Horizon:Volume 7C Chapter 71
Chapter 71: Supporters of the Circle
Of the world
Perceive me properly
Point Allocation (More Than I Thought)
The color of the sky had changed.
Starting in the east and moving west, a clear yellow mixed with a deep blue. But on the vast seam between, it was purple instead of green.
Morning was approaching.
The sky grew brighter. Too many stars had vanished to call it a night sky and the wind blew below it.
It was an easterly wind.
“Is the wind on my face the same which blows in from the origin of the sun – from the Far East? …Oh, don’t mind me. Just some off-the-cuff poetry. I’ve begun dabbling recently, but doing it in front of people is more embarrassing than I thought.”
A tall figure looked up in the sky and spoke within the blowing wind.
It was Matthias and he let his shoulders slump while he spread his arms.
A group of white mobile shells stood behind him.
The easterly wind revealed M.H.R.R.’s flag – the imperial flag on a white base.
“Now,” he said. “This was a headwind for Hashiba-kun, but it is a tailwind for me. The effortless life of a puppet is such a treat. Truly this is what the Holy Roman Emperor should strive to be. So I would love it if you simply gave me victory here, Protestants.”
He directed his words at a group dressed in black.
They stood below the flag on a black base that signified the Protestants.
“Bishop Luther, could you perhaps lose this battle for me? Or is that asking too much?”
The Protestants and the Catholics.
Of the two sides facing each other atop a large hill, Matthias represented the Catholics.
“We already know this history recreation ends in our victory, so I see no purpose in defying us. Don’t you agree, Bishop Luther?”
At the center of the Protestants, Luther, aka Tomoe Gozen, held her hammer at the ready and placed a hand on her hip.
“What? Does losing terrify you that badly, Matthias?”
“Testament. I am a layperson, so I wish to live my life without being held to any kind of responsibility. The mere thought of defeat here – as unlikely as it may be – scares me to no end. …In fact, is there anyone at all who does not fear losing?”
“You’ll find some in the east. When they suffer a painful defeat, it only motivates them to make a comeback.”
“Oh, do you mean Hashiba-kun?” Matthias smiled. “She suffered two major defeats in Hexagone Française and Kantou. In the latter case, she failed to even arrive in time. But she remains undeterred. Just a bit ago, she sent me a divine mail saying she bought some Edo bananes as a Kantou souvenir and she intends to make them an offering to Olimpia and myself. Incredible, isn’t it? Not many sponsors would show such concern for their puppet.”
“Is this just about you wanting to eat one?”
“It is a matter of Far Eastern etiquette – a spirit of sharing.”
“You sure are an optimistic puppet.”
“Are you that upset you cannot eat an Edo banane?”
“Isn’t the traditional Edo treat an Edo Hiyoko Manju? My hemisphere kappa can buy me some when he visits the Ariake.”
Matthias bent his eyebrows and eyes when he heard that. Then he held his stomach and forehead.
“Ha ha…ha ha ha, ha ha ha! Ah ha ha ha ha! Didn’t you know, Bishop Luther!? A note in the Testament says the Edo Hiyoko Manju was originally from Kyushu. It only became sold in Edo once it was brought there. And the Testament says that happens ‘in the distant future’, so you are violating the Testament. …I am shocked that someone who claims to be Bishop Luther is not up-to-date on Hiyoko Manju trivia.”
“Why would Luther know about that? For that matter, why do you know?”
“As a puppet, I receive gifts of souvenirs whenever the M.H.R.R. and P.A. Oda officials return from their trips around the world. Those have mostly been from Kantou of late and I have had a lot to snack on during my reading time, but that is apparently at an end. Return my enjoyable puppet life, Bishop Luther.”
“Tell it to the people arriving above us. Also, wait just a moment.”
Tomoe Gozen opened a lernen figur.
Lady AM: “Hey, kappa.”
Hemisphere Man: “I am not a kappa! More importantly, my company is in trouble with these tough delivery date negotiations with Lady Naruze! Can this wait!?”
Lady AM: “This is an urgent matter, so listen up. I found a violation of the Testament.”
Hemisphere Man: “Wh-where!? Has the mosaic censorship based on the art style grown too lax as the age of the artists has dropped in recent years!?”
Lady AM: “Make sure to double check all of that at the printshop.”
Hemisphere Man: “No, the customer is always right, so we cannot do that. We can only give them respectful guidance so they can apply proper mosaic censorship, fresco censorship, or letterpress censorship on their own. …Now, Tomoe Gozen, what is this violation of the Testament?”
Lady AM: “When you buy souvenirs at the Ariake, make sure it’s Edo bananes from now on.”
Hemisphere Man: “Eh!? What’s wrong with the Hiyoko Manju? The guilt felt when bisecting them down the center is such a wonderful feeling! And you can press them back together to play a game of Magdeburg chick!”
Lady AM: “You heard me. We can revisit the issue next time.”
“That has been resolved,” said Tomoe Gozen while raising her right hand.
“Then shall we begin?”
A lernen figur immediately appeared next to his face.
“Excuse me, but this is Ishida Mitsunari. Hashiba-sama has appointed me as the on-site commander.”
“Oh, Mi-chan. Long time no see.”
“Not even Hashiba-sama calls me that anymore, so, um, please have mercy. That was my name while I was still in development.”
Just like a caterpillar and butterfly go by different names, concluded Matthias. Powerful name inheritors do things differently.
“Um, then, Ishida-kun, I would like to do this the easy way, so what should I do?”
“If you stay where you are, I will produce a lernen figur on your back that says ‘hit at your own risk’. That will make it less likely that the warriors will hit you while charging in from behind.”
“Only less likely!?”
“I apologize, but people make mistakes and I cannot say anything for certain. You can punish them if they do hit you, so be prepared to respond if need be.”
“I have received orders from a lot of people, but you are one of the more fascinating ones.”
“Y-you honor me.”
She sounded nervous. But she also raised a hand and opened a new lernen figur.
“Now, may I begin explaining the situation for you?”
Matthias decided to listen to Ishida’s explanation.
“Can you do that for me?”
“Testament.” She nodded. And, “We need to worry most about the enemy’s actions during the initial charge and when Musashi arrives. Matthias-sama, do you know what shape their formation has taken?”
…This was supposed to be an explanation, so why are you asking me questions!?
This is new, he thought in further fascination with her. And while thinking…
“Um, I believe it is similar to a…is it called a tercio? It is long from north to south, and the northern end is angled a bit westward. That angle is meant to match the circular shape of Nördlingen.”
“Testament. I have determined the enemy intends to charge in while deflecting our charge.”
He was not quite sure what she meant. Even if he was a puppet, he wished he had studied up on military matters some instead of just cooking and stargazing.
“Could you explain what you mean?” he asked.
“Testament. They are wearing lighter equipment to assist their charge. I have confirmed this was done on Tomoe Gozen’s command. But we will be making our charge while heavily equipped. If the two sides collide…”
“Our side will emerge victorious, of course.”
“Testament,” she replied. “Thus, the enemy has angled their formation somewhat diagonally. That way a collision with our charge will allow them to deflect us away diagonally.”
“You mean they can survive a direct hit?”
“Testament. Please look north, which is to your right.”
He did as instructed.
There he saw…
“I can see down the hill to Nördlingen.”
“I see you have an eye for this.”
Ohh, praise from a name inheritor! Should a puppet really be this clever!? I hope I don’t get assassinated for it! I need to show everyone how incompetent I really am!
“I have no idea what I am looking at, though.”
…I really don’t!
That was the truth, but Ishida nodded on the lernen figur.
“If the enemy deflects us diagonally, it will direct us down the hill’s slope. The greater the speed of our charge, the more we will fall down the slope and the harder a time we will have recovering.”
“That doesn’t sound good.”
“Testament,” replied Ishida before falling silent for a moment.
What is this about? he wondered before a realization hit him.
“What will we do about that, Ishida-kun?”
Yes. He was the incompetent puppet, so he had to constantly ask questions. Being a puppet was no guarantee his sponsors would always give him something.
And Ishida had only recently inherited her name, so he had to use his ample experience as a puppet to show her how this was supposed to work.
…That’s what it means to be a professional puppet!
I need to stay focused on my job. Doing so makes it so much fun. I love being a puppet!
While filling himself with excitement, Matthias nodded and Ishida opened a new lernen figur.
“Um, the logical response would be to angle our own formation so we hit them head-on. However, we cannot do that.”
“Eh? We can’t, Ishida-kun?”
Oops. It’s true I don’t understand, but I think I overdid that one.
Ishida tilted her head a bit as she responded.
“Matthias-sama, um, I know my explanation might be boring and I can determine I have my own nerves to blame for that, but, um, you do not have to try to cheer me up.”
She hung her head.
“Um, I will do my best. Yes.”
He had never before seen a depressed data entity.
Nari Nari Nari: “Umm.”
AnG: “Huh? What is it, Nari Nari? Done already?”
Nari Nari Nari: “No, it is not that. Uh, what do I do if my client starts being weirdly nice because they feel sorry for you?”
AnG: “Why not get a cat the two of you can play with? That should help you communicate.”
Super Justice: “I apologize for interrupting, but that is not communication! It is surveillance!”
Llaf: “Testament. It may be best if thou share some food with them to remove any emotional barriers.”
Nari Nari Nari: “Sorry, but there is not enough time for that.”
AnG: “Then you’ll just have to do it the old-fashioned way.”
“Okay…um…I will continue.”
Matthias saw the data entity continue her explanation in a somehow worried tone.
The diagram she sent him showed the angled enemy formation and a prediction of what would happen to their formation when they both charged and collided. However…
“I can see how they hit us at an angle,” he said. “Is there any way to change this into a head-on collision?”
“That would be difficult since we are heavily equipped and more numerous. We are restricted to this narrow hilltop, we have Niwa-sama’s main unit behind us, and we also have my northern route group.”
“Oh,” said Ishida. “Swedish Chancellor Christina is waiting in her estate as Nagaoka Tadaoki’s wife to the north of Nördlingen. If we attack her here and she blows herself up, it will qualify as a history recreation.”
“So many people with difficult destinies these days.”
Blow herself up, hm? thought Matthias.
That would not be enough to kill me, but I suppose she will die.
“How I envy her,” he said.
“Testament. I am helpless to do anything, but she has the freedom to choose her own destruction. I cannot even do that.”
“So I wish to enjoy my current sheltered position. That is why I want to learn how this battle will go. You know what I mean, right? Sports are a lot more entertaining when you know the rules. I want to know the rules of the events I am advancing as a puppet. Now, Ishida-kun, could you continue your explanation?”
After a pause, Ishida responded to him.
“Testament. You just cleared up a lot for me. Thank you.”
That explains it, thought Mitsuari as she reached an understanding of Matthias’s behavior.
He was interested in the main points. Not a general overview, but the specifics of what they could do to improve their position and what could happen to harm their position.
He was smart.
If he wanted to truly fulfill his position as a puppet, he could not just sit around being incompetent. He had to judge the other person’s attitude to decide how to behave and what not to do, but he also had to demonstrate a certain level of freedom and show that he held no hostility or conspiracy toward his manager.
That required reading the main points, but this man could do it.
…He did show evidence of this once in the past.
That puppet had made a single attack during the Sack.
His Logismoi Oplo, Pheugos Gastrimargia, overloaded the target’s power so it would destroy itself. That attack had hit the Musashi Vice Chancellor’s Tonbokiri.
Based on that and what happened afterwards, his attack had indeed temporarily sealed off one Musashi’s most decisive attacks.
…It was our fault that we did not use that opportunity to its full advantage.
I see, thought Mitsunari. He has some skill beyond being a puppet.
That was why she said what she did next.
“Allow me to provide a simple explanation.”
Ishida opened a simple diagram while Matthias crossed his arms and prepared himself.
“Our unit will charge at the anti-imperials, but we cannot angle ourselves quickly enough due to our densely-packed and heavily-equipped formation. That is why we will alter the power systems of the mobile shells.”
“By shifting the thrusters to the left, the line of the charge can be angled while they run. That kind of group movement is only possible with standardized mobile shells.”
On the diagram, the charging formation gained an angle while they moved.
“Most likely, we can use our weight and pressure to push them after the initial collision. That will create an open space on the hill south of Nördlingen.”
On the diagram, she placed a red circle in the empty space.
“That is likely where the Musashi will send its reinforcements once it arrives overhead. They will probably cut across Nördlingen, but Niwa-sama’s unit will set up a defensive line at the north end of the city to stop them. And…”
On the diagram, she drew a counterclockwise line from Nördlingen’s south side to its north side.
“Ootani and my troops will head north to attack the Nagaoka residence for the history recreation. It is possible we will have to engage the remnants of the Musashi fighters or with the Protestants, but we should be able to handle that since we have buffs and reinforcements.”
“So if all goes as planned, victory will be ours?”
“Testament. That is the purpose of the strategy.”
When Ishida nodded, trumpets sounded from the anti-imperial force up ahead.
“Ohh,” said Matthias while looking up.
He saw the enemy force turned a bit to the side. They likely intended to hit his troops shoulder first.
Tomoe Gozen was doing the same and she beckoned him with the right hand she had turned forward.
“It would seem they are ready to do this.”
“So it does,” agreed Ishida just as some wind roared in from behind him.
All of the mobile shells had upped their power. The thruster activation lifted up their heavy equipment, but then they lowered back down from the stability routine. That produced a clanking of armor and they all readied their weapons.
Then they all raised their voices as one – man and women, old and young.
Delightful, thought Matthias.
Every last person lined up behind him was undoubtedly his superior in combat.
Even the rookies would have him tapping out in a matter of seconds in a sparring match.
But he did not need to fear them because he was the Holy Roman Emperor.
Being a puppet was an incredible thing.
After all, he barely did any work and he only had to look the part while making commands, but everyone respected him, lifted him up, and excited him by explaining their strategies to him.
What other job could be so delightful?
“Now, let us begin.”
He drew his sword as commander. He had worn it within the chest of his coat this time to look cool, so he quickly drew it from near his collarbone. And…
Oh, no. My arm isn’t long enough to draw it.
Oh, right. I chose a longer one to look cool and keep my posture straight.
Before even thinking about the physics behind it, he should have noticed when placing it there in the first place.
But since he could not draw it, he had no choice but to return it.
He heard an “eh?” from behind him, but as a puppet, he was bound to make mistakes. These things happened. Yes, he was delighted to have done something so puppet-like.
…But what do I do now?
He considered it for a moment, but there was no time. He unfortunately had to get things started.
He paused and made sure the corners of his lips did not loosen as he raised his voice.
Mitsunari hurriedly managed the racing troops.
The distance between the two sides was about 500m. Even if they were heavily-equipped, these mobile shells were lighter than the older ones she had seen records of. By intervening with and managing the thruster output, she could get them to cross those 500m in less than 20 seconds.
So she did so.
She was a program. She could currently duplicate herself a maximum of 1000 times. So she first placed herself inside the 1000 mobile shells on the front line of the charge and installed herself in their management divine protections.
And she improved them.
She could do this because, unlike Ootani, she was a proper control program.
“This is a forced installation to improve the tuning and management.”
She was not a virus, so she could officially install herself in the divine protections and manage them.
She gave them the automatic cornering control she had described to Matthias, but she also fine-tuned their acceleration and braking. That allowed them all to move in a more homogenous fashion. That required using a lot of equality and homogeneity divine protection spells, but Catholicism had a lot more of those than the other religions.
She had once attempted to put together a Shinto spell version as an experiment, but in that lax world of substitutions where overthrowing your master almost seemed encouraged, there were incomprehensible rules like “to increase the power output, you must dress as a rabbit that day” and she had ultimately ruled it impossible. She was baffled how those people managed to accomplish anything.
In that sense, Catholicism was nice and simple.
“Installation is at 80%.”
She had the lernen figur in front of her eyes display their planned path and the enemy’s expected path as lines.
“Complete. Now to uninstall myself.”
She removed just herself, then she began tuning the next 1000, and then moved on to the next.
She had finished tuning most of those charging on the anti-imperials.
It had taken her approximately 7 seconds. The initial thousand would be reaching the enemy soon. Yet…
That clash never occurred.
Mitsuari saw something unexpected happen on the battlefield.
The enemy was waiting.
She had expected them to advance in order to make use of their light weight, yet they were motionless.
Then why had Tomoe Gozen and the rest of the enemy turned to the side?
…Was it to brace for impact!?
When turned to the side, they could use their rear leg to stop the backwards push of the impact from the front.
If that’s it, thought Mitsunari while making a split-second decision.
“Hitting them is good enough.”
If the Catholics hit, they could push on through. If the enemy only caught them, they would not be pushed down the hill.
This delayed the actual impact, but that gave them more time for the automatic adjustments to complete the cornering.
…We can do this!
Just as Mitsunari reached that conclusion, the sideways-turned enemy formation suddenly moved.
Were they responding? Were they attempting to perform a dash now? Except…
“We can push through!”
The enemy sped up all at once.
But they did not move forward. They moved to the right from the Catholics’ perspective.
They suddenly dashed down the hill.
The Nagaoka estate’s southern garden gave a view of Nördlingen’s city wall and the hill-turned-battlefield beyond that.
In her white uniform, Christina tied firecracker tubes to the garden trees, attached divine protection charms to those, and turned to the south.
She could see the imperial and anti-imperial forces positioned on the east and west sides of the hill. From her perspective, the large imperial force was on the left and the anti-imperial force was on the right, but…
“You can’t exactly call that force ‘large’.” She hid a sleepy yawn with a hand. “But they sure are raring to go so early in the morning.”
The anti-imperial force was clearly running away from their enemy right now.
When the imperials charged them, they took a course down the hill and along Nördlingen’s circular wall.
Their diagonally-angled formation had not been meant to deflect the enemy.
And their sideways stance had not been for defense against the enemy.
The diagonal angle had been to take a route down and along the wall.
The sideways stance had been to place the downward slope in front of their bodies.
“From there, they only had to begin their downwards dash when the enemy began accelerating.”
They were lightweight, they were descending a slope, and…
“I imagine they have some physical buffs applied. Yes.”
Their rectangular Protestant spell circles were designed to look like Testament copies. When they were all activated at once, they produced a large light source that lit up the early-morning hill.
“Tomoe Gozen is not a nice person.”
The anti-imperials sped up and ran to avoid the enemy’s charge. Christina could see that woman raising her Testament copy hammer at the center of the group headed her way.
The hammer dully reflected the spell light and its wielder had to be smiling right now. Because…
“She is sure to spring a trap here. Yes.”
A moment later, a white beam of light swept across the top of the hill from west to east.
It was a dragon cannon.
The vanguard of the M.H.R.R. imperials saw it happen.
Their charge was dodged and, just as they were going to pursue, a giant form appeared in the previously empty western field.
“A Celestial Dragon…Bernard!”
That bluish-black form almost looked like a mountain. He rapidly joined together while dashing backwards.
He used the backwards movement to position his head and then launched a dragon cannon.
“Take evasive action!”
The entire force attempted to split to the left and right
But the attempt failed due to an obstacle at their feet.
These were the outer shells that the Protestants had worn when initially lining up.
They had removed them to lighten themselves and discarded them where they stood.
They had been left in north-south lines to avoid blocking their escape route, but they now acted as a multi-level barricade to the Catholics moving west.
Only those at the far left and right of the charging lines managed the immediate turn necessary.
The center warriors remained where they were and quickly set up defense barriers, but…
“Ahh!” shouted a member of the vanguard just before the white beam hit. “I just had a thought! Does getting hit by a dragon cannon count as an indirect kiss with the dragon?”
“You get to die first!”
All of their defense barriers shattered equally.
Bernard realized he had made the right decision.
He generally did not fall back when firing his dragon cannon. Falling back would reduce the cannon’s speed. The difference was small, but it was still best avoided.
But Bernard had chosen to do it.
…This opponent is dangerous.
The enemy unit stood about 600m ahead of him after he fell back.
He had fired his dragon cannon on the 1000 forming the vanguard.
But a further 1000 had appeared in front of them.
Someone had quickly rushed out in front of them to protect them with defense barriers and buffering spells.
“Is that Ishida Mitsunari?”
“Testament. I intervened using their mobile shells’ divine transmission links.”
There was a faint tremor in her voice. Her body was trembling too.
She broke. Most of the 1000 cracked and shattered as payment for protecting her people. He doubted even 200 remained. However…
The rescued warriors raised their voices and Ishida looked back toward them.
“I apologize, everyone. They were a step ahead of me here and I have now taken responsibility for that. It is time for you to pursue them and-”
She had not completed her command, but they replied. Those warriors who had been helpless without her protection took a step forward.
They moved past the 1000 shattered Ishidas and pointed at Bernard.
“We’ve just gotta kick that guy’s ass, right!?”
The 1000 on the vanguard shouted to the warriors behind them.
“Hey! You pursue the ones who fell back! We’ll go give that dragon a talking to!”
The others did not question it. They simply raised a hand, and…
“We’re counting on you!”
Then they turned toward the slope down.
They split apart.
But Mitsunari did not understand what she was seeing.
They were not obeying the command she had given them, but…
…This is exactly what I was about to order them to do.
“You get going, commander!”
“But,” she said hesitantly.
An effective strategy against Swarm Dragon Bernard was to instantly activate multiple versions of herself and use mutual destruction attacks. Her numbers had been reduced considerably, but a simultaneous attack from 200 of her would be effective against the Swarm Dragon since he had yet to fully recover from last time.
But a voice called out to her from those she had protected.
“Yeah,” said another one. “Listen,” he began. “Commanders generally give out their instructions and watch over it all from the back. And if their instructions don’t play out as planned, they can blame it on us warriors for not working hard enough.”
“But are you really okay with that?”
“What do you think we trained for? Even if our commander does make a mistake, we can still fight and achieve victory on our own,” said another voice.
“Testament!” chimed in yet another voice – a female one this time. “So you’re not acting like a real commander here! Instead…”
“Testament,” the all said while retaking their fighting stances in perfect unison. “Everyone, set that Celestial Dragon as your enemy so we may take responsibility for our commander’s mistake! We’ll get through this!”
“Oh, neat. Sounds like Mitsunari-kun has received her troops’ support faster than expected,” said Niwa while watching the vanguard’s charge from her position in the back.
Her own unit of 3000 was readying audio equipment and spells behind her.
“Niwa-sama, how is Ishida-sama doing?”
“She herself is excellent. I mean, Hashiba-kun personally made her and she is the cutting edge. However, she is a little too smart, which can make her timid. Plus, the other Ten Spears are also a little too good at their jobs.”
“She doubts that M.H.R.R.’s ordinary student warriors have the strength to fulfill her demands.”
“Then,” said a female student. “Is that why those warriors in white are acting like that?”
“Shaja. They’re telling her not to underestimate them and to let them do their job, but they’re also saying they want her to stick around since she’s cute. Besides, her initial instructions weren’t wrong. It’s just that the enemy chose to run away. She chose a righteous charge. No one’s going to complain about that.”
Meanwhile, sound filled the sky.
The ships floating there had opened fire.
Since the two sides had parted on the surface, the ships could target their respective enemies.
“My, my, my, my.”
The booms of cannon fire were intermittent since Nördlingen was so close by, but they were solid booms and destruction sprayed skyward where the shells hit. Niwa narrowed her eyes while taking dance steps in time with that beat. She also raised her right hand.
“Everyone, unfurl our flags. And make our preparations on Nördlingen’s northern wall.”
A few different actions were visible up in the sky.
The Musashi was approaching as a giant shadow to the east, but two other ships were speeding past it from the direction of Lake Biwa.
Those was their reinforcements. They bore the mark of Hashiba Ten Spears No. 3 indicating they were under Ishida Mitsunari’s direct command.
“Now, it’s time for us upperclassmen to give Mitsunari-kun a gift.”
A transport ship passed by overhead.
Niwa smiled bitterly upon seeing its rear hatch open.
“Okay, this might be a bit elaborate with summer break so close, but let’s take a look, shall we?”
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