Horizon:Volume 6B Chapter 34
Chapter 34: Instigator at a Road Meeting
It is inherited from the past
It resides within after times of prosperity
This throbbing and aching of my right hand
Point Allocation (It’s my time to shine…)
Neshinbara swung his right hand.
There was no meaning to it. It would make him look cool and it would frighten his opponent because they assumed there was something to it.
“Now, it seems we need to take a look back at the Testament’s history…”
That ellipsis was important. It was traditional, but it was important to follow the basics.
Houjou Ujinao responded with a light tilt of the head.
“Is there a problem with our history?”
Oh, don’t worry about it.
…I just wanted to say it, so don’t take it so seriously.
This is the problem with amateurs, thought Neshinbara as he continued speaking.
“Come forth, Heavenly Emperor Michizane.”
With those words, Michizane appeared from his neck hard point part.
Even as a Mouse, he made no mascot-like movements. Rolling or hopping out of the hard point part simply was not intimidating enough.
So Neshinbara had it set up so Michizane would float out of the hard point part. The processing allowing him to pass through the physical object prevented him from doing anything else for a few seconds, but that kind of practical issue was not what mattered. Neshinbara believed he was stronger this way.
And Neshinbara spoke to Michizane once he had appeared. With a swing of his right arm.
“Michizane, open the sign frame. The crucial one.”
Yes, those words were crucial.
Because if he used motion controls like everyone else, swinging his arm would have made Michizane open the sign frame.
So when he set up motion controls, he always gave them two steps. He realized ones like “clench your fist, open it, and swing your arm,” were really three steps, but that was fine. It just meant he had grown even stronger without realizing it. That is a sign of my talent. Heh heh. I’m even better than I thought. I need to reassess my status later.
At any rate, it was easier on Michizane if he gave oral instructions when he had the time.
Michizane opened the sign frame without looking back.
It was blank., which was to be expected when Neshinbara had not actually told him what to display.
He manually called up his databank and dug through the historical data he had gathered and compiled.
…There it is, there it is.
Mal-Ga: “Hurry it up.”
Novice: “Taking my time feels more intimidating for the other side. You just don’t get it.”
Smoking Girl: “Hey, Neshinbara. Does your Mouse hate you?”
Novice: “Now that’s just rude! We get along great!”
Asama: “Hanami? Feel free to say whatever you want concerning Michizane.”
The others were far too noisy.
But while they bought him some time, Neshinbara completed his preparations.
“Now, then,” he said. “There are two main parts to the Siege of Odawara. The first is the preliminary conquering of the castles across Houjou land and the second is the conquering of the primary castles, including the actual siege of Odawara Castle.”
Gold Mar: “We already heard that.”
Bell: “Yes…Ujinao-san…told us.”
Tachibana Wife: “Master Muneshige, is there any reason to repeat what the other person has already said?”
But you two are always saying “Have you eaten?” “I have eaten.” and things like that! thought Neshinbara as he displayed his gathered information.
And with a sigh in his heart, he made a comment to help them grasp the situation.
Novice: “I am about to talk a bit about the Siege of Odawara, okay?”
Unturning: “Since I will be taking part, I would like to hear it.”
Now that’s more like it. It speaks to my love of exposition.
Neshinbara could not help but smile thinly as he spoke.
Novice: “The Siege of Odawara is a major battle to conquer the entirety of Houjou territory. You shouldn’t think of it like your average castle siege or battle. Keep that in mind, okay?”
Adele did not know very much about Kantou.
No, it was more accurate to say she did not know much about it outside of Oushuu. She thought of Kantou as “foreign”. She had learned about it in history and literature class, but…
…Hmm. I never thought I would interact with foreign nations this much…
She had long expected that the Chancellor intended to do something in the future, but her imagination had been restricted by the baseless idea that it would happen under the powerful authority of the Testament Union and would never leave Europe.
But the next thing she knew, they were leaving Europe, visiting Russia, and eating tasty rice.
…I’ve experienced so many strange things…
That said, she did not want to be ignorant here, so she decided to ask.
Flat Vassal: “Um, just how big of a battle are we talking about?”
Novice: “Roughly speaking, from here to Sanada in the north. Then take that north-south line all the way east until it reaches the coast and Satomi. …Does that make sense?”
Adele thought about it.
She thought about the location and size of Kantou on the Far Eastern map and how Koushinetsu bordered it to the west.
She pictured a massive amount of land that covered the entire southern end of Kantou.
No, it was more long than big.
It was a long band of land extending east to west. The distance from east to west was about the same if not longer than the width of a large nation like Hexagone Française.
She had let her guard down because Kantou would become Matsudaira’s later on and because the Satomi Student Council President’s Satomi clan was there too.
Houjou was a large nation. It was on the same scale as one of the European nations.
Silver Wolf: “Of course, from a historical perspective, Matsudaira’s forces had entered Kantou from Mikawa, so Houjou does not rule all of that.”
“But,” added the 5th Special Duty Officer.
Silver Wolf: “Houjou has a strong hold over the area from Sagami to Edo. At this time, even Satomi was driven into the peninsula where they succumbed to Houjou.”
That meant they were currently at that large nation’s headquarters.
And they would try to conquer it tomorrow.
She kind of understood.
Adele understood why Houjou and the Vice President wanted to complete this battle using duels.
…We can’t fight such a large battle, can we?
They would use the approach of summer break as a justification.
But they actually wanted to complete the battle in a hurry so they could complete the Kantou Liberation before Hashiba could intervene.
However, Houjou wanted to gain as much as they could before they were destroyed.
And this battle was their last chance to profit as a nation.
That was why Houjou was insisting on fighting so many battles. They intended to use the great size of the battlefield to bargain and that negotiation would qualify as the Tensho Jingo Conflict.
Flat Vassal: “Secretary. …How does the Siege of Odawara play out?”
Neshinbara sent a map of Kantou to everyone’s sign frames.
And he drew an arrow into Houjou territory from the west.
Novice: “Generally, Hashiba’s forces follow the Tokaido and enter from the west. Matsudaira had land in Kantou at the time, but Mikawa was their primary territory and the land in Kantou was really just an extension from Mikawa. Also, Hashiba and Matsudaira joined forces on their way to Houjou.”
Flat Vassal: “Did Hashiba and Matsudaira get along?”
Novice: “On the surface, yes. …But Hashiba still had the advantage at the time. Matsudaira was also on good terms with Houjou, so I think they decided to abandon Houjou as a way of showing they meant no harm to Hashiba. And Hashiba was able to see which of the Kantou forces joined the battle as a way of determining their loyalty. But more importantly…”
Hashiba must have feared Matsudaira, thought Neshinbara. Because…
Novice: “Houjou’s land became Matsudaira’s land after the battle, but that was a ploy by Hashiba. Hashiba wanted an excuse to distance Matsudaira from Kansai where they were.”
“But,” said Neshinbara.
Novice: “Matsudaira did not have it easy. To demonstrate that they had no connection to Houjou, they had to split into smaller units and fight battle after battle upon arriving at Odawara Castle under Hashiba’s watchful eye. …They had to fight all the castles that supported Odawara Castle like Houjou Ujinao mentioned. And after some reinforcements arrived from Hokuriku, this wide-range battle came to an end.”
Vice President: “But that end was a quick one, wasn’t it? They got Odawara Castle to surrender by flooding it.”
Novice: “The schedule has their full forces conquering the Houjou castles before they do that.”
First, the Hashiba forces crushed Houjou’s western castles while traveling along the Tokaido. That was partially to ensure they were not attacked from behind, but also…
Novice: “They crushed 5 castles in particular to use as footholds.”
That was the preliminary part of the battle.
Hashiba and Matsudaira would place the foundation of their forces at Hakone and Shimoda.
Mal-Ga: “That sounds like a hot spring tour to me.”
Novice: “That’s why Hashiba showed off his power to the Kantou forces by calling in his mistress Yodogimi and holding a festival during the flooding. Meanwhile, the Matsudaira forces, the Uesugi forces from Hokuriku, and Hashiba’s own forces crushed Houjou’s supporting castles.”
Neshinbara had a single thought about that:
It would be unthinkable now, but it was only natural back then.
Novice: “In an age without divine transmissions, when you were surrounded by a large army, being flooded, and isolated, you could only wonder how your distant allies were being defeated. …I can’t imagine how stressful that was for Houjou.”
Houjou would be in a similar situation now.
Divine transmissions existed now, but Houjou was under P.A. Oda’s control.
That was of course the proper course of things according to Houjou’s history recreation, but it isolated them from the other nations while they were destroyed by Hashiba which was, in fact, P.A. Oda.
They had no other option. They had nothing to cling to or rely on.
They were simply isolated and forced to meet their ruin at the end of a misunderstanding.
Neshinbara felt like he understood why Noriki had come to the Musashi and what he had said.
He would protect her.
And so he had gone to acquire a means of destroying her.
Mal-Ga: “Did you say something?”
She would have had to read his lips from sniping distance.
Neshinbara made a definition.
Novice: “I more or less understand now.”
Houjou felt a certain way about their situation.
Novice: “Houjou is lonely.”
Naito: “…Bara-yan…just said something, didn’t he?”
Me: “Houjou is…nn…lonely…nn.”
Hori-ko: “Toori-sama, that is both disturbing and rude. It would be more accurate to say, ‘Ho-johhhh is lohn-lyyy’.”
Silver Wolf: “Um, Horizon? Throwing new gags out there without warning is bad for my heart.”
Asama: “Was that supposed to be an Indian accent?”
Vice President: “Hey, Neshinbara, do you see how I feel now?”
Novice: “Yes, I never imagined I would come to understand you…”
“Honestly,” someone said with a sigh.
The wind carried the scent of food above a river.
London existed on the second level of the floating island of England and the Thames flowed through there.
A city block was built on the sole bridge over that river.
“Buildings on the bridge are tax-free.”
Due to that loophole, the wealthy had built their mansions on the bridge.
The bridge had eventually grown too filled with homes to cross, so a path had been formed atop the roofs.
“But the tax-free residents charge a toll to cross the bridge.”
The voice came from someone on the edge of the roof of a building on the bridge.
A girl was reading a book while lying on the slanted thatch roof. She wore a white cloak altered to resemble a short jacket and she held the book up to catch the light of the setting sun.
“Not even being alone is free.”
She closed the book she held up while lying on her back.
The sun had sunk too far, so she could no longer read it. And that was why Shakespeare sat up.
“Why does he only notice when someone else is lonely?”
Neshinbara checked his divine mail sign frame.
…Nothing from Shakespeare.
Something usually arrived at times like this, but it was just as distracting when she did not react.
…This really throws me off.
He knew she had to be watching and she would have had her thoughts on what he said.
She was always so harsh with him, but she would sit and wait when something had her feeling down.
You need to talk with people more, thought Neshinbara. You have a lot going for you there.
He had a lot to think about, but he decided to put that off until later.
This was not the time for personal matters and emotions. Shakespeare would understand that.
“Let’s get started.”
Neshinbara looked to Ujinao.
There was just one thing on his mind here.
…I need to think about this.
This opponent is alone. Ohh, how cool.
But realistically speaking, that has to be painful.
I know what it’s like.
When I was alone, I could work to cheer myself up, but the next thing I knew, that loneliness threatened to crush me.
I know what it’s like.
So I will say it.
I will say it without fear.
I will say it despite being Matsudaira, one of the causes behind Houjou’s isolation.
He first swung his right hand.
“There are 5 preliminary castles and 20 supporting castles around Odawara.”
He saw comments of “Again…?” on the divine chat, but he ignored them.
He lightly tapped his sign frame.
“There are a few of these we can eliminate, aren’t there?”
Neshinbara formed his words.
“First, let’s eliminate some based on the size of the castle.”
“Not all castles are largescale structures. If you surround a simple mansion with walls and use it as a base, it becomes a castle. Conversely, even if military commanders stay there for a long period, the categorization of a Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines is less likely to change.”
Musashino: “Has Neshinbara-sama begun his excessive exposition again? Over.”
Why is that coming from you!? he thought, but he appreciated having some backup.
He faced Houjou Ujinao once more and looked to her expressionless and close-eyed face.
“Of the five castles you mentioned before, Takanosu Castle and Ashigara Castle are guard castles built in Mount Hakone.”
“Allow me to explain,” said Neshinbara. “A guard castle is a castle that guards and monitors the surrounding region. Unlike a fortress, it functions as a castle, but there is no lord of the castle who lives there. So…”
“When looking at this as a series of duels, the guard castles have no lord and thus have no opponent for us to fight.”
Neshinbara looked to his opponent.
Houjou Ujinao was facing him, but…
…No reaction, hm?
It looked like she felt no need to say anything.
Thus, he formed his own words as if throwing a stone to see what she would do.
“The preliminary duels can be fought using the three remaining castles.”
Neshinbara erased Takanosu Castle and Ashigara Castle from the list of five castles.
That left three on the list:
- Yamanaka Castle, Nirayama Castle, Shimoda Castle.
“These three castles had a lord, so we can conclude you have the right to demand a duel for them.”
Neshinbara was cautious with his words.
“Now, this is where things get interesting.”
He just wanted to say that. Saying it kept the attention on him.
He swung his right hand back and raised his fingers to claw at empty air. His nails did not actually catch at anything. The trick was to pull back his shoulder and elbow like there was some kind of resistance and to wiggle his fingers a bit.
He pulled the arm all the way back.
And he used that hand to operate his sign frame.
“Let’s break down the remaining supporting castles. First, here is the list you gave before.”
He displayed the list of marked castles:
- 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, Narahara Castle.
There were a lot of them.
But there was no need to memorize them.
“Let’s reduce that number.”
He used the same filter as before, but he added more to it.
“In addition to the size, whether or not the castle has a lord is an important factor. If the castle lacks someone with the right to a duel, there is no point in including it in the number of duels.”
So Neshinbara cut down the castles that did not have a lord.
- Matsuida Castle, Tsukui Castle, Hachigata Castle.
“That actually cuts it down this far.”
He swung both arms to gesture toward the others. And just then…
“Wait just a moment,” said Houjou Ujinao with an almost icy voice.
…Here it comes.
His thought coincided with Ujinao’s words.
“If you are eliminating the castles without a lord, what will you do about Odawara Castle where all the castle lords are gathered? Will you add a duel for each of the lords once Odawara Castle is added to the list?”
“The lord of Odawara Castle is you, Houjou Ujinao.”
Ohh, I’m talking with someone who’s going to go down in history. This is incredible! he thought while continuing on.
“Even when Odawara Castle is added, the number of duels will only increase for you. …Just the once.”
Neshinbara sent his words out while mentally solidifying his plan.
…I need to judge this.
How much did Houjou Ujinao pursue the ideal?
Or was she the opposite: someone who pursued reality?
That would tell him something:
…How much Houjou Ujinao wants to benefit from this battle.
If she pursued the ideal, she would prioritize the Kantou Liberation over the destruction of Houjou and she would try to minimize the number of Odawara duels.
But if she was more realistic, she would prioritize the destruction of Houjou over the Kantou Liberation and she would try to maximize the number of Odawara duels.
Which was it?
Neshinbara wanted to weigh that on the scales here.
So he forcibly eliminated the duels.
If she did not fight back, then she was an idealist. And it would put her entirely on their side.
Flat Vassal: “Didn’t you go a little far with that elimination?”
Marube-ya: “Yes, even if she is on our side, I’m pretty sure going in that strong will get her to strike back. It could work if we did that at the end when we already had the advantage, but if you do it without thinking, you generally end up losing in the end.”
Mal-Ga: “Do you know what you’re doing here? Masazumi.”
Novice: “Ask me!! Me!!”
Now that they mentioned it, he did think he had gone a little overboard.
But what was done was done.
…What matters is sticking to your guns!
With that in mind, Neshinbara asked a question.
“That’s seven duels when Odawara Castle is included. How about that?”
Ujinao looked up a little. Her eyes were still closed, but she was clearly sensing him.
“May I ask one thing?”
“What is it?”
“Testament.” She nodded and then opened her mouth. “What about the interactions between military commanders for the history recreation?”
“The Matsudaira forces participated in the Siege of Odawara,” said Ujinao. “The group known as Matsudaira’s Four Heavenly Kings participated in the attacks on many of the castles and helped conquer them. …Since we are viewing this as a history recreation, your Matsudaira forces must complete your own history recreation. And matters of the castle’s size or the presence of a lord are irrelevant to that.”
Ujinao changed the subject.
“Now, here is a list of the castles that the Matsudaira forces played a major role in.”
She lightly tapped her sign frame.
“First, the preliminary battles.”
- Ashigara Castle, Takanosu Castle, Yamanaka Castle.
There were three.
Asama: “Huh? That’s the same number that Neshinbara-kun proposed.”
Me: “What was it like to start with?”
Silver Wolf: “Um, the original list was like this. I’ll show you the two proposals as well, okay?”
Original List: Yamanaka Castle, Takanosu Castle, Ashigara Castle, Nirayama Castle, Shimoda Castle.
Secretary’s Proposed List: “Selected based on the castle’s size and the presence of a lord.”
- Yamanaka Castle, Nirayama Castle, Shimoda Castle.
Houjou’s Proposed List: “Selected based on Matsudaira’s involvement.”
- Yamanaka Castle, Ashigara Castle, Takanosu Castle.
Gold Mar: “Wow, Yamanaka Castle sure is popular.”
Mal-Ga: “But what happens when this new proposal is applied to the supporting castle list?”
Bell: “Ah, U-Ujinao-san…is moving?”
Ujinao looked to the three castles on her list.
…I have spent a lot of time at those places.
For the history recreation, there really were buildings there. Some of them were not actually “castles”, but they were castles via interpretation.
They had currently been turned into tools to be cut away from Houjou in negotiation.
I have become rather sentimental, she thought as she spoke.
“First, those three.”
The number was no different from the Musashi Secretary’s number.
But the castles had been changed from large ones to small guard castles.
The smaller size made it look like the overall battle was shrinking.
But that was wrong.
…Time to prove why this is so different.
“Now for the remaining support castles and other castles.”
She applied the same filter.
“These are the ones Matsudaira is most involved with.”
- Tsukui Castle, Tamanawa Castle, Edo Castle, Kogane Castle, Toke Castle, Usui Castle, Honsakura Castle, Iwatsuki Castle, Hachigata Castle.
Ujinao reduced the list of castles, but their number was now…
“Nine. Including the previous three, that is twelve.”
It came down to that when based on Matsudaira’s involvement.
“Based on the rules of the history recreation, Matsudaira must defeat these castles. Now, what kind of duels should we use?”
There it is, thought Neshinbara.
“Let’s make this a war of words, Houjou Ujinao.”
He pointed at Ujinao’s sign frame.
“I won’t go so far as to call it lying, but you have a very biased view of things.”
“And what is that bias?”
“Judge.” Neshinbara nodded. “Think about it. Matsudaira and Houjou are not the only participants in the Siege of Odawara. Hashiba, the most powerful army of the warring states, is there too. …So why are you forcing this destructive history recreation onto Matsudaira alone?”
He pushed his glasses up with his right middle finger, used his hips to slide his body to the right, took a half step to the right, and hid his face behind his hand.
Azuma: “Eh? What was that?”
Gold Mar: “…”
Bell: “Eh? …Eh?”
Flat Vassal: “Oh, Suzu-san, you’re confused by that meaningless action, aren’t you? Yeah, you wouldn’t have expected to sense that…”
Vice President: “Hey, Neshinbara.”
Novice: “What is it? I’m in the middle of cornering her.”
…Does he know what he’s doing…?
Masazumi felt a dull sweat. Because…
…He isn’t cornering her at all…
He had done nothing and presented no basis to suggest he was cornering her.
But how did that amateur author see the world? She felt like she needed to know that to ensure their safety later on, but alarm bells went off in her mind, telling her that would only show her a harsh reality.
What was happening?
But then Neshinbara struck a pose and spoke.
“I would like to say one thing.”
He used a snap of the wrist to swing the hand covering his face.
“If you must demand that we complete our dark history recreation, then you should do the same for Hashiba. Otherwise, your words are no more than contept-…contemptible lies.”
…Don’t trip over your words!!
The Date Vice Chancellor must have thought the same thing because she silently glanced over at Urquiaga.
Urquiaga returned her glance and they both nodded.
That was the end of it.
…They sure are calm.
Maybe that was the Date Vice Chancellor’s way of accustoming herself to things.
It also seemed like a form of resignation, but that was pretty much what it took.
However, this was not the time for them to be attacking their own. They had to wait for Houjou’s response.
Neshinbara twisted his right arm while swinging it forward. Did he think he was building up power or something? Would this be okay?
Regardless, their Secretary took a breath and spoke.
“Are you prepared to demand Hashiba completes their history recreation?”
Masazumi mentally prepared herself for Ujinao’s response.
It would be a rejection. There was no other option.
After all, Houjou’s goal was the Kantou Liberation and Mouri was joining this battle to keep Hashiba from intervening. They would never do anything that actually allowed Hashiba to intervene.
…So what will she say?
Masazumi also had to keep an eye on how Neshinbara reacted to it.
…He’s been acting oddly here…
Since Masazumi had remained calm, she would have to smooth things over afterwards. Oh, these fried tomatoes are good with this sauce…
Flat Vassal: “Vice President, is it just me or are you in spectator mode here?”
Vice President: “Yes, Tsukinowa, it’s all right. Spectator, not dictator.”
Almost Everyone: “What have you been teaching that Mouse!?”
Don’t worry about it.
With an air of “anyway”, Houjou Ujinao looked up.
She added a “testament” and nodded.
Then she spoke.
“Now, let’s send that request to Hashiba.”
She has guts, thought someone in reference to Ujinao.
That someone was Mouri Terumoto.
She crossed her arms and gave a mental whistle.
…She sure is stubborn.
This was clearly a bluff.
Calling Hashiba would ruin everything.
This was not what that girl actually wanted.
But, thought Terumoto while biting the inside of her cheek.
…I’ll support you, Houjou.
With that thought, Terumoto raised her voice.
“Yeah, failure isn’t an option for you. …I can see why you would make that decision.”
Masazumi did not turn toward Terumoto.
She knew the girl was only applying pressure.
…And that pressure is meaningless for Mouri…!
Masazumi had to wonder what she was thinking. After all, giving plausibility to Houjou’s words would apply pressure to Musashi, but it did not benefit Mouri in any way.
She may have been responding to Ujinao’s willpower.
But this was an international discussion and Terumoto was supporting another nation based on a personal feeling.
…And I doubt she gave any thought to how this will only get harder for me if I call her on it!
Uqui: “This is that whatever-you-call-it…pro wrestling.”
10ZO: “You mean that competition where you attempt to get your opponent to use all of their techniques and power?”
Scarred: “Oh, you mean like Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra.”
10ZO: “Ohh, Mary-dono. That would be the strong style.”
I have no idea what any of that means.
“But,” said Houjou. “We have a P.A. Oda group in our forces. We will have them contact Hashiba for us. Is that enough for you to accept my suggested number of castles?”
There it is, thought Masazumi. She looked to Neshinbara’s back where he had moved to stand right in front of her.
…Should I step forward if it comes to it?
The Vice President had that authority.
Her position was higher than the Secretary’s, so she could retract everything Neshinbara said as “some nonsense from the Secretary”.
It would destroy Neshinbara’s international reputation, but there was no helping that. He wrote weird novels and Shakespeare would do something about it. It seemed fitting enough.
…But what will he do?
Masazumi looked past Neshinbara’s back to Houjou Ujinao.
That horned automaton had dark skin and black hair. Her personality could only be called deep, but she was very direct when it came to going on the attack.
“What will you do?” asked Ujinao. “Shall we contact Hashiba?”
Masazumi heard someone respond to her request for confirmation.
It was Neshinbara.
With his back in front of Masazumi, he reacted to Ujinao’s line.
“That’s all wrong,” he said. “Is that really something Houjou Ujinao would do?”
“Houjou Ujinao,” said Neshinbara. “You are pushing us to fulfill our history recreation, correct?”
“Testament. The Siege of Odawara is a history recreation. Is there a problem with following that?”
“That settles it then.”
Neshinbara swung his head once. Then he spread his right hand and clawed at the empty air.
He used that arm to stroke the area around his face.
“You cannot defeat me.”
I’ve got this, he thought while opening a few sign frames by his hand.
…There’s a lot to do, but I need to try whatever I can.
“Listen,” he said while summoning a few more sign frames to himself. “I will now prove that you cannot defeat me.”
A voice of confusion entered the sky of the construction site.
It came from Yoshiyasu who came to a stop on a suspension bridge.
The bright vermilion light kept her from seeing through the sign frame well, so she held it up to the setting sun to use that backlight to read the text.
It was a short piece of text, but…
“Wait just a second…!”
She scratched at her hair as a single bang of a hammer shook the air.
With sweat on her brow, she faced forward – to Musashino’s starboard.
“Please tell me you have the Vice President’s permission for this, Musashi Secretary!”
Neshinbara sensed Honda Masazumi moving behind him.
She seemed to be eating some fried fish with lemon, but he knew that was just for show.
She was opening a sign frame and contacting him. And on his instructions.
This was something he had set up in advance.
He had thought he would need it eventually, but he had not expected the need to arise so soon.
…At any rate, I’m counting on you.
Novice: “Work with me here. Can you do that?”
Vice President: “I kind of have to at this point.”
He did not apologize. Because this was necessary for victory.
Friendship, victory, and effort were composed of everything you had done in the past.
At this point, all they needed was a protagonist to guide them there.
He lightly tapped the head of the Mouse floating in front of his eyes.
The Mouse that turned back in surprise was called Michizane.
Tenjin Michizane was a god of thunder and a god of literature. Even if the Mouse was only modeled after that being, in Far Eastern culture, a model could act in lieu of the real one.
Which was the proxy and which was the real one? While deciding that was a suitable theme for this meeting, Neshinbara spoke to Michizane.
I’m sorry that a guy like me is the protagonist here.
That was an insult to Michizane. But…
…Let’s go on the attack.
“Let us have a boring discussion about the history recreation,” said Neshinbara.
Ujinao listened to the Musashi Secretary’s voice.
“Houjou Ujinao has a few different history recreations to complete, correct?”
That was obvious.
Houjou was said to have conquered Kantou and Ujinao was a major daimyo of the Warring States period. She was involved in plenty of historical topics. However…
“The biggest turning point among those would be the Siege of Odawara and the related incidents.”
“What about it?”
The Musashi Secretary was probably trying to provoke her.
When she did not know what he was after, she only need ask. Also…
“You plan to list off a few of my decisions so you can find fault in them, don’t you?”
Her question had the ability to limit his response.
If he had no rebuttal, then she could say he was doing exactly that.
She threw those prodding words straight forward.
“Are you attempting to corner me by bringing up the history surrounding my end?”
She limited him further.
But those words received a response.
“That’s all wrong.”
He repeated the same words as before. And…
“Houjou Ujinao is a hard worker. …Despite being lord of the Houjou clan, her father and his associates treated her like a puppet. And just as she thought she had escaped their bonds, the Siege of Odawara was right around the corner.”
“He’s got you there!” laughed her uncle, but she ignored it.
She could kill him at any time. And he was an ally, so there was no need to hold back. So she could ignore it.
But she was somewhat bothered by the words of the boy in front of her.
…What a pain.
She did not like having people talk about her.
No one understood all of the work she had done. Other than those who knew how it had all begun.
In that case, she thought.
“You act like you know what you are talking about.”
“Because I’ve read the history books,” he said while raising a hand to his face and dropping the index finger straight down for no apparent reason. “Don’t make me think you are merely doing a bad imitation of the history I love.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“It is time to measure you.”
On the other side, the Musashi Chancellor’s sister grabbed the Asama Shrine Representative’s breasts with both hands.
“Measure her!? Yes, measure her! And what better to measure than boobs!? See, I’m measuring you, Asama! Who was it that suggested this!? Because they’re a genius! You come here too, Mitotsudaira!”
“We are trying to have a meeting!”
Then shouldn’t you keep your voice down?
…But I do have to ask.
“Measure me how?”
The Musashi Secretary nodded.
“That is not for me to determine. …I will merely make the connection.”
The darkness of night had already arrived in the depths of the forest.
To the back was a lake with an aerial ship landed in it. And to the front…
Noriki’s voice carried across a wide, illuminated staircase. And through the forest ahead, he could see a black roof reflecting the light of the setting sun.
If he crossed the large road in front of him, he would reach the shrine. However…
“Are they open this late?”
He stood on a wooden walkway on the lake side of the road and he looked back while pointing toward Suwa.
Hiro stood between him and the transport ship in the lake. She stood on the pier and was recording the scenery with a sign frame.
“They’re open until nine at night since a lot of people come from pretty far away. …Oh, but you can’t spend the night in the shrine, so we’ll be sleeping on the transport ship.”
“What about food?”
“Come at the scheduled times and we’ll have something ready.”
“I appreciate it,” said Noriki as he walked toward the shrine.
Hiro laughed behind him.
“You sure are hasty! I’ll tell the others, but dinner is at seven, okay!?”
“For now, I’m only checking in, registering my spell project, and leaving January with them.”
Noriki held up the sign frame with the necessary contract written on it.
“Oh, and one other thing.”
“Eh? What is it?”
He lightly tapped the sign frame with his right hand, breaking it.
“I’m not hasty. I’m just acting tough to mask my reluctance.”
The shards of light scattered in front of his right hand as he pulled it back.
He continued forward without looking back at the light.
“As unsightly as it is, I want to maintain a connection.”
“Now, to make the connection,” said Neshinbara.
He spread his arms and summoned a sign frame to himself.
It had a hand-drawn decorative border and an emblem that would supposedly amplify dark powers. He had no idea if it worked, though. In fact, it would be pretty dangerous if it did. That was an important issue.
That emblem had the word “demon” written in dancing flames at the top and he was impressed with his own work there.
…This has got to work.
Although he honestly had no idea what “working” meant in this case. And…
“Houjou Ujinao.” He viewed his opponent past the sign frame and spoke to her. “According to the Testament, Houjou Ujinao actually contacted Hashiba before the Siege of Odawara to correct a misunderstanding between himself and Hashiba.”
Houjou Ujinao’s expression was unchanged.
That lack of reaction brought a thought to Neshinbara’s mind:
…Her lack of reaction is a weapon.
But this has got to be a simple negotiation for her and for Crossdressing Honda-kun behind me.
Here, they would read each other’s atmosphere and speak the most appropriate words to strike a balance between them.
So he had to sense the meaning behind Houjou Ujinao’s lack of response or reaction and find a way to deal with it.
But he had trouble with that.
…What am I supposed to do at times like that?
He was up against a historical figure. He gave his response while aware he was pushing her to make a historical decision.
“But Hashiba had already moved to crush Houjou. Houjou Ujinao pleaded with Hashiba’s aide, but could not get through and sought someone else’s help instead.”
And that person was…
Neshinbara raised a sign frame.
He kept his eyes on his opponent as he continued forming words.
“Houjou Ujinao sought Matsudaira’s help. He wanted them to intervene against Hashiba. But by then, Matsudaira had already joined with Hashiba and had agreed to prepare for the Siege of Odawara,” he explained. “Honestly, if they had had divine transmissions, the Siege of Odawara might never have happened.”
Neshinbara looked to his opponent.
He directly faced expressionless and wordless Houjou Ujinao and continued speaking.
He swung his right hand.
The sign frame moved along with his hand, but if he did not let it shake him, it would look like he had done it on purpose.
So that was what he did.
Then he slowly moved his hand back so no one would notice.
“If you do contact Hashiba now, you could not ask them to come here. You would have to tell them it was all a misunderstanding and beg them to stay away.” He pointed toward his feet with his left hand. “But that would not reach Hashiba. It must not reach them. …Do you know what I mean?”
She remained silent, but he kept talking.
“Because that is the proper form of the history recreation.” He took a breath. “As you cannot call for Hashiba, you have no authority to speak when it comes to Hashiba. Do you remember my question: ‘Are you prepared to demand Hashiba completes their history recreation?’ But you cannot possibly be. You simply cannot. Which is why I say this: if Hashiba was involved with one of the castles, we cannot include it in the number of duels. In other words, this battle must be fought between Houjou and Matsudaira.”
Neshinbara swung his right hand while he spoke, this time while making sure the sign frame did not follow it. Relieved by that, he turned to the side in a new pose.
“We now have our number of castle duels: the three preliminary ones and three for the main battle as discussed before.”
- Preliminary Battle: Yamanaka Castle, Nirayama Castle, Shimoda Castle.
- Main Battle: Matsuida Castle, Tsukui Castle, Hachigata Castle.
“Add Odawara Castle itself to these six for a total of seven castles. …That is the number of duels we shall fight.”
Houjou Ujinao responded to that.
Neshinbara gave that summer uniform girl a sharp look and she gave a quiet nod.
Houjou Ujinao opened a sign frame.
“I will now contact Hashiba.”
|Back to Chapter 33||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 35|