Horizon:Volume 2 Chapter 11
Chapter 11: Groups of National Leaders
What should one do
Before facing each other?
Point Allocation (Pace)
The afternoon sun entered a room on the western side of a residence with eaves. The large Japanese-style building sat next to a pond and two figures sat with their foreheads facing each other in a tatami mat room decorated with awards and trophies for the baseball team and track and field team of Tres España’s Alcalá de Henares.
The two spoke while sitting on the tatami mats with sheets wrapped around their naked bodies.
“Fusae, in the attack on Musashi, shouldn’t I have gone forward at this point?”
“You could have done that, Taka, but that would have left an opening in the back which normal students would have had to fill. Bringing everyone out like that is fine if we were going to settle things there, but I avoided sending you out because it didn’t look like we would.”
Takakane nodded and stared at what lay between them.
It was a chess board. However, three battlefields created from the wood and squares were connected vertically and they were labeled “Musashi”, “Transport Ship”, and “Command Ship”.
“The biggest problem was Ju being stopped.”
Fusae picked up the queen sitting on the back of the command ship and used her fingernail to press the crest carved into the bottom that allowed her to change its settings. A cadena firma made from crosses and the San Mercado logo appeared above the piece.
“I certainly didn’t expect Musashi’s chancellor to appear there.”
She put down the piece and the squares on the board between the queen and the transport ship all emitted a blue light.
She did the same to the knights on either side of the queen and the light increased.
“I wanted to go all out from the beginning. Our goal was to make a powerful assault, but I sent Ju out to give ourselves a political victory as well. I thought we could use that to make a quick victory and get out of there. I never thought Ju would make such a girlish scream.” Fusae thought for a moment. “Hmm. I guess using people like objects isn’t the way to go. I need to think of them as people. Some say you can never know what will happen when people are involved, but that ignores the idea that people are unpredictable animals and still doesn’t look at them as people. …I did some of that myself this time, so I need to rethink how I do things. Maybe I was a little too full of myself after our victory in the previous war against Hexagone Française.”
Fusae leaned forward and placed her forehead on the chess board.
“Taka, aren’t you going to comfort me?”
“It was your mistake. Once you make up for it, I’ll comfort you plenty for any sadness left over.”
“Y-you make it sound somehow dirty.” Fusae raised her head, but her smile was a bit lacking in strength. “Anyway, do you think I’m better at commanding than I used to be?”
“That’s a difficult question.”
“Testament. So I’m hopeless, is that it?”
“Why do you always try to hurt yourself like that?”
“I can’t be hurt now that I have this body. And the last one to hurt me was you,” said Fusae with a smile.
“Y’know,” began Takakane as he folded his arms. “That was part of the history recreation.”
“Testament, testament. Women are fine with just the fact itself, but men always need an excuse.”
This time, Takakane placed a hand on his forehead and thought. He could not come up with anything to say and color returned to Fusae’s smile.
“Well, we achieved a lot of our political goals in the attack, so that’s good enough. They got away, but we didn’t lose. And we got two shell hits in later. At the very least, the other countries won’t be able to label Tres España as the loser. That will help out Tres España as a whole and it will give meaning to the exhaustion and injuries everyone received.”
“I don’t entirely get it, but is it really that important?”
“Testament.” Fusae nodded and picked up a piece from the chess board. “Let me explain. This will involve Tres España’s future as well.”
Takakane folded his arms as he stared at the pieces lined up on the chess board in the afternoon sun.
“What is Tres España’s plan for the future?” he asked.
“Testament. Ju would be able to give the best answer, but she can be a bit tight-lipped. Anyway, my view is that the Armada battle is going to happen before too long.”
“The one we lose? Of course, we intend to make it an effective win by staying on the retreat.”
“We are preparing for that, but things are heading toward the Peace of Westphalia due to Musashi’s actions in the name of saving the world from the Apocalypse. The countries which had previously been hesitant will begin to act because Musashi has.
“And the country with the most to gain from Westphalia is Hexagone Française, the winner of the Thirty Years’ War. Also, Holland, Switzerland, and Sweden have their independence recognized and England indirectly benefits from the conclusion. So many countries will be involved in the Peace, but Musashi’s password of ‘saving the world from the Apocalypse’ will drag even more countries in: Qing, Russia, and others.”
Takakane frowned at those two countries mentioned.
“But Qing and Russia have nothing to do with Westphalia. Are we supposed to accept importation of ramen and vodka because of the Apocalypse? Then again, we already have ramen. The tonkotsu kind.”
“You mean Founding Emperor Ramen? Our paella shops are having a hard time against that place. …Anyway, I’m sure those countries will show up to make it an ‘international conference’. Musashi’s participation itself is an interpretation. Officially, the conference will recreate history, but it may also have an unofficial side that leaves no records. That will cover saving the world from the Apocalypse and determining whether Musashi was in the right or not.”
In that case…
“We need to change our focus and think about how to take as little damage as possible in the armada battle. Also, we need to think about how to actually gain an advantage while maintaining an ‘interpretative loss’ of the battle. We only have about half a year to come up with something before the Peace of Westphalia on October 24, but I doubt England will give us any longer to think than they have to.”
“Then when will it happen?”
“That’s up to England which is the worst part. I’ll explain that, too.”
“Now, then,” said Fusae as she slid aside the chess board sitting between her and Takakane. She attached another board vertically and pointed to one corner. “This board is England, okay? And this one is Scotland.”
“Chancellor Henry VIII made England Protestant under the Anglican Church, but Scotland disagreed and remained Catholic. …Now, Mary Stuart was the queen of Scotland, but she was forced to flee to England where she was imprisoned on the charge of attempting to assassinate Elizabeth.” Fusae removed her hand from the board. “One of the causes of the Armada battle is the execution of the Catholic Mary Stuart.”
“Our leader sure has an exciting reason to go to war.”
“Well, it’s part of the history recreation. Plus, this is just one link in the chain of conditions leading to the battle. Tres España has essentially been waiting for its chance to attack, but we made too many warships meant to be used in the Seto Inland Sea during the Battle of Lepanto. That’s made it difficult to secure the wartime harbors we need and to create the Grande y Felicísima Armada made up of ships meant for the open sea. However, England has been putting off the execution of Mary.” Fusae opened a cadena firma which displayed a list of England’s representatives. “And they created an organization known as Trumps which is made up of their representatives. I’ve heard the name comes from the fact that the king on playing cards is based on Elizabeth’s father, Chancellor Henry VIII, or the fact that the mark for the suit of clubs is based on Excalibur. That’s why Excalibur takes the place of 13. Also, the vice chancellor and vice president are both counted as 10, so there is no 11.”
12. Chancellor: Elizabeth – Also Student Council President. Fairy Queen and user of Ex. Caliburn.
10. Vice Chancellor: Robert Dudley – Skinny woman. Testamenta Arma user.
10. Vice President: William Cecil – Fat woman.
9. Secretary: Ben Jonson – Black athlete poet. President of the literature club.
8. Assistant Secretary: Nicholas Bacon – Hammer user and trickster. Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England.
7. Treasurer: Charles Howard – Naval admiral. Wealthy common sense man. No combat ability.
6. Thomas Shakespeare – Logismoi Oplo user. Half-lived race. Vice president of the literature club.
5-1. Francis Drake – Hard Wolf and naval vice admiral. Essentially the commander. Testamenta Arma user.
5-2. John Hawkins – Drake’s companion. Swimsuit man.
5-3. Thomas Cavendish – Drake and the others’ underclassman. Mermaid woman.
4. Grace O’Malley – Female Pirate of Scotland. Elizabeth’s friend.
3. Christopher Hatton – Lord Chancellor and Living Bones.
2. F. Walsingham – Automaton leader of the public morals committee. Spymaster.
1. Walter Raleigh – Far Easterner. Elizabeth’s wartime advisor.
“That sums it up. …Why are you so quiet, Taka? Can you barely contain your desire to fight?”
“No.” Takakane tilted his head and poked at the list. “Unlike us, they’re mostly literary types. One disappearing ball pitched underhand by a Valdés and they’d be dead, don’t you think?” He paused for a moment. “Also, there are a ton of truly strange people in this list.”
“I was trying to decide if I should say that or not.”
“And it’s more of a monster land than I imagined. It’s like an animal kingdom.”
“I was thinking about saying that too.”
“I’m glad we’re relatively normal.”
“I’m not sure outsiders would see it that way.”
“Hmm,” they both groaned while looking down.
They remained motionless for a while, but Fusae finally clenched her fists near the floor.
“I-I need motivation.”
“He! Na! Res!”
The two of them synchronized and regained strength of will, but then Takakane relaxed his sitting position again.
“But there’s nothing we can do if England decides when it begins.”
“Isn’t that why we attacked Musashi?”
“What do you mean? I thought that was meant to show our position to the Testament Union and to gain the right to speak to Musashi in the later conference.”
“There was more to it than that. And the success of that attack should let us guide the armada battle to its beginning. They won’t have solved the mystery of our strongest ship, San Martín, so we should have the advantage in the battle.”
“Y’know,” said Takakane. Fusae tilted her head and Takakane scratched below his short hair. “You really look like you’re enjoying yourself when you talk about strategies and tactics.”
“Testament. I decided to never fail again. I deeply immerse myself in it and enjoy it so I won’t fear failure. That’s very Tres Españan, don’t you think? It’s often said we use the money we have, give in to our passions, have a party, and forget everything unpleasant.”
Fusae placed her hands on the floor as if stretching forward.
The chess board between them was the one used to explain England’s situation.
“Did you realize why I slid it to the side?” she asked while looking up at Takakane.
“Because we can’t win,” he said expressionlessly.
He went on to raise his arms and tumble backwards in a pose of resignation. Fusae laughed, slid up to him, and lowered her head over his, but she heard a sudden voice from the garden.
“Ah! Wah! Brother! Fusae and the team captain are having an impure couple’s relation!”
“Foolish sister. Your brother has some advice for you: when they are married, it is not impure. It is simply obscene.”
“Shut up, Valdés siblings. Why are you here?”
Takakane looked up and saw the siblings wearing track suits.
The younger sister, Flores, raised both hands with a carefree smile.
“Why are we here? Well, um… to mooch lunch off of you!”
The Valdés sister proudly puffed out her chest.
“Fusae said she found a good restaurant, remember!? Y’know, the food union’s Paella Emperor! It’s supposed to rival Founding Emperor Ramen!”
“Fusae, a chain restaurant doesn’t count as good.”
“But you can stick around forever with the orange juice. It’s a product of Valencia.”
“That’s right! Girls need a place to chat! …Oh, but we didn’t know you were searching for a new way to take your afternoon nap with the captain. Speaking of which, what would you call this method? A fork!?”
“Sister. Why would you want it to drop? Personally, I would go with a slider, but you need to calm down. …Anyway, what do you say, captain?”
“No thanks, you idiot. It’s kind of creepy when you show up so suddenly.”
The brother turned to his sister, but the sister was already staring strongly up at him.
“Did you hear that? He called you an iiidiot! An iiiidiot!”
“Sister, the captain is a tsundere. You need to understand that. As such, I am now certain I have his trust.”
“You don’t have to keep up the idiot act, Valdés… Now, you two,” said Takakane. “Have you ever hit a literary type with a pitch?”
The siblings both froze in place for an instant. Finally, the brother turned to his sister. But she averted her gaze and shook her head back and forth.
“N-no, I’ve never done anything like-… Brother, don’t put your hand on my shoulder! I haven’t! Really, I haven’t! The ball slipped from my grasp is all! That idiot may have been photographing the girls’ practice, but it was an accident that I hit him square on! …But to be honest, it did feel really good.”
“You don’t have to confess anything, Valdés sister,” said Takakane with a sigh.
“Anyway, captain,” said the brother. “The real reason we are here is because the chancellor has apparently disappeared. He hasn’t come here, has he? Lady Juana is searching for him, but can’t seem to find him.”
Takakane tilted his head and turned to Fusae. She was clinging to him while buried in the sheets so the Valdés siblings could not see her face, but her long ears were bright red. When he saw her head shake left and right a bit, he lightly embraced her back.
“She says she hasn’t seen him. Oh, but Valdés.”
Both the brother and sister looked up in confusion. Takakane jerked his chin toward the entrance.
“I’ll search for him today, but ask Velá next time. You can contact him by his handheld.”
“Testament,” said Takakane with a nod. “He and the chancellor have known each other a long time. If you ask him, he would find him by nightfall.”
“Well, if that’s done, I want to eat some lunch,” said the sister.
“You heard her, Fusae. Get up already.”
“Make me,” said Fusae while lying completely limp.
Takakane sighed and pointed toward the Valdés siblings.
“Fine, then. I’ll contact Velá. …One of those letters has come for the chancellor again, hasn’t it? Tell Juana he’ll be back by nightfall. Also, you two wait outside. We’ll be right out once I have Fusae ready.”
Takakane looked away from the Valdés siblings, looked toward Fusae, and then looked up in the sky. The blue sky of early afternoon seemed to stretch up forever.
“There are problems no matter where you look. If Musashi wants to deal with those who live on the ground, they have to do things our way. They’re probably discussing England and us right about now, but that’s only going to get worse. This is getting dangerous.”
He sighed and lowered his shoulders.
“And England is probably having a meeting after gathering the Trumps.”
Four massive crust blocks floated in the air. The adjoining blocks were arranged with two aligned north and south and two to the northwest.
The floating island was located approximately three thousand meters in the air.
It was known as England.
Each of England’s four blocks had a narrow multi-layer structure on the upper level. The first level had the academy, the second had the cities, the third level was the broadest and it contained the farmland, and the fourth level was very thick and supported the others. The fourth level also contained the coast and a shallow ocean.
The blue sky lay above and the blue ocean lay below. The third level was mostly covered by the green of forests and mountains, and the wheat of the farmland spreading out below was also green. This was the season of colors for England.
The academy at the center of each first level functioned under the college system. The development around those formal and historic school buildings was built on the second level.
The central school buildings were protected by fortresses, but they had no classrooms. They were only built with a student council room, various living rooms, a faculty room, a library, a reference room, and other such rooms.
Among the four blocks, the largest central school building was the one on the first level of the southern block of England. It was Oxford Academy of Anglia.
The central school building was designed like a palace with a great hall and an audience room. It had a maintained nature park and a waterway, and it was currently filled with the light of midmorning.
As a school building and specialty facility, it was quiet and few people walked by.
Currently, two students with guard duty walked atop the thick fortress wall surrounding the school building on their way to the fortress gate tower. They were chatting as they walked along and looked toward the silhouette of Musashi visible in the southern sky.
The one to the front was a bigfoot beastman and the one in back was a lizard beastman.
“Spring is just about at its peak, isn’t it? How about you? Are you in your periodic puberty?”
The bigfoot continued speaking while pinching at the hair on his chin.
“It’s going to get hot soon, but I hate growing in my summer coat. But if I got my hair removed permanently, I’d be indistinguishable from an ogre. You have it easy there. You lizards are always so cheerful in the summer.”
“Don’t be stupid. Summer may be nice, but you can’t underestimate the heating costs for a lizardman to make it through winter. Last year, my old man forgot his portable heater on his way to buy some smoking tobacco and ended up hibernating next to the store.”
“Testament,” said the bigfoot with a nod. He did not stop walking. “I remember that now. We’re actually pretty delicate. In games, we always charge right at the adventurer, but that isn’t gonna happen. Why attack a penniless adventurer when you can work at a mountain hut? I’d rather use my strength to do some easy heavy labor and have the girls thank me than make painful memories hunting humans.”
“Testament,” said the lizardman with a nod. He pointed north with his rifle. “You should think about switching to the college in northern Scotland. The history recreation allows more interaction these days, so you shouldn’t have any trouble there.”
“I could, but you’d have to return the games, Black Disks, and Gold Disks you borrowed. Especially ‘Merlin’s Destruction of the Round Table for Dummies!’ That one’s rare, so I can’t have you never returning it. Also…”
The bigfoot looked through the sky from south to west while walking. To the south, Musashi was visible in the distance and the shadow of the Divine States was visible even further in the distance. And to the west…
“There’s the war with Tres España. I can’t go until that’s over.”
“Is that really anything to worry about? You saw Ex. Caliburn, didn’t you? As long as we have that, England can’t lose. …Of course, it can’t fire repeatedly and it can’t be fired outside of England.”
“That’s why the other countries haven’t claimed it’s a weapon of mass destruction meant for invasion.”
The two lowered their gazes toward the front of the academy visible from the edge of the fortress wall they were walking along. Outside the fortress gate was the path to the city of London on the second level and an old fortress with tall towers in four directions.
That fortress was the royal residence known as the Tower of London.
The highest level of each tower had a hatch which could be opened or closed, so the inside was not visible at the moment. However…
“England’s royal and noble criminals are imprisoned in the Tower of London. Excalibur was relocated to the northwest tower and supposedly no one has ever pulled it from the piece of crust which acts as its pedestal. Rumors say its sword attack that protects England uses the power of the criminals’ confessions. The current prisoner is-…”
“If you say it, you’ll end up bloody. The English royal family has been dangerous for a long time. You know the history, right?”
“Yeah. England’s grudge began two generations ago in the age of Chancellor Henry VIII.” The lizardman stopped walking and slid his hand horizontally across his neck. “Well, according to my old man, Chancellor Henry VIII never even touched Ex. Caliburn. He always boasted about his ability to pull it out, he was known as the almighty king, and he apparently had connections with all sorts of countries, but he must have been aware he wasn’t qualified to be king.”
“The legend of Excalibur says the one who can draw it is qualified to be king. If he ever tried and failed to draw it, he would lose the right to be king. He might have been afraid of that.”
As he spoke, the lizardman looked toward the southeastern tower of the Tower of London. Lace curtains hung in one of its windows and his gaze moved toward that white color.
“Can’t see her today.”
“The prisoner? Don’t tell me that’s why you took this part time guard job.”
“Testament. I’m from Scotland, after all. It gets so cold there that the heat expenses are no laughing matter.”
The lizardman suddenly looked toward the bottom of the fortress. He had noticed movement in the city. However…
He stopped in place while looking down. The bigfoot frowned when he noticed.
“What is it?”
“Look,” muttered the lizardman.
A man walked along the path to the fortress gate.
He had dark sin, wore glasses, and was bald. A white tank top covered his tense body and rectangular cases over a meter long hung at either waist.
Each of his footsteps was accompanied by a metallic noise and he walked across the stone pavement with light steps.
“That’s the athlete poet and secretary, Ben ‘9’ Jonson,” said the lizardman.
“Does he have some business at our school building?” muttered the bigfoot. “The student council and chancellor’s officers have nothing scheduled for-…” He trailed off and corrected himself. “No, wait. The entire school building was made off limits today. We weren’t told, but there have been rumors for a bit now, remember? In other words, today is…”
He trailed off again.
Several other figures had come up behind Ben Jonson.
People walked up the stone-paved path. They were not gathered together. They were scattered in pairs or alone, but they were all headed to the same place.
The first one after Jonson was a Hard Wolf with a naval-style uniform.
“That’s the vice president of the ship club, ‘5-1’ Drake. He’s attacked Tres España’s New World fleets and given England enough money to rival a year’s budget. Despite being a pirate, he has the title of knight.”
Next to him was a young man carrying a three-pronged lance and wearing a racing swimsuit, cap, and goggles.
“He’s the captain of the ship club, ‘5-2’ Hawkins. As Drake’s colleague, he’s an excellent partner during wartime and an assistant who can carry out independent missions. He looks like a pervert, though.”
Someone was speaking to Drake and Hawkins via sign frame. Hawkins’s sign frame showed two women aboard a ship somewhere. One was a mermaid with her tail fin submerged in a cradle-like device that doubled as an aquatic bed and the device for controlling ships.
“The mermaid is the ship club’s manager, ‘5-3’ Cavendish. She uses all of her spells solely for controlling all of the club’s ships. I had thought she and the previous two had left for the New World after the attack on Lisbon, but it looks like they’ve returned here.”
A woman spoke with Cavendish while grabbing a donut from a pocket on the ship control device. She wore a hood and scarf with a woven ivy pattern. She was a dryad with ivy and leaves spilling from within her black hair.
“She’s the representative of Ireland, Grace ‘4’ O’Malley. Our queen calls her a friend and she protects the northern and western seas. She strongly scolds her husband, has a ton of kids, and lives a wildly free lifestyle, but she can be trouble when it comes down to it. She’ll charge into the enemy fleet with her quick, small ship and get real results.”
Behind Drake and Hawkins was a boy dancing lightly despite carrying a hammer in a giant case.
“That’s the head of the state club, Nicholas ‘8’ Bacon. He’s a trickster, the queen’s advisor, and he holds the Great Seal of England which gives him the right of decision.”
Behind Bacon was a man wearing glasses. He wiped sweat from his brow with a handkerchief and worried with his neatly parted hair.
“That’s the president of the ship club and the treasurer, Charles ‘7’ Howard. He can’t fight, but he carries out his duties as treasurer with his massive wealth and his great skill at using it. He owns the British fleet, but he leaves all authority concerning its use to Drake. He’s incredibly generous, so he even compensates any injured soldiers. He’s a powerful merchant.”
One figure walked a fair distance back from the others. He was a Living Bones who wore a cloak over his upper body. A necklace decorated with small compressed skulls hung around his neck.
“That’s the Lord Chancellor, Christopher ‘3’ Hatton. Not only does he judge people like crazy in trials, but he also rescues the souls of the people he judges. From what I hear, he’s searching for a way to finally rest in peace.”
And lastly, two figures walked behind all the others.
One was a Far Easterner. He had long bangs, broad shoulders, and a slender body. His casually worn uniform was equipped with several swords that were simply a hilt and guard. They had a cap attached rather than a blade. He carried another such sword over his right shoulder, but this one measured over a meter and a half long.
“Walter ‘1’ Raleigh. He’s a remnant of the Far Eastern Amako clan, but he instructs the queen’s army and acts as the queen’s wartime advisor. It seems his other Urban Name is Trident, but it was apparently given to him by a third party. He never speaks.”
The final figure walking alongside Raleigh was a female automaton.
She was a puppet. She wore a female uniform with the skirt and coat removed, but her arms and legs were not attached to her body. They instead moved along with the movements of two cross-shaped blades floating above her back.
“That’s the head of the public morals committee, F. ‘2’ Walsingham. She exterminates other countries’ spies within England while gathering information from those other countries using her own intelligence network.”
That was ten in all. The two beastmen knew what the total should have been, but they did not even exchange a glance.
“Vice President William ‘10’ Cecil and Vice Chancellor Robert ‘10’ Dudley, aka ‘The Two Tens’, are waiting inside the school building. ‘12’ is the queen and ‘13’ is represented by Ex. Caliburn, so the only member of Trumps missing is ‘6’ Shakespeare.”
“Why are they all here?”
“I don’t know, but I know who had to have called them in. It was-…”
Just before the lizardman could speak the name, a voice whispered in their ears from behind.
“That’s right. Our Fairy Queen, Her Highness ‘12’ Elizabeth.”
The two of them jumped in surprise and turned around.
A dark-skinned face wearing glasses was grinning quite nearby. The two of them stared at the morning sun reflecting off the glasses.
“Just call me Ben, bros. I’m having a good time every night at the Mermaid on Cheapside, so stop by if you have time. Today, ‘6’ Shakespeare and the queen will be coming. You’re interested in royalty, aren’t you? Especially you, Torn.”
Ben turned toward the lizardman. He ignored the lizardman gasping at having his name spoken and turned toward the closed lace curtains on the southwestern tower of the distant Tower of London.
“She lost her last chance to avoid execution when she could not pull out Ex. Caliburn. Ah, I feel like my feet are about to recite poetry, bros.” Ben spread his arms, moved away from them, shook the cases hanging from his waist, and looked up into the sky. “At any rate, keep up the good work, bros. In the two weeks since Musashi’s arrival, we have finally all gathered for an emergency meeting. We will be discussing what to do about Musashi and I am sure Musashi has their own ideas on the matter.”
He gave an exaggerated bow and tapped his right foot. As soon as the metallic noise rang from the sole of his shoe, he vanished. All that remained was one last sentence in his voice.
“Tres España and Musashi are both making plenty of plans.”
A certain white-walled hallway smelled of disinfectant and never turned out its lights.
It was the hallway of a hospital. Walking on its marble floor were two women wearing red uniforms.
One was tall, had long ears, and wore glasses. The other was short and had two false arms.
Both of them carried wicker baskets as they walked through the hallway which was filled with the afternoon sun.
The tall one lowered the ends of her eyebrows and smiled toward the short one.
“Sorry about the trouble, Tachibana Gin. You did not have to help.”
“Please, call me Gin, Lady Juana. I am helping because visiting Muneshige has shown me the meaning in this sort of thing. …Also, I found this a bit surprising.”
“Testament,” replied Gin.
She was a special duty officer, but she had no real connection to the student council. Also, the student council had the political power and right to recommend people or approve people for inherited names, so they had some power over her. It had been Juana who had told her Muneshige was to lose his inherited name. However…
“I was surprised to hear the great Juana, one of the Eight Great Dragon Kings, was handing out flowers and snacks to the sick and to the children.”
“The great Juana…? I…” Juana smiled amid the shadows of the white hallway. “Well, I can imagine how you think about me and view me. They write the same things in the newspapers and on the divine network.”
“Testament. Do not worry. The divine network contains fan clubs filled with people who love how harsh you are. A recent survey asked people what profession they wanted to see you in. I believe the top three results were female teacher, female office chief, and female inquisitor. Female class representative was an honorable mention, but was disqualified for the age mismatch.”
“I don’t really understand this. Is female teacher really a unique profession?”
Gin tilted her head as she walked.
“I once asked Muneshige-… Oh, I should explain. As 1st special duty officer, his job includes handling information, so he had investigated this kind of thing. Anyway, I asked him if it was really that hard to distinguish between a profession and a genre. Oh, and according to him, I am a ‘female fiancée’. It seems redundant to me.”
“I still don’t really understand. At any rate, I will keep in mind that I am apparently suited toward being a female teacher. …Oh, turn right here. We will head outside toward the children’s building.”
Juana used her knee to push open the door leading to the outdoor passageway.
I thought she would have more of an air of importance, thought Gin when she saw that.
The wicker basket Gin held radiated faint heat and the smell of butter. The heavy scent that filled her nose was not often smelled in the Tachibana household that primarily ate Japanese food.
“Is this homemade?”
“Testament,” replied Juana as she walked out underneath the afternoon sun. “The dough has to ferment, so I set it sit out last night before going to sleep.”
“I see. I make my preparations directly after dinner.”
“Oh? Why that early?”
Gin thought it would be best not to answer that, so she changed the subject.
“Do you do this to relieve stress? I think you should sleep at night.”
“No, I enjoy having something to focus on. And I can use a spell for compressed sleep.”
“Testament,” replied Gin as she followed Juana out into the sun.
They were headed for the hospital atop the hill across the plaza. To their left, they could see several domed school buildings surrounded by the walls of Alcalá de Henares. The city at the foot of the mountain spread out beyond that. Juana seemed to be concerned about the eastern end of the city, but that only contained the slums and the hospital for those with low incomes.
“Lady Juana, are we taking these snacks to the other hospital too?”
“Testament. When I made the suggestion, that man insisted I give them out ‘evenly to everyone’. I thought that would be impossible, but bakeries around the city are cooperating. This is the only hospital that gets the ones I baked personally.”
By “that man”, she likely meant Chancellor and Student Council President Segundo. She would often mention him in conversation, but Gin did not recall ever hearing her say his name. Gin mentally tilted her head as she walked along the stone-paved plaza.
“Does the chancellor always say things that get in your way like that?”
Juana lowered her eyebrows in thought and Gin arrived one step behind her.
“As far as I can see, he leaves everything to you. To be honest…” She felt bad saying this about him, but she wanted to check. “It appears to me he was forced into taking the role of chancellor and president to recreate Tres España’s decline.”
“Gin,” said Juana. Her back was to Gin as she continued to walk. “Watch what you say. He is quite capable. We need to trust him.”
“How can you trust him?” asked Gin. “He leaves almost every job with you and today he has vanished somewhere. Just before noon, you were unsure what to do about a letter addressed to him, correct? You ultimately had the Valdés siblings search for him, but-…”
“Gin,” said Juana once more. “Why do you trust Tachibana Muneshige?”
“Because he gave me a new reason to live,” she immediately replied proudly.
“Then you need not ask for my reason,” said Juana. “It would not help you.”
“Testament,” said Gin with a small nod. “I apologize for asking a question like a sort of test.”
“Don’t apologize. If you asked him that kind of question now, he would likely do nothing but smile weakly.”
“Why does he have no motivation whatsoever?”
“No motivation whatsoever…” muttered Juana with her head lowered a bit.
Gin thought she had said too much, but then Juana spoke without turning around.
“Because he lost his reason to live.”
Gin stopped walking when she heard that. She could tell her eyebrows were bending.
A reason to live. Her reason to live was Muneshige.
What if Chancellor Segundo had something like that, but…
“He lost it?”
When she imagined the same happening to herself, she felt a chill.
“Everyone is looking our way from the children’s hospital.”
Hearing that, Gin looked toward the two white buildings before them. From where they were, they could see the north side of the children’s hospital which was the back side. The patient rooms had no windows on this side and they were only visible from the hallways and the cafeteria, but the children had already noticed Juana.
Children shouted within the windows and a group ran out of the building. Gin saw the parents notice them and bow.
The children’s hospital was made up of two buildings, but…
“The right building is for the long-lived race and the left one is for humans. Be careful, Gin. Some of the children have yet to realize the meaning in that distinction and there is no reason to let them know before they have to.”
Gin tilted her head. There was a place for humans and long-lived, but…
“What about the children of the half-lived race which is a mix of human and long-lived?”
“Given Tres España’s insistence on purity, do you really think they have a place in our central hospital? They are so hated because they are indistinguishable from the long-lived,” said Juana with her back turned.
Lady Juana was selected for the student council as a long-lived elite, recalled Gin.
The posture of Juana’s back told Gin she had her own thoughts on those born between a human and a long-lived. Gin also knew Juana could not speak those thoughts lightly due to her position as vice president.
…But the chancellor and president says those things quite plainly.
When Juana had suggested giving out snacks, he had insisted on doing so equally. He likely meant equal between humans, long-lived, and even half-lived.
And Juana highly valued him and was doing exactly as he said.
“Testament. I asked something I should have known. My apologies.”
Gin adjusted her grip on her basket and lined up beside Juana. When she looked up from Juana’s left, she saw that Juana was smiling. That smile somehow reminded her of that man.
But Juana’s gaze slowly moved from the hospital to the western sky.
A giant flat cloud could be seen above the ocean that travelled from the Iberian Peninsula to the New World.
“Our Grande y Felicísima Armada is being constructed in there, isn’t it? The old fleet made up of fishing boats and ships from the Battle of Lepanto modified for use in the open sea will eventually be dissolved and either used as transport ships to the New World or sold to civilians. Fusae’s San Lorenzo has been repaired, so all that remains are the readjustments to the flagship San Martín,” said Juana as she stared at the distant cloud. “San Martín was able to approach without England noticing and then attack Musashi. I wonder how England and Musashi will see through to its identity. …No, they are both still sounding each other out. They have to decide what to do with that crashed transport ship between them.”
As Juana looked into the western sky, she narrowed her eyes and sighed at the slight hint of evening colors in the sun.
“Will night eventually arrive?”
“According to the Testament, Tres España is known as the empire on which the sun never sets.”
“Testament,” answered Juana with a nod, but Gin saw her close her eyes. Juana formed a self-deprecating smile and said, “As the land of non-humans, you could call England the empire of the night. And the Far East is the land of the rising sun. When the people of dawn arrive at the empire of the night, will their rise be able to cause the sun to set?”
“Testament. I know it is a needless worry. The way I see it, it is reckless to try to stop the sun from setting. And the sun looks all the brighter when it rescues you from the night.”
“I think there are those among the people of the sunken dawn who are struggling to rise up from the night. And that struggling dawn confronts the light of our empire by always trying to hold a new light.”
Just as Juana said that, two figures ran up the slope of the hill to their right. Gin and Juana turned around to find a pair from the baseball team.
“Ah. Look, brother! I told you she’d be here! Lady Juana! Lady Juana!”
That energetic voice belonged to…
“…The Valdés siblings?”
“What is it? This is a hospital, you know?”
Gin nodded in agreement with Juana’s question. She wondered what this was about and saw the Valdés sister arrive ahead of her brother. She bowed, stopped running, and looked up into the sky.
“Apparently, the secretary will find the chancellor and bring him back by nightfall! All right! Odd job complete!”
“Sister, I think such a short notification could be handled by divine message.”
“Testament. Thank you very much. Now, 4th special duty officer, what do you have to report that you could not do by divine message?”
“Testament,” replied the Valdés brother when he arrived. He bowed and suddenly said, “England’s Trumps have made a compromise with the Far East’s Musashi.”
Gin understood why Juana was confused.
A compromise meant England was showing understanding towards Musashi.
…This could be bad if Musashi and England form an alliance.
The European forces would be unable to form a single side of the Musashi vs. Testament Union conflict.
“Could you be more specific?”
“Testament. This is why I opted to deliver the message in person.” The Valdés brother closed his eyes and lowered his head a bit. “The compromise is to allow supplies to be delivered to the crashed transport ship via a diplomatic ship. Also, the crew of the crashed ship are allowed on the fourth level of England. The crew is not yet allowed to return to Musashi, but it seems England wishes to have a trade meeting and a diplomatic meeting with Musashi.”
Gin saw Juana’s face grow truly expressionless upon hearing that.
…If England holds a diplomatic meeting with Musashi…
“England’s relationship with Musashi will be made clear very soon.”
“Testament,” said Juana before continuing for Gin. “And the armada battle will be soon as well. England must want to make a decision concerning Musashi before their battle with us. But what does Musashi intend to do? Can you gather information on their situation through our intelligence networks?”
The siblings exchanged a hesitant glance.
“Well… Brother? How about you say it?”
“Sister, this is the first time I have been jealous of your standing as younger sibling. How would you like tripping down a flight of stairs together and having our minds switch bodies?”
Is that based on “Torikaebaya Monogatari: The Emperor is Dokyo and Dokyo is the Emperor”, that Kamakura period sequel to a famous piece of transsexual literature? thought Gin.
“Anyway,” said the Valdés brother while scratching at his head. “It seems Musashi and the group on the transport ship are having some kind of festival.”
“Testament. From what I heard, it isn’t even night yet and Musashi is already firing fireworks horizontally between the ships to ‘see which one is the strongest’ and a member of a visual band dived into the audience but ended up in the hospital because no one caught him.”
“What is that country thinking? …And what about the transport ship?”
“Testament. It seems a female student with some kind of spear is an expert at high-speed fishing. With her as their leader, they are holding a festival in which they use up all of their food reserves. It seems they are worshipping both the spear and the girl with cries of ‘Leader! Leader!’. They also started a fire, but it began to spread and caused panic.”
Gin nodded because she could easily imagine the scene. The other three looked at her speechlessly.
“As the ones who attacked them, we are definitely on the side of order and justice.”
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