Horizon:Volume 3C Chapter 64
Chapter 64: Searcher of a Dark Path
Can you bring the situation with you
When you make a decision?
Point Allocation (Self-Judgment)
Several people wearing black stood in a thicket of dark trees.
A tall woman stood in the lead and several boys and girls followed.
They were the Reine des Garous and the Musashi group sent to meet Rudolf II.
At the back of the line, Mitotsudaira turned around and narrowed her eyes to peer into the forest that was already filling with darkness.
“The unicorns have gone now that we’ve left their territory, haven’t they?”
Mitotsudaira turned her back on the others to look into the darkness and sighed in her heart.
…We covered a lot of ground pretty quickly, but we still have a long way to go.
Unfortunately, the divine protection had run out on the ivy wrapped around the chancellor. It had happened while they were still riding the unicorns, so she had been forced to drag him along with the ivy. He had yelled with excitement, but she had felt more like an execution rider than a knight.
Mary had reapplied the protection, but the ivy itself had been worn down enough that it snapped partway through and they had planted it in the earth again.
However, they had been unable to find any other suitable ivy.
…Well, I suppose this is as far as the unicorns can take us.
“But mother, we may have crossed into M.H.R.R., but we still have forests and valleys to travel through. What are we going to do?”
She looked over her shoulder to see a calm smile on her mother’s lips.
“We will wait until our next ‘ride’ gets here. It’s been a while since I called it, so it may take a while. But…”
The Reine des Garous reached into her pocket, pulled out a piece of parchment and an attached signe cadre, and tilted her head.
“Anne and the others must be holding their secret meeting in Magdeburg right now. I can guess most of what they’ll talk about, but what is the M.H.R.R. ambassador from P.A. Oda going to say?”
“I would assume the customary recommendation of capitulation,” said the ninja.
The crossdresser reacted immediately.
“Recommendation of titillation!? Where!? I want to be a part of that!”
“Reine des Garous, you can ignore that. Now, about the recommendation of capitulation…”
“Yes.” The Reine des Garous placed a hand on her cheek. “Even if they claim to be doing it out of mercy, there are sure to be some strings attached. Assuming their purpose is to attack Magdeburg, it will likely be exactly what Anne mentioned in this letter,” she said. “First, they will request all of the documents on the Magdeburg Hemispheres. After all, those could easily be used to assist Musashi. And…”
“And? What else is there?”
What she said next brought them all to a stop.
“They will similarly request Musashi’s princess and the Logismoi Óplo.”
They were all speechless, but she said nothing more on that subject.
“Now, we need to hurry on to Rudolf II. We won’t accomplish anything by discussing problems to come after that. …So let’s go.”
She looked deep into the forest and Mitotsudaira did the same.
Their next “ride” was here to replace the unicorns and Mitotsudaira heard hooves on the ground.
“At night, this will be faster than the unicorns. This monster represents the fear of night in Europe. …A carriage drawn by a headless horse can carry us thousands of miles.”
The black carriage that arrived from the side produced sounds of wind and hooves yet produced no actual wind or clouds of dust.
The headless horse raised its front paw toward the Reine des Garous and spoke.
“Long time no see-mare.”
“M-mother! Why do I feel like we’re living in the Egg Monster series!?”
“How rude. Isn’t he cute? The blue flames along the neck cut will disappoint anyone obsessed with gore, though. Well, no need to wait around for my complaining daughter. Hurry onboard everyone.”
As soon as she opened the door, the idiot jumped in. “Oh, my,” said the mother as she escorted him inside with a smile. Mitotsudaira was upset that her job had been taken from her, but the idiot patted the black sofa with both hands.
“Get in, Nate, get in! You can have the window seat!”
“Eh? Next to you?”
Just as she began thinking about the proper positioning for a knight and her king, her mother placed her hands on her hips.
“If you don’t want to, maybe I’ll sit there.”
“It would bring shame to the title of special duty officer to allow that kind of danger!”
Just as Mitotsudaira began to climb in, she heard Mary laughing. The girl hid her smile behind a hand, took a breath, and looked eastward.
“I hope those in the meeting at Magdeburg are having this much fun.”
In Magdeburg and below Avalon’s night sky, Masazumi listened to Matsunaga. He was explaining what P.A. Oda was demanding to accept their surrender.
…Just as I thought, they want the hemispheres and the Logismoi Óplo, including Horizon.
“To P.A. Oda, those things could be a problem for the Genesis Project. You can see how we have little choice,” said Matsunaga. “But I’m guessing the surrender negotiations aren’t going anywhere.”
Guericke and Anne nodded in agreement and Masazumi…
“Removing the Logismoi Óplo from Horizon would mean breaking down her body. …We obviously can’t agree to that request.”
“So you’re giving us conditions we could never accept but claiming you still showed us a ‘merciful compromise’, hm?” said Anne. “Well, I have to admit demanding a surrender with strings attached is pretty amazing. …In a way, I guess P.A. Oda wants power too.”
Guericke nodded in agreement.
“If you have the Logismoi Óplo, you can focus on the Genesis Project but still have a backup plan in case that project fails. Is that it?”
“I don’t really know the details about all this, but…” Matsunaga smiled bitterly. “I kind of wanted to meet Musashi’s princess for a variety of reasons.”
“I bet you did,” replied Masazumi before a sudden voice reached her from the side.
It was Guericke’s. Still sitting, he slid a half spot forward.
“At any rate, as Magdeburg’s provisional mayor, let me respond to the recommendation of capitulation concerning the Sack of Magdeburg.”
He closed his eyes and sighed before continuing.
“I cannot agree to surrender. …After all, Magdeburg’s surrender is not a part of the history recreation.”
The negotiation indeed went nowhere.
Guericke’s decision left everyone speechless.
But just before the silence grew to a sigh, Suleiman opened his mouth.
“In that case, I suppose we’re back to normal or at least the way things were before, right?”
You make it sound so trivial, thought Masazumi, but to him, it really was a trivial matter. And when she thought about it…
…Musashi may be helping, but we’re really only an observer here.
Even Matsunaga had only been temporarily put under Hashiba’s command because Hashiba’s forces were stretched thin with their strategy placing them on multiple fronts. Matsunaga himself had no connection to the history recreation here.
…That’s probably exactly why he was sent here as their ambassador.
The others here had to understand that, so Masazumi relaxed her shoulders.
“In terms of the Sengoku period, Lord Matsunaga, we could probably take you hostage to negotiate with Hashiba.”
“That’s a dangerous idea, but it’s just the kind of idea I like. …Then again, I’m not a part of this fight and my history recreation has me rebelling against Nobunaga twice before blowing myself up. If I was captured, they’d probably just leave me here.”
“Hold on. Then how am I supposed to get home?” asked Suleiman with a bitter smile.
“Sassa’s outside the city too, so you’d probably have some trouble.”
…So Sassa and Suleiman know each other.
There are a lot of connections out there, thought Masazumi before suddenly thinking about her connection with Matsunaga.
But if she was ready to let her mind wander like that…
“I suppose that mostly ends the part of the meeting meant to determine Musashi’s position in the fight against P.A. Oda.”
After Masazumi’s question, Guericke, Tomoe, and Anne all nodded.
“Hmm. I suppose. Then I guess it’s time for the discussions between individual nations.”
That noncommittal response came from Matsunaga’s bitter smile.
Eventually, he continued.
“You’re planning to pass through my place after Magdeburg, right? Are you really going to do that? I’ll send out the Shigisan, you know? Are you sure you want that?”
“We can’t allow ourselves to destroy the Hiragumo, so it is a formidable foe,” replied Masazumi with a bitter smile of her own.
Matsunaga’s smile relaxed.
“But,” he said. “If you’re doing Hashiba’s history recreation, then it won’t be long until I retire. I’ll be rebelling, after all. How’s that going to go?”
He asked that final question to no one in particular.
However, it did bring an image to Masazumi’s mind. While at IZUMO the night before last, she had seen Matsunaga drinking at the cafe counter and the nudist cooking in the kitchen.
…Will that ever be able to happen again?
With that in mind, she made a suggestion.
“Once your role is complete, why not come to Musashi, Lord Matsunaga?”
Matsunaga had a thought as that question escaped his throat.
…Oh, c’mon. What kind of pathetic sounds am I making now?
But it had been so sudden.
…They’ll take me in?
That’s ridiculous, he thought. That’s impossible, he thought.
“Wait, wait, wait. I’m a pretty evil person. You’d be in trouble if the other nations knew I was with you. Some would ask you to hand me over and others would refuse to trust you. I’m a shogun killer and the burner of Toudai-ji. That’s just the kind of destroyer I am.”
That was also why he had agreed to work for Nobunaga.
Nobunaga had used the shogun as a puppet and burned Mt. Hiei.
…As destroyers, I’m the senior and Nobunaga is the junior.
“If necessary, I’ll kill and destroy. That’s the kind of person I am. But you’re different. Just like that idiot and your princess chose at Mikawa, you refuse to think of killing or destroying as necessary. We’re incompatible. And…”
He smiled a little as he spoke.
“In the Far East, I thought you couldn’t be a student past the age of eighteen.”
“Wouldn’t it be interesting if you became the one to destroy that rule?”
When he heard Musashi’s vice president, Suleiman elbowed Matsunaga’s shoulder.
“You’re a popular guy, Matsunaga.”
“It comes naturally to me.”
Musashi’s vice president smiled bitterly at the two men’s exchange.
“Well, just think of it as a suggestion.” The bitterness left her smile. “Our idiot and princess’s policy is to never lose anything. Lord Matsunaga, from what I’ve seen, you’re quite the trickster. In other words, you refuse to let anything go as planned. That’s why I won’t insist that you come. But if you’re ever nearby while on a trip, feel free to stop by.”
“I might even refuse to follow that plan of yours, you know?”
“That’s why it’s only a suggestion. If you visit us…” The bitterness returned to her smile. “You can speak and drink with the idiot who decided on this policy, you can meet the princess you wanted to see, and you can visit Principal Sakai and some others you might know. …Whether it’s porn games or anything else, you’re free to do whatever you want.”
The aide sitting next to the vice president tapped on her shoulder and glared at her. The aide handed over a sign frame and the vice president finally reformed her smile.
“Whatever you want that’s legal.”
“That sounds awfully restrictive…”
However, he let out a single smiling cough as if his chest were vibrating.
“Heh. I see. So that stupid boy and the princess have a policy of never losing anything, do they? Interesting. But…an evil person can’t have people worrying about where he’ll end up.”
“Ha ha. Lord Matsunaga, I think that attitude is just about perfect.”
“Don’t flatter me,” he said. “But what are you going to do? …Musashi has no strength as a nation, isn’t that right?”
That’s right, thought Masazumi as she was drawn in by Matsunaga’s tone of voice.
“I mostly realized that at the meeting the night before last.”
Her tone had gotten lighter which she felt showed her inexperience, but there was no point in hiding it here.
“Before, I had planned on travelling from England to M.H.R.R. to attend the Peace of Westphalia, but…”
“Even if we managed to prove Musashi’s ability to influence the history recreation at England, England was the only nation that really understood us. We also needed more than three weeks of repairs afterwards, so I think we are far too weak to handle the main forces of Hexagone Française or P.A. Oda. Musashi is currently carrying out the history recreation and fighting as the main force of a nation, but that is all. We aren’t a true nation that can rush out into the world at large and continue cruising indefinitely.”
Tonbokiri: “Sorry, Masazumi.”
Vice President: “It isn’t your responsibility. These recent battles haven’t even been individual duels. We’ve been using our overall power. And if that isn’t enough, we can never win a war even if we win some local battles.”
Masazumi knew that quite well, so…
Mal-Ga: “Wh-what is this serious mood between you two!? You’re trying to tempt me into drawing up a storyboard, aren’t you!? No, at this point, I should probably ink it too!”
Shut up, you idiot. But anyway, sighed Masazumi in her heart before opening her mouth.
She needed to express Musashi’s future plans.
“After helping rescue the people of Magdeburg from the Sack, Musashi plans to enter Kantou with the help of Qing-Takeda. Of course, that’s after traveling from Osaka Bay and forcing our way through Lord Matsunaga’s land.”
She looked across the others’ faces.
They were all looking her way, but they looked more curious than serious.
They’re testing me, she realized anew. And not just me. They’re testing Musashi as a whole.
So she stated their plan as a response to that test.
“We will travel to Kantou, negotiate with Qing-Takeda, Satomi, Houjou, and – if possible – Sviet Rus to try to bring them over to our side. Our overall strength as a nation does not include just the Musashi itself. It includes the strength and influence we gain through the cooperation of other nations.”
“On the way to Kantou, we will recreate the Battle of Mikatagahara with the help of Qing-Takeda.”
“Oh?” said Tomoe. “That’s quite a decision on Yoshitsune’s part. The Battle of Mikatagahara means the death of that idiot’s inherited name of Shingen.”
“But thanks to that, we can continue with our history recreation. Yes… That’s the starting line. Shingen will die and we will stand just before the Battle of Nagashino that leads to the fall of Takeda.”
Once Takeda fell, Nobunaga’s death would be close. Historically, he had travelled to and from Kyou but been killed by his retainer, Akechi Mitsuhide, at Honnouji before establishing his rule over the entire Far East.
“We’re going to owe a lot to Qing-Takeda.”
“But,” cut in Matsunaga with a tilt of the head. “You can’t rely on Satomi, Houjou, and Qing-Takeda forever. Musashi itself needs its own strength, doesn’t it?”
“We are already making the arrangements for that.”
Masazumi waved her right hand.
A sign frame appeared in front of that hand and it displayed a line drawing.
“This was made on short notice, but these are the plans for the modifications we’ll have made at Kantou IZUMO.”
Everyone reacted with surprise and for good reason. The image of the Musashi based on Naomasa’s suggested design had a certain addition.
“We will arm the Musashi, including a main cannon. These are the plans for making the Musashi a combat-ready ship.”
“C’mon, now. I thought the Musashi had been disarmed.”
“We need to fight to defend ourselves. Plus, we need weapons when hired as a mercenary. But most importantly, we learned in England that we will sometimes have to fight in order to gain the Logismoi Óplo needed to stop the Apocalypse. So while these modifications are made, we will solidify our position in Kantou and then return here. And when we return, we will have the strength needed to get away with what I just mentioned.”
“When that time comes, please test us again. You’re worried about Musashi’s strength as a nation, but I promise you that we will be strong enough once we return.”
No one immediately agreed or disagreed with her, but Tomoe was the first to move. She placed her hands on her crossed legs and gave a deep nod.
“That is enough. With that, I think I can expect something from you in the future. So at this point…”
Masazumi predicted Tomoe was going to call the meeting to a close, but…
A sign frame suddenly appeared next to her face and it contained a message from Neshinbara.
Novice: “Everyone, please remain calm and hear what I have to say. We just received word that the battle between K.P.A. Italia and M.H.R.R. has ended.”
They all turned around in surprise, but the report on the battle’s end was summed up quite succinctly.
Novice: “Itsukushima has fallen.”
Masazumi thought about what that meant.
…K.P.A. Italia lost?
They would have had many powerful fighters including the Pope-Chancellor, Galileo, and Tachibana Dousetsu, but Neshinbara had told them what had happened.
“The floating island of Itsukushima…was sunk and split down the middle?”
She had seen a portion of IZUMO break off and fall away the day before.
Itsukushima was a smaller floating island than IZUMO, but…
…How do you split something like that?
She had questions, but the footage from a PR committee member clearly showed what looked like two islands in the ocean below the dark clouds. Reports of tsunami damage were coming in from the surrounding areas and the remaining K.P.A. Italia forces had sent out a statement saying they would continue their resistance.
“Wow,” said Asama. “The divine network is on the verge of overloading. …Oh, sorry. I’ll switch it over to local mode for the time being!”
Several sign frames appeared around her and Hanami struck a few of them to shrink them.
Everyone exchanged a glance to see what the others would decide.
“That took some time getting here,” said Matsunaga. “I heard about it before I arrived.”
He took a more casual posture and looked up into Avalon’s sky as he spoke.
“Well, as ambassador, I’ll give you one last notification.”
“What is that?”
“Shaja.” He breathed out into the sky as if exhaling tobacco smoke. “Hashiba told me to say this. She said Musashi could easily bring in some supplies or mercenaries when it returned to Magdeburg, so she told me to make an announcement at the end of the meeting. Basically, the Sack of Magdeburg is beginning early.”
“Don’t look so shocked,” he said. “It’s beginning a day early, so tonight at eight. That’s two hours from now, right? Right. …In two hours, the thirty thousand warriors laying siege outside will come rushing in.”
And at 6:12 PM, Matsunaga had completed his job as ambassador, so he and Suleiman left Magdeburg in his primary ship, the Shigisan. At the same time, the M.H.R.R. Catholics used a barrier to cut off all divine transmissions around Magdeburg.
Asama worked with Magdeburg’s academy to restore a Shinto base to the city’s divine transmission environment, but they could not contact anyone outside the city. Essentially, Magdeburg’s eyes and ears had been taken from them in the darkness of the night.
However, they managed to salvage a few pieces of information from the transmissions sent in just before they were cut off.
The first was K.P.A. Italia’s situation. Asama distributed it to everyone else.
“To Whom It May Concern,
How are you doing on this early summer day? Amen.
Thanks to your excellent guidance, we have just had the wonderful experience of defeat. Itsukushima was sunk and the Pope-Chancellor is missing, but all the more, the moderates are working toward a peaceful resolution while the resistors are heading out to the field to resist. Once that begins…”
“Is it just me, or is there a lot of sarcasm in this?”
“Heh heh heh. I do see some hints of resentment here and there. Flat politician, what do you think?”
“It’s definitely an issue that the Pope-Chancellor is missing. That means the manager of the Catholic forces and the Testament Union nations is absent. The different nations will have to begin checking on and trying to take advantage of the situation.”
“The European and Tsirhc nations won’t be able to work together and that creates the perfect opening for Hashiba’s group to interfere.”
Another piece of information was the Musashi’s status.
When the Musashi had been informed of the early start to the Sack of Magdeburg, it had still been in a city on the border with Holland while letting off the evacuees.
It would take eight hours to be towed all the way back to Magdeburg. Even if they left at 6:30 PM, they would only arrive the following morning at 4:30 AM. The divine mail from the Musashi just before transmissions were cut off had been short:
“We will do our best to arrive as quickly as possible. Over.”
The Musashi group in Magdeburg could only interpret those words for themselves.
And at 6:30 PM, the entire city of Magdeburg was filled with a rush of reconsidering or reconstructing their defenses and a state of emergency was announced.
Novice: “The enemy could receive reinforcements or any number of other bad scenarios could play out, so whether the Musashi can arrive more quickly is going to be our lifeline here.”
Would Magdeburg last until then?
And Asama spoke for all of the Musashi residents there.
“I wonder what Toori-kun and the others are doing right now.”
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