Horizon:Volume 4C Chapter 68
Chapter 68: Observer in the Layers
Nothing I see
Come to an end?
Point Allocation (Footing)
Futayo felt herself wake up.
But she felt it was different from just waking up from sleep. It was more like being refreshed from her weariness. It was like passing out after intense training but having her body wake up in order to live.
She had experienced this sort of “awakening” a few times in the past. It had happened when her father had woken her by splashing well water on her with a bucket and it had happened when she had come to with her head resting in Kazuno’s lap. But a certain sensation was always the strongest.
This awakening felt like her pulse resetting itself after she accumulated so much weariness that she could no longer move a single finger. It was like being pasted to the ground. Her bones seemed to move before her muscles and her muscles creaked like dry branches.
She was dehydrated and her eyes ached when she so much as moved them.
But this painful awakening had always been filled with an image of her father or Kazuno smiling her way.
She knew exactly why they had said that. When she trained until she collapsed and passed out from exhaustion, it was always when she had grasped some definite results. When learning her spear techniques, acquiring Soaring Wings, or making use of her martial arts, she had worked through the night and over several days until it permeated her body. Collapsing from exhaustion was the sign it was complete. So…
What would she see when she opened her eyes this time?
Who would she see?
Asama felt Futayo’s head moving on her lap.
Her unbound hair waved gently while her opened eyes tried to focus and stared right past Asama.
They looked up into the sky.
Asama joined her in looking up at the blue sky with few clouds. And…
“Did you wake up? Heh heh. Or should I say a lovely flower has blossomed? But more importantly and most importantly, I am impressed, Honda Futayo.”
Kimi bent over to peer down at Futayo’s face and she spoke with a smile.
“You did well, samurai girl. You were the type who could make it up here.”
Futayo took a deep breath when she heard that. Her back moved and the space between her tensed shoulder blades grew stiff as she revealed something to Asama.
As she lay on her back, tears dripped from her eyes and toward her ears.
Asama too had experienced unexpected tears like that recently. She did not know if these were from sorrow or joy, but…
…She was moved to emotion.
Futayo then hid her face below her right hand. And…
Her dry and barely audible voice uttered what may have been an expression of gratitude.
Asama was not sure, but the girl inhaled again and got up. Asama thought she could stand to rest longer, so she looked back and to her right to ask what to do.
Yoshiki had been there before, but she was gone now.
There was no point in wondering when that had happened. It simply meant the woman felt she had nothing more to teach Futayo at the moment.
As Futayo moved away, Asama realized the girl’s back and shoulders were surprisingly small.
At the same time, a sign frame appeared next to Asama’s face and displayed some text.
Hori-ko: “Asama-sama, I heard Futayo-sama fell into the abyss.”
Asama: “Ohh, she’s fine, she’s fine. She came back up. …And it isn’t often that you contact me like this, Horizon.”
Hori-ko: “Judge. I heard our divine transmission environment had been set up, so I had to try it out. …And to be honest, I do have my own form of ‘anxiety’ brought by an automaton’s decision-making ability. You could call it the probability of rejection and the fear thereof.”
“So,” she said.
Hori-ko: “Asama-sama, Kimi-sama, Futayo-sama, Manager-sama, and everyone else…please help us avoid any rejections.”
Asama was not the only one to reply with a “judge”.
Futayo stood up, faced forward, and spoke that word of acknowledgment. And…
“I can answer for myself. …I definitely made it back up here.”
She faced forward.
She continued facing forward with Kimi by her side and supporting her back.
They were about one hundred meters from the western edge of the Ariake. That was less than two hundred meters from the scaffolding that Futayo had fallen from.
As Futayo stared at that distance as if to judge it, Kimi spoke to her.
“Aren’t you scared?”
“Heh heh. Perhaps I should give you another shove.”
With a comment of “You really don’t get it?”, Kimi leaned against Futayo’s shoulder and moved her finger as if tracing the fingernail from the scaffolding to here.
“You came all the way here…and all so you could ‘make it back up’.”
Yoshiyasu slowly closed a sign frame as she walked through the multi-layer city with melted snow water falling through it.
She had received a message saying the special student general assembly had ended and the Vice Chancellor and the Chancellor’s sister’s training was over.
A group she could call her upperclassmen had achieved some kind of results. And in response…
She did not know what that curse was directed at, but she felt a strange sort of anger toward herself. It had been there in her heart since the Battle of Mikatagahara, but it had grown larger and larger since arriving in Mogami.
What was this deep in her heart and just above her gut? Some sort of gradually growing heat would occasionally give off a faint light like a charcoal fire that refused to go out.
She wanted to grab at it and pull it to the surface, but she also felt like touching it would be dangerous. Unsure what to do, it simply remained a question inside her.
“Heh heh. Satomi…the vassal next to you is worried, you know?”
Yoshiyasu realized her eyebrows and shoulders were tensed and she turned toward the vassal.
“Are you okay, Satomi President? If you’re shocked that the second card you got was Early Morning Asazuke-Gael, a Gaelic model Origi-Common, then do you want to trade for the Celtic one I got, Three Minute Asazuke-Celt? Mine’s a leafy one and I got the Shiso-colored art.”
“No, Gael just sounds stronger than Celt if you ask me…”
“I see… Sorry I couldn’t be any help. I traded all my common ones away before, so all I have on hand are paste ones…”
The vassal seemed to be mistaken about something, but it had helped put Yoshiyasu in a better mood. Yoshiyasu took a breath and Yoshiaki looked back at her while walking out ahead.
“You’re quite the troublesome girl yourself. You let things smolder inside you, don’t you?”
There was no point in denying it, so Yoshiyasu nodded.
“Ever since I got here.”
“Oh, how splendid.”
Yoshiaki made a sudden move. She nimbly turned to the side and held out her fan. A sign frame sat on the tip.
It displayed the dining hall on the starboard side of Musashi Ariadust Academy. And at the moment…
…Fog? No, that’s the hidden village’s stealth.
The wind around the dining hall could be seen in a white drift that should never have appeared on a summer afternoon.
Fujiwara Yasuhira, representative of Oushuu Hiraizumi, had arrived. The displayed screen contained the caption “The Vice President: Lunch or the Paranormal!? The mystery fog!”
…Don’t list lunch and the paranormal together like that.
At any rate, the Vice President and the others would likely begin their discussion with Yasuhira soon.
They were on the move. Until now, they had all been acting individually, but with this meeting, they would all begin moving with the Vice President in the center.
…No, the Vice President isn’t the one in the center.
Everything the Vice President had advocated and supported pointed right back to that idiot.
It pointed back to the idiot that Yoshiyori had told to smile.
The way Yoshiyasu saw it, the Vice President currently stood at the leading edge of Musashi’s actions.
But it was that idiot that supported her and everyone else from the very back.
Even when she searched through her memories, she was pretty sure that idiot had always been smiling.
Since arriving at the Ariake, he had been the same as always. His behavior and actions had been the same. He even peeped, didn’t he!? But that held a certain meaning.
…He hadn’t given up and he didn’t rush things.
The people had been worried, but they had lived dense and busy lives on the Ariake, there had been commotions, and no one had given up. They had been defeated in battle and lost quite a bit, but that idiot had simply smiled.
He had behaved the same as always so that he would not create any new worries. So…
“Yoshiaki. …Why do you think this smoldering inside me grew stronger here?”
“Well.” The fox smiled and looked at Yoshiyasu through the sign frame. “Wouldn’t it be because you left Musashi?”
Her old self would have found that ridiculous. But…
Musashi was different from Satomi. In Satomi, they had stared down Houjou and the various Kantou forces, secured food, strengthened their weapons, and given their all to ensure their own survival. But Musashi performed largescale trade between many nations, possessed a lot of internal culture and technology, and had a great many people. But most importantly…
“Musashi is at peace.”
“That is partially thanks to the repeated election of the incompetent…for better or for worse.”
“Testament,” she replied while realizing something about that repeated election of the incompetent.
…Has Musashi had that atmosphere for a long time?
There had to be something unique about the current idiot, but that did mean everything had been completely different before him. Just as Satomi had specialized itself toward the survival of a small nation, Musashi had never given up, never rushed things, and yet…
“Hey, Yoshiaki. Do you think a will of resistance is something that everyone has and that never disappears?”
“Anyone from Oushuu could only say yes to that.”
“Judge,” replied Yoshiyasu with a nod.
And that brought something to mind: Yoshiyori.
Yoshiyori. He must have seen Musashi as a place that never gave up, just like Satomi. And as a wonderful place that had peace and did not rush things. But if that was all it was, it would have ended there. After all, Satomi had no peace and was under constant pressure to be on the move. Trying to be Musashi would only lead to ruin.
But that idiot had set Musashi in motion.
Whether he had understood it or not, that idiot had raised his voice of resistance to reject their destiny of loss. But that idiot, still as an idiot, had remained peaceful and never rushed as he began resisting by saving others.
Yoshiyasu did not know if Yoshiyori had predicted that Hashiba would soon invade Satomi, but that inevitable event had meant Musashi’s destiny led them to a fierce battle over control of the Far East.
Once that happened, Musashi might lose its peace and begin to rush.
…And that’s why.
That was why Yoshiyori told the idiot to smile no matter what.
And the idiot had done so. He had remained his usual self during and after the defeat that could be seen as Musashi’s greatest crisis. And if Musashi’s Vice President was right, no greater crisis awaited them afterwards.
During and after their greatest defeat, that idiot had maintained his smile just as Yoshiyori had told him to.
That meant it would always be doing what Yoshiyori had said.
That’s not fair, thought Yoshiyasu to no one in particular.
Because it was between two boys? Because it was between two who had been left in charge of a nation? While Yoshiyasu had only been able to cry and smolder, Yoshiyori and that idiot had sent out the best they had hoped for and it had been accepted.
Yoshiyasu understood nothing.
She placed a hand on Murasamemaru at her hip. The hilt did not move. She could not draw the blade. She understood nothing and that was why she could not draw it. It was only natural. And now Yoshiyori was gone, her sister was gone, and the people of Satomi had evacuated to Mito or other areas, so no one served under her. So…
“It lightens the load on me.”
“You don’t have to be so humble, Satomi President.”
What did that mean?
If she had a lighter load on her shoulders, she just had to take on more and more of a load in the future. Murasamemaru and Yatsufusa would eventually decide whether that was for the best or not. For the time being, she just had to do what was needed of her.
Then, she thought. Now that a Satomi like me has become a resident of that idiot’s nation, what role can I play to ensure that idiot doesn’t stop smiling? There was only one definite answer at the moment.
“I’m looking forward to the meeting tonight.”
“Yes, we will hold it over there. …What do you think?”
Yoshiaki pointed toward the edge of the multi-layer city. Below some large eaves was a large wooden elevator that led to the snowy ground far below. A large circle had been carved into the ground there.
“That is the Great Bowl crossing the provisional border between Date and Mogami. It is approximately ten kilometers across and four kilometers deep. It produces a large quantity of Orei Metallo, and…”
“It is said to have been the origin of Novgorod. This giant spot is quite the spectacle when the moon is out at night. How about we have a summer festival while watching it?”
Adele looked to the vast bowl-shaped hole that Yoshiaki indicated.
Adele was used to the Musashi, but…
Even she saw it as a gigantic white depression. As for its shape…
…What cup size is that…?
It’s the difference between the underbust and top measurements that matters, she thought, but…
“Huh? I thought Novgorod was created in the Harmonic Divine States?”
“It was. …I said this was the ‘origin’, didn’t I?” The fox laughed in her throat. “You know what happened in Oushuu before the creation of the Harmonic Divine States, don’t you? And you know how the oldest people of Oushuu – that is, the pure long-lived – live now, don’t you?”
Adele had indeed seen that and Yoshiyasu nodded next to her.
“The people of Hiraizumi have a city on the surface and also use aerial ships like a city. Are you saying there was a custom of taking land from here for floating cities?”
“Yes. The area between Mogami and Date was the site of intense fighting during the Age of Dawn and also where the northern rule was later established.”
Masazumi faced Yasuhira in a large space.
It was the large dining hall on one side of the school building. It had been cleared of people for the meeting, so it was a closed space with several tables lined up. As long as they placed directional defense spells on the windows and entrances…
“Heh heh. This is the perfect place for a break. Fine, then. I feel like some food, so I’ll go make us something.”
The Aoi Sister entered the kitchen while taking the spell cloth in her hair and rewrapping it to cover her hair like a bandanna. She must have known the cook because she held up her chef’s license sign frame and was pointed toward the ingredients.
Opening the dining hall would reduce the crowds at the food stands outside, but…
…Eating in the dining hall? Such luxury…
A large vegetable dish would be godlike! thought Masazumi as Asama sat next to her.
Vice President: “Satomi President, Balfette, can you see the place yet?”
Flat Vassal: “Eh? Oh, yes! This is Adele Balfette reporting from the scene!”
Righteousness: “Judge. I’ll use my sign frame’s additional divine protection to take photos and send them over. It’s what I use for recon with my god of war, so it’s low resolution but easily enhanced.”
Nine-Tail Fox: “Heh heh. Even if we’ve already given you permission, you have guts saying that in front of another nation’s ruler.”
Righteousness: “If I didn’t go at least this far with you, you’d make fun of me.”
Was it a good sign that Asama smiled a little at the Satomi President’s conversation?
When the image arrived, Masazumi enlarged it in the sign frame. Tsukinowa tilted its head a few times while increasing the precision of the zoomed in version and she showed it to Yasuhira.
“Is this giant hole the land your ancestors sent floating into the sky?”
“It is. …The records say there was an Oushuu base there during the war. And after the war, the suppression army used that base and its ether equipment.”
Masazumi tilted her head at that. She found Yasuhira’s phrasing odd and asked about it.
“That’s a lot of hearsay for a long-lived like you.”
“Not even the long-lived are immortal. My information on the past comes from oral tradition, so it is based in hearsay,” explained Yasuhira. “But after the suppression, there is of course a gap in the records. …It would seem the suppression army tried to hold onto Oushuu’s allegiance by preventing us from taking control of our own history.”
“In Shinto terms, that era would be the chaotic period before the world had settled on a common stance. It was the period leading to the many meetings in which the Anti-Decline Pro-Tuning Project was developed.”
Instead of directly facing Yasuhira’s words, Asama simply spoke the truth. Masazumi felt relieved but also worried that this was putting a burden on the girl. But…
Marube-ya: “Asama-chi! Take her on! Making a scene here is sure to be lucrative!”
Asama: “Umm, so you’re saying I should fire an arrow your way?”
At least they have plenty of energy. At least they have that. Yes.
At any rate, Masazumi held her right palm out toward Yasuhira.
“The differences in viewpoint and interpretation are not important to me at the moment. …But you’re saying this land rose from the earth after the Anti-Decline Pro-Tuning Project?”
“According to the records, yes. The Harmonic World’s Oushuu was a frigid land. …The records say the base was returned, floating equipment was built, and that land was sent to assist those in the Harmonic World. …Then again, one theory suggests the floating equipment and everything else was supplied by the suppression army to build an emergency fleet centered on an aerial mothership.”
Mal-Ga: “Sounds a lot like Hashiba’s One-Night Castle.”
Flat Vassal: “But, um…”
A puzzling pause filled the sign frame and the girl continued after about three breaths.
Flat Vassal: “Why did the Z+++ cup size developed by the people of Oushuu end up being Novgorod? This land is in Oushuu, but Novgorod is in the Kinki region which is a good ways west of here.”
Righteousness: “I know what the people of Oushuu were thinking. …It was to prepare for the Genpei period, wasn’t it?”
“Exactly. I am impressed you know that, Satomi President,” confirmed Yasuhira. “As the Minamoto clan, the Taira family was our enemy. The Taira clan they developed from was created in the year 825. …One hundred years before that, in the year 725, the Testament had already predicted (including footnotes) that the people remaining in Oushuu and Kantou would eventually fight a great war. To determine what sort of war it would be and whether it would be settled via interpretations, our ancestors had to decide whether or not they would return to Oushuu from their northern land.”
Yasuhira smiled a little. And…
“Now, what do you think they did?”
She asked her question and fell silent with a smile. So after three seconds, Masazumi responded.
Asama: “Unexpected quiz time! It’s quiz time! Shinto and Buddhism really do love their riddles! I was the assistant host of the Shirasago run Shinto quiz show Pittashi God-God last year!”
Smoking Girl: “We watched that during our breaks in the engine division, but did you really have to recreate divine punishments for wrong answers just cause all the questions were about gods? Although I’ll admit it was fun seeing some rarer divine punishments like ‘swept down a river while carrying a heavy load’, ‘jumping splits’, ‘chopsticks up the ass’, or ‘salt in the wound’.”
Silver Wolf: “The Far East really does like that kind of thing… But the first show I got hooked on after coming here was the Far Eastern version of Quiz Hexagone.”
Vice President: “Okay, everyone. Are you sure you’re not all changing the subject to avoid admitting you don’t know the answer to Yasuhira’s question?”
Wise Sister: “Oh, come on. I didn’t say anything, silly girl.”
Vice President: “I didn’t mean everyone everyone!”
Oh, no, thought Masazumi as she looked to Yasuhira’s smile.
Me: “Seijun! This is the time for that ‘funny joke’ you have in mind!!”
Vice President: “What? That one’s sure to kill, so I’ve got to save it for a better time.”
Almost Everyone: “Give up on that dangerous idea and just use it!!”
I can’t do that! she thought, but there was no helping it.
The smile across from her remained unchanged, so she was definitely being tested here. Everything was fine as long as Yasuhira remained calm, but this would get dangerous once that was gone. After all…
…Then we won’t be able to get the cooperation of the other nations or advance toward stopping the Apocalypse, just like Ookubo said.
While wondering what to do, Masazumi tried asking a question as a form of diplomacy.
“You’re asking what your ancestors did in the Harmonic World’s Oushuu after learning of the Genpei War. …What happens if we don’t know that?”
“You should have had time to look into that since last night.”
…I get the feeling she isn’t going be very forgiving.
Next to her, Asama quickly hid Hanami behind herself and had the Mouse begin a search. That’s kind of like cheating, thought Masazumi, but Yasuhira breathed in.
“I see. We achieved a consensus last night, but it would seem the short-lived truly are realists if you still did not manage to step that far into our-…”
The woman just about finished with the word “past”, but…
“Hold on. It’s still our turn to answer, isn’t it?”
A voice reached them.
“You want to know what Oushuu’s long-lived did in the Harmonic World’s Siberia during the 8th and 9th centuries? That’s easy.”
A sudden voice echoed from the dining hall’s main entrance behind Masazumi.
When she looked back, she saw a boy in a summer uniform walking over. He pushed up his glasses before continuing.
“Novgorod’s predecessor was established around the year 854. It was conquered by savages, which actually led to gathering into a proper city in 862. …And in the Far East, the Taira clan was created in 825.
“That leads to a single conclusion.
“Development of eastern Siberia was going well, but the west was a different story. So Oushuu’s long-lived sent a floating city to Russia in 825 as Novgorod and then returned to Oushuu with their aerial fleet. Then western Siberia modified the floating city they had received. In 862, it became Novgorod and supported the development of the land from there… How about that? Oushuu’s long-lived pursued romance by returning to the Far East. With the coming Genpei War and dominion of the Far East on the line, they returned to the stage of intersecting light and darkness…”
Someone struck a pose next to Masazumi and then named himself.
“I am Musashi Ariadust Academy Secretary Toussaint Neshinbara. …Lady Fujiwara Yasuhira, please give me your autograph. I have an autograph sheet prepared.”
Four Eyes: “Are you still mixing business with pleasure like that? Oh, but get one for me too. You need to pay me back for freeing you from that spell.”
Novice: “I didn’t ask you to do that, so I’m only paying half price. And I’m not going back home until you leave. Once you’ve given up on a number of things, could you pull the porn books out from under the bed for collection?”
Mal-Ga: What do you think you two are doing? This isn’t giving me what I need.”
Four Eyes: “Two doujinshi ago, I think you could have surprised people more when they turned the page if you had gone for more of a close-up shot on the top right panel of page 12.”
Mal-Ga: “The panel below it shifts to Asama’s ass, so I couldn’t focus so much on the face.”
Four Eyes: “So you put ivy in between to guide the reader’s eye and provide a bondage image? I get it now.”
Asama: “Um! Did I just see my name in there!? My name!? …And Shakespeare-san, are you really leaving so soon!? What a shame!”
Four Eyes: “I don’t really like people who let their stubbornness show. …But don’t worry. When I saw the bed earlier, I got a pretty bad nosebleed and bloodied up the blanket, so I’ll be taking it back with me. That’s fine, right?”
Almost Everyone: “Eek!”
Now then, thought Masazumi while looking toward Yasuhira with Neshinbara who had received the autographs.
She asked a question of Yasuhira who folded up her portable calligraphy set and stored it in her skirt.
“Let’s continue where we left off last night. …The Divinely Ordained Prayer Academies. Where are they? Or rather, do they exist?”
Masazumi saw Yasuhira smile at her question.
The long-lived woman asked a question while seated.
“What did Lady Yoshitsune say?”
“That she doesn’t know where they are.”
“She probably did.” Yasuhira smiled. “I do not know that either.”
Wise Sister: “And theeeeeere you have it! After putting so, so, so much effort into getting this meeting and after Asama answered those questions so seriously, she doesn’t even know. Asama, you can shoot her! Hit her with one that has a Yamata Takeru curse that turns her into a Shinto transvestite! C’mon!”
Silver Wolf: “Um, I seriously doubt such a bizarre spell really exists. Right, Tomo?”
Asama: “Eh? On, um… S-sorry.”
Silver Wolf: “…”
Gold Mar: “Is it just me or does Shinto have more bizarre stuff than the local Oushuu gods they erased?”
Mal-Ga: “That’s right. They triggered a war by forcing their bizarreness on those normal local religions.”
I doubt that, thought Masazumi as she asked a question.
“Lady Yasuhira, this just occurred to me, but what were the local religions here like?”
After a moment of thought, Yasuhira answered.
“Well, we had the Kubizuka burial mounds for severed heads, we had stone circles, we had nude clay figures, we had giant stone pillars, we had festivals that can only be described with the sound effect ‘Onbashira!’, we were always climbing the mountains, we loved deformities…”
Mal-Ga: “Are you sure they weren’t just heathens?”
Worshiper: Animism! It’s called animism! Life worship is a lot like animism, you know!?”
Uqui: “Ane-mism!? You mean the worship of elder sisters!? Now that’s renaissance thinking!”
Pipe down, all of you. Even if I was the one to start this.
At any rate, Masazumi recalled what Yoshitsune had said and thought on it.
…She doesn’t know where the Divinely Ordained Prayer Academies are, hm?
With that answer in mind, she realized something: she had asked the wrong question.
“Yasuhira, allow me to restate my question.”
Masazumi spoke her remade question.
“Did the Divinely Ordained Prayer Academies actually exist?”
“You’re a sharp one,” said Yasuhira while leaning back.
She had been surprised how much Lady Yoshitsune had told them, but now she kind of understood. This member of the crossdressing politician genre had some sense.
…She questions things.
That was different from doubting things.
She did not allow herself to make internal assumptions about things.
Everything “was”, but she did not make assumptions as to “how” it was.
Everything had a “result”, but she did not make assumptions as to whether that result was “good or bad”.
She did not decide on the “how” or the “good or bad” inside herself.
So the night before, she had learned of Oushuu’s past and understood what it meant, but she had not shown any more surprise or guilt than was necessary.
She accepted that their past “was” and that it had a “result”, so she was not ignoring it. If she had been thinking about how that past should be or whether its result was good or bad, it would have been easier to ignore it or hide it just like Shinto did.
…She casually asked about that history.
Yasuhira straightened up. Then she leaned forward to place Musashi’s Vice President in the center of her vision. She took a breath to reset her emotions.
I can’t believe this. I have grown quite soft, Lady Yoshitsune, she thought. And when she wondered if Lady Yoshitsune had revealed this information on a whim like she did so many things…
…Lady Yoshitsune, you never acted on a whim when it came to people.
She heard a sudden voice and saw Musashi’s Vice President relax her shoulders across from her.
“The Divinely Ordained Prayer Academies might provide a hint to stopping the Apocalypse, so can you tell us about them? …What exactly are they?”
Yasuhira smiled bitterly in her heart at that question.
Yasuhira was evaluating Musashi’s Vice President in a number of ways, but the girl went after what she wanted regardless.
She was surprisingly greedy.
So Yasuhira began to speak while feeling she had no choice.
“Based on my research, that was the standard name of the initial academies built across the Far East after the Anti-Decline Pro-Tuning Project began.”
“I believe there were a great many academies across the Far East that went by that name.”
Masazumi felt a little disappointed. Yoshitsune had already told them that the initial academies were called that.
That’s weird, she thought.
She looked to Asama for confirmation and Asama nodded back. Also, Mitotsudaira sent a message and the Aoi Sister lifted up her breasts in the kitchen. What is that supposed to mean!? She ignored that last one.
“Um, Yasuhira. I would like to confirm something about the purpose of the Divinely Ordained Prayer Academies…”
“Yes, they were prayer academies… Rain comes from the heavens, so they likely began in undeveloped lands as a place for technological development such as prayers for life-giving rain. Of course, these were ‘divinely ordained’ prayer academies…that likely means they were ordered built by a god and thus by the emperor.”
“Then can we ask something? Um, Asama?”
Masazumi looked back to Asama.
After a prompting nod, Asama breathed in, looked to Yasuhira, and asked a question.
“Then why does Shinto have no records of these academies? They were built by the emperor and developing technology such as rain prayers is Shinto territory. So…why?”
That’s right, thought Masazumi as she nodded along with everyone else.
Yasuhira responded after a nod of her own.
“I do not know the details either. Because, for the most part, these academies no longer exist.”
“Why is that?”
Yasuhira answered with a wave of her hand. This produced a map of the Far East with several red dots drawn on top.
“Could you look at this for a moment?”
After Yasuhira used her fingertips to toss over the 30 cm map, Masazumi looked at it with the others. Asama quickly relayed the information to the others listening in through the divine network.
“The red dots on the ground are where I suspect a Divinely Ordained Prayer Academy was located.”
There were a lot of them. It was easily over fifty.
…But why didn’t any survive if there were so many?
The answer came from an unexpected place.
Bell: “These are…”
It was Suzu. After a pause long enough to tilt her head, she continued.
Bell: “…the Harmonic Territories?”
Asama quickly connected her sign frame to Musashi’s Asama Shrine network.
She summoned Hanami, opened the protection, and viewed the locations of the Harmonic Territories based on the Musashi’s standard course.
Thank you, she thought with a nod as she overlaid that data on Yasuhira’s map. And…
The red dots all coincided with a Harmonic Territory.
Of course, there were more Harmonic Territories in all and many of them lacked a red dot, but every last one of the dots was inside a Harmonic Territory.
Just as Asama wondered what this meant, she noticed a pattern to the red dots. None of them were bunched together and they were positioned at even intervals along three lines running across the islands of the Far East from the north end of Oushuu to the south end of Kyushu. Also…
“In Shinto terms, these are ley line branches and pools…”
A lot of the locations were said to have once contained a Shinto shrine. Those had been destroyed by the Harmonic Territories, but it still meant the red dots were located at important points on the ley lines. Which meant…
“The Divinely Ordained Prayer Academies…were used to control the ley lines, weren’t they?”
“They were the Gates that connected the current Divine States of this world with the Harmonic Divine States of the Harmonic World.”
Some of the red dots were located on the ocean and they too coincided with Harmonic Territories.
“Most likely, the Divinely Ordained Prayer Academies were there to manage the Gates. That continued for a long time, but as the management role shifted to the rulers of the land and as time passed, the academies became shrines and castles instead. And…during the Harmonic Unification War, they were destroyed when the Harmonic World fell into this world, primarily around those Gates.”
Those Gates still remained.
“Most of them have dissolved into the ley lines and are the cause of certain mysterious disappearances or instances of shukuchi, but the most well-known one would be the Gate controlled by Tres España that connects southern Kyushu to eastern Ezo.”
“Yes, that is the best way to look at it. …Those academies were only used in the earliest stages of history and became other things due to the Far East’s circumstances, the stability of the ley lines, and the changing times. And they were finally destroyed during the collapse of the Harmonic World. But…”
After asking that, Asama realized something.
…Oh. I’m losing myself in solving this mystery with Yasuhira-san.
Yasuhira seemed to have come to the same realization. They exchanged a glance from across the table and finally…
The two of them smiled a little.
Mal-Ga: “What!? What is this silence!? My doujinshi senses are tingling!”
But Asama continued thinking without forcing the smile away.
…Even with everyone standing between us due to our positions, we still enjoy solving a mystery.
They were leaning toward each other as they exchanged information. Asama was glad she had noticed that and glad she had noticed that Yasuhira had noticed.
So she fixed her collar and let her guard down.
“But what, Yasuhira-san?”
“Well, the Divinely Ordained Prayer Academies that managed the Gates were lost during the Harmonic Unification War, but there is a single spot where one might survive.”
And that was…
Yoshiyasu viewed the giant bowl-shaped hole from the layered city’s cliff. The bowl of white snow and blue shadow had had its edge worn down by long years of erosion, but…
“There was a Divinely Ordained Prayer Academy here?”
It was possible. The Oushuu base would likely have been located at a gathering point of the ley lines. If the suppression army had arrived and set up what they claimed was a peaceful “academy”…
“The Divinely Ordained Prayer Academy here would have been the oldest academy.”
The vassal nodded in agreement while eating a third wafer she had gotten from somewhere.
“It was here and it moved to the Harmonic World as a floating city, so I wonder if it escaped the destruction like England did.”
The vassal looked Yoshiyasu’s way from the terrace railing on the edge of the city.
“Oh, you can have this card. I stubbornly kept drawing new ones like it was my destiny to get a good one.”
“Akashi Takenori? That is not the reading I would have guessed for those kanji.”
How do they decide which ones are super rare? she wondered, but then Yoshiaki pointed at her own face while standing nearby.
“Yeah, your name is pretty hard to read too,” said Yoshiyasu. “Wait, are you saying they made one of you too?”
“I’m Rare 3. You’re Rare 1, though.”
“Who’s using my name without permission!?”
“That would be IZUMO,” said the vassal as she checked the bag. She then spoke to Yoshiaki. “Yoshiaki-san, did you know Novgorod was that Divinely Whatever Academy?”
“Of course not. Hiraizumi’s Yasuhira is the child of those who returned before the Genpei War, you know? And…the people of Oushuu would like to erase all traces of those who once suppressed our land.”
“Does that mean that Divinely Whatever Prayer Academy doesn’t exist at Novgorod anymore?”
“I have no way of knowing that. But Novgorod is still floating, which means the ether engine system inside it is still running. …Also, well, you’ll be able to see something interesting later.”
Yoshiyasu did not know what Yoshiaki was talking about. That woman was a fox and she apparently had no intention of answering here. She simply smiled a little and gave a non-answer.
“Just look forward to it. We’ll be holding a festival, after all.”
Yoshiaki moved back with a step that hung in the air briefly.
“Originally, the festival was meant to see Komahime off.”
“See her off?”
“That’s right. …According to the Testament descriptions, Komahime weds Hashiba Hidetsugu and then commits suicide along with Hidetsugu after he angers Hashiba. So do you understand what we were trying to do?”
Yoshiyasu did. Of course she did. This was Oushuu, where the Testament Union’s wishes did not apply. It was a land of resistance. If someone here had been told to die in accordance with the Testament…
“You were trying to use interpretations to escape and break through that death, weren’t you?”
“That’s right… By having her ‘commit suicide’ in advance and then leave Mogami, she could have lived however she wanted. And with her beloved who faced a similar destiny.”
“Eh?” responded the vassal. Her eyebrows rose. “With her beloved? You mean like getting married?”
Yoshiaki closed her eyes and placed a smile on her lips before speaking.
“Do you know who it was that faced a similar destiny?”
After a pause, Yoshiaki finally nodded. There was no surprise there. She simply stated the answer as if it were obvious.
“You saw the footage during today’s attack, didn’t you? …Kojirou and Komahime are both under Hashiba’s control now.”
“It is all in accordance with the promise we all made long ago.”
The shadowy place was of course full of shadows, but there was a blue light in the center.
The entire horizontal space gave a view of the sky in every direction. It was the large viewing deck on the rear of the Jurakudai.
The beds used to preserve Komahime and Hidetsugu’s ghostly bodies were located there. As usual, the girl was standing and the boy was sleeping. And…
“His sleep has grown a lot deeper since last night.”
That worried comment came from Niwa, #2 of P.A. Oda’s Five Great Peaks. She raised her eyebrows a little as she looked to the pulsating blue light and Komahime spoke to her with a weak expression.
She trailed off and restated her question.
“Is Hidetsugu-sama okay? He hasn’t moved at all since last night…”
“All I can say is that I don’t know. I was put in charge of Kantou for a different purpose.”
She looked to the gigantic long form visible in the southern sky.
“I’m supposed to use the Azuchi Castle to provide supplies. …That is, I load supplies in Kantou so they can be sent to Shibata’s forces as they invade Sviet Rus and Hashiba’s forces as they attack Mouri. …But this is outside the scope of my skills.”
Niwa looked back to the ether light rippling out from above the sleeping boy.
That was the ether “gate” that acted as an exit for the Seiryu. The light had a pulse at the moment, but it was smaller and weaker than the day before.
“The Seiryu must have been worn down a lot by last night’s exchange. To make a rapid recovery, it is consuming Lord Hidetsugu’s Internal Blessings. The Mouse is making use of its master.”
“Is there any way to stop it?”
“By defeating the Seiryu. …But that would be dangerous.”
“According to the spies in Date, a Seiryu with a physical body has appeared there. Meanwhile, the Seiryu here is more like a ghost. I’m guessing it’s taking the form that most suits Lord Hidetsugu and Lady Masamune’s ‘state of being’, but as a ghost, Lord Hidetsugu has a greater connection to the Seiryu. So if the Seiryu were destroyed…”
“It would affect Hidetsugu-sama?”
“Instead of ‘vanishing’, it would take damage and ‘be erased’. If you forcibly remove a ghost possessing someone or a Mouse that has grown too attached to its owner, it will harm that host or master in a similar way. So if possible, I would want to defeat the Seiryu in Date. Theirs is physical, so its defeat should have a minimal effect on Lady Masamune. If that happened…”
She looked to the ripples overhead.
“This Seiryu has a weaker presence, so it would either vanish or remain as only insignificant traces.”
“But can Date defeat their Seiryu?”
“It doesn’t look good. During last night’s battle, their 2nd Special Duty Officer Oniniwa, a god of war pilot, was badly injured. Of course, he also did some decent damage to the Seiryu. But…”
The ripples were weak and powerless.
“This Seiryu is going there…no, I should probably say it’s being called there. This Seiryu is a collection of ether, so it’s being called to Date to repair the damage to the physical one there. Which means…”
Niwa raised both index fingers and brought them together.
“Just like this, our ether Seiryu is joining together with the damaged Date Seiryu. So next time the ‘gate’ appears behind Lady Masamune, it’s probably a combined Seiryu that will come out.”
“You mean…?” Komahime tilted her head. “Date will defeat the combined Seiryu and make it Masamune-sama’s?”
“Probably. I think Date Vice President Katakura has done a good job setting this up. I’m betting he had a general idea how the Seiryu’s manifestation process worked and brought Lady Masamune along on yesterday’s shelling of the Ariake to test it out. …So now he’s confirmed that the Seiryu is split between an ether version and a physical version. And the effect on Lady Masamune was probably all part of his plan to not let her know what is going on. But…”
She placed a hand on the bed where Hidetsugu slept.
Immediately, bluish-white light rose like sparks from below her hand.
Komahime was hit by the after effects of the sparks and she covered her raised ears with her hands, but Niwa crushed the leaping light in her hand.
“The Seiryu is furious. Not angry or sad…enraged. Date’s fighting force is limited to their Vice Chancellor at the moment, so how do they hope to defeat the enraged Seiryu?”
But then Niwa held up her fist as ether light spilled from it. She stared at and through the light that poured down like water or sand.
“The Seiryu does not know why it is here or what it should do. It only knows it has strength and it likely thinks it will die if it does not use that strength. …That is truly what a dragon is. The Seiryu is a weapon designed to wield its strength in a rampage. It likely thinks that is its proper identity as a dragon, but it must also wonder why no one will accept it when that is the only way it can live. It must wonder why everyone tries to stop it.”
Niwa looked to Hidetsugu.
“Just like those afflicted with the unwanted destiny of their inherited name.”
Niwa did not respond to Komahime’s silence. She simply opened an insha kotob and checked the time. It was currently 4:32 PM. She gave Komahime a quick bow.
“I heard a stealth fleet left the Ariake. Most likely, their discussion concerning cooperation from Oushuu and Hiraizumi is complete.”
“You mean Musashi is gradually bringing the Oushuu forces to their side?”
“The three nations will begin their party with the ambassadors at five and begin the meeting at seven. Depending on the result, the Jurakudai and the Azuchi Castle may have to take action to oppose them and provide a warning.”
“I am prepared for that.”
When Komahime tensed up and nodded, Niwa smiled.
“Lady Komahime, please do not force yourself to think too much about your mother. If this does lead to battle, it should occur after moving far from here.”
“Shaja.” Niwa nodded. “They will be taking a short trip from the Ariake to Novgorod.”
“From the Ariake to Novgorod? What kind of unit of travel is that?”
“So you can’t stop the snarky comments either, Anayama?”
They were on the central road below the long stairway in front of Ariadust Academy.
The three nations meeting to be held after the special student general assembly was to be a secret meeting, but it would apparently actually be held on the bridge up above. For that reason, the road below was being used to celebrate the Vice President’s results.
“But are you really pleased with how that attack turned out?”
Isa heard a voice say “testament”.
“It went very well indeed, Isa-kun. With the special student general assembly over, the Vice President and Representative Council Head are sure to reconcile their differences and share their information. The information from Yagyuu and the Public Morals Committee Head would have exposed our attacks, so there was no point in hiding our presence any longer.” Anayama smiled bitterly. “Therefore. Musashi’s guard unit and committees will be searching for the dolls you’ve made. Musashi should also send a protest to our school, but…well, they’ll probably just insist they had no idea. Meanwhile, Musashi will have to use their security forces to their fullest, but…”
“We’ve shown that Sanada is trying to assassinate a VIP, but we failed at pulling it off.”
“But,” repeated Anayama as his presence viewed the surrounding food stands that were preparing to close shop. “Let’s enjoy this atmosphere a while longer and then get moving. I’ll tell Yuri-kun and Nezu-kun to do the same. I’ll tell them we’re going to take action when the time comes.”
- Ane means ‘elder sister’.
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