Horizon:Volume 2 Chapter 25
Chapter 25: Ruler of the Theatre
What are the odds
Of an uninvited guest showing up?
Point Allocation (Feeling of Distance)
London covered a large portion of the southern side of England’s second level. The Thames River was the primary waterway and the city was divided into a few different sections.
The festival was held on the main streets, parades were held daily, and food stands had been set up. And on the side streets, local stands and stores provided food, dancing, and music.
Due to the history recreation, London was divided into two major sections: the northeast section known as the City which handled things such as trade and the southwestern section known as Westminster which contained the political and religious facilities. Between the two sections was the royal family’s hunting ground known as Soho. The areas of Soho bordering the two sections contained a lot of residential land.
The festival was centered on a plaza in Soho and a lot of the surrounding buildings (especially trade warehouses on the City side) were being used for events.
Some warehouses were used for business with Musashi. Some were used to store festival stands and supplies for groups taking part in the festival. Others were used to sell local crops or as dining halls to serve them.
One warehouse to the south displayed the logo of ArchsArt, England’s representative corporation, and the number 16. It was 100 meters long and 50 meters wide, and it contained countless long tables arranged to sell printed books.
It was a convention for selling self-published materials.
The wooden building had the tall roof common to warehouses and it was filled with people. The convention inside was known as the “Incomparably Esteemed Doujinshi-Lovers Club” which the signs abbreviated to “IncEst Club”. This abbreviation concerned some people, did not bother some others in the slightest, and caused a few to accuse the convention runners of false advertising.
The area was very crowded and the only gaps existed in the enclosed area created by the creators’ tables and the snack spots in the corners. It was easy to control the lines by the walls, so a balance between guidance and crowd concentration had been achieved. The lines extended outside, so ventilation was not a problem.
However, there was one area by the wall that had no line or crowd.
The long tables usually had two sellers at them, but the tables by the wall were made for major sellers and thus had only one to a table. This allocation made it clear that a certain seller had no line.
That seller was Neshinbara.
His printed book was placed on the table and he had a decorative fisherman’s flag bearing the circle name “Missed Fish”.
But no customers approached. With half-lidded eyes, Neshinbara sat in his chair and watched the surrounding sellers gradually work through their lines.
While standing in line, people with similar tastes would exchange information and discuss their hobbies. Common topics of discussion were artists with inherited names, those artists’ works, and fan works based on those works.
“As a flat-lover, should I go for Muromachi Room’s new work ‘Flat Chronicles: Volume 20’ first? Or should I go for a new awakening with ‘Non-Flat Chronicles’ from the original author, Imagawa Sadayo?”
“I know I’ve got to get my hands on ‘A Basara Farewell!’ that is supposed to bring an end to the popularity of writing about the Nanboku-cho period. Something new is going to overthrow it.”
“You know Geoffrey Chaucer’s short game collection ‘Canterbury Tales’ that follows multiple occupations, right? What number is it up to now? I tried playing ‘Final Canterbury Quest’ for the next-gen console, but it just confused me when it started with ‘Occupation: Slime – Job: Sticky Liquid’.”
Everyone was speaking cheerfully about things like that. Beyond them was another line for those receiving a light crucifixion as punishment for cutting in line or running through the crowded convention center. The men running that wore a mask and no shirt.
“Okay, the end of the line is back there,” one of them said. “Please form a straight line. It will be over soon enough, okay? You’ll just feel a slight stabbing sensation, so raise your hand if it hur- Run and I’ll drive this scorching stake into you!!”
That area was quite lively.
…European execution grounds always stink of burnt flesh.
Neshinbara occasionally spotted a familiar face passing by and they would raise a hand in greeting so as not to disturb the lines on either side. Neshinbara would stand up and begin raising his right hand.
And then raise his left hand which was not wrapped in bandages with spells written on them. The other person would soon lower their hand and walk off to their next destination.
The convention would continue throughout the festival period with novel sales, comic sales, video sales, etc., but any one seller could only stay for one day. The popular works would be sold across the Far East through the Far East Academy Stores, but they would only have so many in stock. Any passionate fans wanted to line up and get their copy as quickly as possible.
And if they were seeking and attempting to acquire what they believed in, the buyers were the main character in their relationship with the work in question.
The high spirits of these main characters would continue even after returning home and speaking with others. It would not leave until the next work was released.
The roof of the building could open and it was opened just slightly, so the morning sun and wind had a way in. Even so, the light had difficulty reaching the walls and the lines to Neshinbara’s left and right blocked the light out like canyon walls.
But as noon slowly approached, the thin line of light rose above the people’s heads. Only then did it finally fall on the floor in front of Neshinbara.
The light should have illuminated a deserted canyon floor, but it was not deserted.
Someone stood there.
The girl wore England’s girls uniform with the skirt and sleeves removed, but she did wear a kinked white coat over it. She wore thick glasses with the sides placed over her long ears, she wore a backpack, and she held a novel and a paper bag.
A stir ran through the people forming the canyon walls. They turned curious eyes in her direction, but no one was able to utter an actual comment.
…Is this what you call awe?
They were curious. They could not look away. They turned their ears toward her to hear any words spoken.
But they were afraid of saying something and having that curiosity turned back on them. More importantly, if anything they said would simply be ignored…
…Then they might as well say nothing.
A girl suddenly ran out from the line to the right.
With a theatre pamphlet in hand, a girl ran from the line and toward Shakespeare. A woman who seemed to be the girl’s mother frantically walked out of the line after her.
Neshinbara glanced to the right and saw the line was for something titled “Gothic Hamlet Drawings: Costume Pattern Collection”. It was an art book containing costume patterns and design drawings. Different corporations used different interpretations to mass produce clothing with spells and machines, but families in areas with poor distribution were forced to make their own school uniforms based on patterns. That culture had spread to the cities as a way of creating one’s own fashion. This allowed people to wear clothes from the same era as the main characters of the novels and plays in the Testament descriptions.
…That’s a luxury only possible with the Testament.
Hamlet was one of Shakespeare’s four great tragedies. Its official title was “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark”. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, took revenge against his uncle who killed his father and stole the throne and his mother, but he ultimately lost the woman Ophelia who had feelings for him and both killed and was killed by the young man Laertes who could have become his friend. He died after asking his friend to pass the story on to the people. Hamlet feigned madness and faced evil with evil but lost so very much. He was popular with both men and women, but there was another difference between the girl and mother standing in the center of the canyon.
“Even with the generation gap, they both accept the contents of the play.”
Wanting to wear the costumes from the play most likely meant they wanted to become a part of the play.
It was no different from putting on makeup and becoming the ideal version of oneself.
…That means Hamlet lets some people become an ideal version of themselves.
Macbeth in Neshinbara’s right hand throbbed.
This is so much trouble, he thought while Shakespeare stopped and let the girl face her.
The girl held the pamphlet out toward Shakespeare.
Neshinbara thought the girl would ask for Shakespeare’s autograph, but she said something else.
For an instant, Neshinbara did not understand what the girl meant.
But it slowly dawned on him.
That one word appeared in the bottom of his gut.
He understood what the girl was trying to say to Shakespeare.
…Everything she saw, heard, felt, and learned in Hamlet belongs to Shakespeare.
The pamphlet was just the physical form of her memories. She could hold it in her hands and she wanted to express her feelings to the author now that she saw that author.
“Stop that,” said the mother as she frantically ran over, but Shakespeare stared blankly for a moment before responding.
“Testament.” She crouched down to put herself on eye level with the girl. “Thank you, little Ophelia.”
“No. I’m Hamlet!”
“Is that so?”
“What is your name?” asked Shakespeare with a smile to the girl.
From behind the girl, the mother looked up into the sky to feign ignorance.
Realizing the situation, Shakespeare held her hand over the pamphlet. She muttered something under her breath and fragments of light scattered from her paper bag and into the air. And something was created in place of that scattering light.
Writing appeared on the surface of the pamphlet in the girl’s hand.
The girl had her back to Neshinbara, but he could see the pamphlet over her shoulder as she held it up. Shakespeare had not written her signature with that spell. A new name had been written next to the title of Hamlet.
“ ‘Ophelia’. Perhaps those two can continue being together one day. …And with that in mind, have this passage from Hamlet: ‘costly thy habit as thy purse can buy’. Do exactly that, girl.”
With a word of thanks, the girl showed her prize to her mother. From his position, Neshinbara could only see the mother’s bowing back, but he doubted her expression was a bad one.
Shakespeare stood up and slowly turned toward the line to the right. She then spoke to a student midway through the line.
“Could you let this lady and her child in? After all, she did not hesitate to leave the line when her child ran out. I think it is only fair to let her back in.”
Not a word was spoken in response.
But a space was opened in the line and let the girl and mother in with a bow. Shakespeare lowered her head toward all of them.
“You have my thanks.”
“Don’t worry about it,” muttered someone. It was likely a Musashi resident who did not know Shakespeare very well. “The worst thing to do to a child is give them a bad memory.”
Someone from England spoke next.
“After growing up, you really want to give them good memories.”
“Yeah,” replied someone who could have been from either place. “Ha ha. We at least succeeded on one side of that!”
“Yes,” agreed everyone as the girl and her mother sank into the line.
It was unclear who that comment was directed at, so Shakespeare and everyone else responded with either “testament” or “judge”.
Someone then began to move. Shakespeare turned toward Neshinbara and began walking toward him once more.
Her smile vanished and she silently stood before the full pile of books on the long table in front of him.
“Is the seat next to you free?” she finally asked.
Neshinbara had expected her to ask about his book, so he was unsure how to respond.
“Eh? Oh, um…”
“It is, isn’t it?”
A stir ran through the surrounding crowd as she pushed aside the long desk to walk behind it and arrived at his right side. She sat in an empty chair that had been prepared but no one was using.
…Why would you come over here just to read a novel?
She buried her face in the novel she held and began reading.
The stir in the crowd finally vanished. The only movements were the gentle flow of the surrounding lines and the mother and child bowing both to Shakespeare and those in the line after buying what they had lined up for.
That was the only point at which Shakespeare looked up from her book.
She nodded and bowed her head a bit. After that, only silence and motionless remained.
As he felt the pressure of that silence, Neshinbara had a question about this foreign name-inheritor.
…Why is she even here?
The bandages around his right hand and the lack of sales for his book were both her fault. Then again, if one took his earlier criticism of her works as the initial cause, this could be viewed as her revenge.
The next thing he knew, she had finished reading her book and begun flipping through the one he had written. The book contained a small short story and a literary criticism. Specifically, self criticism.
“W-wait a second!”
She ignored him. She was completely immersed in reading it, but he did not feel that was because of the quality of his writing. After all, her reading style led her to read anything this way. If he physically took the book from her, he was sure she would counterattack using the curse.
He could not interfere. As he endured the joyous stirring of the writing in his right arm brought on by the proximity of its master, Neshinbara waited for the half-lived girl to finish reading the book he had written and place it on the table. And he cut in before she could pull a new book from her paper bag.
“Why are you here?” he asked.
She did not even turn toward him as she answered.
“I see you are still creating things like this.”
“Are you trying to say you would have written something else if you had written this after confronting me?”
It was possible. It annoyed him that he could not deny her influence on him, but he decided saying nothing would be best. He sat back down in his seat, folded his arms, and faced forward.
“I would appreciate it if you continued doing that.”
“Please do not look at me.”
It irked him all the more because she was not looking toward him. But if they were ignoring each other like that, was there any meaning in exchanging words?
Is this a new form of harassment, wondered Neshinbara with a sigh.
“Yes, that is for the best. After all, you cannot act with Macbeth in effect.”
Her words bothered Neshinbara, so he responded while still facing forward.
“Why do you say it’s for the best that I can’t act?”
“A lot is going to happen, but it is for the best that you stay like this,” said Shakespeare. “Let us discuss many things.”
We can discuss all sorts of things today, thought Scarred in a wheat field.
In the distance to the north, the third level looked like a towering wall made of earth and stone. The second level could similarly be seen even further away. The sounds of fireworks and low rumble of the people and music resounded in her body even more than the ocean waves.
Meanwhile, Tenzou spoke from directly in front of her while looking at the ears of wheat.
“Hm. You have planted a few different varieties, but I see no problem from a soil standpoint. The Far Eastern style of condensed planting should be possible. If you include legumes, you can grow multiple crops per year.”
“In the European style, the wheat is not simply sown in tilled land. Small ridges like this are made and the seeds are buried inside them. It protects the seeds and makes maintenance and harvesting easier, right?”
“Judge. It takes a fair bit of effort, so it is a decision you must make.” He stood up and turned toward her. “During a crop shortage or when you need the income, it is good to provide the possibility for those willing to put in the effort. Oh, but you should at least redo the waterway.” He indicated a few points on the land. “The current waterway passes over a mostly dirt crust, so the water seeps underground. You should redo it along the line from somewhere near the field – like where that tree is over there – and to that rocky area on the other side. Over the past few days, I laid out some cloth at night to check, and it seems there is bedrock below that line. The water will not seep underground much and any that escapes will flow into the fields on either side. Also, using that line will help when a village is created at the base of the mountain.”
“Judge,” replied Scarred, but it was a sign of admiration rather than agreement.
She saw Tenzou stretch and let out a sigh because their inspection for the day was complete.
…Honestly, he works so much.
Over the past few days, he had prepared for the spring school festival, helped her in the early mornings, and exchanged ideas with the local people. He had interesting and unique methods for treating crop diseases, searching for water, and other things. Scarred felt his presence was quite significant. In England, people would resolve those problems by listening to the voices of spirits, but not many people could use spirit techniques. The methods were less certain, but anyone could use Tenzou’s methods. That meant a lot.
According to him, his agricultural knowledge was so he could get along with the locals while on a spy mission. She had laughed when she had heard that.
…He is completely unaware that his current actions are no different from getting along with the locals to spy on them.
Pointing it out would sound like she was suspicious of him, so she had said nothing. She had felt bad for laughing, so she had made a portable lunch for him whenever he went off to prepare for the school festival. When she had seen the box after he returned on the first day, it had been clear others had swiped some of the food, so she had given him even more on the subsequent days.
And this was the first day of the festival.
He was taking a break on the festival’s first day, so they had been together since morning. The water lilies in the spring by the hot spring had begun to blossom, so they had eaten lunch there and stayed afterwards.
Tomorrow, he intended to spend the morning running messages and checking on supplies at the festival. Once the festival began for the day, he planned to take morning and afternoon shifts. He would spend the week doing that.
…And then he will leave.
She would no longer be able to see him.
Despite her thoughts, he folded his arms as he looked at the surrounding fields.
“Wheat is fine, but I think you can grow some even better crops. Growing rice as they do elsewhere would be perfect, but England has no provisional rule over Far Eastern land and setting up paddies takes a lot of work.”
“Judge. We couldn’t do that even if we wanted to. It requires altering the land on too large a scale.”
Scarred wished they could talk about other things, but time continued on and she could not think of anything to talk about.
“I am sure you have noticed, but England’s crust is almost directly below the ground, so growing wheat quickly leaves the land barren. That is why we need to grow other crops like legumes to bring back the land’s fertility. The practice of growing legumes like clovers to improve the land has been spreading to various areas, but it isn’t quite enough. The spirits like to play around and assist the improvement when they find a four-leafed clover, though. It would be nice if we could grow potatoes which can grow even in land with low fertility, but there is that story about the Fairy Queen saying potatoes are poisonous. That is why IZUMO has been working on breeding a poisonous potato for killing rats. They are calling it the Potato Smasher.”
“I heard they tried to create one that exploded five seconds after being pulled from the ground, but the project was scrapped after the experimental field was destroyed by a chain reaction of explosions. If only the troubles we cause other nations could remain more subdued. For one thing, that isn’t even about poison anymore. At any rate, it seems the Fairy Queen’s rule is not all good.”
“Oh, my. Saying that kind of thing around here can get you arrested for treason.”
“Judge. My apologies.”
As soon as Tenzou spoke, he heard the sound of a bell. It came from far off in the north.
“That sounds like an academy’s bell. What bell is it?”
“Judge. That is the bell in the Tower of London’s chapel,” slowly replied Scarred. “That is the sign of Double Bloody Mary’s…that is, Mary Stuart’s weekly appearance. She simply looks outside from the viewing platform of one of the towers.”
She looked to the north where clouds filled the sky.
“If the armada battle is to begin in a week’s time, she will probably only make one or two more appearances. Once the sounds of the festival vanish from London, it will be time for her execution.”
“Judge,” said Scarred. “Master Tenzou…”
She suddenly asked him a question.
“What do you think about the execution of Double Bloody Mary?”
Scarred listened to the ninja answer her question.
He often began a response that way when he wanted to think about it first. She waited a while longer and he finally gave an answer.
“As a ninja, I cannot say anything about a decision that someone like you has made.”
She tried to ask if he approved of the execution, but he let out a quiet breath and continued speaking.
“I am a ninja after all.”
Hearing that, she finally caught on. He was saying that this was not what he actually thought. But no matter what he thought, he could not reject the decision of someone in a higher position than him. And so he said even more.
“Y-you call it an execution, but some other method has been prepared as an interpretation, correct?”
Scarred focused on the fact that he had asked the question more than the question itself.
…He is hoping it will work out somehow or another.
And what did that mean his true thoughts were? Scarred thought on that fact for a moment.
“Judge,” she said. “An interpretation is being used to make the execution a means of saving Mary Stuart.”
“Judge. That is good…”
Before he could say “to hear”, he stopped and scratched at his head.
“My apologies. I said too much.”
“It’s fine,” she said with a smile.
She appreciated it. She was thankful that he felt that way and she was thankful and glad to have this time with him.
She heard fireworks in the distance.
As noon approached, the festival arrived at its first peak.
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