Horizon:Volume 1B Chapter 31
Chapter 31: As I Stand at the Last Moment
What has been decided
Without being decided?
What is understood
Without being understood?
Point Allocation (Gaze)
Several people were gathered at a table near the Tres Españan tent set up on a grassy field.
They were not all sitting around the table. With Muneshige and Gin in the center, about a dozen people were gathered as if taking a group photo. They held a bag of popcorn made with corn from the New World as they watched the cadena firma open in front of Muneshige and Gin.
The audio and video footage displayed the situation of the Special General Student Meeting as transmitted by the Ariadust Academy Broadcast Committee.
Currently, a broadcast committee reporter wearing a golden kamishimo over his uniform spoke in the center of the screen.
“Now, the final battle of the Special General Student Meeting has begun! This battle is between the student council president and vice president, but what do you think as a classmate, stealth commentator Tenzou-san?”
“Hmm. Good question. Toori-dono appears to have the advantage due to that unexpected beginning, but it is difficult to know what he’s thinking.”
“I see. He really is a human bomb that could go off at any time. Based on the uniform color, I suppose he would be a black powder bomb. At any rate, I hope the two of them will make this an excellent general student meeting.”
“Master Muneshige, don’t you find this type of agitating commentary to be rather annoying?” asked Gin.
“I just hope all their agitation doesn’t lead to a knockout from a low blow.”
Everyone glared at the couple as if to say “that’s not the issue”, but neither one showed any sign of caring.
Meanwhile, they saw movement on the bridge visible on the screen. After receiving advice from their respective groups, the two competitors climbed back up the stairs. One was oddly cheerful and the other appeared exhausted.
“Now, the battle of destiny is about to begin for both sides!”
Just as everyone eagerly clenched their fists and leaned in close, the student in charge of divine transmissions carried over a message.
The group looked curiously at the message, but their expressions soon changed.
And then they changed again.
They quickly turned back toward the screen and saw the debate was just about to begin.
“K.P.A. Italia is definitely going to intervene now,” groaned Muneshige. “They’ll have no other choice once they learn what Princess Horizon’s Logismoi Oplo does.”
Masazumi thought atop the bridge.
The debate was beginning.
…But why am I on this side?
She had never expected to oppose her father and the others like this.
She wanted to find a way out of it, but the simple route was off limits. If she made a mistake, she would end up on the receiving end of the practice swings Oriotorai was making. She could not let that happen. She had a feeling that had to be avoided at all costs.
For an instant, she contemplated declaring her loss and accepting Aoi’s victory, but that would not be a debate. And if she broke the rules of the debate, the practice swings would become reality.
And so she had to think.
She honestly felt the provisional committee was on the side of the proper future.
After all, the gathered secretaries had told her what the committee had said the night before.
…In an all-out war against the Testament Union, there’s nothing we can do.
The Testament Union covered almost the entire world. P.A. Oda had partially left, but they had constructed a contact point for resolving wars. Also, the other eastern and northern non-Tsirhc and non-Mlasi nations received support from the Testament Union in order to survive in that harsh land. That support required some acceptance of their culture.
What would happen in all-out war?
Aoi cheerfully answered that question as he stood before her. He turned toward the others as he did.
“Y’see, if everything goes well and we rescue Horizon, the Italians who lead the Testament Union will feel disgraced. I think they’d be pissed enough to start a war. And that would be bad. After all, the Testament Union is kind of like the entire world. We would be at war until we defeated the entire world.”
…That’s exactly what I heard from the secretaries last night.
Someone must have given Aoi a hint just now.
He then blatantly unfolded a cheat sheet and spoke as if reading a proclamation.
“War is a big deal. What will you do about that, Seijun?”
He suddenly turned the debate over to her.
She had known this would happen. He had given a reason why rescuing Horizon would be a bad idea, so she had to give reasons why it would be advantageous and methods of avoiding the negative side.
But she had nothing prepared. She had assumed she would stand on the committee’s side, so she had only thought about how to persuade the academy.
And so she spoke while feeling warm sweat cover her body.
“Seijun-kun, speak up or I can’t hear you.”
…I am going to kill this moron!
To keep her anger from exploding out, she turned toward the port side where her classmates were whispering to her in the schoolyard.
“Don’t worry about it! He’s just an idiot! He really is!”
As she wondered what about him was so unifying, Masazumi thought for a while and then spoke.
“Th-then I will give you the advantages to rescuing Horizon.”
She took a breath and said what she had thought up just now.
“The greatest advantage is securing Musashi’s sovereignty.”
Aoi tilted his head when he heard the word.
“Eh? Sovereignty? What’s that?”
Everyone else was tiling their head just like him, so Masazumi answered.
“Sovereignty is a way of perceiving the essence of a nation. It comes from the history recreation of Hexagone Française. …All of us belong to a nation such as the Far East, K.P.A. Italia, Tres España, or P.A. Oda, right? But what exactly is it we refer to as a nation?”
“Well, it has land and people…”
“You are referring to the territory and citizens that a nation must have, correct?”
“With only those two things, you simply have people gathered in a certain land. They have no justification in opposing a foreign invasion.”
“No justification?” Aoi frowned. “Sure they do. If they’re invaded, people will die. The other side’s evil.”
“The other side has a justification as well. The invasion will allow their nation to prosper.”
“Eh? But that ain’t right.”
Aoi folded his arms and asked the crowd “don’t you agree?” before turning back to Masazumi.
“Why don’t they think about the ones being invaded? It’s almost like…”
“Like the ones being invaded are animals being hunted.”
“That’s right,” said Masazumi. She spread her arms toward the crowd. “No thought is given to the ones being invaded because they lack the ‘sovereignty’ that puts them on an equal level to the invading nation. In other words, a nation without sovereignty is not viewed as a ‘nation’ by the other nations and the people there are not viewed as ‘people’. The land is nothing but a gathering spot for beasts.”
She took a breath and recalled what she had seen in the books she read.
“Three abilities are needed for a nation’s sovereignty:
“1. The ability to demonstrate independence and thus be equal to other nations.
“2. The ability to rule the nation’s territory and citizens and thus maintain the nation.
“3. The ability to make decisions and thus support the previous two.
“These three are known as external sovereignty, internal sovereignty, and absolute decision-making power. With these three abilities, a nation is equal to other nations, rules itself, and has the power necessary. In other words, it is accepted as an independent nation and any threats will be in between nations and thus illegal.”
Masazumi took a breath.
“Currently, the Far East has had most of its territory and people taken and the three abilities needed for sovereignty are being restricted.”
…Yes, you idiot!
After her silent shout, Masazumi sighed inwardly.
“Our chancellor and student council president should have absolute decision-making power, but the Testament Union is interfering with his decisions.”
“Oh, they supported me, so I didn’t realize. Was that interference?”
“It may be indirect, but it is still interference. And there is a lot more, too.” She lowered her shoulders. “Take external sovereignty for example. If we can’t resist their interference, we aren’t exactly equal to the other nations, are we?”
“As for internal sovereignty, most of the Far East is under provisional rule, the reservations are influenced by the nation that rules the territory, and Musashi is on the verge of having its authority stripped at the hands of another nation. That means we fail to rule our territory and citizens as the foundation of internal sovereignty.”
…Does he really understand?
Despite her doubts, she could only continue on. And so she slowly pointed to the south. She pointed strongly toward empty air in order to bring to mind the land port and Horizon who was there.
“Horizon is the legitimate heir to Mikawa and the Matsudaira clan which will eventually rule the Far East. And currently, the Testament Union has forbidden Mikawa’s ruler from boarding the Musashi. That is part of their influence over us.”
“But if we rescue Horizon, Musashi will gain a ruler of the Far East with no Testament Union influence.”
“That can’t happen,” immediately declared Aoi. He then nodded. “That’s being too naïve.”
“Naïve? How is it naïve?”
Masazumi gathered strength in her gaze as she stared at him.
He unfolded another cheat sheet and then frowned.
“Listen. U-um, if Horizon does not enter the student’s body… What kind of erotic stuff is this!? Koni-tan, I wanted something serious!”
“That clearly says ‘student body’. How did you imagine up the ‘apostrophe s’?”
“No peeking!! A-and what’s wrong with the student’s body!? I want to enter the student’s body too! …Wait! But nothing said it was a female body!”
“…You never cease to amaze me.”
“C’mon, enough compliments. I don’t want you falling for me that easily.”
Denying it would only confuse matters further, so Masazumi remained silent.
As everyone watched him, the idiot struck a pose.
“Listen. If Horizon does not enter the student body, she can’t use her decision-making power. In this student-driven world, all decision-making authority lies with the academies. Plus, Mikawa’s ruler isn’t allowed on the Musashi, right?”
“With Mikawa destroyed, we can say the ruler has evacuated to the Musashi. And Horizon may not be part of the student body now, but she can always join the academy.”
“Can she really pass the entrance exam?”
Aoi’s comment produced booing from the girls on the port side.
“That was very rude!!” shouted Asama as their representative. “Don’t you agree, everyone!?”
“What!? You’re one to talk, Asama! You’re way ruder every time you show those gigantic boobs of yours to someone as pure as me! No matter how much I try to look away, they always find their way into my field of vision. It’s silent sexual violence. I’ve had no choice but to lighten your crimes by staring enough for everyone!”
“Let’s see. Where did I put my bow?”
“Don’t jump up the stairs like that!!”
“Aoi, you really like causing infighting, don’t you?”
While realizing she was glaring at him with half-lidded eyes, Masazumi moved the conversation on.
“She does not need to take the entrance exam.”
“Wait just a second.” Aoi waved his hands back and forth. “No more backdoor admissions. We already have imperial boy.”
In a small room, Azuma and Miriam each held one of a small girl’s hands. They were positioned on either side of the girl while lying in a bed. Miriam was watching the sign frame Azuma had opened in the bed space.
“Azuma, don’t tell me…”
“I-I didn’t! That was just one of Aoi-kun’s unfunny jokes!”
“Aoi has made an unexpected attack,” said the commentator. “Without Azuma-sama present, Masazumi might be in trouble.”
“Well, if you say so, I will believe you,” said Miriam.
“Backdoor?” said a new voice.
The small girl had opened her eyes.
Azuma and Miriam exchanged a glance before looking at the girl’s unfocused eyes.
“Do you know who I am?”
The girl looked toward Miriam but tilted her head.
Miriam smiled bitterly and Azuma spoke to the girl.
“Where is mama? Do you know?”
The girl looked up into the air and thought for a few seconds. She finally shook her head with faintly glowing tears in her eyes.
“Azuma, why are you making her cry? Honestly.”
Miriam placed a hand on the girl’s shoulder and gently drew her close.
It was an awkward movement, but the girl let Miriam embrace her while still holding Azuma’s hand.
Miriam nodded toward the girl’s suppressed crying and uncomfortable movements.
“It’s okay. It’s okay.”
As the girl clung to her as if trying to sink into her, Miriam nodded again.
“I’m mama. I’ll be your mama.”
She embraced the girl’s back and raised her head a bit. She looked at Azuma with the ends of her eyebrows lowered.
“C’mon, papa. What’s the matter?”
With her eyes narrowed in a slight smile, she spoke with the same tone as Azuma had when he urged Miriam earlier.
“It’s your turn, Azuma.”
He groaned slightly, but finally gave in and adjusted his grip on the girl’s hand.
The girl nodded in Miriam’s arms.
Miriam then mouthed a question to Azuma while indicating the sign frame with her gaze.
“Did you take the entrance exam?”
“I did. There was another way in, though.”
“You mean a backdoor?”
“No.” He frantically shook his head. “There is another legitimate way into the academy without taking the entrance exam.”
“That’s right. You can join the academy without taking a standard entrance exam.”
As Masazumi spoke below the afternoon sky, Aoi tilted his head.
“Seriously? What way is their other than the written exam?”
She immediately answered him.
“The special talent exam.”
Masazumi mentally nodded at the silence that followed her statement.
…There are few examples on the Musashi.
But that was a way in for people who excelled at combat, spells, or the arts. That exam method had even been used by some of her classmates.
“Ha ha ha. Nenji-kun, that was how we got in, wasn’t it!?”
“Yes. Because our very existences are valuable!”
“By the way, I did not use that method,” commented Hassan despite no one asking. “I am perfectly normal. In other words, I am medium-spicy.”
At any rate, Horizon could join the academy using the special talent exam.
“Wait, wait. What is Horizon’s special talent? Working at a bakery?”
“Isn’t it obvious? The Logismoi Oplo.”
Masazumi realized how outrageous her statement was.
“There are only nine in existence and she owns one and is one, so that more than qualifies as a valuable talent. Am I wrong?”
In front of the Tres Españan tent, Gin grabbed popcorn with chopsticks.
“That is ridiculous.”
“But it is a valid line of thinking, Gin. The Logismoi Oplo are indeed valuable.”
“Testament. In other words, you wish to transfer to Musashi. Is that what you are saying, Master Muneshige?”
Everyone glared at Muneshige while he struggled to find something to say.
Amid them all, Gin shoved some popcorn toward Muneshige’s mouth using her chopsticks.
As everyone’s eyes narrowed further, he drew back a bit, but the chopsticks pursued him.
“Gin, wh-what are you doing?”
“You must not flee before the enemy.”
The cadena firma then displayed Musashi Ariadust’s vice president.
“If she became a student, Matsudaira’s ruler would hold a higher position than the King of Musashi sent by the Testament Union. Not only would she be a student, but Musashi is only a portion of Matsudaira territory.”
As everyone shifted their focus to the vice president, Muneshige ate the popcorn off of the chopsticks.
Gin’s eyebrows rose after missing the crucial instant.
“H-how about we focus on listening for now?” he said. “After all, these people might become our enemies.”
“To sum up,” said Masazumi. To make sure everyone could see, she spread her arms in a pose of acceptance. “If Horizon is returned to Musashi, the Far East will gain a ruler free of influence from other nations. That will secure our sovereignty and finally make us equal to the other nations.”
“But…” Aoi tilted his head. “Won’t the Testament Union want to stop that at all costs?”
“Yes. They will try to stop it. Gaining sovereignty will make the Far East a lot harder for them to rule. That is why saying we will not rescue Horizon is the same as saying that we do not want sovereignty and that we are accepting their rule.”
From the Testament Union’s perspective, Far Eastern sovereignty was only a bad thing.
“If the Far East does proclaim its sovereignty, the Testament Union nations will be unable to continue their provisional rule over it and the other nations will be forced to leave the islands of the Far East. However, the world beyond the ocean has a harsh and wild environment. They will want to avoid being driven out there. That is why they will refuse to recognize our sovereignty. They will use the Harmonic Unification War’s peace treaty to insist we do not have that right. They will say our sovereignty is in violation of the treaty.”
In other words…
“Even if we rescue Horizon and proclaim our sovereignty, it will produce a struggle for existence between the Testament Union and us. We will insist we have been freed from provisional rule while they will accuse us of violating the treaty.” Masazumi shrugged. “And thus rescuing Horizon and gaining sovereignty is a double-edged sword.”
Masazumi saw Aoi nod yet again.
As he continued to nod, he suddenly raised his right index finger.
“So if we rescue Horizon, war is inevitable?”
He pulled a new cheat sheet out of his pocket and held it up for everyone to see.
“Then I have a question from Konishi-kun the merchant!” He went on to read the question. “Even if we rescue the princess and achieve Far Eastern sovereignty, a war could cause deaths. What are your thoughts on this? …Okay, do you have an answer, Seijun-kun!?”
“When did you become the MC?” she asked as she thought.
They would be an inevitable product of war. While thinking it was odd to refer to deaths as a “product”, she realized something. There was something odd about the question.
Namely, the person who had given it.
…The Konishi family is a Far Eastern merchant family that converted to Catholicism.
Merchants thought in terms of money, so why was he asking about the deaths a war would produce?
…It is a calculation and comparison of “numbers”.
Masazumi now understood the intention behind this question.
“Aoi, war will produce deaths. That is a given. However, did you give any thought to the deaths produced by avoiding war?”
“What? Avoiding war produces deaths too?”
Masazumi nodded in response.
“Yes. Avoiding war will also produce deaths.”
…I’m really beginning to oppose my father and the committee now.
But she could not stop speaking. This opinion was a necessary part of her side.
“Listen. The budgets of the different reservations act as the Far East’s finances and they have all been frozen. The Testament Union will eventually take it all away and it is currently April. Do you understand what that means? The fiscal year has only just begun for the Far East, so the reservations’ budgets were almost entirely untouched. But now the Testament Union has seized most of it. Do you understand what that means?” asked Masazumi again. “The reservations are in their least funded state. And all public funding for public projects, hospitals, crime prevention, water, sewage, etc. has been stopped. The hospitals are the biggest problem. If they are not functioning, people cannot be treated and medicine will be unavailable.”
“The less money in the reservations as a whole, the less money the people will have, which will bring poverty. To increase the amount of money, they will have to gather foreign currency, but they cannot produce very much without money.”
“The poverty will only worsen with time and the people will approach death as they are unable to maintain a normal lifestyle. Those are the deaths that will be produced by avoiding war here.”
“Th-then…” began Aoi in opposition. “The people can leave the reservations and join the nations controlling them.”
“That is exactly what the Testament Union wants.” Masazumi nodded. “They will almost certainly provide assistance for anyone joining. They will assist in the religious conversion and the language barrier. Doing so will be a huge boon for the Testament Union.”
“A boon? Wouldn’t a bunch of new people be a bad thing?”
“Not necessarily. They would have laborers to work almost as cheaply as slaves and they could forcibly solve the problems caused by the segregation in the harmonic territories. And most importantly, the Far East has technology.”
She spread her arms wide toward the sky as she spoke.
“Have you forgotten about the giant aerial ship known as the Musashi? In order to reproduce the Ame no Torifune of Far Eastern mythology mentioned in the Testament descriptions, the Far East is much more advanced than the other nations in aerial ship technology and related fields.”
She paused for a second.
“That aerial ship technology is what the other nations want the most.”
The people of Musashi listened to Masazumi across the ship.
“Once the provisional rule was put in place after the Harmonic Unification War, the Far East created the Musashi as its own territory. The other nations were allowed to take part and sharing our aerial ship technology was used to aid our war negotiations. The Musashi became a trade ship that travelled on the borderlines between nations and our development grew even more focused on the aerial field due to being freed from researching and developing weaponry. IZUMO is the Far East’s great corporate union and the leading force behind constructing the Musashi. As its name suggests, it was always focused on the fields related to the sky.”
“But the technology used in the great remodeling of the Musashi ten years ago was not shared with the Testament Union because Mikawa had allied with P.A. Oda. We did not share our powerful stealth system or our emergency gravitational cruising system, so the other nations want them. For example, the K of K.P.A. Italia stands for Kure. In the Far East’s aerial ship industry, Kure is second only to IZUMO. K.P.A. Italia is on the inland sea, so they expected to decline during the Age of Exploration and secured income by controlling Kure and building ships for other nations. They would want nothing more than the Musashi’s current technology. Also…”
By Tres España’s tent, Muneshige, Gin, and the others held their breath as they listened to Masazumi.
“In accordance with the history recreation, Tres España will soon enter a war against England. During that war, Tres España will send out their Grande y Felicísima Armada made up of 130 warships.”
“But the history recreation means that armada will lose and ironically be referred to as the ‘invincible armada’. To carry this out, England has been receiving technological assistance from IZUMO.”
Gin nodded and spoke.
“The Far East island of Tsushima was too small for England, so they built their nation on the floating island they brought from the Harmonic Divine States. As such, England acted as an intermediary between the Far East and the other nations during the Harmonic Unification War. They were heavily involved in the construction of the Musashi and still maintain strong connections to IZUMO.”
“But,” said Musashi’s vice president over the divine transmission. “I doubt Tres España is simply planning to lose to England and its Far Eastern technology. By winning the battle, producing a truly ‘invincible armada’, and yet surrendering, they can achieve a political victory while preserving the history recreation. And if they had the technology needed to expand and strengthen their invincible armada, they would gain more power later.”
Sakai, “Musashi”, and “Shinagawa” walked toward the Musashi using the gangway connecting the Musashi to a barge from the specialized land port.
As the wind from the bottom of the valley rustled their clothing, they heard Masazumi’s voice coming from the Musashi.
“Furthermore, aerial ships can transport land goods and personnel. With the Thirty Years’ War approaching, M.H.R.R. and Hexagone Française will want this technology, but so would Qing and Russia. Ships that can pass over tall mountains are rare, but the Musashi can accomplish that in its current form.”
“Musashi” raised her head to look up at the giant ship that could be referred to as her true body.
“Masazumi-sama knows a surprising amount about us. The conditions for gravitational cruising are quite strict, so it is almost never used.”
“It looks like she has a fairly nerdy side to her.”
As Sakai smiled, the wind and the girl’s voice arrived.
“If the people of the Far East join the Testament Union nations, they will obtain the methods, technology, ports, and fuel they need to build and use ships like the Musashi. Rather than spending long years researching and developing the technology for themselves, they can obtain all the knowledge and technology in a much shorter time for much less money.”
“Then,” said Aoi. “Why not let that happen? We can make a triumphant return with our technology. If you add in the people’s revolution that Nate mentioned before, we’d be in pretty good standing, right? It sounds great, doesn’t it?”
“For the technical workers and aerial ship workers, yes. But who can say about the others. If they try to go with the truth of the revolution, it’s possible they could be trapped inside the poor reservations.” Masazumi formed a fake smile. “Listen. The reservations will grow very poor before any of this would happen. There would likely be opposition from the people who do not want to join the other nations or convert to those nations’ religions. Even if it does not develop into war, there will be deaths. And these deaths will come from the normal citizens of all the reservations rather than students.”
She spread her arms and asked him if he understood a few times.
“You might be trying to avoid war by not rescuing Horizon, but the reservations will end up paying the price. Those are the deaths produced by avoiding war. Are you saying deaths caused by deficient social services and poverty are okay as long there are no direct deaths form war? That is nothing more than avoiding the deaths before your eyes and writing off the unseen deaths as ‘unavoidable’!”
Just as she began to advance further with her argument, Aoi cut in.
“Wait just a second.”
He held out his opened right hand to stop her, pulled a few cheat sheets from his pocket, and held up one of them.
“Um, let’s see… You’re saying my choice will produce deaths even if we don’t go to war, right?”
“Judge. Exactly. When faced with war, insisting that avoiding war will lead to peace is no more than turning a blind eye to the future.”
“I see.” He nodded directly at her, but immediately continued speaking. “Then I have a question.”
“What is it?”
“If we do not rescue Horizon, the Testament Union’s rule will further advance and people will die. But rescuing her will cause war. We have two options: accept that quiet rule or oppose it and fight for freedom. In that case…”
He suddenly pulled a new cheat sheet from his pocket.
Immediately afterwards, Masazumi heard him read a name.
“This question is from Masanobu-kun the politician!”
Her heart skipped a beat when she heard her father’s name.
And then she heard her father’s question.
“If we do rescue Princess Horizon, we will need a just cause to present to the Testament Union. Without one, they can rightfully claim we are violating our treaty. What is our justified reason for rescuing the princess? What makes the Testament Union in the wrong for forcing her suicide?”
“An excellent question and an excellent demand,” muttered Innocentius on the deck of the K.P.A. Italia ship Regno Unito. “The biggest problem for us would not be the Far East insisting on a justice that only they agree to. It would be a reason that makes the rest of the world view us as evil for ruling them.”
“Rulers fear being seen as evil more than anything else. If that happens, other countries will ally themselves with the Far East to prove they are not evil and protect their own image.”
With a smile on the corner of his mouth, Innocentius turned toward Galileo.
“Thirty years ago, the Far East did exactly that to me and I lost.” He sat up and faced the cornice firma in front of him. “Now, what will they do? Can they find the words that will actually damage us rather than giving a convenient excuse for themselves?” He took a breath. “If they can, the Far East will truly have been my enemy for twenty years straight.”
…A justification, hm?
Everything she had said so far was from the Far East’s point of view.
Those ideas might benefit the Far East, but they were nothing but evil from the Testament Union’s perspective.
For the Testament Union to accept the Far East’s opinion, they needed to be “correcting the Testament Union’s mistake”.
If they could convince the Testament Union that they were wrong, an all-out war could be avoided.
At the very least, the nations that agreed would not oppose the Far East.
…Is there a justification like that?
As if to follow through on that question, she heard a voice.
Aoi began to read something written on his cheat sheet.
The words were spoken in Aoi’s voice, but they were clearly her father’s words.
“Once war begins, it will continue until both sides make peace. Alternatively, it could continue until one side has been annihilated. If war does begin, the reservations will certainly be taken hostage.”
“The princess’s ‘suicide’ is only natural for a ruler of this era. If we prohibit it, we will be criticized by the other nations. We will lose all allies and continue fighting until our destruction.”
“If we cannot present a justification for saving the princess that even the Testament Union will accept, everyone will turn against us.”
And so her father asked his question by proxy.
“Do you have a just cause for rescuing the princess? Do you have a justification?”
“Can one as inexperienced as you answer this question!?”
Aoi’s shout caused her to tremble.
She shrank back, held her breath, and lost all strength for a moment.
Her raised hands lowered and dangled limply by her sides.
As she lowered her head slightly, she realized she looked like a scolded child.
But as her left hand dangled next to her waist, she felt something.
It produced a dry sound.
She then heard a voice from the port side. It was Suzu’s quiet and shrill voice.
Suzu shook her shoulders and faced Masazumi.
Amid the student council and chancellor’s officers, she was supported by Asama and she looked up at Masazumi on the bridge.
“U-um, M-Masazumi. Masazumi!”
She raised her voice.
“Wh-when your hand…t-touched your clothes…it…it made a noise!”
Masazumi faced her from the bridge. She slowly and weakly gave a questioning expression.
“It…it sounded like paper!” said Suzu.
While supporting her, Asama looked up in surprise. She looked blankly at Masazumi and spoke with a hint of question in her tone.
“Masazumi, do you have a cheat sheet like Toori-kun!?”
Masazumi’s expression changed. Her eyebrows shot up, her mouth spread outward, and she started to say something, but then she frantically reached into the pocket binder at her waist.
She pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. It may have been a note because it had something written on it.
But she did not spread it out.
As she held it in both hands, strength filled her elbows. Her right elbow moved up and her left down. It was as if she were trying to tear it in half.
Masazumi tried to tear apart the paper in her hands.
This was the countermeasure note for this incident that she had put together in the early morning.
It contained her own countermeasure based on her own decisions and the information from the provisional council’s secretaries.
…It was written there.
Her countermeasure had included a means of justifying their actions and even what the Musashi should do afterwards.
They were all her own ideas, but that brought a certain question to her mind.
…Can one as inexperienced as me give this answer!?
She had been unable to inherit a name, she questioned what exactly a politician was, and she half-hid the fact that she was a girl.
That imperfect, doubting, and false self had indeed produced an answer.
…But what proof do I have that it will be accepted!?
Her father had certainly seen through her thoughts. He had likely realized that she was gathering her own thoughts on the issue. And that was why he was warning her by asking this question via Aoi.
She could clearly see his warning. If she ignored her own inexperience and continued forward…
…I will be throwing away my future.
She would lose the support of her father and the others around her and her path to the future would close.
She had already failed to inherit a name and now she would cut off her path to being a politician.
And so she held the note in her hand.
It held unnecessary thoughts.
This failure to take her inexperience into account was the source of her grief, anger, and excess emotions and dreams.
If she ripped the paper in two, her father and the committee would accept her and everything would return to normal.
But just as she tried to tear it apart, she heard a sound in front of her.
It was the sound of tearing paper. Aoi had torn apart the cheat sheet in his hand.
As she wondered what was happening, she saw him raise his eyebrows slightly.
He entered her vision while she continued to hang her head.
He remained at a distance, but he had crouched down to peer up at her from below.
“Don’t be silly. I want to hear your answer.”
Aoi wanted to hear her answer.
“Weren’t you listening? I’m not very smart, I can’t do anything, and I can’t answer these questions myself. The same goes for the others. That money-lover can only count money. Our glasses-wearing author can only talk about history. …The only one who can talk about politics is you.”
“Who else is going to give their answer here?”
Aoi sat down and slammed the remains of his cheat sheet to the ground.
She jumped slightly when he suddenly shouted out and pointed at her.
Why was this idiot so angry all of a sudden?
She was his enemy here. And yet…
“Listen,” he said again. “You are…! You are our academy’s vice president!”
“Listen. You are the only one among us with any authority left. Do you understand what that means!? Nothing I say here means a thing! But you’re different. You may think you’re representing the provisional committee, but you’re our vice president.”
“You represent us! So give your answer!!”
His shout caused her to jump again.
What did she want to do?
She did not know.
She always hesitated, lamented, and grew self-centered.
But right now…
She opened her mouth to speak.
And a voice rose as if in response.
They were the words of a will. She interpreted it as a voice, but this was something’s will.
But what was using this ability of mutual understanding?
“It can’t be…”
She and Aoi both turned toward the voice.
Halfway up the stairs, Adele was holding a bucket. The foundations of her vassal’s mobile shell’s legs that she wore on her feet created a fair bit of noise as she climbed the steps.
“Oh, am I interrupting? But, um, the chancellor asked me to bring this.”
After climbing the stairs, the eyes behind her glasses looked back and forth between Masazumi and Aoi.
Aoi smiled. He faced Adele and indicated Masazumi with a hand. But then he faced the bucket.
“Go for it.”
In response, something climbed onto the edge of the bucket.
It was a brown algae creature.
“Is that one of those things from the sewers?” asked Asama.
“Yeah,” said Naomasa with a bandage on her cheek. “I’m sometimes in charge of swapping out the purification pod that’s filled with them. They don’t get very attached to people. They know they’re dirty, so they think they would just be a bother. They try to keep their distance and only exchange a greeting.”
“I’ve never heard of one calling anyone by name before.”
Masazumi faced the black algae creature’s sensory organs.
She only needed to lower her head slightly. Instead of sewage, the bucket Adele held was filled with ink and a few other black algae creatures were floating or submerged in the ink.
“Masazumi,” said the one on the edge of the bucket.
But after calling her name again…
It lost its balance and fell outside the bucket.
However, Masazumi reflexively reached for the black-stained creature.
And she caught it in her hands.
With a wet splat, it landed on the paper she held and the black water spread out and covered the writing.
“Thank you,” said the creature.
“Don’t worry about it.”
These creatures had always peered at her from behind Horizon’s legs, but this was the first time one had spoken to her.
“What is it?” she asked.
She was dumbfounded, but the creature continued speaking.
A few of the creatures inside the bucket climbed onto the edge.
“Masazumi is politician.” “Politicians save people.” “In exchange for taxes.”
After that chain of comments, the creature in her hand shook. It went on to produce a small stone in her hand. It was transparent and resembled glass.
…Is this made from the components of the sewage that they couldn’t break down because it wasn’t trash?
“Three years of work made this.” “Not enough?” “Need more?”
“How can we help Horizon?”
“Well…” she said.
Their words made her tremble.
Masazumi began to wonder what she had come here to do, what she was doing, and what she wanted to do.
But there was one thing she did know. She heard the same words repeated.
“How can we help Horizon?”
Hearing that, she made up her mind and acted. She slowly moved the black algae creature to the bucket.
As she silently grabbed the stone remaining on her hand, the creatures spoke.
“Paper dirty.” “Sorry.” “Can’t read.”
“It’s fine. I can still read it if I try. And…”
She clenched the stone in her stained hand, clenched the paper in her other hand, and placed the paper in the bucket.
“It’s fine. You can eat it. I have already made up my mind.”
That’s right, she muttered in her heart. What do I want to do?
And she answered her own question.
“I wonder if I could save her if I was a politician.”
She thought about who she had once been, who she had been until very recently. She had simply said she wanted to be a politician with no real purpose behind it. But she was now aware of something.
She wanted to save lives that were on the verge of being lost.
Her old self had to have felt the same and that was why she asked herself another question.
…Why do I want to be a politician?
“Answer me this.” She raised her head and stopped her gaze on Aoi who was still sitting down. “Aoi Toori, am I a representative of Musashi Ariadust Academy?”
“Of course you are.”
“I see.” She nodded. “Then I will answer the question you gave me. Basically, you want a justification for saving Horizon that applies to the Testament Union as well. You want said justification to avoid the war and the damages to the reservations that will come about from rescuing her.”
“That’s right. Give me your answer.”
“Then,” said Masazumi while looking away from him and toward the front of the ship.
While holding the bucket of black algae creatures, Adele moved out of the way of her gaze. She could see the people of Musashi in the space this cleared and she spoke to them.
She spoke her countermeasure which she had thought up in the morning and written in that note.
“There is a justification for saving Horizon Ariadust,” she said. “First of all, there is no need for her to take responsibility as Mikawa’s ruler.”
In front of Tres España’s tent, everyone focused on the cadena firma.
They had all stopped reaching into the bag of popcorn.
“What is she saying?”
“Last night, Lord Motonobu, ruler of Mikawa, destroyed Mikawa and died in the process,” said the girl in the cadena firma. “But that is being viewed as a portion of Mikawa’s destruction rather than as suicide. As such, the responsibility has been shifted to the next ruler.”
“But when Lord Motonobu died, Horizon Ariadust was not his heir. Isn’t that right, Asama? The summary succession confirmation was carried out this morning, correct?”
“Oh, y-yes. That’s right,” said a girl not visible on the screen. “For a Shinto musician, succession confirmation is carried out before their god, but Mikawa’s shrine was lost, so it seems a Shinto spell user travelling with the Testament Union performed the succession confirmation for Mikawa’s ruler. They were from K.P.A. Italia, so I assume they were a helper from Aki’s Itsukushima Shrine. Horizon is a resident of Musashi and has a second-level contract with the Asama Shrine, so we received a report.”
Muneshige and Gin commented without looking away from the screen.
“Aki? That is a very formal shrine. It is built on a floating island, so it is supposedly impregnable.”
“It acts as the Papa-Schola’s fortress now.”
“Now, let me say this,” said the vice president on the screen while sweeping her right hand from left to right. “Horizon Ariadust has no memories of the past and has been living as a resident of Musashi, so she had nothing to do with the destruction of Mikawa. So why must she take responsibility for that destruction?”
The chancellor appeared on the screen. He was frowning and staring down at a new cheat sheet.
“Because she’s the ruler, right?”
The vice president looked at the chancellor just once before turning back to the screen.
Gin raised one eyebrow slightly.
“That vice president has changed from a moment before. She almost seems to be speaking to us.”
“You think so too?” asked Muneshige.
Gin only nodded and said nothing more.
Who exactly was the vice president trying to speak to?
They could not say and they may have been imagining it at this point.
But she raised a finger toward them again.
“If you insist she take responsibility for something she knew nothing about and had no control over, who would you have had take responsibility if she had not been here? No one knew Mikawa would be destroyed! The only ones who did were lost along with Mikawa. Then who will take responsibility? Do you understand what I am saying?”
“Do you understand? You are taking someone unrelated to an incident, someone who knew nothing about it until just now, and then suddenly making them an heir and forcing responsibility onto them! Think carefully. If the Testament Union’s method is legitimate, someone else would have had to have been made ruler of Mikawa and forced to ‘commit suicide’ had Horizon not been here. This will set a precedent for making someone an ‘heir’ and executing them for something they were wholly unrelated to!”
The vice president on the screen took a breath and struck at the air as if swatting something away.
“This is a misuse of the history recreation! This is a devilish system allowing them to execute whoever they want!”
“Wait,” said Aoi from next to Masazumi.
Strength left her shoulders as she turned toward him. She exaggerated her motion to get her force, presence, words, and intentions across to the people watching via the divine transmissions carried over ley lines.
“Look, I know you’re kind of on a roll right now, but let me speak for a second. You’re not just saying Horizon doesn’t have to take responsibility; you’re saying no one does. In that case, where does responsibility for the destruction of Mikawa go?”
“You want me to tell you?”
Masazumi turned back toward the people. The film crew from the broadcast committee stood at the center of the staircase.
There was one person in particular she needed her will to reach.
While hoping it would happen, she formed more words.
“Mikawa lost its ruler and most of its land. It needs to be reconstructed in the future, but the people can’t live without the city infrastructure. They are getting by right now with Musashi’s infrastructure and ships loaded with temporary residences. So what can be done about this situation?”
She held the fingers of her right hand out toward the film crew.
“Mikawa can be recognized as an aerial city ship and exist alongside Musashi.”
In other words…
“Mikawa will not be lost, so no one must take responsibility.”
“Are you listening? Mikawa was crucial as a neutral city between Tsirhc and Mlasi, but Musashi can handle that while travelling. If Mikawa exists alongside Musashi, we can recover from the loss of Mikawa without affecting Musashi’s authority!”
She heard surprised voices welling up from below.
But they changed to confused voices and soon excited voices joined in.
A sudden explosion of voices rose into the air.
With that thought, she let out a shout to make the final push.
“Musashi Ariadust Academy uses the previous opinion as a counter-proposal concerning the Testament Union’s treatment of Horizon Ariadust! We request that the Testament Union rethinks this! Our justification is as follows! The Testament Union’s current actions are a misuse of the history recreation and their actions are making light of the Testament!”
Her shouted words received an almost immediate response.
“Nothing but sophistry.”
A staticky voice suddenly came from the broadcast.
A man’s face appeared on the broadcast display boards and all the sign frame style bulletin boards in the area and in the sky.
The man wore a white cloak.
Those words of confirmation caused Masazumi to mentally clench her fists.
…Here he is.
The one listening to her words and watching all of her actions beyond the screen had been this man.
He was the representative of the Testament Union. He was the one who had pushed Horizon’s suicide as the means of maintaining history.
If she won in this confrontation against him, everything would change. The people and Musashi would change.
Aoi glanced over at her.
“Seijun, I like the look in your eyes.”
“Aoi, I will be saying some complicated things now.”
She took a breath and ignored the pope-chancellor’s face visible in the air.
She had to face the broadcast committee’s film crew rather than the screen in the sky.
She stared straight forward as if looking at the person beyond the screen.
“Aoi, listen carefully. This is what really matters. But…”
There was more to the countermeasure she had thought up that morning.
She did not know if she could complete it or not.
She might grow timid, she might lose confidence, and she might grow utterly confused.
But there was one thing she knew for sure.
“I will make sure to fulfill my role and open a path to Horizon.”
In the tent, Innocentius sat in his chair and faced forward.
He narrowed his eyes as he looked into the camera on the table.
…What a troublesome lot.
This was the duty of the leader of the Catholics who worshiped the Testament and preserved the history recreation.
The suicide of Mikawa’s princess was not a part of history, but it was a historically legitimate means of taking responsibility and it would make up for the destruction of Mikawa.
The people of Musashi were shouting in excitement, but…
“It is an empty argument.” he said. “You, vice president. You just said what you would do, did you not?”
“Yes, I did.”
“No, not ‘yes’. Use ‘judge’. Your people are being judged, remember?”
What an obvious provocation, he thought. But as the Catholic leader, I can’t overlook someone who ignores the Testament Union’s decision.
The leader had to set an example for everyone else. He could not allow himself to waver in the slightest.
“You want us to free Mikawa’s princess because she is unrelated to the incident? A nice idea. A very nice idea indeed. It’s been a while…a good long while since I’ve heard that.”
He took a breath.
“But I have heard that appeal for a life thousands if not tens of thousands of times.”
Of course he had.
“We follow the Testament descriptions and recreate history. But there will always be discrepancies. We may be able to see a hundred years into the future, but our knowledge and imagination of the former Age of the Gods is lacking, our supply of people and materials is insufficient, and we must put up with the harsh environment and intentional obstacles. And so we must eliminate these discrepancies.”
“Are you suggesting the suicide of Horizon Ariadust, an unrelated princess, will help eliminate these discrepancies?”
“Are you suggesting we allow the discrepancies to exist?”
Musashi’s vice president closed her mouth.
And she felt silent.
The silence that followed brought some slight admiration to Innocentius.
If she had said they would allow the discrepancies, that Far Eastern academy would be ignoring the history recreation and could be dealt with accordingly.
But Musashi’s vice president had avoided that mistake.
When she had spoken out before, he had assumed she was merely lost in using her words to attack.
He adjusted his position in his chair.
He crossed his legs, let his right hand dangle outside the chair, and placed his left hand on his crossed leg.
His waist was placed halfway along the chair.
He looked at the screen and then turned toward the camera.
“Let us talk.” He took a breath. “Let us talk about the proper state of the world.”
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