Horizon:Volume 4B Chapter 42
Chapter 42: Protester in the Frame
What is stereotypical
Yet not stereotypical?
Point Allocation (The Unexpected)
On the diplomatic ship floating in the Mito sky below the Ariake, Ookubo’s broadcast played from the sign frame opened above the upper deck’s garden.
A pond in the garden had been converted into a summer pool and Masazumi was reading at the edge wearing only a shirt and the bottom of a two-piece swimsuit. Her butt sat on the stones of the pond’s edge and her legs soaked in the water up to the shins.
“So the Ariake isn’t actually sealing anything off. That’s probably to avoid any backlash from the workers and residents and to help build their hatred of war.”
…I can’t believe this.
The only ones being kept out were the members of the Student Council and Chancellor’s Officers. Noriki, Ohiroshiki, Hassan, Itoken, and Persona-kun were apparently working like normal on the Ariake. The Tachibana Couple were also continuing as normal there. Shirojiro and Heidi had been let inside, but they were restricted to their merchant work.
There was no divine transmission restriction between them.
They apparently wanted to set this up as the Student Council and Chancellor’s Officers versus the Committee Alliance.
However, Masazumi’s group had been forbidden from making any kind of public announcement. As their statements and actions were the target of protest, they were being restricted until the following day’s special student general assembly. The ones being protested were being detained until such time as they were judged.
“That girl takes things far too seriously. Take this and this and this.”
The Aoi Sister wore a cream-colored swimsuit and splashed water at the large sign frame above the pond. The splashing water caused the floating sign frame to distort and Asama spoke up from the pond stone she sat on while managing the divine transmissions.
“Ah! Stop that, Kimi! Keeping that thing going isn’t easy, you know!?”
“Then find a way to distract me. Like this.”
The Aoi Sister pulled on Asama’s leg and the girl in a white and red shrine maiden swimsuit produced a splash.
…They sure are full of energy.
But since they were normal people, that may have been for the best.
…A shrine maiden that rivals a warship gun and a normal person who can deflect an attack from one of Hashiba’s Ten Spears, huh?
Just as Masazumi began philosophically wondering what a “normal person” was, something cast a shadow over her head. She looked back and saw Naomasa in a black swimsuit. She twisted the straw hat on Masazumi’s head.
“We’re counting on you tomorrow.”
Naomasa then entered the pool with her false arm holding a tray of food. Next Naito and Naruze arrived in swimsuits that matched the colors of their Technohexen outfits.
They made quick flaps of their wings to make a long leap.
“Looking from above, this is the deepest part.”
They jumped in with their wings raised as much as possible. A spectacular splash filled the air, so Asama and the others shrieked and fled the area. As for Naomasa…
“Hey! What if you get water in our drinks, you two!?”
“Um, Masa… This isn’t my spring, so maybe alcohol isn’t the best idea,” commented Asama.
“Heh heh heh. Yes, your place has shown quite the hospitality lately.”
Meanwhile, Ookubo continued speaking overhead. She was assuring the people there would be no change to the Musashi’s current operations.
“Whatever the world chooses to do in the future, the people of Musashi need the influence provided by the nation of Musashi. That is why I believe we should repair and arm the Musashi.”
That’s true, thought Masazumi. Then she realized the foundation of Ookubo’s policy.
“She’s going to follow what we’ve started, but change the direction in which it takes us.”
That was true of remodeling the Musashi, acquiring the Logismoi Óplo, and of ending the Apocalypse.
“We will continue what we are already doing. The budget for those actions is already in motion and even if that is reorganized, we cannot revoke Musashi’s position as a nation until the Peace of Westphalia. Musashi is not a small nation, so I am not saying we should change what we are doing. That will remain the same, but we must change direction on the political front in order to reach Westphalia in peace.”
“Oh? Then Milad-…Ookubo-sama, what exactly are you proposing? Give us an outline.”
“Well,” said Ookubo as she placed a hand on her chin.
“She’s good at this.” Kimi looked up at the sign frame while teaching Uzy the flutter kick. “She knows how to present herself, so she’ll be a lot of trouble. Flat politician, she’s a lot like you.”
“I haven’t the slightest clue how to present myself.”
Masazumi sighed as she rested her cheek on her hand, with the elbow on her crossed legs. The Aoi Sister pointed at her saying “That’s it! Right there!” but it was a mystery what she meant.
On the overhead sign frame, Ookubo faced Kanou and spoke.
“You asked what I am proposing, but I would like to ask you something first.”
That’s an odd way of arguing, thought Masazumi. Why ask a question when asked about your proposal?
However, she knew what effect it would have and why Ookubo had done it. She was implicitly saying that everyone already knew what she was proposing.
By setting it up like that, even a normal opinion would sound valuable. And even if it was an incorrect opinion, people were more likely to carelessly accept it. By making it sound like a foregone conclusion, it was harder to hold doubts about it.
…So what is that setup leading to?
Ookubo continued on the screen.
“Why must Musashi go out of its way to fight to resolve its problems?”
Ookubo slowly inhaled.
She faced the portable filming shrine held by a member of the PR Committee, but she did not smile yet.
…I need to keep things serious here.
A lot of people would be seeing her for the first time. Looking too calm would make people think she was not taking this seriously. She was a challenger here, so there was something she had to say while looking straight at them.
“On the political front, I have determined that Musashi has the national power needed to maintain peace and stop the Apocalypse. So…”
How about this?
“Things are different than they were at Mikawa. The Musashi is being remodeled and has lost a battle, so I believe it is time to take another look at our current policy. After all, if we do not change that policy, we will be dragged into an unavoidable fight along with Oushuu and Sviet Rus. We have no close relationship with any nation at the moment, so I believe this is the perfect time to have this discussion.”
She said “so” again.
“Tomorrow, I wish to hold a special student general assembly at which we can debate with and make suggestions to the Vice President and the rest of the Student Council and Chancellor’s Officers.”
She inhaled and lowered her head just once.
She next needed to make a request to everyone watching.
But she would not make it right away. Everything she had just said and her serious attitude were still alive within the viewers. If she made her request in the same way, it would sound the same as everything else. It would lack impact.
A proper speech needed shifts in tone. After all…
…Everything I’ve said this far is essentially meaningless.
What mattered was that the people took her side at the special student general assembly. Everything thus far was nothing more than setup and meant for the wonderful people who had been willing to actually listen to her argument.
What came next was for the majority of people who only wanted to see the very end of what she had to say.
Those people had not listened so seriously to what she had to say. They had not truly understood it and had simply nodded along.
How could she get those people to remember her?
Ookubo raised her head and looked straight forward, but…
…Now I breathe out.
She looked ahead to the screen displaying her image, said nothing, and yet felt the relief of completing a large job.
She even vocalized the sigh.
She cast aside her previous serious mood and tension in a way everyone could understand.
Then she nodded and smiled toward everyone watching.
Good job, she really did think while narrowing her eyes. Good job listening to what I had to say.
And with that in her heart, she only had one thing to say.
“Please keep me in your thoughts.”
She closed her eyes in a smile and lowered he head again.
“Wow, that’s just not fair…”
Heidi spread her mouth horizontally and bent back in the Marube-ya shop on the main street of Okutama’s surface residential area.
A sign frame from Masazumi opened next to her face.
Vice President: “Augesvarer, what do you think as a merchant?”
“Well,” said Heidi as she looked to the front of the shop. With his best business smile, Shirojiro was selling vegetables to the women still living on the Musashi. For some reason, he was rubbing his hands together as he sold the radishes and green onions.
“Ha ha ha. Everyone, today’s produce is ecofriendly and naturally grown! Just look! The tip of this green onion is so wonderfully green! Cook it and it becomes so sweet and delicious! A set of five is a bargain at only five times the price of one!”
Azuma: “But all of that sounds completely normal. Is that because there’s something wrong with me?”
Marube-ya: “I love how Shiro-kun’s sales talks run on pure momentum and transform him into an idiot! Oh, and just to be clear, he isn’t sacrificing his personality for money. Money is everything, so we use it to draw out a new side of our personality!”
Vice President: “Um, sure… Please continue.”
Heidi let Erimaki manage the sign frame from atop her head as she carried a wooden container of natto in straw out from the back of the shop.
Marube-ya: “Well, you see? That Glasses Committee Head probably isn’t like us or you.”
Vice President: “Eh?”
Asama: “Um, Masazumi? She did set you apart, so I don’t think you need to get so depressed you collapse onto your side. Look, Tsukinowa doesn’t know what to do.”
Masazumi’s getting better with her reactions, thought Heidi with a smile as she lined the produce up in front of the shop.
“Okay! We just got a shipment of Mito natto! This is the fresh natto that our Mitotsudaira protected by barking and running those Hashiba bad guys out of town! It has Mitotsudaira’s sniff approval!”
Silver Wolf: “Lies! There were several blatant lies in that!”
Me: “That’s right! Nate doesn’t bark or sniff at things! She only smells the air when there’s meat around and she only climbs up high for a growling song when she gets all excited!”
Silver Wolf: “Um, my king? Some things are unavoidable traits of your race. Like smelling at the air when there’s meat around…”
Hori-ko: “Oh? Then Mitotsudaira-sama. What about this lamb kebab cooking next to the yakisoba?”
Silver Wolf: “Eh!? …Th-that is, um, a vegetable! Yes, a vegetable!”
It seemed to be pet-feeding time for the Russia group. Heidi checked over the sign frames as Erimaki finished compiling each one.
“Musashi’s guard unit – in other words, the guards for the Chancellor’s Officers – is apparently treating this as an ‘internal incident’ since Futayo hasn’t done anything. They will stop any harm that might come to the normal people and students or if the normal people try to harm the officers, but otherwise – in other words, in a clash between an officer and a member of a Committee – they’ll probably treat it as a duel. That leaves me curious about the VIPs who aren’t officers… How are things with you, Azuma-kun?”
Azuma: “Eh? Nothing’s happening here. Besides, I’m looking after Miriam today because, um, well, she can’t move much since it’s that time of the month.”
Mal-Ga: “Your shtick really has changed. …If you’re looking for a new shtick, you can always consult me.”
Azuma: “Then, um, Naruze-kun? …Do you have a spell or something to lessen the effects of that time of the month?”
This had nothing to do with her, but Heidi felt a shiver down her spine. She used the power of prayer to send out thoughts of “Send this my way!” and “We can make a ton of money off of this!”
Gold Mar: “Ga-chan, your nose. Your nose is bleeding.”
Mal-Ga: “Heh…heh heh. Why would you do that again? You might as well be holding meat out while dancing in front of a bear just before hibernation… L-listen, Azuma.”
Azuma: “Judge. What is it?”
Mal-Ga: “I’m pretty sure Miriam knows a way to stop that, so tell her there’s a way the two of you can stop it together. See if she’ll tell you what it is.”
Azuma: “Okay. She’ll know what I mean if I ask like that? Then I’ll go ask her.”
Heidi felt an even stronger shiver.
…Is Azuma-kun the kind of kid who can be kidnapped for a ransom pretty easily?
Marube-ya: “U-um, are we just ignoring all the officers that didn’t choose to join you?”
Asama: “No, since I’m handling the divine transmissions, those ones are apparently cut off from us. There’s really no helping it, though.”
Smoking Girl: “Lately, I’ve been thinking you play a much more active role than I do, Asama-chi.”
Sticky King: “She fits right in, so I see no problem. It’s not good to say things that will distance people.”
Obscene: “Agreed! Asama-kun is the ace shooter that fires us to our destination! She is most welcome on the front line!”
Mal-Ga: “Ignoring the lamenting shrine maiden, this really is a troublesome situation. …The normal members of the committees are one thing, but the Committee Heads have a fair bit of authority. They can bring their views to the Secretary, Treasurer, and the Special Duty Officers.”
Wise Sister: “Heh heh. But those Committee Heads can’t directly confront that anteater owner, can they? They report to the Special Duty Officers, Treasurer, and Secretary.”
Marube-ya: “That’s where the special student general assembly comes in. That lets them ignore the Special Duty Officers, Treasurer, and Secretary and speak to even the Chancellor.”
“It’s a real problem,” sighed Heidi. “But I guess it’s good that things on the Musashi aren’t stagnating. …We might be officers, but we’re also running a business here.”
Mal-Ga: “That’s the trick right there… We’ve been busy lately, but that’s why we didn’t notice the Committee Alliance putting together this event. Although looking back, things were continuing a little too ‘normally’.”
Vice President: “That’s probably because Ookubo is just that good at bringing things together. I’m betting the other Committee Heads don’t see this as that big a deal.”
Heidi was not surprised to hear that. There were some athletic types taking positions here and there with opinion boxes, but…
Marube-ya: “It just feels like an event has begun. It’s just that we’d normally be informed in advance, but this time we weren’t.”
Wise Sister: “Heh heh. That would be how normal people like us see it. This was well done. If they weren’t planning to cause a huge commotion, the preparations would have been low-key as well. They dropped hints here and there to let those at the Committee Head level know this was happening and they controlled the information so it didn’t leak out.”
Flat Vassal: “Can they really control the information like that?”
Vice President: “They can.”
That’s right, thought Heidi who typed up advertisements and made sales talks.
Marube-ya: “I think this was setup quite a while back.”
Probably so, agreed Masazumi as she thought about Ookubo’s true intentions here.
When had she started planning this? Masazumi could make a decent guess.
“My guess would be it was setup around the time of the Armada Battle. When we were fighting, when the Musashi was repaired, and when we were away from the Musashi, the Committees did a lot to support us from the side.”
“But how did they set this up?” asked Naomasa as she adjusted her swimsuit that had built up water inside it.
Masazumi adjusted her hat and nodded.
“Judge. …We can’t spend much time on things right now. As the representative of the cities, she would have been the target of the students’ parents and they would have let her know what they thought about welfare, divine transmissions, the economy, and life on the Musashi. And of course, most of those opinions would be ones of unease. Especially when it concerns their children. But if the Representative Committee shared that listening work with the other committees when it related to their fields of work, the other Committee Heads would begin gathering Musashi’s anxieties and sending them to the Representative Committee Head.”
“After the Battle of Mikatagahara, we distributed the people between the eight land ports in Mito so their anxieties could not unify and would remain smaller individual issues. That is still in effect. …But the Committee Heads who gathered those complaints are unable to view those anxieties as individual things, so it builds up inside them.”
“Heh heh. Just like an inexperienced village doctor catching all of the small illnesses of his patients and becoming horribly ill himself. They say the common cold is the beginning of all illness, but…wait, does that include sexual diseases! Does that mean catching cold leads you to do things in need of censoring!? Well, Asama!? Does it!?”
Masazumi ignored that sister, but then she wondered if the girl was like that around town as well.
…Actually, I guess I already know the answer.
“Um, the Committee Heads will understand just how dangerous the people’s worries are for Musashi at the moment. And that’s why they’ve left all the decision-making with the Representative Committee Head since this would normally be her job. After that, Ookubo only had to tell them that ‘after considering the people’s feelings, let’s confirm some things with and suggest some things to the Student Council’ and ‘this is our final chance to present this possibility to them’.”
“Well, none of that’s a lie. …So she just changed how they would interpret the information?” asked Naomasa.
“That’s right,” agreed Masazumi. “She’s acting like we have control of everything, and that’s why the Committee Heads and Musashi residents haven’t reacted too much. This is not a coup d’etat meant to overthrow us; it’s only a suggested change of policy. And that suggestion will change this life of unpredictable battle to a life of stable peace. Things on the Musashi won’t change all that much, no matter who is right here. But…”
“With Ookubo, they might not have to go through any more war.”
“It sounds like the deck is really stacked against you, Masazumi. …I mean, you love war.”
“W-wait, Asama! I take extreme issue with part of that!”
Asama fell silent. The Aoi Sister eventually tapped her on the shoulder and everyone in the water pressed their foreheads together and began whispering.
What’s this about? wondered Masazumi as Asama left the circle first and raised her hand. She had a bit of tension in her eyebrows.
“Listen, Masazumi. This is extremely hard to say, but…”
“Judge. What is it?”
Asama presented their conclusion.
“Pretty much every time you have a meeting with another nation, the conclusion seems to be ‘This means war!’ ”
Masazumi thought on Asama’s words.
…Is that true?
Was it? Could it be? She brought a hand to her forehead and went through her memories.
…There was Mikawa and, um, England…
She counted them up on her fingers.
…Oh, yeah, yeah. I’m fine. I’m just thinking. I feel like my very identity is being shaken. I’m fine, I’m fine.
But why am I sweating so much when I’m so lightly dressed and have my legs in the water? Calm down, Honda Masazumi. You’ve always been a pacifist. Counting it up does seem to show a concerning past and future, but try to stay positive here. Yes, take a positive view of war. No, that’s not right.
But she did reach a certain answer.
“Wait! Listen. Just wait, all of you!”
“What is it?”
She did not let their legitimately confused looks get to her.
“Listen,” she said while raising a finger. “At the discussion we had in Magdeburg’s Avalon, we didn’t go to war with any of the nations at that meeting!”
“Isn’t that when you announced ‘We’re gonna go crush Hashiba! Have a nice day!’?”
When she heard Naruze’s comment, Masazumi collapsed limply onto her side.
She felt like there was something wrong with reality or like her view of the world was out of sync with the facts. Meanwhile, she heard distant voices in the center of the water.
“S-see, Naruze? You were so blunt that Masazumi can’t recover!”
“She really has gotten better with her reactions… And I think I can use that collapsed pose, so don’t move until I’ve made a sketch.”
“Hmm. Is Seijun singing a strange ‘loo loo loo’ song?”
“I am not!”
She sat back up, but that did not change a single thing about reality. Not that she had any reason to think it would. But she did want to try fighting this, so she said what she could.
“Um, I take those meetings and negotiations seriously, don’t I?”
“Yes, of course you do. You’re always saying confusing things…which always leads to war.”
“Everything I do is for the Far East, isn’t it?”
“Yes, you do everything you can for the Far East…which always leads to war.”
“I generally try to cooperate with the other nations, don’t I?”
“Yes, you do generally try to get along with them…which always leads to war.”
“W-wait! Why does it always lead to war!? I strongly oppose that!”
“That’s right.” Asama nodded. “I may have been the one that brought it up, but I don’t think Masazumi brings us to war every single time! So let’s not treat her like this.”
Naruze showed Asama a chart drawn up on a crop mark frame Magie Figur. Asama looked confused, so…
“If you add it all numerically like this and then list it like this, then it comes out like this.”
Asama nodded a few times and then faced Masazumi again.
“Understood. Looking at it statistically, you have been seriously doing everything you can for the Far East while trying to get along with the other nations…which always leads to war.”
“Are you all my enemies!?”
“Heh heh heh. But looking at it this way, you’re quite the frightening warmonger. Show the slightest opening and you’ll bring war to them.”
“W-wait! They generally bring the war to us! I’ve never done that!”
“In other words, you’re a tempter seme.”
She had never heard that term before but could take a good guess what it meant, so she decided not to think about it any further.
“Anyway,” sighed Asama. “Don’t worry, Masazumi. Tomorrow’s special student general assembly is an internal affair, so I don’t see how it could possibly lead to war.”
…Talk about setting a low bar…
But she needed to stay positive. If she could avoid leading this to war, that was a wonderful achievement.
…Huh? Why am I feeling so horribly depressed?
“Now come on over here,” said the Aoi Sister. “We’ve got food.”
“That’s right, Seijun,” added Naito. “You have a lot to do tonight, like putting together a strategy for tomorrow, don’t you? Then you need to relax while you can.”
“No, no.” Masazumi waved her hand back and forth before gently tapping her chest over her shirt. “I’ve never swam before. Okay?”
They all exchanged a glance and smiled.
Before she realized where this was going, she was thrown into the water.
Two people stood on a snowy hill.
Lined up in the evening sky were a demonic long-lived in an M.H.R.R. uniform and a boy in a P.A. Oda uniform with a black down jacket over the shoulders.
They were Shibata Katsuie and Sassa Narimasa.
The few ships of the advance fleet and people quickly setting up camp were below the hill behind them and both of them had some insha kotob open.
The insha kotob were for work and other matters, but they were both hitting the “approved” button without even really looking at them. Occasionally, Katsuie would speak up.
“Hey, small fry, take this work more seriously. I feel sorry for the people who made this data.”
“Shibata, the idiot next to me isn’t even hitting ‘approved’; he’s just closing the frames. I think the odds are pretty good he has no idea how divine mail conversations work. Yes, as the upperclassman, could you say something to that idiot?”
Katsuie looked to Narimasa’s other side, the side he was not standing on.
“Hmm, Naru Naruuu? There’s no one there. Are you hallucinating? Hmm, you okay there? If you’ve gone crazy, should I knock some sense back into you? Hmm?”
Taki: “You two love that act, don’t you?”
“Oh, hi, Takigawa. What do you need?”
Taki: “Did you read the divine mail I sent you?”
“Shaja,” replied Katsuie as he showed his teeth to the female ninja in the insha kotob. “Ichimasu, things are getting interesting on the Musashi, aren’t they? First it looks like they’re going for a meeting with the three nations, but now they’ve got a special student general assembly? It’s just one event after another for the brats on that giant ship! I bet they’ll have festival stands out, so I kinda want to stop by with Lady Oichi!”
“Oh, then why not just go?”
A snowball hit the side of Narimasa’s face.
They both crushed snow with enough force to form ice balls and threw them back and forth at full strength, but they eventually took a break. As they did, Katsuie breathed a deep white sigh.
“Well, I guess we can think of this as Musashi peeling back the mask a little.”
When Katsuie called his name, Narimasa pushed up his sunglasses and looked his way.
“Wowww! What was that ‘whaddya want’!? You push up your sunglasses like this and then…’whaddya want’!? Really!? ‘Whaddya want’!? This kid must think he’s so cool!!”
“Shut up, you son of a bitch! You’re the one that got all lovey-dovey while chowing down on the fruit tempura Oichi made! What was that ‘these strawberries are so good’ nonsense!? They had grated radish on them!”
“What!? If Lady Oichi grates it, a radish is a fruit! You didn’t know that, kid!?”
“Takigawa, can you do something about this guy? He’s a giant pain in the ass.”
Taki: “Yeah, Niu-chan’s over here too. So Naru-kun, you should probably just give up and play with Toshi and Michi.”
“No, those two are all obsessed with what Matthias and Hashiba sent over. They can get pretty nerdy, so I can’t keep up with them at times.”
Taki: “Why not find a hobby?”
“I used to have one.”
Shibata’s eyes widened and he pointed over saying “Eh? What was it?”, but Narimasa ignored him.
“I’m not telling you. Anyway, Shibata, you seem pretty cautious about Musashi. Is there a reason for that?”
“Shaja. It’s simple, you moron. What haven’t you done since coming to P.A. Oda?”
“Lived a trouble-free life under a superior who wasn’t an idiot.”
Taki: “To be blunt, you’ve been pretty blessed by your surroundings, Naru-kun. You haven’t dealt with any infighting since coming to P.A. Oda, right?”
“I do throw rocks at my stupid upperclassman.”
An ice ball with a rock inside hit him in the face, so their “snowball” fight heated up for a while.
“And isn’t it better to not have infighting? It’s a pain in the ass.”
Taki: “But the Oda clan had some during the issues over the inheritance of our master’s name.”
Inside the insha kotob Takigawa crossed her legs in her seat on the Shirasagi Castle’s bridge.
Taki: “The previous generation worked to combine the Mlasi forces and the Oda clan, but pushed a little too hard on that and had to retire to make up for it.”
“Shaja.” Katsuie nodded. “The clan split into two factions over the inheritance of our master’s name. Interestingly, I’m part of the main force now even though I was with the opposing faction.”
“Are you lecturing me like an old man? Please spare me.”
Narimasa sighed, shrugged, and turned his back on Katsuie.
“Could you upperclassmen stop expecting those of who came in later to do the things you all ended up doing? Isn’t it your duty to make sure we don’t have to do that kind of thing?”
Taki: “You sure take this seriously, Naru-kun.”
He raised his voice, but stopped himself, sighed, looked back, and lowered his head.
Katsuie brought his hand down in a karate chop onto Narimasa’s lowered head and it clearly produced a dull sound.
“Ow! What was that for, you idiot!? You have no idea how to control your strength, do you!?”
“Then use that weak head of yours to think, small fry. If you’re going to follow the Testament descriptions…then Sassa Narimasa meets his end rebelling against Hashiba.”
“But before that and after we lose our master, I end up under your command as we fight Hashiba and Toshi. Hashiba will be our enemy by then.”
“That’s the whole point,” said Katsuie. “Your super excellent upperclassmen were telling you that it’s okay if you end up like us, no matter how it turns out that way.”
“What? Who are you calling excellent?”
“Don’t forget the ‘super’, small fry. Do you want me to create a human-shaped stamp in the snow with you? Do you?”
Katsuie laughed quietly.
“But that isn’t for a while. For now, we need to enjoy the situation we’ve got.”
“Shaja. You don’t have to tell me that. I was always planning to go all out here.”
The two of them looked north from the hill.
They were looking at an area several dozen kilometers away, past a large snowy forest in the distance.
“That’s the southwestern edge of Sviet Rus’s livable zone. There’s not even forty kilometers from that field to the city beyond it. We had an excellent guide.”
“Marfa of Novgorod, hm? She still looks down on everyone, but she led us in the right direction.”
Katsuie gave a nasal laugh.
“Hashiba pulled some strings to get Marfa the inherited name of Shibata Shigeie, right? So to ‘cooperate’ with us, she guided us into Sviet Rus territory and will prove her cooperation with a battle. And that’s just about to begin. Sounds good to me. Especially with the nice bait that’s shown up.”
He pointed his chin toward some shapes in the eastern sky. They were small and distant, but they were clearly there.
Taki: “Given the time, I assume that’s the Musashi diplomatic ship and Honjou Shigenaga’s escort fleet. I’ve recorded their cannon fire patterns and number of shells used, so should I send that over?”
“No,” replied Katsuie. “It wouldn’t get to her soon enough, and it wouldn’t matter for what she’s trying to do.”
Taki: “She? Oh, you mean Marfa.”
“Shaja,” responded Narimasa as he too looked to Honjou Shigenaga’s fleet. “Given the time, she should be making her attack soon.”
As he spoke, a wind blew through the eastern sky.
A shape suddenly appeared in front of Honjou Shigenaga’s escort fleet.
It was a black multi-layer warship that measured over eight hundred meters long. It was structured like shoe soles stacked on top of each other.
Taki: “Oh!? That reading!? Is that a stealth hulk? Now that’s rare!”
“I was raised in the mountains, so I can’t tell anything beyond its wafer-like multi-layer structure. Still, let’s see what she’s prepared to do. We’re not about to accept any half-assed ‘cooperation’. But…” Katsuie tilted his head and groaned. “I think that Marfa puts too much focus on emotions, strength, and connections between people. Well, that might be just right for such a cold region.”
Meanwhile, the black hulk flew toward the Honjou fleet with a few transport ships accompanying it.
It was on a collision course.
Honjou Shigenaga’s escort fleet for the diplomatic ship had noticed the enemy.
“Captain! Enemy detected eleven kilometers away to eleven and ten o’clock! The ether reading is of an old Sviet Rus Kraken-class armed hulk-type! The scan says it belongs to Novgorod!”
With that report, barriers opened on the left and right above the festival courtyard. These were physical ones, not spell ones. Toori tilted his head as they connected to the upper deck to keep out the external air.
“Hey, Shigeko? Do those cover everything? That’s kind of excessive.”
“Testament. Are you saying you wish to view the battle? …There is a lift to the top. I’ll show you the way.”
“H-hold on!” cut in Mitotsudaira “What is going on!?”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Shigenaga while dismissively waving a hand and shoving yakisoba into her mouth. “This is the quickest way to understand the problem Sviet Rus is currently facing.”
Mitotsudaira gave a puzzled look as Shigenaga opened a sankt okno and sent some instructions.
“Don’t let them pass by in silence, comrades! The time of demons is not yet upon us, so we must give a greeting to our fellow travelers. And let us bring them to a stop to teach them that this snowy land is not welcoming of outsiders!”
“So it’s hand-to-hand combat, captain!?”
“Testament! Listen, comrades! I’m sure you’re sick of using these cannons to fight. But the time has come! The time to display our great physical strength has come! The decorative flowers of cannon fire are only for the day. Once night falls, it is the crescent moon that shall decorate the sky! All ships, release your ceiling defense spells. It’s time for the famous Sviet Rus privet!”
As she spoke, the wind split apart in the sky ahead.
They saw the black hulk there. It belonged to Novgorod, but there was something odd about it.
It was upside down, so the flat upper deck was pointed down. And…
“The enemy ship only has its front defense barriers active! It’s coming in for the privet!”
A group of the amalgamated dead stood on the long upper deck of the multi-layer hulk. They were upside down, but they prepared for action at the stern of the ship.
And the individual at the very front was magnified in a sankt okno that opened in the sky.
She wore a black-dyed Sviet Rus uniform with extra decorations attached. An eight-legged horse made of bones stood to her side and the tiger-skin scarf around her neck blew in the wind. The very end of the scarf contained the two kanji of the name Kagetora.
Mitotsudaira spoke up when she realized what that name meant.
“Nagao Kagetora!? Is that former Sviet Rus Vice Chancellor and Novgorod Mayor Marfa!?”
Her tone of question carried a “but”, so she continued with a frown.
“Can we assume Novgorod has betrayed Sviet Rus and joined P.A. Oda?”
“Testament. We were keeping that hidden, but I guess the secret’s out now. …To be completely accurate, she’s the former Vice Chancellor, she’s Mayor of Novgorod, and she was one of the successors to Sviet Rus. She was also a good friend of Current Chancellor and Student Council President Uesugi Kagekatsu. And now she’s an enemy and a traitor. She is…”
In the sankt okno, the woman’s expression changed. She brought her eyebrows together and stared ahead at them.
And Shigenaga spoke toward that gaze.
“Marfa ‘Vedma’ Boretskaya.”
With that resolute statement, the ceiling revealing both the sky and the enemy was closed.
At the same time, a ship-wide announcement played.
“The enemy privet will arrive in two minutes and thirty-seven seconds!”
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