Horizon:Volume 3 Chapter 18
Chapter 18: Those who Prefer the Shadows yet Stand in the Sun
I am hiding
I am definitely hiding
By which I mean, um, how should I put this?
Point Allocation (No Excuses)
Satomi Yoshiyasu was an early riser. Normally anyways.
She always woke at three in the morning, washed her face, ran a circuit of the academy, performed her sword training, bathed, woke the others, and then ate breakfast.
But today, her sleepiness completely got the better of her.
Her groggy mind saw a ceiling covered in decorative paper and the room was still filled with the dark of pre-dawn. However, she heard a chicken crying somewhere and the sound of something moving.
…Where am I?
Her body was sinking into a futon and pillow. The blanket that covered up to her cheeks was a kind not found in Satomi. Her blank mind called back her memories to help grasp the situation.
The night before, she had made the mistake of starting to drink again and falling for Ujinao’s cheap provocation. She had not passed out, but Yoshiyori had discussed the situation with a naked boy and they had decided to take care of her on the Musashi for a bit. That meant she was now a guest.
…A guest, hm? Then I guess I can go back to sleep.
“Wait! No, I can’t!”
As soon as she sprang up, a giant mummy crashed through the ceiling with its limbs splayed out. That sound of destruction was followed by the door opening and Musashi’s chancellor entering with a card in hand.
“Good morrrrrrning! To make your morning complete, here is your Pharaoh Wakeup Call!”
After the dusty body-press hit her, Yoshiyasu let out a scream.
“I think I just heard a scream from the diplomatic district toward the bow.”
While running across the ships in a blue track suit for her morning training, Adele looked toward Tama’s bow below the dimly-lit sky. Mitotsudaira glared in the same direction while running alongside her in a light blue track suit.
“This must be what the chancellor promised last night. Satomi’s student council president was drunk, so he asked her if he should wake her up in the morning. She said that would not be necessary because she would wake up by three, but it’s four now. He’s likely made his attack after an hour of preparation.”
“Satomi’s president doesn’t understand what it means to make a promise with one of our classmates, does she?”
The two of them repeated “judge” a few times and began to run on, but they suddenly looked up into the sky at the exact same moment.
They looked to the formations of ships in every direction.
“There’s even more than last night.”
“They seem to be rotating out. From what I’ve heard, Hexagone Française’s main fleet is preparing to land at the land port to the west. Their flagship Pension Versailles is with them, so this is probably going to get exciting.”
“What a pain,” complained Mitotsudaira.
Adele stopped running and Mitotsudaira tilted her head while doing the same.
“What is it? Isn’t it still too early for the dogs to wake up and join you?”
“No, look over there. It’s Asama-san and the sixth and first special duty officers.”
Adele pointed toward the terrace on the outer edge of the ship.
“Wasn’t that terrace being repaired after it was destroyed in the armada battle?” muttered Mitotsudaira.
Asama, Naomasa, and Tenzou were hiding behind a food stand that had yet to open.
The three of them were looking toward the terrace where two other people were visible.
“That’s Noriki-san and…Odawara Chancellor Houjou Ujinao-san, right?”
Asama gave a shrill cry at the sudden voice from behind, but once she turned around and checked who it was…
“O-oh, it’s Mito and Adele.”
“What are you three doing?”
Hearing that, Asama placed her index finger in front of her nose.
…How can I explain this?
“We aren’t peeping.”
“Wasn’t that a little quick to jump to self-preservation?”
“Well, um, I was purifying some distortions here and there before we left and getting some help from Masa. But then…are you listening? You won’t believe what happened next, Mito, Adele.”
“Why are you building this up like on an early morning divine TV show? Anyway, while you were purifying things, you happened across a secret meeting between Noriki-san and Houjou-san? And then you called the first special duty officer who can read lips?”
They caught on quickly, so she gave a serious nod. The two girls gave small noises of interest and joined the line. She thought it was a little worrying how they did not even hesitate to step into the hiding spot.
But just as the word “solidarity” entered Asama’s mind, another voice reached her from behind.
“Hey, what are you all doing over there?”
“Huh? Masazumi, what are you doing? And in a track suit no less.”
“Well, as you know, I tend to collapse and I felt I was a little weak, so I thought I would train some.”
…Won’t you just end up collapsing while training?
But she had Tsukinowa with her, so Asama would receive word if something happened. Meanwhile, Masazumi approached while tilting her head.
“So what are you doing?”
“Well,” said Asama. “I’ll start by saying we aren’t peeping.”
“So that’s it,” said Masazumi after Asama explained. The girl then thought for a moment. “I don’t really get it, so what’s all this about?”
She hid along with them and then another voice reached them.
“Mh? What are all of you doing?”
“Eh? Oh, Futayo. We aren’t peeping.”
Asama explained again and…
“Oh, Lady Asama. …Look at this Master Muneshige. This is what you call peeping.”
“I-I see. You sure are knowledgeable, Gin.”
“Actually, um, it isn’t peeping. It is a type of intelligence work.”
“Huh? Asama-chi, what’re you doing? Can we join?”
“You can’t tell Margot? They’ve picked up a porn doujinshi and they’re appraising it together.”
“No, um, that isn’t what we’re doing. We’re not peeping either.”
Just as Asama prepared to explain again…
“Hm, now this is a strange sight,” said Urquiaga. “Try explaining this one to me.”
“Well… Let me just say that we aren’t peeping.”
“Heh heh heh. Stealth shrine maiden, what are you doing hiding there? Let me join!”
“Well, we’re not exactly hiding… And we’re not peeping either.”
“Huh? I’ve been wandering around since I was locked out last night, but what are all of you doing?’
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that, Azuma-kun. But just to be clear, we aren’t-…”
“N-no! We aren’t, Suzu-san! That’s a bad word, so don’t’ use it.”
“Hm? What is it, Asama-chi? Oh, c’mon, Shiro-kun. Quit practicing your rising sun prostration and look at this.”
“I see. Will this make us any money? Are you recording it?”
“Why does that sound a step away from being illegal?”
“Oh, Asama-sama. I am working right now, but are you perhaps busy peeping?”
“Horizon, you and the brown algae creatures don’t need to learn that kind of bad word.”
“Um, Master Tenzou, what are you doing over here? Are you working?’
“Oh, yes, he is working. Definitely not peeping!”
“Huh? Asama-kun, why are you peeping over here? I’ll put this in a doujinshi if you keep it up.”
“Well, you see, Neshinbara-kun…”
“Ha ha ha! Look, Nenji-kun! This is the perfect spot to bask in the morning sun! And a lot of people beat us here!”
“Indeed. Are all of you here to view the sunrise as well?”
“No, we’re actually here for…”
“For curry, yes?”
“N-no! That isn’t it!”
“C’mon, Asama! Why are you matching Pe-yan’s silence!? More importantly, let’s peep!”
“I give up. We can just call it peeping.”
Why is everyone here? she thought while lowering her shoulders in a sigh and facing forward.
There, Noriki and Houjou Ujinao had begun speaking, so she frantically spoke up.
“T-Tenzou-kun! Tenzou-kun! Go! Begin recording!”
“Aren’t you a little too into this, Asama-dono?”
With a silent sigh, Tenzou focused on the targets’ lips.
From what he had heard, Houjou Ujinao had an automaton body.
…But as a living type, she will speak the same as a human.
And so he began moving his own lips. He matched the movements of theirs and exhaled. That told him the vowel sounds they were speaking.
…From there, I have to predict what they’re saying.
In the early stages of training, he had copied the string of vowel sounds onto paper and used that to predict what was being said.
From there, he had gained enough of an understanding of conversational patterns to make the conversion in real time. He showed the fruits of all his practice here.
“Are you sure, Master Noriki? Sagami has also calmed down by nwow.”
Everyone let out sounds of surprise.
They are praising me. How wonderful, thought Tenzou just before Kimi added a quiet comment.
“Heh heh heh. To put it bluntly, that was downright criminal. And you misspoke at the end there.”
“Sis! Sis! He can’t help it! Stumbling over his words at the end is just what Tenzou does! It’s his way of showing his character! He found out how popular it was in England! When he introduces himself, I bet he’ll say Tenzou Crossuniche.”
…Wh-who decided on that!? And can’t you give me some better material than that!?
“Oh, my. That’s kind of cute,” added Mary next to him.
Almost Everyone: “Wow.”
These people, he thought while continuing with more of Ujinao’s words.
“It’s been thirteen years. Why not come back?”
He voiced Noriki’s reply.
“There is no point in returning now. The same goes for my family. I will continue on here. And another thing…”
Tenzou took a breath at the same time as Noriki.
“The two of us are different. And you were the one accepted as right.”
“I see,” said Adele with a nod and a hand on her chin. “This sounds serious. Not at all like us.”
“U-um, Adele? We’re always serious, too. Aren’t we?”
“Wait. Is it just me or does Ujinao not look very happy?” commented Naito.
“Y-you’re all ignoring me! You’re ignoring me, aren’t you!?”
Ujinao momentarily lowered her head, but soon raised it again. And…
“That was great, Crossunite-kun! You could do dubbing! Now let’s do some adlibbing! Try to make it like something from that transforming monotheism movie ‘The Transfather’!”
“This is gradually turning into a completely different event, isn’t it?” asked Naomasa.
However, Ujinao clasped her hands in front of her chest and she opened her mouth in order to plead to Noriki.
“Th-that is not what she said, Toori-dono! Why are you butting in like that!? …Ah! I missed it!”
“Doooooooooon’t miss iiiiiiiiittttt! …Wait. Stop. What are all of you doing!?”
They all did their part to force out a similar protesting scream of “don’t” behind them, but the talk was already over. Noriki turned his back without waving and Ujinao clenched her hands a bit.
“I will be waiting…”
Tenzou spoke the words, hesitated, and forgot to express the final “!”.
But Mary walked over from his right.
“Um, Master Tenzou.”
She whispered so only he could hear.
“If something has happened, I will help.”
She was saying she would help Noriki or Ujinao, not him.
He and Mary had needed some help to find their answer after one of them waited and the other left. So…
Tenzou did not do too much to express the sigh given by the one remaining there.
That sigh had great meaning to the one who had made it and he felt it was wrong to let others feel that. Instead, he took a breath and spoke to the others.
“That is more or less how it went.”
Tenzou shrugged toward the others.
“For the moment, I see no other reason for concern. Of course, I assume none of you were aware Noriki-dono knew Ujinao-dono.”
No one asked about what had happened to someone before they arrived on the Musashi, so it was up to the person to decide whether to tell the others. That was an unwritten rule in life on the Musashi.
So to those who had been together since elementary school, their lives from then on were everything.
They did not worry about anything from before.
…Noriki-dono turned his back on her.
He had chosen his life here over his connection to Sagami where something had happened in the past.
Recently, he had found a nice balance between work and hanging out with his classmates and Tenzou assumed he intended to stay here at least until the Apocalypse was stopped or until they graduated.
Naruze must have realized what he was thinking because she spoke quietly.
“Well, it’s none of our business what anyone plans to do after graduation and it’s none of our business if something happens wherever they end up. But even so…” She smiled bitterly. “If we did happen to know, we might be able to find some free time post-graduation and do something about it.”
The slight tension he could sense in Mary vanished in relief and a sudden voice arrived from beyond the group.
“What are all of you doing?”
It was Satomi Yoshiyasu. She was hurriedly dressed in only her hard points, the cloth portion of her inner suit, and her tights. She wore her coat on her shoulders and she held a wooden sword in one hand.
“Sorry, but I was looking for your chancellor. I have some business with him.”
Yeah, that’s the normal response, thought Masazumi when she saw Yoshiyasu’s wooden sword.
But she could not exactly hand their idiot over to another nation’s student council president.
Novice: “Well, we already rolled him up in a mat and unrolling him would be a pain.”
Vice President: “He called it a sushi roll himself, but where did he get off to?”
Asama: “Oh, Persona-kun, that’s it right there. The thing you’re sitting on! Sorry, that’s my fault. I forgot to attach a note to tell you there’s something inside.”
At any rate, they knew where he was, so they all nonchalantly shifted position to hide the “sushi roll” from Yoshiyasu.
Vice President: “What do you think would happen if we handed him over to Satomi?”
Marube-ya: “Come to think of it, wasn’t it Lord Matsunaga we met yesterday that came up with the execution method of wrapping people in straw, setting them on fire, and watching them ‘dance’?”
Bell: “Oh, I…made a lot of people dance…in the game.”
Asama: “You have the highest score out of all the classes, don’t you? That’s great.”
…Is it really?
At any rate, it seemed Suzu was able to join in the divine chats by speaking aloud or having the sign frame read the characters she drew in empty air. That method was unavoidably slower, but Masazumi felt she made for a breath of fresh air among all the posts from the many horrible people in their class.
Anyway, she thought while facing Yoshiyasu.
“So what do you need with our idiot?”
“It’s only the morning and I already need to hit him.”
Silver Wolf: “I knew it.”
Smoking Girl: “But handing him over to another nation is a bad idea. After all, they don’t know how much of an idiot he truly is, so they might not punish him harshly enough.”
Scarred: “Yes, Musashi’s chancellor is quite strong.”
“Judge,” agreed Masazumi as she kicked the rolled up mat with her heel and sent it slamming into the snack shop’s wall.
“What’s that?” asked Yoshiyasu with a tilt of the head. “It looks like there’s someone inside.”
Crap. She saw it.
No, the long-lived have good ears, so it might have been the sound.
“You say some dangerous things, Satomi Student Council President. This…” She chose her words carefully. “This should not be treated as human.”
“That’s right,” said Mary with a nod and a perfectly serious expression. “That is the Wet Man, the great spirit that protects Musashi.”
“You aren’t exactly treating it like something so important.”
“It’s the same as pickling. If you squeeze it tight and leave it to sit for a long time, it gets better. Or at least your day will get better.”
10ZO: “Masazumi-dono, I don’t think that was entirely necessary.”
I have a hard time lying, she sighed to herself.
At any rate, Yoshiyasu lowered her shoulders while still tilting her head. She seemed to have given up on pursuing the idiot.
The morning chill had likely gotten to her. Heading outside without wearing much must be a trait of god of war pilots, thought Masazumi. But then Yoshiyasu suddenly spoke.
“Houjou’s demonic girl.”
She was looking toward Ujinao who had started to walk.
She was leaving.
The demonic girl with an automaton body started toward the diplomatic building she was staying in.
Suzu could hear her faint footsteps.
She could tell Ujinao was standing tall and facing forward as she walked, but her pace was slow.
Suzu could tell something had made her feel down. She did not know why, but she knew what had caused it.
…It’s because…Noriki-kun chose…to stay here.
She did not know the details, but it likely came down to the fact that he had not chosen her.
“Houjou’s in a difficult situation, too,” said the person from Satomi. “The attack on Odawara is coming soon, but their people are divided among a lot of different races and they have a hard time coming to a consensus on things. That demonic girl was given an automaton body partially because of her weak health, but I’ve also heard the previous generation forced it on her to eliminate the image of a weak or feminine ruler.”
She took a breath.
“If only they had a high-ranking retainer that was both reliable and human. …But I suppose they’re as shorthanded as we are.”
Suzu tilted her head at that. She was a human and humans were everywhere.
“A human…is good?”
“What?” said the Satomi Student Council President in Suzu’s direction.
After a pause she hesitated with an “um”.
“Well, I don’t want any misunderstandings, but the majority race of the Far East is human. When negotiating with different nations and corporations or when acting as a spokesman to the people, a human provides the greatest sense of familiarity. The other races are better when you need to instill fear or reverence, though. …Anyway, I kind of agree with it, but I have pride in my own race too.”
“Eh? O-oh, well, I guess.”
Asama: “Suzu-san! Suzu-san! Keep drawing her attention like that! We’re rolling the rolled-up mat out of the way while pretending to clean the floor! Naito, give a nice shove with your broom or something!”
Gold Mar: “Oh, whoops. He’s on a slope. It did get him rolling, though.”
Smoking Girl: “Oh? The floor’s been taken out for repairs over there, so he just fell into the gator pond of the zoo down below.”
Suzu heard a few people cry out and run off, but she was still focused on Satomi’s student council president. From what she could tell, the girl was bothered by Houjou Ujinao’s attitude when she had left earlier.
The girl’s gaze was following Ujinao whose presence Suzu could no longer sense and the girl’s feet were moving in a hesitant way as if she was unsure where she should go.
She’s a nice person, decided Suzu before asking a question.
“Is Houjou…in trouble?”
She sounded like she had only just remembered this, but her tone was firm.
“On the world side of things, Houjou is the Association of Indian States and India is Mlasi under the Mughal Dynasty. That gives them a connection to P.A. Oda which is a lot like setting everything up to invite in the very enemy that will destroy Houjou in the attack on Odawara. But the representatives of the different races can’t seem to fall into step due to their own interests and self-preservation,” explained Satomi’s student council president. “Nineteen or twenty years ago, the wife of the Houjou clan’s leader became pregnant and so did the wife of one of the few human retainers from a line stretching back to the Kamakura days. That was when the clan leader and the retainer made a certain decision: once the clan leader’s child was born as Houjou Ujinao, the retainer’s child would become his wife. That way Houjou could hand out the inherited name of the princess that would eventually marry into the clan from Matsudaira.”
“What…does that mean?”
Suzu sensed the others turning toward the two of them.
For that reason, Yoshiyasu crossed her arms and sighed.
“Well, if you did some research on Houjou, you would figure this out pretty quickly.” Her tone was one that said she was not saying all that much. “Houjou is almost entirely non-human, but the clan leader would be taking a human wife and lowering the authority of the other races’ representatives who were too busy fighting over their interests and self-preservation. And if Houjou gave out the inherited name of Matsudaira’s princess, it would strengthen their Far Eastern side and lessen the Mlasi influence. You can also view it as Houjou trying to create a connection to Matsudaira. …However, the retainers of other races claimed this was a contrived attempt to push them aside. Apparently, some even threatened to begin the attack on Odawara early. That was when a certain decision was made.”
“To prove it was not intentional, they chose not to check the sex of the children before they were born.”
“Wait,” called out Masazumi who felt a throb in her chest at the word “sex”. “How much of this has been proven true?”
“From that, I take it you’ve heard the rumors.”
That was correct. The Testament Union issued almanacs on the student councils and chancellor’s officers of the different academies, but they did not give any of this behind-the-scenes information. However, there were informational books at the bookstores to supplement that.
She would sometimes check through them out of curiosity and she had seen some of this in there.
“Is it true?”
“I am only telling you things that you can find if you actually do some research.”
Yoshiyasu sighed before continuing.
“If the clan leader’s child was a boy and the retainer’s was a girl as hoped, there would be no objections to his plan. But if not, he promised to obey heaven’s will and leave Houjou as it was.”
Masazumi knew what had happened on the clan leader’s side of things at least.
“As you can see, his child, Ujinao, was a girl. She was weak and it was said she would have a short life even if she managed to reach adulthood. Having bet everything on her, the clan leader chose to leave Houjou with her. However, the retainers responded by forcing the human retainer away from Houjou.”
“And then Ujinao was given an automaton body?”
“With that most trusted retainer gone, a clan leader without defect was needed to satisfy the other retainers. I’ve heard that Ujinao officially inherited her name at around the age of ten. She was a weak child thought to have a short life, so the retainers assumed they could completely control her. However, it now seems they’re obeying her more than they ever did the previous clan leader.”
“The retainer who left Houjou apparently abandoned his identity in a foreign land, increased his family…and committed suicide once Ujinao officially inherited her name.”
“The retainer’s child was born a boy rather than a princess. He was unable to inherit the name of Tokuhime, daughter of Matsudaira Motonobu, but he kept a part of those circumstances in his name.”
“And that name is?”
“Well,” said Yoshiyasu. “He was the princess who lost a political conflict and left aboard the Musashi, so he could be called the ‘embarking departer’ or the ‘embarking princess’. And both of those can also be read as Noriki.”
After Yoshiyasu’s explanation, everyone excitedly formed a scrum and exchanged a nod.
“I have a feeling we shouldn’t have heard all that, but who would’ve thought Noriki-kun is in the same position as a character from one of Neshinbara-kun’s novels.”
“I know what you mean. That four-eyes author loves having characters that turn out to have royal blood, were hiding their identity, or are actually someone famous. I’d be a little disturbed if the entire class was like that, though. Oh, but I’m from a commoner family, so count me out.”
“I-I think female authors like you do that way more! Like having the guy a character met at a bar turn out to be part of a royal or noble family! That isn’t just a one-night adventure! Get some proof and then extort the guy for all he’s worth!”
“What? I don’t write anything like that. I do write one’s where the guy a character meets at a bar turns out to be a tentacle monster, though.”
“I sometimes lose track of what your shtick is, Ga-chan.”
“Anyway,” said Adele. “I think we’ve got more than enough inflation from nobles with Vicereine Horizon and the 5th special duty officer from Mito Matsudaira.”
“Hmm. Shiro-kun and I are pretty influential, so do we add to that inflation? Not to mention that Ohiroshiki-kun technically belongs to a noble family and Asama-chi is the heir to the Asama Shrine.”
“Heh heh heh. I feel like we’re all either influential or unemployed. But when you work toward inheriting a name, it’s easy to end up like that and we are the representative academy of an entire nation.”
Everyone glanced over at Satomi Yoshiyasu and looked up and down here.
“So that’s what a powerful person looks like.”
“Wh-what do you want?”
They turned back to each other and Adele nodded.
“I just learned that even powerful people can be flat. Lady Yoshitsune was the same, wasn’t she? Maybe that way even gives you a better chance at a future!”
“Judge,” replied Mitotsudaira. “During my fight in England, I found being flat gives you a better chance of survival!”
“Are you sure it isn’t that flat is only better for the long-lived?” asked Naomasa.
They all glanced at Yoshiyasu again.
“Really, what is it, all of you?”
They turned back to each other and Adele fell to her knees.
“I forgot about the difference in race. Is it all over for me?”
“S-someone bring a restorative for Adele! Make it something that will work right away!”
“That sounds like a job for curry pilaf.”
“Just use normal curry!!”
“Anyway,” said Tenzou while gently holding Mary in his left arm. “If something happens between Noriki-dono and Ujinao-dono, anyone with some free time can help out if they feel like it. …We can do that much, right? We did learn of the situation, after all.”
Ohiroshiki nodded and raised his hand.
He and everyone else except Tenzou and Mary formed a scrum, crouched down, and exchanged a glance.
“What is this? When someone who has so clearly won in life says that, it feels like they’re looking down on me. Does that make me a close-minded person?”
“Well, the wave of Tenzou-kun’s life is still offshore. According to the Asama Shrine’s ‘Fortunes for Other People’, his fortune is ‘Smooth sailing, but in an unexpected way.’ ”
“Wh-what kind of exciting fortunes are those!? Ah! You’ve all bought them!”
Everyone stood up while telling Tenzou to calm down and Futayo placed her hands on Yoshiyasu’s shoulders.
“If something happens, just tell us. Everyone was flat at some point. No one is born with large breasts. …Oh, I just said something insightful, didn’t I?”
“Can I accuse you of causing an international incident?” Yoshiyasu placed her hands on her hips. “And aren’t all of you being a little carefree? Hexagone Française and M.H.R.R. are attacking this afternoon, aren’t they?”
“In that case,” said Masazumi with a bitter smile. “Satomi Student Council President.”
“Just call me Yoshiyasu.”
A short distance away, Kimi said “So Yoshy then?” and Yoshiyasu quickly turned around.
“You! Stop that!”
“Yoshy it is.”
“Yeah, it’s definitely going to be Yoshy.”
“What else could it be?”
As everyone spoke back and forth, Gin turned toward Muneshige.
“It is fortunate they did not decide to call you Mune-Mune or Shigeo.”
“The chancellor sometimes calls me Shige-san or Muneo.”
“Those are pretty normal,” muttered the others and Masazumi cleared her throat.
“Anyway, Satomi Student Council President, you also seem fairly calm. After all, I don’t see you immediately preparing for your return to Satomi.”
“You could say the same about Houjou. Satomi has yet to make its decision and we intend to stay with the Musashi until it leaves port. We used trade as an excuse for our visit, but we aren’t exactly going to make much money here. We want to at least take back some information on the Musashi’s abilities.”
“That’s right,” said Heidi with a bitter smile. “You may be trading along the Silk Road, but you’re from Satomi’s Joseon Dynasty Korea. And Qing-Takeda will definitely overcharge you on the toll if you carry any goods back through there. But information won’t cost you extra.”
Just as everyone shrugged at Heidi’s explanation, someone suddenly appeared next to Yoshiyasu.
Futayo turned around at almost the exact same moment and someone else gave a vocal response. It was Neshinbara.
“Ah, that’s Murasamemaru! …Can I take a picture!? Um, Lord Satomi Yoshiyori!”
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