Horizon:Volume 3B Chapter 32
Chapter 32: Gatherers in a Place of Meeting
What do you call
A meeting in the night?
Point Allocation (True Feelings)
Lights filled the night. Some came from the stars and some were manmade.
To the west of a wide river winding through a forest, the land had been cleared to create vast fields and a city.
It was a large city.
However, the city’s lights paled in comparison to all the light in the sky and the fields.
Those were the lights of an aerial fleet.
Countless ships formed several circles around the city. Every so often, a few ships would leave the city and another group would descend in their place.
They were receiving supplies, receiving instructions, and then leaving. The sides of the ships contained the national emblems of M.H.R.R. and P.A. Oda and the emblems of a number of academies.
The area was filled with sounds of blowing wind and the spraying noise of the wind and water formed on the surface of the ships. Even at night, the voices of moving people and noises of transportation were quite loud.
That amalgam of noise contained the sounds of food stands and a night market opened for the people working through the night, and the voices of cows, horses, birds, cats, and dogs interested in or scared by the light and noise.
A certain place was situated near the din yet far enough away to have a decent view of it all.
That place was above the river running alongside the city. A giant aerial ship sat in wait across the river.
The blue ship was six hundred meters long and its upper deck was unlit.
Even so, a few people were gathered on that dark deck to watch the bright city. One of those was wrapped in dim bluish-white light and wore a red uniform.
“Na-chan, Luxembourg may be having a festival, but stop eating so much meat. You’re human, so eat some bread or rice. Or are you trying to copy the Reine des Garous?”
Those comments were directed at the person eating lamb chop after lamb chop on the table by the edge of the deck.
He was Sassa Narimasa. He had a white bandanna around his head, a healing cloth charm on the right side of his head, and a red uniform.
“Y’know, Toshi,” he began while turning around. “You really need to shut up about that. You’re like Fuwa used to be. Do you think you’re my wife, or something?”
“No, I have Ma-chan. And even if you are making enough money to support a family, you’re so reckless it would all fall apart right away. You would visit Ise for your honeymoon and get divorced on the way back. You really need to bring some guidance to your life. It’s causing a lot of trouble for everyone working under you. You don’t want to know how often they come to consult me about it. Things like, ‘It’s time to start the mission, but our commander hasn’t shown up yet. What should we do?’ ”
“What do you tell them?”
“Testament. I tell them you are probably already going on a rampage at the front line, so they should head on out. That usually works, but they were in a lot of trouble the one time you were actually asleep. I felt bad about that, so I told Shibata.”
“That’s when he gave me that really long lecture, isn’t it? So that was your fault.”
“No, I think that was your fault for falling asleep.”
“Idiot,” added Matsu.
“Shut up,” replied Narimasa just as a new figure stepped out from the bridge on the back of the ship.
It was a young man of average height with white hair.
“Hi,” he said with a raised hand.
Toshiie bowed and Narimasa kicked out the opposite chair and gestured toward it.
“Sit. You must be tired, M.H.R.R. Student Council President. Or would you prefer I called you Matthias?”
“I’m not sure if I should reply with ‘testament’ or use P.A. Oda’s ‘shaja’.”
The man in an M.H.R.R. uniform modified to shorten the coat and tighten the cuff of the pants sat in front of Narimasa.
As he, Matthias, lowered his hips to sit, he let out a sigh and gave a bitter smile.
“Ahh, I can finally sit down. I feel like I haven’t bent my legs in forever.”
“Order whatever you want to eat or drink, Matthias. If you want bones, you can take them from my plate.”
“In M.H.R.R., bones are used as a cooking ingredient, Sassa. My brother loves bone marrow.”
He gently touched the small cross-shaped divine monitor placed on the table. A lernen figur connected to the ship’s cooking division appeared and displayed a menu.
“What, it’s all carried up from below? Do you not have someone test it for poison?”
“All of the food stands below are run by this ship’s cooking club, Matthias. More importantly…”
Narimasa hesitated to continue, but Matthias answered anyway.
“Yes,” he replied. “With Musashi on their way to Magdeburg, Hashiba asked if she can send Tilly to surround the city.”
In other words…
“It’s quite like Hashiba to not directly ask if she can start the Sack of Magdeburg. Or maybe she can’t bring herself to say it. She would be asking if she could start the crossroads that leads to our…to the M.H.R.R Catholics’ loss.”
Toshiie thought about what Matthias had said.
…As always, he has no power.
Toshiie did not think that was a bad thing.
M.H.R.R. Student Council President Matthias was the younger brother of “Wahnsinniger” Rudolf II, who was M.H.R.R. chancellor and Holy Roman Emperor.
According to the Testament descriptions, M.H.R.R. was a nation of multiple principalities and the position of Holy Roman Emperor was elected from the representatives of the principalities.
The right to vote lay with the prince-electors who were the representatives of the principalities.
…That freed M.H.R.R. from the bonds of K.P.A. Italia’s pope-chancellor’s right to name the emperor and allowed us to freely choose our emperor.
However, the times had moved quickly. By the time they had received that election system, the age of the knights had ended and the emperor was losing his power. So…
“In the end, powerful families would inherit the throne or even have it forced onto them. Currently, my Habsburg family has openly inherited it. At any rate, I’m impressed you would want to come to a false empire with no real power.”
Toshiie tried to listen to Matthias, but he was extremely bothered by how Narimasa kept hitting the lernen figur to order more food. However, he settled that by swearing to send the bill to Shibata under Narimasa’s name.
Narimasa, on the other hand, lightly kicked Matthias’s shin under the table.
“Hey, what do you want? Beer? Wine?”
“I also like Far Eastern sake.”
“Quit copying us. You’ll have some wine. Drink it like a woman.”
“Is that any way to treat me after so long?” asked Matthias with a smile on the corner of his mouth.
“Sorry,” said Toshiie with a bow. “Someone at the special duty officer level should never treat a student council president like this.”
“What does it matter as long as you’ve got power?” asked Narimasa.
Matsu glared at him from Toshiie’s shoulder, but Matthias narrowed his eyes, lowered his hands behind the chair back, and stared up into the sky.
“You’ve really saved me.”
“It used to be all that was asked of me was keeping my grades in school up and agreeing to whatever I was asked. It was a lot like what people want from Musashi’s Mr. Impossible. …No, I was actually asked to do well in school and carry out the history recreation properly, so you could say I had it worse. Anyway…”
“One of your problems is how you drag out everything you say.”
“I was told to do exactly that because it makes me look more important. Anyway,” said Matthias. “You all are not mine. There are some exceptions like Maeda since you took Mercenary King Wallenstein as a second inherited name and Hashiba who took my aide Bishop Melchior as an additional inherited name, but people like Sassa here are entirely on the Far Eastern side.”
“I’m just a puppet, but I’m still happy. Even as a weak puppet, I can still be used by powerful people to clash with the Testament Union. …You all are not my power. You’re probably working exclusively for P.A. Oda and only using M.H.R.R. to advance your Genesis Project, but I’m still happy. My actions as a puppet are moving the world in a big way.”
He smiled a little.
“And knowing all of you, you could make someone else your puppet if you wanted.”
Toshiie had his doubts about that. After all, this emperor’s brother was the one who had personally accepted the alliance eight years ago after Hashiba had invaded M.H.R.R. land.
It was true he might have been a powerless ruler who had that action forced on him by the other principalities.
…But since then, he’s used our power quite effectively in maintaining the Catholic principalities.
As a helper for P.A. Oda rather than as M.H.R.R.’s student council president, he had informed Hashiba how to maintain the infrastructure for their ease of use.
He had told them how to gain an understanding with the local people, to keep their distance from the local people, and to share technology with the local people for mutual benefit. There was a lot they would not have known and a lot of places where their chain of command would have broken down without Matthias there.
He had clearly researched P.A. Oda in advance.
Hashiba had researched M.H.R.R. in the same way, so they had readily accepted and carried out his instructions. That was why there had been so little chaos during the early stages of the alliance.
Since then, Matthias had been their contact with the Testament Alliance, their spokesman during the history recreation, and their shield against the Testament Alliance when Hashiba took action.
For all those reasons, Toshiie spoke.
“Matthias, you underestimate yourself.”
“That’s right,” added Narimasa with a bone in his mouth. “The most amazing thing about you is how you’ll happily agree to things even if you don’t like them. I decide if I’ll do something by whether I like it or not, but it feels like you’ll do anything that’s in your power.”
“That is how I was raised.”
Matthias pulled a knife from his pocket and began filing down his fingernails.
He sharpened the nails of his thumb and forefinger as he said more.
“It isn’t difficult. I don’t have to put up with anything and I don’t find any of it unpleasant. I simply decided that I have no value if I don’t do what I’m told.”
He took a breath and looked into the eastern sky. Their fleet was receiving supplies and returning to its position, but a giant ship was visible far beyond that.
…Is that the Musashi as it’s towed to Magdeburg?
While watching that shadow over the stars, Matthias put the knife in his pocket.
“That ship is filled with people who wish for things they were not told to do and its destination will set into motion what I was told to do. This was determined long ago when I decided to show absolute obedience to my destiny. The time for me and my brother to accept that destiny is finally approaching.”
He laughed quietly.
“I wonder if the people inside that Musashi are also filled with hope and fear of what has been set in motion.”
Meetings were being prepared in several places within the Musashi. Most were held by the academy’s different committees as they discussed their future administrative plans and gave reports on the current situation, but at the center of it all…
“I can’t believe I have to work on this bridge. We really should have cleaned up the student council room. Ookubo, Kanou, and the other first and second years were having trouble finding me.”
Masazumi was looking through several reports on the bridge in front of Musashi Ariadust Academy. On the stairs end, she had a nice view and let the gentle wind wash over her. The nearby lanterns and sign frames surrounded her in light.
“But it’s all thanks to you that I have a sign frame version of what I used to get as paper documents, Tsukinowa. This is easier to carry around and I can link them with other charts.”
It was so cute how the Mouse rubbed his cheek against her. She could not help but lean her head toward him.
“Maa,” she said back.
“What are you doing, Masazumi? Neck exercises?”
She quickly turned around to see who was climbing the stairs.
It was Oriotorai.
Masazumi saw Oriotorai approach while holding a box and a bamboo insulated bottle.
Masazumi watched Oriotorai sit next to her and hold up what she carried.
“Here. Naomasa and Asama will be coming by later, but take this dinner Ohiroshiki made. I already ate at the cafeteria.”
Oriotorai placed the box and bottle next to Masazumi and began removing a wrapped baguette from one of the hard points on her waist.
“Teacher, didn’t you just say you ate in the cafeteria?”
“Oh, this is dessert.”
Oriotorai held her large sword between her knees and pulled the scabbard from a small portion of the blade.
…Wait, wait, wait.
After drawing the sword halfway, she pressed the baguette against it, gave a light tug, and split the bread with only one end of the crust remaining.
“Teacher, you’re a tester for IZUMO, right? So are you testing that sword?”
“No, this is my personal sword. Besides, what would I even test it on?”
Masazumi just about answered “your students”, but stopped herself. That answer is a little too cruel, she thought. She would never actually test a sword on a student. She only hits them with the scabbard. That could still kill them, though.
As if to say “anyway”, Oriotorai grabbed the collar of her track suit and showed it to Masazumi.
“Right now, I’m testing their shoes and track suits and the like.”
Masazumi wondered if that meant she used to test other things, so she asked.
“What did you used to do?”
“Now that’s a difficult question.”
She made a fake troubled expression and returned the sword to its scabbard.
Tsukinowa was entirely focused on the blade that was now hidden by the scabbard and Oriotorai noticed.
“That thing has good instincts for a Mouse. Or does he have good instincts because he’s a Mouse?”
“Are you saying it’s that good a sword?”
“More or less. I figure it’ll be needed eventually so I’m holding onto it…or you could say I was left with it. But anyway…”
She pulled something from the opposite hard point from the one the bread had been hanging from.
“What are you going to do with that jar of jam?”
“Dessert,” she insisted. “It’s dessert.”
Masazumi watched her teacher turn the jar upside down and dump its contents across the entire split loaf of bread.
…It was being trained by her that made our class so strange, wasn’t it?
Nevertheless, they had come across someone they could not stand up to.
That isn’t it, she corrected herself. There was a lot we couldn’t stand up to before this too.
For example, they had not defeated the pope-chancellor at Mikawa. They had only been able to defend.
For another example, she had a feeling Fairy Queen Elizabeth’s massive wings of light were just as powerful as – if not more powerful than – Mitotsudaira’s mother. And their interception of Tres España Vice Chancellor Hironaka Takakane had been more of a technical victory than a true victory.
Hmm, she thought while considering their past results.
Meanwhile, she saw Oriotorai add adzuki from a bamboo tube.
“Teacher, can we discuss something a little more serious?”
She was unsure how much she could trust an answer from a teacher engrossed in squeezing out every last bit of the adzuki, but she decided to trust their positions as teacher and student.
“Are we weak?”
It took several seconds to receive an answer.
After emptying the tube, Oriotorai let out a breath and made sure the components of her dessert were properly loaded on the bread.
“It doesn’t matter if you can’t win now, as long as you win in the end. Besides, isn’t that Matsudaira’s way of doing this? Oda sows the seeds, Hashiba grows the crop, and Matsudaira harvests it, right?”
That was true, but then the woman held up the bread.
Masazumi considered it and remembered the dinner sitting next to her, but…
“Just a tiny bit… Wait, not that much! A fifth of that at most!”
“It ended up like this because the edges are so hard. Here. …Anyway, what’s this about? Isn’t winning and losing for the chancellor’s officers to worry about?”
“But Futayo is more the independent airheaded type.”
“Y’know, Masazumi.” The teacher smiled bitterly. “Airheaded or not, if you don’t leave anything with her, it only places more of the burden on you. And you’re already under a pretty large load after taking on Toori and Horizon’s work.”
Her bitter smile grew.
“Sorry about all the trouble those two bring.”
“Judge. …No, wait. Forget that. That’s not something worth apologizing for.”
But it did give her something she wanted to ask.
“Have you ever lost?”
She was mostly asking out of curiosity, but it was related to their current issue.
If someone nearby who could guide them had experienced defeat, that could directly assist them here. So she chose her words carefully to show she was asking with the best of intentions.
“If you have experienced defeat, it could help us in the future.”
“Well,” said Oriotorai. “That’s a good question.”
Masazumi watched her think for a moment.
“I did long ago. It was during my training when I was young. …I couldn’t stand up to someone who…I guess you could describe them as my teacher. …Yes, I wasn’t the teacher back then; I was a kid. A cute one, too.”
“I can’t even imagine a teacher you couldn’t stand up to.”
“That last part was important, but you completely ignored it, didn’t you? Anyway,” she said. “I think the last time I almost lost was seven years ago. That was when I came to the Musashi. I had only just finished my third year training.”
“You almost lost? To what? A gorilla? A dragon?”
“A person. A person. …But it ended with me being here. I wanted to go to the Musashi and teach no matter what.”
Is it that attractive a place and profession, wondered Masazumi, but then she thought about why she was here herself.
…Well, I suppose it is worth “being” here.
“Did you want to teach here that badly?”
“There was someone I wanted to see. And I’m glad I managed to. …That’s why I’m also glad I didn’t lose.”
She then asked something else.
“So, Masazumi, why did you want to hear about losing?”
“Well,” she hesitated to answer and looked around to make sure no one else was around. “As it is now, Musashi doesn’t know what to do if we lose.”
In the light of the sign frames and lanterns, Masazumi saw her teacher next to her and the nighttime city of Musashi down below. When she looked away from the ship and to the surface even further below, she could see the dark forest and the occasional lights of a village.
But even if there was light, most of it was shadow.
It almost felt like that shadow was an umbrella protecting them.
“Can I say something?”
At her teacher’s urging, she wondered if she could finally speak this thought.
“Musashi is a city directly linked to the battlefield.”
“Judge. It is.”
“Yes.” Masazumi nodded, wrapped her arms around one knee, and inhaled. “The results of the battles pass through the students on the battlefield, reach their parents and guardians, and spread to the rest of Musashi from there. That is the foundation of Musashi’s evaluation system for war. The parents determine whether we won or lost by directly observing their children, so it is impossible to manipulate information using the announcements made by the student council and chancellor’s officers. We are a city that makes direct evaluations.”
The woman nodded and Masazumi nodded back.
Masazumi changed the flow of conversation.
“The operation of the Musashi – especially the workers who keep the city functioning – is handled by far more normal citizens than students. So…”
She decided this was no time to soften her words.
“In order to involve them in war and keep the Musashi running during wartime, quick and definite returns are needed to overcome the risks and growing war weariness. In other words, both the students and the normal citizens need to feel that the war is worth it.”
“A feeling of elation and some kind of compensation when we win. Those would be the most important. Currently, Bertoni and the others are working on a number of plans there. For example, anyone who engaged in battle will have their level of contribution rewarded with cheap prices on post-war management rights to the surface areas which have grown empty lately.”
“Making it ‘post-war’ isn’t really fair, is it? …Oh, and is that the thing on the divine network where the candidates are given a score and competing for the top spot? Just make sure you don’t foster too much of a speculative spirit.”
Masazumi could only nod in agreement, but she soon opened her mouth again.
“Also, wages for ship maintenance are being raised during battles and repair times are being extended to twenty-four hours a day. In other words, if you’re willing to work, you can always make some money during war. In order to strike a balance between acquiring foreign currency and keeping down inflation, we’re taking part in intermediate trade while also encouraging large-scale spending on homes by reconstructing the residential districts.”
“Those little tricks are working well, aren’t they? But…”
“Judge. All of that is because we’re winning.”
Masazumi took in a breath and summed up Musashi’s situation.
“Everything is going well for Musashi because we’re winning.”
This is a pretty harsh reality, thought Masazumi.
She had truly realized that during the afternoon.
“It was Mitotsudaira,” she said before clarifying. “It scared me when Mitotsudaira was defeated so definitively and Futayo couldn’t do anything either. No, I had already been feeling a chill from the moment Hexagone Française approached and proved our strategies and everything else were meaningless when faced with such a powerful nation.”
“You sure are talkative.”
“That’s because it’s nighttime,” she replied while biting into the bread.
What a strong flavor, she thought.
“When I saw the report today – this one, from the PTA – I was reminded how many questions there are from the parents and guardians. It’s still split about 50/50 between the people complaining that they never did anything like this when they were students and the people saying everyone should go along with it because the student body agreed to it, but…”
“But you think it would quickly shift to the negative side if you lost?”
Masazumi lowered her shoulders, but she smiled when Tsukinowa worriedly rubbed his cheek against her.
“I don’t want us to lose. The Battle of Mikatagahara is supposed to include some deaths, so I’m glad Lady Yoshitsune agreed to settle it with a meeting at IZUMO. That is the worst loss that the Matsudaira clan has to go through, so I was worried what would happen if Takeda tried to take advantage of it. And…”
“My classmates have been helping out a lot. This time, I’ve especially been relying on Crossunite a lot. I thought my life was over when that idiot was captured on IZUMO, but we managed to turn that into a rescue. Also, including Mitotsudaira in the pursuit team prevents her confrontation with her mother from counting as a mere loss.”
“Tenzou does that kind of thing on instinct. I guess you could say he’s attentive. But…”
Masazumi saw Oriotorai eyeing the dinner box.
“Should I open that up?”
It scared Masazumi how the woman did not sound sorry in the slightest. She was too afraid to give her chopsticks, so she gave her a toothpick instead.
After skewering five slices of kamaboko at once, Oriotorai spoke.
“But Masazumi, you have to think about what happens if you lose. It’s the others’ job to win, but Musashi’s vice president also acts as a public relations official.”
“Look around you,” said Oriotorai while focusing on the food in her hand. “Even if it’s their job to win, they sometimes fail and sometimes lose. What did they do then? Watch carefully to see how they regained their lost trust. The vice president commands others, so you need to use what others do to strengthen yourself.”
“Is that how it works?”
She did not entirely understand, but it was true she had to command others in her position. In that case, she decided her teacher would know better than someone as inexperienced as her.
“Thank you for letting me speak my frustrations about a number of things.”
“That part of you isn’t very cute, Masazumi.”
Oriotorai smiled bitterly, but then…
“Ah, Masazumi! Please come here a moment!”
A sign frame opened and Asama shouted from it.
“Horizon is causing trouble, so can you help me persuade her!?”
“Huh? What do you mean she’s causing trouble?”
“Well, um…” Asama hesitated, but finally explained the situation. “She’s trying to go down to the surface! She wants to search for Toori-kun!”
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