Horizon:Volume 6B Chapter 25
Chapter 25: Cheerful Girls Making Preparations
Before a battle
You do not take a breather
You take a breath to bring everything in order
Point Allocation (Worry)
There was a large wheat field below the summer sun.
It was a vast area. A forest created a dark shadow beyond the distant horizon and mountains rose from beyond even that.
The field contained so very much wheat.
The shadows of waterways occasionally cut across its green surface.
And a few giant forms were stopped on that vast wheat field.
They were aerial ships.
The red and black ships dotted the plain from south to north.
Countless black transport ships moved around those giant ships and traveled to and from the north.
To the north was the silhouette of a manmade structure beyond the plain. It was a long horizontal wall that surrounded a city.
Occasionally, some silhouettes could be seen moving around that city wall.
They were clearly larger than the wall itself.
“Those are the reinforcements for Hexagone Française. Is it a dragon unit?”
A voice spoke in the center of the wheat field.
A solidly-built figure stood in that expanse of green. He was a man with a single horn on his head. He was…
“I, Miyoshi Seikai, cannot help but remember our Sanada land when I see that many dragons. Goodness gracious.” He pulled out a tanzaku and jotted something down with a portable brush. “ ‘In the distance / below the summer sun / dragon and man are no different / ah / just like the tranquil days of yore.’ ”
“Yes, objective and vibrant. None of the manga-like focus on excitement and nothing more.”
With that, he looked ahead.
There was a giant ship there.
It was not nearby. It was a long way away, but its great size threw off his sense of distance.
“To me it appears so distant. But to the Azuchi, I must appear so close.”
Transport ships were moving around the Azuchi.
While loaded with cargo, those black ships flew incessantly northward before returning once more.
There were more than just a few of them. They came in many sizes and had numbers greater than a hundred.
A closer look showed more of them arriving from the south.
The cargo on the southern ships was brought here and that cargo was then carried from here to Paris.
Seikai placed a hand on his forehead as he viewed them.
“Are those carrying the materials needed to flood Paris?”
This is a major operation, thought Seikai.
But Paris was a large city. Flooding it would be difficult without going to this extent.
And he knew what to be most impressed with.
…The fact that Hashiba has the power to pull it off.
A single commander was going to submerge an entire city in a short period of time.
That meant a single commander’s power and authority would complete the largescale construction needed to surround an entire city.
For Hashiba, creating or destroying a city would likely be a simple task.
Seikai and the others had viewed the battle at Magdeburg from the Musashi.
Hashiba had fought to destroy an entire city there.
…They were not done with that and that was not all they could do.
They had flooded Magdeburg by damming up the river with transport ships.
They would likely do that again here, but the construction of the embankment around them was going to be on a larger scale.
That way no one could find fault with their history recreation.
They had made it to this point by gradually building up trust, connections, and management techniques.
“Why?” muttered Seikai as he viewed the transport ships traveling through the sky. “Why don’t they simply ignore the history recreation when they have so much power?”
Hashiba’s policy here seemed clear.
“They will not allow anyone to find fault in their actions.”
That was why they followed the Testament and did not hesitate to accept losses.
But, thought Seikai. Why are they so insistent on that?
Sweat dripped from his forehead to his right cheek as he said that.
It was hot.
Because it was summer. Below the wavy shadows created by the wheat, the morning earth retained some of its chill.
But that would not last much longer. The earth would soon heat up and the temperature would quickly rise.
Besides, he thought as he viewed the vast wheat field.
…The wheat really should have been harvested by now.
Since it had so much green during summer, it had to be the second crop of the year. But since it was a little too early for a second crop…
“Hexagone Française is working to mass-produce food, aren’t they?” said Seikai. “They are a powerful nation, after all.”
…Some of the nations are looking to the future like this.
No, most nations had to be doing that. Even the small ones were thinking several steps ahead in order to survive.
But something seemed off about Hashiba. They strictly followed the history recreation and they did not hesitate to accept losses.
“They are ensuring no one can find fault in them… but what are they looking ahead to with that?”
And he finally wiped the sweat from his brow.
“They may not be all that different from us…”
The Ten Braves were currently enemies of Hashiba.
But they would eventually side with Hashiba and fight the 2nd Siege of Ueda and the Osaka Campaign.
So they could not simply face Hashiba as an enemy. However…
“Here I, Seikai, am planning to support Hexagone Française.”
He had effectively fled from Sanada. This could easily cost him his inherited name.
But he had a reason for it.
…This is the reason we are Unneeded.
They had once planned to work directly for Hashiba.
They had been the 7 elites chosen as Hashiba’s Seven Spears. Including the others around them, there had been 10 in all. They had attempted to inherit those names, but they had failed.
They had fought the current Ten Spears and been defeated.
After that, they had wandered and been accepted by Sanada.
They had taken the Celestial Dragons as their teachers in order to inherit new names.
It was that past that made them who they were now.
But there was one question that had to be on all of their minds.
“What would happen if we fought the Ten Spears now?”
…Now, then… It is not like me to think of such things.
But their Great Teacher had joined Hexagone Française’s forces as if taking the lead for them.
As if he intended to strike back at the people who had robbed his students of their future.
…Only failed students would allow him to do this alone.
And Seikai was the oldest of them.
So if anyone was to do this, it had to be him.
So here he was. And…
“Taking this ship on would not be fun.”
He looked up at one ship of the Azuchi and breathed in. And then…
“I should probably do some recon as a gift for our Great Teacher.”
With that, he vanished.
There was nothing in that vast wheat field to hide him and none of the wheat was pushed out of the way. However…
A humming voice with the rhythm of a chanted sutra could be heard moving west, toward the Azuchi’s lead ship.
Kiyomasa called out to her right as she ran.
They were near the Azuchi’s lead ship.
The wheat had been harvested and the exposed ground had been packed down by the repeated landings of transport ships. The cargo had initially been loaded and unloaded with lifts in the LOLO method, but now they were using the RORO method.
While that was carried out, Kiyomasa and Fukushima ran along a walking path marked out with rope.
They were not in a hurry anywhere. They were simply running to maintain their physical condition.
They had already done this once in the early morning, but the way they held their bodies changed in the afternoon.
During summer, the rising temperature loosened their muscles.
To adjust and tighten their muscles, they ran. They could normally perform this conditioning with spells and divine protections, but this was enemy territory.
They wanted to familiarize themselves with the local weather.
…Or is that a sign of how worried I am?
Kiyomasa followed that thought with spoken words.
“Unlike in the morning, the sun will shine on us when we move to starboard, so be careful.”
Each of the Azuchi’s ships was about a kilometer long. Taking a wide circle around it was a 2km run. They were making two circuits at their own pace, but…
The other girl was not responding.
Kiyomasa saw that Fukushima was staring forward and a bit down as she ran.
She was obviously lost in thought. And…
The ground at her feet was shimmering.
The wavering light looked a lot like a heat haze and it was not an illusion.
While she ran, Fukushima would sink lightly down on her ankles and have her toes cross from either side. Each time, she attempted to activate Headfirst Fall, her acceleration spell.
But she would cancel it partway and it would vanish.
That light shook the air and formed a heat haze in the shadow of the Azuchi.
A large wagon carrying materials passed them by.
It contained materials for the scaffolding that would be used to construct the walls for flooding Paris. Metal beams stuck out onto the walking path, so Kiyomasa moved out of the way.
Fukushima, however, did not.
She lightly twisted her body and continued facing forward.
Kiyomasa was sure it would hit her.
But then she saw something.
Fukushima’s body passed right through the scaffolding material that stuck out to the side.
It was not that it did not hit her.
To Kiyomasa, it looked like Fukushima had continued running forward, hit the material, and yet “passed through” it.
She did not understand, so…
There was a sharp tone in her voice now.
Just then, Fukushima’s shoulders shook.
“What is it, Kiyo-dono!?”
Rapidly turning around was a mistake.
She slammed the side of her head into a different metal beam that had been passing by behind her.
With a dull sound, Fukushima crouched down. The cart’s driver looked back.
“Hm? …Huh? Did I hit you, 1st Spear!?”
He sounded so confused because that should never have happened.
But Kiyomasa recalled what had happened just before that: Fukushima had strangely “passed through” the beam.
…What was that ?
This was not the time to analyze that.
But she realized they were gathering even more attention.
Now was not the time to be worrying everyone. The Spears were the foundation of everyone’s attack and the core of their defense, so she bowed to them with a smile.
“No, her hair just got tangled with mine a bit.”
They all nodded in understanding.
An elderly man shouted over at her while loading a cart with flowers to decorate the inside of the ship.
“You’re just the epitome of grace, aren’t you!?”
The driver and everyone else laughed at that and Fukushima stood back up.
“My apologies. …Please continue working immediately.”
They all replied in unison and resumed moving.
Kiyomasa looked to the transport ships rising into the sky and sighed.
“You dodged the metal beam sticking out from the cargo passing by, didn’t you?”
Fukushima looked back at her with no change to her expression.
Her shapely eyes remained motionless for a few seconds, and then…
She looked troubled. Also…
“I dodged a metal beam? …But I hit it.”
“No, not that one. You dodged the first one that was in front of you.”
“Well, I do sometimes subconsciously dodge on reflex.”
…Umm, that’s not what I meant…
How was she to explain this?
“What is it?”
Kiyomasa held her left arm up in front of her eyes.
“Think of my arm as the metal beam.”
“And what did it do?”
“Testament. It approached your forehead like this.”
Kiyomasa pressed the arm against her forehead but moved her head forward, as if pushing the arm out of the way.
“You went like this and seemed to slip through it or pass through it, so you ended up on the other side.”
Fukushima watched as Kiyomasa pressed her arm to her forehead a few times.
They were below the summer sky, but also in the giant shadow formed by the Azuchi. And after a while…
“Y-you don’t have to laugh at me.”
Kiyomasa felt heat rising in her cheeks as she clenched her fists and protested.
Fukushima held her right hand to her mouth and raised her left hand to say “wait”.
“N-no, Kiyo-dono, I am just not sure what thou mean by that…”
“I’m asking you because I don’t understand it myself.”
“So thou did that because thou truly do not understand?”
That seemed to really tickle her funny bone. She turned her back for a while, but eventually turned back around and took a breath.
“My apologies. I am really sorry about that. I am sure thou only did that because thou are worried for me.”
“Yes, yes. That’s right, that’s right. That’s the entire point of this, Fukushima-sama.”
Kiyomasa knew she was glaring and Fukushima cleared her throat.
“Hm. I truly must apologize because I do not remember that at all.”
“…It isn’t something you were practicing?”
“Not intentionally, no.”
Fukushima took two steps closer and then took Kiyomasa’s arm.
“Was it…like this?”
She took the appropriate stance with Kiyomasa’s arm as the metal beam.
They were facing each other with Kiyomasa posed like she was elbowing the other girl.
But she figured this would help explain it, so she did so.
“Testament. And you seemed to pass right through this arm…”
“Hm,” said Fukushima as she moved forward without warning. She was leaning forward a bit and she took a step forward while holding up Kiyomasa’s arm.
Her face ended up in Kiyomasa’s chest.
Everyone working in the area turned back at once.
6: “Work to port seems to be falling behind. …#1 and #2, any idea why?”
Kiyo-Massive: “…Uhhh, not a clue. No.”
AnG: “Hey, the connection is back. Wa-…”
Kimee: “…Hm? Did she get cut off again? Well, whatever. Am I connected?”
Llaf: “Ohh, welcome back. But thy connection does seem unstable.”
6: “Just do your work…”
Hachisuka-sama just scolded us, thought Kiyomasa.
…But I really messed up my positioning this time.
It was only natural for that to happen if they were facing each other head on.
Fukushima looked up at her.
“Kiyo-dono, that would have been a disaster if thou had activated the Giant Breasts Defense.”
“Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have that skill…”
Kiyomasa moved alongside Fukushima and held her left arm out in front of the other girl’s face as if throwing a backhand blow.
“Getting back to what happened before…I think it was like this.”
“I see. So the metal beam moved in from the front…and I moved forward.”
Fukushima must have been pondering her previous mistake because she did not move herself.
Instead, Kiyomasa moved her arm toward Fukushima’s forehead.
“The beam moved like this…”
She moved her arm right up to Fukushima’s forehead.
It made contact.
She held it there for a few seconds and noticed the sweat on their skin.
She removed her arm and saw Fukushima’s wrinkled brow below it. The girl tilted her head.
Fukushima did not seem to understand, but Kiyomasa did not understand either.
“Do you have any ideas?”
“…Eh? Oh, Kiyo-dono, can thou do it once more?”
“Testament. …Like this?”
“No, um, with more force this time.”
Wouldn’t that be dangerous? she thought as she swung her arm.
She stopped at the last second.
She had made an accelerated swing of her arm with the hand relaxed. But Fukushima stared unblinkingly at it as it stopped before her eyes.
She was highly focused.
After a while she nodded. And…
“Kiyo-dono, please swing all the way through with that same force.”
“Testament. …Like this, right?”
She plans to really do it, she realized while swinging her arm.
She intended to swing her arm all the way through.
So she went for it.
And she indeed swung all the way through.
She heard the sound of bone being struck and felt an impact in her elbow.
The hit caused Fukushima’s knees to give out below her.
The problem was that Kiyomasa had not expected to actually hit. The nerves of her elbow seemed to short-circuit because a powerful tingling raced up her arm and through her shoulder.
They both crouched down and held their forehead or elbow for a few seconds.
“K-Kiyo-dono, thou are more skilled in martial arts than I knew.”
“N-no, I just train my arms a lot.”
“Umm, what are you two doing?”
Katagiri walked up.
Katagiri had been going for a run.
He lived a primarily indoor life, but the past few days had taught him it was important to build up some strength. After all…
…I want to be manly…!
He knew a few days was not going to make a huge difference, but he hoped doing this long term would help him grow taller and stronger.
By the time he had grown tall and built up some muscle, he expected the Warring States period would be over. Then he could go to Musashi.
…Or that was my plan anyway.
“What are you doing?”
The two girls here had much more experience training their bodies, but they were crouched down on the ground.
The two of them had fought an intense battle just the other day, so he wondered what had happened.
“Have your injuries gotten worse?”
“N-no, that’s not it at all.”
Kiyomasa stood up and rotated her arm so he could see. Beyond her, Fukushima also stood up and fixed her collar. And…
“Katagiri-dono, are thou out on a run?”
“Testament. I had some things to think about and I thought I could start training my body.”
“My, are you planning to fight on the front line?”
Katagiri thought about that one.
…I have to get to the point where I can say I am.
A boy needs to be able to show off, he thought as he answered Kiyomasa.
“Testament. I am thinking about going to the front line if necessary.”
As soon as he said that, a wave of chatter spread through their surroundings. The voices quickly spread outwards in a game of telephone.
“Hey! Katagiri-san says he’s going to the front line!”
“Ehh!? Katagiri-san is coming with us to the front line!?”
“Yeah! Katagiri-san is coming to the front!”
That exchange and cries of surprise made a full circuit of the area around the Azuchi.
After a while, the wave of voices arrived back from the other side.
Kuro Take: “Katagiri-kun? What is this I’m hearing about you ‘coming thrice and covering Mori-kun with lassi’? Some weird sex thing?”
□□凸: “No! How did it end up like that!?”
“Now, now.” Kiyomasa smiled bitterly and waved her right hand back and forth. “This just means everyone is worried about you, Katagiri-kun.”
“I want to be the kind of guy people don’t have to be worried about!”
“Testament.” Kiyomasa nodded and opened a lernen figur. “Takenaka-sama? Katagiri-kun apparently wants to go to the front line.”
“Yay, super high damage!” replied Takenaka on the lernen figur.
This was the first he had heard of this. Or rather, he had not said anything that definitive.
And what was Takenaka’s response about?
“W-wait just a second! What’s this about me and super high damage!?”
“Eh?” said Takenaka. “You promise you won’t run away if I tell you?”
…I don’t like the sound of that…!
But someone else spoke up to bring an end to that conversation.
It was Fukushima and she took a breath first.
“Even if Katagiri-dono is showing some fighting spirit, isn’t sending him to the front line going a little too far?”
“…R-right!? That’s going a bit too far, isn’t it!?”
“Testament,” agreed Fukushima. She then placed a hand on her chin and looked at him. “So try not to push thyself too hard and work to accomplish only what thou can, Katagiri-dono.”
“But I’m still going?”
“Oh? You aren’t going?”
Kiyomasa looked and sounded truly surprised.
Then she lowered the ends of her eyebrows.
“Um, sorry. Was I mistaken when I said you would be going to the front line?”
Every part of Katagiri’s body and soul begged him to say “testament”, but…
He held back.
Because he had to be manly.
A real man could not fall back from the front line just because Kiyomasa was worried.
Yes, there were times when he had to make himself do something. That was his duty if he was to meet Musashi’s lewd shrine maiden once more.
So I need to fill my heart with lewd shrine maiden power.
…There it is, there it is, there it is! It’s rising from my imagination!
Okay, he thought while clenching his right fist in his heart.
“No, you were not mistaken. …I will go to the front line!”
“Are thou serious, Katagiri-dono!?”
“We had thought the enemy would have their god of war unit on the front line, so we were planning to fortify our front line with spell barricades and have our main forces fall back. …But thou will be going to the front line!”
Not only is this the first I’ve heard of that, but you’re not even playing fair here! he thought to no one in particular.
Kuro Take: “Ohh… I think this is going to be even more brutal than I expected.”
□□凸: “Please stop making this sound even worse than it is!”
Kimee: “Then let’s look at just the facts: without us to bomb the enemy’s front line, you might end up with a direct clash between both sides’ front lines.”
Just the facts was bad enough.
But he did have a thought about what he had heard.
□□凸: “Is the situation really that bad?”
6: “Are you dumb?”
Tsurugi: “Koroku! Don’t say that about Katagiri-kun! His brain has been producing tons of anxiety-inducing chemicals!”
□□凸: “Do I have no rights as a human being!?”
But Kiyomasa took a breath and spoke.
Kiyo-Massive: “We’re busy preparing for the flooding, so we haven’t given much thought to how exactly we will attack Paris. How much progress have we made?”
6: “About 30%. I’ll head out if need be. …Genbu’s gravitational control can position and drive in the materials all at once.”
“More importantly,” said Koroku.
6: “#3 and #4, things are looking pretty touchy where you are.”
Koroku was referencing the situation in Kantou.
…What does that mean?
The information on Kantou had not reached them yet, but there was a reason Koroku knew about it.
6: “I was given administrative control over the transport ship fleet yesterday, so the high-level divine transmissions are reaching Genbu. According to those, the battles between Musashi, Houjou, and Mouri will primarily be done with duels. Is that right, Takenaka?”
Kuro Take: “Oh, drat… I was hoping to inform you only after they had worked things out a little more. Sorry about keeping you in the dark, Yoshiaki-kun and Wakisaka-san.”
Kimee: “Well, it’s definitely an annoying situation for us. And that’s really all we need to know.”
□□凸: “Um, what exactly does that mean?”
Katagiri tried asking.
It was Angie who answered him.
AnG: “It means Shouroku didn’t read the atmosphere…”
6: “I was just facing reality.”
Kimee: “Oh? But people look to reality either because it’s fun or because it’s worrying.”
6: “I’m aware of that and I’m not going to deny it.”
After a pause, Koroku continued.
6: “Thank you.”
Kimee: “For what?”
6: “For not using my younger age as an excuse to overlook that I failed to read the atmosphere.”
AnG: “Now you’re making me blush.”
6: “I wasn’t talking to you…!”
Fukushima raised her right hand beyond Katagiri’s lernen figur.
“What happened here and what does it mean?”
How was he supposed to explain this? While he tried to come up with something, Kiyomasa smiled a little and did it for him.
“Hachisuka-sama caused Takenaka-sama some trouble by not reading the atmosphere, Yoshiaki-sama pointed out that she was doing so because she is worried, Hachisuka-sama thanked her, and Wakisaka-sama said she was blushing, but that was wrong.”
…I’m not sure that’s quite right!
But Fukushima crossed her arms and nodded.
“Koroku-dono is at a tricky age, isn’t she?”
It was a mystery how much had gotten through to her, but she seemed to have reached some kind of understanding.
And as the Ten Spears’ negotiator, Katagiri wanted as much information as he could get.
“So what happened in Kantou?”
AnG: “Is Tsugy there? …Hey, did our connection just get a lot cleaner?”
6: “Genbu is amplifying the signal.”
AnG: “Way to go, Shouroku! You can eat the snacks in my room!”
6: “The key?”
AnG: “Let’s not go crazy. Just give up already!!”
That exchange was borderline incomprehensible, but scarily enough, it made sense to those two.
But the name Wakisaka had alluded to was one they knew well: Ootani Yoshitsugu.
He was a data entity created from a program and he was under Hashiba’s direct command. That made him very similar to the Ten Spears who acted as Hashiba’s personal warriors, but he worked as a representative of the “Hashiba forces”.
It was a lot like the Ten Spears were the Chancellor’s Officers and Ootani was a Committee Head.
He had only had his official release recently, but circumstances had meant his development period had been close to their training period. And…
Nari Nari Nari: “What was that about Ootani-kun?”
AnG: “Koumon-sama took a running start and used a table to send Tsugy blasting off, causing the Keichou Campaign.”
Super Justice: “Not true! How can you lie like that when I am right here!?”
AnG: “…Kime-chan, Tsugy isn’t listening, so can you say something?”
Super Justice: “Indeed. I ask that you omit the complicated circumstances leading up to it and simply state the final result.”
“If you insist,” sent Yoshiaki.
Kimee: “The final result was as follows: Ootani exploded in the sky, causing the Keichou Campaign.”
Super Justice: “Not true…! No, that actually is true, but it is not a proper explanation!”
6: “Lame… Exploding in the sky… So lame…”
Super Justice: “It was an honorable explosion in the sky! We are discussing the moment in which justice failed, so how can you call it lame!?”
They’re having a tough time there too… realized Katagiri.
But Fukushima crossed her arms and spoke.
Llaf: “In other words, Ootani-dono exploded on a table and that means the Keichou Campaign?”
Kimee: “More or less.”
Super Justice: “Less! Very much less! …Fine then. I will send you the report I wrote, so please check that!”
Llaf: “How long is it?”
Super Justice: “Testament. I wrote it in about 3 seconds, so assuming a piece of parchment holds 400 characters, it would be about 3000 pages. Even when accounting for I/O errors, you should be able to read it in about 5 seconds.”
6: “To be polite as possible, are you stupid?”
Super Justice: “Heh. It is illogical to call a program stupid. What about me do you think is stupid?”
6: “Your very existence.”
Super Justice: “N-no fair! Why am I responsible for something I have no control over!?”
He still isn’t used to how we do things, realized Katagiri.
But he sort of understood what Ootani was saying.
…The enemy is trying to liberate Kantou?
□□凸: “Which nation is attempting to carry out the Keichou Campaign?”
Super Justice: “Testament. …All three: Mouri, Houjou, and Musashi. Tomorrow, they will be using duels to complete the Tensho Jingo Conflict, the Siege of Odawara, and the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle. Also…”
Super Justice: “It seems we will be able to read the details of those duels before long, but after they complete those duels tomorrow and exchange or distribute the resultant benefits, I believe they intend to begin the Keichou Campaign.”
Llaf: “What is the situation for Takigawa’s group?”
Kimee: “It doesn’t seem like she plans to contact us. And it would be difficult to forcibly contact her while she’s in Houjou territory. …We do know that three of the Sanada Ten Braves have joined her and they will be fighting the 2nd Siege of Ueda alongside the other battles.”
Kiyo-Massive: “How will Yoshiaki-sama and Wakisaka-sama’s group be taking part?”
Kuro Take: “That’s going to be a bit tricky… If the Keichou Campaign is coming up, intervening in the Siege of Odawara might be dangerous. You aren’t equipped for back-to-back battles, are you?”
AnG: “Eh!? We have to head back that same day? But we haven’t had any fun yet!”
Kimee: “If we do head back, it will be after having some fun. …Takenaka? It’s true we aren’t equipped for back-to-back battles. We mostly have equipment for one-on-one battles and anti-surface weapons, so we aren’t prepared at all for the Keichou Campaign that will probably involve a fleet battle leading into the Kantou Liberation. We’re in Shimoda south of Odawara, so if it does come to back-to-back battles, would it be faster to fly over to Edo to swap out equipment?”
Kuro Take: “We didn’t take any Technohexen equipment to Edo…”
AnG: “We can manage with some ether fuel Orei Metallo. Technohexen can do more than just fire coin bullets. It might have poor fuel efficiency, but there’s a lot we can do.”
Kuro Take: “Then sending you to Edo would be an option. I’ll make a decision after giving this more thought.”
Just as Katagiri saw those words on his lernen figur, a stir ran through the people transporting materials near the Azuchi.
“Waaahhh! Some ero ero is falling from the sky!!”
□□凸: “What are you doing, Takenaka-san!?”
Kuro Take: “Oh, sorry, sorry. I have so many tricky things to work out, so I stepped outside for some fresh air. But the Azuchi’s deck is just so high up. …Ah, sorry. A little more to the right this time.”
“Waaaahhh! Now the ero ero is falling this way!”
Kiyo-Massive: “Takenaka-san! Please stop sending it overboard! You’re surprising everyone!”
They were usually up on the deck and out of the way, but it was certainly panic-inducing while down below.
The working students screamed and moved away from the ship.
6: “Hey! You’re delaying the work on the port side! Stay near the ship!”
It was awful through and through.
But there was nothing they could do about it, so Katagiri decided to end the conversation for now and let Takenaka make her decision about Kantou. However…
He had apparently grown chilled in the Azuchi’s shadow.
He wanted to be manly, but his sneeze sounded awfully childish to him.
…I need to pull myself together.
As he thought that, he saw Kiyomasa smile.
“You should probably hurry into the sun. There is something we would like to test out here.”
“What you were doing before?”
“Thou could say that, yes.”
“Waaaahhh! The ero ero is curving in the wind!”
It was a lot like a video game.
“They all have such excellent observational skills.”
“I’m getting used to all this and that’s worrying me…” said Katagiri.
It isn’t pleasant at all, he thought as he took a breath and resumed running.
“I’ll go on ahead! After completing a circuit, I think I’ll return to the ship and help Takenaka-san!”
“Things sure are lively there. Let’s keep up our work here while staying in touch with Takenaka.”
Yoshiaki took a breath and looked ahead.
There was a stone-paved slope leading downwards before her eyes and wooden buildings lined either side of it. She could see the ocean further down, but…
“With a name like Atami, I was imagining a scorching sea, but it isn’t that at all. Right, Kime-chan?”
“They apparently suggested actually making it that way when remaking the ruins of the hot springs town into the modern style, but they rejected the idea. The other nations had to place their embassies here and the nonhumans of Oushuu would have had a hard time entering the ocean that way. Because a lot of them are from cold areas.”
“How do you know that?”
“Researching your destination is important, Ootani.”
“Testament,” replied Ootani at their feet.
He was in a Mouse form.
Angie would sometimes try to scoop him up without warning.
“Could you stop that?” he would ask. “I am not a toy.”
It was amusing how he would immediately dodge and run away.
They were currently in the diplomatic district of Atami.
…This place is surrounded by defense barriers to make it a noncombat area for diplomatic relations with other nations. But…
“There’s no one here.”
“Kantou still hasn’t calmed down since our Hashiba forces arrived. Diplomacy was always focused more in Edo than anywhere and there’s no point in moving their diplomats to Houjou with the Siege of Odawara approaching. …If there is any reason to do diplomacy with Houjou now, it would be to work out where Houjou’s assets will end up after Odawara…”
“It seems Houjou intends to transfer most of it to Matsudaira,” said Ootani.
“It’s nice having an analyst who heard things on site.”
They descended the slope. Most of the buildings were recreations of the ruins using modern reinforced wood. They had apparently been inns originally, but most of them had small gates out front and functioned as embassies for the other nations.
…Are they also used as sanatoriums for Kantou and the surroundings areas?
She saw the names of Nanbu, Nitta, other small nations, and even some large reservations.
“There can’t be good turnaround with a bunch of sanatoriums packed in at one place. I saw two Satomi buildings earlier.”
“…They probably just think diplomacy is important even if Houjou is an enemy.”
They would sometimes pass by an automaton in charge of managing the city.
They were calm enough to exchange a bow with the automatons. In fact, the embassy they were staying at hired a lot of them.
“I hope Kanitama can make it.”
“She can receive a map via divine transmission once she arrives in Atami, so she should be fine.”
Angie seemed to be quite fond of that underclassman.
Yoshiaki thought that was a good thing because Angie could be quite shy.
…She’s quick to categorize people into “like” and “dislike” categories.
Yoshiaki could not decide if she was jealous or not that Angie never noticed she was doing that. But…
“We need to do what we can too.”
The ocean was visible at the bottom of the road.
The embankment of the ruins was long side to side and reinforced with stones.
They sensed the scent of salt water as they walked along.
That dark blue expanse spread out horizontally.
…It looked bluer when seeing it from above.
But now it was so dark. And…
“We can see it.”
From Atami in the north, they could see Odawara on the peninsula’s coast which was visible to the left.
Odawara was surrounded by walls.
Angie viewed the walls that slowly rotated like a typhoon.
That was likely where Odawara Castle was located. Houjou and Mouri’s aerial fleets were gathered there.
Those several hundred ships hovered in the sky around Odawara and moved to and from the surface below. That motion never ended and swapped out with other ships.
“The movement is slow, but it is a lot like a storm,” noted Ootani.
“Angie, time to get to work.” Yoshiaki opened a Magie Figur. “We saw this from the sky too, but it was so distant. Let’s assess their forces as much as we can from this fixed viewpoint. …Ootani.”
“Just tell me what you need.”
“A local specialty!”
Tsugy looked up at her for just a second, and…
“Ah, Tsugy! You ignored me, didn’t you!?”
“I do not want to talk about it, so leave me alone!! N-now, Yoshiaki-sama! Hurry up and give me a command!”
“Testament.” Yoshiaki gave Ootani a command. “A local specialty.”
Tsugy took off running and dug down into the ground. After a while, he came running up from an unexpected direction: behind them.
“Here it is! The Steamed Flipover, a Far Eastern pizza cooked using the heat of a hot spring!”
“Yeah, isn’t there a rule that it can only be flipped over once? I bet you bought that from the Kansai embassy.”
Angie and Yoshiaki took the food wrapped in bamboo leaf and found it was fairly warm. They unwrapped it to find the scent of the sauce, which suggested it was from a Mediterranean nation.
“Unfortunately, I cannot eat solid objects,” he said with a bow. “But I appreciate the thought.”
“Okay, if you say so!”
“Angie, don’t talk with your mouth full.”
“Testament,” she replied before noticing that Tsugy was eating an ether fuel snack.
She took a breath.
“Is there anything to do before Kanitama gets here?”
“Observing Houjou and Mouri to analyze their forces. And relaying divine transmissions between Edo and Hashiba’s unit. We have to work with Edo to keep an eye on the movements of the anti-Hashiba aerial fleets in the Edo region.”
“Is your aerial knowledge another reason you two were sent here?” asked Ootani.
“Testament. …After a while, we’ll fly to the west of the peninsula.”
Angie peeled back the bamboo leaf to expose the Far Eastern pizza as she thought about Yoshiaki’s words.
…The other side of the peninsula…
“That’s a disputed region thanks to the fall of Takeda, right? Until the Tensho Jingo Conflict, anyway.”
“Testament. We need to see what the surrounding clans are doing. …Angie, you spotted a few bases on the way here, right?”
So she had noticed.
That made Angie a little happy, but also bashful.
“I was staring blankly down at the ground and I just happened to see some odd shadows and lights in the mountains and forests.”
“Once the Siege of Odawara begins, those will be used to monitor the Houjou region and wait for the chance to make their move. So…”
Yoshiaki opened a Magie Figur.
It was a camera and it was set up to amplify the brightness for use at night.
“This is the compression type that Weiss Hexen excel at. I’ll set these up in the sky, Angie, so you give me the locations. I’ll make it look like I’m out on patrol as a mere precaution and activate them with a time delay so they won’t notice.”
“We have so much to do.”
“We do,” agreed Yoshiaki. And, “Ootani, you infiltrate the diplomatic district’s divine transmission system and see what the other nations are doing. You don’t have to actually read the contents.”
“Ohh, there’s actually a job for you, Tsugy! Now you can earn your keep!”
“I came here to work!”
“Wasn’t it for justice?”
“Y-yes, I am glad to see you understand!”
The way he cleared his throat showed that even data entities were living beings.
But then Yoshiaki’s shoulders drooped.
“Yeah, that’s probably about it.”
Once she had jotted down notes on the jobs they had to do, she finally faced forward.
The ocean was there, but a turn to the left showed the walls of Odawara along the coast.
“Takigawa-san’s group is beyond that fleet. …It doesn’t look like we’ll able to drop by to say hi.”
“And yet we could fly that distance in just two minutes.”
“Shall I make a visit?” asked Ootani.
“You can’t. The Kanie Castle is a Houjou ship. Their divine transmission line uses the Houjou local god, so your infiltration would set off some alarms.”
“Then when will we meet up with Takigawa-san?”
Good question, thought Angie.
…A this rate, it would probably be during the Keichou Campaign.
Originally, they were supposed to intrude in the Siege of Odawara and support Takigawa there.
But since they could not contact Takigawa, they could not arrange things in advance. Since they did not know her intentions, their plan had been to let her fight as she wished while they supported her from the outside.
“If we thought of it as a rescue operation, we would fly in from above. And while we drew the enemy’s attention by charging in from above, Kanitama would move in from below. I had thought we could do it like that.”
But things had changed.
It was clear now that this would be more than just the Siege of Odawara.
Fighting both the Siege of Odawara and the Keichou Campaign would require the appropriate preparations.
And they had received further news about the Siege of Odawara they had hoped to force their way into:
“They’re planning to use duels…”
“Does that mean everything we discuss here could be entirely invalidated?”
“Testament. …We won’t be able to do anything about Odawara or Takigawa-san. Since Ootani already went and warned them once, we’ll have a hard time saying anything to Musashi while they play Hashiba’s part. …Perhaps we should make a complaint when they determine the rules for the duels.”
“This is all because I failed to stop them when I intervened earlier…” said Ootani.
“You take things too seriously, Tsugy. Letting them know that Kime-chan and I are watching was more than enough.”
Despite what she said, Angie was not sure what they would do. Then Yoshiaki smiled and spoke.
“Angie? At times like this, we have to find what it is we need to do. Then we do whatever it is we can do. And we keep doing it. That’s the only way to change the situation.”
“What if it changes for the worse?”
“Making sure that doesn’t happen is one of the things we need to do.”
Yoshiaki then shoved the contents of her bamboo leaf wrapper into her mouth.
…She’s the composed type, but she’s actually more focused on speed than staying calm.
While Angie thought that, Yoshiaki turned toward her again.
“What is it, Angie?”
“Heh heh heh.” Angie gave a nasal laugh and mimicked Yoshiaki’s previous warning. “Don’t talk with your mouth full.”
Yoshiaki’s bitter smiles were always so wonderful.
Angie noticed a smile on her own lips as well. And despite Ootani’s tilted head…
“I bet the others are saying things like this too.”
Kiyomasa lightly stretched her arms and her whole body.
She filled her lungs with the summer afternoon air in the Azuchi’s shadow.
“Okay, Fukushima-sama. We never solved that mystery, but let’s finish our run for now. Katagiri-kun already went on ahead.”
“Testament. The battle is tomorrow, so we must not lose our focus.”
My, my, thought Kiyomasa.
…But you were distracted because you were too focused.
However, she left that unsaid.
The girl was not aware of it, so telling her would only make her hesitate further.
So Kiyomasa remained silent and nodded back. Fukushima calmly lined up alongside her.
And they began to run. They stepped forward to run next to the materials being transported.
Their first few steps were slow, but they soon picked up speed to match the length of their paces.
They passed through the people’s shadows once more and then Fukushima spoke.
“Testament. What is it?”
“Later, thou will be using the ship’s pool for rehabilitation from thy injury, won’t thou?”
“Oh, yes. I do things like create a platform on the water and balance on top of it.”
“Testament. I would like to spar with thee then. …Lately, I have felt somewhat lacking in strength.”
Kiyomasa smiled a bit that Fukushima had chosen now to reveal that she had lost confidence in herself after their defeat. Because while they ran, Kiyomasa was the only one she could tell.
Of course, Kiyomasa was also the only one with the skill to train properly with Fukushima. However…
“I’m something of an unconventional spear user. If anything, I’m more of a sword user.”
“No, Kiyo-dono. Thou are the more conventional one between us.”
They argued over who was more unconventional until they reached the bow.
There they entered the sunlight. Their bodies warmed up as they ran alongside the materials being transported.
“Testament. Then let us spar up top after this run.”
“Testament. I look forward to it. Then we can take a break at the festival on the deck.”
Just as Fukushima said that, Kiyomasa noticed something.
A cart carrying materials was moving alongside them. But…
They had made their way around the bow.
The bow was pointed toward Paris. Since the materials were meant for the flooding of Paris, they should all have been bound for the bow.
So why had these followed them all the way around the bow?
…Did we have any materials being sent needlessly around like that?
Kiyomasa looked at the cart of materials.
She recognized the person in the driver’s seat.
It was a familiar face.
But it had been so long that she could not recall the person’s name. And she was afraid to be mistaken, so she asked the others.
Kiyo-Massive: “Um, everyone? Do you remember that group of 10 that, um, we fought a few years back?”
6: “Himeji’s Yakiniku Three Musketeers?”
Kiyo-Massive: “No, those were ad campaign characters for a yakiniku shop. Fukushima-sama soloed them all and there were only 3 of them.”
AnG: “Then do you mean Nagahama’s Eight Fish Legions?”
Kiyomasa: “I remember a drunk Takenaka…-san saying ‘Eh? The Eight Wish Legions?’ and challenging them, but I don’t think that’s who I mean.”
6: “Those were so hard to tell apart since their names were all ‘Fish-sama’, ‘Fish-shi’, ‘Fish-san’, and so on.”
Black Wolf: “I think it was just that we defeated them before we could hope to learn which was which…”
Kuro Take: “Umm, then was it the Eight Swordsmen of Roman History?”
Kiyo-Massive: “Their catchphrase was ‘we are dying to discover the best parts of Rome’, but they were discovered as corpses in some catacombs on the first day of the duels which made their catchphrase literally true.”
Kimee: “Yeah, I doubt they meant it like that…”
That third one had even had an appropriate connection to Roman history, but that was not what Kiyomasa was looking for here. Also, they seemed to deal with numbered groups a lot. Of course, they were one themselves.
□□凸: “If it was someone we fought, then wouldn’t it be the other candidates for the Seven Spears?”
Kiyo-Massive: “Testament! That’s it. Thank you very much. …I couldn’t think of it since we took that position for ourselves.”
□□凸: “You’re welcome. But, Kiyomasa-san, what about them?”
Kiyo-Massive: “Well, Miyoshi Seikai Nyuudou is right here next to us.”
Almost Everyone: “…Then he’s an intruder!!”
Eh? thought Kiyomasa.
Kiyo-Massive: “U-um, aren’t the Sanada Ten Braves on Hashiba’s side?”
Kuro Take: “But we didn’t call for them here.”
6: “Why is he here?”
“Then,” said Fukushima outside the divine transmission. “Why not ask him?”
Kiyomasa tried asking as she ran.
“Um, Miyoshi Nyuudou?”
When she called out to him, he turned around in the driver’s seat.
“Testament. …What is it?”
It really is him. Thank goodness, thought Kiyomasa as she got right to the point.
“Why are you here?”
“…That would be a long story.”
“Could you sum it up for me?”
“Fine then.” He nodded. “I arrived here to find two young girls confirming their mutual friendship with a run. I caught the scent of youth and decided to bask in that lively atmosphere.”
Hearing that, Kiyomasa nodded once.
Then she breathed in and shouted at the top of her lungs.
- Atami means “hot ocean”.
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