Horizon:Volume 2 Chapter 12
Chapter 12: Those who Wait in a Place of Yearning
Has the night opened up?
Point Allocation (Direction)
The sky was filled with the colors of the night and two lights could be seen in that night sky.
One was the giant floating island of England and the other was the eight ships of Musashi floating to the south of England.
The floating island and ships would occasionally produce clouds. From the direction of the wind, clouds would gather around England and scatter and clouds would form around and trail from the corners and points of Musashi’s frame.
England was motionless, but Musashi would sometimes move. The clouds would scatter along with the waves of the ships’ waterlines whenever the ships gently changed their orientation or position. By adjusting their position in relation to the wind, the ships tried to cause as little disturbance to the air currents as they could.
And occasionally other ships would appear in the sky to the southeast.
They were Dutch transport ships.
Sometimes it was just one and sometimes there were multiple, but they would all travel to England and then return.
Musashi’s ships would alter their movements as if watching the flow of ships coming and going. As Musashi took time to change its direction, scars were still visible on it. The port side was ripped up as if a long lid had been removed.
However, the wind struck them and produced noise with no regard for the damage.
This produced a whistle-like noise that was sometimes low-pitched and sometimes high-pitched. It was of course audible from Musashi, but England could hear it too.
England was surrounded by a shallow sea on the fourth level.
A long structure was stabbed into the southwestern side of that sea.
It was a ship.
The transport ship bore the crest of Musashi Ariadust. Water spray rose from the stern of the ship that pointed toward the sky and about a third of the ship was sticking down into the shallow sea.
The ship was sitting in a location that had originally been on the shore, but the ship’s weight had caused the surrounding area to collapse down like a mortar, forming a shallow inlet.
The moonlight illuminated a figure on the ship which was standing up vertically. The ship’s gravitational control allowed this figure to sit perpendicular to the wall-like deck, so they were parallel to the water’s surface.
“Mitotsudaira, I will take over now.”
Hearing that voice, the silver-haired girl named Mitotsudaira turned her golden eyes toward the speaker.
“Oh, Masazumi? Isn’t Futayo next? …And my shift is not over yet.”
As Mitotsudaira turned around with a blanket draped over her shoulders, she saw Masazumi without her coat or the sleeves to her inner shirt.
Masazumi approached Mitotsudaira who sat on a barrel.
“Futayo will apparently be protecting Horizon. She said she can’t let her guard down on the final night.”
“Judge. That is very like her. So how is Horizon?”
“Judge,” said Masazumi with a nod and a glance toward the hatch she had come from. “We don’t really know why, but she’s sleeping again. I don’t know if it’s because she lost consciousness from Akedia Katathlipse’s restraints, but she’s been sleeping for almost twenty hours a day. She doesn’t know the exact reason herself, but she said her OS is optimizing itself for handling that unfamiliar attack.”
“Having an automaton body must be tough.” Mitotsudaira smiled in the moonlight. “Anyway, the chancellor and the others will be arriving tomorrow, won’t they? I doubt the chancellor will be able to leave Horizon alone.”
“No, he won’t. There’s definitely going to be some kind of commotion.”
The two girls lowered their heads, but Masazumi recovered first. She sighed and shrugged.
“At any rate, today makes two weeks. We deciphered the earlier whistle message from Musashi and it seems things have been officially decided with England. The diplomatic ship arriving tomorrow will provide personnel and materials to aid us as planned, so this is our last night living like this. You can go back to your room and sleep. It’s been a while since you got to sleep before ten, right?”
“Judge,” said Mitotsudaira with a gentle sigh.
Just like Masazumi, she had removed her coat and the sleeves of her inner suit, but she had also removed her side skirt. However, she hid herself with the blanket draped over her. She smiled with a hint of bitterness.
“After two weeks, this unexpected adventure is at its end.”
“Judge,” muttered Masazumi with a sigh of her own. “We’re stuck here and England cut off our divine transmissions, so we’ve barely been able to contact Musashi.”
As they were in England’s territory, England had set up protection against the divine transmissions that travelled via ley lines. If they tried to force a transmission through, England would intercept it. That could be used against them in negotiations later, so they had communicated by light and sound instead. England would naturally have realized they were communicating through the lights and Musashi’s steam whistle, but they had not told them to stop or even asked about it.
“England must not want to completely oppose us.”
“Judge. But as someone originally from Hexagone Française, this situation is a bit humiliating. I would prefer if they came at me as an enemy.”
“Is there anyone still alive in Hexagone Française who was around during the time of the Norman Conquest or the Hundred Years’ War?”
“Judge,” answered Mitotsudaira. “With the exception of some special clans, we werewolves have the same lifespan as humans. During the Norman Conquest, most of Europe’s non-human races moved to England, but those were mostly the serfs.” Mitotsudaira stopped speaking for a moment, but finally continued. “Most of the nobles and knights remained in their homeland, so during the Hundred Years’ War between England and Hexagone Française, former countrymen were forced to fight one another. Our ancestors fought on the vanguard, but we did so with pride. And eventually, a young female French knight was sent to the warfront to fulfill the history recreation. From what I have heard, it was her death that saved us.”
“So Joan of Arc was included in the history recreation?”
“Judge. And do you know what happened not long after she was burned at the stake to fulfill the recreation?”
Masazumi thought for a moment before answering.
“The Harmonic Unification War?”
“Judge,” answered Mitotsudaira from beyond her long bangs. “It may have been convenient for England and Hexagone Française that the Hundred Years’ War ended so abruptly. There were political problems and both countries wanted a way to settle the vaguer areas of the history recreation such that their country did not decline. They ended up keeping their mouths shut using the Harmonic Unification War as an excuse and then never opened their mouths again until their lifespans reached their end. It is often said there is no more to history than what is recorded. What we learn about in classes is oftentimes not what actually happened in the history recreation. It is merely what was recorded as the ‘proper history’. Most of what actually happened in the Hundred Years’ War was never recorded.”
“I see,” said Masazumi.
As a member of a non-human race, Mitotsudaira could easily be distanced from the others due to her abilities and the legends surrounding her race. She would occasionally give self-deprecating comments implying something had happened in the past, but she had gained something by experiencing that past.
…Well, I’m not about to compare her past to mine. And that’s why I should stop asking questions.
Mitotsudaira would eventually talk about it if she wanted to or the others would learn about it some other way. And once that happened, she might be on an even footing with her classmates who had also experienced her past.
…But do you really want to be on even footing with an idiot like Aoi?
“…What is it? Why are you lowering your head like that?”
“Oh, it’s nothing.”
Why are you worrying her? thought Masazumi with a bitter smile.
Mitotsudaira had never spoken about anything like this before. It was likely due to the time, the place, and the fact that they were alone. In that case…
“I don’t think this two week adventure has been all that bad.”
“It is not over yet. We have not received permission to leave.”
“But with more people here, things will be livelier. And we’ll have supplies: food, clothes, and beauty products to return your damaged hair to normal, Mitotsudaira.”
“Who was thoughtful enough to send that?”
“The Aoi sister would be a decent bet, but Asama can be pretty understanding.”
Mitotsudaira’s expression changed. Her eyes opened in surprise, but they soon bent in a smile.
“You know more about the others than I do. And you can speak positively about them like the chancellor.”
“Please don’t compare me to him.”
Seeing Mitotsudaira’s slight smile brought a smile to her own face.
For the past two weeks, they had been forced to live within the transport ship. The position of knight and 5th special duty officer had been a heavy burden during that time. However…
“You can finally relax, Mitotsudaira.”
“But we cannot return to Musashi just yet. It is a lot of trouble, but we have no choice.”
She smiled, but their requirement to stay on the transport ship weighed most heavily on her.
…This is a lot different from her life as a knight.
The ship was oriented vertically and it was not equipped with living spaces. It acted as a place to escape the rain and wind, but it was lacking all the other necessities of life.
Even those like Masazumi who was not picky about clothes or food and those who lived in small underground rooms on Musashi had found it oppressive. But there had been one saving grace.
“You two, I will take over now. The ship will arrive tomorrow, so you girls get some sleep.”
Masazumi turned toward the approaching boy who wore his uniform like a ninja outfit.
…The scary part is how even that ninja’s clothes look the same as when we arrived.
She had heard that he had underwent survival training since before he entered elementary school and that his ninja relatives had taught him a lot, but watching him for the past two weeks had left her convinced it was true.
And so she nodded toward him.
“Having you with us has been a huge help.”
Tenzou stopped five meters away and lowered down in a preparation to flee at any second.
“Y-you’re plotting something, aren’t you? You are, aren’t you!?”
“…What have Aoi and the others been doing to you? Are you okay?”
“And if we were plotting something, why would we tell you?”
“I suppose that’s true. …Wait. Why aren’t you denying it?”
“Just calm down,” said Masazumi while waiving her hands.
…But it really is thanks to him that we’ve lasted this long.
After all, most of them had never before been enclosed in a small area with so much lacking.
But he had undergone survival training and he held the position of 1st special duty officer. He had acted on his own, exchanged ideas with those from the naval clubs, and prioritized securing and distributing water.
And once they had water, he had given the boys a large area to live in and had given the girls individual smaller areas.
Thinking back, that allotment was unfair to the boys.
…But he gave it some thought.
When the boys had found something they did not like, they had taken pieces from the broken areas and remodeled their single area into a large boys’ room.
Meanwhile, the girls had been able to remodel their small areas as they saw fit. The small size left little work for the remodeling and they functioned as individual rooms that protected their privacy.
The boys had primarily handled fishing, managing the ship, fixing the ship to the crust so it would not fall, and gathering the water that welled up from the bedrock. The girls had primarily handled cooking, laundry, and communications.
The officers and student council members had carried out their own duties. Futayo and Mitotsudaira had acted as emergency lookouts, smashed or carried heavy objects, and been the lead fishers. Masazumi had contacted Musashi and acted as judge when trouble arose. The three of them had been given a few other special jobs, but one stuck out in particular.
“I never thought we would continue classes and training here.”
Masazumi saw Tenzou scratch at his head and smile bitterly.
“Well, when we don’t know what’s going on outside, studying the different counties is all the more important. Having a meaningful way of killing time is useful when you’re suddenly thrown out into the middle of nowhere.”
“Judge. I never thought our teacher’s way of lecturing would come in handy here. It’s not much different from having someone else teach the class.”
“Judge,” said Masazumi with a nod.
By learning about the political situation in England, they could learn how they would be treated and what kind of country they were currently in.
Mitotsudaira was a French knight, so she knew England’s past history and relationships with other countries from the wary viewpoint of Hexagone Française.
Futayo had given lectures and hands-on training in combat and how to move as a solid unit, but she sometimes needed an interpreter because she was too skilled herself and could be a bit clueless. Having a way of “confirming one’s strength” was important in an uncertain situation like this.
There was also Tonbokiri. It had been modified with parts from the ship and springs had been used to automate its extension and contraction mechanism. That had allowed Futayo to easily catch fish with it.
…She can use its cutting power to split the ocean and catch the fish within.
Because of this, people had started referring to the spear as “the great dragonfly” and “the dragonfly god”. Recently, the boys would fall to their knees and bow down three times when Futayo appeared with it. That was apparently a jinx to bring about an excellent catch.
“But this camp life should improve starting tomorrow.”
“Yes. That fire from earlier was a disaster, though,” muttered Mitotsudaira with a sigh.
“We really are inexperienced,” said Masazumi with a bitter smile.
“Is that for what I said before? But you are right. A knight is meant for castles and the battlefield.” Mitotsudaira turned to Tenzou. “I am thankful you transferred me to the night watch. The moonlight revitalizes me and I would get sunburnt during the day. …I do not know if Futayo is fine with that, though.”
“With Tonbokiri, she has somehow become the leader of the boys,” said Masazumi. “They’ve started placing sun-dried objects and shell necklaces in front of her room as offerings. The other day, they were making offerings with a giant stone currency they made at some point, but I made them throw those away.”
“They have turned into an uncivilized tribe, haven’t they? But that should improve tomorrow. I want to take a bath that isn’t in boiling water and sleep in a bed I can actually stretch out in.”
“Then do not worry,” cut in Tenzou. “I asked Shirojiro-dono for those materials last time. The girls really do have it hardest at times like this.”
Masazumi and Mitotsudaira exchanged a glance and they both nodded.
“Why has such a considerate guy never had a girlfriend?”
Masazumi’s question led to the two girls exchanging a longer glance.
The moon was out, but the night was still quite dark as they spoke.
“It’s probably that ninja outfit. A guy who wears that at all times would be out of the question.”
“Judge. I see. The flaw was so large I didn’t notice it at first.”
“S-stop! Don’t discuss this like I’m not even here!” Tenzou folded his arms. “Also, I have already decided my girlfriend will be blonde and well-endowed.”
“Is that so?” Masazumi exchanged another glance through the darkness with Mitotsudaira. “Hey, Mitotsudaira. Why do guys set up needlessly high hurdles for themselves?”
“Judge. It may be that when they do that, they can delude themselves into thinking their failure is due to no one meeting their standards rather than due to their own unpopularity.”
“I see. What’s the point of having pride like that? I don’t understand it at all, but should I feel sorry for him?”
“Nwohhh! You girls don’t show any mercy, do you!?”
“Calm down.” Masazumi held up a hand to stop Tenzou and then smiled. “How about you join us in our eventual meeting with England? Fairy Queen Elizabeth should clear your hurdle.”
“I can tell the difference between a hurdle and a gantry crane,” commented Tenzou.
Mitotsudaira smiled at that.
“Well, you did help us out a lot. Is it tough fulfilling your role as 1st special duty officer?”
“No. I always carry the ninja tools I need for training.”
“Ninja tools?” Mitotsudaira tilted her head. “Do ninja even use actual tools to train? For example, I thought you trained your jumping strength by jumping over a growing stalk of cannabis.”
Mitotsudaira was correct. As a child, Masazumi had read Masked Ninja: Russian Akakage. In that story, the ninja had cultivated fast-growing cannabis and jumped over it every morning to naturally train his jumping strength. That alone could not possibly be enough to train, but a group of freaks who hid their faces for their entire lives likely had a secret method.
Tenzou nodded in agreement.
“That training method was used up until my father’s generation.”
At the prospect of learning a ninja secret, the two girls leaned forward with intense curiosity. Tenzou nodded again and explained.
“My father’s generation grew a large amount of cannabis in the ship’s planter because they thought they could use some if it for their own personal training. But they accidentally brought it back to their rooms, accidentally grew a whole lot more, accidentally rolled it, and accidentally smoked it. They naturally ended up in the magistrate’s office and-…”
“I get the feeling I’m about to hear something that will get me in trouble, so stop there. And for future reference, did adding ‘accidentally’ to everything hold up in court?”
Tenzou shook his hands, so Masazumi decided to pretend she had never heard any of it.
Mitotsudaira suddenly looked to the east. She looked toward the top of a cliff illuminated by the moonlight.
A cloaked and hooded figure stood atop the cliff that had once been a hill.
This was the figure the villagers referred to as Scarred.
Mitotsudaira moved her nose slightly as she looked at the figure a few dozen meters away.
“That person occasionally shows up and watches us.”
From what she had heard…
“That is that Scarred person you protected when the ship crashed, isn’t it?”
“I wouldn’t go so far as to say protected…”
Mitotsudaira did not understand why he was arguing. However…
“He tried to save those children, but that means he might be a local leader or someone with power on that level. He made sure those children made it home, right?”
“Judge. I saw the spirits secure the boat you put the children on.”
It had been Mitotsudaira and Futayo who had saved the three children from the crashing ship.
…It was nothing too amazing.
Just before the ship had crashed, they had thought up a few different methods of rescuing the children.
The most effective idea was having Mitotsudaira jump between the ship and the ground and saving the children with her silver chains or having someone quick on their feet like Tenzou doing the same minus the chains.
But they had no way of seeing what lay ahead of the ship’s bow and they could not place a lookout there when they knew it was about to smash into the ground. If they charged underneath the falling ship without confirming the children’s locations first, it would lead to disaster. Also, they needed time to run out from under the ship’s wide bow and they had no way of knowing how the children would react while panicked.
…Charging in and saving them would have been risky.
As a knight, she felt it would have been possible, but they had wanted an absolute guarantee. After all, killing British residents would hurt the Far East’s diplomatic standpoint.
That had left only one option. Masazumi shrugged and muttered that option aloud.
“I never thought you would make your way through the bow.”
Their method of saving the children had been to destroy the ship’s bow before the crash.
They had broken through it and taken the children in through that hole.
…And to do that…
Mitotsudaira thought back.
They had used a single method.
Futayo had used Tonbokiri to repeatedly cut the edge of the front wall of the bow like a barrel’s lid. She had then cut once down the center and Mitotsudaira had used her silver chains to open the surface from within like a pair of double doors.
They had known Tonbokiri could cut through a ship’s inner shell due to its attack on Regno Unito during the Battle of Mikawa, but Mitotsudaira felt Futayo’s actions here had gone well beyond that.
…The transport ship is made up of several frames.
Futayo had run down the inside of the vertical ship as if it were rising.
She had used the frame as footing to accelerate down faster than gravitational acceleration and she had cut the very frames she was using for footing.
By the time Mitotsudaira had taken even a few steps inside the ship, fragments of the metal pillars had been flying through the air like fallen leaves.
By the time she had swept those fragments aside to create a path, Futayo was already charging toward the bow.
And Futayo had turned toward her and said, “Well done.”
With that one comment, she had cut open the front wall.
…She took action without giving a single thought to what I would do.
Mitotsudaira had just barely made it in time, but she did not know if Futayo had simply been ignoring her, had trusted her to make it in time, or had been trying to rush her.
As a result, the opened front wall had swallowed up the children like a snake striking its prey.
“I am glad we could save them.”
The children had simply been sitting on the ground.
Mitotsudaira and Futayo had landed next to them, protected them from the rubble and the pieces of the ship that were destroying the surrounding area and themselves, and cut apart any piece of the ship that was breaking in an unfortunate way.
A massive number of parts had flown and danced through the air, but spiraling silver chains had formed a protective wall and Futayo’s high speed attacks had beat down anything that threatened to make it through.
In the end, the impact and weight of the crashing ship had caused the crust to sink down and water had flowed in from the ocean, so the two girls had scooped up the children and climbed up the ship which was standing on end.
Mitotsudaira felt they had done well, but after appearing on the deck, bathing in the applause, and retreating into hiding, they had both collapsed to the floor.
The silver chains and Tonbokiri had also done well. But…
It was not noticeable now because she was wearing gloves, but Mitotsudaira had fingernails broken on both hands.
On her right, it was her middle and ring fingers. On her left, it was her middle and index fingers. Because her left hand was not her dominant hand, she had put too much strength into the index finger.
As a member of a Loup-Garou family line, she healed quickly. That was one ability of the race, but high-speed healing of nails had a way of leaving them looking bad. That left natural healing at human speed as her best option.
…I could always get a manicure, but…
A manicure let heat remain in the tips of the nails and the discomfort could confuse her actions.
“Well, we saved the children. That is enough.”
“This isolated state is a real problem. We can’t contact the village through Musashi and the residents of the fourth level won’t approach us,” said Masazumi. “But that guy in the cloak seemed really surprised to see you on the deck with the children.”
Mitotsudaira looked up toward the cliff.
The figure in the cloak happened to look over toward them at the same moment. The hooded silhouette was clearly visible in the moonlight.
The figure clearly looked at Mitotsudaira and nodded.
…He is probably British…
But Mitotsudaira still courteously nodded in return.
The figure turned to Masazumi and bowed again. Lastly, the figure looked toward Tenzou.
They quickly nodded and immediately turned around.
And the figure left.
Masazumi expressed Mitotsudaira’s question.
“Crossunite, did you do something to make that guy hate you?”
If someone else thought it looked the same, Mitotsudaira decided her concern was legitimate.
“Does he resent you for interfering while we rescued the children? Although, I doubt someone would charge in there if they simply wanted the fame.”
“I don’t think I did anything,” muttered Tenzou with a sigh. “I had a good reason for rushing in and covering for them and I thought the reason was obvious after living on Musashi for so long, but it may not have been as obvious to them.”
“What? …What was obvious?”
Mitotsudaira did not understand what he meant, but she got the gist of the issue.
“Do you mean that person made some kind of misunderstanding about your actions?”
“Judge. My actions seemed incredibly natural to me, but…” Tenzou then brought a hand to his head. “No, I should not be arguing my case here. It would be best for both of us if I simply say I went too far.”
Mitotsudaira and Masazumi both tilted their heads.
“Why wouldn’t you clear up a misunderstanding that paints you in a worse light?”
“Well… Because it allows this person to avoid any shame. That is my duty as a ninja.” Tenzou held his hand palm up toward the two girls. “I will take over now. I am in charge of communicating with Musashi tonight.”
Mitotsudaira nodded and stood up off of the barrel she had been sitting on. She was reluctant to miss out on hearing what Musashi had to say, but she would see them tomorrow. She felt a small pain in the fingernails placed on the edge of the barrel and she and Masazumi passed by Tenzou.
Tenzou nodded, so she responded in kind and suddenly looked toward the moonlit hill.
Recalling the cloaked figure from earlier, Mitotsudaira began to think.
…The 1st special duty officer said he was fine with the misunderstanding as long as it benefited the other party, but what would my king have to say about that depressing way of thinking?
Suddenly, a familiar voice called out from the sea to the south.
That cry of confusion was accompanied by lights appearing in the fourth level village and the higher levels of England to the north. However, the idiot’s voice showed no concern.
“Can you hear me, Horizon!? Tonight Musashi Ariadust’s broadcasting station will be holding an…international intercourse? Is that what you’d call it?”
“Heh heh heh. That is my foolish brother for you. …But the correct term would be ‘diplomatic meeting’.”
“Oh, wow! I’ve got a genius for a sister! But I like international intercourse! It sounds erotic! Let’s have i-intercourse! Intercourse! And let’s cross some forbidden borders to make it international! …Wait, Asama! Why are you holding your bow and arrow up at such close range? And why are you smiling?”
After the sound of an arrow firing, the broadcast filled with static.
Mitotsudaira was disturbed by how perfectly she could picture the scene in her head, but she quickly realized Masazumi and Tenzou had the exact same expression on their faces. That realization led her to speak in a voice filled with a relieved bitterness she had not used in two weeks.
“They have Neshinbara who was cursed and is being blamed for the attack and the damage to Musashi, but I see nothing has changed.”
“Why do none of them ever change?” muttered a voice on the opposite side of Musashi from the transport ship.
Specifically, this was on the edge of the academy supply port on the rear of Okutama.
The academy supply port was used to moor the ships bringing supplies for the academy or to be used by the clubs. It was a flat landing spot measuring over 100 meters square. It was located on the lower rear portion of the three anti-wind walls surrounding Musashi Ariadust Academy on either side and the back. It was truly the rearmost portion of Okutama.
The outer edge of the supply port contained a passageway with a railing and club rooms for the ship and transport-related clubs. It was nighttime and Musashi was not currently participating in trade, so only the standby lights were on. As the area was behind the school, one could only see the sky, the walls, and the light from the windows on the walls.
But someone stood on the edge of that port. A few sign frames were opened around Neshinbara. He rested his right elbow on the railing, rotated his body, and leaned back on the railing.
He leaned the cane in his right hand against the railing next to him and looked at his left leg. From the shin down, the leg was covered in bandages and a splint.
“Honestly. People are even saying I’m using this to exaggerate my injury for sympathy.” He saw the Mouse on his shoulder open a new sign frame. “Ahh. Did someone start a new thread on the academy’s divine network? This one’s an inspection, hm? …People are saying all sorts of things on the journal sites and the student council’s site is getting an amazing number of divine messages. …And every single one of them is saying what I should have done differently.”
He sighed. His gaze was turned toward the sign frame that displayed a diagram of Musashi. The damage to the ships was displayed with lines and colors.
He turned to the sign frame displaying those injured in the previous battle and the one displaying the financial losses to buildings and such.
After checking on all that information, Neshinbara muttered to himself in the darkness.
“This is tough. I thought I was prepared, but it’s different once everyone is doubting you and denying your actions.”
…I think I did as good as could be hoped…
“But everyone is saying that my efforts were inadequate or worthless and that there was a better way.” He sighed. “They’re saying it would have been better had I not been there.”
As he sighed again, he heard a sudden voice.
“Oh? I noticed you haven’t been coming to class and you didn’t show up at the festival, but is this where you’ve been?”
Neshinbara turned around toward the voice coming from up in the sky.
Even in the darkness, he could see someone with black wings.
“Judge. I hope you can remember at least that much, you shut-in.” She landed atop the railing next to him. “How about these two losers take some time to complain to each other?”
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