Horizon:Volume 4A Chapter 24
Chapter 24: Out of Place Advisor
If someone has nowhere to go
But they have somewhere to stay
Where will they go?
Point Allocation (Everyone)
Masazumi watched the door slowly close after the Satomi Student Council President and Balfette left. She then made sure the divine transmission line with those outside was in place.
“Next up are the personnel going to Sviet Rus, but this one honestly carries a somewhat difficult problem. After all, they’re currently in conflict with P.A. Oda.”
She touched the sign frame map to slide it over to the Jouetsu region.
“Also, Sviet Rus’s Uesugi clan becomes a pro-Hashiba force after Nobunaga’s death and takes Hashiba’s side during the decisive Battle of Sekigahara. They remain enemies of Matsudaira for a very long time.”
“In that case,” said Nenji with a sigh. “We cannot send anyone important there.”
“Don’t be so quick to decide that.” Masazumi stood up, took a few steps, and stopped in front of someone. “Mary. Crossunite isn’t here now, but I want you and him to go to Sviet Rus.”
“Judge. I will be fine as long as I am with Master Tenzou.”
Masazumi was relieved by her immediate response and smile, so she turned around.
“Also…Horizon and Aoi.”
Asama looked up.
She spoke a reflexive question to Masazumi as the girl looked their way.
“U-um, didn’t you just say we wouldn’t gain much from negotiating with Sviet Rus? And it’s a warzone now, so why would you send Toori-kun, Horizon, and even Mary there?”
“I do know why you would think that,” said Masazumi.
Kimi nodded from the next seat over and placed her hand on Asama’s shoulder.
“Aren’t you forgetting someone?”
“No. I just feel like Tenzou-kun would be back in three days no matter where we sent him.”
“True.” Kimi nodded again, rested her head on her hand, and looked in the same direction as Asama was. “Why do you want to send my foolish brother to Sviet Rus? The only souvenirs he could bring back are vodka and sake, and that would only make Asama happy.”
“It would not make me happy. …Ah! What are those looks for, everyone!? Toori-kun, you say something too!”
She turned toward the door he had been pinned behind before.
“No one’s there?”
The area was abandoned.
She decided to assume his absence was intentional.
…Yes. Everything’s fine.
She could relax when she remembered that he had to be somewhere and that this was most likely the setup for some kind of joke.
Then someone moved in front of her: Horizon. The automaton grabbed a spare chair from by the wall, placed it near the center of the floor, and beckoned Persona-kun over.
…This is going to be something weird again, isn’t it?
Persona-kun nodded silently and sat in the chair.
Soon, a forceful blow struck the bottom of the floor panel below Persona-kun’s chair. The idiot’s voice followed.
“Huh? It won’t open! That’s odd. Huh? Ahhhn? Ahiiin?”
“Judge. Please be quiet. I will nail it shut.”
“Don’t renovate my house! And aren’t you going to praise me for my setup?”
Horizon casually began hammering in some nails.
“Ah, dammit! She’s hammering them in as accurately as an expert carpenter! C-curse you! I’ll do it right next time! I swear it! I swear it!!”
Masazumi glared toward the idiot’s voice as he seemed to run away somewhere underground.
“Anyway, we know he’s here, so I guess I’ll explain why we need to focus on Sviet Rus.”
She took a breath and looked to someone by the wall.
“Augesvarer, take it away.”
“Judge, judge,” said Heidi as she opened a sign frame on Masazumi’s instructions.
Unsurprisingly, it displayed a map of the Far East. It was zoomed in on the area from Sviet Rus to southern Kantou.
“Erimaki, show it up above.”
On top of her head, Erimaki raised its front legs and displayed the map on the ceiling.
“Now, then.” She put her hands on her hips and smiled. “It’s really simple when you get down to it. Even without advancing the history recreation, P.A. Oda currently controls the center of the Far East, right? Before, their eastern provisional border was shared with Qing-Takeda, but the Takeda side of Qing-Takeda has been destroyed.”
The red representing P.A. Oda moved in from the west to reach the western side of Kantou, but something was there to resist their invasion.
“Sviet Rus is to the northeast, Houjou is to the southeast, and both the Qing forces of Qing-Takeda and Musashi’s Matsudaira are to the east. …Now, do you know what’s going to happen with this in the future?”
“Judge,” said Mitotsudaira. She looked up to the ceiling and placed a hand on her bare throat. “Qing-Takeda will be pushed further east and Houjou will be destroyed by Hashiba.”
Heidi lightly tapped Erimaki and the red advanced from western Kantou to the southern region bordering the ocean.
“Do you understand?” asked Heidi. “Eventually, Musashi’s only path to and from the western Far East will be through Sviet Rus. Sviet Rus’s Uesugi will eventually side with Hashiba, but since the Uesugi clan isn’t actually destroyed, they won’t become P.A. Oda. And on the Russian side of things, they’ll be anti-Mlasi.”
“That isn’t all,” said Shirojiro as he crossed his arms next to her. “Ever since the Mikawa incident, Musashi has been managing the deposits of the Far East reservations and the national wealth stored in that fashion. In other words, Musashi is running a giant bank. But…”
As soon as he said that, Heidi displayed another map of the Far East. The western end had a few red circles added.
“But ever since the Battle of Mikatagahara, most of the western forces have instructed us to freeze the money they have left with Musashi.”
“Freeze…the money?” asked Suzu.
“It means they will not withdraw any, but Musashi is not to use it in any way.”
Immediately, someone else asked a question: Horizon. She tilted her expressionless head.
“What are those western academies trying to do? Why would they not withdraw their money but not let us use it?”
“It comes down to the threat of P.A. Oda, Horizon,” said Masazumi. “Even if they wanted to withdraw and use their money, they’ve just seen P.A. Oda take over K.P.A. Italia. Moving money around could make them the next target of an invasion. And even if they are invaded, they can recover if they still have that money waiting for them. So now that Musashi has lost to Hashiba, they want to leave that money with us, but they don’t want us using it. And since they think the odds are good Musashi will lose again, they can’t have us using the money they’ve left with us. Plus, freezing Musashi’s money will benefit our enemy, P.A. Oda. This is a decent performance to remain on P.A. Oda’s good side. But…”
“A giant city ship like the Musashi would be useful to the western forces. However, we’re currently in the east and have no means of safely reaching the west. Since we lost to Hashiba, the western forces have to act on the assumption that we won’t be returning to the west in the near future.”
“I see. So if we were to start getting along with Sviet Rus…”
Still standing, Horizon placed a hand on her chin and suddenly raised her right foot to knee height.
“…the western nations will unfreeze their money with us and we will have proven we can overcome most of our financial troubles. That is why you want to send people as important as us. …Hnn!!”
She stomped her right foot, sending a light tremor through the floor.
Immediately, the sign frame by the ceiling broke and the nudist fell and crashed into the table with his limbs sprawled out.
Voices of surprise filled the café, but they quickly quieted down.
Yoshiyasu heard them from outside.
She looked to the vassal next to her, but the girl only gave the café a quick glance before turning back to the dogs.
“Okay, go patrol the area.”
She was unfazed.
…Is that how things work here?
When in Rome do as the Romans do, so I guess I should go along with this. But this is still odd.
While she wondered what was going on, Yoshiyasu checked her sign frame.
Vice President: “On the economic front and to have passage through the Far East, I do not want a hostile relationship with Sviet Rus. After all, they also possess a Logismoi Óplo. Also, if we pass west through Sviet Rus and cross Poland, we will be near M.H.R.R. and Holland.”
Silver Wolf: “If we reach Holland, we will have effectively made a full circuit of the Far East.”
The Mito Lord’s words gave Yoshiyasu a thought.
…I joined them at IZUMO, so I’ll have made a half-circuit.
Was it jealousy making her think that she had seen less of the world than them?
Vice President: “Well, I guess it will mean that. But if possible, I want to secure passage through the North Sea as well as a path to meet with Sweden’s Chancellor Christina and Holland’s Resistance Chancellor and Prince of Orange, as both will be victorious nations at Westphalia. So Mitotsudaira, you go to Sviet Rus too.”
Silver Wolf: “What!? …But this is my land here.”
Vice President: “You’ll be their bodyguard. Not only do you have the actual strength, but you and Mary will ‘guard’ the others with your official positions. I’m sorry, but please try to look at it like that.”
“What does that mean?” asked the vassal.
It took Yoshiyasu a moment to realize the question was directed at her.
“O-oh… The Mito Lord is the daughter of a Hexagone Française VIP and Mary Stuart is the mother of England’s next king. Those nations aren’t in conflict with the Far East, but if something were to happen to those two, it could make an enemy of Hexagone Française and England. And in reverse, leaving a favorable impression on those two could improve those two powerful nations’ impression of you. Their positions make them the best bodyguards available.”
They were using all available personnel in every way possible. They must have really wanted to obtain stability with Sviet Rus.
Silver Wolf: “Th-then I have no choice. I will join the others as my king’s bodyguard.”
Scarred: “I too will join you, secure in the knowledge that I have a role here.”
Those older state guests had decided to act for the sake of Musashi’s future. So…
“I need to rethink some things too.”
Yoshiyasu was nervous, but she had a role to play and she had little else to do. If she also had no complaints with that role…
…I just have to go.
As soon as she thought that, some text scrolled along the sign frame next to her face.
Me: “Fine then. It’s early summer, but I’ll have to prepare some winter clothes. But…hey, where’d Tenzou go? Doesn’t he have to hear all this?”
Mary was unsure what to do when everyone started focusing on her.
The focus made her a little nervous, but not enough to grow flustered. It was something else that moved her heart.
She brought a hand to her mouth and thought for a moment, but then Naruze asked a question with a tilt of the head.
“Tenzou went to that scene of that attack last night, right? Is he doing his own investigation?”
“Eh? Yes, judge. That’s what he said.”
Naruze tilted her head further and exchanged a look with Naito.
“Most of the investigation was completed last night, so I don’t see much point in him going there,” said Naito.
When she trailed off, Mitotsudaira opened her mouth to help.
“I don’t blame him. He’s the 1st Special Duty Officer, but he was late to obtain that information last night. …He probably has some thoughts about that.”
“Are you worried about that, Mary?”
There seemed to be some expectation in her voice, but she was exactly right. Tenzou had been silent that morning, except when he suddenly seemed to notice he was being so quiet. Then he had said: “O-oh. I was just thinking is all.”
Overall, he had seemed different from usual.
He had acted normal after that, but…
…I wish he would confide in me more.
She sighed, but for some reason, those around her began fanning each other.
“Kimi! Kimi! Tenzou-kun has finally started to enter the zone!”
“Heh heh heh. That’s right, Asama! It’s summer, but the temperature is rising even further! There’s going to be lots of stripping!!”
Mary had no idea what they meant, but she thought they shared in her worries. Since he was not here, she decided to ask for some advice concerning him. She wanted to know what to do during times like this morning.
“Um, can I ask something about Master Tenzou? It’s about this morning.”
“Please do! Please do!”
Mary was surprised when a group of mostly girls leaned forward.
…They’re all worried about Master Tenzou, aren’t they!?
She could not help but feel happy about that. He was thinking about a lot and worrying, so she was relieved to have the help of these veterans who had known him for a lot longer than her.
“Um, when I woke up this morning, Master Tenzou…”
She was not used to the Far Eastern language.
…Wasn’t like his normal self.
She did not think that would get across what she wanted to say. No one else was around to see his “normal self” in the mornings, so she decided to search for simple way to explain the problem.
She thought about what to say.
He had been sitting on his bed hanging his head.
He had crossed his arms to signify he was thinking, but he had been groaning so much that she thought he might be sick. When she had called out to him, he had jumped in surprise and immediately turned toward her. That much was normal, but today…
…Would you describe him as disappointed?
She had a feeling that was not quite right.
Disappointment was generally in response to something other than oneself. When it was towards oneself…
…Regretful isn’t quite right and self-loathing is too strong.
She found just the right nuance. It referred to the heavy downwards direction of his mood. Was it “feeling down”? No, she had a feeling she needed more words for emphasis.
“Yes. Ever since he woke up this morning, um…”
She placed a hand on her cheek. She had trouble with the Far Eastern language, but using their language would help them understand each other.
“Mater Tenzou has been feeling himself down below.”
“He went there!?”
Asama: “What should we do?”
Wise Sister: “Heh heh heh. Don’t you mean what do we want to do? But your bow would probably be overkill here. Doesn’t the shrine have a way of torturing him?”
Vice President: “W-wait! There’s clearly something wrong here! I say we double check on this!”
Mal-Ga: “Then good luck. Go ask Mary just what Tenzou was ‘feeling’.”
Masazumi took a step forward from the silent group and spoke to Mary.
“U-u-um, Mary? U-uh, about Crossunite…”
“Y-yes. Judge. What is it?”
“Um, w-was he really ‘feeling’ his p-pe…pe…no, I mean…” Masazumi blushed. “Down below!?”
Everyone sighed, so she turned toward them with a flourish.
“Y-you got a problem with that!? All that matters is that she understands what I mean!”
“You’re no fun, Seijun-kun.”
“Now, now,” said Mary as she nodded toward Masazumi. “Judge. Thank you for worrying, but it’s true.”
“Since early this morning, Master Tenzou was feeling himself down below.”
Worshipper: “He’s quite the pervert.”
Uqui: “When did Tenzou grow so distant from us?”
Flat Vassal: “I have an honest question. What do guys normally do in the morning?”
Mitotsudaira saw Masazumi’s shoulders droop as the girl stepped back.
She looked exhausted and Mitotsudaira considered giving her a word of support, but…
“You handle this.”
Masazumi tapped her shoulder.
“Eh? …Wh-why me!?”
She protested, but Masazumi averted her gaze and ignored her.
If it was her turn to add to the joke, there was nothing else she could do. She finally worked up her nerve, stood up, and stepped forward. She stood in front of Mary and forced a smile.
She thought about what to ask. She of course had no intention of asking how healthy or hard the 1st Special Duty Officer was in the mornings. If she was going to ask about this, she had to do so more objectively.
“Mary, when you woke up, what was the 1st Special Duty Officer doing?”
“Judge. Master Tenzou was sitting cross-legged like this, facing the wall, hanging his head, and…quietly feeling himself down below. Yes.”
Silver Wolf: “What was that guy doing with the wall this morning?”
Asama: “Mito! Mito! You mustn’t get emotional! Calm down!”
Mitotsudaira took a deep breath and swore to herself she would not forget to smile.
“Did you…see anything else strange?”
“Judge. I’m not sure I would call it strange…but if you ask me, he was feeling himself down below extremely hard.”
“Eh? …Extremely hard? Down below?”
“Yes. He has felt himself down below on occasion before, you see.”
“B-before? Um, since when?”
Mary seemed a little concerned by how Mitotsudaira latched onto that comment. Oh, no, she thought, but then she saw Mary sighing.
“Sometimes when he’s busy at work, he doesn’t arrive in time to pick up our rations or he misses a chance to go on a walk with me. He tends to somewhat feel himself down below when that happens.”
Smoking Girl: “What has that guy been doing at the ration station?”
Wise Sister: “Heh heh heh. Somewhat feeling himself? …That ninja tries to be a sneaky ninja even there, doesn’t he?”
Me: “Y’know, this is pretty bad. Tenzou’s entering brand new territory here.”
Mitotsudaira did not want to agree, but she had to. Hoping this ordeal would end soon, she asked another question.
“And what did you do, Mary?”
“Well, I called out to him and he jumped in surprise.”
Me: “Yeah, that’ll happen if you’re caught off guard. I’m used to it, though.”
Gold Mar: “That’s something we’re really not too familiar with…”
I suppose not, thought Mitotsudaira as new text arrived on her sign frame.
Still Got It: “But I think it’s best when a guy’s got that much energy. I don’t know if it’s thanks to my divine protection, but my husband is always ‘extremely hard’ in the mornings before he even wakes up, so we’re doing it ‘extremely hard’.”
Silver Wolf: “Why was that in the present continuous tense!?”
Mitotsudaira looked over to Asama who was in charge of the divine transmission settings, but she and Hanami refused to look her in the eye.
Mary then continued.
“Master Tenzou was the same during breakfast, so it was hard to bear.”
“Mary-sama, I believe that is the normal reaction,” said Horizon. “It would be difficult to enjoy your food like that.”
“Judge. That’s right. When someone important to you is feeling himself down below, it’s normal to be worried.”
“Yes, yes! Very normal!”
Mary seemed relieved that everyone agreed.
Don’t worry, Mary. We have someone who can be a nudist, crossdress, and cook dumplings all at once, so we can give a proper retort…I mean, reaction to more normal strangeness.
But then Mary’s shoulders stiffened.
“But he won’t tell me why he’s feeling himself down below.”
“Well, explaining it can really ruin the mood,” said the idiot. “Hey, don’t look at me like there’s something wrong with me!”
“Um…” Mitotsudaira chose her words carefully to best describe what to do in that situation. “At times like that, I think it’s best to just be by his side. It can double as keeping an eye on his behavior. Anyway, um, what did he do then?”
“Judge. He went to inspect the site of last night’s attack while still feeling himself down below.”
Mal-Ga: “Is he an exhibitionist!? And what’s he planning to do there?”
Gold Mar: “I kind of think it would be best not to think about it too much.”
That was when the café door opened.
“Sorry I’m late. 1st Special Duty Officer, reporting for duty!”
Tenzou was a little disturbed when everyone gave him a look he had never seen before.
…Eh!? What brought this on!? Is that a mix of contempt and anticipation?
“You’re the worst,” said Naruze. “But I’ll still put you in my doujinshi.”
“Wh-what is this about!?”
For some reason, Masazumi was blushing as she held her right hand out toward him. Behind her, the idiot raised his right forearm a little and shook it up and down, but he ignored it.
“What is it, Masazumi-dono?”
“W-well, it can get in the way of your duties and there are a number of public morals issues, so try to stick to the more standard methods when controlling yourself. Also…don’t do it in public.”
Is she talking about stress? Well, dealing with these awful people on a daily basis is exhausting.
Asama raised her hand.
“Masazumi, as our Public Morals Committee Member, I say you should rethink sending Tenzou-kun to Sviet Rus. …It would be a lot of trouble if he started doing it during a negotiation.”
“Personally, I think he’d lose it to frostbite in no time if he tried that in Russia,” said Naito.
What are they talking about? he wondered and looked over to see Mary smiling at him with the ends of her eyebrows lowered.
Oh, he realized. This morning.
So he faced Masazumi.
“Not to worry. I had a lot on my mind, but after looking around the scene of the attack and thinking about some things, I’m feeling quite refreshed.”
“Huh? Why do you look so disturbed? I’m just saying inspecting the scene and moving my body around left me feeling refreshed.”
“We understand, so you don’t have to say it again.”
He had Noriki’s assurance, so Tenzou looked straight at Mary.
“Sorry for worrying you. …From now on, I will try to confide in you and…well, sometimes I might not say anything, but…”
He was afraid of how the others would react, but he said what he thought he needed to say.
“Can I rely on you at times like this, Mary-dono?”
Mary was briefly confused.
The others were saying something with their sign frames and Naruze was starting to draw something with unbelievable excitement, but…
“Um, you mean…”
His request to rely on her had confused her…or rather, she did not know how to react. After all…
…This is the first time he has asked something like that of me.
No, it was possible he had when he had confessed, but that had been more about a powerful desire for her.
…But this morning was about himself.
She had a feeling he would try to put on a brave face, but he would let her accept him.
She would be able to support him, the boy who had accepted all of her. He would let her. And he had called that “relying” on her.
Mary obeyed the feeling inside her. She had decided in England to live her life the way she wished and she had gone to the person who would let her do that, so…
“Judge.” Mary smiled. “When you’re feeling like that, feel free to rely on me as much as you want. It would make me just as happy.”
He nodded with his hat pulled deep over his eyes, so she gestured to the seat opposite her.
She was not sure she should already be thinking about what to do from now on. And she was worried it was conceited of her to think relying on her would allow him to continue saying he was “fine”.
But one thing did bother her.
“Um, Lady Masazumi? Master Tenzou will be fine, so can we get back to talking about Sviet Rus?”
“Judge.” Masazumi nodded. “I’ll send the details with the log, but the ambassadors to Sviet Rus will be Crossunite, Mary, Horizon, Aoi, and Mitotsudaira. …We’re counting on all of you.”
Crossunite answered after a moment.
Masazumi heard him agree without hesitation and heard Mary breathe a sigh of relief.
…I guess the two of them will have to come up with a fundamental solution about him “feeling himself down below”.
With that settled, she moved on.
“Next is who we’ll be sending to the Date clan.”
She looked to both of the people she was about to name.
“Mukai, Urquiaga. That will be you two.”
Suzu tensed up.
She was surprised and caught off guard. She wondered why she would be chosen, but she also felt like this was the right decision. There was one main reason for that.
“That’s right. You already have experience as a diplomat. You’re also the Musashi’s acting captain, so you’re more than qualified to be an ambassador.”
“Heh heh. Wait right there, flat-chested politician. Don’t you have something to tell her? You can draw people in by leaving things unsaid, but you mustn’t do that to those close to you.”
“Yes, I know. That’s why I said ‘more than’. Are you listening?”
Suzu nodded, so Masazumi continued.
“We’re giving them the Musashi’s acting captain, so from Date’s perspective…you’ll mostly be a hostage.”
She often heard the word “hostage” in a suspenseful drama on the divine radio or television. Robbers would hole up in the bank, point their matchlock guns at the workers, and demand a means of escape. That was generally when the magistrate would show up for the following scene:
“Ha ha ha. Silly robbers, you should learn how to use those matchlocks before trying something like this. The safety’s still on.”
“Eh!? …Ah, you tricked us, you son of a bitch! Get him!”
Her parents would always seem satisfied and say things like “That magistrate tricks someone every time” or “That’s a pretty personal interpretation”. But in that case…
“Will you s-save…the hostage?”
“Eh? Oh, well, you aren’t guaranteed to be a hostage. But it could happen. Basically, we’re leaving an important person with Date as a safety to ensure we don’t become enemies. We’re saying we won’t attack them because we don’t want to lose you, Mukai.”
“B-but…I’m not th-that important…”
Musashino: “Allow me to interrupt. In reference to our duties on the bridge, I would make the following ranking: Suzu-sama = Asama-sama > Adele-sama > Everyone Else > Neshinbara-sama > Chancellor. Over.”
Me: “Are those ‘>’ things arrows!? So the further you go, the better you are!?”
Musashino: “It is the exact opposite. Over.”
Me: “Did you have to answer that quickly!?”
Hori-ko: “Those at the bottom should take a lesson from Asama-sama and rethink their life.”
Asama: “But why me? I’ve barely ever been on the bridge.”
Musashino: “You are always a huge help with the divine transmissions. Without you, we would lose most of the Musashi’s divine transmission support, which would place a larger burden on us. When Suzu-sama is on the bridge, we can fulfill our maid roles as automatons and her sensory support reduces the burden on us. Adele-sama helps guide the ship. As for the others…
“●Neshinbara-sama: His pessimistic assumptions and forceful course instructions are quite dangerous.
“●Chancellor: In the way, lifts our skirts, nudist, sleeps, plays porn games on the bridge monitors, etc.
Asama: “Maybe that last person really should rethink his life.”
I see, thought Asama as she realized how important everyone was. So…
“Um, Suzu-san? If you think going to the Date clan would be too difficult, I can go in your place.”
Suzu looked her way and began clasping her hands in front of her chest. She may have been hesitating because the speed and complexity of her finger movements grew.
“N-no. I-I’ll go. B-because…”
She continued moving her hands as she turned toward Masazumi.
“Are the Date people…b-bad people?”
It was Urquiaga, not Masazumi, that answered. He stood his tail up and seemed to be sitting on it.
“If you define ‘bad’ as a lack of elder sisters, then they are indeed bad people.”
“Urquiaga, just so you know, Date Chancellor Masamune is female and has a younger brother.”
“Then they are good people, Ambassador Mukai.”
…It looks like he’s willing to go now, but is that a good thing?
Asama was mentally sweating, but Suzu had stopped moving her hands and she faced Masazumi once more.
“Then…n-nothing will happen…if I go, right?”
“Nothing should. After all, the Date clan becomes Matsudaira’s approved ruler of Oushuu. Causing trouble between the two academies now would be the same as throwing away their future.”
“A-are the…D-date people…good people?”
“Yes. If you remain true to yourself, I think they will all be good people.”
Asama said that with a smile and Suzu smiled back while squeezing her clasped hands.
“Okay… Th-then I’ll try my best…to do that.”
Everyone sensed something in Suzu’s words there.
Suzu was speaking in the active voice.
It was possible she intended to continue like that as long as this continued. She was so intent on remaining true to herself, that she was straying from her usual self.
…Not good, not good.
Kimi then tapped on Asama’s shoulder and Asama knew what that meant.
Suzu looked up at her again as if asking what she wanted, so Asama and Kimi replied in unison while giving the girl a thumbs up.
“Yay! Let’s do our best.”
Suzu unclasped her hands and raised her own right thumb.
She blushed and her voice faded away, but Masazumi spoke up to help.
“Um,” she began. “I will handle the negotiations over divine transmission. I will have Asama prepare a direct connection with Date, so I’ll make sure Mukai and Urquiaga can converse with everyone else in both audio and video. It will be through the sign frame, but your situation will be little different from sitting with us in the classroom.”
“I’ll do my best,” said Asama with her job in mind.
She then turned toward Kimi who was tapping her shoulder again. The other girl held her hand to the side of her mouth and spoke quietly.
“Aren’t you glad you have something to do? You don’t like being neglected, do you?”
“Um…do you have a point?”
She tried to speak forcefully to act as a warning, but Kimi narrowed her eyes and whispered from behind her raised hand.
“Y-you’re calling me that again!?”
When had she seen? When had she noticed? Asama did not know, but of the others around her, only Toori gave her a thumbs up.
She blushed and opened a sign frame with a displeased look.
“Okay, I’ll be sending out the necessary settings, so everyone bring out your sign frames or handheld shrines!”
The spear resembled a long sword.
Muneshige held it atop the gravel. He tried swinging it once or twice in Sakai’s yard.
…The weight balance is more like a nagamaki than a spear.
That was because the blade and shaft were of about equal length. The strength of his arms on the shaft would be directly placed on the blade. He briefly considered whether he should hold the top and bottom as with a spear or just the bottom as with a long sword.
When he spun it around as if catching at it with the fingers of his right hand, he found the balance was nice near the blade. That meant the shaft was heavy, so as he rapidly spun the spear, he passed his swinging hands to the front and back.
Finally, he caught it in his spread right hand.
He held it near the front.
…For now, I will use it like a spear.
Next, he judged whether to hold the blade to the side or upwards.
“Looks like I don’t have anything to teach you.”
Sakai spoke from the veranda while bending forward to rest his head in his hand. Muneshige looked back and held the blade out so he could see.
“The blade has been well maintained.”
“I had ‘Okutama’ look over it all beforehand. I used to have Sakakibara do it, but it’s been neglected since he was sent to Edo. It should be in perfect shape, though. …Oh, and any thanks should go to Tamako.”
While continuing to work through the black disks in the back, “Okutama” turned around and bowed toward Muneshige.
“Maintaining and fine-tuning equipment should go without saying. Over.”
“Wait,” said Sakai. “Was that an indirect way of scolding me?”
“Musashi” carried in enough tea for everyone.
“The problem is that you are aware of the problem yet do not fix it. Now, Sakai-sama, shouldn’t you tell him how to use Kamenuki? Over.”
“Probably, but I think it would be better if he figured it out himself. It’s better to find your own way to use something than to force yourself to use it the way someone else said to.”
“What do you mean?” asked Muneshige.
Sakai did not answer, but Muneshige did not press any further because he knew that was the kind of person Sakai was.
Meanwhile, Gin and “Asakusa” (in her new clothes) walked in from behind the house.
Gin held a few pieces of firewood in her large false arms. They had yet to be chopped.
“Master Muneshige. Use these to test it.”
She gently threw one high in the air toward him.
Gin threw the firewood toward Muneshige and his spear, and she watched the immediate result.
…I would expect nothing less.
The spear stabbed through the firewood. The meter long blade had stabbed halfway into the wood. The blade was thick, so the wood swelled out after being pierced.
“That will slice it in two.”
Muneshige said that with a bitter smile just as the firewood did indeed split in two.
However, something bothered Gin. That result was to be expected, but…
“You noticed too, Gin?”
She had not, but he held his left palm up to eye level, asking her to throw another one.
She nodded and recalled the past. Back when he had still been training at the Tachibana house, he had gone through training much like this.
Her father had said it was to teach him how to deal with a midair enemy and then asked her to “throw one my way”. She had made a full-power overhand throw on the same level as the Valdés brother’s pitches, and she had aimed at the face. Her father had been mad at her, but she had not found it fair for him to be so angry after he successfully sliced it in two. Muneshige had then told her to use a gentle underhand throw and she had done so.
…I may have already been treating him kindly even then.
“Gin, you can use an overhand throw if you want.”
You intend to outdo my father!? I would expect no less, Master Muneshige.
Delighted, she did as he said. He spread his hands further apart on the shaft and swung the spear vertically.
With a solid sound, the airborne firewood was sliced apart and the two halves flew to the left and right.
He had split the wood. He had done so by swinging the long blade down into place, but Gin noticed something.
“It did not cut as sharply this time.”
It was different from before.
The first piece of firewood had been pierced noiselessly. It had pierced the wood so sharply that the fibrous structure had not had time to tear.
But this was different. The force of the blade’s collision had split the wood, so it had made a noise and the halves had flown in either direction. If it had cut as sharply as the first time, there would have been no noise and the halves would not have flown away. It was the same blade, so what had caused the difference?
…What is this?
“Gin, can you throw one pretty high up?”
He was testing rather than questioning, so she made an overhand throw like she used to.
…I used to be able to make a hundred meter long throw.
She threw it along an arc that would pass high above his head and he turned his back to her.
“Is this how it works?”
He used the spear to pierce the firewood as it passed over his head and flew into the distance.
Muneshige grasped what had happened through the tactile feedback before anything else.
…Would you call this “assistance”?
He faced Gin again and held up the spear. The firewood was skewered about halfway down the long blade.
“That was the same piercing power as the first time.”
As he held it up, the wood split and fell apart. Gin was the first to comment on this third result.
“Does it accelerate when piercing something? Is that how it felt?”
“Judge,” he replied because that was indeed how it had felt. “When you take aim and make the thrust, it moves forward. The first time, my actions were a little delayed, but it may have adjusted its movements to match me. So this third time was the spear’s true power. After all…”
“You were ‘chasing after’ the wood, yet it pierced it just as well as the first time.”
“That’s right. I think the piercing assistance was fine-tuned from the beginning.”
Stabbing deep into the wood when it was thrown toward him was hardly a surprise.
But this third time, he had been stabbing at it after it passed over his head. The wood was light, so his strike should have simply knocked it away from him. And even if he had pierced it…
“The blade would not have stabbed halfway in as it did the first time.”
“Couldn’t you do it, Master Muneshige?”
“I was not trying to this time. In fact, I was trying to see what happened when I didn’t.”
But the result had been even greater than he had expected.
…And when it stabbed in, I felt like all resistance vanished.
He looked to Sakai and held Kamenuki up toward the man who was bending forward and resting his head in his hand.
“May I ask one thing?”
“Sure, What is it, Muneshige-kun?”
“Judge. Is there anything I should yell when activating it?”
“Do you like that kind of thing? Don’t you find it embarrassing?”
“I am used to it after yelling ‘amore’ for Gin.”
“Master Muneshige, please let mine be something special.”
“Fair enough,” he replied with a smile.
He looked to Sakai who got up.
“It isn’t anything that amazing. But, Muneshige-kun, what kind of power do you think Kamenuki has?”
“Limited assistance for piercing attacks. Would that be accurate?”
“Not quite,” replied Sakai.
If he had been completely wrong, he could have changed his way of thinking about it. But a slight difference was trickier. However, Sakai did not give the actual answer.
“How about you, well, try it out some more? It can be tricky to use, but once you get the hang of it, I think you’ll use it better than I ever did.”
“This may be selfish, but I’m hoping you’ll make this fun. Yes.”
A bell rang just as Sakai finished speaking.
It was the hourly bell of Musashi Ariadust Academy and it rang eight times.
“Now, this would normally be when classes start, but I’m sure everyone will be preparing for their diplomatic jobs today. It must be tough having so much work to do.”
“Yes.” Muneshige nodded and adjusted his grip on the spear in his hands. “I think I will put a little more effort into this.”
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