Horizon:Volume 2 Chapter 27
Chapter 27: One who Stands Alone in the Stage Wing
When two people are not a pair
Even when together
What do you call them?
Point Allocation (Relationship)
…The immediate situation is similar to a date, but the overall situation makes us enemies.
In the event warehouse, Neshinbara stared silently forward with the half-lidded eyes that had not left his face for a while now. His arms dangled by his sides and he had no desire to eat the lunch he had bought.
…Crossunite-kun has been receiving a lunch from that cloaked man. It’s like that man is his loving wife, but that thought scares me. Plus, it’s usually Crossunite-kun who plays the wife role in the doujinshi.
With that thought, he suddenly felt something from his right arm.
It throbbed. It felt like a painful itching was scratching at all the blood vessels in that arm.
He felt like someone was grabbing the back of his hand from above, so he raised his hand. Glowing strings of writing had appeared not just around the hand with its bulging blood vessels but around the bandages as well.
The pain and itching of Macbeth was pulsating. But the rhythm of that pulse was not his own. And that caused the discomfort to intensify into a power that was attempting to control him. Neshinbara turned to the right to look at the one who had created Macbeth. That controlling pulse belonged to…
His voice grew quieter partway through speaking her name. Strings of writing were slowly coming from her long hair and falling to the floor. He only noticed it now because the angle of the sunlight passing through the ceiling had changed. But…
“What play have you started!? And why!?”
She did not respond, but his question was answered by their surroundings.
He heard laughter. That laughter which sounded both like mocking laughter and snickering came from the canyon before his eyes. The laughter was in response to his shouted questions, but it was strangely solid and loud.
…They aren’t even trying to hide it!? Why?
And then it hit him.
“You put a curse on the customers!?”
“No. What a rude misunderstanding,” muttered Shakespeare while she closed her book. The laughter of the surrounding people formed the background music of their exchange. “I have prepared a stage for us to confront each other. This is a prototype barrier-style stage that will prevent damage to the city or its people and keep all of you from escaping. It is up to everyone else whether it will be used. The ones out in London are the eight members of the Trumps other than the queen, Jonson, Dudley, Cecil, and Grace.”
Eight names were displayed on the sign frame she showed him.
8. Assistant Secretary: Nicholas Bacon – Hammer user and trickster. Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England.
7. Treasurer: Charles Howard – Naval admiral. Wealthy common sense man. No combat ability.
5-1. Francis Drake – Hard Wolf and naval vice admiral. Essentially the commander. Testamenta Arma user.
5-2. John Hawkins – Drake’s companion. Swimsuit man.
5-3. Thomas Cavendish – Drake and the others’ underclassman. Mermaid woman.
3. Christopher Hatton – Lord Chancellor and Living Bones.
2. F. Walsingham – Automaton leader of the public morals committee. Spymaster.
1. Walter Raleigh – Far Easterner. Elizabeth’s wartime advisor.
“Even the ones without official positions can rival an army on their own and even I, one of the Eight Great Dragon Kings, view them as strange. Ever since the Trumps were formed, we have not had special duty officers like other academies, but do not let your guard down. Whether human or not, they are representatives of this land of non-humans.”
“Why are they doing this!?”
She went on to say exactly what he feared she would.
“You don’t get it? When Musashi arrived, the Trumps were assembled and we made a unanimous decision. We will keep Musashi here in England to use it in our negotiations with the Testament Union and other nations.”
“Wait,” muttered Neshinbara. “Then…”
He was already standing up from his chair.
“Then was this festival a trap?”
“It was not a trap,” replied Shakespeare while still facing forward. “It is a cultural exchange. In the form of dueling. And if the one we duel is defeated, we earn the right to duel someone of a higher level.”
Neshinbara thought on the meaning of “someone of a higher level”.
“You’re going to defeat someone to earn the right to duel our chancellor?”
“Your chancellor is known as Mr. Impossible, but he is ranked at the top, both as chancellor and student council president. To duel him, someone at least at the level of vice chancellor or vice president would be best. However, this was suggested by Howard and Jonson, so no one is ranked that high. That is why we must duel and defeat someone at the level of secretary, treasurer, or special duty officer. We must prove we have the strength to duel someone of higher rank. So if any one of our people win, Musashi’s chancellor will be drawn inside my theatre space as he enjoys himself in London. There, he will duel that winner.”
“Do you really think you can do that?”
She must think they can, thought Neshinbara.
But Shakespeare’s response was different.
“I don’t know.” She tilted her head and spoke as if she barely even cared. “All I had to do was prepare the stage. I prefer creating more than I do fighting. If what I create results in a battle, that will help the others, but it is not my style to create for that reason.”
“Then...” began Neshinbara. “Why did you give me the curse of Macbeth?”
“Oh,” said Shakespeare as if she had only just remembered. “I wanted a critic like you to know what it feels like to be criticized.”
“Now,” muttered Shakespeare as she looked forward once more. “It is all up to the others. And a quick warning: if you try to warn Musashi’s chancellor or do anything else, I will not hesitate to enclose you in the theatre space.”
“Are you holding me hostage?”
“Do not be ridiculous. I am simply saying there may be a continuation to the play everyone is beginning now. They may reach the ultimate encore by dueling Musashi’s chancellor.” She ignored Neshinbara as he clenched his teeth and she continued facing forward. “According to Howard, we will prevent Musashi from continuing on and then we will invite you into England. That seems to be the plan.”
“Because the Testament Union will not accept ‘we were unable to do anything to Musashi’ or ‘we settled things through political negotiations’ as excuses. You already caused a military conflict at Mikawa, so an equal reaction is expected from us. If we do not provide it, the Testament Union will make us pay the price.”
“But Musashi is a dangerous stage. After setting foot there once, everyone knew that holding the battle there would be a bad idea. Instead, we let you land, so we can confront you on our home turf. And while driving your emergency stores down, we used the possibility of negotiations and the festival as bait to keep you from fleeing to another nation. When you agreed to the festival and sent out an ambassador, Howard was delighted. With the ambassador in our grasp, Musashi cannot send itself or its transport ships down to the city and we can use her as a hostage to draw in the other officers. If this fails, we are prepared to write it off as a piece of ‘festival entertainment’. That is why the stage I have prepared is the comedy Much Ado About Nothing.”
“You’ll regret this.”
Neshinbara’s line did not produce a nod from Shakespeare. She merely brushed up her hair to better show the writing spilling out of it.
“As long as I can perform a test run on my barrier-style theatre space, it does not matter to me.”
She sat cross-legged on her chair, pulled a new novel from the paper bag next to her, and continued speaking.
“Also, this is a desperate attempt for the others. But that means it should be enough to stop any complaints from the Testament Union. None of the other nations have fought you on their mainland, so this should give us an advantage over the others. This is a battle between representatives, but this is based in the single combat allowed by the academy rules for battles between nations. If they have any complaints, they will have to base their complaints in the academy rules.
“What do you think? Will your comrades be captured and made into bargaining chips or will they play their roles in the play and face the audience for the curtain call? My Lord Chamberlain’s Men is barrier-style this time. With our two groups up on the stage and unable to escape, there will be no damage to the audience or the props on the stage. We only need to remember that this is our home turf and defeat you. Negotiations, combat, spells…anything goes. If even one of our officers wins, we will have the card needed to stop Musashi and the right to duel Mr. Impossible. You understand the rest, don’t you? We have a hostage and this is our home turf, but this is a play.
“Welcome to the festival. I look forward to seeing everyone’s performance. How about you?” She took a breath. “As the producer, let me say this: ladies and gentlemen, it is time to raise the curtain.”
It happened suddenly.
It began with what looked like a slight shudder from Asama. That immediately told Mitotsudaira what had happened.
She gently bent her knees and grasped the tight arms on the ends of the silver chains with her slightly spread hands.
She looked down and saw the metal fingers that resembled giant red jewels or decorations. They glowed dully in her hands and her fingertips stretched out nervously.
She was prepared to begin fighting at any moment.
And then she saw a single tamagushi stabbed into the ground at Asama’s feet.
That tamagushi was meant to create a barrier.
Shirasago Enterprises, sponsor of the Asama Shrine, was a sister corporation of IZUMO and it primarily produced Shinto products. They were known for producing Shinto equipment in a more serious vein than IZUMO, which was still growing, but they had no real idiosyncrasies. However, that was the safest option when facing an unknown threat in a foreign land.
Asama’s tamagushi was made from strengthened oak wood, it was lacquered white, and the sharpened tip glowed due to the spell which increased its penetrative power. A circular design covered the area within three meters of the tamagushi and a certain change occurred there.
Bluish-white text gushed up from the ground and wrapped around Shirasago sponsor logo and the musical text purifying the inside of the circular barrier. The logo and text quickly began to waver. As Mitotsudaira wondered what this was, she arrived at a certain memory.
As soon as she had that thought, Asama loudly stepped forward with her right leg. She clapped once.
With her voice, the strings of words from the script inside the circle shattered.
At the same time, the circle on the ground settled in place and the barrier was complete.
Mitotsudaira did not know what spell had caused those bluish-white words that now disappeared into the atmosphere. However, she did know that Asama’s barrier was a safe place now that it was complete.
And that was why she stepped toward the barrier.
“Tomo, what is…?”
She was going to say “happening”.
But then Mitotsudaira realized a certain fact.
Asama and Kimi vanished before her eyes.
Mitotsudaira was confused by Asama and Kimi’s disappearance.
It was not an illusion.
But the two were gone. Asama had set up the barrier, and yet they had vanished.
The surrounding people were still here, so what had happened?
That pair had large mass…or rather, volume, so it would create a huge burden to make them vanish. It pained her to admit it, but she would have been much easier to make vanish. So what was going on?
A sudden thought came to her and she turned around. Black and gold wings and hair had been there a moment before, but…
…They’re gone too!?
Mitotsudaira raised her hips and gently had one silver chain scratch at the area Naito and Naruze had been and another at the area Asama and Kimi had been. But the chains found nothing and they tilted their heads.
She looked around again while once again wondering what had happened.
She realized the people were looking toward her. They were not muttering to themselves and they were not causing a commotion.
They were simply turning expectant gazes in her direction with a sound similar to the moving of the tide. As they looked up at her, they all had thin and joyous smiles plastered on their faces.
And she spoke the answer she had arrived at.
“This is some kind of barrier. Given the people England has at their disposal, this is likely a ‘stage’ created by Shakespeare’s spell. And this is a combat stage that draws in only the chosen representative and an audience that will enjoy the battle.”
“Have we all been taken to separate stages for duels between students!?”
It had begun. This would be a battle between England and Musashi in the form of duels between their representatives.
They were in a dangerous position, but so was someone else.
“Suzu is in trouble in her role as ambassador.”
But then Mitotsudaira shook her head. Suzu had Adele and Futayo with her.
And if she could leave Suzu to those two, there was something else she had to do.
…My king is on a date and trying to determine his policy!
How would Musashi and the Far East face the other nations from now on? Her king was attempting to make up his mind on that issue.
And if someone was intending to bring harm to that king in the form of a confrontation…
“As a knight, I will let my king and princess enjoy this festival!”
Mitotsudaira ran forward. She doubted she could meet her king in this strange space.
“But we will all do everything we can to see this festival through to the end!”
In order to protect that festival, Musashi’s knight raced on while praying.
Toori: Sis! Sis! La la lan♪ Lan lan laan lan lan laan♪
Kimi: Heh heh heh. ♪-brother, please stop with openings that make me worry about you. You wish to ask about the Landsknechte that Mitotsudaira mentioned, don’t you?
Toori: What’s with that name? It’s a pain-in-the-ass to pronounce.
Kimi: It isn’t actually known why they are known as the Landsknechte. It’s thought to be a mixture and/or corrupted form of a name for an area of land, a word for knight, and other things. The mercenary culture has actually existed for a long time, but the knights fell into ruin after around the 10th century and their fall was hastened by the crusades, so the ruined knights began working as mercenaries to earn money.
Toori: And that’s how the Landsknechte got famous?
Kimi: No. The first ones to get famous were the Kriegs Georgern who fought for the independence of Switzerland. They did not stay within Switzerland and worked outside of the country, so sometimes Kriegs Georgern members would oppose each other on the battlefield. They were known as the ultimate mercenary group due to their regulated method of combat. The Landsknechte copied them while adding on the fact that they were former knights and wore gaudy outfits. The different countries and principalities were at war, so the mercenary commanders would immediately begin recruiting whenever war broke out nearby. They were not a standing army, so they had no constant maintenance costs. This made them easy to use for whoever hired them. The Landsknechte stood out well, so their services became well known. This led to them spreading everywhere. At the time, anyone could become a mercenary and it was a good way of earning prestige.
They were armed with pikes, halberds, and short swords. They were also issued rifles when they were available. They could be hired for 4 gulden a month (approx. 400,000 yen). They had their own laws, they formed regiments made of ten 300-600 men companies, and they had a number of different officer positions, but the most interesting part was the inspection for entering the Landsknechte, their oath to god, and the joint decision-making right that allowed lower ranked members to gather together and give their opinion to their commander. They were like knights in some ways and more modern in others. The mercenary group would form a sort of small city with a canteen they could all eat at, prostitutes that were everyone’s mother, and even a judicial system. Everyone was equal under the law. It was probably a comfortable place for those who had nowhere else to go.
Toori: Nwoooh! Isn’t that a lot of information?
Kimi: Be a bit more patient. Anyway, at around the 16th century, the central countries of Europe used mercenaries to wage war, but the wars grew larger and dragged on longer than expected. The costs piled up, the mercenaries had little experience because the group would break apart once the war was over, and the mercenaries’ equipment was not the best, so having a standing army became the better option. The mercenaries would also loot, so they were rough on the countries they fought in. It reached the point that they even had terms like joint looting (stealing as a group and distributing it) and wildcat looting (stealing on one’s own and keeping it all for oneself).
Toori: Sounds like something from a video game.
Kimi: Did you even hear a word I said besides “looting”?
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