Horizon:Volume 4B Chapter 38
Chapter 38: Fox of the Heavenly Castle
Is it someone else or you?
Point Allocation (A Nice Atmosphere)
As soon as Niwa appeared, the Date fleet accelerated toward the Musashi.
Suzu sensed it from the tilting energy below her feet rather than from the wind.
She more or less knew why they were speeding up.
…The gods of war? It’s a big deal…when they’re…far away.
Earlier, Date Narumi had said as much about attacking the Ariake with their gods of war.
Naomasa-san and her friends in the engine division seemed to be having some fun with cannons on the Ariake, but it had to be a big deal to put the gods of war in harm’s way. If they broke, they had to be fixed and that would take a lot of time and money. And fighting back could hurt the Date people, and that would be a different sort of problem.
…Masazumi called it…a p-political? Political problem. So…
Bell: “Naomasa-san. …P-protect the…Ariake.”
Smoking Girl: “Hm? We’ll be fine! We’re all skilled and we’re excellent shots! If they show up, we’ll just shoot them all. And our people have been building up a bit of stress lately, so if the enemy lands here, they’ll get all worked up and intercept them. Hey, everyone! The Acting Captain just ordered us to protect the Ariake with our lives!”
Boys: “Judge! We’ll work ourselves to death!!”
Where had she gone wrong? Suzu did not know, but she could tell they were fired up. She quickly tried to extinguish that fire.
Bell: “I-I didn’t mean it…l-like that?”
Smoking Girl: “Eh? Oh, I gotcha, I gotcha. …Hey, everyone! The Acting Captain has a complaint! She doesn’t want you to die; she wants you to survive!”
Boys: “Judge! We’ll make sure we’re alive and well even if the Ariake burns down around us!!”
Suzu felt that was half right, but would it make her an overachiever to try to get the whole thing right?
“Umm,” she hesitated.
Bell: “D-don’t hurt…e-each other…okay?”
Smoking Girl: Hey, everyone. The Acting Captain just sent you some kind words. Take a look at this reply.”
Suzu hoped they would understand if they saw her reply for themselves.
Light GoW 3: “Hey, I think Suzu-san’s right. We might’ve been hurting each other here.”
Mid GoW 7: “Yeah. We’re always blaming each other when there’s insufficient power or getting into fights over unreturned porn mags and mistakes in the shift schedule. …We really are hurting each other.”
Light GoW 5: “Maybe people really can understand each other. …Okay, let’s work together as one to intercept Date and revive the engine division!”
Smoking Girl: “You’re amazing, Suzu. I was worried about everyone’s teamwork since our exhaustion’s about at its peak, but you really brought them all together.”
Suzu felt like apologizing for everything, but as she sweated in her heart, a large form rose from the rear deck of a large neighboring ship.
She perceived it as a humanoid dragon. Yoshiyasu’s Righteousness was a humanoid dog, so this was probably just as powerful. She hoped this would not lead to anything bad, but she did not go beyond hoping because she had a feeling the damage would only spread if she said something. But…
“Musashi Diplomat, I hope you are prepared.”
Date Narumi faced Suzu while holding down her skirt.
“I wish to see how Musashi will defend the Ariake against these twelve.”
Narumi sighed inside her heart.
…What has me so worn out?
This was the front line. She had a goal to aim for and she was prepared to accomplish it, so she only needed to do so. That was how the Chancellor’s Officers worked.
…We are not purely Far Eastern.
She heard that the Sibir people with a provisional rule over Oushuu had originally been mostly Far Eastern. When the Harmonic Divine States had been made, most of their ancestors had moved to Sibir in the northern Harmonic Divine States.
That had been a frigid land. It had little sunlight and snow was a constant sight. Even now, the countless large Harmonic Territories covering Oushuu contained deep snow and that was where they lived.
She had heard a number of theories as to why their ancestors had moved to the Harmonic Divine States, but every theory agreed that there had been discord with the Shinto and Testament forces among the mainlanders.
The skills to survive in the frozen land waiting for them after the move could be seen in the underground construction techniques used for Sendai Castle and in the gods of wars modeled after the wild mechanical dragons that could survive even in that cold. Also…
“The Dragon God’s protection…”
She muttered those words while staring straight at Musashi’s diplomat.
“We did warn you. If you try to approach us and monitor us, we will simply reject you. …So how about it?”
“Testament.” Narumi nodded. “If you leave now, never return to Oushuu, give up on the history recreation, and remain in the Mito area, we will end our attack and even act as an intermediary to help you find peace with Hashiba.”
The girl replied immediately. It almost felt like speaking with a child, but that was not it. Thinking that would be selling the girl short. After all…
“We have something we need to do.”
“And what is that?”
The diplomat fell silent as if that was enough of an answer.
Narumi could tell there was conviction behind the words. She trusted in those words, so they were more than just reflexive resistance. Threatening her, attacking her, and attempting to persuade her would not change them. They sounded like words she would continue speaking as long as she remained “here”, no matter what anyone did.
It was a frightening thought. It was not that Narumi’s suggestion itself was unacceptable to her. They had a promise to uphold and the suggestion was unacceptable because it did not fit with that promise.
That was troublesome.
It came as the result of her connection to someone else and it was something she had decided for herself rather than given into. In that case, that decision would not waver. However, reality continued on despite that willpower, so…
“The gods of war are heading out.”
Light filled the base of the catapult lane on the rear deck. A launching spell mechanism had activated. The stack of sign frames for weight-bearing spells gradually broke down to zero.
And they left.
The first god of war was the standard-bearer. It was a blue god of war and the whistle attached to the flag sounded loudly as it flew.
People call that the dragon’s whistle, thought Narumi.
As the whistle’s tone filled the air, four wings spread out to catch that air and they flapped for a quick ascent. The god of war unit was letting the other two nations know they were heading out.
Narumi spotted almost excessive armor on the front of the ascending god of war.
…I’m glad Oniniwa-san isn’t reckless.
She then looked to the half-dragon who was staring up into the sky with a thoughtful hand on his chin.
“I see you aren’t trying to stop them. That’s a total of twelve gods of war on their way to the Ariake, you know?”
“It is not our job to stop an attack on the Ariake. The twelve gods of war are their problem. We came here for a reason. Send out your elder sister; nothing else concerns me.”
“Did you…just let something slip there?”
“You must be hearing things. El. God enjoys subliminal messages. Der. When speaking with a servant of god such as myself – Sis – I expect you will gradually begin to feel the same. Ter.”
“I think you’re going to drive me insane, so I should probably go ahead and ask. …How can a supposed servant of god continue to speak down to us when we are attacking your comrades with our cannons and gods of war?”
“Why do you take such issue with my mention of god?”
“Testament,” replied Narumi. “Because I feel no freedom in reality.”
“If your dreams are the only thing you view as freedom, then you can only ever obtain it while asleep.”
“I see you holy men enjoy your wordplay.”
“Of course we do.” The half-dragon sighed. “Holy men are those that speak of god, talk of freedom and benevolence, and encourage cooperation, mercy, and peace. …You should count yourself lucky all we have are words. If we took action, a great war would break out. In other words, the world is peaceful only because we holy men are currently restricting ourselves to mere words. After all, if we act carelessly, we could part the sea or bring people back from the dead. You need to understand these things, woman. Now, will you be sending out that elder sister? Hm?”
“W-wait! Enough nonsense!”
Narumi watched the second god of war take off and pointed to it.
“Quit changing the subject and answer me! The Ariake truly is being fired on as well as attacked by gods of war. And we truly no longer wish for Matsudaira’s future and are looking to Hashiba’s guidance instead! What do you have to say about that reality!?”
“Nothing at all. Catholicism does not teach us to be critics of reality. Listen. Thou shalt not be a critic. …And thou shalt not attempt to conquer the Testament or reality. Those are the teachings of Catholicism and the other religions.” The half-dragon remained entirely composed. “We were sent here with a certain duty and others will handle what that duty does not cover. That is our ‘weapon’ against those who would conquer reality.”
Not even Narumi knew what irritated her so much about this, but she swung her hand down and shouted at him.
“Then what do you think you can change about this reality…about this situation!?”
As soon as her words reverberated through the sky, something happened.
The god of war sliding down the catapult lane doubled over and was knocked into the air.
Narumi saw one of their gods of war knocked into the sky high overhead.
It was hit, she thought. By a secondary cannon class shell. It must not have had any divine protection, so we overlooked it among all the ether cannon blasts.
But it had been too sudden to immediately determine where it had come from.
No, that was too far away. And the god of war had doubled over to the side, so it had come from the west. Someone was making a gentle approach from there.
What is going on? wondered Masazumi with widened eyes.
She had honestly been planning to request that Mogami obeyed the history recreation.
…I was going to ask that they follow the Testament descriptions by attacking Date and Sviet Rus.
Mogami was currently not at war, but that did not mesh with the history recreation. She had meant to make waves here by pointing that out, but…
“Heh heh. Silly politician, asking ‘why’ of reality is like admitting you live in your own dreams. Reality is about the ‘what’. The parts beyond yourself matter more.”
Masazumi could not help but agree, so she immediately erased the disbelief in her heart. This was actually happening. It was reality.
Under Hashiba’s watchful eye, the three nations should have been firing on the Ariake, but Mogami had strayed from that. Mogami’s Chancellor and Student Council President had to have commanded that.
A divine transmission from Naruze arrived with a hand-drawn map.
Mal-Ga: “Mogami has begun firing on Sviet Rus too! …And they’re returning fire!”
The three-hull Yamagata Castle was the Mogami clan’s flagship and wings opened out from the two hulls out front.
The opening structure produced metallic noises at regular intervals as it pushed out devices that activated torii-style defense spells. Each one was a twenty meter upside-down torii-style metal panel. Seven of them covered the five hundred meter length on either side of the ship and they were wrapped in bluish-white light.
People in yellow-dyed Russian uniforms ran across the ship. They were attaching shimenawa-style conductive cables to various places and then raising their hand.
With that word, ether barriers shaped like upside-down torii surrounded the Yamagata Castle.
A moment later, an explosion of light collided with those barriers.
The barriers appeared in triple layers and shook as they endured the impact. Fragments of light scattered through the air.
That single ether cannon blast had not come from Date in the east. It had come from the west. Specifically from Honjou Shigenaga’s Sviet Rus ship.
A second and third shot arrived and hit. Noise filled the sky, clouds scattered, and explosive fragments of light burst across the sky both horizontally and vertically. But by then, most of the other Mogami ships had moved below the Yamagata Castle, they had switched all their defenses to the side facing the enemy, and they produced their barriers.
Then return fire came from Date as well.
The first shot hit while the second and third missed. They must have used that first shot to calibrate their aim because a rapid series of shots came along almost that same trajectory.
The Yamagata Castle bathed in glowing spray from the ether cannon blasts arriving from the left and right.
Countless flowers of light danced through the windy sky like cherry blossoms. The sounds of impact sounded like the beating of a drum and the ship shook violently despite its great size. Several of the defense barriers shattered and were remade, but…
“Ka ha ha!”
A color danced atop the Yamagata Castle’s bridge as the light washed over it.
It was a woman.
She wore a white shirt with no shoulders to the sleeves and fox-brown side skirts. She and her colors spun in time to the ship’s vibration.
She used her toes and heels to turn her body and twist her waist while her light brown hair and her ears covered in white fur fluttered in the wind. The pressure of the blowing wind rang the bells attached to her ears.
With that single loud syllable, she reached into her sleeves and pulled out folding fans that measured more than a meter long. When she spread the fans out, there was no paper between the slats. They were actually fan-shaped torii-style sign frames and they were linked to the Yamagata Castle’s cannon control spells.
As she danced and waved the two fans, the Yamagata castle produced noise and fire.
She was returning fire against Sviet Rus and Date to the left and right. The cannon fire matched her dance.
The sounds overlapped.
“Ha ha ha! Wretched residents of history! Pilgrims fated to travel the proper path! Sharp-eyed ones who lovingly polish your shackles and follow the end of the chain that binds you!”
The woman waved her arms, instructing the cannons along either wing to fire from front to back.
“It is laughably wretched how you fall into the trap of merely obeying as someone calls you toward that proper path!”
The cannon fire raced across the sky like a wave and then picked up speed.
Honjou Shigenaga’s fleet and the Date fleet had both entered effective firing range.
As the cannon fire suddenly began, the festival aboard Shigenaga’s diplomatic ship ground to a halt and Mitotsudaira immediately chose to protect those from Musashi. She sent silver chains from her wrists to crawl along the ground and surround everyone behind her.
Now that she was prepared to act if something happened, she tilted her head.
“Now, what is the meaning of this?”
This doesn’t qualify as an emergency just yet, she told herself while looking to Shigenaga.
Shigenaga contacted a few people to fulfill her role as commander and selected a few prearranged patterns before opening a sankt okno in front of her. It displayed…
Just like Mitotsudaira, that was a transformation-type race. In this woman’s case, she could make a beast transformation into a fox. A werefox’s conditions for transformation were not as strict as a werewolf’s and the fox was more like their real form, so the excitement of this werefox’s dance had led her fox ears and tails to appear from within her hair and from the rear of her clothing.
She had nine tails, meaning she was a great fox. Which meant…
“What is the meaning of this!?”
Shigenaga glanced over at Mitotsudaira as she shouted to the werefox in the sign frame.
“Mogami Yoshiaki! Do you not wish for stability in Oushuu!?”
Mogami Yoshiaki laughed into the sky before responding to Honjou Shigenaga.
She spread her fangs, aimed forward, and swept her arms and fingertips around to trigger more cannon fire. She felt the arriving impacts as vibrations in the air and she spun her body to switch between managing the left and right sides. The wind swept the sweat from her brow.
“Wretched Oushuu…do you truly not understand?”
“Are you referring to Hashiba!?”
When Shigenaga roared her question on the sign frame, Yoshiaki bent her body and her back swelled out.
She laughed. And after that human laugh, she leaned back, split her crescent moon of a mouth as if to devour the sky, and released a series of delighted “keh” sounds while she waved the cannon fans with her entire body.
She raised her voice as she started firing her own shells into the enemy’s arriving shells.
“Is that all you have, Honjou Shigenaga!? And you wish to name yourself the one to decorate the end of Oushuu!?”
As she attempted to devour the sky, Yoshiaki responded to Shigenaga’s sign frame with her eyes. They bent in a smile and twisted over toward Shigenaga.
She looked down at Shigenaga with a gaze that seemed to swallow one up more than see through them.
“How wretched, Honjou Shigenaga. …Can you wait no longer as you blame Hashiba for your failure to keep your promise? If so…”
Yoshiaki narrowed her eyes further and formed a small smile on her lips.
“If so, you have set foot on my superficial path down to hell.”
Suddenly, a shadow passed by overhead.
It was a god of war.
Oh? thought Yoshiaki as she spun her body.
One god of war passed by overhead and two more were following in the distance.
The Date gods of war had left to attack Musashi, but they must have decided this was the more immediate threat.
…I’m betting that was Oniniwa’s decision, but he knows me too well to make an actual attack.
But the first god of war was clearly on a firing trajectory. The rifle below its right arm was aimed straight ahead as it flew in a line from the stern to the bow.
This was no mere warning, so this would be outside of Oniniwa’s instructions. This was most likely a novice pilot.
“Did they stray from their instructions in order to sever the bond between Date and Mogami? Ha ha! Those who rush make mistakes, but it does make for a nice example of temporary justice!”
Yoshiaki threw both fans high into the air and faced the approaching god of war as the light of the cannon blasts washed over her from either side.
“Treat your own with more care, young one.”
She pulled a sword from within her left side skirt. It was an old eighty-centimeter sword with no real decorations.
However, she placed her palm vertically along the back of the gently curving blade.
“Look back, Onikiri.”
Something was immediately released from Onikiri’s blade: memories.
A distance of 1200 meters would only take just over three seconds for a flying god of war, so the lead attacker knew he had won.
He would fire on Yoshiaki.
Oniniwa had forbidden it, but he had to do this if he had a chance.
After all, the Testament descriptions said Mogami Yoshiaki was Date Masamune’s uncle and yet constantly harassed Date Masamune and others in Date territory while attempting to expand Mogami territory to the east.
If he could attack her, he had to do it. Oniniwa had said to avoid making an attack because she could not be caught off guard, but even if he was right…
“It’ll only mean my own defeat!!”
As soon as he arrived within five hundred meters, he felt like he was receiving cannon fire from either side and flew alone along Yamagata Castle. He readied his rifle and aimed an auto-tracking spell round at her.
He suddenly felt something even while combined with the god of war.
It almost felt like…
…Who is that?
Like someone was slipping through him from front to back.
Then he saw something up ahead.
It was a video, but it was not coming through the god of war’s sight devices or as data from his fellow pilots.
It was his own memories.
The footage rapidly raced from the past to the present and it slowed down when a few different faces were shown.
Wait, he thought. What is this?
Each time the video slowed, it showed the face of a family member, a friend, or a comrade. It seemed to be thoroughly checking over each face.
“Is this searching for someone!?”
Then he heard a voice.
“I believe I will take these.”
A moment later, the attacker heard a scream.
It was a scream of both anguish and surprise, but it was not alone.
It came from his fellow pilots. It came from all of the new pilots his own age on the battlefield – including the two following behind him.
As their screams arrived via divine transmission, flowers blossomed in various parts of the sky.
The fellow pilots flying toward Musashi or with him were sliced apart before colliding with the air. White water vapor scattered as eight gods of war exploded in exactly the same way.
The damage was not fatal, but the image of them colliding with the air and exploding told him just how much damage they had taken.
They would be far from unharmed, but at the same time…
…Why wasn’t I hit!?
As soon as he wondered that, his vision warned him of danger. Yoshiaki was only one hundred meters away now. She had returned the sword to her side skirt and she raised her arms.
The cannon control fans fell into her hands and she turned to face him.
Date Narumi saw it happen.
When Yoshiaki pointed her fan at it, the flying god of war curled up in a ball. It looked like a crying baby, but it was an unthinkable action on the battlefield.
“She got us…”
But even as Date fired on the Yamagata Castle and Mogami fired back…
…They aren’t firing on that god of war.
The god of war that had fallen victim to Onikiri decelerated in its curled up state. It passed through the valley of incoming and outgoing cannon fire and then entered a downward trajectory. It almost seemed to have fallen, but it was a slow and steady path to the ground.
The pilot had almost certainly lost consciousness. He likely had no idea what had happened yet was overcome by fear at that proclamation of death.
The half-dragon seemed just as confused and tilted his head.
“What just happened?”
“Onikiri happened. …According to Mogami, it is an ancient divine weapon made in the Heian period. It belonged to Lady Yoshitsune for a time, but after the suicide of Minamoto Yoshisada, commander of the Northern and Southern Courts, it was inherited by Mogami. Its name was changed several times along the way, but it was Onikiri when it passed into Mogami’s possession.”
As for its power…
“It cuts ‘oni’…in other words ‘the hidden’. Instead of its direct target, it uses their memories to search out those who provide the target with hidden support and it cuts them instead.”
That was why the god of war pilot was unharmed.
…Instead, it cut the fellow pilots who supported him.
And that went beyond the other pilots his age who had been sent to attack the Musashi. Most likely, the maintenance workers in the hangar and his classmates had also fallen victim to that unavoidable sword strike.
Oniniwa had intentionally not told his unit the details of Mogami’s Onikiri. If they knew of that power, they would have been too focused on everyone important to them. And that would only draw out Onikiri’s power to ‘cut the hidden’ even more.
This was one of the reasons they never made a full attack on Mogami Yoshiaki yet never stopped fighting either.
Narumi saw a few flowers of water vapor created by explosions and she saw the gods of war falling like discarded stones. They had lost their helpers as well, so their fall would only end in a crash after flying for another few kilometers.
In an instant, many Date clan god of war pilots and their futures had been lost. Also…
“Oniniwa-san, are you okay?”
“Eight were taken out. Add in the maintenance and control personnel, and it’s a total of twelve.”
Oniniwa’s voice sounded unconcerned coming from the sign frame. He must be pissed, thought Narumi, but…
“Are you feeling a little down?”
“Yes. I’m completely unharmed…”
“It means he feared you as a strict teacher, so you should celebrate.”
“Testament. …Sorry, Narumi. Some of them were ones you recommended.”
“Keeping track of your grudges can only lead to losing your cool.”
“The people of Oushuu are only so calm because we make sure to hold grudges when one is warranted,” said Oniniwa. “But don’t stop me. Onikiri’s blade can see into your past, but on this battlefield, I can strike back by circling below the Yamagata Castle.”
“Oniniwa the oni is going to dodge Onikiri the oni slayer by hiding below the enemy ship? Is that supposed to be a play on words?”
“I have a large family, you see,” he said. “But why did Mogami begin this attack?”
“You know perfectly well, don’t you? …We drew the line between threats and provocation in the wrong place. This means Mogami was just that much stricter than us there. Also…”
Narumi looked to the half-dragon and Musashi’s diplomat who was covering her ears against the cacophony of cannon fire.
“Mogami has decided to side with Musashi.”
This has gotten tricky, thought Adele.
“Well, setting aside their emotional issues, it’s our job to stop any unnecessary conflicts coming from the history recreation.”
Adele was eating some snacks on the deck of the Yamagata Castle’s central ship.
She was sitting on a cushion in front of a small table below a parasol. A sign reading “Arranged by the Lord of the Castle” stood on the tatami mats.
“Wow, I can see why Mogami is known for its rice. The rice cakes in this red bean soup are extra soft.”
She grabbed two rice cakes in her chopsticks and found they stretched differently. The Mogami girl acting as a waitress narrowed her eyes and explained.
“Mogami is a cold region, so we grow a few different varieties of rice to avoid having a bad crop. There is a difference between them, but since Lady Yoshiaki says they are all cute, we serve them all without discrimination.”
Adele was honestly impressed and she sensed something similar to Hassan’s love of curry, but then she faced forward.
“What’s the matter, Satomi President? You aren’t eating much.”
Adele looked around where the ship was shaking and vibrating from the cannon fire and impacts. The scattering light even arrived overhead, but…
“This is a lot better than getting hit by cannons in my mobile shell. Besides, being protected by someone else is a rare experience.”
This must be how relieved everyone feels when they’re standing behind me, realized Adele while feeling this place really was different from the Musashi.
“Is that how you view it?” asked the Satomi President. “Even if the cannon fire is being defended against, I can’t stand just sitting here without doing anything to help.”
Adele wondered if she really understood what that meant.
…It must mean she’s an offensive character.
She felt like people’s attitudes toward things were coming into focus more than back on the Musashi.
“But what is going on?”
While eating some of the azuki bean soup that had a hint of sweetness, Adele looked up at Yoshiaki dancing atop the bridge.
A sudden divine transmission had arrived from the smiling werefox earlier
“She said Mogami will prioritize their history recreation in order to keep their promise.”
“Does that mean Mogami was thinking the same thing we were?” asked Asama. “But why did they change their attitude so suddenly?”
Masazumi nodded on the terrace, but…
When she heard an explosion in the sky, she and the anteater on her shoulder crossed their arms and tilted their heads.
…Why did they?
“Hmm,” she groaned, but then the Aoi Sister turned toward her after drinking the tea sitting on the terrace’s table.
“Heh heh. It would seem not even you know everything, flat-chested politician. I like that uncertainty. A woman with some mystery to her is a wonderful thing. Secrets are the flowers of life. And if you show someone a flower garden, they have no choice but to do some gardening. Everyone should hold at least one flower that one would want to take to bed, and doesn’t the hint of a secret make you want to find the answer?”
“Kimi, Izanagi turned back when he found the truth of Izanami’s secret in the underworld.”
“And my foolish brother pursued Horizon and even rushed out to her.”
“He was Toori-kun back then, not your foolish brother.”
“He was Toori. And I still call him that even after he returned. …But Asama, you were a lot of help back then.”
The Aoi Sister smiled bitterly at Asama’s dismissive tone, but then she turned back to Masazumi.
“Perhaps this means we can build up a mutual relationship.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know, the old Far Eastern saying sashitsu sasaretsu. In English, they call that ‘in-in put-put’!”
“Kimi, that word doesn’t mean ‘input’. It means ‘penetra-…”
Asama trailed off and quickly waved her arms back and forth.
“Forget that! Forget I said that! The saying you want is mochitsu motaretsu, right!? And that means ‘give and take’ in English, right!?”
“I think Hanami’s having trouble dealing with that meter, so do something about that.”
“I know I shouldn’t be saying this as the one in charge of politics and negotiations, but I have no idea what this means. As you said, we were thinking of making the same suggestion to Mogami. I was going to ask them why they had ended their anti-Sviet Rus and anti-Date history recreations. After all, Mogami Yoshiaki is supposed to be a schemer. I thought she couldn’t possible ignore it if I put it like that. But…”
“I never expected her to do it on her own.”
“Maybe something that was building up within Mogami just now reached its limit for some reason?”
Masazumi agreed with that assessment.
…But what was it?
What had caused a schemer like Mogami Yoshiaki to rush things? Based on the few divine transmissions they had heard…
“Do you remember hearing about a promise, Masazumi?”
“Yes. I don’t know what that’s about, but it’s probably the key to all of this.”
“Well done.” The Aoi Sister nodded and asked Masazumi a question. “You know how to end this, don’t you? When a man causes some trouble, a proper woman knows how to gently convince him to leave, you know? That way some nice memories await them when they next meet.”
“Yes, I know. But there’s something we have to do first.”
Masazumi had Tsukinowa open a sign frame and then she sent out some instructions.
“Ambassadors, the conflict between Mogami and Sviet Rus predates Hashiba’s interference, so do not get involved in that conflict. But if the two nations wish for a peaceful resolution, assist them there. On the other hand, Date made no obvious resistance toward Mogami before Hashiba’s interference. They likely went too far with that direct god of war attack.”
“The diplomats sent to Date are to stop Date’s attack on Mogami.”
“Judge. According to Masazumi-sama, your current bombardment is an acceptable part of the history recreation. But…”
The automaton princess spoke in the artificial festival ground on the western end of the cannon fire.
“We believe it is about time we started for Sviet Rus.”
The demon woman raised her eyebrows and gave the princess a sharp look.
“Musashi Princess Horizon, are you telling Sviet Rus to fall back?”
“No, I am telling you to go, Shigenaga-sama. Go to Sviet Rus.”
The naked yukata boy raised is head next to the princess.
“How about you just tell her, Horizon?”
Horizon looked the demon woman in the eye and pointed to the southeast.
“Why do you have to twist everything I say!?” complained the idiot. “You don’t play fair these days!!”
“But isn’t it cute? It’s like speaking to a dog.”
“I-I am not a dog,” cut in Mitotsudaira. “And Horizon? I know you were pointing in a random direction just now, but that was right toward the Musashi!”
Then the demon woman asked a question while glaring at the princess.
Horizon nodded and gently tapped on the idiot’s chest with the back of her hand.
“Now, answer her.”
“Y-you’re forcing this stuff on me again!? Are you trying to pick a fight!? Are you!?”
“Um, my king? You are technically Musashi’s Viceroy.”
“Fine then,” said the idiot. “Hey, Shigeko. There was talk of a promise earlier, right? I don’t know what that is, but can you keep that promise like this?”
Shigenaga stopped moving and the idiot looked up into the sky as if he saw that as her answer.
“What’s stopping you? It isn’t that fox lady, is it? She’s another one stressing out over not being able to keep it. So is it Date?”
Shigenaga’s shout shook the festival air, but Horizon responded expressionlessly.
“That settles it then.” She pointed to the southeast. “That is what is preventing all of you from keeping your promise, isn’t it?”
They all looked in the direction she was pointing and spoke the name of what they saw there.
As they exchanged a puzzled look, Mitotsudaira silently grabbed Horizon’s waist and slowly turned her so she pointed south. Then she looked in the new direction Horizon was pointing.
“O-oh, my! Horizon! You were pointing at Hashiba Hidetsugu’s ship, weren’t you!?”
“Is it just me or is Mitotsudaira-dono becoming a pretty awful person…?”
“Just roll with it!”
As the silver wolf bared her fangs, the Scarred Princess stepped forward with her twin swords.
“What will you do?”
Mary spoke with a smile, but she was not really pressing Shigenaga for an answer. She simply wished to confirm what option the demon woman had chosen.
There was a short pause and Mitotsudaira used it to step forward.
Rather than protect those behind them, the two of them only stood there and filled their lungs with air.
“Hit to the first port barrier! The damage has reached the deepest barrier!”
With that ship-wide announcement, another cannon blast hit nearby. All shadows were erased by the light that appeared a few dozen meters into the courtyard’s eastern sky.
The impact whipped about as wind and the festival stands shook, but the ninja stepped forward.
“Shigenaga-dono. You have already fired your cannons and sent out your transport ship. Wouldn’t that be enough to satisfy Hashiba? In fact, exposing yourselves to any more of Mogami’s attacks could qualify as the history recreation of Sviet Rus and Mogami’s conflict after Nobunaga’s assassination, which would be inconvenient for Hashiba. If you do not wish to worsen your position with Hashiba and such a decision would be difficult to make for the commander on the scene, I would think the best option would be to put some distance between yourselves and Mogami to maintain the current lack of conflict.”
“Does Musashi presume to lecture Sviet Rus on its politics?”
“Not at all. I merely thought Sviet Rus would have already taken that much into account.”
“Why are these visitors so meddlesome?”
“Because. “ Mary smiled. “Spirits place a lot of weight on the word ‘promise’.”
“Knights also place a lot of importance on the word ‘promise’.”
When Shigenaga heard the two girls, she raised her eyebrows a little, but…
“I shouldn’t have let you hear that word.”
She lowered her eyebrows, looked away, and turned her back. She then walked toward the festival with casual but uninterrupted movements. She raised her right hand along the way.
“All personnel and all ships, the primary mission of our fleet is to welcome and entertain our diplomatic guests. To continue with that mission, we must all provide a warm welcome. A Sviet Rus fleet will not view such a trivial obstacle as an attack. If we are to cross the iron-splitting cold, we must welcome a wind such as this like the spring wind.”
“Now.” Shigenaga looked back over her shoulder and spoke to the Musashi group. “Summer is short in Sviet Rus. This is a diplomatic ship meant to provide that ultimate luxury, so enjoy yourselves. Once that is over, we will travel to Sviet Rus…our constantly frozen homeland. And…”
She opened a sankt okno which displayed Date’s fleet.
“I will be watching how Musashi responds to Date. I’d like to know just how much resolve you have. Mogami and Date are both major powers in Oushuu, so uncertain strength will not be enough to stand up to them.”
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