Horizon:Volume 6A Chapter 7
Chapter 7: Debaters around the Fire
Will the legitimacy of history
Come to an end
When history ends?
Point Allocation (Debate)
The moonlight falling on the city was swept away by the manmade lights.
This was the nightscape of Paris.
At the center of the large city stood a mansion surrounded by a vast garden and the residences and corporations surrounded that.
The city's buildings were not arranged in orderly rows. They were artlessly arranged back to back in distorted circles that made a clear distinction between districts. Those circles of buildings created a courtyard in the center and were known as blocks.
The spaces between those blocks naturally formed roads. The roads between blocks were known as avenues and were seen as distinct from the normal city streets.
Paris was currently utilizing those avenues.
From the outside moving in, those main avenues had been sealed off.
Since Paris had outer city walls, sealing off the inner avenues transformed the city into a giant maze.
They would be fighting Hashiba in two days' time, so they were installing anti-air cannons and defense barrier projectors at important points throughout the city and also deploying Lourd de Marionnettes.
They had no time. Each task led right into another and no amount of materiel felt like enough.
Paris was a city that never slept and, when viewed from outside, it looked like a light installed in the earth.
Then there was further work outside of Paris.
Two construction projects were underway there.
They were building a moat and levees around the city.
"Hey, over here!"
These were large and vast projects. The workers included Lourd de Marionnettes as well as...
"Hey! Mr. Big Dragon! Come over here!"
The 6 Terrestrial Dragons that had regrouped with Bernard were assisting the construction.
They were all winged and more than 100 meters long. These ones were capable of walking on two legs. At first, they had been standing at Paris's six vertices to protect the city, but as they watched the progress of construction...
"We can't just sit here and watch, humans..."
...they began to help.
The humans were initially surprised by these giant beings who could quickly break down and push aside the dirt.
"You'll help us!?"
"No, you moron," said the dragon digging by the eastern gate. "You see," he continued. "If you don't win here, this nation is in trouble. To ensure we have a home, we need this nation to uphold the contract from 400 years ago, but if a new power takes over, they would have to decide whether to discard or uphold that contract. We just want things to stay the way they are, so we'd like to avoid any possibility of having to renegotiate things."
"That's right," said the one by the southeastern gate two kilometers away. "M.H.R.R. and Hashiba might say they'll recognize our territory, but Master Bernard says it won't work out that way."
"Why not?" asked one of the tiny people.
The dragons tilted their long heads.
"I don't really get it myself," said the dragon digging at the southern gate which was closest to the Hashiba forces. "But he says we need to participate in this battle to make it clear that we, the main dragon clan, belong to Europe.
"Oh?" said a member of the transport unit delivering a great quantity of cleared dirt outside the city. His summer uniform's shirt was tied around his waist and he wiped away sweat with a towel. "Because if the Hashiba-controlled M.H.R.R. takes over here, you might be driven out as a Far Eastern group?"
"I'm guessing that's the reason..."
The dragon did not give a clear answer and a female giant responded after arriving with a wine barrel of water. She spoke while accepting a receipt signe cadre from the site manager who was half her height.
"That's weird. If you're afraid of being driven out on the Far Eastern side of things, wouldn't Hashiba's recognition of your territory be enough?"
"You'd think so, but Master Bernard says otherwise."
"That's right," said the dragon in charge of the southeastern gate. He groaned to himself while fixing the shape of the earthen wall he was forming with his front legs. "Master Bernard said he would be taking all responsibility onto himself. ...We've got nowhere else to go, so we came here hoping we might be of some use."
"You don't have to worry about that. You're being a lot more than just 'some' help!"
"Yeah!" replied the others, so the dragon nodded.
"I was still a kid 400 years ago and didn't really understand it all, but my dad and the others apparently went around killing all sorts of humans. We would also sometimes crush the ones that came to mess with us in the mountains."
The dragons straightened up and looked to Paris.
"It looks small to us, but it's a lot different from what our parents talked about. I can see why some of us feel so hopelessly behind the times."
"Yeah," said the dragon by the north gate as he casually grabbed and picked up a nearby Lourd de Marionnette. He gave the screaming Lourd de Marionnette a quick glance. "You react the same as ever, but you've got thinner armor and more weapons than back then."
He set down the Lourd de Marionnette and then peered over Paris's wall.
"Hm... How long would it take for me to crush it all on my own? A day maybe?"
As soon as he said that, a wall of light rose high into the sky from the inside of the city wall.
That was an anti-air defense barrier meant to block ultra-massive objects. Some of the barriers seemed to have reacted, so with a rumbling sound, the dragon was hit on the jaw and knocked upwards and backwards.
After a while, he collapsed onto his back.
The earthen wall burst like water spray, the wheat field beyond it was crushed, and a portion of the moat collapsed.
The dragon quickly rolled over and shook his head.
"Ow...! What was that!?"
The other dragons spoke up without even looking his way.
"And there we have someone so far behind the times they don't know about the humans' defense systems."
"A day? You'd never manage it that fast, you iiiiidiot."
"If you all know about them, you must've been caught by them too, right!?"
"No, no." The northwestern dragon shook his head. "I heard about them when I guided some lost humans out of the mountains."
"Even when the humans don't change, you still need to find a chance to gather information."
The other dragons also spoke to the people at their feet.
"Oh, you can laugh. Mocking the hopeless and praising the skilled is how we dragons do things. Even you other races can tell when we're hopeless and there's nothing quite as humiliating as being laughed at by you. So laugh it up. ...Oh, but don't laugh when it's me."
They all laughed at that.
"Dammit." The dragon on the ground hopped to his feet and got back to work. "You'd better remember this."
When he said that, he noticed some glowing smoke leave his mouth.
"Hey, humans. Is there anywhere I can fire a dragon cannon? All this moving around has built up the pressure."
"Why not fire it into the sky?"
"For us, that acts as a signal to other clans. Like saying we're in battle or about to die."
"Okay." The captain in charge of carrying dirt waved to the others. "Then you take a quick break. We'll be over at the dirt pile!"
The workers sounded tired but motivated. Partially because of the dragons' presence, but also...
"We really are carrying the weight of this nation's history and future on our shoulders, aren't we?"
"But," said the man harvesting some wheat early to make room for the expansions to the moat by the southern gate. He looked up at the dragon shining in the moonlight. "You dragons talk a lot more than I expected."
"Don't your old stories mention people who wandered into the mountains and were given jewels for answering a dragon's riddles? Or that we turn into sages when we get old? Or that we'll guide a cute girl down the mountain?"
"Our bodies are partially supported by the ether from the ley lines, so we put a lot of focus on our territory. So as long as you don't try to mess with our daily lives or territory, we're pretty easy to get along with. Although we do have our pride, so we won't let you get away with making a fool of us."
"Right? It's said we attack and eat people because of all the fighting in the Germanic part of Europe way back when, but that was only because the cooling climate shifted our territory south. Besides, humans don't even taste good. It's not part of our culture or traditions, so we have no real reason to prey on you." The dragon stared up into the sky. "Generally...we just want a simple life. The elder says we have no ambition, but it's not like we ever leave our territory. Can't we just live normal lives?"
"Right, right," said another. "We're biological, so we'll fall in love when we see a cute girl during spring..."
"Of course. We have a low birth rate, so our breeding desire is pretty strong and you can't exactly call us a refined species. And we'll get depressed when we're rejected. But..."
The dragon breathed out a mist of white ether light as if it was cigarette smoke.
And he looked to the center of Paris.
"That's just for us Terrestrial Dragons. The Celestial ones are different," he said. "Celestial Dragons apparently have the same 'mold' as us, but we're biological. We're living creatures, right? But they're more like spirits or gods. They don't need to eat and only do it for the flavor and they don't have kids, so they have very little 'desire' either for breeding or food. If there is a desire they have..."
"Yeah?" asked the man digging up the trees alongside the original moat so they could be moved. "What desire do the Celestial Dragons have?"
"Well." The dragon looked over the outer wall and into Paris. "Celestial Dragons simply have a desire to be a 'dragon'. Did you know? The words like dragon and drachen originally referred to 'a harsh temperament'. That's what the Celestial Dragons are. They're like a living lecture to us Terrestrial Dragons."
The dragons' voices reached into the city.
But when they passed the city walls, they changed into something like the roaring of wind.
The audio-related defense barriers were being tested at low power.
So while the people inside could see the dragons moving and the outdoor lamps swayed back and forth, they could not hear the cacophony of work noises.
The ground would sometimes shake from construction along the wall, but it was the noise inside Paris that took precedence there.
Inside the city, Paris's streets were under construction.
It was mostly turning the city into a maze by sealing off the avenues and building internal levees just in case. They were also setting up and reinforcing anti-air equipment.
Lourd de Marionnettes walked to their posts on the main avenues and plazas, but...
"Southern District 1! We're activating the stealth along the primary avenue! This will take 4 minutes!"
With that, a wall appeared along the avenue. It was a thin wall of ether light with an arched roof.
Viewed from outside, it displayed the scene on the inside, but...
The people and Lourd de Marionnettes on the avenue disappeared.
By using stealth while moving and taking up positions, they could hide the arrangement of their Lourd de Marionnettes and other major equipment. Even if Hashiba was observing them from the sky, the locations of most things would be unclear.
And someone watched it happen from an elevated position.
It was the Roi-Soleil who stood on the roof of the mansion in Paris's center that acted as his palace.
"Tomorrow, we will activate stealth barriers around the entire city, preventing anyone outside from detecting anything on the inside. Paris truly is a battlefield toy box. Don't you think, Bernard?"
"Dragons have no use for toys."
That comment came from an elderly man wearing old armor over a bluish-black summer uniform.
That was Bernard and he gave the Roi-Soleil a sidelong glance with his bestial eyes.
"It would seem the construction is going well thanks to the help from us dragons."
"Heh. We would have finished by tomorrow night even without you. ...But thanks to your help, we should finish by tomorrow morning."
"Any reason for hastening it?"
"So we can rest and enjoy ourselves."
The Roi-Soleil puffed his chest out with pride.
He was looking far to the south where a certain silhouette was visible.
That was the Azuchi Castle.
That ship had split apart for the Great Return and created a line leading south, so he was seeing the first central ship.
"The enemy is already looking beyond their battle with us. Bernard, what is your opinion of that? For example, what will things be like tomorrow?"
"Well." Bernard took a step back on the roof to stand on the highest point and look around. "Roi-Soleil, do you think Hashiba is going to begin their flooding tomorrow?"
"Hashiba takes things seriously. And she intends to turn this into their Invasion of Mouri. We, on the other hand, are trying to view it as a portion of the Thirty Years' War, as are the surrounding nations I'm sure."
"Testament." The Roi-Soleil nodded. "M.H.R.R. and P.A. Oda take the history recreation very seriously. They are prepared to make interpretations, but they have never even once chosen to not recreate something in the Testament descriptions. In a way, they are the most faithful to the Testament Union even as they defy it."
"What does that matter?"
"Because it is that, Bernard." The Roi-Soleil laughed quietly and did not bother turning back toward Bernard. "Heh. Think of it in reverse, Bernard. You are the mercenary captain who is originally from M.H.R.R. but, being Protestant, constantly defied the Catholic mainstream of M.H.R.R. ...When you inherited that name, weren't you taught that it was joining a foreign nation that proved how seriously he took his actions as a Landsknecht who would turn on his own nation for the right price and contract?"
Bernard seemed to realize something because he looked to the south.
He faced the same direction as the Roi-Soleil to view the Azuchi Castle's silhouette.
The lights of Paris made the distant Azuchi difficult to make out, but Bernard spoke quietly as he stared at it.
"Are you suggesting they have a reason to carry out the history recreation so seriously?"
"They probably do." The Roi-Soleil did not make a definite statement, but he did put his hands on his hips. "Hashiba has been constantly demonstrating that they are doing the 'right' thing. And what is it they gain from that?"
"The legitimacy of their history recreation." Bernard answered immediately, but he did not stop there. "If they can demonstrate that they have been 'properly' fulfilling the history recreation..."
That would mean...
"Everything they are doing would be the proper course of action."
"Testament." The Roi-Soleil nodded and took a breath. "Bernard, you have lived far longer than me. Since you existed back when Hexagone Française was known as Gaul, you have lived longer than this very nation. I will show my respect on that front."
"What about the fact that I am a Celestial Dragon?"
"If you are a Celestial Dragon, then I am a god." The Roi-Soleil glanced back over his shoulder. "If you insist on using your status as a Celestial Dragon, I too will insist on using my status."
"I appreciate your thoughtfulness."
"And I am glad we have something in common. Besides, I am now a servant to love. That is something you can never understand, so I am thankful we can use our inherited names to speak together."
"I see," said Bernard, but then he restated it. "Testament. ...Does that work?"
"Testament, exactly right. ...Now, Bernard, that is enough of a preface. There is something I must tell you. You have lived a long life, but there is a lot about the present you still do not understand."
"How much has changed since Anne of Austria came to visit us?"
The Roi-Soleil nodded at his question.
"As Celestial Dragons, you must have noticed the Apocalypse's progress. ...The world's ley lines and ether are thinning and it will pass the critical point during October of this year. Given the close connection between Celestial Dragons and the ley lines, you must have noticed the reduction in the ether that forms you."
"...Indeed we have."
"Testament. I can sense it too. Lately, I have had a lot of split ends in my flares." The Roi-Soleil sounded calm. "At this rate, the Apocalypse will happen. It will not be a dramatic thing. The critical point will arrive and everything will simply fade away. And..."
"We have heard two proposed methods of saving us from the Apocalypse. ...The first is the Far East's plan to have Musashi's princess gather all of the Logismoi Oplo and use them in some way. And the other..."
Bernard finished for the Roi-Soleil.
"I heard about that when I inherited this name. P.A. Oda's Genesis Project."
"Testament. ...Do you understand now?"
The Roi-Soleil pointed past Paris where construction continued through the night.
He pointed to the Azuchi far to the south.
"I think they follow the history recreation so closely to increase the legitimacy of their Genesis Project."
"Are you just guessing?"
"If I am wrong, feel free to laugh at me. My history recreation includes a love of theatre and I often get up on the stage myself."
"Yes, I suppose it's harder on the performer when people don't laugh."
And with that...
Bernard quietly laughed.
The laughter slightly lifted the corners of the Roi-Soleil's mouth as well.
"Bernard. ...I will make sure you are useful."
"Even with all this power as a nation and an army?"
"You refused Anne's invitation," said the Roi-Soleil. "You are not here now because of me, so I will show you I am an emperor who can conquer you. ...That is my tribute to Anne. To show her I can do this."
"Is that so? Is that so?" Bernard returned to a neutral expression and nodded. "Then what will the emperor show this mercenary captain?"
"What we have in common."
"The day after tomorrow, they will attack us as if we are Mouri no matter what it takes. So listen, Bernard, Protestant mercenary captain. I do not know your reasons, but we will crush Hashiba as a European force."
The Roi-Soleil created a flare in his raised palm and crushed it in his grip.
"I have no intention of granting legitimacy to P.A. Oda's Genesis Project. We must protect Europe as the rulers of Europe. That is what I mean."
"So what even is the Genesis Project?"
Naomasa spoke next to the weakened campfire.
It was past nine and the dampness of night dew was beginning to weigh down their yukatas and summer uniforms.
They all sat at the chairs near the fire or around the table.
Among them, Horizon responded to Naomasa's question.
"To be blunt, we don't even know how gathering my Logismoi Oplo is supposed to save us from the Apocalypse."
"Judge. But we do have a hint for the Genesis Project."
While sitting in a log chair west of the campfire, Masazumi looked to the Reine des Garous.
She rested her elbows on her lap and leaned forward while the Reine des Garous crossed her legs and leaned back.
"Wasn’t that 'to end the world but not to let it end'?" asked the woman.
"Yes. Those are the words Lord Matsunaga left us with."
"What a strange thing to say," said Gin who had removed her false arms and wore a track suit. She looked to Masazumi with Muneshige by her side. "I find it odd that he didn't just call it 'redoing the world'."
"That's true," said Narumi at the table by the fire. She rested her head in her hand and wore a large short-sleeved kosode to allow her false arms through. "Ending it but not letting it end. I don't really like that phrasing. It sounds like they aren't starting over again or resetting things."
"Then what...other way could you...say it?"
Hearing Suzu's question, Asama looked up and stopped working at managing the base camp's fire.
"The reverse would be 'to begin but not begin'."
"But which one is it?" Mary tilted her head while working with Tenzou to wrap the pots and plates in rush mats and tie them up with string. "Which one is more important?"
"What do you mean by 'which one'?"
"Judge." Mary nodded to Tenzou. "To end it and begin it again, or to not end it and not begin it. Which one are they putting more focus on?"
She sat up and lifted the wrapped plates a little.
She flattened her eyebrows as she confirmed the knotted strings could carry the weight of the plates.
"If they are focused on the former, they will work harder toward ending it. If they are focused on the latter, they will work harder to keep it going. Lord Matsunaga's statement did not indicate where the focus lies, so..."
Mary hesitated before continuing.
"Would the Genesis Project be to end it but allow it to continue?"
That's right, thought Asama concerning Mary's words.
It sounded like a play on words, but that description of the Genesis Project was contradictory.
"You can't simultaneously end something and not end it."
Asama spread her hands and then intertwined her two sets of fingers.
"So it must mean to do both in parallel."
"But is it possible to do that in parallel?"
Someone responded to Naruze's question: Neshinbara.
"There is a way."
Asama turned toward him and saw him staring into the campfire.
A closer look showed his right hand was held toward the fire.
Asama: "He's in his own little world, isn't he?"
Mal-Ga: "I was going to call him an idiot, but that's so cringeworthy I don't even feel like warning him..."
Unturning: "Urquiaga, does the Secretary's pose there mean anything?"
"Well," began Urquiaga before taking a breath.
Uqui: "It is the mood that matters. Narumi, don't you have someone back in Oushuu who runs almost entirely on the current mood? Well, don't you?"
"Okayyy! This is Katakura-kun, the annoying half of the Aoba Student Council President and Vice President duo! I know you're busy working through the night to repair the school building after Masamune-kun's Seiryu sliced right through it, but rejoice! For I am here to pay you a visit! Happy, aren't you? Ecstatic, aren't you? I mean, it's me visiting to harass you in the middle of the night! Now, with a name like Katakura-kun, it can be easy to mistake me for the Katagiri who's shown up in M.H.R.R. lately, can't it!? Eh? What is it, Yoshihime, Age 30? Theirs is really cute and I'm not? Now, now, Yoshihime, Age 30, how about you say what you really think!? Call me cute-noying! ...Who was it that just called me creep-noying!? Say it more!
"Anyway, they call him Kacky, so you all need to call me Kackoo! Got that!? Kackoo! Eh? What is it, Yoshihime, Age 30? You want me to jump around a bit? Sure thing! Listen, listen, do you hear all that money rattling around!? ...You want me to treat you to some food since I visited? What kind of tyranny is this!? Under no circumstances will I say no! I'll pay up! Dammit, I just have to hand over the money, right!? Are you really that cheap!? You'd better remember this! Cause I'm pretty forgetful myself!!"
Asama saw Narumi reach for the sake on the table without speaking a word.
...Something must have come to mind.
Well, everyone's different.
But that aside, Neshinbara's statement had her curious.
What had he meant?
Naito must have been wondering the same thing because she went ahead and asked him.
"Bara-yan? What was that you were saying about the Genesis Project?"
"I think we can take it at face value. Because..."
For no apparent reason, he grabbed a piece of firewood and held the fire in front of his face. When Suzu noticed...
Neshinbara dropped the firewood back into the campfire.
"You idiot. The heat permeates the wood like a pipe," said Naomasa. "But I think I understand what you mean."
Are you listening?
"The idea of 'ending it while not letting it end' works if you do it in parallel just like Mary said."
"But 6th Special Duty Officer...how do you do that?"
"That's the question."
With that, Naomasa got up from her seat and stuck her false arm in the campfire.
She pulled out a large piece of firewood with a black carbonized surface.
"There. ...Oh, Suzu, this isn't too hot for me, so don't worry."
As Suzu nodded, Naomasa split the firewood down the middle.
Asama heard a dry sound followed by a fibrous tearing.
It was not fully burnt.
"Don't say it. Even I'm realizing this is kind of long-winded. But I might as well go through with it."
Naomasa reached into her skirt and pulled out a tool set that doubled as a carabiner.
With a light shake, a knife flipped out and she used that to flatten out the firewood's cross section.
After about 3 seconds of work, she blew on the firewood and held it up.
"How about that?"
On Naomasa's insistence, Asama viewed the firewood's cross section.
"The outside has been carbonized...but the middle is still living wood."
"It's pretty easy to tell here since this firewood hadn't fully dried out."
Asama understood what Naomasa was saying.
"Are you asking whether this wood is burned or not burned?"
"That's right. ...In fact, with the fire at this level, it would never be able to fully burn the inside. So you could say the fire has been set up perfectly to make sure it 'burns but does not burn'," explained Naomasa. "Also, this firewood can still be used as firewood, so we can say it hasn't 'ended'."
"Oh, I get it..."
That comment came from Toori. He and Horizon sat next to Mitotsudaira at the table.
"In other words," he said while crossing his arms and looking to Naomasa, "It's like someone who looks completely tanned but isn't tanned below their clothes."
"You didn't listen to a word of Masa's explanation, did you!? Did you!?" Asama was aware her shoulders had slumped. "But if we do assume the 'ending' and 'not ending' will happen in parallel, there is still one thing we don't know. ...Oh, and I'm not talking about the method used. This is a more fundamental issue."
"Heh heh heh. Asama, quit putting on airs and switch over to your ether exposition mode! Yes, I'm well aware you said 'one thing we don't know' as a way to obscure the issue! Now, were you obscuring it with steam or with a sunbeam!? If we have a choice, the steam is better because you can see through it by adjusting the brightness! If you ask me, we should add some steam to the Genesis Project! And you should ask me since it's the Genesis Project!"
Asama raised her right fist, so the idiot sister fled.
"Anyway." Asama took a breath. "The Apocalypse is a thinning of the ether flowing through the ley lines. That means it is happening in parallel across the entire world. So if it is happening to us and the air over there, it is also happening at the bottom of the ocean, deep underground, and in the farthest reaches of the heavens."
In that case...
"How is there a way to 'end' a portion of it but 'not end' another portion?"
Adele realized Asama was right.
But Adele had another thought as well.
She was not sure if she should say this. She looked around and found the others were also thinking about Asama's line.
They had their thoughts as well, so Adele chose to speak.
"Yes, what is it, Adele?"
"You're our ether expert, so if you don't understand something, how are we supposed to?"
They silently stopped moving with their arms still crossed and hands still on their chins.
After a while, Horizon raised her right hand.
"I have a good idea."
"What is it, Vicereine Horizon?"
"Judge. ...In a way, Asama-sama has just dumped this problem on us."
"Uuh..." groaned Asama, making Adele feel apologetic, but the Vicereine...
"So, Adele-sama, how about you throw the question right back at Asama-sama by making it clear that the rest of us are no help whatsoever?"
"Wh-why do I have to do it!?" protested Adele.
She looked around for help, but everyone — Reine des Garous included — averted their gaze.
They apparently did not want to get dragged into this.
She looked back to find Naomasa holding Suzu's shoulders while they placed some potatoes in the campfire.
"Here, Suzu, this one is yours. You can look forward to eating it tomorrow morning."
"U-umm." Suzu glanced back toward Adele. "G-good luck."
...How am I supposed to turn down that support!?
She could not rely on Suzu now. In fact, she could not rely on anyone. She had to do this herself.
So she thought about what to say.
"U-uh, I just have to answer in some way that will convince her we're useless, right!?"
Horizon nodded with sweat on her brow.
"Judge. You must reveal to Asama-sama that we are hopeless excuses for human beings that she cannot even think about relying on! That is an important job."
...Stop piling on the pressure!
She could tell Suzu kept glancing her way, but she could not worry the girl. So Adele spoke to Asama.
"Basically, the overall density of ether is dropping, right? Then..."
"Can't we just constantly breathe in to gather it around us and increase the density? Surely you would undershtand that!"
Her tongue slipped.
Unturning: "What was that at the end? Going the extra mile to convince her?"
Uqui: "Narumi, even we know how to show restraint."
Mal-Ga: "Yeah, I wonder if the readers would get it if I used that for the ending of my next doujinshi."
Flat Vassal: "Why are you all focusing more on me misspeaking than on what I actually said!?"
Me: "That's right, everyone! Adele made a good attempt there! She was given a difficult task and she isn't even a professional, so that was an admirable attempt!"
Horizon threw a straight punch without even looking his way and the idiot made one full flip.
"Toori-sama, Adele-sama is feeling shamed, so why would you only continue to attack her? You need to be more undershtanding. ...Oh, my apologies."
"I-I see you're willing to take this pretty far, Vicereine Horizon!"
As the others tried to figure out what to do, Asama raised her right hand.
"Um, for now, let's just say I'm in charge of answering this but the rest of you should be seeing if you can come up with any ideas."
"Yes," agreed Masazumi. She looked around at the others. "And either way, I think P.A. Oda's Genesis Project will begin sometime soon."
"Why's that, Seijun? Have you awoken to prophetic powers?"
"You have, Crossdressing Honda-kun!?"
"Quiet, both of you. ...Listen. Nobunaga's assassination is the last time P.A. Oda remains a monolith. If they're planning some major event like the Genesis Project to save us from the Apocalypse, they can't wait until after the history recreation has split them apart, can they? That is why we need to search for a way to intervene in P.A. Oda's history recreation after the Houjou battle."
But Masazumi had more to say from there.
"And in addition to the Genesis Project, we are also pursuing the Princess. Asama is having trouble making sense of what the Genesis Project actually is, but the truth is we are missing a piece. We have yet to fully investigate the Princess who is said to be involved in the Genesis Project."
"You mean finding out what was originally in the center of the Age of Dawn relief we saw in that academy from the Age of Dawn?" asked Tenzou.
"Judge," replied someone other than Masazumi.
It was Mary. She wrapped her arms around his arm and leaned forward a bit as she opened her mouth.
She spoke directly with no hesitation in her voice.
"My father went missing 30 years ago along my mother and some others and then returned again, but so did the others who have fallen victim to the Princess Disappearances."
"We thought the ruins below Sanada were where they had gone," said Tenzou. "But the dates didn't quite match up."
Mary turned toward him.
She rotated her body around as if using his arm as a pivot point, so his arm ended up deep between her breasts and thighs.
As everyone held their breath and glared at him, Mary spoke with her eyebrows somewhat raised.
"The Genesis Project, the Princess Disappearances, the academy said to have existed 30 years ago, and the Age of Dawn relief that was partially erased. We have been pursuing the three other than the Genesis Project, but has the time come for all of them to coincide?"
Tenzou sensed a threat to his life.
Mary holding onto his arm was not a problem. She had a habit of holding onto things without noticing and for someone as resilient as her...
...It is such an adorable habit.
Depending on her lifestyle or fate, she may have grown very attached to a stuffed animal or doll.
He doubted she would ever live a life where she was attached to a character body pillow, but he was hoping he could give her a life that allowed this habit to continue.
But it was a danger at the moment.
She had done this before while wearing her uniform.
But now she was in her track suit.
This was the first time for that. The inner suit portion was the same as with her uniform, so there should not have been any real reason to grow flustered. And yet...
...The top is different and the tights are different!
He cursed his own love of overly-specific genres. He wished he could enter staring mode, but the way Asama and Mitotsudaira were fanning each other with their hands was too dangerous.
And just as he tried to figure out what to do...
Mary's question brought him back to his senses. And...
"What is it, Mary-dono?"
"What do you think?"
He had not been listening.
No, he had been listening, but he could not remember if she had said anything since that.
Had she or had she not said something?
He was fairly certain there had been enough time for a "——————". There definitely had been. Probably. But there was no guarantee Mary had said anything in that time.
What should I do? he wondered as he faced Mary's expectant gaze.
Azuma: "Tenzou-kun sure gives things a lot of thought."
10ZO: "I-I wasn't expecting anything from you!"
Azuma: "Well, it's just that Miriam makes up her mind immediately."
Almost Everyone: "Ho ho...?"
Gold Mar: "You were speaking with her via divine transmission before Asama-chi shut it down, weren't you?"
Azuma: "Yes. Miriam and that girl like hearing about things outside."
Flat Vassal: "You must be confident if you aren’t denying it..."
Tenzou wished he could be that bold, but Azuma could be a bit clueless.
But even with something feeling off about this, Tenzou made up his mind.
...I-I can just apologize if I get it wrong!
At the very least, he could not ask his classmates. Well, he could, but his future was forfeit if he did.
So he made up his mind and replied to Mary.
"Well...if you ask me..."
They had been discussing the Genesis Project and the Princess Disappearances. There was a lot to think about there, but...
...If we can see the complete Age of Dawn relief in Houjou, we need to start with that.
There were three other mysteries as well, but they could only guess about them at the moment. Since there was one they had an actual means of reaching, he felt like the shortest route would be to go see that one first.
But Tenzou remembered something.
In England, he had seen where Henry VIII, Mary's father, had been taken by the Princess Disappearances.
And below Novgorod, they had been present when Holland Chancellor William of Orange was taken by the Princess Disappearances and the emblem of the Princess Disappearances had appeared behind Mary's back as well.
For Mary, he doubted the Princess Disappearances that had taken her father was something she could simply view as a past incident.
So he gave an answer to what she had said before.
"Do not worry, Mary-dono. I will always be here to support you."
Tenzou saw Mary give a start in response to his words.
Her eyebrows were raised and her eyes somewhat widened as she directed those blue eyes straight toward him. But there was a red flush to her cheeks.
She continued looking him in the eye for the span of a breath.
Then Mary smiled and held his arm even tighter.
“Judge, thank you very much.”
His arm was entirely embedded between her breasts and his forearm was pressing against the line down from her navel.
…I-I can’t move…!
Asama: “If she’s just touching you, it counts as an accident. Move, and it’s groping.”
Silver Wolf: “Tomo? Just out of curiosity, what’s the Shinto response to groping?”
Asama: “Well, first a loud groper alarm sounds along with some mood music, then the arm and hand that did the groping are twisted until they snap by the combat gods who couldn’t find a romantic partner, then the combat gods touch you all over where you tried to touch, three days later you get some nerve pain that feels like there’s an earthworm in your urethra, and also your hand is deflected from the person you tried to touch.”
Tachibana Wife: “Wouldn’t the first and last parts be enough?”
Asama: “It only ended up like that because each generation has had fun putting in their own additions. Oh, but Shinto is actually pretty strict on gropers. After all, the Shinto gods often say things like ‘Eh, an animal’s fine too’ or ‘I was actually an inanimate object all along!’, but as long as they establish a connection, they’ll get married and take responsibility. So in Shinto, you can take responsibility with animals and inanimate objects, but gropers who don’t take responsibility are harshly punished.”
…So this nonsense is a legitimate part of Shinto!?
Tenzou shuddered, but then Asama smiled in his direction.
“Isn’t that great, Tenzou-kun?”
His confused exclamation received a response from Naruze who was inking a sketch without looking his way. She made it sound completely obvious.
“Mary said, ‘Master Tenzou, is it a nuisance having to support me with your arm all the time?’ …Note: pay attention to the different expressions Mary makes when she’s talking about something serious and when she’s noticed a gap in how they rely on each other.”
“What are you jotting down in your notes?”
But that solved the mystery.
There had been a misunderstanding and he had jumped the gun, but his statement about supporting Mary had not been wrong. Also…
Silver Wolf: “Anyway, since this has Mary’s approval, wouldn’t it not be groping even if the 1st Special Duty Officer did move?”
Gold Mar: “That’s a lot of responsibility.”
Asama: “Th-the responsibility to support you, Mary! And you holding onto his arm is the proof that he’s doing that, so keep doing it a whole bunch, okay?”
I’m not sure if Asama-dono is being a nuisance or gift-giver this time. But…
…Even if I can move, I still can’t bring myself to do it!
At least he would no longer be harshly punished for any accidental movement. However…
“The more our people discuss things outside of Musashi, the more mysteries we find about the Genesis Project,” said Masazumi with a sigh.
Then Muneshige smiled from his seat at the table.
“That just means you have some excellent people who can notice the things you have overlooked.”
Mal-Ga: “Excellent people? Who? Other than Margot, I mean.”
Worshiper: “Whew… I thought I was only popular with the little girls, but now I’m being praised by Muneshige-kun who isn’t just outside of my interests but in another category altogether? It must be the youthful life force radiating from me.”
Silver Wolf: “Honestly, that kind of depresses me since I haven’t been able to say much tonight.”
Me: “C’mon, Nate, you’ve been keeping a close eye on our surroundings this whole time. To protect us, I guess. Wouldn’t that be why you haven’t been saying much?”
Silver Wolf: “Eh!? Y-yes, I’ve been keeping an eye on, um, not one of us, but certainly something in the area. Because I need to be ready no matter what might happen.”
Vice President: “That’s more or less it. And if we discussed this any further, we would only be making speculations on top of earlier speculation. Everyone, can I have your attention for a moment?”
The Reine des Garous saw everyone’s eyes shift from their sign frames to their Vice President.
They were quite disciplined.
It had looked like they were having some kind of silly conversation a moment before, but they had all shifted their attention at a word from their leader. They did seem to have some large openings, but being able to switch that on and off meant a lot.
…I suppose that would be the Far Eastern and Musashi way of doing it.
The Far East was under provisional rule, so they had no second chances as a nation.
They were standing on the precipice, but there was no point in lamenting that fact.
They had no second chances and they had to keep their focus on reality.
But they could not remain that serious at all times. That was as true for adults as it was for children and the elderly.
The Reine des Garous herself knew quite well that it was impossible for anyone to constantly brood over something.
Even if they knew they had no second chances and that they were under a lot of pressure, they would end up moving in a more cheerful direction. Because as long as they abandoned the pride that insisted they be serious at all times, they knew they would be able to keep this up for longer if they remained cheerful.
She had learned that when she met her husband.
The Reine des Garous knew that her daughter had to understand that as well.
No, all of the boys and girls here did. As did their king.
Since they had no second chances, they would enjoy themselves in the moment.
Things could get dangerous when they continued carrying on during battles, but…
…With the life I live, I can’t exactly tell them to take things more seriously.
That was a job for their teachers, their Vice President and other officers, and their leaders.
As a parent, she was curious how her daughter and her friends would enjoy the present. Wanting to know that her daughter was living a fun and happy life may have been a bit self-indulgent for a parent who had chosen to live away from that daughter, but she was still curious.
However, she did not intrude on their sign frame conversation.
Musashi and Hexagone Française were on friendly terms, so they did exchange information. That allowed her to view and intrude on their conversations and she had done so before, but the situation was different here.
She was to be their enemy and she was within the barrier set up by the Asama Shrine Representative.
Inside that barrier, their Vice President spoke.
“We have exchanged some information. And I believe we have shown you what we plan for the future. Tomorrow, we will head to Houjou during our travel day and the day after that we will fight the Tensho Jingo Conflict and the Siege of Odawara. There, we will check the Age of Dawn relief in Houjou and after that…we will find a reason and means with which to intervene in P.A. Oda’s actions. A lot of you will have work to do tomorrow, but tomorrow will generally be a rest day to continue the study camp. Got that?”
She received several overlapping responses of “judge” and “yes”. And…
“Does anyone else have something to say here?”
The Reine des Garous heard a voice from one of the seats around the fire.
It came from a boy.
That squinty-eyed boy had been tying up the firewood and taking apart the stones for the cooking stove they no longer needed. He raised his hand before making his statement.
“Give me two days…no, a day and a half of time. …There is somewhere I want to visit on my own.”
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