Horizon:Volume 2B Chapter 69
Chapter 69: Those Gathering at the Fire Festival
Do you have someone
To hold hands and dance with?
Point Allocation (Taking Part)
Two days had passed since the nighttime naval battle.
Countless objects were traveling through the evening sky along with the gentle west wind.
They were a fleet of aerial ships that watched the sun set to their right and Tres Españan flags hung down from the side of their decks.
“Juana, couldn’t we return to Lisbon along with the main fleet while hiding the damage with flags?”
“Testament. We do not get a triumphant return. We lost the armada battle, so if we tried to have one, the Testament Union would accuse us of ignoring the Testament descriptions. Today, we must hurry back to Henares.”
Juana then turned ahead and to port to look at the hills surrounding the bay.
Once they entered the bay, the fleet would land in the water and take turns heading in for repairs whenever a dock opened up.
We have a huge amount of work to do, she thought. And there is just as much meaning in finishing that work.
…The biggest task is getting Tres España back on its feet.
She had a number of ideas and she was sure to come up with more in the future. Takakane and Fusae remained out at sea to represent the number of days the armada battle was meant to last, but once they returned, she would discuss a lot with them and ask them for help. And to do that…
“We need to find a new name for the 2nd special duty officer to inherit.”
“Can you search for an appropriate name in Tres Españan history?”
“Testament. I’m just so used to calling her ‘Fusae’.”
But something else concerned her more.
“What should we do about 3rd Special Duty Officer Gin?”
“Have we still not managed to contact her? My guess is she stayed on the Musashi.”
“Testament.” Juana nodded and opened a few cadena firma. “I actually checked with Musashi. It seems her injuries are being treated there as a guest. However, it seems she has doubts about her performance and is putting off her return.”
“Not only did she fail to return Muneshige’s inherited name, but people have a way of obsessing over a loss.”
Segundo’s words left Juana momentarily speechless, but he soon turned toward her.
“Oh, um. You don’t have to read too deeply into that, okay?”
“Eh? Oh, Testament. I won’t. …Anyway, there is something we must tell Gin, so we do need to contact her.”
She sighed and lowered her shoulders before continuing.
“But even if you aren’t going to obsess over your loss, I think the other nations will. After all, chancellor, you lost twice in a single night.”
“Even I think that was a little much.”
“Yes.” Juana lowered her shoulders again. “And things aren’t going to be easy for me now that it’s out that I am half-lived.”
“It wasn’t officially exposed, so don’t worry. Also, everyone knows Tres España won’t last without you.”
“Testament. But I won’t listen to something I find unnecessary even if you are the one to say it.”
She said that with a smile while the sun set to their right. Starting from the east, the sky slowly changed to purple and the stars began to stand out. Also, two waning moons floated in that eastern sky.
“Ahh,” muttered Segundo. “It really is over, isn’t it?”
She wanted to say something, but the ship tilted before she could. They were crossing the hill to enter the bay.
The bay up ahead was dark. What little light remained in the sky seemed to be filling the bottom of the bay in dark shadow. The only light down there were the few fires meant to guide ships.
Once they arrived there, the armada battle would be over.
…And we can’t exactly say something new will begin.
One event recorded in history had been completed and more would continue.
It could be said that none of it was new, but Juana reminded herself that they had not existed in the former world and neither had Musashi. And so…
“It is not over. …It has been made new, chancellor.”
“Has it really?”
Juana wanted to say “testament” and tell him to trust her, but the port in front of them suddenly filled with light.
These were not the fires for guiding ships. There were many, many more of them and they came from raised torches.
She heard sudden noise. It came from the drums being played and all the fire being held up into the sky.
The fires illuminating the dark port were small, but they grew in number and soon filled the entire port. Amid those flames and swirling sparks, the beating of drums travelled far, far into the distance.
She heard voices. They were cheers and Segundo muttered absentmindedly when he heard them.
“This is the falla festival. But why?”
“I doubt this is everyone from Tres España. It is probably your old friends, those who support us, and those who have no choice but to do so. But…”
Juana spoke blankly before the growing fires and noise.
“It means that we have others on our side.”
Segundo made a sudden comment.
“We use the money we have, give in to our passions, have a party, and forget everything unpleasant.”
As she listened to that, Juana saw the fires continue to grow in number and density. Everyone naturally formed rows to make sure their raised torches did not hit anyone else.
The port warehouses created gaps in the flames that looked like giant ships and those warehouse ships rocked in the waves of the flickering flames.
…It’s like they’re saying they are ready to leave port at any moment.
Meanwhile, Segundo brought a hand to his chest and took a breath.
“I made a promise to go to the falla festival after the Battle of Lepanto. And I also made one to dance there.”
He slowly asked a question to himself.
“Will all of them forgive me if I go to a new fire festival?”
There was no answer to that. If there was one, it was everything he would gain from now on. He would find his answer when he created an even better festival than any he had experienced while with them.
…And we will help him do that.
And so Juana nodded and opened her mouth.
“Claiming to forget everything unpleasant is just for show, isn’t it? You and I, Gin, and everyone else can never forget those things. Giving into our passions and having a party is not to forget.”
She held his hand as she spoke.
“It is so we can believe that there will still be fun times in the future.”
Fires much like festival bonfires rose into the night sky.
They were located on eight ships that floated in that night sky. Among the many fires, the one on the second starboard ship was the largest and it gave a crimson glow to the bottom of the nearby clouds.
The firewood was made from the building materials that could not be reused. It mostly came from buildings on the surface, but it also included floors and columns used for the internal support frames.
The fire was about seven meters across and two meters tall. Asama and others from the shrine were managing the fire and the rising flames functioned as a dedication. It was mostly gods of war and automatons in charge of throwing the firewood onto the floor made from armor panels.
However, some of the students were approaching cheerfully.
“I was looking for a chance to throw out these porn magazines, so I’ll dedicate them to my god! To my god!”
“These are actual letters from the guy I used to date! …Why did he have to write these poems!?”
“Um, are figurines non-burnable dedications? Can I just leave them here? Okay, thanks.”
They seemed to see this as an opportunity.
Meanwhile, a certain girl was in charge of throwing in the firewood in their place. She wore a Tres Españan uniform and had two lifelike false arms attached. She was Tachibana Gin.
The emblems on her shoulders were glowing red as she tossed the firewood via gravitational control.
Occasionally, the students leaving firewood for her would realize who she was and raise their eyebrows, but she would give a nod to instruct them to place the wood in the loading area and continue with her job.
She looked to the blazing fire and muttered to herself.
“What am I supposed to do?”
Gin had yet to sort out her thoughts and did not know what to do with herself.
She had lost, yet she was shamelessly living on after the battle.
…I had thought about dying, but…
When the Musashi had made its loop, she had understood what was happening, so she had tried to head out onto the road. She had assumed it would all work out if she fell down with nothing to support her. After all, she had lost the battle she had decided to take part in, so she thought it would be best to no longer decide anything for herself.
But when she had moved toward the road as the ship had tilted upwards…
…Honda Futayo ran toward the stern of the ship after having previously left for the bow.
Gin assumed she had moved toward the stern in search of a level area like a hamster in a wheel, but it had obviously been a futile attempt. Gin had instinctually evaded and returned toward the house and a pillar there had saved her from the loop. Her false arms had fallen inside a remaining house toward the stern of the ship, so they too had remained. All in all, every part of her had survived.
And she had subsequently been protected and treated as a guest.
The Musashi was currently moored in the sky fifteen kilometers north of IZUMO. They were apparently making what repairs they could with the old maintenance equipment before entering IZUMO. That way they would not worry those already in IZUMO by letting them see the damage to the Musashi.
…And it opens up space to store materials.
They needed to make repairs at IZUMO, but there was no land port there to leave the massive amount of materials around the Musashi. Those materials would have to be carried inside the Musashi and stored in its own warehouses. And that method also gave them control over the purchase and transport of the materials which helped keep the prices lower.
A lot of workers and laborers had arrived from IZUMO and they were helping Musashi as it repaired itself and attempted to continue to its next destination.
“But what am I supposed to do?”
She had her thoughts about having lost, but she was also worried for Muneshige. She had been unable to restore his inherited name, so he would have no choice but to leave her.
…And I will probably lose my inherited name as well.
According to the Testament descriptions, Tachibana Muneshige eventually left Ootomo and joined Hashiba. After what had happened, M.H.R.R.’s Hashiba would likely pressure Tres España to transfer rights to the name to them.
It all went back to her being weak.
Some people were eating a slow meal in the distance. They were the students who had fought two nights before. They had all helped repair the ship and spent their time together.
One of them laughed and the young student spoke to the others his age.
“It’s true! That idiot called out to the front line where I was! And I told him to stay away because he’d just be in the way! I told him we didn’t need his help!”
A group of older students passed by and one with a fresh scar on his cheek tossed a bottle of water to the younger boy. The older boy smiled at the younger one.
“Did your brain slip out because you had some alcohol? Try cooling your head with some water.”
Everyone laughed bitterly and Gin once more realized she was alone.
She became painfully aware of that fact. The blowing wind and the crackling flames were so close by, but they sounded so very far away.
…Will I be alone forever?
She felt like the core of her being was missing and she slowly fell to her knees.
…What am I supposed to do?
She had tried to win and restore his inherited name.
However, she had lost and now nothing remained. Even her own inherited name was in danger.
…What am I supposed to do?
She repeated the thought while lowering her head. Her shoulders trembled and she fought the urge to cry. She told herself that crying would not bring her any forgiveness, but she still opened her mouth.
I’m sorry, she said in her heart.
I’m sorry. It didn’t work. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t save you, help you, or anything else. I dishonored your name and my name, but now I just want one thing.
“I want to see you.”
As soon as she muttered those words, she heard a voice in front of her.
“Then lift your head, Gin.”
Her head shot up at that voice.
A tall figure was lowered on one knee with the burning flames behind him.
She could not believe her eyes, but even if his face and body were skinnier than before, it was definitely him.
He wore a work vest with the armband that indicated a laborer from outside.
He answered her question with a smile.
“Because I knew you would cry if you were alone.”
He explained why.
“When we went to that festival for our very first date, you went off on your own and got lost. When I found you, you were crying near the festival bonfire much like this. And it happened a few other times as well. That’s why the chancellor always gave us missions together.”
She wanted to say that was ridiculous, but…
Tears spilled from her eyes and he quickly moved with a troubled look on his face.
“It’s okay. It’s okay. I was afraid of arriving and finding you had already left, but the chancellor contacted me to say you still hadn’t returned. That’s when I shouted ‘amore’ five times and raced to Hexagone Française. I only just arrived, but…well, it all worked out since I found you here.”
“I-it all worked out? B-but it didn’t! You…you lost your inherited name! And…and who knows what will happen with me.”
“Then how about we both lose our inherited names?”
She did not understand what he meant until he continued.
“Will you spend the rest of your life with a man who lost his inherited name and is not Tachibana Muneshige?”
“Wh-what about you, Master Muneshige!?”
She asked the question she had long wondered.
“Do you want to be with an unsociable girl who is not even Tachibana Muneshige’s wife!?”
“I do not.”
Gin thought her heart was going to break when she heard that, but then he embraced her.
“Not unless I can spend the rest of my life with her.”
He wrapped his arms around her shoulders as he embraced her. Those were the shoulders she had once lost.
“Come to think of it, this is the first time I’ve hugged you with your normal arms.”
She cried at those words.
…This person is…
He was an odd person.
Whenever she had seen that odd student who worked part-time as a mailman, one thought had always come to her.
He always appeared with cherry blossoms, the blue sky, the autumn leaves, or the snow behind him, but why was he in that world?
She found him an odd person to live in that ever-changing world that was protected by no one.
But ultimately, she had decided that she wanted to be with him forever.
And now he spoke to her from beyond her tears.
“Let us grow stronger. And then I will inherit the name of Tachibana Muneshige by truly being the Peerless in the West.”
She wanted to say that was absurd. How could he say that when he was so skinny and had lost so much muscle in his leg? But the arms embracing her were strong and reliable and the words she heard were steady.
“And when I become Tachibana Muneshige…”
“You will be my Tachibana Gin.”
Gin nodded and decided to trust him. He had once exceeded everything she could have imagined, so she swore that she would one day support his position as the Peerless.
…So for the moment…
She entrusted her body to him, took in a deep breath, and slowly let it out.
She closed her eyes in his chest as if sinking into exhaustion and relief.
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