Horizon:Volume 5A Chapter 8
Chapter 8: Gatherer at the Surrounded Sea
You can see it in the distance
It also exists nearby
Point Allocation (Like a Wave)
“They certainly had a long journey. And they’ll be heading back before long.”
A voice rang out above the ocean that reflected the morning sky.
It was in the sky above a large bay.
That surrounded portion of sea had an entrance opened on the south and ships would occasionally travel in or out through it, but one structure cast a greater shadow than any other.
“The Azuchi Castle will finally be joining the invasion of Mouri.”
A woman’s voice came from the west of the bay. A giant but slender three-hull ship floated in the eastern sky there. That high-speed aerial warship bore the name Shirasagi Castle and a woman in a moon-colored summer uniform stood on the central bow with her hands on her hips and her eyes on the eastern sky.
She was viewing a large black ship with 6 hulls in the land port built on the shore.
The name Azuchi Castle was visible on the bow of the flat ship.
Then an insha kotob appeared next to the woman. It displayed a girl with her hair tied back high on her head.
“Takigawa-sama, this is Fukushima on the Azuchi Castle. We have completed the transfer of control to the Tottori Castle. We will leave port at 8 tonight and continue straight to Mouri without resupplying.”
“Shaja. Good luck. I hear the other side kept the upper hand and made a mess of the first battle in Mouri today, but we planned for that. This begins for real starting tomorrow. You’ll be there by then, won’t you?”
“Testament. We have our end-of-term exams, but we intend to rush through those tonight. In Mouri, they are working out who will be the elites of the Hashiba forces. …Or so Takenaka-sama says.”
“Take was so excited about getting into the Ten Spears, but she hasn’t changed at all. She’s still so down-to-earth and severe. Will you tell her not to get seasick? The frontline commander has to be on a ship, after all.”
“I hear it is too late for that…”
“Ha ha. She’s also inherited the name of Kuroda Kanbei, a tactician feared even by Hashiba, but she’s still a complete lost cause on that front. She should probably remake her body a little. …Anyway, it’ll be sad not to have the Azuchi Castle around anymore, but that’s just how it is. For a while, it was split apart to take the place of the devastated villages in the area, but it really shines when it’s all together. It’s a good ship.”
“Testament. I am glad to hear thee say that. And thank thee very much for accommodating us even though we will be leaving so soon.”
“Yes, yes. Hashiba was at Lake Biwa Azuchi for an interim report, right? Did you get any souvenirs, Fuku?”
“Testament. I got some Edo Bananas, including enough for the rest of the Ten Spears, but should I really have gotten so many?”
“To be honest, we’ve had way too many of them since there are almost no tourists now. The Asakusa specialty known as a Black Thunder Crackers are pretty good, but Asakusa is Musashi, right? I feel like someone would complain.”
There was movement beyond the Azuchi Castle as Takigawa spoke. The Tottori Castle, a large transport ship behind the Azuchi Castle, was beginning to move into the land port. Takigawa followed it with her eyes.
“This is really a new situation for Edo. Look, Fuku, the Ariake has removed its upper surface stealth to watch us.”
Some white cirrus clouds were visible in the northeast sky. Fukushima looked to them inside the screen.
“Takigawa-sama, thou should keep an eye on them. Kiyo-dono and I need to retrain ourselves.”
“Don’t worry,” said Takigawa as she smiled and looked to the right, which was west.
There was a black galley fleet there. It was fortifying the west side of the bay.
“We have the Houjou Association of Indian States fleet. …Because I’m supposed to be the inspector of Houjou and the rest of Kantou. So if I’m going to return to Lake Biwa Azuchi…”
She laughed and crossed her arms.
“It’ll be after the Battle of Kanagawa. …According to the Testament, that’s when Houjou rebels against me. And after that sends me back, I don’t do much more of import. After I side with Shiba at Shizugatake, I retire until I meet my end at Komaki Nagakute. So I think I should do what I can here.”
Fukushima started to say something but held her tongue. Then she put on a flat-eyebrowed expression over the insha kotob.
“Kiyo-dono and I…and Wakisaka and the others too. We will visit Kantou on occasion. And with the Bunroku and Keichou Campaigns, Yukinaga-sama and Kuki-sama can visit thee too.”
“I can speak with Cookie and the others over the divine transmission. You underclassmen don’t need to worry about an upperclassman like me. Besides, I don’t really understand it all, but you all have a fair number of memories concerning Kantou, right?”
“Testament. That is a secret, so I cannot say much. …There is something that I wish we had been able to deal with while we were here, though.”
“It’s fine. P.A. Oda doesn’t question people’s pasts. That helped me out too.” Takigawa laughed. “Well, leave Kantou to me. Even if something happens, I’ll return the Shirasagi Castle to Hashiba and sink the Musashi. You lent me more than enough of a fighting force for that. Although that’s left us so busy with school events that Mr. Picky won’t shut up about it.”
“Yes, Akechi-sama does an…impressive job of carrying out his duties as Representative Committee Head despite being in Kyou…”
“Shaja. Fuku, get some sleep. You’re heading out on the first ship tonight, aren’t you? …Night is good. The moon is the symbol of P.A. Oda. It’s a source of power.”
The sun was setting in the sky. It began to grow a little yellow, but it was still bright. Takigawa took a breath as she looked to it.
“This is the sky of early summer shifting into summer.”
She looked across the orange-dyed sky and saw a bluish-black color and bright stars in the east.
And to the north, she saw some horizontal fog and some small ships in the distance.
“That would be the Oushuu merchant fleets. The Ariake has removed its upper stealth, so we can see them now. But…”
While Fukushima said that, those ships suddenly vanished.
The Ariake’s stealth barrier was back up.
They were hiding. At the same time, the second-in-command ran up the stairs leading below deck.
“Lady Takigawa! The Ariake is fully hiding itself behind its stealth barrier once more!”
Takigawa sensed definite willpower behind the Ariake’s action. She might have been imagining it, but…
…They’ve made up their mind.
Her second-in-command held out an insha kotob that displayed a close-up image of the vanishing Ariake.
But Takigawa smiled and kept her eyes on the northeastern sky.
“They’re watching, they’re watching. They have to be watching our actions here. And the Mouri battle has to be inspiring them to action of their own. They’re probably rebuilding their motivation right about now,” she said. “It’s been a week since they got back from Novgorod and summer break is coming up soon, so they must be as busy as us working through their official events. Their elation after victory at Novgorod will be wearing off, but if they don’t act now, that power and willpower are meaningless.”
“Then, Takigawa-sama, are thou saying…?”
“Shaja.” Takigawa nodded. “They’re after Houjou and they want to leave Mouri indebted to them. So when the Azuchi leaves tonight, the Musashi will probably leave as well. For example…”
“They might fire on the Azuchi to do as much damage as they can to the supplies and troops being transported to Mouri and then they won’t attack Houjou. In doing that, they can show they have no hostility against Houjou, which will help them in the negotiations leading into the later Tensho Jingo Conflict and Siege of Odawara. But…”
“There’s one obstacle preventing them from reaching the Tensho Jingo Conflict and the Siege of Odarawa: me.”
Takigawa smiled bitterly and thought about her Testament descriptions.
“Yes, according to the Testament, I grow restless when I hear of our master’s assassination, so Houjou attacks me and I lose the castle I’m using to manage Kantou. …That’s the local battle known as the Battle of Kanagawa.”
That carried a few difficult problems. After all…
“It’s only after our master’s death that I lose my castle and retreat from Kantou. So if Musashi manages to establish my retreat, it will raise one of the Kantou flags for our master’s assassination. But…”
“That is done by Houjou and not Musashi.”
“Right. That isn’t Musashi’s job. And Hashiba has control at the later Siege of Odawara. If Houjou carelessly drives me out, they will meet the same fate as Edo. But if Musashi does not act tonight, they will lose both the opportunity and their reputation as a nation. The other nations will think they were helpless as the Azuchi left before their eyes. Mouri would probably be the one to protest the most.” Takigawa smiled. “It’s tricky. Musashi has to get Houjou to attack us and they also want Mouri to be indebted to them. So what will they do? This can’t be fun for them. As for us…”
What would they do tonight?
“Tonight, we need to get Houjou to say goodbye to Musashi.”
That would fully draw Houjou into their own ranks and it would let her safely negotiate her retreat from Kantou.
“Of the flags left for our master’s assassination, the most important ones for the expansion of our power is the invasion of Mouri and my retreat from Kantou. But Hashiba and I will manage that. We will at least protect our master’s assassination through summer break. And after summer break when all the necessary preparations are complete…”
Takigawa breathed in before continuing.
“We will execute our master’s Genesis Project.”
“Listen, Fuku. You need to calmly leave for Mouri tonight. And when you see Houjou turn on Musashi, I want you to tell everyone something. Tell them that I’m working out in this remote area all on my own and that they aren’t to forget about me, okay?”
Takigawa relaxed her shoulders and looked to the Azuchi Castle.
“Can you do that?”
Masazumi stood on the lift descending the inside of the Ariake’s outer wall.
…I need to give this some thought.
Around her, the others were recording and analyzing the scene of Edo and the movements of the other nations they had just seen. The nudist was not doing anything, but that was fine since the alternative was much more dangerous.
But Horizon asked a question.
“Masazumi-sama, what will we do when the Azuchi Castle takes action?”
“If possible, I want to send the Musashi out and fire on them.”
The enemy is probably thinking the same thing, Masazumi told herself while bracing her heart and looking to the others.
She knew just who to leave this with.
“Neshinbara, put together a strategy. I want to have some definite friendship with Houjou tonight.”
Neshinbara turned back and spread his arms. There were some worrying aspects to his expression, but she decided it did not really matter.
“Do it. We might have used our resistance to make a comeback and then climbed up onto the world stage, but there are some who are trying to move ever forward to pull out ahead of us. This is hardly a new thought, but the world really is a constant competition.”
She felt the inner pressure inside her growing.
…I really might be the kind of politician that likes this kind of fighting.
But the other academies were also like this.
The large nations led the world and the small nations tried to put themselves out there and to survive.
Everyone was doing what they could to not be crushed.
…When Sanada attacked and sabotaged us before the Battle of Novgorod, they weren’t just trying to destroy the Musashi and crush us. That was their way to make their presence known to the world as a small nation.
What they did would determine the value of the small nation of Sanada and of themselves. They had made their attack with that great pressure bearing down on them and they would again in the future.
There were plenty of other nations like that. And…
“We must not forget that we are taking on a superpower that has control of the majority of the world. We’re trying to get a hit in to prevent them from simply doing whatever they want. Today will be the beginning of that.”
“Then let’s send out the Musashi! Let’s show off! And I want to move the Ariake too! We opened the bottom to send the Musashi out before, so it’d be cool to open the top this time!”
“This boy…” muttered everyone, so Masazumi nodded.
“Can we do it?”
“I’ll make sure we can.” Neshinbara crossed his arms and grinned. “I’ll put together a strategy that’s guaranteed to make Houjou our friends.”
The afternoon wind blew across an aerial fleet marked with the name Houjou.
The Houjou fleet was protecting Edo Bay, the Tottori Castle which had arrived there, and the Azuchi Castle which was about to leave.
The battleship leading the fleet was the Hachioji Castle. Someone in white stood on the black galley’s deck.
The girl wore a white track suit with the “Sagami Houjou” logo on the back. She was an automaton with dark skin and a white horn on either side of her head.
She had a view horizontally out into the sky.
As she stood motionless above the sea to guard and monitor the area, she faced northwest.
“Ujinao-sama, the Ariake’s estimated location is 120 km in that direction.”
Houjou Ujinao nodded at the words of the ninja girl Mouse at her feet. Her eyes were closed, but she turned her head to face the Mouse.
“Kotarou, now is the time to prepare the shells and the mechanical phoenix unit. …We will do exactly as Hashiba has instructed.”
“Are you sure?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Testament. You established a friendly relationship with Musashi at IZUMO and your childhood friend is on the Musashi…or so I hear.”
“Testament,” said Ujinao with a nod. But she then opened a sign frame to display Hashiba’s instructions. She placed her hand on it and called in more information. “But, Kotarou, positions change with time.”
“Is there anything outside of one’s position?”
Ujinao was very clear about that. Next, she began to walk forward. She stopped on the very edge of the bow and faced the Ariake’s distant position in the sky. And…
“But your physical location can only be decided by your position. Just because you have certain feelings does not mean you can be by someone’s side, Kotarou. And it is because it comes with a fixed physical location that we call it our ‘position’.”
“What is your relationship with that person?”
“He is my ally. …And I am his ally.”
“I-I am your ally too, Ujinao-sama!”
Kotarou’s words placed a small smile on Ujinao’s lips.
“Even if we are far apart, even if we are forever separated, and even if we are enemies.”
“Our Houjou Association of Indian States teaches of death, rebirth, and transcendence. Everything will eventually meet destruction and it will be reborn through the process of transmigration. But to escape the suffering of that cycle is to transcend it and reach the pure land. That means life is constant suffering and you cannot escape it even in death due to transmigration.”
“That’s pretty harsh…”
“And that is why our teachings say people must reach enlightenment and transcend that cycle. But…”
“What if there was someone who you could trust would forever be your ally even throughout transmigration?”
“What if you had someone who you could trust would remain your ally even if they are not by your side, even if you die, and even if they die?”
“That…that wouldn’t be possible. It’s nonsense.”
“It is possible. There are a few ways.” Ujinao placed her hands on the deck railing. “But in my case, it was a childhood promise.”
“Childhood…? Ujinao-sama, even your family and relatives betrayed you and turned on you while fighting over inheritance…”
“It happened in those very circumstances. And…that is why we promised to be each other’s allies ‘no matter what’. Perhaps it was a childish attempt to feel some peace and perhaps it was just something I wanted to hear myself say. And in my current position, I have you and everyone else as my allies. So…”
“I am much more spoiled than I was in the past. So if he and I are still ‘allies’, then there is nothing to fear.”
Ujinao hit the “approve” mark on the sign frame.
She had authorized supplies for the armaments and she nodded with a small smile.
“Now, I wonder what the world is going to do.”
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