Horizon:Volume 4A Chapter 04
Chapter 4: Gatherers in the Dark
Is a kind place
An insufficient place
Or a place of rest?
Point Allocation (Hoping for too much)
At 8:30 PM, the inside of the Ariake was dimly lit.
Even at night, the lights on the massive dock’s ceiling were on and work was ongoing, but…
“They make sure to turn down all but the overhead lights at night, but then they switch over to a complete lights out, except for the lights at the work sites, to allow for a few hours of night work training and for nighttime inspections.”
Someone spoke within the vertical blowing wind.
The lights on the ceiling illuminated a single figure standing on the corridor built at the edge of Okutama’s stern cargo port. But the shadow they cast on the floor was of uncertain density.
“There’s three of us…four including me.”
“That’s nearly half the Sanada Ten Braves. Talk about a bargain.”
Four shadows stood in the gentle breeze of the Ariake’s night.
One of them sighed and gave a somewhat self-deprecating comment.
“I guess you could call us Sanada 4/10 Braves. That just sounds numerically ominous to me.”
The small shadow standing next to him asked a question in a female voice.
“Anayama, should you really be showing yourself?”
“It’s fine for me, Isa-kun. But you three need to be careful. You may be disguised, but you can easily gather attention from a careless mistake when you aren’t accustomed to things here. Stay in your hidden form when you’re out and try to do so when you’re asleep too. Yuri-kun and Nezu-kun, you two arrived ahead of us, but could you double check yourselves now since we’re finally getting started? And…Isa-kun.”
“Oh, right, right. I need to look into the Musashi’s remodeling and then sabotage whatever I can, right? So basically I’ve gotta use everything I learned as an engineering student and then add in some sabotage if possible. Our teachers told me to play it by ear.”
“I’ll leave that to you after checking on the state of Musashi’s outer hull and interior. Last time I stayed here, the automatons in charge of each block performed constant scans with their artificial brains.”
“Yup. And that’s why I made sure to bring some powder explosion spells that can be disguised as reinforcing materials. I’ll only think about doing what’s reasonably possible. Also…Yuri and Nezu?”
“Testament. What is it?”
A girl’s voice responded and a boy’s followed.
“What is it? Do you need something with me too?”
“Yeah,” replied Isa’s voice. “Your infiltration went well. I’m glad we sent you on ahead at IZUMO as normal people wanting to assist Musashi. I never thought there’d be three quarantines and then a password.”
“Yes. For the first half of today’s password, you ask ‘you’re not just happy you’re…’ And for the second half, I believe you answer ‘I’ll never forgive that son of a bitch!’ I’m not quite sure how the two are related, so you just have to memorize it. Although I have a feeling that the second half is the same every time.”
“Yeah, a few days ago it was ‘wave that spear around and you get…’ and ‘I’ll never forgive that son of a bitch!’ I almost blew my cover by answering with the name.”
“That’s because you take everything so seriously, Nezu,” said the flat voice of the girl named Yuri. “What are our next instructions, Anayama?”
Nezu replied to that.
“Our superior is Kakei, so I’d rather avoid getting instructions here.”
“You really do take everything too seriously,” said Isa with a bitter smile in her voice.
“I don’t like having to deal with multiple instructions at once because I don’t like making mistakes. So…”
“Yeah,” agreed Anayama. “Kakei-kun is the type to live a life of no mistakes.”
“Testament. After all, it was my mistake that led to us being ‘unneeded’.”
“You don’t have to say that or even think it, Nezu-kun. We’ve found ourselves more than ‘needed’ at Sanada Academy.”
“It’s not you but us that need to never forget that. Partially because we were found unnecessary for the stage and era we were meant for, but also…”
A smiled filled Anayama’s voice.
“We can’t allow any actions based in sympathy like the one that picked us up. As long as losers remain losers and winners remain winners, it is only polite to forever maintain that relationship. I suppose a doll wouldn’t be able to-…”
“Anayama,” said the Yuri’s voice. “You’re losing focus.”
“My apologies.” Anayama took a breath and gave his instructions to the others. “Let’s find a way to show off our skills. I have an idea how to do that and Yuri-kun and Nezu-kun can guide us.”
As soon as he said that, the dock filled with even deeper darkness.
Isa spoke up as the vast space sank into darkness and lights came to life here and there.
“Ohh, check out this atmosphere! This is the kind of nighttime atmosphere everyone loves!!”
“Please don’t get so excited when you see the improvements to our eventual enemy’s ship, Isa. And this isn’t a nighttime atmosphere; it’s the lights out to test the nighttime movement of each component now that the remodeling is about 80% complete. They have lights at the work sites so they don’t have to stop working, but they’re testing the nighttime stealth, checking the ether light visible on the surface of the armor, and looking for any distortions at low temperature. Thanks to that, they’re actually on even higher alert than normal.”
“Oh, sorry, Yuri. My mind started wandering somewhere around ‘please’.”
“It’s a mystery how you can do God of War engineering with a mind like that,” said Yuri with a bitter smile in her voice. “Anyway. From now on, can we make an attack if we see an opening?”
“Yes, Yuri-kun. If you produce any results, make sure to leave a statement at the scene,” said Anayama with a smile. “But make sure you get your job done before leaving. Please don’t flee the Musashi before doing that, okay?”
“In other words, we need to stay hidden and continue with the mission even if they realize we’re here?”
“Testament. That will tell them perfectly well what we’re capable of.”
Anayama looked up from his position on the very back of Okutama.
From that rear cargo port, he could see the stacks of repair materials and a giant wall beyond them.
That wall contained the rooms for corporations and committees, but beyond it…
“Musashi Ariadust Academy,” muttered Anayama. “That’s where our work for a new era begins.”
A few figures stood in front of the back wall that divided the cargo port from the ship proper. The one protected by bodyguards in the center wore a Student Council armband. He was performing a periodic check of different sites.
Yuri spoke his name.
“That’s Musashi Ariadust Academy Student Council Secretary Neshinbara Toussaint, isn’t it?”
She continued from there.
“Interesting. If you ask me, the work, era, and role that lie ahead shouldn’t be too bad.”
With that said, one of the shadows slowly moved forward.
It vanished into the Ariake’s night.
“Oh, it’s gotten dark now. Sorry about all the new jobs I’m giving you this late. I know how much work this must be.”
A boy in glasses spoke within the dim light. He adjusted the position of the armband saying “Secretary: Neshinbara Toussaint” to better show off the writing.
“But these new jobs just keep cropping up, don’t they?”
Neshinbara was glaring at some piles of books and paper in one corner of the port. Some were magazines, some were hardback books, some were paperback books, some were doujinshi, some were newspapers, and some were just piles of documents.
One of the people standing behind him looked in the same direction and started to move. That girl in glasses wore an armband saying “Representative Committee Chairman: Ookubo”.
The two swords hanging from her left hip shook as she checked the piles of books and frowned.
“I’m glad I ain’t on the Public Morals Committee. …That’s a lot of obscene material.”
“With your qualifications, you could easily hold a position on the Public Morals Committee too. …But what do you think?”
“About what exactly?”
“Judge.” Neshinbara turned his smiling gaze toward Ookubo. “If possible, I’d like you to be on the Student Council next year. Not many people in Musashi have a double inherited name and you have the names of two Matsudaira leaders: Ookubo Tadachika and Ookubo Nagayasu.”
Ookubo smiled bitterly at that and touched the two swords at her hip.
“Both of them end up pretty lonely in their final years or after their death.”
“No, no. You can get around that with interpretations and write your own page in history! I know you can do it!”
“Secretary, is this your usual illness?”
“I-it is not an illness! Th-the history recreation is necessary?”
Ookubo nodded as the others in the area whispered “why was that a question?” and then she shrugged.
“I may have inherited the names, but given the fate of those names, it means a lot of future loss. Someone like me only got them because not many other people wanted them.”
“Still, getting two names doesn’t happen every day.”
Ookubo laughed quietly and then sighed.
“In that case, maybe I should eventually go for a name with a better future as a triple inherited name.”
A flat voice spoke up from behind Ookubo. An automaton in a Far Eastern girl’s summer uniform stood there. As a Middle Eastern automaton, her skin was a little dark.
She bowed when Ookubo looked back.
“I have determined you are bragging too much.”
“Oh, sorry about that, Kanou-kun.”
Ookubo smiled toward Kanou and then Neshinbara spoke up with emotion in his voice.
“Ookubo-kun and Kanou-kun, the Representative Committee chairman and Public Morals Committee chairman. …You two make a good pair.”
…They really do make a good pair.
There was a reason Neshinbara thought that.
…You’ve got the cool Representative Committee chairman and the even cooler Public Morals Committee chairman. Plus, one’s the daughter of an influential family and the other’s her maid automaton. Ahh, could this be any more perfect for a doujinshi!?
After deciding to let Naruze use the girls themselves while he modeled characters after them, Neshinbara began imagining characters resembling them having a swordfight with the full moons in the background.
Four Eyes: “Just calling to check in on you, but are you imagining anything weird right now? Tell me all about it.”
Novice: “You’re just assuming I am!? Besides, the things I imagine are perfectly healthy. After all, they’re chock full of dreams!”
Four Eyes: “Then do you want to hear what I dream about?”
“Eh?” said Neshinbara in reality.
Ookubo and Kanou tilted their heads in front of him, but a cold sweat started pouring down his face while he slowly typed the same question into his sign frame and sent it to the other girl.
Four Eyes: “Testament.”
She proceeded to ask again.
Four Eyes: “Do you want to hear what I dream about?”
Mal-Ga: “That’s checkmate for her.”
Marube-ya: “Judge. If he can’t keep up with a leap in logic like that, it really is checkmate.”
Asama: “Um, yes. This might be an important moment, so I’ll make sure it gets recorded. I never thought Neshinbara-kun would end up becoming English.”
…Don’t make this more serious than it already is!!
Beyond the cold intensity of the sign frame, Kanou lightly shook her hair.
“Secretary, Shall I handle all this paper media?”
“Eh? Oh, sure.”
After typing that he was trying to work, Neshinbara faced forward again.
The piles of paper media that Kanou had indicated truly had grown into a mountain.
“I never thought there would be so much after adding in what was hidden under beds and tatami mats.”
Neshinbara checked the books and newspapers piled up to his shoulders.
…This just shows how much everyone was living their lives.
During the remodeling, they had looked back over almost the entirety of each ship and cleaned it all up to lighten everything.
The most work during that lightening cleaning came from the weight of paper items and everyday items like clothing.
A single book weighed three hundred grams and the Musashi’s population was nearly one hundred thousand, so if each person had a single book, that was nearly thirty tons.
Books needed for school or work had been spared, as had ones with sentimental value, but…
“The unnecessary ones will be recycled as materials for internal bulkheads and building materials. And the storage area at the top of the Ariake is also used to host events, so we could even open a used book market.”
But there was so much of it. It was too much to carry it all out at once, so this was their eighth time.
…“Musashi”-kun and the others are getting strict with their weight sensors, so we keep finding so many books.
The Far East had historically had an active woodblock printing culture. They had also had paper-making technology, so plenty of printed materials filled the cities as entertainment items.
The students who transferred in from the West or Middle East were always surprised by how many books the Far East had and how casually the books were treated.
…Having books nearby was part of the reason I came to the Far East in the first place.
Shakespeare had instead gone to England for the plays.
As he realized a culture had a way of drawing people in, Neshinbara had his Mouse Michizane inspect the scale of the piles of paper. He also grabbed a few of them.
“Oh, the noble story of Mass Kagami. Isn’t this the one where a shared consciousness has reached universal scale and everyone tells everyone to ‘take a look in the mirror’? I never read the previous book, though.”
Resisting the urge to flip through it took some doing. Not all of the things there were old. Some had been bought at the city below even as the recovery work was underway, some were newly issued newspapers, and some were documents used for meetings about the remodeling or at the work sites themselves.
Deciding whether to use them as materials or to resell them was the Industrial Committee’s job, but the Public Morals Committee also had to inspect them. That was where Kanou came in.
“Please stand back, everyone. I will now inspect and sort them.”
She opened a few management program sign frames.
Once they were sorted, Representative Committee Chairman Ookubo would give her approval and the rest of the work would begin. Finally, the fate of the paper media would be determined.
It was a small job when compared to the enormous task of remodeling the Musashi, but that remodeling work was made up of these smaller jobs. The quicker they could finish these small jobs, the faster the pace of the whole.
…And that means the Student Council, the committee chairmen, and the committee vice chairmen need to keep active.
Neshinbara looked to Ookubo and Kanou as they picked up one of the items sorted by a sign frame.
“Why do guys like this kind of thing, Kanou-kun?”
“Judge. That is just part of being male.”
…Sorry, but that one was drawn by our 4th Special Duty Officer. Yeah. Look, it has a lot of material targeted toward girls, doesn’t it?
Once the inspection was complete, he would move to where he needed to be next. And based on the divine chat log from earlier…
Me: “Hey, everyone, we’ll be meeting up at the Blue Thunder. It’s been a while, so let’s use the one I live at. Be there at eight.”
Judge, judge, silently agreed Neshinbara.
…It really has been a while since we’ve met there.
He then nodded to Ookubo, Kanou, and the others.
“I’ll be heading to where I’m needed next, so you take care of the rest. There’s a lot I want to ask you next time I see you, so keep that in mind.”
“Testament. Where are you going now, secretary?”
“Well.” He nodded. “For some food plus a meeting.”
Inside the Ariake
Toori: Sis! Sis! What’s it like inside the Ariake!? I’m inside, but it’s hard to get an idea of the whole thing. Is it actually pretty simple?
Kimi: Heh heh heh. Simple brother, I’d like to bring up the multiple truss frames, split block structure, and support pillars, but you can just think of it like a giant dome.
It’s basically made so Musashi’s deck is at the same height as the Ariake’s floor, but that would hide the central ships behind the others and make transportation difficult. That’s why they’re placed a little higher and transportation is mainly done by bridge and transport ship.
Here’s a key for the above diagram:
Light gray = Storage areas for the Musashi’s ships
Gray = Temporary cities for the remodeling personnel
Dark gray = Main storage areas for materials.
Toori: What’s a temporary city? Does that mean it’s about to be demoted to a village?
Kimi: Stop talking about that game where you can mistakenly stick a Ley Line reactor in the middle of the earth. …The temporary cities are small cities made to replace the contents of the Musashi that were mostly removed at the earliest stages. The city used by the Ariake workers for standard maintenance wasn’t large enough.
Toori: This sure is large-scale and a complete mess, isn’t it?
Kimi: As the interior is built back up, the temporary cities shrink. The remodeling personnel are living inside the Musashi by this point. Even our house has been returned to its normal spot.
Toori: And that means my escape routes are back! I’m back in business!!
Kimi: Hey, hey. Where do you think you’re going?
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