「We won, we won! What a trifling bunch!」
The Aless soldiers return after boarding the enemy ship.
We didn’t notice since we were also fighting, but they cleaned up their side in a mere ten minutes.
Enemy corpses overflowed from the decks of those two ships on either side of us.
Some bodies were hanging over the gun deck and many others were floating on the water.
They were completely annihilated.
「You made quick work of them. Impressively done.」
Although leaving Sekrit and I to jump on the enemy ship is unacceptable, I’ll at least give them credit for what they achieved.
「It’s nothing worth praising. Honestly, it was a little sad to hunt such small fry.」
「It would be like bullying the weak unless the enemy trains a little more.」
Hearty laughter accompanies the crowd of muscles.
I guess they really had an easy time, since none of them were injured heavier than a few scratches.
Despite being fed up with them, Sekrit also recognized their accomplishments.
When she patted the shoulder of a nearby soldier in appreciation, she immediately scrunched up her face and wiped her hand.
I can’t blame her, since their bodies are covered in sweat and oil. They don’t really bathe either, so they really stink.
「I thought we could capture some more ships, but it doesn’t look like we have the luxury.」
Sekrit says as she checks her surroundings.
「Dispose of the boarding towers. We can’t afford to conduct boarding battles from now on. We need to maximize our mobility.」
She thought the Aless soldiers would complain, but they didn’t say anything.
「Look around you. We won, but our allies are in danger.」
None of the Aless soldiers interject.
「From here on out, we can’t do anything stupid. I’ve seen how you guys fight. Now, it’s time for me to show you how I fight.」
Only a short “ooh” was heard in response.
「Hard to port. Match the timing and speed of the front of the flagship. All cannons, be ready to fire.」
A quick reply was given and then the bow tilts.
The Suvorov slows down in surprise, but the two ships line up neatly without crashing.
Ivanna seemed surprised for a second, then became angry about something on the bridge.
「……if you could do it, then do it from the beginning.」
She’s probably saying the same thing Sekrit is saying now.
Anyways, we’ll be fighting in Sekrit’s style instead of Aless’s brute force style.
The Suvorov leads the charge while the Aless of Aless follows closely behind.
Normally, large combat ships would be further in front and the sides would be fortified by medium to small ships, but ordering them to rally together in such a chaotic fight would be a foolish move.
「So what, we can rampage if we have two battleships. As long as we have proper command, that is.」
Sekrit smiles fearlessly.
I step back and sit on top of a damaged crate.
「They’re coming from the front. Two large ships.」
In contrast to our vertical formation, the enemy approaches side-by-side.
「Don’t fire the bow cannons. Our vision will worsen.」
Since we’re in the line of fire, the Suvorov naturally won’t shoot, and neither will we.
Most of the cannons are located in the gun deck…… in other words, the side of the ship, which means they can’t be used against an enemy in front.
Although the bow cannons and deck cannons can be fired, we only have four bow cannons whereas the deck cannons, while numerous, are not big or powerful enough to hurt large combat ships. In fact, the resulting smoke from the cannons would obstruct our field of view and risk allowing the enemy to take advantage.
「No need to forcibly keep them in check. This captain is an amateur.」
I also smile, understanding the reason.
Despite probably not knowing, the Aless soldiers smile regardless.
If the enemy sandwiches us, their firepower would be halved.
On the other hand, we can use the cannons on both sides of our ships, since we’re lined up head to tail.
Their strategy might work on smaller ships, but not against two battleships.
Sure enough, the enemy splits off to either side of us and tries to surround our two ships.
As soon as our broadsides face each other―― the cannons roar.
In an instant, the collective volley of dozens of cannons blows out enough smoke to cover Sekrit who is right in front of me.
I feel the vibrations from several enemy cannons hitting their mark.
Then, I hear the sounds of metal crashing, wood splintering and those fragments raining down.
「Don’t slow down.」
After a few seconds, the pure white scenery clears up like it was never there.
Our ship sails forward, passing through the smoke.
「Multiple side plating lost. Slight flooding on the starboard side, one cannon damaged!」
That’s close to no damage.
「Confirm the hits.」
Sekrit orders for someone to climb the mast.
Answering the call was an Aless soldier on the smaller side, at 180 cm and 100 kg.
「Both ships were heavily damaged and are sinking. Wait, fire is coming out of one…… woah!」
Before the follow-up report could finish, the ship exploded.
「What about the flagship?」
「They seem to be fine.」
The Suvorov appears from the sea of white and black clouds.
One of the masts is tilted and smoke is rising from the deck, but the ship doesn’t seem to have suffered serious damage.
「Based on the response felt from launch, about half hit their target. Why couldn’t you do this in the beginning!?」
Sekrit bellows at the gun deck.
「「Got used to it!」」
That’s how it is.
「One enemy large ship, port side. Three medium ships and two small ships, starboard.」
「Hard to starboard.」
Sekrit steers the ship to the right without sending any signals to Ivanna.
This meant the Suvorov would be on our left now.
「The Suvorov specializes in artillery warfare. It’s weak to mobs of small ships.」
This time, the deck cannons and bow cannons were fired.
Two shots landed on a medium ship, starting a small fire.
「This ship was also originally geared towards artillery, but――」
The sail was closed and oars extended out into the water.
While the left oars didn’t move, the right side rowed diligently, turning the ship left.
「Their crew is made up of idiots so it doesn’t matter if they board.」
A medium-sized ship circles around to the vulnerable rear of our ship and enters the sights of our broadside cannons in the process.
The ship captain screams until his face turns blue, desperately trying to steer away, however, it was too late.
Our cannons focus on that ship’s stern, blowing off the end, which ultimately drags the rest of the ship into the water.
「Because of how sturdy the armor is, the ship is strong at close range.」
One of the remaining mid-sized ships rains down cannonfire from our right as we slow down.
Despite multiple shots landing from the close distance, most of it is concentrated on our hull plating and bounces off.
「And more importantly――」
Now, we turn in the opposite direction…… the ship rapidly tilting to the right.
Although the small ship approaching from the right hurries out of the way, they cannot match the rowing speed of the Aless soldiers and our ship runs them over.
「The talent possessed by me and Ivanna as captains is on a different level.」
We rush into the smoke left by our own cannons.
We immediately turn again…… and see a medium and small ship waiting for us past the smoke.
They start turning their ships way too late.
Our merciless cannonfire incapacitates the medium-sized ship with a large blaze, while the small ship was split in two parts and sinks.
I look over and see Ivanna still engaging the enemy’s large combat ship.
「Hmph, you can’t finish them off when it’s 1 vs 1?」
Sekrit grins as she turns the bow in their direction.
The ship sails toward the enemy ship fighting the Suvorov from the opposite direction.
Determining that two battleships is too much to handle, the enemy tries to put some distance between us, but Ivanna doesn’t allow that and blocks the path, sandwiching the enemy ship.
Sekrit and Ivanna must have spoken at the same time.
The Aless of Aless and Suvorov shot their cannons at the same time, blowing holes all over the enemy ship and destroying it, sending it slowly under the water.
Sekrit taunts Ivanna with a Federation-style salute, who reacts by turning her head away in a huff.
「Things are looking good.」
We’re one-sidedly burying enemies without taking any damage ourselves.
「No, we’re just getting started.」
Sekrit points to where ally ships can be seen burning and sinking one after the other.
「Two battleships, two large ships, 10 medium ships…… they’re coming.」
The enemy advances in three rows.
「I want to say it’s foolish, but I can’t. Considering the number of cannons, they’ll win if we’re surrounded.」
Sekrit instructs the crew to turn the ship right, avoiding a direct confrontation.
Similarly, Ivanna also turns her ship right to avoid being separated.
Nevertheless, the enemy tries to force us apart and changes direction accordingly.
When that happens, the enemy naturally turns their bows to us, while our broadsides are facing them.
Again, we shoot our cannons at the same time as Ivanna.
We each aimed at a different mid-sized ship leading the charge.
Splinters explode from the ship hit by the Suvorov and it falls out of line.
Meanwhile, the ship we hit turns onto its side, its mast broken, and sinks.
The Aless soldiers cheer.
Don’t they have better accuracy than a Federation ship?
I glance over at Ivanna and she’s using her hands to make the shape of something long.
My first thought was a penis, but it was actually the barrel of a long cannon―― in other words, she’s trying to say that she has the advantage because of her larger cannons. It’s cute that she’s such a sore loser.
Sekrit doesn’t have time to fool around with Ivanna.
The enemy’s bow cannons and deck cannons fire together.
Although each individual ship had a small number of bow cannons, with almost 20 ships, that total isn’t any different from how many cannons we have.
Some shots fall in the water and raise pillars, while others hit and shake our ship.
Even in the face of raining cannonballs, Sekrit doesn’t move from the bridge.
「Sekrit, you’ll get hit if you stand there.」
A shell happens to land close to the bow and destroys a deck cannon, sending broken shards flying, one of which grazes Sekrit’s cheek and stabs into the wall behind her.
Blood trickles down her brown skin.
「If the bridge receives a direct hit, then that’s that. What good is it to be afraid of death on the battlefield?」
Sekrit licks the dripping blood and swings her arm.
Multiple cannons fire back and hit the ship that destroyed one of our deck cannons, forcing it to abandon its advance and turn away.
What a gutsy woman.
We manage to stay ahead of the enemy and an evenly-matched artillery battle unfolds against a large number of enemies.
One unexpected shot would break the balance.
The enemy battleship forcibly steers in front, firing from its gun ports.
Facing 30 shots is terrifying, but they’re pretty far away and the angle of fire is already as far as they can adjust it, so the collective volley scatters over a wide area, and 29 cannonballs fall in completely different places to where they were aimed.
However, there was still one more. Like it was being sucked in, that cannonball landed directly in the middle of the Aless of Aless and drops at the base of our main mast.
The resulting vibrations were unlike those before, throwing Sekrit off her feet and bringing me down on one knee.
Debris flies every which way, and several Aless soldiers either fall over onto the deck or fall overboard.
「Kuh, we got hit by the battleship!?」
Sekrit gets up, slightly shaken herself.
There was no response from the lookout on top of the mast.
Instead, she was given cries from the soldiers running all over the deck.
「Our main mast is gone…… it’s going to fall!!」
It sounded like the trunk of a large tree being snapped.
The main mast could not hold its own weight with its base destroyed and slowly tips over, pulling up parts of the deck it was installed in.
What’s most dangerous about the collapse of a mast is the capsizing of the ship from the imbalance and the destruction of the hull by the falling mast.
We’re facing the worst case where the mast snapped at the bottom and is tipping down toward the bow.
At this rate, the Aless of Aless will end up seriously damaged.
I start running to the mast.
「Everyone, follow me!」
I grab the falling mast while shouting.
The broken mast is useless.
However, I can catch it and throw it in the river to save the ship’s hull from being destroyed.
「You’re crazy. How many tons do you think it weighs!?」
It must be heavier than a whole house.
That’s too much for me to carry.
「Help the man out!」
「It’s time to display our honed muscles!」
Fortunately, we have a few hundred Aless soldiers on board.
One after the other, they add their hands to the mast. Still, the falling mast doesn’t show any signs of stopping.
I exert as much force as I can muster.
As the Aless soldiers run out of room on the mast, they support their fellow soldiers by holding up their waists and backs.
Regardless of our effort, it was still falling.
It seemed to be moving somewhat slower though.
Shouts resound and the Aless soldiers line up at the bow where the mast is falling.
There was a boom and crash.
The huge mast collapses.
A loud crack could be heard.
That would be from the feet of the Aless soldiers sinking into the wooden planks of the deck from the downward force.
Even Aless soldiers let out struggling groans.
I can clearly hear their muscles bulging and tearing.
My own arm is reaching its limit too.
Yet, no Aless soldier gives up.
None of them take away their hands.
At my order, the fallen mast is thrown into the river, making an enormous splash.
Since Sekrit didn’t say it, I shouted it out for her.
「Mast destroyed…… multiple footprints left on the deck. A man’s footprint!」
Laughter spills out.
The Aless soldiers answered in sync.
「Alright, back to your stations!」
Somehow, we avoided a fatal situation.
I return to the bridge and check in with Sekrit.
「That was close.」
She silently scoots over to me.
「How deep are you going to make me fall in love with you?」
She drags her tongue from my sweaty chest up to my neck and then leaves a bite on my nape.
「Turn the ship, to port――!」
Sekrit suddenly pushes away from me.
When the fight’s over, I’ll be in trouble.
We better win.
The Aless of Aless lost its mast, but the oars of the Aless soldiers can generate enough speed, so we’re not in too much trouble.
Sekrit and Ivanna show off their skillful ship handling after that to defeat more enemies.
「Starboard, fire! ……turn quickly!」
I even witnessed a stunt where our ship first fired at the large enemy ship from the starboard side, then used its oars to rapidly change direction and fire its cannons from the port side to sink the enemy before they could fire back.
As Ivanna toyed with the enemy similarly, a small combat ship manages to get close enough to toss gunpowder-filled barrels onto her ship.
It caused a pretty big explosion.
The crew of the Suvorov were highly skilled though.
It didn’t take long for them to extinguish the fire and keep damage to the hull to a minimum.
「That gave me a scare.」
I breathe a sigh of relief, whereas Sekrit grits her teeth.
「No, it’s not over―― that stupid woman.」
Suddenly, the Suvorov picks up speed.
It seems they are giving chase to the small ship.
The ship is accelerating as it fires its deck cannons frenetically.
In spite of that, the small ship doesn’t get hit.
The enemy vessel zigzags well enough to avoid the barrage and returns back to a group of fellow ships.
Even so, the Suvorov doesn’t stop.
It charges into the enemy ships while firing its broadside cannons.
No regard is given to our movements.
The deck wasn’t the only thing on fire, Ivanna herself was on fire.
「Not good, they’re going alone. We have to provide support.」
「No, we won’t make it.」
Sekrit gives orders to a soldier manning a cannon rather than someone rowing the oars.
「Aim at the Suvorov. Try as much as possible to hit them in the side……well, it can’t be helped if the bridge gets hit.」
I unconsciously raise my voice, but Sekrit settles me down with a glance.
Two deck cannons shoot at the ally ship.
One shot lands in the water, barely not reaching the stern, and the other hits the desired target right in the side.
The effect was immediate.
Suvorov’s signaler furiously waved red flags, prompting the ship to slowly decelerate and return to its original course.
「You remember how I won against that woman, right?」
I didn’t think Ivanna would have such a short temper.
The Suvorov lines up beside us. Ivanna continuously swings her sword on the bridge.
It seems she wants to shoot back at us, but a subordinate wisely binds her arms back.
「What’s our situation looking like?」
We rampage about and almost one-sidedly sink enemies.
I also see our allies engaging enemy ships in other areas.
We dealt a major blow to the enemy fleet, reducing their fighting strength to about half.
However, less than one third of our forces remain.
「Our numbers were different to begin with. I knew that it would be impossible to annihilate the fleet.」
We advance forward again.
Ally ships start to gather around us, either to come to our aid or perhaps to run away from the enemy.
A fierce artillery battle develops centered on Ivanna’s Suvorov.
Enemies sink and allies burn.
A large ally ship blows up and sinks, then a small enemy ship gets split in half.
An enemy boat sets an ally ship on fire with gunpowder, but collides with the Suvorov in the process and shatters to pieces.
Eventually, the end of the chaotic surface battle could be seen.
「Explosion on the Suvorov――!!」
It was an especially loud damage report.
When I turned my head, I saw the entire bow of the Suvorov engulfed in flames.
Judging by its intensity, it isn’t a normal fire.
Sekrit doesn’t panic, only furrowing her brow slightly.
「The gunpowder in the gun deck ignited…… it won’t be fatal. The explosion was small and the fire hasn’t spread much. It won’t become a big deal if extinguished properly. What’s actually bad is――」
A whoosh of wind cuts her sentence short and a cannonball flies into the gun deck of the Aless of Aless.
The sound of splintering metal and wood I became so accustomed to followed a few seconds later.
Flames flicker out from the gun deck.
「Nuooo! There’s fire!」
「This is bad! The barrel of gunpowder will――」
Vibrations from the explosion transmit down to my stomach. The fire seems to grow larger.
「――what’s actually bad is a fire in the gun deck! Put the fire out――!!」
I felt two more shocks.
This is seriously bad…… the fire induced secondary explosions.
「Uooooh! The side of the ship broke! Water is coming in!」
「There’s too much. I can’t scoop it out!」
A shot from an enemy cannon hit us in a crucial area, which created a fire that ignited the gunpowder.
Additional explosions blew a big hole in the starboard side, allowing water to rush in.
「Ignore the flooding for now and extinguish the fire first. If our gunpowder storage catches fire, the entire ship will explode!」
Sekrit isn’t fooling around anymore.
In the meantime, the Aless of Aless starts to tilt as more water fills the ship.
Fortunately, we somehow successfully put out the fire, however, the ship has greatly lost its speed and mobility due to the flooding.
Because of the hole in the starboard side, we can’t steer right anymore.
We can’t do anything to adjust the cannons’ sights either.
「……this is it, I guess.」
Sekrit gazes sadly up at the sky.
I nod, reluctant to accept the facts.
「Move on to phase two.」
Sekrit and I smile at each other, then she points to the east coast of the river.
「Change course, head for that inlet!」
The Aless of Aless crawls slowly into the cove, the ship leaning greatly to the right.
Other burning and sinking ally ships follow behind us.
Although the Suvorov was capable of fighting and persevered for some time, it began to tilt from the concentrated fire to its broadside and similarly joined the rest of our ships as they made their way to the inlet. Now, all of our allies have turned their backs to the enemy.
The wind carries the enemy’s cheers to my ears.
Entering the cove, which was undoubtedly a dead end, meant there was nowhere to escape.
Certain that we couldn’t run away, the enemy took their time to reorganize their ships in a neat line before chasing.
It’s time to end this.
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