Horizon:Volume 6B Chapter 33
Chapter 33: Attendees of a Road Meeting
It is not what you can finalize
It is what you can reject
And what you can share
Point Allocation (International Relations)
The meeting and meal were quietly held in front of the Main Blue Thunder.
It was not that there was complete silence. Musashi, Houjou, and Mouri had split into separate groups to go over a final check for the meeting.
Among them, Houjou Ujinao was discussing food orders with Kotarou, Ujiteru, and Genan.
…I wish we were at the Western food table…
Houjou was the Association of Indian States.
They could easily eat curry for three days in a row there, but Far Eastern food was also readily available.
And they were currently at the primarily Far Eastern table. A look at the table showed foods that could be described as “the usual lineup but in different flavors”.
She realized the ingredients were probably from Kantou and the cooking would be done by Musashi, so it would be Kantou-based, just like in Houjou.
To Ujinao, that was no more than somewhat idiosyncratic local food.
She felt that might change if it was a dessert, but…
…It’s too bad.
“Ujinao-sama! As I was saying, if we consider stability after the battle…”
“Kotarou, Houjou will be dissolved as a clan, so does that really matter?”
“Ujinao-sama! Ujinao-sama! You’ve been really halfhearted about this tonight!”
The effects of food could be frightening.
…But when I looked for the Western food table…
It was Musashi’s table.
Mouri’s table was mostly a fusion of Far Eastern and Western styles, so that had to be the Musashi cuisine.
Ujinao observed which group was seated at which table.
…Musashi should have given more thought to that arrangement…
But when she thought back, she realized they had chosen a table on their own, so Musashi had done nothing wrong. Still, she did not like that Musashi was seated at the Western table.
Shouldn’t they have considerately chosen the Far Eastern table?
Masazumi thought to herself while continuing preparations for the meeting.
…I feel like Houjou Ujinao is glaring at me…
But Ujinao’s eyes were always closed, so the term “glare” did not really apply.
And Masazumi had another thought about the table they were seated at.
…I wish we had gotten the Far Eastern table…
She could eat Western food just fine, but this was a meeting. She wanted to avoid anything too fatty that would leave an aftertaste.
But the others had sat at the Western table.
That would be because Hexagone Française had brought some of their own food. Mitotsudaira had been lured in by the meat and Futayo was hooked on the pasta. Really hooked. It seemed to be a lost cause, but Asama tried to get everyone to calm down.
“C’mon, dig in like that and you’ll gain weight.”
“But, Asama-sama, if we hold the Western table, we will get Western desserts during dessert time. Wouldn’t you like some of Toori-sama’s thick cream, tarts, and ice cream?”
Asama folded at Horizon’s words and that settled it.
With no other choice, Masazumi was eating a salad and ham between bread, but…
…Houjou really is glaring this way…
Hmm, she thought while feeling a fairly flavorless type of tension.
…I hope Mouri is preparing for this meeting properly.
…I’m so hungry…
Terumoto faced the “Musashi cuisine” on the table and could not eat any of it.
…Musashi Vice President, what is this nonsense about starting the meeting as soon as we get here?
Mouri-01 and the others had started checking over and lecturing her on the current situation, so dinnertime had become worktime.
“So, Princess, the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle will generally be made up of two battles. You could say that means we have two opportunities to negotiate for our interests there, so we would like to use that to our advantage. …Princess?”
“Yeah, I’m listening, I’m listening.”
Her response was noticeably halfhearted.
Making these preparations while dying to eat was no easy task.
…I mean, this Musashi cuisine is a fusion of Far Eastern and Western styles…
She personally wanted Far Eastern food.
After all, she had only eaten Western food since leaving Hexagone Française.
That was because Mouri land was under Hexagone Française’s provisional rule.
Food on the Pension Versailles was generally Western, so that was all she had eaten during this eastward trip.
Terumoto was from the Far East, so while she was fine with Hexagone Française food, she also liked Far Eastern food.
And since Musashi was holding a dinner party along with the meeting, she had chosen not to eat anything after the midday meeting. But when she got here…
…I have to wait?
“Terumoto. Are you angry about something?”
She was not angry.
She was just hungry.
I’ll eat after this. I’ll definitely eat. I swear I’ll eat.
That was her motivation for the meeting.
She wished it was the Far Eastern food in front of her, but the Musashi food was a fusion of that and Western food.
She decided to interpret that as the food having a Far Eastern flavor.
She started thinking it was the perfect match for someone who was both Mouri and Hexagone Française, but that may have just been the hunger talking.
…Yeah, I’ll definitely be eating that fried fish chumaki afterwards.
That tofu cooked in peanut sauce has got to be good.
Oh, that pork cooked in mustard is more on the Western side of things, but I still want to eat it so bad.
Simply put, she was hungry.
And who was it that had put her in this position?
…The Musashi Vice President.
Masazumi thought to herself while continuing preparations for the meeting.
…I feel like Mouri Terumoto is glaring at me too…
She definitely was. When their eyes occasionally met, Terumoto would give her a look that seemed to say “what’re you lookin’ at?”
Flat Vassal: “Umm, Vice President? Did you do something?”
Vice President: “No, nothing…”
Tonbokiri: “Masazumi, Lady Terumoto seems to be glaring at you whenever you eat something.”
Unturning: “Are you doing anything rude? Like chewing with your mouth open?”
Vice President: “No, I’m not doing that. I’m not doing any of the myriad chopstick-related breaches of etiquette either. …Because I’m using a fork.”
Hori-ko: “Now, it’s scoring time.”
Vice President: “That wasn’t supposed to be a joke!”
Me: “Because I’m using a fork.”
Vice President: “Qu-quiet you…!”
When she bared her teeth toward the sign frame, Asama smiled bitterly next to her.
“Since the meeting hasn’t really started yet, I think it’s okay to eat. This here is the green pea soup and the turnip mincemeat I made. Also…”
Asama placed roast chicken on a plate. But it was not a whole roast. It was cut into somewhat thick strips, and…
“Toori-kun said to eat it with the horseradish sauce. …And after that, try these.”
She passed Masazumi three thumb-sized paper wrappers.
“…What are these? They remind me of white bean paste bars.”
“They are mint marzipan made from thickening almond powder with mint and egg whites. He said to finish with them if you’re having a meeting.”
Mal-Ga: “Oh, those are the Main Blue Thunder’s rare candy! They really refresh your mouth during a late night.”
Gold Mar: “Ohh, Seijun, does that mean you’ll be ready for battle?”
“I see,” said Masazumi.
She figured they had to be good, but she was not entirely satisfied as she placed them in her hip pocket.
After taking a bite of the food, Masazumi took a breath. The turnip is pretty good, she thought. And…
“Okay, let’s get the meeting started.”
She could see both the other national representatives glaring at her.
“Good day…or good evening I guess. Are you closed today?”
The sounds of distant hammering echoed below the sky and a voice spoke atop the Musashi as the summer afternoon changed to evening.
In one corner of the shopping district on Tama’s surface, Oriotorai (who was wearing a shirt) stood in front of an open door.
She was peering inside the Blue Thunder. The one with the sign in English.
There were no customers inside the bakery/café. But the sounds of cooking and smells of salt and burning oil came from within.
“Oh, Sensei. …How were the things I left you with?”
“Umm, do you mean Toori and Kimi?”
“No, no. I mean the ingredients you brought on the study camp.”
Someone walked out from the back carrying a steaming pot in both hands.
It was the manager. She wore mittens built to increase her grip strength and she placed the pot on the floor in front of the counter. Firewood was lined up there to keep it off the floor itself.
The wood creaked below the pot and gave off some smoke.
The pot contained a dark paste that was boiling and bubbling. Based on the smell…
“Oh, demi-glace… That’s pretty thick. And it smells a lot of wine…”
“I made it with low moisture, so it’s about seven times thicker than normal. It’s really hard to stir, so I have to use a yoroi-doshi I had at home to kind of cut through it as I stir it.”
“That sounds like you,” said Oriotorai as she looked to the counter which had no bread lined up on it.
Then she pointed toward the construction noise coming from the open door.
“Is this for them?”
“Judge. It’s to feed the construction workers. All of the restaurants are providing supplies on the Commerce and Industry Guild’s instructions. Our row is in charge today, so I’m making the base for a stew. …They’ll boil water in a different pot and dilute it. The other places are making the ingredients to go in it, so they’ll mix it all together.”
“How many more are you making?”
“Four, probably. I’ve already finished two, so I’m having them carried out when they’re ready. It’s a lot of work.” The manager crossed her arms. “I really wanted Toori and Kimi’s help, but other than having Horizon take some extra bread, I don’t think I’m getting any help.”
“You’ve really helped us out. The bread Naruze and Naito brought during the day was from here, wasn’t it?”
“Well, those kids are such good customers.” The manager smiled. And, “I have some fat I skimmed off the top of this if you want it. It’s good when cooked with bread. It tastes like tomato, wine, and butter. You can also cook it with meat or vegetables.”
“Ohh. Then I’ll take a bottle. Also…”
“Yeah.” The manager nodded, leaned against the counter, and shrugged. “There don’t seem to be any intruders this time. …I may not be the best person to ask since I didn’t notice those Celestial Dragons the other day, but I’m not detecting any odd movements like back at the Ariake. And the others all say the same thing.”
“Ootani Yoshitsugu showed up during the meeting earlier today…”
“The improvements Ei-san made to Musashi’s defenses are really strict when it comes to divine transmissions. Tomo-chan has made her own improvements and she purifies it when she has a chance, so it should be fine.” The manager smiled a little. “I don’t envy your position, Sensei. You can’t actually do anything yourself.”
“I just hope I’m supporting them enough to say ‘judge’ to that.”
“Then you can have the Principal send a message to the Commerce and Industry Guild. We know how important the series of battles starting tomorrow is. We want to support everyone, not have some simple tasks we’re in charge of. …Can you have him instruct us to provide food or spell support as we see fit?”
Oriotorai smiled at that question. And…
“Can I have that?”
Hooks were attached to the underside of the thatched roof ceiling and vegetables and meat hung from them.
“I ate everything I had before going to Sanada for the study camp.”
“Want some sake too? It isn’t the good stuff since that’s not my specialty, but I can throw some of that in too.”
“Judge, please do.”
Then Oriotorai opened a sign frame as if she had just realized something, so the manager peered over at it.
“Have they started?”
“Judge, Masazumi just contacted me to say they’ve started the meeting.” Oriotorai raised her eyebrows in a smile. “Honestly, she can probably only send this message because she knows I’m supporting them. …She probably means it as a way of telling me to leave this to them.”
“Now. how about we start with the first topic?”
The sky was dyed in the colors of sunset. That color starting in the west was more of a light red than an orange.
But in front of the Main Blue Thunder, west was to starboard, which was where the building was.
So while below the café’s eaves, Masazumi and the others were in deep shadows.
…Mouri is ahead and to the right and Houjou ahead and to the left.
She began the dinner meeting while facing both other groups.
And she stated the first topic:
“Our three powers need to reach a consensus on what our ultimate objective is here. If we are all aware of each other’s goals, we should be able to complete the rest of the discussions more smoothly,” said Masazumi. “Musashi’s biggest objective is to liberate Kantou. To achieve that, we want to take as little damage as possible while completing the Siege of Odawara, the Tensho Jingo Conflict, and the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle.” She swept her arms to either side. “Now, what is it you want? Let’s have a frank discussion here.”
The meeting place bathed in the light of the setting sun.
The aromas of various foods arrived from the dinner tables.
But all of it felt so distant to Terumoto.
…The sun sure is bright.
No, I guess there’s nothing wrong with the setting sun being bright, she rethought before speaking.
“Our biggest objective for the Sieges of Odawara and Bitchu Takamatsu Castle?” She scratched her head. “That would be the cooperative relationship with the Kantou forces we could gain from the Kantou Liberation. Hexagone Française needs that if we’re going to achieve our greatest objective of settling the outside world. But,” she added. “We still don’t know if the Kantou Liberation will work out. So we will keep every possible option open.”
“Including your initial demand that we transfer Matsudaira’s rights to you?”
Terumoto smiled a little at the Musashi Vice Chancellor’s question.
…So you get it.
“Of course. When the situation changes, a nation has to change its course of action. Just like the tiniest thing can change what route someone takes to school or when they wake up in the morning, the personality of a nation can be changed by the tiniest thing. …If fighting a war didn’t change anything, it’s a sign that the personality of your nation has grown dull.”
Terumoto smiled bitterly in her heart.
I sound like I’m lecturing her, she thought about her own words.
But all of it is accurate, she added.
“Hexagone Française is a future conqueror and we will do whatever it takes to ensure that happens. If we can fight a war against Musashi via duels, then we will aim to benefit from it as much as possible. …No complaints about that, right?”
That question did not move the Musashi Vice Chancellor’s stance and gaze in the slightest.
…What a troublesome girl.
She aloofly held her own thoughts and was not shaken. The way she never let her feelings show was another way she did not mesh well with Terumoto.
And the Musashi Vice Chancellor girl would go on the offensive whenever she had the chance.
She had not fallen silent because she was cowed. She was simply thinking up an avenue of attack.
If you took her silence as a sign that she would do as you said, she would end up stabbing you.
…With this troublesome type, you have to keep an eye on them to the very, very end.
And that troublesome girl opened her mouth while looking to Terumoto along with the anteater Mouse on her shoulder.
“Agreed,” calmly said the Musashi Vice President. “In our role as the Matsudaira forces, Musashi is also promised a future as a conqueror. Thus, we too will do whatever it takes to become that conqueror. …You are exactly right about that.”
When she heard the Musashi Vice President, Ujinao narrowed down what stance to take here.
…They have changed.
Musashi’s stance had changed since the meeting during the day.
During the day, Musashi had searched for a way for them all to work together. They had tried to use negotiation to draw out a path for that.
But Musashi was doing the opposite now.
…“In our role as the Matsudaira forces, Musashi is also promised a future as a conqueror”, hm?”
This was their response to Mouri’s talk of being a conqueror.
But she was not saying that they and Mouri were similar.
She was saying that, if Mouri would use any means necessary to become a conqueror, then Musashi would do the same.
She was saying they would oppose Mouri if need be.
And she had placed the responsibility of such a conflict on Mouri’s shoulders.
Because when Mouri had asked “no complaints about that, right?”, she had replied with “agreed”.
If Mouri had said nothing, that agreement never would have occurred. And by agreeing, she had started to cut off Mouri’s escape route.
It was a warning.
Ujiteru may have understood that because he spoke up while scooping some bamboo shoot and green onion cooked in soy sauce onto his plate.
“Excellent, excellent. …Matsudaira is destined to rule the world one day, so even Mouri will be under their control. Threatening each other with their future authority is a privilege of those who believe in a bright future. Don’t you think?”
“Indeed,” said Genan while sipping at some tea. “Because we will be destroyed…”
That was true, but her allies’ attitude of hopelessness kind of irritated Ujinao.
Then the Musashi Vice President turned toward her with her eyebrows relaxed.
“What about Houjou? What kind of future do you see?”
“Testament. After the Siege of Odawara, we would like to swiftly join with Musashi and shift focus to the Kantou Liberation. So to end the Siege of Odawara…”
Ujinao looked to the two who had inherited names related to hers.
“You can execute these two. Ujiteru will in fact commit suicide to take responsibility for Hashiba.”
Ujinao heard the two behind her yell in complete unison.
Ujiteru hopped over from the left.
“Wait! Wait! You demonic niece! Have I ever done anything to you!?”
Genan hopped in from the right.
“Indeed! You demonic woman! Have I ever done anything to you!? Well, have I!?”
“Ujinao-sama! Ujinao-sama, these two are trying to provoke you!!”
They did not seem to care.
Genan slid his upper body side to side.
“Listen. I’m already supposed to be dead by the time the Siege of Odawara happens.”
“Then shall I make sure you are both dead here and now, great uncle and automaton?”
“Y-you demonic niece! You just made a clear distinction between Genan-dono and me, didn’t you!? …Genan-dono! This is a distraction meant to divide us! Curse this girl…!”
Her uncle was being annoying, so she placed a hand on a sword at her hip and turned toward her uncle. That silenced him.
Then she spoke to the two of them.
“Let me say this up front: If things are looking bad for Houjou, please go ahead and commit seppuku. That will generally give us a satisfactory result.”
“Y-you demonic niece! Is this how you treat me after calling me here!? I’m leaving! I’m going back to Hachioji to sleep!”
“Hachioji Castle will be a scene of intense fighting during the Siege of Odawara, so please do not do anything rash.” Ujinao put some strength into her tone. “Maeda Toshiie is meant to participate in the attack on Hachioji. He has stayed with the Shibata forces instead of coming here, but I assume that is because opposing us would mean joining with Matsudaira. But,” she continued. “That means this is our only chance to complete the Siege of Odawara without P.A. Oda’s interference. So please do not do anything unnecessary.”
“Hahhhhh? Do you have any idea who you’re talking to!? Well?”
Ujinao opened a sign frame and pressed the “approve” button.
“Ah,” said Ujiteru just as lightning struck him.
Masazumi saw something she had never seen before: an automaton enveloped in plasma and writhing about.
The automaton danced on the ground while loud sounds seemed to split the air.
He seemed to be babbling nonsense, so his numb tongue may have been moving on its own.
Masazumi watched as Ujiteru burst like a summer firework.
That silent awe was honestly the only reaction she could find.
Vice President: “I kind of think of Houjou in terms of their Kamakura connection, you know? So I was hoping they would take things a little more seriously…”
Flat Vassal: “This reminds me of an evil organization’s punishments.”
Uqui: “And this indirectly changes my image of Noriki. Would this have happened to him if he made the slightest mistake?”
Hori-ko: “Toori-sama, you would actually like that kind of thing, wouldn’t you?”
Me: “Are you picturing me shouting, ‘Nooooooooo! It’s too gooooooooooooooood!’ or something!? That would be great! But since they’re Houjou, Noriki gets the first shot at it!”
10ZO: “I just imagined Noriki-kun doing that and I really wish I hadn’t!”
Mal-Ga: “…That’s it!!”
The Musashi engine division transport ship was descending in front of the Suwa Shrine on a western lake coast surrounded by forest.
The setting sun shined on the lake and forest, between which stood short houses and a flat-roofed building that seemed to be a workshop.
A Shinto shrine stood on a large area of land by the forest. The village was for the Suwa management and the affiliated Shinto corporation.
Lights were coming on in Suwa.
There were roads running east to west by the lake and there was a main road leading to the Suwa Shrine. There were spell bonfires along those roads and they began to illuminate the village more than the setting sun.
Noriki looked down from the deck at those preparations for night and Hiro spoke to him from a sign frame. The ends of her eyebrows were lowered and her mouth was spread horizontally.
“…What was that about? That was a really bad sneeze. Suwa is fairly elevated and it has a lake, so it gets chilly.”
“No, that just hit me out of the blue. Was someone talking about me?”
Laborer: “Hey, were any of you talking about me?”
10ZO: “No, no, not at all! We weren’t talking about anything at all!”
Mal-Ga: “Judge, that’s right. So don’t worry. …I’ll make the drawings look good.”
Laborer: “Hold it right there.”
Masazumi glanced over to see the divine chat growing lively.
She faced forward to see the state of Houjou.
Their punishment seemed to be over. The automaton still lay on the ground with white smoke rising from him and Ujinao turned to face Masazumi.
“Houjou’s ultimate objective is the Kantou Liberation,” she said. “Because once the Siege of Odawara is complete, Houjou will be dissolved as a clan in accordance with the history recreation. Those dissolved forces will take on the Kantou Liberation as their final battle.”
After making her announcement, Ujinao breathed a shallow sigh that no one else would notice.
…This is my duty as Houjou’s final leader.
According to the Testament, after the Siege of Odawara, Matsudaira would be trapped in Kantou on Hashiba’s orders and it would absorb the remnants of both Takeda and Houjou.
That would likely happen as a matter of course.
The Testament told everyone that Matsudaira would rule the Far East. It was unknown if they would actually conquer the world or if they would be restricted with interpretations, but they were the greatest hope for the Far East.
If Musashi won the Sieges of Odawara and Bitchu Takamatsu Castle, it would give them a more powerful image.
And liberating Kantou would do so even more.
…If that happened…
Then every single nation was sure to begin stocking up for what was to come.
Everyone would look to the next age and seek the greatest benefit they could gain as things were.
Those who would be absorbed by Matsudaira would work to gain the best possible position under Matsudaira’s rule.
Those who would serve Matsudaira would work to gain the best possible position in their own nation once they began serving Matsudaira.
What happened here could accelerate that.
So, thought Ujinao before speaking.
“This battle and the Kantou Liberation will provide Musashi with the foundation needed to become a great Far Eastern power. With that in mind…it is time we planned out tomorrow’s battle.”
Musashi did not immediately respond.
It was a voice from the ground that responded instead.
“You’re a much better leader than me, demonic niece.”
It was Ujiteru. The sign frames saying his body parts were rebooting appeared around him as he slowly got up.
“You just about cooked my brain well-done, demonic niece.”
“That cooking it to rare did not kill you is a testament to Houjou technology.”
“It is. It really is,” said her uncle as if he were pleased with how this had turned out. Then he awkwardly crossed his arms. “Listen. …Are you listening?”
“…You always have been a stubborn uncle.”
“Just listen. Are you listening? Even if we are doomed…do a half-assed job and I’ll kill you!”
“Oh?” replied Ujinao. “You are inferior in machine specs, technique, strength, equipment, fortitude, subordinates, rank, and beauty and I have already killed you before, yet you claim you will kill me next?”
“Because I’ve finally caught up with you after you were ‘reincarnated’ as an automaton.” Ujiteru rubbed his head and smiled thinly. “Besides, you didn’t set my body to automatically punish me if I disobey you. Are you mocking me?”
“Such a setting would only invite carelessness. …I know you will try to kill me, so I just have to be prepared to cut you down at any time. That was my decision.”
“…What an awful demonic niece. Just plain awful.” Ujiteru looked the other way and loudly clicked his tongue after three seconds. “If you’d used a setting like that, I was planning to break through it without you noticing so I could kill you when you showed an openiiiing!”
“You are too easy to predict, uncle.”
…But that is what makes him Houjou Ujiteru.
In a way, Ujinao had absolute trust in that uncle.
He was insulting and overbearing, but he was even more obsessed with battle.
He had originally had a powerful drive to climb the ranks, but once she had taken the positions of Chancellor and Student Council President, he had started fighting on the front line to cheer himself up.
He was very decisive.
She was superior when it came to domestic affairs, diplomacy, and combat.
But that uncle was superior when it came to simply “crushing the enemy”.
After all, she had killed him once already.
So had her father and the other top retainers.
Because he had once tried to take control of Houjou but been stopped by her father and the others, Ujiteru had tried to take over Houjou from within. That was also why Ujinao’s sickliness had been used an excuse to make her into an automaton when she was young.
Although it did not seem Ujiteru had ever imagined the doll body containing that sickly child would become the most powerful individual in Houjou as the development line grew.
…He intended to use me as a puppet, but I ended up taking revenge a dozen years later.
When she had cut him down, Ujiteru had smiled.
And he had tried to cut her down countless times.
It was not that he was desperate.
He did not for a second think he was losing. Even when she had beheaded her uncle, she knew he would not have doubted his victory in the slightest.
She had allowed him to live on as an automaton. According to Kotarou, that had been a mistake, but according to the future she imagined, it had been the right thing to do.
She had made no mistake.
This uncle would crush their enemies. And…
They would win.
There was a part of the Siege of Odawara that they could win.
…Including me, Houjou can gain two victories.
It was unclear how much Genan and Kotarou could do, but she could be certain of her uncle’s and her own victories.
And with that self-confident reasoning in mind…
“Now, let us plan out tomorrow’s ‘war’.”
…Planning out a war, is an incredible concept.
Would she call it “modern”?
Perhaps she should think of it as decisive.
But she did have her thoughts on the matter.
Vice President: “Everyone, we are about to discuss how many duels will be fought. We will also be discussing what we as nations are willing to bet on each battle, so I would like your help.”
Marube-ya: “Money!? You need money, right!? After being disgraced as a pooping girl, nothing you say can scare me off! So what’ll it be!? How much!?”
Worshiper: “Oh, I’m preparing more food with Hassan-kun and Aoi-kun, so don’t worry about that.”
Marube-ya: “You’re just going to ignore me!?”
It’s the only thing to do, thought Masazumi as someone unexpected responded.
Unturning: “I would like to ask that you make sure to have me fight one of the duels for the Siege of Odawara.”
It was Narumi.
Suzu sensed everyone focusing on Narumi without actually turning her way.
Suzu turned toward her and Narumi took a quiet breath without turning everyone’s way.
It was a breath of laughter.
But it was also a “sound” that only Suzu would pick up on. As if to say…
That was how Suzu interpreted it.
But she blushed when she realized it was a message only for her.
Then Urquiaga spoke.
Urqui: “Do not worry, everyone. …Narumi is a battle-crazed warrior.”
Unturning: “I enjoy how being with you shows me new attractive sides to myself.”
This time, Narumi took a breath loud enough for anyone to hear.
Unturning: “It’s simple: The Date clan participates in the Siege of Odawara. But Date is currently trying to get back on its feet and Oniniwa-san will join Hashiba. …They could always send Masamune here, but then none of their main fighters would remain in Sendai castle.”
Bell: “…They don’t have…any fighters?”
Unturning: “Judge, that’s right. They don’t.”
She could have sworn there had been more than that, but was she remembering wrong? But if Narumi said so…
“Okay! Thank you, everyone, for another day repairing Sendai Castle! This is the Vice President who is treated like garbage when the President and Vice President are compared! Hey! Hey, 1st year girl there! Don’t look away! Hey, you! The girl with the beautiful long black hair! …Don’t pull out your sword to cut your hair all of a sudden! Is it that hot today!? Oh? In that case, I shall warm you up! C’mon, dive right into my chest! You’re ignoring me!? You’re ignoring me, aren’t you!? Or did you have an extremely sheltered upbringing that’s placed a division between your mind and the outside world!? I get it now! You can’t help it then! Remember this, okay!? …Anyway, everyone, I have something to ask of you! You know how the Seiryu cut right through here before? Well, my room is on the top floor there and it was sliced in half! …You knew!? You knew that, everyone!? So you were worried about me!? You say it serves me right!? What a strange way to support me! Thanks! Now my question is why my room is the very last thing on Sendai Castle’s repair schedule!? Are you saving the best for last!? Oh, so that’s it! …Who was that who called me annoying!? Thank you very much!”
Unturning: “We do have someone else who isn’t much of a fighter and causes harm during peacetime as well.”
Oh, him, thought Suzu.
The one who’s similar to Kojirou-san. Whose name is, I mean.
There were so many different kinds of people at Date, she thought as Narumi continued speaking.
Unturning: “So I will assist with the Siege of Odawara as part of the Date clan.”
Uqui: “Narumi. …Come back soon.”
Unturning: “Are you not aware that I have nowhere else to return to?”
Suzu had a thought while listening to everyone give cries of “ohhh”.
…Narumi-san…doesn’t have it easy.
It would not have been smooth sailing after arriving on the Musashi.
Just as Mary occasionally worried about England and Mitotsudaira had her thoughts about Hexagone Française, a former home was an important thing.
It did not matter if they had run away or if there had been a falling out.
Everyone was here due to their respective positions and advantages.
That may have been why Masazumi responded the way she did.
Vice President: “I appreciate it.”
And then she said more.
Vice President: “Just to be clear, there is one thing we have to watch out for here. We are about to fight four battles: the Tensho Jingo Conflict, the Siege of Odawara, the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle, and the Siege of Kanie Castle. But in my opinion…”
Vice President: “We should avoid using our main fighters for these battles.”
Suzu heard everyone’s silence.
…She isn’t going to…send everyone into battle?
That meant she was not having them take an active role in this war.
Suzu thought, Is Masazumi all right?
Adele must have thought the same thing.
She said nothing and simply kept piling pasta onto her plate.
She had clearly taken far too much, but she must have been distracted. Or maybe she really did want to eat that much. Suzu was not really sure. But I had some of that earlier and the garlic was really strong, so be careful, Adele.
Especially with tomorrow morning in mind.
Remember those gyoza you regretted eating, Adele.
But everyone had to be thinking the same thing: Masazumi had said something strange.
But they could not make any careless statements at the moment.
This was an international meeting, so they could not let their surprise show.
Besides, if they asked “Masazumi, have you gone insane?” here, it would be an international incident. That might be a normal enough question for the people of Musashi, but they needed to avoid any strange statements here. Yes.
So Suzu remained just as silent as everyone else.
And in that silence, a voice shouted from the café.
“Seijun! Have you gone crazy!?”
Hearing the crossdresser, Masazumi lifted her shoulders and turned around.
“Shut up! I’m trying to think, so be quiet!”
She took a breath and brushed back her hair.
Vice President: “Listen carefully.”
Her voice reached them.
Vice President: “The Kantou Liberation is what really matters. If we can accomplish that, the east of the Far East will be a Matsudaira force! That will allow us to attack Hashiba or P.A. Oda without worrying about our back.”
Vice President: “We will have the foothold we need to demand Hashiba fights Sekigahara and Komaki Nagakute and to demand P.A. Oda does Honnouji. We must complete the Kantou Liberation if we want that. So…”
Vice President: “We will use our main fighters on the Kantou Liberation and we will try to use our secondary fighters for the Siege of Odawara, the Tensho Jingo Conflict, and the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle. …Can we do that?”
Masazumi gave everyone a challenging look. And…
83: “Well, if you insist.”
Something was not right. “No, wait,” said Masazumi before clearing her throat.
Vice President: “Umm, even if they’re only our secondary fighters, they still have to, y’know, fight.”
Sticky King: “It looks like this is in our hands…”
Vice President: “I was looking for someone we could be confident would win…”
Obscene: “It would seem it is finally time for us to get serious.”
…Will this turn out all right?
Suzu felt an awkward sweat on her back.
But who else could be one of their secondary fighters?
Ookubo sighed as she stared into the empty frappe container.
The Satomi Student Council President had told her the situation with Houjou and then left.
Ookubo’s job often required speaking with upperclassmen and underclassmen, but when it came to another nation’s Student Council President from the same year as her…
…I was overly polite.
It was partially because that girl was adored by those upperclassmen.
That was partially because of her position and because she was a leader much like them, but…
…I felt kind of jealous.
Ookubo shook her head.
“What a frightening thought.”
She could not allow herself to want those people to pay attention to her.
That would be far too dangerous.
Yes, what she felt about the Satomi Student Council President was something else.
…It was just my indiscriminate desire to have people focus on me.
She did not like it when someone ignored her, even if it was those upperclassmen. That was what it was.
And she knew what it was she felt about the Satomi Vice President herself:
…That her position can’t be easy.
After all, they were fighting a war starting the next day.
Of course, war breaking out was unavoidable given the Vice President’s habits. And Ookubo was at fault too for having accepted that girl’s methods.
She had to stick with that girl until it destroyed her. It was like a game of chicken to see who was destroyed first.
But Ookubo knew fighting on the front line had to be dangerous.
She looked to her left arm. She had grown accustomed to that white prosthetic attached to her shoulder.
That arm could be seen as what she was now, but when she thought about that happening to someone else, she wanted to stop it.
Of course, there was no guarantee something like that would happen and she was not going to reject any and all risk. But…
“Herrrre y’go! Y’r ord’r’s r’dyyyyyyyy!”
She was given the same thing that the Satomi Student Council President had ordered.
It was a lassi frappe. She felt like she was eating too many cold things today, but she decided to think of it as following that girl’s example.
She took the container and held it up so no one else would notice.
…Good luck with the pre-battle negotiations.
She was part of the rear guard, so she had to manage materiel and the various Committee Heads.
I need to work hard, she told herself just before a sign frame opened.
Vice President: “Hey, Ookubo? You want to represent us during tomorrow’s Siege of Odawara or Bitchu Takamatsu Castle, right? This is your chance to make more of a name for yourself. Okay, I’ll give you one of the duels. Do your best.”
“Wait just a second!!”
The divine transmission had already ended.
Asama: “Um, Ookubo-san is making a persistent communication attack against you, Masazumi.”
Vice President: “Hmm. Can you just ignore her?”
Asama: “You should probably find a way to stop her. If Ookubo-san takes this too far, well, it could be designated a crime.”
Gold Mar: “For example?”
Asama: “If you commit a forcible act of stalking on the divine network, a Shinto stalker alarm will sound, the fingers typing on your sign frame will feel like burning needles were inserted below your fingernails, an ‘indescribable presence’ will follow behind you for half a year and gently pour two sho of purified water into your butt, and you will be banned from sending divine transmissions to the target.”
10ZO: “Wouldn’t that last part be enough? And what in the world is an ‘indescribable presence’?”
Asama: “Well, you know how the malevolent gods were chased around until they surrendered during the creation of the nation? One of them seems to have taken it in stride and wants to do it himself now.”
Smoking Girl: “An eye for an eye?”
Asama: “Yes, our shrine’s representative from five generations ago apparently saw a Hammurabi exhibit when the Musashi was in the Middle East and she decided ‘that’s it!’.”
Unturning: “…Why do you all look satisfied with that answer?”
Uqui: “Experience, Narumi. You will be the same before long.”
Is that really good enough…? wondered Masazumi with a sinking feeling as she had Ookubo removed from the list of divine punishment targets.
Then she took a breath and thought about something else.
…I guess we do have a fair number of secondary fighters.
“Okay.” She turned to face Terumoto. “To start with, I would like to determine the number of duels for the Siege of Odawara and the Tensho Jingo Conflict. Is that all right?”
“Testament. We mostly just have two battles, so you decide on those first.”
Terumoto smiled and crossed her arms.
No one had touched the food in front of her.
…I guess I should be considerate.
Yes, she thought as she said one last thing before turning toward Houjou.
“Feel free to start eating. I wouldn’t want your food getting cold.”
“Don’t worry about it, idiot. Besides, we’re mostly automatons.” Terumoto laughed quietly. “We don’t need to eat.”
…Now I’ve done it!
Terumoto cursed her own vainglory.
…No, I’m clearly just hungry.
She was far too honest with her specialty. This threatened a lot, including progress of the meeting.
Well, it’ll work out, she decided while reaching for a nearby glass.
Since this was the Musashi cuisine table, it contained Far Eastern wine.
In her current state, it truly was the water of life.
…What is wrong with me…?
To keep her stomach from being too empty, she drank some while pretending to just check its aroma.
How long is that going to last me? she wondered as she heard Ujinao’s voice.
That horribly quiet and calm voice said the following:
“As the Houjou Representative, I have two suggestions here.”
“First,” said Ujinao. “Houjou would like for the following negotiation to count as the Tensho Jingo Conflict. After all, the Tensho Jingo Conflict was fought between Houjou and Matsudaira, but it was a territorial dispute that was ultimately settled peaceably. And while the following negotiation will determine the rules for the Siege of Odawara, it will touch on our interests such as territory, so we can view it as an international territorial dispute.”
“Second. As we said during the day, we would like for the rules we decide on for the Siege of Odawara to also apply to the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle. …If our battle is handled separately, it will be more difficult to predict the total losses, which would hinder the later Kantou Liberation. How about that?”
When she asked that, the other two national representatives eventually nodded.
Terumoto gave a snort and turned toward the Musashi Vice President.
“If they’ll be fought on the same battlefield with the same rules, can we send personnel to Houjou in the same way? Well?”
The Musashi Vice Chancellor responded to Terumoto with a hand on her chin.
“Judge. Musashi would find that easier to deal with. And treating this meeting as the Tensho Jingo Conflict means one less battle we have to fight, which we would appreciate. But with the Siege of Odawara…”
“Testament. With the attacks on the primary castles and the other castles, it will cover a wide area. We need to start by discussing whether to do all that or to summarize it.”
“The more deals we have to make after the battle, the more difficult the Kantou Liberation will be. …But if we prioritize the Kantou Liberation, we will have fewer deals to make after the battle. That is what it means.”
Ujinao spoke while opening a sign frame and displaying a map of the Houjou Association of Indian States.
“Houjou is a powerful force that rules the 3 million koku of eight nations. There are many castles there. What matters is how many are involved in the Siege of Odawara.”
Several village and castle icons appeared on the map and Ujinao added a vermilion circle to some of them.
“The number is greater than 20.”
That was a lot.
Even with all of Houjou’s representatives gathered, they could not secure that many personnel. But in that case…
“Let us negotiate how exactly we will convert this into a series of duels, Musashi.”
Houjou was doomed to fall. How would Musashi deal with a nation that had no future but shared the Kantou Liberation as a goal?
“Let us begin.”
Masazumi gasped in her heart at what Ujinao had said.
…More than 20 castles!?
She looked up in doubt, but Ujinao nodded and tapped the back of her sign frame.
“When talking about the Siege of Odawara, we often focus entirely on the final flooding, but Hashiba actually begins by attacking castles all across our land and then crushes the primary castles leading to Odawara. It begins with…”
“Yamanaka Castle, Takanosu Castle, Ashigara Castle, Nirayama Castle, and Shimoda Castle.”
The next group of primary castles and other castles stretched not just to Edo but to Satomi territory.
“Matsuida Castle, Kurihashi Castle, Minowa Castle, Tatebayashi Castle, Tsukui Castle, Tamanawa Castle, Matsuyama Castle, Edo Castle, Kogane Castle, Toke Castle, Usui Castle, Honsakura Castle, Kawagoe Castle, Iwatsuki Castle, Hachigata Castle, Oshi Castle, Hachioji Castle, Katakura Castle, and Narahara Castle.”
It was far too many to remember.
Ujinao seemed to understand that.
“For the number, let us combine the earlier ones with these for 25 in all.”
That was a lot.
If they fought that many duels, Houjou would never have enough people.
They said they would get support from Mouri for that, but they still would not have enough.
In that case, what would they do?
…They might take personnel from the Kantou forces.
That would mean Musashi would have to supply personnel after Mouri had.
That would be dangerous.
It could hinder the Kantou Liberation.
83: “This is my time to shine.”
Please spare me that.
…And that’s not the point!
After shouting at herself, Masazumi came to her senses.
She realized something about what Houjou had said.
…It isn’t possible!!!!
25 duels was simply out of the question. But if Houjou was trying to argue for it, they had to have some other purpose.
Why was Houjou presenting this ridiculous number?
They were asking for something in return for reducing the number of castles.
If they did not reduce that number and thus reduce the number of battles, it would mean mutual destruction.
In other words…
…She’s negotiating using our futures as collateral!
Masazumi reassessed Houjou.
Ujinao was using their goal of the Kantou Liberation to display their form of justice while also trying to benefit from it as much as possible.
Perhaps that meant she had a good grasp of the distinction between the ideal and reality.
She would display the ideal and advance toward it, but if she gained anything from that, she did not shun it as “dirty”.
That was it.
Houjou was attempting the Kantou Liberation while under P.A. Oda’s rule.
That was who they were up against here.
This negotiation was well worth calling the Tensho Jingo Conflict. It really would rival a war.
So what did Masazumi have to do?
She prepared herself for the bargaining of negotiation.
But before she could take another breath, someone stepped forward.
“Crossdressing Honda-kun, please leave this to me.”
It was Neshinbara.
He pushed his glasses up his nose and turned a sharp look toward Ujinao.
“It is time for a biased history-lover to dissect the Siege of Odawara.”
|Back to Chapter 32||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 34|