Horizon:Volume 7C Chapter 64
Chapter 64: Vertical Attackers
Who is iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!?
Point Allocation (It’s meeeeeeeeeee!)
The mechanical phoenixes flew in from below the Azuchi’s side flip.
There were 15 of them.
They were separated into five formations of three, but none of them opened their divine transmissions.
They could not let anyone know who they were or leave behind any evidence.
Thus, they were not piloting their official crafts.
These were all prototypes, experimental crafts, or ones that were already considered scrapped.
The three making up the lead formation waved their wings up and down as they ascended.
That was the signal to scatter.
Those three spilt apart to head toward the port ships, the center ships, and the starboard ships.
Those three would not make the attack. None of them had much equipment loaded on. They had been chosen for their speed and mobility, so they flew in fast and led the way.
Those three activated an optical drawing spell on their tail wings to draw a red line behind them.
That tracer path was used when teaching pilots.
Of course, they could not reveal their flight route while in enemy territory.
Their flight was revealing the shape of the Azuchi.
The tracer path gently revealed and illuminated the contours of its surface and its structure.
The next formation followed after and aimed for that path.
Three ships each split to port, center, and starboard.
Each mechanical phoenix of the final formation flew toward the lead formation.
A tracer craft, a primary formation, and a support craft were allotted to the port, center, and starboard rows of ships.
The first to take action were the support crafts in the rear.
While diving low toward the surface of the ships, they used just the movement of the tracer line to fly and accelerate without hesitation.
They began firing on the surface in order to protect the tracer and primary formation.
Then the support crafts flew below their allies and out ahead.
The cacophony of gunfire tore into the structures below the tracer light.
The Azuchi reacted at the same time. Spotlight spells activated on the surface of the ships to search for the enemy and the secondary cannons began to automatically aim based on a Catholic spell called The Great Searcher.
“You don’t need a kinetic reading! If you have one, pursue it and fire! If you don’t, set up a barrage as a barrier!”
But the secondary cannons and spotlights on the surface were destroyed first. The first of the enemy had moved out ahead more than expected, but the Azuchi was put at an initial disadvantage since they failed to immediately get a lock.
The three formations of three had a path of approach now, so they began their attack on the first ships of each row.
They did not target the secondary cannons. Instead…
“The bridge defenses!!”
Each ship’s individual bridge had chosen to defend instead of counterattack.
That decision had proved wise.
Stone spikes with hardened tips were slammed into them at high speed.
There were three spikes for each bridge. Defense barriers instantly opened and were shattered by the three attacks, scattering shards of light into the night sky.
Two of the spikes were destroyed and one made it through.
A rushing wind was whipped up and the stone spike tried to slam into the fortress-style bridge.
But the Azuchi’s automatons did not overlook the briefly decelerated stone spike.
Each first ship opened five of the windows at the center of the bridge and the automatons readied anti-god of war rifles.
The automatons distributed within the ship had rapidly delivered the weapons from the armory. The anti-god of war rifles had been passed down the corridors like fish swimming upstream and they already had a bullet loaded.
The incoming stone spike did not give them time to hold the weapons properly.
One caught it at their hip, another directed the muzzle toward the spike, yet another squeezed the trigger, and all three of them stopped the recoil.
The muzzle flash raced out in the shape of a cross and the instantaneous force crashed into the spike as a counterattack.
The spikes ruptured and broke when they were hit from five such blasts almost simultaneously.
But the momentum remained, so the remaining pebbles crashed into the surface of the bridge. The armor panels bent and the shards of rock flew inside through the open windows.
With a roar, the counterattacking automatons were hit.
But none of it was critical damage.
“The bridge…has been preserved!”
Then fire scattered in the sky. Two of the port ships, one of the center ones, and one of the starboard ones had been hit.
But not from the secondary cannons. They had been hit by…
“We are Charging Company – Schau Essen! You can count on us in times of defense as well!”
The men were not wearing their mobile shells.
They were only wearing the armored uniforms they had managed to throw on in a hurry and they held shields in both arms.
“Did you all just wake up!?”
“Have you been eating well!?”
“Then go get ‘em!”
They all threw themselves out into the open air from whatever position they thought best.
They deactivated Azuchi’s gravitational control divine protection to let themselves fall.
“Go! We are Schau Essen! If we hit them, we win!”
They aimed a counterattack clash at the enemy.
Koroku saw new explosive flames blossoming above the vertical structure while she left the starboard side of the rear central ship.
Four blossoms had just appeared in the sky.
That was the result of Schau Essen jumping out without their mobile shells.
Their choice to not wear those mobile shells was about more than hurrying. Since they were jumping out in an emergency situation, they had no established landing position.
They could not control their path through the sky while inside those mobile shells, so they had chosen the greater freedom of lighter equipment.
Koroku wanted to praise and thank them for managing to hit and defeat those high-speed mechanical phoenixes.
The sudden appearance of these new attackers must have come as a surprise because a few of the other enemy mechanical phoenixes veered off course. They tried to dart back over again, but the secondary cannons had locked onto them.
One then another was hit and the secondary cannons were smashed as well, but…
“That’s three more!”
That reduced the enemy’s numbers down to four.
But all four of those were arriving at the second ship – that is, the rear ship – in their rows.
The tracer craft was still active on the starboard. It had already been hit, and…
Koroku found it beautiful how ether light smoke trailed behind it.
It passed through the combination of winds, slipped past the Azuchi’s attacks, and used its wings to more part than slice the wind.
It was pushed onward by the light from its thruster. This proved Houjou had pilots who could handle their craft that well.
“But it still isn’t enough.”
It had been moving too fast and it had taken too much damage.
The armor tore up from the damaged left wing and the wing broke off from its base.
The resistance from the right wing swung it around and sent it flying to the right just as it was passing by next to Koroku.
Then it crashed into the defense barrier opened to protect the top of the ship. Flames scattered through the sky and vanished as they were swept along the course of the side flip.
But the enemy was still attacking.
They still had the one to starboard and two in the center.
Koroku saw a certain phenomenon when she looked down toward the center.
A large cannon fired – the main cannon on the front of the bridge. The #2 turret of the dual 30cm/38 caliber cannons fired without aiming.
An explosive blast burst in the sky.
A shockwave raced out and swept everything on the ship’s surface outwards.
The armor hit by the blast was stripped up and blown away and the damaged secondary cannons were broken from the surface and fell off into the sky.
It was fortunate no one had been out in front of the main cannons thanks to the side flip, the surprise attack, and the preparations to fire once they landed.
The defense barriers obviously only opened after the destructive blast blew through.
But the effect was just as obvious. The two incoming mechanical phoenixes had disappeared without a trace.
The fires that had started on the ship had all been blown out.
That was flashier than necessary, thought Koroku. But…
“Just one more!”
The one craft flying along the starboard ships remained.
It chose to catch the side effects of the blast on its upper surface and did not try to fight it.
It kept its course gently curving in toward the 2nd starboard ship’s bridge, but…
The enemy craft passed by her with a burst of speed as if trying to keep her from focusing on it.
She could not counterattack in time. Fukushima and some others had been out on the 2nd starboard ship to watch the Musashi pass by, but…
Llaf: “If only I had thought to bring Ichinotani with me!”
She’s useless then, decided Koroku as she instantly accepted the state of affairs.
That’s a bad habit of mine, she added, but she could not help it. Expecting more from reality would only lead to disappointment.
“Guess I’ll do it.”
Just as she said that, she saw the enemy craft destroyed by an attack from behind.
What had caught up with the speedy mechanical phoenix and pierced through it?
“That was the automatons who performed the previous counterattack, wasn’t it?”
They stood atop the 1st starboard ship’s bridge.
They looked up into the rotating and moving sky to face the 2nd ship.
“The second shot made it through.”
Those five automatons were holding one of the anti-god of war rifles that had shot down the stone spike earlier.
One of them actually held the gun while the other four held their hands out past its barrel.
“The multi-acceleration of the bullet was a success, but…”
They could tell their efforts were insufficient.
Their high-speed vision saw the enemy fire a stone spike just before the hit.
The 2nd ship’s bridge set up defense barriers and used rifles to intercept it just like they had.
But there was one difference between this and the 1st ship.
The destroyed enemy craft shot out ahead of the stone spike.
It had been destroyed, but its wreckage still had mass that plowed straight into the defense barriers.
The destroyed craft was obliterated as it broke through the barriers.
The flames and wreckage blocked the view of the automatons protecting the 2nd ship’s bridge.
The automatons standing on the 1st ship’s bridge sent targeting corrections based on their view from behind.
But it was too late. The Stone spike flew in from behind the destroyed enemy craft.
The time to pull the trigger arrived, so they fired.
But the bullets tore into the decelerated enemy craft’s pieces and the impact was deflected elsewhere.
The stone spike tore through the enemy craft to show itself.
It had been hit, but it had not taken enough damage to break apart.
The port-side third floor of the 2nd starboard ship’s bridge took a direct hit from that speedy mass.
The automatons atop the 1st starboard ship’s bridge realized their own task had been a success but the overall task had been a failure.
One of the gunners detected an error within herself.
“We should have fired on the stone spike carried by the enemy craft, not the enemy craft itself!”
That mistaken decision was entered into their shared memory so they could all learn from it. Meanwhile, the 2nd starboard ship shuddered.
The port side had been hit at around the third floor and the damage covered a diameter of 10 meters.
…I have determined that is the divine transmission and administrative floor.
But the command center at the top of the bridge was unharmed. This would not affect the ship’s course, but information had been briefly cut off and there would be a delay until the damaged power circuits and communication lines could be rerouted.
That would cause the 2nd ship to fall behind during their side flip.
“That is not good!” one of them shouted as more alarms sounded.
This was not just more sound. There was more variety to the sound as well. Instead of combat alarms, these were alarms that indicated danger during on-deck construction or special events.
…What is this?
They all wondered that as something flew toward the 2nd starboard ship from the other ships.
They were towing belts.
Controlling their internal tension allowed them to slither in a serpentine fashion through the air and connect themselves to the 2nd starboard ship. Then a shipwide announcement played.
“The 2nd starboard ship shall be held in place with towing belts while the side flip continues! Over!”
It would not fall behind.
The 2nd ship’s lost functions and communications were being immediately replaced and supplemented.
The bridge’s crucial functions had not been destroyed and it had not flown off course.
But just as they felt like they could make up for their mistake…
The four standing in front lost their balance.
Automatons could not grow tired, but they could be worn down. That was why the gunner assumed they had used too much of their power to supply additional acceleration earlier.
But a moment later…
The next thing she knew, they had all been thrown out into the air to starboard.
The gunner automaton had no idea what had happened, so she tried to assess her situation.
She did not find much to assess.
Her body had been destroyed. All that remained was the upper body frame starting at the top of the chest, her head, and her broken lung structure. Lubricant and stitched wires flew through the air and splatted against her cheek.
She could not see any of the others. She only saw what looked like a snapped spine.
That was the rifle’s stock.
That rifle was designed to punch through god of war armor, so it produced quite a bit of power. Where had the rest of it gone? And when had her body been smashed and obliterated?
She did not know.
But she did know one thing. When her eyes followed the smashed remains of her fellow automatons, she saw something there.
A large black form was accelerating.
That had to be their true enemy that had flown in after the mechanical phoenixes to attack them from behind. It was…
“A mechanical dragon!”
The automaton fell through empty air as she fulfilled her duty to report.
“An enemy mechanical dragon is rapidly approaching the rear central ship!!”
Genan felt the pressure.
It came from acceleration.
That weight pushed back on him and it remained a constant companion while he soared through the sky.
…Such an excellent craft.
The mechanical dragon used a pseudo-combination piloting system.
Mechanical dragons were seen here and there throughout the history of Houjou’s weapons development, but this had to be their most successful prototype ever.
Such large devices were hard to make since circumstances, budgets, and technological revolutions tended to come as a surprise. This one had turned out well despite that, but it had been rejected as a primary weapon as it would be difficult to mass produce.
But it had still been worth keeping in storage for possible use later.
Genan focused out ahead of him.
As a prototype, the dragon cannon was its only weapon. Since the tests had been focused on acceleration, it had seemingly endless speed, but its movements could not have been more unstable.
However, it flew straight and true for the moment.
He assumed that was because there was no hint of doubt within him. Not about Houjou, not about Satomi, and not about the other nearby nations.
“Although it was be going too far to say I don’t care about any of it anymore.”
If he did not care, he would not be doing this. So it was quite the opposite.
“I care so very much about everything now.”
He did not see things in terms of enemies and allies anymore.
No, everything that had been with him thus far was his ally and everything that threatened to interfere with that was his enemy.
“Genan-sama.” The mechanical dragon’s OS spoke to him in a male voice. “Welcome back.”
“What, you only just woke up, Vritra?”
“Testament. I have been finetuning things since bootup and could only just now spare the time to speak. How is the flight?”
“Very good. It’s even better than last time I flew in you.”
“Thank you very much. But I must ask that you do not push yourself too hard. I have a self-healing function, but you do not.”
“You’ve got a mouth on you.”
“Testament,” replied the OS called Vritra. “I do recall crashing in the craft I occupied three iterations back.”
“Why did we build an OS that remembers all the bad things?”
“Because,” said Vritra. “This allows me to respond to any and all circumstances, Genan-sama. So…”
“You need not hold back. I am quickly grasping the situation, so I will take you to your destination – to Houjou’s final attack. And, Genan-sama?”
“If this is indeed the final attack, then please press the ‘authorize’ button on the lower right.”
He knew what that did. The same had already been pressed in the other crafts.
…The OS wiper.
The craft’s memory would be fully erased.
By doing that during battle, nothing would remain even if it was shot down.
Of course, the components would still make it obvious what nation had produced it, but if the pilot ejected and the OS-related memory was erased, there was room to sidestep responsibility.
Houjou’s engineers had already sent Ujinao everything they hoped Musashi could store for them and everything else had been physically destroyed.
That meant everything related to them was currently in the air.
The same was true of those who had been destroyed out ahead of him.
The pilots were those who had built those crafts. They had all grown old, wondered if they should let the younger generation take over, and ultimately did so.
They had gone on ahead and drawn the artillery fire as they went.
And now it was Genan’s turn.
“Let’s do this, Vritra. Let us erase all that Houjou was, such that nothing remains.”
Some things had been stolen by P.A. Oda. Including some things that were important to their nation and to history.
“But we cannot let them have us and we cannot let them stain the reputation of those we have come to accept. So…let’s do this.”
Koroku watched the mechanical dragon fly.
It was over 100m long.
Yet it was dodging al of the secondary cannon blasts and beams of light.
She recalled when Satomi Yoshiyori had attacked the Azuchi.
He had not had as easy a time of it with all the accompanying ships constructing a front line, but this enemy’s movements were on the same level as his.
They did not stop.
And they did not falter.
Satomi Yoshiyori had made his way through using strength, but this mechanical dragon did it using technique.
Like a fish in water dodging stones, they exploded with acceleration as if using the Azuchi’s side flip as a playground. Albeit a playground full of explosive blasts and fragments.
They spun around, dodged the airborne wreckage of the secondary cannons, used the path of the shards to read the air currents, and continued ever forward.
When a secondary cannon did occasionally fire…
They would kick off the hardened wood of the deck and soar forward while ducking low.
They kept their kicking feet on the deck to race across the front central ship.
Then the front ship fired its main cannon.
This was the same method the rear ship had used to repel the enemy mechanical phoenixes earlier.
But the mechanical dragon twirled around, tilted their entire body to starboard, and continued racing along the side of the deck.
The cannon’s explosive blast swept across the surface of the ship, but the mechanical dragon was already out of its range.
That reaction speed and decision making is insane, thought Koroku. I doubt they could have seen the previous attack like that.
This was about experience.
She did not know the identity or details of that mechanical dragon, but she knew for certain the pilot and OS had fought in a battle like this before.
…I can’t believe it.
If possible, she wanted to meet the pair that made these movements and decisions possible.
As a god of war pilot and a machine operator, she was curious.
But they were the enemy.
As soon as the cannon blast had been avoided, the mechanical dragon took three steps and then flew. The running start, leap, and takeoff were done calmly and without rushing. Acceleration light appeared in the flight devices linked to the forelegs and then…
…Here they come!
The great black form flew straight out into the sky.
It passed by above her to charge at and fly toward the rear central ship.
“Azuchi” did not hesitate when responding to the mechanical dragon flying toward the front of the bridge from the side.
The rear central ship had more than one main cannon. They had fired the #2 turret before and it could not be reloaded immediately, so it could not be used to intercept. However…
“#1 turret! Shaja!!”
The #1 turret was already aiming backwards to fire on the previous enemy, so “Azuchi” made another decision.
She had the #1 turret aim toward the bridge.
…We will shoot the enemy while they are between the bridge and the turret!
The shell would be fired toward the sky such that it just barely avoided the bridge, but the shockwave would still hit the enemy.
The blast would directly strike the surface of the ship. All the bridge’s windows would be blown out, but that would not affect their flight. She determined it was within acceptable bounds.
Thus, she had the #1 turret fire.
The blast struck the air as if being fired right at their throat.
In that instant, the Azuchi received a divine transmission.
It was from Hachisuka. But her instructions were not about “Azuchi”.
They were about the enemy mechanical dragon’s target.
6: “Not the bridge! They’re after the rear thrusters!!”
6: “The enemy’s top priority is delaying our arrival, not destroying us!”
That was when “Azuchi” saw something with the ship’s sight devices. The mechanical dragon had flown as if hopping over the bridge and the shockwave had struck empty air.
They had missed.
So they didn’t catch on, thought Genan while making a high-speed jump in his mechanical dragon.
“Well done, Vritra.”
There was no response. The part of the OS needed for thought had been wiped.
The craft was now entirely reliant on his own piloting. The OS would only provide the bare minimum of support.
He pushed against the control stick and the pressure-controlled shoulder hooks pressing against the top of his shoulders.
He realized he could not move his body the way he wanted.
…This is not good.
After all this time, his hands chose now to start trembling.
He had thought his body was enjoying the acceleration pressure, but he had been wrong
Just as Vritra had feared, he had reached his limit. The battle during the day would be partially to blame.
Or should he have skipped the meeting during the night?
If he had spent that time resting, could he have avoided this pathetic display now?
“That is not the point,” he said. “I am glad I went.”
That had been Houjou’s final meeting.
He had managed to attend and, while he had not been able to directly help out, he had been able to see the representatives of Satomi, Musashi, and the neighboring nations and pave the way for a few things.
That was not pathetic. Anything he accomplished now was a bonus.
“That’s right.” His voice was trembling. “This is what we should have done back when Satomi Yoshiyori made his charge.”
…Yes, that’s right.
When the Azuchi had arrived in Kantou, he had immediately recognized it as being the Bunroku Campaign.
But while Houjou called themselves the rulers of Kantou…
“Why could we not call it the Siege of Odawara and face them ourselves?”
Ujinao had decided against it because they would be unable to do anything for Musashi or themselves later on if they had been destroyed then.
He had agreed with her decision.
But even as he agreed, there had been some misgivings inside him.
That’s right, he thought.
“I understand now.”
The course he was taking for his charge here was not entirely original.
…Satomi Yoshiyori, this was based on your charge.
He understood now.
I know you did not want anyone else to die with you then.
So our decision back then was correct. But at the same time…
“You too were correct.”
He had said he was heading out “to live”.
At the time, Genan had not known what that meant and had thought it was a terrible thing for a long-lived like him to do.
But he understood now.
“We too are alive.”
He understood that this action would allow so many important things to live.
He only wanted to continue living if it was as a part of that.
So he would head out and create an age and a world where he could live like that.
He squeezed the grips as if forming fists.
The craft had already circled around higher than the explosive blast launched by the Azuchi.
That would be the final bit of automatic flight assistance from Vritra. After all, that fulfilled the OS’s promise.
“You said you would take me to my destination and that is what you did, Vritra.”
The stern of Azuchi’s rear central ship came into view. The thrusters were there.
Genan stood his mechanical dragon up in midair and prepared a dragon cannon.
“Smashing the bridge would not matter much on a giant ship composed of multiple smaller ships. The other ships would make up for the lost bridge functions and the damage would be quickly repaired. If I am to do this, I must destroy something that will physically restrain the ship.”
He bowed his head within his headset.
“Everyone, thank you for convincing the enemy we were targeting the bridges.”
The final attack aimed for him had failed because those ahead of him had all targeted the bridges.
Their true target was the rear central ship’s primary thruster.
But none of the others had thought they could get an attack in on the rear thrusters.
That was why they had requested to act as bait. They had known their role, but still laughed about it:
“Hey, if we do manage to destroy one of the bridges, that still damages Hashiba’s reputation.”
That was true. And they had partially destroyed one while paving the way for him.
They had done well.
“When this ship lands east of Bousou, its great size will naturally slide it to the east. So they must push the ship forward to stop it. Which means using the primary thruster.”
One of the first ships’ thrusters would not be enough. The other ships would use their towing belts to support it.
But what about with one of the second ships – especially the heaviest one in the center?
Plus, they were already going to the effort of supporting the 2nd starboard ship with the towing belts.
“In that case!”
Genan raised his voice as he prepared to fire the dragon cannon.
Just before he did, his experience led him to take a certain action.
He stopped firing and twisted his body to the side.
…Are you kidding me!?
Nabeshima realized her charge had been dodged at the last second.
She had made a full-body tackle with her mechanical dragon.
Earlier, her mechanical dragon had been withdrawing on a transport ship.
She had asked Kuki if she should fight back against the enemy ships in the sky above, but Unambitious was too badly damaged.
It could not fire its dragon cannon and it could only manage full-power flight just the once.
…Yeah, I’d only be in the way.
While she might be able to shoot down an enemy ship or two, he had told her to wait for a more valuable opportunity.
Of course, there had been no guarantee such an opportunity would come along.
She had assumed she would continue waiting until Hashiba’s arrival ended everything. The Azuchi was going to arrive in time and they would win.
But then the mechanical phoenixes had attacked.
The Azuchi had been almost exactly overhead. Kuki had been concerned about a second wave, so he had ordered them to head out.
Of course, they were not used to battle. All they could do was charge in while relying on their armor.
They had left most of the interception to the Azuchi while they reinforced defenses where it mattered.
They had ended up moving along the opposite side from the enemy.
The dragon had taken a lot of damage, but Ryuuzouji tech was cutting edge. Still, she had been naïve to assume she could move out ahead while simply flying. She had tried to match her movements to those of the mechanical phoenixes, but the enemy had ended up pulling away from her.
“How can they dodge like that!?”
“Experience, my lady!”
“Testament! Warriors accustomed to the battlefield can predict what is coming and do what it takes.”
Then had her attack been dodged based on such a prediction? And…
“Now they will do what it takes.”
“They will go on the offensive in order to defeat their opponent, whoever that opponent might be.”
“And my predictions aren’t enough to handle it!?”
“Predicting it coming at all is more than enough, my lady!”
The Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji raised their voices.
They were manually supporting the control system and sending operation authorization to different parts of the dragon.
But they were too slow. No, they were all working absurdly quickly, but not even that could keep up with the situation.
While she spread her wings in the sky to brake, she saw the black mechanical dragon launching its dragon cannon below her.
That blast was meant to “do what it takes”.
In that case, she thought while raising her own voice.
This was her response to the other dragon “doing what it takes”.
“Kiyomasa-senpai! You’re up!”
Kiyomasa raised Caledfwlch on a roof of the rear central ship.
She had been right to return to her room after meeting Sakon earlier. This situation had come about while she was looking after Caledfwlch after firing it on Katagiri. Also…
…Fukushima-sama has been outside since we passed the Musashi.
She had stayed inside and tried to get some rest in order to reset herself, but then the mechanical phoenixes had attacked.
She had rushed out of her room, but she had only arrived in time for the second wave.
She was meant as the defensive line protecting the bridge, but Caledfwlch’s beam sword was enough to target the sky behind the ship.
“Azuchi” had informed her that Kuki had ordered Nabeshima’s mechanical dragon into the fight.
Just as she emerged onto the roof…
…It dodged that attack!?
Nabeshima’s charge had shot out from behind the ship and circled up into the sky.
The enemy mechanical dragon should not have been able to detect her ether reading thanks to the explosive blast from the Azuchi’s main cannon.
The attack came from a complete blind spot just as the enemy was preparing their dragon cannon.
The attack had been made when the enemy was focused on firing, yet it had still been dodged.
The giant mechanical dragon only looked like it swayed its entire body to the side.
But Nabeshima’s dragon had passed right by it without hitting.
She had been dodged.
And Kiyomasa had heard the girl’s voice via divine transmission.
“Kiyomasa-senpai! You’re up!”
The dragon cannon and light sword collided.
The dragon’s attack shattered and the blade of light scattered into the air.
But the struggle was not won by a simple difference in output.
This was not about force.
It was about persistence.
The light vanished from the thrusters on the mechanical dragon’s back and forelegs.
It was pouring all of its power into keeping the dragon cannon going.
The light sword broke and the beam of light pierced its shards.
Genan saw his dragon cannon beam pierce everything as it was launched.
And he saw something else as well.
He saw the enemy on the rooftop raising her voice while bathing in the ether light of her own shattered sword.
In his pseudo-combined state, his vision caught the enemy’s resistance.
It took the form of the main cannon.
The reloading of the Azuchi’s #2 turret had finally finished and it was aiming back toward him.
But it should not have been able to get a line of fire with the bridge in the way.
Except that was not true.
The muzzle was pointed straight at the bridge itself.
They were going to shoot themselves.
There was just one way of pulling this off: the Azuchi had opened all of the windows on the front of the bridge, in all the rooms and corridors within the bridge, and on the back of the bridge in order to reduce the shock of the hit as much as possible.
“Everyone, brace for impact! Over!”
Everything lined up for a single instant.
…This I did not see coming!
The main cannon blast pierced straight through the bridge and hit Genan.
Kiyomasa was launched skyward from below.
The main cannon blast through the bridge had produced a shockwave.
Defense barriers had been opened on all the walls around the corridor the shell passed through, but the corridor was devastated nonetheless.
They had known what they needed to do, so the damage of the shell’s passage had been calculated out in advance. The automatons had concluded it would put pressure on the administrative functions but would not cause any trouble for the landing.
The impact had switched the bridge’s power system over to emergency mode. That briefly shut off the gravitational control system, so Kiyomasa floated up into the air.
It was only for a moment, but by the time it switched back on and gravity returned to her, she had traveled a few dozen meters.
She curled while holding Caledfwlch close and rolled a few times on the rooftop before hitting the railing at the edge.
Her back just about rolled up onto the railing and propelled her off the edge, but she snagged the railing with her hands and back of her knees to hold herself in place. Her chest smacked her in the jaw and it felt like a heavy uppercut, but she bore with it.
Then she viewed the result of the attack. The wreckage of the inner structures and the shards of the defense barriers had been blasted into the black emptiness of the night sky behind the bridge.
She could see walls, floors, columns, desks, and chairs. They were scattered in the sky like confetti, but beyond them…
…The mechanical dragon.
The black dragon had been hit by the shockwave.
It must have taken the shell to its giant left side.
The hit had caused it to double over before it fired the dragon cannon.
The attack had been launched down but not at the primary thruster it was meant for.
“It hit the ship’s surface!”
The vertical beam of light had swept along in a line and the defense barriers for Azuchi’s surface had caught it.
It had been more like an instantaneous sweep than a direct strike. More and more defense barriers had opened to weaken the dragon cannon. They had all shattered in turn, but they had not allowed any damage through to the armor.
And while Kiyomasa watched the powerless mechanical dragon…
“We will return fire. Shaja.”
A barrage of secondary fire slammed into it.
Nabeshima saw the enemy mechanical dragon while falling in her own.
It would likely fall into the ocean southeast of Bousou. With its armor shattered from the secondary cannon blasts, it would likely be damaged beyond repair when it crashed into the ocean surface.
But, thought Nabeshima.
…This is it.
“We need to be able to take things that far.”
The initial group of mechanical phoenixes had been bait, it had attacked alone, and it had made a surprise attack.
But it had managed to approach the bridge of an enemy ship like the Azuchi and attempted to make an attack.
An excellent mechanical dragon and pilot could pull off something like that.
“I so want to retrieve that dragon and take some ideas from its OS and stuff.”
“You will find nothing there, my lady. They were prepared to do what it took, so nothing at all will remain.”
The destroyed dragon was knocked away from the Azuchi by the hits it took.
As it did, a piece of the hull separated off on the back of the cockpit head.
“The OS has fully wiped itself. At the very end, the pilot is ejected. Because not even that can be done properly with the OS gone.”
“Yes,” replied the Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji. “That mechanical dragon is dead. I just hope the pilot is alive.”
So this is goodbye, thought Genan.
The mechanical dragon had ejected its pilot and let the fall assistance and bodily protection divine protections take over.
Thus, the OS had completed its final task.
Of course, he was at his limit too.
That final movement and damage had placed a great burden on his body. A few bones were broken and the shards flying within the cockpit had pierced his body.
The divine protections would prevent the air pressure difference and wind pressure from opening the wounds, but…
The dragon could no longer respond as it fell along a different course from him.
Could it hear him?
Genan spoke to the result of many long years of R&D as he fell and lost consciousness.
“You were my greatest masterpiece.”
“You allowed the struggles of us old timers to be felt after Satomi Yoshiyori showed us the way.”
In his fading vision, he saw something falling toward Azuchi from even higher in the night sky.
It had been ejected from the rear of the mechanical dragon and was now falling straight down.
“Ujiteru. We’re all counting on you.”
The Azuchi responded as soon as it detected what was falling behind the bridge and toward the primary thruster.
The secondary cannons already had homing and guidance applied.
After all, this person was in free fall with no form of propulsion. This was as easy as firing on a stationary target.
They opened fire, but something was not right. They were clearly hitting the enemy, and yet…
“Secondary cannon control! Why are you unable to destroy him!? Shaja.”
“Our attacks are being intercepted! The enemy is using a sword of light to cut down our shells!”
The falling enemy finally arrived.
“Houjou Ujiteru is landing!!”
Ujiteru opened his mouth.
He had four arms. Of those, three were used for defense while he stood atop the main thruster on the stern of the enemy’s rear central ship.
The boxy port was formed from crosses and it was 50m across. Destroying that would require either a dragon cannon, or…
He sent power through the cable connecting the light sword’s pommel to his wrist.
His sword was a Descending Light Sword that used the same tech as the Descending Light Bombs.
“I bet I could give that big sword from before a run for its moneyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!”
Shells were flying his way. They were even hitting him, but he only had to defend himself enough to keep moving. Besides, he could cut down secondary cannon blasts like this while barely paying attention.
“This is nothing compared to my stupid niece’s sword ejectioooooooooons! You really think these crappy cannon blasts can hit meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!?”
He raised his Descending Light Sword and swung it at its full length.
“Not even the Musashi could stop this, so if I can stop it, that makes me the strongest of the Warring Staaaaaaaaaaates! That settles it! I am strooooooooooooooooooooong! No, the stroooooooooooooongest!”
Then the Azuchi shook as light enveloped its primary thruster.
The gravitational acceleration took the form of immense pressure.
The power to move the Azuchi made a direct attack. Instead of simple artillery shells, he was surrounded by pure light.
“You cowarrrrrrrrrrds! This just proves you’re scared of meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, Hashiba!!”
His entire body was broken by the great pressure. The arms he was using to protect himself, his legs, and his knees filled with cracks and shattered.
But he was laughing. Laughing loudly.
“You really think that’ll worrrrrrrrrrrrrk!?”
He raised his Descending Light Sword high and the hand wielding it shattered, but in that instant, he moved his body so the blade stabbed into his own back.
It pieced through him and he slammed himself into the Azuchi as the base of the sword.
Even as he broke and fell apart, he managed to raise his head and his voice with every last ounce of strength.
“Who’s the strooooooooooongest!? It’s meeeeeeeeeeeee! Ding, ding, diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing! Ohhh, what’s the word for this situatioooon!?
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