Horizon:Volume 1B Chapter 24
Chapter 24: The Determined on the Plains
To walk this path is to pass a difficult mountain trail
To not walk this path is to be left standing
The only way we can move on is upwards, then
Point Allocation (Decision)
There was a land spread out with sand. Facing the ocean, the land was vast and flat, with good drainage.
On its surface, ten ships of gargantuan size were lined up. As all of them were fixed on the ground by anchoring ropes and landing structures, the shadow they cast fell over the surface of the land.
People were moving inside the ship.
They were mobilizing to carry out the duties of transport and security.
Both the people in security and those who were carrying ship-to-ship cargo in and out looked in the northern and eastern directions every so often.
In the east, there was a town held between two small hills. However, there was neither the smoke of cooking rising up, the sound of activity in the mills, nor were the sight of people present in that town.
Everyone extended their gaze to beyond the town.
Over there was a bay. A large bay near the ocean, where many waves were.
The bay was a great distance from the hill, the town, the rural parts and the waterways; but because it was so big one could think that they would be able to reach for it if they held out their hand.
The bay was ruined.
The curtain of white that adorned its appearance was surged into the air by the brown-colored and water-colored filth below it.
Sometimes, as if to jump out of the surface of the water, remains of the houses showed themselves. Then, as if to display themselves to the land, they swayed for a few moments; and then sank yet again.
On the shores of the bay, a number of towns and villages were still being destroyed and sunk by the bay.
Still, this was not the reason there were times when everyone would look towards the east at the same time. The reason was…
The light. Every so often, there would be a line of red light shining from the surface of the sea reaching towards the sky. Sometimes there would be only one light, sometimes there would be many at once; sometimes they would shoot up straight to the heavens, then scatter and disappear, and sometimes they would appear to be drawing a curve heading for the northern and western sky.
They would be accompanied by the shaking of the ground. It shook aimlessly, as if staggering.
As the ground calmed down, the light in the sky would disappear and the towns and villages devoured by the bay would again disappear with a splash.
And then everyone would start moving again, while looking in a different direction.
Facing the vast land port was a land untouched.
It was a hill where the woods, rivers, and grasslands remained.
Still, ships were present at both the top of the short hill and in its opposite direction.
There were ten ships. On the elongated structure of the ship meant for transport, smoke from cooking was rising; and a great number of people were standing on its deck.
They were looking towards the top of the hill.
On the top of the green hill, on plain land, groups of people were present.
There were three of them. One had a red western-style uniform. Another had black western-style uniforms. The last had a black eastern-style uniform.
People looked on. The group in red and the two in black were facing each other in one line each as if to form a triangle, and people in each position were exchanging documents and containers between themselves. The people continued their work, pausing in between to look on.
Inside the group of red standing on top of the hill where the wind blows, a girl clad in mechanical arms stood at the leftmost point.
She held a single spear covered in cloth in her arms.
Towards the girl with the spear with the words “Tonbokiri” engraved on its hilt, the young man next to her spoke out.
“I’ve been standing all this while, but is there a reason for me to be here, Gin-san?”
“You look good enough just standing there; so isn’t it fine, Master Muneshige? I always get nervous when I am on merchandise transfer duty. Indeed, I’m just being silent to not blow my cover.”
“…Gin-san, are there times when you get nervous?”
“Tes, though as a daughter of a warrior family displaying such emotions on my face would be shameful so I usually keep them hidden. …Shall I show them to you next time, Master Muneshige? Though you’ll probably think of me as a troublesome woman if I do.”
Muneshige stated in a small voice looking at the fleet commands exchanging their mobilization schedules for over the next few days.
“You do tense up when I hug you all the time, Gin-san, no? Though you loosen up quite a bit right after.”
Gin lowered her gaze to the ground, biting her lips. She stole a glance towards Muneshige on her side, but he appeared to be looking at the sky with a face that feigned ignorance. As Gin returned her gaze…
“…Is this revenge for the time when you woke up?”
“…No, it was just a reasonable direction of the flow of our conversation.”
“Tes, then I’ll deal with that after, so do prepare yourself. …You won’t escape if you tried with your legs in that condition, after all.”
Thus, Gin looked forward.
…Now, it would be great if we can finish this safely.
The one at the end of Gin’s gaze, thinking as such, was a row of people dressed in black Eastern-style uniforms. The Far East uniform. They were the members of the ship escorting Musashi, here to represent the Guard Unit. They should have not been here as those in agreement by nature, but…
…It is so that K.P.A. Italia can display its understanding towards the Far East, huh.
There was very little recognition by Musashi towards Horizon Ariadust and her position as the present head of Mikawa. However, even if that was not the case, there would still be very few among Musashi’s residents that would oppose the ruling of her suicide.
However, if the fact that students of the Far East present at this scene as members of the Testament Union were to be shown to the people on Musashi, there would be a different meaning. Moreover, if those students were of the Guard Unit…
…It would mean that those with power have agreed to this ruling.
Musashi’s residents never had the strength to resist from the beginning. For those who were planning to oppose the Testament Union under the pretense that the Guard Unit would carry out its duty to “protect” them, this would have weakened their resolve and replaced it with resignation to defeat.
It was a simple method, but nevertheless the one they had to choose under the limiting conditions; thus Gin thought.
Whatever the case, Gin thought. She looked towards the Far Eastern woman in front of her.
She stood upright, hair tied behind her head. Possessing two blades on her hip, she looked straight in Gin’s direction.
It was the first time she had met her.
However, she had already known her name.
The daughter of Honda Tadakatsu, who would be the one to succeed him eventually, thus it was said.
Gin noticed Futayo’s line of sight directed towards the spear, Tonbokiri, held in her mechanical arms. It was the one her father left in her care. It was probably the only thing she could hold her gaze on.
Gin wondered if the one on the other side knew who she was. No, whether she did nor didn’t, it wouldn’t matter; she was not her ally. …There was no need to change their relation, was there?
Now, which side is she on, Gin thought.
Born into a warrior family with political influence, Gin could understand three things.
Understanding her role as a part of the family, she was a woman who would cause the family’s collapse with her death.
Understanding her role as a support for her husband, she was a woman who would feel her worth in life in her husband’s success.
…And the last one was…
Understanding the very order of her family, she was a woman who would feel her worth in life in her own success.
Gin was thinking about her second role. She wondered what would be the case for the other party.
“Third Special Duty.”
An order came from the fleet commander acting as the chief of the dispatch team, addressed to her.
Thus Gin affirmed and, retaining her gaze on Futayo…
“From the one affiliated with the New Nagoya Castle based in Mikawa, the Far East, as its Special First Reserve Agent, Honda Tadakatsu-sama; this is the item left in the custody of the Special Third-year with the same affiliation, Honda Futayo.”
With a greeting, she took one step forward. Then, continuing to step on the soil and the grass, the second and third steps.
At the midpoint between the two sides where her footsteps stopped, Honda Futayo gave her greetings.
That should have been the case.
Standing on a position five meters before the midpoint, the first to come was a voice.
As Futayo turned her gaze away from Tonbokiri to face the other party…
Gin immediately replied to her question.
“I have been told about a lot of things.”
“So that is the case,” Futayo answered, giving her greetings. Then, facing this side and taking a step…
The next moment, she felt a hand within reaching distance in front of her.
Shortening the distance between them, it was a movement-type spell.
Gin looked at the figure of the person standing in front of her.
Futayo was displaying an act of dignity by using her movement-type spell here.
…I’ll use the spell in a manner that can be clearly seen, and obtain Tonbokiri which Tachibana Gin holds with my own hands.
…I can show that there are still opportunities for the Far East to obtain power and weaponry.
Right now, via K.P.A. Italia’s broadcasting members this scene should reach everyone; whether the refugees of Mikawa, Musashi’s residents, or those living in the other countries.
That is why she moved right then.
There had been a secret meeting between the higher positions of the Guard Unit that morning. She understood the provocation she would make with this action. She also knew that, by the perceived continuation of the Honda family’s support of last night’s incident, she would propel the already critical position of the Far East further into danger.
Still, if she were to do nothing here…
…There will be no more chances.
With little other power than to protect themselves, Musashi’s people are having most of their will to fight taken away. Furthermore, we as the Guard Unit of the Far East, in carrying out our duty of protection, are entrusting that very duty towards the people of Musashi to the Testament Union. And finally, there has been word that the rights of most of the Chancellor’s Officers and Student Council on the Musashi are being withheld under the care of its king, and that the Provisional Council is taking the side of the Testament Union. At this rate…
…We will no longer be able to avoid having our independence and power taken away, left with nothing else but resignation to our fate.
Furthermore, to accept this very fate…
…Will mean to lose the one that has become the head of Mikawa, Horizon Ariadust-sama.
A monarch paying with his life for a country in danger would mean that all the efforts to save it would be in vain. Thus his followers, putting faith in their lord, would bring out their full force to avoid such a situation.
Nonetheless, these were the words spoken in the meeting:
…Our lord is scattering her life away without us doing anything.
She knew the reason why; we did not have any power to do anything.
But, everyone continued in the meeting:
…What would happen if we were to do something?
They were the only people in a position with a little power among a nation that had none.
A small action would be enough. If she were to show at least the intention of doing something, those with something planned could use it as a foundation for their determination; and…
…If there is hope, there will have been meaning in her action.
The one who took action was the person in command. If a subordinate did it, there would not be any other choice but to deal with him under the strict and controlling directions of the Testament Union; but because the chief herself did it, nothing like that would happen. The one in trouble would be the Union, having lost their control; so there would be a degree to which acts like that would be permitted. If her thinking was found to be naive, she would still have shown her resolve. It would just be passed off as her losing her mind looking at her father’s rival.
Her action would end at successfully obtaining her weapon. Everything would be decided at that point.
That was why Futayo moved.
The spell she used was the IZUMO-aligned Kazamatsuri movement-type spell, “Soaring Wings”. Treating any resistance to her movement as an impurity and purifying it, ultimately one can purify his own body weight and, through this spell, one can bring his own strength to the utmost limit. The offering is, while carrying around a weapon that Kazamatsuri permits without ever drawing it out, he must move successively as to display the movement of the wind and follow its direction.
It was still like that now. Carrying a sword on her side, she moved forward in such a way as to link her movements together.
And reached to take Tonbokiri from Tachibana Gin, who stood in front of her.
For a distance as short as fifty meters, it would have been next to impossible to perceive her movements.
Still, Futayo did not let her guard down. Futayo sped up with all her might. Her start was a bit slow so as not to display her intention to the other party, but after that it would only take a moment.
She moved, then, hearing the gasps of the people who realized her actions.
But Futayo looked.
Soaring forward earlier, the one in front of her was not holding her father’s spear in mechanical arms.
A figure cutting in between herself and Gin accompanied by a breeze…
The next moment, Futayo saw a light accompanied by sound.
The sound was a cold echo, like the breaking of glass. The light was the blue glow of ether. Those were the aftereffects of the voiding of a spell, caused by the breaking of ether.
Not being able to continue the movement of the wind after having her body abruptly stopped, Futayo’s “Soaring Wings” spell was destroyed.
Then Futayo understood; her own speed was overturned by her opponent.
Gin heard a statement from the figure of Muneshige in front of her eyes.
“…Well then, I’ll have Tonbokiri returned by myself.”
She couldn’t see Futayo on the other side of Muneshige.
But she could sense the light and sound of the spell nullifying. That is…
…The Musashi Guard Unit was, in this place, displaying the Far East’s will to resist.
She could also see the meaning behind the action as an act of retaining the Far East’s pride.
By using a surprise attack with her speed, she was not clearly resisting but merely showing the intention to do so.
It was a good method. Without the Pope Chancellor here, there was no one in the vicinity that could pass on an immediate judgement.
Furthermore, Muneshige was involved in the fight from last night; now was the right time to act.
…It was laid to waste by Master Muneshige.
Master Muneshige’s movement-type spell was superior to that of Futayo.
In contrast to Futayo’s approach from straight across the distance, Muneshige took a roundabout path to arrive in front of this side. He arrived earlier than Futayo.
Muneshige was faster. Then…
“Third Special Duty, the Divine Weapon, Tonbokiri.”
Thus he said, turning his face to meet Gin’s gaze.
It was a smiling face, but Muneshige would have a gentle expression on a normal day. He won’t show any expression other than that of a smile.
Then, what about his legs? He walked and ran as if he could, but didn’t consider anything more than that.
Despite that, why would he use his spell here? They could have used the act to further impose on the Far East if he didn’t.
She understood the reason.
Shame had a higher priority than injury. He moved so that she did not lose her face.
Damn it, Gin thought. She had let her guard down. For her, one of whose principles was to devote herself to him, this was a failure.
That was why Gin pondered. As compensation and gratitude for her fault, what would she do to follow through with Muneshige’s course of action.
“Master Muneshige. Here.”
As if merely a matter-of-fact, she passed Tonbokiri on to Muneshige. Pretending not to notice the spells he and Futayo had used, she left the spear in the care of the man who survived last night’s battle.
“Right,” Muneshige affirmed. He received Tonbokiri and turned his back.
He straightened his posture and, raising Tonbokiri towards the sky with both his hands…
“The Divine Weapon I am holding here, which Honda Tadakatsu left in our care from last night; the spear – Tonbokiri – I shall now return to his daughter, Honda Futayo…!”
With this everything is settled, Gin concluded while thinking that he’s being nonsensical again, to one side.
Among the only group permitted to have power in the Far East, with the position of the Guard Unit; even the strongest of them, Honda Futayo, could not win against Muneshige in terms of power. Thus it was displayed.
Furthermore, it was not she who had obtained the weapon her father had left to her by herself.
…She only obtained it because it was left in our care, then returned to her…
The people who saw her act would surely understand that their action did not pass through to us.
And they should have seen how we didn’t even react to the trifle that is the light and sound of the spell failing.
Futayo’s side was trying to display their intention to resist, but all of that has backfired.
It couldn’t be thought as a rash act. The information about his injury would have been known.
In the chaos of last night, she took him under her arms and retreated using the shortest route. There were many witnesses, and they did not have anything to hide.
The Far East would have thought that he could no longer move.
…Master Muneshige was being reckless after all.
His course of action was to not only hide his wounds, but to show that he has in fact recovered from his injury and is able to move again.
He had not recovered fully. He should have felt intense pain in his legs. Still, he moved, and exceeded the Far East’s estimations.
…It would be nice if through this action, they will see Tres España’s worth and spread it on the net, allowing more to invest in their own country. Their nation was in a lot of debt and filing for bankruptcy for the second time.
With people expecting the third time soon, the other countries are reluctant to invest in them.
Gin was thinking about this morning, when she received an announcement regarding the issue and what would happen next.
Muneshige offered Futayo, whose figure Gin could not see from her side, the spear Tonbokiri.
Tonbokiri did not move. Futayo was most likely examining Muneshige, to see whether he really suffered no wounds from last night’s battle or otherwise. But, after a while…
“…I am indebted to you.”
Tonbokiri was passed over to the other side.
Then Gin listened to the words the female warrior chose to speak, without seeing her expression. Those were:
“I, Honda Futayo, swear on this weapon, Tonbokiri, that I will surpass my father.”
I see, Gin thought.
They managed to display the futility of the will to resist to the Far Eastern people, but they have probably made a troublesome opponent in the process.
In the Far East as it is now, are there capable people that are able to respond to her will?
In a dimly-lit room.
It was a white room, lit with not the light from the outside, but with that from a monitor.
At the center of the room were two figures.
One was that of the automaton with long, white hair.
The other, combing the automaton’s hair with a black comb, was that of a female Tres España student.
The automaton, with her gaze remaining on the wall, posed a question to the girl behind her.
“If I may ask, what time is it now?”
“Tes, Horizon-sama. Right now, I think that it is half past nine. Are you thinking about something?”
“Judge, how are the preparations outside going?”
At her words, the female student’s combing stopped for a moment. But, resuming her actions…
“Right now, the execution grounds (Andamio de la Ejecucion) are being reorganized. The place where a lord of a country is to carry out his will should not be called the ‘execution ground’ after all. We are decorating the place with tatami mats and ornaments as an act of gratitude. After the preparations are done, at 2 PM we will have Horizon-sama undergo a health examination, as well as ascertain the presence of the Logismoi Óplo Horizon-sama possesses.”
“Judge. It will be six in the evening when Horizon will end her life, then.”
“Tes. In regards to that, a change of clothes will be prepared. If there are specific clothes that you desire, please do not hesitate to ask for them. The Testament Union will grant your wish.”
“Judge,” Horizon murmured.
“Being the head is quite troublesome indeed, don’t you think? Causing trouble for everyone and whatnot.”
At those words, the student’s combing movements stopped yet again.
Opening her mouth.
Hesitating in her words.
With a small quiver in her voice.
“…are prepared, are you not?”
Horizon neither affirmed nor denied her words. She answered with a natural expression.
“Where recreation of history is concerned, this situation is one of the more important for the duties of the head, after all.”
She drew a breath.
“In this one year I was living without knowing who I am and what I should do. Horizon’s soul was for some reason that of a human; but with the intellect of an automaton, my thought processes, decisions and memories are all based on an automaton. I possess no emotion. That is why Horizon…”
“Remembering the daily life and memories of the past year, I was always having doubts about my existence as an automaton. About what I, P-01s, truly was.”
“Judge, I was able to know last night. The suddenness of the revelation was unprecedented so I didn’t understand as well as I should have at first, but putting the pieces together it was a story that easily made sense. Also, before that I had also heard something that can become a very convincing factor towards the credibility of this case. That is…”
Horizon raised her face to look at the white wall in front of her.
“The possibility that after Horizon was run over by Father’s carriage, she remained in a state between life and death. Abandoning the body that cannot be repaired by medical treatment, the soul was transported to this body. Then, the eight emotions that could not be stored along with the soul in my throat were left in this world as the Logismoi Óplo. It was a story that was easy to understand. It is just that I did not expect the Logismoi Óplo to be involved in saving the world from the Apocalypse at all. Also…”
“The Far East is forbidden from possessing weapons; but since Horizon’s soul is one, my very existence becomes a sin the Far East holds. And the Far East needed to take responsibility and pay for the destruction of Mikawa last night, in one form or another. …In other words, Horizon is just an automaton, a weapon that should not have been, but given the position of the head without even having the emotion of fear.”
“…Who Horizon is and what I should do; I have finally found the clearest answer. The favors I could obtain and problems I could avoid were also clear. Those were the facts that Horizon is someone who did not even earn the right to live; someone that will never achieve anything.”
Somewhere along her words, the movements of the student combing Horizon’s hair stopped completely.
The female student, with her face down, thus questioned in this way.
“If…you were to possess emotion, how would you be, Horizon-sama?”
“Judge. …That I cannot answer, because I do not have any experience of possessing emotions.”
“Only,” Horizon said, her gaze never moving away from the white wall where nothing was.
“If Horizon were to rely on the information from the books I have read, whether as reference or as the things that I have learned, I would be able to obtain the best answer to this question.”
“Is that… Wanting to be saved?”
Horizon pondered, hearing that question.
Under the best decision, she would never have thought about wanting to be saved. But…
“The decisions of an automaton are perfect, and prioritized over anything else. …Among the choices I have that will lead to the best decision, the thought of wanting to be saved should be there. But right now, that choice is being silenced and shut out from my thoughts.”
Horizon only stated thus, referring to the possibility.
“Right now, Horizon is acting under the best decision. In the case where Horizon would want a decision other than that of the best, that is, if my decision to commit suicide is no more than because of my perfect decision as an automaton. …If something was to be presented to Horizon as a better decision than what an automaton could think of, Horizon-…”
“If someone were to meet me with a judgement equal to that of an automaton, he or she will definitely be able to overturn my decision.”
The sound of a breath being drawn was heard on the other side, but its meaning was not understood.
Only, accompanied by the word “Tes” from the female student, the comb was removed down from Horizon’s hair.
The black comb glided through the white hair, reflecting a white light, and separated from it.
Matching her movements, the female student spoke thus.
“…Do you want to read a book? If you require it, I will have one brought over.”
“Judge. Then, please bring one for me. Something with more worth than possession.”
“Tes, that was quite the difficult request.”
The student’s voice had a hint of a smile in it. Taking the comb out of her hair…
“…It will be chosen based on the current trends, but I will provide one for you. While reading, please wait for the examination in the afternoon, then.”
A bell sounded. It sounded far away, like the roar of the sea. The small, yet definite sound, was…
“The bell of the Ariadust Academy, was it? It did sound a while ago as well, but now…”
The female student stated.
“That was the sound of one hour passing. I heard that the noisiest class is being quite silent today. Because of the difficult composition class they are having or something.”
|Back to Chapter 23||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 24.5|