Horizon:Volume 2 Chapter 19
Chapter 19: Those Descending to the Surface
How does one handle
An excess of thoughts?
Point Allocation (Gratitude)
Below the morning sun, Treasurer Shirojiro and Heidi welcomed their English guests on the diplomatic ship’s white deck.
“This is Vice President Honda Masazumi.”
The deck contained a terraced negotiation spot with a lunch table prepared below it.
Masazumi sat at the table with Shirojiro and Heidi to her left.
In front of her were bespectacled Treasurer Charles Howard and Secretary Ben Jonson. Behind those two stood the automaton F. Walsingham.
She felt this was a sufficient group for a meeting between nations, but she also felt there was little need for her own presence. After all, Howard had asked to discuss trade.
Ohiroshiki and Hassan had whipped up a light meal of several courses in the ship’s kitchen and Asama and Adele were bringing it out as waitresses.
Once the first large plate of hors d’oeuvres had arrived, Shirojiro held out his hand.
“Please, eat. This is Musashi’s famous freshly-caught sashimi with a curry sauce. We will be eating later, so go ahead without us. Yes, we will be eating later.”
As Masazumi faced the three visitors, she lowered her head and glanced past Shirojiro and to Heidi, but the girl was calmly typing away at her sign frame.
Howard finally took a bite of the food and almost looked like he was going to bring a hand to cover his mouth.
“O-oh. Th-the raw fish has a completely separate flavor from the curry which gives it a delicate warmth.”
…You could just come out and say it’s disgusting.
Despite Masazumi’s thought, Shirojiro showed no mercy toward Jonson who had not touched the food.
“Please, go right ahead.”
“N-no. As an athlete, I must watch what I eat.”
Howard gave Jonson a look that held about five years’ worth of scorn, but the athlete poet ignored him. Just as Masazumi began to worry about the meeting, she saw a small light at her feet. Wondering what it was, she realized the white fox Mouse named Erimaki was under the table. Heidi was calmly using her sign frame, so there could only be one reason for Erimaki to be here.
“Do you understand?”
Erimaki held a sign frame so that she could see it. It displayed text that had clearly been written by Heidi.
“Can he come up?”
Instead of nodding, Masazumi beckoned toward Erimaki with her finger. The white fox climbed up her leg, lay down on her right thigh under the table, and pointed the sign frame toward her.
…He has actual weight.
The weight felt less like an actual animal with four legs and more like something wrapped in a round towel.
This is nice, she thought as she read the sign frame.
“I will be opening a chat room so everyone will know what is going on. Connect.”
“Connect : Shared Sign Frame : Shrine-wide Divine Transmission – Limited Domain Authorized via Asama Shrine : Confirmed”
Marube-ya: “Oh, it went through. Thanks, Asamachi. Everyone should be in by default, so just start posting.”
Asama: “Everyone, try not to make your names too long. And if anyone says anything too indecent, you will be temporarily removed. Be careful.”
Me: “Eh? Then am I allowed to say boobs or will saying boobs get me kicked out!? Boo-
“Me has been forcibly removed.”
“Me has reentered.”
Me: “D-dammit. You’re as merciless as ever!”
Asama: “The punishments will only get longer, so please stop saying things like that!”
Masazumi looked around without actually moving her eyes. The others behind the English group and further in the distance all had sign frames open.
…So this is the divine chat system.
It was a text-based discussion system using sign frames that had been developed by the religions with a monotheistic recreation basis such as Tsirhc.
It was nothing more than exchanging text, so it only created a light load. It could also reach people over long distances and it simplified saving the minutes of a meeting or sending attachments. Its value had been especially evident during the Harmonic Unification War.
The Far East had tried to oppose the other religions, but they were polytheistic, so they had many conflicts over rights to divine transmissions and had therefore not developed a divine transmission discussion system at the time of the war. After the war, IZUMO had joined together the major shrines from different parts of the Far East and finally developed a similar system.
Masazumi had not made a contract on the level needed to open a sign frame, so this was the first time she had seen it.
Asama: “I can attach videos with mine, so just ask if you need it.”
As Masazumi gave a silent expression of admiration, the next course arrived.
“Next is the salad. We have a lightly-smoked raw fish salad with a curry dressing.”
…Are they going for a raw fish joke more than a curry one?
Just as Masazumi realized she was starting to grow accustomed to her classmates, Erimaki produced more text on her lap.
Marube-ya: “While Shiro-kun buys us some time, let’s go over the important points of this trade discussion.”
Marube-ya: “Simply put, this trade discussion with England will discuss what products Musashi and England will trade, under what conditions we will trade them, and when we will begin trading them. Here is what we primarily know.”
Products: Due to the battle with Tres España approaching, primarily foodstuffs.
Conditions: Quality of products = discounted price.
When: To be discussed, but the expiration date of the foodstuffs will determine it.
Smoking Girl: “We aren’t going to sell them fuel and mineral resources? They have a war coming up.”
Marube-ya: “With England’s forest resources and coalfields, they can supply close to 100% of their own fuel. And with ether treatment, the coal can be made into Orei Coke, the highest quality of Orei Metallo. As far as minerals go, we would be buying from them. If we did try to sell them IZUMO’s Scarlet Metal or BIZEN’s White Metal, we would lose money.”
Silver Wolf: “Excuse me a moment. Fuel, minerals, and all other items with a high unit price will rise further in price when they are being hurriedly gathered as supplies before a war. The price was originally high because few can be supplied by the producing area, so the price will not lower when a large number are bought. Products like that are stored up over a long period of time while short-term consumable goods such as food are instead bought cheaply and in large quantities so they will not run out during the war, correct?”
Wise Sister: “Nations are not much different from the high-level ladies shopping at the market, are they?”
Marube-ya: “Judge. That’s more or less it. During the armada battle, the invincible fleet arrives to land in England. They then battle for a week while travelling counterclockwise around England. If this is carried out in full, no other nation will be able to approach England and they will have difficulty resupplying their food.”
Silver Wolf: “How much food does England have stored?”
Marube-ya: “Probably about two weeks’ worth. They may look like they have plenty, but they also have to worry about the food supplies for the ships taking part in the battle and the different defensive units scattered across the surface.”
Silver Wolf: “Alsoso…”
Wise Sister: “Alsoso? Have you finally gone insane, Mitotsudaira!? Excellent!”
Silver Wolf: “I have not! /Oh, sorry about that. This is Adele. I’m Catholic, so I’m borrowing hers. I’m not used to this keyboard, so I accidentally sent an incomplete message. Anyway… Also, the end of the armada battle means England will expand and destroy the power balance of the other nations. Their trade situation will be forced to change. The other nations will try to suppress England’s expansion. In the worst case, that could continue all the way until the Peace of Westphalia. If that happens, England’s trade would be restricted for over five months. To raise morale and sweep away people’s worries, they need food. If they’re thinking of having a festival, they need to at least have some food.”
Worshipper: “Ahhhhh! I could add so much to this conversation, but I’m busy cooking!! Okay, next course is up!”
“Go ahead. Our school’s chefs have poured all of their skill into this raw fish foie gras with a curry sauce.”
Silver Wolf: “Can Masazumi keep up with this? She is only watching after all.”
Asama: “If you don’t know how to react, scratch your head with your right hand.”
Azuma: “Oh, she scratched it. I don’t really get it either, but is that food good?”
Worshipper: “D-do you doubt my skill!? I am invincible when it comes to cooking!”
83: “Curry is invincible too. That makes it doubly invincible.”
Asama: “Um, I’ll just ignore all that. Adele seems to be having trouble, so I will set the shared settings to allow ‘hidden’ members. Is there anyone else who can’t post?”
Wise Sister: “Are you stupid?”
Asama: “Eh? Oh! I didn’t say that! I didn’t!! Everyone forget it!”
Me: “Okay, everyone who forgot make a post saying-…”
Asama: “And there’s the final blow! A-anyway, I changed the settings!”
“Flat Vassal has entered.” “Gold Mar has entered.” “Mal-Ga has entered.”
Marube-ya: “Is that everyone? Then let’s continue the discussion.”
“Now, have a light drink. This is a cold, raw fish soup. Curry flavored, of course.”
Howard gulped slightly when he saw the soup arrive in a teacup.
…I’m glad I’m Far Eastern.
With that earnest thought, Masazumi lowered her gaze slightly to look at Erimaki’s sign frame.
The information Heidi was sending her way held great meaning.
For the past two weeks, she had not had any new information on the state of England and Musashi. They had also not been given time before landing to decide their stance concerning England.
That was why she had wanted to gather everyone on the deck and hold a meeting.
…But then these three arrived.
It was possible the timing of their arrival had not been a coincidence.
They wanted to get the upper hand in the negotiations before Musashi could decide on a clear stance.
That was why Shirojiro was almost hostilely stalling for time so they could achieve a consensus.
Fortunately, England had asked for a discussion of trade. Being commerce related, Shirojiro and Heidi could handle it. If it had been a diplomatic issue, Masazumi would have been forced to take charge, but she would have been unable to achieve a consensus with the others because she could not use sign frames.
Currently, Heidi typed out another message.
Marube-ya: “And so the primary product to trade here is food.”
Mal-ga: “What will we be selling? Wheat and meat like always? Or will they finally be introducing potatoes using the Fear Eastern interpretation some other countries have used?”
Mal-ga must be Naruze, guessed Masazumi. That means Gold Mar is Naito.
They dealt with loading and unloading cargo, so they knew what products Musashi carried.
…It would cause an international incident if we introduced potatoes to England.
Potatoes were originally from the New World and had been brought to Europe by Tres España halfway through the 16th century. They could be grown on barren land, they were high in nutrients, and they were easy to cook, so they were expected to make a decent replacement for wheat as a primary food. Many European countries were planning to cultivate potatoes instead of making bread, but not every European country could freely cultivate them.
Marube-ya: “According to the Testament descriptions, most of 17th century Europe still was not cultivating potatoes as standard crops. They were considered dirty because they were root vegetables and they were rumored to be poisonous because of their ugly shape.”
Potatoes could easily become a better primary crop than wheat, so cultivating them was directly linked to the increase of a nation’s power as it tried to support a growing population. The different countries held each other in check when it came to recreating the food-related descriptions and potatoes were a perfect example. The only parts of Europe that had begun to cultivate them were certain areas of Tres España and K.P.A.Italia.
If England began cultivating them and therefore ignored the other countries’ restraints, it would cause an international incident.
Silver Wolf: “I doubt they will try that here. If they ignored the other countries now, they would be completely isolated even if they won the armada battle. Also, do you know why England cannot cultivate potatoes?”
Gold Mar: “Did something happen?”
Silver Wolf: “Judge. According to the Testament descriptions, Queen Elizabeth ate a potato leaf in a salad and got solanine poisoning. That led to concerns over growing them, so the other countries say England cannot grow them during Elizabeth’s reign.”
Mitotsudaira came from Hexagone Française which opposed England, so she knew a lot about these issues.
At any rate, what mattered was that England could only grow wheat as a primary crop and their barren land could not produce large crops of wheat. However, wheat could be made into flour, so emergency reserves could be made by gathering it over long periods of time and trading with other countries. They were planning to go to war with Tres España, so they would have been preparing for a long while and they could not quickly make up for it if they failed.
Even knowing that, there was still another question to ask.
Smoking Girl: “Heidi, then what food does England want right now?”
Marube-ya: “Judge. That would be meat.”
Below the bridge of the diplomatic ship was a small waiting room. Oriotorai, Yoshinao, and Azuma were sitting around a table. Azuma was grabbing Far Eastern fried potatoes from the table while looking toward Yoshinao across the table.
He asked a question to the man who wore farming clothes yet sill wore his crown.
“Is meat really that important, Vice Principal Yoshinao?”
“Judge,” said Yoshinao with a nod.
He turned to the side to look at a bucket containing selectively bred crops brought from Musashi. A lot of those buckets had been brought along for Ohiroshiki’s cooking, but some of them also contained meat wrapped in paper. Yoshinao looked back toward Azuma before speaking.
“In a year, the people of Europe eat an amount of meat equal to their body weight, Azuma-kun. During the same time period, the people of the Far East eat little meat and instead gain their protein from soy. …Oriotorai-kun, why are you trying to flee? Consuming meat is not forbidden in the Far East. The Testament Union simply decided it could not be a ‘standard food’. There is no problem.”
That’s odd, thought Azuma while tilting his head.
“The Testament Union usually isn’t so lenient when it comes to the Far East.”
“Judge. There is a simple reason for that.”
Yoshinao pulled a knife from his pocket. It was engraved with a wild beast emblem.
“Europe requires a massive amount of meat for food, but religions such as Tsirhc create an incredibly difficult problem concerning the production of meat. Do you know how meat is produced, Azuma-kun?”
Azuma began to think. He thought about what the starting point was for the meat lined up at the butcher shop.
“You own a farm or specialized breeding center and raise cows, pigs, chickens, or sheep?”
“An excellent answer. But we have worked on farms, so we know you are missing an important step.”
Yoshinao swung the hand holding the knife.
The silver light flew in a straight line toward the wrapped meat in the bucket.
The knife stabbed into the watermelon next to the meat.
Yoshinao rose from his seat and a few sign frames appeared before him.
Me: “What was that, We? This is why you’ll always be We. Can’t you do a little better?”
Asama: “Well, some people hate watermelons because the inside is the same color as blood.”
Worshipper: “Ahh. Just wait a moment. I’ll add it to a dish.”
“Here is the next dish. Raw fish marinated in watermelon juice with a curry dressing.”
Should we really be doing this to them? wondered Masazumi, but it seemed England had reduced the number of victims to just one. She was also concerned because that victim was their negotiator, but Jonson was preparing a long cylinder labelled “stomach medicine”.
Azuma: “According to Vice Principal Yoshinao, Tsirhc and other religions forbid the taking of life, so meat production was done by non-citizens or people of other religions.”
Silver Wolf: “Judge. Cows especially were a great blessing to humans, so killing them was banned. That is why sheep and pigs became preferred. Workers would perform the killing outside the cities and the butchers would sell it using the excuse that they had found an animal which died of natural causes.”
Marube-ya: “Tres España’s obsession with purity drove out the pagans and other races, so they had fewer and fewer people to do those jobs. That’s why they began to eat more seafood.”
Mal-Ga: “M.H.R.R. had a strong hunting culture, so they still ate a lot of meat. They also have a lot of ways to process the meat. You can think of them as eating meat along with the beer that they drink instead of eating bread.”
…But that butcher work can be done by anyone in the Far East regardless of religion.
Even in the Far East, pointless killing was forbidden. However, they had a culture of hunting, so some interpretations could be used to solve the problem.
Basically, the Far East was used as a scapegoat to share any food which could not be produced elsewhere due to the other countries holding each other in check.
Masazumi had known meat was an important item in trade and she had known the general reason, but this was the first she had heard the related information.
I still have a lot to learn, she thought. If only I could join in the conversation.
She almost petted Erimaki, but stopped herself. She could not let England realize the Mouse was on her lap.
Marube-ya: “Anyway, before entering Mikawa, Musashi had made a bulk contract with England which included an order of meat. They asked for a month’s worth of meat for their population of 400 thousand. At Mikawa, we managed to buy a lot of goods cheaply. That of course included meat, so we were able to procure England’s order of meat there.”
Smoking Girl: “Wait a second. Something about that doesn’t make sense.”
…What doesn’t make sense?
Smoking Girl: “The Testament descriptions have allowed the Far East to use freezing-point refrigerators known as ice houses ever since the Yamato period. For most other countries, the descriptions end at their downfall, but they continued on for the Far East. The engine division manages the ice house aboard Musashi and it allows us to preserve perishable products like meat long enough to trade them. But do you remember how long it took us to get here from Mikawa? Normally, we would barter at the reservations on the Seto Inland Sea, but we weren’t able to stop at the major trading spots like Shikoku and Kyushu. The engine division hasn’t opened the ice room for almost a month. The meat has to be almost at its expiration date.”
Marube-ya: “Judge. That is the main issue here. Does anyone understand what this means?”
Azuma frowned and asked Yoshinao a question.
“You mean the meat on Musashi is about to go bad?”
“Judge. The refrigeration includes spells, but that will only last about two more weeks. If meat like this is sold at market, it would have to be bought the first day. Which means…”
Oriotorai continued for him while munching on an apple she pulled from the bucket.
“I love cheap meat. That taste just before it goes bad is the best.”
“Judge,” muttered Yoshinao as he pulled a pad of paper and a pen from his pocket. “Ignoring the flavor, they will want to drive down the price of meat that must be consumed immediately. We have a month’s worth of meat that will go bad in two weeks, which is half a month. Now, what will this do to the price? Azuma-kun, can you use a simple calculation to tell us?”
“Umm,” thought Azuma. “If they have to consume a month’s worth in half a month, the price will drop by half.”
“Judge. Precisely. Now, let us calculate the amount of meat and the price.”
With a glance toward Azuma, Yoshinao began writing on the memo pad with the pen.
“First, let us calculate how much meat will be sold. In a year, Europeans eat their body weight in meat. On Musashi, that is thought to be approximately 60 kg. According to Heidi-kun just now, England’s meat-eating population is currently 400 thousand. They ordered a month’s worth for that population, so…”
Amount of meat = (400,000 people x 60 kg) x 1/12 of a year = approx. 2000 tons
Azuma posted that calculation to the divine chat.
Me: “Oh, We, you can do math!? That’s amazing! You’re so great! I have to completely rethink my view of you!”
“Shut up. We will have you know that we were certified as a Rank 2 abacus user.”
Did he handle the finances when he ruled his old territory? wondered Azuma.
Meanwhile, Yoshinao continued writing on the paper.
“In Europe, half a cow, or approximately 400 kg of meat, can be bought with three months of the average person’s income. The average Far Eastern daily wage is 10,000 yen, so let us assume the average person can buy 400 kg of meat with approximately 900 thousand yen. A single household needs over six people’s worth,” he said. “Now, then. 900 thousand yen is the standard price for 400 kg of meat on the English market.”
After writing out the numbers, he tapped the paper with the pen.
“If Musashi sold all of its 2000 tons at this price, how much money would be spent?”
“Um,” thought Azuma as he rolled the number of digits around in his head. “If 400 kg is 900 thousand yen, 2000 tons would be…4.5 billion yen.”
83: “Indian curry arithmetic gives the same answer.”
Flat Vassal: “A-all right! Hard work got me to the same answer!”
“Judge. Well done. We believe you may have been relying on the correct answer, but you still did well, Hassan-kun and Adele-kun.”
Me: “Tch. I feel like We and Imperial Boy have been standing out too much lately.”
Asama: “Toori-kun, can’t you just come out and compliment them?”
Worshipper: “H-how does it feel, Azuma-kun!? Do you feel the joy of the humiliation I always face!?”
…Hm. They aren’t attacking my personality, so it doesn’t really bother me. And what does he mean by joy?
As Azuma mentally tilted his head, Yoshinao straightened up.
“This trade deal includes that much meat and money, but the value drops by half because of the expiration date,” said Yoshinao. “Heidi-kun, what is the profit ratio for meat?”
Marube-ya: “Judge. Normally, it is about 20% of the selling price. The remaining 80% goes to the transportation costs, production costs, and processing costs. Even if you deduct the 20% of profit, reducing the price by half leaves us 30% in the red, so we can’t even recover our expenses.”
Noriki: “The shortened sales period was for their convenience, but we still have to take the loss?”
Marube-ya: “We crossed the provisional national border in battle mode and brought an enemy ship with us. They can claim the delay was out of caution and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Smoking Girl: “Then can’t we make preserved foods out of it?”
Worshipper: “We don’t have the facilities or equipment for it. We can dry the meat in drying rooms, but the only places aboard Musashi with enough exposure to the wind are on the surface. Unfortunately, it would be unfeasible to build dedicated rooms now. And since Far Eastern culture does not include much meat-eating, we are not allowed a large-scale preservation industry. That is why we use the ice room instead.”
Marube-ya: “Judge. That’s right. They plan to profit by adding the difference in price to their national treasury. We agreed to the trade contract, so we can’t back out even if we lose money. I wonder if the men of Musashi’s merchant guild have been waiting for Shiro-kun to fail. He can always make up for the loss by the end of the year, but taking out loans within Musashi would be a bad idea and those men can be depressingly annoying.”
Flat Vassal: “But, um, even if he makes up for it by the end of the year, losing 30% instead of gaining 20% makes for a loss worth two and a half years’ of the profit.”
Marube-ya: “Judge. That just means the student councils for the next two or three years will end up hating us.”
Marube-ya: “Shiro-kun will take measures to recover and those methods can be really underhanded. I can’t wait to see what he does here. Anyway, it’s time to start the trade discussion, Shiro-kun.”
“Now that you have finished the curry sherbet with raw fish topping, it is time we got down to business.”
Masazumi heard the two people sitting across from her and the two sitting next to her adjust their positions in their seats.
…So it’s starting.
She realized this was her first time seeing one of Bertoni’s business negotiations. Merchants belonged to the same negotiation combat style as a politician like her, so she was curious to see how he would handle it.
Plus, their opponent, Howard, was also a merchant. Not only that, but he was wealthy enough to have presented an entire fleet of ships to Elizabeth. She expected to see high-level bargaining here.
As she watched, Howard leaned forward and placed his clasped fingers on the table. His eyebrows were raised and he was fully prepared for battle. He must have been nervous or expectant because his face was slightly red and he had sweat on his forehead. His aura showed just how important this discussion was.
Bertoni chose to speak first.
“I would like to make the first statement.”
“Y-yes…!? Testament! What is it!?”
Howard leaned further forward to draw closer to Bertoni. Bertoni nodded once and spoke calmly.
“How about we cancel this trade?”
With a fibrous tearing sound, two beams of blood erupted from Howard’s nose.
Masazumi knocked her chair over as she moved away from the table. Howard held his nose with his left hand and began quickly wiping up the table with the handkerchief in his right hand.
The handkerchief quickly became a blood-soaked rag, so he threw it away in a nearby trashcan and wiped up the rest with a new handkerchief. Shirojiro, however, remained calm.
“From that reaction, I will assume you agree with my suggestion.”
Asama: “Ehhhhh!? How did you reach that conclusion!? Are you insane!?”
Marube-ya: “Oh, my. Shiro-kun is extra lovely when he’s forceful.”
It frightened Masazumi how the assistant treasurer could type that out so calmly. At any rate, she cautiously sat back in her seat and thought.
…Is this normal for negotiations between merchants?
Me: “C’mon, Shiro. You can go further than that.”
…Don’t say anything that will worry me, you idiot.
Meanwhile, Howard’s nosebleed had not stopped.
“Nh… If I die of blood loss here, my wife will kill me!”
How many times are you going to die? she thought. But we need to start the negotiations.
“When this happens, you need to look up, hold your nose, and tap the back of your neck two or three times,” she explained.
Howard held his nose and looked up. Behind him, Walsingham prepared the puppet arm which was drawn back to her chest and displayed text on a sign frame.
She launched a gouging horizontal chop toward Howard’s medulla oblongata.
A sound of impact rang out and blood sprayed up into the air.
Masazumi knocked her chair over as she frantically moved away from the table and Howard collapsed into a pool of blood on the table.
Everyone fell silent for a while, but Heidi finally spoke slowly.
“The murderer is one of us!”
“You just watched as he died just like the rest of us.”
“C’mon, Masazumi. You’re no fun.”
…Is that really something worth frowning over?
At any rate, Howard energetically recovered, wiped off the table again, and wiped off his face.
“It seems I still have plenty of youth left.”
…What do nosebleeds have to do with youth? And I’ve been doing nothing but playing the straight man for a while now.
“Unfortunately, I have one important reason for cancelling our trade,” said Bertoni in a tone that quieted everyone down. “We are being carefully watched by the Testament Union.”
As Azuma watched the information on the divine chat, he asked Yoshinao a question.
“Why is Bertoni-kun trying to cancel the trade? We may lose money, but we’ll still make 50% of the money, right? Wouldn’t that be better?”
“Azuma-kun, England is not Musashi’s only trading partner. And we can also sell things within Musashi.”
Oh, that’s right, thought Azuma.
Musashi itself was a city. It had an economic cycle within itself.
Yoshinao nodded and continued his explanation.
“Of course, we cannot hope to fully cover the expenses now that the quality of the meat has fallen. However, selling the meat cheaply to Musashi’s butchers would improve Bertoni-kun’s relationship with them and stimulation to Musashi’s own economy would bring thanks from our own people. If we are to lose money either way, he has decided the latter is preferable,” he said. “He is also saying to England that we will not sell the meat to them if we will lose more that way. This prevents England from obtaining the meat while forcing a great loss onto Musashi. He is saying they must at least gain our consent first. Also, using the Testament Union as a shield is an excellent tactic for the negotiation. It allows us to ask about England’s stance toward the Testament Union. And thus…”
“Judge.” Yoshinao folded his arms. “He can attack somewhat forcefully here.”
Masazumi saw Bertoni place a hand on the table as he spoke.
“If we trade with you, will you not be seen as opposing the Testament Union? That thoughtless action would also lead to the other countries being even more wary of us. We wish to respect England’s interests and are thinking of Musashi’s safety. If we cannot avoid a conflict with the Testament Union, it is in both of our best interests to not go through with this trade.”
That was true, but there was another side to it.
…He’s pointing out that not selling the meat to them is an option for us.
“If neither of us will benefit, we have nothing to sell. We will take responsibility and pay the fee for breaching the contract and then deal with the goods on our own.”
In other words, Musashi would not be giving England anything.
If that happened, it would be fully an issue of Musashi’s responsibility, so Howard could not say anything. He remained silent and that silence pointed toward a certain fact.
…If he isn’t opposing us here, it means they want Musashi’s goods.
They were not unnecessary. They needed them and wished to buy them cheaply, so Howard finally spoke.
“Testament. In that case, let us work together to make this deal beneficial.”
“Judge. That is a most welcome proposal.”
Mal-Ga: “Oh, he’s leaving it unclear whether that means to work together as individuals or as nations. At any rate, the worst case scenario is set at cancelling the trade.”
But Howard leaned forward and spoke as if driving in a nail.
“However, our battle with Tres España is drawing close.”
“Judge. Might I ask when it will begin?”
Howard shook his head.
“That is classified, so I cannot answer. However, the question is whether Musashi’s goods can be consumed or prepared for storage before it begins.”
Masazumi felt a chill when she realized what that truly meant.
…He’s saying the armada battle is beginning in two weeks!
Masazumi went back over the information. The meat within Musashi would expire in two weeks. If England was unsure if they could be consumed or prepared for storage in that time, it meant the battle with Tres España would occur in two weeks.
Gold Mar: “In other words, the armada battle begins two weeks after they receive supplies from Musashi?”
Silver Wolf: “Most likely. Tres España has been strengthening their Grande y Felicísima Armada for a long time now. Also, two weeks from now is a convenient time for the non-human races.”
Why? wondered Masazumi just as Mitotsudaira sent the answer.
Silver Wolf: “The full moon. That night most revitalizes the non-human races who make up most of England. They will likely use that night for the armada battle.”
I see, thought Masazumi just as someone seemed to respond to her understanding.
Marube-ya: “We can sell that information for a lot.”
Heidi’s usual talkativeness was cut short because she was calculating out the value of that information.
But, thought Masazumi. In just two weeks, the two great nations of England and Tres España will approach a historical turning point.
That turning point would begin Tres España’s decline and England’s prosperity. It greatly affected those two nations as well as any related to them.
The world was on the move. In the form of Testament descriptions, this turning point of history would be written about in textbooks long after their deaths. Masazumi thought she could feel history here.
She shuddered for a moment.
…So this is the true joy of being a politician!
Heidi then posted some additional information.
Marube-ya: “The battle with Tres España will take place in two weeks. Also, when he said the question is whether Musashi’s goods can be consumed in time, he was saying the expiration date is near but they will consume it all somehow or other.”
Azuma: “He wasn’t suggesting reducing the amount they buy because they can’t consume it all?”
Marube-ya: “An opponent as thoroughly prepared as him would not make a complaint like that. We made a bulk contract, so they have to buy it all and they will have some plan for consuming it all. They will have thought about what is possible and used money and personnel to accomplish it. This was nothing but a reminder of what he has already given us.”
Noriki: “So he was just warning us to stop being so forceful?”
Marube-ya: “Judge. To protect England’s producers from Musashi’s cheap goods, they will most likely add tariffs, adjust the price, add compensation fees, and temporarily restrict importing other foreign goods. In other words, they are making a shift toward trading with Musashi and the length will be determined in negotiations within the country and with other countries. I think they have decided it will last until the battle with Tres España.”
…So they are not invincible.
They wanted the goods and they wanted them cheaply, but they had to protect their domestic goods and negotiate trade with other countries.
Marube-ya: “The battle with Tres España begins in two weeks, but they will decide when the trade begins. That is the problem for us. They will decide on a trade period based on their consumption rate and how long it takes to prepare goods for storage. The period they choose will benefit them and ignore our circumstances. The later the starting date, the lower the price will be driven. We are guaranteed to get a bad deal and it will be Shiro-kun’s responsibility.”
Several pieces of data appeared on the screen. Heidi had created a chart of the circulation of goods throughout England and Ohiroshiki had sent data on England’s factories that processed meat as well as private methods.
…They made this during our conversation here?
Erimaki looked toward Masazumi and Heidi.
“Praise me,” he said.
Good boy, she thought, but could not move her hand for fear of revealing the Mouse’s location.
She did not know how to respond to the confused little thing’s expectations, but a fried tofu icon appeared and disappeared on the sign frame.
Marube-ya: “Afterwards, okay? That’s all you get for now.”
Erimaki nodded and Heidi continued typing.
Marube-ya: “According to this data, England can process a month’s worth of meat for storage if they work for a full week without resting. However, that would require the nation to operate at full capacity which includes the normal citizen’s kitchens. But if they had all the households buy the meat like that, a lot of them would be unhappy, so they will likely use another method.”
That’s right, mentally agreed Masazumi. I was thinking the same thing.
That other method was…
…The processed meat could be bought and sold between the processers and the nation as a whole.
Marube-ya: “Basically, the more they drive down the price of the meat, the more leeway they will have in their original budget. Once the normal households process the meat for storage, the country can buy back what meat the households don’t need. The extra money in their budget and the expectations for the war allow them to pass some money to those households. …Also, they’re tightening down on goods as the war approaches, but this should help morale.”
All of this told them something.
Marube-ya: “Simply put, England’s strategy is based on this ‘one week’. The meat inside Musashi expires in two weeks, but England wants to delay the beginning of trade for another week. Consuming a month’s worth in a single week will mean four times the normal amount of meat, so the price will drop by 75%. That is why delaying the beginning of trade by a week is best for them.”
She continued typing.
Marube-ya: “Of course, they haven’t mentioned anything about being able to process the meat in a week. If that was the baseline, they could no longer lower the price based on the expiration date causing an excessive supply. That is why they are purchasing the meat in the name of selling it normally. Our knowledge of this means we want to maintain the two week time limit by beginning trade as soon as tomorrow.”
Silver Wolf “But two weeks means the price drops by half, doesn’t it? We were going to drop out of the deal at that price, so doesn’t this mean the trade will not happen at this rate?”
Heidi started typing while also showing Bertoni a sign frame containing a summary of the data.
Marube-ya: “Shiro-kun came here with an idea for that.”
An idea? wondered Masazumi as Bertoni began to speak.
Musashi’s merchant’s voice was as deep as ever.
“Musashi wishes to rescue England from this danger, but it must be done so the Testament Union does not take issue with the deal.”
“Is there a way to do that?” asked Howard.
Bertoni folded his arms and nodded.
“There is a way of trading that will receive no complaint from the Testament Union and cause no trouble for England.”
"Musashi and England will hold a joint spring school festival in English territory.”
A spring school festival.
“That…” began Howard.
But Bertoni began speaking plainly without nodding again. To Masazumi, it sounded like the recitation of a pre-arranged statement.
“It will be a history recreation interpretation of the European custom of May Day and the different spring festivals in Asian customs. Musashi contains people from many different countries. Those residents all have their own festivals, so we often gather them together into a single school event that functions as a festival for everyone. Musashi has recently been too busy to hold any of these events, so we still have not held a spring school festival which primarily takes the place of the Duanwu Festival.
“We can do this. As a spring festival, it will naturally include research publications and food stands put out by the different committees and clubs. Musashi is planning to prepare for and open a two-week joint spring festival starting tomorrow. Visitors from England are welcome. As a joint festival, we ask that England hold a festival as well.” Bertoni looked toward Howard once more.
“The stand for Musashi’s student council will handle meat as well as the other trade items. And that includes purchases.”
I see, thought Masazumi. A festival will increase the consumption of food and create secondary economic effects.
Marube-ya: “During the festival, we can make every night a party to liven things up and a lot of people will have to work to make preparations. During the preparations and the festival itself, we hope to sell some of the meat at the stands and other small sales. If possible, we want to double the consumption rate. Doing that will sell the entire month’s supply in the two weeks of the festival. If they are negotiating based on their secret plan to process the meat for storage in a single week, we can negotiate based on our plan to use the festival to double the consumption rate. This is a clash between our true intentions and our claimed intentions.”
…If we do that, the value of the meat won’t fall.
The double supply would halve the value, but doubling the consumption rate would balance it out. In reality, it was not that simple, but…
Mal-Ga: “If we earn a bunch at the festival, it will provide enough of an economic effect. We should be able to make up for our losses.”
“But,” said Howard. “If we do that, won’t the Testament Union complain?”
“Judge. They almost certainly will. But if we take the leading role, you can leave all the blame with us. And if it is based in the school rules, it will become a school event which prevents them from taking military action. They cannot touch us. Musashi will take the leading role in this joint spring festival despite not celebrating Beltane, so we hope for compliance from England. …Now, we wish to make the transactions for most of the trade goods during the preparation phase while deferring payment to the actual festival. That will accelerate the trade period.”
“I see,” said Howard with a nod.
He then fell silent once more.
Me: “C’mon, man. Quit acting all high-and-mighty and hurry it up. If you get another bloody nose and agree, everyone’ll be happy.”
Hori-ko: “Oh? Bloody noses are happy things to you, Toori-sama? Then I will not hold back.”
Masazumi heard a few screams in the distance, but she ignored them.
…That must mean Horizon signed a sign frame contract.
Brown Algae: “Screams? Screams?”
…How did they get on this line!?
After another long pause, Howard finally nodded.
“Testament. As long as a certificate can be made guaranteeing the accelerated transactions.”
That meant he agreed to the trade between Musashi and England.
…So we’ve created a path to trade.
Bertoni nodded and turned an expressionless glance toward Howard.
“Judge. We shall prepare one. However…”
“However?” asked Howard just as a message appeared on the sign frame.
Marube-ya: “Ah, wait just a second. I’m about to get some urgent work!”
A dozen or so sign frames appeared around Heidi.
Howard also opened several sign frames, but his were the rectangular style of Protestants. Just as Masazumi wondered what was going on, the two merchants spoke at the exact some moment.
“Let us negotiate the length of the festival and the preparations.”
Masazumi first heard Bertoni’s voice as she looked at the sign frame Heidi had sent her. He spoke calmly to Howard.
That was the best length because it created a balance with doubled supply and doubled demand.
Marube-ya: “Our profit ratio is 20%. 20% of two weeks is about three days, so the trade period can shrink by that much and we will still earn a profit. That means we can concede down to eleven days.”
However, Howard shook his head as if it were only natural.
Worshipper: “He’s ignoring the time needed to process the meat and is simply choosing a short time period to give him the upper hand in the negotiation.”
England needed a week to process the meat, but starting there would lead to a larger time period after the negotiation. That was why Howard had set it so low.
…He’s surprisingly reckless.
Bertoni had announced that Musashi would call off the trade if they were losing 30% which would happen at 50% off the original price. That meant seven days and below was off the table. Eight days was the best England could hope for.
Nevertheless, Howard had started at three days.
Some might call it unfair, but there was a reason he had gone through with it.
…He has confidence as England’s treasurer.
Despite Howard’s number, Bertoni’s expression was unfazed and he shook his head.
“A week and seven days for preparation.”
Howard had given a number which was excessively low and Bertoni had remained at the exact same number with a different phrasing.
Howard of course shook his head.
“Three days and one day of preparation.”
…Oh? He conceded a day first but is still pushing for a foundation of three days.
Three days was simply not happening. It was a bluff. But he was sticking with the bluff and treating it as the truth.
…The final agreement England is going for might be “three days and five days of preparation” for a total of eight days.
Musashi would refuse seven days, so they would add one day to make eight.
England needed these goods, but they would never stop focusing on their own interests above all. And if they could not push a bluff through, what good were they?
But Bertoni let out a breath and made a sudden counteroffer.
“One week and five days of preparation.”
He all of a sudden conceded two days.
Bertoni’s offer caused Howard’s eyebrows to rise.
Howard had thought they would use some condition to negotiate in units of one day.
…But he suddenly gave up two days for nothing in return.
He suspected Musashi had some sort of plan, but unfounded suspicions only led to anxiety. He would continue with his own method.
…I need to give something of equal value to their offer.
“Testament. Three days for the festival and two days for preparation.”
Now they had both conceded two days. He assumed this brought things back on course.
“Musashi will use its transport ships to transport goods to Scotland and the other blocks.”
Bertoni’s statement led Howard to tap his right index finger on the table.
…I see. He is trying to buy days with a method other than money.
That gave meaning to the previous two-day concession.
…He is adding the transportation on top of that concession to see if I will make a large concession in return.
To probe out Howard’s methods, he had conceded his own days while he still had plenty to spare.
…This is his strategy.
He had played the card of conceded days plus an additional condition while also bringing the starting date closer to his target date.
Howard’s target number of days was eight. He had just offered five, so his remaining options were three days’ worth of cards and whatever additional conditions he had.
Meanwhile, Musashi’s break-even line was likely at eleven days. However, their merchant’s cards had been reduced to twelve. He had only one day remaining.
Even if he tried to concede three more days to bring Howard down to eight days, he would end up in the red at nine days. If they continued making concessions as is, they would end up negotiating over eight or nine days.
Eight or nine days.
…That is where the true battle lies.
Also, Howard had already considered the idea of having them make the deliveries with their transport ships.
Aerial ships were the Far East’s specialty. England had some technology via IZUMO, but their transport ships for trade and their piloting technology were inferior to Musashi’s. That led Howard to his decision.
“Understood. We will leave that to you. As for land ports…”
“We will use the IZUMO trading companies and warehouses located at the destinations. I own them, so we can handle the transportation charges. Think of it as a complimentary service.”
“Testament,” agreed Howard.
He had intended to have them use the transportation companies he owned, but he would retain all the preparation fees if Musashi would cover them instead. In other words, this meant more profit for him.
Accepting this as an additional condition, he conceded one of his cards.
“That should allow some extra time for the festival, so how about three days for the festival and three days for preparations?”
Howard read Bertoni’s hand.
Bertoni was currently at twelve days. He only had one more day to give. Meanwhile, Howard was at six days and had two days left before reaching his target of eight days.
Because Bertoni only had one card left to play, he would fall to ten days if he wanted to meet Howard’s two.
But Bertoni made another unexpected counteroffer.
“How about seven days for the festival and two days for preparations, making a total of nine days?”
He suddenly reduced his offer by three days.
So he has made his decision, thought Howard.
Bertoni had conceded past his break-even line at eleven days. He may have been planning to make up for the loss with secondary income at the festival, but Howard knew one thing for sure.
…He wants us both to concede three days and settle on nine days.
But Howard did not go along with it.
He cleared his throat.
…I can add a small condition to counteract his three day concession.
“In that case,” said Howard. He went on to state the condition he felt was necessary to achieve a safe trade. “To reduce the burden of the festival and its preparations, England will expand your landing privileges. Musashi’s residents will be allowed on the third level and the second level. How about those two added conditions?”
Those two additional conditions would reduce the burden in preparations and transportation, so it made up for two days of Musashi’s three day concession.
“I will concede one day. That leaves us at three days for the festival and four days for preparations, a total of seven days.”
If they both conceded one more day, they would agree on Howard’s goal of eight days.
And so he showed no unnecessary greed and simply spoke.
“Then again, you might need some more time for preparations, so I will concede one more day.” He took a breath and shrugged. “Eight days. I would like to settle on that length.”
“Toori-sama, does this not put us in danger of going into debt?”
Toori tilted his head as Horizon asked him a question on the deck’s forward terrace.
Now it was Horizon’s turn to tilt her head. Their heads were tilted in opposite directions.
“Looking at the situation, it seems inevitable. Their negotiator has brought the negotiation to a close.”
“Yeah, but why is that a problem for our cruel merchant?”
Horizon tilted her head even further and Toori placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Do you want to know what I mean? Here’s the best option: let me massage your chest and you’ll understand!”
“What a coincidence. I just arrived at the best option as well: if I hit you, I will understand.”
Toori used both hands to calm Horizon down as she held up a hand in preparation. He then used his chin to indicate the negotiation terrace on the stern of the ship.
“Who do you think that is back there?”
“Shirojiro Bertoni-sama. His opponent is England’s treasurer, Howard-sama.”
“Howard is pretty damn good. He isn’t just using England’s authority here. He’s fighting fair and square so as not to tarnish that authority. He isn’t going to let his guard down. To be honest, I don’t really get it, but if a ‘best option’ lover like you says he’s trouble, Shiro must be in a fair bit of trouble. But…”
“Shiro is Musashi’s treasurer. And he isn’t Mr. Impossible like me.” Toori smiled a bit. “They’re both treasurers. Anything Howard can do, Shiro can do too. Shiro can do things that will make a ‘best option’ lover like you think Howard’s in a fair bit of trouble.”
Masazumi held her breath and observed her surroundings.
Currently, Howard had conceded one day and proceeded to bring the negotiation to an end.
As he had made a concession, Musashi would have to answer with a concession as well.
…And that concession has to be accepting his proposal.
Now that he had said eight days was enough, they could no longer get him to concede any more days. They had fallen for his tactic of starting at three days.
…What do we do!?
She knew she must not look toward Bertoni. That would expose him to the uncertainty she was feeling. Instead, she worked to remain expressionless and lowered her gaze to Erimaki.
Me: “Seijun! Tell a bad joke! Tell a terrible joke and buy us some time!!”
…Damn him. I really am going to kill him one of these days!!
Asama: “Sh-she can’t! If she tells a bad joke and he falls out of his seat, he might use that to stand up and end the negotiations!”
Uqui: “Hm. You understand this well, Asama.”
…Wait. Are they indirectly making fun of me here!? If only I could post…
But even if she could, the negotiations would have prevented her from doing so.
…Then what am I supposed to do?
Just as she thought that, she saw a sudden movement. Bertoni had stood up to her left.
Howard and Jonson were too slow to react to his sudden and expressionless action. Walsingham, however, moved the controllers floating behind her back to prepare for an attack, but a sudden voice came from further back and to the right.
Mitotsudaira’s voice and the jangling of chains stopped the bodyguard automaton.
As everything fell silent, Bertoni continued to move. He circled around to the side of the table, arrived to the right of Howard, and lightly jumped up into the air.
In midair, he performed a high-level triple axel and…
“That number of days simply will not work, so I beg you to concede further!”
He completed his pose in midair and landed in a prostration.
Masazumi almost cried out, but she managed to press her lips together and swallow the cry.
Marube-ya: “Oh c’mon, Shiro-kun. A Triple Axel Prostration!? I haven’t seen you use that since you nailed it at Interhigh when we were in middle school. Have you been practicing when I wasn’t looking!? I’m falling for you all over again!”
You’re okay with this? thought Masazumi, but a glance forward showed Howard’s expression had changed.
He had wrinkled his brow, clenched his teeth, and sweat had formed on his forehead.
She followed Howard’s gaze and noticed something had appeared between Bertoni’s hands as he prostrated himself. He held a cloth-wrapped confectionery box above his head.
…Wh-when did he get that!?
Howard noticed Jonson staring at him from the side, so he held out a hand to stop him.
He could not show how much this had shaken him.
Far Eastern uniforms were known for their long sleeves and wide cuffs. Rotating sideways in midair would wrap those around you and fall out of place on landing. However, this boy’s cuffs were neatly spread out the sides and his landing had not caused any noise.
…This is the real deal.
The Testament descriptions said a Far Eastern merchant’s special technique was the prostration, so Far Eastern merchants practiced daily to ensure they could perfectly recreate that part of history.
A prostration required shrinking down one’s entire body using one’s flexibility, so it required exercising the entire body as well as anaerobic exercise. To pull them off required three sets of five hundred training prostrations every single day. Even in England, prostrations were required learning to handle Far Eastern merchants, so Howard knew several different techniques: the Left Prostration, the Right Prostration, the Over-the-Shoulder Prostration, the Walking Prostration, the Standing Prostration, the Overturned Prostration, etc.
When faced with an authentic prostration, Howard knew his own were nothing but conceited child’s play. Far Eastern dance had a technique for forming a sitting position in midair and landing like that, and this was based on that.
In addition, this young merchant had produced confectioneries. In that case, Howard had no choice but to respond. After all…
…I began this discussion with a prostration of my own!
This merchant had conceded to hold the discussion when faced by Howard’s prostration.
That meant Howard now had to make a concession when faced with this prostration. If he did not, his own prostration would become nothing but a type of fashion. As England’s representative merchant he could not allow that to happen.
“Please raise your head.”
However, the boy did not. But even that was…
A prostration was not to be ended until the other party had given in. As a negotiation skill, it was the ultimate technique in which one would not move an inch until their opponent conceded. While it was a type of bow, it was also the ultimate defense. It allowed any insults to pass over one’s head and it prevented one from leaving no matter what trained body tried to make them leave and no matter what attack or removal attempt was made.
Howard gritted his teeth.
“Do you need more time for preparations?”
He received no response, so he took a breath and the confectionery box.
“How about nine days: three days for the festival and six days for preparations?”
Azuma turned toward Yoshinao and Oriotorai with a surprised look.
“Prostrations are amazing, aren’t they!?”
“Don’t try it yourself, okay?” Oriotorai then shrugged. “Nine days? That won’t cut it. I’m not an expert at negotiations, but I’ve done my best to teach you not to do anything halfway.”
Bertoni rose and bowed toward Howard.
Masazumi saw him slowly return to his seat. His expression was as blank as ever. He looked perfectly composed.
He sat down and placed both hands on the table. Masazumi guessed that was a way of showing he had room to spare in the negotiations and Bertoni went on to lower his head again.
“I appreciate the concession of an extra day for preparations.”
“Testament. Due to the coming battle with Tres España, we do not want to take more time than is necessary.”
Howard’s voice was blank. Not being led by one’s emotions during negotiations was a necessary skill for merchants and it was part of Masazumi’s own politician combat style.
However, that allowed her to guess at his true state.
…He’s probably livid with rage.
He had likely wanted to settle on eight days, but another day had been added. This was likely still within his margin of error, but the merchants who wanted to defeat him would use this as ammunition. The specific reason he had been forced to concede that ninth day was also an issue.
…He prostrated first to show his understanding of the Far East.
If he had not done that, he would not have lost the eight day agreement. It had been his own error.
His anger was toward himself, so it would not vanish easily. He could not blame anyone else, so it would simply smolder within him.
But, thought Masazumi. This English merchant is no fool.
Earlier, he had prioritized ending the negotiations at eight days, so he clearly did not like unnecessary gambles. He was proud, but he was steady and would not make an attempt if he did not think it would work. He would build up his strategy and do nothing more than what he planned. Setting the starting point at three days was a sign of that method.
Meanwhile, Bertoni’s style still showed he had room to spare. He would aim for an even more advantageous number of days.
…But how is he planning to draw out the fight any longer?
Meanwhile, Howard spoke.
“Then let us agree to nine days and bring this negotiation to-…”
Just as Howard tried to conclude this negotiation, Masazumi heard Bertoni raise both his hands.
“Nine days, you say?”
And suddenly, he smiled.
Masazumi saw Bertoni’s slight smile. His eyes arched and his teeth were partially visible. The expression was downright refreshing.
Walsingham held her arms up in preparation.
Howard seemed to sense something because he sucked in a breath.
On the other hand, Bertoni kept his hands raised.
“That was a truly excellent negotiation. I was completely outdone. As such, I will provide you an additional concession for free.”
“No, thank you!” shouted Howard. “The negotiation is over!!”
“No, I merely said I was outdone. I had not agreed to your proposal, Lord Howard, so the negotiation is not over. After all, Far Eastern merchants always provide perfect complimentary services as part of the negotiation.”
“And what service are you offering?”
To suppress his caution, Howard erased all expression from his face.
“Do not worry,” said Bertoni. “This may be part of the negotiation, but I will not ask for any concession from you. This is a complementary service after all. It is for your sake and it is entirely free of charge.”
This was the first time Masazumi had heard Bertoni use polite language in his negotiation.
She realized Heidi had stopped typing.
Instead, her expression had loosened up.
…Is she enjoying this?
However, Masazumi saw no way that a complimentary service could get Howard to concede anything.
…How is he planning to obtain any more days like this?
As if to answer her question, Bertoni took a small breath, smiled, and spoke.
“I have made many impertinent comments during this negotiation. I believe I have put a great burden on you. As an apology, I will reconsider the length of the trade period.”
He then stated what the “complimentary service” was.
“We can revert to your original suggestion of three days. Yes, that would be best.”
After Bertoni went as far as to say that would be “best”, Masazumi turned toward Howard. The merchant was expressionless, but there was a change to his face.
The color of his face had changed from flesh-colored to red and it was quickly growing darker.
The veins on his forehead and nape of his neck were bulging out.
Suddenly, Howard grabbed his nose and a fibrous tearing sound rang out.
Beam-like geysers of blood burst from both his ears.
Masazumi knocked her chair over as she moved away from the table.
…Huh? None reached me.
As she had expected, Jonson had toppled his chair backwards to avoid the blood. While trembling, he pointed toward Howard and shouted toward Walsingham.
“Mate! Stop the bleeding! Plug his ears!”
Walsingham nodded, circled behind Howard, and slammed her palms into either side of his head. Two clear sounds rang out and Howard stopped moving altogether.
Noriki: “That’s a concussion if I’ve ever seen one.”
Flat Vassal: “That automaton has been using nothing but dangerous techniques.”
But Howard finally stirred while lying limp in his chair.
“Kh! I-I apologize, but I cannot move right now! So, um…”
His speech was somewhat slurred.
“Judge,” replied Bertoni who was no longer smiling. He had returned to his expressionless state. “As a sign of my apology, I am providing a great concession as a complimentary service. That is all.”
“P-please wait a moment.”
“What is it? Surely you do not mean you cannot prepare and hold the festival in three days. You were the one to propose this. I am merely agreeing with you.”
…I get it.
Bertoni was using Howard’s bluff against him. To end the negotiation at eight days, Howard had set the starting line at three days. It was a bluff, but he had attempted to force it through.
Their information told them England could process all the meat for storage in one week, but what would happen if they only had three days?
…England will only obtain as much preserved meat as they can create in three days.
England could process a month’s worth of meat in one week, but they could only process 3/7 of that in three days. Of the 2000 tons of meat, 4/7 of it would go to waste.
Azuma: “Approximately…1143 tons would end up in the trash!”
As a politician, Masazumi knew how much garbage was created. She recalled the daily amount of kitchen waste created by the average household on Musashi.
…I think it was between 700 grams and 1 kilogram.
Even if it was all rounded up to a kilogram, that was 1,143,000 households’ worth of waste.
London’s population was said to be over 200 thousand. This deal would suddenly create over five times the waste their population did. There was no way they could manage it all.
“Three days. Judge. We will fully comply with your demand.”
…He’s throwing his bluff right back at him.
If they settled on three days, the value of a months’ worth of meat would fall to 1/10 of the normal. Even at twice the consumption, that was 1/5.
“We are prepared to do what it takes. I want you to understand that.”
If Bertoni was going down, he was taking Howard with him.
Mal-Ga: “Why didn’t he use this reverse bluff earlier?”
Marube-ya: “He wanted to draw out those additional conditions. We agreed to handle transportation and Lord Howard granted us further landing privileges, remember? If he had used the reverse bluff right away, we wouldn’t have gotten those. Those two conditions allow us a lot more freedom in England. Lord Howard decided to end the negotiation right afterwards, so Shiro-kun just barely got this in at the very last second.”
…They did a lot to help out.
The transportation and landing privileges would normally be Masazumi’s problem as they were political issues, but Musashi’s merchant duo had achieved them as well.
…They seek the greatest profit possible.
She felt like she had come to understand their mercantile viewpoint.
They were not wealthy representatives of a great nation like Howard was. They were young merchants on Musashi where merchants of various descents fought over a small and limited pie.
They were greedy and they would forcibly earn a profit even if it meant taking advantage of their opponent.
The idea of using Howard’s bluff against him came from that disposition.
And Howard now had to release himself from the reverse bluff Bertoni and Heidi had placed on him. In other words, he had to return to the negotiating table.
…He can’t run away now, so he has no choice.
After all, England would create a massive amount of waste if they accepted the three day offer.
Not only would that cause problems for England and its citizens, but he would be effectively punishing England and its citizens for his own failure.
This Howard is not the sort of man who would run from this, thought Masazumi. Someone like that would not be trusted enough to hold the position of England’s representative as treasurer.
He had become the great merchant he was because he would take responsibility for his own actions and he had the hidden ability to do so without difficulty.
And to prove it, Howard lightly raised his right hand.
“Testament. Understood. I would love to accept your generous offer.” He nodded once. “But Musashi and the Far East already bear a great burden. As a member of Trumps and therefore a servant of our great nation of England and of our kind Fairy Queen, I do not wish to place any more of a burden upon you. As such…”
“To show our understanding of Musashi’s burden and to give you more flexibility in your work, how about five days for the festival and four days for preparations?”
Howard suggested a total of nine days. Masazumi reacted by looking at Erimaki on her lap.
Silver Wolf: “He wants to eliminate the reverse bluff with the same one day addition we earned from that previous farce?”
“Three days for the festival and two days for preparations,” responded Bertoni. “Three days is enough for us, so five total gives us plenty of flexibility.”
Bertoni continued with the reverse bluff. He did not intend to release the opponent he had latched onto.
His strategy was clear.
He would concede two days for every one day Howard conceded. It seemed he was conceding more, but Musashi was still at five days. They still had two days left before reaching seven days and those two days meant just under 600 tons of waste. Howard of course wanted to bring that waste down to zero.
“Ten days. Six for the festival and four for preparations. Will that allow Musashi to carry out its work without any extra burden?”
The tone of Howard’s voice had fallen, so Masazumi gulped in her heart. Hiding one’s emotions was a standard of negotiation, but he had allowed this change in tone to show itself.
Marube-ya: “It looks like he’s completely given up on the negotiation. If he sees the loss as growing too great, he will call the entire deal off just like we threatened at the start. We need to sniff out where his limit is from his attitude.”
…In that case, this is the time to back off.
However, Bertoni readily continued speaking.
“We should avoid including your day of rest. Tsirhc considers it immoral to work more than necessary on that day, correct? How about six days for the festival, one day off, and four days for preparations? That is eleven in all.”
Howard fell silent.
He took several breaths. He listened to the waves outside the ship, took a few more breaths, and finally let out a resolved and stifled voice.
“One more thing,” said Bertoni calmly.
Howard seemed to suddenly realize what that meant and raised his eyebrows slightly.
The English merchant opened his mouth again.
Just as he began speaking, Bertoni once more spoke up before he could. However, Bertoni was not addressing Howard this time.
“Mukai, are you listening?”
Howard was left speechless because he did not understand why Bertoni had suddenly called for Mukai Suzu who was blind. Masazumi, on the other hand, did understand.
…So that’s it!
She finally realized why she was sitting at that table.
“Wait, Bertoni. This is not for you to decide.”
“Judge. Then I will leave it to you, vice president.”
“Judge,” replied Masazumi with a nod.
She ignored Howard who seemed confused and instead looked at the divine transmission sign frame Heidi gave her.
It displayed the scene in one of the ship’s corridors where Mukai sat on a bench by the wall. Asama sat next to her and the shrine maiden seemed to be controlling the footage.
Masazumi cleared her throat and began.
“Now, Mukai. This may be sudden, but I want you to listen calmly.”
Mukai nodded and visibly prepared herself as Masazumi continued in a definite tone of voice.
“You will be sent to London as a temporary ambassador.”
Suzu did not understand what Masazumi meant.
She had heard the term in politics class. An ambassador was sent to another country as a political representative to speak on behalf of their own country. During the history recreation, the practice had begun in 1455 when K.P.A. Italia’s city-state of Milan had sent a diplomat to the city-state of Genoa.
…Eh? You want…me to do that?
Asama and the others had relayed the details of the negotiation to her. But…
“You will be able to freely contact us using sign frame divine transmissions. And Adele, you go as her bodyguard.”
“Eh? Me? U-um… Okay. Judge.”
“W-wait a s-second,” began Suzu. She tried to stop the situation from continuing to progress so quickly. “Wh-why? I am…a lot of trouble. You should…not choose me. That would be…better.”
“Well…” said Masazumi in confusion.
The wavering of Masazumi’s voice told Suzu her worries had been misplaced. She felt bad for what she had said, but at the same time…
…I shouldn’t…make people worry so much.
She wanted to sweep it all away, but it was unlikely to be that easy.
She heard a breath from Masazumi who was unsure what to say and no immediate answer arrived.
“C’mon, Bell-san! How about you leave it at that?”
Toori’s voice suddenly came from the sign frame and Suzu straightened her posture without thinking.
…Will he think…I’m an unpleasant girl?
“Huh? Bell-san, your face is really red. Are you okay?”
“I-I-I’m fine. Just fine. …Wh-what is it?”
“Eh? Oh, right. You may not have realized it, but even Seijun can’t stand up to you when you question her. That’s what happened here, right?”
“Listen,” began Toori. “Out of all of us, you’re the one that speaks your mind the clearest, is the most stubborn, and yet takes care of yourself.”
She did not know what to do when he suddenly complimented her like that. She wanted to go hide somewhere, but then she would miss out on the important thing he had to say.
“Wh-what should I…do?”
“It’s simple. Y’see, that money-lover and that flat-chested girl who can’t tell a joke to save her life are-…! S-Seijun! I think your aim’s gotten better!”
“Y-you shouldn’t…do that, M-Masazumi,” said Suzu. “The tsukkomi…is Horizon’s j-job.”
Asama lowered her head along with everyone else.
…That’s not entirely wrong, but it isn’t exactly right either.
However, she somehow understood what Toori meant. Shirojiro had spoken her name and Masazumi had supported the decision for the same reason.
…She’ll immediately tell you if you shouldn’t do something.
Anyone could tell the difference between what they should and should not do. But when faced with those things, could everyone come out and say it without compromising or making excuses? Most people could likely do so when it came to protecting those who were important to them, but Suzu was a little different.
…She can say it when it comes to Horizon.
As seen in her essay from a while back, Suzu respected Horizon. She had said she loved Toori, so it would not be unusual if Horizon held a complicated place in her heart. But Suzu had not forgotten about Horizon and she had continued to value her relationship with Horizon as it had been back then.
She did not waver.
She was blind, so if she wavered, she might not be able to trust anything even if she received help. She did not rely on her vision, so her decisions were instantaneous and that decision always occurred within herself. Letting it leave her would only let it decay.
“Bell-san, can you continue on like that and act as a diplomat for a bit? Seijun and that money-lover will teach you the more difficult things. I’ll contact your parents, so-… Wait, wait! Seijun! Don’t say you won’t let me do it. Don’t worry. I’ll put on some clothes, so don’t worry. It’ll just be knee socks, though! …Anyway, Bell-san. You’ll get a nice room, eat nice food, bathe in a nice big bath, and sleep in a bed so big you’ll sink down into it. There’s nothing to worry about. If someone fires a shell at you, Adele will protect you.”
“Diplomacy doesn’t have such extreme highs and lows!”
Everyone shouted back at Toori without thinking, but Suzu’s tone was still doubtful.
“W-will I really…be okay?’
“You will, Mukai. This is Masazumi. It will only last two weeks and your freedom there is guaranteed. The festival will begin after a few days and that means we should be able to visit you more frequently.”
“Th-then…what do I need to…do?”
“A diplomat has two jobs. First, act as an intermediary between us and England. Second, you have the right to make decisions on our behalf if England insists on a decision.”
“Th-that…that’s…t-too much for…me.”
“Hm? Bell-san, don’t think about it so much. It’s easy as can be.”
“Yeah,” answered Toori. “You just have to be our ally like you always are. If you think anything is bad for us, just say no. If you think it’s perfectly fine, then say yes.”
“R-really? I-is that…really all…it is?”
That’s the hardest part, but she finds it hard to believe that’s “all” it is, thought Asama. She really is a virtuous person. It is most impressive she managed to remain like that in this filthy class. If some monster tries to contaminate her, I’ll shoot them.
Toori then replied to Suzu’s question.
“I’m asking you to do this because your ability to do that is perfect for the job.”
“R-really?” said Suzu. “Then…I’ll do it.”
Suzu nodded as if trying to convince herself, so Asama rustled her sleeves as she gently hugged Suzu. She used her strength and warmth to tell Suzu to do her best and Suzu nodded again.
“M-make sure to…come get me, e-everyone.”
“Sure thing,” said Toori.
Everyone else nodded as well and Kimi’s voice came from the sign frame.
“Suzu hasn’t signed a sign frame contract, has she? Asama, make a quick contract with her. Also, Adele is Catholic, so give her a quick lesson on using Shinto sign frames. If anything happens, Adele would be able to use it more quickly.”
Kimi then gave further instructions but via divine message rather than by voice.
“Also, Adele mentioned that Suzu heard an odd noise coming from England. It apparently sounded like construction or a bell. It occasionally comes from the Tower of London up above, so sending Suzu there has another meaning.”
“Do you think there is something there?’
“I don’t know, but I am curious. Suzu knows a lot about sounds. If she found it odd enough to question it, it must be something not heard in everyday life on Musashi. England must be making various preparations for the Apocalypse and their battle with Tres España, and it wouldn’t hurt to come across one of those things.”
“I see,” said Asama with a nod.
Masazumi nodded back at her before turning toward Howard.
…The sound Mukai heard does not fit with anything England has mentioned so far.
They had held a light negotiation, but nothing like that had been brought up. However, it was doubtful Mukai was wrong about something like this.
…Now we can send Mukai herself to check on it.
Most diplomats were also spies. With that in mind, Masazumi spoke to Howard.
“We have no objection to sending a diplomat. And it seems to me that bringing one of our residents into England as evidence of our diplomatic relationship would make a sufficient achievement for England even if it would not remain in history. How about it?”
After asking her question, she immediately spoke again.
“Aoi, can we send Futayo as another bodyguard for Mukai?”
“Eh? Oh, sure, sure.”
“Me?” cut in Futayo. “I am currently consuming curry.”
“Judge.” Masazumi nodded. “This will begin tomorrow. Adele Balfette is solely defensive and she is from a Hexagone Française family. She is perfect for protecting a diplomat who could effectively be taken hostage, but she and Mukai have not trained for their roles. For the next few days, the student council and the cultural types will be busy preparing for the festival, so the bodyguard has to come from the chancellor’s officers. However, England would be wary of Mitotsudaira because she is from Hexagone Française, Naomasa has yet to repair Jizuri Suzaku, Crossunite is busy being gay, and we can’t exactly send the two Technohexen from M.H.R.R. That leaves you, Futayo.”
“Masazumi, I think one of those reasons was a bit odd.”
…Just ignore it.
“Anyway, how about it, Futayo? With you along, Mukai will have Musashi’s greatest defense and offense with her. Also, Mukai’s words and actions will hold authority as Musashi’s ambassador. You know what that means, don’t you?”
“Judge. In other words, she will not just be the representative of Musashi Ariadust Academy, but of the Far East as a whole. That makes her a representative of the Far East’s ruler, Princess Horizon. …It seems Mukai-sama wishes to express her understanding as well.”
Bertoni nodded next to Masazumi and spread his hands.
“If you think of them as hostages, this is a splendid achievement, isn’t it? You can take away Musashi’s greatest defense and offense. …Then again, it also means you are holding a bomb, but thinking about how to announce your results is another joy of being a merchant, don’t you think?”
“Testament. That is indeed wonderful. Now, the festival will be seven days with one of those days set aside for rest, and…now that we have come this far, how about 5 days for preparations? Let us agree on twelve days total.” Howard shrugged his shoulders. “However, the other merchants’ attempts to interfere should be quite intense now that I have conceded so much. If possible, I would like to be given full authority over England’s side of this deal. Would that be okay?”
“You mean you want us to sign a contract saying Musashi can only trade with England through you?”
“Testament.” Howard nodded. “And if you are the one to make the request, I can use it as an excuse to suppress the other merchants. Also, if you do not charge for the contract, I will be in your debt for that small amount.”
“Judge. Then that is what we shall do.”
Bertoni nodded and produced a sign frame containing a seal in his palm. Howard smiled bitterly but still held out his hand. As he prepared for a handshake, his palm also showed a sign frame containing a seal.
…The negotiations are over.
Bertoni reached across the table and completed the handshake. At the same time, a sign frame appeared.
“Approved : Religion-Independent Seal : Subject – Far East, England, Official Trade Negotiation – Transmitting to Both Administrations : Confirmed”
Fragments of light scattered from their palms. As the light scattered to the ground, the two merchants stood from their seats. Heidi also stood up while typing.
Marube-ya: “Ahh, ahh. So we have to use our own transport ship? It is true we have some extra fuel because they haven’t been running lately. And, well, I guess persuading them is part of our job.”
Howard must have realized what she was thinking because he released Bertoni’s hand and spoke.
“We will send a carriage for your ambassador tomorrow morning. And in a few days, your representatives should be invited to our royal palace. After a party, we will hold a meeting. That will likely be no sooner than the evening of the festival’s first day.”
“Judge. We appreciate it. Is that information free?”
“Testament. Think of it as a complimentary service.” Howard bowed deeply. “After two days to make arrangements, the twelve days for the preparations and festival will begin. With that, the party, and the meeting, I hope we will both have excellent business with profitable results.”
Importation of the Potato
Toori: Sis! Sis! Everyone’s been talking about po-tay-toes or po-tah-toes or whatever, but did they really not have potatoes in medieval Europe!?
Kimi: Heh heh heh. Potato-head brother, how was Europe supposed to have foods from the New World before the New World’s discovery? Sweet potatoes, corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, bell peppers, pineapples, and chili peppers are the same. Tobacco came from the New World as well. Anyway, I wrote up a list of years when the potato was imported to different countries.
England: Arrived 1586. Cultivation encouraged starting in mid-17th century.
Tres España: Arrived circa 1534. Cultivation began in certain areas starting in mid-16th century.
K.P.A. Italia: Arrived circa 1566. Cultivation began in certain areas starting circa 1582.
M.H.R.R.: Arrived circa 1588. Cultivation began in the western areas starting midway through the Thirty Years’ War.
Hexagone Française: Arrived at the end of the 16th century. Small amounts cultivated in very small areas starting at the same time.
Far East: Arrived circa 1600. Cultivation for food began circa 1624.
Toori: That’s a wide range. And the Far East got them by circa 1600? Isn’t that too soon?
Kimi: Some theories say 1576 or 1598, but it’s a bit unclear because the taro and the sweet potato were brought in at about the same time and the European ships bringing them in were filled with all sorts of things. It’s thought they had definitely arrived by 1610, though. They were apparently grown even in the cold areas of Tohoku.
Toori: But wasn’t Europe really slow to start growing it? Weren’t people saying growing them provided enough food for a population explosion? So isn’t this a bit slow?
Kimi: Heh heh heh. Foolish brother. The earth was warmer during the middle ages, so it was easier to grow food than it is now. But there was a little ice age during the 14th century and the peak hit right around mid-16th century. Until then, wheat and other crops were still producing enough food, but everything grew too cold by the 1600’s. Wheat’s output dropped even further and potatoes finally became a primary source of food.
But in Europe, it was disliked for being a root vegetable and looking ugly, so it was slow to spread even once people started growing it. The Far East did not avoid it like that, so it spread more quickly than in Europe. Also, some areas used the 1576 theory during the history recreation.
Toori: You mean it’s possible Nobunaga and Hideyoshi shouted “Hot damn! French fries!” at some point?
Kimi: First of all, French fries is an English term. Second of all, bow down in apology toward Mikawa this very instant.
- 83 can be pronounced Hassan.
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