Horizon:Volume 6A Chapter 12
Chapter 12: Sitters of the Late Night Shift
Impatience always rushes people
Toward mercy or ruin
Point Allocation (Take the First Step)
Kakei took a breath in the Houjou ship's dining hall.
The breath prepared him for the coming negotiation.
He could smell strong spices and there was a lot of a unique sort of humidity.
He sat cross-legged. Sitting on the floor in a dining hall was unusual, but the Houjou Association of Indian States must have been following the Indian style.
It was a way of reducing stress on the warship and thus helped keep morale high.
So even on a ship, Kakei felt dirt below his butt. Blocks of packed soil were used as floor panels. That seemed unsanitary for a dining hall, but...
...Well, they'll be easy to replace, they'll absorb moisture, and they probably have some kind of disinfectant in them.
He performed that pointless analysis because he was a ninja spy.
But that was not his role here.
With Mochizuki behind him for support, he was here for...
"Let's get to the negotiations. You want to use three of the Sanada Ten Braves, so let's work out a deal."
Takigawa sat across from him. She too was cross-legged.
And she nodded. She did not smile, but she did not glare either. It was a flat expression.
"I intend to use you as mere mercenaries. ...That's what I've done so far. Isn't it a little odd to suddenly raise your price through negotiations?"
The corners of Takigawa's mouth rose a bit.
She was smiling.
And Kakei could only think of one reason why.
...She's drawn out the starting line.
This was still the beginning and they should enjoy this. That was what she meant. She was facing a losing battle, but...
...I do understand.
Gathering and adjusting battle forces was uniquely enjoyable. It was the same as trying to decide what weapon to use before heading to the battlefield.
You were constructing yourself, searching yourself, and arranging yourself in the best possible form. That process and its results were enjoyable.
Which meant one thing about what Takigawa had just said.
"Thanks for what?"
"That's simple enough," said Kakei. "We're still trying to figure out what the other is negotiating for, but you're still willing to view our skill as a 'weapon'."
Kakei defined himself and the others.
"You are an important P.A. Oda retainer and you said we are a 'weapon'. A weapon is wielded by someone, so you've said that we're worthy of being wielded."
He defined them through his words.
Even if they were rejected or overturned, words were a definition.
And negotiations were composed of words.
...Anayama-san was always talking about this.
Kakei belatedly wished he had done more negotiation training. And he was certain he would wish the same thing countless times over the next half hour or so.
"Mochizuki, back me up here, okay?"
"Shall I assist you? Shall I support you?"
"Can't you figure it out on your own?"
"Testament. Then I shall do what I have determined is best. ...Shall I negotiate in your place?"
"Wow, do I look that bad at this?"
But that was just who he was.
He knew he was not the kind of person who should be doing this.
But he also knew he had to do it here.
They could reach an agreement more easily in the current circumstances and that would benefit Sanada.
"We will assist you," he said to Takigawa.
"I will hear you out."
She did not accept the term "assist". That meant she would not view them as "assistance".
She was saying she had no intention of being indebted to them.
Her stance was that Sanada helping Oda and Hashiba was the natural state of things.
But he could not allow that.
He ignored her implicit rejection of the word "assist" and kept going.
"As a reward for our assistance, please have Hashiba protect Sanada until the Osaka Campaign."
That was what they truly wanted.
Takigawa picked up a nearby container.
It contained a yogurt drink. It was a whey drink with as much fat as possible removed from it, so it was supposedly quite refreshing when you were tired. The guy at the counter had said 'Refreshed! You feel refreshed!", but she was not sure how much she believed it. For one thing, it seemed odd to name the menu item Lassi Kimura even if it matched some historical chef's name. Kimura apparently meant strawberry flavor.
But Takigawa took a sip.
...Oh, it is refreshing.
With that in mind, she thought about Kakei's request.
"...You want protection for Sanada until the Osaka Campaign?"
"Testament. It's not a bad deal. Besides, the 1st Siege of Ueda was at Hashiba's request and Nobushige's faction is getting a warm welcome in exchange. We're only asking for you to protect Sanada as a part of that."
"It's not like you have any authority over Sanada." Takigawa spoke in a testing manner. "And that warm welcome was only for Nobushige's faction. Not Sanada as a whole."
"Oh, so you do understand. That's the point." Kakei pointed at himself with his thumb. "I'm talking about Sanada's land. ...If you don't protect that, then it's all pointless. Think of it as a request from Sanada being delivered via you."
"What about the fact that you have no authority in this matter?"
"Testament." Kakei nodded. "Do you really think Masayuki-san and the others with authority are going to say no to having Sanada's people protected? It can be an empty promise, but we want to define our value as fighters."
He took a breath before continuing.
"That's what we really want."
"Listen," Takigawa heard Kakei say. "At the end of the Osaka Campaign, Sanada's forces charge on Matsudaira. We reach their main forces and make it all the way to the center."
She was aware of that. It was described in the Testament.
That had demonstrated Sanada's courage and established a high opinion of them in later generations.
"How about it?" asked Kakei. "If you protect us, all of Sanada's warriors can undergo special training for the Osaka Campaign during that time."
But he was not done speaking.
"For Hashiba, this is a Testament description they can use for a guaranteed attack on Matsudaira. And even if we happen to 'take Matsudaira's head' while we're at it, it can always be interpreted around."
How about it?
"During the Osaka Campaign, Hashiba has its forces worn down by Matsudaira. That means Hashiba will lose powerful people to betrayal and hesitation." Kakei sat up straight. "Sanada will not betray Hashiba. ...So can't you do as we ask here?"
Kakei was sweating in his heart.
He had made some decent bluffs, but there was no way to guarantee any of it.
And he had hidden and glossed over everything inconvenient to them.
He was really hoping Takigawa could completely forget the first half of what he said.
Would that be possible?
...No, I guess not...
"Kakei-sama, that was quite forceful, but I think you did express our main selling points."
Mochizuki used the brief pause to covertly speak to him using a ninja technique.
"Can't you look at this positively?"
...A lot of help you are...
He was glad Unno was fast asleep in the bed she had been given. He hated to think what this would be like with both of them criticizing him.
But Mochizuki was right about one thing.
He had listed off their strong points.
"You know the biggest advantage of protecting Sanada, don't you?"
"Sanada is your surefire attack against Matsudaira during the Osaka Campaign. And on the same level as Shimazu during Sekigahara."
Kakei hid the lack of confidence in his heart as he formed the words. And he thought, Before long, P.A. Oda will have to perform the history recreation of Nobunaga's assassination during the Honnouji Incident.
Hashiba would conquer the Far East after that, but they would later decline.
The Hashiba forces would scatter and split into an east and west side after Hashiba's death.
Then the Battle of Sekigahara would be fought as a preliminary battle to the final showdown and it would all end at the Osaka Campaign.
"You can preserve an entire nation of reliable forces for the final battle. Can't you do that for us?" said Kakei. "We will help you here. We will fight on the front line and ensure you're capable of preserving us. And in exchange for preserving Sanada, we'll stubbornly protect you. Isn't that good enough?"
He was aware he was making up his argument as he went along, but deep in his heart, something else was apparent to him.
...Most of what I'm saying is true.
Did that mean his god was watching over him?
But this was still important. After all...
...Sanada is a small nation.
...Small nations are in such a difficult position.
Kakei thought about the nation of Sanada.
It was a small, mountainous nation.
It was deep in the forest and deep in the mountains. The summers were short and the winters snowy.
But it was an important point along a major land shipping route.
That allowed them to engage in intermediary trade, but it also meant other nations invaded or intervened a lot, so they had to spend their accumulated money on defense and surviving the winters.
In that land, it was difficult to take back what had been lost.
So they could not afford to lose anything.
That was the most important thing to them: Sanada's land.
After losing their old home and wandering around the Far East, it was in Sanada that they had felt "this is the place".
They had felt they could live there without losing anything.
Kakei looked at Takigawa.
She was an important P.A. Oda retainer, so she most likely knew their history.
After all, they had originally been P.A. Oda residents.
They were from Osaka.
A few people had already inherited names for some of the Hashiba's Seven Spears and the people connected to them, but they had attended a school meant to train candidates to inherit the other names.
Even if they left the school for individual reasons, the skilled ones had gathered focus and been given a helping hand. Since they would have been inheriting the names of people connected to Hashiba, it made sense that the nation would work to assist them.
A lot had happened with Kakei himself, but he had been selected as a likely candidate.
A total of ten had been gathered and they had all thought their various futures were assured.
But at some point, a new group of candidates had appeared and they had been defeated.
Then they had begun wandering.
They could have stayed and worked as leaders in a lower organization under Hashiba's direct command. But...
...That just didn't seem the same...
There had been an alternative for them after they lost their role, but it had felt wrong.
They had wondered if they even felt at home there anymore.
They had later realized the answer was no.
But at the time, they had simply wanted something equivalent. And if they could not get that, they wanted a new home that let them confidently say "this is the place".
If only they could have felt at home and said "this is the place" about that lower position that had been prepared for them.
But they had found they could not.
Those defeated ten had all hoped to make a comeback and had all wanted the same thing.
They wanted some other place and some other time.
They had wanted somewhere where the place itself seemed to want them.
And once they had begun wandering, they discovered how large P.A. Oda was. No matter where they went, they never seemed to leave P.A. Oda.
After spending half a year crossing mountains and deserts, they realized something.
...We came from such a gigantic place.
So what kind of future had they felt was in store for them as name inheritors close to Hashiba?
There was only one thing Kakei could say about that:
"We don't know what it's like to be accepted by a large nation."
That was right.
When you were needed by a large nation, you were also protected by its presence and its rules.
The nation's size alone would begin to make it inviolable. So...
"But small nations really do need people like us fighting for them."
They could not swap out their fighting force like a large nation could.
"If we're lost, it's all over," said Kakei. "So how about it, Takigawa-san?"
He threw the words out there and received an immediate response. It was a calm reply.
"Don't come begging to us, needle-thrower boy."
Takigawa formed her words.
The corners of her mouth rose as she looked straight at Kakei.
It was true P.A. Oda had run a school to train the next generation.
In fact, it still existed.
Every nation had something like that. The best students would be gathered and raised to dedicate themselves to their nation.
But sometimes even more excellent students would arrive from outside.
The Ten Spears were an example, as was Sassa.
Everyone did it and it happened everywhere.
Just like people would start using "better" cookware and clothing in their everyday life, the personalities known as "nations" would select the very best of whatever they needed.
How many years had it been now?
The students who had been expected to take the positions directly below Hashiba had all been replaced and the original group had left.
Takigawa had already inherited her name at the time and she had simply thought "these things happen" when she heard about it.
"Sorry, but telling me about a smaller nation's inferiority complex isn't going to change my mind," she said. "Besides, large nations are run by the people too. So that's where my focus is: the people. The protection of a large nation's presence and rules is no more than an advantage that nation has. You may look at a small nation as its people, but in that case, the lack of protection due to the small nation's weakness and rules is no more than a disadvantage that nations has. ...Don't just assume it justifies your inferiority complex."
She took a breath.
"Just get to the point: What do you want and what can you do, Kakei Juuzou?"
Kakei began sweating profusely in his heart.
...So I screwed it up!
No, he had to view it as a good thing that she was willing to hear him out.
I sure get caught up in sentiment easily. I was giving off the wrong sort of presence, wasn't I? I hope I haven't caught Nezu's disease.
At any rate, she had asked him to speak.
...But I just did a bunch of speaking.
Before, he had been forcing their hopes onto her.
Now it was time for reality.
So he knew what he had to say here.
"Mochizuki, Unno, and I will join you here."
This was the procedure.
He had to list what they could do and what they would need to prepare.
"I'll primarily need bullets and fuses. 3000 bullets should be enough."
"Isn't that a lot?"
"Will you give me more?"
Takigawa smiled at that. He was not sure why she smiled.
If she would give him more, he just had to take as many as he could get. But Takigawa looked at him and made a comment.
"That look on your face tells me you can do more than that."
"Let's leave that as a surprise. ...I do have one thing I've stubbornly prepared but have held in reserve. I really don't plan on using it against Musashi, though."
"Is that so?" Takigawa then looked behind him. "Next."
Mochizuki stood there.
The automaton was apparently ready to respond. She immediately spoke over his shoulder.
It was her usual calm voice.
"Can you prepare artificial hairs equipped with explosion spells?"
"You don't like making things simple, do you?"
Takigawa smiled bitterly and placed a hand on her chin. Kakei thought this was a sincere reaction.
He felt they were being honest with each other now.
He mentally tilted his head.
He had thought he had angered Takigawa by creating an unnecessarily emotional atmosphere.
So why were they being honest with each other now?
...W-well, I guess it doesn't matter.
He did not understand, but he was not going to find fault with a favorable result.
But this response was somewhat bad. After all...
...Does that mean she can't prepare Mochizuki's explosion spells?
Mochizuki's explosion spells were unique. Since they were hidden in hairs, they could be taken anywhere. Since she could use her gravitational control on them, they could be thrown as projectiles or placed in flowing water.
Depending on how she prepared them, they could be used in other ways as well, but...
...Either way, she needs a lot of them.
She seemed to have used up a large quantity in the battle on the Ariake. She had never said anything about it, but her supply was clearly running low since she had not used one to light the fire when they were cooking outdoors.
But there was a way.
Providing information here would not leave anyone indebted to anyone, so Kakei did not hesitate to speak up.
"Takigawa-san. ...Pass this along to Houjou. They produce a lot of automatons. While I doubt they'll have what Mochizuki is talking about, they should be able to make some."
"Shaja. ...That's a good idea."
"Then," said Takigawa before Mochizuki replied.
"Unno-sama will need materials to repair her metal fan swords and her folding fans. Also," said Mochizuki. "Yes, would it be possible to allow her to choose some flashy clothes?"
"...And here I thought I was in charge."
"Oh? Did Kakei-sama the Beast wish to talk about Unno-sama's clothing?"
"No, most of my memories of her have her wearing a track suit..."
"Ah, so you are a fan of the gym clothes genre."
"...Is it just me or have you gotten harsher lately?"
Mochizuki ignored Kakei's complaint.
It was true she had recently been unable to cook or clean as much as she wanted. She had mostly been destroying things with her explosion spells, but in addition to that...
...My position as one of the Ten Braves means I often have other people taking care of me.
Whenever she found something she could do, someone else would do it instead, thinking they were being considerate.
As a maid automaton, people would leave the tasks to her, but they could not do that with one of the Ten Braves. Why were humans so influenced by titles?
Because she so often had to stop the task she had begun, her artificial brain tended to be cluttered with the garbage data left by the task shutdown procedure. That was meant to remain behind as experience, but she frequently had to free up that memory space and it was reducing her efficiency.
As a result, she had to reduce the burden by shortening the process. Long story short, it often meant sacrificing Kakei.
"Anyway, Unno-sama's spell should work at Odawara. If she can secure an elevated location on adjoining land, the geographic features should allow her to produce as much power as in Sanada land."
"I see." Takigawa crossed her arms and nodded. And she took a sip of her drink. "Ah. Maybe it's because of this heated conversation, but that really is refreshing."
She smiled a little.
Her shoulders shook as she took a slow breath.
"Now it's my turn to speak."
Her smiling eyes faced straight forward again. She re-crossed her legs and opened her mouth.
"Sorry," she said. "But your selling points aren't really doing it for me."
"Listen," said Takigawa. "You say that, if Sanada is protected, Sanada can strike back at Matsudaira during the Osaka Campaign. ...That is admittedly important. But you know what?"
There was something she had to say here. It was a matter of reality, not sentiment.
"Listen," she said again. "By the time of the Osaka Campaign, Hashiba is only a small force. Matsudaira rules the Far East by then. What good is striking back at that point?"
Kakei and Mochizuki remained expressionless, but that was to be expected with ninjas.
But that utter lack of reaction eloquently told her what was going on in their heads.
...The truly skilled ones will intentionally let the mask slip at times like this.
But these were combat ninjas, so she could not expect that from them. That was the entire reason she had requested some combat forces from Sanada.
But they would be disappointed in themselves for how things were going.
Besides, she understood what this Sanada group was trying to say.
"You said Sanada is a small nation, didn't you?"
"Yes, I did."
"Shaja." Takigawa nodded. And, "Kakei Juuzou. ...Then you went on to say that Sanada is a presence capable of dealing a painful blow to Matsudaira during the Osaka Campaign."
"I wasn't quite that wordy about it, but...yes, I did."
"Then." Takigawa took a breath. "This is not going to be easy for Sanada, is it?"
Kakei's cheeks moved like he wanted to say something, but then they stopped.
Takigawa knew the fate of small nations that were caught up in the Testament descriptions and history recreation.
After all, she was a P.A. Oda retainer.
She knew very well that small nations could be dealt with and easily trampled on by the whims of a large nation. She had done it herself at times.
Sanada was the same.
"With the 1st Siege of Ueda complete, Sanada has two major events left: the 2nd Siege of Ueda that occurs during Sekigahara, and the Osaka Campaign."
"In the 2nd Siege of Ueda, Sanada Masayuki and Nobushige fight to stop a Matsudaira force headed for Sekigahara."
"You've sure studied up on this."
"I was managing Kantou up until recently, if you recall."
Takigawa smiled a little and realized she was being self-deprecating.
It was pathetic for two losers to fight over who had the superior position. But...
...This is necessary.
They were anti-Matsudaira and they would remain as such until they stepped down from the stage of history.
She could not allow them to use their power incorrectly.
She was something of an upperclassman to them and had the support of a large nation. She could not accurately measure how open-minded she was, but she thought she was viewing all the major pieces that were moving history.
So she said it.
"Sanada will be under attack by the nations trying to join Matsudaira. And not just in the physical form of war. It will include political and economic attacks."
That was why Sanada Chancellor Nobuyuki, the older brother, had fled to Musashi the other day. His request for asylum had been put off until later, but that action still made it harder for other nations to make a move against Sanada's Chancellor faction.
The problem was the Vice Chancellor faction that included the Ten Braves. That was Sanada's main force and it included Masayuki, the father, and Nobushige, the younger brother.
...They will be under attack by the other nations.
Sanada would of course be prepared for that. And they likely intended to survive the 2nd Siege of Ueda like that, but...
"Most likely, the main force will be moved to Osaka before the 2nd Siege of Ueda. Then the remaining normal students will carry out the battle."
And the main force would fulfill the history recreation during the Osaka Campaign.
She did understand why they would do that.
A note in the Testament said that, after the Osaka Campaign, the Sanada clan would experience some twists and turns involving succession, but they would eventually receive 100,000 koku of land in Matsushiro and gain stability.
A small nation tossed about by the age of warring states would finally have a definite destination.
It was known that Nobuyuki, the oldest son who had inherited Sanada, would live to the ripe old age of 93 and Takigawa had checked on all of this while she was managing Kantou.
She knew what would be the deciding factor in all this:
"The Osaka Campaign, hm?"
They intended to make their presence known in the Far East and to perform the history recreation accurately so that the Testament descriptions after that would also be followed accurately.
They were showing the willpower of a small nation.
And they would make sure they had a future.
That was why these two were here to negotiate.
They wanted their fellow Sanada residents to be protected to ensure they all had a future.
They wanted to protect the fighting force that would be worn down before the Osaka Campaign thanks to the attacks from other nations and the 2nd Siege of Ueda.
And it was of course about more than just their fighting force.
It would also be about the people who lived on Sanada land and about that land itself.
If they were to have a future, they needed to protect more than just a fighting force.
...In that case...
This was not something Takigawa could decide on her own.
This was an issue requiring a decision from Hashiba herself or from an official with the authority to manage the regions involved.
But she was no longer in charge of Kantou and she had not contacted Hashiba about any of this. The battle she was about to fight would act as the Siege of Kanie Castle in order to eliminate one of the losses during Komaki Nagakute, but she had not actually gotten the Testament Union's approval.
She had been relying on the assumption that Hashiba would pick up on her intentions here. But...
The two from Sanada looked at her with strength in their eyes.
They had to know how little political power Takigawa Ichimasu had at the moment, but they were still relying on her decision.
Was Sanada really that important to them?
Takigawa had to wonder what the difference between them and her was. She thought about it in a positive light.
This had been a hopeless endeavor from the start.
"I understand what you're trying to say."
"You really won't be of any use to Hashiba at the Osaka Campaign."
That was the only possible conclusion there.
"If you are to be of some use to Hashiba, it would have to be at the 2nd Siege of Ueda that occurs during Sekigahara. ...That battle holds some Matsudaira forces in place, delays orders to march to the capital, and prevents them from participating in Sekigahara. So as a member of P.A. Oda, my advice is to focus on the 2nd Siege of Ueda instead," said Takigawa. "Besides, today...no, I guess it would be yesterday by now. Regardless, the 1st Siege of Ueda was just fought at Sanada. That means the 2nd one is up next, right?"
Takigawa stated her conclusion.
"Sanada. ...I cannot grant you what you want here."
- The Japanese spelling is almost identical to Rusher Kimura.
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