Horizon:Volume 6A Chapter 13

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Chapter 13: Pre-Battle Decision Maker[edit]

Horizon6A 397.jpg

Will the answer arrive at

The harshness of correctness

Or the joy of satisfaction?

Point Allocation (Battlefield)


Kakei heard Takigawa say she could not support or protect Sanada.

Yeah, I had a feeling, he thought.

...Damn.

He had managed to convince himself it might work, but it might not be possible after all.

Participating in a battle meant gaining the right to speak within that battle. So during the strategizing phase, it was possible to use your combat force to negotiate with another nation.

So he had thought he might be able to work out a deal with this large battle approaching. However...

"————"

It might not be possible after all.

...Masayuki-san or the young master might be able to pull through in this tricky situation.

But what about the normal students and the villagers?

Damn, he thought. I need to keep trying.

"Umm."

He opened a sign frame.

This was no time to worry about how he looked.

The other person had revealed her hand and was listening to him.

It was just that her current and future positions did not fit with their future.

Was there no way of changing that?

...Damn.

They had been hiding in the forest, so they had been unable to gather much intelligence. And he could not access much information since he could only connect to the general Shinto network instead of the exclusive Sanada network.

The 1st Siege of Ueda had taken place in Sanada the day before, but...

...We don't really know how that played out.

He also wanted to re-investigate the Siege of Odawara to get a new look at it.

"Takigawa-san."

"Yes?"

"We don't have authorization to open a divine transmission from this Houjou ship to the outside. Could I borrow your authorization? ...I want to take a look at the situation in Sanada."


"I see," said Takigawa while giving a nod of approval.

Her insha kotob was a Mlasi format, but...

"Oh, I can set up an interface."

Given that comment from the automaton behind him, it would probably be fine.

Kakei immediately faced his sign frame. His hands moved quickly across it and he used several divine transmission routes.

"Are you greeting Sanada?"

But just as she asked that...

"...?"

Kakei stopped moving.

He frowned and the hands racing atop the sign frame had come to a stop.

"What's wrong?"

"Takigawa-san. ...Was your authorization shut down?"

"No, mine is still up."

Her insha kotob was showing her data from P.A. Oda. She could access the popular P.A. Oda site called Janissary and the connection was fast. But...

"Sanada's divine transmissions have closed."

"Most likely, you would need to use a new password," explained Mochizuki. "In other words...with the 1st Siege of Ueda complete, Sanada has shifted to its state during Sekigahara and beyond."

Takigawa knew what that meant.

"Sanada has moved in the direction you feared it would."


Sanada was on the way to its ultimate destination.

Takigawa understood that as she took a breath.

...This is our reality.

Kakei's group could do nothing to stop Sanada from moving in the direction they feared it would.

It was now unavoidable that Sanada would be exposed to attacks and interference from other nations.

Personally, she wished she could have protected them.

She felt like she could have accomplished that to an extent if she sent a divine transmission to Hashiba. After all, Hashiba had been the one to request the 1st Siege of Ueda.

But if she did that, Hashiba would probably grow overly considerate.

It might create an excess burden for her.

And the situation was dangerous enough as it was.

Takigawa was cooperating with Houjou and Mouri to eliminate one of the losses during Komaki Nagakute, but she would be acting separately from Houjou and Mouri during the actual battle. While up on the deck earlier, she had confirmed that P.A. Oda could not cooperate with those other two nations, and...

...They're using us as bait to catch an even greater prize.

That was obvious enough from how Houjou and Mouri were acting.

And Takigawa could make a good guess what prize they were trying to catch.

It would be a major loss for Hashiba. It would also be a harsh battle for Matsudaira, but they would win big if they succeeded.

Takigawa felt certain that that was going to occur.

She had no way of stopping it.

But, she thought.

"If only I had my own fighting force."

If only she had power.

"Then maybe I could fight some more and reduce this coming loss at least by a little."

"What are you-...?"

"A group will be coming to save me. I want a loss that leaves no regrets and reduces the burden on everyone else, but they will still come here and create an even greater loss."

"Can you trust in your comrades?" asked the automaton.

"Shaja. We know each other well enough for that."

So...

"I don't want to be a burden on them."

And just as she said that...

"Wait."

Kakei raised his hand.

She looked up to find he was not looking at her.

His eyes were on his sign frame and his mouth was open.

She heard a trembling voice.

"There is one thing I would like to check on."

Namely...

"The 1st Siege of Ueda. ...I would like to reconfirm who requested that battle and what Sanada was supposed to gain from it."

"Huh? We went over this. It was on Hashiba's request and Sanada Nobushige's faction gets a warm welcome out of it."

"That's right," said Kakei. "But as far as I can tell, 'the people of Sanada' aren't included in that. And 'a warm welcome' doesn't specify anything and doesn't guarantee anything. Of course, Hashiba is..."

"...not the kind of person to go back on a promise."

Kakei silently nodded.

"Then I'll let go of one thing."

That being...

"That 'warm welcome' is probably about the Osaka Campaign. So I won't insist you allow the young master's group to participate in the Osaka Campaign."


...Not bad.

Takigawa was silently impressed.

What Kakei had done was simple.

He had split the conditions of his negotiation in two and backed off from one of them.

Kakei probably had not gathered his thoughts beforehand. He was also inexperienced as a negotiator. That was why he only now said something for the first time.

"Please protect the nation of Sanada."

This demand was likely born from Hashiba's request and the warm welcome of Nobushige's faction. Before, he had been negotiating for the protection of Sanada as an extension of the Nobushige faction's warm welcome by Hashiba.

But he had just backed off from one of those.

He would let Hashiba handle the warm welcome of the Nobushige faction.

That had already been promised them, so backing off was not a problem.

In fact, it made the negotiation much simpler.

But it had changed what they were negotiating about.

After all, she had been negotiating while accepting Kakei's words at face value.

So...

...Since I was accepting both demands at once, I have to give some ground now that he's backed off from one of them!

This was an official negotiation.

She had grown careless partially because of Kakei's limited negotiation experience.

She had also concluded she would end up rejecting any demands because she had no authority to grant them.

So she had discussed the "protection" Kakei demanded as if it applied to both the Nobushige faction and the nation of Sanada.

Kakei had now backed off from one of those.

He had compromised.

"...?"

The look on his face suggested he had not planned this.

He had narrowed down his argument without really knowing what he was doing.

There of course had to be a reason why he did that.

...Was it that divine transmission!?

That had told him Sanada had shifted to their state during Sekigahara and beyond. Seeing that had shown him the resolve of Sanada's leaders.

That had erased the arrogant idea that he had to protect everything.

He was left with only the desire to protect the people who would not benefit from the warm welcome.

That had led to this unintentional negotiation trick, but the rules were the rules.

He had indeed removed one of his two demands.

That was a compromise, so...

"————"

Takigawa was unsure how to respond.


...Huh?

Kakei realized the atmosphere had grown quite heavy.

That was thanks to Takigawa.

She had fallen silent and was staring at him with her arms crossed.

...Crap... Did I do something wrong?

He had only been trying to make a clear division between the two aspects of this issue.

He had realized something when the Sanada divine transmission had been cut off.

...I can't hope to match Masayuki-san or the young master.

They had enough resolve to get the normal citizens caught in the middle.

Kakei could not take things that far.

In a way, that probably meant he had not fully become a resident of the Sanada land.

He could not ask someone else to be a sacrifice.

He did not know if that was a good thing or a bad thing, but...

"Can't I at least ask for the protection of the people who can't fight?"

How about that?

The normal students were a different issue. As students, they would have to step forward if there was a war.

So even with the 2nd Siege of Ueda, there was no protecting them.

"Does this mean Masayuki-sama and the young master are trying to seize some sort of opportunity here? A Seize of Ueda, if you will?"

"Who thought it was a good idea to let automatons do that...?"

But even that silly pun gave him a quick break.

If possible, he wanted to do away with the 2nd Siege of Ueda altogether.

...But I guess that wouldn't be possible...

But just as he thought that...

"Kakei Juuzou."

Takigawa suddenly called out to him.

Her eyebrows lay flat and she seemed to be glaring at him.

"I understand that you have abandoned Sanada's leaders and are trying to protect its people. And there is one method of accomplishing that."

"There is!?"

His voice echoed through the dining hall.

It was abandoned at this hour, so even with a floor of hardened dirt blocks, the sound reverberated strongly.

But Kakei did not care. He scooted his butt a bit to lean forward while sitting cross-legged.

"...What is it?" he asked.

It no longer mattered what he looked like or what people thought of him. With how he was feeling now, there was no point in even considering the inviolable rule of keeping a straight face while negotiating.

He simply had to ask and snatch away the information he needed.

So he listened.

"You said you are skilled warriors, didn't you?"

"Yes, I did."

"Then there is only one problem left for you." Takigawa pointed at him. "You all are in charge of the 2nd Siege of Ueda."


Kakei did not understand what he had just been told.

...Huh?

He knew what the 2nd Siege of Ueda was. Anyone from Sanada would.

It was a battle between Matsudaira and Sanada.

During Sekigahara, Matsudaira's forces attempted to take control of the Nakasendou, an important travel route, but they were delayed by the Sanada father and son holed up in Ueda Castle. Sanada's opponent had been Hidetada, the son of Matsudaira Motonobu who would go on to be the second shogun. Sanada's forces had been led by Sanada Masayuki and his second son Nobushige.

Sanada knew the land better and was more skilled in negotiation and small-scale battles, so they would have the advantage and delay Hidetada's army until the Battle of Sekigahara was complete.

According to the Testament, the Matsudaira forces numbered 38,000.

In contrast the Sanada forces left 2000 in Ueda Castle and sent 1500 outside to fight.

They had defeated a force more than two dozen times their size. However...

...That can be easily overturned with interpretations.

But Takigawa was saying to do that.

Who was she saying should do that?

"...Us?"

"Shaja, of course. ...If you were serious about your skill, then you should be able to lead a small force of 3500, right?"

Kakei gasped.

...Hold on.

He had started this from a fairly unreasonable position, but it had just taken a very unexpected turn. It was true he had held a biased view that only the leaders of the nations could lead the history recreation. He could not deny that he had convinced himself that ninjas like them could act as negotiators, but could not move an entire nation.

But, he thought.

Takigawa was suggesting that they stand on the main stage of history.

This would mean they were not "Unneeded".

She was telling them to act as individuals who remained in this world. Did that viewpoint come from her position in a large nation?

It did not matter. There was something else he wanted to know now.

"If we did do that, what would happen?"

"I would have an easier time holing up in my castle. ...That would create two battlefields: yours and mine. And that would split Musashi's forces."

In other words, they could divide the enemy forces. He thought about what that meant.

"...So our main role would be to keep the enemy busy?"

"That's right."

Kakei saw Takigawa nod, but then...

"Could you wait for a moment please?"

He heard Mochizuki's voice behind him.

...Mochizuki?

His body tensed on reflex.

Mochizuki was an automaton. She was always looking for the best possible solution. So if she was interrupting...

...Is there something bad about this?

"I would like to confirm one thing about what you said earlier, Takigawa-sama."

Specifically...

"You said that there is a problem, did you not?"

"Shaja. There's no point in hiding it, so I was just about to bring it up."

There was a problem.

Takigawa did indeed go on to explain what she had alluded to.

"Houjou will be giving me an aerial ship to act as Kanie Castle. Holing up in an aerial ship means to stay inside it and fight from there, so it's no different from how a warship is normally used. But I have already fought and lost to the Musashi in the Shirasagi Castle."

"And we're more of a ground force, so we're not suited for fighting on ships."

...So that's it.

Kakei gave a sigh of understanding deep in his gut.

"Our battlefields don't fit together well and you don't think you can beat the Musashi."


Mochizuki understood the problem Takigawa carried.

...It is true battling the Musashi would be difficult even if she is given a new warship here.

A ship or two was not enough for an opponent like that.

Now that the Musashi had Kanesada as a main cannon and was gathering plenty of secondary cannons, how many nations even had an aerial force capable of standing up to them?

But there was a reason Takigawa was stating this.

"Takigawa-sama, you wish to defeat Musashi, don't you?"

"————"

Takigawa gave her a silent look.

Then her mouth twisted in what was probably supposed to be a smile.

"Ha ha."

She vocalized a laugh, but it was no more than a series of sounds. She also placed a hand on her forehead.

"Of course I do. I went to so much effort and I still got utterly crushed in the end. ...Even though the Shirasagi Castle was one of the most cutting-edge warships in P.A. Oda."

"Then are you saying you wish to defeat Musashi without relying on the Kanie Castle you will soon be given?"

But there was indeed a problem here. Kakei spoke while looking back at her with a fuse in his mouth.

"Mochizuki, what do you think'll happen if we try to fight on or inside a ship?"

"A large flat surface like the Ariake would be fine, but we would generally be in an unfamiliar situation. Not to mention that Sanada has few aerial ships so we have insufficient training in that regard," explained Mochizuki. "So if we are to demonstrate the value Takigawa-sama wants from us, we must do so as a ground force."

"If she stops the aerial ship on the ground, won't it just make for a nice target?"

"Not necessarily. There are some locations that allow for a unilateral attack on the enemy. For example..."

Mochizuki prepared to give an example, but Takigawa took the words out of her mouth. And her tone made it obvious this was intentional.

"In the middle of a city. If we attack from within a bunch of normal citizens, we can claim the enemy is attacking civilians if they try to retaliate. That's pretty cowardly, though."

"Well, we can't be cowardly, can we?" said Kakei.

But they were on the right track.

They needed a location where Musashi could not attack them.

But also where no normal citizens would be caught in the middle.

...Does such a location exist?

"...Mochizuki."

Kakei raised his right hand in front of her.

"Let me see the map of Houjou."

"Do you have an idea, Kakei-sama?"

"Nope," he said with his back turned. "But Houjou is like Sanada's backyard. They're our neighbor, so we've been keeping an eye on them for forever. We know Houjou land better than Takigawa-san over there."

So...

"Let me see the map. ...And, Takigawa-san?"

"What is it, Kakei Juuzou?"

"Well," he replied. "We will protect you."


Kakei felt a heat within him.

...This isn't like me.

He wanted to say he wasn't this kind of person. But...

...Am I?

"Sorry, but I'm gonna light this. I can just focus better with some smoke, so feel free to take off my head if I reach into my pocket."

Once he said that, several sign frames appeared in front of him.

They were maps of Houjou. Mochizuki had prepared them and they provided an overhead view of Odawara.

...We have to find a location in here that prevents the Musashi from attacking.

Looking at the maps was enough for him to picture the terrain in the back of his mind. He had helped create these maps after all. And that told him something.

...There isn't one.

The fuse smoke allowed him to calmly reach that conclusion.

Odawara was a mountainous peninsula, so it would be possible to hide an aerial ship there or construct some kind of natural cover to hide behind. But once they were found, they would be hit by a storm of cannon fire.

And it was devastating that they could not avoid the Musashi's main cannon by hiding.

He had seen the power of Kanesada up close.

That thing would be able to fire through a small mountain, so a natural fortress would only serve to keep them from escaping in time. So...

"————"

Was a city the only option?

No, that was not an option either.

Takigawa and Sanada's reputation would plummet if they did that. In the worst case, Hashiba would use that as an excuse to cancel any promises they had made.

...In that case...

The safest location would be within the main battlefield. Near Odawara Castle would be especially good.

They knew the area around Odawara Castle would be intentionally flooded. By establishing the flooding in advance, the time spent fighting could be shortened.

So that was where they had to place the aerial warship that would be the Kanie Castle.

The Musashi could not fire its main cannon on the same battlefield to which their forces were deployed.

However...

"Takigawa-san."

"What is it?"

"...Can you guarantee that Houjou will assist us?"

"I honestly doubt they will. They seem to be working with Mouri...but as I said before, they only see us as bait. At the very least, they would not want us on the battlefield."

"I see," said Mochizuki behind him.

...We're in such a difficult position here.

They could not borrow a spot on the battlefield.

Then what were they to do?

When viewed through the smoke, the maps of Houjou felt so far away.

But even when viewed from a distance, he could not find a good spot.

...C'mon now. Pull yourself together.

If he could not find a good spot, they would lose everything.

He had to find it. If he did that, they would gain everything.

They would be able to say they were no longer Unneeded.

In Sanada, everyone had to be preparing for Sekigahara and beyond.

They were all facing that from within history. They were moving toward the history they would create and a future in which they survived.

We have to help them from here.

The three of them here had to complete the 2nd Siege of Ueda that everyone in Sanada was cautious of.

If they could do that, it would greatly reduce the burden on everyone else. So...

"I will find it."

And...

"Takigawa-san. ...We will protect you and make sure you return to P.A. Oda."

After all...

"You need to return to Hashiba and tell her how well this trio from Sanada did."

And to do that, he needed...

"A location for the castle."

Just as he said that, Kakei realized he was in the process of sticking his hand in his pocket.

...Whoops.

He quickly pulled his hand away from his hip. Then he realized the pocket was tightly closed.

"I have been using my gravitational control to ensure you did not put your hand your pocket," said Mochizuki.

"Oh, so my carelessness didn't nearly get me killed."

He smiled bitterly and his careless right hand knocked over the glass sitting on his tray.

The water spilled out, circled around the bottom of the parfait container, and spread out across the tray.

Now I've done it, he thought. But then...

"...Ah."

He realized something.

Here was a location where the Musashi could not attack them and no normal citizens would be caught in the middle.

He had just seen it right in front of him.


Takigawa saw movement.

Kakei suddenly stood up and moved to the dining hall's window.

He was fast. It only took an instant. But by the time she turned to follow his movement, he was already showing her something: a sign frame.

It displayed the scenery below the ship, which meant Houjou land at the moment.

It initially showed only the colors of night, but that was quickly corrected for. An Amaterasu optical spell was applied to amplify the light sensitivity, so the scene on the sign frame looked like midday.

She first saw a forest there.

Near Odawara, a forest spread out from the mountainous peninsula. But...

"The map wouldn't show you this. This was made far too recently for that."

What was "this"?

There was a red light near Kakei's mouth. It was the light of his fuse.

That scarlet light illuminated a smile on his face.

"Takigawa-san, I've found it. This is where we'll hole up in our castle."

He zoomed in on the sign frame.

He zoomed in on the spot where the forest should end and the land leading to Odawara Castle should begin. On the sign frame Mochizuki had provided earlier, there had been a hill and a field there.

But it was different now.

"...A lake?"

"Not just any lake. ...An artificial lake."

It was...

"The water source for the flooding of Odawara Castle. That's what it was made for. We just have to place the Kanie Castle there."


Takigawa looked up when she heard Kakei's words.

...Can we do that?

This was a method of fighting Musashi.

It was a means of sealing off their main cannon and forcing them into a head-on battle.

"You want us to put the Kanie Castle in the artificial lake?"

"I'm glad you understand," said Kakei. "It would take a lot of firepower to break that artificial lake's embankment. Like a blast from the Musashi's main cannon. And once that embankment breaks, Odawara Castle will be flooded in no time."

But...

"The battlefield has been placed away from any towns and people have been ordered out of the area. ...So even if that happens, the Houjou people will not be harmed. But Musashi can't afford to flood Odawara Castle. Houjou is pro--Matsudaira and seems to be plotting something, so that lake will be off limits to Musashi. Even if they do attack there, it can't be with their main cannon."

"So if we're in that lake, we can do whatever we want to Musashi?"

"They might fire their normal cannons and they might send in a ground unit."

"We can handle that on our own. ...And you'll be helping too, won't you?"

"Ha ha," laughed Kakei. "You said Kanie Castle was built on the sea, didn't you? This isn't the sea, but it's sort of the same thing, right? You all hole up there and we'll protect you from the outside. ...How about that?"

He held up the sign frame displaying the artificial lake and tossed it to her.

She caught it and spun it around with her finger. And...

"I'll have to negotiate with Houjou to have the Kanie Castle located there."

But this meant a lot.

"Now we have a way of striking back against Musashi. ...Isn't that right, Sanada? That will be enough to give you some sway with Hashiba. Let's keep this quiet. Of course, Houjou is sure to know all about it since we're discussing it here."

Takigawa stood up, took a breath, and realized the corners of her mouth were rising.

There was a tone of delight in the words that escaped her mouth.

"I'm finally prepared for this losing battle."

Ha ha.

"You can say you're ready a thousand times, but it's not so easy to actually feel it like this."


A long day ended for a few different forces.

The transport ship that would take the Musashi forces back to the Musashi arrived in Sanada early in the morning.

The Hashiba forces and Hexagone Française continued their preparations through the night and the night shift swapped out with the morning shift.

Houjou and Mouri brought their ships closer and exchanged private divine transmissions as they gathered in Houjou land.

The following day would be a day of preparation.

Each of those battle formations took a short rest to prepare for the battle the day after that.