Horizon:Volume 6C Chapter 71
Chapter 71: Onlookers at a Historical Site
It was more
Normal than expected
Which was a bit of a let down
Point Allocation (Wanna See It?)
The passageway was made of stone.
The space was 20 meters wide and tall.
The Musashi group walked through it.
Masazumi was being carried by Futayo once more after needing help down from the Kanie Castle.
Crossunite led the way with a wide-range illumination spell raised overhead.
Masazumi looked around with the light of the identical spells held by Horizon in the middle of the group and the Tachibana Wife at the rear.
“The entrance passageway is narrower than in the Sanada ruins.”
“That one must have been built to dragon standards,” explained Urquiaga. “The stones used here looked more lightweight too.”
Crossunite turned back and nodded.
“Well, based on the echoes, it seems there is a single large area in the back. So if anything, I imagine this was built as a fortress for an eastern expedition to settle the land around here.”
So was it more of a watchtower or supply point than a base?
“In that case, I can see why the ceiling art survived here. This place must have been abandoned early on once they no longer needed it.”
“It’s hard to say whether it’s lucky or unlucky a place like this still exists,” said Mitotsudaira. “Also…”
She looked down at her feet. Everyone was in a hurry because water was leaking from cracks in the stone walls and the intensity of that flowing water would rise and fall in waves.
“This place seems awfully unstable. Are we sure it’s safe?”
“Judge. Looking at the movement of the spirits, I can tell there are some fairly uncertain areas.”
While following behind Crossunite, Mary looked back and raised her hand. Her white glove pointed to where ether light was gathering, wavering, and vanishing.
“A lot of the crust seems to be ‘missing’ in this area. It does exist as a water supply, but the water veins are in motion rather than fixed. So…”
Mary looked up to gray lines running across both walls near the ceiling.
“It must have been flooded up to there.”
“Ho ho?” Horizon nodded while holding up a large ball of light in both hands. “Was this due to the artificial lake created for the attack on Houjou?”
“Judge. The water filling the lake applied pressure to the existing water veins and that caused the crust to float up. I believe water pushed into the gaps of the blocks, those blocks moved, and the gaps grew more uncertain.”
“That was an excellent explanation with none of the confusing digressions you get when asking a nerd.”
Everyone readily agreed with Naruze’s assessment. Is that because Neshinbara isn’t here? No, I have a feeling they would have done the same even if he was. Yeah, that’s just how it is. I shouldn’t worry about it.
But then Horizon suddenly spoke up.
“I was told the Musashi did not fire its Kanesada and I did not fire the Muneshige Cannon because it would have damaged the artificial lake and ruins.”
“Judge. What about it?”
“Why did Houjou allow us to fight here?”
“Well,” said Masazumi. It was obvious enough if you had focused on Houjou’s reaction to the previous meeting. “The ruins don’t seem to hold much value for them.”
“I see.” Horizon nodded. “Then wouldn’t they be perfectly okay with this place collapsing on our heads?”
Everyone exchanged a glance at that. And they all put on strange smiles.
All of a sudden, a block above Crossunite fell down along with a powerful shower of water.
“Waaaahh!” he shouted. “Don’t scare me like that!”
“Tch. 1st Special Duty Officer, are you okay!?”
“Dammit. 1st Special Duty Officer, why are you okay!?”
“Oh, hell! 1st Special Duty Officer, why!?”
“Your hidden hostility is gradually coming out!” protested the ninja.
Two more blocks fell along with the water, so they all began to run.
Since Masazumi was lying over Futayo’s shoulder, it looked like the others were chasing after her.
…Why can’t we show this kind of teamwork when our lives aren’t at risk?
None of them ran away, but she felt that was just a sign of how well they all got along.
Suzu monitored the others’ progress.
She was reliant on the sound coming from Asama’s divine transmission. It was being amplified and analyzed by the Musashi, but it was still far too little data. However…
…The passageway…is simple.
She had a good grasp of the space, but the blocks falling from the ceiling were frightening.
…Wouldn’t they be…better off if…they didn’t run?
And the events within the structure were not the only cause for concern. The Musashi’s sensors showed her the terrain around the ruins, but some of that was oddly uncertain.
The ruins and the area around the artificial lake were shaking from time to time. The bedrock at the bottom of the crust was likely bumping together from the moving water veins. She could hear the rumbling of the earth. And…
When Suzu held out her hand and began rereading the sensory data, she noticed something odd about the surface of the artificial lake.
The water level was rising. But at the same time…
“They made it…!?”
The space around the others suddenly opened up.
The scale was much smaller than in the Sanada ruins, but there was a definite hall there.
…A remnant of the Age of Dawn!
Gin arrived in a familiarly-structured but smaller hall.
She noticed water beginning to pool up on the floor. It had risen to ankle height and produced splashing sounds as they moved.
She raised both hands overhead.
The 1st Special Duty Officer, who had already arrived on the other end of the hall, and Musashi’s Princess, who was in the center of the hall, did the same.
“Can you see it!?”
Their wide-range illumination spells revealed the hall’s ceiling.
It gradually came into view starting from the bottom, so they initially saw the relief depicting the events of the Age of Dawn. And in the center…
“Hey, Tenzou,” said the Musashi Chancellor. “What if it just says ‘Today’s Fortune: Excellent’ up there?”
“Ha ha ha. Knowing Shinto, that is entirely possible.”
…And what are you going to do if it really does say that!?
It won’t, it won’t, Gin told herself, but it worried her that the Asama Shrine Representative was lowering her head as if to avoid seeing an unpleasant reality.
But then the light reached the top. The three lights illuminated the ceiling from three different shallow angles.
“I can see it!”
Everyone looked at the very center of the ceiling.
When Masazumi saw what was there, she felt only confusion.
The hall’s central relief showed people lined up in celebration. They were holding hands, smiling, and celebrating what was in the center. However…
A certain symbol was found at the center of the ceiling.
“The Double Border Crest!?”
A sudden voice echoed across the hall. It was Neshinbara’s voice coming from everyone’s sign frames.
But Masazumi kept her eyes on the symbol above her.
There was a circle with a single line running horizontally through the center. There was only one way to interpret that.
Vice President: “That’s the Double Border Crest, right? Why should we wait?”
Novice: “This is from the Age of Dawn, remember? So even if the Double Border Crest was there, there is one thing I would like to say.”
Novice: “During the Age of Dawn, the people went to visit the Environmental Gods. Those gods are said to exist in a phase space located 6000km below the earth’s surface.”
Vice President: “What about it?”
Novice: “Did you know 6000km is about the same as the radius of the earth?”
Everyone looked back up at the ceiling when they heard that.
Novice: “They went, they returned, and the Song of Passage was created. The total distance is the same as cutting straight through the earth.”
Vice President: “Hold on.”
It was Masazumi’s turn to stop him.
Vice President: “Are you saying this relief is celebrating the visit to the Environmental Gods and the end of the various problems that resolved?”
Vice President: “What is the Double Border Crest? And what is the Princess?”
Her questions went unanswered. But she did recall the Double Border Crest drawn in her home after her mother disappeared.
…Was she taken away because of something related to the Age of Dawn?
She could make no sense of it. It was all too sudden.
But she realized Novgorod had been the same. Double Border Crests had appeared behind their backs then. She thought that was a side effect of being present for the Prince of Orange’s Princess Disappearance, but…
“Give me a break…”
She felt like she had found an answer and then discovered that answer made no sense. However…
“What is it, idiot?”
“Judge.” The idiot pointed at her and struck a pose. “You’re all see-through thanks to that loser’s punishment.”
“Is leering at me really that fun, you idiot!?”
Gin watched the Vice President hide her body while yelling back.
The Asama Shrine Representative looked down at the boy’s shirt she wore and went “ah” with a troubled smile, but that was unavoidable. That belonged to her.
Gin checked the front of her clothing since she had been hit by the same loser’s punishment, but…
…The Far Eastern summer uniform has a band around the chest.
And the bottom was made of thicker material so it could be worn separately. Still…
“Master Muneshige, had you noticed part of my uniform was rendered see-through?”
“No, because I am always looking at your face when we speak.”
“Then please look at my body as well from now on.”
The other girls backed away with an “ohhh”, but she chose to ignore them. All of this was perfectly normal.
Then she looked overhead once more. And…
She noticed something strange.
“How odd. The center of the domed ceiling was carved away at the previous two locations. But…”
This was very strange when compared to her memories of the other two.
“That Double Border Crest is far smaller than the marks left erasing the others.”
Really? wondered Naruze.
She and Margot had not seen the underground reliefs at Novgorod or Sanada, so she could not say one way or the other if this was too small to match the marks.
“Then was there a different relief at the other places?”
“No, that Sanada Celestial Dragon said Houjou Tokiyori told him the only surviving relief was here, so we had to come here to see it. That would suggest the one here is the same as the others.”
Naruze had to agree with Masazumi.
…Then this one would be the same.
But when she looked up, she saw the celebrating people along the outer circle and the Double Border Crest in the center.
“The composition would have worked better on a non-domed ceiling.”
Did she think it had too much white space because it looked cheap? Or did people back then just not have a good sense of aesthetics?
Still, something seemed odd about the dome to Naruze.
She felt like something should have been drawn in the large white space.
“Asama, can you gather data on this place and send it to Suzu? There might be a secret in the structure.”
“Oh, yes. I will do that.”
Asama opened a sign frame and began a scan. And Naruze…
“I’ll scan the surface textures.”
She opened Burning Surroundings as the best spell to give her a full 360-degree view.
“Hey, Chancellor, I’ll use you as the center point, so stand there.”
“Sure. That looks tricky. Are you trying to make a model of the place?”
“Recreating what it looked like when it was built would be tough with all the dust and moss, but something about the place bothers me and I want to find out what.”
The size of the erasure marks and the blank space on the ceiling bothered her.
I’m glad I came, she thought. She could fly with her wings or her schale besen, so she generally wanted to avoid jobs that required descending underground. That was why she had not accompanied the others the last two times, but…
…There are some things you only notice when you see it for yourself.
And something else occurred to her.
…Oh, I’m being awfully cooperative with the others.
Was it a good or bad thing that that depressed her a little? But next to her…
“Ga-chan, Ga-chan,” said Margot. “Want to see where I’m see-through?”
“Wait just a sec. I’ll get Burning Surroundings done real quick.”
It was important to focus on one thing at a time, so she opened the spell and photographed above the idiot’s head nice and quick.
If she brought that data back and reconstructed the hall, would she be able to figure out what her issue was? If there was a hidden mechanism…
“The cliché is for everything to start moving on some kind of cue,” said Tenzou.
“Like someone pulling a lever or a string hanging from the ceiling?”
“Opening a hidden passage would not help us much. There does seem to be a storage space and living space further back just like at the Sanada ruins, but it has all flooded.”
“So we can only get data on this hall, huh? If there is a hidden mechanism, I hope we can find it.”
With that said, Naruze sighed. And the idiot looked across them all.
“Okay, everyone. We got what data we can and we saw Seijun-kun all see-through, so today’s Aoi Toori Expedition was a complete success. Let’s call it a day.”
The idiot spread his hands and…
He clapped his hands. Just once. Since he was an entertainer, the sound echoed across the hall loud and clear.
Just then, they heard another sound. The Double Border Crest ceiling groaned overhead.
They looked up to see the ceiling had split in two.
“Was there another picture hidden behind that one!?”
Tenzou shouted that just before pressurized water burst from the crack.
It hit the idiot, sending him rolling through the accumulating water. But the water from above did not stop and the entire ceiling began to crumble. They all watched the stone and water falling.
“That wasn’t a hidden mechanism! The whole place is caving in!”
Even as Tenzou shouted that, Naruze saw the ceiling collapsing and the water falling.
After rolling in the water a bit, the idiot hopped to his feet while everything crumbled around them.
“I just remembered! There’s a rule that says old ruins always have to collapse! How could I forget!?”
“Ho ho?” said Horizon. “I do agree that the proof of the ruins is in the collapsing, but I would say this one did not so much collapse as it was destroyed. Do you understand what I mean?”
“Umm, are you saying anyone other than us could have inspected it without it collapsing?” asked Mitotsudaira.
Everyone averted their gaze and Naruze sighed.
“You people are a disgrace,” she said.
“D-don’t act like you’re better than us just because this is your first visit!” protested Tenzou.
“Why shouldn’t I?” she asked while looking up at the collapse again.
Something about that domed ceiling seemed lacking. Its concave surface reflected the waves on the floor as the illumination spells shined on them. And when Naruze saw that fluctuating motion…
She felt like she had noticed something.
Something that was key to answering her questions about this place. However…
Margot tugged on her hand to pull her a step back just before a piece of the stone dome fell where she was standing.
The collapse had begun in earnest.
Asama ran a kinetic scan to predict where the stones would fall. When she indicated those locations by projecting light onto the floor from sign frames, almost the entire area was filled with light.
The hall really was collapsing. So…
“We need to hurry out of here! C’mon, Toori-kun, don’t even think about clapping again!”
She had to hurry too. After all…
A piece of the dome fell right next to her, creating a splash. The dust solidified on the surface of the stone shattered from the impact. Once the water washed it off, its surface was smooth enough to reflect her face.
According to Mary, this place had been submerged by a water vein.
…That may be why it survived relatively intact compared to the other ruins.
But they did not have time to inspect it. She scanned the surface of the stone and started running. They all kicked up the water on their way to the exit. However…
The air suddenly started to move.
The water level was rapidly rising. And the additional water was not coming from the ceiling.
“Water is flowing in from the residential area further in!”
“I’m not really too interested in helping out Musashi.”
Kakei spoke in the night while listening to the sound of flowing water.
He was south of the artificial lake. That put him at the bottom of the 20m valley created by the stones piled up as a dam to create the lake, but…
“When the lake is full, it appears to create a little too much pressure. The lake’s water pressure pushed in the bedrock by the water vein, but the vein’s water pressure appears to have pushed it back.”
“Yeah,” agreed Kakei while Mochizuki held his right hand.
She only had her upper body down to the bottom of the chest and she looked to the side of his face.
“The weight of the Kanie Castle and the exchange of shellfire must have destroyed the balance of stress applied to the crust. At this rate, the dam will burst and the water will flood Odawara Castle and the city below.”
“I had kind of hoped that wouldn’t happen.” Kakei smiled bitterly. “But we were the ones that chose this battlefield, so we’ve gotta take responsibility. I mean, even if Houjou’s going away, the people aren’t.”
He pulled his hat low over his eyes.
“Yeah, Sanada’s people will have to make friends with the people in Matsudaira and former Houjou land, so we can’t cause those people too much trouble now.”
“What are you suggesting?”
“Removing some of the water,” he replied. “I’ll destroy a part of the dam to release some of the stress. It’ll still start as a flash flood, but once the top layer of water is gone, the rest’ll come out the opening more gradually. …Sabotage like this is a ninja’s specialty, right?”
“Testament. But Kakei-sama.”
The dam was as tall as the valley and uncontrollable water was already starting to erupt from it. If he destroyed a portion of it…
“I will accompany you.”
“Then will you give me some of your explosion spells?”
Mochizuki held her hair toward Kakei in the darkness. He took it and pulled some out.
“I was wondering if you would ever go bald, but these are extensions, aren’t they?”
“I am technically classified as a woman. …Will half be enough?”
She nodded back.
“Please launch me into the water on the other side of the dam. And there is some unstable stone at the top of the dam, so I believe you too will have a chance to escape.”
“Wait, then what was that about accompanying me?”
“I simply wished to demonstrate I was prepared to do so if necessary. I could handle this on my own if need be.”
“Is that so?” Kakei swung his right hand and spoke to Mochizuki. “Bye.”
Mochizuki was looking up into the night.
She watched the Kanie Castle travel west in the black emptiness of the sky.
She was not in the water. She moved her head and found she was in the forest.
She was lying in a forest well removed from the dam. Which meant…
He had thrown her. Thrown her away from the dam.
“I’d accept dying with a doll, but I haven’t lived a cool enough life to die with a woman.”
Kakei smiled and pulled his hat even lower over his face.
When he took a breath, a color other than shadow fell down to his feet.
He was bleeding. He had picked up Mochizuki and come here after his battle with the Mito Lord, but he had not been properly healed. He had been in too much of a hurry.
…Yeah, I really am a coward.
“I just can’t pull off the uncaring attitude.”
Unno would have been collapsed at the bottom of that battle area, but he had come here without speaking a word with her. Because he knew she would say something if they saw each other. However…
“This is the place.”
He pictured the structure of the dam and took aim. The entire dam was only visible from this position directly in front of it. That of course left him with no escape route, but…
“I’ve spent my whole life giving myself escape routes.”
But this was how it was meant to be. This was how everyone else did it.
So why couldn’t he do the same just this once in the very end? Besides, he had already tested his strength against the Mito Lord. So…
He shut his eyes and gripped Mochizuki’s hair in both hands. But then…
A solid and heavy noise arrived from the distant ground. The bedrock was moving deep below the ground. It was a dangerous noise, like the harbinger of a landslide. So…
“Oh, maybe I am cool after all. I might be a ninja, but here I am saving the Houjou city in secret.”
“Maybe it doesn’t count when I’m only cleaning up my own mess. Yeah, I guess it doesn’t. In that case…”
He held a fuse in his mouth and prepared to act. He focused his ears and heard something like wind coming from above the valley. But this was no wind.
It was waves. It was the sound of rising water as the artificial lake’s water level rapidly increased.
A ton of water was pushing in from the underground water vein and coming this way with the wind.
So he just had to time this right.
“Are you ready, god?”
Kakei fired Mochizuki’s hairs one after another. He held the soft hairs like pins and threw them.
“The water level has stopped rising!!”
Everyone in the passageway exchanged a glance when Mary said that.
The water was up to waist height. The passageway sloped shallowly upwards, so it was likely knee height by the entrance. But…
“That’s a relief, but what do we do about that?”
Mitotsudaira was referencing the entrance.
The passageway’s entrance was covered by fallen rock. And behind them…
“It looks like a giant piece of rock fell on the hall as well,” said Tenzou.
“How are we supposed to get out?” asked Toori.
“Um…oh, I am receiving a divine transmission from ‘Musashi’-san,” said Asama.
Musashi: “To make this as simple as possible, if I were to fire Kanesada to destroy the rock sealing the entrance, it would vaporize all of you. Over.”
Almost Everyone: “You were right about it being simple!”
Wise Sister: “Heh heh heh. I know what we need to do! We put Adele in Raging Beast and have Mitotsudaira slam her against the rock with her silver chains! Mitotsudaira! Where are you!? In the hole!? Well, you’re no help! Foolish brother, you fix this! Start by getting Mitotsudaira out of there! Use the Flat Chest Push!”
Silver Wolf: “You’re not making any sense!”
Flat Vassal: “And is there any reason for me to be inside Raging Beast in that scenario!?”
Obscene: “Ha ha ha! We wouldn’t want you feeling left out, Adele-kun!”
Sticky King: “Indeed. If you like, I could sticky up the outside of Raging Beast to cushion the impact.”
“Wouldn’t that defeat the entire purpose?” everyone asked, but then…
“Gin-dono, couldn’t we do something with my Tonbo Spare and your big thing?”
“If you split the rock with Tonbo Spare, the shock could accelerate the collapse overhead. And if I fired Cuatro Cruz in this narrow passageway, the shell or a fragment thereof could ricochet back and hit us. Are you sure you want to risk it?”
“Judge, let’s do it.”
“Did you hear what I said!? Did you hear a single word of it!?”
It took her husband and Masazumi to calm her down, but then Mary raised a hand again.
“Um, excuse me. The water level appears to be rising again. This time, it looks like the lake water is flowing in here.”
Marube-ya: “Who wants us to buy them an insurance policy!? It’s not too late! C’mon! C’mon! Hurry up and ensure the Marube-ya profits off of this tragedy! If you don’t, we’ll just have to forge the documents!”
Almost Everyone: “Calm down!”
But then Horizon raised her hand. She pulled Lype Katathlipse from behind her back with sweat on her brow.
“I regret to inform you that I brought the Muneshige Cannon with me. However, this is a magic cannon that can never hit its target. I dread to think what disaster will befall us if it were to actually come in handy.”
Mitotsudaira placed her hands on Horizon’s shoulders with a smile. After a breath, she spun Horizon around to face the entrance.
“Just shoot it!”
Musashi: “Excuse me, but about 7 seconds ago, a cannon blast with a very familiar visual effect grazed the Musashino from below. Did you need something from me? Over.”
Asama: “N-no, we don’t need anything. That was just a slight mistake!”
Hori-ko: “I see. If you stretch the definition, this still counts as ‘missing’. Impressive!”
Tachibana Wife: “Master Muneshige! Master Muneshige! Just think of it as more material for your site!”
Me: “Hey, isn’t that Noriki’s transport ship flying by up there?”
What are they doing? wondered Noriki from the transport ship’s deck.
He had hurried back for the Siege of Odawara, but then he had been forced to wait because of all the shellfire. Masazumi had considerately scheduled a duel with Ujinao for him, but…
Laborer: “Why are you firing Lype Katathlipse at us the instant we get close?”
Smoking Girl: “Hey, Hiro. Pick up the group down there if you can. You’re closer.”
347: “Sure, sure. Wait just a second. Backing up would be a pain, so I’ll circle around.”
After a while, his vision slowly tilted and began to turn. While the transport ship looped through the Odawara sky, he saw the lights of the ships gathered at Edo and…
All but the inner citadel was flooded.
That would more than establish the flooding for the history recreation. Which left just one thing.
“My duel with Ujinao.”
It’s finally happening, thought the Reine des Garous while looking to the north.
She was with the Hexagone Française forces. She had brought a curry meal back with her, so she had that arranged on a table and was enjoying it with her husband.
“Musashi’s transport ship is descending toward Odawara Castle.”
“Yes, I had heard,” he said. “So it’s finally happening, is it?”
“I wonder if they miss each other as badly as we did.”
“They have been apart a lot longer. It was only since this morning for us.”
“Oh?” The Reine des Garous smiled at her husband. “But it felt like so much longer to me.”
She circled behind him, loosely embraced him, and took his hands in hers. She guided his spoon hand to the plate, guided his other hand to her body, and pressed against his back.
“This curry was apparently designed after me, so I have some questions. For example, which part of my flesh does this meat remind you of? If you aren’t sure, I can give you two options. Is it here…or here? If you still aren’t sure, you will just have to eat it to find out. Don’t worry. I will give you the answer in the end. Because I very much want to tell you.”
Their half a day apart felt like an eternity to the Reine des Garous.
And the transport ship landed at Odawara Castle.
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