Horizon:Volume 6B Chapter 38
Chapter 38: Ruler of the Common Ground
We are deciding on
The beginning preparations
Necessary to end this
Point Allocation (Mutual)
“A single series of duels? That introduces a number of problems, including our interests and opponents. But,” said Masazumi. “It’s a pretty good idea.”
“First, we need to divide up the battlefield.
“One part will be for our battle against P.A. Oda and Takigawa.
“The other will be the Siege of Odawara that doubles as the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle and the Keichou-Dewa Conflict.
“What rules will we use to determine our opponents within that?”
Just as Masazumi started pondering that question, a voice reached her.
“We can ignore the division and simply fight the appropriate opponents within Odawara.”
It was Mogami Yoshiaki. She held up a sign frame with the chart Asama had written up:
- Siege of Odawara: Houjou, Musashi, and Mogami vs. Hashiba, Date, Mogami, Uesugi, and Mouri
- Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle: Mouri vs. Hashiba (Musashi)
- Siege of Kanie Castle: Takigawa and Sanada vs. Musashi
- Keichou-Dewa Conflict: Uesugi vs. Musashi, Date, and Mogami.
“Instead of deciding who our opponents will be, we can simply fight someone we are allowed to fight in each battle. Meaning,” she said. “Someone who enters Odawara as a representative can attack a representative of the enemy forces in each battle. This was always about duels and so many interests are intertwined that dividing it up is meaningless. This is a combination of a few different battles, so there is nothing wrong with an enemy becoming an ally or vice-versa as long as it follows the rules.”
“Wait,” said Mouri Terumoto.
She raised her right hand and pointed at Mogami’s signe cadre.
“Are you saying we won’t settle on our opponents yet?”
“Won’t this be easier if we don’t? For example, it means we can support another nation in a way not present in the history recreation.”
Masazumi knew what Mogami was alluding to. If they used the framework of “forces”, they could battle someone from an opposing force even if no such battle was found in the Testament.
For example, Mogami could side with Houjou as part of the Musashi force and thus battle a representative of the Hashiba force. That would allow them to earn a debt of gratitude from Musashi.
And Mogami would also be able to attack a Houjou representative as part of the anti-Odawara Hashiba force.
If they could use those classifications to freely choose their opponents, they could use the battles to hold their political dealings without being bound by the history recreation. When so many powerful forces were gathered on one battlefield, that felt like it would give everyone equal opportunities while just barely following the history recreation.
Vice President: “Mogami has the Kantou nations to the south, Date to the east, and Sviet Rus to the southwest. Is that what inspired this idea?”
“It is an interesting method. How about we decide on some rules?”
Houjou Ujinao waved a hand. She must have already come up with a general framework using her high-speed thoughts.
“Well, these are the customary rules for this type of duel. We can use them as the rules for the Odawara battlefield that is based on the Siege of Odawara.”
- Each duel is limited to 30 minutes and a draw will not be counted as a victory.
- If there is a disagreement in the desired type of duel, a discussion will be held and each type will be used for 15 minutes.
- If the winner or loser are deemed fit to continue fighting, they may move to a different battlefield.
- After a duel is complete, the participants must wait an hour before fighting again.
- Divine transmissions on the battlefield will generally be restricted to those being sent out. Mutual communication can only be done at predetermined times or while the warrior is unable to fight.
…She went all out on that.
With that thought, Masazumi looked to the Mouri group.
Terumoto nodded back at her and then spoke to Houjou.
“Allowing people to fight in multiple duels expands the possibilities. As long as you know when to call it quits. …We’re in.”
“In that case,” said Masazumi.
She had to announce something here as part of the negotiations.
Vice President: “Mogami Yoshiaki. …If your representative loses in a duel against a non-Musashi force, we will compensate you for it.”
…She made that decision in a hurry!
Terumoto responded to the Musashi Vice President’s word with a whistle in her heart.
That was a pretty decent decision.
At first glance, it appeared to be a way of gaining Mogami as an ally, but that was not the case. It was actually meant to prevent Mogami from becoming an enemy.
“The ‘non-Musashi’ and ‘loses’ conditions are key.”
With those conditions, if Mogami lost to a non-Musashi enemy, they would have to give up their war interests to that other nation. But any costs caused by the actual fight would be compensated by Musashi.
That reduced the risk of loss for Mogami. With Musashi paying the battle costs, they could use their own funding for the interests given up if they lost.
However, that only applied if it happened to a “non-Musashi” nation.
That increased the risk of fighting a duel against Musashi.
For Musashi, this was not a problem as long as Mogami won. And even if they did lose, they only had to compensate for the money or materiel, not the real authority being fought over in these battles. If that secured them a fighting force on Mogami’s level, they came out ahead.
…What are we going to do about it?
Mouri had become an isolated force in the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle.
And they were more or less the rear guard for the Siege of Odawara.
According to the Testament, Mouri Terumoto remained at the Kyoto Imperial Palace. When Hashiba left the center open, Mouri moved to fill it in.
…That just doesn’t allow me to participate in this battle.
But there were some who had joined the Siege of Odawara.
“Masuda Motonaga and a few other commanders led the Mouri Navy in an attack on the Shimoda region, didn’t they?”
“Testament,” confirmed the Reine des Garous who sat behind her. She had inherited the name of Masuda Motonaga. “So I can actively participate in the Siege of Odawara. The Testament describes how I make an attack on Shimoda Castle.”
“That’s all I needed to know.”
…For now, we have one person who can definitely make an attack in the Siege of Odawara.
And that person was the Reine des Garous. She was the strongest card they could send to this battlefield. However…
…Is there nothing else we can do?
At that point, Terumoto realized something.
She was being drawn into the Kantou negotiations and she was starting to want to fight this battle.
She really had grown less reserved.
She had left Hexagone Française and temporarily lost its protection, so had that allowed her to spread her mental wings so she wanted to do something?
But, thought Terumoto before whispering to Mouri-01.
“Whether we win or lose, we still get two rights from Musashi by giving them the Logismoi Oplo. So we don’t have to think about what we might win from them. …We’re currently sending two people to the battlefield, but is there anything we can take from the non-Musashi nations with Seki and the Reine des Garous?”
“Testament. If we could take control of Houjou, we would be in position to secure a route from the east of the continent to the south when we develop the outside world. That would also be possible from Sviet Rus, but their land in the outside world is just as frigid. Going through Russia would be the shortest route, but…”
“It would be easier to take a detour south and reach the outside world’s Mediterranean through the Red Sea.”
In that case…
“Houjou’s rights would be nice to have.”
During the afternoon meeting, Houjou had said they would be sending in personnel from Mouri as well. But when they thought about it…
…The more Houjou representatives, the greater the odds of taking some rights from them.
That may have been a crazy idea, but it was true. And Terumoto wanted to avoid sending in Mouri personnel as much as possible. So…
“Isn’t there anywhere we could find a convenient fighting force?”
“Then, Princess.” Mouri-01 opened a signe cadre. “There is one thing we might be able to use to participate in the Siege of Odawara. How would you use this?”
She held something out as she asked that question. It was…
“A transport ship…!?”
Masazumi heard Terumoto calling to someone.
“Hey, Ootani! Yeah, you!”
“Testament! What is it, Mouri Terumoto!? And why are you acting like you’re better than me!?”
“You’re one to talk!”
Did they all respond in unison as a way to strengthen their solidarity?
But Terumoto pointed at Ootani with her attitude intact.
“Mouri will cover your lodging costs in Izu, so send someone to fight for Houjou in the Siege of Odawara!”
…Huh? What is this all of a sudden?
Ootani seemed to be thinking the same thing. He immediately shook his head.
“I have no idea what you are talking about, Mouri Terumoto!”
…I have to agree there.
“Hey, Mouri Terumoto,” said Masazumi. “What is the meaning of this?”
“Testament. I’ll explain. …During the Siege of Odawara, I stay at the Kyoto Imperial Palace.”
“Yes, that’s what the Testament says.”
“Right,” agreed Terumoto. But then she pointed at Ootani again. “But during the Siege of Odawara, the Mouri Navy did more than just send in Masuda Motonaga’s group. It also supported Hashiba’s invasion by providing naval transport. Mouri commanded that transport and was in the west, but…”
“The attack on Odawara was only possible with Mouri’s logistical support, so it’s only fair that you send us at least one fighter, right? …I’ll be using them to support Houjou, though.”
Ootani felt a data entity’s version of fear.
He did not quite understand what Terumoto was saying, but a part of him understood that she was correct as far as the meaning went.
He understood, yet did not understand. But to make sure her meaning got through…
“…You want us to supply a fighter!? That you will give to Houjou!?”
“Testament, that’s how the history recreation works, right? We’ll provide logistical support just like back then, so give us some rights. As a reward for helping with the attack on Odawara.”
And just as Terumoto said that…
Wakisaka silently raised her hand.
“This puts us at a disadvantage, you know?”
“That’s right,” said Yoshiaki. “With a fleet battle, we could have joined the aerial battle as Zwei Fürstin. With a ground battle, we could have bombed them as Zwei Fürstin. That was the plan, but now they’re just doing duels. The flying schale besen is what makes a Technohexen, so a duel where the two of us can’t share the battlefield is a real pain.”
“So you two would be at a slight disadvantage?”
“It’d be better to say we normally wouldn’t be a part of it at all.”
“The records show that Musashi’s Weiss Hexen fought a duel in England…”
“Are you trying to provoke us?” Yoshiaki smiled bitterly. “Fine, then. Angie, prepare to head out. They have a spot for Hashiba there too.”
“Testament. This sure is depressing, Kime-chan. So who will take which spot?”
Yoshiaki pointed at herself with no expression in her eyes.
“I will fight for Houjou via Mouri. Healing spells are a Weiss Hexen technique, so I can still make it back if something happens. Angie, you fight for Hashiba.”
“Kime-chan, are you mad?”
“Why would I be?” Yoshiaki tilted her head. “The Ten Spears exist to fight if the need arises.”
“I-I’m sorry!” Ootani prostrated himself on the embankment. “I will have fully recovered in another 27 hours! So make use of me after that!”
“Do you think he’d recover faster if we shoved some ether fuel up his butt, Angie?”
“Oh, I do have an Orei Metallo. A fist-sized one.”
“W-wait!” protested Ootani. “What are you planning!?”
“If you really don’t know, you must have been damaged worse than we thought.”
“We’d better heal you up real quick.”
The Technohexen both locked their eyes on him, so he took a step back.
“Waaaait! Heeeeeelp meeeeeeee!”
Just then, they heard a new voice.
“Sorry I’m late!”
Someone charged onto the embankment from the right.
They were out of breath and had ivy and leaves tangled around their shoulders and head.
“Kani Saizou here! …It is 18:06 and I somehow managed to arrive!”
Terumoto watched the signe cadre image of Ootani standing on the embankment.
He was still in his Mouse form, but he was scattering light.
“Testament, we have reached a conclusion. We will provide a fighter that can be transferred to Houjou: Hashiba’s Ten Spears #4…Katou Yoshiaki.”
“That’s a pretty major name. I appreciate it,” said Terumoto. “Okay. If she wins, we’ll do more than just cover your lodging costs. We’ll promise not to send Mouri’s preserved forces to defend Paris in Hexagone Française. Of course, most of them are here.”
“Testament. Knowing you will not attempt it after the battle is enough.”
…He’s pretty sharp.
They had no plans to try anything during the battle. But she had considered making an attack while Hashiba was on their Great Return after the battle.
But then Ootani had made that comment.
…Maybe we should attack the Great Return anyway…
She had a variety of thoughts on the matter, but it would all depend on what happened at Paris. For now…
“What will you be doing for the Hashiba side of things?”
“Testament. …We will send Kani Saizou who works for the Ten Spears. She can act in Fukushima and the others’ stead.”
“Oh,” said the Musashi Secretary as he peered into the sign frame showing Ootani.
But the named individual was nowhere to be seen. They could only hear her voice.
“Ah! Dumplings! I love dumplings! Thank you very much!”
“Kanitama, if that’s enough to excite you, what do you have to say about this?”
“Ah! A banana! Like for a monkey! I’ll take it!!”
“Make sure to brush your teeth later.”
They were all very noisy.
…At any rate, I guess we did what we could to benefit from this.
And just as Terumoto sighed…
“Then we would like to base our participation on the Punishment of Aizu’s history recreation.”
Sviet Rus’s Honjou Shigenaga spoke up.
Shigenaga had left the audience chamber.
Inside the stone hall, the side effects of Ivan the Terrible’s healing spell were causing some noise on the divine transmission line, so she left the compressed space hall and entered the corridor.
“I would like to confirm something about the current participants.”
“…The number of people?”
“Exactly. …Allow me to list up the people who have been suggested from each group.”
- Houjou: Ujinao, Ujiteru, Genan, Kotarou, Yoshiaki
- Musashi: 3 people
- Mogami: Yoshiaki, Yoshiyasu
- Hashiba: Kani
- Uesugi: TBD
- Takigawa: Takigawa, 3 from Sanada
- Date: Narumi
- Mouri: Seki, Reine des Garous
“Got that? Looking at this as the Siege of Odawara, the Houjou/Musashi alliance has 8 people. On the other hand, the Hashiba/Mouri alliance has only 3 when Uesugi is left out. Filling the remaining 5 slots is too great a burden for Uesugi.”
“Then,” responded a voice.
It was Genan from Houjou.
He raised his hood and the eyes below turned toward her. The eyes viewing her had prominent whites.
“We have no choice but to bring P.A. Oda into this. …Takigawa Ichimasu, you’re listening, aren’t you?”
Shigenaga responded to Genan’s call by expanding her divine transmission authorization. She activated extra security and then expanded authorization to include not just her own nation and friendly nations but neighboring nations as well. And…
“Sounds good. …It would be worth our while to agree.”
The divine transmission displayed the end of sunset.
There was a large body of water at the ground and mountains were visible in the distance.
“This is P.A. Oda’s Takigawa Ichimasu. …We’re setting up Kanie Castle right now, but I’d like to accept your proposal.”
“That was close…!” said Kakei in the woods near the lake.
They were currently constructing the Kanie Castle’s defenses now that it had landed in the artificial lake.
Kanie Castle was a 300m aerial warship, but it was no more than a fortress when not in the air. They had to investigate which points of the artificial lake were prone to attack or approach.
…Simply having the cannons pre-aimed at the vulnerable points makes a huge difference.
But Takigawa’s divine transmission had brought Kakei to a stop.
“We would appreciate it if we were made a part of those duels,” she said.
That’s true, he thought.
In a ground battle, they would be outnumbered. They could somewhat overcome that with adequate effort, but it would still put them at a disadvantage. That was why they were preparing for the ground battle here, but if they could change that to a series of duels, Takigawa’s decision was exactly right.
“Political decisions really can change destiny, can’t they?”
This had gone well, and that was why it was only “close”.
Oh, I can see the bridge through the trees from here, thought Kakei as he took a break.
…How will these duels turn out?
They had revealed most of what they could do the other night.
They did have other options, but how far would those take them?
“I can’t help but wonder,” he muttered just as Takigawa’s voice reached him over the divine transmission.
“Definitely include us in the duels for the punishment of Houjou. We agree to that. But,” she said. “Our ground battle will remain unchanged. …We will hold that ground battle in parallel to the duels. So when you send your fighters in to attack, send all your warriors with them.”
“Hold on, Takigawa-san. …Just the duels would be safer.”
“Don’t chicken out, Kakei Juuzou.”
Takigawa spoke within the vanishing sunlight atop the Kanie Castle’s bridge.
“You see…I have no intention of losing to Musashi in this battle.”
Takigawa could guess Kakei was on the east lakeside.
If he was inspecting how the bridge would look, then he would be in the woods there.
…Oh, there he is.
He looked to her and lightly raised his hand, so she knew he could see her.
He was a good ninja. Not many of those under her command were on his level.
Since he had left P.A. Oda, she could only call it a luxury to have him fighting for her.
And she herself was a luxury too. So…
“Listen, Kakei. The thing about Houjou, Mouri, and Musashi is, they’re planning to start the major Kantou Liberation battle after the Siege of Odawara. So they want to settle this battle with duels to minimize their losses. They would rather let their most powerful fighters settle it directly than to lose their general warriors, aerial ships, and gods of war. That method is only possible for nations with plenty of powerful fighters to draw on.”
Don’t you hate that?
“Of course, P.A. Oda is large enough to do the same. But we can’t at the moment. That’s probably why they brought the duel idea to us.”
…Do you understand?
Takigawa spoke like she was admonishing Kakei.
“Even if they have lost their power, a commander from a powerful nation like P.A. Oda can’t survive by accepting the enemy’s suggested safe method. …To demonstrate the stubborn pride of being left with a portion of that great nation, I will not run away.”
“Isn’t that more folly than pride?”
“I said it was a stubborn pride, didn’t I?”
That was it.
“Besides, if we accepted the duels, what would we say to the others who end up fighting Musashi in the Kantou Liberation? If all of them were fighting while I was spared, I’d die of shame.”
“…And? You’re telling us to go along with you on this?”
“If we go that far, we can call it the Second Siege of Ueda, can’t we?”
“True enough,” replied Kakei.
That settled it.
She breathed in and felt the chill of the early night.
She smelled the water and forest. It was a luxurious atmosphere for a ninja born in the deserts of P.A. Oda.
She felt the heat in her exhaled breath.
“The Sanada ninjas under my command can take a thousand warriors each. So you’ll need an army of that size to fight a fair ‘duel’.”
“I see. …Musashi, what will you do?”
Masazumi hid a sigh in her heart when she heard Mogami’s question.
…Well, we’re effectively sending the Satomi Student Council President and Date Vice Chancellor, so Musashi has already supplied two people.
That the Date Vice Chancellor would be on the enemy side was a bit of a problem.
But, thought Masazumi as she raised a hand.
“You want our excuse for attacking each enemy force, right?”
“Such as?” asked Mogami. “What is it? Answer me.”
“Judge,” said Masazumi. “Houjou.”
“We want something from Houjou. …There are some ruins from the Age of Dawn below Houjou and we want the right to enter and inspect them.”
Tenzou observed Ujinao’s behavior.
She kept her eyes closed while her automaton body controlled her actions.
She was silent and did not even stir. However, she soon opened her mouth a crack.
“You would bet your nation’s battle results on something as nonsensical as that?”
“Yes. …It means something to us. And even if it does not, simply confirming that it does not would be meaningful enough.”
“Is that so?” said Ujinao while still not making a single movement.
In that case, thought Tenzou.
…What is in the Houjou ruins?
The center relief had been carved away below both Novgorod and Sanada.
The round ceiling had depicted people forming a ring and celebrating whatever had been in the middle.
They had been told the relief remained in Houjou, but…
As far as he could tell, Ujinao was familiar with it.
But it felt like she did not know what it meant and did not see it as valuable.
Why was that?
Of course, Ujinao would not answer them now that she knew it had political meaning.
Vice President: “Ahh… If I’d found a cleverer way of asking that, she might have told us for free…”
Silver Wolf: “No, you shouldn’t treat any of this too cheaply.”
Unturning: “Judge. Even if you did get the answer that way, it would hurt your mutual relationship if she later learned it was so important.”
Mal-Ga: “Couldn’t we just say it’s her fault for letting us trick her?”
Tachibana Wife: “Act like that on the international stage and you won’t have any allies left.”
While hearing Naruze agree with that, Masazumi relaxed her shoulders in her heart.
She needed to loosen up.
Neshinbara’s intensity may have been infectious.
…But, well, I guess I’ll say it.
“Our primary objective is Houjou and our secondary is Mouri. That was always our intention. And we will take on Takigawa in parallel to that.”
“Testament. As your primary opponent, I hope we can properly face each other.”
Houjou Ujinao made a sweep of her arm.
That opened a largish sign frame. It displayed a simple map of Odawara.
Odawara Castle, which was already flooded, was in the center and the city was to the south.
Past a shallow forest north of Odawara Castle was an artificial lake.
“Takigawa’s Kanie Castle is in the center of this. Considering the distance from there to Odawara City, we can supply a battlefield covering this area of about 15km north to south and 5km east to west.”
“I will be in Odawara Castle’s central plaza. It seems to me all of the duels can be held within this battle territory.”
“…Oh. So anything goes, even surprise attacks and traps?”
“Win and you gain rights on the level of national policy. The duels have already been announced and the declaration of war has been prepared. …Sviet Rus, you have the farthest to travel, so when will you arrive?”
“Before noon tomorrow, I imagine.”
“Testament. Then we will start at 1 PM tomorrow. Until then, we will clear the city and have the residences outside the territory evacuated just to be safe. Also…”
Houjou Ujinao turned toward the Musashi group.
Her hair swayed a bit.
“After the Siege of Odawara, Houjou will be part of the Matsudaira forces.”
“Then what do you want to do?”
“Testament.” Ujinao nodded. And, “We will move to the outside world. We would like your support in that.”
“We would like a permanent home even if we are destroyed,” said Ujinao. “But in the current state of provisional rule, the dual structure between the Far East and the rest of the world causes conflicting falls and rises, which is not conducive to stability. …We would like to calm that reincarnation cycle of destruction and rebirth.”
“In exchange for handing over this land, we will seek a land of rebirth. …How about that?”
Houjou too, huh? thought Terumoto.
Developing the outside world was not something that could be done with halfhearted methods or power.
But she realized that Houjou had the military might necessary.
They had automatons and gods of war that could function in extreme environments. Their aerial ship development had focused on mechanical phoenixes and was primarily composed of near-ocean transport ships, but…
…They just need Musashi and the Far East’s support there.
Looking back, Houjou’s actions had been consistent.
…If they were after the Kantou Liberation so they could free up the Kantou nations and pave a path to the outside world, then she did a good job planning it out.
Houjou’s part of the outside world would be on the south of the continent, so they could travel along the coast when coming from the east. And traveling south would likely give them better weather conditions than to the north.
So for Houjou, they just had to get the Kantou nations moving. Once that happened, they could start from the east of the continent and safely travel to their land.
And Houjou had long interacted with the Kantou nations, so they would earn a lot of trust if they helped liberate Kantou.
However, that would complicate Mouri’s position.
Before the meeting during the day, Mouri had planned to acquire Musashi’s authority and carry out the Kantou Liberation. But…
…Outsiders like us wouldn’t be able to immediately gain their trust.
If they used an intermediary, it would have to be Houjou who worked with them on the Kantou Liberation. So…
Terumoto concluded that Houjou had planned to act as their intermediary and to use them.
…Houjou would probably maintain their position as an intermediary between us and the Kantou nations while insisting we could reach Europe faster through a southern route.
If they followed Houjou’s advice and took a southern route, they would reach the Indian land Houjou sought.
Mouri would be forced to help develop that land to reach Europe.
Houjou was earning debts of gratitude with the conquerors of Europe and the Kantou nations to ensure the safety of their own land.
In the end, Musashi had intervened and Houjou lost the right to lead the endeavor.
But now they were asking Musashi to assist in developing the south of the continent.
Even though Mouri would have to help develop that land.
Would you say they thoroughly used others? The frightening part was how they purely used others for their own goals instead of just growing reliant on them.
She really is the clingy type, was Terumoto’s assessment of Houjou Ujinao.
Meanwhile, Ujinao spoke to Musashi.
“Can we receive land development support in exchange for handing over Houjou’s land?”
What’ll it be? thought Terumoto as she looked to the Musashi Vice President.
Musashi could not just support a single nation, so they would be required to supply this support to every nation.
…But that isn’t what Houjou’s trying to do here.
She would cling to Musashi in an attempt to drag out the support she wanted. That was Ujinao’s method.
Terumoto was curious how the Musashi Vice Chancellor would respond to this negotiation.
A moment later, she heard a voice.
It was the Musashi Secretary. He had already closed his sign frame, faced Ujinao, and opened his mouth.
“That would not be possible.”
Neshinbara spoke slowly.
He did not need to provoke his opponent here, so he sent out his words and the meaning they contained.
“Houjou will join Matsudaira’s forces. After that, you will be with us, not some other entity.”
“Judge.” Neshinbara nodded. “If you want to go to the outside world’s India, that will be our task.”
“…And when will that happen?”
“Who can say?”
He did not know, so he was not about to give an answer.
Of course, that response would anger her.
…It’s coming, isn’t it?
Ujinao wrinkled her brow like this was a self-evident fact.
“You cannot be that flippant about-…”
“Can you not wait? Are you going to head out there on your own instead of waiting?”
“Of course we will! We must acquire our freedom after our fall!”
“I see. So you’ll be leaving. That’s too bad.”
Neshinbara sighed. He made a show of it. Everything about it was exaggerated.
“Yes, it really is too bad you’ll be leaving to develop the outside world.”
“…Is that a problem?”
“Judge.” Neshinbara frowned. “Does this mean you won’t be marrying Noriki-kun?”
“Then I will not leave.”
She immediately responded.
Hiro heard a splash of water from a position past the torii at the entrance of the Suwa Shrine.
The hand-washing station was located past the torii and Noriki had just plunged his head into the 10m-long stone pool.
The spray splashed up and finally Noriki lifted his head.
Hiro spoke to her upperclassman who was dripping water onto the ground.
“…You sure have a dynamic hand-washing method.”
“I had a feeling things are about to get too hot for comfort.”
“…That might be a spiritual misunderstanding, you know?”
He isn’t any more normal than the rest of them, thought Hiro as she watched Noriki shake his head.
He sighed, got up, and then washed his hands properly. He was extra thorough with the right hand, so he may have been thinking about his spell.
When she asked that, he set down the water scoop and looked up into the sky.
The shrine was in the forest, so the light in the sky felt overly bright as night fell.
But he looked to the southern night sky which led to Houjou land.
“I’m a bit nervous my power won’t arrive fast enough. …Even if I have worked it all out already.”
“Ujinao! Ujinaooo! What kind of response was that!?”
“That’s right! That family moved to another nation, so why would you suddenly say you want to marry one of them!?”
Masazumi kept a mental distance as she watched Ujiteru and Genan press Ujinao for an answer.
In her opinion…
Half of her was in agreement and half of her was sympathetic.
But Ujinao tilted her head toward the other two.
“You two are going to die, so what does it matter to you? Oh, right. You are already dead, great-uncle, so you should care even less.”
“Y-you were the one saying we are the dead!”
“Not to worry. Houjou will be crushed, so all of us will – without a doubt – be dead. It is just that I will have a second life.”
“Do you really think you alone will be allowed that!? Well!?”
Ujinao had an immediate response for Ujiteru.
“No one will allow it. Not even I will allow it. …But that is why he will come to destroy me.”
Marube-ya: “Man, this will be really bad if Noriki-kun screws it up. We’ll probably see Armageddon start in India. Anyone want to blow the trumpet?”
Flat Vassal: “I had thought the Houjou Chancellor was a pretty crazy person, but does this mean she’s actually a pretty crazy maiden in love?”
Mal-Ga: “Crazy, blade-happy, dual personalities, clingy, self-interested, and a need to monopolize? It’s like she gathered all the negative aspects of women.”
Novice: “Have you ever even seen a mirror? Just once?”
Mal-Ga: “What do you say, Margot?”
Gold Mar: “I say you’re cute, Ga-chan!”
Asama: “…Anyway, I can see now why Neshinbara-kun was able to negotiate with Houjou-san. He’s always in touch with that kind of heavy atmosphere.”
Righteousness: “How about all of you take a look in the mirror…?”
Nine Tail Girl: “You require further training, Yoshiyasu. …Now. What will Houjou do?”
“Judge.” Masazumi nodded. “After the Kantou Liberation, I think we will grant Houjou the right to manage the Sagami land for Matsudaira.”
An emotion responded to Houjou Ujinao’s voice.
It was Mogami Yoshiaki’s “ko ko” of laughter.
She spread her fan and pointed south, toward them.
“That is the same as us. …The right to manage Matsudaira’s land is essentially a command to govern even after we have been destroyed. We will return to our land as mere managers instead of self governing. We will of course have to carry out the unreasonable demands of our superiors and to collect taxes for them, but…”
Yoshiaki looked to Ujinao.
And she narrowed her eyes.
“We will already be dead, so we will feel no pain, will we?”
Thank you for that, thought Masazumi with a sigh.
Then she looked to Mogami Yoshiaki on the sign frame.
“Mogami Yoshiaki. I would like to thank you for responding to our summons today. Ask for anything you would like.”
“Remember the trade route binding Kantou and Oushuu we agreed to in a previous meeting? Will you construct the ground portion to Mogami first?”
Masazumi understood the meaning behind that request.
The trade route connecting Oushuu, Jouetsu, and Kantou had been agreed to at the three-nations meeting, but Mogami was asking to be given priority in its construction.
Money Lover: “Allow me to interject. Constructing a trade route means to build the intermediary business districts. In other words, Mogami wants the earliest control of those intermediary business districts. …She is probably especially interested in the large hub market that will connect Mogami and the other nations to Edo.”
Vice President: “What would happen then?”
Money Lover: “Mogami would enter those intermediary business districts first and take control. On the other hand, Sviet Rus, Date, and we would be treated like outsiders. …If that happened, Date and Sviet Rus would still have a trade route, but they would have little control over anything outside of their own territory. And it would be a problem for me as well.”
…So for Date and Sviet Rus, this would obstruct their movements.
The Treasurer was irrelevant, but she still could not approve this.
However, Mogami had already made their move. If Mogami’s request was denied, either she would refuse to cooperate or she could even betray them during the battle the following day.
…What should I do?
And just as Masazumi asked herself that…
“Oh? You haven’t touched the food at your table. How about everyone trades places?”
A crossdresser walked out onto the road while carrying a pot.
Ujinao was hopeful. She could finally say goodbye to the Far Eastern food in front of her. She wanted the Western food, but the Musashi food would be an acceptable compromise.
“Umm, you’ve probably made decent progress in the meeting, so how about you take a break for that?”
Great idea, Musashi Chancellor! thought Ujinao as she prepared herself.
…Can we move to the Far Eastern food!?
Terumoto was hopeful. The Reine des Garous started laughing behind her, but she ignored that. However…
C’mon, Far Eastern food! No, we’ll be going to it! thought Terumoto as she clapped her hands together in her heart.
Just then, the Musashi Vice President raised her right hand between Terumoto and the Far Eastern food.
Masazumi spoke to the Sviet Rus and Mogami sign frames visible overhead.
“Here’s what we can do about the trade route.”
Narumi gave a light snort behind her, but Masazumi decided not to think too hard about whether that was out of caution or hope. Masazumi then brought everyone to a stop.
She first had to speak to Mogami.
“We will accept Mogami’s request. The trade route’s construction will give priority to the area between Mogami and Edo.”
“Oh…?” Yoshiaki lifted the corners of her mouth and her shoulders shook up and down. “You of course are not accepting it as-is, are you? But try to pull a fast one and this fox will strike back.”
“I am aware. That is why I have a suggestion.”
Masazumi prefaced with what she had to say first.
“You know which nation the trade route’s central corridor will be located in, don’t you? Where the trade routes between the three nations and Edo coincide will become an especially major commercial region.”
No one nodded in response.
Narumi kept her arms crossed.
Sviet Rus’s Shigenaga returned a sharp but silent gaze.
And Mogami kept her eyes narrowed.
They were all prepared to speak if they were dissatisfied.
In front of them, Masazumi looked to the surrounding tables and breathed in.
…Far Eastern food, Western food, and Musashi cuisine, hm?
If those three varieties of food were divided into separate tables, there was only one solution.
“Each of your nations will take turns managing that central commercial region for three years. …And Mogami goes first.”
Mogami responded to the idea by briefly widened her eyes but then laughing. With her face hidden behind her fan.
“You got us there…!”
“Ko ko.” Yoshiaki laughed in her throat with the night clouds in the sky behind her. “Taking turns managing the commercial region? …That’s a pretty good idea.”
It would prevent the corruption that would be inevitable if a single nation remained in control and it would eliminate fatigue since the color of the commercial region would change depending on the nation in charge.
…The main problems will be the handoff and the homes for the people who stay there during the three-year period.
Of course, Musashi specialized in that kind of thing. They swapped out their Chancellor and Student Council President every year and the construction and replacement of residential districts was a technique developed for the Musashi environment.
That may have been why the idea occurred to them in the first place. Also…
“Sviet Rus, Date? …Which of you will go second?”
That would be for Musashi to decide.
And they would find a basis for that decision very soon.
“You can of course abandon your right to a spot in the rotation, but I am on board. And Musashi is too. That means the trade route will certainly be developed between Mogami and Edo. If you lose your chance here, it will be all too obvious who will fall behind in the years to come.”
“Mogami will eventually disappear. And like a lingering ghost, the land of Ushuu will be fully developed afterwards. Ushuu will not be hindered by politics or war, so prosperity is the only option for us.”
Now, thought Yoshiaki with a smile.
She faced forward.
She stared far to the south. The white board visible to the left was the Ariake. And to the southwest of that…
She could see Musashi in the distance.
Just how far was it from the Musashi to her Yamagata Castle?
But she would cover that distance tonight.
And, she thought as she looked down from the bridge.
She saw forests and mountains below. The mountains still had some snow in this land.
All of that would finally be connected to that southern land. And to ensure that…
“The Siege of Odawara and the Kantou Liberation. …We will be taking a decent three years for ourselves. And we get to go first. …What will you do, Date, Sviet Rus? Thoughtlessly following a fox’s footprints through the snow will only get you tricked back the way you came.”
“Fine. Date will accept that suggestion.”
“Same. Sviet Rus also accepts.”
Masazumi heard the representatives of those two nations.
…I thought as much.
Worshiper: “That is a good decision. Mogami is in fact a major agricultural nation, but Date and Sviet Rus have their own products and trade goods that create different commercial profits. Even if Mogami gets a three-year head start to mold the central commercial region in their image, Date and Sviet Rus must think they can still recover.”
Flat Vassal: “Could you put that more simply?”
Unturning: “From Date’s viewpoint, the Kantou Liberation will give us a sea route to Edo which can function as a trade route for aerial ships. On the other hand, Mogami is trapped to the east, west, and south by Date and Sviet Rus, so they must have wanted to secure that trade route no matter what.”
Marube-ya: “So if Mogami gains control of the primary trade region, they will set up rules that eliminate tolls and tariffs even after their turn ends. That way, being surrounded won’t be too much of a disadvantage.”
Unturning: “Also, Sviet Rus can trade with Kyou and the Eastern European nations using sea routes to gain the same thing they would get with this trade route. They might be the biggest buyers of Mogami’s rice, so they should not be in a hurry to have their 3 years. In fact, they would prefer to use it as a port for Eastern Europe once the market has become more established.”
Tachibana Wife: “Thank you for that valuable information concerning tomorrow’s Siege of Odawara.”
Flat Vassal: “…Eh? What do you mean?”
The Tachibana Wife nodded at Adele’s question.
The Date Vice Chancellor said “ah” and placed a hand over her mouth, but the Tachibana Wife did not turn her way.
Tachibana Wife: “If they are in no hurry for their 3 years, Uesugi will not need to fight for an earlier spot in the trade management lineup.”
In other words…
Tachibana Wife: “There is a good chance that Sviet Rus will be our enemy. That is what this means.”
That was well done, thought Masazumi while looking to the Tachibana Wife and the Date Vice Chancellor.
She was not sure what had the latter girl so embarrassed, but there must have been some emotions involved there.
But to sum it all up…
“Have we seen the general lineup and interests of each nation? Then I would like to work out the exact number of people.”
“Uesugi will send me – Honjou Shigenaga – and one other person.”
“Who is that other?”
“We have not actually decided yet. We just know we need two fighters for the Keichou-Dewa Conflict.”
“I see,” said Asama while rewriting her document. “So is this right?”
- Houjou: Ujinao, Ujiteru, Genan, Kotarou, Yoshiaki
- Musashi: 3 people
- Mogami: Yoshiaki, Yoshiyasu
- Hashiba: Kani
- Uesugi: Honjou, 1 other
- Takigawa: Takigawa, 3 from Sanada
- Date: Narumi
- Mouri: Seki, Reine des Garous
I see, thought Masazumi.
“So these are the people who will be fighting tomorrow.”
There were 20 in all. Some of them had yet to be named and those were generally from Musashi, but the other nations were sending some very powerful people.
Masazumi began to wonder what Musashi could gain in duels against them.
…That will depend on the outcome tomorrow.
So, she thought before speaking up.
“That brings the meeting to an end. …I would like to leave the rest until we have the results of the Siege of Odawara tomorrow, but is that fine with all of you?”
They all seemed to be in agreement, so that signaled the end of the current meeting.
…A lot happened here.
She felt like most of that was Neshinbara’s fault, but she was also to blame since she had not found a reason to intervene.
At the moment, she saw everyone sigh and relax their shoulders.
Most likely, each group would start by speaking amongst themselves before eventually intermingling.
Masazumi thought to herself in that atmosphere that could be seen as lazy or liberated.
…Why have Houjou Ujinao and Mouri Terumoto been glaring at me like that?
Well, it doesn’t matter, she decided while reaching for a seaweed rice cake with cheese and taking a bite.
She felt like Houjou and Mouri were glaring at her even more, but she decided to ignore it.
Asama realized everyone’s movements had grown more relaxed.
The meeting had ended.
Information would still be exchanged and deals would still be made, but no one would directly determine the direction their nation took.
…So I should probably stop recording now.
She decided to leave the stealth defense barrier in place and set up a “meeting over” sign frame at the entrance. She walked to the fence’s entrance to do so and Horizon followed her. Horizon must have realized she had some task to complete.
“Asama-sama, is there anything I can help with?”
“Oh, no. I’m fine. I’m only placing a sign at the entrance.”
Horizon nodded but still followed her.
That sense of togetherness made Asama smile.
…Horizon can just do things with people now, can’t she?
She no longer either stuck with him or stood staring off into space.
So Asama did not reject her company as she continued toward the entrance.
Then she heard a voice from up ahead.
It came from beyond the arch at the fence entrance.
It was a male voice, but a high-pitched one. Asama had an immediate reaction to it:
…I’ve heard this voice before?
She could have sworn she had.
But she could not place it. It was an odd contradiction.
Regardless, the person showed themselves. Since the security had allowed them in, they must have been from one of the groups in attendance.
A short boy walked in through the arch. With that and how slender he was, he looked younger than her.
She saw gray hair and somewhat almond-shaped eyes.
He carried some luggage and lowered his somewhat thick eyebrows.
“Um, I was told I should come here…”
“Oh?” Horizon nodded. “Sir, this is currently the greatest danger zone in the Far East.”
“W-wait, Horizon. You can’t just hit someone with the truth when you’ve only just met.”
“Nicely said, Asama-sama. Now, sir, welcome to this aggressive world. …What brings you here today?”
“Oh, right,” he said. And just then…
With that cry, a great mass suddenly shot between him and the girls.
It was Mito’s mother.
She more or less enveloped the person who had just arrived.
And she kissed him as if latching her jaws onto him.
Before Asama could express her surprise, Mito’s mother moved her lips down his neck, removed his shirt, and reached for his pants.
“W-wait, mother! What do you think you’re doing!?”
The mother glanced over toward Mitotsudaira.
“What are you talking about, Nate? We do this all the time at home.”
“We are outside! Outside!! And in front of someone else’s house! Also…”
Asama and Horizon could only follow the exchange with their eyes bouncing back and forth.
This isn’t going to develop into a mother-daughter fight, is it? worried Asama, but a sudden voice stopped them.
The half-stripped young man turned toward Mitotsudaira with a smile.
“Nate! I’m glad to see you’re doing well!”
That turned everyone’s eyes toward Mitotsudaira.
The silver wolf’s cheeks flushed from the focus, but she eventually held her head high.
After looking to Asama, Horizon, and the crossdresser who had approached to spy on the event, she opened her mouth.
“Everyone…my king? This is my father.”
She opened a sign frame to introduce him.
“On the Hexagone Française side, he has inherited the name of Turenne’s rival, the Prince of Condé. On the Far Eastern side, he has inherited the name of Shimizu Kageharu.”
Asama looked at Mitotsudaira’s father and joined everyone in an “oh?” of interest.
He had to be about the same age as the rest of their fathers, but the Reine des Garous’s divine protection must have had an effect.
…He looks so young…
He may have looked even younger than them.
He was also short, skinny, and being embraced by Mitotsudaira’s mother from behind. There was only one way to describe it.
Asama and everyone else turned toward Mitotsudaira.
“He’s exactly how I imagined him…”
“Wh-what is that supposed to mean!?”
It meant exactly what it sounded like it meant.
“Now, this won’t be the usual method, but how about we begin sparring?”
Some of the twilight color remained in the western sky as Kiyomasa’s voice joined the festival drums and flutes echoing through the air.
She and Fukushima had come to the same place.
“It feels weird to be back on the ironclad ship’s outdoor pool just like the other day, but this is the closest match to the footing during your earlier pursuit, isn’t it?”
They stood on the pool surface.
A floating duckboard had been set up across the pool so they had a surface to stand out.
They both wore swimsuits with their track suit and gym clothes on top, but…
“Kiyo-dono… Is there any real reason for this battlefield and footing?”
“Testament. You will understand soon enough.”
Kiyomasa rotated her weapon in her right hand.
That weapon was Caledfwlch.
The pair of scythe-shaped spears could be combined into a single sword, but…
“I have partially reduced the thruster power for ease-of-use this time. And since we are only sparring, all of its attacks will be converted into blunt impacts. Your Ichinotani will do the same, right?”
“Testament. How will we determine the winner?”
“How about we keep going until we are both satisfied?”
“Until thou are, Kiyo-dono…?”
Kiyomasa smiled a little at that question.
She exposed the light scar remaining on her neck.
“I want to reclaim my honor before this fades. But…”
She lightly shook her body using Caledfwlch’s rotating momentum.
“Facing Katou Danzou will likely be your job, Fukushima-sama.”
With that, Kiyomasa moved forward.
And a moment later…
She suddenly saw the color black before her.
That blackness flowed like a serpent as it rose in front of her. It was the color of hair and its movement was Fukushima’s ponytail fluttering behind her.
The distance between them was reduced to zero in an instant. And just as she realized that…
Fukushima silently launched her attack.
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