Horizon:Volume 3B Chapter 31
Chapter 31: Traveler at a Crossroads
When you ask which way to go
The answer is not a path
So what is it?
Point Allocation (Destination)
Naomasa’s questioning voice rose from the loading port on the back of Takao, the Musashi’s third starboard ship.
Jizuri Suzaku stood behind her and she rested a large wrench on her shoulder.
…Hexagone Française’s flagcraft, the Palais-Cardinal, wants to defect?
The silver God of War sat with a sheet tied to its spear to act as a white flag.
The six-winged God of War had flown onto the ship just a moment ago.
As IZUMO crumbled and its crust was purged and detonated, the silver God of War had spread its flight wings and flown to the Musashi with the white flag raised.
Because of the white flag and because the Musashi had its gravity barriers open on the bottom of the ship to avoid the explosions and to ascend, “Musashi” had given the following instructions when asked:
“Naomasa-sama, once the Palais-Cardinal has disarmed itself, start by hearing what it has to say. According to our information, the Palais-Cardinal is a God of War and yet it has no combination mechanism for a pilot. Its actions are controlled by Luynes-sama, a Far Eastern maid automaton that was overwritten onto its mechanical components. Over.”
Naomasa had her own thoughts on the issue.
…Is it just me or has the Musashi turned into an exhibition for unusual Gods of War and automatons?
She was ashamed that her mechanic's spirit was a little excited by that fact.
…But anyway, I need to handle this as a special duty officer.
She saw the Palais-Cardinal place the spear behind itself and place its hands on its knees.
Naomasa checked to make sure it had no other weapons and that the tops of its flight wings were touching the ground.
“Judge. …So you’re what I heard you are, right? A combination between a God of War and an automaton?”
“To be completely accurate, the Palais-Cardinal was originally a God of War created for Lady Anne of Austria, Hexagone Française’s previous provisional chancellor and student council president. It was then combined with me, the automaton named Luynes who was sent from the Far East. My body was dismantled and wonderfully incorporated into the Palais-Cardinal’s control system. Simply put, I am an automaton that controls the Palais-Cardinal from within.”
“The technicalities don’t matter right now. So basically, if you have a combination mechanism installed, Anne of Austria can pilot you if she wants?”
“Lady Anne of Austria.”
As Naomasa nodded, two sign frames appeared next to her.
“The Palais-Cardinal! The Cardinal! Wait! Really!? Do you think I can touch it or mess around with it, Masa!?”
“The Palais-Cardinal! The Cardinal! Wait! Seriously!? Do you think I can check over it for some material, Naomasa-kun!?”
…Do all nerds like Hiro and Neshinbara act like that?
The sign frames reappeared even after she closed them, so she blocked any new ones and prepared to call for Masazumi. But…
…Come to think of it, wasn’t there some issue related to Anne of Austria?
Naomasa worked to recall the memory that was bothering her.
When she had joined the chancellor’s officers, she had studied the present situation and histories of the other nations.
…Two years ago, Hexagone Française took in Mouri Terumoto as student council president and Louis Exiv as chancellor.
But the Testament descriptions said Louis’ mother, Anne of Austria, had ruled France before him.
Current Chancellor Louis Exiv was from a noble family with divine blood, so he had apparently been trained in politics and war from a young age so he could later become chancellor.
But, thought Naomasa.
“The other nations feared Hexagone Française’s growth and made a certain request, didn’t they? They said the name of Anne of Austria, Louis’ mother and the previous chancellor and president of Hexagone Française, had to be given to one of Louis Exiv’s relatives.”
As Exiv’s family had divine blood, giving a relative the position of his mother and the previous leader could easily strengthen Hexagone Française even further.
“But the other nations had a reason for making that request, didn’t they?”
She was requesting confirmation more than asking a legitimate question and the Palais-Cardinal nodded.
“Testament. Lord Louis Exiv had already lost his parents in the early stages of the Thirty Years’ War, which had already begun; and Lady Anne was stricken with an incurable disease.”
“Lady Anne was very sick, so making her provisional chancellor and student council president was meant to restrain Hexagone Française in the period leading up to Lord Louis Exiv’s rule.”
Naomasa mostly understood the situation, so she lowered the wrench like a cane while facing the Palais-Cardinal.
After demonstrating that she was letting down her guard, she spoke.
“I think I understand why you’re defecting.”
She felt confident enough to urge the Palais-Cardinal to continue.
It wasn’t due to an illness, but she also had a family member that could not move. She had no intention of letting her emotions cloud her judgment, but she was willing to listen to their situation.
The Palais-Cardinal lowered her head slightly.
“Lady Anne ran the academy from her sickbed. Treasurer Richelieu officially opposed her as per the Testament descriptions; but I inherited the name of his successor, Mazarin, and secretly assisted her. …Oh, what a lovely story!”
The Palais-Cardinal pulled a handkerchief from behind her waist armor and wiped her sight devices. This automaton is a little too theatrical, thought Naomasa, but that may have been how she was made.
However, this confirmed the reason for the Palais-Cardinal’s defection.
“I’ve heard the rumors,” said Naomasa. “Just before Louis Exiv took his position as chancellor, Anne of Austria’s illness worsened. In that case, where did she end up?”
“Lady Anne of Austria.”
The Palais-Cardinal corrected her again but then struck her own knee and raised her right index finger.
“Our enemy, M.H.R.R., proposed a deal. In exchange for accepting Lord Louis Exiv’s inherited name, they wished for a hostage. …After all, once Hexagone Française joined the Thirty Years’ War under his command, the road to their loss would begin.”
“But if you’d rejected that ridiculous demand, Hexagone Française would’ve taken over the world.”
“Testament. But the European nations weighed Hexagone Française’s victory over M.H.R.R. against the danger of Hexagone Française becoming the definitive ruler of Europe and they desired a stalemate. The eastern European nations were already facing the threat of Hashiba and M.H.R.R., so they especially wanted to do Hashiba a favor to help negotiate with P.A. Oda. And so the hostage was sent to M.H.R.R. …That hostage being Lady Anne.”
Where exactly was she sent? wondered Naomasa.
At that same moment, she heard jogging footsteps and a voice behind her.
“Was she sent to Magdeburg in the Protestant principality of Saxony?”
It was Masazumi.
Masazumi saw Naomasa turn toward her and take a step back.
“You’re late,” said the girl, but there was no displeasure in her voice. She was simply stating a fact.
Masazumi had been listening to Naomasa and the Palais-Cardinal’s conversation via sign frame, but she asked a question just to be sure.
“Would it be correct to view you as Lady Luynes, vice president of Hexagone Française?”
“Testament. It would mean something else entirely for Treasurer Mazarin to defect.”
Masazumi nodded toward Naomasa and then looked back at the silver god of war.
“In other words, you are acting as Miss Anne’s maid and want to defect so you can visit her in Magdeburg where she is hospitalized as a hostage. Correct?”
The Palais-Cardinal corrected her sitting posture and nodded.
She then brought a hand to her own body.
“I would like to keep this next part private.”
“Judge. Asama, take care of it.”
“Oh, right away. I’ll use a silencing spell by borrowing a divine sound.”
The sound of strips of paper filled their surroundings. It almost sounded like bamboo grass blowing in a breeze. However, all other sounds vanished from their surroundings.
“Please continue, Lady Luynes.”
“Testament. Please keep this a secret. My body does not contain a combination mechanism. The God of War’s control system was overwritten by my corresponding functions and I move it like an exoskeleton.”
“Then where is the combination mechanism?”
“Testament,” replied the Palais-Cardinal. “The combination mechanism containing Lady Anne was left with the Maurice Cathedral which acts as Magdeburg’s medical facility.”
Masazumi realized that Anne of Austria’s body no longer existed in a physical form.
She was simply “hospitalized” as data.
She was at a loss for words, but Naomasa relaxed her body.
“Looks like everyone had the same idea. …If you use a God of War’s combination mechanism, a human can escape the bonds of the human body and the speed of the God of War’s control devices allow the human’s mind and senses to function. Did you remove the bonds of the body to extend the life of someone on the verge of death?”
“Testament. M.H.R.R.’s Protestant principalities are not bound by the Catholic rules of medicine, so they are researching a number of treatments. Also, Hexagone Française’s Gallicanistic brand of Catholicism does not place the pope-chancellor as its leader, so that provides a connection to Protestantism. That allows me to have a constant divine transmission connection with Lady Anne. I do not send her my visual data, but we are always exchanging words.”
The Palais-Cardinal suddenly broke down crying.
“But her condition is not progressing as hoped, so I truly wish to become one with-…no, it is too presumptuous to say that. But I wish for us to combine and…”
“And directly show her the outside world?”
The Palais-Cardinal nodded.
“Testament. I thought I could use the power output of a Mouse to give her a body and ‘movement’, but…”
Her words grew completely monotone.
“Our nudist rejected the idea and Lady Terumoto said she understands but she doubts it would ever work.”
“Was Terumoto the one to write that script?”
“This is no script.”
The Palais-Cardinal hit her knee and held out her hand as she spoke, but Masazumi narrowed her eyes and turned to Naomasa.
However, Naomasa had already averted her gaze.
“Yeah, I’m…not too good with this kind of thing.”
You’re surprisingly normal, Naomasa, thought Masazumi. And what is wrong with this environment if that’s a surprise?
…Anyway, I get the gist of the situation.
Was loyalty a good description of the Palais-Cardinal’s actions?
Masazumi had a feeling she had some ulterior motive. After all…
…Lord Matsunaga supposedly set this up.
She did not know if that man was an enemy or an ally and she had a feeling he would get involved in all sorts of things and cause even more trouble just for fun.
Just to be sure, she asked.
“Was this defection planned?”
The Palais-Cardinal was Hexagone Française’s flagcraft as well as Vice President Luynes and Treasurer Mazarin. She had boarded the Musashi to use it as a midpoint in her defection to M.H.R.R. If this was a trap to place the blame on Musashi, it would be a dangerous one.
So in order to receive a promise, Masazumi asked a certain question.
“Was this defection your decision and your decision alone?”
The Palais-Cardinal immediately replied to Masazumi’s question.
She simply nodded.
She’s clever, thought Masazumi as the silver God of War raised her right hand and spoke.
“After all, this was all the product of chance.”
“Testament,” she replied. “I had previously considered making a swift defection if I saw an opening, but today we ended up fighting with Musashi by complete chance.”
Masazumi glared at her, but the silver God of War did not give in. She continued as if everything were going perfectly.
“And you know what else? By complete chance, I was sent to the front lines. When I checked the progress of the battle by complete chance, everyone was charging in by complete chance, mist filled the area by complete chance, the crust split by complete chance, and everyone had to retreat by complete chance. I tried to fly away by complete chance, but I ended up on the back end of the Musashi by complete chance. I think God was telling me to defect by complete chance.”
“Tell whoever wrote this script to rethink everything they’ve done.”
The details of the story were filled with contradictions, but…
“Did Lord Matsunaga ask us to stay until 3:15 so you could defect and so the Magdeburg fleet could approach the Musashi?”
“Is he telling us to carry the Palais-Cardinal to Magdeburg?”
Magdeburg was a city within M.H.R.R.’s Protestant principality of Saxony.
The city would lose its people and be destroyed during the Sack of Magdeburg.
…Why does he want us to go there?
She did not know, but she did know one thing.
“If Magdeburg’s ships are attacked, it will be treated as the Sack of Magdeburg. …We’re supposed to use that threat to escape the surrounding fleets, are we?”
The eastern sky was clearing out.
The M.H.R.R. fleet was falling back and the Magdeburg fleet was approaching in its place.
That fleet in the center of her vision would hold a representative from Magdeburg.
She was worried about Aoi who had been taken away and her classmates who had descended to pursue him, but…
…It looks like we have something to do here as well.
She tapped Naomasa on the shoulder.
“Tell the engine division it’s time to depart.”
At 4:02 PM, the Musashi joined the Magdeburg fleet and successfully left the ring of Hexagone Française and M.H.R.R. fleets surrounding IZUMO.
Traveling to Magdeburg would mean entering M.H.R.R.
“So the Musashi will be towed as a freighter instead of cruising under its own power?”
That was the method the Magdeburg fleet had chosen. Its ships spread out in front of the Musashi and pulled it with towing belts.
As massive and heavy a ship as it was, it could still be moved slowly if enough towing force was built up.
At 5:20 PM, the Musashi’s eight ships were being towed at a very low speed while “Musashi” controlled their horizontal position.
This was a way of circumventing the M.H.R.R. Catholics’ ban on traveling through their nation, but it allowed the Catholics to save a bare minimum of face as the Musashi traveled along the provisional borders of the Protestant principalities.
Meanwhile, the Testament Union and Hexagone Française made no attempt to pursue; but Masazumi had an explanation for that.
“They’re probably telling us to hurry up and get to Magdeburg. I’m guessing Magdeburg wants to hire us to support them in the Sack of Magdeburg. The Musashi can evacuate people and carry in supplies, after all. And if the Testament Union overlooks this as a means of assisting Magdeburg, they can gain the M.H.R.R. Protestants as allies during the Thirty Years’ War.”
“I had Asama send Tenzou and the others down below a divine transmission saying we’ll meet up at Magdeburg. It apparently only just barely got through to them, but they should be able to meet us there once they rescue Aoi or he’s released. With that and the Palais-Cardinal issue, I need to get my father and the rest of the Provisional Council to request negotiations with Hexagone Française.”
However, the Magdeburg fleet’s towing speed was slow; so it would take about half a day to reach Magdeburg near the center of M.H.R.R.
And with that much time…
“That is more than enough time to see if the ninja’s group can collect my foolish brother or not.”
“That is not all,” said Treasurer Shirojiro.
He saw a diplomatic ship move from the Magdeburg fleet and land on Tama.
“Why did Magdeburg come to us and how will we get from Magdeburg to Kantou? We have plenty of time to discuss those issues.”
At 6:30 PM, the forest visible from the deck had grown dark and its details grew unclear.
As the Musashi traveled to Magdeburg, night fell; and that night was filled with activity.
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