Horizon:Volume 3B Chapter 56
Chapter 56: Soakers in a Purifying Place
What is it-orrrrn?
Point Allocation (Criminal)
Mitotsudaira realized she was at a disadvantage.
Once she entered the spring, her sensitive body was enveloped by the water that seemed to remake her and made her all too aware of her own shape.
…I never thought I would be outnumbered two to one!
She had no one to commiserate with when Adele was gone. Same for Naruze and Suzu.
Nevertheless, the other two ignored how much more water resistance they created. Naito soaked her wings to soothe the heat of her wounds and Mary rubbed the water into her body to receive some Blessings as a portion of the water spirits’ ether.
The two Excaliburs were there, too. One acted as a stand for a plate holding leftover breakfast and sweets. The other floated in the water as their bodyguard. Both of them were converting ether to the English format and storing it, so they would make good defenders even if they could not act as a cannon.
Everyone is preparing in their own way, thought Mitotsudaira as she suddenly felt a stone in the sand below her soaking feet. She reached down toward the bottom that the spring water had mostly turned to sand and she picked up a round stone that had been polished by the sand.
She then recalled the night before.
…One of my throws during that battle with the automatons was strange, wasn’t it?
One thing still bothered her about that battle. When she had thrown that stone at Mouri-01, she had achieved a much greater speed than expected. It had almost seemed to slip from her fingers and it had seemed like a failure, but it had had even more speed and accuracy than normal.
…What was that?
There was a chance she would have to face her mother again, so she wanted to understand all of her power. The idea of finding “more power than she expected” was quite attractive.
But when she threw this stone, it flew with standard speed and inertia before falling into the water.
It was exactly what she expected.
It had none of the speed from the night before and she gained nothing from it. So…
“What was that last night?”
“Hm? What is it, Mito-tsan?”
She turned around and saw the other two girls tilting their heads.
She realized they were worried about her, so she decided not to hide it.
“Um? I threw a stone during the battle last night, remember?”
The large two nodded to urge her on, which made them jiggle. Kh! she thought as anger filled her heart, but she decided to stay positive, took a breath, and opened her mouth.
“I threw that stone faster than even I expected, so I was trying to figure out the exact timing I used. If I knew, it would help me grow stronger.”
She could not exactly say she was worried about her strength, but the large two exchanged a glance and Mary spoke first.
“You probably won’t know unless you try to throw it with all your might while in a similar state of mind.”
“And wouldn’t it be dangerous if you did do it here?”
“You’re right about that.”
Mitotsudaira could only smile bitterly, but Naito continued.
“I do remember one pretty amazing throw, but I didn’t realize you didn’t know the trick to it.”
…That throw looked fast to Margot too?
That meant she was not just imagining things.
Mitotsudaira questioned it while suppressing her impatient desire to learn what that throw had been.
“My pain was cut off, so I should have been weaker than normal. And I’ve never thrown anything like that before.”
“It was a natural stone, so I doubt how you were holding it mattered much. Was there some trick to the swing?”
The three of them tilted their heads and Mitotsudaira’s bitter smile grew.
“Well, this isn’t really the time, so I can think about it more later.”
She had definitely pulled off an unusually fast throw.
She only had to investigate it and pursue the answer without rushing things or disturbing her thoughts.
If she could obtain that same kind of speed…
“It would be a powerful weapon for me.”
No one responded to that, but the other two girls did look toward her.
After a while, they smiled and said “judge”.
Mary sat on her sword and Naito spread her wings on the water and lay on them like a bench. Naito looked up at the sky visible between the tree branches and stretched a little.
“I wonder what Ga-chan’s doing right now. We’re having a ton of fun here, but they must be having their own troubles.”
“You and Lady Naruze certainly are close. Did you grow up together?”
“Yeah, but we didn’t use to get along all that well.”
…Eh? Should you really be telling her that?
Mitotsudaira turned toward Naito and the Technohexen waved toward her so Mary wouldn’t notice.
She was saying not to worry about it and she smiled while staring into the sky and continuing.
“Telling this kind of story is nice every once in a while.”
“It happened during elementary school,” explained Naito.
…A lot happened even back then.
Mitotsudaira wondered if Naito was remembering the same kind of thing.
“Ga-chan and I didn’t get along too well back then, but we started living in the dorms for middle school. The rooms were chosen by a lottery and we ended up in the same one. Neither of us would talk to the other and we lived completely separately despite being in the same room.”
“Oh, my.” Mary brought a troubled hand to her cheek. “Then how did you start to get along so well?”
She knows how to listen to a story, thought Mitotsudaira while also wondering if Naito should really tell the rest of the story.
Regardless, Naito kicked at the water to turn her wings boat so she faced Mary.
Naito gave Mitotsudaira a look, so she gently moved through the water to approach the other two. Mary slid her butt along Excalibur and nodded her way, but…
…Tenzou should really make a contract to worship the butt god.
Mitotsudaira smiled bitterly and only rested her elbows on the board.
Was she being a coward to think it was wrong for an English and Hexagone Française girl to sit right next to each other?
Still, she was close enough to sense the girl’s body heat. It felt ticklish. It must have been the same for Mary because she let her hair soak in the sun and warm her up.
Naito pulled the other Excalibur in and grabbed some biscotti from the plate.
“Judge. Anyway, we continued our silence for a while, but it was a stressful enough life that our feathers started coming out. Ga-chan can be stubborn, so she took everything too seriously and we tried to completely ignore each other.”
Mitotsudaira remembered it. It had been during middle school when she had been pretty disobedient herself. Seeing Naito and Malga back then had given her a certain thought.
…We’ll eventually break apart.
She had thought she was correct and mature to see it that way.
“But for dinner and other meals, we had to eat out separately, right? So one day I was eating dinner at the chancellor’s place… Oh, we were ignoring each other, but we’d made a tacit agreement to take turns eating dinner at the chancellor’s place. Anyway, it was my turn that day and just when I was going to leave, the chancellor, who was working there that day, said ‘take this’ and gave me a strawberry tart.”
Naito made a large circle with her hands.
“The tart was too much for one person to eat and I was thinking it was about time I tried to grow up, so I prepared a table in our dorm room and waited for Ga-chan to get back. And then when she got there…”
“Yes?” urged Mary.
“Judge.” Naito scratched at her head. “At first, she tried to protest, but when I asked her if she wanted to eat some of it, she suddenly started bawling. When I asked her why, she said it was her birthday. Apparently, her family used to always make a strawberry tart to celebrate her birthday.”
“Each year, she would eat a tart on her own at Blue Thunder, but she hadn’t been able to that year since it was my turn. She could have waited until the next day, but she felt celebrating her own birthday both alone and a day late would just be too sad. But then I asked her if she wanted to eat some of the tart. I apparently reminded her of old times and, yeah. After she told me all that and apologized again and again while crying, I looked and her and, well…”
“It really turned me on.”
…Th-that’s how you’re telling the story!?
Naito waved a hand to say not to worry about it, but it was possible she just had no sense of morals in that regard.
“Anyway,” she said with a smile. “I ended up pushing her into the bed and didn’t stop until I’d had my fill.”
Should you really tell her that? wondered Mitotsudaira as she glanced over at Mary.
Mary however nodded a few times and smiled.
“Eating a tart in bed is bad manners, but it sounds fun. It’s like something a delinquent would do.”
“Ma-yan, you’re just plain amazing!”
A small chill ran down Mitotsudaira’s spine, but the source of the chill calmly smiled and spoke.
“There sure are a lot of ways for people to get along. I still have so much to learn about all of you.”
Mary turned her usual smile toward Mitotsudaira.
She was really close, neither of them had anything to hide themselves with, and the water had mostly fallen from their skin.
That gave Mitotsudaira a good view of Mary’s scars.
Staring at someone’s scars was rude, but it was hard to look at Mary without also looking at her scars and they seemed to shine in the dampness of the water. Mitotsudaira viewed them as the girl’s pride, but that was because she knew what had happened in England and because of her own knightly way of thinking.
…But how does she see them?
Mitotsudaira felt like Mary had grown a lot closer last night. Would they become classmates and friends just like Naito and Naruze had and like everyone else in the class had?
But, she thought. That boy who wanted to pursue himself was almost always involved for the rest of us.
He was nearby now too, but would he help here?
Would she end up using his help to build a bond between herself and Mary?
“Is something the matter, Lady Mitotsudaira?”
“Oh, I think Mito-tsan saw her mother in your breasts. Yeah, that’s gotta be it.”
“Th-that is not it.”
As soon as she said that, her mother appeared on the right-side edge of the spring that led to the candy house.
Mitotsudaira looked up in surprise and saw her mother remove her shirt with a smile.
“Oh, dear. Nate, don’t tell me you’re jealous of my body.”
Naito looked up and saw Mitotsudaira’s mother stroking her body and narrowing her eyes toward her daughter.
“Heh heh. Nate, what do you think? I’ve still got it, don’t I?”
…Sh-she’s provoking me again!
Then her mother vanished. It can’t be, she thought, but the woman’s silver hair was indeed already inside the spring.
She had entered the water silently.
…What was that!?
There was no splash, but nothing strange had happened. Her initial velocity had been high, but she had slowed down just before arriving. It was likely a method of shifting her center of gravity.
But once the woman sank into the spring, she lifted the water with her body and stood up as if carrying it. She then looked down at Mitotsudaira’s hands and feet.
“Nate, you had both a manicure and a pedicure done? But when I did that for you, you said it felt too hot and refused to ever have it done again.”
“I-it helps me fight.”
“I see. Then do you want to know how to make a really good one?”
“Oh,” said Naito with a nod of understanding. She held Excalibur out toward the mother to offer her some food. “I know that one. You make it from the bodily fluids of someone important to you, right? And it gives you the divine protection you need to protect them and be protected by them.”
“Testament. I use my husband’s for mine.”
She stared at her pearly white nails and lightly licked them.
Mary gave an admiring sigh, nodded, and looked to the mother’s nails.
“Loup-Garous have a lot of different spells like that, don’t they?”
“If we have time while travelling, I can teach you how to do it.”
“Um, but mother?”
“What is it, Nate? Not even the family of the Reine des Garous has a way to make breasts grow. I am sorry your chest took after your father so much, though.”
“W-wait. Can you stop making things up!?”
Mitotsudaira put up her guard which caused Excalibur to shake. Mary grabbed the hilt on the other end to keep her balance and her shoulders were shaking. The term “family shame” filled Mitotsudaira’s mind and she blushed.
Her question came from the left, on the opposite end of the spring from the candy house.
“I hear the underbrush parting! Is someone peeping!?”
She held Excalibur to stand up straight while the others gasped. Naito also gave a cheer, wrapped herself in her wings, and sank into the water. Mary said “oh, my” and only hid her chest.
…Wh-why do they seem so calm!?
However, her mother was the last one to react. She placed her hands on her cheeks and wiggled back and forth.
“Oh, noooo! A peeping tom!? How embarrassing!”
…C-curse this mother of mine!!
The fact that her mother had the looks to pull off something like that annoyed her all the more even if she was family.
She considered sending a divine mail to her father, but she remembered how tolerant he could be and that he liked how her mother would get so excited. Simply put, her only choice was to bear with it.
Wait. Am I the only one losing out in this family? she wondered, but she decided not to think about it too much. At any rate, her mother was too busy pretending to be a young girl to be any use, so she would have to deal with this threat herself. She grabbed the empty plate from Excalibur and turned to face the left edge.
“Quit peeping and show yourself, chancellor!!”
She received an immediate response from the forest on the right edge behind her.
“That’s what I’m talking about, Nate! We’ve got permission to look now!!”
She heard the idiot’s voice and the sound of parting underbrush.
Unexpectedly, they both came from behind her and she did indeed see the two boys when she turned around.
“Oh, Master Tenzou?” said Mary. “Are you here for a bath, too?”
As the scream stretched into the sky, Tenzou held back the idiot.
“Nwoooh, Toori-dono! Mary-dono is in there, so you can’t look! You can’t!”
“Eh? Master Tenzou, I don’t mind.”
Hearing her say that with her hands on her cheeks was enough to send his excitement rocketing upwards, but he also sensed Mitotsudaira’s presence covering her body with her arms and submerging herself up to her chin.
Tenzou soon finished tying the idiot to a nearby tree.
“Wait, wait, wait, wait. Hey, you’re in the way! Completely in the way! I can’t see down there! I can’t see!”
I would love to look too, you know? he silently agreed while keeping his back to the spring and blocking Toori’s view. The idiot’s expression was one of pure despair.
“Kh… A-all I want to do is see some naked girls!”
“That’s a hell of an expression for only wanting to see something.”
He noticed another presence on the opposite edge of the spring.
He looked in the spot Mitotsudaira had noticed earlier and saw the underbrush shaking as something walked out from the trees.
“Oh, the transportation I arranged is here,” commented the Reine des Garous.
Tenzou did his best not to look down while checking the northern edge of the spring.
“An oblong manju with legs?”
He saw four oblong white things that were two meters tall with a meter and a half of that coming from their body itself. They looked like short daikon radishes, they were supported by four wiry legs, and what seemed to be their head had a single horn.
There were four in all. As Tenzou wondered what kind of creatures they were, the Reine des Garous explained from the spring.
“These are the famous forest spirits known as unicorns.”
Righteousness, a god of war with blue canine armor on the head, spoke to Palais-Cardinal which walked alongside it. Righteousness was holding the Palais-Cardinal’s hand because the silver god of war was still having trouble walking properly, but Anne stood on the Palais-Cardinal’s shoulder while providing information on the city and on Europe.
Anne shook her legs which faded away toward the feet and had the god of war move its hips forward.
“Yes. When unicorns run, the trees move out of the way and the underbrush and earth make sure not to obstruct their feet. They are the fastest creatures…no, spirits to move through a forest.”
“Hexagone Française sure has a lot of spirits and non-humans.”
“All the developing ones, ones from low-ranking families, and savage ones moved over to England. …Although I’m sure England would tell you differently. Most of the nobles, royals, beasts, and spirits chose to live in Hexagone Française’s mountains, forests, and headwaters. And of course, that includes the unicorns. The Reine des Garous rules most of the forested areas and even the unicorns are her prey.”
Anne laughed quietly and the Palais-Cardinal moved forward.
“My friend is powerful. …Now, will you stick with me a little longer for my rehabilitation? If we circle the western fortress, it should raise the morale of the defenders.”
Immediately after that, Yoshiyasu heard a loud sound. The M.H.R.R. warriors on the western bank of the Elbe River had fired a canon.
“It’s only a blank. They fire them every day to scare us. …They do it on a whim to make sure we can’t relax and they’ll probably continue until tomorrow night.”
“Testament. The Far East uses the same sort of threats and restraints. They must be devoted to the basics.”
…Come to think of it, there are probably Far Eastern warriors in their ranks.
Her god of war’s sight devices detected plenty of Hashiba personnel brought in for support. They were not separated between men and women, but unlike Satomi which did the same due to limited personnel, these warriors simply had no division between the two.
…There are a lot of female Far Eastern name-inheritors because the sex difference allows for easier intervention and thus easier support from the Testament Union.
But P.A. Oda’s case was a little different. They looked at one’s skill and nothing else, so they had a higher percentage of non-humans in their top-ranking positions than most. That was why their main force was known as the Six Heavenly Demon Armies, but…
“What is it?”
“Testament,” she replied while turning to look at the Palais-Cardinal. “It’s nothing.”
…This is an unusual situation for me.
Anne of Austria, the girl on the silver god of war’s shoulder, had divine blood, had briefly ruled the great nation of Hexagone Française, and had handed it off to the next generation.
She had been the one to choose Yoshiyasu for this tour/rehabilitation and she had been the one to grab Yoshiyasu’s hand.
Yoshiyasu sensed her own deficiencies, but also found comfort in the fact that there were others above her.
She knew she was still inexperienced as a student council president and she felt she had only been given that position due to her sister’s influence.
This may not be something to ask now, she knew.
“How difficult was it to prepare for Louis Exiv’s generation?”
“Are you already thinking about passing things off to the next generation, Satomi Student Council President?”
“I can no longer ask my sister that question.”
“What about the chancellor? Wouldn’t he be the best one to ask? Or is there some reason keeping you from doing that?”
She felt like agreeing or answering at all was the same as losing to that man, so she chose silence and Anne spoke with bitter smile in her voice.
“I simply did what I wanted. I wanted to pass things off to my brother, so that’s what I did. And it wasn’t difficult at all. After all, I was only doing what I wanted.”
“Is that how it works?”
“It is. At least for me. …I can’t speak for anyone else.”
With a quiet laugh, the silver god of war took a step down the road. The step was still stronger than necessary, but it no longer wavered when it turned back toward Righteousness.
“Hey, Satomi Student Council President.”
“Make sure you remember one thing. You can fight against an action, an attitude, or a situation, but never fight against your own heart.”
…My own heart?
She was fairly certain her heart was telling her to avoid that man.
…Is she saying it isn’t?
She was still confused when Anne extended the Palais-Cardinal’s hand toward her. She reached Righteousness’s hand back and felt a stronger grip than she expected. A groan escaped her throat.
“Testament. Make sure you remember, okay? Remember that I was here and remember this strength I am leaving in your hand.”
Yoshiyasu had heard this girl knew she was dying soon, but…
“Just call me Anne, Satomi Student Council President. I am nothing but the previous ruler now. This is your generation and I am happy I can be involved in it at all. So don’t think of us like we’re the same. From now on, I will always be Anne. I will be the Anne of Austria who worries for and roots for my brother, his wife, the Reine des Garous, Luynes, and the rest of Hexagone Française.”
She looked up into the sky as another blast of cannon fire filled it.
“Now, I wonder what the Reine des Garous is doing. She always has things her way, so I’m not worried about her herself. I’m worried that she’s causing too much trouble for the others.”
“How would using unicorns for transportation be a problem?”
“Testament.” Anne brought a hand to her mouth and whispered the rest. “Unicorns won’t let you ride them unless you’re a virgin girl. …I suppose she’ll threaten them.”
As the sun began to set over the forest, people in black uniforms faced some round white lumps.
At the lead of the uniformed people was the silver-haired Reine des Garous who smiled and clapped her hands.
“Okay, everyone. These are the rare spirit beasts known as unicorns and they are going to rush us across the M.H.R.R. border. The unicorns can hide themselves, so M.H.R.R. won’t notice us or even suspect a thing. …In exchange for carrying us, I will agree not to touch their herd for half a year. Is that okay?”
The Musashi group was disguised in M.H.R.R. uniforms and they exchanged a glance. Naito was already hopping up and down in excitement over getting to ride the unicorns and Tenzou stepped forward to view them.
The beasts being called unicorns had one fatal flaw.
…They look nothing like horses.
They looked like short daikon radishes or potatoes with a horn attached and wires stuck into them.
“Excuse me, but you look a lot like the eggplant cows made during the Bon festival and nothing like the unicorns from the stories I’ve heard. …Are you really unicorns?”
“During the destruction of the Harmonic World, we decreased the amount of information making up our spirit forms to survive the ether disturbance-orrrrn.”
“And like this, we don’t need to eat as much and we’re a lot lighter-orrrrn.”
“So this form has been the trendy style ever since-orrrrn.”
“Don’t tell me that ‘orn’ is because you’re unicorns.”
The unicorns exchanged a glance, looked back at Tenzou, and tilted their entire bodies.
“You got a problem with that?”
“That! That was an honest complaint, wasn’t it!?”
“Not at all-orrrrn. All unicorns have pure hearts-orrrrn.”
“Really?” he asked the Reine des Garous who smiled and nodded.
“If they talk back to me, I just hunt them down. I’m a Loup-Garou after all.”
“Is that how it works?” he asked Mitotsudaira who averted her gaze.
Being her daughter can’t be easy, he thought while counting the unicorns.
There were four in all, but…
…Only a virgin girl can ride them, right?
“Um, what are Toori-dono and I supposed to do?”
“Unicorns only allow pure girls to ride them-orrrrn.”
“After all, unicorns love girls-orrrrn.”
“Th-that was blunt! That was amazingly blunt!”
“Calm down,” said a voice behind him.
Next, a gentle shadow and wind moved from behind him.
Naito sat sidesaddle on one of the unicorns. That was fast, thought Tenzou, but a moment later…
“What is it, Master Tenzou? What’s wrong with Lady Naito?”
“Well, um, didn’t they say only a pure girl could… huh? Ehhhhh!? But, wait. Based on the story I once heard about Naruze-dono’s birthday…ehhh!?”
“Oh? Master Tenzou, are you referring to when Lady Naito and Lady Naruze ate a tart in bed together? What’s wrong with that? Don’t tell me that’s enough to make you impure.”
“Do you have a question-orrrrn? My unicorn senses say she’s pure-orrrrn. There’s no problem here-orrrrn. Pant, pant…”
“I-I’d say that panting at the end there is one hell of a problem!!”
“Calm down,” said Mary as she placed her coat over a unicorn’s back and sat on top of it. “This way, I won’t hurt your back, right? I learned that in England. When riding without a saddle, you can hurt the horse’s back if it isn’t used to carrying people.”
“Wh-what a disappointment-orrrrn.”
Once Mitotsudaira sat on one as well, all of the girls except the Reine des Garous had their steed.
…I can just run alongside them, so…
He turned around to call for Toori and found the idiot was crossdressing.
The idiot turned around in an M.H.R.R. girl’s uniform and a blonde wig.
“Do I look good in this!?”
…How am I supposed to answer when he asks so forcefully?
At any rate, the Reine des Garous, who was dressed the same, brought a hand to her cheek.
“I had those sent here like you asked, but it looks far better on you than I expected.”
“Um… What craziness is this?”
“You really don’t get it, Tenzou!? This is so they’ll carry me as a pure maiden!”
“Perverts are impure at the most fundamental level, so no thank you-orrrrn.”
“Y-your plan has failed already!”
“Calm down,” cut in the Reine des Garous as she looked back and forth between Tenzou and the unicorn. “As vice chancellor of Hexagone Française, I will courteously carry Musashi’s king. If I’m holding him, the boy will not actually be ‘riding’ you, right?”
She picked up the idiot in a princess carry. “Umm,” said Toori as he scratched at his head, but he did not actually protest. Tenzou decided to leave that to the Reine des Garous, but then…
“Over here, my king.”
Mitotsudaira closed her eyes, raised her nose, and turned away before swiping Toori with a piece of divinely-protected ivy she had secretly kept with her. “Oh!” cried Toori as he was swung through the air. With his torso wrapped in the ivy, he lightly landed in her lap as she sat on the unicorn.
“Nate, I really feel like a piece of luggage right now.”
“If I left my king with another nation’s vice chancellor, I would never hear the end of it from Horizon and Kimi.”
“Oh, dear. Musashi’s knight wants her king all to herself, doesn’t she?”
Tenzou saw Mitotsudaira briefly bare her teeth at her mother’s provocation.
He truly wanted to avoid another fight between monsters here and he decided to straight-up ignore Naito’s shouts of “Get her! Get her!”
The Reine des Garous shrugged as if to say there was no helping it.
…Is she enjoying this?
I don’t understand women, he thought as the Reine des Garous climbed onto the remaining unicorn. The other unicorns shouted “orrrn!” in surprise and the one finally reacted.
It began to cry.
“M-my purity has been stolen… I was only ever ridden by little girls before! But now….!”
“Friend! The orrrrn! Don’t forget the orrrrn!”
“Mother, I think this plan was doomed from the start.”
“I-I’ve still got it! I do!”
“And I think they’re looking at the whole purity issue from the wrong angle,” added Tenzou.
After a quick discussion, they compromised by placing her coat over the unicorn’s back as a dividing line.
“Well, that’s everyone. I can just…”
Tenzou trailed off as he noticed Mary staring intently at Mitotsudaira who carried Toori in her lap.
After a few breaths, she slowly turned toward him with her eyebrows a bit raised and her cheeks flushed. She then brought her legs together and spread her arms.
The two Excaliburs floated next to Mary as steps up to her, but he could predict a living hell in the future from how Naito was setting up a recording Magie Figur with a businesslike expression.
“Master Tenzou, this situation demands some sacrifices.”
…Indeed, those huge breasts are definitely worth some sacrifices. And if my future wife says so, it must be true.
Not even Tenzou entirely understood his reasoning there, but he obeyed the guidance of his faith in large breasts.
Once he stepped on the Excaliburs, they floated up.
They provided footing for him on either side of the unicorn’s back, so he could stand behind Mary without actually riding the unicorn. It required some balancing, but that was a simple task for a ninja. Also…
“Master Tenzou, I think you have this backwards.”
He lifted Mary in his arms. She smiled as her hips rose from the unicorn and Naito whistled behind them, but he had built up his resolve. He started calculating out just how many stealth techniques he would need to use to weather the storm once he returned to the Musashi, but Mary spoke with a smile in her voice.
“I had always dreamed of this situation since reading it in a story. This is the dashing prince carrying you away on his white horse, isn’t it?”
“That burning passion! I’m going to melt!” shouted the two Loup-Garous and Naito, but he ignored that and their suspicious actions. He had clearly already reached overkill levels, so he had nothing left to lose.
“But I imagine things are getting rough in Magdeburg, Musashi, and K.P.A. Italia right about now.”
“What are we gonna do, Shibata? Don’t you think it’s too much work to get this fixated on Magdeburg?”
On the eastern bank of the Elbe River, Narimasa spoke to Katsuie while letting a fishing line fall into the river near their tent. He sat still, waiting for the fishing rod to move, and Katsuie stood about ten meters upstream with a long fishing rod of his own. Katsuie suddenly raised a hand behind him.
A cannon fired, slight ripples covered the river’s surface, and he tugged on his fishing rod.
“Oh! Here we go! That really does get the fish moving! Let’s make this a thing, Narimasa! Cannon fishing! There’s no way this won’t turn into a big business! You handle the advertisement and I’ll manage all the income!!”
“If you want a fishing net, how about you hand over half the rights to that income!?”
“What!? I was clearly joking, you idiot! There’s no way I’d actually team up with you! If I was starting a business now, it’d be with Lady Oichi!”
“God, you’re annoying.”
A fish struck the side of his face, so Narimasa caught the large salmon before it hit the ground and put it in his basket.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing!?” he shouted back.
“You’re freaking me out by taking this so seriously.”
Katsuie backed away a little and went on to look into the northern sky.
“You can’t see the Musashi anymore.”
“Eh? What? Was it scaring you? …Ah, don’t throw rocks at me, you idiot! That’s dangerous!!”
“They’re not even hitting you, so quit complaining. …Anyway, the Musashi may be gone, but some of their people are in Magdeburg, aren’t they?”
Narimasa looked in the direction Katsuie was pointing. Two gods of war were undergoing combat practice toward Magdeburg’s western wall. One was Satomi’s Righteousness and the other was Hexagone Française’s Palais-Cardinal.
“Neither of those are Musashi’s.”
“Old Tomoe’s there, Anne of Whatever’s there, and that chestnut-headed vacuum hemisphere guy’s there, so someone you hate is probably coming too. And they’ll be meeting with Musashi’s vice president…what was her name?”
“Wow, when it’s a girl’s name, you answer right away! You pervert. …Hm, so what’s this? Is that the kind of girl you’re into? Are you in L-O-V-… Oh? You wanna fight? You wanna fight!?”
“God, could you be any more annoying?”
“Shut up,” said Katsuie before casting his fishing line back into the river. “Musashi’s vice president’s definitely there. Probably some others too as bodyguards. I bet we could take her out if we attacked now.”
“What would you do about Tomoe Gozen?”
“She can only use that Testamenta Arma once a day, so that doesn’t matter now.”
“No, I meant her attack power.”
“What? I’m vice chancellor of M.H.H.R. and P.A. Oda. …And she’s an old lady. Her stamina’s dropped, so I could beat her now.”
“Could you not before?”
“I fought her two or three times before, but decided I was having a bad day and ran. I was only five at the time, though.”
“Oh, so you were a moron as a little kid, too.”
Katsuie began throwing rocks and Narimasa began throwing rocks back, but they finally took a break once Katsuie’s fishing rod moved.
“Well, there’s Musashi’s vice chancellor too, but I’ve seen most of what she can do. The gods of war will raise morale, but they’d need thirty of them to hunt down our entire siege force before we destroyed the city. At best, they could manage a defensive fight. They would probably try to defend the city, but Magdeburg doesn’t have any walls on the Elbe side to promote trade by river.”
“But they dropped the harbor themselves and set up a defense spell device to deflect any attacks. There’s no easy way of attacking, but the plan given at that strategy meeting was to charge straight in. Are you sure that’ll work?”
“It’ll be fine. If things aren’t looking good, we can use a cannon to fire you into the city!!”
“Please don’t strike a pose when you say that. And you’ve got all that solid armor, so you do it!!”
This time Narimasa began the exchange of thrown stones, but they agreed to a truce once Katsuie’s fishing rod moved again.
“Well, we’ve gotta do this right. If we don’t earn a win for Hashiba here, M.H.R.R. will probably get tougher on her.”
“She really pushes herself too hard.”
“We’ve gotta do this.” Katsuie smiled bitterly and sat next to his fishing rod. “Once our master dies, she and I aren’t going to get along any more. I’ll be driven into my own castle where I kill myself. Earlier, Lady Oichi and I were filling up our schedules so we could enjoy every day until then. I don’t know when that’s going to happen, but I need to make sure Hashiba can continue on in my place.”
“There’s no real reason for you to die, you know? You can always retire.”
“We’ve gotta play along. And it’s not much different for you,” said Katsuie. “After my death, you rebel against Hashiba and end up killing yourself. And at the urging of Hashiba and Toshiie’s warriors. …Toshiie has a way of brooding on things, so keep that in mind when you do it. Or as much as a small fry like you can, anyway.”
“Sometimes it seems like death wouldn’t be so bad.”
“I’ve told Toshi to make things as exciting as possible if he’s gonna come for me. I’ve told him to take me on with the kind of excitement he wouldn’t show Hashiba or any of the others.”
“Kah! Would you look at that youth? I can almost smell how inexperienced you are. …Especially that ‘take me on’ pose!”
“Hey, you’ve got a bite. …Yay! Just kiiiidding! You really are stupid, aren’t you? Hm? What are you pointing at?”
“You’ve got a bite.”
“Whaaaat!? Why are you lying again? Humans really are the worst, you liar in sunglasses!”
Katsuie’s fishing rod almost seemed to hop up as it was dragged into the river. He could only say “ah” before Narimasa cut in.
“Hah! You idiot!”
“What!? That was your fault for not being convincing enough! Your words lacked sincerity! …Honestly, why was I cursed with such an awful underclassman?”
“Oh, god. You really are annoying.”
But Narimasa quickly changed the subject.
“Anyway, I wonder how Kuki and the others are doing. They should be fighting in K.P.A. Italia right about now.”
“Well, Magoichi’s with them, so they’ll be fine.”
“They’re up against K.P.A. Italia, so it isn’t going to be easy.”
As Katsuie looked to the southern sky, M.H.R.R.’s iron-clad ships were finally beginning to corner K.P.A. Italia’s Murakami Navy in the skies south of M.H.R.R. and west of the Seto Inland Sea.
The Murakami Navy had bought some time by pulling back, but they had not destroyed any of the iron-clad ships commanded by Kuki and they were approaching the critical point for stopping them from approaching Itsukushima.
And at 3:17 PM, the Murakami Navy’s fleet of small ships finally deepened its deployment and began firing repeatedly.
Both sides of the naval battle between K.P.A. Italia and M.H.R.R. had finally begun to fight in earnest.
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