Horizon:Volume 4C Chapter 75
Chapter 75: Attacker of the Dance Hall
I had decided that
I had decided already
I had decided this
Point Allocation (No Control)
Alarms filled the Ariake.
The streets were full of stands and people like a festival was underway, but everyone had come to a stop to look at the sign frames that appeared in the air.
Gin looked to one of those sign frames while standing protectively behind Masazumi who sat atop the academy bridge.
“A combat fleet led by the Jurakudai is moving northwest?”
“This appears to be an advance fleet, Gin. Depending on how you look at this, the Azuchi Castle could be seen as rushing to bring supplies to the Shibata forces and Hashiba.”
It was obvious why they were doing this. The advance fleet led by the Jurakudai was meant to attack Sviet Rus. And the Azuchi Castle was providing them with supplies before continuing on to attack Mouri.
Defense of Edo and Satomi would likely be left to Takigawa Ichimasu who had arrived in Houjou.
The sign frame showed Niwa looking toward them while standing on the accelerating Jurakudai’s bow. And Komahime was with her, giving off a ghostly glow below the moonlight.
“Where do you think they’re headed?”
“Novgorod,” said Masazumi as she sat with her back turned to Gin.
She had several sign frames open. The great number of them made the anteater on her shoulder seem careless in its management, but their numbers only grew further.
And yet she did not close any of them. She traced her fingers along what seemed to be the important points and merely stacked them up once she was done checking on them. Their numbers were in the hundreds, but she would occasionally divide the stack and stick one in the middle.
…Does that mean she understands them all and knows where they are?
Juana did something similar, but her method was to open a vast amount of data, locate the important pieces, and read those. She had the eminent sense and knowledge needed to grasp the whole and guess where the important pieces were located, but she did not understand everything she saw in real time.
But this Vice President was different. Most likely, she lacked Juana’s sense of how to pull the important points out of the whole. But instead…
…She has an incredible ability to speed read and understand it all…
Gin was aware the girl was always reading books. But…
“Eh? Oh, what is it? I’m focusing on this right now, so I can’t divert too much attention your way.”
“Judge. I just have one question. Do you always do it like this?”
“What do you mean ‘like this’?”
…I knew it.
She did not realize how abnormal her own actions were. To her, profiling such a massive amount of information was an everyday thing. So…
“I mean stacking up all those sign frames…”
“Oh, judge. I’ve always jotted down the things I notice, but sign frames are really convenient. And Tsukinowa has recently learned how to help and can actually keep up with me. I’m glad I don’t need all that paper anymore.”
She even sounded like she was enjoying it. It was a lot like running into someone at the bookstore and having them introduce you to their favorite book. And…
“Okay, I’ve got a pretty good picture of this now. …It really is Novgorod.”
The Vice President’s shoulders rose and fell. The action caused the anteater to bounce up a little, but…
It opened a sign frame showing a map of the Sviet Rus region. A ribbon line showed Shibata’s fleet advancing toward Novgorod in western Sviet Rus.
But that was not all. Lines were approaching from Sviet Rus’s southern border and from Kantou.
“Sakuma, Mori, and the Jurakudai’s Hidetsugu fleet,” said Gin. “All of their spare forces intend to join Shibata for the attack on Novgorod.”
“Should we see this as P.A. Oda fearing that we will meet with Holland’s Prince of Orange at Novgorod?”
“It is true P.A. Oda would find it inconvenient if we met with Holland, one of Westphalia’s victors. So I believe they may intend to bring down Novgorod using the fighting that leads into the Battle of Nanao Castle or the Battle of Tedorigawa.”
“Judge.” The Vice President scratched her head. “Novgorod might contain the oldest Divinely Ordained Prayer Academy. And the Prince of Orange said we could discuss the Genesis Project.”
“It would be a bit of a problem if Novgorod is brought down or taken by P.A. Oda. …And if the Prince of Orange is captured, it will change the very lead-up to Westphalia.”
“Then, Vice President, do you intend to send out the Musashi?”
“Not yet.” The Vice President brushed up her bangs and lightly flipped her wrist around. “We still don’t know what Date will do. …And I know all too well why. Simply put, the three nations meeting isn’t over yet. So…”
Vice President: “Mukai, Urquiaga. We’re counting on you.”
Suzu faced someone.
They were five meters apart and the other person wore a dress over her prosthetic arms and legs.
“What is it, Musashi Ambassador?”
Good, thought Suzu. She let me use her name. But…
“Can you…still not side with…Musashi?”
“Testament. That’s a good question. To be honest, I didn’t expect for you to solve our impossible problem like that. …Who would have thought you could paint a picture of our future without relying on your military might?”
“That’s right,” said Katakura while moving to the right end of the hall. “That had nothing to do with using Musashi’s military might to accomplish something. You showed us an image of the future and had us decide what we would do and what we wanted to do. I’m jealous. That style of negotiation is only possible for a nation destined to become the overwhelming victors.”
Katakura laughed quietly by the wall.
“Of course, if Musashi is going to be the victor, you’ll have to show us something at least that nice if we’re to negotiate. I think you did an excellent job. And your Chancellor was serious about that, which is what makes him so damned hard to deal with. Only an idiot could be so confident you’ll win just because you’re going to be the victors in the future.”
“Is that…a compliment…?”
Suzu tilted her head and Katakura nodded.
“It is. I’m certain now that Musashi will attempt to take the path of the great ruler. Instead of just following Hashiba down the path they’re taking, you intend to catch up to and overtake them.”
“But you can’t do that now,” said Narumi. “You understand why, don’t you?”
She did understand why Musashi could not pursue Hashiba at the moment.
Masamune’s head hung down as she sat in the throne-like chair at the far end of the hall. She was limp, unmoving, and almost seemed to be sleeping, but she was not.
There was a line of wind above and behind her.
It was the Seiryu’s exit.
With a pulsing tempo, the wind and thickness of air flowed out. It gradually grew and Narumi opened her mouth as the moving air washed over her back.
“Let me be honest: looking at our Testament descriptions, the Date clan cannot survive without Matsudaira. …No, to be more accurate, perhaps I should say we cannot achieve our greatest victory without Matsudaira.”
“Please understand. …The closer the relationship, the more important the initial construction of that relationship becomes. We can’t have Musashi looking down on us from the beginning. We must be on equal footing so we can walk together. So please understand. …Date does not want sympathy, privilege, fame, or stability. As the people of Oushuu, a land of resistance and the home of many historic warriors, the Date clan wishes to stand side by side with the Far East’s future rulers. That is all we need to be satisfied.”
Narumi smiled bitterly and turned away from Suzu.
“But that doesn’t look possible. You are sure to move out ahead of us and overtake Hashiba.”
The pressure grew behind her.
“The Jurakudai is on its way to Novgorod. As it leaves with Kojirou sleeping aboard, the Seiryu’s bonds will be removed and it will arrive here. And it will likely be a fully physical version. As long as the Seiryu is here, Date can’t negotiate properly.”
“No, we can’t,” confirmed Narumi. “Unfortunately, Date currently lacks the definite fighting force needed to defeat the Seiryu. At best, we can endure its attack. So let me be very clear: leave this place at once. And hurry back to the Musashi. Return so you can tell them that Date can’t go with Musashi.”
Once she said that, the air swelled out behind Narumi and something appeared as if rising up on its own.
“Now go. …I don’t want you to see us fail.”
Narumi was saying they could not stop the Seiryu and that Date could not go with Musashi.
And Suzu did not like the sound of that. So…
Me: “Eh? You need something?”
Asama: “Yes, I do! Hurry! Oh, you go ahead, Suzu-san!”
Bell: “R-right! U-um…right now…D-Date…not looking good…um…!”
Suzu gave a shout.
Bell: “We can’t let it…end like this!”
Me: “Okay, okay. Hey, Uqui, you need to finish up the elder sister character’s route, right? You have my permission, so go a little nuts there.”
Eh? thought Suzu as she turned around. There was a wall there. A wall unshaken by the dragon’s wind.
It was Urquiaga.
He slowly walked forward while raising one of his forearms. He patted her on the back and then took another step forward, but…
“He may be an idiot, but I have our leader’s permission. I wanted to avoid doing this because a bodyguard isn’t supposed to step out front and solve all the problems, but Mukai, what do you say as the local commander? Explain the situation to me.”
“R-right. Judge,” said Suzu. “Can you…persuade them?”
“Hm. Unlike Masazumi, I am a pacifist, so I might just be able to do that.”
Vice President: “I didn’t start a war earlier, did I!? Weren’t you watching!?”
Gold Mar: “But wasn’t it your meeting that got Shibata and Niwa moving?”
Perhaps so, but Urquiaga scratched his head. And…
He faced Narumi and he spoke.
“You are quite pathetic, Date Narumi. What happened to the willpower I saw the day before yesterday?”
Narumi stood in front of the half-dragon and felt the dragon’s breath spilling out behind her.
The Seiryu had yet to come out, but there was effectively nothing she could do.
The Seiryu had been worn down. It would not yet have recovered from the damage it took the night before. But…
…It’s no use.
The Seiryu would go all out in order to recover and to protect Masamune with its wounded body.
And this time, the physical Seiryu and ether Seiryu would likely be fully joined for the first time.
“Incredible, isn’t it?”
The ether light and wind escaping the gate were far greater than the night before. The gentle start was all the proof Narumi needed. The Seiryu likely knew that it would harm Masamune if it appeared all at once.
But Narumi understood. After her few encounters with the Seiryu, she understood all too well. Even with Unturning Centipede, stopping this version of the Seiryu would be difficult.
The scales on its throat had been shattered. It had vanished like that last night, so there was only one way to fully stop the Seiryu.
…Use that opening to stab deep into its throat and to its brainstem.
Even with a large god of war, accomplishing that in the midst of battle would be nearly impossible.
The only upside was that it would come down to a single blow instead of a protracted exchange of blows. Date’s plan was for her to pierce its throat with Unturning Centipede.
…But it won’t work.
Its power was greater than the night before. Once it appeared, even approaching would be difficult. It was even possible the ether interference would cause Unturning Centipede and her prosthetics to break apart. So…
“Pathetic, hm? You don’t hold back, do you?”
She wanted to tell him he did not understand her. But that would only be a complaint. She was Date’s Vice Chancellor and the last person they could afford to have break. So…
“I am not pathetic. I am merely being pessimistic. …I will do what I can.”
“The wind is blowing up your skirt.”
“I’m used to it.”
“Are you saying you feel no embarrassment?”
“I’m used to putting up with it.”
“Don’t pray toward it.”
“Heh. You have grown a lot stronger in this short time…”
“Try to remember who it was who grabbed my breast.”
Once she said that, a sudden smile came to Narumi’s face. It surprised even her. After all…
…I won’t have to deal with this stupid half-dragon anymore.
She did not hide it.
Their exchanges involved ridiculous things that would never happen normally. She could never predict what would happen, the concept of hierarchy seemed to vanish, and his silly responses contained no unneeded concern. Most important of all, he was about as powerful as her and would clash with her without hesitation. No one within the established order of the Date clan would do that, so the presence of someone like that…
It made her happy.
It seemed to tell her that she was not the only person like this.
As the Vice Chancellor with prosthetic limbs and a desire for battle, she had never felt that anyone could be with her. She had figured that no one could keep up with her body. Even if they were kind to her, she always maintained her doubts.
What about him?
She did not know.
And she felt that knowing would not be enough.
So she tried to turn her back on him. Just like when he would say crucial things to her, she averted her gaze.
“Hurry up and leave. This is Date’s battlefield.”
“Don’t go, Narumi.”
She heard a voice.
“You cannot win on your own.”
What he said shamed her as a Vice Chancellor. He was essentially saying she was weak.
But even she thought he was right. So…
“I shall assist you.”
When he said that, Narumi replied half on reflex.
She turned back toward him.
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
Why was her initial reason that it would put him in danger?
Why did she only later remember that this was Date’s problem?
“The Seiryu issue has to do with Date’s leader! If we allow Musashi to interfere during our meeting, it will create a debt we owe Musashi!”
“Can’t you just hire me as a mercenary? …Yes, that is easily resolved. But I doubt you would accept that answer.”
“Of course not. I’m not going to gamble on some convenient interpretation.”
Before she had even finished speaking, he opened his body’s thrusters in standby mode. The temperature difference created a thin white fog around him. Even so, he took another step toward her.
“I request a duel, Date Vice Chancellor. …This is coming from Musashi’s 2nd Special Duty Officer, so surely you will accept.”
“Wha-…!? Do you realize the situation here!?”
“This is a confrontation between the two of us,” replied the half-dragon. “If I lose, I will leave. If I win, you will hear me out.”
She did not know what he was thinking, but she had her position as Vice Chancellor to think about. If he would leave if he lost, then that would be the best solution.
After all, she had Unturning Centipede, just like on the deck the day before. Unfortunately for him, he could not defeat Unturning Centipede. His acceleration and armor may have been superior, but his half-dragon body could not handle the continual re-casting of defense spells or the independent power of her legs and arms. But…
“You don’t understand?” This is to complete the elder sister character route.”
…I see… Hmm, so that’s it…
Her heart grew oddly cold.
Guys really do like those genre classifications, don’t you? Hmm… I see…
“Fine then. It looks like I have a good enough reason myself. Namely, to protect Masamune.”
She was perfectly willing to settle this with her full strength.
“Here I go.”
She boarded Unturning Centipede before he even got the word out. She had some trouble preventing her red dress from being caught, but…
Narumi set her entire body in motion.
And she knew this would be the last time she danced with him.
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