Horizon:Volume 3C Chapter 86
Chapter 86: Those Waiting on the Path Ahead
What is the difference
Between your heart’s point of compromise
And its destination?
Point Allocation (Focus on the Future)
The Musashi was preparing to “blast off” from its vertical orientation as the transport ship from Magdeburg docked on it. At almost the same moment, wind began to blow through the sky and the clouds dispersed.
On the transport ship, Asama adjusted the settings of her divine transmission connection to the Musashi.
…A lot has happened.
She started by trying to keep a positive outlook.
Countless feelings welled up in her heart. She decided not become a prisoner to them but also not to stop them.
She was well aware she could not say a word as she walked toward the lighter that would take them down to Tama. The diplomatic port surrounding them was filled with the commotion and light of their docking.
She wanted to pull along the others on the transport ship. She did not have an official position, but that meant she had more freedom here.
Just as everyone turned toward her, she noticed someone standing on the edge of the transport ship’s deck.
She realized he was staring up into the night sky.
Kimi was holding his hand, so she thought he would be fine. He also had Mitotsudaira behind him, but some worry remained in her heart.
Still crossdressing and looking up to the moon, he spoke to her.
“I wonder if she had fun.”
She answered him on reflex.
Asama felt everyone focus on her in response to her answer.
…But I have to say no.
Saying Anne had had fun would have been best.
It was a way of showing her thoughts for the deceased.
But if she answered one way or the other, it would accept her passing. And that it had happened in a way closely related to them.
…And that would definitely make him sad.
She could not allow that. Toori of course understood that as well, but he probably did not know how to stop himself as he found himself empathizing with what he saw happen before his eyes.
That was why he had asked her about Anne. He had asked someone with knowledge of Shinto, of its funereal ceremonies, of spirits, of life, and of the afterlife.
He had asked if Anne had had fun.
He had the ability to think about anyone without any kind of favoritism or discrimination, so she wanted to let him do that. But…
She answered while reminding herself that he had asked her because this was her duty.
“Anne-san protected everyone like she always did.”
“Did she protect you too, Toori-kun?”
Asama saw Kimi squeeze his hand and that may have been why he was able to say what he did.
“Oh,” he said. “I guess I should be thanking her then.”
He quickly looked down from the moon.
“I’ll repay you for that someday, so thanks!”
He was looking to the future instead of into the past. He turned toward Asama – no, toward everyone – and gave his usual smile, even if it was weaker than normal. Seeing that, Asama could sigh and look behind her.
Everyone was gathered on Tama’s port and deck: Horizon, Shirojiro, Heidi, Noriki, Ohiroshiki, Hassan, Itoken, Nenji, and Persona-kun. After seeing them all, Asama turned back toward Toori and the others there.
“Hurry up, everyone!”
She managed to speak the same as always thanks to her training as a shrine maiden.
They all started forward while worrying over each other.
The idiot descended toward the Musashi first.
Up ahead, they could see the familiar surface of the Musashi and the people waiting for them. And…
“Welcome back, everyone.”
A silver-haired figure took a step forward from the waiting group.
It was Horizon.
As Asama wondered what this was about, the approaching girl gestured toward Toori.
“Toori-sama, come over here a moment.”
Eh? thought Asama as Toori jogged over.
He stopped in front of Horizon, tilted his head, and asked what was going on. Horizon began by raising her right hand.
When the crossdresser realized she was preparing a slap, he leaned back and held his hands out to stop her.
“Hollllld it, Horizon! I was just hit by my sis earlier!”
“Oh?” asked Horizon. “Then you have two options.”
She stuck a hand into the space behind her and the idiot realized what that meant.
“N-not the Logismoi Óplo! Anything but that!”
“Judge. That would be the lighter option. Here.”
She pulled something out of thin air.
“This is a bowl full of seaweed. …Now, make a joke.”
“Eh? I-isn’t this a bad time for adlibbing!? I don’t think it would last long!”
…She sure is strict.
Asama began to agree with him, but…
…Our shrine worships an entertainment god, so at least we have an understanding about this kind of thing.
But as she watched, Horizon glared up at him.
“Oh? And you call yourself an entertainer? My emotion sensors are telling me this entertainer is afraid.”
“W-wait, wait, wait, Horizon.” The idiot held the bowl in his arms. “The others have some things they can tell you later, but… Hey, Neshinbara! You have something important to tell Horizon, don’t you? Explain that.”
Neshinbara stepped forward.
“You leave me no choice,” he began. “We are about to pass through P.A. Oda territory to meet up with Qing-Takeda for the history recreation of the Battle of Mikatagahara. That’s how we’ll travel from Mikawa to Sagami on the way to Edo.”
“How is that important to me?”
“You don’t get it?” asked Toori. “In the actual historical battle, the head of Matsudaira was so scared he crapped his pants while running away.”
Asama heard the idiot tell Horizon to listen carefully.
“I’ll take your place for that, okay!? Yeah, you can leave it all to me, Horizon! …I’ll help you with your history recreation!”
…This is getting weird again.
As Mitotsudaira thought to herself, she saw Horizon tilt her head beyond the idiot.
“No, I don’t need you to do that.”
“C’mon, Horizon! Don’t be embarrassed! You can leave it all to me! To me! That’s right… I’ll crap myself so hard for you! Yeah, that’s what this means.”
“Um, chancellor, where did this sense of duty come from?”
The idiot began dancing to ignore that comment, but Horizon was still tilting her head beyond him. She then stuck a hand into the empty space behind her.
“If that is the issue, then I believe this will suffice.”
She pulled out a white wooden box labelled “#2 Collection Box”.
“This is the stool test for the school trip, but I believe it will suffice as an interpretation.”
The idiot and everyone from the transport ship group froze in place.
Horizon then spoke to all of them.
“As our teacher explained during homeroom the other day, she has set the deadline at nine o’clock. …Oh, that is only two minutes from now. All of the samples are to be collected by then, but do you have yours?”
The trouble Asama had caused on the ascending transport ship was proving useful after all. They had the results with them, but…
“W-wait, Horizon. Over here, over here. U-um… Please look the other way, everyone! W-we need to do this somewhere more private!”
The girls of the transport ship group frantically pulled Horizon down below the transport ship’s lighter.
They all quickly placed the small white paper bags in the box.
“Now then, everyone. Shall I shake the box to mix them up?”
“H-Horizon? No pulling one out like a lottery! No saying ‘Oh? The winner of our special prize is Asama-sama’!”
“Why would you use my name!?”
Meanwhile, Naomasa brushed a hand through her hair.
“Uh, oh. I forgot to write my name on mine. Um, can I check real quick?”
“Eh? I-I forgot to write my name, too!”
Naomasa looked Adele in the eye.
“You didn’t use a dog’s, did you?”
“Oh, yeah…” groaned the others.
They all nodded and Asama gave the deepest nod of all.
“Adele, didn’t you do that in elementary school and ended up in the hospital for a week because of all the crazy things they found in it? There were even some things they shouldn’t have found in a human, so they just about sterilized the entire school.”
“Yeah, that was a valuable lesson …T-to be clear, I didn’t do it this time.”
At that point, the idiot walked up. The girls shrieked and backed away, but he looked more concerned than anything.
“U-um, I don’t have a set, so does anyone have a spare!?”
“Judge.” Horizon nodded, pulled a rice bowl and chopsticks from empty air, and handed them to him. “Please place it in here and deliver it to our teacher. Don’t ask me what will happen then, though.”
“Nwohhhh! Talk about difficult material! And wait. Did you submit a sample too, sis?”
“Heh heh heh. Foolish brother, a perfect sister would never do that! Sisters are given a free pass!”
“But Kimi, this one right there has your name on it.”
Kimi instantly erased her own name and wrote “Asama 2” in its place.
“Eh!? Wh-why am I submitting two!? I’m not that hard a worker!”
What kind of person would do that? wondered Mitotsudaira, but she held her tongue for fear of becoming another victim.
Kimi then nodded twice and placed her hands on Asama’s shoulders.
“This is your duty, Asama. A shrine maiden is meant to help out her shrine’s supporters.”
“Not like this!”
“Oh, c’mon. This girl keeps lecturing me over the most trivial things. What are you, my mom? Oh, but you are! You’re my Asamom! …Oh, look.”
A small commotion broke out when Kimi stuck her hand inside the chest of Asama’s shirt.
While everyone argued about a number of things, Adele and Naomasa quickly wrote their names on their samples and returned them to the box.
Meanwhile, the idiot scratched his head and spoke to Horizon.
“By the way…”
Everyone tilted their heads and he asked her a question.
“Are you giving a sample, too?”
“W-wait a minute, my king!”
Everyone was shocked by that question and Mitotsudaira stepped forward.
“I can’t believe you! You can’t ask that, my king! That’s clearly entering the realm of perversion!”
“But kids love poop jokes. …Is that really not how it works?”
“Judge,” confirmed Mitotsudaira and those behind her. “Just so you know, there are things girls don’t like to show off to others!”
“Oh, sorry. I don’t really have anything like that myself…”
“Now that you mention it, I suppose you don’t.”
Mitotsudaira hung her head and the girls behind her began accusing her of being beaten right off the bat, but she felt there was little she could do up against what felt like a law of the universe.
Meanwhile, Horizon gave the crossdresser an expressionless look.
“What is this, Toori-sama? Why would you bring that up?”
“Judge.” The idiot nodded obediently and placed his hands on her shoulders. “You’re right. I was wrong to be curious about that. …Yes, girls don’t poop. And I don’t do it right now since I’m crossdressing. Isn’t that how it works, Horizon!?”
Horizon expressionlessly tilted her head.
“What are you talking about, Toori-sama? There is not a girl alive that does not poop. Even I had a healthy bowel movement this very morning.”
“Nwohhhhhh! This girl really knows how it’s done! She really does!”
“Heh…heh heh heh. You have real fortitude, Horizon. I’ve fallen for you all over again!”
Kimi gave Horizon a thumbs up and the others hung their heads, unsure what to do.
The deck shook below their feet. The Musashi began to sink down, but…
“Musashi is about to launch itself again…and then leave M.H.R.R., isn’t it?”
As if to answer that question, the Musashi shot skyward with a great sound and impact.
After breaking through the clouds, the Musashi’s eight ships took a shallow ballistic trajectory in a south-southwest path above the clouds.
Once they shifted from gravitational acceleration to inertial cruising, their speed was high and stable.
Masazumi and a few others remained on Tama’s diplomatic deck. The Magdeburg transport ship they had arrived on was positioned atop Musashino’s bow so they could claim they were being “towed” not “launched”.
“So we’re being ‘towed’ or ‘led’ until we leave M.H.R.R., huh?”
That allowed M.H.R.R.’s Protestant principalities to say they had escorted a troublesome ship outside of M.H.R.R. territory.
It was all sophistry, but with the M.H.R.R. Protestants’ reputation behind it, the M.H.R.R. Catholics would have a hard time interfering.
Currently, they were cruising along the Eastern European provisional border between M.H.R.R. and P.A. Oda’s Hashiba territory, but…
…This will get us to the Seto Inland Sea.
The Musashi had to reach Qing-Takeda territory.
But P.A. Oda was located between M.H.R.R. and Qing-Takeda. That meant they had to use the Seto Inland Sea to reach the Kii Peninsula which was the territory of Matsunaga Hisahide of P.A. Oda.
While Matsunaga’s territory belonged to P.A. Oda, it was originally of the Safavid Turks and not the Ottoman Turks that were P.A. Oda’s main force. The Safavid dynasty had fallen to the Ottomans, but Matsunaga controlled the remnants of the dynasty and the various tribes from the area.
The Ottomans were in the north and the Safavids in the south, so a provisional border cut east to west between them.
If they crossed that border from west to east, they would reach Mikawa.
“Then we’ll fight the Battle of Mikatagahara against Qing-Takeda before continuing on to Kantou.”
After Masazumi verbally reconfirmed their plans, a red light shot down from Musashino’s bow. It was a marker used to show the route they were taking.
They were close to the Seto Inland Sea now.
Thick clouds covered the sky and a hint of salt hung in the air.
…Probably just a minute or two more.
She looked around and saw Ariadust Academy’s flag being raised on each ship.
…I guess that’s for the history recreation of Naruse Masayoshi during the Battle of Mikatagahara.
The history recreation they were planning for resulted in a great defeat for the Matsudaira forces at the hands of Takeda Shingen and it was known as one of Matsudaira’s three great crises.
The damage taken during the retreat was especially great. To allow the head of the Matsudaira clan to escape, some of his skilled commanders had attacked and others had acted as body doubles and been killed.
Naruze’s name came from the Naruse clan. Naruse Masayoshi had been a skilled commander for the Matsudaira clan, but it was said he had held the Matsudaira flag, attacked the enemies as a body double, and been killed.
…But after our discussion with Yoshitsune, Naruze doesn’t need to go through with that history recreation.
Takeda Shingen died during the Battle of Mikatagahara, so this would be an important history recreation for Qing-Takeda. For that reason, they needed to work together and overcome it together. And…
“Once we reach Edo, we’ll modify the Musashi at Kantou IZUMO. We’ll gain more attack power and begin actively negotiating with the Kantou nations.”
Masazumi turned her back on the sky and looked behind her. Most of the others were already rushing off for the various tasks needed for gravitational cruising, but some remained. She spoke to one of those.
“What do you think, Neshinbara?”
Masazumi saw Neshinbara nod as he typed on his sign frame keyboard.
“What would you like to hear first?”
She spoke her thoughts aloud while thinking she would be spoiled if she actually got an answer.
“What influence do you think the Sack of Magdeburg will have?”
“Judge. For Hexagone Française, their clear understanding of Anne of Austria’s dying wish will go a long way toward raising morale. Her final moments will mean the most to her brother and friends. As for the M.H.R.R. Protestants, the damage to Magdeburg should have been kept within the expected bounds. But…”
“The dragon line reactor?”
Neshinbara started typing faster. He summoned Michizane onto his shoulder and had the sign frame’s movements synchronized with his eyes.
“I would like to say Hexagone Française, Musashi, and the Protestants managed to show off our hard work, friendship, and courage by forcing the M.H.R.R. Catholics to retreat, but the dragon line reactor changes that.”
“It means they didn’t leave because they lost. It was a strategic withdrawal to escape the reactor.”
“Judge. Of course, the Protestants couldn’t exactly win the Sack, so that does work out.”
“How many dragon line reactors does Hashiba…no, P.A. Oda have? And how long does it take to produce them? That’s the real issue here.”
“Can you estimate how they make them?”
“Easily.” Neshinbara produced a sign frame displaying a list. “This is only what’s officially reported, but these are the ether tanks the academies use to store external Blessings. The Musashi uses something similar as a fuel tank and you just have to use these. In other words, they compress a massive amount of ether, activate it to an uncontrollable level while compressed, connect it to the ley lines, and let it explode. A new space will push out into the existing space, so a blank space is created in that existing space. Now, the space that was pushed out doesn’t like to be drawn back in, so… Are you listening?”
“Oh, sorry. I’m bad with weapons when it gets too technical.”
Tsukinowa rubbed its cheek against her to comfort her.
…Oh, you’re so adorable.
“What is that look for, Neshinbara?”
“I may not be one to talk, but I have a feeling there’s going to be some animal material released at the next event.”
“It would be nice if it was something cute, but I doubt it.”
After the two of them sighed together, Neshinbara started typing again.
“Well, the ether tank each academy has for their primary religion is enough to make a few dragon line reactors. There have been two so far and I’m a little scared to count how many more they have.”
Masazumi tilted her head because she had a small question.
“If they use up their academy’s ether tank, won’t it weaken their nation’s spells? They won’t be able to supply external Blessings for the spells.”
“Tsirhc is the only religion that doesn’t allow internal Blessings because it’s seen as the power of god residing in their body. Mlasi and Shinto both allow them, so they don’t have to rely exclusively on external ones in battle. They shouldn’t have a problem in shorter battles. Also…”
Neshinbara showed her a sign frame.
It displayed the Arabian Peninsula which was also the Kii Peninsula.
“On Nobunaga’s orders, P.A. Oda conquered the Mlasi stronghold while also completing the history recreation of burning Mount Hiei. They ‘burned’ Mount Hiei by setting the temple’s ley line reactor to explode. It’s possible they stole or secured the Mlasi stronghold’s ether tank then.”
Masazumi nodded and a thought came to her.
…It’s not often the secretary and vice president talk like this.
They had been so busy lately that they had not had a chance to exchange information. She had been receiving rushed information directly from the Provisional Council, but it was normally the secretary’s job to gather that information together before giving it to her. Once they arrived in Kantou, she hoped their less urgent schedule would allow the Student Council to coordinate better.
“Thanks. I hope you can help me like this again.”
She then started to leave, thinking she would stop by the academy.
“Oh, Vice President Honda-kun. May I ask one thing?”
“What is it?”
“Judge,” said Neshinbara. “Please give me a calm answer. Did we lose this battle?”
Masazumi looked to Neshinbara.
He had stopped typing, so he was probably going to record this.
“We lost as far as the history recreation is concerned, but I think we actually won.”
They had all done their best and Anne had saved them all from unnecessary damage. If they were to view losing Anne and the entire battle as a loss…
“Do I want to call it a victory because I’m being too emotional?”
“I will record that as your opinion.”
“I see.” Masazumi nodded and pointed toward the academy. “I’ll be waiting on the academy’s bridge. We still have to contact Yoshitsune and the others after all. We’ll also be battling Lord Matsunaga soon, but I’ll leave that one to you.”
“How about you go to Okutama’s underground business district to visit Okutama IZUMO? I believe Spear Honda-kun brought Tonbokiri there.”
After raising a hand and nodding in response, she turned around. She knew a lot was about to happen.
Suddenly, fog surrounded her.
The Musashi’s gravitational cruising period was over and they had shifted to inertial cruising. By switching between acceleration and coasting, they could reduce their fuel consumption. Their altitude would drop during the inertial cruising periods. This made it easier for the wind around the ship to change which would create cirrus clouds and fog.
It almost looked like a tunnel made of fog. The wave of fog was large enough to envelop all eight ships and it swirled around each individual ship.
With that thought, Masazumi looked across the sky beyond the fog.
She saw an expanse of moonlit clouds below the Musashi. Looking down on them from above, she could see them pushed by the wind into round shapes. But since the altitude changed the quality of the air, the clouds could not exist above a certain height and they simply formed a bumpy wasteland below.
…I’d read before that they look like a flock of sheep, but it’s true.
Red light shot out again. They had fired another marker.
“We should be above the Seto Inland Sea soon.”
As if to answer her, a dull metallic sound rang from Musashino’s bow. The ship shook and powerful fog raced around it.
Magdeburg’s transport ship was leaving.
It had successfully taken them to the Seto Inland Sea and its long silhouette instantly vanished behind them.
That left only the Musashi in the sky.
“Now we only need to cross the Kii Peninsula to Mikawa.”
But then a sudden group of clouds entered Masazumi’s vision.
The clouds seemed to distort far off in the west.
Masazumi stopped walking and looked west.
The distortion she had seen a moment before had been far off in the distance. It might have been a gust of wind breaking through the clouds from below, but Neshinbara asked a question behind her.
“What is it, Vice President Honda-kun?”
“Well, I thought I saw a distortion from below the clouds a long way over there.”
Her comment received two responses. The first was a sudden shout from Neshinbara.
“That’s the external influence of primary stealth!”
The other was “Musashino” speaking over a ship-wide divine transmission.
“Attention everyone on the starboard side! …Oh, now only those in charge need to listen! Anyway, far off to starboard-… We just now determined it is approximately twenty-seven kilometers! …Anyway, a large primary stealth ship has-… We just now determined it is Ziz-class! All visual confirmation crew are to examine it to-… We just now determined its identity! Over!”
“They’re really good at what they do, but I wish they would gather the information before making the announcement.”
“That’s because an automaton’s speed is far, far faster than speech.”
Neshinbara’s quiet comment was drowned out by “Musashino’s” conclusion.
“It is the Himeji Castle aka the Shirasagi belonging to M.H.R.R. and Hashiba! We have determined its abilities have changed, so we will be calling it the Shirasagi Mk. II! It is a striking type warship! Therefore…”
As the announcement continued, light flew toward them from the direction of the previous distortion. The light was red to display its heat.
“It will fire on us while in stealth mode! Over!”
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