Horizon:Volume 2 Chapter 18
Chapter 18: One who Remembers in a Place of Forgetting
When there is a place that should be remembered
Why do people keep it in their hearts?
Point Allocation (Regret)
A graveyard bordered the inlet. Stones were placed on the ground and swords stood up like gravestones. There was a single stone for each sword.
“So there are three hundred of each,” muttered Tenzou as he worked on pulling out the swords with some help from the kobolds.
He was removing the swords and stones about halfway through the graveyard near where the crack had formed at the beginning of a slope.
He looked around and spotted a spring further back.
The spring was undamaged and water lily buds floated in it, but the graves in front of it were in trouble. The ground had crumbled as it was swallowed up by the crack in the hill.
…We came here to move these graves, but…
The kobolds that had appeared from the crack were carrying the swords and stones out to the path where they piled them up together. Scarred waited on the path where he would attach labels to the swords and stones to indicate a pair.
Tenzou took them from the ground, the kobolds carried them, and Scarred gathered them.
However, they were not working silently. The kobolds spoke the most. Kobolds were partially employable fairies that would carry out hard labor. They lived in the ley lines running through ore deposits in the ground. If one wanted to employ them, one had to form a contract promising to give them “something of value”.
“Where does this go?” asked one of the kobolds with a heavy accent.
Kobolds were individuals without a shared consciousness like that of the brown algae creatures. When they had come from the ley line, Tenzou had asked them to work, but the ones who had finished their work were asking what to do next.
When they had nothing to do, some of them would begin staring off into the sea or sky, so it was necessary to call out to them and give new instructions. This led to a lot of back and forth, but another aspect of it caught Tenzou’s focus.
…It makes my heart race to give others instructions.
“Hurry up and give more work.”
About thirty kobolds had appeared, but about five of them had nothing to do at any one time. Tenzou had to give them instructions, so he placed a hand on the sword he had just pulled out.
“Take this over there.”
He would instruct the kobolds to carry the items to Scarred, but they would sometimes go too far or stop before reaching the man. He would need to give another instruction or have Scarred do it.
…Am I giving the instructions wrong?
The kobolds often had nothing to do and the work was not progressing smoothly. It sounded nice if he said he had room for waste, but he still did not like it. Also…
…Huh? Come to think of it, how much small change do I have on me today?
There were about thirty kobolds. He had made a contract with them, so he would need to give them thirty “objects of value”. Tenzou tried to remember how much small change he had in his wallet.
…If I run out of small change, will I have to give them more valuable coins!?
Kobolds did not give change for larger denominations, so he would have to give them silver and gold coins if he ran out of less valuable coins. He could also try to give them other valuable possessions, but he was unsure how well that would work.
“E-excuse me. Hypothetically speaking, would this cokepen be sufficient for payment?”
Two kobolds holding a single stone together looked up at the cokepen Tenzou held up.
“Don’t take kobolds lightly.”
“What happens if I do that?”
The instant Tenzou asked, the two kobolds launched the fist-sized stone at his crotch.
It was a direct hit.
With a dull noise, the stone sank into his crotch and slowly fell down.
Tenzou let out a dull gasp and fell to his knees. The two kobolds caught the falling stone.
…I shouldn’t have asked. I should have known a hypothetical question wouldn’t work with half employable spirits. Ha ha ha. What a simple mistake…
“Why are you crouching down?”
Hearing Scarred’s voice, Tenzou tried to stand, but he focused on regulating his breathing so he could actually stand up straight. He thanked god that the scene had been hidden by the many swords.
“Judge. U-um, I came across a hard stone to get up.”
“Judge. I see.”
Scarred nodded and Tenzou heard him take a small breath. It sounded like he was preparing to say something.
But Scarred remained silent.
…I need to say something to urge him to speak. After all, it was because we crashed here that the graveyard was damaged.
“Did you notice some kind of problem?” he asked.
Scarred seemed to hesitate and reached for the thick book sitting next to him.
…That is a dictionary of the Far Eastern language.
A shallow translation spell circulated throughout the entire Far East via the ley lines. Each area’s guardian deity for travelers oversaw it, but its effects were very weak in England because it was not a part of the Far East’s land.
…And some people are not used to using our language.
As Tenzou thought, Scarred completed his preparations. He remained seated on the grass next to the path.
“You seem inexperienced in giving instructions to kobolds.”
Tenzou tilted his head.
…Should I have more directly called them over, said what I wanted, and given a time limit?
But Scarred spoke to two kobolds carrying a sword.
“Form a line there.”
One of the two kobolds raised its arms next to Scarred and the other stopped a short distance away.
“This is the front of the line.”
“This is the end of the line.”
The other kobolds began moving toward the “front of the line”. Once a line started to form, the “end of the line” guided the others in. The line grew quite long.
“Kobolds can only be given simple instructions, but more complex jobs can be constructed by having them work together with different simple tasks. You need a fair number of them to do that, but thirty should be enough for this.”
Scarred then picked up a sword and spoke to each kobold in turn.
“Please carry the swords from there to here. Please use a cloth to wipe off the swords placed here. Please carry the cleaned swords to that line over there.”
As she gave them each a job, Tenzou thought about how this was different from the instructions he had given.
“You created a sequence so the kobolds could each focus on a single simple task, didn’t you?”
“Judge. That’s right. Instead of telling them what I want now, I gave them a portion of the overall job to look after. If you create a gathering spot and form a cycle of work, they will not forget what their job is and will always have something to do. You do not give an entire job to a kobold; you give it a portion of the whole.”
“I see,” said Tenzou as he started to stand up.
…That turns my idea on its head.
They were being given a single instruction, but they all formed a larger job when combined.
It was important to divide the work, create a cycle, and manage the instructions.
Tenzou had done something similar with his classmates during their two weeks on the transport ship.
…But that was because I knew what areas they specialized in.
Their combat styles, qualifications, and body types were enough to tell him what they could do, so they would act on their own if he gave them a job.
But the kobolds all looked the same. Having to think about what to have them do depending on the situation made instructing them a lot harder.
Tenzou realized his thoughts contained a slight mistake. The students he had instructed on the transport ship had been the type whose specialty was obvious at a glance.
…But most students are not like that.
The transport ship had been filled with those who were on the front lines.
On the other hand, most students were more like the kobolds. They were the type who should be given jobs anyone could do but were needed to complete the work.
“I see,” said Tenzou as he thought and looked down at the kobolds.
…I have a lot to learn.
“It looks like I was taking you lightly.”
“You angered us.”
They launched a second rock.
With a sound of impact, Tenzou’s legs gave out and he fell to his knees. He hung his head down and silently began slapping his hand against his right thigh. Having finished giving instructions, Scarred turned toward him.
“What is it?”
“It is nothing,” replied a kobold.
“If you say so.”
…Huh? Am I being toyed with by these kobolds?
Even so, Tenzou preferred this to additional questions from Scarred.
The kobolds had already grabbed another stone, but Tenzou understood a third attack would not come if he gave them instructions. He decided to automate the work on his side of things as much as possible.
“Form a line over there, if you don’t mind.”
“Understood, if you don’t mind.”
“This is the front of the line, if you don’t mind.”
“This is the end of the line, if you don’t mind.”
…Ah, that kind of pisses me off.
Just as he began to pull out another sword, he heard quiet laughter. He turned around to find Scarred sitting down while twisted around so his back was to Tenzou. Scarred’s shoulders were shaking.
Tenzou was unsure if he should be glad he had made him laugh.
But then Scarred cleared his throat.
“Anyway, I will pay for their contracts, so do not worry. You helped me look after the water lilies, so I have to pay you back somehow. You even fixed the drain, didn’t you?”
There is a god, thought Tenzou.
His classmates would never do that, and even if they did, it would come with usury-level interest such as 30% a day.
As Tenzou silently revered Scarred, Scarred called out to him.
“You do an amazing job of pulling out those swords.”
Tenzou had been pulling the swords from the ground.
As he watched, Scarred held up one of the swords he had pulled out and he stared at it with an impressed look. The blade was treated with ether so it would not rust and it was not chipped or bent.
“I tried it before, but the ground was too hard to pull it out. Even spirit spells are difficult to use when the problem is the ground being too hard. It is strange you are pulling them out so easily. Are you using some kind of ninja technique?”
“I see,” said Tenzou with a nod.
He had been pulling out the swords and dislodging the stones because Scarred had been unable to do so.
And Scarred’s problem was the ground being too hard.
…But this is more about knowing the trick than using a ninja technique.
“This land here was levelled before the graveyard was built, wasn’t it?”
“Judge. It was, but why does that matter?”
“Judge,” replied Tenzou as he tapped on the hardened surface of the ground with a finger. “Levelled land has a hard surface, but it is loose underneath. The wind and rain hit the ground, but the frost and the heat of the sun remove the air and moisture from the dirt. That is what causes it to harden. It is the same as how an unplowed field grows hard. And as the ground hardened, it tightened around the swords. Because the ground’s density has increased, twisting or shaking the sword when pulling it out will bend the sword.”
“Then how do you do it?”
“You stab it straight in.”
As Scarred watched, Tenzou gave a demonstration. He placed his palm on the bottom of the sword’s hilt and leaned his upper body on it to push it down. The sword only seemed to move ever so slightly.
“The sword will stab further in more easily than it will pull out. And because the ground has hardened, it will not contract and tighten around the sword again.”
He pushed the sword in to widen the hole.
“If you stab it straight in and pull it out, it comes out without catching.”
When he pulled it out, Scarred gasped.
Scarred’s amazement made Tenzou feel a little better.
…This is a very different reaction from my classmates.
He could almost hear those horrible people’s reactions:
“Oh? You’re a genius sword remover, Tenzou! You can make a living with that!!”
“Oh, my. So you can handle it all on your own, Tenzou?”
“You are quite an admirable ninja for bothering with something that will not earn any money. You are still on the losing end, though.”
“Shiro-kun, aren’t you being a little too honest there?”
…That last one was directed at one of their own, but is there really that much difference?
At any rate, Tenzou handed the sword to the kobolds.
…If I “took them lightly” right now, would I be killed instantly from a stab wound?
Scarred sat back down and spoke.
“You might be able to pull out Ex. Caliburn.”
“Not a chance. Based on the rumors I have heard, it is probably sealed with a spell or something. And even Lady Mary was unable to pull it out and she is a member of the royal family, isn’t she?”
“Of course she could not pull it out,” said Scarred. “Double Bloody Mary is a failure of a royal.”
“A failure?” asked Tenzou.
Information from locals was often more valuable than what one learned in classes. As locals, personal opinions influenced the information more strongly, but that held meaning as well. And so Tenzou wanted to learn what Scarred meant.
“Why do you call Lady Mary a failure?”
“Judge.” Scarred nodded and held up the sword in his hand. “During Mary’s trial for the alleged attempted assassination of Queen Elizabeth, she was given a chance to pull out Ex. Caliburn to prove her innocence, but she was unable to do so.”
“Does that mean she was not suited to being queen?”
“Judge. Mary is Elizabeth’s half-sister, but the Testament descriptions made it clear she would be criticized by the people. For that reason, the identity of the person who inherited her name was never revealed. She would come and go between the Tower of London and other castles and is currently imprisoned in the northwest tower of the Tower of London. However, only those connected via the history recreation are allowed to see her. It seems she has been showing herself from the tower window recently.” Scarred grabbed at his hood and hid the scar on his face. “But even that is from behind a bamboo blind. That sinful woman will be executed without anyone knowing who she was. That may be what England calls mercy.”
Scarred paused before continuing.
“Of course, it is not just Mary who could not remove Ex. Caliburn. No one has been able to. Chancellor Henry VIII bragged about being able to, but it seems he never actually touched it. There was a time when it was said Ex. Caliburn might be willing to trust the one who inherited the names of two queens: Mary Tudor and Mary Stuart. In an interpretation of history, her Mary Tudor side was married on paper to Felipe II of Tres España. In the same way, her Mary Stuart side was married to the crown prince of Hexagone Française and to two Scottish nobles. That is a total of four marriages. If Excalibur chose its master based on political power, she would have been a suitable candidate.”
“You do not often hear about someone marrying four times.”
“She had her reasons,” commented Scarred with a bitter smile. “Each of the countries she married into needed those marriages to continue their histories, so England took control of and simplified the marriages so they could use them as political bargaining chips. As Mary Stuart, she became the queen of Scotland, but her role of causing political problems meant she quickly fled to England. And there she ended up half-imprisoned.”
“According to the Testament descriptions, she was charged with attempting to assassinate Queen Elizabeth, correct?”
“Judge.” Scarred lowered the sword and handed it to a kobold. “That’s right. As a Catholic, her execution acts as a trigger to begin the armada battle with Tres España, so England can only curse her name right now.”
“I see,” muttered Tenzou. He folded his arms and spoke his mind. “It’s a tricky issue.”
Scarred tilted his head at Tenzou’s comment.
“Tricky? What do you mean?”
Tenzou was unsure what to say, so he tried to back out.
“No, an outsider like me should not be speaking about your country’s problems.”
“Just tell me.”
Scarred’s somewhat forceful tone caused Tenzou to sigh. While wondering if he should really be saying this, he sat down and faced Scarred over the pile of swords. Scarred adjusted his position.
“I promise I will not get mad no matter what you say. I was the one who asked you to speak.”
“Judge,” replied Tenzou as he glanced over at the kobolds waiting their turn nearby. “I did a bit of research into this Double Bloody Mary. For example, that Urban Name comes from when the Mary of the previous generation ruled England. Her father, Chancellor Henry VIII, began the Anglican Church, but she executed a large number of its members to bring England back to Catholicism. Also, the second Mary wrote a will saying England would be transferred to Felipe II.”
“Are you saying Mary hated how England was leaving Catholicism?”
“No, that is not my point.”
After realizing how forcefully he stated that, Tenzou waved his arms back and forth.
“This is only conjecture on my part, but I think I know what Lady Mary was trying to say concerning the changes to her kingdom and to the world.” Tenzou took a breath. “She wanted to know why things could not stay as they were.”
Tenzou did his best to convince himself Scarred’s silence was meaningless. Meanwhile, he realized he knew an idiot who had tried to regain something important to him.
What was the difference between that idiot who was trying to conquer the world to regain Horizon’s emotions and this woman who had bloodied herself to return England to what it once was?
Tenzou knew little of politics, so he did not know the answer. But there was one thing he did know.
A certain phrase entered Tenzou’s mind. No matter how much of the future was known and no matter how little he understood of what she had needed to do and what the result meant, there was one thing he had to say.
“It must be tough.”
Tenzou realized how poor an explanation his statement was.
It was less of a thought and more of an idle statement.
That may have been why Scarred stared at him and asked about it.
“It must be tough? Why? The way she is living her life is necessary for England. With the history recreation, someone had to play Mary’s part and she must be executed. In a way, staying true to history is an absolute form of justice. How can you say doing that is tough?”
“Because it is tough.” Tenzou could not think of anything better to say. “Even if she is staying true to history, that life is nothing but negatives. The real Lady Mary who lived before the Age of the Gods fought back with the hope of possibly winning, but Double Bloody Mary of the history recreation knows she will lose but plays the role anyway. She carried out the purge of Protestants, the many marriages, and the political chaos while knowing what it would all lead to. And on top of that, she had to be prepared to take responsibility for it all in a later generation as well. She brought all these negative things on herself, so I cannot think of any way of describing it except for ‘tough’.”
“Then,” began Scarred. “Why do you think she did something so foolish?”
“Perhaps because someone else would have to do it if she did not.”
That may just be wishful thinking, thought Tenzou. This is a world of political bargaining, secret deals, and distrust, so I may be hoping for too much of her.
“Her position may be a negative one, but taking that role means no one else must face those negative aspects. Even if it is tough, that allows her to take personal pride in it and be satisfied. It may be a small thing to her, but it gives her great pride and happiness. The trick to hard work is to view the negative aspects as virtues, but even if you know that, it can still be difficult and painful.”
“I just hope she has someone she can share that small happiness with.”
Tenzou noticed Scarred had fallen silent.
The man lowered his head a bit and did not move, so Tenzou’s instincts told him what must have happened.
…O-oh, no! I said too much and made him mad, didn’t I!?
He had heard Double Bloody Mary was viewed as the symbol of England’s infidelity.
He did not know if that was due to the history recreation or if that was actually how people viewed her, but Double Bloody Mary was an enemy of the popular Fairy Queen and she had to be executed for the country’s prosperity even if that would cause the armada battle.
…How am I supposed to defend what I said? I started making my argument as if I knew what I was talking about.
With this and the previous misunderstanding, Tenzou felt as if he was causing nothing but anger in Scarred.
He had to say something to smooth things over, so he frantically spoke up.
“U-um, I said too much!”
“You’d better be sorry,” said a kobold.
A third rock struck Tenzou in the crotch while he sat cross-legged on the ground, so he collapsed forward.
…Wait. Isn’t this a false accusation? Or have they just sped up the process?
At any rate, he let out a groan and lowered down.
“What is it?” asked Scarred.
He accidentally made it a question because he doubted Scarred would believe him this time. He then heard Scarred stand up on the other side of the pile of swords.
“Are you injured?”
“He is not,” replied the kobold.
…I may not be injured, but I’m hurt! I’m definitely hurting!
But if he did not recover quickly, Scarred would see how pathetic he was.
…If this was Horizon and Toori-dono, they would turn it into some kind of twisted questioning game. I can almost hear them: “Oh, my. What is it? Answer me using a seasonal flower in a simile.” “U-umm, I feel like a red Gerbera bud has-…”
But he found it difficult to recover after a third strike. After all, three deaths was a game over. He had to press the start button to continue.
…But wherefore is a man’s start button!
As Tenzou panicked and misused an archaic word, Scarred stood up.
“What is it?”
Scarred was a bit uneasy.
…Did I frighten him somehow?
This was not the first time that ninja had thought Scarred was angry and drawn back, but Scarred was not angry this time. He had been thinking about what the ninja had said, but it seemed that silence had put the ninja on guard.
He could sense the ninja drawing away.
…And he isn’t even making an excuse. He’s acting like he was completely in the wrong.
…He’s taking the loss onto himself again.
He had done that before and another misunderstanding was about to make it happen again, so Scarred walked toward him.
…I still haven’t spoken with him properly.
When the transport ship had crashed, Scarred had made a hasty conclusion and slapped him. He had given in to his emotions and assumed the ninja was wrong. He wanted to apologize again for that and to ask why the ninja had stopped him. If possible, he wanted them to be on equal footing when they spoke.
“What is it?”
The ninja was cautious and backing away.
…He isn’t going to leave, is he?
As that thought flitted through his mind, Scarred walked over with his book under his left arm. The kobolds opened up a space for him to walk carefully to the other side of the swords.
“Ah! Watch out!”
The ninja’s voice surprised him and he suddenly realized his footing had grown unsteady.
A sword had been pulled out of and a stone ripped up from the ground under his right foot, so there was a hole and a depression.
Scarred foot entered the depression and his toes caught into the hole.
And he fell forward.
Tenzou did not take action simply because Scarred was falling.
Scarred’s face was falling toward the hilt of a sword sticking into the ground. He thought Scarred could probably avoid it, but the vertical blade could still easily cut into his right side or shoulder.
And so Tenzou took action.
Rather than standing up, he instantly decided to raise his hips and slide his legs forward to throw himself between Scarred and the ground. While holding Scarred, he made a half roll away from the sword.
He was now lying protectively over Scarred in the passageway created by removed swords and stones.
The primary duty of a ninja was to protect important people, so this type of action came naturally to him and Scarred was likely completely unhurt.
Tenzou took a breath and rose up slightly. He supported himself on his hands and knees with Scarred beneath him. Ensuring the safety of their surroundings came first. He looked toward the water lily spring in the distance and then looked back at the forest of swords. The sword Scarred had fallen toward had a new color on it. That color was green and it belonged to a cloth. Scarred’s hood had caught on it and the cloth stretched toward Scarred.
Afraid he had been too slow in protecting him, Tenzou frantically looked down.
Between him and the ground was a certain favorite phrase of his.
…A well-endowed blonde!?
A girl wearing a disheveled cloak lay below him.
Tenzou looked down.
Below the soft blonde hair was a face that appeared about to cry. That face contained reddened cheeks and a scar. The half-removed cloak revealed another disheveled outfit below.
…An English girl’s uniform?
She was not wearing the scarf because it would have gotten in the way of the cloak, but that had allowed the fall to pull on the uniform enough to undo the chest fastener and reveal the scarred skin below.
Her two breasts were currently pressed up against him. He could feel the pressure on his chest and abdomen.
He heard a voice. The female voice was Scarred’s voice. She raised her arms but did not stretch them out. She folded them up at the elbow so her hands weakly reached her own shoulders.
“Th-thank you…very much.”
Tenzou was unsure how to respond to her quiet thanks, so he simply said what entered his mind.
Scarred gave a short gasp and seemed to accept something.
The ends of her eyebrows lowered.
“U-um. Well, uh…”
She looked at him and was unable to hide the hesitation and uncertainty in her voice, but Tenzou was little different.
…Um. Well, uh… Ahhh!!
He began to panic at the unexpected situation, but one thought did occur to him.
…H-her personality seems so much different now.
Scarred’s previous firm tone of voice and resolute actions were nowhere to be found.
At any rate, leaning over a girl was rude, so Tenzou tried to move away.
I might regret doing this later, though, he thought. No. The coin to continue has not been inserted yet, so I have nothing to regret!!
Scarred stopped him by grabbing his arm with her weak fingers.
The unexpected restraint caused him to lose his balance and fall down even closer to her. He could feel her warm breath on his cheek.
…Ahhh! The coin is in! And that was more than one coin! B-but this isn’t over yet. The start button hasn’t been pressed yet! Eject! Eject!
“U-um. Did I d-drop my book?” she asked with teary eyes.
Tenzou looked around for the book.
He spotted it above her head between two swords he had yet to remove. He picked up the book she had held the entire time and caught a glimpse of the title as he handed it to her.
…A Far Eastern slang dictionary?
“Thank goodness… Um, Milton said people would take me lightly if they knew I was a girl, so I was using this as reference.”
“T-take you lightly! I would never do that!” said Tenzou reflexively.
“Take her lightly and you get the rock,” added a kobold.
“Do not worry. The people of the Far East would never look down on someone like you.”
She must be a representative of the fourth level here, guessed Tenzou.
If she was unfamiliar with their language and felt it was her responsibility to protect the fourth level, she must have been incredibly nervous ever since the transport ship arrived.
That must have been why she had spoken so little.
“You must have had it tough. You worked hard to be able to speak on your own. I am very thankful that you managed to speak with me, though.”
As soon as he said that, Scarred opened her eyes a bit and tears spilled from the corners of her eyes.
…Eh? Nooo! I made her cryyyy!
With those thoughts reflexively appearing in his mind, Tenzou tried to speak.
“I-I apologize. Did I say something to hurt you?”
“Oh, no. I-I am the one that needs to apologize.”
Scarred wiped her eyes with her hands and the tears flowed along her scar.
Tenzou saw how the tears also seemed to stain the scars and rough spots on her hands, so he worked to calm himself down.
…Okay, okay, okay. Keep that start button safe! Don’t let it get pressed!
He slowly began to move away from her.
As he began to lift himself up, he saw Scarred’s red cheeks which were damp with tears. Her chest and the disheveled uniform covering it were still rising and falling with confused and shallow breathing.
“Could you keep it a secret that I am a girl?”
“Milton and someone else would get mad at me…and I’m afraid.”
Tenzou did not know who this Milton was, but the second reason was likely the real one.
…Come to think of it, I have lived my life while hiding my face.
Different people had different duties, different reasons, and different personalities. If one always insisted on the truth, it could cause pain in some cases.
“Judge. Understood. Keeping secrets is part of a ninja’s duties.”
She let out a breath, closed her eyes, and her expression relaxed into a smile. That expression and the way her chest rose due to her sigh of relief entered dangerous territory, and then came the finishing blow.
“Um, well… May I call you Master Tenzou?” she asked.
…That “master” pressed the start button!
He frantically began to get up.
At the same time, they heard a voice from the transport ship. It was Toori.
“Hey, Tenzou! Can I ask you a favor!?”
When Scarred heard the voice, she reached for her hood which was caught on the sword, but Tenzou more quickly removed it from the sword and brought it to her.
Tenzou held out his hand to stop her and removed himself from her. He then turned toward the ship.
“Wh-wh-wh-wh-what is it!?”
“Well, my sister had this genius idea about wanting a bath. The girls’ bath here is barely big enough for one person, right? So…”
…What is he talking about?”
Scarred energetically put her hood back over her head while still lying on the ground.
“Is there a hot spring around here?” asked the voice.
Scarred closed the chest of her cloak and got up once her face was mostly hidden. She stood next to Tenzou and answered.
“The only hot springs are on the higher levels.”
“There isn’t a single one on the fourth level?” asked Tenzou.
“Not exactly. Lower down…at the foundation...they spill over from the outer shell. But…”
She was not sure how she sounded while speaking without her dictionary.
“But the bottom of the foundation is shaped like icicles, so a bath cannot be built there. And the wind makes it too dangerous to bring a ship up. …When you say you want a bath, you are not referring to a temporary one, right?”
“Right,” responded Tenzou as he folded his arms. “But we can probably do it.”
Scarred almost asked him how he could say that, but then she recalled her surroundings.
…He was able to remove these swords so easily.
The care he had given the spring’s water lilies also showed how much knowledge he had, so she decided to ask a different question.
“Judge. Just to be clear, this is only a possibility, but I have an idea. With the help of these kobolds, I think we can build a nice bath in about half a day.”
He then asked her something.
“Will you help me?”
“I thought there was some serious issue hanging between those two, but it looks like I was wrong,” commented Masazumi.
She was flipping through some documents Heidi had brought her on the transport ship.
Aoi was facing the graveyard in the inlet.
He could see Tenzou and Scarred carrying the swords with the help of the kobolds.
They seemed to be carrying the swords to the top of the hill so the graveyard could be moved.
The two of them disappeared around a curve in the path, but Aoi continued staring off in that direction.
“Well, Tenzou’s clever, so he wouldn’t hang around with someone he thought hated him. He doesn’t seem to have realized that, though. But he’s a ninja, so they’ll be okay.”
“I see,” said Masazumi with a nod.
…He watches everyone so closely.
With that thought, she finished looking through the documents.
“Okay,” she muttered before turning to Heidi. “I guess we still can’t use the large hall down below, can we? Just gather all the officers and anyone else who’s interested. I want to hold a meeting until lunch.”
“Oh, Neshinbara isn’t here. What should we do about that? He has that thing on his right arm and his injured leg, so he stayed on Musashi. It’ll be a bit crude, but Erimaki and I can record the minutes.”
“Please do,” replied Masazumi just as Mitotsudaira arrived.
“Um, would you like to use my sign frame?”
“Oh, judge. That would be great.”
…I’m putting a burden on the others.
Just as Masazumi had that thought, Mitotsudaira took a sudden action as she walked over.
She shuddered as if her hair was standing on end and she turned a piercing gaze toward the bow of the ship. Light raced in the same direction an instant later.
“Who is it!?”
Mitotsudaira sent two shining chains flying. They were the silver chains spilling from the chain-suppliers at her waist.
She wrapped her fingers around the chains and directed their unstoppable flight toward the bow of the ship and the ocean.
A strange presence there tickled at her nose.
…Who is it!?
She sensed the presence as a scent. The Mitotsudaira family used some of the fragrances sold within Musashi, but she made sure to check those products and the products of rival merchants. The scent coming from the ship’s bow was not sold on Musashi and it was twenty meters away.
“Behind the mast next to the ocean!”
As the silver chains circled around the mast, the scenery split apart.
The half-broken mast was soaking in the surface of the ocean and it was casting its shadow onto the water. When one of the silver chains struck that shadow, the shadow shattered like glass.
“A mobility spell with an optical element!?”
Despite Mitotsudaira’s question, the movement did not stop. The first chain destroyed the spell and caused the air to burst open, but the second one circled around the mast to wrap around the person creating the presence.
The chain grew tenser and quickly flew in an arc to wrap around the mast.
Mitotsudaira heard an instantaneous sound. It was the sound of metal striking metal.
She was confused but not by the sound. It was the result of the sound that surprised her.
As the silver chain tried to wrap around the mast and the person behind it, light sprayed from it and it was repelled.
…What just happened!?
The chain was created from countless links, so it could bend and wrap with ease. If one struck it in a single spot to repel it, it would merely wrap around the point of the strike. It could be blocked by creating a wall with a spell, but that would not knock it back like this. If the silver chain struck a wall, it would decide on its own to circle around it.
It was almost impossible to repel the silver chain in an instant.
However, that had clearly just happened. The silver chain seemed confused because it raised its end into the air and drew back. Mitotsudaira raised her eyebrows when she saw it.
She tried to give new instructions to the chain, but a male voice came from the shadow the mast was casting on the ocean.
“Sorry about that, people. Believe it or not, we were not trying to startle you.”
Three figures appeared and they all belonged to a certain group.
Mitotsudaira saw three figures appear.
The one in the lead was a black man wearing a white tank top and carrying a long case on either waist.
“Trumps #9, Ben Jonson.”
He smiled and nodded upon hearing his name.
“I am honored that you remember, lady. As for these two…”
Behind him to the right was a female automaton. Her face was expressionless and she controlled her own body with the cross-shaped controllers floating behind her. The armband of the public morals committee was attached to the left arm floating detached from her body. Jonson turned toward her.
“This is #2, F. Walsingham. She is here as our bodyguard.”
Behind him to the left was a short man with glasses and his hair parted to the side. Jonson indicated him with his hand and nodded.
“And this is #7, Charles Howard. He owns England’s fleet and is our treasurer.”
“Testament,” said Howard with a nod. He pushed up his glasses. “U-um… To be honest, I am completely useless other than my money.” He took a breath and began to speak more clearly. “But could we speak a bit on what Musashi and England should do from here on out? We should be holding an international meeting later, so for now I thought we could discuss trade and…”
He began to say something else but shook his head.
“No… I beg you!”
Howard stepped in front of Jonson and Walsingham and suddenly got down on his knees. He then placed his hands on the ground and lowered his head.
“Can you please save England!”
What a wonderful prostration! thought Mitotsudaira.
Mitotsudaira watched the Englishman prostrate himself before them.
The way his forehead touched the ground, the way his elbows bent and tightened his underarm, and the slight bend of his gathered fingertips all made it an irritatingly good prostration. Mitotsudaira shuddered as she thought how much he must have practiced.
…This man is unnecessarily good!
Behind Mitotsudaira and beyond Masazumi, Heidi spoke quietly.
“C’mon, Erimaki. Snap a photo, snap a photo!”
Mitotsudaira found that inappropriate, but she was not sure what to do herself.
If both Masazumi and Shirojiro were there, they would have a clear answer, but Shirojiro was still inside the ship. Mitotsudaira was about to tell Heidi to call for him when she was interrupted.
“What is with all this noise? And just as I was about to return to my morning nap.”
A silver-haired automaton walked up the stairs from within the ship. Everyone let out surprised gasps and Mitotsudaira’s eyes opened wide.
“Horizon!? Should you be awake!?”
“Judge. The remaining feeling of the bonds is gone, so I have determined my OS has built up some level of resistance. Also…”
Horizon suddenly threw a right punch.
“Horizon! I-it’s too soon! Are you sure you’re awake!?”
Mitotsudaira watched Horizon along with Toori. The silver-haired automaton was silently shadow boxing toward the ocean while taking short breaths. She then glanced toward Toori.
“While you have been chatting, the distance between us has only grown.”
“D-damn this girl. You’re serious, aren’t you!? In that case, I’ll start some shadow groping!”
“Calm down,” said Mitotsudaira as she tried to mediate between them.
Horizon produced a towel from somewhere, wiped away her sweat, and faced forward. She tilted her head when she saw Howard prostrating himself.
“I do not know what is going on, but someone please deal with it. …Oh, I know. How about I cook some breakfast…no, now it would be lunch. At any rate, how about I cook a meal to serve everyone?”
Mitotsudaira joined everyone in stopping Horizon at all costs.
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