Horizon:Volume 7C Chapter 66
Chapter 66: Crosser at the Pier
I will be right there
But give me a second
Point Allocation (Satisfaction)
Kuki viewed the space that had formed the battlefield.
With a viewpoint from the south of the Bousou Peninsula, all the land visible from the north to the west fell under that category.
He could see the Azuchi in the sea to east and his fleet and the Mouri fleet in the sky to north.
The Yamagata Castle and the Pension Versailles were nearby to the west.
The red of flames and the black of smoke rose from the sea, the beaches, the forests, and the slopes and he heard the occasional dull boom of an explosion triggered by the fires.
But at the moment, he mostly heard the wind.
This was the sea breeze.
It blew in from the east, as if washing away the heated metal scent in the air.
He had a thought while surrounded by near silence and stillness.
…I will never face a greater battle than this.
He felt this had been the greatest battle in his career. A lot had happened and he had learned so much for the first time here.
He doubted he would ever forget how he had been reunited with a powerful foe and exchanged tactics over the course of the battle.
But, he added as a reminder. Then he spoke aloud.
“Attention, everyone who fought in the Keichou Campaign. This is your representative, Kuki Yoshitaka, speaking.”
He opened his mouth and let the words out.
“We will now perform a full withdrawal from Kantou.”
He inhaled and felt impressed that his voice was not quavering.
“The history recreation of the Keichou Campaign ends here!!”
“Well done, Kuki Yoshitaka.”
Atop the Yamagata Castle’s bridge, Mogami Yoshiaki viewed Kuki from close enough to see him with the naked eye.
Dawn was approaching, but it was still dark out. The only light sources were the flames erupting from the ships and blazing upon the ground, so she only saw the man as a silhouette atop his ship’s deck.
But she nodded once and stated her assessment of him.
“You have too good a political eye to waste you as a front-line strategist.”
“What do you mean, mon!?”
“Testament.” She grabbed and stretched out Shakenobe. “This is about the nation that Ookubo says they are indebted to.”
Musashi’s Representative Council Head had spoken a single national name to Kuki.
“I see.” Yoshiaki smiled bitterly. “It is true that Honjou Shigenaga won her duel against Nagaoka Tadaoki.”
“What difference does that make, mon!? What happens if Musashi gives this win to Sviet Rus!?”
“Having you around really helps me understand things better.”
She let go of stretched Shakenobe and she smiled when he snapped back to his usual length.
She hid those smiling lips behind her large fan.
“Giving Sviet Rus a victory over Hashiba gives Sviet Rus the opportunity to deter P.A. Oda or Hashiba in the future. And under Musashi’s guidance, at that.”
“What does that mean?”
“Sviet Rus shares a border with P.A. Oda. And that border is quite close to Kyoto, where Honnouji is located. Do you get what that means?”
She looked back to Kuki with her eyebrows and the corners of her lips raised.
“Kuki may have lost Kantou, but he protected everything for them. If the rights to this victory passed to Sviet Rus, Musashi might find a reason to visit them, perhaps for negotiations. And when the Honnouji Incident happens…”
“They might intervene as Sviet Rus mercenaries, mon!?”
“Having you around helps me avoid unnecessary dramatics.” She smiled bitterly. “The Battle of Uozu Castle at Novgorod will have given P.A . Oda’s Shibata forces the preparations they need to withdraw from Sviet Rus. That allows them to act once the Honnouji Incident begins, but it also prevents them from stopping Sviet Rus’s actions. You see, Sviet Rus can invade the Kyoto region not as the Uesugi clan but as Russia’s Ivan the Terrible. That means Musashi could use Sviet Rus’s victory rights to visit Honnouji as mercenaries.”
But Kuki had realized all this.
“Musashi just lost their chance to intervene in Honnouji.
“Hashiba just lost their foothold to act as a deterrent in Kantou.
“But Musashi just reclaimed Kantou.
“But Hashiba just secured Honnouji.
“This was not the best result for either party, but Musashi claimed a better result and Hashiba avoided the worst case scenario. In that sense, this was Musashi’s victory.”
“Testament,” she agreed while swinging down her large fan.
The fox nodded while giving a hand signal to command the Yamagata Castle to descend.
“Now, about that Ookubo who worked as a strategist for Yoshiyasu. She showed plenty of guts getting through her battles at Odawara, but she did it again here.” Yoshiaki did not bother hiding the smile on the corners of her lips. “Not many people could manage a bluff in a situation like that.”
Ookubo sent word of the battle’s end to Musashi and took a breath.
“Once again, I couldn’t trick them into it. I really wish I could have had the Yamagata Castle fire on them while dragging Sviet Rus into it.”
“Milady, you should stop pretending to be a more confident person than you are.”
“Is that how it looks? Kanou-kun, have you invented some other personality for me in your head?”
“No, no,” said Kanou while creating a summarized income and expense report.
The base in front of them was quiet now that the withdrawal had begun. The voices they heard approaching were their own side coming to report now that they did not have to pursue the Hashiba forces.
Kanou spoke while watching them all gather around.
“Milady, that was far too reckless. I mean, what was that about setting up the Azuchi’s thruster to explode? I never heard anything about that, so I nearly corrected you.”
“It made me sound more convincing, so don’t worry about it. Besides,” said Ookubo with a resigned smile. “No matter how large the ship or how thick its armor, moving while damaged will cause internal damage when the wind crashes into it. In fact, the thicker its armor, the worse the resultant damage. The group from that lost nation did well. The Azuchi had likely cut power to their primary rear thruster for peace of mind, but while that worked fine during the side flip, I doubt that would be enough to withstand the explosion of compressed atmosphere when they landed.” She raised her prosthetic left arm. “They probably weren’t aware of it because the Azuchi lacks experience, but I know it from practice. Of course,” she added. “While my threat was a bluff, the primary thruster had ruptured. The overheated ether fuel remaining inside must have looked like an explosion and the impact from that would have slowed their ‘arrival’. So I wasn’t lying at all, Kanou-kun.”
“Which is why I called it reckless, not a lie, milady.” Kanou placed a hand on her chin and sent the income and expense report to Musashi. “If you are that confident, why not try challenging the Vice President again? …What is that look supposed to mean? I haven’t seen it before.”
“You see, Kanou-kun…confidence isn’t enough to stand up to that.” Ookubo sighed. “Because she’s crazy.”
“This is crazy,” said Genan on a frosty land. “It’s summer, but the ground looks like it’s been snowing. Also, the girl who only ever followed Yoshiyori and the other Yoshiyori around is now the Satomi Representative and she defeated Hashiba.”
“Quit talking. Someone who can actually heal you will be by soon.”
No one can do that, he thought while leaning back against a tree trunk.
Yoshiyasu must have been well prepared because she had some healing spells and bandages in case of emergency and she was trying to stop his bleeding and stabilize him using those things.
“What is wrong with you, suddenly falling from the sky like that? The proof that Houjou picked a fight with Hashiba is supposed to avoid making an appearance.”
“I wasn’t alone; there were others who went ahead of me. I doubt they died fools’ deaths, so could you look into it for me?”
“I did receive a few reports of rescues. I don’t know if those rescues were successful, though.”
“Is that so?” he said with a breath of laughter.
The flavor of iron seeped into his mouth, but it was not worth bringing up. Right now, he needed to take pride in his accomplishments.
“It isn’t like Hashiba actually took part in the battle and we have no official status right now. As far as the battle was concerned, this was just some nameless fools attacking a group of unclear affiliation.” He smiled bitterly. “Besides, would you prefer I had died?”
“No one wants that.”
“Is that so?” he said with a nod.
In the past, she would probably have framed everything in terms of Yoshiyori or her sister.
But now she said “no one wants that” instead of “Yoshiyori wouldn’t want that”.
Did she count herself within that “no one”?
…She has learned to think for herself and live her own life, but without ever forgetting about the others.
Feeling lonely, Yoshiyori and previous Yoshiyori? You are special to her, but you are no longer the only thing she has.
“What’s so funny?”
Why did you stop treating me while saying that?
The treatment is hopeless, but stopping isn’t like you.
I have lost too much blood and – more importantly – I can tell I am at my limit. But you are not. Just like when you dueled me, you keep going no matter how many times you fail. You assume there is still something you can do.
And I will soon become one of your failures.
…But do not forget.
If you see someone in a similar situation, do the same for them.
The pseudo-combination really does tax the body, he belatedly realized. I wish Vritra was here so we could discuss that and figure out how to improve the process. After thinking through it that far…
That is not the point.
There is something I want to see.
“Sorry. Could you turn me to the west?”
Genan felt Yoshiyasu support his shoulder. She pushed on his hip with her knee and slowly turned him to the west.
Houjou lay in that direction.
Of course, reality was not so kind. He still could not focus his eyes. His blood pressure was too low to gather any strength in his eyes.
But he knew it was there past the coastline leading from the Miura Peninsula and its burning ships.
“If we had conquered Satomi, I probably would have had this exact same view.”
“The reverse thought never would have occurred to me in Odawara.” Yoshiyasu sighed but then said more. “Thank you.”
He had already received her thanks in Odawara. And at the moment…
“I should be the one thanking you.”
“I fulfilled my duty to Yoshiyori.”
“I lived and made it back.”
Do you understand?
“His actions are what led me here.”
“Is that so?”
Her trembling voice dropped toward his shoulder.
“Same for me.”
“I will lead you from here on.”
“Is that so?”
She did not ask him if he would be coming.
She understood that much. She was smart. Just a little too straightforward.
But that was why he felt as if they had reached some kind of conclusion here.
“Will you be going then?” he asked.
“Then,” he said. “We will watch from here. From this point on the path we paved.”
He took a deep breath.
If she would talk about “everyone”, then it had to be “we” for him.
The others would likely end up following that diligent young leader wherever she might go, so he would hold them here.
The others being Yoshiyori, the previous Yoshiyori, and everyone else who had been lost.
“We will be watching from here, so do not worry.”
You could use ‘testament’, you know? There is no need to carry any guilt here, he silently added with a bitter smile in his heart. But…
Strength was leaving him, starting with his fingers. His pulse was returning from his limbs and not being sent out again.
He breathed in to regather his strength.
It was summer, but the air entering his lungs was cold and clear. When he exhaled, he could smell his own blood on it, but at the same time…
“Satomi is a wonderful land. It is surrounded by ocean, but there are no major mountains and the forest air comes and goes as it pleases.”
The morning sun crested the horizon. Or he felt like it had.
In Houjou, he had always seen the dawn while looking past Satomi.
This was something Houjou definitely did not have. Was it childish to start thinking of it that way only now?
…I’m so young.
He smiled bitterly and redirected his gaze forward as he felt the warm light.
Once he could see that light, he stayed like that.
Everything came to a stop.
Genan looked up when he heard his name.
He was on the Odawara beach, at the end of a pier jutting out over the water. He was dangling some fishing line into the ocean and someone had called out to him from behind, but he knew who it was without looking back.
“Souun? What is it?”
“Testament. That annoying bunch has approved the mechanical phoenix development request you submitted.”
“Took them long enough. Did it finally get into their thick heads that crossing the bay in a flash with a mechanical phoenix is the safer option?”
“Testament. The other side has been picking a lot of fights with us of late. We named ourselves Houjou and drove out the remnants of the shogunate, but who would have thought those remnants would form a new group on the opposite coast?”
“I know what you mean,” he replied with a bitter smile. He pulled up his hook after a fish took the bait without getting caught. “I do feel guilty about this, so I would prefer you didn’t attack me for it.”
“Wait, are you using fishing paste for bait?”
“I don’t like using live bait.”
“Ha,” laughed the voice. “Yet you had the guts to request R&D for a mechanical phoenix?”
“Personally, I would have preferred a mechanical dragon.”
“That would require currying Ise-sama’s favor a lot more than you already have.”
“It would increase the survival rate. And honestly…I don’t want to die. If I die, I can’t serve all of you in the fourth generation.”
“Hey. Do you really think you can defeat the opposite coast with an attitude like that? Then again, an administrative type like you getting involved in war is a lot like seeing it snow at this time of year.”
“Testament. But you know what, Souun?” Genan attached more bait and held the hook up to see how well it was on there. “I can’t help but wonder when this conflict will finally end.”
“You didn’t know, Genan?”
“Know what?” he asked without looking back.
“It’s already over,” answered the voice. “Thanks to all of you.”
He gasped and lowered the rod.
He stood up on the pier and turned around.
There was no one there.
The pier was entirely empty, but beyond it he could see the beach, the embankment, the city of Odawara, and the newly-built Odawara Castle.
It was a sunny summer day.
He inhaled and began walking along the pier.
It was time to return to the city and visit the castle. He could talk with everyone there.
“The war is over. I saw it end.”
“The world is a bigger place than just Odawara or Kantou. Those children will enter that wider world without giving it a second thought.”
He picked up his pace as he walked up the pier. He walked on the sand and past that too.
He could hear the hustle and bustle of the city. He could hear voices calling for him in the distance.
He walked out into the midst of all those familiar sounds and voices.
“Can you believe it, everyone?”
“It was us! We paved the way for them!”
Yoshiyasu silently bowed toward the long-lived old man who looked like he was sleeping but had stopped moving altogether.
The darkness of night still surrounded them, but in the final moment, he had looked up as if seeing some kind of light.
In the hopes that he saw something that made him happy in that brief moment, she chose not to close his eyes.
She looked in the same direction he had: toward Houjou.
“Only after losing the Houjou name could our paths converge.”
She wiped something out of her eyes.
“Satomi too will eventually lose its name and disappear.”
“We will have somewhere else to go once that happens.”
She opened a sign frame and set it to send to everyone. She breathed in and raised her voice in the moonlight reflected off of the white plain.
“I, Satomi Yoshiyasu, declare this battle over! The Kantou Liberation has been completed, so the fighting has ended!”
She did not take a breath. She had plenty of words left in her lungs. So…
“Everyone, it is time to give a parting bow to our predecessors who paved the way here.”
Her voice filled the sky.
“From now on, we will support Musashi and work alongside them!”
|Back to Chapter 65||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 67|