Horizon:Volume 7B Chapter 47
Chapter 47: Reverser at the Eleventh Hour
March onward, invaders
The incessant footsteps of longing
Will not necessarily be ended by a simple resolution
Point Allocation (Scheming)
…This is crazy.
Yoshiyasu sighed within Righteousness after moving through the forest.
Ookubo knew how to play the game.
She looked like the mature type and she could be level-headed when it mattered.
That could make her seem stiff, but it worked well against the enemy.
Yoshiyasu sighed in the small room created as a virtual cockpit inside Righteousness.
“What will you do now, Ookubo? Crushing the enemy is not victory; it is merely elimination.”
Ookubo sighed in the forest.
…I need to thank Aerial Fleet Commander Murakami Motoyoshi once this is all over.
This situation was only possible thanks to his precise delaying tactics and invasion. They appeared to be a little behind schedule, but they had in fact made it in time.
That was why she had started on what they needed to demonstrate in this battle.
She formed the words needed to fulfill her thoughts.
Nagaya-Stable: “Listen, Konishi Yukinaga. This is a simple deal.”
She gave her initial offer.
Nagaya-Stable: “First, the transport ships in the northeast. How about we claim possession of those?”
…She’s working to finish us off now.
Konishi smiled bitterly in front of her lernen figur.
Koni-ko: “It was smart of you to not recommend the withdrawal or surrender of our northern unit.”
Nagaya-Stable: “Even if you did that, some other unit could still join with the transport ships. I am nipping any future possibilities in the bud. That is all.”
Koni-ko: “Is that so? …Then what are you offering in return?”
She answered that without a moment’s delay.
Nagaya-Stable: “I will forbid our ground units from attacking your aerial fleet.”
Konishi was briefly dumbfounded by Ookubo’s suggestion.
…Hold on now.
The anti-air effectiveness of the enemy’s ground units had been proven well enough by the earlier sinking of the light warship.
Had even that been a product demonstration?
It was true Kuki’s fleet had its hands full dealing with the west and south fronts. They would badly want to avoid being struck from behind. But…
Koni-ko: “You will forbid your own forces from attacking? What do you think war is? And how do you benefit from that?”
Nagaya-Stable: “Are you dumb?”
The enemy responded.
Nagaya-Stable: “All that matters is that the benefit of firing on your fleet is outweighed by the benefit of the deal I make with you. …Nothing says we have to fight. War refers to how both sides of the conflict interact. In that case, it can easily take the form of a deal made through negotiation, can’t it?”
“Listen,” she said.
Nagaya-Stable: “Unlike our Vice President, I am a pacifist.”
Gold Mar: “Treason?”
Vice President: “N-no, peace is good! There’s nothing wrong with that!”
Me: “Don’t think we can’t hear the ‘but war is good too’ you added in your head.”
Asama: “Toori-kun, you don’t have to say it just because we’re all thinking it.”
Vice President: “I feel like Asama has turned against me lately!”
Koni-ko: “That deal is not good enough.”
Konishi crossed her arms as she spoke.
Ookubo’s suggestion would be enough for her to make up for her mistake to Kuki, but…
Koni-ko: “Bringing the northern unit and transport ships together was meant as a way to keep the Keichou Campaign going. I cannot eliminate that lifeline even if our main base is threatened.”
Nagaya-Stable: “So as long as you can keep the Keichou Campaign going, you are saying the Hashiba forces are willing to accept the slaughter of their comrades in their Bousou base? All because of their commander’s mistake?”
Koni-ko: “If I must be punished for my mistake, that will come after the battle, moron.”
Koni-ko: “A mistake is a mistake, but wars must be won. So I will win despite my mistake and then accept whatever punishment that mistake requires afterwards. …That is the deal I have made with myself.”
That was the worst kind of decision for a commander to make, but she was in the Bousou base as well.
One thing was clear about this negotiation.
…I have the upper hand.
The pieces were still in place to keep the Keichou Campaign going.
The other side could only continue making suggestions.
A breakdown in negotiations would mean her side might be wiped out, but…
Koni-ko: “Either way, those of us at the base have to do the best we can. We can never eliminate the possibility of being wiped out in the end.”
Nagaya-Stable: “Then I will offer something else as well.”
What possible deal would be worth giving up the continuation of the Keichou Campaign?
Nagaya-Stable: “Vice Chancellor’s Aide Tachibana Muneshige and his aide Gin will open up the eastern coast as a noncombat zone to be used for withdrawals.”
Konishi gasped a bit at what Ookubo had offered.
…They will open a hole in their siege of our base?
And she was offering to open up the entire east side.
Agreeing to a noncombat zone would safely open up the coast and they would be able to withdraw from the beach.
Wait, thought Konishi, although she did not know if it was the enemy or herself she wanted to stop. Either way, she sensed some kind of danger.
The enemy saw war as a kind of deal.
She was willing to use sacrifice, strategy, and war results as bargaining chips in that deal.
She was not a merchant.
She was a politician.
But, thought Konishi to change her train of thought.
Can she really offer us anything more valuable than keeping the Keichou Campaign going?
That settled it then.
These negotiations had failed.
So this was only meant to buy time and delay the opening of hostilities. But…
Nagaya-Stable: “Are you listening?”
Koni-ko: “What is it?”
Nagaya-Stable: “Judge. I am currently waiting to send out our northern siege line. And a minute has passed.”
Koni-ko: “I am aware of that!”
She had actually forgotten, but she could think faster than anyone.
She hurriedly considered the situation.
…If the northern siege line was put in place, withdrawal would become even more difficult.
And with an anti-air line included, it would be difficult for the northern transport ships to move south.
That had been the original plan, but…
…Has it not happened yet?
This is bad, she realized.
What was bad? The fact that she was thinking she could actually fix this.
If she regained the option of withdrawal, she could make up for her mistake as commander.
Nagaya-Stable: “What do you gain by us not putting our northern siege line in place?”
Ookubo explained it.
Nagaya-Stable: “That is simple:
“1: The transport ships in the north can come and go.
“2: You gain a withdrawal route from the south.
“3: You regain the withdrawal route you lost due to your command mistake.
“Isn’t that right? And #3 seems especially important, if you ask me.”
She was right about that.
Nagaya-Stable: “So how about it?”
Koni-ko: “How about what?”
Nagaya-Stable: “Your command mistake has left the base unable to withdraw in the face of certain doom, but a backup base can continue the Keichou Campaign in your stead. …Isn’t that more of a last resort meant to ensure victory in the end?”
Koni-ko: “Testament. And what is wrong with that?”
“Judge,” replied Ookubo.
Nagaya-Stable: “Wouldn’t it be better to eliminate your command mistake and win with your main base, thus ensuring you take no blame whatsoever?”
That girl knew what to say to hurt her.
…She understands this perfectly.
It would be a lot easier if she accepted Ookubo’s offer. In exchange for opening a withdrawal route and eliminating Konishi’s mistake, Konishi would cease her own actions in the north. That would eliminate the biggest problem for both sides and they could resume fighting on more equal footing.
But this was war.
However it happened, whoever survived to the end was the winner.
She had made a mistake, but if she could win like this, then she would do so. That was how war worked. She knew what her fate at Sekigahara would be, so she was prepared to take responsibility and drag other people down with her.
She inhaled, filling her lungs with the night air.
Koni-ko: “Are you dumb?”
She said it.
Koni-ko: “Winning with this base and winning with the northern forces is the same in the end. The latter just means I was appropriately cautious. …Or are you saying you will let me win with this base?”
Nagaya-Stable: “If you will withdraw after winning, then sure.”
Konishi realized how frightening an opponent this was.
She really did only see war as a deal to be made.
But that was why this would work here.
This is war and there’s no getting around that, she thought.
Koni-ko: “But I can’t do that. If I will win in the end either way, then this is a surefire business opportunity. I cannot throw that out because you dangle some bait in front of my eyes.”
Nagaya-Stable: “Even if the victory that gives you is a lot less ‘profitable’?”
Koni-ko: “We’ll have been wiped out by then, right?”
A laugh escaped her mouth as she said that.
It was not a laugh of desperation. It came from the calm of having made this deal with herself. So…
Koni-ko: “Sorry, but I will be letting out anyone who wants to withdraw. They will no longer be part of our Hashiba forces. They’re on temporary leave from the academy and they simply came here for an early summer break.”
A low stir ran through her surroundings.
The others were listening to her negotiation. She had of course left this divine transmission open so everyone could understand the situation and that may have been why this happened.
Everyone in the main base spoke up on the divine transmission.
“We have no intention of losing!”
“Testament! We just have to win here, right!?”
“What’s the big deal!? If we need to escape and withdrawal is ‘impossible’, that just means we have to try harder to find a way to escape!”
That’s right, thought Konishi as she looked down from the deck of the warship in the base’s central plaza.
2000 warriors were gathered there with their lights extinguished.
Konishi looked down in front of her.
Some of them would of course want to withdraw, but the others spoke to them:
“Hey! Take this guy with you. He plans to stay, but he failed his midterms.”
“If you’re going on ahead, then wait for me in Akihabara. There’s an unwritten rule that it’s neutral territory!”
“Go on ahead, captain! The Representative Committee Head wants some observation results during summer break!”
They quickly divided themselves up between those being kicked out and those kicking the others out.
They all understood.
Whether or not Hashiba could leave some forces in Kantou would be a turning point in the conflict between Hashiba and Matsudaira.
She would not thank them. This was their decision.
She would not forget her mistake. She would make up for that.
If it came to it, she would drive all the others out so she could act as a one-person “base”.
Those were the decisions she considered.
So she relaxed her shoulders and spoke.
Nagaya-Stable: “Have negotiations failed?”
Koni-ko: “Testament. They have. …Ookubo, you can tear up every agreement we have made thus far if you like. We will fight our war, not craft a deal in place of war.”
Nagaya-Stable: “Are you saying you will continue fighting there instead of withdrawing?”
Koni-ko: “I am.”
After Konishi said that, Ookubo paused for a moment and spoke.
Nagaya-Stable: “Then I will continue my war as well.”
Konishi nodded at Ookubo’s use of the term “my war”.
…So she will do this in her way as well.
Then Konishi realized they had entered another “pause”. Based on the flow of negotiation thus far, this “pause” would be for Ookubo to state what they would do next.
But Konishi felt something click into place in her mind.
It was like the many scattered gears and springs suddenly fitting together. And it sent a word quickly rising from her chest.
A vague thought filled her mind.
Something was being built up there, but she could not quite picture it yet.
It was massive and she could not quite grasp it yet, but she knew she could not let this slip away. And she knew what she had to say in order to grasp it.
This was a ridiculous adlib that skipped past so many steps.
She could figure out the shape and reason for this idea later, but for now there was something she had to say.
Koni-ko: “On second thought, I accept all of your conditions.”
She said it.
Koni-ko: “I will give you possession of the northeastern transport ships!”
She heard some confused voices around her.
Kuki was hurriedly sending her a message as well.
But none of those would help her with this business opportunity, so she did not listen to or read them. She had to focus on something else right now.
…What is this?
Something like impatience filled her heart.
The one thing she knew for sure was that throwing out this situation would be dangerous and it would mean losing something crucial.
She would lose the first thing a merchant had to buy.
That was not victory, money, materials, or people.
Nagaya-Stable: “You have just claimed your future, Konishi Yukinaga.”
The irritation in Ookubo’s voice told Konishi she had chosen correctly.
This was a product that made discarding a winning hand the correct answer.
She could see it now.
The gears and puzzle pieces fitting together in her mind had taken their ultimate form.
So she opened her mouth.
Koni-ko: “I’ve finally caught up. You are Ookubo Nagayasu, the most powerful gold mine magistrate who was even ostracized by Matsudaira. And…”
This enemy dealt with more than just money.
Koni-ko: “You are also Ookubo Tadachika, a scheming politician. …A Catholic merchant commander, and the Hashiba forces that will fail at Sekigahara, have finally caught up with you.”
“You,” began Konishi.
Koni-ko: “You planned to sit here until the Azuchi Castle arrived, didn’t you!?”
Masazumi looked back east from atop the small transport ship that had started to ascend and accelerate.
The battlefield was there.
On the opposite side of vast Edo Bay, cannon fire lit up the sky by the southern bay entrance.
But she was focused on the forested peninsula in front of that.
Her underclassman was fighting her own war against the enemy representative. But…
“Hey, Seijun, isn’t that Koni-tan’s daughter on the other side? What’s got her so worked up all of a sudden?”
“Judge. Konishi noticed at the very last second what Ookubo had been secretly setting up all this time.”
“Eh?” said everyone with a tilt of the head.
…Ookubo does love secret scheming like this, so it can be hard to follow.
Especially when some improvised decisions were thrown into the mix.
Fine, then, thought Masazumi while lightly pointing toward the Bousou Peninsula.
“The truth is, the Satomi Liberation is entering a situation that’s difficult for Musashi Ariadust Academy, Mouri, Mogami, Satomi, or really any single nation to judge.”
“Heh heh,” laughed Kimi. “I know what you mean! After all, everyone is pulling an all-nighter fighting, so no one’s following the academy rule suggesting 8 hours of sleep a night! That’s it, isn’t it!?”
Was that a rule? Masazumi felt like it might be, but she had forgotten because it had nothing to do with politics.
Regardless, the current situation was more serious than that.
“Listen. According to the Testament, the Hashiba forces fully withdraw from the Keichou Campaign. Do you get what that means?”
“Judge,” everyone replied. But some of them…
Silver Wolf: “Ah.”
Me: “Eh!? What is it!? Did you figure it out, Nate!? Then tell me and only me!”
That idiot moves fast. But at this point, the problem was clear.
“The withdrawal must happen to follow the Testament, but you saw Ookubo and Konishi’s negotiation, right? Konishi is unable to withdraw.”
“Ookubo tried to negotiate so they could withdraw, but…”
Everyone caught on as she said that, so Asama raised her hand.
“Konishi…-san? Um, she rejected that withdrawal, didn’t she?”
“Judge. That puts the Hashiba forces in violation of the Testament, so Ookubo will stay where she is to preserve the status quo rather than assist in that violation. And…”
The idiot raised his hand.
“If she waits there, won’t Monkey Girl show up?”
“It’s fine if she does. In fact, that’s exactly what Ookubo wants.”
This was Ookubo’s plan.
“She intended to let Testament Representative Hashiba arrive and force her to punish Konishi and the Hashiba base for their decision.”
You just about got me, thought Konishi while breathing a heated sigh.
For some reason, her back and neck were soaked with sweat.
But she had done it. She had seen through her enemy’s continuous scheme at the very last moment.
Koni-ko: “Hashiba-kun is the Testament Union Representative, so if she arrives and punishes me, it would be a rebuke of my violation. And if my violation was rebuked, I would be forced to withdraw.”
Nagaya-Stable: “Hashiba could always start the battle then while taking your side.”
It was true the withdrawal was described in the Testament, but even if they were completely surrounded, they could still fight as long as the battle had yet to actually start at that point. But…
Koni-ko: “If we used an interpretation like that, the entire world would turn against Hashiba-kun for using the interpretations to her advantage. Of course, she is not the type to feel fear even if it does harm her, but…”
She went ahead and said it.
Koni-ko: “I am not such an inept merchant that I must rely on my superior’s good nature and accept great harm to her reputation. …The world trembles at the sound of Hashiba’s name, so I would much rather be known as the merchant who put herself at risk to protect that reputation from harm.”
Koni-ko: “Even if we did start the battle then, we would still have to withdraw after it was over. Because the Testament says so. Which means…”
That settled it.
Koni-ko: “After accepting all your conditions, I too will forget everything we discussed so we can fight this like normal. …Got that?”
Ookubo moved in the forest. She raised her right hand.
She smacked her own forehead. Hard.
“I wasn’t trying to look down on her. Did I get careless?”
“You did your job well,” said Kanou. “Because even if you abandon everything you discussed, our siege forces cannot be moved back. And of course, we cannot make up for the loss of the small transport ship.”
“Don’t bother, Kanou-kun. Don’t bother.”
“You are sulking again, milady.”
Ookubo averted her gaze at that. She took a sip of the lightly plum flavored sports drink in her hip bamboo bottle.
“And I was just thinking I had ended this.”
She would have been leaving the aerial fleet battle to Murakami, but waiting for Hashiba’s arrival would have meant avoiding all losses from their ground forces.
And once the enemy withdrew after Hashiba’s arrival, they would have won Satomi almost bloodlessly.
That would have been the best result for the Kantou Liberation.
“But that inept merchant went for the option with the most losses.”
“Milady, can’t you just think of this as simply returning to square one?”
“A politician’s skill can be seen in how far they reduce the damage from ‘square one’.”
Ookubo groaned “oh, god” again.
Vice President: “Hey, Ookubo.”
Nagaya-Stable: “What? Here for an inept attempt at praise?”
Vice President: “No, well, how should I put this?”
Nagaya-Stable: “Out with it already.”
Vice President: “All of that about refusing to accept their surrender was just your way of guiding things toward the least damaging result, right?”
She said it.
Vice President: “Fighting to avoid loss is our policy…so you did well.”
Nagaya-Stable: “I did nothing of the sort! Moron!”
She had thought she had managed to pull that off across this battlefield.
She had believed it during the negotiation when the enemy had fortified the base’s defenses and gone along with her plan.
She felt so stupid for getting even a little excited back then.
“I really can’t stand it.”
Hearing that, Kanou placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Milady, when she said you ‘did well’, she was not referring to the result.”
“She was assessing the conviction behind your negotiation.”
“I know that. …Besides, doesn’t that mean she didn’t trust me to do that?”
“To be honest, milady, I do not think you should be asking whether someone trusts you when you recently used the student general assembly to very nearly strip her of her authority.”
“Well, okay, I don’t really have a comeback for that…”
What a pain, she thought. And…
She was feeling a lot better now. She must have blown off some steam with all that shouting.
“Thank you, Kanou-kun. …Besides, I do know what the Vice President was saying.”
“Then let me tell you something else you already know.”
“What is that?”
“You tend to explode with emotion when it comes to the Vice President.”
She shouted “What!?” loud enough for everyone around her to look back her way.
And they turned back toward the forest without saying a word.
She was supposed to be the schemer, yet she felt like she was being controlled by something even bigger.
But whatever the case, the war was not over yet.
“I need to stay focused.”
She took a breath and put herself back in a warfighting mood.
She lightly slapped her cheeks and opened a sign frame to say what had to be said.
Nagaya-Stable: “Konishi Yukinaga.”
There was something she had to do while the divine transmission was still open.
Nagaya-Stable: “There is one thing I would like to negotiate or suggest. Is that okay?”
Kani opened a few lernen figurs while looking alternately between the sky and straight ahead.
The lernen figurs showed the negotiation and a map of Bousou. They also showed their formation, the distribution of personnel, and the level of injury calculated from their divine protection management.
As one of those people, a number of feelings and decisions came to mind while she viewed it all, but she also moved her eyes.
There was an ether forest 30m in front of her. The Musashi forces and the Mouri warriors were in that forest and the Reine des Garous was seated in the center of it all, enjoying a late-night meal with her husband.
The two of them were eating the fruits she produced just by waving her hand.
“Delicious! I could swear it was warming my body!”
“Oh, dear. How embarrassing. Is that anything to say after eating a part of me?”
It was incredible how they created their own little world there, but Kani recalled the Reine des Garous being like that at Odawara too.
However, the real problem was in the sky. Specifically, in the northeastern sky behind her.
There was a long row of black shapes there.
Those were the transport ships that had landed to the northeast. The ones not sunk by the Tachibana couple were lining up to approach them, but they had stopped.
That was because they now belonged to Ookubo and the enemies.
But the enemy said something unexpected.
Nagaya-Stable: “I would like to transfer the flight-capable northeastern transport ships to Hashiba.”
A stir ran through everyone around Kani.
Why would the enemy do that? Further words arrived to explain that.
Koni-ko: “I accept. And in exchange…”
Konishi spoke as the commander on the scene.
Koni-ko: “Our entire northern unit will board those ships. That will count as ‘withdrawing’, so they will all be protected from the battle. …Is that okay?”
“What!?” shouted Kani. “I can still have more of my best to do!”
But then the person next to her held out a hand.
It was Kasuya. Her right hand touched Kani’s left shoulder.
Kani was only slightly knocked off balance, but her knees gave out below her.
Just before her knees slammed into the pavement on the ground, Kasuya stuck a hand below her arm and lifted her up.
The girl was strong. Instead of simply supporting her, it was more like Kani was bounced back up onto her weak legs.
When she looked back, she saw Kasuya giving her a still look.
“You have done plenty of your best already.”
“I-I can keep going!”
“Then you should train more so you can keep going without wearing yourself out.”
Kasuya looked up into the western sky as she said that.
Eight giant ships were spread out across the heavens there. The bottom was colored black and Musashi’s small transport ship was flying toward that great form.
Musashi’s main force was boarding that ship.
They were going to Nördlingen after already fighting the Hashiba forces here.
“They already fought the Sieges of Odawara and Kanie Castle during the day, so they sure are tough.”
Kani agreed with Kasuya’s assessment.
She heard something in the sky. With ownership of the transport ships back to Konishi, they were descending once more.
The deep sound of the wind shook her body. And that sound meant something for them.
“Our part of the Keichou Campaign is over!”
“My, my. We are not done yet.” Kasuya smiled a little. “The cargo on these ships is meant as supplies for the fighters once the battle is over. We must prepare for that and we must also prepare for their healing and rest. …Can you cook?”
“Testament! I can!”
Kani did not hesitate to reply. This meant there was still something she could do. She could still be of use to the others. So she looked to the battlefield and shouted to the people she knew were causing the lights of battle to the south.
“Please do your best!”
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