Horizon:Volume 7B Chapter 44
Chapter 44: Landowner on the Bridge
I thought I had
Grown up enough
To simply feel exasperated
Point Allocation (Memory)
Tenzou saw the small transport ship approaching above the ether forest from the west.
He was on the ruins wall attaching a first aid charm to his left shoulder, but now he was thinking about what Kani had said.
“What are we going to do with Nagaoka-dono?”
He placed a hand on his chin because Mitotsudaira had already collected Nagaoka with a Silver Chain.
The boy would be unconscious and safely down in the forest, but…
…We can’t let them find out we are taking that boy to Nördlingen.
Bringing Inadome Sukenao to the site of the attack on the Nagaoka estate was their pretext for going there.
But he was currently working for Hashiba.
It would be trouble if it was found out they were using another nation’s warrior without permission.
…We should have gone through the defection procedures in advance.
He did not know what Nagaoka himself wanted, but making him part of Musashi would have been best for avoiding trouble on both sides.
That was why their best bet now was to keep their capture of Nagaoka a secret and have him defect once he came to.
Of course, defecting meant leaving Hashiba. He would be at least temporarily cutting his ties with his family and friends, so it was unclear what he intended himself. Which meant…
“That is a difficult question to answer.”
It was somewhat similar to when Mary had defected to Musashi.
But Mary had done it because the history recreation put her in danger if she stayed in England.
Things were different for Nagaoka. He was defecting to keep his wife out of danger.
…How will that difference affect things?
Curious, Tenzou tried asking via divine transmission.
Me: “Wh-what is it, Tenzou-do-…Master Tenzou?”
10ZO: “That is so very creepy.”
Me: “Huh!? What’s with you, Tenzou!? I went to the effort of doing my Mary impression for no real reason, so why are you calling Mary creepy!? Well!?”
10ZO: “Mary-dono is fantastic. I was calling you and only you creepy, Toori-dono. Only you.”
Me: “Stop driving the point hoooooooooome!!”
10ZO: “Now, Toori-dono, what are we going to do with Nagaoka-dono?”
“Well,” cheerfully replied the idiot.
Me: “I was thinking of coloring it blue this time.”
Wise Sister: “Heh heh. Foolish brother! I had a feeling you would say that, so your wise sister brought some sky blue and mint blue ink! Feel free to use them! And make sure to thank me!”
Me: “Ohh! You’re incredible, sis! I dunno how exactly that makes you wise, but doesn’t Dick and Mint sound like a song title!? Doesn’t it sound kinda bubbly!? Is it about bringing carbonation into the bedroom!?”
Wise Sister: “Heh heh. It does sound kind of techno-y, doesn’t it! But come to think of it, Dick and Herb sounds kind of like a cough drop, so you’ll be apologizing to those Swiss dick candies now, won’t you!?”
Uqui: “Now you’re just equating dicks with herbs, aren’t you?”
Vice President: “And just to be clear, Switzerland isn’t fully independent yet.”
Me: “Huh!? What is it, Tenzou!? Feeling lonely!? Wanna come join us!? Hm?”
10ZO: “I will report all of this to Horizon-dono later.”
Me: “Okay, everyone, stooooop! Yes, yes, no crossing this white line.”
Tenzou saw the divine network suddenly grow quiet.
Me: “So what color did you have in mind, Tenzou?”
10ZO: “You haven’t learned a thing, have you!?”
Me: “Huh!? Even if Horizon’s standing in front of me with fist at the ready, I’ve got Asama and Nate on my side and I’m ready to try out a prostration!”
Asama: “Oh, Toori-kun, if you’re looking for comfort, make sure it’s after you’ve been hit. It wouldn’t make much sense otherwise.”
Silver Wolf: “That sounds like a problem between you and Horizon. And if I got involved, Horizon’s arms would probably attack me for allowing you to use my prototype products.”
Me: “Is anyone on my side!? Anyone at all!? B-but, Tenzou! You’ve never been punched by Horizon, have you!? Heh hehh! Bet you’re jealous! I win this round! Take that, loser!”
I never knew a human being could be so pathetic, thought Tenzou while actually feeling impressed, but Mitotsudaira said more from down below.
Silver Wolf: “Anyway, it would be best to have something I can use to support the Nagaoka boy while lifting him onto the transport ship with my Silver Chain.”
What could she use for that?
…Maybe I could descend into the forest and throw together a stretcher or basket out of branches.
But just as he considered that, he heard the Reine des Garous’s voice.
Still Got It: “Heh heh. In that case, Nate, I have recreated my home in the forest, so you can go there. The things there are only ether reproductions, but they should last until you have him in the transport ship.”
Mother can actually be useful from time to time, realized Mitotsudaira.
She needed something to carry the Nagaoka boy.
Silver Wolf: “Mother, what is inside your home in this recreation of the past?”
Still Got It: “Good question. This is a recreation of shortly after your father and I spent a very fulfilling 24 days together starting in the front garden. Nate, do not fix the bed, okay?”
Silver Wolf: “S-so we’re just starting with that kind of thing!? Anyway, is there anything we could carry the Nagaoka boy on? It only has to be about the size of a tatami mat.”
“Good question,” repeated the mother wolf on the sign frame.
Still Got It: “If you go into the kitchen – take a right after walking in the front door – and you will find a pile of straw in the storage space in the back. Move that straw and you should find it.”
Silver Wolf: “Find what? A stretcher or something? Did you use it to rescue father?”
Still Got It: “Yes, you will find a tatami-sized slice of bacon taken from a giant elk.”
Silver Wolf: “How is that a ‘yes’!? And what kind of mother recreates some absurdly large bacon as part of her memories!?”
Still Got It: “Nate, what memory is more precious than some delicious meat?”
Mitotsudaira started to think that was a good point, but shook her head instead.
She had found the house in question and it was in front of her now.
The ether forest looked just like the forest around her mother’s house. The growth of the trees was different, but she could still recognize it as the forest she had seen when pursuing her mother from IZUMO.
She placed Nagaoka in a small boat made from the Silver Chains and pulled that boat with what remained of the chains.
The small transport ship was approaching overhead.
The small boat used a lot of the Silver Chains, so she could not lift the boy with it. So…
…I hoped I could find something else to use.
She found herself at her mother’s house.
That candy house looked identical to the one she had seen in the present.
“It may have had more chocolate back then, though.”
The orange tree in the garden was shorter than when she had seen it. And…
…Mother was right. It does seem to be shortly after that.
A Silver Chain obelisk stood in the garden. It was larger than the ones Mitotsudaira had and the attached chain supplier was also quite large.
Mitotsudaira’s could be combined with her combat dress and hard point parts, but this older one was made to form the tall silhouette of a proper obelisk.
This had to be its original, stationary form.
Hers must have been slimmed down to make it portable.
“That makes sense given the Silver Chain’s origins.”
The weapon had originally been used to bind and execute an angel.
It had originally been a stationary object placed on the execution ground instead of a portable weapon.
…From the looks of this, the obelisk containing the chain’s ether metal is the main item and the chain supplier is altered for each generation or user.
She tugged with her fingers to stop her Silver Chains from showing too much interest in the reproduced obelisk.
…Studying my weapon here would not accomplish much.
If necessary, she could always visit her mother’s house again and look into it there.
Something else mattered now.
Silver Wolf: “Mother, is there maybe a bucket large enough to hold someone?”
If so, would it be by the faucet or watering hole?
She did not know.
Her visit during the IZUMO battle had been her first, so it might as well have been a stranger’s house.
But when she peeked in through a window, she could see the inside of the house switching between a few different scenes.
The figures in the scenes were her parents.
It was hard to tell since they only appeared as shadows, but she could spy on the two of them studying together, playing musical instruments together, and viewing the same signe cadre together.
…They really do get along well.
They were a feudal lord and a Loup-Garou – the hunter and the hunted. Her mother had often told her the story and it had even been made into a song. Yes, I used to sing it a lot without knowing what it was about and, now that I have gotten over my issues with that, I have learned to sing the remake in karaoke using my own personal style. But…
The scenes of those two would appear and disappear.
Something occurred to her whenever she saw one of those memories or felt their presence.
…I’ve never really seen mother and father like this.
They were a feudal lord and the Reine des Garous.
How did that differ from a king and a wolf knight?
Her mother circled behind her father and embraced him from behind. They were watching a signe cadre.
They both scooted back the chair her father was sitting in, so they were probably watching something surprising or a horror show. Her mother pushed the chair back forward with her father in it and they were clearly laughing together.
Mitotsudaira thought, Maybe I could be that close to my king.
Still Got It: “Nate.”
Silver Wolf: “Eh!? Oh, yes, wh-what is it!?”
Still Got It: “Circle around behind the kitchen. You should find a large bucket I used when butchering my prey.”
Silver Wolf: ‘You want me to carry someone in a blood bucket?”
Still Got It: “It is only made of ether at the moment. And purifying the unclean instead of fearing it is how you do things in Shinto, isn’t it?”
Asama: “How very knowledgeable of you, Mito’s mom! Shinto has no trouble with an adherent who holds another religion, so if your daily impurities are bothering you, please come to me! I can introduce you to the Mitsumine or Kinoyama Shrines since they worship wolf gods!”
Silver Wolf: “Why are you butting in to give a Shinto sales talk!?”
In a way, she appreciated that her mother only said “my, my’ and did not directly refuse the offer.
It was nice to have that kind of leeway. But…
Behind the kitchen was where she and the others had removed the house’s candy materials when they visited before, so she pulled the Silver Chains along while circling behind there.
…This has to be it.
A large bucket was leaning up against the wall next to the kitchen entrance. She felt like she had seen it there when visiting before, but she may have been inventing the memory.
At any rate, she grabbed it with the Silver Chains and lay Nagaoka Tadaoki inside it.
…That completes my mission.
Just as she thought that, she saw something there.
Something large and silver was leaning against the side of the shed. It had likely been used to drive the obelisk into the ground.
It was the Silver Cross.
“It’s so big.”
It looked the same as it did now. Since it was her mother’s personal weapon, there must not have been any need to remake it.
But when Mitotsudaira moved her gaze again, she saw something else there.
Two cross towers were leaning against the shed alongside the Silver Cross.
They were Argent Clou.
That was the weapon Kasuya Takenori had been using before. But…
“They’re shaped differently.”
That realization did not even require a close inspection. These were not made to open up and they were a size bigger.
They likely only functioned as weapons to drive in the nail spikes. They could not produce claws or become a shield.
They looked similar, but there were different.
Silver Wolf: “Mother.”
Still Got It: “Nate, I take it you noticed.”
“Judge,” confirmed Mitotsudaira.
Silver Wolf: “It would have been hard not to notice this.”
Still Got It: “Yes, anyone with half a brain would have noticed. …Noticed that your father managed to take the dominant position even if for a short time. Oh, but it was only for 12 turns out of a total of 480 turns.”
Silver Wolf: “You were doing it that much!?”
Still Got It: “Don’t be silly, Nate. It was those 12 turns he stole from me that gave us you.”
Mitotsudaira realized that continuing this conversation was a no-win scenario, so she changed the subject.
Silver Wolf: “Kasuya Takenori’s Argent Clou were here, weren’t they?”
Still Got It: “Testament. She was such an energetic girl. So what’s this about her weapon?”
Silver Wolf: “I found something similar at your house.”
Still Got It: “Come to think of it, those were there.”
That confirmed it, so Mitotsudaira decided to ask about it.
Silver Wolf: “These seem to be different weapons since the shape and function are fairly different, but is equipment like this common among the Loup-Garous?”
She heard her mother groan in thought and she could easily picture the woman holding a finger to her lips.
Still Got It: “To be honest, I don’t really know.”
Her mother readily gave up.
Still Got It: “Our silver equipment was acquired during my mother’s generation. They were made by modifying the silver execution tools recovered from Joan of Arc’s execution site during the war between England and Hexagone Française. We are from the queen family which was in charge of the left wing of the Hexagone Française army at the time, so we would have had the authority to claim them.”
Silver Wolf: “You have never heard of any others?”
Still Got It: “The European forests had already been split up by my generation. Most of the Loup-Garous had scattered and I am not familiar with those who live in distant forests, even if I am technically their queen. …I am not familiar with that black-haired Loup-Garou or her family.”
“I see,” muttered Mitotsudaira while viewing that ether reproduction of the past.
The Silver Chains here had been used to restrain her mother for some bonda-…well, to tie her up. The Silver Cross must have been used to drive the obelisk into the ground.
Silver Wolf: “What did you use Argent Clou for?”
Still Got It: “That would only shame your father, so I am not saying a thing.”
If her father had not brought a “stake” with him, she would have told him to use that.
Had her father realized that?
Or was he still oblivious?
She did not know.
But something else bothered her now.
Silver Wolf: “Mother, are those weapons still at your house?”
Still Got It: “Hmm. I think I threw them in the shed.”
…You could treat them more carefully than that.
Silver Wolf: “What if someone stole them?”
Still Got It: “Not to worry. I cast a native punishment spell on them. Are you curious what it does, Nate?”
Silver Wolf: “No, I’ve heard more than enough of that from Shinto.”
But Mitotsudaira said more.
Silver Wolf: “How about I go check on them during summer break?”
Still Got It: “Would you do that for me, Nate? …Oh, I just had an idea. I can ask your king to go too, so you can visit together.”
…Now you’re just asking for trouble!!
That made her nervous.
Her mother said nothing and an odd silence fell, so the woman was definitely contacting her king.
Her king would probably have to speak with Horizon before making a decision.
…S-so he won’t have an answer for me until then.
Me: “Okay, Nate, let’s go visit your maman’s candy house during summer break or something. I’d love to make some jam while we’re there.”
Silver Wolf: “W-wait, my king!? Don’t you have to ask Horizon!?”
Me: “Don’t make it sound like Horizon completely controls my liiiiife! Plus, this is a request from your maman. It’s true the spot by my side belongs to Horizon, but if I couldn’t do anything without speaking with her first, we’d still be parallel. So we’re definitely going. I’ll tell Horizon about it later of course, but that won’t change that we’re going. That’s how these things work.”
Mitotsudaira paused but eventually nodded.
He could not see her, but she still nodded.
Silver Wolf: “I-if you are going, then I will accompany you.”
If her king was going, then Horizon would too. What about Tomo and Kimi? And most likely, all those other weirdos would come too.
…That will be hell on earth.
At least it sounded like there would be plenty to eat. Would there still be any of that giant elk bacon? In fact, she started to picture it as something like a summer vacation camp.
…Wh-why am I incapable of imagining anything remotely resembling a knightly romance!?
Was it her personality, the habits she had formed, or just Musashi’s culture? Whatever the case, she doubted it would ever change. And…
The small transport ship had arrived overhead.
She had to withdraw from here too.
She could see a hook lowered from the transport ship by a towing belt.
While attaching Nagaoka Tadaoki’s bucket to that and letting it lift him into the air, she suddenly looked to the side.
Her parents’ memories were being recreated inside the candy house.
…Those are precious memories for the two of them.
And she saw something else through the window. She had attached a Silver Chain to the towing belt hook, so this was the last of her mother’s memories she would see before she left.
She saw herself there.
This was from the other day when she had met with her mother in the morning and eaten breakfast in the candy house.
Her king had cooked and served it.
The image of her there was blatantly wary of and hostile toward her mother.
Nevertheless, that scene was replayed here via shadows.
She had felt defeated by her mother so many times before, but this may have been the worst of them all.
“Honestly. And I know you’re going to do or say something five seconds from now to make me reconsider how I’m feeling about you.”
Mitotsudaira spoke to herself while rising up and out of her mother’s forest.
“I will take this as a lesson. Instead of making more and more enemies, I will view everything through the lens of happiness.”
Kani saw Musashi’s small transport ship approaching.
She had been watching it for a while now and one thing had caught her attention.
Just before it passed the ruined tower, it had picked up something like a bucket and the Musashi 5th Special Duty Officer from the forest.
…Was Oky-kun inside that!?
She wanted to prevent an acquaintance from being taken prisoner. For a name inheritor, being carelessly captured could be seen as enough to lose that inherited name.
As his upperclassman…no, as a local acquaintance, she spoke up.
“Excuse me! What was that bucket just now!?”
The Reine des Garous turned her way after using a horizontal karate chop to slice through a tree growing from the ground. She sat on the 2m-wide stump and held her knees diagonally together.
“That was my bucket.”
“That’s not what I meant!”
“Then I will be more precise.” The Reine des Garous nodded. “That is my home’s family bucket of which I hold ownership.”
“Th-that’s the same thing!” Kani tried to use the right Far Eastern word. “Um, what is that bucket’s true identity!?”
“Well, it is an S-size wooden cooking bucket made of ether.”
“That’s the S-size!?”
“Yes, when butchering even bigger animals, it is faster to just do it out in the yard.”
“Really!?” she asked, prompting Kasuya to wordlessly slap her on the shoulder. “But that isn’t the point! What is that bucket for!?”
“Well, if you insist.” The Reine des Garous placed a hand on her cheek and laughed. “It is for cooking.”
We’re going backwards! realized Kani. It felt like taking two steps forward and three back.
What do I do!? she wondered until a divine transmission arrived.
Asano: “At thiiis point, you should realllly just ask her directly, Kani-saaan.”
Asano apparently knew what was happening here, so Kani did as she suggested. She directly asked the question on her mind.
“What do you cook using that!?”
Kasuya placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Oh, dear. That’s too bad.”
Um! she thought while choosing her words.
“Is Oky-kun in that bucket!?”
“My, my.” The Reine des Garous tilted her head. “You are a sharp one, aren’t you? No, he is not.”
Gold Mar: “Did she just admit it and then deny it immediately after?”
Silver Wolf: “Exactly what I was thinking! Like, word for word!”
Asama: “Mito, I really think you should just give up with these sorts of things.”
“Besides,” Kani heard the Reine des Garous saying. “Listen up. My forest is spread out before your eyes. …Hee hee. That sounds kind of dirty, doesn’t it? But that aside, all of this belongs to me, doesn’t it?”
“Testament! It does!”
“Testament,” the woman agreed. And, “A moment ago, Musashi’s ninja threw a boy into my forest from that ruined tower, didn’t he?”
“Yes! That was Oky-kun!”
“Then,” said the Reine des Garous. “Anything that falls into my territory belongs to me.”
Laborer: “Hey, Mitotsudaira?”
Silver Wolf: “Qu-questioning it is what she wants!”
10ZO: “Also, isn’t she pretty much admitting that we picked up Nagaoka-dono?”
“W-wait just a second!” said Kani. “The Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay are public ruins! You created that forest here without permission, so any ownership and management rights of the forest are null and void!”
“Kani? I am impressed you know that,” said Kasuya.
“My family works in the city market and the competition over space there is fierce! And my family became one of the regional leaders this year, which just makes it all the more trouble!”
Even when territory was clearly mapped out, there was always some loophole in the rules governing the right to open a store. A few different people took turns as the Commerce and Industry Guild Representative who managed that, but her hometown was a region where the distribution and flow of money were solidly entrenched. That meant the representative was required to supervise those things and provide support for any festivals while getting very little in return. She knew her parents had tried to avoid that.
…But it turned out they’d held the position less than anyone else, so the others forced them to do it!
She had heard them discussing it while handling the related paperwork after dinner.
So she used the knowledge she had gotten from them.
“Your claim here was made without authorization, so it is null and void!”
“But I have effective control of this place. It essentially belongs to me.”
“Eh!? No fair! Please give it back!”
“Hm, but I only need it for the one night, so I will return it tomorrow morning.”
“Testament. And one other thing. Do you have a festival or another public event you must hold here before tomorrow morning?”
“No, I don’t!”
“Then,” she said. “There are no public problems with me holding effective control of this place until then, right? I mean, my effective control should have gone unnoticed and caused no one any trouble. You are only lodging this complaint because you just so happened to notice my effective control. And even if you are legally correct, your complaint is essentially meaningless, don’t you think? I mean, it began without anyone noticing and it will end without anyone noticing.”
“When you put it like that, I guess so!”
Kasuya placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Wait, no! That place legally belongs to everyone! Please hand it over!”
“Then how about this?”
The Reine des Garous made a suggestion.
The fog rising around her took the form of wolves.
Everyone on the Hashiba side prepared for a fight, but the wolves paid them no heed. The pack of bluish-white ether beasts walked through the forest, stuck their faces into the bushes and hollows, and picked things up in their mouths.
They were pieces of broken weapons and bullet cartridges.
The Reine des Garous held her hands together and spoke.
“I am working to clean up this public space. Now you have no reason to stop my effective control, do you?”
“You’ll leave it cleaner than when you arrived!?”
“Of course. Do you think the Reine des Garous would leave a single piece of trash behind?” she said. “Also, most of this trash was left by all of you. You littered in a public space and just left it there… So when I clean that up, I am doing a public service, aren’t I? That means my effective control until tomorrow morning will be spent on public service. …Am I wrong?”
“Then I’ll leave that to you!”
Kasuya slapped her on the back of the head.
Kanitama: “What do we do!? She’s a really nice person!”
Black Wolf: “Um, Kani? She is only saying that to protect the bridge. It has no bearing on her personality.”
Kanitama: “Eh!? Kasuya, are you saying you can clean up all the trash we left on the bridge by tomorrow morning!?”
Kimee: “Can you, Kasuya? If you can, then get working. …Cause I’m definitely not doing it.”
Black Wolf: “Of course I can’t!”
Asano: “Ummm, excuse meee. I think this goes beeeyond our local authorityyy.”
Asano: “I meeean, that bridge was originallyyy Nagaoka’s responsibilllity.”
Nabe3: “Nagaoka was defeated and the bridge has been occupied. There’s nothing we can do if he was captured by the enemy. This is their territory now.”
Nabeshima thought to herself while performing emergency repairs on her mechanical dragon atop a transport ship next to the Uraga Channel.
…This is goodbye, Nagaoka.
He must have done what he could. Most everyone on the bridge and beyond the bridge had withdrawn and the injured were being protected. That would partially be due to the enemy showing restraint, but…
Nabe3: “According to the report from Musashi, he injured their 1st Special Duty Officer and it ended in a draw. …That’s really good for a rookie.”
She was a rookie too, but Nagaoka was in middle school.
He had done very well indeed.
“Although I bet it won’t be enough to satisfy him.”
With that, Nabeshima attached a repaired mechanical dragon front arm to the hook of the transport ship’s cargo-lifting jib crane.
She did not have a spare for the destroyed arm. She had only cut apart and fit together some warship armor to create something with equal weight. It could almost be seen as a prosthetic arm for a mechanical dragon.
One of the Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji was standing on the shoulder to guide the approach and he looked over at her.
“You’ll be able to move it with the shoulder and it will function as a fixed wing while in flight! But the transport ship’s hatch panel material was the closest match, so we had to forcibly match the divine protections!”
That meant it could move. That was all for now, but…
…I just have to do what I can, right?
Right now, that meant repairs.
She felt Nagaoka had fought well. And as a result…
…Musashi will have a hard time using their 1st Special Duty Officer in Nördlingen. Or so I hope.
His partner, the English Princess, was a healing expert. And the Asama Shrine was the main shrine of the mother goddess, so they had plenty of those sorts of spells.
So Nagaoka’s accomplishment would not really amount to much. But on the other hand…
“Well, he took things a little far for a middle schooler.”
She smiled bitterly.
“A name inheritor refused to surrender while surrounded and isolated inside the Reine des Garous’s forest, dueled Musashi’s 1st Special Duty Officer, and even injured him. …You are one hard worker, Nagaoka.”
Nabeshima said “now, then” again.
Nagaoka would be going to Nördlingen.
She did not know whether or not that was what he wanted, but she did know one thing.
“You’re going there to do what you must do. Isn’t that right, Nagaoka?”
Nabe3: “Kani, what are you going to do?”
What am I going to do!? wondered Kani.
She had to assume Nagaoka had been captured. She would just have to leave him with the enemy.
Whether or not that that would harm his position as a name inheritor depended on the enemy.
So for now…
Kanitama: “If Oky-kun is gone, what are we supposed to do here!?”
Nabe3: “To be honest, things there are not looking good.”
“They really aren’t,” agreed Big Katou.
She sent a simple map via divine transmission. It depicted the center of the Bousou Peninsula and the arrangement of both sides of the conflict.
Kani grasped the situation at a glance.
Kanitama: “We’re just about isolated here, aren’t we!?”
Yoshiaki agreed with Kani’s assessment.
…She is not at all wrong.
Fukushima had been right about the girl learning to read the flow of battle.
That was why she had rushed in to support Kasuya earlier. Since that had allowed everyone to successfully withdraw, she must have read the timing correctly.
She had done well.
But that successful withdrawal was causing them trouble now.
There were a lot of them, but many were injured or exhausted after crossing the long bridge.
They had collected all the personnel they normally would have been forced to leave behind.
That left them with a considerable handicap. Their movement would be slow and their offense and defense would be weak.
The number of people they had saved would restrict them from here on.
The Musashi forces were still in front of Kani’s group. As was the Reine des Garous.
What would happen if they used their momentum to make a charge now?
Kasuya and Kani could protect anyone within arm’s reach, but everyone else would be in danger.
…After all, the battlefield will be on the peninsula from her on out.
The casualties on the bridge had been minimal because the Reine des Garous had been their only enemy and because the battlefield had been limited to the bridge.
With the battlefield so narrow, Kasuya and Kani could cover everyone.
But from here on, they would be on the vast land of the peninsula.
On a wider battlefield, Kasuya and Kani could not cover everyone.
And there was another problem:
Kimee: “Musashi’s landing unit has arrived in central Bousou. …Kasuya, Kani. Your northern unit has been cut off from the main Hashiba ground unit to the south of central Bousou.”
That meant Kani was right.
Kimee: “Despite maintaining your numbers, you are effectively isolated with many exhausted and injured warriors.”
Black Wolf: “Um, Yoshiaki? Are you trying to scare us?”
Kimee: “Now that you mention it, it did come off that way, didn’t it?”
Kanitama: “It’s like the characters in manga or anime that always think about what happens if they fail instead of how to overcome the crisis they find themselves in! When we watched those things during dinner, my dad would always say they’re the type to drive themselves to an early grave from stress!”
AnG: “Kime-chan, are you the type to psychologically corner yourself?”
Kimee: “No, I only do it other people. …I am very kind to myself.”
Nine Horns: “Is that something to sound so proud of?”
Three Legs: “Oh, but, Kuki-kun. You do talk a lot about how bad your situation is.”
Nine Horns: “I am setting the stage so my ultimate victory looks appropriately impressive.”
Asano: “So has anyooone decided what to dooo?”
Almost Everyone: “Ah.”
The night wind carried a female voice saying “I have no choice then”.
Below the darkness, someone could see the aerial fleets exchanging fire in the sky to the southwest and the Reine des Garous’s forest on the bay to the northwest.
She stood on Satomi land.
“Konishi-sama! The nearby surviving ships and other forces have been gathered together!”
She stood on the deck of a landed light warship and she waved at that report with two gods of war behind her.
“Good job, everyone. We won’t be as busy now, so get something to eat. I’ll hand out the takoyaki I cooked.”
“Testament! Thank you! We will now release the cargo in order!”
“Right, right,” said Konishi before looking up at one of the gods of war behind her. “Tokishige-kun?”
Konishi spoke to the girl sitting on the shoulder of the god of war named Integrity.
“Tokishige-kun, this is going to be a big battle, but can you handle it?”
“What would you do if I betrayed you?”
“Hmm.” Konishi tilted her head. “Did you learn nothing in the time since Satomi was destroyed?”
“Hmm,” said Konishi again. “If you betray Hashiba, Satomi probably could attack us from behind and claim the Satomi Liberation a success. The Kantou forces would probably be delighted. Satomi really would be the hero who drove Hashiba out.”
“That’s only in Kantou.”
“I get it. I get it.” Tokishige slowly breathed a sigh and spoke from higher up in the night. “The non-Kantou nations couldn’t share the benefits of that betrayal, so it would only be seen as a betrayal. …After liberating Satomi, Europe would see Musashi as a nation that sides with traitors.”
“That’s right. But…you understand, don’t you?”
“If Satomi is going to lose, wouldn’t betraying us be the better choice?”
“I’m from Sakai.”
“Right,” said Tokishige. “Sakai was originally a free commerce city, but it was swallowed up by P.A. Oda.”
This is such a valuable time, thought Konishi while speaking.
“This is our first time speaking like this, isn’t it?”
“You only arrived here five days ago. Of course it is.”
“It’s too bad.”
“Testament,” said Konishi, but she did not clarify what she meant. “Let’s get back on topic.”
“You mean Sakai?”
“I do,” confirmed Konishi while looking to the west. In the western sky, the Musashi was beginning to retake its three-row formation.
She opened her mouth while looking up at its giant form.
“Sakai will never regain its original form.”
“Why not? Won’t it have a chance after the fall of Hashiba?”
“It used to be a city that claimed to be free but was actually ruled by the biggest merchants, but now it’s become a free trade city that obeys a certain nation. The thing is, the latter means more profit for more people, so that’s probably how it will stay even if the specific nation changes.”
“I see,” was all Tokishige said. She did start to say something.
But she stopped.
She looked up into the western sky from the god of war’s shoulder and finally did speak with her gaze flat.
“Having enough wealth to redistribute must be nice.”
“Why yes, it is. …I really wish I could have spoken with you more. It honestly felt like it took these five days before you finally got fed up with being too cautious around me to speak.”
“It’s probably because it’s late at night. And the battlefield mood seems to have you talking more than usual.”
“Same for you.”
Hearing that finally put a smile on Tokishige’s face. Or Konishi thought she saw one there.
“I couldn’t help it,” she said. “You’re not quite allies, but not quite rulers either. You’ve surrounded us in such a strange way. You’re a representative we can’t even think about defying, so how was I supposed to speak with you?”
“That’s just the weak declaring themselves weak as a nasty weapon.”
“When the weak start naming themselves weak, it means they’ve found the strength to use it to their advantage. But there are times when you can’t claim that name and are just too exhausted to do anything at all, merchant.”
“That doesn’t make you weak.” Konishi shrugged. “To be clear, taking a break and slacking off are not the same thing, politician.”
“True enough.” Tokishige sounded bored. “I really do wish I’d spoken with you sooner.”
“Have you discussed this before?”
“A long time ago with the other members of the Eight Dogs.”
“How did they respond?”
“They either gave a troubled smile or they fiercely opposed the idea.”
“The former were thinking ‘yeah, I know’. The latter were just morons.”
“Yeah,” she said. “But the latter response was more comforting.”
“You are a difficult girl.”
“Not as difficult as this situation. I thought I could take things easy once we were surrounded, but now we’re at war and the tables have turned.”
“I agree with you there.”
Konishi had felt similarly about Sakai for a time.
In that sense, she was in a position to teach this girl something. So…
“Well, it’s not surprising, but you’re not accustomed to these situations. You can’t help it.”
“True. …Even in the Eight Dogs, I normally fought with the general warriors. I honestly feel in over my head fighting a battle with politics involved like this.”
“Can’t we fix this system where doing the difficult things is easier in the long run?”
“What do you propose?”
“Satomi was crushed and conquered by you, but we still have our rights and you gave us some rules to follow. If cleverly pretending to be weak isn’t going to overturn those rights or rules, then finding excuses to stay put really was a waste of time. If we could have demanded something, we should have done so.” Bitter laughter shook the air. “Just like taking a break and slacking off are not the same thing, weakness and inaction are not the same thing either.”
Konishi thought, This conversation is based on the assumption that we’re going to lose and part ways.
Of course, she was not generous enough to state that out loud.
“Strong or weak and exhausted or lazy, the heart does what it wants.”
“Your thoughts aren’t really in your heart, though.”
“You can’t see other people’s thoughts, but they’re acting on them all the same.” Konishi stretched and viewed the aerial battle to the southwest and the ether forest to the northwest. “We’re all just doing what we can when we can. That’s how business opportunities work.”
“Will we ever have a chance to speak again?”
“Well,” said Konishi while scratching her head and shaking her long hair. “I’ll be captured and executed at Sekigahara.”
“If we discuss this after that, we’ll only be sharing memories. Our political discussions will have no authority behind them.”
“In that case…”
Tokishige shook her legs impatiently. Her heels kicked at Integrity’s armor, but the sound was drowned out by the distant cannon fire.
The battle was approaching. And in that atmosphere, Konishi opened a lernen figur.
“Let’s talk a bit about what I can do now.”
She opened the divine network and sent out an external divine transmission instead of limiting it to the Hashiba group.
“There is something I must discuss with the Musashi and Satomi forces.”
Koni-ko: “Um, excuse me a moment. I would like to speak with a representative of the Musashi or Satomi forces concerning the future of the Hashiba unit on the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay and at the north end of the Bousou Peninsula. So how about it?”
Masazumi took a deep breath atop the small transport ship flying above the great bridge ruins.
She was surrounded by an ocean of light. The small transport ship was half submerged in the ether forest so the Hashiba ground forces could not get a good firing angle.
Asama was in charge of controlling the interference on the ship’s power, but Masazumi had her own job.
“Here it is, Crossdressing Honda-kun. …It’s Konishi Yukinaga. That name inheritor is probably the commander of the ground forces of the Bousou Peninsula of the Keichou Campaign.”
That’s too many ‘ofs’… she meaninglessly thought, but then she realized something.
“Oh, sorry. I got distracted by something dumb and forgot to focus on what you were actually saying. So who is this Konishi?”
Everyone glanced around and Asama finally spoke up.
“Oh, without Horizon here, there’s no one to shout ‘Mitotsudaira-sama!’ ”
“Y-you all need to stop letting Ariadust-kun get away with being so mean!”
The Aoi Sister struck a Y-pose and shouted while Neshinbara said that.
Silver Wolf: “I-I am busy dealing with the Nagaoka boy right now!”
Me: “So, Nate, who’s this Konishi person?”
Silver Wolf: “Judge! She is a merchant-turned-commander and one of the primary representatives of the Keichou Campaign. She should be in charge of the Bousou Peninsula ground forces during the Kantou Liberation.”
“But,” continued Mitotsudaira.
Silver Wolf: “The only name inheritor on the Great Bridge Ruins of Edo Bay was the sniper Nagaoka Tadaoki. That means he would have been in charge of protecting it. But since Konishi has come forward with him gone…”
Vice President: “The jurisdiction falls to her when the original person in charge is missing. So is she his superior?”
Silver Wolf: “Judge. Kuki is probably the effective supreme commander, but he needs a second-in-command since he is focused on the fleet to the south. I think that would be her.”
“Then,” said Adele.
Flat Vassal: “What kind of negotiation would someone with her authority want at a time like this?”
Nagaya-Stable: “That is a simple matter.”
It was Ookubo. She was sending her words here while entering Satomi on the other small transport ship.
Nagaya-Stable: “Vice President, you prepare to leave. You have accomplished more than enough here, so I will use this as my first official appearance.”
Konishi saw the enemy’s response.
Musashi’s small transport ship rose up a bit from the ether forest to the northwest, and…
Nagaya-Stable: “Hashiba Negotiator Konishi Yukinaga. I am Ookubo Nagayasu/Tadachika and I will be the Musashi/Satomi negotiator. I would like to respond to your request and negotiate.”
Negotiate about what?
Nagaya-Stable: “Your northern unit in front of the Reine des Garous? I recommend they withdraw.”
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