Horizon:Volume 2 Chapter 20
Chapter 20: Those Meeting in a Separate Place
There are mysteries
And there are questions
But what should one do to control oneself?
Point Allocation (Stress)
The setting sun shone through many dark objects.
Lined up alongside those evening clouds were eight ships. Each of the ships was visible due to the thin clouds they trailed as they crossed the west wind.
Together, the eight ships formed the almost eight kilometer length of Musashi. Its back was turned to England which was five times that length away. The three ships on the port side and the three ships on the starboard side each formed a fan-shaped formation, the two center ships had their altitudes staggered by the height of one ship, and those two ships were currently switching out their altitudes.
This process allowed for the approach of transport ships and the loading of cargo. Cargo was also being circulated between each of Musashi’s ships.
The transfer was naturally using the towing belts and the circulating towing belts which formed a loop, but the transport pipes which used the up and down motion of the two center ships was used for the cargo transferred vertically.
People moved about both inside and outside the ships as they busily loaded the large wooden cargo containers with materials.
The workers from the larger races or the beastman races handled the hard labor by pushing and pulling the cargo. Those with wings or the ability to fly carried the lighter cargo between ships.
The distribution officer of the industrial committee, which worked for the student council, supervised Musashi’s ship port control division which worked with those related to Shinto or other religions to carry out massive amounts of divine transmissions.
Once the transport ships were loaded with cargo they would moor at the inner side of one of Musashi’s ships. They never moved into the open sky. They were waiting for a certain event before doing that.
“So these are preparations for the spring festival starting the day after tomorrow.”
A voice spoke as if looking down on the alarms, sounds of machinery, and roaring of the air. The voice came from the back of the rear center ship named Okutama which was currently rising. Specifically, it came from the bridge in front of Musashi Ariadust Academy.
Two people sat on the stairs leading from the bridge to the central road. One was the bespectacled boy named Neshinbara. The other sat three people’s widths to the side.
“President Sakai, don’t you have to prepare for tomorrow?”
He really looks after us, thought Neshinbara as he asked Sakai his question.
“Augesvarer-kun sent me a divine message about Musashi and England’s spring festival starting the day after tomorrow, but don’t you have to prepare for Musashi entering port tomorrow and don’t you have to handle the procedure for landing the transport ships in England?”
“Well, from what I heard, the trade is being carried out while camouflaged as festival stands. That means I have to go meet with the transaction officer of their industrial committee and explain why we’re calling off the trade deal. What excuse am I supposed to make?”
“Why not just write ‘due to personal reasons’ on the form? They will make sure to stick with whatever story you give.”
Sakai held his unlit kiseru in his mouth.
“But why are you here?” asked Neshinbara.
“Well, Toussaint, that’s because you’re here. Makiko-kun made a request concerning you.”
“What? What did she say?”
“Judge. She told me to leave you alone.”
“Is that so?”
Neshinbara half-closed his eyes and spread out either side of his mouth.
…The adults around here seem to fail at everything.
Meanwhile, Sakai raised the corner of his mouth in a smile.
“But at my age, you stop being shy and you no longer care if people hate you, so I came to ask you about something.”
“If it’s about Tres España, you could always ask Naruze-kun.”
“It’s not that. It’s about the Double Border Crest.”
Neshinbara could tell his expression had changed. He turned toward Sakai who was backlit by the southern sky.
“As I was instructed after the Battle of Mikawa, I researched what information I could on Musashi and worked to bring it all together.”
“And what did you find?”
Neshinbara shook his head.
“It first appeared about thirty years ago, it is spread out across every country, and…this last one is not exactly definite.”
“You can decide that after saying it. Oh, and I’ll decide it for myself after I hear it.”
“Judge.” Neshinbara nodded, hesitated, and spoke. “It is not definite, but there is something like a pattern in the Princess Disappearances which are closely related to the Double Border Crest.”
“And that is?”
“Judge,” said Neshinbara again before giving his prediction based on his research. “Most likely, the Princess Disappearances happen to people with an inherited name or the people around them.”
“I cannot say so for certain. There are exceptions like Vice President Honda-kun’s mother. Neither Honda-kun nor her father has an inherited name, after all. All I can say is there is pattern with some exceptions.”
Neshinbara held up his right hand. He produced a sign frame, made sure Macbeth did not burst from the bandages wrapped around his right arm, and produced a certain diagram from his own personal databank.
Several rectangles were connected from top to bottom by lines.
“Is this a genealogy?” asked Sakai as he peered at it.
“Judge. It is a genealogy of inherited names, centered on the different student councils and chancellor’s officers. Of these, there are still none who are known for sure to be victims, but with some certainly seem to have disappeared.”
“That’s a scary thing to hear. I ran across something like that recently.”
“That’s another mystery. You have an inherited name and you witnessed a Princess Disappearance, but it’s been over a month and you haven’t disappeared.”
“You make it sound like you want me to disappear. We can’t have that.” Sakai looked back at the genealogy. “But it is true the different countries need to be clearer when their inherited names retire. Of course, making things so clear can be taken advantage of and people can be given opposing inherited names, so the bigger the name, the more likely they are to simply disappear one day.”
“Was it the same with Ii Naomasa?”
“Yeah, it was.”
The bitter smile on Sakai’s face prompted Neshinbara to apologize, but Sakai’s bitter smile only deepened.
“What is your personal opinion at this point? I want to know how you feel about it.”
“Judge. I have no proof, but whether this is a naturally occurring mysterious phenomenon or something artificial, it isn’t completely random. It is targeted toward those with inherited names and those related to them.”
“What is it?”
“Judge.” Sakai nodded and pointed at the genealogy. “I would appreciate it if you would continue investigating this. I don’t really know how to use the divine network.”
“I suppose not.”
Neshinbara smiled bitterly and raised his right arm while looking up at a loaded transport ship heading to Tama. He used his left hand to lightly tap on the bandages wrapped around his right arm.
“But I wish something could be done about this.”
As Neshinbara looked at his bandaged arm, Sakai took a breath and asked a question.
“Is that stylish curse difficult to deal with?”
“There’s nothing stylish about it. It’s just plain difficult,” replied Neshinbara.
…It’s more dangerous than it is inconvenient.
“President Sakai, have you ever been cursed?”
“Yes, back when I was in active duty. I had it immediately purified with a ‘Song of Atsuta’ purification, so I only had to avoid drinking alcohol for two or three days. What’s a modern curse like?”
“I subconsciously do things to harm my king.” Neshinbara shrugged. “While using the divine network, the words of Macbeth will expand without me noticing and it will use a sign frame behind me to try to leak information on the student council. It also tries to send divine messages containing other inside information.”
“So it’s like a virus?”
“In relation to the divine network, yes. The curse is based on the character of Macbeth, so it can correspond to other things as well. The scariest one was when it tried to carve a knife out of a cokepen in class. That one was bad.”
Sakai tilted his head and finally slid his fingers horizontally across his throat.
“Like that? To Toori?”
“No, I apparently tried to throw it. I was actually trying to sharpen the pen to write with, but according to Honda…Samurai Honda-kun who noticed and stopped me, my fingers were holding the blade and preparing to throw it.”
“Not bad, Da-chan’s daughter. …Had anyone else noticed?”
Neshinbara started to shake his head but stopped.
“Oh, Oriotorai-sensei had. When I went to discuss taking some time off from the academy, she held a pen in her fingers and asked ‘because of this?’ ”
I guess this is part of growing more experienced, thought Neshinbara with a sigh.
“When I was at home typing up a manuscript for an event, I all of a sudden realized I had ordered a ton of tear-jerking porn games to be delivered to the student council. That one was really serious. About three of them were shipped because I didn’t cancel them in time, but it was more of an issue for my printing budget than for Aoi-kun’s life. After all, he has Asama-kun and Urquiaga-kun to ‘test for poison’. Also…”
“When I check the divine network at home, I just find a bunch of criticism about me. When I try to do something else such as working on my manuscript, I end up thinking about how everyone will complain that I’m doing that when I should be doing student council work. That may be true right now, but I start wondering if they will keep saying it even when I get back to work and only work on my manuscript in my free time. Those thoughts keep me from focusing on the manuscript. What about you, President Sakai? How do you handle it when people say things to you on a daily basis?”
“Well, I’m old enough to just brush it off by telling them not to push an old man so hard. And when I was younger, the divine network was not this advanced. It only existed on a very local level, but that meant both sides had to bet everything when they argued.”
“Sakakibara-sama made a name for himself like that, didn’t he?”
“That’s right. But how does the current Sakakibara plan to make a name for himself?”
“I don’t have the skill needed for an inherited name and right now I’m only a hindrance.”
“Sakakibara was often a hindrance to us.”
“Really?” asked Neshinbara.
“When we were fighting the remnants of Imagawa, that idiot suddenly said ‘Ah, it’s time for cram school! Bye!” when it turned 6 PM. You can’t just say bye! Losing you means losing one of our walls! To get back at him, Da-chan and I threw the Imagawa students through the windows of the cram school.”
“Not much has changed with you, has it?”
“But,” said Sakai. “I think hesitation is a good thing. It’s these times you spend wondering what to do that you can look back on and realize how full a life you lived. But if you want to remove that curse, I think your best bet is to ask that English girl.”
“I can meet her and complete the play to bring Macbeth to an end, I can move even further from England, or I can choose to step down from the stage… I suppose that last one means it will disappear if I quit the student council.”
“The festival preparations begin the day after tomorrow. What will you do?”
“They’re holding a doujinshi event then and I had planned to attend. I doubt anyone will stop by my booth, but I guess I’ll be leaving the festival preparations to the others.”
He let out an exasperated sigh and opened a sign frame.
“According to Augesvarer-kun’s message, they’re eating yakiniku on a fourth level beach tonight. She also said something about a hot spring. What are they up to down there?”
“They’re always up to something.”
“Judge,” said Neshinbara as if replying to his own question. He then glanced at the school building behind them. “I’ve been keeping my distance for two weeks now and they really are strange when viewed from outside.”
Night fell and the cold air descended from the sky.
Light filled a beach next to the shallow ocean. That beach bordered a village on a low hill.
The lights were gathered just a bit up the beach from the receding waves. Several fires were built there. They illuminated metal plates placed over other fires built down in holes in the sand. Gathered around those metal plates were people, both human and non-human.
Most of them wore Far Eastern uniforms, but some of them were locals who had close to a 50/50 ratio between human and non-human. They were gathered here for one reason.
“I am Treasurer Shirojiro Bertoni of Musashi Ariadust Academy’s student council. With the coming spring festival preparations and festival proper, I look forward to the friendship between our two countries, to my money, and to my profit.”
“Shiro-kun, Shiro-kun. Convincing them based on their emotions and taking all the profit for yourself is fine, but you probably shouldn’t announce it like that.”
“I see. I suppose it would be best to make an apology here, Heidi. Now, everyone, it seems I have to pretend this festival is to bring friendship between our two countries. It is a pain, but-…”
“You aren’t apologizing at all!” shouted everyone else.
Shirojiro nodded in response.
“Do not worry. If your throat dries out from complaining so much and you need a drink, you will be forced to visit a merchant. I can listen to your complaints all day long, so you will continue to lose more and more. And now that we know who stands at the top, let us continue,” he said. “Listen. Whenever a merchant says he will treat you to something, you can assume he has an ulterior motive, but if someone else is paying you to eat, eat as much as you can. The more you eat, the more you gain. Let us enjoy the feast tonight. Laugh, enjoy yourselves, and chat with each other. The smiles are free, after all. Now, a toast to our countries’ friendship and to my glorious money!”
Everyone silently hung their heads down and clanked their glasses and mugs together.
On the westernmost end of the gathering, Oriotorai stood from her seat with a wine cask attached to the hard point at her waist. Her face was already red.
“Let’s eat yakiniku someone else is paying for!”
With that, the feast (supposedly) for friendship began.
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