Oukoku e Tsuzuku Michi

Ofuro Ashitsubo

Chapter 428

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Translator: Nat

–Aegir POV–

The right-leaning Aless of Aless sails at a snail's pace.

Fires were barely snuffed in time and smoke can still clearly be seen rising from the gun deck.

「Slowly now. Anybody who rows with power will be thrown in the river.」

I give a warning to the Aless soldiers controlling the oars.

The hole opened in the side of the s.h.i.+p by gunpowder-induced explosions was large enough that temporary repairs could not block it completely, allowing water to continue flowing in.

If we mindlessly row the oars, the flooding would increase or worse, the s.h.i.+p would sink.

「Muuu…… how can a man's s.h.i.+p crowned with the name of Aless be this weak? Can the water not be scooped out faster?」

「What if all of us drinks it up? I can finish one barrel's worth.」

「How about trusting the manly s.h.i.+p and letting us row once with all our strength?」

I throw the last guy overboard, but he somehow grabs onto a rope and hangs on.

「We won’t last much longer. Can we do it?」

I pull up the soldier I threw and kick him back to his station before questioning Sekrit.

「Wait a little more. The flags.h.i.+p is fussing about waiting for the slowpokes.」

All of us were chased deep into the cove.

After the enemy sealed the entrance, they advanced slowly while burying the seriously damaged s.h.i.+ps lagging behind.

We're truly in a desperate situation.

「I guess this is good enough…… hard to port, full speed ahead!」

「Finally!」

「Nuooooh!!」

The s.h.i.+p, which avoided turning because of the flooding, steered all the way to the left and accelerated.

「Stop the drainage of water. All personnel, come up onto the deck.」

We separate from the other s.h.i.+ps and head in a different direction.

「Even though I know what's going on, it doesn't feel good.」

With the crew stopping the expulsion of water and the increase in speed, the sinking gets worse.

At this point, sinking is inevitable. I might as well start doing warm-up exercises to prepare myself to swim.

「A little to port…… now starboard, a little…… arrgh, that's wrong! Turn to the left, then a little to the right! That's too much, now left!」

Sekrit is standing at the bow instead of the bridge, shouting detailed instructions.

Somehow, the Aless soldiers answer her demands.

The s.h.i.+p moves toward a point near the center of the cove.

Our allies have run to the edge of the coast so there are only enemies in front.

It might appear to be a desperate charge from an outsider's perspective.

Enemy cannons fire at us, but Sekrit only peeks over the bow, focused solely on the water.

After a certain point, she lifts her head and clings to the sub-mast.

「All hands, brace for impact!」

The Aless soldiers react quickly and crowd around.

From the start, the man-chair was already bound with chains, while Lott grabs onto me.

「Au……it feels like it'll go in through the underwear.」

Don't say that. You'll make me hard.

An intense shaking a.s.saults the Aless of Aless.

The deep rumbling can be felt in the pit of my stomach and the vibrations couldn't compare to the likes of cannons discharging.

We were not being bombarded. It wasn't an induced explosion either.

「Guooooooooh!」

Groans can be heard from all over and the s.h.i.+p's loses speed instantly.

The sudden stop flings everything from the back of the s.h.i.+p towards the bow.

Barrels, crates and stray cannonb.a.l.l.s collide with each other and break things that they come in contact with.

Deck cannons which were not secured properly also get lifted off the deck, nails and all.

Aless of Aless runs aground on the sandbar in the central part of the cove.

「It is a disgrace for a captain's s.h.i.+p to be grounded and I never expected to order it.」

Sekrit comments with a composed expression, her claws digging into the sub-mast.

「But this is――」

I adjust my hold on Lott, who was about to slip under my arm and fly away, and use my foot to stop a rolling Aless soldier.

If something gets stuck in the wheel of a carriage, there would be a pretty big crash and the entire thing would be stopped in an instant.

For a large battles.h.i.+p that had built up momentum, it isn't easy to stop.

A low rumbling sound is made from the hull of the Aless of Aless grinding along the river bottom, the s.h.i.+p still moving.

「Couldn't you have lowered the speed even more!?」

I yell at Sekrit with Lott in one arm and my foot pus.h.i.+ng against the Aless soldier's body.

「Not enough speed would mean only the front of the s.h.i.+p getting on land, which would cause the s.h.i.+p to flip over. On the other hand, going this fast means……look, it worked.」

The s.h.i.+p comes to a complete stop.

I let go of Lott and kick the Aless soldier's a.s.s before taking a peek.

「Haha, what an interesting sight.」

The Aless of Aless literally ran on the soft sand of the shoal and stopped.

From afar, it would look like this s.h.i.+p was on land.

「The angle and position isn't too bad. Hey, you ruffians, how long are you going to stay clinging onto that. Go back to work.」

In response to Sekrit's shout, the Aless soldiers groan in anguish.

Many of them were able to endure the impact or simply shook their heads after falling to the floor and got back up like nothing happened.

「Don't dawdle. We have enemies incoming from the right.」

We ended up in the middle of the inlet with the right side of our s.h.i.+p facing the entrance.

In addition, since we turned hard to port as soon as we ran aground, the s.h.i.+p tilted so that the entire right side was lifted up and the bottom was partially stuck in the mud.

「Right, this isn't the time to be s.p.a.cing out!」

「Here comes the enemy! We better start fighting!」

Aless soldiers collect themselves and take up their posts.

「Why did we lean the s.h.i.+p this way? It's going to be troublesome to move.」

I ask while putting Lott in a barrel and rolling her to a relatively safe storage room.

「You'll understand soon.」

Sekrit's answer came at the same time as the enemy's cannonfire.

Although the brilliant performance confused the enemy, there was no mistake that a battles.h.i.+p was just singled out.

There was no reason for them not to destroy it.

Within a few seconds, countless cannonb.a.l.l.s rained down on us.

Since we have no way of moving the s.h.i.+p, we couldn't do anything other than watch as the Aless of Aless was bombarded.

Continuous clanks from the shots landing on the s.h.i.+p were deafening and the impact from each sh.e.l.l shook our bodies.

From the number of major vibrations felt, I would guess we were hit at least 20 times.

「Damage report.」

There was no delay in the reply.

「Not much!」

Sekrit leisurely leans against the railings on the port side.

「An incline of this extent means that any incoming fire can only hit the side of the s.h.i.+p.」

The Aless of Aless was always durable and it even had its armor reinforced on the side.

It will take more than a weak volley to penetrate this defense.

「Won't they go through the gun deck?」

「Look from the deck, you can only see the sky. If they have mortars capable of high-angle fire, then it might be possible, but combat s.h.i.+ps aren't equipped with those. If they only have cannons, they'll hit the armor plating no matter how much they shoot.」

If the s.h.i.+p is tilted, then the apertures of our gun ports would be facing upward diagonally.

Cannonb.a.l.l.s that can only fly in a straight line cannot enter a diagonal hole.

「So the enemy will aim at the exposed hull.」

Booms once again roar out and crash into our s.h.i.+p――this time, instead of metallic clanging, the unpleasant sound of splintering wood reaches our ears.

What is normally below the water's surface and has no armor obviously becomes the enemy's target.

Some of the shots must have pierced through and damaged the inside of the s.h.i.+p as well.

「Usually, it would be fatal for the draft of this s.h.i.+p to be hit…… right now, it's absolutely fine.」

That's right, we won't sink no matter how much they destroy the hull.

We're not in the water after all.

「They'll probably aim here next. They'll try to smash the deck and kill the crew.」

Cannonb.a.l.l.s fly toward the deck where we're on.

Half of them hit the side of the s.h.i.+p like before and the other half fly over and off into the distance.

「Of course they're not going to hit the deck while it's tilted.」

It's slanted so far to the left that it's hard to stand upright.

There's no way they can hit us if they shoot from the starboard side.

Despite this s.h.i.+p being stranded on land, the enemy can't hit us with a decent attack.

I lean on the same railing Sekrit is on.

The enemy's cannons get louder.

That must mean they increased their power and shortened the distance.

However, the armor on the Aless of Aless isn't normal. It won't be broken so easily.

「It's not like we can do anything with our gun deck on an angle. We would have looked like idiots if they ignored us, so I'm quite pleased they gave us attention.」

「Things are fine. We'll get full marks if we can gather the enemy here.」

Unwilling to admit defeat, the enemy's cannonb.a.l.l.s tear off the sub-mast.

Because of its height, the mast inevitably gets. .h.i.t…… however, the balance of the s.h.i.+p won't be affected so it doesn't really matter.

Other damaged ally s.h.i.+ps copy our tactic of riding up onto the sand bar.

Their s.h.i.+p handling was nowhere near Sekrit's level so they could not get the s.h.i.+ps to tilt like ours, but having s.h.i.+ps that won't sink is a fairly big problem for the enemy.

You either have to shatter the deck to pieces or shoot enough times to cause multiple gunpowder-induced explosions.

I glance over at the land.

There are no towns near the inlet, only a wetland area rampant with aquatic plants.

A small green-colored kite rises from among the gra.s.s.

As I stare blankly, I hear "wa.s.shoi, wa.s.shoi" from the gun deck.

「……they're starting something unnecessary again.」

「……I incited them by saying the enemy was coming, but nothing happened.」

Sekrit looks at me and jerks her chin, urging me to come.

Don't lump me in together with them.

「That's nonsense, considering you're wearing the red cape and the single pair of underwear.」

I'm doing it unwillingly.

My clothes were thrown somewhere so I have to look inside the s.h.i.+p with the cape on.

「……idiots.」

She was at a loss for words.

Those guys grew impatient from not being shot at due to the incline and are moving cannons onto the deck.

「I can't see the enemy from being constantly shot at.」

「So we just have to move to a place we can seen them!」

Each cannon was being carried by three Aless soldiers.

The large cannons, which were basically ma.s.ses of steel, took nearly ten soldiers to lift.

This might actually be interesting.

「It's boring to wait while they shoot at us. We'll shoot back from the deck.」

「Huh? Do you know how much work it is to move cannons? And installing them on the battlefield is――」

Sekrit's voice fades as she watches the Aless soldiers carry the cannons.

「Don't install them, shoot while you carry them. I want four per cannon, three to hold it and one to light the fuse. When the enemy shoots back, move to a different spot immediately.」

A delighted "ohh" shouts back.

Before they could do anything, the s.h.i.+p shakes from the collective cannonfire from the enemy.

「Now. Go!」

A brief pause after the barrage granted the Aless soldiers time to run up the slanted deck with the cannons and push the barrels of the cannons out above the starboard railing.

「Fire!」

A few shots from the irregularly-timed cannonfire manage to land on the enemy.

「Ooh, got 'em!」

「We can do this!」

I rejoice along with the Aless soldiers.

Even though the enemy quickly fires back, we move backwards quickly and don't get hit.

「A couple of tiny s.h.i.+ps are coming this way.」

「Maybe they're coming to set us on fire since we can't move.」

「Blow them away.」

After loading the cannon, the Aless soldiers relocate.

This time, the point the cannons downward and fire at the enemy barely approaching the sand bar.

「Alright, we did it! But there's a big one coming.」

「Let's greet them with the big cannons.」

Aless soldiers run around the deck with cannons in their arms, poke their heads out and fire.

n.o.body seems to be having trouble with the slanted ground. Since people are s.h.i.+fting the cannons, the angle and direction of fire can be changed at will.

「Amazing. Do as you please. Don't overthink things.」

Sekrit couldn't help heaping praise on their hard work.

During all that, the color of the kite changes to yellow.

While watching out for the reef, the enemy advances deeper into the cove.

It appears they don't want to match us in a shootout anymore.

「They'll circle around soon.」

「Yeah.」

Although the Aless soldiers were able to shock and deal some damage to the enemy, it doesn't change the fact that the Aless of Aless can't move.

Aiming at us from the starboard side won't work, but if they move to the port side, we're a non-moving target.

If they blast the upper part of the s.h.i.+p where there is no armor, the s.h.i.+p will eventually be destroyed or explode.

「And that would seal Ivanna's fate.」

Ivanna is trying to reorganize what little of the ally s.h.i.+ps remain, but her forces are only one fourth the size of the enemy's.

Not to mention they're cornered and can't do any complicated maneuvers.

It's a hopeless situation.

「We're reaching our limit here.」

Just in case, I order the Aless soldiers to bring one cannon and point it to the unmanned area…… the wetland area lush with water weeds.

It turns out I didn't have to give a fruitless order, the yellow kite returns to the ground and a red kite flies in its place.

「They're here.」

Sekrit tenses her abs and raises her body up from the railings she was leaning against.

「Finally.」

d.a.m.n Leopolt.

I was really getting worried since there are two females' lives on the line here.

We are in the dead-center of the cove, on the sand bar where s.h.i.+ps cannot pa.s.s.

The front of the enemy fleet is in the middle of the inlet and the end of their queue has also completely entered the bay.

Our ally fleet is located on the edge of the sh.o.r.e…… the perfect position.

「It's coming.」

Sekrit and I watch the enemy with a strange sense of antic.i.p.ation like we were watching a thrilling opera.

Aless soldiers are running around, creating a lot of noise, but I understand that theatres also have annoying guests as well.

There was a low-pitched thump.

I'm certain that was from a cannon, although I can't tell purely from the sound.

That was just how far it was.

「5, 6, 7, 8, 9…… that's pretty far.」

Sekrit is counting how long it takes for the sh.e.l.l to land…… or basically, measuring the range of the cannon, and she was quite surprised at the result.

The large enemy s.h.i.+p at the very front was. .h.i.t.

There was a mix of destructive sounds and then multiple explosions…… in mere seconds, what followed those heterogeneous noises was the forward tipping of the s.h.i.+p's bow into the water and the eventual sinking of the s.h.i.+p.

「It pierced through the armor plating, destroyed the hull, then ignited oil or gunpowder…… all it took was one shot.」

Sekrit's eyes narrow.

That was the prelude to the barrage that was to come.

The attack was extremely accurate yet powerful enough to split medium and small s.h.i.+ps in half, and even destroy or sink larger s.h.i.+ps too.

As the enemy s.h.i.+ps pa.s.s by us, we hear yelling coming from the crew.

They don't have the luxury to care about us anymore.

「Asalus, disabled! Purango, sunk! Tsulark, heavily damaged! What is this!? What's going on!?」

「We're obviously being bombarded! Look at the splashes created…… I've never seen any cannon like this. The strength of the sh.e.l.ls are also strange…… look! They go right through to the other side even though they hit the armor plating!」

「More importantly, find out where they're shooting from! The smoke is coming from…… land? ……s.h.i.+t, they set us up!!」

That's right, this is a trap.

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The shadows near the plants belong to my army who have readied all of their cannons.

Ultimately, the enemy lost over 90% of their forces and can be considered annihilated.

Our plan was a success and now we can meet up with Erich's main army without worry of being threatened by the enemy from behind.

――After the battle.

An enemy battles.h.i.+p slowly sinks into the water.

This particular s.h.i.+p managed to break free alone after a fierce exchange of cannonfire with the pursuing Suvorov, but was eventually shot in the draft and was about exhaust the rest of its energy.

As the s.h.i.+p continues to tilt to the right, it eventually falls onto its side.

Many soldiers jumped into the river from the deck, but they were unfortunately outside of the cove.

Fatigued and weak from the tiring battle, the enemy soldiers had no strength to resist the current and sank under the water.

n.o.body thought about risking their lives to save others.

This was their fate.

Nevertheless, some of them survive and flow to where we are.

At the brink of total exhaustion, they can't struggle or run away.

Standing in front of them was Sekrit.

She happily detached her prosthetic arm, and hesitated for a brief moment before choosing to equip the arm capable of gripping objects.

She raises a sword and swings it down on the enemy soldier who is on the verge of tears――

「Hey now.」

I grab her right arm.

「Mmn.」

An Aless soldier grabs her left arm.

「……what is the meaning of this? Let go.」

「There's no point in killing them needlessly.」

I'm also tired and in no mood to fight.

「It is not manly to kill those who are prostrating on the ground in defeat.」

The Aless soldier puffs out his chest.

At that moment, the enemy soldier lets out a plea in a weak voice.

「D-dammit…… there's no hope―― for the 200 people still onboard the s.h.i.+p. Alex……Missa……」

I take away Sekrit's sword and wrap my arm around the man's shoulder.

「Is Missa the name of a woman? Women are on that s.h.i.+p? Answer me.」

In a few more minutes, the s.h.i.+p will completely vanish beneath the water.

I slap the man's cheek a couple times.

「Ebh, gabh…… yeah, about 50 are left――」

I immediately leave the man's side and call out to the Aless soldiers.

「Let's go. It can't be helped if enemy soldiers die, but saving women is what men do.」

「「Oooh!!」」

I jump into the river, followed closely by the Aless soldiers.

Several minutes later, we returned with all the women on the s.h.i.+p and a handful of men.

「……uu, we're saved.」

「…… but now we're prisoners.」

Despite being sailors, the females were worn out and couldn't swim, so we put them in barrels with ropes attached to them and pulled them along to the sh.o.r.e.

「Look at all those men…… they look barbaric…… we're definitely going to be violated.」

「Umu, that's for sure. But we'll save you.」

The Aless soldier gives an honest answer.

「Aah…… I knew it.」

「It still doesn't guarantee our lives.」

Bobbing up and down in the barrels, the women resolve themselves.

By the time I reached the coast, Sekrit was nowhere to be found.

I wonder if she's sulking about what I did.

Trying to find her so I can follow up, I happen to see her standing in front of an enemy vessel.

It appears like they surrendered quickly and, as a result, didn't suffer any noticeable damage. Aside from the captain, everybody had abandoned their weapons.

A win by capitulation? If Sekrit tries to kill them, I have to stop her.

Just when I thought she was about to attack, a man suddenly steps forward and kneels before her.

「Hm?」

Something doesn't feel right.

It's not rare for the side who yielded to kneel to their opponents.

However, that man didn't seem to pay attention to anyone except Sekrit.

She was urged by the man to move behind a patch of aquatic plants.

Things are still hectic so n.o.body made any note of their movement.

I was the only one who kept a close eye on them.

「――」

The man seems to be telling Sekrit something.

「What is he saying……?」

In response, Sekrit scoffed mockingly.

Unlike the previous instance, she didn't seem to show signs of cutting him down.

I get closer.

「It's been too long―― general. I am extremely delighted―― to meet on this occasion.――」

「I don't―― who you are――?」

I only hear broken pieces. It seems the man has an interest in Sekrit.

A smile forms on my face.

I know she's beautiful, but it's unheard of to seduce someone after surrendering to them.

The next moment, my smile froze over.

「――doc.u.ment from―― addressed directly――」

「――nes. Kuku, what a nostalgic name――」

Sekrit walks up to the man and s.n.a.t.c.hes the letter from him.

I didn't expect her to accept it.

「He doesn't know when to give up―― connection from the past―――― go ahead.」

「It's an honor―――― happy to―――― next week.」

On top of accepting the letter, she even agreed to the next promise.

What does she mean by connection from the past? My mind is going really fast and I can't think properly.

One final blow was delivered.

「――――oh right, Rehercles.」

Sekrit calls the man by his name.

She said it smoothly, almost like she was familiar with it.

「I no longer have any doubts.」

I look at the man's face again.

He appears to be in his thirties and is keeping his back straight unlike the other prisoners.

「……he's a handsome one too.」

Gido has recently gotten really cheeky and been called handsome many times too, but he doesn't compare to this man.

As a man, I have to admit that he's got a nice face.

「A clandestine meeting…… a promise to cheat?」

My hand b.a.l.l.s into a fist.

It would be easy for me to step in uninvited and sentence the man with my authority.

However, that would be pathetic of me.

I wouldn't be able to regain Sekrit's heart either.

I have to show her how much better I am than him.

「――looking forward―― next week―――― tell him.」

I can't help it if Sekrit wants to meet with such a handsome man.

It's my fault that she even had that thought. If a woman gets stolen, it is due to a man's worthlessness.

「But I can take her back.」

If something is stolen, I only have to steal it back.

I'll show her my charm and prove that I'm the superior man.

I'll seduce Sekrit in front of him and pummel his handsome face…… no, I'll have pa.s.sionate s.e.x in front of him.

「I'm not going to lose. This is a man's battle.」

I renew my determination and head to where the rescued women are so I can restore my energy.

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