Horizon:Volume 2B Chapter 49
Chapter 49: Liar in the Marketplace
Is it stronger
To believe something is a lie
Than to claim it is a lie?
Point Allocation (Truth)
The setting sun illuminated a slope. The sloped road had a rounded bottom and the dirt was hardened by rain and sun.
People sat along either side of the road with their backs to rough houses with the walls painted white. Those walls occasionally displayed Tres España’s emblem and the address.
Someone walked along the road to the market at the top of the slope.
It was Segundo. He spoke with the people on the road while reading the letter in his hand.
“Mister, a lot happened today.”
She’s started referring to “today” a lot lately, he thought. It must be because the letters are more frequent.
“At the church, the teacher talked about where we are headed. After Tres España loses the armada battle, Tres España will apparently become poor. That will be bad for the church because it is supported by donations, so we will be going to some other place. Having too many people stay here would cause problems for the people of this land.”
…The kids have it tough too.
“I guess everyone knows we will lose the armada battle.”
The other day, the Grande y Felicísima Armada had used some of its strength to damage the Musashi. Based on that, he was convinced it could bring down the Musashi.
However, England’s fleet would remain unharmed even if they did sink the Musashi.
Tres España’s basic plan was to bring about the confused fighting in the early stages of the armada battle and quickly advance to the stage where they fought while retreating. During that stage, they would fire on England and begin a scattered landing operation while using their stealth technology to hold back the English fleet long enough to escape. Even if they were retreating, they would take a very offensive approach to defense. England’s fleet had to attack and could therefore more easily crumble and they also had to worry about the English mainland.
However, the inclusion of the Musashi had changed that.
With the Musashi taking the English fleet’s place, England could fortify their defenses and preserve their fighting force.
…That is what England views as true victory here.
Segundo did not know what state the Musashi would be in once the naval battle ended, but the Grande y Felicísima Armada would not be unharmed. On the other hand, England’s original fleet would be completely unharmed and have their history recreation victory.
After it was worn down and had to reveal its strength in battle, the Grande y Felicísima Armada’s value would drop. Unharmed, England would be able to declare victory and gain supporters while Tres España would have lost all value and be forced into decline.
The Grande y Felicísima Armada would only be able to celebrate what it had done and would ultimately be a disappointment to the people of Tres España. After all, the great force before their eyes now would be damaged and lead to their defeat.
“But I’ll do something about it. I’ll do whatever I can.”
Realizing he should be at the top of the slope soon, he looked down at the paper again.
“Mister, you fight in wars right?”
Right now, I manage them, he replied in his heart.
From the flow of her words, he assumed she would ask him not to fight.
“Will you save someone again?”
The meaning of those words caused Segundo to gasp.
She was not telling him not to fight.
He understood why. Even if she hoped for peace, the history recreation remained.
“Everyone knows that, don’t they?”
He almost tripped on a stone as he wondered if that girl would go to some other land if the economic situation grew even worse after the war. And if so, would that mean he no longer received the letters?
…Velázquez said she’s in a church near the city.
The church apparently doubled as an orphanage and was one of the many that Chancellor Carlos I had constructed.
The girl who lived there used her words to plead to him.
There was something she wanted him to do through this war.
“Please save someone. Please continue to save people. But please don’t die.”
“Testament,” said Segundo.
“That is my only request and it will always be my request. I don’t know how long these will keep reaching you, but I hope you will keep reading them.”
“I hope you can always be with me.”
Segundo assumed she meant that figuratively.
“Don’t worry.” He closed the letter and looked up. “I can’t save people very well, but there is one thing I can save.”
He stopped walking with the market directly ahead.
However, the market was not functioning. The stands contained people rather than products.
They were all men and women past middle age. They covered the street and roofs as well and Segundo nodded toward them all.
“Okay, everyone. Let’s truly save Tres España this time.”
“This looks like a hopeless situation.”
Juana heard Gin speak in the light of the setting sun.
They were currently in front of the white hospital building. Gin had placed a paper bag on the wooden bench and Juana had hidden her letter below the board she had been writing it on.
However, Gin did not even glance at the letter.
“What is going on here, Lady Juana? Why are you writing one of the letters that girl sends to the chancellor?”
Juana thought about how to explain it or if it would be possible to lie about it, but Gin nodded and spoke.
“I see three possible answers:
“1: You are writing the letter for her out of a kindness unimaginable from your appearance.
“2: As a wicked yet somehow likely option, you are simply making fun of the chancellor.
“3: Your large workload and harsh personality have made you go crazy.
“Now, which is it, Lady Juana?”
“I-is it just me or do all of those include a terrible image of me!?”
“Testament.” Gin’s shoulders lowered. “So it is not #1. That is a relief. The worst possibility I had considered was that you were writing in the girl’s place because she had died. That was the most hopeless answer.”
The wording of the question aside, Gin had been considerate in her own way. Juana sometimes had trouble keeping up with that girl who was born from a martial arts obsessed bloodline, but she was married and was able to live her life well enough. Juana had also heard that Gin had changed after she began living with Muneshige. That was why Juana was hesitant yet still spoke up.
“I am amazed you knew what I was writing.”
“Testament. I am well-trained in viewing a distant target as part of my marksmanship training. Also, my husband Tachibana Muneshige has the double inherited name of the postal system’s great Garcia de Ceballos. He has taught me quite a few techniques related to letters. One of those is how to read what is being written from the movements of the writer’s hand.”
“What a dangerous person.”
“I view myself as a wife who is skilled at helping her husband. But there are occasional mistakes of fate. For example, I once thought up a cannon-fired letter to help with delivery. I test fired the letter into a noble’s hilltop house using Arcabuz Cruz, but it broke through the entire house and was misdelivered to the house next door. Master Muneshige praised my destructive power, but he told me to only help with the office work from then on.”
…She’s physically dangerous too!
Juana sighed, brought a hand to her cheek, and made up her mind to tell the truth.
“I am not writing the letter in her place. You can rest easy as far as that is concerned.”
“Then where is the long-lived girl the chancellor rescued?”
“Testament. I am that girl, Tachibana Gin.”
Gin frowned as Juana picked up the letter and the board that covered it. She was embarrassed to show another what she had written, so she clutched it to her chest.
“Let’s go for a short walk. The hospital’s visiting hours continue for a fair bit longer, so you don’t have to worry. Now, let’s talk about a certain misunderstanding.”
“Testament. It is somewhat similar to a fairy’s changeling.”
Juana spoke while walking toward the path away from the hospital and to the city.
“During that war filled with loss for him, he saved a single life. It was a child that had survived in a certain long-lived village. The child seemed to have been sheltered by the village’s people and he saved her just before the city was burned to the ground. He had great expectations for her: ‘I’m so glad you survived.’ ‘It will be okay.’ ‘I’m sure you have a happy future waiting for you.’ But…”
She turned west to face the hill containing the slums.
“Tres España’s insistence on pure blood leads to some people being persecuted: the half-lived. Because they cannot be immediately distinguished from the long-lived, they are hated and thought of as failures.”
Gin’s footsteps grew a little harsher as she walked behind her, but Juana continued regardless.
“So what if the rescued girl was not long-lived? What if an act of adultery had been committed in that long-lived village and a child that had to be kept a secret had been born? What if she was not being sheltered but had been locked up?”
What would that mean?
“What if the fear of all that had left her unable to trust the person who rescued her and the foolish child had lied about herself? What if she had thought lying was the only way to obtain the happiness that person spoke of? But what if it was only through that lie that she could gain her current position and repay him for saving her?”
She took a breath as she walked.
“What if she was thankful for what that original lie had given her, but she also felt absolute regret over it?”
She smiled bitterly because she knew it was all her own fault.
Even if she had been a child and even if her upbringing had been far from ideal, she had made the wrong choice at the very beginning.
“What am I supposed to do, Tachibana Gin? All I want is…”
All she wanted was …
“To be at least a small help to him.”
I am thankful for what you did for me.
No matter how many times I say it, I don’t know if it gets through to you and I may be troubling you, but I truly am thankful that you saved me.
But I do wonder something. All you do is save people, but are you also being saved?
How can I be of some help to you?
“Ah, that throw went a bit high.”
A tall person in a track suit lightly jumped atop a vast deck floating in the sky. It was Fusae who caught a white ball in the glove on her right hand. She then landed on her vanishing feet.
“That was too close, Taka. If it falls off, we’ll have to pay to replace it.”
“I’m throwing it where you can catch it. That’s how this works, right?”
“Eh? But I was throwing a lot of them where I didn’t think you could catch them.”
“It’s different for me since I’m a genius who can catch any ball.”
When Takakane caught the ball without looking at it, Fusae gave an impressed cry.
“Can you catch it while facing backwards?”
“Easily. We’ve tried most every trick, remember?”
“That’s right,” said Fusae while swinging her arm to tell him to throw it.
There were other students on the deck as well, but they were performing maintenance or checking on the deck.
“Fusae, are you not going to remove Michiyuki Byakko yet?”
“Byakko likes it here, so I’ll do that last. Then I’ll hand this San Lorenzo over to the chancellor. He’ll be observing the armada battle, after all. This ship’s plenty sturdy, so it won’t go down easy even If the Musashi attacks.”
“And we’ll be switching over to the new flagship, the San Martín? …This San Lorenzo is treated as the armada’s flagship for the history recreation, right?”
“That’s why the chancellor is boarding this one and the San Martín is receiving San Lorenzo as a double inherited name. A ship with a double inherited name is rare, but the Musashi has an octuple inherited name of different place names.”
“So that’s how we’re doing it.”
Takakane looked up into the sky and threw the ball. Fusae chased after the white ball and Takakane watched her run.
“You sure are fast. Be my pinch runner next time.”
“Don’t ask that of a girl.”
She caught the ball backhanded, held it up, and let out a breath.
“Testament,” she said. “I wish we could continue like this forever.”
Fusae’s comment brought everyone on the deck to a halt. Her words, however, did not stop.
“I was thinking that I’m close to retirement with my inherited names finishing up. After all, Era Fusae is dead and the Testament descriptions say my double inherited name of Álvaro de Bazán died before the armada battle. That’s why full authority for the armada shifted to Pérez de Guzmán, your double inherited name.”
She threw the ball to Takakane and followed its movements with her head.
“We can avoid the issue by saying ‘the ghost remained’ during the armada battle, but it’ll probably get a lot harder afterwards.”
The ball fell.
“So I’m thinking about retiring and living as a normal ghost. At the same time, I wish it could continue like this.”
“Is that just not going to happen?”
Takakane caught the ball extremely close to the ground.
“Stop throwing the ball while facing backwards.”
“Testament. But Taka, you said you could catch any ball.”
“I just wanted to point out your bad form.”
He threw the white ball and she ran after it.
“Ah, that’s a high one.”
“Look up. We don’t have to worry about watching our footing. …Also, our house has a large yard. It may not be in the sky, but I can still play catch with you at home.”
“But then I can’t show it off to everyone.”
She laughed as she caught the ball and held it up for everyone to see.
“Oh, but some things can be different from normal. Like the chancellor and Ju.”
“Hey, hey,” said Takakane with a frown, but the surrounding students only tilted their heads.
Fusae gave a cruel smile and turned her back to Takakane.
“Is that not going to happen either? The chancellor does seem to have a lot on his mind. But…”
She twisted her body and prepared to use the untwisting motion to perform a shot put-like throw while facing backwards.
“There’s a trick to throwing while facing backwards, Taka.”
“Just make sure it reaches. That only leaves effort on my part. Plus, I’m a genius.”
“I’m not sure that advice was any help or not.”
She threw it and heard him comment.
“That’s a really high one.”
“Can I order something even if the price is a little high?” wondered Gin without even looking at Juana.
They sat at a food cart that served noodles in pork bone broth.
It was already evening, but this was still an early dinner. According to the Testament descriptions, the Oouchi and Ootomo clans that formed Tres España’s Far Eastern foundation had a connection to China and thus a certain amount of Chinese culture had made its way to them. The food cart served Chinese-style noodles that were carved from the noodle batter with a curved knife.
“I will have a large pork bone noodles with stir-fried vegetables and dumplings. Oh, and a spring roll to go. Also, leave out the coriander.”
As Gin gave her order, Juana calculated the cost on a cadena firma and lowered her shoulders.
“I will have a mini pork bone noodles.”
“Lady Juana, are you on a diet?”
Juana glared at Gin and Gin nodded.
“But I thought the chancellor liked women like you who can be described with sound effects such as ‘boing’.”
“Th-this has nothing to do with him.”
“Testament.” Gin showed no concern for the other customers giving them odd looks. “I never would have thought you frequented a place like this.”
“Testament. This area is managed by the secretary who was the one the chancellor left me with and the one who made the necessary arrangements for me.” She gave a small bitter smile. “I think I should try going further out, but I just can’t work up the resolve.”
“You? Not having the necessary resolve? But just the other day you were spreading your legs to seduce the chancellor.”
“I-I did nothing of the sort!”
Gin tilted her head but seemed to come to an understanding.
“My apologies. Testament. You are having trouble with your memory. Have you undergone some kind of shock recently?”
“I revealed my identity to a harsh subordinate.”
The noodles arrived and Gin nodded.
“Everyone is hiding that from the chancellor, aren’t they?”
“The Valdés siblings and the other lower ranked people do not know.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Testament,” answered Juana before beginning to think. “Well, I hope to continue helping until the chancellor retires. I think he will try to recover from Tres España’s decline after the armada battle.”
“Even though he’s so pathetic right now? Are you sure he can do it?’
Her shout filled the street of food carts that had not yet gained the nighttime crowds.
She then realized she had stood up from her seat.
“If you are willing to say that, I take it what you actually mean is that you will make it so he can,” said Gin while eating her noodles. “There is also the fact that the chancellor is intentionally acting like that for the history recreation of Tres España’s debt. But even if that were not the case, he is somehow similar to Master Muneshige, so I doubt there is anything to worry about.”
“How are they similar?”
“Testament. It seems to be a trait of powerful people with a solid core, but they both appear to hide their strength. They will act with conviction when the time comes, but they normally look more like an unimportant person who takes it easy.”
“So that’s how people see him.”
“Do you not like it? Do you regret that the person who saved you and led the retreat of Lepanto survivors hides his ability and feigns incompetence?”
“It is not that I regret it. I still know who he really is. But…it is a bit irritating.”
“Testament. You want to see the person you love shine in the spotlight. That is a trait of a woman who has been infected with lovesickness.”
Gin smiled when she saw Juana unable to hide her blushing.
“From the looks of it, there is no escaping this. Your lovesickness is on the level of the Black Death.”
Gin then pointed at the small container in front of Juana.
“Now, after we finish eating, we can discuss the people most important to us. Do not worry. I will treat it is a national secret. And by doing this, I will once more vow to take part in the armada battle.”
“Testament. The chancellor will be observing the battle and I will join him, but please do what you can. However…”
“However?” asked Gin.
Juana lowered her head.
“It seems he has used the money I was saving. I think it is related to the social services, but I’m not sure.”
“The husband is using the money his wife has saved up? You are headed directly for a ruined household.”
“I would like to think that won’t happen.” She sighed and further lowered her head. “With the Musashi as our enemy, we have a lot of problems.”
“Lady Juana, the Musashi is a problem, but as a more immediate problem, your bangs are in your soup.”
Juana gave a cry and frantically raised her head.
“So you want to know how to handle our immediate problems? This is just like a novel with how everything always leads to the next turn of events. We run across problem after problem and each solution carries us right to the next one.”
A boy’s voice came from the top of a giant ship awash with the evening sunlight.
Neshinbara was watching the end of the athletic festival from the front deck of Murayama, Musashi’s second port ship. The participants were lined up on the deck and the shirtless host spoke while hiding his face under a black, three-cornered hat.
“Okay! Red Team had seven major injuries, but they win by the narrow margin of two back teeth! And now it’s time for White Team’s war crimes tribunal. Who’s a Class A? You? Hmm, you look more like a Class B. Now, now. No need to cry. It just means you’re a step away from being an adult.”
“Is it just me or does this escalate more and more each year? The number of events has clearly increased.”
Someone listened to Neshinbara give his opinion.
It was Asama.
She too was watching the end of the athletic festival.
“I didn’t really question it when we were in elementary school, but it does seem a bit much now.”
“Even back then, I had my doubts about the ‘Serf Borrowing Race: Courtesy of the Feudal Lord’. Anyway, Asama-kun, sorry about using you as a contact. How is everyone doing?”
“Toori-kun told me to say no one was worried because otherwise you would get conceited. That should give you the gist of how everyone is.”
“Maybe I should release my Macbeth arm and have it harass him.”
“Calm down.” Asama gave a bitter smile and pulled a paper bag from her waist hard point. “This is three days’ worth of bandages. As for the old ones…”
“Judge.” He held out an old paper bag. “Thanks. When I removed it yesterday, my right arm opened a sign frame on its own and almost ordered a depressing porn game to be delivered to the student council room. I seriously shouted ‘B-be still, my right arm! That’s a waste of money!’ If I do anything related to Aoi-kun, Macbeth seems to alter my output. To be honest, I can’t even speak with him. If I did try to talk to him like this, I’d say he was a pathetic person who’s picked his noise and touched girls’ butts since elementary school. …See! Macbeth is doing it again!”
“I’m not sure that was Macbeth’s doing.”
“Calm down.” This time Neshinbara gave a bitter smile. “Anyway, I hear Balfette-kun and Mitotsudaira-kun are putting together the strategy for the armada battle.”
“You aren’t taking part?”
“Judge. If I helped with the planning, Macbeth might slip something in.”
“And my purification can only restrain it, not eliminate it completely.”
“Judge. A play is a type of festival, so it’s something to be offered to the gods and you can’t eliminate something that isn’t impure. At most, you can delay its starting time. It could be a bad day, for example.”
“Then,” said Asama. “When will you return as secretary?”
“That’s the question.”
Neshinbara lightly tapped just below his left shoulder. His student council armband would normally be there, but he was not wearing it at the moment.
“Shakespeare lectured me. To sum it up, she said I was growing slack.”
“What are you going to do?”
“What am I going to do? She’s on such a higher level than me as an author that, if I was going to do this properly, I’d run away.”
“Then…” Asama brought a hand to her mouth and thought. “If we aren’t going to do this properly, we won’t run away?”
She pulled an old book from her sleeve and held it out to him.
“Do you remember this? You do, don’t you? This is the book you made when you realized we could use the school’s printing press in elementary school. It’s probably your debut as an ‘author’.”
Neshinbara remembered it well. He also remembered the excitement and enthusiasm when he had made it.
“Yes.” Asama pushed the bundle of old straw paper further toward him. “The story is extremely straightforward, it includes hidden bloodlines and powers activated by anger, and the author was too embarrassed to go beyond a kiss.”
“Nwohhh!! You don’t have to point it out, Asama-kun! This mental attack is worse than Macbeth!!”
“But Toori-kun told me to say that.”
…Maybe I really should show him what Macbeth is capable of.
He had to calm himself first, but he managed to take the bundle of paper and took a breath.
“Did Aoi-kun give you this?”
“Yes. He’s really good at taking care of things.”
“In other words, he’s got a knack for sniffing out what he can use against someone later on.”
He looked at the cover and remembered that Naruze had made the cover illustration. At the time, the fallen angel had yet to really fit in with the class and she had put some space between herself and Naito.
…But she was always there when I needed an illustration.
The title brought a cold sweat to his brow when he looked at it now.
“Norman Conquest 3. Why was your first book a ‘3’?”
“Y-you really are harsh, Asama-kun! There were two books before it that I never finished! A-and, the ‘m’ to ‘o’ being in bold was Aoi-kun’s doing! It wasn’t me!”
“I had guessed that much, but I didn’t expect to receive proof.”
“Anyway.” Neshinbara held up the book. “I’ll borrow this. It should help me kill some time. Each page probably has enough to make me hold my head in shame for three days straight.”
“Is that so? I remember we enjoyed it quite a lot back then. Also…”
“There’s something else Toori-kun said.”
She narrowed her eyes.
“ ‘I don’t know what kind of things Shakespeare wrote as a kid, but Neshinbara’s are definitely crazier.’ ”
When he had expected to be complimented, he had gotten something else.
When he had expected to be called skilled, he had been called something else.
He had written it in the classroom. To those who remembered that, that was likely how they would view it.
Shakespeare had probably been the same. During class, she would have taken notes and done actual writing on sign frames or paper and she would have grown proud as the surrounding people asked her how she could do it.
That was a path anyone who could write had to walk down.
There were two kinds of people in the world: those who could write and those who could not. At the very least, that was how the world was divided for those who wished to become authors. And once the surrounding people told them which side they belonged to, their hesitation could change to a sense of superiority and arrogance.
“How about it?” asked Asama. “Did you make your first…your first author friend, Neshinbara-kun?”
Neshinbara thought about that question.
“But it looked like she hated me.”
“What’s wrong with that?” Asama pointed toward the book in his hand. “How about you show her this and say, ‘Look! Amazing, isn’t it?’ ”
“Does that come from Aoi-kun too?”
“No. His wording was much worse, so I cleaned it up a bit.”
“Judge.” He held up the book again. “Tell him I’m borrowing this, but I’ll eventually return it. After all, I have a good way to kill some time now. There was a time when I was elated by my debut as an author and now I’m all worn out.”
He gave a true smile for the first time in a while.
“But I don’t feel like denying the idiot I used to be, so I guess I’m still just as hopeless.”
- Manco/Manko is Japanese for the vagina.
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