Horizon:Volume 2B Chapter 39
Chapter 39: The One Left Behind in the Cage
What if you parted ways
Before even meeting?
Point Allocation (Confusion)
Neshinbara was turned to the side and leaning against the back of his chair. This was partially to turn his back to Shakespeare as she read her novel, but he had another reason as well.
…They look familiar.
The wall was not directly behind him and there was a walkway for participants and storage space for items being carried out. He had a good view along the wall and he was currently focused on the break area a few booths away.
That area had chairs and tables, but most of the people were sitting on the floor.
Neshinbara noticed two in particular sitting with their backs to the wall.
One wore a sheet over his head and had tights on the legs sticking out. The other wore a hug pillow cover and tights. The sheet and pillow cover both had characters from the popular English divine television show “The Evil Fairy Teletubs” printed on them. The two of them had a pile of doujinshi in front of them and were loading them into wooden boxes to carry out.
“Nobu-tan! Nobu-tan! We hit the jackpot today and it feels great!!”
“It does, Koni-tan! England truly is wonderful! I love it!”
They were likely Musashi residents, but Neshinbara decided it would be best to ignore them.
…Being considerate is tough for us normal people.
“Twisting your body like that is bad for your legs,” commented Shakespeare.
Thinking it would be too childish to ignore her, he fixed his posture and found her holding out something white with other colors. It was a round piece of bread with cooked vegetables and meat inside.
“Eat this. It doesn’t look like you brought anything. Was that because you planned to leave early as you assumed no one would come?”
It irritated him that she was exactly right. He had brought some snacks, but he had never seen anything like this offered bread and accepted it out of curiosity.
He noticed she held an identical bread and he held up his.
“What is this? Some kind of history recreation?”
“It’s a slight modification of the Roman offula. Try it.”
He took a bite and found it was still warm and had soy sauce in it.
“Isn’t this a pain to make?”
“Testament. Quite a few bread products are sold in the market, but if their existence is later discovered in the Testament descriptions, the already existing ones are used as an interpretation. That means we can prepare things in lots of ways without worrying. For authors like us, the experience of making them for ourselves is important research.”
“Thank you for that lecture from a professional. Are you hoping to use what I think as research?”
“I need you to describe the flavor. Do it directly with no comparisons.”
He chewed and noticed the texture of the mincemeat and the bean sprouts which were cooked with salt. As he relished the elasticity of the meat with his back teeth, he spoke.
“You don’t usually have salt with bread, but it’s interesting that you can manage it by adding in these ingredients. Bread already gives two different flavors with the inside and the cooked crust, and adding the ingredients allows you to enjoy both of those flavors.”
As he spoke, Shakespeare took notes with her sign frame’s keyboard.
“Thank you. I didn’t think you would answer.”
“Anyone would think that after reading the interview from when your novel was published in that magazine.”
Oops, thought Neshinbara. I gave my opponent a foothold to attack from.
But he also realized how petty he was for being unable to ignore her.
“I was so excited then that I couldn’t see anything around me.”
“I thought as much. You wouldn’t be able to say what you did otherwise.”
She then said the words he found so embarrassing he wanted to die.
“ ‘I am the type of person who could not work in any other profession, and I think I received this honor because I am someone who can only become an author.’ ”
She took a breath.
He wanted to gather his things and run away, but Shakespeare took a bite of her offula and spoke.
“When you maintain a road in a public works job, you feel you have created a piece of the nation. When you add numbers to a register in an office job, you imagine some grand industry lies beyond those numbers. When you farm, you hold pride in the fact that you are supporting the nation and its people. In truth, someone who can become an author is the type who can feel sentiment for any profession. Of course, athletic abilities and personality compatibility come into play as well.”
Neshinbara understood what she was trying to say, so he spoke up for her.
“Are you saying I was wrong when I said I couldn’t work as anything but an author? Are you saying I simply wasn’t looking at any option except that?”
“That is true but not what I am getting at,” stated Shakespeare. “You said two interesting things. The first is what you just mentioned. The other…”
He had a guess.
“ ‘I am someone who can only become an author.’ Is that it?”
“That was quite interesting,” she said. “Most people – myself included – are trying to become an author or are trying to remain an author, but you were saying that you had been born as someone who would definitely become an author, weren’t you?”
Realizing what she meant, he felt his body temperature sink.
He heard a shuddering sound form his blood vessels as Shakespeare continued speaking quietly.
“I still do not think I have become an author. I still don’t know what I can do to equal William Shakespeare whose name I inherited or how much I must accomplish to…” She took a bite. “How much I must accomplish to overcome the bonds of this name and name myself an author under my own name of Thomas. But you were the type who would definitely become an author.”
“I’d say you’ve done more than enough to be called an author.”
“To you, is ‘author’ nothing more than a term to write down as your occupation because it is something you will naturally become because of who you are? If so…”
“Is that why you quit writing just because of a few insults? Was it of little value to you because you became one so easily?”
She still did not turn toward him and took a breath after eating half of her bread.
“You haven’t changed.”
Just as Neshinbara began to protest, Shakespeare asked a question.
“Who do you think I am?”
“A good question, isn’t it?” she said as he took a bite of offula.
Just as he noticed the mincemeat tasted like salt, her voice suddenly rang out once more.
“That girl died.”
“I don’t know. I don’t know which one I am.”
That left Neshinbara speechless and she did not stop there.
“After we parted ways, you went to Hexagone Française and we went to England. …She wasn’t doing well back then.”
He had a feeling he did not want to hear this, but he also had a feeling she would stop and never again tell him if he told her to stop. He instead remained perfectly silent.
“On the ship to England, she said she couldn’t go with me any longer.”
Why was that?
“The three of us had said we wanted to write books and see our books in a bookstore.”
Shakespeare lowered her head and filled her mouth with offula. She cleaned her thumb with her tongue, wiped her hand with the edge of her white coat, and slowly stood up.
“That girl might have become an author.”
As she quickly gathered her things, no strings of letters were coming from her hair.
…Has the theatre space ended?
That fact made him worry about his classmates’ safety, but he could not do anything because of Macbeth on his right arm and the cast on his left leg.
She grunted as she put on her backpack and lifted her paper bag.
Neshinbara watched her prepare to leave, but she asked another question.
“Does the current bearer of the name Thomas resemble that girl?”
It was only then that he realized what she was looking at. He averted his gaze and heard her speak as if from overhead.
“So you don’t know which one I am. It is true we were very much alike aside from our personalities.”
“If you ever realize the answer, will you tell me?”
“If I realize that, will you forgive me?”
“No,” she said with her back turned. She had circled to the side of the table and continued toward the canyon formed between lines of people. “If you realize that, it will make that girl happy.”
Tenzou and Scarred stepped outside in the afternoon sun.
Scarred was a step ahead to his right.
He had not spoken with her since learning of the Princess Disappearance of Chancellor Henry VIII in the Tower of London’s southeastern tower, but a certain thought was on his mind.
…Who is she?
Upon leaving Chancellor Henry VIII’s study, she had placed the key in her pocket. That meant she was someone close to Chancellor Henry VIII, but who?
…Fairy Queen Elizabeth?
But that could not be it. Unless she held a position similar to Toori’s Mr. Impossible, her time would be too filled with official business to spend it on anything like this.
That did not make sense either. Double Bloody Mary was imprisoned in the southwestern tower, she occasionally made an appearance for the people of London, and that had continued while he had been with Scarred.
…Then who is she?
Was she a maid or some other relative?
As he thought, Scarred walked around the Tower of London’s moat and toward Oxford.
A blockade preventing access to the first level was still in place before the stairway to Oxford. The crowd was thick and the people still seemed intent on making their way up. People walked by and Tenzou passed by a few children and adults.
“Scarred-dono, that area is still-…”
As he tried to slow down, she continued on ahead.
Who was she? For that and many other reasons, he wanted to see more of her and so he tried to line up beside her and then move out ahead of her.
She noticed what he was doing and took a half-step lead.
He filled that half-step gap, but she took the lead again.
…This is Zeno’s paradox!
Tenzou recalled that Zeno was a Greek philosopher. He had been gay, but he had put together a method of dialectics using questions and answers. One of his playful demonstrations was known as the Paradox of Achilles and the Tortoise. It created an impossible paradox where swift Achilles attempted to catch up to a tortoise but could never do so because the tortoise was constantly moving forward.
…But that also describes the current situation between Scarred-dono and me.
For the history recreation, someone recruited to be Achilles had tried to catch up to the tortoise and Zeno had charged in from the side to physically stop Achilles and keep him from catching up. At the time, Zeno had begun his question and answer method by asking “Does it hurt? Well? Does it hurt?” and Achilles had tapped out. That had been the world’s first demonstration on the effect of the Achilles lock.
As it was only a history recreation, some had wondered if it was going too far to force a paradox to work, but it had been ultimately deemed “close enough”.
That paradox was also used in movement spells, but Tenzou compared it to the distance between Scarred and himself and he realized a certain fact. They were almost competing over whether he could fill the gap, but he was enjoying himself.
He spoke up to ask if she was enjoying it as well, but she immediately replied.
“Master Tenzou, how about we play a game?”
Thanks to living with his horrible class, he had nothing but bad memories concerning that word.
…N-no. She isn’t like them.
Despite that thought, his long years of experience made him afraid to ask further.
“What kind of game?”
“Judge. If I see your face, I win. How about that?”
Oh, but that would be impossible, he immediately concluded.
That was only natural for a ninja.
…Revealing our face is the same as dying.
Just as he tried to tell her that, a shadow passed over him, he heard a voice, and a noise filled the air.
The top of the Tower of London’s northwestern tower was suddenly smashed to pieces.
Stone and wooden fragments fell from the sky and to the side of the moat.
Tenzou made up his mind in an instant.
…I’m worried about Scarred-dono, but she can use spells!
He was certain saying that would be enough, so he began to move. He was near the moat. The falling stone and wood fragments would likely fall in the moat, but that was not all that mattered.
Even if they were not hit, the fact that no one had protected them would carve fear into their hearts.
Crying in fear and crying in relief over being protected were greatly different things, so he ran in front of the three children and tried to hide the danger from their view.
The rubble ultimately fell in the moat behind him. He heard several sounds of the water splashing and being struck, but nothing hit him as he carried all three children forward a few steps. Their eyes were wide with surprise, but they did not know what had happened and showed no sign of crying.
…I made it in time.
After the final sound from the moat, he lowered the children to the ground.
“That was a close one,” he said cheerfully.
The children nodded as they gradually grasped the situation. Men and women who were likely the children’s parents rushed from the crowd in front of the stairway to the first level, but Tenzou merely raised a hand toward the children and moved away. Not standing out was crucial for a ninja.
…Okay. Um…Where is Scarred-dono?
The commotion had caused confusion in the surrounding people, so he looked around trying to find her.
“I’m over here!”
He saw her white shirt beyond the crowd and under the arcade opposite the moat. Her hand was raised and she seemed to have moved away from the commotion.
The fact that she had avoided the danger seemed strange, but he was not entirely sure why and mentally tilted his head.
…Well, no one was hurt, so it doesn’t matter.
He moved past the people moving about in confusion, faced Scarred, and prepared to ask her if she was hurt.
“I’m glad nothing happened,” she said while suddenly moving up to him.
She lightly embraced him as if clinging to him.
Tenzou realized he had stopped moving.
The reason for this was simple. His life had contained very few opportunities to touch the creature known as the opposite sex, but one of those stood directly in front of him and was taking an action he had even less experience with.
She was leaning against him.
…H-how indecent! More! More!
His outer facade and true thoughts mixed together, but when he tried to speak aloud, nothing came out.
All he knew was that heat was rapidly gathering in his face and he was sweating all over.
…Wh-wh-what is going on!?”
Even as he asked himself that, he had yet to figure out what had seemed so strange since a moment ago.
He reflexively grabbed her shoulders and peeled her from him.
Not only that, he lightly shoved her forward and moved back a few steps.
With some distance between them, he lowered his hips a bit and saw Scarred’s confused face before him. The lowered ends of the eyebrows and the tilted head formed an expression he would call pity.
However, he ignored that expression and his entire body grew cold.
He finally noticed that her hair lacked the white water lily.
Realizing what that meant, the remnants of the heat and sweat completely vanished. All that remained was a faint chill on his spine and tension in his side.
…This is dangerous.
“Who are you?” he asked Scarred.
Scarred once more tilted her head when Tenzou asked for her identity.
“What is it?” she asked while raising her right hand to stop him and taking a step forward.
But he took a step back and turned his body to the side. He held his left elbow forward to use in defense while his right hand reached for the short sword on the back of his waist.
“Who are you?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. It’s me. It’s Scarred.”
“No, it isn’t.”
There was something else he could point out beyond the water lily.
“Scarred-dono is not the type to prioritize her own safety and move away from danger.”
“But you called out to me, telling me to fall back.”
“No, I didn’t.”
His doubt had solidified to certainty and his right hand wrapped around the short sword’s hilt.
“I called Scarred-dono’s name to have her take up a position to aid anyone I could not. Most likely, she is currently helping someone beyond that crowd.”
He took in a breath.
“Who are you?”
Scarred brought a hand to her cheek, lowered the ends of her eyebrows, hung her head, and frowned, but she stopped moving.
“So you saw through it.”
Tenzou watched as she raised her head.
She peeled off the scar on her face with a finger and revealed a face that look much like Scarred’s. However, the lack of scars on this similar-yet-different person confirmed the danger for Tenzou.
“Well, it doesn’t really matter if you saw through it. She only needs to understand.”
As she walked, her hand slowly reached for his throat.
She did not move quickly, but Tenzou realized something.
…I can’t move!?
His mind was resisting, but his body would not move.
…No, is it obeying the air and the earth!?
The air settled like a solid, the wind wrapped around him, and the earth grabbed at the bottom of his feet and refused to let go. He tried to pull his arms and body away, but his clothes and the air around them were as hard as armor and would not let him pull or push.
As he inhaled, he felt as if his body were being controlled by his windpipe, so he stopped breathing.
The technique controlled the ether making up the space.
…A spirit spell!!
Spirits could be said to be ether itself. At a certain level of density, they gained wills of their own and could even communicate with humans. Spirits spells were primitive spells used to communicate one’s intentions to them.
The most important aspect of spirits spells was having an affinity with the spirits in question.
…But the spirits read her intentions from nothing more than the movement of her hand and they obeyed her!
This was not normal. It was rare even among veteran spirit spell masters to control multiple types of spirits at once, but this girl had simultaneously used wind, earth, and air spirits without speaking a word.
Who would be able to do something like that? Before he could find an answer, her hand reached further toward him.
“I will take away the key to her decision”
She grabbed his throat.
But an instant later, her hand was pulled away.
At the same time, a warmth akin to listlessness filled his body and he regained his freedom to move.
The girl was looking at him after taking a few steps back. Her eyebrows had risen slightly, but the corners of her mouth rose and she was clearly trying to agitate him.
Before he could realize why she had moved away, she opened her mouth to speak.
“Why so serious?”
She glanced over his right shoulder, stepped further back, turned around, and started toward Oxford. Meanwhile, Tenzou looked to the right and found why the girl who resembled Scarred had ended her attack.
She and the white flower were there.
Her eyebrows were raised, her lips were pursed, and she was staring intently at the other version of herself.
Tenzou noticed a few tears in the corners of her eyes and that her shoulders were rising and falling a bit.
No, it was not just her shoulders. Her breathing itself was trembling.
…Is she afraid?
He understood what scared her without having to say it.
That girl who resembled her stood before the stairway to Oxford.
She turned her back to the people trying to reach Oxford, folded her arms toward Tenzou and Scarred, and gave a small smile.
“I suppose I should say it now: long time, my friend…no, my sister. Isn’t that right, Double Bloody Mary?”
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