Horizon:Volume 2B Chapter 40
Chapter 40: Standing Alone on the Parting Paths
What further forces one
To accept and go along with the parting?
Point Allocation (Common Sense)
…Double Bloody Mary?
For a moment, Tenzou simply could not understand what the girl resembling Scarred had said.
His mind filled with confusion, but a voice removed that confusion.
Scarred stepped forward from his right.
Her expression changed as she stood between him and the other version of herself who claimed to be her sister.
She smiled with the ends of her eyebrows lowered, but she faced straight forward without lowering her head.
When she called his name again, he looked her in the eye and gradually understood it all.
…Double Bloody Mary.
He recalled and went over what that would mean. The girl before him had cared for a graveyard of three hundred swords and many scars remained on her face and body.
“So that was all because you were Mary.”
“Judge. I am the sinner who killed three hundred while trying to turn England back to Catholicism.”
He nodded with the ends of her eyebrows still lowered, but she did not stop there.
“In the Tower of London, I asked when Mary could have been born seeing as Queen Catherine was too weak to give birth, remember?”
The answer stood before him. The two similar girls indicated the truth.
“When Anne Boleyn gave birth to the Fairy Queen, she had twins.”
Tenzou listened to Mary’s explanation that was similar to a confession.
“We are twin sisters, but I took the name of Mary because I did not possess even half the power of the Fairy Queen. At the time, Queen Catherine had already passed away without having any children, but Queen Anne Boleyn needed to demonstrate her intent to obey the history recreation because our birth was a deviation from that recreation.”
“So she was executed?”
“Judge.” Scarred who was actually Mary nodded. “My birth meant the loss of two mothers.”
“I-if you were twins, you could say the same about the Fairy Queen!”
“Is that any reason to turn those sins toward the one who has great power and is leading England into the future? Given the proper order, I should have been born first and none of this would have happened had that been the case. All the problems stem from me not being born and then from me actually being born later.”
Tenzou was dumbfounded.
“If at all possible…”
The ends of her eyebrows were still lowered and she forced her smile to remain.
“…I didn’t want you to know.”
Tears spilled from her eyes.
She lowered her head, tensed her shoulders, and wiped her face, but Tenzou could not say anything.
He did not know what to say.
Excuses for that came to his mind, but she cleared her throat as he hesitated.
Once she looked back up, her usual smile had returned.
The tears were in the way, but a shake of her head caused them to fall. When she opened her lips and spoke, her voice contained a faint tremble.
“Shall we play our game?”
A game. As she spoke that word, she took a step forward. He wondered what she would do and realized she was close enough to embrace him.
She narrowed her eyes, raised her chin as if stretching her back, and extended her neck.
…This is the pose from a kiss scene.
She raised her chin once and then twice, but he did nothing despite knowing what she intended.
He finally recalled that their game was for her to see his face.
If they were to make physical contact here, he would be forced to physically remove the scarf from his face, but that would mean his loss.
…I will gladly lose! simultaneously declared both his left and right brain.
Something bothered him, so he asked a question without thinking.
“Mary-sama. Will Scarred-dono remain with you?”
He was asking if the person who protected the fourth level would remain.
Mary’s eyes opened in surprise at Tenzou’s question. Her teary eyes looked directly at him and bent as a smile covered her face.
Once the festival came to an end, Mary would be executed. He had asked if that execution meant her death and she had given him a clear answer.
“Do not worry. I will not disappear. Do you remember what I said before? Mary will be saved in the end.”
“Is that so?”
As he breathed a sigh of relief, Mary smiled bitterly and lightly struck his chest.
“I guess this means I lose.”
Declaring her loss brought the kiss scene to its end.
…But can I really let it end like this?
Mary was the sister of Elizabeth, who was chancellor and student council president of England. Continuing to interact with such a person would aid the Far East, but doing so more than necessary and influencing each other could ultimately hinder the history recreation.
She seemed to understand that as well because she clasped her hands near her waist and lowered her head.
“Judge. I will now be entering the Tower of London to prepare for the history recreation. Tres España’s diplomats have arrived and the conditions for the armada battle cannot be met without me. However, the Musashi will leave England once the history recreation is complete, won’t it?”
She just rejected me, he thought blankly as he lowered his head as well.
…It would sound weird to wish her a good execution.
But he could not think of anything else to say.
“Judge. Until we meet again.”
They gave their minimal parting words and both gave a sigh, but he felt this was the right thing to do.
If he did not let his temporary emotions influence him, he would not cause any trouble between England and the Far East. And the next time the Musashi came to England, she would have been removed from the bonds of the history recreation.
Once that happened, she would be free after retiring from her inherited name.
…If we meet again next year…
If all went well, he hoped to meet the true Scarred in that fourth level village once more.
He felt he was being thoughtless and stupid, but he asked anyway.
“I-is there a kind of guy…you especially like?”
For a moment, the look on her face was one of surprise, but it soon changed to a bitter smile.
“I can’t exactly tell you that.”
“But if I did meet someone like that, I would want to be someone who leaves a lifelong scar on him.”
I see, he thought as his shoulders drooped. We really have cut all bonds now.
She took in a breath and turned her back to him.
He stepped back to show he was letting her leave and he watched her slender back.
She left while putting on the cloak she had brought with her and hiding her face.
She walked away and, unlike before, he felt no need to pursue her. It was only then that he truly felt she was on her way to fulfill her duty.
She had shown him her casual clothes, her smile, and a truth about the Princess Disappearances.
…Was that all as thanks for maintaining the graveyard, creating the hot spring, and helping in the fields?
He watched her leave and saw Elizabeth waiting for her.
The queen’s arms were folded and Mary’s path would pass right by her, but then sudden voices came from the stairs to Oxford.
The gathered crowd cheered and they opened a path to the stairway.
Tenzou looked over and saw three forms walking down from Oxford.
One was the large form of Vice President William Cecil, one was the slender form of Vice Chancellor Robert Dudley, and the last was Ben Jonson, the secretary and athlete poet.
The people cleared a path for the three officers and only then realized Elizabeth was already on the path.
Their exclamations of surprise quickly grew to joy.
“Testament. I have come out in the common attire today. This is not bad for a change.”
She received a multitude of voices saying “testament”, but their voices gradually lost enthusiasm as Mary approached the queen and kept her face hidden by her cloak’s hood.
Suddenly, new figures appeared from between the people on either side of the path.
Voices of admiration and awe left the crowd as those six people appeared.
Drake, the bloody Hard Wolf.
Hawkins of the Trident, who maintained his form despite being wrapped in injury-healing bandages.
Grace, the sighing dryad.
Walsingham, who dried her wet hair by brushing it with her floating hands.
Nicholas, who easily swung around his giant hammer.
Lord Chancellor Hatton, the Living Bones with will-o’-the-wisps floating around him.
They met up with the three who had walked down the stairs and formed an arcing line behind the queen. This hid the queen from the public’s view and also hid Mary.
Tenzou heard a sudden voice as he alone faced them from a distance.
Mary looked over her shoulder at a point twenty meters from him and ten meters from Elizabeth. Her bangs hid her expression, so her scar was all he could see clearly.
“This was fun. I was saved even further by learning I could have so much fun, so I truly am fortunate.”
Tenzou just about replied with “judge”, but he noticed an indescribable danger in her words.
…What is this?
He was not sure why, but he felt he should not let her go here.
In that moment, a girl’s voice shouted down from far above.
“Don’t let…her go!!”
It was Suzu.
Tenzou heard his classmate’s voice which did not attempt to hide her desperation.
“She isn’t…isn’t being…saved!! Th-this…is the same! The…same!!”
What was it the same as?
Adele nodded in agreement with Suzu from the top floor of the half-destroyed northwestern tower. She was working to protect Suzu who yelled down from the wall that had broken down to the floor.
…This facility shouldn’t be here!!
She was currently investigating the data acquired from Suzu’s Noise Neighbor which was connected to the mobile shell.
The top floor of the northwestern tower contained Ex. Caliburn.
The crust the sword was stabbed into had been transplanted into the tower. From there, it was directly connected to England’s ley lines and it could fire the giant light sword that protected the nation.
However, Noise Neighbor’s inspection of the firing point’s internal structure said something else.
“The appearance is different, but it’s been modified to have almost the exact same effect as the Andamio de la Ejecución we saw at Mikawa!!”
Adele could see the English Andamio de la Ejecución before her.
The sounds Suzu had heard coming from England had likely been this modification. The sounds reverberating through the ley lines had been caught by the ether detectors in Noise Neighbor’s sensors.
The Andamio de la Ejecución was covered with white and gold decorations. Overall, it looked like a cake five meters across. Ex. Caliburn grew from the stone crust and ripples created with various decorations surrounded it.
…This one is likely based on permeation rather than time.
Tres España had built a barrier and the person inside was broken down into ether, but this would emit that dissolving power from the floor and eliminate anyone on that floor. It did not use barriers because they knew the victim could not run. The lack of walls had kept it small and allowed even England to build it.
…Of course, it still uses Tres Españan techniques, so they had to have either stolen them or been given them.
The piece of rock forming Excalibur’s pedestal had a single sentence engraved into it.
“Mary’s proud spirit will forever be with England.”
That could only mean one thing. Adele nodded toward Futayo who readied to fight the warriors climbing the stairs and Futayo returned the node and spoke.
“Say what you know. As vice chancellor, I give you authority to speak.”
“Judge,” replied Adele before taking a breath and shouting. “1st special duty officer!!”
She could not see her classmate from here, but Suzu had told her what she had heard.
…The 1st special duty officer is with Queen Mary who was going by the name of Scarred!
Adele did not know why he was there, but she knew what she had to tell him.
…He was close to Scarred this entire time!
As a vassal on the outskirts of chivalry, she was thoughtful enough to realize what that meant.
“1st special duty officer! She will be executed! She will be broken down into ether by the Andamio de la Ejecución and used to strengthen Ex. Caliburn!”
From the modifications made to the crust, the ether pathways, and the ether accumulation, that much was clear.
“She’s lying about being saved! She’s talking about the salvation of death! Queen Mary is of the ether-like fairy race! She intends to return her power to England’s ley lines in order to eternally become one with England and protect it!”
Adele took in a breath before finishing.
“That is the salvation she wants!!”
You’re kidding, thought Tenzou.
If she considered death to be her salvation and an Andamio de la Ejecución had been prepared…
…How long has she been prepared for this!?
Had she decided long before she met him? The most likely timing was when she had been unable to pull out Excalibur.
He recalled how she had maintained that graveyard and helped out the people of that village.
…Was all that a brief diversion as she was preparing for death!?
Everything that happened on this day and before was the same. And if this was how it would all end…
…I thought I understood you, but was I no help at all!?
As he questioned himself, he came to a realization.
He took a step forward.
Tenzou was shocked to realize what he had done.
…This isn’t good.
He was a ninja. A ninja was to remain hidden and obey his ruler from the shadows. He had already decided not to do anything that would work against the Far East.
But he stopped questioning himself once he took a second, third, and fourth step.
He moved forward.
For what, he did not know. How could he tell her to stop in this situation?
He did not know the answer, but he tried to call out to her as her shadow stretched out toward him.
He was unsure whether to call her Mary or Scarred.
A moment later, he realized that her shadow was stretching toward him despite her being to his north.
…A ninja technique!?
The shadow instantly took form and rose from the ground.
It became a man resting the giant hilt of a sword on his right shoulder.
He stood quickly but the hilt could not have been light. His armband indicated he was a member of Trumps and he was likely trained in swordfighting and ninja techniques.
Hiding in shadows was a major type of stealth technique. It could be seen as a reverse usage of Zeno’s paradox as it created a large space in which to hide by continually subdividing an incredibly thin space. It was an actual spell that could be used with Blessings, so it was quite powerful.
…If he can become a shadow so splendidly, I can’t let my guard down!
Tenzou’s course would collide with the man, so he gathered strength in his waist and used a technique from seven meters away.
Ninja techniques used a variety of standard techniques primarily based in martial arts, so anyone could accomplish them with training. The basic principle was to require no outside materials and to be usable even in extreme situations such as being injured.
Tenzou was trained in many ninja techniques that had their foundation in martial arts and he used one of those now.
He accelerated his body toward his opponent’s left side and then circled around on the right side.
He ran in the opposite direction than he appeared to be.
The action itself was simple. He turned his entire body to the left and moved his hands and feet to the left.
…But I move my knees and elbows to the right.
The technique forcibly twisted his forward motion, but his opponent would initially detect the direction of his body and the movement of his extremities. That made it difficult for his opponent to notice the change in his direction of movement.
Simply put, it was an upgraded version of a feint that took advantage of an opponent’s attention.
A moment later, the man rotated a normal-sized hilt in his hand.
“Is that a gravity sword!?”
The man flipped a switch on the hilt which changed the mode from “enemy” to “self” and he then pointed the hilt at himself.
The man stabbed the gravity sword into his own gut.
A voice of surprise escaped Tenzou’s mouth.
…What is he doing?
But an instant later, Tenzou saw the result of the action.
The man split into two of himself.
…He distributed the gravity sword’s attraction and decomposition to split himself in two!?
He had safely broken down his entire body below even the cellular level to create two less dense copies. The technique could be called a seppuku gravity clone, but keeping the nerves connected and the problems presented in the separation and recombination would require great skill.
The two copies grazed through each other a bit as they spread to the left and right.
Their locations covered both options from Tenzou’s feint and the wind was already whipping up as they wielded new gravity swords.
Tenzou was up against two people now.
He avoided having his feet swept out from under him, but that was all he managed.
After their attack at his legs was avoided, the two men launched piercing attacks much like pointing fingers.
And they hit.
Mary turned back when she heard multiple footsteps and she saw the sight from within her hood.
Tenzou’s running posture crumbled and his knees struck the ground. His right hand opened wide as if reaching for her.
But the partial mist of blood created by the gravity’s decomposition burst from his back near the shoulder blades.
The color scattered through the air and the ninja collapsed face-first to the ground below it. He maintained his running posture, but his arms lost strength from the shoulder down and his entire body collapsed to the dirt to his right.
She heard the sound of flesh striking earth.
His clothes scraped across sand, his body curled up, and his legs swung through the air as if he were still trying to kick off the ground.
He curled up to the side as if showing his back off to her.
The sudden damage sent his body into shock and he began trembling.
Mary gasped and nearly turned fully toward him, but she realized Walter stood next to the collapsed ninja with gravity sword in hand.
Instead, she swallowed her gasp into her gut and took another breath.
“Leave him there.”
She looked at the few footprints he had made.
The injury piercing from the front to the back was the type he did not want.
She could not respond to him, but she could protect him.
“He has nothing to do with Double Bloody Mary, so he has nothing to do with you either. Isn’t that right, ‘Trident’ Walter?”
That final name produced a nod from Walter. He returned the gravity sword to the external latch on his uniform, so Mary breathed a sigh of relief, gave a small bow, and turned her back once more.
However, a new voice stopped her before she could begin walking again.
“Hold it right there, Walter! No, Yamanaka! What do you think you’re doing!?”
It was Milton.
Tenzou watched everyone as his consciousness faded due to blood loss.
Running up behind Milton were his classmates from Musashi. Many of them were injured, but most of them were there. When they noticed him collapsed on the ground, Asama spoke first.
“O-oh, no! Tenzou-kun died without anyone noticing!”
“No, look closer, Asama! He’s still twitching like a bug! He’s alive!”
…Don’t jump to conclusions, don’t be so horrible, and was that Horizon-dono for that especially cruel last one!?
Milton then spoke up as he flew along the road ahead of them.
“Yamanakaaaa! Have you truly betrayed Lady Mary!? Are you sending the one who saved us to her death!?”
Walter, who was being called Yamanaka, scratched his head with a troubled look. He silently turned toward Tenzou and then faced Mary.
“Damn you!” shouted Milton.
A moment later, a slow but firm voice was heard. It resembled Mary’s but had more strength behind it.
“Milton, I have a position for you if you wish to join us.”
The Fairy Queen’s voice contained a slight smile and she then turned to the Trumps lined up alongside her.
“Honestly, none of you know how to bring back results. If you wish to hand your number over to that crow, just tell me.”
“Don’t compliment me! The great man that is Milton will not take part in your plan to protect England by sacrificing a noble spirit!”
“Ha ha. Don’t be like that. With the war against Tres España approaching, I simply prefer a crow to this lot who were rebuked by those Far Eastern amateurs. Oh, and that assessment is a national secret.”
She was insulting her own subordinates, but she spoke with a tone of joy. Tenzou did not know what they had done, but he could guess it involved duels with Musashi.
The queen had likely found joy in her subordinates’ desire to protect England more than in their actual results.
If Scarred had realized that was going on…
…That must be why she challenged me to a game.
At that point, she had already viewed herself as on the queen’s side, so had he understood anything about her?
The queen who had known everything spoke to his approaching classmates.
“This festival entertainment is over.” The queen stood in front of Mary. “So let us begin the true festival. Tonight, we will hold a party in Oxford and there we will determine England and the Far East’s stances toward each other.”
After her next statement, Tenzou’s mind fully fell into darkness.
“The world’s entertainment and England’s entertainment have come to an end. And it is all thanks to the apocalypse.”
“This festival entertainment will be over soon, won’t it?”
Heidi spoke to Howard across the document-covered table on the terrace.
Is everyone okay? she wondered with a feeling similar to impatience in her heart.
“I look forward to seeing how exciting tonight’s party will be.”
“As do I,” agreed Howard.
She then noticed Shirojiro’s behavior next to her. He maintained his negotiating posture.
She turned toward him, but he spoke without returning her look.
“Lord Howard, this piece of ‘entertainment’ has allowed England to tell the Testament Union you took actions to secure the Musashi. On the other hand, Musashi eliminated England’s representatives and demonstrated we have the same level of individual strength as you. These duels were valuable to both of us and we can now negotiate from a position that leaves no room for influence from the Testament Union. After all, now that we have sent our representatives against each other, they cannot force us into war.”
“Lord Howard, that is a problem for England, is it not?”
Eh? thought Heidi.
She tilted her head, looked to Shirojiro, and asked a question.
“What do you mean? We’ve shown we’re equal and England has an excuse for the Testament Union, right?”
“Equal is a problem, Heidi. Equal means the Musashi can leave England whenever it wants and possessing military might on par with England’s special duty officers means Musashi will enter the world with the same status as England. The Testament Union will never allow that.”
In which case…
“The meeting tonight will not be on friendly terms. England will try to suppress us. But what reason and method will England use to suppress someone with supposedly equal strength, Lord Howard?”
Realizing what he meant, Heidi turned toward the English treasurer in surprise.
Howard pushed his glasses up his nose, reached into his pocket, and pulled out a paper he had prepared before arriving here.
“Testament. This bans the Musashi from leaving port and temporarily ceases all trade.”
Howard placed the already approved document in the center of the table.
“Now that it has proved its military might is on equal footing with England, Musashi is a threat to other nations. As such, England will forbid the Musashi from leaving port and hold it here.”
Heidi quickly checked the Musashi’s fuel data via a sign frame.
Based on the engine division and command division’s data, they could reach the nearby IZUMO headquarters under normal cruising. But, she thought just before Howard spoke.
“The Musashi’s damage has yet to be fully repaired, so it cannot escape with gravitational cruising in the event of a surprise attack. Also, your reserves of fuel should be just barely too low to travel by stealth cruising. After all, you have yet to make any transactions involving fuel here.”
“Was that on purpose?”
“No, it was merely an issue of priorities. Ether fuel is an important resource for England as well, so we merely held off on that until last. It is but a happy coincidence that it also allows us to cease all trade and hold the Musashi here.”
That final comment reminded Heidi of what Howard had said just before ending their discussion on the diplomatic ship.
“You asked Musashi to use you as our exclusive contact for trade with England. Was that request so you would have the authority to issue and manage a notification such as this?”
“Considering even the unlikely is the foundation of reliable trade,” said Howard as he stood. “You can attend the Peace of Westphalia under England’s protection. It is not a bad option if you ask me.”
Don’t be ridiculous, thought Heidi with a frown. Then I can’t flirt with Shiro-kun while we travel around the world! We were supposed to have all sorts of fun in Hexagone Française next! Nwaaaah! My plans are ruined!!
As anger filled Heidi’s mind, Shirojiro replied to Howard.
“That would indeed be an excellent option for us.”
“Eh? W-wait, Shiro-kun!”
“Heidi, think about it. No matter what our horrible classmates did, we could blame it all on England.”
“Oh, I get it! You’re so smart!!”
“Ehhh!? Y-you’re fine with that!?”
As Howard grew flustered, Heidi glared at him.
“Just to be clear, we have several people who are troublesome on a national level. If you tried to resolve it with money, it would bankrupt at least three nations!”
But, she thought. This really is a problem.
She produced a number of documents on sign frames and showed them to Howard.
“A fair amount of manufacturing is performed within the Musashi and other nations desire a lot of it. Most notably, the universal joint used to combine devices produced by the other nations’ companies is exclusively made on the Musashi. Will you be using England as a midpoint to continue that trade?”
“Testament. By preventing the Musashi from leaving port, England will receive the benefit of being an intermediary both politically and in the trade between Musashi and other nations. On the other hand, the Testament Union and other nations will benefit from the stable history recreation brought about by the Musashi not spreading conflict throughout the Far East. Lastly, Musashi itself can rely on the other nations and the rules of the history recreation to reach the Peace of Westphalia with a minimum of trouble. After all, the other nations have no choice but to recreate the Peace of Westphalia. Is there a problem with any of this?”
Howard went on to ask another question.
“If I designate the two of you as my contact point with the Far East, you should be able to seize almost all the money entering the Musashi. That is not a bad deal for any of us, don’t you think?”
Shirojiro did not reply, but Howard spoke as if to answer his own question.
“England has a reason for holding the Musashi here. In many ways, the Far East’s Musashi is inexperienced as a nation, so we must protect and instruct you.”
“Quite a selfish form of protection,” commented Heidi.
Shirojiro raised his hand to keep her from continuing, looked Howard in the eye, and spoke.
“So England is holding the Musashi here to protect it, stopping all trade, and asking us to obey you? If that is the issue at hand, it falls beyond the jurisdiction of treasurer. You would need to speak with Vice President Honda Masazumi. However, she is a formidable opponent. Try to sell her something and she will refuse simply because she ‘has no money’. Isn’t that right, Heidi?”
“Judge. She won’t borrow money either because she ‘wouldn’t be able to pay it back’. That politician has no weak points for a merchant to exploit. I’m glad she’s on our side.”
Heidi took a breath and thought about how troublesome everything had become.
“It all comes down to the meeting this evening, doesn’t it?”
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