Horizon:Volume 4B Chapter 46
Chapter 46: Reunited One in a Heated Garden
What is the difference
Between being diligent and being serious?
Point Allocation (Feelings)
Suzu was in an unknown place.
…This feels strange.
The place was apparently known as Sendai Castle’s guest residence block.
It was a sealed room with several frames called icons on the walls in place of windows.
The Musashi had underground residences too. She was used to these sealed places because her own home was underground, but this place lacked the smells of cooking using fish, soy sauce, and sake that filled the Musashi. The blankets smelled strongly of soap and felt stiff.
She doubted this was because the space was carved out of the mountain. The student residences likely allowed for the same lifestyle as on the Musashi.
The somehow distant aspect of it all was because they were guests.
…Then I guess it’s fine.
They were being separated from the normal “lifestyle” because it was the proper way to treat them. In that case, she wanted to understand what she could while receiving that treatment.
She perceived her surroundings. She knew the room’s structure and the location of the bed. She of course knew where the door was too. The neighboring room was Urquiaga’s and he had said he was preparing his heart by playing a game with an elder sister character that used the Oushuu dialect. She did not really understand, but she knew it was safest to ignore it. That left…
…The left end of the hallway has the bath, the bathroom, the vending machines, and…a garden?
The person who had showed her around had called it the main garden and said she was free to visit it as she wished. So…
She decided to go there.
She opened the door. She expected the air to be chilly, but it was actually a little warmer. The sounds reverberated through the passageway and told her it was rectangular in shape. The guard student standing next to the door faced her, so she bowed.
“Can I…go to the garden?”
“Testament. Go right ahead. There is a checkpoint if you try to enter a different district, so please be careful. Try to stay within the main garden.”
The guard was a girl. Suzu made a mental note of what she said, nodded, and then said she was going.
She heard a voice through the neighboring room’s door.
“What!? Tenzou! You mean you didn’t buy this week’s FamiMar Tsushin!? And you call yourself a family marriage Shinto gamer!? Now I won’t know which choices to make and I won’t be able to clear the elder sister character on the first try! …What? The distribution to Sviet Rus is slow!? Two days late!? You mean Toori can’t get a copy either!? Kh, but I can’t bow my head to Ohiroshiki! …Oh, to hell with it!!”
Will this really help Urquiaga prepare himself? wondered Suzu as she walked past his door. The guard student was preoccupied with the door and quickly bowed once he noticed her.”
“Are you visiting the main garden? Go right ahead.”
She nodded and continued walking. Had that guard known she was going to the main garden because it was just that incredible a place for guests? But…
…I guess you wouldn’t normally ask if someone’s on their way to the bathroom or the vending machines.
Horizon, Toori-kun, and Kimi-chan would probably ask. And that’s in order of how serious they would be.
But how was there a garden here when it was underground?
Suddenly, a premonition of something incredible filled her heart. It was still far off, but something had escaped the garden and reached her here. It felt like something thick that could not be contained inside and was forced out.
…It’s so dense?
There was no door dividing the spaces. She simply felt a rectangle of heat. That was the entrance. What lay beyond there? She did not know but she wanted to find out, so she continued forward.
It did not feel like she was entering the garden.
It felt like she was passing through a wave of heat that created a thick surface.
Suzu’s breath was immediately taken away.
She stepped into the main garden and walked down the wooden slope to the earthen ground.
…It’s so dense!
Several abnormally dense sensations reached her senses: heat, noise, smell, humidity, and air movement. They all arrived so thickly from the ground and seemed to weigh down on her shoulders.
She took a step back onto the wooden slope and took a breath.
But even that breath was dense.
…It’s like a bath with plenty of additives.
The Musashi was unheated bathwater just placed in the bath.
The surface was heated bathwater.
This place was bathwater full of additives.
There was a reason this place had a presence so much denser than the surface.
“It’s sealed…near the ceiling…”
That was probably why. The Musashi had underground parks a few floors tall, but they were mostly used to let air circulate between the upper and lower floors and thus were well ventilated. That was why they lacked this kind of presence.
…But this place…is incredible.
There was minimal air circulation. The flowers were packed densely together on the ground rather than in beds and there were also vegetables growing in a similarly dense arrangement. There were occasional trees, but the branches that reached the ceiling were cut away so they would not spread too far and they did not cut off the heat coming from the ceiling.
The soil was the perfect dampness and warm air reached up to above her knees.
An earthy scent mixed with the flowers and vegetables.
…It reminds me of our extracurricular lesson during the second year.
They had dug for potatoes. Oriotorai-sensei had chosen it because she had wanted to make some chips to eat with her sake. Everyone had desperately dug around with their shovels, but for some reason Hassan had dug up potato after potato without difficulty. According to him, “The god of curry allows one to easily gather the necessary ingredients”, so that god was apparently biased towards his own self-interest.
Suzu gradually grew accustomed to this and she felt like she knew why this place was the way it was.
There were people here. For example, there were some sleeping below the trees.
She could tell from their breathing that they had fallen asleep due to exhaustion.
This was not Musashi. They did not have eight cities like the Musashi. Nor was it an open area like Oxford Academy in England.
This was Sendai Castle.
It was a base filed with combat, politics, and the technology needed to live in this frigid land.
When she cleared her ears and body, she could sense the vibrations of things leaving or arriving at Sendai Castle’s landing zone.
With that kind of tension a constant presence, they would have little time to rest. So…
…Maybe they need this dense and powerful place.
While the Musashi’s nature districts provided a sense of nature as one casually passed through them, this place provided the exhausted people with a sense of nature that they could soak in rather than just feel. Suzu thought about what that meant.
She placed her feet back on the resilient dirt and began to walk.
It was a large place. It was about the size of four wide blocks placed side by side. The ceiling was about half as high as on one of the Musashi’s underground floors. The small stream stood out because the heat was thinner there.
Suzu decided to make a circuit of the garden and began clockwise along a path through the densely growing flowers.
Masazumi had told her get as much information on Sendai Castle and the Date clan as she could. But she had said something else too:
“Don’t force it or do anything dangerous.”
So Suzu wanted to check over everything in the areas she was allowed.
…I need to do my job.
After a while, the path crossed the small stream.
She turned to face the person tending to the vegetables to the side.
She knew them. She realized they had not been from Date, so perhaps they had transferred schools.
Curious, she called out to the person who had their back turned to tend to the crops.
He had infiltrated Sendai Castle the night before and had been planning to contact the Musashi group and find out what they knew. However…
…That was Musashi’s bangs girl, wasn’t it!?
He had known she had excellent senses due to her blindness, but…
…I’m disguised down to the skeleton here!
He was currently supposed to be a reserve force student from the mountains and he was using the Russian-style name of Monkeytobist Sasky. That might be a little more English than Russian, but whatever.
Regardless, he should look like a foreigner right now.
Some of his shoulder bones had been reduced to change his skeletal structure. The same for his jaw. The color of his hair and everything else had been changed too. While he was not the best disguiser in the Ten Braves, this technique had been enough to pass through many different lands.
For that reason, he assumed there would be no problem here either and chose to ignore the girl. Saizou was nearby, hiding herself in her wind form, but she spoke to him in a voice only a ninja could hear.
“What’s going on here?”
“Don’t ask me. I don’t remember getting marked anywhere.”
“Then are you getting old all of a sudden?”
“You’re the same age as me!!”
“Then have you just lost your touch? Sigh, I guess I’ll have to be the breadwinner from now on…”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here!”
He heard a voice.
He ignored her, but…
“Are you looking after the vegetables…with Saizou-san?”
…I’m invisible right now!
She would occasionally give herself a visible form to investigate something, but during that time, she claimed to be a Russian freshman from the mountains. She went by the Russian-style name of Kilika Kretoshizon. Sasuke said claiming to be a freshman was a little much, but he did not know what he was talking about.
At any rate, she was invisible at the moment. She was nothing more than wind.
She even drank matcha and chewed on deodorizing leaves every day to erase her scent.
For that reason, she assumed there would be no problem here and chose to ignore the girl. Sasuke was right in front of her in his mountain resident disguise and he spoke to her in a voice only a ninja could hear.
“Hey, what’s going on here?”
“Don’t ask me. I don’t remember having my wind-print taken.”
“Then are you getting old all of a sudden?”
“Y-you’re the same age as me!!”
“Then have you just lost your touch? Sigh, I guess I’ll have to be the breadwinner from now on…”
“Well, that’s actually fine with me. It’s easier.”
She heard a voice.
“Are you…working? Sasuke-san?”
“C’mon, tell her that’s what you’re doing!!”
“Don’t ask the impossible!!”
“…Are you? Saizou-san?”
“C’mon, tell her that’s what we’re doing!!”
“Don’t ask the impossible!!”
But Musashi’s bangs girl only tilted her head.
“You…look different, but…you’re the same…aren’t you? The swaying…is the same as when…you were at Musashi.”
Sasuke shuddered again.
…The swaying of our bodies!?
He understood how this girl had seen through to their identities.
The swaying of one’s body came from more than just the balance created by the skeleton and distribution of muscle. It came from one’s pulse, blood pressure, hydration level, and the footing they were used to in their everyday life.
One could not change their pulse so easily.
Their blood pressure was not something they could just change at will.
For a ninja, the hydration level would be stable because they drank water at set intervals. And…
…The swaying, huh?
People who lived on the surface always had solid ground beneath their feet. The ground provided an immense reactive force, so they only had to think of their own balance.
But Musashi was different. Their footing was constantly swaying and tilting a little. It could shift during acceleration and it could kick back at them when braking.
Three weeks after leaving the Musashi, that habit should have left them, but…
“We trained for that…”
Yes. Along with those who had infiltrated the Musashi, they had trained for combat aboard the Musashi. They had built some suspended footing and then…
…We trained while recalling the actual shaking of the Musashi.
If those movements were still noticeable, it may have been because this place was carved out of solid rock. Even the slightest swaying of his body would stand out more in this solid place.
Saizou’s wind was the same. She had her ether pulse as a spirit and the moisture that maintained her body and she had made sure she would not sway in Musashi’s winds, so…
…This is bad.
Sasuke was glad that bangs girl had come here. If she had stayed on the Musashi, she would definitely have detected the others infiltrating the Musashi. In that case…
“We have a chance at victory.”
“From now on, we need to train ourselves to change our pulse and such for infiltration missions. I’m getting the feeling that an ether change charm isn’t going to cut it anymore.”
“It’s the middle of the Warring States period. We shouldn’t be surprised by any kind of skill we run across. And in that case…”
Sasuke stood up. He looked back with a smile and spoke to her while gesturing as if explaining the vegetable garden.
“It’s been a while, miss. Do you need something?”
Suzu was glad.
She was glad they had not forgotten her, she was glad they were smiling at her, and she was glad she was not in the way. And with that in mind, another thought came to her.
Sasuke and Saizou had different forms from before, but she did not mind since there were a lot of people like that on the Musashi. Nenji changed form from moment to moment, so when she had first perceived him, she had thought he was some kind of artifact that had placed life inside bathwater.
She breathed a sigh of relief.
“Sasuke-san…and Saizou-san… Are you…working?”
She was glad she had found someone she knew in this unfamiliar land. She had not spoken with them much on the Musashi, but she had noticed them help clean the inside of the ship and work as waiters, so…
“Are you…working again?”
Sasuke mentally held his head in his hands.
…Um, when she says “working”…?
“Well, miss, we are working in our own way.”
…This girl’s voice carries surprisingly well!!
“Hey! Hey!” shouted Saizou in their ninja-exclusive voice. “I think this might be the biggest crisis of our lives!”
“It must be nice being invisible!!”
But the girl clasped her hands.
Could he really agree to that? Did she think this was some kind of sport? In fact, who had taught her the word sabotage? This seemed like their fault.
Mary smiled bitterly in the sofa and looked back toward the person who had sneezed quietly.
“Lady Horizon? Is someone talking about you? I believe that is a Far Eastern folk belief.”
They were inside the Sviet Rus diplomatic ship’s reception room waiting to land and Mary saw Horizon hold her palm out toward her. It was a signal to wait.
Horizon then brought her hands to her ear sensors and twisted them.
“Phew. That suppressed it.”
“Ehh!? Horizon! Is that a new function!? That’s so cool!”
“What are you talking about? Snot suppression is a standard automaton function. It is the default, Toori-sama.”
Mitotsudaira hung her head to hide her expression and waved her hands back and forth, but what did that mean? Mary spoke up while lending her shoulder to Tenzou who was slowly dozing off next to her.
“We will be landing soon, too. …Perhaps some of the other diplomats are speaking about us.”
Saizou listened to the explanation given by Musashi’s acting captain.
It mostly only supported the information they already had, but seeing the links with Mogami and Sviet Rus was helpful. And…
“…So the Ten Spears have shown up,” she said so only Sasuke could hear.
“Hashiba is solidifying her position in K.P.A. Italia, but her subordinates and the P.A. Oda group holding Edo and Satomi must be making a diversion in Kantou.”
They had also heard that Takigawa Ichimasu had arrived to monitor Houjou. The problem was that Niwa was commanding the forces in Kantou now that Hashiba had gone to K.P.A. Italia.
“Number 2 of the Six Heavenly Demon Army… This isn’t good.”
“But there aren’t many people who can boss Takigawa around…”
This meant there was no safe ground left for Musashi.
Of course, Saizou knew that was true of themselves as well and then Sasuke asked a question of Musashi’s acting captain.
“Anyway, miss, let’s make a deal. …If you’ll agree not to tell anyone that we’re here, we’ll do something for you. What will it be?”
“You…!” shouted Saizou.
“It’s fine, Saizou. People like this always keep their promises. Fulfilling a girl’s request isn’t a bad deal if it will protect our activities here.”
“…You never say that kind of thing about me.”
“You keep your promises, but you keep them a little too much.”
“What does that even mean?”
“See? You forget all about it, which is what makes it so frightening.”
She did not know what he meant, but there must have been something in the past that she had not thought of as a promise but he had. She was a little disappointed she did not know what he meant, but…
“Was it something bad?”
Well, as long as I didn’t guide him to bad luck as a spirit, she decided. They could both cause each other trouble at times.
Then Musashi’s acting captain opened her mouth.
“Th-then…can I ask something…of you?”
“Sure. What is it?”
Saizou and Sasuke listened to the girl’s request.
Sasuke realized he could not immediately reply.
That was partially because he did not understand what she meant by that, but it was also because he did not have a clear view of their own future.
According to the Testament descriptions, their Sanada Academy would split into an east and west faction for the decisive Battle of Sekigahara. Their faction, the Sanada Nobushige faction, would side with Hashiba on the west and face Matsudaira on the east as their enemy.
…But I don’t really know what will happen.
Hashiba was growing into a powerful force and they liked to complete history recreations in advance or via interpretation.
The Sanada Ten Braves would simply be swept along by that power.
But even if he did not know about themselves, there was one thing he did know.
“Miss, why do you want us to protect that boy?”
“Because.” The girl lowered her eyebrows a little. “Toori-kun is protecting everyone…but he isn’t protecting himself.”
“I want a lot of people…to protect…him.”
That’s all the more reason, thought Sasuke. All the more reason I can’t protect him. He’s our future enemy and a ninja can’t let an enemy escape if he knows how important they are.
“I’ll take care of that request.”
The wind answered by his side. It was Saizou. She spoke to Musashi’s acting captain without showing herself.
“I just have to protect your Chancellor by any means within reach, correct?”
“Yes… Please do.”
“That’s how it will be,” said Saizou in her ninja voice. “So if the time to assassinate him comes, do it on your own.”
He replied to her and then faced Musashi’s acting captain again.
“Well, you heard her. And don’t worry about me either.”
He saw some slight tenseness leave the girl’s face and he asked a question on a whim.
“Is Musashi’s Chancellor that important to you?”
She answered immediately and Saizou spoke to him in a tone that made it clear she was swinging her arms around.
“Nice! How innocent!”
“This is why people call you old.”
“I just feel the winds of maturity blowing into me when I see someone a little younger than me!”
“Is that so?”
Sasuke sighed and the girl in front of him spoke.
“But I still…don’t know…about myself.”
“What don’t you know about yourself?”
“H-Horizon is…who he loves. Mitotsudaira-san is…his knight. K-Kimi-chan is…his sister. Masazumi-san is…h-his politician. Asama-san is…”
After that last name, she tilted her head a little but continued on.
“Everyone’s the best…to Toori-kun…in something.”
“That’s how he divides up his connections to people. I do that too.”
In this age, everyone with a certain level of achievement had a group of people that had helped them accomplish that. It could be the Chancellor’s Officers, the Student Council, or a committee, but…
…It all comes down to connections to individuals.
Love and family were nothing more than one of those connections.
In that division of relationships, anyone who had reached the highest level of trust would become “the best” of their division.
For example, romance could be part of the process toward obtaining a family and it was very important. But in terms of maintaining a nation, matters of succession were important. That was why leaders had concubines they would sleep with to confirm the trust between them and those that served them.
…What a troublesome age.
It looked like the goal and the means mattered more than anything else, but…
“That’s why it’s important to gain trust and become ‘the best’ in something.”
People did not even treat others as people in this age. It was an age filled with betrayal, resignation, and giving up on not just others but on oneself.
But in this age, what if someone had the same goal as you and showed trust in some means you were capable of?
What if that person was more or less the leader of a nation and was setting history in motion?
Couldn’t you live your life to its fullest and leave your mark on history?
“I can’t believe this,” Sasuke said to Saizou.
“What is it?”
“This made me think of the past. …When we were wondering what to do now that we were Unneeded.”
“That isn’t like you. Don’t worry. After all, you aren’t ‘the best’ where you are now.”
“That’s true,” agreed Sasuke.
Was the girl in front of them thinking the same things they had in the past?
…No, she isn’t.
She had realized the people around her had their worries and that they were using those worries to build some large connections. So…
“Don’t rush things, miss.”
He had just one thing to say now.
“It sounds like your king has a lot of ‘bests’ supporting him. And remember this: it’s someone with a lot of ‘best’ people that can become a true king.”
“What about you?” asked Saizou.
“I’ve got someone behind me who’s the best at two or three different things.”
“That isn’t cooking, bathing, and sleeping, is it?”
“You don’t trust me very much, do you!?”
He took a breath and spoke to the girl again.
“Keep trying at whatever you can. You might find an unexpected ‘best’ of your own. And even if you don’t, those that aren’t the best can still gain and understand a lot.”
“Is that true…of you two?”
He heard a bitter smile behind him.
“You could say we’re still on our way.”
“That’s true.” Sasuke smiled but did not stop gesturing as if telling her about the vegetables. “Now, how about a bonus? Your request might be a little difficult, so I’ll give you one more thing for free.”
“What is it?”
“Testament.” Sasuke held up a large radish as he answered. “I’ll make sure you come across the Date clan’s main problem without actually directly coming into contact with it. …We plan to visit Mogami and Sviet Rus too, so this is a parting gift.”
“A-are you sure?”
“We’ll make sure it works out for you. I’m not interested in making anyone else Unneeded. And if you cause some trouble here, that’s only a plus for us.”
“Come here tonight…yes, at eleven.”
“Yes. I’ll keep Rusu from monitoring you so you can get here undetected. And then…”
“Yes, you should see something interesting. It’ll be the best thing you could find as a diplomat.”
A sound ceased to play.
It was the music of an instrument. It had filled the fresh breeze by the water’s edge up in the night sky.
“Thank you very much for listening.”
Asama placed a light biwa next to her and relaxed her seated body. She looked up at Kimi who was catching her breath after dancing.
“I almost feel like I’m performing on my own without Mito here.”
“Heh heh. You’re like a wandering biwa priest. But thanks to the recent renga boom, I hear if you go to the park at night, you can almost see the text box saying ‘4 Biwa Priests have appeared!’ as they surround you and force you to listen. Wait, why doesn’t your shrine crack down on them? It seems my foolish brother is plotting something concerning that, though.”
“If anything, they’re connected to the Buddhist temple, so it’s their jurisdiction. As for Toori-kun, there have been sightings of the biwa priests being chased around by someone with a biwa-shaped enema and shouting ‘biwenema’, so he’s gone beyond the plotting stage. But anyway…”
Asama took a breath and Naito and Naruze asked a question.
“Can we request a song?”
“Of course. If you want to do karaoke, start singing and I’ll match the chords.”
“You’re pretty skilled,” commented Naomasa who was smiling and seemed a little tipsy.
A short distance away, someone else was working at a group of sign frames.
“Masazumi, did you actually eat dinner?”
“Eh? Yes. I didn’t expect curry and a grill set to fall from the sky, though.”
She looked to some thick pieces of bamboo standing by the water’s edge. The strengthened bamboo was thirty centimeters thick, their sections were all made into storage cases, and the tips were cut diagonally, but…
“Those are the bamboo spear supply drop rods used in Far Eastern battles. Musashi IZUMO has been researching how to keep them from shifting off course during the fall. This time, Hassan-kun’s curry and Ohiroshiki-kun’s outdoor cooking set were sent down as a test.”
“They use a marking system so they’ll reach their destination even through the stealth barrier, right?”
To mark the spot, Naruze had drawn Ohiroshiki’s face six times. Each one had a bamboo spear stabbed right between the eyes.
“If they’re this accurate, couldn’t we use them as weapons?”
“No, this isn’t all that accurate. Based on the area of the pictures, the nose is the center, so why did they all hit between the eyes?”
“Hey, Asama! How about something metal like Iron Tentacle from the Hot Spring!? The intro can go ‘birorororo nyororei’ and then it can go ‘da da da ba ba nyoreri’.”
“Kimi, the title itself is contradictory. And if you give any weird lyrics to me or Mito, we’re leaving Kimitoasamade and making a new band without you.”
“Do you all always come up with songs like this?”
“Naruze, don’t you and Naito use Technohexen dreams to guide you to the chords for Eisen’s songs?”
As they exchanged words, Asama suddenly looked over at Masazumi out of curiosity.
…Oh, she looks like she doesn’t understand at all.
Asama felt a faint need to explain, but…
She suddenly felt something odd at her feet.
“What is this feeling? It’s kind of familiar.”
But what she felt soon took form.
At first, she felt the air growing cold, but they had all felt this fog before. The white fog and chill seemed to envelop them starting from the feet.
“This is the stealth of Oushuu’s hidden village,” said Naomasa.
It was old-style permeation stealth technology. Its barrier was weak, so it did not function as a defense barrier like the modern ones and it took a looser fog-like form. The fainter parts could be wasteful, but…
…It doesn’t take much power to maintain the barrier, so it’s quite efficient.
Meanwhile, a figure stepped down on the port side which was north.
It was a tall woman. She wore a Qing-Takeda uniform with a side skirt and she had long ears.
“The elder of Oushuu’s hidden village…”
She had welcomed them and sheltered the Musashi when they arrived in Kantou.
“Testament. …I am Fujiwara Yasuhira, the final leader of Oushuu Fujiwara.”
She seemed like an adult even to Asama and the woman raised her right hand with her eyes bent in a smile.
Then she slowly spoke.
“You have your simultaneous meeting with the three nations and before that you have your special student general assembly, but how about we talk a bit about Oushuu before even that? …As the sponsor who rescued Musashi, there is something I would like for you to understand.”
Asama panicked at Yasuhira’s words. She looked to the people leaning together for a perverted discussion and to the bamboo spears piercing the giant faces between the eyes.
“C-clean up! We need to clean things up mentally and physically! Don’t we!?”
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