Horizon:Volume 5A Chapter 14
Chapter 14: Divided Worrier
Why? / Because
What for? / Because
Are you sure? / Because of that
Point Allocation (Empathy)
“Huh? Takigawa started the Battle of Kanagawa!?”
A voice yelled within a large room colored by moonlight.
The room contained long tables lined with chairs. It was a dining hall. The windows gave a view of the moon and of the galley landing alongside this one.
Someone kicked the table. It was past dinner time and there were few people here, so the sound of struck wood reverberated loudly across the room.
Not caring that the few people there were focused on him, a boy with dark skin slammed his hand on the table.
“What is the meaning of this, Toshi!?”
“I can only say that Takigawa must have felt that was the only way to deal with the situation, Na-chan.”
“Calm down,” added Matsu.
“How can I calm down!? That battle is the turning point for Takigawa!!”
“And that’s why Maeda is telling you to calm down, Sassa.”
Matsu clenched her fists and complained as a glasses girl sat in the next seat over while carrying some naan and cheese. She wore a track suit below a moonlit two-piece outfit and she turned toward Matsu.
“Oh, right. Matsu said it, not ‘Maeda’. Sorry.”
“I’ll forgive you.”
“Ha ha ha. Ma-chan is so cute.”
“You never change, do you, you idiot? And Fuwa, why are you sitting around eating?”
“This is the dining hall.”
“Keh,” spat out Narimasa, but he did relax his body.
“Shibata’s forces are going to start their pre-summer break cleaning soon, so don’t go making a mess of things,” Fuwa said to him.
“Fuwa, Takigawa’s helped you out too, right?”
“Then what are we supposed to do?” Fuwa rubbed on a single bite’s worth of cheese and looked Sassa in the eye. “Run all the way there? We’re in M.H.R.R. Even if you manage something on par with Hashiba’s Great Return, it’ll still take more than an hour to get there.”
Fuwa followed up on her question with something different.
“You’re not really asking what we should do, are you? You’re asking how this could have happened. If you could just put it like that, we could actually hold a conversation.” She cut off a piece of the cheese with a knife. “But, well, the Testament doesn’t have you fighting on the same side as Takigawa from here on.”
“Look.” She rested her elbow on the table and opened a few maps and lists of dates on an insha kotob. “According to the Testament, when Takigawa returns from Kantou, she rebels against Hashiba because the Oda clan forces fall into her control after our master’s assassination. And as part of Shibata’s forces, she takes part in the anti-Hashiba showdown at the Battle of Shizugatake.”
“Shaja. And Shibata Katsuie commits suicide by his own sword. Takigawa Ichimasu retires.”
“While you will be a part of Shibata’s forces, Sassa, you’ll be too busy dealing with Uesugi to do more than send a few of your own troops to the Battle of Shizugatake. …And after that, you never again have the chance to fight under the same flag as Takigawa Ichimasu.”
Fuwa thought their master’s assassination and the lack of unity between the Oda clan retainers afterwards were truly unfortunate.
…But I guess we all do have different backgrounds.
Those like her had been born in Oda regions, but Sassa had started out as a member of P.A. Oda’s Mlasi forces and had only joined the Oda clan later.
The Oda clan was a meritocracy, so he had been readily appointed to an important position, but even if he had received a warm welcome, a foreigner like him had needed to build his resolve and keep the proper distance when joining.
During that time, Takigawa had maintained a relaxed atmosphere around him without ruining her image as an upperclassman and Shibata had looked after him from a position of superiority from the beginning.
…People like that are probably good for people like Sassa who want to be accepted from the outside.
He was short-tempered, but he must have had a good upbringing because he could be reasoned with if you tried. She just wished he would use his inquiring mind in a more positive way, but…
“You can be so dumb, Sassa.”
“What the hell do you mean by that?”
“You react too much to what’s right in front of you. …Besides, the fact that you won’t share the battlefield with Takigawa is hardly new information. You’re only upset now because this is the beginning of her decline, but that’s none of your business. …It’s not like the two of you share your lives. You’re just another underclassman to her. I’m sure you feel indebted to her after she helped you out in the past, but you’re empathizing with her too much and turning it into a huge deal, y’see?”
“D-damn you. That ‘y’see’ at the end really pisses me off…”
She did not care. And if he was pissed off, that was all the more reason to say it.
“Takigawa knew what it meant to go to Kantou, but she did it anyway, y’see? …You don’t have to like it, but wanting to save her is nothing more than arrogance. You’d be robbing her of the decision she bet the rest of her life on.”
“What good is going there if I can’t say what I really think?”
“Can you take responsibility for Takigawa’s life? If you did that, you’d make an enemy of everyone who worked realllly hard on the history recreations that Takigawa went to Kantou for. And we’re the Testament Union right now.”
Saying that reminded Fuwa of something.
…Oh, so that’s it.
That was what Musashi was doing. They had done it when they saved their princess at Mikawa and they had done it when they saved Mary Stuart at England. They had been prepared to make an enemy of everyone.
…So that’s it…
Fuwa realized that Sassa had a very Musashi-like mentality.
He would later join forces with Matsudaira at Komaki Nagakute, but…
She groaned to herself while thinking he might be more honest with himself there than he was here.
He could have trouble when it came to handling his emotions.
So she made sure to say it.
“Besides, Takigawa Ichimasu is skilled enough to be counted among Oda’s Four Heavenly Kings, so Hashiba will use her as well and she’ll fight in the Battle of Komaki Nagakute, the direct confrontation between Hashiba and Matsudaira. …But Takigawa Ichimasu loses to Matsudaira there. And her life is only downhill afterwards. …She never wins another battle after losing at the Battle of Kanagawa.”
“That’s only according to the Testament. Interpretations can deal with that. You’ll be an enemy by then, Sassa, but will you hold back when you face her?”
“Then there’s your answer. You’re both the same there.”
“Sassa, you don’t have time to be worrying about others, do you?”
A short silence followed that question.
But Narimasa spoke up as if to drive it out as a nuisance.
“What do you mean?”
Don’t act like you don’t know, thought Fuwa with a nasal breath. Then she opened a new insha kotob at the tip of her knife. It displayed a simple map of Kyushu.
“Well, if you insist. Sassa, can you look at this objectively?”
The battle was underway in Kantou, but they had to focus on the more immediate problem.
…I have a short-term viewpoint, too.
Fuwa manipulated the display with that in mind.
“This is the current situation in Kyushu.”
The map of Kyushu quickly filled with black. That contained the marker for M.H.R.R.
“This is what Hashiba controls. Before conquering K.P.A. Italia, Hashiba took care of the Kyushu Campaign which had its foundation in allying herself with Kyushu. Sassa, you and the others took part in that from M.H.R.R., right?”
“That’s right,” confirmed Maeda. “The Kyushu Campaign was a flag toward triggering the Bunroku Campaign that used Kyushu as a foothold. Hashiba’s forces are only able to invade Kantou now because we divided our forces and recreated Hashiba’s Kyushu Campaign. So…”
“Na-chan, Takigawa can only do her thing in Kantou because we carried out the Kyushu Campaign and created the foothold for invading Edo. It isn’t like we haven’t done anything for her.”
“I know that. Shut up.”
“Yes, yes. As long as you understand.”
Fuwa nodded and looked straight at Sassa using the eyes behind her glasses.
“Now, about you.”
“Since you’ve completed the Kyushu Campaign, Sassa, you’re near the end of your history recreation. The Kyushu Campaign was completed in advance, so there isn’t much left for your time on the battlefield.”
Narimasa reached out and manipulated her insha kotob.
It displayed the bottom of Hokuriku, between Kantou and Kinki.
“All I have left are my two battles before the Kyushu Campaign: the Hashiba-Matsudaira showdown at the Battle of Komaki Nagakute and the Battle of Suemori Castle following that. There, I join Matsudaira as Hashiba’s enemy and then fight and lose to Toshi who acts on Hashiba’s behalf. …The Testament says I’m given Higo after the Kyushu Campaign, fail, and am ordered to commit suicide, but this here is effectively the last thing for me.” He turned a sharp gaze Fuwa’s way from below his sunglasses. “But what of it? I’m well aware I don’t have much time left. Given what battles I have left, I’ll rebel against Hashiba with Shibata at the Battle of Shizugatake and then fight the Battles of Komaki Nagakute and Suemori Castle. …What does any of that matter? Hmm?”
“What kind of idiot tries to intimidate a girl?”
“Idiot! Idiot!” repeated Matsu.
“Shut up. It’s a bad habit!”
“Everyone loves you for having an actual explanation, Na-chan.”
Sassa walked angrily around the table to reach Toshiie, but Toshiie crouched down and crab-walked around the table to keep his distance.
After a full rotation, Sassa came to a stop.
“What are you trying to say with all this, Fuwa?”
“I kind of understand why you’re worried about Takigawa.”
“The battle of Komaki Nagakute is Takigawa’s final battle according to the Testament. And since we’ve already done the Kyushu Campaign, the Battle of Suemori Castle that happens right after the Battle of Komaki Nagakute will be your final battle. …You’ll both finish your roles at about the same time.”
That’s so like Na-chan, thought Toshiie.
No, this may be more like Takigawa, he added.
When Narimasa had joined P.A.M. long ago, he had been fairly touchy, but it had been Shibata who had knocked him down a notch and Takigawa who had looked after him while maintaining her dignity as an upperclassman.
But those two upperclassmen were going to retire as students one after another.
None of them had ever thought about graduation. They had just assumed the important people above them would support them and guide them.
But history marched ever onward. A lot of it was resolved through interpretations, but things generally followed the Testament descriptions. That was especially true of nations blessed with skilled people that stood on the main stage of history.
Narimasa understood that intellectually and had lived accordingly, but…
…Our role ends with the Kyushu Campaign.
Thanks to the attack on Uesugi, their job had ended early. Everyone involved in the third attack there had held a party with those who would remain to fight and negotiate another day.
At the time, Toshiie had realized he would never see some of those people again.
Narimasa had likely learned there that he was with some people he would never see again and that he would soon be one of those people the others would never see again.
…And it’s happening for him after Shibata and at the same time as Takigawa.
“Na-chan, your last battle will be against me. Since we’re telling you not to worry about Takigawa here, I should also tell you not to hold back with me.”
“Yeah, you do love your money.”
“Testament,” replied Toshiie. “We knew up front what we would lose, but I still want to avoid losing it if I can.”
“You sound like Musashi,” said Narimasa as he sat down.
Similarly, everyone else in the dining hall breathed a sigh of relief. That was partially due to their fear of Narimasa, but…
…They must also be worried for all of us.
Meanwhile, Narimasa crossed his arms behind his head and spoke.
“All my focus on things I’ve lost has already been used up on my little sister. I might lose some others, but none of them can mean more than her, so they don’t matter. But…”
“If it looks like we’re gonna lose something, I end up wanting to see if we can do something about it right up to the very end. …That’s all.”
“I said that’s all, idiot. …What’s that smile for, Toshi?”
“Well, Na-chan, that’s just not fair at all.”
A bitter laugh escaped Toshiie and something else suddenly came to mind.
“But…what about Musashi’s Chancellor?”
“He’s hopeless. He’s too careless and lacks any tension at all. …We’re talking about people that’ll do comedy routines on the battlefield, remember?”
“But we lost to them at Novgorod.”
“We withdrew,” corrected Narimasa.
…Come to think of it, that’s right.
With a mental “most likely”, he decided Musashi must be enjoying themselves on the battlefield displayed on his lernen figur.
His group was enjoying themselves too, but Musashi lacked something they had.
…A focus on destruction and an atmosphere steeped in impatience and anger.
When your inherited name leads you to a history recreation of destruction or failure, you definitely feel impatience and anger, thought Toshiie.
But Musashi lacked that. They seemed to pass from incident to incident through idiocy and laughter. They had to have lost a lot during the Battle of Mikatagahara, but…
…The information we received from Sanada says they didn’t really change even with all that anxiety.
That had been an act.
That meant they were not true idiots. They believed they would have a future if they worked to remain cheerful even when painful things happened. That had likely become a habit for them, and more importantly…
“Musashi’s Chancellor is probably an excellent example for them.”
The provisional rule had taken away Musashi’s rights and their position as a proper nation, so they had become a gathering place for the other nations’ outcasts.
To put it another way, they were a home for those without a future.
An incompetent Chancellor and Student Council President had historically been chosen for that country on the precipice.
They would have originally been choosing an incompetent figurehead, but that gradually shifted toward choosing an incompetent entertainer, which led to the current Chancellor and President.
Since they had no future, that nation had to put on an act of strength and they were ruled by a smiling idiot.
To put it another way…
“Since there are times when things won’t go well even with the best of efforts, they’ve decided to take it seriously but not think too deeply about it and remain carefree.”
That was the Musashi style.
It did not mean they were not serious. It just meant they did not focus on those things as much. And…
“Since they’re taking it seriously, they’re fine with smiling, losing, and putting on an act of strength when loss is inevitable.”
…What a twisted bunch.
But that was the pride of someone without a future. Even if they lost everything when they lost, they could smile because they had taken it seriously and they could say they hadn’t really lost because their tough spirit had not been broken.
And when that happened, they would hide their grim expression and do silly things so they would feel no regret.
Toshiie had heard of a similar ideology before. Fuwa would have as well.
“What is it, Toshi?”
Narimasa spoke to his colleague who had suddenly fallen silent and looked down.
After a pause, Toshiie responded.
He turned Fuwa’s insha kotob toward himself.
“Umm.” He placed a hand on his forehead. “What do you think it means to live without regret?”
“That’s a question for Shibata.”
Why is he asking about something people are always telling him? wondered Narimasa.
“That idiot enjoys every single day and lives life to its fullest.”
Toshiie would normally have said “Yes, he does” in response.
But he did not. He instead turned the insha kotob toward Narimasa.
He got up from his seat and sat at the foot of the table to be between Narimasa and Fuwa.
Then he spoke quietly.
“What is going on here? …I want to ask Takigawa once she gets back.”
They could see the light of cannon fire on the screen.
And Toshiie looked like he was trying to stare straight through it.
“We have resolve, but we might lack acceptance.”
The Kantou sky was full of light.
The source of the light was simple. First, the high-speed ship called the Shirasagi Castle scattered accelerated ether light while circling around the Ariake. By firing towards the Ariake inside that circle, it forced the Ariake to open many defense barriers and fortify their defenses as those barriers shattered.
A band of light flew in a large circle in the sky and light sprayed from the rooftop receiving that attack.
The Ariake had removed its stealth barrier. That allowed them to fully open their defense barriers and defend against the Shirasagi Castle’s attack.
But that attack was dense and constant.
By including the 4 additional attack ships into the attack rotation, the three-hull ship alternated between its port ship, center ship, starboard ship, and accompanying ships as it attacked and shattered that light against the Ariake. But…
“Will this work!?”
A voice spoke from atop the Ariake.
At the same time, something lined up on the Ariake.
They were defense barriers created by “Ariake”.
The line of barriers took form around the top of the Ariake with the perfect number and pattern to fully block the Shirasagi Castle’s attack.
A god of war firing unit was protecting the damaged armor on the southwest corner of the Ariake. They swapped out the magazines attached to their muzzle-loading rapid-fire flintlock guns.
They were switching from defense barrier ammunition to anti-ship ammunition.
“Fire once your shot is in range!” said Naomasa as their commander.
They began firing.
Naomasa also opened a sign frame linked to Jizuri Suzaku’s sight devices and narrowed down the sight.
She fired too.
Their shots were vastly outnumbered by the enemy’s, but…
Novice: “Don’t rush this. If we’re defending against their shells, we can’t fire back directly along their line of fire. If you aren’t used to firing with this kind of height difference, aim for the base of their bridge. Try to avoid targeting the side of their hull because they’re prepared to take fire there.”
Four Eyes: “Did you read that in a book?”
Novice: “Wh-what’s wrong with that!? This is the time to show off that kind of knowledge and make it useful! If you get that, then hold your tongue!”
Four Eyes: “Ah ha ha. …So you can use that tone with me, Toussaint?”
Almost Everyone: “Eeek!”
Regardless, their firing accuracy was not perfect. Even if it was a large ship, it was hard to hit something moving so quickly.
“Ignore it when it circles behind us! Fire thrice when it’s passing from west-southwest to south-southeast! That’s your quota!”
Asama: “Sorry, Masa. My Konoha-based targeting program is still experimental, so I’ve only put your data in there…”
Smoking Girl: “Yeah, I’m taking that into consideration. I’ll send you feedback, so get it in order ASAP. I can get by with a normal one.”
But as they fired, the god of war firing unit exchanged a glance regarding the previous command.
“U-um, which way is southwest-west…?”
“It’s that way! Um, the direction with the stars shining in the heavens. Yes, that definite light over there.”
“Oh, hey! You’re the head of the Kepler-style astronomy club ‘Kepler with a Running Start’!”
“Can I get an answer to which way that is!?”
No two of them seemed to have the same standard for interpreting it.
Naomasa had no choice but to send Asama a request to have direction marker sign frames displayed around the Ariake. They were hard to see from the corner, but they would help more than just her unit.
But as they continued attacking and counterattacking, Naomasa realized something.
…It’s the same?
She sensed a pattern to the enemy’s cannon fire.
Smoking Girl: “Someone, what is Takigawa’s objective in this battle?”
Silver Wolf: “O-okay! We’re in a hurry, so I’ll answer! Um, Takigawa’s objective should be the destruction of the Musashi and the Ariake. After all, the Battle of Kanagawa happens immediately after Nobunaga’s assassination. Completing it will be a Kantou-side flag toward that assassination. So Takigawa cannot afford to leave the Musashi and the Ariake unharmed now that she’s started it.”
Wise Sister: “In other words, it’ll feel great if we can win here!”
Asama: “Just to be safe, why exactly is that?”
Wise Sister: “We’ll be in ecstasy, our excitement will be through the roof, our mood will be better than ever, and we won’t be able to stop smiling. And when we’re praised for it, Mitotsudaira will piss herself in joy, Asama will wiggle around in her heart, Horizon will give a thumbs up, and the great wise sister will begin a constant full-count fever time! Delicious!”
Silver Wolf: “That doesn’t explain anything and I don’t like what you slipped into the middle there!”
Hori-ko: “Do you do that too, Mitotsudaira-sama?”
Silver Wolf: “Eh? W-well, I’ve never tried it…”
“Ah, no. Dear, just because I’m always on the attack and my defense and evasion levels are in negative territory is no reason to start up with that petting skill of yours. Do it too much and I’ll overload with happiness and do something indecent. Ah, no, doooon’t stop. Yes, there, there. Yes, yes, yes. Let’s go all the way! I’ll make sure to pay you back plenty afterwards.”
Silver Wolf: “I…th-think that shouldn’t be a problem.”
Mal-Ga: “I’m making so much progress on this storyboard!”
Flat Vassal: “I-isn’t it a little soon for that?”
Gold Mar: “Ga-chan, we’re in a battle right now, so maybe you should keep that to yourself.”
Mal-Ga: “What are you talking about, Margot? If you can have fun making a doujinshi while waging war or do nothing while disinterestedly waging war, isn’t the former the better option!?”
Gold Mar: “I meant that mentioning it might make them run away. And the Chancellor might focus on it and start doing unnatural things.”
When everyone looked over, the idiot swung his body left and right and then twisted his hips.
Mal-Ga: “I can’t do that, Margot… This is a competition. I mustn’t spy on them. And it’s the artist’s job to find the true actions hidden behind the unnatural ones.”
Uqui: “Well said.”
Unturning: “The scary part is that this is all the response that gets in Musashi…”
Novice: “But now…can we get back on topic? Yes. It would be bad for Takigawa if she stops Musashi here. It would be much better for her if she returned to P.A. Oda, received backup, and recovered her position.”
Obscene: “Why doesn’t she do that? She must feel lonely striking back on her own like this!”
Sticky King: “That’s right! We are the friends of lonely children! Let’s go help her!”
Bell: “Sh-she’s an…adult. I…think?”
Obscene: “Really? Well, if she’s an adult, she can go it alone!”
Sticky King: “But she mustn’t forget to have the courage to let us know if she’s in pain!”
Vice President: “When did this turn into a counseling session? Anyway, Neshinbara, do you have anything to say?”
Novice: “Oh, yes, judge. …Takigawa is trying to stop Musashi because…um, what was it? Oh, right. P.A. Oda has shifted toward their attack on Mouri, so she doesn’t want to cause them any trouble. And by wearing us down, she can rob us of the power to interfere with Hashiba as they head off to Mouri.”
Neshinbara sighed before continuing.
Novice: “So Takigawa needs to wear us down enough that we can’t take our next action. On the other hand, we can earn a debt from Mouri by wearing her down here. It’s obvious she’ll be sent to Mouri when she withdraws from Kantou, after all. So in a way, Takigawa wants the same thing we do here.”
Smoking Girl: “If we can endure this, we’ll have forced them to consume ammunition and fuel. And if we’re fine afterwards, we can sell our name and make P.A. Oda look less powerful. That’s enough for us.”
“I doubt it’ll be that easy…!”
As soon as he said that, a change occurred in the sky.
There were now two Shirasagi Castles.
“It copied itself…!?”
Naomasa frowned at the image from the sign frame synced with the sight devices.
There were now two Shirasagi Castles, but this was not Techno Magie or anything of the sort.
“The ship split apart, didn’t it!!?”
“Judge!” shouted the student in charge of observation. “The entire Shirasagi fleet has split in two and is moving apart!”
The Shirasagi castle had split into two groups. One contained the central ship and the 4 accompanying ships. The other contained the port and starboard ships.
The central ship’s group accelerated over to the opposite side of the Ariake from the port and starboard ships.
They kept up the speed of their circle around the Ariake and continued firing.
“This is ‘Ariake’ with a request. …Evacuate the upper surface! This surpasses the number of available defense barriers! Over.”
The number of shells had changed.
Before, the three-hull ship and 4 single-hull ships had set up a rotation, but now they were using a double rotation between the two groups. And they took opposite positions while flying in a large circle around the Ariake.
“Shells incoming…! Over.”
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