Horizon:Volume 2 Chapter 10
Chapter 10: Hopeful People with Nothing to Do
Can you use the phrase
“Below the umbrella”
And not hide?
Point Allocation (Chatting Over Tea)
“Well? How is the transport ship doing, ‘Musashi’-san?”
The rooftop of the school at the rear of Okutama created a broad area with an unobstructed view of the sky. Two figures were exchanging words there.
One was a man passed middle age and the other was an automaton dressed as a maid and pouring tea for the man below a paper parasol set. The automaton, “Musashi”, spoke as she poured the black tea from a small teapot and into a teacup.
“Sakai-sama, this is a local Darjeeling. It is expensive, so make sure to savor it as you drink it. Also, perhaps you could close your newspaper. Close it now. I will not tell you a third time. …Judge. Very good. At any rate, this tea is expensive, so I have determined you should give your thoughts on its flavor. Over.”
With a nod, she held out the teacup. Sakai frowned a bit.
“Do I really have to give my thoughts on it if it’s expensive? I don’t think the price has that much to do with the flavor.”
“Judge,” replied “Musashi” with a single nod. “Unfortunately, an automaton’s sense of taste is merely a passive sense based on chemical reactions. It is difficult to determine if a flavor is good or not. However, price is a representation of value, so I have determined that is an accurate standard, assuming the market is not filled with falsehoods. Additionally, the trust in the British market makes it a high-level standard. As for flavor, we automata mostly accumulate records, reproduce food and drink based on those records, gather the reactions of those who eat or drink them, and use those accumulated reactions as a basis for how to make something delicious.”
“But you sometimes give me things that are nowhere near delicious.”
“Judge. You noticed, Sakai-sama? We also must accumulate data on unpleasant flavor or the balance of our knowledge will collapse. And it is you that eats the food, not me. Over.”
“Oh, c’mon. That’s just mean. Does that mean half of everything I eat is going to be disgusting?”
Sakai then glanced over at England to the north.
“Anyway, let’s get back on topic. How is the transport ship doing?”
“Judge. It is in British territory, so the surrounding area is in a state of quarantine so the locals cannot contact them. The 87 people aboard the transport ship are imprisoned within the ship and the nearby land so England can question them, but England shows no intention of performing that questioning right away. Bertoni-sama predicts that questioning will be addressed in the negotiations. Over.”
“I see,” muttered Sakai.
Suddenly, he heard a shallow vibration from the stern of the ship.
The steam whistle blew. A low, thick noise that one felt shallowly in one’s skin continued for about five seconds.
“…? Is it just me or has Tamako been blowing her whistle really weirdly from time to time? What is this?”
“It is a response to the transport ship. Over.”
“The transport ship has prepared two lights with a deep umbrella over them. They ask questions using a blinking code. The code is quite simple. One light blinks one to five times to indicate the vowel and-…”
Toori’s head suddenly poked up from below the edge of the roof. He looked around and spotted the two on the roof.
“I know how to say ‘boobs’ with it! Okay, that’s all I wanted to say. President, “Musashi”, don’t bother changing the channel. I-…ahh!?”
An arm wearing a track suit reached up from below, grabbed Toori’s hair, and pulled him down out of view.
“Eh? What’s this, sensei? You actually crawled up the wall after me? You must really love me to-… No, don’t throw me down! Today’s the day for non-burnable trash, so wait until Monday, Wednesday, or Friday!!”
“Musashi” gave a quick wave as the voice disappeared and she nodded expressionlessly.
“Toori-sama has become very strange during his separation from Horizon-sama. His abnormality is on the verge of boiling over. Over.”
“Wow, that’s the first time I’ve heard you make a joke.”
“All I did was say ‘over’ after saying ‘over’. Over,” said “Musashi” in confusion. “To continue, one of the lights indicates the vowel and the other indicates the consonant row. Over.”
“Judge. And we respond with the steam whistle, is that it? Do we not use the lights because England would see them?” Sakai began counting on his fingers as he recalled the whistles he had heard. “A long whistle means yes and a short one means no. Any time it blows twice or more, it’s usually a random dummy signal, but a single long tone followed by several short ones is some kind of code.”
“How did you know? Over.”
“Because the first one last night was long. The very first question is definitely going to be ‘can you see us’, right? Our response was a long whistle, so that has to mean ‘yes’. Also, no complex response is needed to answer yes or no questions. That means all of those are dummy signals except for the ones that repeatedly use a fixed noise after a beginning sign.”
“Judge. That is very logical. When we have an urgent matter, we begin with a long tone and send the message using only the number for the vowels. Over.”
“I have an urgent matter to send-… Y-you’re too fast, sensei!! At least let me say it has to do with Horizon’s boobs! No, wait! That’ll kill me!!”
“Musashi” waved her handkerchief and Sakai nodded.
“Judge, judge. So they’ve been asking awkward questions and we’ve been giving yes or no answers.”
“Tenzou-sama came up with their method using the lights. Over.”
“I wonder if they’ve caught on.” Sakai turned toward England again. “Well, I guess they aren’t saying something to show they aren’t completely hostile toward us.”
“The problem lies in Masazumi-sama and Futayo-sama’s presence on the transport ship. Musashi does not have its negotiator and vice president or its divine weapon user and vice chancellor, so our negotiations with England are not going well.”
“Who’s in charge? Neshinbara? He’s a literature type like Sakakibara, so he’s pretty eloquent.”
“No.” “Musashi” shook her head and held up her right arm. “The curse of Macbeth has attached to Neshinbara-sama’s right arm, so he is currently suspended from his duties. It seems he attempts to harm his king whenever he tries to do anything. Over.”
“Oh, right. The curse of Macbeth. Can’t Asama-kun purify it?”
“Judge.” “Musashi” nodded and tilted her head while looking at her raised right arm. “From what I have heard, it is not technically a curse. It seems he has been given a part in a play, so it cannot be purified. Plays are dedicated to the gods, so any purification attempt is repelled. It also seems it will fade away and disappear if he leaves England. Neshinbara-sama says he is busy and wishes to make the most of his suspension, so he is not showing up at the academy either. The negotiations are currently being led primarily by Bertoni-sama and Augesvarer-sama. Over.”
“Hm. So Neshinbara was cursed and now he’s ‘busy’? I see,” muttered Sakai.
“What is it that you ‘see’? Over.”
Sakai slightly adjusted his position in his chair.
“I feel like Innocentius right now,” he commented with a bitter smile while taking a sip of his tea. “Tres España attacked, right?”
“Musashi” turned a surprised look toward Sakai.
“You mean you are already starting to forget? Simply put, I believe you need your brain modified by the ship’s IZUMO Institute. Over. Now, to continue…”
“Wait a second, ‘Musashi’-san. Don’t skip right past my tsukkomi phase.”
“Musashi” ignored him.
“Your brain is of low priority as far as I am concerned, so I shall continue on. The surface areas, the transport ships, and the towing belts have been left in a terrible state, we were struck twice by an undetected ship, and that later attack was also what led to Ex. Caliburn pummeling us. When one seeks someone to blame yet finds nothing, the spiral of thoughts leads to what I believe can be expressed as ‘anger’. Over.”
“Well done. And that is an emotion that will be turned our way quite a bit, so it’s worth remembering.”
“Judge. So that is what one refers to as ‘feelings of gratitude’. I have a lot to learn about humans. This is not logical at all. …What is with that look, Sakai-sama? Oh, is that gratitude? Over.”
“Enough of that. …Anyway, you just mentioned what Tres España did to us, right? That’s what has Neshinbara so ‘busy’.” Sakai let out a breath and looked up at the sky outside the parasol. “Neshinbara was the one in command during the attack.”
“Musashi” nodded in response to Sakai’s words.
“Judge. I see your memories have returned. Well done. …Now, what do you mean? I have determined Neshinbara-sama’s command and plan produced excellent results. Over.”
A smile appeared on the corner of Sakai’s mouth and he pulled a kiseru from his pocket.
“But you just said the transport ships, towing belts, and surface areas are in a terrible state. And there was the second attack.”
“Damage was indeed done, but it was necessary. Most residents had already moved underground and most of the damage was done to Takao, Oume, Musashino, and Okutama which have non-residential buildings such as stores and companies on the surface. There was little damage to people’s homes,” she said. “The damage from the later shells was outside of our expectations, but no one could have predicted Tres España would have a practical stealth ship. Plus, that entire battle was unexpected. As such, his handling of the attack was the best anyone could have done. Over.”
“But we’re stuck here, Musashi is falling apart, and our people are injured and separated from us. It was more of a loss than a win. The original battle was closer to being a tie, so we tried to earn a win by showing off the speed of our gravitational cruising to say we could fight back and could not be caught. But…”
“We ended up showing we could fight back but could be caught? Over.”
“Judge,” said Sakai. Low in the sky ahead of them were the eight ships of Musashi and something was visible on the port side. “We can’t fully repair while floating and without more supplies. We can’t use our gravitational cruising right now and can only continually show off how weak we are. And with some of our people separated from us, the burden has been falling on the representative committee and the 2nd-year committee. On top of that, Musashi’s residents are getting impatient since we can’t choose when we negotiate while England has their hostages. Also, the emergency rations don’t taste very good.”
“Judge. From what I can see on Musashi’s divine network, more and more people want to land at England or move on to the next port. We had plenty of reserves for food and other goods, but it is still only enough for three weeks. The personal indulgences are beginning to run out. Bertoni-sama has bought the trading inventory of the other merchants and sent those goods into the marketplace, but some of those will have to be sold at a loss. Over.”
“While belonging to the student council or chancellor’s officers, a merchant can make a lot of money with their authority. …The other merchants will probably overcharge Shirojiro so a young merchant like him doesn’t use this emergency to grow too powerful. And who is it that created this situation?” He took a breath. “Tres España started it and England prolonged it, but Neshinbara is the one responsible on Musashi.”
“But this was an unanticipated-…”
“If I told you not to underestimate people’s feelings, would you find it unfair? Unfortunately, that’s the only answer I have. This was unexpected, Neshinbara made no clear errors, and this result may very well have been the best possible. You might want to ask the people complaining to do better themselves.”
Sakai took the lighter for his kiseru from its case. The end of the small, folded charm had small red flames hanging down as if it were ink the charm had soaked up. He placed the charm over the kiseru’s opening.
“But…Neshinbara was the one in charge.”
“Even if it was all unexpected and even if he did the best he could, men like to hope for too much. And when you hope for too much of a past event, you end up with doubts similar to regrets. You begin questioning your every action. Neshinbara is probably looking over the records of that attack again and again. And if he thinks he’s found something he could have done better, he’ll get depressed.”
“That sounds like he is not looking at reality. Over.”
“You only experience reality once, but you can enjoy looking back at something as many times as you want. If something enjoyable happened in the past, you want to do it again in reality. But if something bad happened in the past, you want to think it was not as bad as you thought, so you go back to it again and again.”
“Do you do that as well, Sakai-sama? Over.”
“Well.” Sakai returned the lighter to the case around his neck and let smoke out into the sky with a bitter laugh. “That’s pretty much all I do.”
“Judge. Is Mikawa one of the things you think back on? Over.”
“You have a lot of questions today, ‘Musashi’-san.”
Sakai sat up straight, but continued on to lean forward. He rested his elbows on his lap and held his kiseru at cheek height.
“If Neshinbara isn’t busy, I’d like to ask him some things about the Double Border Crest.”
“The Double Border Crest,” muttered “Musashi” as if rolling the words around in her mouth. “Have you asked Asama-sama about it? Over.”
“I already have a lot of examples like Asama-kun’s. After asking about the people who have disappeared and the circumstances surrounding their disappearance, you end up hearing the same pattern again and again, so there isn’t much point. And when I try to directly ask the temple about it, they say they aren’t allowed to tell me anything.”
“Is the temple keeping the information secret? Over.”
“I can’t figure out why. Asama-kun’s father told me what he knows, but it seems the instruction to remain silent on the issue came from pretty high up. I really don’t want to think about how high up you have to get to control a major temple like the Asama Temple.”
“I see two possibilities,” said “Musashi” as she tilted her head. “Either this silence is meant to conceal some kind of truth or the temples do not know the details and the silence is meant to prevent confusion from spreading through the people. I suggest the latter. Over.”
“Why? The former is more exciting. Everyone loves uncovering hidden truths.”
“If they knew the truth, they would be handling the problem in some fashion. If they knew the details of this strange phenomenon causing people to disappear, a solution to the problem would come first and foremost. They would also need to inform people how to avoid the disappearances. As they are hiding it and not guiding the people to safety, I can only assume they know nothing. In other words, the order of silence is meant to hide their own incompetence. Over.”
“You’re pretty harsh. But if they did know the details, it is true they would make the details known, dispel people’s fears of the Apocalypse by solving the disappearances, and improve Shinto’s reputation in the process. …After all, this is apparently a problem occurring all over the world. After England, we’ll probably visit Izumo, so maybe I can look into it there.”
“Judge. You are curious, aren’t you? That is a good thing. It is much better than spending every day wandering around Musashi and reading in the bookstores without buying anything. Instead of doing that, how about you watch the Black Disk box set of Dangerous Decameron you ordered. ‘Okutama’ is still holding on to it for you. Over.”
“Well, it turns out I bought the sequel More Dangerous Decameron and one of the duo is almost never there.” Sakai let out a puff of smoke. “Well, I want to give Neshinbara time to think, see the people around him making a fuss, and come to his own decision. His surname is based on Sakakibara’s, after all. I can’t have him saying nothing of importance and disappearing like the real one did.”
Sakai then glanced over at “Musashi”.
“Don’t you have something to say about that?”
“No, I do not have the necessary knowledge to comment on your friends. I do wish I had the same level of familiarity with you as the Kazuno that occasionally comes up in your stories. Over.”
“Having two of her would do twice as much damage to the world. You’re fine the way you are.”
“Judge,” she said with a nod.
“Well,” began Sakai while puffing out more smoke. “If Neshinbara finds an answer, I can ask him about the Double Border Crest then. England is a good spot for that.”
“England is?” asked “Musashi” with a tilt of the head.
Sakai nodded and breathed in.
“Spirits and non-human races are easily affected by the moonlight. That’s because-…”
“That is because one of the two moons is made of ether crystal. It is said to have been created long before the Age of the Gods when humanity had yet to ascend to the heavens. What about it? Over.”
“Because England is the country of spirits and non-human races, its research into ether and ley lines is more advanced than any other country. It’s also partially due to joining with Izumo and acting as a neutral party between the Far East and the other countries during the Harmonic Unification War, but they were the ones to come up with some of the names like ATELL. And the strange phenomena come from disturbances in the ley lines.”
“You think there will be a hint concerning the Double Border Crest and the Princess Disappearances in England? Over.”
“I don’t know,” said Sakai. “I’ve looked into a lot of this like I’m a student and I think there’s a chance. England is definitely worth checking out, especially the royal family.” He took a breath. “In the past when people have been spirited away in England or Europe, they were caused by spirits. And the current leader of England is the Fairy Queen. …What is going to happen in England? And how will Tres España handle their attack?”
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