Horizon:Volume 2 Chapter 13

From Baka-Tsuki
Jump to: navigation, search

Chapter 13: Conversations between Worriers[edit]

Horizon2A 403.png

What do you call something

That unlike a spark

Is small yet does not disappear?

Point Allocation (Non-Interference)


“Complain, hm?”

Naruze’s suggestion to “complain to each other” was met with both annoyance and resignation from Neshinbara.

He would have preferred attaching reasons to his thoughts rather than doing something as unproductive as complaining.

But I am worrying.

The reason for this was simple.

“Well, I suppose I am being exposed to enough criticism to want to complain.”

“Yes. I tried searching your name on the ship’s divine network and what I found made me feel bad. Seeing a classmate shamed like that is not fun. I decided to show my support.”

“Eh? You’re on my side?”

“No. I joined them in criticizing you and agreed with them as much as I could, but it seems I was on an entirely different level from them because they all backed off. They left just when I started a new thread. It’s sad they can’t do any better than that.”

“A-are you trying to complain or insult me?”

“Never mind that,” said Naruze.

The corner of her mouth rose in a half-bitter and half-scornful smile and she spread her wings toward the night wind to keep her balance.

“Checking everyone’s opinions gave me a general understanding of the situation. The damage from the attack and the shelling left Musashi damaged.”

But…

“It may not have been this bad before, but this is hardly the first time we have been damaged. When you took command as strategist during the Battle of Mikawa, some of those who fought in the battle were injured and Musashi was badly damaged. We were injured too. But there was one obvious difference in this battle.”

Neshinbara gave the answer before Naruze could.

“We didn’t win. Right?”


It’s when you win that the injuries and the losses gain meaning, thought Neshinbara.

“It’s all meaningless if you don’t win.”

They had excuses and explanations for the outcome, but that would not quell people’s emotions.

Checking the records of other countries showed people forcing the blame onto each other whenever they lost. The blame for a loss or failure had to go somewhere.

“By pushing the blame on someone else, people can accept the loss because it ‘wasn’t their fault’.”

“Musashi has an upper age limit on students, so even if the children try to support you, their parents will not forgive you. When their children come back injured, they feel like saying ‘I told you so’. Plus, they will not want to blame their own children, so they will point the blame in your direction.”

“I’m really glad you understand.”

I’m not very tough if I feel like that helps, thought Neshinbara.

“I have to use the divine network in my duties as secretary and I need to obtain all sorts of information to fulfill my role as strategist, but that means I have to see what people are saying about us.”

“Even in the historical records, defeated generals are said to have received horrible criticism. This may be part of that curse.”

“Judge.”

Neshinbara sighed and leaned up against the railing. On top of the railing, Naruze took a step away to the right and used her wings to balance herself again.

“In the Three Kingdoms Period of China, military commanders were often said to ‘die in agony’ or ‘die in a fit of rage’, but that was likely due to the stress their position put on them. Dying in agony likely referred to a heart attack and in a fit of rage was likely stress related, but I hear it was difficult to reproduce that in the history recreation.”

“I know asking this to a history nerd will bring us off topic, but what did they do?”

“Judge. The direct resolution was to give them enough stress to kill someone before letting them retire as an interpretation of the historical figure’s death.”

“For example?”

“Well, they would trick them onto a hidden camera show where Diaochan would invite them over, but when they jumped into the bed, they found Lu Bu instead. Lu Bu would then announce ‘Welcome, welcome! And surprise!’ ”

Dong Zhuo and most of the early commanders ‘died in agony’ like that. But once Lu Bu retired, people grew suspicious of hidden camera shows. And when China split into the three kingdoms, Zhang Fei tried to fill Lu Bu’s role, but that was not enough to “kill” the Shu commanders. Later, when Guan Yu went to Wei, they began to use games of strip mahjong that were divine broadcasted live to “kill” the commanders who refused to give up. However, that method was banned after Xun You copied it, discarded Cao Cao’s winning tile, lost all of his points, and died in a fit of rage.

Gambling should be avoided, thought Neshinbara.

Afterwards, a national Death Recommendation Committee had been created.

“They would pay off the author of the five-line poem series the commander read to give it a bad ending where the heroine died or their favorite play would be forced into a depressing end where everyone died. There were some incidents where the enraged commander strangled the author or organizer, but for the most part, the ‘agonizing deaths’ of the commanders of the Three Kingdoms Period were recreated like that.”

Neshinbara nodded a few times and suddenly realized something about himself.

“I guess I can still keep going if I haven’t reached that state yet.”

“Musashi would be in trouble if you died, so don’t push yourself too hard.”

Neshinbara’s Mouse informed him that another thread about him had been created on the academy’s divine network. He checked the title.

“That’s what I thought. …I used to do the same thing with strategists and other occupations.”

“What same thing?”

Neshinbara took a breath and opened his mouth. He spoke the opinion that was most commonly being sent his way.

“I would say they should have done it my way. Everyone says that kind of thing.”

“Yes, but they are free to do so. When I sell my books, a lot of people look through it, say something similar to that, and leave without buying it.”

“And how does that make you feel?”

“I could kick their ass if I wanted to, so it doesn’t really matter. …What’s with that look?”

Technohexen are scary, thought Neshinbara. But then he had a further thought. No, most of our class is like that.

Was it just a bad environment?

But, he thought. I hope I can vindicate myself.

If he could still hope for that, he still had a chance. He was still hoping for his own continuation.

I need to do my best.

He vowed to win next time. Winning gave it all meaning.

From that point of view, the festival after the Battle of Mikawa had been important. That festival had let them all feel first hand that they had won.

“I need to do my best to make sure my achievements warrant a festival.”

“You should have gone to today’s festival. Why didn’t you?”

Neshinbara’s answer was simple: he raised his right arm.

The moonlight illuminated the bandages wrapped around the lower arm where the curse was written. Words were written on the white cloth of the bandages, but they were not fully suppressing what lay beneath.

Strings of glowing text leaked out from below the bandages.

“Macbeth. Shakespeare’s spell continues to curse me. Macbeth is a usurper who kills the king, so the curse means I will harm Aoi-kun.”

In other words…

“Shakespeare cursed me and I have no choice but to take a path apart from the king.”

Naruze’s eyes widened as she looked down at him. She took in a deep breath and spoke.

“I’m using that!!”


This will work great!

Naruze was sure of it.

“If I have you use that line while naked at a decisive point, it’ll be perfect for convincing the female readers! I could draw up a storyboard around just that one line! Your leg was injured, so how about I set the story in a hospital!?”

“Don’t ask me. That kind of thing has never really interested me.”

Naruze shrugged, shook her head, and took a breath.

“Heh heh. Well, you own the rights to your likeness, so how about I pay you a royalty of 10%?”

“Wouldn’t that 10% be for my human rights, not for using my likeness?”

As long as he let her use him in her doujinshi, she did not care either way.

“Anyway,” muttered Naruze. “You can’t go along with the rest of us with that cursed arm, so why don’t you ask Asama to-…”

She was going to ask why he had not had it purified, but the spell bandages on the arm were proof he had already consulted Asama. The fact that the curse still remained could only mean one thing.

“Is that a kind of curse that can’t be purified away? Does she have to shoot it off?”

“Yes to the first question, no comment to the second. Macbeth will not disappear until the play is over. Macbeth kills the king, but that is the proper course of the play. There is nothing impure about it. Trying to purify it drives it away temporarily, but it does not eliminate it. It seems plays are difficult to purify in Shinto because they are used as offerings to the gods. Asama-kun said the only two options are for Shakespeare to end the play or for it to leave England. It may be possible for me to get the part removed from me, but then the curse will move on to someone else as an understudy.”

“Does it really matter if you let it transfer to someone who doesn’t have to work as secretary?”

“And what if that person is manipulated into killing Aoi-kun?”

That was indeed a bit of a problem.

He always imagines the worst case scenario which makes him hard to deal with. But that might just be how strategists think.

Neshinbara used his cane to adjust his position.

“It’s easier if I keep the curse because I can try to handle any situation that arises. But that also means I can’t stay by the king’s side or do my job. My right hand is trying to kill the king, so even when I try to write, it tries to indirectly bring the king to his ruin or otherwise cause a scandal while I’m not paying attention.”

“That’s quite a mischievous right hand.”

Naruze’s thoughts then turned to the enemy he had faced.

“What was that about 13 and the 13th Mutsugoirei Academy that Shakespeare mentioned? Do you mind if I ask?”

“Are you going to use it in a doujinshi?”

“Of course. It would weird if I didn’t,” she replied immediately.

Neshinbara brought a hand to his forehead for a moment.

“W-well, I suppose it’s better than having a rumor spread based on something you completely made up. But to be honest, there isn’t much information left about the place.”

“Really?”

Neshinbara gave a small nod.

“Even those of us inside the academy had little knowledge of its place in the outside world, so we just knew of it as an overall unpleasant place. I did some investigating afterwards and it seems it was an orphanage built by Tres España’s previous chancellor, Carlos I. It was meant to begin accelerated education for gifted children at a young age. Facilities like that are everywhere these days, but this one was a bit different.”

Naruze listened carefully.

“This facility was intended to create people with inherited names.”


“Create people…with inherited names?” repeated Naruze.

“Yes,” lightly replied Neshinbara with a shrug. “Carlos I was both Tres España’s chancellor and the Holy Roman emperor-chancellor, but he was more a resident of M.H.R.R. than of Tres España. This meant Tres España was often missing its chancellor. To make up for that, they opted to gain plenty of inherited names for people’s own personal power or to strengthen the country as a whole. However, nobles and rich merchants wanted their descendants to earn an inherited name and they needed a way to immediately fill the gap if a bearer of an inherited name was lost in an accident.”

“So they created that orphanage?”

“Judge,” answered Neshinbara without looking toward her. He stared straight forward into the air. “It seems an academy originally built for some other purpose was remade. The rumor is that its original purpose was to create students for the Testament Cross-Borders Unit.”

“Was that last part a joke?”

“I’m not sure.” Neshinbara tilted his head. “But all of it came to an end during my generation. After all, one of us almost died.”

“…”

“She was talented. More than me. When she put words together… well, you know how people’s sense for words doesn’t change as they get older, right? Their sense tells them what words to choose from their vocabulary, so a greater vocabulary gives them more words to choose from. Still, their sense for what words to choose doesn’t get any better. Even now, I can tell she was talented. But she was weak to pressure.”

“Wait.” Naruze lightly kicked Neshinbara’s back. “If you don’t want to say this, you don’t have to.”

“If you don’t want to hear it, you don’t have to listen.”

He annoys me sometimes, thought Naruze and that thought seemed to have reached Neshinbara.

“How about I skip ahead?”

“I can’t use this in a doujinshi anyway.”

“Thanks. I would prefer that. …Anyway, a lot happened and someone was being sent in to inspect the academy. The night before, we were sent out to be ‘transferred’ somewhere else. We decided to run away, so we jumped out of the mobile carriage and walked for four days while praying to the crosses standing along the mountain path. We made our way to the border with Hexagone Française and we decided to go our separate ways to whatever land we wanted. We promised to pretend not to know each other if we saw each other again.”

And yet…

“I wonder why she broke that promise.”

“So this was like a terrible face-to-face class reunion? …Hm. It had to do with a girl with a major inherited name, so I thought the story would be a little more risqué.”

“Naruze-kun, have you always been so good at giving such straightforward comments? Anyway, I hear that academy was shut down. Tres España’s secretary, Velázquez, is in charge of their orphanages and hospitals, so it fully shifted over to being an orphanage once Felipe Segundo took over.”

“I see.” Naruze nodded. “You went through a lot, didn’t you?”

“I did. But that’s fine.”

“And you’re going through a lot now, too.”

“Judge, I suppose I should say. If possible, I hope to go to the next event in England for a change of pace. Do you think they’ll have one?”

Naruze could tell he was trying to change the subject, so she went along with it.

“Well,” she began.

But a sudden noise other than the steam whistle filled Musashi.

It was a familiar voice blaring from the ship’s external speakers.

“…ait! Wait, Kimi!”

It was Asama. Her voice sounded a bit rushed.

“You need to stop Toori-kun from buying that filthy game!”


Naruze’s expression froze in place as she turned toward the anti-wind walls surrounding Musashi Ariadust Academy. Neshinbara recalled that Okutama’s primary broadcast room was located at about the center, so he looked in the same direction with half-lidded eyes. However, the loud voice continued.

“I have to put the cause of the death on the report to the magistrate’s office, and I don’t want to have to put ‘surprise ascension into heaven due to a shock in a porn game’ or ‘collapsed naked in front of a sign frame displaying a porn game’! And my shrine would fill out a document for the cancellation of his contract, but what will the future generations of the Asama family think when they look through the documents and see ‘reason for contract cancellation: left the earthly plane via porn game’!?”

Asama’s voice was followed by Kimi’s, but Naruze and Neshinbara exchanged a glance.

“Should someone tell them they accidentally turned on the mic?” asked Naruze.

“It’s too late now. …Oh, but you could send a divine message.”

“Judge,” replied Naruze as she lowered her shoulders and sent a divine message to Asama.

A short moment passed and then…

“Eh? Oh, no! They can hear us outside!? Um, hello, everyone. If you can hear this, please raise your hand. …Oh, don’t worry, don’t worry. I won’t shoot you if you raise your hand.”

“That stupid shrine maiden. Just because her sanity level is always low is no reason to go completely crazy here.”

“I know what you mean,” said Neshinbara with a sigh.

He looked up into the sky and spoke again after hearing the ship-wide broadcast click off.

“I may be down, but everyone else is full of energy. I want to save them, but I have nothing to save them from when they’re like this.”


A few different people were speaking within a room labelled the “Okutama Central Broadcast Room”.

They were having a simple meeting among the major forces of Musashi.

Asama brought up the first item on the agenda while dressed in her shrine maiden outfit.

“U-um, we chose the broadcast room because it’s soundproofed but ended up having trouble due to accidentally flipping a switch, but that’s over now. Heidi, you said we should have official permission to land soon, right?”

“Judge,” replied Heidi who stood to Asama’s left in the merchant work clothes she wore as her normal clothes.

She and Erimaki opened a few sign frames and she smiled toward Asama.

“We are still only allowed to land on the fourth level, but tomorrow we can use the diplomatic ship to bring all sorts of supplies the transport ship is lacking. Asamachi, Kimi, can you two create a list of what you think the girls might need?”

“…Eh? Ehhh? With that monster of a girl?” cried Asama while pointing at Kimi.

Kimi on the other hand was already peering at a sign frame along with her Mouse named Uzy.

“Um,” began Asama uncertainly.

The flower of the summit turned toward her.

“What is it, Asama? Just to be clear, I am not trying to send them anything weird.”

“What are you planning to send them?”

“Well, the girls will need supplies to deal with their dry skin and hair. They will also need hairpins and toiletries such as toothbrushes. Also, I’m sure they could use some changes of clothes, some curtains, and some towels.”

Asama looked around the room with a dumbfounded look and then placed a hand on Kimi’s shoulder.

“I never expected a serious response. It looks like you’re actually capable when you try.”

“Heh heh heh. Heretical shrine maiden, an emergency like this is no time to be joking around.”

“Nee-chan! Nee-chan! What should we send for the guys!?”

“Heh heh heh. An excellent question, foolish brother! The guys need nothing other than porn games! But with no PC to install the games on, they can only read the boxes and grooves on the Black Disks while they pleasure themselves with tears in their eyes! That is truly what you call a crying game!”

“Nwaahh! I knew she couldn’t hold back forever! What are you planning to do when England inspects what we’re sending!?”

“Eh? Surely they will understand if the guys place a hand on their shoulder and look them in the eye.”

Asama hung her head and Heidi placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Well, try to come up with a list like that. It would help if you could prepare the spell-related items.”

“Understood. What time will we make the landing?”

“Judge. They have received our request, so we should have approval by morning. It’s convenient that their city runs twenty four hours a day due to all their non-humans. That also means they consume a lot of goods, so we should be able to sell a lot.”

“I see,” commented Urquiaga and Asama before looking to the back of the room.

Everyone followed her gaze. A naked boy was using binoculars to stare out the window toward England.


He’s worried about Horizon, thought Asama. His excitement has been a bit forced for these past two weeks.

He showed no sign of brooding over it, but his actions did seem forced.

“We can finally meet up with them tomorrow,” she said loud enough for him to hear.

There was a lot they all had to do.

“Toori-kun, aren’t there some things you have to tell Masazumi when you see her?”

“Eh? D-did I make any mistakes she’s likely to find out about?”

“I won’t ask any further about that, but you should apologize first and foremost. …And that isn’t what I meant. Masazumi will be the one discussing what relationship we will build with England and what we will do from here on, so she probably wants to hear your opinion.”

“Really?”

Toori turned around with the binoculars still held up to his eyes. With the binoculars in his left hand trained squarely on her breasts, he started grabbing at empty air with his right hand.

“Seijun can make a good decision without my input, can’t she?”

With half lidded eyes, Asama jabbed at the binoculars with her bow. As the idiot held his face and rolled around on the floor, everyone else backed away a bit.

He likes to hide what he really thinks, thought Asama with a sigh.

“Remember what Masazumi said during our class before the attack? She said she would need your decision eventually. Toori-kun, I know you don’t like this kind of thing. I know you don’t like saying it yourself because you have a tendency to take too strong a stance when you do. But…”

Toori remained motionless.

I hope this is getting through to him, she thought. And I suppose this isn’t my place to talk when I’m not in the student council or the chancellor’s officers.

A shrine maiden was normally not meant to take part in earthly conflicts. She decided to say nothing more, but Kimi elbowed her in the side. She knew what Kimi meant, but she still turned toward her.

“Wh-what is it?”

“Heh heh. I see you fully intend to get involved in this. How about you ask my foolish brother if there is any way for you to help?”

Toori turned toward them with a question mark expression.

Ah.

He would tell her whether she could be involved or not. She felt her pulse quicken, so she raised her eyebrows and tugged on Kimi’s hand. She then headed for the exit with Kimi in tow.

“H-honestly! We’re outsiders and you’ve told us what you need from us, so we’ll be going!”


Asama was aware she was blushing and that those around her knew it.

“Kimi, the reason you’ve been late to class a lot lately is because you’re waiting until Toori-kun wakes up, isn’t it? It isn’t your fault Horizon is gone, so you don’t have to stick with him.”

“Oh, are you taking me away with you? I quite like it when you get a little forceful.”

“Th-that isn’t what I… H-honestly!”

They had known each other for so long that Kimi could always tell what she was thinking. That made her difficult to deal with. She began half-seriously denying what Kimi said, but Heidi and Urquiaga cut in.

“I think you are quite motherly, Asamachi. You make everyone’s bentos.”

“Yes, but there is a rumor that is only because she made too many grain substitutions as offerings and is making secondary substitutions via others.”

“W-wah! Why would you bring that up now!? And Kimi! Stop trying to slip away from me. Kimi! Listen, Kimi! It’s getting late and you’ll feel terrible tomorrow if you don’t get enough sleep, but…”

Suddenly, the naked boy in the back of the room placed a hand on a desk to help him stand up. He accidentally pressed the button for a divine transmission in the process.

Asama’s voice reverberated throughout the entire ship as she pulled on Kimi’s hand.

“You’ll feel wonderful if you let me take you to bed!”


As Neshinbara and Naruze watched the lights of England from the academy port, they heard something break through the anti-wind wall in front of them.

“Eh?”

They turned around and looked up into the air where a naked boy was sprawled out and spinning vertically through the night sky. Asama’s flustered face and bow appeared in the human-shaped hole in the wall up above.

“H-huh!? He only flew that far because of his boke spell, right!? Right!?”

But before she could check, a transport ship rushing into the port ran into the idiot and knocked him back toward the hole. He rotated in the reverse direction, flew through the hole, and caused another sound of destruction inside the building. It all ended in a “gwaaah!” in Urquiaga’s voice.

The transport ship came to a sudden stop and the crew could be heard speaking.

“Ahh! I just hit someone! D-damn. I thought it was the chancellor, so I panicked and mixed up the gas and the brake!”

“And which one did you intend to use, comrade? If your instinct was the same as mine, drinks are on me tonight. Also, that dent on the front is definitely the chancellor’s outline! You got him!”

“Oh, you’re right! So it was the chancellor. That’s a relief.”

Neshinbara saw the two men high-five each other and head back inside the ship while laughing uproariously.

Even at night, everything’s the same as always, he thought with half-lidded eyes.

The person next to him suddenly moved.

The girl had six large black wings on her back. Neshinbara looked up at her where she stood on the railing next to him.

“Naruze-kun, what’s your complaint? You promised to tell me, remember?”


Neshinbara ignored the fact that the black-winged Technohexen did not turn toward him.

“I’ve finished with my complaints, so now it’s your turn. What has you out on the back of the ship tonight?”

The Technohexen nodded slightly.

“Margot is on the other side of the ocean.”

“Then why are you here? I thought the broadcast room was in charge of receiving messages from them.”

“Do you really think she would send me a message? She doesn’t want to worry me, so she won’t say anything. If she sent a poorly-made message, I might suspect she’s forcing it to sound good.”

“Judge. So you worry too much, is that it?” Neshinbara turned toward England. “But I do wonder if she knows what you’re thinking right now.”

“Don’t be stupid, glasses boy. You hope to be a published author like that? Actually, you already had one short story published in a magazine, didn’t you?”

“It was so bad I’d rather forget about it.”

“It still gives you some sort of authority.”

“Judge.” Neshinbara scratched at his head. “But I quit soon afterwards. After all, I was half-worked to death on the student council with no time to focus on writing anything for any more prizes. You can still find the records of me bragging on the divine network, though.” He took a breath. “I hope to catch up with actual results someday.”

“If you keep saying it will be ‘someday’, you will never catch up.”

“You like giving advice, don’t you?”

“You can just say I’m too quick to find fault. As a Technohexen, anything else would be rude.”

Naruze brushed up her hair and reached for her wings. The two wings in the center were her primary acceleration wings that expanded vertically. She rubbed the left one under the joint and stuck her fingers under the feathers.

“It feels a lot better when Naito does it.”

“Someone! Someone, help! There’s a perverted exhibitionist girl over here!”

“Idiot, stop shouting the kind of joke I would expect from the chancellor. This is important. It helps me remain sane while thinking about what I’m lacking. I’m amazed the chancellor put up with this for ten years. And he’s dealing with it now, too.”

“Really?”

“Judge,” said Naruze yet again. “I can tell to a certain extent. You can deal with having someone who won’t even send you a message for fear of worrying you, but it requires trust in them and the ability to find happiness in the fact that someone is thinking about you. Heh heh. I sound like Mitotsudaira.”

“Are Technohexen always this talkative at night?”

“A hopeful author shouldn’t turn into a critic at night,” she said. “But without Weiss Fräulein, I’m just a burden that can’t do anything right. I hate it.”

“I think you did well enough.”

“But I doubt I was able to eliminate Naito’s worries.”

The wind blew through, rustling the black wings of that Weiss Hexen.

“I wanted to show Naito that I was fine on my own and without Weiss Fräulein, but all I did was head out to the front line without thinking and get blown away. …Even if it was Asama who did that last part.”

“What are you trying to say?”

“Well, either way, I’m just a poor actor who has no choice but to get off the stage. You seem to still be on the stage, but I-…” Naruze trailed off and traced her right fingertips across the railing. “No, forget it. I shouldn’t be saying this to you right now. People will continue complaining about you until we know how to deal with England and Tres España. In fact, it will probably get worse. We overcame some skilled people to earn our positions, so people have certain expectations of us. You should continue worrying over the issue until you decide what to do about Macbeth.”

And…

“You may not be able to join us with that curse, but find some time to speak with Adele. She is thankful for what you did.”

“Why would she be thankful? I don’t get that at all.”

Neshinbara thought he saw the Technohexen smile.

“Why does everyone in our class like to ignore things that could help them? You’re all so hard to deal with.”

She faced backwards and jumped toward the school building such that she moved down within his vision. Her wings caught the air and produced a clear sound as she gently descended toward the floor.

Despite the distance between them, Neshinbara heard her wings as she landed.

“Is that enough?” he asked.

“Judge. After all, Margot doesn’t like long greetings.”

He heard her feet touch the floor and then heard her spin around. She now had her back turned to him, so he turned back toward the ocean. He did not have enough composure to watch her leave.

He instead listened to her receding footsteps and a voice joined them.

“Neshinbara, I think we are fairly similar.” She took a breath. “And I think you have it worse.”


“Honestly, you go to a lot of trouble, Velázquez. I choose not to carry a handheld, after all.”

That voice could be heard below the night sky.

Two men walked along the central path toward one of the white domed school buildings of Tres España’s Alcalá de Henares.

Walking along that tree-lined and black stone path was a middle-aged man in a worn-out shirt and carrying a paper bag and a long-lived man in a white cloak.

One was Tres España’s Chancellor and Student Council President Felipe Segundo and the other was Secretary Velázquez.

As they walked toward the school building, long-lived Velázquez adjusted his wide-brimmed hat and looked toward the white fortress walls surrounding the school building. He raised a paint-stained sleeve and pointed toward one of the walls.

“That wall is being resurfaced soon, so do you mind if I make a painting on it, boss?”

“The ceramics club from the academy in Salamanca wanted to make a mosaic with blue pottery from Tres Portugal. More importantly, Toledo’s translation center wants you to make some illustrations for a children’s versions of the Alfonsine tables that they’re translating into different languages. Could you focus on that for now?”

“That’s based on Mlasi observations, isn’t it? P.A.Oda isn’t going to sue them over copyright, are they?”

“Testament. This was Juana’s idea, so she likely has a way of handling that.”

“Boss, you think highly of that girl, don’t you?”

“Girl? She’s older than me, just like you. You’re both long-lived.”

“Growing older is not the same thing as feeling time passing slower and feeling useless, boss.” Velázquez smiled. “It’s said that Tres Españans use the money they have, give in to their passions, have a party, and forget everything unpleasant, but that only applies to the humans. I’m not about to reach that level.”

“It doesn’t really matter, but could you stop calling me boss?”

“Sure,” agreed Velázquez. “Should I call you commander like during Lepanto?”

“I wish we could go back to that time. Back then, we could invite the girl we liked to dance at the falla festival and give in to our passions just as the saying goes.”

Segundo sighed and adjusted his grip on the paper bag. It contained vegetables, dried foods, smoked foods, and other foods. Velázquez glanced inside the bag.

“Do they never bet alcohol on those chess games?”

“No one is going to bet something more important than their own lives. But I’m sure Juana will be mad that I brought this much back with me. She won’t let me bring back anything but fruits and dried foods.”

Segundo seemed to suddenly recall something.

“When you see her, tell her to boil the dried foods to get the salt out before giving it to the cats.”

“Why don’t you tell her, boss?”

“She hates me.”

“I don’t see you trying to change that.”

As they spoke, they passed through the large gate at the front of the fortress. They passed by the Henares logo and the carved name Takamine Castle which gave the school building meaning for the Far East.

The dome-shaped school building was visible thanks to the lights coming from the rooms and the passageways circling the outer wall at each floor.

Segundo noticed a faint light on one end of the fourth floor.

“Do you think our combined living room has been a bit cramped lately?”

“It’s only until the end of the war with England. I have some work to do in the back, so do your best.”

“You’re abandoning me to Juana’s wrath?”

“Testament. It’s not so bad, boss. If you have a woman scolding you, you aren’t completely lost.”

Velázquez laughed and gave Segundo’s back a push.

Segundo sighed.

“Here I go… Or should I say ‘I’m home’?”

His shoulders drooped as he entered the school building along with Velázquez.