakajima and the Armada battle, but now I think otherwise. He did not use the wheel formation as a final clincher because he wanted attack power.”
The wheel formation fully took its horizontal line as they spoke.
The ring of warships rotated and took an oval shape as it pursued both halves of Kuki’s fleet.
“Do you see why? Even without a commander, the wheel formation only has to change its form to pursue the enemy. Those at the end of the rotation only have to move as close to the enemy ships as they can get.”
“Then they set up the wheel formation near the beginning of the battle for this?”
“It was a really long oval to begin with, remember? That was most likely an on-site test to see if it could respond to a situation like this. They wanted to know if it would work without being a perfect circle and if the ships could keep it up without a commander.”
In other words…
“When Murakami Motoyoshi saw the wheel formation constructed by his predecessors, he viewed it as a malleable tactic that could respond to any and all situations.”
“Although it won’t work if the wheel is stretched out so far it breaks apart!”
“This is a limited airspace, so don’t interrupt, you fool!”
“Ohh,” said Nabeshima while staring blankly up into the sky. The wheel formation was stretched north and south in a long oval.
“They’re going to catch up!”
Just then, flames blossomed in the sky. One of the ironclad ships was heavily damaged in its rear guard position and was finally destroyed.
“Let’s do this. Even if we might not be much help.”
Yoshiaki flew Weiss Fürstin forward with Angie riding on the back.
She doubted they could break apart the loop of enemy ships, but they probably could buy some time for Hashiba to arrive from the west.
…We need to hurry.
Yoshiaki formed a slight bitter smile at the thought.
Was she fired up right now? Or was she nice and cool?
If the former, she felt like she could hold her head high in front of the others fighting here.
If the latter, she felt like she could rationally handle everything the situation threw at her.
She wondered which it was while she flew Weiss Fürstin along a sideways-sweeping trajectory. She viewed the line of enemy ships in the sky above and spoke.
“Murakami Motoyoshi must still be alive.”
“Yeah, I doubt he blew up with his ship. Think he’s floating down below?”
“Probably,” Yoshiaki replied before adding more. “But I doubt he’s participating in the battle up here. Even with divine transmission spells, he needs the ship management divine protection to grasp the movement of the fleet, so he can’t do it on his own. So I imagine he’s looking up at it all, but…”
“This must be the conclusion he wanted: a victory without him.” Yoshiaki spoke as someone whose history recreation was to kill him. “From a generational perspective, he must have been involved in Hexagone Française’s previous generation – Anne of Austria’s era. And you know what?” she said. “The Testament says Anne and young Louis XIV traveled around France on foot while pursued and targeted by political enemies who wanted them dead. They were saved by a great many people and they ultimately repelled the nobles and returned to Paris at the request of the people.”
“Sounds like an exciting life.”
“It does. And later on, Louis XIV created a national army, depriving the nobles of their personal troops. The primary fighting force was controlled by the king and the nameless citizens who formed the national army. Of course, the commanders also played a role, but it all existed because of the king at the top and the citizens who did the fighting. The commanders were entirely replaceable.”
“My guess is Anne of Austria told Murakami Motoyoshi that the history recreation demanded he die in battle, so he needed to create a fighting force that could win through the power of the common citizens without him around.”
Murakami Motoyoshi was a strategist.
He used weaker forces to take on powerful foes. The Testament forced him into those situations.
That was why he had focused on training and experience above all else.
…His defense of K.P.A. Italia was laying the groundwork for moving a large force like this.
Back then, he had chosen to make a charge at the very end.
But not this time.
With training, experience, and tactics, the troops could respond to the situation at hand even without a commander.
This was a fighting force driven by spontaneity and restraint.
“It’s like they’re telling us that M.H.R.R.’s reliance on commanders and name inheritors is outdated.”
Yoshiaki knew of a force similar to them: Musashi.
As Takigawa Ichimasu had shown in the Battle of Kanagawa, they too acted spontaneously. They seemed to have trouble with the restraint side of the equation, but that actually made them a threat in a different way.
Regardless, the scene before them now was dangerous.
“Testament,” she agreed as another red flower blossomed in the night sky.
This was not just the ironclad ships. The other warships were being shot down as well.
Silence filled the Azuchi’s bridge.
The castle-shaped bridge of the rear central ship contained a classroom-style command center. The room was surrounded by armor and the interior was dark and kept cold for cooling purposes.
“Azuchi” opened a blackboard-style lernen figur in front of the rows of seats and automatons. She drew a diagram with white lines to aid in her thoughts and speech.
…I have determined the enemy’s invasion is playing out more quickly than expected.
The Azuchi was set to arrive half an hour ahead of the initial estimate, but that was barely going to be soon enough. They had no time to spare.
They could accelerate and they were doing so. Ever since passing by Mt. Fuji, a tailwind had descended from the mountain to assist them. There were mountains and valleys along the way, but nature was taking their side more than expected.
But, thought “Azuchi”. There is one requirement needed for us to intervene in the Kantou Liberation.
The Azuchi had to “arrive” in Kantou.
They could not just pass through.
They had to come to a stop and engage in combat there.
However, the Azuchi was a massive structure. Decelerating it was easier said than done.
Musashi was a similar ship and, when it had arrived in England, it had made a full circle of the floating island to decelerate.
Of course, that method would eat up a lot of time. The Kantou Liberation would be over before they completed it.
So what were they to do?
She pondered the matter and arrived at a solution within her memories.
…The Musashi pulled a reckless stunt once, even if it was an uncertain thing.
As an automaton, she did not view the Musashi as a rival to compete against, but she could still compare their specs.
If they could do something, so could she. After all, she was a cutting-edge warship and they were based on a transport ship from 30 years ago, even if they had received modifications since.
“So let us display Azuchi’s pride, everyone.”
“Azuchi” drew a diagram and wrote some equations on the blackboard-style lernen figur. Then she tapped the front and looked across the seated automatons.
“Now, you all understand what this means, don’t you? This will be on the test. Over.”
Kani viewed the eastern and southern skies.
She was on a transport ship floating up into the northern night sky.
Everyone on the deck was facing the same two directions to watch what happened there.
To the south, the two fleets were battling it out.
To the west, the Azuchi was approaching.
Everyone looking to the south groaned and clenched their fists as Kuki’s fleet lost more and more ships.
“Oh, hell. This is bad.”
“No, they’re sending the defensive ships forward to take the brunt of the damage. And doing much more right now could easily be taken as ‘withdrawing’.”
“I hope Kuki-sama can handle this.”
Everyone looking to the west cheered and waved as the Azuchi approached.
“Hell yeah! The Azuchi is coming! It’s ‘Azuchi’-sama! And Hashiba-sama too! Double hell yeah!”
“It’s hard to tell how fast something that big is moving, but it’s gotta be moving really fast right now! It could easily zoom right past us, so I’m excited to see how it’s going to slow down!”
“I hope ‘Azuchi’-sama can handle this!”
The difference in tone is incredible! thought Kani as she looked to the south again.
She saw the two fleets and the rotating wheel of ships attacking in the center.
The exchange of artillery fire was still underway.
Kasuya opened a sign frame next to her and spoke.
“I see Yoshiaki and Wakisaka are supporting the southern fleet. That means the rest is up to the Azuchi.”
Kasuya crossed her arms and looked west, where the Azuchi was sending white spray into the sky while flying toward southern Bousou.
It was enormous.
Kani felt proud of having ridden on that ship. This was her first time getting an exterior view of its high-speed cruising, but…
…It’s such a powerful sight!
It was like that ad for farm plows that played on local divine TV. A cow would pull the plow in from the horizon so it raced along, plowing the earth all the while. The company was said to have used their mascot, two boys named Yanboh and Marboh, ever since the Age of the Gods.
“But how is the Azuchi going to brake!?”
Before Kasuya could say any more, several massive bursting sounds erupted in the western sky.
There were six in all. Each of the Azuchi’s ships had rapidly braked to decelerate.
Kasuya saw cumulus clouds rapidly form and shred apart in the western sky.
Each of the Azuchi’s ships had taken two actions west of the Izu Peninsula, well ahead of reaching the Bousou Peninsula.
First, they began rotating to the right.
“They removed their buffering spells and activated their virtual ocean from the stern to center along the port side!?”
Kuro-Take: “Oh, I received a report on this earlier, so I know what they’re doing. Want any spoilers!?”
Kasuya hesitated for two seconds, but then checked the people around her. Kani and the others were entirely ignoring her because they were so caught up in watching the Azuchi and shouting in excitement. So she shrank her lernen figur down, and…
Black Wolf: “Wh-what is the Azuchi doing!? Can you tell me and no one else?”
Kuro-Take: “Well, you see! Um, ugh, ero ero ero ero ero.”
Kasuya shattered the lernen figur. Shattered it with all her might.
Then she looked to the western sky and saw some lightning.
The massive cumulus clouds and their shredding had been caused by the virtual ocean on the Azuchi’s port side. The giant ships had pushed the virtual ocean in a way that cooled and compressed the night air, creating clouds.
Those dark clouds were immediately pushed out of the way and torn by the giant ships. The compressed air and clouds created lightning that flashed bluish-white in the night.
But while all that produced a rumbling of thunder, Kasuya saw the Azuchi take a certain action beyond the clouds.
No, it was not simply floating up.
The bow was rapidly braking and turning. The combination of the two caused the stern to float as if tugged upwards, but what would that cause?
“Is it rolling on its side like the Musashi did at Novgorod!?”
“Oh, oh, oh. Not bad there, Azuchi!”
That voice came from a position watching the Azuchi’s movements from behind. That position was Sakuma’s transport aircraft carrier floating in the sky west of Shinshuu.
Sakuma stood her small body on the window frame of the cramped bridge to look east.
The Azuchi had been scheduled to receive some in-air refueling from her aircraft carrier, but…
“We were accelerating in that direction too, but I’m glad we didn’t stick with them.”
She watched those six giant ships throwing themselves forward.
They whipped up a massive amount of clouds and wind, but…
“A side roll in midair, huh? They’re going to soar right over the Bousou Peninsula and belly flop down on the other side. They can slowly reduce their forward thrust and use the drop to brake. And their forward acceleration can cancel out any remaining momentum pulling them back. Nice, nice, nice.”
Another sound arrived while Sakuma repeated that word.
The windows rattled and the ship shook.
The bridge’s structures made a noise and everything inside was tossed around and fell to the floor.
She smiled while watching the shaking from the window frame along with everyone else on the bridge.
“Yes, yes, yes. That’s it. This is what got me at Novgorod!” She pressed her forehead against the shaking window. “Roll, roll, roll, Azuchi! You can’t attack since you haven’t joined the battle yet, but show everyone we can match the Musashi’s mobility!”
The cumulus clouds and a giant shape stood up in the sky.
Kuki gave a shout as he looked up at it all.
“There you are, Hashiba-kun!”
Would she arrive in time or not? Based on the current situation…
It helped that he had started focusing on defense earlier and that he still had plenty of ships left.
And in the western sky…
“Ohh,” said voices all around him.
The Azuchi was approximately 7km long. A cumulus cloud that tall stood up in the sky while wrapped in lightning. The moonlit cloud was swept away by countless large explosions, giving the occasional glimpse of black and red ships.
If he could hold off the enemy until it descended into the eastern sea, they would win.
He clenched his left prosthetic hand, but his triumph was interrupted.
“Kuki-sama! Incoming emergency divine transmission!”
A PR Committee member called out to him. Wondering what this was about, he turned that direction.
“It is from Ookubo Nagayasu of Musashi.”
“It’s from Musashi!?”
…What do they want now of all times!?
His dubious look saw a new image appear on the screen. It now showed footage of the Representative Committee Head who had negotiated with Konishi earlier.
Nagaya-Stable: “Is Hashiba Fleet Representative Kuki Yoshitaka there?”
Nine Horns: “I am. What do you want?”
That girl had to be seeing what was happening in the western sky, so he asked about it.
Nine Horns: “Hashiba-kun will soon arrive here and claim our victory. …Do you have anything to say for yourselves, Musashi?”
“I do,” replied the girl. And after a pause…
Nagaya-Stable: “I recommend you withdraw, Hashiba Fleet Representative.”
Kuki could guess something based on what Ookubo said.
…She intends to learn what I know of the situation and what I intend to do about it.
He could say nothing for certain, but there was one thing he knew about their situation.
Hashiba would arrive here. So he breathed in and spoke.
Nine Horns: “Are you not afraid of Hashiba-kun’s arrival?”
Nagaya-Stable: “Shouldn’t you be afraid? Or do you not see the situation here?”
Ookubo repeated herself.
Nagaya-Stable: “I recommend you withdraw, Hashiba Fleet Representative. You still have some time left. It would be best if you finished your withdrawal by the time Hashiba lands.”
Just as he saw those words from her, he heard everyone around him cheering.
The Azuchi was reaching the apogee of its side roll that split the western sky.
Instead of rising, Fukushima felt like she was being continually thrown diagonally upwards.
She was on the 2nd starboard ship. The stern deck there was rotating furthest from the earth than any other part of the ship.
She could look into the sky from the highest point.
She was surrounded by dark clouds and air currents that seemed to flow backwards.
The thick virtual ocean had appeared on the port side to forcibly lift up the ship.
This was a dark and shadowy airspace, but there was light there: lightning.
Those flashes of light would sometimes appear in every direction and sometimes wash across the Azuchi’s deck before leaving them.
The ship was standing nearly vertical. She did not fall off thanks to the gravitational control, but the bow was not visible thanks to the dark clouds that billowed out in a serpentine fashion.
“But,” she said. “Thou are going to ero-ero from this height, Takenaka-sama!?”
“I’ve never experienced a more fulfilling ero skyyyy!”
Takenaka’s ero had drawn a curve in the sky from the stern, but she suddenly turned around with a smile.
“I’m all ero-ed out.”
Then she collapsed and was nearly thrown off by the shaking of the ship, so Fukushima grabbed her wrist.
…Th-that was a close one!
She attached Takenaka’s hip hard point part to the body fastener on the deck’s railing. That would do for the time being, so she sighed.
“Attention, everyone. This is the Azuchi’s bridge. We are currently arriving at the apogee of our rotation. We will begin to descend afterwards, so please be careful.”
Something happened immediately after that announcement.
Fukushima felt a sudden silence.
Everything ceased making a noise, the shaking suddenly stopped, and a dry chill filled the air.
“Have we reached the highest point?”
The dark clouds and wind suddenly vanished from their surroundings.
Only a bluish-black color spread out endlessly behind them.
The stern had torn through the cumulus cloud wall with a horizontal swing.
The night sky was visible horizontally out from the deck they stood on.
Fukushima could see that they were in the heavens.
The Azuchi was more than 7km long. With their initial altitude added in, this highest point was now at around 9km up.
Not counting those doing indoor work at the stern of the ship, she was probably at a higher point than anyone else.
…Well, Takenaka-sama too.
Except that girl was slumped down at the railing, so she did not count.
This was such a high place.
And such a vast one too.
The Azuchi could probably ascend even higher if it tried.
But this was high enough for her breath to be visible and the air to sting her throat when she inhaled. This was a first for her.
She could see so far from here.
To the east, she could see to the other side of Bousou. To the north she could see past Mito and Shirakawa and could glimpse some of the Date region’s lights.
To the east, she saw the vast expanse of the ocean.
…I cannot see to the other side, though.
But firelight rose up from a position down below.
That was the fleet battle being fought at the Bousou Peninsula.
At this altitude, it looked like a bunch of model ships moving on their own, but based on what she could see…
“They are having a tough time of it!”
Many people she knew were fighting there. Kani, Kasuya, Yoshiaki, and Wakisaka would be there.
She wished she could rush down and assist them, but…
She could only hope and shout.
From the look of things, the battle would not have ended by the time they landed.
They would arrive in time.
Then she and the others on the Azuchi could join the fight and bring victory to them all.
She wished for greater speed, but then she realized something while looking down from the edge of the deck.
First, the Azuchi’s side roll was going to carry it right over the ships below.
Second, several shapes were flying in from the ocean to the west to reach Bousou below.
It can’t be, she thought, but while those many forms skimmed just off the ocean surface, they shook their bodies and turned to look up this way.
Before she could realize what was happening, light reached her eyes.
Those were the flashes of artillery fire.
The enemy had fired on the Azuchi while making a rapid ascent in order to soar up from the Azuchi’s bow to here.
They were pursuing the Azuchi and bombing its surface.
“Enemy attack!!” she shouted, while wondering how this could be possible. “We are under attack from mechanical phoenixes belonging to the former nation of Houjou! They must be intercepted!”
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