「We got hit.」
My ears are still ringing as I brush the garbage off my body.
I’m fine with the wood splinters and metal chips…… the eyeball though, is gross.
「Since the captain died, the command goes to the lieutenant captain……」
I guess the owner of that eyeball was the ship captain.
He was probably hit directly by the cannon and blown into pieces.
「Press down on the wounds! Stop the blood!」
「Carry him inside! Don’t jostle him!」
The lieutenant captain is not conscious either and disappears after the medics transport him away.
Obviously, there’s no way he can take command.
「W-what about the chief navigator……」
「Row as if your life depended on it! We’re slowly falling behind the fleet! The angle of the cannons…… eei, I’ll do it myself!!」
The middle-aged man who appears to be the chief navigator yells with enough force for blood to be coughed up.
「Enemy ship to the right! Shoot at maximum speed and keep them at bay! Deck cannon, you’ve missed the past three shots!」
While the chief gunner scolds his subordinates, he also runs around carrying cannonballs and gunpowder.
「If responsibility cannot be assigned to the chief navigator or the chief gunner, then the ship’s chief secretary―― wait, me!?」
The female officer who had been trying to look for a replacement captain stands on the bridge on the verge of tears.
「Enemies to the right and from the front and back…… our allies are drifting away ahead of us…… speed is……」
As the female secretary tries to grasp the situation, her entire body shakes.
I can tell the situation is bad without looking at her tear-stricken face.
Our chain of command was destroyed in just one shot and the Dolta, whose helm had turned in another direction, was being left by our ally fleet.
Because of the wasted movements during the passing of the enemy from the side, ships are wrapping around in front and behind us.
Above all, the enemy battleship is quickly approaching from the right with its cannons firing furiously.
「If I don’t do it…… alright!」
The female officer slaps her cheeks and steels herself.
And then, Sekrit steps in, throwing the girl to the back.
「The captain and lieutenant captain are incapacitated, so Lord Hardlett will take command in this emergency situation.」
Sekrit declares in a voice that cuts through the tumultuous noise of battle.
The chief navigator and the chief gunner were taken aback and looked at me blankly, but Sekrit yells before they could object.
「Put away only the oars on the left side, then turn hard to starboard, steer the ship 90 degrees to the right. Broadside cannons on standby, deck cannons be ready to fire at the closest enemy at anytime, aim only at the sails.」
She shouts while pulling my arm until I’m standing where the ship captain was.
「Change course 90 degrees to the right!? We’d be going straight into the middle of the enemy……」
「We’re not firing the broadside cannons!? Wouldn’t that invite the enemy to board……」
「I mean, the normal hierarchy when the ship captain dies is――」
Sekrit pats my back when the sailors complain.
She must want me, someone with substantial status, to take the place of the captain while she essentially commands behind the scenes.
I should go along with her.
「Do you think it’s productive to whine while the captain’s role is vacant? Just shut up and obey, it’s better than nothing.」
I don’t know what Sekrit’s intentions are either, but I back her up confidently while staring at the crew.
The middle-aged chief navigator is still reluctant.
After an intimidating roar, they hesitantly listen.
「Hard to starboard――! Turn 90 degrees to the right!」
The chief navigator’s voice resounds.
It looks like they’ll carry out their duties properly.
As expected of Federation soldiers.
Dolta’s hull tilts and the bow slowly swings to the right…… in other words, the boat will travel in a straight line toward the enemy battleship.
The lowered oars on the right side provide resistance that allows the ship to steer sharply, even at low speeds.
With this, we have the battleship in front and both large and small combat ships on either side of us.
Our ally fleet is far away.
「D-don’t do anything on your own! I am replacing the captain――」
As the woman stands up and protests, Sekrit hands something to her.
That is probably a part of the captain’s brain.
「You, go sprinkle water and sand on the deck. Blood and oil are slippery.」
In tears, the woman fetches a bucket with water and begins splashing it on the floor.
「So, what’s the meaning of getting right in front of that huge thing? I personally don’t want to take another hit from it.」
I lean against the broken railing.
The blast from the cannon made a mess of things on the ship, but fortunately, most of the superstructure has not been affected.
Sekrit looks to the left and right, then at the approaching enemy ship.
「What the late captain said was not wrong. Their cannons are subpar, so the hull of this ship should be able to withstand a few hits.」
She points her gloved prosthetic arm at the enemy battleship.
「The one exception is that. It’s on a different level in terms of range and firepower.」
The battleship happens to fire its cannon at that moment.
The cannonball passes over our heads and lands way behind us, the impact raising up a pillar of water.
「With large revolving cannons on the deck and about…… 50 or 60 broadside cannons, it’s an artillery-based battleship whose design philosophy is distinct from other ships. It’s clearly constructed with the Empire models in mind…… judging from the angle of fire, the cannons it has are similar to ours. I don’t know where they could have gotten them from.」
I see, so that battleship is going to be formidable.
「Then things are getting worse for us if we charge straight at it. Didn’t you also say not to do so?」
Sekrit smiles delightfully.
「Of course it’s bad. But we’ve already entered its range. If we try to change course now and run away, we’ll get blown to smithereens by the broadside cannons――lower the oars, full speed ahead.」
The Dolta accelerates toward the enemy battleship.
「However, there are only two of its cannons aimed at the front. Not to mention it’s cruising at high speed so we don’t get away. They won’t be able to shift their cannons and fix their aim.」
By this time, the ships closing in from the left and right have started to fire their cannons.
Cannonballs rain down from both sides, with more than a few shots hitting the Dolta.
Sure enough, it was as Sekrit said, and the hull plating on the Dolta repelled the attacks.
On the rare occasion that a cannonball hit the deck, only a handful of sailors were blown away, which wasn’t a big loss.
「The deck is dirty again. Sprinkle the sand and water properly. Use a tub and pick up the torn limbs.」
The chief secretary is also contributing greatly.
「Turn the rudder to match the battleship. Whatever you do, don’t turn expose the side of the ship…… slightly to port…… then, slightly to starboard.」
The pressure emitted by Sekrit was enough to force the confused sailors to obey her orders.
Since both of our ships were heading at each other, the distance was eliminated quickly.
During that span of time, the enemy battleship fired several times, but all of them missed us just like Sekrit predicted.
「Even though the front has a blindspot, they’ll eventually hit us if their gunner is skilled. If not, we’re in luck…… fire.」
Dolta’s deck cannons shoot back.
I guess our gunners are skilled since they accurately captured their targets, but the hull of the enemy ship prevented any major damage.
「I thought so. We only have a few small cannons on the deck. To hurt a battleship of that size…… we would need the longer cannons installed on the side. Anything else would only tickle.」
「I don’t really get it, but it seems like we also need to somehow get them on our side.」
It’s going to be a hard task.
Currently, the reason the enemy battleship is confronting us is because we made such an effort to turn and circle around the enemies trying to face their sides toward us.
If we change course, the enemy will do the same.
And then we’ll become like tattered rags.
「Leave that to me. Hey, bring me an axe.」
Sekrit jerks her chin at the female officer frantically scrubbing the blood off the deck.
To my surprise, she runs off obediently, maybe because her heart has finally broken.
The enemy battleship drastically minimizes the space between us.
「Enemy battleship is not turning! They’re going to crash into us!」
The chief navigator yells.
「Enemy battleship is not firing its cannons either!」
The chief gunner shouts.
「Yeah, I didn’t think they would.」
Both of our ships have already built up a considerable amount of momentum.
If we can no longer turn around and run, and we don’t intend to crash, the only choice left is to veer off slightly and scrape past.
「Right side cannons, get ready to fire. All hands, prepare for impact!」
The enemy battleship will likely try to use that moment of passing by to fire all their broadside cannons at us from close range.
「Is this the time……」
「We’re right next to the battleship…… Oh God……」
Sailors on our side have the same idea.
They close their eyes and curse while still fulfilling their own roles.
When the Dolta was close enough to the enemy battleship to touch it……that was when it happened.
「Drop the anchor!!」
Everyone could not believe what they heard, but the ship secretary, pressured by the intensity of her voice, reflexively pulled the lever.
The heavy object stored on the left of the ship’s bow was dropped into the water.
「Uwa, everyone grab onto something!!」
「Dropping anchor at full speed? Is she joking!?」
Sailors scramble to hold onto the mast or fences.
I also look around for something to hang onto, but find nothing.
In an instant, the Dolta rapidly decelerates and the ship makes a left turn as the stern swivels to the right.
White-crested waves crash against the side of the ship as the vessel changes course at a speed usually impossible to turn at.
The violent motion of being thrown about the river, assaults those on board.
Sailors desperately cling onto the boat while things not secured to the deck get flung off.
The female officer was also about to fall overboard, but Sekrit, who was calmly holding onto a rope, catches her.
Even after all that’s happened, she’ll still save her…… it warms my heart, but I wipe out on the deck and hit my head on a barrel filled with sand.
I look in front of me as I hold my hurting head.
Our broadside turns to face the enemy battleship at close range.
Sekrit interrupts the chief gunner as he shouts and throws an axe in my direction.
「Cut the chain――now!」
I don’t know what that will do, but time is of the essence.
I raise the axe given to me and swing it down with all my might at the thick chain.
It must have been cut or smashed apart, as after that one strike, a loud clang resounds and the linked metal rings severed and disappeared into the water.
「He cut off the anchor in one swing……?」
「His strength is out of this world……」
I give the shocked sailors a sidelong glance as the Dolta, which was pulled left by the anchor, tilts in the opposite direction from the recoil.
When the angle of the hull tipped as far to the right as it could, Sekrit roared.
「Right broadside cannons, fire all cannons!!」
Dolta’s cannons blow fire.
With the ship’s hull diagonal and the cannons angled downward, the launched cannonballs were barely able to focus on the waterline of the bow of the enemy battleship.
Countless splashes and wood splinters spray everywhere accompanied by loud explosions.
「Deploy the oars, full speed ahead.」
The Dolta quickly lowers its oars and increases speed.
「Will we make it……」
Cold sweat drips down the forehead of the chief navigator.
The Dolta’s speed was reduced to pretty much zero after the trick with the anchor.
Comparatively, the enemy battleship should be close to full speed.
There was a high chance for us to be rammed in the side.
Sekrit breathed out as some sailors nervously closed their eyes.
「That part relied on luck…… but it looks like we won.」
The corners of her mouth curl up as she stares at the enemy battleship.
Not prepared to crash either, the enemy battleship drastically slows down.
「We concentrated fire on their waterline during their full speed cruise. I’m sure water will flood in dramatically.」
As the battleship decelerates, it also tips to the left.
Water rushes into the hull and lowers the boat’s speed even more.
「Go past the enemy through the starboard side.」
「If we do that, we’ll be bombarded……」
Sekrit glares at the chief navigator as he objects.
「I didn’t ask for your opinion. As a soldier, just do as you are told.」
She doesn’t bother with keeping up appearances.
My existence seems to be fading.
「You did well.」
When I returned to the bridge, she pats my head.
This isn’t such a bad feeling.
The Dolta gradually picks up speed and bypasses the side of the battleship.
Our cannons shot holes in the waterline area so the enemy ship sinks deeper and loses more speed the more time passes. Conversely, that means their deck is unscathed and their cannons should have completed preparations to fire.
We slowly cruise by the most dangerous spot to be.
At the same time the sailor shouts, fire blows out from the broadside cannons of the enemy battleship.
Dozens of booms roar and the smoke hides the enemy from our view.
Assaulted by the shockwaves, my body unconsciously reels backward.
But, that was all.
Multiple cannons fired collectively at close range, yet the Dolta was not damaged in the slightest and not a single sailor was killed.
「What a fancy water show.」
Sekrit points to the port side…… the opposite side of the enemy battleship.
That was where many pillars of water were created, leaving behind temporary ripples in the water.
「Although the cannons are powerful, they aren’t the most convenient. If their angles are slightly off, they become nice banquet tricks.」
The enemy battleship is tilting to the left because it is sinking.
Due to that fact, the cannons on the starboard side aimed at the Dolta lifted up, and all the cannonballs deviated higher than their desired target.
「Starboard, ready the cannons――!!」
The chief gunner yells, then Sekrit, watching with eyes sparkling like an excited young man, swings her sword held in the artificial arm specially-designed by the dwarves.
「Let’s return the favor. Blast them.」
「Got it! Fireee――!!」
Dolta retaliates with its own broadside cannons.
Although smoke obscures field of vision, we are close enough for a rope to reach the other side if thrown, plus the enemy ship cannot move as water is flooding in.
Not a single one of the cannonballs launched in unison missed.
Splintered wood, metal chips and human body parts fly everywhere, and the gun deck, which took the full brunt of the cannonfire, explodes from the gunpowder igniting, causing crushed cannons to spin in the air before falling into the river.
「A huge fire has broken out on the enemy battleship!!」
「In addition two, no three explosions! The sub-mast has been destroyed!」
「The ship is visibly tilting further!」
Everytime the lookout screamed, cheers erupt from the sailors.
It’s clear the enemy battleship has lost its fighting capability.
「Don’t get carried away, fool. Port side cannons…… fire!」
Without delay, the cannons on the port side of the Dolta fired as ordered.
「Multiple hits on the enemy large combat ship! It’s falling behind!」
Cannonfire focuses on the enemy ship that came to support the battleship.
Maybe their ship captain died just like ours did or their rudder broke, but the enemy is wobbling as it drifts off in a different direction.
「Don’t relax yet. We’re right in the middle of the enemy.」
Right after those words were said, two ships come from the left and the right as if to block our path.
「Two mid-sized combat ships holding down the head!」
Sekrit licks her finger and lifts it up high.
「――the wind is our friend. Move forward faster than they can sandwich us. Show me what you guys got.」
A positive response follows.
Morale has risen greatly from the state of total desperation after the destruction of the battleship and large combat ship in succession.
All the sailors are looking toward Sekrit instead of paying any attention to me.
The highly motivated sailors of the Dolta operate the ship skillfully and increases its speed.
To my surprise, they were able to escape from the grasps of the two approaching ships.
「Both sides, fire!!」
Broadside cannons simultaneously shoot from the port and starboard.
Even at full speed, their aim wasn’t off.
The two ships which were smaller than the Dolta could not withstand the barrage.
Their main masts snapped, the on-board cannons were blown away, the decks were turned into a sea of blood – which resulted in loss of control of both ships – and the two vessels simply continued sailing forward until they crashed into each other and sank.
「Hard to starboard.」
Sekrit gives out another order.
At full speed, Dolta changes direction.
A group of small ships were there to greet us.
Apparently, the small ships did not have any cannons installed.
Their aim is probably to block our path, then exploit the opening when we slow down and start a fire on deck.
「Brush those smallfry aside.」
The Dolta charges straight into the group of vessels without slowing down.
As the small ships hastily try to steer away, our deck cannons rained down on them, sinking ship after ship.
「There’s one in front, can’t get the angle to shoot.」
Sekrit shows the most excited smile of the day to answer the sailor’s report.
「Annoying insects get squashed.」
Dolta cruises forward decisively.
「Uuwaaaah, run away!」
We can see several of the enemy crew members abandon ship and leap into the river.
Then the crash happened―― the Dolta runs up on the small ship and crushes the hull with its weight.
Some of the soldiers on the ship, which was split in half, could not escape and was flung into the air.
The deck of the Dolta had a similar atmosphere to a festival.
Everyone looked at Sekrit like she was a hero.
「Don’t look at me. Look at the enemy, you fools.」
Sekrit says as she lowers herself onto the back of a sailor who dropped down on all fours.
There’s no room for me here anymore.
「Well, that was fun……」
Umu, enemies are all around us.
We’re completely surrounded and getting ganged up on is a matter of time.
Sekrit glances at the incoming ships and raises her sword.
That was enough for the sailors to cheer.
「Change course and head towards that.」
At the end of her sword was an enemy battleship…… however, it looks somewhat flatter and more durable than the previous one.
「Understood! Turn left, 50 degrees!」
「Adjust the sails, maintain top speed.」
「Broadside cannons, remaining ammunition―― good to go!」
The officers and sailors move with urgency.
Nobody even realizes my existence anymore.
「Don’t look so sad, your turn is about to come up.」
Sekrit encourages me and rubs the underside of my chin.
The sailor who became a chair and the female officer express their frustration.
The Dolta minimizes damage from the constant bombardment while changing direction bit by bit, and closing in hard on the enemy battleship.
「Will we be alright? We don’t have another anchor.」
「I wouldn’t use it even if we had one. Do I look like an idiot who will use the same tactic twice?」
Sekrit smiles as she disengages her arm-shaped prosthetic and attaches the one with a claw.
That could only mean one thing.
「Circle around from the right.」
If we’re surrounded by enemies, then in their perspective, they would be surrounded by allies.
They have to worry about their line of fire and can’t shoot freely.
「Shoot the large combat ship on the starboard side, don’t touch the mid-sized ship on the port side. Proceed like this and close the distance.」
A low-threat ship is positioned in between the enemy battleship and the Dolta while we reduce the distance.
「Enemy ship is firing at us!!」
Shells from the medium combat ship fly at us, but they won’t do much damage even if we get hit.
When we reached the closest point, the order was given.
Dolta’s cannons tear up the enemy ship, and the smoke rising from the ruins block line of sight.
At a slight delay, the enemy battleship fires.
None of their shots were on target.
Despite their vision being impaired, they must have predicted that we would take the shortest route forward.
In reality, the Dolta rapidly changed direction immediately after shooting the enemy ship and approached the enemy battleship from a different angle.
「Now then everyone, let us offer our respects to the old traditions. Brace for impact!」
The enemy battleship is right before our eyes after we passed through the smoke.
No matter how quickly they try to adjust their cannons, they won’t make it in time.
I see the barrels of the enemy cannons, the moving sailors, then I can even see the sweat dripping from the brows of each individual.
As we reduce the distance, the roars of our allies get louder.
Thunderous booms from the collective firing of cannons could not compare to the sound, and then came the impact from the sudden deceleration.
The Dolta charges into the side of the enemy battleship at maximum speed―― a naval ram strike.
This time, I was able to grab onto the mast to support myself.
「Bastards, they really ran into us!」
「Coming, they’re coming!! Infantry, cooks, everyone, come out on the deck with your weapons!!」
The bow of the Dolta buried deep into the enemy battleship.
Now the enemies around us can’t really fire carelessly.
If the Dolta is set on fire, the battleship will be taken down along with it.
Sekrit lightly scratches a pillar with her claws.
I answer and draw my Dual Crater.
Led by Sekrit and I, all the soldiers follow and jump onto the deck of the enemy battleship.
After all the uselessness I felt during the naval combat, I have to make Sekrit fall in love with me again by going wild in this upcoming fight.
When I glanced at her face from the side, her eyes were lit up like a child with a feast before her.
The woman who tormented herself after losing her arm was nowhere to be seen.
I feel something pulse within my body.