Horizon:Volume 6A Chapter 16

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Chapter 16: Those Looking up at the Azure Sky[edit]

Horizon6A 499.jpg

The morning

Divides people into two categories

Point Allocation (Energy Level)


The morning sun had risen.

The sunlight began to carry heat down to the forest below.

There were two large movements above the dark green roof of leaves.

One was the giant 8-ship aerial city ship turning to the south.

The other was a transport ship ascending from the forest and to that giant ship.

There was no optimal spot for viewing those movements in the sky.

They could be seen from anywhere.

But from the surface, a sign frame was visible on the ascending transport ship’s stern.

The large sign frame displayed the Marube-ya logo and a farewell message:

“To the people of Sanada: Thank you for allowing Musashi Ariadust Academy’s third year classes to visit. The ruins were crushed and smashed up a lot in a serious battle, but you should be able to look back on it and laugh in a few years. As a way of saying goodbye, the Marube-ya will be gifting you divine figurines from Musashi’s divine figurine manufacturer Decorative Kaikei[1] on a first come first serve basis! Hurry up and send a divine transmission to the following Inari compressed prayer!”

According to the Treasurer’s aide…

Marube-ya: “That will prevent Sanada from sending any anti-air fire toward the transport ship! We have plenty of inventory, so we’ll just hand out harsh evil god ones or Western ones that don’t sell.”

Novice: “Won’t that just make them want to attack us even more?”

Flat Vassal: “So this is goodbye to Sanada. Today is still the last day of the study camp and we still have a lot to do, but more than enough has already happened, hasn’t it?”

Hori-ko: “Judge. Adele-sama, I have determined you have had a rough time since the previous night. But while it happened quite a few times, most of it can be summed up by saying you were ‘slammed into things’. …Oops, this was one of those times when I should have been more tactful, wasn’t it?”

Flat Vassal: “Why do you always steer the conversation in such awful directions!?”

But during that exchange, there was movement on the surface.

Three figures stood in the forest and looked up at the transport ship.

“Anayama, how long are you going to stare up at them?”

They were three members of the Sanada Ten Braves. It was Anayama and…

“Because this is goodbye for a while, Nezu-kun, Yuri-kun. …I suppose we won’t see them again until Osaka. Whether we do or not will depend on how we’re used, but this is goodbye regardless.”

The Musashi turned and the transport ship flew above their heads.


Anayama looked up at the giant ship visible through the trees.

He felt like he had been watching it forever, but…

“This may be the first time I’ve seen it moving during the day and from this close.”

He watched the Musashi move below the sun.

And it’s close to the first time I’ve seen it from below.

Before, he had seen it moving along the national borders. He had observed it then and sold the information to other nations, but he had never focused on its presence to this extent.

At IZUMO, the Musashi had been in a dock. The same was true at the Ariake.

The only other time he had seen it moving would be when he jumped off of it at night during the Battle of Mikatagahara, when he jumped off after infiltrating at the Ariake, and when it had arrived at Sanada during the night.

He had associated the ship with the night.

But now that he was seeing it move during the day, it was leaving.

And in that sense…

“That ship may be a good match for ninjas like us…”

With that, he turned back toward Nezu.

“Nezu-kun, was that ‘…’ correct?”

“I think so. But you mustn’t be so accepting of our opponent. I would add a ‘How ironic…’ to the end.”

“I see! This is really tricky!”

“Are you two okay?” asked Yuri. The glasses girl had her long hair tied back. “Anyway, the young master said he was leaving.”

“Yes, he does have some people he needs to greet at our destination. It would probably be best to let him go on ahead. I don’t like leaving him without a bodyguard, but he has his pride,” said Anayama. “Also, Mochizuki-kun sent us a smoke signal message when she was cooking breakfast. Kakei-kun’s group is working with Hashiba to complete the history recreation of the 2nd Siege of Ueda in Houjou land.”

“…Kakei is doing that?” asked Nezu.

Anayama nodded.

I just hope he isn’t pushing himself too hard.

But what he said was different.

“Those three should be fine. And the young master has chosen to leave because he sees what they are doing for him. So the entire Nobushige faction will be going to Osaka. …Only the Nobuyuki faction and the people of Sanada will remain here.”

“So the young master is leaving…” muttered Nezu.

“Ah,” said Yuri as if she had just realized something. “But doesn’t it hurt our pride to leave the young master without a bodyguard?”

“Not to worry. Intelligence gathering is another part of our job. We need to look into the other clans of the east and west before we regroup with him.”

“…Testament. I’ll look at it like that.” Yuri lowered her shoulders but then she looked up into the sky. “The Musashi is moving.”

She took a few steps forward. The trees must have blocked her view of the ship.

She stepped out into the sun and narrowed her eyes toward the Musashi.

“I hate to admit it, but it’s really pretty.”

“Building that ship was the only way the Far East had to demonstrate its pride while under provisional rule.”

It was a white and black ship. It was armed now, but below the sunlight, those cannons and thrusters looked like decorations.

Nezu commented on it without even looking up. He brushed up his long bangs as he did so.

“It’s an enemy ship.”

“But it’s a symbol of the Far East.”

“It’s our enemy. When we became Unneeded, I felt a forced sense of resignation, but when Isa died, I felt a continuation of hostility.”

“…There it is. Nezu-kun, your words are always like a drawn knife.”

“You’re exaggerating.”

Nezu looked away and Anayama mimicked the movement a few seconds later.

“Like this!?”

“No. Like this.”

Nezu showed him an example. And with his gaze still cast downward…

“You don’t just swing your vision around. You have to decide on a destination in advance. That way you show you have real conviction.”

“Incredible, Nezu-kun!”

“You two…”

Yuri walked across the grass next to Nezu and let her shoulders droop.

“Can we get back now?”

She looked over, but found the two boys staring intently at her.

Eh? she thought in confusion.

Then Anayama nodded and said “do it”.

Yuri frowned, but Nezu gave her a sharp look.

“…Fine.”

She sighed and angled her body as if to signal the end of this sudden turn of events.

“Like this?”

She hung her head and looked away like Nezu had before.

And she stopped.

After a few seconds, she straightened up again. He had a hand on his forehead.

“…Why don’t you get it?” he asked.

“I-it was my first time.”

“Yuri-kun, I’m impressed you can stay with Nezu-kun.”

“I-I’m not ‘with’ him.” She quickly shook her head. “We stay in separate rooms, we use separate wallets, and I don’t look after him.”

“But you want to do those things, don’t you?”

Yuri spread her mouth horizontally at Anayama’s question. Then she reached for the scythe swords at her hips.

“Say anything more and I’ll make you regret it.”

“Yuri, dig in your heels here and you’re going to regret it.”

“Nezu-kun! Nezu-kun! You have no self-awareness do you!?”

After saying that, Anayama did something other than continue speaking.

He laughed quietly. It was a relaxing laugh that changed the mood. And he looked up into the southern sky.

“Ohh, the Musashi has already finished turning.”

“And it looks like the transport ship is on route for the Okutama.”

“Testament,” agreed Anayama. “They’re going to continue their study camp like that. Most likely, their negotiations with Mouri will begin once they arrive in Houjou territory. I wonder what our trio is doing there. I hope they’re feeling good about the deal they worked out for the 2nd Siege of Ueda.”


Yuri thought about those upperclassmen who were not here with them.

Kakei, Unno, and Mochizuki.

They were the calm ones of the group. Unno could be more influenced by the mood, but she never forgot to focus on the big picture and she was a reliable upperclassman.

But Yuri had a question.

“Why are those three joining the Houjou battle for the 2nd Siege of Ueda?”

“To send us to the next stage,” immediately replied Anayama.

But Yuri was not sure what he meant.

“The next stage?”

“Testament. They are sending Sanada to Osaka.” He raised his thumb toward the sky. “Listen. During the Battle of Sekigahara, Sanada will be split in two. …Masayuki-sama and our young master, Nobushige-sama, will join Hashiba’s Western Army and face Matsudaira’s Eastern Army. The young master’s brother, Nobuyuki-sama, will join Matsudaira’s Eastern Army and face his own father and brother. Ueda Castle fights to stop Hidetada, who is Matsudaira’s heir, and Nobuyuki-sama’s forces.”

She knew that. Anyone in Sanada would hear it over and over again.

“But,” cut in Yuri. “During Sekigahara, Hidetada’s orders are delayed and he does not show up in time. And even though Masayuki-sama and our young master achieve victory at the 2nd Siege of Ueda, they are defeated due to the Eastern Army’s victory at Sekigahara.”

“Testament. That is correct. …But there are two things we must do first.”

Yuri listened intently to Anayama.

She realized she had fallen for his skills as an orator as a question entered her mind.

Two things we must do?

The sun had risen higher into the sky. She knew the cicadas would start crying soon and Anayama raised two fingers in front of her.

“First, Sanada must preserve and strengthen its forces. …The age is moving quickly now, so if a small nation like Sanada loses its forces, we will have no way of recovering in time.”

“…I seem to recall our strongest Terrestrial Dragon and two of our Celestial Dragons retired recently.”

“And we can’t have anything like that happen again. Those dragons are like a one-being army when they aren’t up against people like Musashi’s main fighters.”

Yuri was convinced by the heartfelt tone to his voice.

And he continued with a sigh.

“Listen. There is one other thing we must do: settle our relationships with the other nations. Sanada is constantly fighting and reconciling with Houjou, Uesugi, and Matsudaira. And that is something of a problem.”

“How is that a problem?” she asked. “That kind of fighting is part of the history recreation, so it’s our duty, isn’t it?”

“Yuri. …And what if that wears down our forces?”

She knew what Nezu was saying.

But it was still their duty based on the Testament.

“We just have to make sure we keep our losses to a minimum and-…”

“Sanada is a small nation, Yuri-kun.” Anayama cut her off. “The large neighboring nations will try to wear down our forces to make sure our history recreations do not get in their way.”

“You have no proof that they’ll-…”

“Then,” said Anayama. “During the Osaka Campaign, our young master and we reach Matsudaira’s camp during a charge. So what do you think they will do to mitigate that threat?”

“————”

“Do you understand now?”

She did.

They would wear down Sanada’s forces before the Osaka Campaign. That would weaken their ability to make a charge and help Matsudaira escape that threat. So…

“You think that’s what Matsudaira is going to do…?”

“It won’t necessarily be only Matsudaira, Yuri-kun.”

Then…

“What are our upperclassmen doing at Houjou?”

“They are trying to use the Houjou battle as a way of eliminating one of our battles with another nation. That way the other nation won’t be able to interfere with us.”

“…And that battle is the 2nd Siege of Ueda?”

“Correct.” Anayama smiled. “I think Kakei-kun’s group made an excellent decision here. The 2nd Siege of Ueda is a localized battle primarily fought while holing up in a castle. That is something ninjas excel at.”

“But how is that supposed to correspond with the Houjou battle?”

“From the castle’s perspective, the flooding of Houjou can be seen as ‘holing up in a castle’. And there is someone else who has a definite history recreation along those lines.”

Just as Anayama lowered the ends of his eyebrows while still smiling, the cicadas began to cry.

His voice joined the insects.

“Takigawa Ichimasu. Her Siege of Kanie Castle during the Battle of Komaki Nagakute is the same. And if Kakei-kun’s group supports her, Hashiba is sure to accept Sanada’s request. The request to have the Siege of Kanie Castle double as the 2nd Siege of Ueda. …That is how they have decided to support Sanada’s future.”


“Heyyyy, Kakei. How’s breakfast comiiiing?”

“Ah!? I can’t hear you!”

“You iiiidiot!”

“You’re the idiot!”

“Oh, so you can hear meee! You iiidiot! Yes, you! An iiiidiot!”

“I can understand the simple words! The waves are just really loud! Look!”

Kakei waved from a pier with his shirt off.

They were at the ocean.

The ocean!

They had lived in Kansai once, so he had seen the inland Mediterranean Sea before.

Far Easterners: the people who like calling the Seto Inland Sea the Mediterranean but don’t call Osaka Bay the Persian Gulf!

No one else might share that motto, but that was the way he saw it.

Regardless, this was different.

“It’s the Pacific! The Pacific Ocean!”

“Kakei-sama, stop showing out-of-character excitement and catch some fish for breakfast.”

“I’m ready to fire some bullets, but I’m not seeing any fish between the waves.”

He looked back toward the rock stove built on the beach at the base of the pier. Mochizuki was there in a track suit and Unno with a swimsuit in place of her top.

Mochizuki was cooking a pot of soup and…

“The rice will be ready soon. I steamed it in leaves, so I have determined it should be somewhat hard.”

“You’re incredible, Mochizuki,” said Unno. “Ahh, and it smells so good. Now if only we had some fish to go with it…”

“Stop putting pressure on me.”

But he could not see any good fish as the waves crashed.

He took a firing pose and remained motionless, but Unno pointed toward the beach.

“Over here! On the beach end of the pier! You need to aim where the waves are calmer!”

“There’s nothing but small fish around there. Do you understand that?”

“Throw out that pride! You need to face the reality of our breakfast!”

“My bullets won’t leave much left of a small fish. Do you understand that?”

“Then couldn’t you use some other method?” asked Mochizuki.

Hmm, thought Kakei.

He did carry around hidden needles, but…

Those are for giving to Nezu.

So he was hesitant to use them.

“What about those long needles you are often passing to Nezu-sama?”

Mochizuki was sharp, but Unno tapped on her shoulder.

And she gave a rare smile.

“Mochizuki, that’s a death flag.”

Don’t sound so gentle when you say that.

But Mochizuki…

“Once he gives all of those to Nezu-sama, he will die in his next battle, won’t he?”

“Yes, that’s right. And that’s why Nezu will count the thousand needles he’s been given, find that seven are missing, and get mad that it doesn’t add up.”

“You love making Nezu jokes as much as Anamaya does, don’t you?”

“Of course. He’s our cute underclassman.”

He knew what she meant by that. Nezu was a good underclassman who showed real trust in them. But…

“Make sure you don’t overlook his actual skill, though.”

“Says the guy who can’t even catch some breakfast.”

With that, Unno waved at him.

And in that instant…

Oh.

Something flew his way. He swung his left hand on reflex and grabbed some objects in front of his face. They wobbled from the snap of his wrist.

“Skewers?”

“They’re spare parts for my fan frames. Since they got broken a bit before.”

There were 7 of them.

They were the perfect weight. They were made of bamboo, but they must have been carefully selected because they were well balanced. So…

“I’ll be using these.”

“Yes, yes. Feel free. …You and Mochizuki did well last night, so I have to repay you for being no help.”

Kakei stopped moving at that.

Unno was talking about the negotiation.

They had discussed what had happened and what they were going to do. Unno had complained about not getting to join them, but…

“Well, if I’d been there, I might have been too aggressive with that Takigawa woman and messed up the negotiation.”

“Wouldn’t it have been easier for another woman to speak with her? Y’know, to pick up on some subtleties I probably missed.”

“…Kakei-sama, do you not recall my gender?”

“Ohh, sorry. Like really sorry…”

But despite all that, they had taken an “all’s well that ends well” stance.

And that was why she was lending him these bamboo frame parts now.

Of course, he was fairly certain she would have lent them regardless, but…

We have a way of making excuses for these things when we can.

They knew each other well, but they each specialized in different fields. They had their pride and they tended to avoid any sense of sharing anything.

They kept things that way because they were “Unneeded”.

What had things been like between them before that?

Well, it doesn’t matter.

But things had changed. They were starting down a different path for Sanada and for themselves.

So…

“Okay, let’s do this.”

Kakei raised the bamboo frame pieces.

God. You listening?

Please, just watch me like always. I’ll lose all my dignity as a man if I can’t catch some fish.

He made that mental request and then released them.

It was more like sending them forth than throwing them. And…

“—————”

The bamboo frame pieces vanished from his hand.

And eventually…

“Kakei.”

He heard Unno’s dispirited voice.

“I thought you said you couldn’t catch small fish?”

Some pierced fish were flopping around at the surface by the beach end of the pier.


Kakei jumped into the water to retrieve his catch.

And then he walked up onto the beach.

“I knew we would have to wait for a while, but I didn’t think we would end up essentially camping out here.”

The saltwater reminded him of the inland sea when they were back in Kansai.

It had been a long time. The feeling of sand slipping between his toes as the waves receded really took him back. The taller waves may have been a trait of non-inland seas.

The wave eventually lowered from knee height to shin height.

“Here.”

He was using his hat to carry the fish and he dropped them in front of Mochizuki. She used her gravitational control to solidify the wet sand into a cutting board.

“Thank you very much.”

This meant they could finish cooking breakfast.

Kakei felt relief and an odd sense of amusement at that as he looked up into the sky.

This was the Odawara coast. They were in the east. And when he looked overhead…

“Is that Mouri’s aerial fleet in the west toward Atami?”

“It really looks like they’re trying to keep their distance from us.”

“They probably are.” Kakei looked to a spring water pool on the edge of the coast. “Even if the Siege of Odawara is being used for a number of different battles, there are basically three poles here.”

“Do you mean Houjou, Mouri, and Hashiba?”

“Testament. Even if we join in for the 2nd Siege of Ueda, we’re really only helping Takigawa-san of Hashiba. …Since Hashiba pretty much is the Testament Union now, we can make a deal for Sanada’s future by helping her.”

Meaning…

“If we can help Takigawa-san with her battle and also complete the 2nd Siege of Ueda, we can preserve Sanada’s forces, give them a path to Osaka, and bring them some peace.”

“But what are we going to do? Takigawa has lost most of her forces.”

Mouri’s aerial fleet was in the western sky and the Houjou fleet was beyond that.

Those were powerful forces, but just as Unno had hinted…

“Takigawa-sama has lost the Shirasagi Castle, so she will be acting as a ground force. And the three of us must act as the Sanada forces during the 2nd Siege of Ueda.”

“If we think of the Ten Braves as worth a thousand warriors each, then we should be good.”

Kakei rubbed his cheek as he said that.

The seawater was already starting to dry.

The sounds of the waves were dying down, but that just meant he could hear the cicadas in the forest and hills. The temperature was only going to rise.

Such a nice summer.

He stopped himself before adding the very un-ninja-like thought of “if not for all the battles”.

The ocean had him feeling more energetic than usual.

It would be dangerous if this made them miss Sanada land. And the three here would know that.

That land had accepted them as “Unneeded”. Their thoughts only turned in that direction when they had nothing else to rely on.

In other words, when their skills proved useless and they were in danger.

And we need to avoid a situation like that.

However…

“We don’t really know what the other two ‘poles’ will do,” said Kakei.

“Aren’t they going to fight their battles?” asked Unno.

“The third pole, Takigawa-san, will probably do that, yes.”

Kakei hesitated a moment, but he decided to head to the spring to wash his body.

He set off walking along the sand.

The beach did not extend very far back. Only about 20 meters.

He felt like he was grabbing at a thin cloth with the bottom of his feet.

“But, you see. Like Takigawa-san said last night, Houjou and Mouri are in a bit of a different situation from Hashiba. Especially Mouri. So if the two of them decide to work together…”

“We’ll be the only ones fighting?”

Unno was sharp.

But he did not know the answer here. There was only one thing he could say at this stage.

“That’s probably not how it’ll be.”

He did not know what Mouri and Houjou were thinking, but if they were after what he thought they were

Then I’m jealous.

Mouri, Houjou, and Musashi would bring about something quite ridiculous.

“They’ll be causing a battle on a much larger scale than the ones for Houjou and Mouri.”

Ahead of him, the spring water was overflowing onto the beach.

The water stained the white sand a burnt brown, creating what looked like a crack, but it disappeared partway through.

He moved his foot forward and stepped in the crack of overflowing spring water.

It’s cold.

“Hey.”

“What is it?” asked Unno.

Kakei rethought what he wanted to say.

He looked back to see Mochizuki dropping the fish meat from the sand cutting board and into the pot. Unno was watching it too.

The cicada cries were louder than the waves and Kakei spoke over both.

“I caught seven, so are we dividing them 2, 2, and 3 with the 3 going to me?”

“I supplied the bamboo frame parts.”

“And I cooked them.”

Our girls don’t like to back down, do they? he thought while waving at them.

“You two figure it out.”

He walked into the spring. It was unexpectedly deep.


Notes[edit]

  1. The name is pronounced the same as the Japanese term for “cooking the books”.