Horizon:Volume 2 Chapter 14
Chapter 14: Distant Affirmers
Is the distance between them
Vertical or horizontal?
Point Allocation (Trust)
Segundo and Velázquez walked down a corridor in Alcalá de Henares.
Segundo’s shoulders drooped as he carried a paper bag.
“It’s already eleven, but Juana is definitely here. I saw the light in the window. I don’t want to go in there.”
They arrived at a fork in the corridor. Their options were forward, left, and back.
They began walking more quietly without lowering their speed and they crouched down to peer down the corridor to the left.
After seeing that no one was there, they entered the corridor. Velázquez took a step ahead of Segundo.
“I see you haven’t gotten over that habit, boss.”
“Testament. When Juana is with me, she tells me not to sneak around.”
“But you’re protecting her from danger.”
“It’s best when they don’t notice. Losing someone is the worst, so anything else is fine with me,” muttered Segundo.
“I don’t think your wife hated you for never coming home,” said Velázquez as he pulled his hat down over his eyes. “When the group we gathered together went off to war, she made rice balls for us. And she was looking forward to the falla festival that year, wasn’t she? She was thinking about inviting you to dance once the war was over. …Just like old times, she called it.”
“But she would cry a lot. And my own child would ask who I was. Back then may have been a different story, but I’m too old to dance at the falla festival now.”
“Testament. I guess there’s no helping you,” said Velázquez. “Then again, it isn’t really my place to talk.”
“Testament. I can’t say it clearly either, so it ends up going unsaid.”
“But,” began Velázquez. “To bring us back to the present, are you sure that girl hates you?”
“You know how much trouble I cause for her with her job. And she’s always scolding me.”
“Boss, you haven’t been doing any work since she came here. That isn’t a good thing.”
“She’s just too skilled. And to be honest, I still don’t know why the previous chancellor recommended me for this position. The only answer I can think of is-…”
“To push all the blame for Tres España’s decline onto you? But you’re the hero of Lepanto.”
“We lost that battle. I’m only the hero of an interpretative victory. I only survived because I didn’t go where I should have. And…I lost something I shouldn’t have lost.” He let out a sigh as he walked. “I think I am the type of person who loses things. That’s all I have ever done. Whether I realize it or not, I’m distracted by what lies ahead, leave things behind, and lose them. When you leave a nation to someone like that, you’re telling him to lose the country. They gave me the empire on which the sun never sets so that I could make that sun set and have all of the blame fall on me. Only I could bring that about naturally.”
“I did my best to fulfill the history recreation. I entered into marriages on paper, I started projects that were likely to fail, and I stamped my seal again and again while telling Tres España to fall into ruin. But you, Juana, and the others arrived later and brought the country back to its feet. No matter how much I try to bring Tres España down, you bring it up even higher. You need to focus on the history recreation more. Not to mention that Juana’s very first move was a bit iffy. The United East India Company may be the first company to issue stock, but the way she earned a nation’s worth of wealth was bordering on insider trading. The Testament Union gave me some nasty looks about that.”
“Why were you protecting this girl you claim hates you, boss? And you shouldn’t have so readily signed her initial ideas to expand Córdoba’s medical center or the library and bookstores at the Al-Andalus academy. She was really mad when she found out you signed them off despite not having anywhere near enough money.”
“She then wanted to use the remaining money to remodel the student council room, but I instead paid for maintenance of the brothels as per the Testament descriptions. I think that’s why she hates me.”
“The existence of the brothels is a conservative honor related to women’s chastity, so you were right to do that. That girl is just a child, is all. Giving the prostitutes regular health examinations and letting the brothels also function as simple hospitals is part of our history recreation as progressive Tres España. It’s funny how that girl has started trying to act like an adult ever since then.”
“Testament. If you provoke her, she won’t back down.”
The two adults nodded to each other as they walked.
“At the end of last year, it came up that Tres España has the Virgin Mary come down the chimney at Christmas instead of Santa Claus and I commented that I wished the student council had our own Mary. While it is true that the Testament descriptions say that Mary coming down the chimney is the Tres Españan style, I never thought she would do it. It might have been due to Fusae acting like she was going to do it despite having no intention of actually going through with it.”
“The idea is that Mary enters through the fireplace while holding the Son of God in order to dry his swaddling clothes, right? We sure do love Mary in this country, don’t we? Anyway, that girl ended up half in tears because the scenery chimney was too small and her tits and ass got stuck. Unfortunately, the corregidores didn’t find it all that funny. …And who was it who made things worse by inviting kids from orphanages across the country to Henares’s gym?”
“You’re the one who agreed to it. You own a lot of those facilities.”
Segundo stared at the hall ahead as he walked.
“Anyway, Velázquez, I hear a letter arrived from that child.”
“I wouldn’t know. That girl probably has it. She might think it’s from a mistress. The sender is listed as a girl’s name.”
“Ahh… I had thought she was scolding me more recently. Is that why?”
They entered the hall. It was an approximately thirty meter square room with a white round table set in the center, a white bench to the right, and a sign saying “Combined Living Room” at the entrance in the back.
Two guard students wielding spears with a reinforced cowling stood on either side of the entrance and one other person was visible in the hall.
“Testament,” answered Gin with a nod. She had just left her private room and now walked toward Segundo. “Chancellor, Lady Juana is waiting for you with your letter. She was using this as a chance to take care of some paperwork and I assisted her with some of the student council work. I realized I was not suited for that kind of work, so I went to my room to perform maintenance on my false arms. To make a long story short, I might need specialized false arms for the sole purpose of stamping seals.”
“I will ask San Mercado if they have anything like that. No, wait. Fino Alba may be better for that. At any rate, thank you.”
“I always left this to Muneshige and rarely showed up myself, so I learned a lot.”
“Testament.” Gin nodded and stopped directly in front of him. “Lady Juana is a very interesting person.”
“Th-that is a very safe yet troubling thing to say.”
“Is it?” Gin gave a parting nod. “I had not left, so she had me help her with some of the work while she decided to wait for you to return.”
“I get the feeling you’re indirectly blaming me.”
“Testament. However, I am glad I had a way to spend my spare time. When I am alone, I begin worrying. But…”
“Who is that letter from? Your mistress?”
…This girl shows no mercy!
As Segundo trembled, the guard students stood stock still and held their breath. He was not sure if they were trying to say they had not heard anything or that they had heard but did not care.
Segundo turned to Velázquez who nodded back.
“That letter is from a long-lived orphan.”
“Yes,” said Segundo. He decided there was no harm in telling her. “That was the one thing I actually achieved at Lepanto.”
“Our survival wasn’t an achievement, boss?”
“I suppose it was. All of you that I saved became wonderful porn game producers. There’s Cervantes and Vega in the literature club, too.”
“Cervantes’s erotic fantasy adventure ‘Dawn Keyhole Tay’ was quite something. That old man knows how to excite the young ones. What kind of old man comes up with something like that ‘Special Attack – Windmill Rotation Strike’?”
“It’s a good thing he was able to use an extreme interpretation of the Crusades and the Silk Road trade to go to Edo in mid-winter to sell his work. Gathering all that foreign currency is huge problem for me, though.”
After turning a half-lidded glare toward Velázquez, Segundo turned back to Gin.
“Anyway, I freed an island populated by the long-lived race during that battle. I was too late for most of them, but I managed to save one girl. She was very scared and hiding in a dugout, but one of Velázquez’s orphanages took her in.”
“That girl writes you letters? Does she know who you are?”
“No.” Segundo shook his head. “I haven’t told her I’m the chancellor and student council president. I haven’t gone to see her either. Velázquez has her send me letters every now and then like I’m her guardian. Honestly, I doubt she would want to know her guardian is the king of debt who must bear Tres España’s decline.” He took a breath. “It must be nice being long-lived. She must be a bit older than you, Gin, but she’s still a child. Her letters are still those of a child, too. After everything I’ve lost, they’re nice to have.”
Segundo then held the paper bag out toward Gin and leaned his entire body toward her.
“U-um, would you like anything from here?”
“Testament. So you are distributing food again? I do not know where you get this, but I will take some vegeta-…”
Gin reached out but then stopped.
“The one who would eat them is still unconscious while undergoing intensive care, so I will wait until next time.”
“Are you sure you don’t want some of the pickled vegetables?”
Gin thought for a moment and finally said “testament” and took some Nappa cabbage. She placed the fingers of her false arm on the cabbage bound together with a string.
“Then I will take this. Thank you very much.” She nodded and began to leave. “I think I will stop by tomorrow as well.”
The two men nodded toward her parting back. And Velázquez spoke up.
“I guess Tachibana’s wife needs this kind of change of pace, too.”
“I’m being indirectly criticized a lot today. …Wait, Velázquez, where are you going?”
“I said I have work to do, remember? If I don’t get ready now, I won’t finish by summer.”
“But who knows how she’ll scold me if I’m alone.”
“Have you forgotten how to handle women, boss? You’ve been married and divorced a lot thanks to the history recreation, so you should have this down by now. And you won the usual dried foods, so use that to win her over. You don’t often get to speak with a young woman over food. At least apologize for the trouble you always put her through.”
“If I said that, she would wordlessly drop a pile of paperwork in front of me. Come to think of it, why is someone as skilled as her working for me?”
Segundo glared at the door and lowered his voice because the guards were looking away and pretending not to hear.
“If she took all my authority or I transferred my decision-making power to her, she would have it a lot easier, so why does she bother asking me to make the decisions or asking my opinion? It would be more efficient for her to do it all and I’m sure she knows it. She’s good looking and I doubt anyone would complain if she gained a male inherited name.”
“Boss, she’d scold you if she heard any of that besides the part about her looks. Didn’t you argue over this a long time ago? She said the current situation was fine and you started wandering off more often.”
“I don’t wander off. I go have fun with everyone at the usual place.”
“That’s still wandering off.” Velázquez took a step toward the corridor at the back of the hall, turned around, and pointed forcefully at Segundo. “You should give some positive thought about why that girl is the way she is.”
“Will she stop scolding me if I do?”
“I don’t know,” said Velázquez. “But aren’t you enjoying having a young woman looking after you like this? Why not invite her to the falla festival?”
“Españans overthink things by tying everything back to passion.”
Velázquez responded by raising his right hand.
“What a pain,” sighed Segundo before bowing to the guard students.
They frantically straightened up and he reached into his paper bag.
“Sorry about all the trouble. Oh, I was given some edamame, so how about you have them boiled at the cafeteria on your way home? The salt is still a solid rock, but do you want that too?”
“Thank you very much!”
After the two guards took the food, Segundo gave a parting nod and entered the living room.
I hope she doesn’t start scolding me right away, he thought as he passed through the door.
The combined living room of Alcalá de Henares’s student council and chancellor’s officers was a dimly-lit room with windows covering three walls and measuring about thirty square meters.
The lights on the ceiling used Testamento Firma, but they were currently lowered to economize. The lights were low enough that the light from the two moons outside created shadows.
The windows showed the night scenery from the school building’s fourth floor and Segundo’s desk was located by the back window on the southern side of the room. It was a large desk with an extra desk to the right covered in piles of documents and an extra desk to the left covered in completed documents. Another desk sat perpendicular in front of his desk, creating a T-shape. That was Juana’s desk.
A walkway was formed in front of their desks by the lines of desks for the student council members and chancellor’s officers. Currently, Tachibana Muneshige’s desk was empty and every other desk was cluttered.
The men’s desks were mainly covered in their hobby-related items with their work-related items within arm’s reach. Their desks were covered in books and the like.
The women’s desks were mainly covered in their work-related items with their hobby-related items within arm’s reach. Their desks were covered in the individual’s preferred decorations.
…Fusae is interested in hot spring trips right now. I should tell Takakane his signed ball has fallen below his desk. Oh, but the Kemari athlete almanacs from the Nara period piled below are about to collapse.
Segundo thought as he tiptoed toward Juana’s desk.
Juana’s chair was turned so its back was to him. The sleeves of her uniform were spilling over the shoulders of the tall chair back.
He never approached her any closer than two meters. He was short enough that any closer and she would be completely looking down at him. She might even hit him. Not that she had ever hit him in the past.
…It feels like she will, though.
Segundo kept his footsteps as silent as possible, placed the paper bag on Fusae’s desk because it was relatively safe, and slid himself around to Juana’s side. She was looking down at her own seat. She would of course notice him once he circled around into her field of vision, but he preferred to silently make his way around her first. Having his desk between them as a barricade would help with the damage control.
…What I really need to do is bow down lower than the desk.
Once he circled around to Juana’s side, he sped up and started for his own desk.
But he stopped when Juana did not react.
He placed a hand on the front of his desk and turned around.
The light was so faint that the moonlight from outside seemed brighter. That light illuminated Juana with her head tilted to the side and her eyes closed. She removed her usual hat indoors, so her black hair had come a bit undone and covered her cheek.
The guarder covering her right ear had something wrapped around it.
“A compressed sleep charm. Compressed four times? That’s really pushing it. I guess she isn’t going to wake up.”
He glanced at the clock on the wall and saw it was just before 11 at night. When he had shown no sign of returning, she must have decided to sleep until midnight.
…She knew I would bring back something for dinner, didn’t she?
Wicker baskets were sitting on the side of her desk and plates with paper covering something sat on both their desks. Segundo assumed that was what remained of the pies and tarts she had given out to the children. Having those, dried foods, and pickled foods for dinner seemed a bit odd to him.
The cross-style meter displayed on the surface of the charm indicated it still had half of the set amount left. She had likely set it for two hours and those two hours of sleep were worth four times that. The charm shortened one’s sleep time, but it did not control the brain’s chemicals to increase the body’s metabolism. It made the user feel better, but the sleepiness stuck with them for a while afterwards. When the sleep was compressed four times, the user almost never woke up midway through and it took them a while to fully awaken at the end. Segundo did not like that she made regular use of that method.
“She should work for a better country, corporation, or city instead of working for me.”
He scratched at his head and looked at Juana. He tilted his head down so as not to look down with just his eyes.
“Oh, the letter.”
He spotted a familiar envelope among the few she was holding at her chest. She was sitting shallowly in the chair and her hands were lightly in front of her chest. The letter was held in those hands, so it would be easy to take if he wanted to. He glanced down at the usual white envelope.
“The letters are sent from one of the orphanages Velázquez runs, so why can’t he just bring them to me? Is using the postal service that important? I should ask Muneshige next time I-…”
He mentioned the name of the 1st special duty officer who held an inherited name related to Tres España’s postal service, but he trailed off. He sighed yet again and looked toward the white envelope in the group of envelopes Juana held. It was addressed to him and came from a certain girl.
“She’s long-lived too, so she probably still looks the same age as my daughter,” he muttered.
Juana must have been having a bad dream because she wrinkled her brow and fidgeted. She slid her butt forward on the chair a bit, the chair rotated, and her legs bent.
The chair turned to the side so she was now facing him. And…
Juana let out a breath and her body relaxed. Her clasped hands fell to the armrests on either side of the chair and the envelopes fell to the floor in a clump.
“Wah, wah, wah.”
Segundo frantically crouched down and gathered the letters that had fallen to the floor. It was a wooden floor, so they slid around and were difficult to grab, but he somehow managed to gather them. He then glanced around to make sure he had not missed any.
A few had landed on Juana’s skirt and thighs. He collected four of them there.
The corners of the letters must have tickled because Juana languidly spread her legs. As a result, a single letter fell between Juana’s legs which were spread before Segundo’s eyes.
Still crouched down, he began to reach for the letter, but then stopped and lowered his head.
…Wait. I’m not doing anything wrong, am I?
He told himself to calm down and reminded himself that this was his vice president, his subordinate, his colleague, and the person who always scolded him for his constant poor work. In other words, there was no reason to think of her as a female student or a member of the opposite sex. For the time being, he needed to think of her as no different from a tree or a rock.
As he thought, the door suddenly opened and he heard Gin’s voice.
“Excuse me. I forgot my-…”
She suddenly stopped.
Segundo gasped and turned toward the false arms girl who had unexpectedly entered the room. He thought about the current situation and realized why she had fallen silent.
“Ah! G-Gin!?” he frantically shouted.
“Testament. Do not worry, chancellor. I understand the situation.”
“Testament. To you, she is your vice president, subordinate, colleague, and the person who always scolds your for your constant poor work, and you are attempting to collect the fallen letters. You do not think of her as a female student or a member of the opposite sex. For the time being, you are thinking of her as no different from a tree or a rock.”
Segundo wondered whether she could read his mind or if the situation was simply that easy to grasp.
“Y-yes! That’s exactly it!”
“Testament. Understood. We can say that is what happened.”
“That has a completely different nuance to it!”
“Calm down. Lady Juana is fonder of you than she lets on.” Gin coldly looked down at him. “But I never thought you were the type of man who would bow down to ask Juana of the Eight Great Dragon Kings to spread her legs after you had her pretend to sleep. How very machismo. I wish Muneshige had some skill in that area. Good night.”
“Wh-where am I even supposed to start? …Ah, don’t leave yet!”
Segundo’s shout and the sound of the closing door brought a look of annoyance to Juana’s sleeping face. She took a deep breath and fidgeted again. She closed her legs, pushing the letter to the ground. Truly thinking that was fortunate, Segundo frantically picked up the envelope and stood up.
…The danger has passed!
He started looking through the letters he had gathered. One was the usual financial report from San Mercado. The god of war unit named Tres Caballero was planning to work alongside the Grande y Felicísima Armada, so it likely had to do with that. He also saw a report on a judgment from the Second High Court of Granada. The letter that had fallen between Juana’s legs was from the Papa-Schola of K.P.A. Italia, but that lustful pope was probably only sending a seasonal greeting.
“Oh? Where did the letter from that girl go?”
It was missing, so he glanced around until he spotted it.
The white envelope lay between Juana’s breasts like a sword that had been stabbed into her chest. The letters had fallen when she lowered her arms earlier, but the bottommost letter had been pushed between her breasts instead.
Segundo stood perfectly still as he observed the scene before him.
“I thought god was only supposed to send you one trial at a time.”
As he wondered why he had been given a doubleheader, he worked to calm his breathing. He performed five or so 5-digit arithmetic problems in his head to rid himself of worldly thoughts and then faced the problem before him.
It was a simple task. He only had to pull the letter out. That was all. There was nothing to fear.
He reached out his hand, held the envelope between his index and middle fingers, and pulled.
It would not come out.
The reason why was obvious.
…There’s a great pressure holding it in place. That’s all. Calm down. Don’t think about this in any more detail than necessary. That’s right. Calm down, Felipe Segundo. You are an unappealing man. If she wakes up here, she will not just scold you. You will be burned at the stake for sexual harassment. Can’t you hear the charges being read? “Felipe Segundo, you are to be burned at the stake for the crime of sexual harassment by means of placing objects between a subordinate’s breasts.” No, don’t think of the word breasts!
The door opened.
“I am very sorry, chancellor. Once I gave it some thought, I realized an adult like you would not do anything like that to a diligent female teacher type such as-…”
Gin suddenly stopped speaking.
Segundo heard a staticky noise not just with his ears but with his brain and the rest of his body too. His blood seemed to have frozen and he could feel sweat pouring from him.
“G-Gin! I-I can explai-…”
“Testament. We can say that is what happened.”
“Th-that was fast! That was way too fast!!”
“Calm down. I cannot imagine why, but Lady Juana seems to think about you a lot.” Gin coldly looked down at him. “But I never thought you would have Lady Juana pretend to sleep while you placed objects between her breasts in a sort of cabaret show. You have reached the level of doble machismo. I wish Muneshige had some interest in that area. Good night.”
“Wah! What am I even supposed to say to that!? …Ah, don’t leave yet!”
As he took a step toward the door Gin had closed, he forcefully pulled out the envelope he was holding. The pressure of the breasts squeezed up against it and the sharp corner of the envelope worked together to undo the chest fastener on Juana’s uniform.
The fastener split all the way down to below her navel, leaving nothing holding the fabric in place. The skin of her breasts could be seen rising and falling with her breaths.
Segundo gathered every single one of his skills to grab the blanket sitting in the corner of the room for naps and then place it over Juana. After doing so in only a second and a half, he caught his breath, removed the paper from the plate on his desk, and took a bit of the apple pie beneath.
…Oh, the sweetness has more depth than last time.
She had likely used unpurified sugar instead of the purified white kind. White sugar had a more direct sweetness and its color was wonderful, but the unpurified kind gave a variant depth to the flavor.
The children in the hospital would not have many sweet things to eat, so the latter was likely the better option.
She can do so much already, but she continues to learn and grow, he thought as he licked off his fingers.
The long-lived race belonged to a former noble family of the Far East. Segundo had Far Eastern blood in him too, but he had heard his ancestors worked for those nobles.
“So why is she working for me now?”
As he thought, he placed the white envelope in his breast pocket, grabbed a pen from his desk, and wrote a short message on the paper that had covered the plate.
He wrote, “You were asleep, so I left with Gin. Thank you for the pie.”
He chose not to mention anything about the letter. Even if she had been asleep, it would hurt her pride to know she had dropped it. She would prefer to think he had simply taken it. He also had to catch up to Gin, so he was not technically lying. From what he wrote, she could assume Gin handled the blanket as well.
…I’ll leave her with the usual dried foods.
He began to walk past Juana as she slept beneath the blanket.
She let out a groan that seemed to be seeking help.
It almost sounded like she was saying “help me”, so Segundo stopped.
He looked over to find her wrinkling her brow and tightly grasping the armrests below the blanket.
During compressed sleep, one switched between shallow sleep and deep sleep and one would dream during the shallow sleep. Also, the dreams would be compressed, too.
“Ah…” she said again, but she was still facing down.
…It’s as if she’s giving up.
Segundo reached out a hand, but…
He could not hold her hand while she grasped the armrest, so he placed his hand over hers through the blanket.
The harsh look left her face and her breathing finally calmed.
Segundo slowly removed his hand, took a few items from his paper bag, placed them on Juana’s desk, adjusted the blanket so it would not fall from her, and finally left the room.
He carried the lighter paper bag in his arms and the letter in his breast pocket.
How are you doing? I am doing well. I am studying, but I am eating properly, playing, and getting enough sleep too.
It has been a month since I started going to the academy. I still do not have many friends, but I will be fine as long as I have you. There are books here, so I can get by on my own.
There have been clouds in the sky recently.
Did you know there are a lot of ships in those clouds? Everyone at the academy is talking about war.
Are you going to war?
You saved me.
I do not like war, but you and the others saved me last time.
If there is another war, will you save me again?
When I see someone afraid of the word war, I tell them about you. I tell them it will be okay because you will come help us if something happens.
If there is another war, will you save me again?
I hope what I said does not become a lie.”
“It’s hard to say,” muttered Segundo as he walked in the moonlight. “ ‘Mister’ would go save you. That’s for sure. He would take you from the darkness and into the light.”
“But what about the current ‘boss’?”
He looked up into the sky.
“What will he do? Will he be able to protect you and a whole lot more?”
He had no answer.
He only saw the night sky overhead that was so clear it felt cold.
He walked below that sky that grew more sharply transparent the later the night grew.
…That question and answer will likely be tested during the coming war with England.
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