Horizon:Volume 8A

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Cover Flap[edit]

Kawakami Minoru:

Born on January 3, 1975. From Tokyo. Currently writing the story for the Clash of Hexennacht comic alongside Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon. What an incredible age we live in where you can enjoy the Genesis series and the Obstacle series at the same time.

Satoyasu:

Born in Yamagata and raised in Tochigi. “Canned pickles are so good. But I choke when I eat too many of them.” Well, they are pickled in vinegar.

Installation[edit]

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Katou Kiyomasa


Historically, he was a distant relative of Hideyoshi. That gave him a position as Hideyoshi’s page where he gained notice along with Fukushima, who was in the same position, and that allowed him to develop his skill.

Looking at his temperament, he seems like the type who could not forgive anyone who defied him. Or you could call him the merciless type.

When governing his own land, he did not simply take taxes as the people’s ruler. He attempted agricultural reform and trade to turn the devastated land of Kumamoto into a region of commerce.

For that reason, the people of Kumamoto still refer to him as “Seishoko-san” (from an alternate reading of his name’s kanji), which honestly makes him sound like a moe character or something.

During the invasion of Korea, he gave the many hostages and POWs a warm welcome, but he also made a sneak attack against the rebellion at Amakusa and refused to make peace, so he seems to be able to turn his kind side on and off when necessary. But regardless, he was definitely a reassuring presence for those on his side.

He was very loyal to the Toyotomi clan, so after Hideyoshi suspended him due to an admonition from Mitsunari, he violated that suspension during the Fushimi Earthquake to arrive as Hideyoshi’s bodyguard. And he was forgiven as a result, so it was a very manly display.

His antagonism with Mitsunari and Konishi put him on the Eastern Army during Sekigahara, but he worked to reconcile with Toyotomi and Tokugawa afterwards.

After meeting with Hideyori and Ieyasu, he died of illness on the ship back home. There are theories saying Ieyasu had him assassinated, but I think if he had lived, the Siege of Osaka would have played out differently.


As a person, he has a lot of individual stories, but I find his interactions with Fukushima to be more interesting. Fukushima was a year older than him, but Fukushima clearly caused him a lot of problems by acting recklessly and pathetically. Yet for some reason, Kiyomasa would always help out, reprimand him, and otherwise just look out for the other man. They just have that feeling of old friends.

While Fukushima was heroic and decisive and had trouble stopping when things began to fall apart, Kiyomasa seems more like the skilled and plotting type who could hold his ground. They really seemed perfectly matched to work together.


For the character’s design, I gave her the trademark Naga Eboshi hat and half-sickle spear while contrasting Fukushima’s darker coloration and slender attacker status.

The focus on armor is based on the historical Kiyomasa’s position as an expert castle builder.

But for some reason, I seem to associate Kiyomasa with the color blue. Probably because the “Kiyo” kanji contains the kanji for blue in it.

(Kawakami Minoru)


Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon - Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere - 8A[edit]

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Do not let your guard down.


Characters[edit]

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Marubeya Udon[edit]

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Top left corner: Butt cut!

Title: Marubeya Udon

Below Shirojiro: It’s delicious!


Fan: Takeout Special


Left of box:

Chilled Zaru Udon

Butt cut of course!!


Right of box:

Now serving thick noodles.

Adele: Wow, this is incredible. It’s one really long and extra-thick noodle! Eh!? It comes from that new noodle maker!? Ohhh, more and more just keeps coming out, but why is the machine shaped like a butt!?”

Flavor: Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow!

Buttness: Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow!

Weirdness: Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow!

Total: Ow!



Characters[edit]

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Musashi

  • Aoi Kimi: Toori’s older sister and worshipper of the god of eroticism and dancing. Fundamentally high-tension and selfish in practice.
  • Aoi Toori: Protagonist. Musashi Ariadust Academy’s chancellor and student council president. Mr. Impossible.
  • Asama Tomo: Daughter of the Asama Shrine, Musashi’s main shrine. Childhood friend and overall victim of Toori and Kimi.
  • Azuma: Child of the emperor and a half-god. All his abilities have been sealed and he lives on the Musashi.
  • Adele Balfette: From a vassal family that arrived from France. Glasses girl.
  • Itou Kenji: Cheerful incubus. Nude, bald, and muscular. Known as Itoken.
  • Ohiroshiki Ginji: Gourmet otaku with a Heart-sama style build.
  • Kiyonari Urquiaga: 2nd special duty officer. Flying half-dragon. Hopes to be an inquisitor. Known as Uqui.
  • Shirojiro Bertoni: Treasurer. Young leading member of Musashi’s commerce and industry guild.
  • Tenzou Crossunite: 1st special duty officer. Ninja and errand-runner who always covers his face with his hat.
  • Toussaint Neshinbara: Secretary. Loves history, wants to be an author, and writes doujins.
  • Naomasa: 6th special duty officer. Older sister type who works in the engine division. Smokes and laughs loudly.
  • Nate Mitotsudaira: 5th special duty officer. Member of a knight family and inheritor of the Mito Matsudaira name. Half werewolf.
  • Nenji: Slime with about 3 HP. Manly.
  • Noriki: Laborer boy who supports his family. Clumsy martial artist. Silent and unsociable.
  • Heidi Augesvarer: Treasurer’s aide. Shirojiro’s partner. Has a white fox named Erimaki.
  • Hassan Furubushi: Calpis logo-style Indian. Lives while eating and drinking only curry.
  • Persona-kun: Super macho man with a bucket helmet. Silent, strong, and kindhearted.
  • Horizon Ariadust: Toori’s childhood friend and current ruler of Mikawa. Currently an automaton. Her emotions were taken as parts for the Logismoi Oplo.
  • Honda Futayo: Former Mikawa student. Honda Tadakatsu’s daughter. Uses a strongly old-fashioned speech pattern.
  • Honda Masazumi: Vice president of the student council. Diligent exchange student who arrived from Mikawa the previous year. Has various issues with her family.
  • Marga Naruze: 4th special duty officer. Black-haired six-winged Weiss Hexen. Member of the manga club.
  • Margot Naito: 3rd special duty officer. Blonde-haired six-winged Schwarz Hexen. Always smiling.
  • Miriam Poqou: Girl who stays in her room because she lives in a wheelchair.
  • Mukai Suzu: Blind but always gives it her all. Acts as everyone’s stopper.
  • Tachibana Muneshige: Former Tres España 1st special duty officer. Amore. Currently working to regain his inherited name.
  • Tachibana Gin: Former Tres España 3rd special duty officer. Muneshige’s wife and possessor of cannon-style false arms. Fifty times.
  • Mary Stuart: Half-sister of English Queen Elizabeth. Well-endowed blonde. Living with Tenzou as his future wife. Owner of Ex. Collbrande.
  • Mishina Hiro: Granddaughter of the engine division’s chief. Loves mechanical things. Naomasa’s underclassman. Her name is pronounced Hiro, not Dai.
  • Mishina Shouichi: Mishina Hiro’s father. Taizou’s son-in-law. Head of Kantou IZUMO.
  • Satomi Yoshiyasu: Satomi Academy’s student council president. Small but does not cry. Uses the god of war Righteousness.
  • Ookubo Tadachika/Nagayasu: A rare Far Easterner with a double inherited name. A second year and head of the representative committee. Speaks in a fake-sounding Kansai dialect.
  • Kanou: Ookubo’s maid. An automaton. Head of the public morals committee. A second year.
  • Date Shigezane [Narumi]: Masamune’s cousin. Vice chancellor of the Date clan and uses a mobile shell named Unturning Centipede. Confident elder sister type.
  • Yagyuu Munenori: A 1st year ninja samurai who serves Ookubo. Hunterrrrrrr chaaaaaaaaaaance!
  • Houjou Ujinao: Chancellor and student council vice president of the Houjou Association of Indian States. A demonic long-lived, but has an automaton body.
  • Nagaoka Tadaoki: He’s super scaryyyyyyyyyyyy! His dick’s pitch blaaaaaaaaaaack!

Academy Officials

  • Oriotri Makiko: High-speed battling teacher. Always wears a track suit.
  • Sakai Tadatsugu: Musashi Ariadust Academy’s president. Used to be a very able person but was demoted.
  • “Musashi”: Automaton that supervises the Musashi and overall commander. Her sharp comments are hard to put up with.
  • Yoshinao: King of Musashi who was sent from Hexagone Française. Has a veto right toward the academy and has the authority to manage Musashi.
  • Sanyou Mitsuki: Class 3-Bamboo’s homeroom teacher. Looks up to Oriotorai. Somewhat sensitive and unlucky.

Hexagone Française

  • Louis Exiv: Hexagone Française’s chancellor. Refreshing young man known as the Roi-Soleil. Has divine blood.
  • Mouri Terumoto: Hexagone Française’s student council president. Delinquent type. Destined to be Musashi’s enemy as leader of the Western Army.
  • Henri of the Three Musketeers: Female combat-style automaton. Acts as the leader and as Terumoto’s bodyguard. Uses large remote-controlled swords.
  • Armand of the Three Musketeers: Male combat-style automaton. Uses broad-range gravitational control.
  • Reine de Garou: Turenne. Hexagone Française’s vice chancellor. Mitotsudaira’s mom. All-around giant breasts.
  • Mitotsudaira’s Father: The Reine des Garous’s husband. A victim who is full of happiness and readily cries. Not so much passive as always under attack. 24 days.
  • Bernard: A mercenary commander from M.H.R.R., but an old man who inherited the name of someone who betrayed his home nation as a Protestant and moved from battlefield to battlefield, but is actually a Celestial Dragon and siding with Hexagone Française. It’s complicated.
  • Mouri Sisters: Three automaton sisters who have inherited the names of three of Mouri Terumoto’s uncles.

P.A. Oda

  • Niwa Nagahide: #2 of the Six Heavenly Demon Army and Five Great Peaks. A dancer and quick to adapt.

M.H.R.R.

  • Hashiba Toukichirou: M.H.R.R. Vice President and monkey-masked automaton girl. The nervous bomber type.
  • Olimpia: Innocentius’s older and younger stepsister. Current Pope-Chancellor.
  • Matthias: Representative of M.H.R.R.’s Catholics. Student Council President. Younger brother of Chancellor and Emperor Rudolf II. Being a puppet is fun!
  • Maeda Toshiie: Catholic representative. Treasurer. Samurai attendant that has become a ghost and is peacefully spending his days with his wife Matsu.
  • Fukushima Masanori: Under Hashiba’s direct command. Ten Spears #1. Speaks in an old-fashioned way.
  • Katou Kiyomasa: Under Hashiba’s direct command. Ten Spears #2. The busty blonde type and speaks politely.
  • Takenaka Hanbei: Ten Spears #9. Hashiba’s tactician. Carefree long-lived girl. Has also inherited the name of Kuroda Kanbei.
  • Katagiri Katsumoto: Ten Spears #10. An earnest boy who can also negotiate.
  • Katou Yoshiaki: Ten Spears #4. Gold-haired, gold-winged Weiss Hexen. Speaks sharply, but surprisingly tends to act as a mediator.
  • Wakisaka Yasuharu (Angie): Ten Spears #5. Black-haired, black-winged Schwarz Hexen. The carefree type, but she truly is carefree.
  • Hachisuka Koroku: Shouroku. God of war pilot of the Hidamari Genbu. The cool kid of the Ten Spears.
  • Kani Saizou: Extremely high probability of people misreading her name. The energetic aide to the Ten Spears. Fukushima’s underclassman. Nickname: Kanitama.
  • Suzuki Magoichi: Gunner who joined P.A. Oda by betraying the Saika.
  • Kuki Yoshitaka: Leader of P.A. Oda’s iron ship fleet. His job is to oppose the Murakami Navy.
  • Ootani Yoshitsugu: An earnest, hot-blooded, sincere, and honest virus with a strong sense of justice. Liked by cats.
  • Ishida Mitsunari: An earnest but inexperienced data entity who is often troubled. Ten Spears #3.
  • Kasuya Takenori: Ten Spears #8. Black wolf. Close-quarters fighter who defeated Takigawa. Has a chest.
  • Nabeshima Naoshige: Kani’s childhood friend who moved to the Ryuuzouji clan. The big sister type. A mechanical dragon pilot who bosses the Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji around.
  • Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji: “The five of us!” “Are the Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji!” “There’s five of us!” “But we’re the Four Heavenly Kings!” “Get outta the way!” and so on.
  • Asano Yoshinaga: Kani’s childhood friend and the type to get good grades. Tallllks with a weird intonaaation.
  • Ikeda Terumasa: Kani’s childhood friend and a builder. Is doing a lot of stuff with the Shirasagi Castle.
  • Konishi Yukinaga: Koni-tan’s daughter. Negotiator for Hashiba’s Kantou forces and representative of the Bousou Peninsula’s ground unit. A merchant commander. Likes money, but doesn’t produce udon.
  • Shima Sakon: 3m tall, held back 5 times, and can regenerate. But it makes her go yowch. Uses the mobile shell Onitakemaru. Kohime.
  • Onitakemaru: A Shogun. A mobile shell. Real easy to get worked up. I’m a mobile shell now, but you got a problem with that!?
  • Komaoumaru: Kiso no Yoshinaka. Tomoe Gozen’s former husband. Fires beams from his mouth even after resurrecting.

Other Forces

  • Tomoe Gozen: M.H.R.R. Protestant with Luther as a second inherited name. A ghost. Uses a Testamenta Arma and this people with a Testament copy hammer.
  • Christina: Lady Nagaoka. Fully prepared to die. Lives on the north end of Nördlingen.
  • Masaki Tokishige: Satomi’s current representative. A fairly hard worker who serves Hashiba. Uses the god of war called Integrity.


Glossary[edit]

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A[edit]

  • Academy: An educational facility. Used as the center of political and military power. Tend to have many branch schools.
  • Academy Rules: The basic laws upheld between academies. Agreed to by the Testament Union.
  • Age of Dawn: The age before the Testament was established.
  • Amako clan: Former IZUMO land. Destroyed by Mouri and Hexagone Française.
  • Anti-Decline Pro-Tuning: The action taken during the Age of Dawn that led to the creation of the Testament and Harmonic World.
  • Apocalypse: The end of the world. 1648 when the Testament’s history descriptions end.
  • ArchsArt: England’s primary corporation.
  • Ariake: Floating dock for the Musashi provided by Kantou IZUMO.
  • Armada battle: A naval battle fought between England and Tres España. Tres España planned to land on England but their fleet was destroyed.
  • Artificial Apocalypse: A compressed ley line distortion created in England’s Avalon to research the Apocalypse.
  • ATELL: The smallest unit of ether. Used for spells.
  • Avalon: A space created in England to research the artificial Apocalypse.
  • Azuchi Castle: P.A. Oda’s giant aerial warship.

B[edit]

  • Blessings: The amount of ether needed for a human to exist for one hour. 3600 ATELL. Conversion unit for a spell’s ATELL consumption.
  • Bunroku Campaign: Hashiba’s invasion of Korea. The first one.

C[edit]

  • Catholic: The old mainstream version of Tsirhc.
  • Chancellor’s Officers: An organization led by the chancellor which leads the academy and performs work such as defense.
  • Change of Rank: Having one’s clan taken away.
  • Contradiction Allowance: The foundational ability of the world. Allows the simultaneous existence of all sorts of physical laws.

D[edit]

  • Divine States: Former name of the Far East.
  • Divine Weapon: A weapon that, unlike a normal weapon, has a unique ability.
  • Divinely Ordained Prayer Academies: The original academies that existed during the Age of Dawn. More a guiding frontline base than a place of learning.
  • Dragon Line Reactor: A bomb that uses a runaway ley line reactor to destroy a wide area.
  • Dragon Races: The dragons. There are Celestial Dragons which are spirits and Terrestrial Dragons which are beasts and the Celestial Dragons are of a higher level. They dominated during the history recreation of the Germanic invasions, but ultimately lost. They are now scattered across the land.
  • Dunhi: A religion. Focused on reincarnation.

E[edit]

  • Edel Brocken: Magic brand. Location of headquarters unknown.
  • Eisenritter: Primary corporation of M.H.R.R.’s Protestant principalities.
  • Emperor: A divine individual who is said to control the ley lines using the Imperial Regalia in Kyou. Does not interfere with the world.
  • England: Uses a floating island and does not control any Far Eastern land or Far Eastern daimyo.
  • Ether: Component that makes up contradiction-allowing space.
  • Ether Engine: An engine that uses ether’s space-altering ability. The effect changes based on the internal crest.
  • Ether Fuel: Ether that has been purified into fuel. Used as External Blessings or for ether engines.
  • Ether Reactor: A reactor that extracts and purifies ether from the air. Has a lower output than a ley line reactor, but is relatively safe.
  • Europa: Hexagone Française’s primary corporation.
  • Excalibur: Has a first and second version.
  • External Blessings: Blessings accumulated outside of oneself. Ether fuel is an example.

F[edit]

  • Fan Gang: Qing brand. Durable but a bit rough.
  • Far East: Name of the Divine States after the Harmonic Unification War.
  • Fino Alba: K.P.A. Italian brand. Their use of springs is their selling point.

G[edit]

  • God of War: A giant humanoid machine that people combine with to move.
  • Graduation: No limit for nations other than the Far East. Far Easterners must graduate at 18.
  • Grande y Felicísima Armada: Tres España’s fleet for the Armada battle. Made up of cutting-edge ships.
  • Great Return: When Hashiba returned with all his troops while attacking Mouri during Nobunaga’s assassination. The rushed march covered about 200 km in less than ten days.

H[edit]

  • Harmonic Territory: Locations where the fallen Harmonic World Divine States unified with the real world while breaking apart.
  • Harmonic Unification War: A war between the harmonic world residents and the real world (Divine States) residents after the destruction of the harmonic world. The harmonic world residents won and began a provisional rule over the Divine States.
  • Harmonic World: A former alternate space that copied the Divine States. Preserved through ley line control.
  • Hexagone Française: Mouri clan + France.
  • Hidetsugu Incident: Hidetsugu, Hashiba’s nephew who was going to be left in charge during the next generation, earned Hashiba’s anger and was forced to commit suicide. The reason is unknown, but his concubine Komahime had to commit suicide with him.
  • History Recreation: Recreating the Testament descriptions to maintain the path the world takes.
  • Holy Spells: Tsirhc spells. The Catholics are related to the Testament and holy individuals while the Protestants derive power only from the Testament.
  • H.R.R.M.: Holy Knights Ironworks Guild. Primary corporation of M.H.R.R.’s Catholic principalities.

I[edit]

  • Imperial Palace: Where the Emperor lives and governs from in Kyou. It is said the three Imperial Regalia are used to control the ley lines, but the details are highly classified.
  • Inherited Name: The name of a historical figure given to an appropriate individual for the history recreation.
  • Internal Blessings: blessings stored within oneself.
  • IZUMO: The Far East’s largest corporation. The headquarters for Far Eastern shrines and the corporation that built the Musashi.

J[edit]

  • Judge/Judgment: Means “understood”. Used by criminals.

K[edit]

  • K.P.A. Italia: Association of Aki States + Union of Italian City States.

L[edit]

  • Laws for the Samurai Clans: Laws established after the Matsudaira clan established the Edo Shogunate. It determined the status of the samurai clans, but it centralized power by declaring a ‘Change of Rank’ if a clan or castle had no heir.
  • Ley Line: The thicker of the pathways through which ether flows.
  • Ley Line Reactor: A reactor that extracts and refines either from ley lines. Can easily cause lay line mutations and destroy everything within several kilometers if they explode. Due to their instability, they are banned by the Tsirhc religion.
  • Logismoi Oplo: Weapons of mass destruction created on the motif of the seven deadly sins.

M[edit]

  • Magic: Folk spells currently under persecution in Europe.
  • M.H.R.R.: Hashiba clan + Holy Roman Empires.
  • Mikawa: Destroyed by the collapse of Lord Motonobu’s ley line reactor.
  • Mito: South of Oushuu and north of Edo. Mitotsudaira’s territory.
  • Mlasi: A later non-Tsirhc religion that also worships the Testament.
  • Mouse: A spirit beast device to act as an intermediary between the Shinto religion and its musicians. Other religions use different names.
  • Musashi: Aerial city ship. The sole independent territory allowed for the Far East.

[First Starboard Ship – Shinagawa/Second Starboard Ship – Tama/Third Starboard Ship – Takao/First Central Ship – Musashino/Back Central Ship – Okutama/First Port Ship – Asakusa/Second Port Ship – Murayama/Third Port Ship – Oume]

  • Musashi Ariadust Academy: The Far East’s representative academy which exists on Okutama of Musashi.
  • Musician: A religion’s worshiper.

N[edit]

  • Novgorod: A large trade city on the western end of Russia. It is a floating city, but became a city of the dead after Ivan IV the Terrible’s purge.

O[edit]

  • Oat: A religion based on China’s sages.
  • Offering: Providing a god with something they will enjoy or Internal Blessings.
  • Official Events: Refers to the ceremonies, exams, etc. that an academy must complete during each term. If these are not completed, the academy may not take part in any external politics.
  • Orei Metallo/Nero: Ore or water containing ether. Can be used as ether fuel.
  • Orthodox: The Orthodox Concerto religion. Sviet Rus’s unique branch of Catholicism.
  • Oushuu: The Tohoku region. The Date clan rules the east and the Mogami clan rules the west.
  • Oushuu Fujiwara (Hiraizumi): A hidden village of the long-lived in southern Oushuu.

P[edit]

  • P.A. Oda: Oda clan + Ottomans.
  • Peace of Westphalia: The peace treaty that ended the Thirty Years’ War.
  • Protestant: A new style of Tsirhc created to escape the corruption of Catholicism and to adjust to the new age.
  • Provisional Council: Group of adults who act as bureaucrats toward Musashi’s student council, chancellor’s officers, and student committees.

Q[edit]

  • Qing-Takeda: Combination of China and the Takeda clan.

R[edit]

  • Religion: Organizations or groups that worship a god or the Testament.

S[edit]

  • San Mercado: Tres Españan brand.
  • Shaja: Used in Mlasi regions and means “understood”. Originally meant “courage”.
  • Shinto: Far Eastern religion. Worships the Far Eastern gods and uses divine music spells.
  • Shirasago Enterprises: IZUMO’s shrine brand.
  • Siege of Otate: Conflict over the succession of the Uesugi clan after Kenshin’s death. Uesugi Kagekatsu and Nagao Kagetora fought and Kagekatsu won.
  • Sign Frame: Spell device needed to use each religion’s basic protection.
  • Song of Passage: Prototype of a fairy tale created in the Far East during the Edo period.
  • Spell: Causing a miracle in a certain space by processing ether.
  • Spirit Spell: Primitive spells used by talking to and borrowing the power of spirits, which are ether with a will of its own.
  • Student Council: The organization that handles an academy’s domestic and foreign affairs.
  • Substitution: Offering something to please a god instead of using Blessings to activate a spell.
  • Sviet Rus: Uesugi clan + Russia.

T[edit]

  • Tes/Testament: Means “understood”.
  • Testament: A history book that provides the history of the earth’s previous age. There are seven pairs and excerpts.
  • Testament Descriptions: History of the earth’s previous age that is automatically updated by the Testament. However, it stopped updating after the description for 1648.
  • Testament Union: An organization meant to lead the history recreation.
  • Testamenta Arma: Weapons that use the ability of the Testaments.
  • Tres España: Oouchi and Ootomo clans + Spain. Currently includes Portugal.
  • Tsirhc: A religion which places the Son of God at the top. Worships the Testament.


World[edit]

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The Story So Far:

Okay, the great Shogun will explain what’s going on for you lot. This is the simplest way of putting it: I woke up to find I was a mobile shell, I was partnered with this weirdly enormous little girl, and after taking three artillery blasts, she was hanged by a vice-Shogun. And now she is eating a meal.”

So…who’s ever going to believe a story like that? Thinking back, I’m not even sure what was going on. Besides, I am a great Shogun and none of these modern people know how to show me the proper respect. I mean, yeah, I was assassinated after taking on multiple inherited names toward the end there, but still.

And now someone is banging on the outside of my head, but it’s gotta be that little girl. Stop that, damn you!!


Divine Chat Screenname List:

  • Azuma: Azuma
  • Asama: Asama Tomo
  • Obscene: Itou Kenji (Itoken)
  • Me: Aoi Toori
  • Gold Mar: Margot Naito
  • Righteousness: Satomi Yoshiyasu
  • Scarred: Mary Stuart
  • Silver Wolf: Nate Mitosudaira
  • Still Got It: Reine des Garous
  • Wise Sister: Aoi Kimi
  • 481: Mishina Shouichi
  • Tachibana Husband: Tachibana Muneshige
  • Tachibana Wife: Tachibana Gin
  • Smoking Girl: Naomasa
  • 10ZO: Tenzou Crossunite
  • Tonbokiri: Honda Futayo
  • Sticky King: Nenji
  • 83: Hassan Furubushi
  • Flat Vassal: Adele Balfette
  • Vice President: Honda Masazumi
  • Bell: Mukai Suzu
  • Horizey: Horizon Ariadust
  • Art-Ga: Marga Naruze
  • Circle Be: Heidi Augesvarer
  • 347: Mishina Hiro
  • Novice: Toussaint Neshinbara
  • Musashi King: Yoshinao
  • Four Eyes: Shakespeare
  • Worshipper: Ohiroshiki Ginji
  • Laborer: Noriki
  • Unturning: Date Narumi
  • Kagetsuna-kun: Katakura Kojuurou
  • Fang: Oniniwa Tsunamoto
  • Caretaker: Rusu Makikage
  • Taki: Takigawa Ichimasu
  • Great Upperclassmen: Shibata Katsuie
  • O12: Oichi
  • Lily Flower: Sassa Narimasa
  • Omaeda: Maeda Toshiie
  • Fuwaa: Fuwa Mitsuharu
  • Mory: Mori Nagayoshi
  • Nine Tail Girl: Mogami Yosahiaki
  • Shigeko: Honjou Shigenaga
  • KageV: Uesugi Kagekatsu
  • Tomo-no-Bu: Saitou Tomonobu
  • Nagaya-Stable: Ookubo Tadachika
  • CAN: Kanou
  • Llaf: Fukushima Masanori
  • Kiyo-Massive: Katou Kiyomasa
  • The Boy: Katagiri Katsumoto
  • Kuro-Take: Takenaka Hanbei
  • Kimee: Katou Yoshiaki
  • AnG: Wakisaka Yasuharu
  • 6: Hachisuka Koroku
  • An-Ri: Henri
  • Ar-Man: Armand
  • Super Justice: Ootani Yoshitsugu
  • Nari Nari Nari: Ishida Mitsunari
  • Kanitama: Kani Saizou
  • Nine Horns: Kuki Yoshitaka
  • Three Legs: Suzuki Magoichi
  • Black Wolf: Kasuya Takenori
  • Nabe3: Nabeshima Naoshige
  • Asano: Asano Yoshinaga
  • IT: Ikeda Terumasa
  • Okaaa: Nagaoka Tadaoki
  • Koni-ko: Konishi Yukinaga
  • ■――: Yagyuu Munenori
  • Self-Destruct Girl: Christina
  • Kohime: Shima Sakon
  • Onitakemaru: Onitakemaru


Far Eastern Powers: [Same map as before]


Relationships Between the Major Powers: [Same as before]


Musashi’s Plans:

Toori: Sis! Sis! What are we gonna do during summer break!?

Kimi: Heh heh heh. Summer brother, the Musashi is in the Udon Kingdom, so we need to decide if we can just stay here or not. And we have to redo our final exams, so we have to think about that too.


School Rules[edit]

Article 301 Line 1

  • An academy holding provisional rule shares the authority of any academy on the provisionally ruled reservation.

Article 301 Line 2

  • An academy on a provisionally ruled reservation does not share the authority of the academy holding that provisional rule.


Prologue: Woman in the Shade of the Summer Greenery[edit]

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Hm? This isn’t an injury

My shoulders are just stiff

No, wait, wait, wait

Point Allocation (Getting Up There in Years)


She opened her eyes to find an old wooden ceiling above her.

The structure was open on all four sides and the morning sun was shining in.

She was lying on her back and looking up at the center of the ceiling, but she could still see the forest and a clearing around her.

This was a stage built at a Shinto shrine in the mountains and that was where she had gone to sleep.

“That’s not good.”

She sat up with her lower legs dangling over the edge of the stage.

She had laid back and gone to sleep last night while sitting on the edge here.

She touched her body to find she was fairly chilled. But…

“The fever is gone.”

She no longer felt an elevated temperature below the bandages and charms wrapped around her skin below her track suit.

She tried and had no trouble raising her arms in a track suit embroidered with the name Unno.

“Hm.”

She frowned a bit when she pulled her right arm back, but…

“Good enough.”

She let her arms rest and then sighed.

“Unno-sama.”

Someone was climbing the stairs leading to the shrine from the east.

Unno’s eyebrows rose when she saw the black-haired automaton.

“Mochizuki, you’ve been repaired?”

“No, I was only made mobile again using the spare parts lying around. I can fix you breakfast, but that is about it.”

Mochizuki held out a lunchbox wrapped in a cloth.

“May I sit next to you?” she asked.

“It’s damp.”

“From your tears?”

“Of course not,” said Unno while facing forward.

The stage was oriented a bit diagonally from the shrine’s clearing. It faced southeast.

The old shrine was not equipped with lights, so the stage was built to get as much sunlight as possible. Unno’s position on it gave her a view of something in the distance.

“The Kantou Liberation has ended over there.”

“Were you intending to join in if it dragged on?”

“Even if I wasn’t, sometimes you realize you should and sometimes people tell you to do it.”

But…

“There wasn’t enough time for any of that. …Is that a good enough excuse for being too weak to join?”

“Being able to watch it play out should be enough,” said Mochizuki while untying the cloth wrapper, but Unno could not agree.

“Is this the end for us?” said Unno.

“I intend to quit after this.”

“But I bet you could keep going for a while still.”

“Then are you going to quit?”

“You set me up for that question, didn’t you?”

I’m taking this so lightly, thought Unno.

But I’m probably faking how lightly I really take it. However…

I can’t believe this.

She had fully accepted so many things on the inside, but external things like obligations and pride were refusing to let her outwardly accept them. She knew this made her look like a fool, so…

I can’t take any of it too seriously or it would drive me mad.

“Y’know,” she said. “That was quite a show last night. Did you see when the Azuchi arrived in Kantou over the ocean?”

“No, I was taking makeup lessons at the time, but I did hear the running commentary by the flying Terrestrial Dragons who were up in the sky watching it all.”

“Man, those dragons have no dignity at all, do they?” Unno rested her head in her hand. “We got our asses beat and came crawling back here only to find the battlefield and history have moved so far beyond us.”


Unno sighed.

Hard to say if we were lucky or unlucky.

They had only managed to return here after the Siege of Kanie Castle because Houjou had been dismantled afterwards. With the clan’s fall, most of Houjou’s rights had been distributed to the other local clans. The land and personnel that would later become Sanada’s had already been arranged by Ujinao and the others, so it had been ready for them that same day.

They had been able to hitch a ride on the first ship bound for Sanada. And after a half day’s healing once they returned, the Kantou Liberation had begun.

They had only been able to watch, but that was why Unno had come here.

This was her home and she had wanted to work through some things and give herself a new beginning here.

But she had not been able to focus on that.

That battle had been even larger than the Houjou one and it had primarily been fought between fleets.

“Musashi put on quite a show at the Satomi Liberation and at M.H.R.R. too,” said Unno.

“We went to Nördlingen for a middle school field trip once, didn’t we?” said Mochizuki.

“That was when we were trying to build some bridges of friendship with M.H.R.R. Mr. Priest was pretty excited about it, wasn’t he?”

She used that nickname for one of their friends without really thinking about it.

I’m being really cold, she realized. Cold and light. Is there a metal like that? I’m not sure. Well, ice works well enough for that description, but calling myself ice seems so arrogant.

“But this was on another scale altogether.”

“The Kantou Liberation you mean?” asked Mochizuki.

“Testament. How should I put it?” said Unno. “It was really frustrating when we became Unneeded, right?”

“I cannot agree with that since I have no emotions, but I did protest the forced loss of status.”

“I’m not really sure what I mean myself, but…you know.”

She tried to think back on the Siege of Kanie Castle.

“–––––”

But she gave up on remembering what had happened in the depths of that forest she had transformed into Yomi.

That probably expressed her innermost thoughts better than anything.

That was the part of herself she wanted to deny and the kind of person she wanted to be.

But this was a place for “everyone”.

So while making sure not to reject anything that happened back then, she skipped past those thoughts and faced what came next.

“When I saw the Kantou Liberation, it got me thinking. It made me feel like maybe nothing we did really mattered.”

“You feel powerless?”

“Hm, not quite. Feeling powerless is linked to the frustration I felt upon becoming Unneeded. You know, the frustration of being treated as powerless when you know you’re not.”

“In that case,” said Mochizuki. “Since we were not involved in the Kantou Liberation at all, did you feel a powerlessness that is not linked to that frustration?”

“Mochizuki, why do you have to make everything so confusing?”

“That is just who I am.”

Mochizuki held up the lunchbox. It contained some boiled vegetables and grilled fish. The fish had its bones removed, so she must have wanted to test her finger movements. It also had a light rice dish, and…

“Where’s the tea?”

“I am not waterproofed at the moment,”

“Is that so?”

The Azuchi was visible to the southeast, looking hazy in the distant morning sky.

That was all that remained of the Kantou Liberation there.

“What are we supposed to do now?”

Unno did not know if she could just sit around stewing or not.

She doubted she had left her innermost thoughts behind in that Yomi. Tachibana Gin’s attack had knocked her unconscious and she had awoken to find the Asama Shrine’s shrine maiden had performed first aid on her.

She was not dumb enough to forget that.

She had already found her answer, but she did not have to give it right away, so here she was.

She was pretty sure she would descend the mountain once she had managed to calm down some more, but…

“So summer break is starting, huh?”

That would give her plenty of time to think.

She had only just returned to Sanada land, so she was still not really sure what Sanada was doing right now.

Of the Unneeded, she had heard Anayama, Yuri, and Nezu had left in preparation for Sekigahara, but…

“What should I do?”

She knew everyone else would be doing their own things and moving further away while she stayed here asking that question. Especially…

“I bet Musashi has all sorts of plans for causing trouble during summer break.”

“You hadn’t heard?”

“Heard what?”

“Musashi lost some of their exam answer sheets during Kakei Torahide-sama’s attack, so they must redo the exams today. They apparently have to redo their math exam. Their Representative Committee Head sent a complaint to Torahide-sama earlier, so he fled.”

I guess we did some damage after all, thought Unno with a wry smile.

She looked to the sky to view the light blue surrounded by the forest outside the clearing.

“Today looks like it’s going to be a hot one.”


The summer sun shined in.

A clear but sweltering light shined down from very high in the blue sky.

The light also showed itself by how deep the shadows cast on the ground were.

One shadow was especially large.

It was cast by a massive structure in the sky.

The large ship was made up of 8 smaller ships. Altogether, it was 8km long and each ship had the name Musashi plus its individual name written in white.

The Musashi floated in the sky above a green plain. To its north, the vast inland sea stretched east to west.

This was the northeastern coast of Shikoku.

The Musashi cast its shadow there while shimmering heat rose from its upper surface.

It was midday and all of the ships would occasionally wrap themselves in fog and send massive clouds into the sky as a means of cooling themselves.

But a great many people stood atop the Musashi. And they were performing strenuous activity despite the heat.

“Goddammit!!” shouted a voice. “Why are most of the exams we have to redo practical ones!?”


It’s more sweltering than just hot on the Musashi this time of year, noted Masazumi.

She was seated in a shadow at an elevated point to stern that gave her a view of almost the entire Musashi.

That location was…

“I’m glad we made this Student Council Rec Room.”

The tatami-floored room had all its short windows open.

She was resting her elbow on the short windowsill with her legs casually resting on the tatami mats. Her Mouse Tsukinowa was with her.

Is it his high-level settings that let him feel the heat?

The small anteater was lying on the edge of the windowsill, but he would move to a different spot whenever he grew too hot and he was currently rolling over to the other edge. That said, he showed just how smart and cute he was by always staying within arm’s reach.

“Masazumi-sama, how about some barley tea while we wait for the next exam?” asked a voice from behind her.

“Sure, that sounds good.”

She nodded back toward Horizon and the two arms poured the chilled barley tea in a teacup and carried it over. They gestured for her to take the teacup, so she did so and then they returned.

She glanced back to see Horizon performing a figure four leglock on the idiot.

As Horizon picked up speed and collapsed backwards time after time, the idiot would arch his back and shout “ow, ow!”. The idiot sister was pounding on the floor and shouting “Foolish brother!? Do you give up!? Do you!?” while Mitotsudaira shouted “My king! Don’t tap out after coming so far!” and Asama said “Oh, sorry. I need to pass by above your head with this tea.” In other words, business as usual.

Futayo was asleep while Mary and Crossunite were studying for the next exam.

“Oh.”

Then the wind blew in. The winds blowing across the Musashi tended to carry the heat of the surface city, so it was recommended to sprinkle water around or to spray mist from the washing pipes.

“The wind is hot, but the moisture rises so quickly it ends up being such a dry wind.”

“Especially here because the wind has to climb the stairs to the academy and pass through the schoolyard,” said Balfette, who was studying with Mukai in a seat by a window. She set her coke pen down on the desk and fixed her hair in the back. “They should add in some water after third period, so the wind should feel cooler then.”

“Yes,” said Suzu. “And the sun…won’t be as high…in the sky.”

“But that will also be the hottest part of the day.” Neshinbara was seated with his feet up on the windowsill so the wind blew through his bangs. “It would seem the summer still has many more trials in store for us.”

Is there anything he can’t make cringey? wondered Masazumi as she caught sight of Naruze out of the corner of her eye. The girl had been sleeping face down on the tatami mats, but she got up to look to Neshinbara.

She wrinkled her brow in a smile.

“Don’t you have a manuscript to complete?”

“Heh. What did I just say about the summer and its many trials?”

“If you don’t submit yours for printing along with mine, you’ll end up paying a lot more.”

“I am ready for whatever life throws at me.”

Hearing that, Naruze opened a Magie Figur set for divine transmission. And after a short pause…

“Hello, Kappa Printing? Oh, yes, silly me. Hemisphere Printing, that’s what I meant. …Anyway, Boss Kappa? Our literature club guy is running devastatingly late on his manuscript and refuses to admit it, so feel free to take away his entire early-submission discount. …Judge. And it would be great if you could increase my discount for delivering this hot tip.”

“N-Naruze-kun! Must you eliminate all room for excuses!?”

But Naruze had already plopped back down on her cushion and resumed napping. Naito fanned her with a fan and her wings, but Naruze showed no sign of waking.

She sure has distinct on and off settings.

But winged species had higher blood pressure due to their anatomical structure, so maybe this was fine.

Then a new wind blew in without warning.

A certain scent was mixed in with the fluctuation of the air. It was a strong, aromatic, and yet faintly sweet scent.

“What is this?”

It was vaguely familiar, but Masazumi could not quite place it.

Asama turned back toward her while handing a paper cup of barley tea to Naito.

“It’s udon. Because that’s the Udon Kingdom below us.”

“No, we’re in Sanuki.”

“Did you forget?” said Urquiaga while reviewing the material for the next exam on a sign frame. “It would be a problem for Sanuki if we came to visit them, so we cannot say that we are here to visit them. You were the one who suggested we instead say we are visiting the Udon Kingdom mentioned in a Testament footnote, Masazumi.”

“Well, yes, I did say that.”

“Fine, I’ll explain,” said the Date Vice Chancellor. She flipped through the pages of Urquiaga’s sign frame without asking him first. “On the world nation’s side of things, Shikoku is undiscovered land. The provisional rule there is only indirectly kept in place through the Far Eastern reservations, making it a good location for the Musashi to get some rest and recover after Nördlingen.”

But…

“That is why we can’t cause any trouble for the Far East reservations there.”

“Judge. The Testament Union and related nations want to avoid having the Musashi in Testament Union land since we intervened in Nördlingen and sheltered the Swedish Chancellor. That means no nation will want to mess with us, so we should be fairly safe right now.”

“Question.” Naito raised her hand. “But what do we do now? Are we not returning to Kantou?”

Masazumi crossed her arms and groaned.

“To be honest, I want to stay here. I mean, we decided to intervene in the Honnouji Incident, but we can never manage that if we’re in Kantou. But on the other hand…”

She opened a sign frame displaying a message the Testament Union had sent them through the academy.

“The Testament Union is demanding we return to Kantou on August 10.”


“August 10? Why that date?” asked the Date Vice Chancellor.

“We have told them the Musashi cannot do anything in the immediate future since we have our makeup exams to complete and we have to work with Sweden and the Swedish Chancellor regarding what to do about that Chancellor.”

But…

“So they gave us 10 days for that. …Of course, they also have to consider the Azuchi’s presence in Kantou.”

Mitotsudaira looked up when she heard that. She opened a sign frame and spoke.

“Word from Kantou says the Azuchi’s primary thrusters and surface area were destroyed and are currently being repaired. …So are they telling us not to return to Kantou until that is complete?”

“Judge, it seems that way. If Musashi, Mouri, Satomi, and the other Kantou nations attacked the Azuchi now, it would not fare well.”

“Could we maybe sink it?” asked Naito.

“It might be carrying one of those dragon line reactors.”

Everyone fell silent at that.

“Using one of those now would only earn Hashiba further hatred from Kantou. And with the Keichou Campaign complete, they can’t occupy Kantou. …So we have to believe they won’t use one.”

“But we don’t know what they would do if the Musashi showed up. Is that it?” asked Naruze.

Masazumi nodded.

“So the Testament Union is telling us to get moving in 10 days, once the Azuchi’s repairs are complete.”

“Then is that what we are going to do?” asked Mitotsudaira.

“Hmm,” was all Masazumi felt like saying.

But she could not just groan in thought, so she resumed speaking.

“The thing is, once we’re back in Kantou, we’ll probably be trapped there and we’ll have a hard time getting back out here. But we still have to intervene in the Honnouji Incident, right?”

Neshinbara’s hand shot up and he brushed a hand through his hair once she focused on him.

“If I may inquire, Flat Honda-kun, when do you think the Honnouji Incident will occur?”

“My guess is at the end of summer break or immediately afterwards.”

“They’ll wait that long?” asked Mitotsudaira.

“Most likely,” she replied while noticing something.

Everyone had stopped their studying or wrestling to focus on her.

Horizon8A 036-037.png

None of them are studying anymore.

Then I might as well, she decided while adjusting her seated position. She removed Tsukinowa from the windowsill, placed him on her shoulder, and opened a sign frame.

“Then listen up. Let’s talk about why I think the Honnouji Incident will be at the end of summer break or immediately afterwards.”


But what do we do now?


Musashi and Azuchi’s Positions[edit]

Horizon8A 038.jpg

Toori: Sis! Sis! Where are we right now!? Where!?”

Kimi: Heh heh heh. Where boy, this is where everything is located right now, so make sure you remember this.


1: Udon Kingdom

2: Musashi

3: Mikawa

4: Kantou/Satomi

5: Azuchi

6: Kyoto/Honnouji

  • The Musashi traveled to the Udon Kingdom from Nördlingen. Mouri Terumoto and Mogami Yoshiaki are in Kantou/Satomi


Kimi: The Musashi wants to intervene in the Honnouji Incident, so we want to be here instead of in Kantou. That’s why we’re in the Udon Kingdom right now.

Toori: And the Azuchi’s in Kantou right now, so what do we do about that?

Kimi: For now, the Testament Union has demanded the Musashi return to Kantou. But if we did so right away, we would clash with the immobilized Azuchi while it undergoes repairs, so some adjustments are necessary. So with the Musashi in Kansai and the Azuchi in Kantou, the real question is whether we can get them to swap places or if we can find a way to defy that order.

Toori: So we can’t just slurp up udon and enjoy our summer break, huh?

Kimi: Heh heh. Summer break is chock full of events and we’re going to be busy having fun, so you’ll need some endurance to keep up this year.


Chapter 1: Discussers in the Shade[edit]

Horizon8A 039.jpg

Hot

Hot hot hoooot

Hoooot hoooot

Point Allocation (Intelligibly Next Time, Please)


“Now, let’s discuss why I think the Honnouji Incident will occur no sooner than the end of August.”

Masazumi took a breath with the wind on her back by Student Council rec room window.

She knew everyone was watching her.

Now, then.

She continued speaking.

“I honestly do not actually know when it will happen. This is all speculation.”

But she was fairly certain she was right about when it would happen.

“Late August or early September.”

“So you expect it to happen after summer break?”

“Judge,” she confirmed. “That event signifies the retirement of a major nation’s leader. P.A. Oda has a lot of enemies, but they also have a lot of allies and related nations. They could probably safely complete the retirement and transfer of power during summer break, but if they do it after summer break, they can work with their allies to make sure they’re all on the same page.”

“That kind of finesse is especially necessary with a large nation,” added Crossunite.

Mary nodded in impressed agreement.

Come to think of it, England was a powerful nation but not a large one, so Mary probably would find that viewpoint a fascinating one.

So Masazumi continued.

“With the transfer of power and such to deal with, if they do it at the start of September, it would probably be focused on that first week of the month. That span of a week is important, so they would want to focus on it.”

So…

“We need to keep an eye on P.A. Oda’s actions from now on. There are a few different factors influencing when the Honnouji Incident happens, so I doubt even they know for sure at this point.”

“Eh? Really?” The idiot looked up. “What’s with them? Why do they keep getting after us if they don’t even have their own house in order?”

“Cut them some slack. They’re a large nation.” Masazumi raised three fingers toward the others with her right hand. “Three factors will affect when the Honnouji Incident happens.”

She started with the first.

“First, they might fall behind schedule beforehand. This happens a lot with the history recreation. Largescale events require a lot of preparation. Unexpected delays can pile up and that isn’t something you can predict beforehand. If you could predict them, you would work to remedy them before they became a problem.”

Everyone nodded in understanding, so she moved on.

“Second, foreign interference. To be blunt, this one’s mostly about what we do. The actions of any nations opposed to P.A. Oda can always change their plans.”

And the third.

“Third, there’s a religious issue.”


“Religious?”

Asama saw everyone tilt their head at that one.

They were clearly confused how religion could affect a nation’s plans, so she raised her hand.

She understood this one due to her Shinto expertise. Basically…

“Is it about lucky days and things like that?”

“Judge. Exactly.” Masazumi nodded. “Largescale events will of course involve largescale spells. And the religion behind those spells will designate days on which they work better. Shinto calls them lucky days and other religions tend to call them holidays or seasonal festivals. For a domestic affair unaffected by foreign influence, they should try to use one of those days to limit the depletion of their ether tanks and to maximize the effects.”

“With P.A. Oda, would that be Shinto or Mlasi?” asked Naruze.

“That’s hard to say,” replied Asama.

“Really? Not even you know?”

“Well, it really depends on what kind of spells we’re talking about.”

Because…

“Shinto’s lucky days are placed in one of six different categories based on what kind of luck they bring. Mlasi is similar, so it’s hard to say which category they would want to use. They might even want to use a combination between the two religions. But…”

Asama opened a sign frame.

It showed a map of the Far East with the locations of the major Shinto shrines displayed. The entire map was covered by a wave formed from pillars.

The wave was especially high around Mikawa and Edo Bay.

“This is real-time information on the ley lines sent by shrines from all around the Far East. Some of you probably saw this on the way here, but IZUMO is the one gathering all this data. However, P.A. Oda has refused to participate and will not hand over their data.”

Just as she started to say “but” again, he spoke up.

“But can you still figure something out from this?”

“Eh? Oh, yes, I can. …When P.A. Oda consumes a large amount of ether, the side effects can be measured in the neighboring regions. So if we keep a careful eye on this…”

“Won’t it be too late if we notice it on the day of the event?” asked Adele.

Asama shook her head.

“Such a major event is bound to have a rehearsal run. This will require a major opening of their ether tanks, so they will need to make sure that process is functioning properly. And that should produce detectable side effects.”

“I see,” said Adele.

“So our job is to ensure we do not miss those side effects?” asked Horizon with a double thumbs up. “Impressive work, Asama-sama. Just when everyone thought you were only good for shooting, blasting, and sinking ships, you prove just how multitalented you are!”

“Wait, why would anyone think that’s all I can do? Or something I do at all?”

Why did everyone refuse to look her in the eye after that?

“Anyway, we need to be on the lookout for that rehearsal day. Once we know what kind of lucky day they’re interested in, we can assume the next one or the one after that will be the real deal.”

“I see,” said Adele again before taking a breath. “And then we have to figure out how to intervene, don’t we?”

“Yes,” said Masazumi. “That’s the real problem here.”


Masazumi crossed her arms and groaned.

We keep running into this problem lately, she thought.

“We’ll need some preparations in place if we hope to intervene. I’d like a week, no, 2 weeks if possible. This is all revolving around the span of a week, so with two of those to work with, we should be able to get everything ready.”

So…

“If I can, I’d like to be here at around August 20.”

“But that will not be possible if we return to Kantou, will it?” asked Horizon.

“Judge.” Masazumi uncrossed her arms and shrugged. “Personally, I want to find an excuse to stay here.”

“It’s a little late now, but couldn’t we have gone to Sweden instead of here?” asked Naito.

“Hmm, if we had done that, the M.H.R.R. Catholic states would have been extremely wary of our presence. So…”

At that point, Masazumi looked out the window.

She could see several white lines rising from below the Musashi.

“Is that smoke from people cooking?” asked Tenzou. “There sure is a lot of it.”

“Master Tenzou, the Musashi is 6km up right now, isn’t it? It’s incredible the smoke from cooking udon rises this far.”

“That would be because this is the Udon Kingdom.” Balfette pushed up her glasses and opened a sign frame. “I was curious, so I looked into it. Apparently, the Udon Kingdom does everything based on udon, so the water pipes in the landport all have udon sauce in them.”

It was unclear how much of that was true, but how much udon would they have to cook to send the smoke this high?

“This much is gonna form clouds, isn’t it?”

“Judge! Sa-…that is, the Udon Kingdom is famous for its udon clouds!”

Balfette opened an “Udon Kingdom Sightseeing Map”, so she was probably planning to head down for a visit after today’s exam.

She sure is resilient, thought Masazumi, but…

Oh.

She belatedly remembered something.

“We…”

Everyone stopped moving to listen.

They turned toward her and she worked to keep a relaxed expression as she continued.

“We were fighting a war up until this morning, weren’t we?”

“How could you forget!?” they all shouted back at her.


“I know we were distracted with the makeup exam coming up,” said Naito while fanning Naruze by the Student Council rec room’s wall. “But only Seijun could ask ‘we were fighting a war, weren’t we?’ as casually as asking what we ate for breakfast.”

“Yeah, but it’s easy to forget now that we’re back to our normal lives,” said Masazumi.

“If you ask me, this is hardly our normal lives,” said Ohiroshiki who had stopped by to replenish the ice in the rec room’s small ice room. “We still seem at war to me.”

He pointed out the window where a class was taking a practical exam in the schoolyard.

Naito stretched up to see a half-fishman gym teacher speaking to the 2nd year boys.

“Listen up, you lot! For today’s makeup practical exam, you have to demonstrate your military swimming skills below the blazing sun!”

“Military swimming!?” One student in swimming trunks raised his hand. “Sensei! Is that pool over the port side of the schoolyard just for show!?”

“Use of the pool has been granted to the girls of two different classes. To put it simply, you were not deemed worthy! However!” The gym teacher wobbled on his feet and then collapsed onto the school yard. “This heat…is too much…for me too.”

“Sensei!”

“Don’t die, Sensei! We won’t get credit for our exam!”

“Let’s evacuate to the school building! We’ll just have to swim through the hallways!”

Are they about to invent a new sport? wondered Naito. But…

That’s about how it was for us in the 2nd year too.

That suggested the Far East’s “culture” was being successfully passed down. And…

“Oh?”

Naito noticed a familiar face running on the schoolyard. They wore a black track suit and a hat.

“Seijun, should Chrippe really be running out in the open there?”

“Could you maybe come up with a better nickname first?”

But Masazumi did hold a hand over her eyes (despite being in the shade) to take a look.

There she saw…

“Swedish Chancellor Christina is here as a guest. Keep that in mind, everyone.”


Naito rolled the name “Christina” around in her mind.

She was the Swedish Chancellor they had rescued at Nördlingen.

Ga-chan’s definitely drawing a doujinshi based on her for the next event.

She was entering her second lap around the schoolyard after passing in front of Oriotri who was carrying a bamboo water bottle.

“What is she doing, Vice President?” asked Adele.

“She did a lot of work in M.H.R.R. to prepare for Nördlingen and whatnot, but then she ultimately chose not to blow herself up, right? She was so focused on all those things she neglected to complete some of her exams, so she’s completing them on the Musashi now.”

“Some of her exams?”

“Basically, she has to do some makeup exams just like we do. Our teacher is taking charge there, so after some discussion with Sweden, they got most of her makeup exams switched to athletic ones. I think she also has a foreign language exam left, but she won’t have any trouble with that.”

Asama nodded in an impressed sort of way while looking to the schoolyard with a tray in hand.

“In other words, these laps are like a ceremony she has to complete for choosing a life with the Nagaoka boy?”

“That’s a pretty bold way of putting it, Asama-chi.”

“Oh, come on,” said Asama, but she did not actually deny it.

She really has changed.

She seemed to have somewhat accepted that denying these things would accomplish nothing. Naito and Naruze had a fair bit of that between themselves, but now that strict shrine maiden was becoming that way too.

Naito knew she and Naruze still had a way to go in the regard. Naruze in particular had made a lot of progress since England, so it felt like she had surpassed Naito there.

“…”

Naito began to wonder if her partner felt inferior to her in any way.

If they both felt that way about each other, then was that another way they were “equal”?

If so…

It should be interesting to see how our relationship grows from here.

She constantly felt a desire to make sure she was a worthy partner.

“Asama-chi.”

“Yes?”

“How’s your new song coming?”

“For the summer festival, you mean?”

“Oh, judge,” said Naito noncommittally. “I was just hoping you were making one.”

“Wh-why?”

It was impressive Asama had time to do anything else at all with how busy she was with her shrine duties and the Chancellor. But doing things she was not obligated to do was probably a sign that she was still growing as a person.

That was probably best indicated by whatever she considered to be her new “normal”.

Changes in a relationship came from changes in both parties.

The Chancellor, Mito-tsan, Kimi-chan, and Horizon must be changing as well.

Yoshy and Ookubo from the 2nd year changed a lot too.

Hooray for war then? Well, maybe not, but circumstances do change people.

In that case…

Oh.

Naito wanted to do something too.

Whatever the situation, they were headed into summer break. With those major battles behind them, she was looking to the future and searching for possibilities.

She wanted to do something new.

High school education was not required, but once you joined, there was no point in not doing it. So if she was going to make the most of her time outside of school…

“Seijun, about summer break.”

She directly asked what was weighing on her mind.

They were all looking forward to summer break, but…

“Are we even going to get one?”


Adele was seated close to the Vice President, so she got a good view of the girl’s reaction.

Oh, I know what that means.

We aren’t getting one, thought Adele based on the Vice President’s reaction.

The Vice President had made a snap decision.

And her snap decisions were always about their policy regarding the Musashi and the Far East’s actions.

This snap decision meant they had to keep the Musashi and the Far East moving, so they could not spend time on a summer break.

As a vassal, Adele was prepared to accept that. Vassals kept the mission running smoothly and provided general support.

She was sometimes tasked with unnecessary odd jobs or joke jobs, but that was now how it was supposed to work. Although I feel like the jokes have become the majority lately. Of course, I bring it on myself a lot, so I guess I can’t complain too much.

But at the moment, she saw the Vice President start to say something.

“––––––”

Everyone sent emotionless looks the Vice President’s way, as a sort of counterattack.

At some point, the Date Vice Chancellor and the 2nd Special Duty Officer had displayed a summer swimsuit article on their sign fame and Mary was doing the same with a “Far Eastern Summer Dishes He’ll Love” article. Hassan was writing an article on summer curry and Horizon was staring at the Vice President using her arms and her face.

They clearly all hoped to get a summer break.

Even the Vice President would have a hard time telling them they were not getting one now.

“No,” she began, but then she forcibly changed direction: “Yes.”

A pause followed.

No one said anything, but they could hear voices from outside…no, from the first floor of the building.

“Okay! Let’s dive right on in!”

“Splaaaaash! Splish, splish, splish!”

“Hold it, you lot! You may be in the hallway, but make sure you go up for air! Not that I know what that’s like since I have gills.”

Those other students were bringing sports to a strange new territory. But…

“––––––”

Everyone exchanged a glance and opened sign frames.


Me: “I’m stuck in a figure four leglock right now, but what do you think about Seijun’s joke just now?”

Asama: “It ended with ‘yes’, so I think that probably counts as a yes.”

Sticky King: “She changed course at the very last second, so I feel like the break will be a short one if we really are getting one at all.”


Adele agreed with Nenji’s assessment.

Across the room, Mary looked up at the 1st Special Duty Officer.

“Yes-no?” She blushed and tilted her head. “What is that supposed to mean, Master Tenzou?”

“I-it’s always a yes for you! And my answer will never vary, Mary-dono!”

The Vice President gasped when she heard that, so Adele looked to Horizon. And Horizon…

“Neshin- Mitotsudaira-sama!”

“J-judge! Masazumi, don’t even think about coming up with a pun using ‘vary’ and ‘Mary’. It would barely qualify as a joke!”

“Dammit, you keep cutting me off on my jokes lately!”

“Hold it!” interjected Neshinbara. “Ariadust-kun took a moment to insult me there, didn’t she!? Mitotsudaira-kun, you heard that, didn’t you!?”

Starting with him before moving on had become so standard no one paid any real attention to it. And you should count yourself lucky our cannibalism is hitting you in such a harmless way, Secretary.

But that aside…

“Masazumi?” asked Suzu. “How much…of a break are…we getting?”


Asama saw Masazumi rest her elbow on the windowsill and stare outside.

Unturning: “Is she trying to avoid answering?”

But Masazumi answered while still staring into the distance.

“Summer break is going to be a tricky thing.”

In other words…

“You could say we’re getting one, but you could also say we aren’t.”


Asama tilted her head at that.

“So which is it – yes or no?”

“That’s the thing.” Masazumi turned back around and shrugged. “We have to continue our work with the other nations even during summer break, but everything other than that will essentially be like a normal break.”

That would mean… thought Asama.

“The people with more work to do will have a shorter break, won’t they?”

There was one person who would obviously have a lot of work.

How will he handle that?

Everyone turned toward Tenzou and he looked back at them in a cautious way.

“What do you say to that, Tenzou-kun?”

“Hm.” He crossed his arms and tilted his head and upper body. “For the most part, that’s just how it has to be.”

He was apparently prepared for it. But he would probably need a little bit of encouragement.

He’s changed too.

In the past, it had felt like he would either act immediately or refuse altogether. With Toori’s requests in particular, he would often go with the latter option after looking into it.

It was easy to guess why he had learned to hold off on making decisions now.

Mary.

He was no longer alone. He had someone waiting for him at home, so he could not rush into making decisions without discussing it with her first.

Me: “C’mon, Tenzou. You’ve been way too protective and defensive lately.”

Silver Wolf: “I think you could stand to learn how to be more defensive, my king.”

Laborer: “Ha ha ha. There’s no way he could ever pull that off, so specializing exclusively in offense is probably the right move for him.”

Hori-ko: “My attacks are indeed unavoidable.”

If only Horizon’s comment were not so true.

At any rate, Asama sent a comment to Mary.

Asama: “Um, Mary? What would you do if Tenzou-kun was stuck working during summer break?”

Scarred: “Eh?”

That must have come as a surprise because Mary hung her head toward her sign frame with flowers spilling from her.

The flowers meant her thoughts had to be in a positive place and that either inspired Naito to give her some encouragement or simply to tease her.

Gold Mar: “Would you go with him if you could? Like you did at Hexagone Française?”

Scarred: “No, um.”

Hori-ko: “Now, Mary-sama, it is time to choose.”

With that much encouragement, Mary hung her head while blushing and gave an answer.

“I-I would make Master Tenzou a lunch to eat on the job every day.”


Tenzou realized everyone was focused on him. But…

I must avoid anything that would waste Mary-dono’s efforts here.

“Mary-dono.” He spoke to her flushed and somewhat downturned face. “It is possible that I will no longer be able to eat lunch with you every day.”

Horizon8A 061.jpg

But…

“So how about I thank you for the meal when you give me my lunchbox in the morning and thank you again when I return at the end of the day?”

Her hair shook as she turned to look at him. Flowers scattered and there was a smile on her lips.

“I would love that!”


Asama gasped.

Tenzou-kun has finally learned how to put his pride on the line in a good way.

But anyway, thought Asama as she looked to Mary and Tenzou. The English Princess continued to scatter flowers as she tried to get back to studying. Tenzou watched that and then stood up.

“Here.”

He sat back down to her right.

Her shoulders tensed in obvious surprise, so he raised his right index finger.

“This is a ninja spell called Side Sitting.”

“A-a ninja spell!?”

“Yes. Now that I have cast the spell on you, you cannot help but let me sit by your side.”

“R-really?”

Masazumi responded to their conversation by leaning out the window and taking deep breaths. You just have to get used to it, Masazumi.

But Tenzou was not done speaking.

“Those affected by this spell are also doomed to see the caster when they look to the side.”

Mar-Ga: “I’m going to die.”

Asama: “Now, now, Naruze. Let’s not overreact.”

Mar-Ga: “I’ve known Tenzou since elementary school, but this really is going to kill me. Too much of a good thing really is poison.”

Gold Mar: “But why is it Ma-yan’s advances get a positive response, but Tenzou’s get a ‘has he gone insane’ response? This is definitely the latter.”

Uqui: “Ignore him. This can be the most delusional part of someone’s life.”

10ZO: “I’d prefer you call it the happiest part of my life!”

Incredibly, Asama could easily imagine him continuing on like this forever.

Regardless, this meant they had solved the Tenzou problem. So…

“Masazumi, this means you have some concrete plans for what we can do over summer break, doesn’t it? What are they?”

“Well, the first step will be procuring some more workers.”

That was a somewhat frightening thing to hear, but then Masazumi crossed her arms and turned toward Asama.

“You see, intervening in the Honnouji Incident isn’t our primary objective.” She opened a sign frame displaying a map of M.H.R.R. and she tapped at the northern part of it. “You haven’t forgotten, have you? We’re trying to make our way to Westphalia.”


Masazumi made sure everyone was focused on her before she continued.

“Are you listening?” she began, earning her some nods.

They all understood, so she went ahead and said it.

This had always been their starting point.

“At Mikawa, we tasked ourselves with collecting the Logismoi Oplo in order to stop the Apocalypse.”

Horizon nodded.

“The idiot insisted on world domination, but in the earlier debate between you and the Pope-Chancellor, we decided our main task would be debating the legitimacy of our objective at the Peace of Westphalia. …Oh, and I learned all this from Tres España’s Helper-sama.”

“I’m pretty sure she’s either a name inheritor or a name inheritor candidate, so I should probably look up her actual name sometime.” Or better yet, thought Masazumi as she added that task to her “Jobs for Ookubo” list. “While we search for a means of stopping the Apocalypse, our priority is gathering the Logismoi Oplo and securing our own rights and safety. It was my discussion with the Pope-Chancellor that determined we would use the Peace of Westphalia to make the final decision on all that. And at England and Magdeburg, we made a certain promise with Europe and the former Mlasi leader.”

“Europe’s nations and other related nations will support Musashi at Westphalia if we oppose Oda and Hashiba, since they are a threat to Europe, correct?”

Mitotsudaira framed it as a question since she had not been there when the decision was made.

Masazumi was relieved that someone like that could find the answer so quickly.

“Judge,” she confirmed. “Nothing is set in stone, but that is what we decided. So our objective will be achieved at the Peace of Westphalia, but we have to drive back Hashiba and Oda to get there.”

“And we finally managed to liberate Kantou, right?”

“Yes, but the big finale is yet to come. We still need to intervene in the Honnouji Incident.”

Masazumi swung her right arm and Tsukinowa did the same with his right foreleg to open a sign frame.

Then she spoke to them all.

“If we do not do something here, we will have a hard time emerging victorious at Westphalia.”


Chapter 2: Waiter on the Circuit[edit]

Horizon8A 065.jpg

Even if you wait

Or are late

If they come to greet you

You are on the same path

Point Allocation (Check Out These Lovebirds)


“Now, then.” Christina came to a stop on the schoolyard. “It feels so pleasantly cool on the Musashi, Sensei.”

“Is it hot on the surface at this time of year?” asked Oriotri, the gym teacher in charge of her exam.

Christina nodded and took the bamboo bottle Oriotri offered her.

“Kansai has a uniquely hot summer. You’re from IZUMO, so are not all that familiar with this area?”

“Judge. IZUMO is supposed to be neutral and all, but the land below has a pretty high elevation. And you can’t move far from there with Hexagone Française to the west and M.H.R.R. to the east.”

“Then you’ve really only lived on the Musashi and in IZUMO?”

“You already knew that, didn’t you?” asked Oriotri with a toothy smile.

Christina could feel her eyebrows rising in response.

She could always say yes.

She had gathered all sorts of information in her time at M.H.R.R.

“There was of course a lot of information of dubious accuracy, but my style was to gather that information along with the rest.”

“I’d rather not know what kind of dubious information about me is out there.”

“There was some that honestly makes me want to fill in some holes about your past.”

“Oh, really?”

“Testament,” she started to say, stopped, and then decided to say it after all. “Testament. The information line between IZUMO and Mikawa is a lot more isolated than I had expected.”

“Well, IZUMO does exist to preserve the Far East. And once they left Amago, they stopped dealing much with the Far Eastern forces either.”

“True enough.” Christina smiled bitterly. “Which is why I would love to look into some things related to the emperor where the records and arrangements must still exist. Yes.”

“You have quite the passion for research. As a teacher, I have nothing but encouragement for that.”

With that, Oriotri took a drink from the bamboo bottle hanging at her hip.

Then she viewed her surroundings and checked the time on her sign frame.

“That concludes your stamina test, so how about we get changed and head inside before your paper exam? We’ll roast out here.”

“Not necessary,” said Christina while opening a spell with a smile.

It was a Shinto sunshade spell. A written prayer was arranged in a circle that floated in the sky to cast a shadow over her. Once in its shade, she became very aware of how hot she was.

“Tadaoki-sama will apparently be coming here during the lunch break, so I will wait here.”

“Huh? Doesn’t he have an afternoon exam? Why would he come here?”

She honestly did not know, but…

“I have no reason to tell him not to.”

“Can’t you just wait inside?”

“I’ve always wanted to wait for someone like this.”

“Hm, I see.”

It pleased Christina that Oriotri seemed to understand. And…

“It’s so strange.”

“What is?”

“Testament.” Christina spun the sunshade spell around to look toward the academy gate. “My daily life has completely changed. Yes.”


Christina looked to the ship’s bow from the academy schoolyard.

She saw the long stairway down, the artificial forest spread out below, and a massive city formed from multiple ships.

Her old home had been near Nördlingen, a city with a diameter of 1km. But the city in front of her now was several times that size.

And it was flying through the sky.

Everything was in the Far Eastern style, which felt very familiar to her since the Nagaoka home and the surrounding area had been as well.

But even so…

“It’s so strange.”

She had occasionally investigated the Musashi and she had numerically understood everything there was to know about it. She had even seen footage from within it. And yet…

“I never know how to react to things here. Yes.”

“You’re just not used to being free to do what you want.”

She could only agree with that.

“I always thought I had a good grasp on the world from all the information I had collected, but now that I see it for myself, I’ve found experiencing things is very different from any amount of knowledge. I know it’s a little late in life to be having that beginner’s revelation, but here I am.”

“Your knowledge and your life are directly linked now, aren’t they?”

“Testament,” replied Christina.

Also, a sign frame appeared next to her face. It displayed footage from somewhere in the city. The text displayed over it said it was the road through Okutama’s nature district.

A boy in a Far Eastern summer uniform was running down it.

That was Tadaoki.

That would be the location spell arranged by the Asama Shrine. He and she were both viewed as VIPs on the Musashi, but their location was not considered secret and it could be publicly accessed. So as a free service, she was capable of seeing what he was doing.

Based on the spell’s display, that free service only applied while he was out on the surface city’s streets, but she was plenty thankful for even that.

Tadaoki was coming.

He was running, but when he passed through one of the guard gates or passed nearby someone else…

“…”

For some reason, he would slow his pace to a walk and pretend he was not in a hurry at all.

And once he was through the gate or far enough away from the other person…

“…!”

He would start running again. He was running here.

Honestly.

Was he embarrassed or bashful about it? It seemed so childish to try to hide it like that.

Then again, Christina wondered if she was even more childish for waiting outside for him like this.

I’ve already decided I’m a child, haven’t I?

In that case, she decided while turning toward Oriotri.

“Sensei, I would prefer to wait inside. Yes.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to wait out here?”

“He will come for me whether I am out here or not. Yes. And if he is going to hide his embarrassment, then it’s only fair for me to hide myself too. Also…”

She turned around to look at the school building. She could see someone standing in the central third-floor window with their back turned.

That must be their Vice President.

She had not spoken much with that girl yet, but…

“They must be having a meeting in there.”

If they were doing that instead of studying for their exams…

“I am not yet in any position to join them there, but I imagine it is a very nice place to be.”


“So. Masazumi, are you trying to say our intervention at the Honnouji Incident could change the outcome of Westphalia?”

Masazumi answered Mitotsudaira’s question with a nod.

“Does anyone here know what it is I have been trying to do to P.A. Oda for a while now?”

Horizon raised her right hand.

She had come to understand a lot lately, so Masazumi nodded to tell her to speak.

Horizon looked to the others before doing so.

“You have been harassing P.A. Oda.”

“Wait!”

Unfortunately, everyone was already busy reacting.

Naruze quickly sat up and started up her crop mark frame Magie Figur.

“So you’re saying I can draw them!? I’m down for whatever you want me to draw! It doesn’t even have to be my usual style! For example, I’m fine with writing one commander as Xiahou Dun and another as Richard II and having them meet in Jerusalem by doing the ‘bell ringer’ in bed! And we might as well go with some of the bigger names, right!? So just tell me who!”

“Naruze-dono, does this mean you’re aware your doujinshis count as harassment!?” asked Tenzou.

“It might not accomplish much, but I can export my family’s finest sweets to P.A. Oda territory while spreading around some life worship products!” said Ohiroshiki.

“What better harassment than Russian roulette curry?” suggested Hassan.

“I wonder how Toori-sama will harass them. Probably by visiting them and being himself,” said Horizon.

“H-hey, what kind of person do you think I am!?” protested Toori.

“Master Tenzou,” said a voice. Mary had turned toward Crossunite. “D-do you think I should help out by asking my sister to harass them?”

“I am sure Elizabeth-dono would hit them hard, but I believe that would qualify as an international incident.”

Come to think of it, she already intervened at Novgorod, thought Masazumi.

But what they needed now was a little different.

“Hey.” She waved her hand back and forth. “Listen up, everyone. We don’t want to harass them. Hey, listen!”

But they were all too focused on what kind of trouble they could cause. She was very worried by the strange comments she was hearing from time to time: “We can’t do it directly. They’d know what we were up to.” “So slowly and from the cover of darkness?” “We can start with the vegetables!”

She had to get their eyes back on her. At the moment only Tsukinowa was looking her way. Further proof that Tsukinowa is the cutest.

“Listen, everyone,” she said. “Do you know why we can’t harass them? Because when you treat people like that, there’s this old curse that puts hair on your butt. Hence why it’s called hair-ass-ing people. …What, was that one too clever for you? You’re supposed to laugh.”

Now they were all focused her. And giving her quite the look.


Unturning: “What…was that?”

Uqui: “Judge. That one was maybe too powerful.”

Gold Mar: “Yeah, she hasn’t had one that bad in a while.”

Me: “Now do you all see how I feel when you make fun of me!? Well, do you!?”

Asama: “Everyone understands, Toori-kun, so stop looking to us for agreement.”

Vice President: “How strange. I thought that was a pretty good one.”

At least it had stopped the others from getting further off topic.

“Listen, everyone,” began Masazumi. “We aren’t interested in harassing them.”

The Aoi sister immediately raised her hand.

Masazumi held out her palm to tell her to speak and the idiot sister tilted her head.

“Heh heh. Anteater master, then what is our ultimate goal here?”

“Isn’t that obvious?” said Masazumi. “We intervene at Honnouji and restrict P.A. Oda’s movements. Nothing is set to weaken P.A. Oda more than the Honnouji Incident. I’m sure they have some kind of plan in place to prevent that, but if we intervene, we should be able to prevent any convenient interpretations on their part. At the very least, we can demand our own interpretations to slow them down.”

Or to sum up…

“On second thought, you probably could describe that as harassing them.”

“Don’t you say that!”

They must have wanted to say it themselves.


Mitotsudaira saw Masazumi cornered over by the window.

“What’s wrong with giving my own thoughts on the matter!? You got a problem with that!?”

That did not sound like something a politician should be saying, but they were in between major events right now.

“If you ask me,” said Horizon. “The more humiliated Masazumi-sama feels here, the more motivated she will be to ‘harass’ P.A. Oda. Good thinking, Masazumi-sama.”

“I think that would be more like lashing out than harassment.”

Well, a lot of harassment probably is.

Meanwhile, Horizon had Mitotsudaira’s king in an ankle hold, but he was bearing with it while resting his head in Mitotsudaira’s lap.

“M-my king, are you okay!?”

“Ah, ow, agh, Nate!”

She prepared herself for whatever he was going to say.

“Nate, I can actually see your face while resting in your lap.”

She dropped a chop down onto his head, which parted her thighs and crashed into the tatami mats. He hit the floor pretty hard, so…

“M-my king, are you okay!?”

“Ah, ow, agh, Nate!”

She prepared herself for whatever he was going to say while he lifted her thighs from the outside and pressed them against his face.

“Check out my headphones.”

Horizon had been propping up her ankle hold with her right leg, but now she dropped that heel onto his gut.

His head hopped up in response and Mitotsudaira pressed her legs together to catch him on her lap again. Asama nodded a few times in an impressed sort of way, but…

This isn’t supposed to be a show, you know?

But she did have a thought on what Masazumi had said.

“Masazumi? You keep saying we’ll be intervening at Honnouji, but is that actually worth doing?”

“Huh? Worth doing? What do you mean?”

“Well, um…okay. The Honnouji Incident sets in motion the weakening and fracturing of P.A. Oda, so they will of course have a plan to limit those effects.”

Meaning…

“An academy on P.A. Oda’s level will have predicted interference from other nations or other external groups even during summer break. In particular, they must know we will be plotting something.”

So…

“P.A. Oda will want to lay the groundwork to ensure the fracturing of their internal forces is only for show, so won’t all the battles and all the promotions and demotions of personnel be completed in advance or sidestepped with interpretations? If we don’t intervene in just the right way, won’t they crush all our efforts with whatever plans they have in place?”

“Yes, and I have a plan for that.” Masazumi took a breath before calmly continuing. “P.A. Oda will have prepared a number of barriers to avoid any intervention, but I plan to focus on just two major objectives.”

Namely…

“Ensuring Oda Nobunaga truly retires and ensuring the internal fracturing of P.A. Oda. We will make sure those happen no matter what plans and interpretations they have ready to go. That is what our intervention will entail.”


No matter what interpretations they have? wondered Horizon.

She sat up, which loosened the ankle hold, so she made sure to lean backwards too.

“Wouldn’t an interpretation prevent us from doing that?”

“That’s where politics come into play, just like it did with you at Mikawa. Interpretations can give someone death or life.” Masazumi turned toward her. “But even with one in effect, it is up to the coming age, the people who live there, and their politics to decide what the world does afterwards.”

“Judge.” Horizon nodded. “I see what you are trying to say, Masazumi-sama. No matter what kind of plans P.A. Oda has and even if they do hold us back and avoid Nobunaga’s retirement and the fracturing of the Oda forces,” she said. “We will not stop harassing them.”

“That’s not entirely wrong, but let’s not phrase it like that, Horizon!”

“Now, now,” said Horizon while standing up and gathering everyone’s attention. “Heh. Everyone focuses on me when we talk about political harassment, so you can tell how much more sophisticated I am than Toori-sama.”

“Hold on, Horizon!”

The idiot sat up and took both her hands in his own.

“The thing is, Horizon, I know all about this political harassment Masazumi’s talking about. It’s, um, well, you see…oh, right! You hold hands like this, tangle your fingers together like this, and…pant, pant.”

“I hate to interrupt your creepy joke, but those hands belong to my arms.”

She had already detached her arms.

“Eh?”

The idiot and Mitotsudaira looked down to see the arms had a tight grasp on his hands.

Then the two arms rapidly dragged him out into the hallway.

His voice out grew more distant in the summer air.

“Ah, hey, not the stairs, not the stairs, not the stairs! Especially not while I’m face down!”

“Umm,” said Mitotsudaira while not quite sure what to do, so Horizon spoke to her.

“I had not let them go on their walk yet today. They should drag him for about 2km, so how about we continue our discussion in the meantime?”

They heard more shouting voices from the hallway.

“Why’d some disembodied arms just interrupt our hallway swimming!?”

“Ahhhh! Damn those things are fast!”

“They’re swimming upstream!”

They heard students shouting as they fled, a door breaking open, and an entire class worth of screams.

But Horizon took a breath in a seated position and nodded toward Asama and Mitotsudaira.

“This is a way for (part of) me to keep Toori-sama to myself for longer.”

“I’m really not sure what to say to that one,” said Asama.

Horizon let out a short sigh.

“Ah, summer.”

It was impressive how Asama was already writing up a few divine mails containing some kind of excuse.


“Anyway,” said Naito while raising her right hand.

It was starting to feel like bad things happened to whoever raised their hand, but as a Technohexen, she had to welcome the bad luck. So…

“Um, I think I know what Seijun and Horizon were talking about regarding interpretations and politics.”

She tried to explain.

“If we actually work our way into Honnouji, we can prevent them from providing ‘dead’ Nobunaga with a position where Nobunaga can provide advice and effectively hold a cloistered rule and we can prevent them from maintaining behind-the-scenes connections between the fractured pieces of the Oda clan.”

“Exactly right.”

“But,” cut in Neshinbara with a swing of his arm to push his glasses back up. “There are two problems there.”

He crossed his arms and posed. This pissed Naruze off so much she started stabbing her pen device into her Magie Figur. You need to learn how to show restraint, Ga-chan.

But Neshinbara missed all that and simply opened a sign frame.

It showed a map of P.A. Oda and its influence given the current state of the world.

“First, how are we going to intervene?”

And…

“Once we intervene, how do we secure any influence there?”

“Influence? What do you mean by that, Secretary?”

“An excellent question, Balfette-kun!”

Neshinbara immediately turned toward Horizon, who lazily scratched at her head before holding out a hand.

“Oh, that isn’t a tricky enough question to require an explanation from Mitotsudaira-sama, so there is no need at all for me to shout ‘Mitotsudaira-sama’. …Mitotsudaira-samaaaa!!!!”

“J-judge! I will explain!”

“D-dammit! I can’t believe I fell for that! I’m so stupid for letting my guard down! Stupid, stupid, stupid!”

What is he even doing? wondered Naito, but Naruze smiled bitterly next to her.

“You should’ve caught on as soon as she said it ‘isn’t a tricky enough question’. If that were accurate, it would mean Adele had asked a stupid question.”

“That’s right! And Horizon wouldn’t do that!” shouted the Chancellor who was now lying face up outside the door.

Naito had no idea when he had ended up there, but as soon as he made his assertion with a smile…

“Heh.”

He vanished to the right of the door and they could hear him being rapidly dragged down the hallway.

Mitotsudaira ended up staring in that direction, so…

“Umm, uh.”

“Mito-tsan, the arms will be back eventually, so focus on explaining for us, will you?”

“Eh? Oh, that’s right. You want me to explain what influence means in relation to our intervention.”

Mitotsudaira was still giving the hallway the occasional worried glance, but she had turned her body to face the others.

She composed her breathing before speaking.

“When we intervene in the Honnouji Incident, our words have to have real weight behind them.”

“What do you mean?”

“Judge. Simply put, if we intervened in P.A. Oda’s Honnouji Incident now, we probably couldn’t accomplish anything.”

“Really?”

“Judge,” said Naito. She continued after seeing Mitotsudaira nod toward her. “Because Musashi is a foreign nation, an outsider, and an enemy. No matter how good an argument we try to use to stop them, they could ignore it with an interpretation, continue to ignore us after that, and allow summer break to end without us accomplishing anything at all.”

“Um, this isn’t exactly my area of expertise,” said Adele. “But I thought you weren’t allowed to do that.”

“We are not talking about an international event. It will be a domestic history recreation, so they can come up with the rules.” Mitotsudaira lightly waved her arm. “Let’s say a foreigner was visiting us here. Then let’s say we were exhausted after a long day of studying and decided to eat some sweets. Now, what if that foreigner insisted it was wrong to eat sweets at school and demanded we stop. Adele, would you do what they said?”

“No, of course not.”

“Right?” said Mitotsudaira. “That is how every nation sees their domestic history recreations and politics.”

That’s true, thought Naito.

Politics had reached the point where nations were searching out and questioning their position in international society, but…

“Domestic politics are all about absolute monarchies these days, so all the nations are trying to increase their own power so they can stand up to the leading nations. In some cases, there are even power struggles within a single nation. In a way, we’re starting to build a path leading out to the international stage, but things are still quite insular on the inside.”

“Exactly right,” replied Masazumi, who had dealt with a lot of people just like that. She shrugged. “These days, monarchs will excuse their dictatorial rule by insisting it is the only way to overcome the other nations. Which means the ordinary citizens are forced to endure those dictatorships.” She took a breath. “So if any outsiders intervene, they will either be eliminated or more politely omitted from the discussion. Isn’t that what you were trying to say, Mitotsudaira?”

“Judge. Anything you say is meaningless if the other side can just say ‘we will rectify that in the near future’ or ‘we have chosen a different solution for that’.”

And…

“P.A. Oda is a powerful nation. And powerful nations only act when they can benefit greatly from that action. If the returns outweigh the risks of ignoring our intervention, then the other nations might just follow P.A. Oda’s lead.”

“Then how are we supposed to gain some influence when we intervene?” asked Asama.

Naito pondered that one. The others seemed to be doing the same. And the idiot appeared outside the door again.

“Um-”

He immediately disappeared again and Naito raised her hand while watching it happen.

“How about we try becoming a Testament Union Rep?” She waved her raised hand a little. “Um, a Testament Union Rep could go inspect the Honnouji Incident. History recreation inspections are pretty common and it would make sense for a third-party nation to take that role, right? So how about that?”


Arrive in P.A. Oda as a Testament Union Representative?

Not a bad idea, thought Masazumi. But…

“Have you forgotten the Testament Union is under Hashiba’s control, Naito?”

M.H.R.R. had conquered K.P.A. Italia and M.H.R.R.’s Matthias had named himself Holy Roman Emperor by taking the inherited name of Ferdinand II.

Pope-Chancellor Innocentius had gone missing, so his older/younger stepsister Olimpia had taken over as the next Pope in K.P.A. Italia.

“K.P.A. Italia was originally a collection of city-states without any real fighting force of its own. Each city-state had its own warriors to defend themselves, but they did not work together to protect the ‘nation’ of K.P.A. Italia. So the only way to protect the nation as a whole was to hire mercenaries, but now Hashiba’s forces are playing that role.”

So…

“K.P.A. Italia was effectively the leader of the Testament Union, but they belong to P.A. Oda now. I doubt they would approve our request to become a representative since that would harm P.A. Oda,” said Masazumi. “Besides, do you remember the instructions from the Testament Union I showed you earlier? They are trying to seal us in Kantou to prevent us from intervening in Honnouji.”

“Isn’t that why though?” said Naito all of a sudden. “Isn’t it politics that finds a way to do it anyway?”


“Hm.”

Tenzou saw Masazumi cross her arms and nod.

If she was thinking that deeply, then she would come up with some kind of countermeasure. He trusted their Vice President enough to know that.

In that case, thought Tenzou. I really am going to lose my summer break, aren’t I?

But he had prepared himself for it now. And he would be getting homemade lunches. I still don’t want to be working away from Mary-dono all day, though, he thought. But…

“I will gather intelligence for you, Masazumi-dono. Just tell me what it is you need.”

“In that case,” she said while raising her clenched right hand. “The biggest problem is who we’ll be negotiating with.”

She had a frown on her face, so he had to ask what she meant.

“Who we’ll be negotiating with?”

“Intervening in P.A. Oda will of course require someone to connect us to them. And doing that directly instead of through a third nation would eliminate any unnecessary interests there.”

In other words…

“That means we can’t get England or anyone else’s help as an intermediary, doesn’t it?” said Mary.

Masazumi nodded and glanced to the east.

“The problem is that the part of P.A. Oda we’ve interacted with the most is Hashiba. But Hashiba is currently in Kantou.”

“Repairing the Azuchi and withdrawing from Kantou will take them a while, you know?”

“Not necessarily, but we do have a few options here.”

Masazumi looked outside.

That drew Naito’s eyes to the window as well.

“Oh,” she said. “Nagabuto’s here. I wonder what his plans with Chrippe are.”

“The process to make Nagaoka a Musashi resident is underway, but Lady Nagaoka has yet to decide how she will interact with Musashi as the Swedish Chancellor. So Nagaoka will eventually move from the embassy to the student dorms, but Lady Nagaoka will stay in the Swedish embassy.”

I see, thought Tenzou while Mary spoke up in apparent realization.

“Was I able to stay with Master Tenzou right away because I had defected?”

“This is why people call you strongly decisive, Ma-yan.”

“Judge,” said Mary with a smile. I’m glad that wasn’t a bitter smile, thought Tenzou, but he also mentally scratched his head at how pathetic that thought made him feel.

But there was something he had to ask about this if he was to gather intelligence during summer break.

“Then what will Lady Nagaoka be doing in the long term?”


Lady Nagaoka’s decision could be a major problem for Musashi, thought Tenzou.

During the 30 Years’ War, Sweden became a powerful nation with plenty of wartime equipment and strategies. Their Chancellor was supposed to have died at Nördlingen, but she had survived.

Also, she was the daughter of Akechi Mitsuhide, a powerful member of P.A. Oda.

Musashi was planning to make a move against P.A. Oda, so Lady Nagaoka’s presence here would hold a lot of meaning to the other nations watching them.

But Masazumi responded with her arms crossed.

“Sweden has decided it would be best if she does not return to her home country for a while.”

“Then…?”

“Judge.” Masazumi looked up at the ceiling. “They have been fighting the 30 Years’ War without her this whole time, so her return could cause a major change in how the war plays out.”

So…

“So Sweden thinks they will have more time to make the necessary adjustments if she doesn’t return until after summer break. So what she does really comes down to whether or not she personally wants to work with Musashi. After all, she could be used as our method to intervene in the Honnouji Incident.”

Because…

“She could be the negotiating partner with a connection to P.A. Oda that I mentioned earlier.”

“Would she help us, though?” asked Naruze while scratching her head with her pen.

She was expressing doubt, so Tenzou asked why she was doubtful.

“We saved her, so wouldn’t it make sense for her to assist us?”

“But she wanted to die back there. And you could say it was actually Nagabuto who saved her.”

So…

“She has enough reason to not feel indebted to us. She can just say all Musashi did was help out Nagabuto.”

And…

“Sweden is a powerful nation, but the Testament says they become pacifists after Christina becomes queen. If they can reach the end of the 30 Years’ War as things are now, the Testament ensures their position as victors, so their best bet should be to avoid any unnecessary risks.” She sounded bored with it all. “So even if Christina does want to help us in any way she can, she might be unable to do so if she wants to ensure the safety of her homeland. And I’m sure they already had plans in place based on the assumption she died.”

“Wait,” called a voice. It was Narumi who was packing their equipment in bags in the storage area near the entrance. She tilted her head as she continued. “Even so, she would still need to repay us for the help we provided in saving her. Even if they had already planned around it, we’re talking about the survival of their leader.”

“Even if she feels a debt over that, she can repay us in some other way,” said Naruze. “Have you forgotten that she has something else we want?”

Narumi frowned at that. She did not seem to know what Naruze meant, but eventually…

Oh.

She seemed to arrive at the answer and spread her mouth horizontally.

Tenzou arrived at the answer at the same moment. Lady Nagaoka did indeed already have something she could use to negotiate with Musashi.

Narumi wrinkled her brow as she gave the answer.

“She has the rest of the memo that the Mito Lord obtained, doesn’t she?”

“Judge.” Tenzou elaborated on what Narumi had said. “Carlos I’s memo mentioned a question and the text of that question was passed from the Prince of Orange to Christina-dono, correct?”

He directed that question toward Masazumi. She had the authority here and she waved a hand to open a sign frame.

The screen displayed an official text bearing the national emblem of Sweden.

“This says Lady Nagaoka will prepare a meeting place for us soon. To discuss that very memo.”

So…

“She can use that information about Carlos I to repay us for saving her. Sweden is essentially saying that whether or not she will involve herself in our Honnouji intervention will come down to another negotiation where we start out on equal footing.”


We have so many problems to deal with, thought Masazumi.

Mitotsudaira sighed and then smiled bitterly.

“I can see why you wish we could just leave the Musashi here.”

“Judge. No matter what happens, it would help a lot to have the Musashi here, but if we can’t get Lady Nagaoka’s help, it would be far better if the Musashi doesn’t return to Kantou.” Masazumi clapped her hands together. “But anyway, the memo stuff we just mentioned is still a step forward. We should be able to figure out the rest at a later date. …Asama, can you provide Nagaoka and Lady Nagaoka with a divine-transmission-capable system? That way we can hold a meeting at any time.”

“Of course,” said Asama while Horizon’s arms returned to her sides. Which meant…

“Toori-dono?”

Tenzou looked to the hallway. Masazumi and everyone else also looked to the entrance, but there was no one there. What did that mean?

“Oh, dear. I was trying to hog Toori-sama to myself, but it seems he got caught somewhere and I left him behind. How careless of (part of) me.”

“O-okay, Mito!” said Asama. “Go sniff him out!”

“I can more or less figure out where he is without doing that!”

“You can?” asked the others while they began to go their separate ways. They had to take their next exam soon, but also…

“For now, let’s start with the things we can do ourselves. …Are all of you ready? Our next exam is Sensei’s health and PE, so-”

She was cut off when a voice butted in from the hallway.

“Hold that thought. Are most of you in here?”

It was Oriotri.

What’s this all of a sudden?

She was not carrying anything with her, so Masazumi wondered where the exam sheets were.

“Most of us should either be in here or the cafeteria. I can contact the rest if you want.”

“Great, you can inform the others for me,” said Oriotri. “The thing is, there aren’t going to be anymore paper exams.”


“Huh?”

Most of them tilted their heads and Masazumi raised her right hand and the textbook it held.

“But we haven’t completed your health and PE exam.”

“That’s the thing. Don’t you want to do another practical exam?”

I see, thought Masazumi. It had looked like Oriotri was speaking with the Swedish Chancellor out on the schoolyard earlier, but that must have made her think they needed a practical exam. But…

“Um, Sensei? The Tachibana Couple and Naomasa aren’t here.”

“Yes, that’s true.”

Oriotri stood at the lectern like she usually did and pointed in a certain direction.

She pointed to port, which was east.

“Gin, Muneshige, and Naomasa need to be here for the exam, so it has to be postponed. We can start once those three are back. Does that sound good?”


They were now done with all their exams except for their health and PE one, which had been switched to a practical exam. The lack of a grade from Oriotri made it seem a lot less done than it was, but when the idiot returned…

“Man, you people need to relax more, so how about we throw a party to celebrate the Kantou Liberation and Nördlingen?”

On his suggestion, they decided to head down to the Udon Kingdom that night. They would gather at a place Adele recommended:

“I found this great Udon place! It looks like fun!”

That was a worrying recommendation, but they decided to take a risk this time.

The plan was to clean up the Student Council Rec Room before nightfall, carry their personal belongings back to their homes, and then regather for the party.

But for the time being, they had all put their textbooks aside so they could laze around on the rec room’s floor.

“We’re gonna be stuck at school a lot even during summer break, aren’t we?” said the idiot.

“We definitely are,” replied Masazumi while grabbing a nearby book. “But for now, we need to clean up. Letting things pile up won’t solve anything, so we have to deal with it one thing at a time. I’m sure Hashiba is doing things much the same way.”


Chapter 3: Hiders Heading Out[edit]

Horizon8A 097.jpg

Am I

What I want?

Or what others want?

Point Allocation (Destination)


Kantou’s summers are just hot, thought Fukushima.

In M.H.R.R. of Kansai, each region had its own unique touch. Less windy regions, horrendously humid regions, and dry regions were all crammed in together.

She also remembered the open skies of Kansai’s summers.

How strange.

They were currently in the sky off of Kantou’s coast.

They were on the Azuchi’s deck working on a post-battle check of their situation.

On and around the large Azuchi, people were on the move and speaking while transport ships were arriving and leaving.

According to Takenaka, this would continue for around 10 more days before the Azuchi could finally return to Lake Biwa.

Today’s job was retrieving their people from Kantou and organizing the transport ships.

That was expected to last 2 or 3 days to provide enough time for the boarding schedule and for enough living space within the Azuchi to be located and prepared.

“Hey! Who ordered these outdoor watchtowers!? Were you hoping to build your own battle formation out here!?”

“We’re taking them to one of the storerooms to build our own watchtower room! That’s where you’re sleeping too!”

“Nope, wrong! There isn’t enough space in the storerooms, so you’ll have to build your battle formation out here.”

“For real!? We’ve gotta camp out on top of the Azuchi!?”

That sounds perfect for the summer season, thought Fukushima. She was also impressed that they all immediately began ordering watermelons, firewood, and Dutch ovens.

They must have been ready for summer break now that the battle was over.

As for Fukushima herself…

“Make sure to drink water when you feel hot, everyone!”

She called out to the campers while managing the movement of weapons containers on the ship’s surface.

She had some people who worked for her. They had all fought on the front line during the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle, but now they were sweating up here on the deck.

She checked on their progress and noted any problems. If those problems were more than just a slowdown, she would point out where they had gone wrong so they could improve.

This work actually used combat knowledge.

In battle, it was crucial to keep tabs on how your own forces were doing, judge what the enemy formation, castle, or city was doing, and predict what they were likely planning.

It required knowledge and wisdom.

If you understood that, you could handle this work.

Besides, she was not the only one here who knew how to do that work.

“Team 3 here seems to be falling behind the others.”

“Oh, Fukushima-sama! There’s no water supply at our designated location! Is there any way we can fix that!?”

The team leaders would have already worked out the cause of the problem or delay without her having to do anything.

That meant her job was mostly handling the paperwork.

A water supply would be too much for a team leader to handle.

All the water supplies would have been used for fighting fires during combat, but where they needed water supplies was different now that the fighting was over. So…

“We need to consider doing the construction ourselves.”

“Testament! We can do that once we finish this job! And we can use that water to have a toast!”

The cheers that elicited suggested they had been fairly worried about the water. They redoubled their efforts and looked impressive going at their work so vigorously.

Meanwhile…

Llaf: “Takenaka-sama, I have something I would like to ask thee. Do thou have a moment?”

Kuro-Take: “Ero ero ero ero ero.”

Llaf: “Isn’t it a little soon for that!?”

Kuro-Take: “No, your afternoon ero is important. Now, what did you want to ask, Fukushima-san?”

As soon as she asked, Takenaka seemed to figure it out on her own, so she continued after taking a breath.

Kuro-Take: “You need a water supply, don’t you? We’re getting a lot of requests for those, so I sent Hachisuka-kun in with a specialized rapid construction crew. She should be at your area soon.”

6: “I’m already there.”

Fukushima looked back to see Koroku climbing the aft stairs.

The others knew what this meant, so they greeted her while Koroku’s crew began to tear up the deck’s armor panels. Koroku raised her right hand to acknowledge the greetings as she spoke to Fukushima.

“Fukushima.” Her expression was as unreadable as ever. “The Shibata Team is asking for you.”


“Huh!?”

Kani responded to Koroku before Fukushima could.

Her current job was to carry things between their people on the deck and their people one level below. It was a short distance, but repeatedly ascending and descending a flight of stairs in the summer weather really wore you out.

To keep herself from sweating, she had a towel wrapped around her forehead and she had Sasamura carry things too.

“Is the Fukushima Team being absorbed into the Shibata Team!?”

She spoke aloud without thinking, earning a glare from Koroku.

Oops! We’ve never actually met, have we!?

They had seen each other from a distance before the attack on Bitchu Takamatsu Castle. Koroku’s transport ship had been sunk by Bernard, which had seemed crazy at the time, but thinking back…

That’s pretty normal for us!!

Her standards had changed at some point.

But Koroku was still looking at her.

“Umm.”

Based on her face, she wanted to ask “what was your name again?” instead of a full-on “who are you?” So Kani stood up straight, and…

“Um!”

“Wait.” Koroku held out a hand and placed her other hand on her forehead in thought.

I-is she gonna get it!?

Kani knew her inherited name’s Far Eastern spelling was not easy to read. If I hadn’t inherited the name, I wouldn’t know how to read it myself!

But after a bit, Koroku lowered both hands and turned toward Fukushima.

“You know what? Never mind.”

“Ehhh!? Y-you don’t have an answer!?”

“Someone’ll tell me.”

She’s so dry!

But Kani had a feeling it was that very ability to know what she could safely ignore that had allowed her to command the western side at Bitchu Takamatsu Castle.

Kani had seen the records of that battle and the west had been the most flooded. And that was where the enemy’s god of war unit and two of their Three Musketeers had been fighting.

But she persevered!

There were times when a god of war pilot had to be separated from their infantry warriors on the battlefield.

After all, the durability, mobility, and combat strength of a god of war and of infantry were entirely different. A god of war could at times change the course of an entire battle, so they would sometimes leave their unit to complete some other task if necessary.

But now her Koroku Team was working together to construct a water supply.

“You must do this a lot!”

“We do a lot of maintenance. And a lot of us are from farming families.”

“Really!?”

“Testament.” Koroku pointed at Kani. “The Shibata Team is asking for you too.”

“Ehh!? What for!?”

“Ask the pervert.”

“What pervert!?”

“Katagiri.”

“Katagiri’s a pervert!?”

“He is.”

“Really!?”

“I saw it with my own two eyes.”

“Then it must be true!”

A stir ran through the others.

“Katagiri-sama is a pervert!?”

“Eh!? Hold on! That changes my summer break plans completely!”

“All the better! Katagiri-sama can get as pervy as he wants with me!”

I don’t know what they mean, but I’m glad our team and the Hachisuka Team are using this break from work to get to know each other better!


Kuro-Take: “Um, Katagiri-kun? You have a really unfortunate thread about you on the Azuchi Network.”

□□凸: “Eh!? …Wh-what the heck is this!? I didn’t know about any of this! And now they’re uploading short stories about me! ‘An offering I can no longer use this summer’? What is that supposed to mean!?”

AnG: “Probably that it’s an offering they can no longer use this summer.”


“Okay, everyone, stop staring at the divine network on your lernen figurs and get back to work.”

Fukushima clapped her hands and got after the others. And after seeing the others hurriedly resume working…

“Well or pump?” asked Koroku.

She pointed to her work team on the deck where they had already torn up a small block of armor, opening up a space with the width and depth of about a 1.5m.

The equipment the Hachisuka Team had brought suggested they were going to construct an open-air torii-style information terminal. Since it was linked to the Tsurugi Shrine, the torii had a sword sticking into it.

“A well is a good choice for up on the surface like this,” said Fukushima. “We can dump the water on ourselves, while a pump would restrict how many people could use it at once. Also…

“Testament. A pump might rupture during a side flip. I’m relieved.”

That lost comment meant this must have been a “test” by Koroku. Because…

“I’ll be staying here.”

She would remain on the Azuchi. So…

“Thou said Shibata-sama summoned my team?”

“Hashiba had a message for you too.”

Before Fukushima could ask what that was, Koroku provided the answer.

“Grow strong.”


Grow strong.

That was enough for Fukushima.

I see.

“So this is to be a training camp.”

“They just don’t have anything better to do,” said Koroku.

“Really!?” asked Kani.

Fukushima was unsure if she should agree with that or not.

“I am not sure how to phrase this, but Shibata-sama’s team probably has to stay where they are until the Honnouji Incident.”

“They still have that much history recreation left to do!?”

“You need to study more,” suggested Koroku.

“Okay! I will!”

Koroku’s eyebrows rose when Kani actually agreed, but she soon composed her expression and nodded.

But did Kani notice how Koroku relaxed her shoulders?

She is such a good aide, thought Fukushima, but something else was bothering her too.

“Hachisuka-dono. Will Kiyo-dono be joining the Shibata Team too?”

She felt some excitement as she asked that.

She felt like she was worrying about this too much, but she was also worried that Koroku would notice how worried she was.

She hoped she was worrying about that too much as well, but Koroku’s face was so hard to read.

“Hm,” said Koroku as she tilted her head and opened a lernen figur.

6: “Kiyomasa, what are your summer plans?”

Thou are just going to ask her!?

Actually, that would be the normal thing to do. Fukushima realized she had eliminated that option from her mind because she was worrying over this so much.

Nh!

She could barely stand to be here anymore.

Kiyomasa was on the other end of Koroku’s call. Wherever she was on the Azuchi. No, the instructions they had received before lunch had said she would be repairing the 2nd starboard ship. Kiyo-dono’s specialization in defense means she knows how to repair buildings and aerial ships.

“Fukushima.”

“Eh!?”

“I called your name two whole times.”

She sensed Koroku’s strict personality in the “whole”, but Koroku had already closed her lernen figur.

That meant the conversation with Kiyomasa was over.

“Um, what did Kiyo-dono say?”

“A training camp.”

“At Shibata-sama’s location!?”

Fukushima could feel some fear and happiness mixed in with her surprise.

It was like she wanted to be with that other girl, but she did not know how to draw her in.

It was a surprisingly bold feeling given how she always froze up with nerves when actually around Kiyomasa.

But with the lernen figur gone, her feelings were coming out of hiding.

Honestly.

Why did it matter if she was with Kiyomasa?

She had never actually thought through what exactly it was she wanted to do while with her.

She could not bring herself to move beyond that undeniable hesitation, but she had accepted that her hesitation might destroy the relationship they currently had.

She kept returning to the same conclusion, but she also kept erecting emotional walls to soothe her cowardice. However…

It’s all over if I actually think about what I want to do.

This was an important time.

The Honnouji Incident was coming up and other battles after that.

They would probably settle things with Musashi during all that.

If she destroyed her relationship with Kiyomasa now, it would disturb the bonds between the Ten Spears during those battles.

She could not let that happen. So…

“Hachisuka-dono.”

She was not asking Koroku to act as an intermediary between them, nor could she. But she had effectively done that here.

“Please tell me if Kiyo-dono will be there.”

“No,” calmly said Koroku. “She’s going to Sanada with the 1st years.”


Kiyo-Massive: “I’m going to Sanada for a training camp?”

Kiyomasa was on the roof of the castle-style bridge that had been destroyed by Houjou’s attack.

Her first thought was about a certain fact.

We do have a connection to Sanada.

The Sanada Ten Braves.

The group currently going by that name had joined Hashiba’s side. Supposedly.

The supposedly was because the history recreation had Sanada’s heir siding with Matsudaira and the current head of the clan and the second son siding with Hashiba as a plot to ensure the clan survived.

But if Hashiba had been involved with this training camp decision, then Sanada must have been on Hashiba’s side. And…

Kimee: “The former Ten Spears should be a good match for you, Kiyomasa.”

Kiyo-Massive: “But who knows what the dragons who sympathized with them will do.”

The Sanada Ten Braves had been the initial candidates for the Ten Spears position. Kiyomasa’s group held the position now because they had defeated those 10 in test of skill.

They were former enemies and they probably had strong feelings about Kiyomasa.

Yet she was supposed to go there for a training camp.

Kiyo-Massive: “I hope this doesn’t lead to trouble.”

Kuro-Take: “If you’re aware it could cause trouble, you should be fine. And if things look too bad, you can always leave and I’ll make sure to get a decent refund from Sanada.”

“Is that so?” was all Kiyomasa could find to say.

And looking at the Ten Spears as a whole, it made sense to send her as a negotiator and leader. She was well-versed in defensive tactics and she could use Caledfwlch to take on a dragon. So…

Kiyo-Massive: “I need to finish this work as soon as possible so I have time to prepare.”

The Azuchi came first.

Her subordinates and the automatons were repairing the bridge and surrounding area.

But since this was the first day, they were only assessing the damage. Once they knew where the damage was and how severe it was, they could put together a repair plan and decide what needed to be demolished. What needed to be demolished and what did not could greatly change the repair plan.

In fact…

It could be faster to build a new bridge instead of repairing this one.

Making that decision was her job.

The same was true of the 2nd central ship’s bridge since it too had taken a fair bit of damage. Takenaka was in charge of that one and she had a lot of construction knowledge.

Takenaka had to be busy, but…

Kuro-Take: “Look how close the ocean is. Ohh, the sight is making me sick.”

Kiyomasa was not quite sure what to make of those comments.

Kuro-Take: “Anyway, um, I know this will be a lot of work for you, Kiyomasa-san, but I suggested you could run a training camp for the 1st years and the teachers approved it. Since we’re doing this, we decided it would be more efficient to split them into a few teams.”

Kiyo-Massive: “More efficient how?”

Kuro-Take: “The Azuchi’s repairs are going to take a while, right?”

“So,” continued Takenaka.

Kuro-Take: “So we’re splitting them into three or so teams so we only have to come up with a training schedule for each team.”

Kiyo-Massive: “I see. So, um.”

She was curious about the others, so she asked about it.

Kiyo-Massive: “I get that I’ll be leading the 1st years, but who all is going?”


Kiyomasa saw Takenaka respond on her lernen figur.

Kuro-Take: “From the 1st years, there’s Asano-san and Nabeshima-san. The latter is especially important. Because she might end up being your aide and because she’s a mechanical dragon pilot.”

Kiyomasa knew what Takenaka was getting at. Simply put…

Kiyo-Massive: “You want her to train in Sanada because they have dragons there?”

Kuro-Take: “Exactly right. Asano-san is an anti-personnel fighter, but based on her performance during the Satomi battle, she’s skilled at using tools and the terrain around her. …She’s the ninja type.”

Takenaka was clearly enjoying herself here.

But that was not a bad thing. Asano and Nabeshima were old friends.

If Asano-san is the analytical type, she could probably help examine the mechanical dragon’s combat records.

Takenaka was probably hoping for exactly that.

Kimee: “You actually wanted to send them into the dragon habitat in Hexagone Française after we took Paris, didn’t you?”

Kuro-Take: “Sometimes things don’t work out as planned, so don’t be too hard on me.”

Kimee: “Yeah, I know. And Angie had fun there, so it all worked out.”

“Then,” said someone from somewhere else. It was Kasuya who was managing the reserve materials on the relatively untouched 1st port ship.

Black Wolf: “Where will I be going?”

Kuro-Take: “Oh, I’m sending you a bit further than the rest, Kasuya-san. To Aki.”

Black Wolf: “That is pretty far.”

Kuro-Take: “Some others will be meeting up with you there for a small job. Oh, Yoshiaki-san and Wakisaka-san are on Hachisuka-san’s team, so you two will be staying here.”

Kimee: “Is the Azuchi really in that much danger?”

Yoshiaki’s question finally clued Kiyomasa into the purpose of the training camp arrangement.

Angie went on to explain it for her.

AnG: “The Azuchi needs our patrols right now, doesn’t it? To the point you can’t send us elsewhere?”

Kuro-Take: “To be honest, I want you to pour all your efforts into the repairs first. Hashiba-kun ordered me to make sure everyone withdraws safely.”

“Testament,” they all replied.

Takenaka paused for a breath before continuing.

Kuro-Take: “Assuming the Musashi doesn’t try anything funny, we should be safe here for 10 days. Meanwhile, we have a troublesome problem to deal with.”

Namely…

Kuro-Take: “We still haven’t made peace after the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle.”


“That’s true,” said Yoshiaki.

She was flying about a 1km above the sea, allowing her to look down on the Azuchi Castle.

She was wearing a sleeveless track jacket and track tights, but she also wore her Technohexen hat to keep the sun off.

She was in the sky above the 1st starboard ship so she could look down at the ship most affected by the enemy attack. Her aerial expertise allowed her to judge the level of damage.

Angie was above the 1st central ship performing a similar midair inspection.

She raised a hand, probably meaning she would join Yoshiaki and help her finish this inspection.

Yoshiaki turned her broom toward Angie and sent her a message.

Kimee: “It is true we don’t seem to have made peace after Bitchu Takamatsu Castle.”

She had not been there, but she knew what Takenaka meant.

Making peace there was very important for Hashiba. Because…

Kimee: “The Testament says the Honnouji Incident occurred during the flooding of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle. Hashiba learns about it, hurriedly makes peace with Mouri, and makes the famous Great Return.”

In other words…

Kimee: “It was quickly making peace with Mouri that allowed Hashiba to so swiftly punish Akechi for killing Nobunaga, which in turn allowed Hashiba to take over after Nobunaga.”

Kuro-Take: “Testament. Which is why Hashiba treated Mouri so well after taking over. And Mouri is in Kantou right now, so we can make peace with them here. If we say the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle is still underway, we can complete that last bit of the history recreation.”

“But,” said Takenaka.

Kuro-Take: “The Mouri personnel needed to do that seem to have been left in Paris. So we need to get the Azuchi back home, but we also need to coordinate with Mouri, so who knows when we can actually do it.”

AnG: “Can’t we essentially swap places with the Musashi?”

That was probably how it would turn out. But in that case…

Kimee: “This is going to be a huge pain. It’ll delay our departure and it feels like Mouri is controlling us.”

Kuro-Take: “Which is why I’m speaking with them to try and have whoever’s in charge sent here. …But they’re reluctant to do that since they don’t know when they can act freely again thanks to the Musashi being in the Udon Kingdom south of them.”

Kimee: “What, they’re caught in a staring contest with an enemy and an ally?”

But Yoshiaki knew what Takenaka meant.

None of us expected the Azuchi to take so much damage.

The plan had been to intervene in the Keichou Campaign and return with Mouri.

But they had failed there and that failure was weighing heavily on them now.

“I see.”

She understood that Takenaka was focusing on even the unlikely possibilities here.

After all, the Azuchi was nearly defenseless at the moment.

That may have been why not many automatons had been sent out to this part of the ship.

The automatons were handling the office work and late-night shifts.

Everyone else could handle the repair work, so the automatons could handle the other work while planning out a safe and efficient plan that did not require increasing their numbers.

That meant more and more of the office work and decisions were being left with the automatons. And…

The sentry and guard work are also being left with them so the rest of us can get some rest in case things go south.

The others must have arrived at that same conclusion. “Testament,” one of them began.

Kiyo-Massive: “If we do that, we should be able to keep the working going without delays.”

AnG: “True. And the two of us can shorten our aerial patrols.”

Kimee: “I’d love permission to sleep and take baths whenever I want.”

Kuro-Take: “That’s fine as long as you keep to your patrol schedule.”

“Fair enough,” said Yoshiaki.

Then Kiyomasa changed the subject.

Kiyo-Massive: “Um, Takenaka-sama? What are Fukushima-sama’s plans?”

The question came out of nowhere, but it was promptly answered.

Kuro-Take: “Well, Fukushima-san has been worrying about how she can grow stronger and I also received a rather incredible message from the Shibata Team. Here, I’ll just read it to you: ‘We’re doing a summer training camp, but I’m sick of hitting the same boring old faces, so send over some new faces I can hit. Oh, I mean, uh, please.’ So I’m sending Fukushima-san and Kani-kun there. I get the feeling they won’t be back until the end of summer break.”


“Uh.”

Kiyomasa’s response caught in her throat.

Takenaka’s announcement that Fukushima would be joining the Shibata Team had inspired an immediate reaction inside her.

No fair!

Even she could tell that was oversimplifying things, but the words also did not quite capture exactly what she was feeling.

Who was not being fair there?

Was the Shibata Team not fair for taking Fukushima away?

Was Fukushima not fair for joining the Shibata Team without considering her feelings on the matter?

Were Hashiba and Takenaka not fair because they had decided all this for them?

Or…

Is it me for feeling a little relieved while also complaining about it?

I’m becoming a real pain in the rear, she realized.

But it was true things would be easier if Fukushima was abducted by the Shibata Team. That would give Kiyomasa time to work through the feelings and troublesome parts within her.

With Fukushima gone, she felt like she could reassess her emotional distance from the girl.

Her priorities had grown too focused on Fukushima of late. That made her happy, but it was a bad thing when thinking of the Ten Spears team as a whole.

It would pose a risk during their inevitable showdown against Musashi. So…

Kiyo-Massive: “Fukushima-sama will be attending a training camp with the Shibata Team, will she?”

That was a good thing.

It would benefit everyone.

And yet I feel…

She made a point of not completing that thought.

Kiyo-Massive: “I think that is a good thing.”


“Fukushima.”

Fukushima looked Hachisuka in the eye when she looked up.

It was unusual for Hachisuka to initiate conversation like this.

“Kiyomasa is talking about your training camp.”

“Eh?”

This came out of nowhere, she thought.

What does Kiyo-dono think about my training camp!?

Her pulse raced and Hachisuka looked back down at her lernen figur.

“She says to work hard and come back stronger.”

The answer came so suddenly.

She had been expecting something that showed Kiyomasa’s character more than that, so this felt like a letdown.

“Huh?”

She wondered if maybe there was more.

But Hachisuka did not give her what she wanted. Hachisuka only tilted her head as if to say “What more do you want?”

“That’s what she said.”

What could she say to that? She simply lowered her head.

“Oh.”

She felt like she was starting to converse in only monosyllables.

But this meant Kiyomasa had reacted to the news.

She wants me to work hard and come back stronger.

To be honest, I was hoping for something more. Like an “I’ll be there to see you” or “I’ll come visit you”. I know that’s asking for too much, but it still would have been nice.

Wait, wait, wait, wait!

What is wrong with me? she thought. Kiyo-dono is a pure and proper person. She does not reside in the bizarre, impure world these thoughts of mine are coming from.

So this was normal. Her response was normal.

“Hm.”

“Um, Fukushima-san!?” said Kani. “Why are you so monosyllabic right now!?”

“Now, now.”

“Bisyllabic isn’t much better.”

Hachisuka-dono sure is strict.

Anyway, Kiyomasa had told her to work hard and come back stronger.

She would often train alongside Fukushima, so that was probably her general stance regarding training.

When she said to “work hard”, she was probably thinking about how hard Fukushima generally worked while they trained together.

What did that mean?

As long as I work hard, Kiyo-dono is always watching over me!

That cheered Fukushima up a little.

She nodded and looked up into the bright summer sky.

It was hot, but of course it was.

“Kantou’s sky feels so cramped.”

“You sound like a completely different person now.”

Thou are overthinking this, Hachisuka-dono.

At any rate, Fukushima finally understood what had puzzled her before.

The clouds are all crowded together.

The clouds were like a large river traveling over the Pacific Ocean, the land, the mountains, and the plains. Each of those created clouds at different heights, creating a wide variety of patterns and waves.

The influence of the terrain and the endless ocean winds gave Kantou’s sky a sort of midair geography.

Kansai had the inland sea, but once in M.H.R.R., it was mostly plains with the mountains to the north.

The clouds stayed fairly low in Kansai’s sky and they appeared to spread out flatly.

Kansai’s clouds let you see far into the distance, while Kantou’s did not.

That makes the western and eastern skies look very different, noted Fukushima.

She had only noticed that due to moving between the two regions in such a short period of time recently.

That’s right.

Something finally occurred to her.

We lost at Paris and in Kantou.

Was that why she needed to “work hard”?


“It is true we need Fukushima to work hard.”

Yoshiaki gave her thoughts while raising her right hand to acknowledge Angie’s approach.

She and Angie shared images of the Azuchi they had taken with their Magie Figurs. Angie had been inspecting the Azuchi as a whole while running an automatic check on all the coming and going transport ships.

“Oh, yours is a personnel check,” said Angie. “Will that mesh with mine?”

“It should. Yours captured more than I expected. Look, this is the Transport Ship 2-23 at the port side of the 1st starboard ship.”

An alert sign appeared over a transport ship on the image that had strayed from its course. The mistake would have already been reported internally, but they had to check everything from out here too.

The checks beyond the standard inspection were meant to confirm the alerts and provide warnings for the ships and people in the area. They could even order all ships to stop if it would prevent an accident.

That was how crowded the skies were.

“The outsider ships, the ones that joined us at Kantou, the supply ships that 1st year named Ikeda sent us, and more – there are so many kinds of ships here. And some of them are just wandering because we don’t have a clear repair plan yet. But…”

But things are safe for now.

Mostly because everyone was still new to this, so no one was moving very fast.

Things got most dangerous when everyone had a clearly defined role and they were all moving around.

“By tomorrow, the larger transport ships and all the smaller ships will have figured out how things work, so they’ll be moving a lot faster. There will be times when their instructions don’t arrive in time.”

“Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. We have to be out here for our patrols at night, after all,” said Angie. “But what was that just now about needing Fukushiman to work hard?”


“Well,” said Yoshiaki while drinking some water from her bamboo bottle. “We have two important battles coming up. Do you know what the most important one is?”

“Settling things with Musashi, right?”

“Testament,” confirmed Yoshiaki with a nod.

They had not been discussing that here, but they had discussed it countless times in the past.

So she had expected to receive that standard answer.

“The other important battle is related to our position within Oda and it comes before we settle things with Musashi. Do you know what it is?”

“Testament.” Angie spoke strongly, but she was not speaking to anyone in particular. “The Battle of Shizugatake. After the Honnouji Incident, Shibata Katsuie parts with Hashiba and gathers anti-Hashiba forces to fight over the future of the Oda clan.”

And…

“The Testament says that’s the debut battle of the Seven Spears that our Ten Spears are based on.”


Angie knew exactly how she felt about the Battle of Shizugatake.

I really don’t want to do that.

They would be up against the Shibata Team which was currently a mix of P.A. Oda and M.H.R.R, making it feel so much more like their own people. It was like a group wearing the same uniform.

She wished they did not have to fight their own people like that.

“I really wish we could get out of that using an interpretation.”

“We want that and I imagine they want that, but the current state of the history recreation doesn’t always allow that to happen.” Yoshiaki paused. “Especially for us. Hashiba is trying to strictly follow the history recreation, so we’re in no position to complain if we’re forced to do a history recreation we don’t want to do.”

“That’s exactly what the other nations like Musashi are gonna say, isn’t it?”

“Which is why we need to use our summer break in a calculated fashion.”

That told Angie that Yoshiaki had the same thoughts on his as her.

I see.

Feeling weirdly bashful, Angie focused on managing the transport ships.

Yoshiaki spoke to her while similarly working on her own Magie Figur.

“Angie.”

“Yeah, Kime-chan?”

“We might be in no position to complain, but politics is all about finding ways to say ‘rules for thee, but not for me’. So keep that in mind.”

Angie thought about that for a second before laughing.

Kime-chan, we’d already finished that conversation!

Did she take my silence the wrong way?

Even though I really did see what you meant before.

“Ha ha.”

Laughter escaped the corner of her mouth in a way that Kiyomasa would have gotten after her for.

Meanwhile, Yoshiaki frowned with a “hm?”, but she did not ask what it was about. She must have realized her worries had been misplaced.

So that works out.

Angie steadied her breathing and turned toward Yoshiaki.

“Let’s take a bath and eat some sorbet, Kime-chan. The kind with biscotti in it.”

“That sounds great. But we’ll have to make sure we don’t get a chill.”

“Yeah,” said Angie while thinking to herself.

Did the Shibata Team ask for Fukushiman because they’re thinking of settling Shizugatake with an interpretation?

It felt like they had given away their plans there, but since Hashiba had approved it…

“I guess everyone has given Honnouji and the surrounding events a lot of thought.”

“We just have to do the best we can at any given moment.”

Kime-chan does love to have a plan for everything, thought Angie.

Doing the best they could was indeed the most all-purpose plan there was. Everything else was just support or alternatives for when they could not do their best.

“Then,” said Angie. “Let’s get two sorbets. And let’s ask Fukushiman for a souvenir.”

“If the sorbet place is close by, we can wait until we arrive to order.”

“Testament,” replied Angie while looking out across the sky.

This was Kantou. The clouds covered a lot of vertical ground and the wind formed by the ocean and land was constantly blowing through the sky.

It’s like a mountain range of clouds, she thought while turning to the west.

“It’s like we swapped positions.”

“The Musashi and us?”

“Yeah. Both physically and metaphorically. We won before, but not this time.”

“That just means we need to do another swap. …We have to.”

“That’s right,” said Angie before saying something else. “On second thought, let’s just get one sorbet.”

Because…

“We need to show some restraint if we want to beat Musashi. I’m sure the other teams are thinking the same thing while they look up into the sky.”


“Man, that’s a nice sky! I bet that Protestant hag is causing trouble again, but it’s summer break for us!! We were deployed to Sviet Rus, so we can let Hashiba take care of M.H.R.R.! If you’re planning to go anywhere, make sure to send notification to Kitanosho Academy!”

A large, deep-voiced silhouette carried a rucksack containing a tent and food.

He wore a mountain vest over his large casual clothing.

“Katsuie-saaan, you forgot your compaaass!”

“Ohh, Oichi-sama! My insha kotob can do that, but are you saying that isn’t allowed!? Good point! Using the real deal is the way of a true outdoorsman!”

Oichi was also dressed in mountain gear and she attached a compass with a strap labeled “Shibata” to one of his carabiners.

“There you go.”

Shibata smiled and nodded back before looking around.

They were on a grassy field, but most of it was still covered by white.

They were on a snowfield in early summer. The Shibata aerial ships were lined up like a fortress and the occasional transport ship would arrive or depart from there.

Shibata walked out with that scene behind him.

There was a group of people there.

They were the various Shibata officers. Everyone down to the 100-warrior commanders had been gathered and he spoke to them all.

“Listen up, it’s summer break. And you know what that means?” He placed a hand on his chin. “You need to go out and find yourselves girlfriends.”

“Why are you looking right at me!?”

“Oh? What’s this, Naru Naruuuu? I think we both know why you desperately need to hear that. Knowing you, you’ll use ‘training’ as an excuse to go spend your entire summer break in the mountains alone. Isn’t that right, Naru Naruuuu? But I know you’re secretly glancing over at those local festivals as you walk past while claiming they’re ‘annoying’! And once you get home and shoot off some fireworks of your own, you end up depressed that that’s all you can get out of summer.”

“Did you charge up your annoyance batteries to prepare for summer break or something?!”

“Now, now. Calm down you two,” said someone else while raising her hand.

“What is it, Fuwa?” asked Sassa.

“This is about Shibata, not you. …Shibata, telling us to find girlfriends is sexual harassment.”

“You are of course free to find a boyfriend instead if you would prefer, Fuwa.”

“That’s still sexual harassment!”

“My, my,” said Oichi who was already seated on Shibata’s shoulder. “You’re wasting your time, Katsuie-san. Fuwa-san and Sassa-kun are already an item.”

“Huh!?” shouted Fuwa and Sassa both.

They exchanged a glance and prepared to say something, but were cut off.

“Is that true!?”

Something wriggled in from behind them.

It was a tentacle.

“I didn’t notice at all!”


Chapter 4: Noticer at the Preparation Ground[edit]

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I’m fuming

And the more I fume

The harder I get!

Do you want to see that!?

Point Allocation (I Do, But Stop)


Mori had questions.

“How does that make any sense!?” The two of them immediately turned to glare at him, but the tentacle continued on regardless. “I mean, those two argue every time they see each other, they’re always lecturing each other, and they won’t shut up whenever they inevitably end up next to each other in the dining hall or convenience store! They even argue when they happen across each other in the academy or around the ship, which happens a lot!”

“Mori-kun, I think you’re working against your argument here.”

“I was starting to think the same thing, Maeda-san! It’s just that seeing them fight so much makes me anxious and I go all pale and flaccid!”

“Yes, you do turn a color I’d rather not mention out loud when your blood flow is poor.”

“Right!? But that doesn’t explain why you avoid me when my blood flow is good too! And come to think of it, while they do fight all the time, they’re also together an awful lot, they sit together at the dining hall and convenience store, and they’re always getting to know each other better. So I guess I only have one thing left to say.”

The tentacle considered the situation, straightened up, and bowed toward those two.

“C-congratulations!”

Fuwa and Sassa kicked the tentacle away.


Fuwa watched Mori roll along a field that was beginning to show more green.

The tentacle was basically cylindrical, so all his tentacly parts rolled down the shallow slope. The officers out ahead of him yelled and ran out of the way.

“Ahh, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow! The young grass emerging from below the melted snow is prickling my indecently sticky flesh like needles! I-it’s making me hard!”

“Katsuie-san, everyone on your team is crazy but in a fun way,” said Oichi.

All of the team members who had thought they were normal began frantically gesturing their rejection of that idea.

But Fuwa had something to say here. Something not about any supposed relationship with Sassa.

“Um, just so you know, I’m stuck doing the accounting here for the entire summer.”

“Huh!? Well, fine then. Hey, Naru Naru, how ‘bout you help her?”

“What makes you think I’m capable of that, you moron!?”

You do know that makes you a moron, right?

But it was true he would only get in the way and she would end up constantly thinking about his presence if he stayed here.

Oh.

This isn’t good, she thought. I’m letting someone else decide how I feel about something.

She thought she had a good grasp of what her feelings were and it was true she had previously thought they might be that.

But when she looked to Sassa now…

“Besides, I already have plans for the summer. I’m going up in the mountains alone to spend the entire break training! Cause I was completely useless against Hexagone Française’s Vice Chancellor!”

What is wrong with you?

Do you really like oversized breasts so much?

I mean, we won’t even be fighting Hexagone Française ever again. And for that matter…

“Shibata-san, could you beat the Reine des Garous’s true form she so explosively showed off in Kantou?”

“I bet she thinks I couldn’t.”

I see, she thought as Shibata slapped his own right shoulder.

“And I can’t deny my shoulder’s been acting up lately. So I’ve worked some trips to healing hot springs into our schedule.”

“You mean you’re planning to fight the Reine des Garous too?”

“Don’t be dumb.” The demonic Long Lived man turned up the corners of his mouth in a smile. “P.A. Oda’s Vice Chancellor is the strongest.”

“Keh,” said Sassa, but he did not deny it.

That was true.

She might not like how he said it or his attitude, but that much was undeniable. So…

Yeah.

Fuwa realized why Sassa had brought up the Reine des Garous.

It has to be her.

Musashi’s Vice Chancellor or their 1st or 5th Special Duty Officers were not enough.


Wow are they ever childish.

That was Fuwa’s opinion of the men standing next to her.

Sassa was especially bad.

It all went back to Novgorod. That had counted as the Battle of Tedorigawa, the Battle of Nanao Castle, and the Battle of Uozu Castle. The floating city had acted as the battlefield where Shibata’s right arm had been severed by the teamwork of Musashi’s 1st and 5th Special Duty Officers. He had also been hit by an attack from their Vice Chancellor.

Musashi’s 1st Special Duty Officer was world famous for his worship of busty blondes, but their 5th Special Duty Officer had held important points on the battlefield since the Sack of Magdeburg. It was significant that she had fought at least evenly with Katou Kiyomasa and Kasuya Takenori of Hashiba’s Ten Spears and that she had defeated Shima Sakon, aide to the Spears.

Shibata had challenged Musashi’s Vice Chancellor with only one arm, but during that fight, Sassa had seen her superb movements and had seen her make an instantaneous leap of several dozen meters. She had split Shibata’s chest and he had destroyed her hair decoration. If they had gone in deeper, Shibata would have been pierced through at the chest and she would have had her forehead split open.

That was a draw. If one had to be placed above the other, then Shibata came out on top.

But, thought Fuwa.

Even if he had been missing an arm, this still meant someone out there could fight him to a draw.

It took a nation’s Vice Chancellor or Chancellor to pull that one off. In fact, she had always assumed it took someone like Uesugi Kagekatsu or the Reine des Garous. She could not even guess how people on that level would fight, so she had pictured it as something like two giant monsters flailing at each other, but that “dream” had been shattered.

Someone had actually reached that level.

Yes, his missing arm had been a factor.

But it had happened on the battlefield. It had not been a sparring match between the two of them.

When pure duels were not an option, even the strongest fighter could run into trouble.

Everyone understood that, but they could not afford to let that mess with the history recreation. Hence the introduction of the duel system.

But even so.

That group was younger than them, Sassa had said they did not yet seem ready back at Magdeburg, they had been no match for Hashiba during Mikatagahara, and they had even lost someone there. But now they were growing capable of achieving their goal.

They were an enemy. And generation-wise, they were the future while everyone here was the past.

“Um.”

“Um what?”

“Oh, nothing.”

Fuwa waved her right hand dismissively.

Oichi looked down at her from Shibata’s shoulder in a way that said she had seen right through her.

She must have been proud of her husband. Which was why she was insisting he heal himself at some hot springs. He had to be in top form.

So…

“All of you go and enjoy yourselves out there. …I’ll be back her doing the accounting.”

“Is that so, Fuwa? Then I have one more job for you.”

“An additional order? What is it?”

This seemed sudden, but Shibata gave her a calm look in response.

“Train the underclassmen.”


“Then are you two leaving tonight? That’s awfully sudden.”

It was midafternoon and Kasuya was helping Kani prepare to leave for her training camp.

Fukushima was normally in charge of Kani, but since she was busy preparing her own equipment, Takenaka had instructed Kasuya to help instead.

Kasuya had been away from the others training in the same area as the Shibata Team, so she knew what you would need there. That was why Takenaka had chosen her and taken over the ship repair work she had been doing.

“Testament! I heard Shibata-sama will be visiting a bunch of hot springs and we might not arrive in time for that if we don’t hurry, but Takenaka-sama said we should try to get their ASAP whether we’re in time for that or not!”

“I see,” said Kasuya while looking at the object in her hands.

It was a swimsuit.

It must have been for the hot springs. The Azuchi had bathing facilities inside it, so the ship’s store sold these.

The Spears had been using their own personal bath ever since returning to the Azuchi after the Keichou Campaign.

Kasuya thought being in the Reine des Garous’s forest was to blame, but her skin and hair had been so full of life lately and her hair refused to be brushed. Her grooming divine protection had grown too powerful.

That had not bothered her on the battlefield, but it was causing problems now that she was back to her ordinary life.

For one, the air inside the ship made her hair spark as if with static electricity.

She had not noticed when on or nearby the “forest” of the battlefield, but she had unintentionally brought her nonhuman ether state back to the Azuchi with her.

The Azuchi’s ether field and defensive divine protections naturally tried to deflect that unusual ether, but that ether was carried by someone registered as a Spear, which confused matters.

“Azuchi” had even paid her a visit to double check once.

She had decided to fix it by purifying herself in the bath, so she had gone there with Kani. However…

“Katagiri-san is a boy!? I had no idea!”

It was incredible that it took Kani that long to figure it out.

And why was Katagiri taking a morning bath?

He had claimed it was to get a bath in before it grew crowded, but he had barely even met Kani before. He had grown flustered about her presence, but…

“Eh!? I don’t mind at all!”

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Kani had immediately accepted it. And when Kasuya had asked her about it later…

“I just never even considered the fact that he might be a boy! But what does that matter!?”

Kasuya decided Kani may have been even more openminded than her. But…

“Kani, do you not have a swimsuit of your own?”

“Testament! My family runs a greengrocer! And greengrocers don’t need swimsuits!”

Kasuya had trouble following that logic, but it also made a weird sort of sense to her, so she just accepted it.

But then why was Kasuya choosing a swimsuit for herself?

“Kasuya-san, you’re going to K.P.A. Italia, aren’t you!? For training, right!?”


“That is correct,” said Kasuya. “To be honest, I would really prefer to start training with the others again.”

“Really!?”

“Testament.” She nodded. “I didn’t really know how to use my strength, so I borrowed some of the Shibata Team to participate in some riot suppression training. Now that I’ve gotten the hang of it from that, I was hoping to meet up with the others, but then the Keichou Campaign happened.”

“What kind of strength do you have!?”

“I could give you a list, but mainly…” She tilted her head. “This.”

She used a burst of acceleration to instantaneously circle behind Kani.

The back in front of her had not reacted at all, so she tapped the girl’s shoulder.

“Eh!?”

Kani turned around in surprise.

I do like a good reaction like that!

Maybe it made her feel like a proper upperclassman, but not many people reacted so well. However…

“That was impressive, Kani. You managed to follow my movement long enough to turn halfway around.”

Kasuya had circled behind her the extra 90 degrees to make up for that. Kani must have used the greatest speed she could manage, so she had been confused when she lost sight of her. So…

“Here.”

Kasuya handed her the swimsuit on a paper hanger that had slipped from Kani’s hands. It had flown into the air as she made her half turn, so Kasuya had caught it while accelerating.

“Drop it and you’ll get it dirty before you even try it on. You still need to do that, don’t you?”

“Yes!”

Kani looked down at Kasuya’s hands.

Kasuya had not dropped her swimsuit. That seemed to illustrate the difference between upperclassman and underclassman.

Kani sighed with a combination of surprise and joy.

“Incredible! How can you make such tight turns with such big boobs!?”

“I’m not on Kiyomasa or Hirano’s level, you know? And we fought someone with an even more impressive chest and speed last night.”

“The Reine des Garous is basically cheating and she isn’t here, so she doesn’t count!”

“Fair enough,” said Kasuya. She used to think there was a limit to how impressive someone could be, but she had changed her mind about that last night.

She had heard the stories, but facing that woman herself was something else entirely. But…

“Defeating people like that is our job, isn’t it?”

“Can you defeat her!?”

“I think we did a decent job while working together.”

If only they had more experience.

If only they had a more powerful weapon.

If only the others had been there too.

All those things were excuses made by the loser, but they were also words of hope for them right now.

Because it showed them how they might possibly win in the future.

“Which is why I had hoped to train with the others.”

“I see! That explains it! I’ll ask about it!”

Eh? thought Kasuya as Kani opened a lernen figur with the paper hanger hanging from her collar.

Kanitama: “Takenaka-sama! Do you have a moment!?”


While Kani and Kasuya were busy shopping, Fukushima had responded to her departure request by returning to her room.

She was sitting on the floor, viewing a lernen figur while selecting her equipment.

I probably should get some sleep before leaving early tomorrow morning.

She had already taken a bath, albeit a quick one.

Sleeping after she ate made her feel sluggish, so her plan was to find a good time to sleep without eating anything first.

“Hm.”

She had the water and rice balls being handed out to everyone, but she would consume that after sleeping.

Right now, she needed to…

“They gave me this because I arrived from Kantou, didn’t they?”

She had a stick-shaped incense spell.

It was made by combining a spell charm with powdered incense and it was meant to help with her exhaustion. Incense spells were common in the Association of Indian States and the Mlasi Alliance. Their effects were weak but they efficiently covered a large area and were long-lasting. Hashiba had said a lot of people enjoyed testing out their various effects while they slept.

Maybe I should do that too before I sleep.

But her thoughts were cut off by a divine transmission.

Kanitama: “Takenaka-sama! Is there any way you can have all Ten Spears do joint training!?”


Fukushima sat bolt upright when Kani’s words reached her.

Wh-why is she suggesting that!?

With joint training, she could be with Kiyomasa. They would eat and bathe together and, if it was outdoor training, they might even share a sleeping space.

“…!!”

She briefly felt a hot sweat pouring down her body.

She had no idea what was causing the sweat. It could come from nerves, anticipation, or fear, but…

Why!?

No one could answer that for her, but her eyes were glued to the lernen figur in front of her.

Kuro-Take: “I’ve already made reservations for everyone, so that’s not an option.”

Fukushima felt like the heat was draining from her body and head and then she collapsed onto her back.


Koroku had returned to her room in the middle of her duties.

Her team’s job was to build water supplies, but they were currently taking an afternoon break. Most of the water supplies had been built, so they would spend the rest of the day finding other work to do.

There was still plenty to do.

With the construction of ether pathways, the automatons could detect and measure the level of damage, but it was safest if the actual work was done by humans who were not influenced by ether.

But most of the ether-related construction was best done once it grew dark. Ether light showed up better then, so they would notice leaks.

Although a night with strong moonlight would actually be more dangerous.

“But tonight should be fine.”

So they were taking a break until the evening. She was using that time to get some rest, take a bath, and…

“Preorder a game.”

The other night, her completed save data had been overwritten by an unexplained phenomenon, but she had completed the game.

It had been scary and she did not remember it all very clearly, but that had its pros and its cons. Still, she did not want to play it again just to remember. It would no longer be new to her.

So she needed a new game. She had looked into this a while back. The different corporate guilds released wave after wave of games once summer break began.

She kind of wanted another suspense or horror game to recapture her experience with that previous one, but was that really the best idea?

Would a more cheerful game be better for summer? No one would know what she was playing, so she could always go with a summer-themed game like My (Nearly Endless) Summer Vacation 4. Playing that would feel like being trapped in a rural summer environment, which was a type of horror in and of itself.

She had played 1, but…

The scariest part was how you could drink as much milk from the ice room as you wanted and it would never run out.

She had tried emulating that in real life last year and made herself sick after about three glasses. Wakisaka had decided that was an attempt to give herself a “boobs upgrade”, so it had been a bad experience all around. But…

“––––––”

She spotted a certain title on the preorder list: Siren Hill 2. That was the sequel to the game she had mysteriously finished before.

Playing 2 when she barely remembered 1 seemed wrong and she had no idea how it had all happened, but this was Kantou, home of Akihabara, which the Testament said was a city full of incredible technology.

The Edo Game Show would be held there come summer, so it would be neat if the Azuchi was still here then.

But her eyes would not leave the sequel’s title. Its tagline was “Takes the terror of the original to the next level!”

The original, huh?

“Hmm,” she said while glaring at the screen and leaning back against the wall.

“I’m not sure what the terror of the original even was since I don’t remember how it ended.”

So…

“That means nothing to me.”

Just then, a loud bang and an impact reached her through the wall she was leaning against.

“…!?”

She gasped and collapsed to the side.

She was no longer moving.


Fukushima writhed in pain on her bed.

She had felt faint and lost her balance thanks to Kani’s divine transmission. The real problem was when she tried to remain upright. With the bed behind her, the top of her calf had caught on the edge of the bed and she had tripped.

The back of her head had slammed into the wall past her bed and she had failed to prepare for the impact, so it hurt a lot. Afraid her skull had dented in, she touched the back of her head to find it was fine. She could tell it would form a lump, though.

She noticed some light in the vase sitting on the bed’s head space.

It contained a precious stone and something colored a noticeable blue.

“Is that Danzou-dono’s feather?”

The feather glowing with ether light seemed to be complaining to her, so she prostrated herself on the bed.

“I am so sorry! I was too careless!”

Then she wondered what her neighbor thought of all the noise.

She poked her head out the door to make sure there was no one in the hallway before she walked over to Hachisuka’s room. It was still just past midafternoon. The hallway was filled with outside air and sunshine, so Hachisuka’s room had its door left open.

Hm.

Whether that was for ventilation or because she was only stopping by real quick, it was still careless.

And when Fukushima checked inside, she saw Hachisuka collapsed on her side.

“Hachisuka-dono!”

She stepped inside while remaining cautious of the other side of the door.

She ran swiftly over to Hachisuka and made sure no traps had been set up on the girl herself. Unlike the other night, they were in Kantou and a lot of people were coming and going after their loss. However…

“Are thou only unconscious?”

The way she had collapsed did not suggest an external attack. She had had her back against the wall, so it would have been impossible to catch her by surprise.

In that case…

Words like “heatstroke” and “exhaustion” came to mind. It was probably something like that.

“Hm.”

Her body would be aching when she came to.

“Excuse me,” said Fukushima while checking around the room and noticing a bottle of water and some rice balls. As a small kindness, she poured the water in a glass and placed that and the rice balls next to Hachisuka.

And since they were teammates, she looked around until she saw the incense spell.

To help with Hachisuka’s exhaustion, she set up the included stand and lit the ignition spell on the end. A transparent aroma quickly reached her nose.

“There, that should do it. I hope thou can get some rest before-”

Fukushima noticed something.

There was a lernen figur next to Hachisuka. She took a peek and noticed it was a game order form. She must have passed out just before completing an order.

“Thou really do like thy games, don’t thou?”

The screen said “The preorder deadline is approaching fast! 1 hour, 36 minutes.” and the time at the end was counting down.

The preorders will end before she wakes up.

As another kindness to her teammate, Fukushima moved to press the preorder button. But…

It would be wrong to make a purchase with her divine transmission wallet.

Instead, she called up her own lernen figur and searched for the same product on the same store. It was a Mlasi store called Sadal and she already had an account. All she had to do was confirm the preorder, but…

“This is a present before I leave, but I don’t want her to feel any kind of obligation.”

She had it sent to Hachisuka as a gift with the sender field left blank.

There.

Satisfied, she left Hachisuka’s room and returned to her own room.

I managed to get in a good deed before leaving.

Seeing her own room reminded her of something.

I never solved my own problem!


This is not good, thought Fukushima.

Even if she had done a good deed, she had gotten terribly distracted when she was leaving so soon.

Why does Kiyo-dono inspire such powerful emotional reactions in me!?

This calls for decisive action, realized Fukushima.

She would be leaving early tomorrow morning. The others would come to see her off if they were up, but everyone was exhausted from their battles. It was possible they would oversleep.

“In that case.”

Fukushima checked the time on her lernen figur.

“I need to find time to speak with Kiyo-dono before I leave!”


Chapter 5: Cancelers All Around[edit]

Horizon8A 155.jpg

Getting what you want

Makes you happy

But what about when you’re choosing?

Point Allocation (Excited)


Masazumi heard the bell strike 4 PM from within the empty school building.

She was working with the others to tidy up the Student Council rec room.

Their afternoon exam had been replaced with a later practical exam, so they were using their newfound spare time to tidy up.

A thought occurred to her while she was stacking up the surprising number of books she had brought in.

We can’t hold a practical exam without everyone present.

“We really do make everything a group effort, don’t we?”

She was reminded of that fact.

“But the Vice Chancellor, 5th Special Duty Officer, Vice Chancellor’s Aide, and Date Vice Chancellor all fight on their own.”

“And that’s part of what I was calling a group effort.”

The others must have been sick of tidying up already because they stopped working and turned toward Masazumi and Balfette’s conversation.

The audience made Masazumi more interested in pursuing the topic, so she continued with more energy in her voice.

“Listen,” she began. “A nation’s strength is not defined solely by its strongest individual fighters.”

In other words…

“The academy rules permit duels as a way of protecting smaller nations, but there’s more to it than just combat. There are many other factors, including negotiation.”

“In that case,” said Neshinbara while booting up the PC at his work desk to gather the data he wanted to bring home with him for summer break. He also changed the background to the full text of the Heart Sutra as a crime-prevention measure. “I have a question. Just out curiosity, mind you.”

“What is it?”

“Judge.” He nodded. “One of those ‘many other factors’ is money, but what ever happened to our experts in that field?”


Masazumi heard everyone fall silent.

What happened to our male and female udons, huh?

Eventually, Naito spoke up.

“I completely forgot about them.”

“Sh,” shushed Naruze. “Say that and you’ll be dragged into this.”

No, I’m pretty sure no one but them will have udon coming from their butt, thought Masazumi.

Which may have been why the idiot raised his hand after the span of about 3 breaths.

“Aren’t Shiro and Auge-chan squatting over the udon bowl?”

“My king, true as that may be, you could phrase it more delicately,” said the wolf while crushing unnecessary paper boxes between her hands.

“If you must know, their divine punishment was set for 6 PM, so they still have about 2 more hours,” said Asama while changing the academy’s security spell settings for summer break.

“Oh. I got my pen ready for nothing.”

“Ga-chan, we have work at 6, remember?”

It was unclear what Naruze was expecting, but none of their class ever held back against their own.

Tsukinowa raised his front right paw and sign frames appeared next to everyone.

Circle Be: “Hey! You! You forgot all about us, didn’t you!? The tragic heroine is trying to cope over here, so how about showing your support by giving me money!?”

Their money expert was being a nuisance.


Masazumi looked to the others.

They were all looking back at her from the shadows of the unlit rec room.

Their eye contact plainly said “this is your job”, “you do the honors”, “shut her up already”, etc.

So she used voice input for her sign frame.

Vice President: “I think you sent this message to the wrong people. Were you really expecting any support from us? Cause you’re not getting it. You should have sent this to the Udon Kingdom academy down below. Show them you’ve got udon coming from the butt and they might just decide you’re a living god. Good luck.”

Circle Be: “How dare you! What gives the Vice President the right to talk back to the Treasurer’s Aide!! Do you have any idea what kind of pressure I’m under while I struggle in this holding cell!? You’re just dying to know, I bet!”

Vice President: “No, I’m good.”

Circle Be: “Don’t be silly, Masazumi! I’m offering all sorts of secrets like how some of it just about slipped out of my butt earlier! Act now and I’m willing to share such wonderful secrets for only 3000 yen each! Wow, I might as well be giving them away!”

Vice President: “That’s pretty steep. You can eat for a month with 3000 yen.”

Everyone froze and Noriki stopped smiling for the first time in a while.

“I’d rather not say it, but maybe I should.”

“Don’t bother. I’m aware what I said was weird.”

“Okay then!”

How much have you changed?

But 3000 yen for a month was completely doable. Especially because, a few times a month, her father would pay for the ingredients of a homecooked meal when he was home.

Naruze and the others began discussing it.

“Is that what you call a used book diet?”

“Yeah, she buys all the used books she wants at the start of the month and then has to figure out how to eat on what little money she has left.”

“Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her wearing anything other than her uniform.”

“Okay, that last one was new, but I know it’s not the best way to live! I really do, so leave me alone!”

Circle Be: “Hey, Masazumi? Are you going to negotiate with us or not?”

Vice President: “Negotiate? Why? It’s important you actually receive your udon punishment.”

Wise Sister: “Heh heh heh. But what will be coming out? Udon or poo!?”

Horizey: “If they were eating udon, you would expect poo to come out, but this time, udon is supposed to come out. A bit of a chicken or the egg situation.”

The idiot raised his hand.

“Maybe it’s both, making it poodon.”

Horizon expressionlessly clapped her hands.

“Okay, raise your hand if you thought Toori-sama’s joke was funny. …Asama-sama! Why would you betray me by turning your back to hide your laughter!?”

“My king, I really think you should prostrate yourself toward the Udon Kingdom for that one.”

The Udon Kingdom was below them, so the idiot performed a handstand prostration.

Meanwhile, Masazumi spoke to the female udon.

Vice President: “It feels like we can’t turn around without you two betraying us. You can’t do that.”

Circle Be: “But the Treasurer is supposed to do whatever it takes to make money! What does it matter if we betray you or turn on you as long as it leaves the national coffers full!?”

Vice President: “Your crime was embezzlement. That’s the exact opposite of leaving the national coffers full.”

Circle Be: “Um, but that was only because we had to make personal use of the money to make a profit in the end! If it had all worked out, we would have returned all that to the treasury and then some!”

The Date Vice Chancellor raised a hand.

“But it didn’t work out and they didn’t return it to the treasury. Hence the crime.”

“I agree wholeheartedly, but I don’t think she sees it that way,” said Masazumi.

Horizon raised a hand while facing the idiot.

“But the joke received no laughs. Hence it was a bad joke.”

“I agree wholeheartedly, but I don’t think Seijun sees it that way.”

“Well excuse me for trying! No one hits it out of the park every time!”

“Heh heh. You all need to follow my example and follow up your actions with results. If you’re going to do it, then really do it! That’s my motto. …Oh, and I don’t mean that in a dirty way, but it’s a good motto for that as well!”

A new sign frame appeared.

Nagaya-Stable: “Vice President, I’ve been monitoring this discussion, but I feel like you haven’t gotten to the real meat of this discussion.”

Vice President: “Meat? We’re talking about noodles.”

Ookubo immediately ended the divine transmission.


“Milady! Milady! This is our chance to prove our importance while stuck out here in Kantou! You shouldn’t hang up so quickly!”

“No, I can’t keep up with their nonsense.”

“Have fun, you two. I’m glad I don’t have an administrative job.”

“Yoshiyasu, why are you so willing to sacrifice other people like that?”


Ookubo eventually reestablished the divine transmission.

She sure has a short temper, thought Masazumi while asking the important question.

Vice President: “What do you mean I haven’t gotten to the real meat of the discussion?”

“Judge,” replied Ookubo.

Nagaya-Stable: “You are asking the Treasurer’s Aide to pay for her crime, but you are not searching for any other way for her to do that. She and the Treasurer do not have the luxury of choice like you do.”

Vice President: “We just have to wait until those thick noodles leave them, right? It’s over then, so why worry about it so much?”

“That’s the thing,” said Ookubo.

Nagaya-stable: “How can you expect the other nations to trust you if your Treasurer is a criminal?”

Vice President: “They were already arrested, so the ship has already sailed on that one. And this wasn’t a huge surprise coming from those two, so if this affects the other nations’ trust in us, they just weren’t paying attention before.”

Nagaya-Stable: “Why are you so used to having criminal classmates!?”

“Good question,” muttered Masazumi while glaring over at the idiot and Horizon.

No, idiot, don’t look behind you. I mean you.

And on that note…

Vice President: “Our leader is about the least trustworthy person there is. Of course, being useless has kind of been the job of the Far East’s Chancellor and President for a while now.”

Nagaya-Stable: “Then what are you going to do? Left to their own devices, the Treasurer and his Aide might search for another way of paying for their crimes, cause even more trouble in the process, and delay their punishment again.”

Mitotsudaira raised a hand.

“Could kishimen act as a deterrent there?”

“This is not a conversation I ever thought I would be having this time last year,” said Masazumi.

“Seijun, you need to keep a more positive view of your work,” said Naito.

“This is not what a Vice President is supposed to be doing.”

“No, no.” The others waved their hands side to side. “You’re the best one for the job.”

“That’s right. I think Masazumi’s combination of political power and common sense are perfect for this.”

“I mean, we certainly don’t want to do it.”

“If you’re going to lie to me, don’t blurt out the truth at the end like that!” she shouted.

Yet more proof that you gain nothing by taking things seriously.

At any rate, she had a question for Augesvarer.

Vice President: “Hey, do you have any intention of paying for your crime?”

Circle Be: “Of course not, you stupid girl! Who can trust a merchant who succumbed to the law and made udon with their butt!?”

Vice President: “You’re supposed to obey the law, not succumb to it.”

Circle Be: “Th-that’s the problem with you politicians! You don’t understand the suffering of the downtrodden! I hope you have udon coming from your butt! Poodon poodon poodon poodon (cursed SFX)!”

Vice President: “The downtrodden don’t have udon coming from anywhere. Besides, you’re criminals, not the downtrodden.”

Circle Be: “How can you say that to your classmates!? Sensei! Masazumi is bullying us!”

Worshiper: “Sensei already went down to the Udon Kingdom for some food.”

Circle Be: “Dammit, Ohiroshiki-kun! I wish I could curse you so it came from your butt every time you saw a little girl!”

Worshiper: “Don’t shoot the messenger!”

This was getting hard to watch.

But Masazumi was reminded of what Ookubo had said.

They might commit another crime.

“I guess it’s worth asking. Asama, is there any way to get Augesvarer’s charges dropped?”

Asama tilted her head and answered in a “this should be obvious” tone of voice.

“Yes, but it would have to start with them paying back the full sum.”

“Hmm,” groaned Masazumi.

Vice President: “Augesvarer, how much did you two embezzle?”

Circle Be: “Eh? O-only a little bit. It’s such a teensy amount it’s honestly messed up that you’re making udon come out our butts for it!”

Vice President: “How much?”

Circle Be: “You won’t be mad?”

Vice President: “You don’t have to give an exact amount, but about how much?”

“Well,” began Augesvarer.

Circle Be: “Enough to buy up all the surface property on all 8 ships?”


Ookubo was compiling some data on Satomi’s recovery work in a teahouse with a view of the ocean. Her response to the words arriving from Musashi was blunt.

“Just execute them.”

“An excellent decision, milady!” said Kanou. “If embezzlement is punishable by death, all of Musashi’s merchants are sure to donate healthy sums to you. You really thought that one through!”

The Reine des Garous smiled and nodded while eating some shaved ice with her husband at a nearby seat.

“Our academy could lend you our guillotine.”

“No, the Far East generally does it by seppuku followed by a beheading from a friend.”

And…

Nagaya-Stable: “What now, Vice President? Not even we can cover for an amount like that.”


That’s true, thought Mitotsudaira.

There was something she had to check on.

“Tomo?”

The Treasurer pair were charged with a number of crimes, but…

“When you pay someone’s bail, where does that money go?”

“Well,” said Asama while looking up at the ceiling. “To be blunt, to our shrine. The Far East’s courts are a Shinto establishment and the laws established by the Shogunate, or whoever else, are based on the authority given them by the emperor, who is the Shinto leader. So ultimately, it goes back to Shinto. That’s why any money coming in will come to us for purification. Of course, how it’s used is jointly managed with Musashi and the academy, so it generally goes to pay for public works like infrastructure maintenance.”

“Really?” said Naito while pointing toward Mitotsudaira.

No, she was pointing toward Mitotsudaira’s king.

“Then when Asama-chi goes to bail the Chancellor out of jail, she’s just paying herself?”

“I’m not sure what you mean by that, but when I do it, I can skip past a lot of the divine contracts involved. It can take some time before the money is sent to me and processed, so it saves time when I go get him instead.”

Horizon raised her hand while sweating.

“Um, Asama-sama. I feel like you are being overprotective of this idiot.”

“N-no, it’s just that Toori-kun causes trouble while he’s in the holding cell! Isn’t that right, Tenzou-kun!?”

“Th-the time I was thrown in there with him, he did say ‘Check this out, Tenzou! This is how you do it!’ and caused everyone a lot of trouble, but why would you turn to me for this!?”

“Kiyonari,” said Narumi.

“It is honestly fairly amusing,” replied Urquiaga.

“He always behaves himself when I visit him there,” said Mitotsudaira.

Did that make it a newfound date spot?

At any rate, Mitotsudaira had another question.

“Then, Tomo, could you cancel the Asama Shrine’s request for bail?”

“No, Mito. We might store the money, but we aren’t the ones that set the bail.”

Asama must have considered this herself.

“And if I tried to remove bail this one time, we would never hear the end of it from the god of law. Because it would set a precedent for other similar cases.”

“Then,” said Ohiroshiki. “Won’t this solve itself if the Asama Shrine just pays the bail?”

“What would happen then?” asked Naito.

Asama shook her head.

“Our god checks over everything finance and contract related, so I couldn’t use our money for bail.” She showed them a sign frame. “Look.”

<Q: What happens if the shrine pays bail?>

<A: Not happening. By, god.>

The answer returned immediately.

“Shinto is so casual about everything.”

“Well, our gods had a tendency of descending to the human world, making long treks there, and playing with the animals.”

But Mitotsudaira still had a question.

“What happens to the bail if someone working for a shrine commits a crime?”

“In that case, it goes either to the higher-level shrine above theirs or it goes to IZUMO. If it goes to IZUMO, it goes to a mutual aid fund paid into by all the Shinto shrines.” Asama felt the need to add one more thing. “Oh, you were just thinking that bringing Heidi and Shirojiro-kun under the Asama Shrine’s jurisdiction would lessen the required bail, weren’t you?”

“No, I was assuming there were rules preventing us from abusing that kind of loophole.”

“Hmm,” they all groaned while crossing their arms.


Mitotsudaira thought about their current situation.

Musashi was the Far East’s representative and it was independent territory. However…

“Are you sure we can let this happen? Won’t a Treasurer with udon coming from his butt be an obstacle to our plans for Westphalia?”

“Yeah, but I was thinking we would just have to deal with it. I mean, remember who our leader is.”

Mitotsudaira had accepted that leader as her king, so it was true she could forget how other people viewed him.

“That idiot said he would take care of our troubles, so he’s in charge of this kind of trouble too, right?” Masazumi sighed. “You might think all trouble is as bad as this, but it can be good at times. For example, there was Crossunite bringing Mary back with him. And the idiot helped with that too.”

“Then,” said Mitotsudaira.

Silver Wolf: “Heidi, have you learned your lesson?”

Circle Be: “Oh? Just so you know, there are many different ways of showing you have learned your lesson.”

Novice: “Such as a prostration?”

Circle B: “No, that’s a petition used when you absolutely must have it your way. It can be hard for amateurs to tell, but prostrations are an offensive technique, not a defensive one.”

Someone cut in there.

Asama: “Um, then if not a prostration, how do you intend to show you’ve learned your lesson, Heidi?”

It was Asama.

Heidi replied with a “judge”.

Circle B: “A merchant does it by gathering the necessary money no matter what it takes. Actually feeling you were wrong is not necessary. Apologies are worthless to a merchant, so why waste your time apologizing when you could be making money? But we can’t make money right now since we have no money to work with and we’re stuck in holding cells. There’s nothing we can do, so asking us to prove we’ve learned our lesson is just cruel!”

She doesn’t do anything halfway, does she? thought Mitotsudaira.

It could be summed up as a money obsession, but everything she did in life and every decision she made was centered on gathering and using money.

It was never about life, death, food, sleep, fun, activity, reading, seeing, or hearing.

She lived for making money.

Vice President: “How did she end up like this?”

Smoking Girl: “Everyone has their own past. I imagine you would end up like this if you encountered a problem that money solved better than good will, kindness, or hard work.”

Mitotsudaira had learned that lesson too, but it was not something you talked about openly.

And if money would solve everything…

“Can’t the Student Council pay their bail?”

“That would be a great idea if they hadn’t embezzled our entire budget for the year.” Masazumi opened a sign frame. “But I guess I’ll try asking.”


Ookubo saw a divine transmission arrive from the Vice President.

Everyone looked over curiously when the sign frame popped up. With the Reine des Garous and other foreigners around, she honestly wanted to avoid any possibly sensitive conversations. But…

It’s not like she ever bothers being discreet.

You could even call her lazy, but that only made a conversation here all the more dangerous.

Nagaya-Stable: “What is it? Can any detailed discussion wait until later?”

Vice President: “Don’t worry, Ookubo. This is a simple question.”

“Oh?” responded Ookubo.

Nagaya-Stable: “Ask away.”

Vice President: “Could I borrow some money from next year’s budget?”

Nagaya-Stable: “G-go to hell!”


Masazumi let Tsukinowa handle the opening sign frames while she relaxed her shoulders. Then she turned toward the others.

“I think we can manage it.”

“I am amazed that was your takeaway from her response, Seijun,” said Naito.

“No, that was a solid ‘maybe’ from her.”

She had learned to read the underclassmen a lot better recently.

That’s right.

“They might complain, but they always pull through in the end.”

“I would not want you as a boss,” said Balfette, but Masazumi chose to ignore that.

“Anyway, I doubt the others will accept it if we just pay their bail. We would be complete laughingstocks if we used an advance on the national budget to prevent our Treasurer from udon-ing.”

“Which is why the Student Council pays it for them but then bills those two for it. Everyone should accept it if we demand monthly payments plus interest.”

“But who guarantees that happens? It can’t be us when we were the ones who wanted to pay their bail.”

An unexpected hand rose.

It was Asama’s as she sat down next to the idiot and Horizon.

“Then how about this?” She raised her eyebrows somewhat. “The Asama Shrine will start a business, so you use your authority as Vice President to give us the necessary funding.”


Chapter 6: Plotter in a Cage[edit]

Horizon8A 175.jpg

You can do it

You have to do it

In this world

You must pay for your crimes

With your butt in Sanuki

Point Allocation (Nearly Kishimen)


Asama had suggested the Asama Shrine start a business and the Vice President pay for it.

Huh? thought Masazumi.

What’s this about?

“We were discussing whether or not we pay to have those two freed from their udon-y fate, so why bring up an Asama shrine business and the payment for it?”

Asama raised one of her right fingers.

“An excellent question!”

Here we go again, thought Masazumi as Asama placed a flip chart on a sign frame.

It showed a diagram of the Musashi with various arrows drawn on it.

“Listen. First of all, The Asama Shrine will provide the Musashi a wide-area partnership service through Vice President Masazumi.”

“Hm? The Asama Shrine would be running a business through me?”

“Yes.” Asama nodded. “It would be our idea and we would do all the work, but you would approve it. You would be signing a contract asking for our services.”

Masazumi still did not know why she would do that. But…

“I get what you want me to do, but what’s the point?”

“Well, the contract fee would then be used to pay for Heidi and Shirojiro-kun’s bail.”

“H-hm?”

She did not quite understand this.

The contract fee?

Well, I do get that some money would be coming to us through the Asama Shrine.

“Fine. I don’t want to interrupt your presentation, so continue with the explanation.”

“Okay,” said Asama. “You can choose to have Heidi and Shirojiro-kun repay the bail money in monthly payments with interest, or you could choose not to. The point is that we would not be paying the bail money and you would be paying it with your authority as Vice President, which should be enough of an excuse for the financial god.”

“I-I see. But…um?”

Part of that was a little tricky.

She built up a mental diagram of the arrangement and then laid out the basics of her question.

“So…you would be paying me money for whatever work we were doing and then I would be paying that right back to the Asama Shrine as bail?”

“Umm, well, yes.”

“Then,” continued Masazumi while arriving at her biggest question. “There’s something I don’t get. If we would be the ‘customer’ receiving a service from the Asama Shrine, why would you be paying us money?”

“Oh,” said Mitotsudaira. She looked up at Asama and then at Masazumi. “You would be including a financial condition in the contract, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes.” Asama confirmed. “Masazumi would be giving us a condition we have to meet in order to approve the contract. In this case, it would be money. Think of it as her saying ‘pay us a certain amount of money if you want this contract’.”

That allowed Masazumi to picture the scene in her head.

So it’s like an auction but between individuals?

That mental image helped her get a grasp on it.

“So it’s like bidding on a job?”

“Yes.” Asama smiled a little. And, “The contract will be a simple one. The Asama Shrine will manage all of the divine protections and spells for Musashi’s Student Council, Chancellor’s Officers, related groups, and related businesses.”

In other words…

“Combining management like that will simplify things greatly.”


“That’s it!”

Ookubo stood up within the teahouse.

That would make things so much easier!

Because…

“The spells and divine protections on the Musashi are from so many different religions or are personalized, so it would speed up the administrative and management process a lot if they could all be handled under the Asama Shrine name! I’m approving this one!!”

Musashi: “Simplifying the data management would also be best for operation of the Musashi and crew management. It would especially help us automatons grasp the data faster. Over.”

“But,” said someone else. It was the Satomi Student Council President who had a god of war design sign frame open in the back of the teahouse.

She pointed far to the west.

“Can you do that? The Musashi has a lot of different religions, species, and people onboard, doesn’t it?”

“Shinto is cool with pretty much anything,” replied Ookubo.

“That is true,” said Tachibana Gin who was on guard duty out front. “We temporarily used Catholic spells using the Hidden Tsirhc settings and that was not a problem at all. Simply put, you can think of everyone on the Musashi using Shinto as a hub for using their own religion.”

“But going through a hub is a pain and won’t there be a contract fee?”

“I am sure they will offer extra services as a selling point. Like allowing non-Shinto people to use the standard Shinto services and use Shinto spells via substitution. We already receive some divine protections just from being a Musashi resident, so these other services will likely be included as an extension of that.”

“And,” said Muneshige. “If Musashi taxes those services, they can make back the funding they provide.”

“The services will need to be quite something to convince people to accept another municipal tax, but I imagine the Asama Shrine Representative is aware of that,” said Gin.

Ookubo nodded in agreement with those two.

“The primary service might be a refund on External Blessings. Even if you rarely use it, just knowing you have a right to a refund can feel like a really good deal.”

But anyway…

Nagaya-Stable: “This is an idea worth figuring out over summer break. It has support from the Committees and Musashi’s bridge.”


They’re actually supporting me, sighed Asama.

It was only an idea for now, so she appreciated this help from people who could make it a reality.

And in that case…

“Let’s review how this system will actually work. First, the Asama Shrine will pay Vice President Masazumi a contract fee equal to the bail amount.”

“I get that much, but it’s still nerve-wracking knowing it’s going to me.”

Everyone looked to Masazumi.

“No calculating out how many used books that is, Seijun.”

“Wait, can you actually do 5-digit monetary calculations in your head, Masazumi?”

“I’m sure you understand that’s wrong, but just to be sure, you aren’t considering that, are you?”

“Sh-shut up, all of you! Yes, I know that’s wrong!” Masazumi brought a hand to her chin. “Anyway, you’ll be leaving the money specifically with the ‘Vice President’, right? Send it to the ‘Student Council’ and someone we know will embezzle it in no time flat.”

“Oh, well, I don’t distrust those two quite that much, but the rights to handling money are a lot simpler when only dealing with individuals. And we need to make sure this passes muster with the financial and contract gods.”

Asama could tell she had a bitter smile on her face as she worked at the sign frame by her hands. He and Horizon watched the money transfer depicted there. She let Mitotsudaira explain more to them while she moved on with the main explanation.

“Masazumi, you will then pay the bail to the Asama Shrine as Vice President. Making that a loan to them and demanding they pay it back with interest will make the whole thing feel less like a fictional transaction, which will help the contract god accept it. …You will have to discuss that with those two. If they don’t want to pay it back as a loan, then I will have to make a deal with the financial god to get this through.”

She had no doubt she could manage it. The Asama Shrine handled births, so their authority effectively ranked very highly even among the gods.

Heidi and Shirojiro had caused them a lot of trouble here and they had very obviously self-destructed this time, but…

“They merely made a mistake in their methods this time. On the Musashi, Inari is managed by the Asama Shrine, so since this has to be done, I will do whatever I can to make sure it happens.”

And…

“Once the contract is made, the Asama Shrine will start up its business and provide the necessary services. We will fund that with…”

“With the bail paid to the Asama Shrine, Asama-kun?” asked Ohiroshiki.

“Correct.” Asama nodded. “I do not know if we will use the full sum or just a portion of it, but this is a public works project and we have the approval of the Committees and the bridge. In other words, a project the Asama Shrine was going to fund on its own will receive public works funding thanks to our new contract with Vice President Masazumi. With her approval, we can openly use that funding and we will be paying bail for those two in the process. Everything the Asama Shrine does must be checked over by the financial god and the contract god, but like I said, Masazumi’s involvement and the official contract makes this more than just a fictional transaction and we should be able to get those two gods’ approval more easily,” said Asama. “Anyway, freeing Heidi and Shirojiro-kun is our top priority right now. And if you can’t use next year’s budget right away, then keep in mind that the Asama Shrine can bear that burden for the time being. We have a lot of internal and external assets.”

“Asama.”

Just as she said that, someone called her name.

She looked over to see him scratching his head.

“Come to me if anything happens, okay?”


Come to me.

Asama was initially unsure what Toori meant by that.

But after taking a breath, she figured it out.

“Yes, I will. Because you’re my last resort.”

She could not keep a smile off her face as she replied.

He said to come to him, but there was nothing he could really do with this kind of financial issue. He was an individual, but…

I’m essentially a business owner. We’re talking about two very different things.

That meant his support was more of a kindness.

He was willing to give her moral support to solve the emotional side of the problem.

And as Chancellor and President, he could provide assistance in a way that Masazumi could not.

Whatever the case, if she was having trouble or stuck on something, she could go to him for advice or just to vent.

And that relationship was mutual. It was all a part of their shared lives, feelings, and time.

“That is how it is, isn’t it?”

Mitotsudaira nodded, as did Horizon.

This connection between her and him was not unique. She had it with those two and with Kimi as well.

As did he.

Those connections could be used to distribute and reduce stress and burdens.

And from there, I just have to do everything I can to make this work out.

That thought helped her understand something.

Relationships were a form of purification.

“–––––”

She had been born to a shrine family and had lived there for more than 17 years now, but she was only now realizing this.

When she was having trouble or was stuck on something, her relationships would purify the difficulty, provide moral support, and allow her to pour her full ability into fixing it.

And she would of course do the same for others, making it a give-and-take thing.

Oh.

Shinto was a polytheistic religion. The gods would do all sorts of dumb things, but when someone was in trouble, they would work together and get that cave open through whatever absurd methods it required. And if the Far East’s culture was based on that religion…

“What is it, Tomo?”

Her thoughts were cut off by her friend’s voice, dragging her back to reality.

Mitotsudaira was tilting her head.

“Did you discover something? It sure looked like you did.”

“No, I didn’t really discover something. It’s more like I can’t believe I didn’t realize it before now.”

“Huh?”

Everyone else was tilting their heads, but he alone naturally looked out the window and up into the sky.

At the same time, Asama realized something about herself.

People don’t often just tell me to come to them for help.

And when they did, it was usually just them being polite.

She was not sure how to deal with this.

He had helped her out during the conversation with Yasuhira of Oushuu Fujiwara. Not to mention during the battle with Saizou and against Unno of the Sanada Ten Braves.

But he was not helping her this time.

He told her to come to him if she needed help.

Of course, that was pretty much how it had already been and she was fairly certain he had said something similar before. He had said he would do something about a number of things back when she had decided to move in with him.

But this was a little different. Because of all those interactions and all that help he had provided in the past…

Telling me to come to him carries so much more weight.

He was not just being polite.

He was telling her to come to him.

He was telling her he would help her if anything happened.

And she could honestly accept that.

Which was why she was unsure how to deal with it.

Oddly, she felt no heat in her cheeks. Was that because this had all already been proven quite thoroughly? Or was it because she no longer had any doubts about it? Regardless…

“Masazumi, we can do this using that plan.”

Horizon8A 189.jpg

If something happened, she could go to him. So this would be fine. And…

“Excuse me, Toori-kun.”

“Hm?”

She moved over to him, shifted her hips, and then placed her arms around Horizon and Mitotsudaira’s shoulders.

“Here.”

She collapsed back to rest her head on his lap.

She used his lap as a pillow while she had Horizon and Mitotsudaira use her arms as a pillow.

“Consider this a preview of when I go to you for help next.”

Now she felt the heat in her cheeks. She felt like she could sense the blush more when she shut her eyes. It was embarrassing, but she knew this sort of behavior would reach him without the need for words.

She looked up at him and he reached down to touch her hair.

The ribbon on the back of her head had come loose, so he fixed it for her. It was such a small thing, but it also felt really important since she remembered her mother doing that for her when she was little.

“Okay,” he said. “Asama has fixed the udon problem, so how about it, Seijun?”


How about it?

Now that Asama had gone over to him, there was not much else Masazumi could do.

It was kind of amusing seeing Asama refusing to accept any complaints, though. Almost like she was sulking.

But anyway…

“If we can work out a deal like that, I don’t see a problem with it. Of course, this is basically getting them off on a technicality based entirely on the gods’ approval, so I doubt we can ever use this method again,” she said. “But…”

Vice President: “Are you okay with that, Augesvarer?”

Circle Be: “W-wait, I need water!”

Horizey: “Is it coming out? Is it? It is, isn’t it? Poodon poodon poodon poodon (cursed SFX).”

Circle Be: “S-stop with that pressure! It’s not happening yet! Not quite yet!”

Masazumi felt no desire to ask how close they were cutting this.

She looked outside to see the sky gradually growing darker.

“Here we are on a summer evening trying to help our Treasurers from their udon-y fate. I doubt anyone in history has ever started their summer break like this.”

“Um, Masazumi?” said Mitotsudaira. “Nothing you say is going to change what’s happening here.”

True enough, she thought before asking a question.

Vice President: “So what will it be? Udon or bail?”

Circle Be: “Hmm. That’s honestly a difficult choice. I mean, the Asama Shrine is a business rival to us Inari worshipers.”

“Also,” said Augesvarer.

Circle Be: “I don’t think I could stand having a classmate save us with money a second time.”

“So,” she said.

Circle Be: “Masazumi, if at all possible, could you trust us just one more time?”


Masazumi tilted her head at Augesvarer’s request.

Vice President: “But you always betray us after following the siren’s song of money ringing in your heads.”

Circle Be: “Okay, yeah, we do that! But that’s just the kind of creatures we are!”

Art-ga: “So you’re abandoning your humanity?”

Gold Mar: “I think she’s confessing they never were human.”

The scary part was how convincing that was. But the creature was still speaking via divine transmission.

Circle Be: “We’re in high school, so we want to clean up our own mess. But we can’t do that right now since we’re still in the process of making that udon-y mess.”

Vice President: “And what happens if we trust you again?”

Circle Be: “We earn our own bail money and pay you back, of course.”

And…

Circle Be: “Since you trusted us, we’ll pay you back double or even triple.”

Vice President: “Then what are you asking us to do?”

Circle Be: “Just do you what you were doing. But we will pay you back. I swear it. …Asama-chi’s method would mean getting help from her and Toori-kun, and that would be bad.”

Vice President: “From Aoi? He has nothing to do with this.”

Circle Be: “Getting monetary help from a business rival is a fate worse than udon for a merchant. We wouldn’t be able to stand a situation where it looked like Asama-chi chose to do that so we wouldn’t cause trouble for Toori-kun.”

And…

Circle Be: “Asama-chi, can I ask something?”

Asama: “Go ahead.”

Circle Be: “Why?”

Asama moved her hand without lifting her head from the idiot’s lap.

Mitotsudaira moved her head out of the way while Asama lifted her arm and opened a sign frame.

Asama: “I – along with Horizon, Mito, and everyone else – are working to help Toori-kun become a king, so we’re all together on this, aren’t we? So I honestly don’t care all that much if we are business rivals or whatever else.”

She doesn’t have to care because she sees them as a safe and nonthreatening rival, thought Masazumi.

It was like she knew them well enough to allow them to compete with her. Which probably only made those two see her as even more of a rival.

Oh.

Is that what it meant to be on the same side?

If so, maybe I should forgive them for their betrayal. …No, if that was enough, we wouldn’t need laws. And they’ve caused me a lot of trouble, like when they sided with Ookubo.

“Vice President? Why are you glaring at your sign frame and muttering to yourself?”

“Don’t worry about it, Balfette. I’m just contemplating the absurdities of life.”

But then Asama spoke up while typing on her sign frame.

Asama: “At any rate, I decided I would go with him.”

And…

Asama: “I can’t let myself leave anyone behind.”

She gave a snort and sank deeper into her “pillow”. She was not one for giving speeches and she probably knew her feelings for the idiot were her own personal thing.

Horizon must have understood that because…

“Asama-sama, you can be a glorious pain in the ass at times.”

“U-um, well, uh.”

Asama pulled Horizon and Mitotsudaira in close and sank down as if to hide herself.

But the idiot must have been able to see her while looking straight down at her.

That’s right.

That was their relationship.

Asama had come to realize that it had always been that way and she was now making it the foundation of how they interacted.

She seemed surprised by her own actions at times because no one could have imagined her acting like that not long before. That applied to Mitotsudaira and Horizon as well. No, wait. Horizon is always doing unimaginable things, so maybe that isn’t quite the same thing. Or is it? Is it? Is it?

“Masa…zumi? A-are you okay?”

“Don’t worry about it, Mukai. I’m just contemplating the absurdities of life.”

At any rate, the person on the divine transmission seemed satisfied.

Circle Be: “Then you set everything up for us, Masazumi. Will you take money from the Asama Shrine and pay our bail? If the loan process requires a substitution intervention, add the fee to our loan. Then we’ll sign a repayment contract, okay?”

Vice President: “Hold on. Do you have any way of paying this back?”

Circle Be: “Masazumi, how much do you have right now?”

Vice President: “70 yen.”

Circle Be: “D-don’t worry. You can…get by?”

Vice President: “Stop talking like Mukai. Now, what does my money have to do with this?”

Circle Be: “Well, I thought we could borrow something to do business with, but I guess we’ll find another source.”

Flat Vassal: “You’re going to do business?”

“Of course we are,” said Augesvarer.

Circle Be: “If Masazumi trusts us, we’ll do everything we can to pay her back. And with interest too. Just wait until August 14. Then we’ll have everything paid back.”

Unturning: “That only gives you two weeks.”

Circle Be: “The entire world can change in a week.”

She took a breath.

Circle Be: “God spent 6 days creating this world, but then he made Sunday because he felt like taking a day off, right? So with two whole weeks to work with, a merchant can spend the first week sowing seeds and spend the second week reaping the rewards from all over the world with time for a break left over. So how about that?”

Vice President: “You’re only in this situation because you couldn’t manage that, so how can you be so sure?”

Circle Be: “That was different. We were competing with other Musashi people and screwed up. To be honest, we were competing with the Commerce and Industry Guild to give us the upper hand after graduating.”

So…

Circle Be: “We’ll only compete against the world now and wait until later to try again against the other Musashi people.”

Masazumi thought about what that meant.

Competing against the world is easier than with other Musashi people?

It was true they would probably have a lot of opportunities with the outside world since the Warring States period and the Thirty Years’ War caused everyone to act so unpredictably. Especially compared to Musashi’s Commerce and Industry Guild that was full of veterans colluding together.

In that case…

Vice President: “Do you have an idea?”

She could make a decent guess and Augesvarer responded as if she knew that.

Circle Be: “We’d like to go to Kantou.”

Vice President: “That’s asking for a lot.”

Masazumi smiled bitterly as she said it. And…

“I just hope we have a way to get back here if we do return to Kantou.”

But was there a way of doing that?


“Wait, so the Musashi actually can’t return to Kantou?”

“Testament. If they did, Hashiba would make sure they were stuck there.”

Christina was walking with Tadaoki while evening fell across the Musashi.

They were shopping. They had been supplied with the basic necessities after boarding the Musashi with no more than they were carrying at the time, but there was still a lot they needed for their everyday lives.

Christina was staying at the diplomatic inn. Tadaoki had been given a room there too, but moving in there right away would lead to gossip.

She figured it would no longer qualify as “right away” after summer break was over.

Sweden would have chosen a course of action by then, so…

We can start living together after summer break!

She had never imagined she would have plans like that. Especially with someone so much younger than her. They had yet to do much in the way of judging the distance between them or accepting each other’s tastes in various things.

We still have a long way to go, she thought.

“Then can I ask something?” he asked.

“Of course you can.”

“Can’t Hashiba win right away by using the Testament Union to demand the Musashi returns to Kantou?”

The road came to an end as he asked that.

An underground atrium park suddenly spread out before their eyes.

Her information said this area had been badly damaged by a Sanada Terrestrial Dragon recently. The damage was being repaired and those repairs looked nearly done, but…

Is there still a bridge allowing us to cross over it?

The bridge she spotted was covered in shimmering heat thanks to the summer sun.

But no one would overhear them speaking from there, so she pointed toward it.

“Tadaoki-sama, this way.”

“No, let’s head down. It’s too hot.”

“Eh? But…”

“I can’t stand this heat. I was raised in the mountains, after all. Let’s get some ice cream.”

“I-I would love that.”

He tugged on her hand.

He pulled her onward and she imagined she would see him blushing if he were to look back. She even thought his ears looked red, but she also thought she might be imagining it.

That meant she was enjoying this situation.

She appreciated him leading the way right now. She could enjoy this without worrying about how she looked and without even Tadaoki noticing.

And…

“Well?”

“Eh?”

“Can’t Hashiba use the Testament Union to send the Musashi back to Kantou right away?”

“They could,” she confirmed.

This was a bit of a leap from what they had been discussing before, but…

That shows he is quick to grasp the information presented to him and is good at speculating from there.

Was that a skill he had developed as a sniper? She gave a more detailed answer to his predictive question.

“I am sure Hashiba does want to keep the Musashi in Kantou, but the Azuchi is in Kantou. And it’s still damaged.” The two of them walked down the pathway descending into the underground atrium park. “The Azuchi received damage to its rear thrusters and more, so I doubt it can leave Kantou until that is repaired. And if the Musashi were to return while the Azuchi is still incapacitated, the Kantou nations might decide to attack the Azuchi.”

“But it’s summer break. I thought war wasn’t allowed.”

“They could surround the Azuchi and cut it off from supplies. And…”

She decided to say this, just in case.

“They could always go for a more pragmatic victory where they ignore the Testament Union and just crush their enemy.”

“But…”

“That decision would not be all that different from deciding your own death will solve everything.”

He squeezed her hand tighter when she said that.

And he looked up at her.

“They can’t do that.”

“Which is why the Musashi can’t return right away.”

She had heard from Musashi that they shared her understanding on that.

“The Musashi will return to Kantou on August 10. As per the Testament Union’s instructions.”

But she was curious about something.

“Can the Azuchi really be repaired in just 10 more days?”

“Oh, that? I bet they can manage.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because,” he said. “An upperclassman of mine that specializes in construction and repairs is in M.H.R.R. right now.”


Ikeda Terumasa thought to himself.

Should I really be here?

The sky filled half of his vision when he looked up.

He was in the thruster sector on the stern of the Azuchi’s 2nd central ship.

The central large torii-style thruster had been split and badly damaged where it stuck out from the ship. It had been sliced during acceleration, so the energy had rapidly spread out from the gash. And…

“After the emergency shutoff, the impact of landing triggered a chain-reaction explosion in the ether inside. Normally, you’d just swap the unit out completely, which generally takes 10 days. But with the Azuchi’s staff, they could probably cut that down to a week.”

But there were no replacement parts in Kantou. Hence why he had been called in. But…

“I’m not sure I’m up to the task. With on-site repairs, it’s going to take 10 days just to get it barely running again, so with a departure date of August 10, this is going to be a close one. …Maybe I shouldn’t have come.”

He had come because they called for him, but this was not his primary job. He wanted to go do some poking around at Mikawa to get some ideas for the repairs to the Shirasagi Castle.

He had really hoped to get to the Mikawa region today. Because…

“Once August begins, everyone enters summer break and there will be a ton of traffic as everyone heads home.”

“Do you ever stop complaining, Ikeda?”

A voice reached him through the air. It came from above, so he looked up to see someone looking down from about 3m up with their hair dancing in the wind.

“Oh, Nabeshima.”


Chapter 7: Vertically Separated Comprehenders[edit]

Horizon8A 203.jpg

It is time

It is distance

It is status

Point Allocation (Mutual)


Terumasa saw his old friend’s face in the evening sky.

But right now, she was smiling bitterly.

“ ‘Oh, Nabeshima’? That’s all you have to say? …Anyway, how are things going?”

“They’re not. This thing is busted.”

“Isn’t that why we called you in to fix it up with your spell? Or is it too bad for that?”

“But why do I have to do it?”

Oops, she just got after me for complaining. But it’s so easy to complain when I don’t want to work.

Still, she must have understood how he felt.

“Yeah, sorry about this. Kiyomasa left me in charge of this since you were coming. If you need someone to really motivate you, I could call the upperclassmen over. Should I?”

“I don’t want to bother them.”

He knew his position here. He was not a fighter and he had only been able to watch the Keichou Campaign, yet here he was with everyone who had fought and lost that largescale battle. So…

I feel so out of place.

Meanwhile, some people lined up on either side of Nabeshima. Five in all.

They were old men of varying heights and they all had their arms crossed.

“Kid!”

“Looks like you could use some motivation!”

“Lucky for you, we’re here. Because…”

“We are the Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji!”

Oh, these are the people Nabeshima was talking about, he thought, but he also tilted his head.

“Um.”

“What? You got a problem with the Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji!?”

“There are five of you.”

“Indeed, the five of us are the Four Heavenly Kings!”

“Why not call yourselves the Five Heavenly Kings?”

The men exchanged a glance and then were at each other’s throats.

“This is all your fault!”

“H-how dare you make that young man doubt us!”

“Wait, everyone, try to stay positive here! This means we’re famous enough that some kid knows who we are! We must take pride in what our lady has accomplished! Nevertheless, this is still all your fault!”

Since a fistfight broke out over his suggestion, Terumasa concluded the Five Heavenly Kings was not a valid option. Nabeshima glared over at them and waved her hand to tell him not to worry about it, so this must have been the exhausting norm for them.

But at the same time, Terumasa noticed a bandage around her hand.

She was injured?


Terumasa relaxed his shoulders.

This is tricky.

While he sat around doing nothing at all, things changed and his friends got hurt.

Of course, he doubted he could have changed any of that if he had been there. But still…

“I was called here, wasn’t I?”

He told himself to focus on the reality around him. He had to be aware of the current situation.

Above him, Nabeshima was smiling while watching the Four Heavenly Kings fight.

She had a nice smile. He much preferred seeing that than when she had been worrying over her future without confiding in anyone.

He knew that smile well, but this time it was thanks to her current life at Ryuuzouji. In that case…

None of them need me around to do their best and achieve their goals.

He had recently decided to stop worrying so much. He was surrounded by talented people and the people working for him were surprisingly considerate given that he was younger than them.

The ordinary people and his parents were the same. No one saw an inexperienced name inheritor like him as any more than an instructor or someone to advance their interests.

Besides, receiving flattery from someone else – even a superior – did not actually improve your skill. If you wanted compliments, you had to prove your skill first.

“Okay.”

That meant he had to stop worrying about his presence here. No one else cared. And if anyone did, it was because they were overly sensitive about their own presence here.

I love to get after myself, don’t I?

But it really gets to me when someone else does it.

That was why he had trouble with combat since the results and responsibility arrived immediately. With construction, he could take his time and, if there was any kind of problem, he could say “B-but look how nice this part is! This pro more than makes up for that con, right!?” In fact, he had used that trick twice during the practical part of his name inheritor exam.

So he had to do this. If he did make a mistake…

My pros will make up for the cons. Probably.

“Nabeshima.”

“Yeah?”

“How long do I have?”

“They told me ASAP.”

I see, he thought. There was a lot he had never before attempted with his spell, so there were a lot of unknowns. He appreciated that the higher ups had taken that into consideration.

But he knew one thing thanks to his construction education.

If he did this the normal way, it was a 2-week job. Repairing it to a barely working level would take 10 days and a complete repair would take 2 weeks.

He wanted to reach that first level, but doing it by August 10 would be difficult. Since he was involved, he knew he had to shorten that somehow.

Nabeshima placed a hand above her eyes to look down at him.

He could see the bandages on that hand. They bound it all the way to the wrist. She waved her hand to say she was fine, but the healing charm would be reducing the pain. Also…

It was enough for her to agree to a bandage.

She did not like to let this kind of thing show. The general mood here had probably helped make it easier for her to accept, but…

“Hey,” he asked. “Where’s Asano?”

“Asleep.”

“I see,” he said.

Nothing out of the ordinary there.

He opened a lernen figur and…

“Hey.”

“Coming-ing-ing-ing.”

A humanoid white Mouse emerged from his neck hard point part.

“Huh? A new pet?” asked Nabeshima overhead.

“No, this is the Shirasagi Castle’s controller. She’s homeless right now and she’s pretty useful when it come to repairs, so I’m keeping her with me.”

“Hm, so you were picking up chicks while we were out fighting? I’m impressed.”

“How rude-ude-ude-ude-ude.”

“Look, now you’ve made her mad. Please try to keep her in a good mood. Because…” Terumasa crouched down and handed the lernen figur to the Mouse. Then he pointed to the giant thruster in front of him. “Osakabe-hime, can you read this?”

“With ease-ease-ease-ease.”

The Mouse, Osakabe-hime, instantly regained her original form. She became a tall girl. Her white hair spread out in the air before fading away and creating several lernen figurs.

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Immediately, an alarm sounded in the sky above the stern.

This specific alarm was for an intruder alert, but…

“Hm? They caught me-me-me-me-me?”

“What did you do!?”

“Extracted the plans-ans-ans-ans-ans.”

Now that she mentioned it, he noticed the lernen figurs were displaying the plans for the Azuchi’s thruster and the surrounding structure. He had intended to give her a general outline of the current structure, but…

“Nabeshima-sama. Nabeshima-sama,” said a shipwide announcement. “Please contact Azuchi Repairs HQ right away. Shaja.”

“What the hell did you do, Ikeda!?”

“It was kind of me, but it wasn’t me me!”

“Wasn’t me-me-me-me-me.”

“It was you!”

Terumasa copied the diagram Osakabe-hime had produced and put it in a folder labeled “For Submission”.

Can I manage to repair the general components in 7 days?

If he managed that, would the praise manage to overpower his own self-consciousness?


“Anyway, my general rating of our first term would be ‘don’t ask me how, but everything worked out well enough in the end’.”

“Way to toot your own horn there, Seijun!”

“I’m talking about all of you too!”

Masazumi’s voice rose into the evening sky.

They stood on the stairs in front of Musashi Ariadust Academy.

It was only evening, but during the summer that meant it was already nearly 6PM. She saw the two Technohexen flying up into the sky for their evening shift and she adjusted her grip on the paper bag full of her things.

They had somehow managed to finish cleaning up the Student Council rec room.

I had a surprising number of spare clothes there.

But she still had less than the others, but was that because the others were sloppy or because she just did not own many clothes? It was also worrying that Futayo was only carrying Tonbo Spare with her. We aren’t going to get back from summer break to find her desk full of mold, are we?

“Vice President, you’ve been muttering to yourself a lot today.”

“Yeah, a lot of the usual stuff happened today. Don’t let it get to you, Balfette.”

She looked up into the sky to see the two Technohexen were no longer looking their way. They were flying next to each other on their way to Murayama’s shipping port to accept a delivery from Sanuki.

As for the group down here…

“I guess we have our party to go to.”

“Who wants to eat for free at the Udon Kingdom!” shouted Horizon while raising both hands.

Everyone else raised their hand too, so…

“Let’s leave our things at home and then gather on Okutama’s bow deck at 7. We can celebrate the entire first term and that we got to skip the Kantou Liberation. Since the Kantou group hasn’t joined us yet.”

“Then let’s make it a celebration for Nördlingen!”

Gold Mar: “In that case, tell us where you’re going. We’ll stop by during our dinner break.”

Art-Ga: “We’d also appreciate it if you told us where you’re headed after that.”

“Oh, I’ve been looking into places, so I’ll make a reservation for us.”

Balfette was quick. She must have done a lot of research, thought Masazumi.

But I’m no good at this stuff.

Then another thought hit her.

“We’re carrying all our stuff from the first term out of the academy and we’re planning a party, so why doesn’t it feel like summer break to me yet?”

“I-it doesn’t for any of us, which is why we’re trying to remedy that with the party, Vice President!” said Balfette.

“Masazumi-dono, you are the one who told us we weren’t getting a summer break,” added Crossunite.

She did not have a rebuttal for that one. But…

“Anyway, we have a plan, so everyone in charge of a task needs to send regular reports to either the Student Council rec room or to me directly. I’ll be in that room every day except Saturdays and event days.”

“You aren’t going to take any time off, Masazumi?”

“Listen up, everyone!” cut in the idiot. “Seijun-kun is lonely and has no friends, so let’s figure out how to make sure she gets invited along with everyone else!”

“Shut the hell up!”

“In fact, you can just invite her yourself, everyone. I know any of you can get everyone to show up if you try.”

So can you, thought Masazumi, but she knew it was best not to say anything here.

“Vice President, do you want to be in the rec room at all times because you think something is going to happen?”

The Date Vice Chancellor asked that more for confirmation than as a pure question and Masazumi nodded.

But first, she pointed down the stairs. Balfette had made their reservation, so it would be unnatural to stop walking here. In fact, the people at the bottom of the stairs and in the park below were already reacting.

“Eek! Th-they’re looking this way!”

“Are they plotting to overthrow another enemy nation!?”

“Wow! This is just like when they decided to fight back against the Testament Union!”

The scary part was how none of it was exactly wrong. Well, except for the part about looking their way. They were imagining that. But…

“We’ve made our plans for summer break, but I bet the other nations are holding their own emergency meetings. Assuming their leaders aren’t just dictating whatever they want.”

Horizon raised her hand.

“Masazumi-sama, what do you mean by dictating?”

“You don’t know something as simple as that, Horizon!? C’mon, tell her what it means, Sis!!”

“Dick-tasting!? Masazumi, you have such a dirty mind! You really think the leaders of the other nations are using summer break to master their skills with chicken skewers!? With salt!? Or with sauce!? No, if you want to do it hardcore, you need to add chili powder! That makes it so super spicy it’ll knock out both participants!”

“Can you all please just shut up!?” shouted Masazumi.

“I am disgusted with this boy for passing it off to Kimi-sama instead of making his own bad joke,” added Horizon.

“Yay!” celebrated the idiot and his sister with a high five. Horizon, Asama, and Mitotsudaira did the same for no real reason. It looked like they were sharing the happiness, but…

“C’mon, Masazumi, you too!”

“No, I’d rather not.”

She felt it was best if she did not grow too friendly with that group. However…

“Anyway, Masazumi, what is the most dangerous plan the other nations could take against Musashi?” asked Mitotsudaira.

“Judge, it can be easy for us to overlook it because the problem is actually too big, but it’s this.” She pointed straight down. “The Musashi’s current location is a problem. As I’ve said several times today. We were told to return to Kantou by August 10, but we don’t want to do that. So…”

So…

“Someone from Hashiba is bound to show up here. In order to force us to go to Kantou.”


Chapter 8: Regretters on the Hill[edit]

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Oh, yes, yes, yes.

Excuse me a moment

Coming through

Point Allocation (Naked Eye Zoom)


“I see. So will the Musashi be returning to Kantou soon?” asked a female voice from unusually high above the ground.

This happened atop a hill on a field where transport ships were taking off and landing.

The M.H.R.R. Catholic warriors who had left for Nördlingen were now withdrawing.

The casual question was directed toward a Catholic lernen figur which displayed…

“Mitsunari-sama, what are we supposed to do? Onitakemaru-san’s battery could die at any moment and then he would pass on.”

That comment caused another image to appear next to the lernen figur showing Mitsunari. The image contained only the text “Image Coming Soon” and…

“My battery could die!? I’ll have you know I’ve already shifted over to my program! I don’t really get how it works myself, but I’ve moved from the mobile shell, so I won’t ‘pass on’, you fool!”

“My name isn’t ‘you fool’. It’s Shima Sakon.”

“Kohime is good enough for you, you fool!”

That’s a mean thing to say, thought Sakon while spreading her mouth horizontally.

And I thought he was such a good partner back at Nördlingen.

But once they were back to their ordinary lives, they had trouble getting along, which made her a little blue. But…

“Anyway, do you two know the current situation?” asked Mitsunari.

“Testament. Onitakemaru-san’s mobile shell looks something like a dead cicada now that his soul has been removed from it, but it could also use some repairs because it’s pretty beat up. Also, he could use some lessons about hairstyling.”

“Shut up!” cut in Onitakemaru. “I don’t care how good your regeneration power is – your brain needs a thorough lookover by a doctor! And I don’t know if that regeneration uses Blessings or physical stamina, but it must use something. So make sure you always ask for either rest or food to make up for that!”

“Mitsunari-sama? This person on the lernen figur won’t stop complaining about everything.”

“Only because you won’t stop giving me reason for complaint!”

“Um.” Mitsunari held up both hands on the lernen figur and cleared her throat. “Look around you.”

Sakon did so and saw everyone else had stopped moving. Everyone moving through the landport and everyone loading up the ships had turned her way.

“…”

She panicked when she found so many eyes on her.

I-I’m the center of attention?

Attention did not so much make her nervous as it made her assume she had done something wrong.

After all, her height had always drawn attention to her actions and people would at best take a step back and at worst try to avoid her altogether.

So had she done something wrong again?

I got careless.

I just got my superior’s approval…and maybe even affection? Anyway, I’ve gotten closer to her and I was relieved because I thought everyone else had accepted me too.

But I was wrong.

People move out of the way when I walk by. Even when I try to stay as far out of the way as possible, they still take an extra step away. So…

I’m so sorry.

She had dragged Onitakemaru and Mitsunari into it as well.

She was so big she stood out when she got excited. And my voice is loud too.

They probably thought she was weird for being so excited after losing a battle.

But the loud voice and big body were hers, so it was not fair to include Mitsunari and Onitakemaru in it.

Well, Onitakemaru-san is pretty loud too. But I could make him quieter by messing with the lernen figur’s volume.

Regardless, she could hide those two behind her, but then what about herself?

Would she be less conspicuous if she ducked down? No, that much movement would stand out more.

Then could she lean forward and lower her head like she often did? Yes, that’s probably-

“You got a problem with us!?” shouted Onitakemaru without warning.


“We’re conferring with our superior here! But what about all of you!?” yelled Onitakemaru. “If you keep loafing around instead of working, you won’t get anything to eat today!”

Things sure have changed since my time!

In his time, he had been constantly surrounded by enemies. The Testament could be handled with interpretations, but sometimes that was forbidden and people would often disappear even when they did not die.

That was why time was considered valuable and precious. In comparison…

Kids these days!

“Get moving! You can watch and listen if you want, but stay on the move! We’re not doing or saying anything shameful. And if you’re going to laugh at that, then we should be ashamed of having put ourselves in harm’s way to protect you on the battlefield this morning! How about that, hm!?”

Everyone exchanged a glance.

The ones on the ground or decks got down on their knees and the ones on ladders or stairs turned this way and then they all bowed.

“Testament!”

Onitakemaru gave a grunt of approval at their combined action.

It would have been a satisfied sigh if he had an actual body.

His approval was less about the specific action of bowing and more about reaching a common decision together. Anyone could bow without meaning it, but he saw true meaning in the coordination between them all.

To be honest, I don’t understand the modern trends. Do they call them ‘fashions’ now? Heh heh heh. I know my stuff, don’t I? Anyway, whatever the modern fashion is, this coordination is a wonderful thing. If everyone does things the same way, they can direct it at the enemy on the battlefield.

So Kohime really needs to be prouder of herself and-

“Why the hell are you bowing toward them, Kohime!?”

He scolded her and she straightened up after bowing. She looked to him and everyone else before pointing at them.

“Y-you scared them by yelling like that! You really shouldn’t do that or you’ll get assassinated again.”

“How are they supposed to do that to me now, you fool!?”

Then he noticed something about her.

“What are you smirking about?”

“I-I am not smirking!”

Despite her insistence, she did have a relaxed smile on her face. And in his opinion…

“Why can’t you be this up front with people more often?”

“Yes, yes, yes.”

She grabbed the lernen figurs and lifted them up. Mitsunari was on the right and Onitakemaru on the left. Fine with me. I was the Minister of the Left after all.

But then she stood up and turned toward the others.

“Okay, everyone, um, you can get back to your work. I’ll keep this scary person occupied.”

“Oh, um, uh.”

While the others stood up and got moving, one female student raised her hand.

She took a step forward and bowed.

“Thank you so much for what you did at Nördlingen. We had to start withdrawing so quickly I never got a chance to thank you. …I was at the rear of that unit as part of the sniper team.”

“Sniper team?”

“The group in the back when you were hit by those shells!” shouted Onitakemaru. “When you let them hit you for no good reason, I might add!”

“I-it was not for no good reason! That was your fault for not reading your instructions properly!”

The female students smiled a little.

Those smiles were so much like Kohime’s smile.

Then he realized they all had those small smiles.

Honestly.

Kids these days will just smile and show off their teeth in front of their superiors.

But he could not bring himself to tell them not to smile, so he remained silent while Kohime bowed her head to say they could leave.

They all nodded, resumed their work, and opened several new lernen figurs.

“Yes, thank you all.”

That was all.

Kohime was smiling too, so Onitakemaru decided to just accept this.

A long pause formed where he would have sighed and then he decided to take a look at their surroundings.

It’s getting dark.

The light of the lernen figurs started to stand out at this time of day. He had been outside all day today. The sky above was changing from scarlet to purple and as he looked into the sky…

“That ship over Shikoku to the west must be the Musashi.”


Sakon looked to the southwest sky while still holding up the two lernen figurs.

They were in somewhat southern M.H.R.R. There was no major mountain range in the south, but…

“It looks like a series of mountains, or like several castles.”

“I have determined that is due to the curvature of the planet hiding the area below them,” said Mitsunari.

“Is the Musashi larger than the Azuchi?”

“Testament. It has three ships on the port and starboard, so it is that much longer.”

“Hm,” said Sakon while considering that opponent.

They had piloted their ships pretty wildly at Nördlingen and caused a huge atmospheric explosion that might have caught the M.H.R.R. transport ships in the blast, so it was pretty dangerous.

But it simply looked big when viewed from such a distance.

“How many people live on there?”

“Nearly 100,000. The current number may be more than that now, or it may have fallen. I have determined the number fluctuates a lot.”

“Wow, my hometown claims to be a pretty big city with 20,000, so that’s hard for me to imagine. I did visit Kyou for a school trip, so maybe it’s like that.”

At any rate, she understood better now.

When it was not moving, it was a city. That was nothing to fear.

But if it was going to move…

“Is Hashiba-sama going to make it return to Kantou?”

“No, the Azuchi is in Kantou, so a clash would be unavoidable. We cannot have it return right away, so they should return on August 10. Also, there is a problem with having Hashiba-sama herself act here.”

“Because it would look like she is flustered,” said Onitakemaru.

“Testament,” confirmed Mitsunari. “You could say we tried to intervene in the Keichou Campaign because Musashi acted hastily and worked to prevent Hashiba-sama from intervening. She did not arrive in time due to interference, but we can still see that Musashi and the Kantou nations view her as a threat.”

But…

“If Hashiba-sama now demands Musashi return to Kantou, it would show that she views Musashi as a threat. Musashi is probably working to clean up after Nördlingen and deciding what to do about the Swedish Chancellor, but they are currently in Shikoku which has no direct connection to Europe. If Hashiba-sama demands the Musashi return now, a lot of people will assume her position of power is slipping since the Azuchi was damaged and we lost the Keichou Campaign.”

“We were beaten pretty bad,” said Sakon.

“Next time,” insisted Onitakemaru. “We just have to win next time.”

“I thought the usual phrase was ‘we just have to win in the end’. You’re pretty shortsighted, Onitakemaru-san.”

“What, are you planning to lose next time!? And what about me is shortsighted!?”

“The part of you that makes you yell at people for calling you shortsighted!”

“Calm down,” cut in Mitsunari. “For now, most everything we do will be preparing for the Honnouji Incident.”

“Ohh. Did you hear that, Onitakemaru-san? You love assassinations, right? Got any pointers as someone who’s been on the receiving end of one?”

“Damn you!”

Mitsunari had to cut in again.

“Um.” Their superior raised her right index finger. “As I was saying, I doubt Hashiba-sama will officially use the Testament Union to summon Musashi back to Kantou. They are probably making their own preparations over there, but we have other business to attend to and you two need to prepare for that.”

“Prepare how?” asked Sakon.

“Training?” asked Onitakemaru.

“Testament,” replied Mitsunari.

Training

“So it’ll be a training camp!? Just like for a school club!?”

“Combat training and extracurricular activities are not the same thing!” yelled Onitakemaru.

“But where will we be going?”

“We are still working on some preparations for that. The people who will be accompanying you need to travel here too, so you should know by tonight. We lost a lot of ships, so we should start moving only after Niwa-sama’s warriors return. The two of you should get some rest on the transport ship you arrived on.”

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“Testament,” replied Sakon before realizing something. “Oh. Is there anywhere that sells pillows around here? A down one if possible!”

“Hm, there should be in Nördlingen. The gates are still open now and my unit is already there for supplies, so you should be able to speak with them.”

“Then I’m on my way.”

“Don’t drag me into this!” shouted Onitakemaru.

He could not move on his own as a lernen figur, so she made sure to carry him with her as she set off.

The surrounding people turned her way, but they no longer tried to avoid her. They were not yet friends, but they understood there was a give-and-take relationship here and she knew someone would correct her if she did anything wrong.

So it’s fine.

She really was happy.

“What are you smirking about?” asked Onitakemaru.

“Not telling.”

She began walking with longer strides than everyone else. But this has to be a good place for that.

She looked to the southeastern sky while descending the hill toward the walled city below.

The Musashi towered up on the night’s horizon and several small lights surrounded it.

Some people there were preparing for the future just like they were. She had fought some of them, but she had learned through experience – and through her flesh and bone – that they were pretty crazy people.

But at the same time…

“They must be in a good place for themselves.”


I never imagined I would find it awkward to return to my own home.

Asama came to a stop in front of the torii leading to the Asama Shrine.

They had a party later today, but she had a problem to deal with first.

They were probably going to spend the night at Suzu’s place tonight, but where was she supposed to “go home” to after that?

Horizon and Mitotsudaira already planned to “go home” to the Main Blue Thunder. Mitotsudaira did not actually have a choice since her own mansion was being reconstructed thanks to a plot by her mother.

But what was Asama supposed to do?

She had told her father the general situation before the Siege of Odawara, but she had only said she would be “staying at Toori-kun’s place more often for a bit”. He had probably understood what she meant and he had told her to “leave everything here to me”.

But this was different. She had thought she was ready for all this, but…

It means more now.

She felt like she had stepped through the entrance and discovered what it really meant.

Before, she had been prepared to make that step, but now she was looking out from the inside. And that made all the difference.

“Go, Asama-sama, what’s life without a little challenge!? So go and tell him what’s what!”

“No, no, no. He more or less already knows, so stop making a big deal out of it, Horizon.”

But Horizon was right in a way. “I’ll be staying at Toori-kun’s place more often for a bit” and “I’ll be staying at Toori-kun’s place” were very different.

She wanted to be open with her father about this. She was nervous as could be about it, but…

“Okay.”

She took a deep breath.

Let’s do this.

She started to walk briskly through the Asama Shrine’s torii, but…

“Oh, right.

She stopped and clapped once before continuing. The locking barrier was not yet in effect at this hour, but she still needed to inform the Asama Shrine’s management divine protections and spells that she was here.

The others also clapped their hands and walked in after her, but…

“Um, you can stay here. You can really just stay here.”

“We would look awfully suspicious loitering around here, so we’ll go to the main building and pretend to be praying at the shrine. So try to keep it quick.”

“Pretend…” muttered Asama, but if anyone could turn a serious attempt at praying into a disaster, it was this group. Still…

“How bout I go with you?” he asked.

“Eh? No, um, that would be too sudden, so let’s just have it be me and dad this time. We can do it with you, Horizon, and the others some other time.”

“If you say so,” he said while linking arms with Horizon and nodding. Next to him, Mitotsudaira lowered her eyebrows and stared at her.

“Are you sure about this, Tomo?”

“Well, given how my family does things, it would be best if I spoke with him a bit now. I mean, the heir to the Asama Shrine constantly visiting the Chancellor and President’s home without telling her father sounds like something Naruze would get excited about.”

Art-Ga: “Just so you know, I like to get all that setup exposition done in the first two pages.”

The scary part was the lack of any reassurance she was not writing a doujinshi about this.

“Anyway,” said Asama as she turned back toward the others in front of the temple residence. “Wait, why do you all look so curious?”

Tenzou raised his hand.

“I take issue with that question after you watched my confession from beginning to end.”

H-he has a point!

“Besides,” said Tenzou while looking to the others. “Not many of us get to experience a scene like this.”

“What kind of scene do you mean?”

“A family scene where you report back to your parents.”

“Judge.” Mary raised her hand. “Because we e-eloped!”

“Same,” said Narumi with a blank expression.

“My mother is so aggressive that conversation would never go well,” said Mitotsudaira in all seriousness.

“We are already married, so I doubt we would have another chance for a scene like this,” said Gin via sign frame.

“Not really something I see myself doing,” said Masazumi.

“My father went kablooey along with Mikawa,” added Futayo next to her.

They all nodded and then turned toward Adele.

“Oh, yeah. The dogs.”

“Wh-what about the dogs!? I am not marrying a dog!”

Art-Ga: “We don’t have any parents either. Oh, but I guess there’s Suzu.”

Gold Mar: “But we shouldn’t bother Bell-rin with that kind of thing.”

Asama: “And you’re fine bothering me about it!?”

Bell: “I-I would feel…more comfortable with all of you…nearby.”

Everyone fell silent and Itoken eventually broke the silence.

“She is a true goddess.”

“But I know all of you would say things even more inappropriate than I can imagine,” said Tenzou. “So make sure you stay away from Suzu-dono if she does have to do this.”

They all nodded again when Horizon raised her hand.

“I prefer to be free and unrestrained.”

“Horizon! That is not a good motto for life!”

“Heh. Mitotsudaira-sama, I am like the wind sweeping across the wasteland.”

Asama had no idea what that meant, but it sounded manly.

“A-anyway, I’m not going to be saying much and we need to head on down to get some udon, right? I’ll be back before long, so just wait right here! Any weird noises you make can be shrugged off as ‘more of the same’, but please refrain from actually doing anything, okay!?”

Art-Ga: “Does she think you people are animals?”

Responding to that would be dangerous, so Asama hurried into the temple residence.

“I’m back,” she said, but her voice sounded really flat.

She stepped out of the dimly-lit entranceway, removed her shoes, and made sure they were perfectly lined up even though she was going to leave again soon. For better or for worse, that was a habit of hers.

She looked down the hallway, and…

“Okay.”

The first room to the right was hers and the one in front of it was her father’s.

The light was on, so he would be in there.

She took a breath and straightened her summer uniform’s collar.

“Dad, there’s something I want to discuss with you. Do you have a moment?”


“Now, everyone, let us go eavesdrop,” said Horizon.

“Has your personality changed since Nördlingen?” asked Toori.

“Heh,” she laughed while brushing her hair out from behind her head. “Gaining pride and vainglory has equipped me with an arrogance engine and a stubborn argument reactor. Simply put, I will have my say no matter what.”

“Hey, Horizon, could you at least not cause us any problems when we’re dealing with other nations?” asked Masazumi. “You are aware when you’re doing that, I hope?”

“Such shocking accusations, Masazumi-sama. When have I ever caused any problems when dealing with another nation?” Horizon immediately gave a thumbs up. “How was that for pride, everyone!?”

“I’m not sure how that was any different from normal.”

“Heh.” She shrugged. “You really couldn’t tell the difference? You get more pathetic by the day, Toori-sama.” She immediately gave a thumbs up. “How was that for vainglory, everyone!?”

“Horizon? You couldn’t tell the difference either, could you?”

“Judge. Knowing how strict Musashi is about jokes, I need to work hard over summer break to ensure I display my pride at all times.”

“Oh, sure, yes,” they all said with quiet smiles.

“Everyone,” whispered Adele. “You do know you’ll probably fall victim to that yourself, don’t you?”

“Yes, so stop making us think about it.”

Horizon turned toward them all and pointed at the door to the shrine residence.

“Can any of you break through this door?”

Mary tilted her head, looked to the door, and narrowed her eyes once before speaking.

“This has a spell in place, but Lady Asama also used the physical lock.”

Horizon growled in annoyance and clenched her right fist so hard it trembled.

“I thought we would be free to eavesdrop all we want since Toori-sama, Kimi-sama, Mitotsudaira-sama, and myself can all pass freely through the Asama Shrine’s locking spells. …Asama-sama is truly an impressively responsible wife character to have shut us out so we will not worry. So much better than that careless Crane Wife that said not to look and then worked the loom without even locking the door!”

“Hey, it isn’t time for that history recreation yet, so stop badmouthing her,” said Toori. “If the name inheritor hears about it, they might do something crazy.”

“But how are we supposed to eavesdrop now, Vicereine Horizon?” asked Adele.

Just then, two shapes stood up at Adele’s feet.

They were a right and left arm.

“Ohh,” said Adele as the forearms rose up to look around. “Are you going to have them sneak in below the floor and unlock the door from the inside!?”

“Heh. Once they sneak in, we can know everything going on inside. Now, everyone, let us listen in on the kind of ordinary family that none of us were blessed with.”


Chapter 9: Crybaby at Home[edit]

Horizon8A 239.jpg

The problem is

How it always hits so suddenly

But I sometimes suddenly notice it

Which is a problem

Point Allocation (Acceptance)


They said they weren’t going to listen in, but I know they’re going to try something.

That thought passed through Asama’s mind as she entered her father’s room.

The room had originally been a living room.

This was where she had eaten her meals and spent her time before her mother died. Her current room had been a closet back then and she had heard that her own growing up had been taken into account when the room divisions had been made.

That was why there was a wall between the two rooms.

She did go in here from time to time. They usually ate in the kitchen, but when her father was busy, she would bring his food here and she would help with his work here too.

It functioned as both a work room and her father’s private room. Which had led to something else.

“Dad, you’ve let even more stuff pile up in here, haven’t you?”

“Huh? Hmm, I’ve been compiling some old documents and converting some information into a dictionary, so you might be talking about the candidates for that. I’m talking about these ones in magazine format to my right here, but there used to be more.”

Her father looked back in a shirt-style kariginu. He was skinny and wore glasses. His long hair was knotted in the back, so Toori and the others said he had “the cool kind of liberal arts look”. He claimed he had always been useless in everything except spells, but with Toori’s parents and others like them around, anyone would look useless in comparison. He was willing to talk about his past with them and did not sound at all bitter, so they must have gotten along well.

But his room was full of sign frames.

There were two or even three rows of large ones positioned along the wall and smaller ones filled in the corners and continued on in toward the center of the room like outstretched arms.

There was a single sunken kotatsu in the center of the room. Only the basic table was installed now since it was summer, but he said the pleasant cooler temperature from below the floor would seep through to the sunken space.

The sliding door to the outside was shut since he was doing business, but…

“Sit still for so long and you’ll get out of shape,” she warned.

“Good point. Once I finish with this, I’ll go jogging around the shrine grounds.”

But he was not just working on Asama Shrine business.

“I set a bad example for you when I get too caught up in my interests, don’t I?”

He was studying spells.

Starting at a certain point in his life, he had begun creating medical, barrier, defense, and other types of “protective” spells and providing them as an offering to IZUMO through the Asama Shrine.

Which may have been why…

“I feel bad saying this to all of you, but today’s Battle of Nördlingen taught me a lot. Like how you defended against that sleep theatre spell.”

He smiled quietly, but then…

“Oh, right! That gives me an excuse to call in Kimi-chan! Do you mind if I get her to sing for me as a reference for my research!? While we’re at it, why not have her do a public performance or digitize the music and sell it as a limited release!?”

“Dad, you get way too excited over the things you like. And don’t forget that Naruze, Naito, Toori-kun, and Horizon’s arms worked hard on that too.”

“Her arms! O-oh, that explains it. That’s the source of all the supposed mysterious phenomena sightings of late! I never would have guessed they were Horizon-kun’s arms. I am so glad you’re their friend, Tomo! Can I brag about this to the others!? Can I tell them my Tomo is friends with the arms that were crawling around Nördlingen!?”

“Dad, you’re clearly sleep deprived, so please calm down.”

Naruze had said all-nighters were a type of sport and it did seem like sleep deprivation put you in a state similar to a runner’s high, but…

“Have you ever seen Horizon’s arms?”

“Eh!? Are they here!?”

Why does this excite him so much?

He seemed quite interested in them. He would probably provide an amusing reaction if she introduced him to them at some point and she got the feeling he would take a strong liking to them. That was a relief since she was living with Horizon now.

But she had different business with him today.

“Um, dad?”

On her way here, she had mentally simulated how to broach this subject and segue into it, so…

Okay.

She was prepared to get started, but her dad turned around and spoke before she could.

“Tomo, if you ever don’t like anything there, you can always come back home.”


How had he known what she was going to say?

She gasped in slight surprise, but he must not have expected that reaction because he immediately said more.

“Now, when I say to come back home, I don’t mean permanently. Once you’re satisfied, you should go back there again. Got that?”

“…Yes.”

He knows me so well, she thought with a mental sigh.

She could not help but worry about Toori. Even if she returned here after something he did, she was sure to worry over him. So her father was telling her not to put a lid over those feelings and to head on back like she really wanted to do.

He then opened a folder on a sign frame and held that up.

“Then again, I should probably tell you it’s okay if you never do come back home. Since you’re here to tell me about it a second time, that means you’re even more serious about this than you were before, doesn’t it?”

“Um, well, uh…”

He had read her like a book. So…

“Why?”

She meant a number of different things with that question.

“Here’s the thing, Tomo. I say this while looking back on my own mistakes and on your mom’s mistakes too.” He averted his gaze from her as he spoke. “With your mom and me, I was the one to confess to her, but she was the one that moved in without an invitation. And do you know how her family felt about that? Well, it’s partially because Ei died, but while they send a divine mail on your birthday, they never do on mine.”

“Yes, um, I have heard about that situation from them…”

“I thought as much,” he said. “Your mom was always so serious and straightforward in everything she decided to do. She got a little better about that when you were born, but looking back at the way she taught you the basics of spells, cooking, sewing, and everything else she knew…well, she was a good teacher, but that same overly straightforward nature of hers shines through.”

“Yes, well, I have been thinking about that nature of hers recently.”

“And another thing.”

Th-there’s more!?

“Hmm,” he groaned before scratching at his head. “I have a tendency to get a little…obsessed with the things that interest me.”

“I had noticed.”

“Now, your mom and I both spent a long time hiding it, but when we got fed up with that, we really went all out with it.”

“I see.”

She nodded and he looked her in the eye.

“My point is that both your parents…are the obsessive type.”

“I see.”

She just about asked “what’s your point”, but then it hit her.

Huh?

“Do you get it now, Tomo?”

She did. Or rather, she had realized something anew.

She showed some obsessive tendencies whenever she started explaining things about Shinto, so…

D-did I inherit a double dose of that!?

While she sat there in shock, her father continued.

“So right now, I think you’re in the ‘making excuses’ stage that precedes a major obsession.”


Asama hung her head in speechlessness as her father’s voice reached her.

“Anyway, as your father, I’m pleased you’re finally facing your greatest obsession without lying to yourself or leaving it in other people’s hands. If you’re willing to accept how you feel, I welcome it. Besides, the very fact that you two came to report it to me is far more than your mother and I did for her family.”

She was unsure if she should agree with that or not. But she did feel an odd sort of sweat. Whether it was from relief or exasperation though, she could not say.

I can’t believe this.

However, she did have a question about something he had just said.

“Um, dad? When you say ‘you two’, do you mean Toori-kun came to report to you?”

“Yes, he often visits to play shogi, remember? Well, one time, he arrived with some rice bread.”

“Okay, but what does that have to do with anything?”

“Yoshiki-san said she didn’t bake it.” He smiled bitterly. “He’d won from the moment I told him it was good.”

And you know what?

“His bread would sell like hotcakes if we sold it on our shopping show. Although if we were selling it to the entire Far East, it couldn’t be freshly baked and we would have to find some other tricks to sell it, but come up with different flavors and a machine to print images on it and we would be looking at a best seller.”

“W-wait, dad, you don’t have to turn this into a business opportunity.”

“I’m just saying this brings some new enjoyment into my life as well.”

“I see,” was all she could say. And…

“Tomo, if that feels like the right place for you, then follow that feeling. But even if you aren’t returning here at night anymore, you still have your work to do here, so make sure you visit when necessary, okay? It would be safest if I altered the system so you can do your work over there.”

“D-do my work over there?”

“It won’t work for everything, but I at least need to send a supply of purifying water to the Main Blue Thunder.”

She would definitely appreciate that since she would no longer have to choose between coming here or settling for a simplified purification in the mornings.

But then he asked another question.

“Tomo?”

“Yes?”

“Why?”

She knew what he was asking. She had asked that same question to herself countless times today.

And the answer was simple enough.

“He told me to come to him.”

And…

“I realized I was okay with doing that.”


“I see,” said her father.

He nodded a few times before continuing.

“You do know you can’t rely on him like you do me, right?”

“My shrine work, including what you help me with, is my territory, not his.”

“And I honestly expect him to rely on you a lot more than you on him. As in, it’ll work that way 99% of the time.”

“Well…he’s better at moral support.” She nodded. “So when he can’t actually help me, I can still get him to pamper me.”

“Glad to hear it.” Her father relaxed his shoulders. “Toori-kun loves helping everyone out, so he enjoys it when he can help others accomplish something he can’t do himself.”

So…

“He can rejoice at other people’s happiness and he can grieve for other people’s sadness. He sees other people as an addition to himself, so other people are not a burden to him. They are all a part of him.”

But…

“The people he helps can grow weary and so can he just like anyone does with their work. Horizon-kun can probably blow away everyone’s weariness and Mitotsudaira-kun can probably sweep aside everyone’s unease, so you make sure you take advantage of that. While also helping out yourself too, of course.”

“Um, yes, but I’m not good at asking for that kind of help…”

She reached up to her head and touched the ribbon he had fixed for her. That proved her comment for herself.

But her father had more to say.

“But you’ve managed to do it, haven’t you? If you feel okay with going to him, if you’ve found some people you’re willing to rely on even just for moral support, and if they’re willing to provide that, then I have nothing to worry about.”

“R-really?”

“Because it means you’ve made some absolute allies beyond just me.”

Oh, that’s such a male way of looking at it.

They do love viewing everything in terms of enemies and allies, she thought, but that was probably her father’s way of showing he cared.

“Now, Tomo…one more thing.”

“Hm?”

She tilted her head and he responded with his eyes still wandering through empty air.

“Maybe I’m being overly self-conscious here, but your mom was very, uh, madly in love with me, so when I think about Toori-kun being the target of that kind of love now…well, I’m a little worried about his stamina.”

“W-wait! Um, Dad!? Horizon and Mito are there too!”

“And what are they like on that front?”

What in the world is this conversation? she wondered, but she expected this would be a rarity in her life. She set up a filter inside herself and then spoke with her right index finger raised.

“Well, Horizon is fairly candid about how she feels, but with Mito…let’s just say we need to be prepared for her to take after her mother.”

“This is only making me more worried for Toori-kun.”

Her father began adding some spells into the folder he had prepared earlier. She was confident they were something that Naruze and Kimi would make endless jokes about if they found about this, but she knew her father was only trying to be nice.

Or is this what you would call a male friendship with Toori-kun?

At any rate, she had managed to discuss all this with him. Her father was continuing to add in spells while muttering dangerous comments like “This one would be more powerful. Oh, but then he wouldn’t be able get to sleep afterwards”, but then he looked up and addressed her again.

“Starting today?”

“Eh? We’re having a party down on the surface today, so we’ll probably spend the night at Suzu-san’s place tonight.”

“You already took all the luggage you would need for the time being, didn’t you? Then stop by tomorrow at midday. I’ll have all the shrine work mostly complete by then. I’ll also arrange to have purification water piped into Yoshiki-san’s place, so make sure to let Toori-kun know.”

This was progressing a lot faster than she had expected. But…

“Dad, will you be okay? Can you cook for yourself?”

“It worries me more to think you might be using me as an excuse to suppress how you feel. Knowing you, you won’t take a big step like this very often. You need to be aware of that. And…”

He looked to the door into the hallway.

“It seems your friends are worried about you too.”

He immediately used a sign frame to open the door. The shrine residence only looked like an old building, but most of it could be operated automatically using the Asama Shrine’s spells.

Once the door slid silently open, he saw something in the dark hallway beyond.

“Arms!?”

Horizon’s right and left arms were miming letting a head rest on them.

When they noticed his eyes on them, they lifted their wrists and approached Asama. Then they made a variety of gestures while raising their fingers and clapping their hands.

“What – a – wonderfall…no, wonderful – talk.”

“Tomo! You understand them so well! Let me talk with them! I’ve never seen anything like it!!!!!”

Why does this excite you so much, dad? And you get used to it eventually. As for the others…

“I bet they’re over here.”

She relaxed her shoulders while operating a sign frame to open the sliding door into the garden.

“I told you to wait over there, so what are you all doing here?”

The paper sliding door rolled straight upwards.

“Oh!? Ohhh!?”

And all the people crammed up against it tumbled into the room.


Adele faced forward while she and Suzu got up from Narumi’s back.

“I-I never imagined a sliding door could roll upwards!”

“The shutter style has stronger defenses and being able to open both sides means better ventilation, so we had Ariake IZUMO develop them for us. The sliding door’s large frame makes for a large roll, but there’s also a bamboo screen size which is a huge hit with the wealthy class in the surface cities.”

It was just like Asama to begin explaining all about the product with a smile on her face.

But then Asama stood up and stopped in front of them.

“Really though, what are you all doing?”

Horizon had been in the very front of the group, so she rotated her head 180 degrees to look up at the ceiling. That allowed her to look up at Asama too, but…

“Asama-sama’s boobs are blocking her face from view. That means I am in her blind spot!”

“Yeah, that area below me has been like that for a while.” Asama crouched down to look at Horizon and then shooed Kimi and the others away. “Look, Horizon. Your arms are waiting to reattach.”

Adele looked over to see the arms beginning a game of shogi on a sign frame with Asama’s father.

“W-wait, dad. Horizon is going with us to get something to eat, so stop playing shogi with those arms and give them back!”

“Tomo, I have never heard a sentence quite like that before.”

Don’t worry. Neither have we.

Since the arms made sure to save the game on the sign frame, they apparently intended to continue it eventually. They lowered their wrists toward the father as a bow and then approached the others.

Once they attached themselves to Horizon’s shoulders, Horizon wordlessly got up. And…

“Umm,” said pretty much everyone.

“Is something wrong?” asked Horizon.

“Horizon, you’re backwards.”

She looked down at herself to see she had accidentally attached the arms to the wrong sides since she had rotated her head 180 degrees.

“Oops. These arms can separate from the shoulder blades, so this is bound to happen from time to time.

She rotated her head and the arms hurriedly swapped positions. And once they were back in place…

“There, all fixed. Now, Asama-sama.”

“Yes, what is it?”

“Thank you for allowing me to witness such a valuable scene. My mother was missing to begin with and my father did some awful things, danced the mambo, and then blew himself up, so I have no experience with such things.”

“Oh, well, as long as it was useful for you.”

Horizon shook her raised right hand side to side.

“It is mostly via Toori-sama, but you are a part of my family now. I will experience and feel all of your fortune and misfortune as if it were my own. And that is why I will be able to believe that I too could experience such things if the situation was right, which helps put me at ease.”

So…

“Do you know how happy I am to learn that you are happy here?”


Asama nodded at Horizon’s question. With a blushing smile on her face.

“I do. And it makes me happy to know you’re happy too, Horizon.”

Everyone nodded at that. Her father turned his back, so this must have been an embarrassing scene for him. But Toori sat down on the veranda next to her.

“Hm, how should I put it? I guess I feel that same way when it comes to you, Asama.”

“What way is that, Toori-kun?”

“That we’re close enough that I can accept your happiness and hardships as my own. I mean, it’s been like that for a while, but this is good reminder.”

Wow.

That one was powerful, she thought while shrinking down, but he continued speaking with a smile.

“There have been times like this before and I’ve complained to you plenty of times, but I guess it feels like you’ll now be a lot closer for that kind of thing too.”

“Ho ho?” said Horizon. “Then why not try complaining to me?”

“With you, I don’t even have to say anything cause you’re already putting me in a good mood. That’s another way that we’re parallel, y’know?”

Hearing that, Horizon got up and then spat off of the veranda.

“Peh. …Oh, what’s this? Are you done being poetic now, Toori-sama?”

“D-dammit, how high level a tsundere are you!?”

Gold Mar: “I’m not sure there was any dere there.”

Art-Ga: “Shh. Just let him dream, Margot.”

The Technohexen were being pretty mean, but Asama mostly agreed. And then she heard another voice.

It was Kimi and her words came with a quiet laugh.

“I’m glad to see you know it isn’t just you, foolish brother. There’s more than just family and your parallel relationship. You can accept me by your side too.”

“Yeah. There’s you and there’s Nate too.”

Mitotsudaira blushed and shrank down while he placed a hand on his chin.

“I already knew that, but knowing it and actually getting closer to someone are two very different things. It’s like the difference between knowledge and experience. So that’s why I’m glad I tried to do that and succeeded.”

Because…

“There are things I would’ve lost if I hadn’t known about this. So I’m glad I tried.”

Asama found herself hanging her head more and more here.

The heat in her cheeks was quite something too.

Had he noticed that?

Then Horizon suddenly raised a hand toward Asama.

“Oh, there is a boob in the way.”

Asama had no idea why Horizon had done that, but she felt like she had gotten in the way of whatever Horizon was trying to do. So…

“Oh, ah, s-sorry.”

Her voice trembled as she apologized.

Ah.

In her panic, she consciously reached up to her own eye.

Horizon had been reaching her hand toward the corner of her eye hidden behind her bangs as she lowered her head, so she brought her own fingers there.

She found something wet.

Once she realized that, she could hold it back no longer.

“Ah…”

She covered her face with both hands, but through her fingers, she saw Adele exchange a glance with the others, Neshinbara raise his hands to provide the timing. and everyone shout at Toori.

“You made her cryyy!!”


Kimi smiled as everyone teased her brother.

How many times has he made her cry now?

Horizon gave Kimi a thumbs up from below Asama’s chest where Asama could not see her.

Kimi knew Horizon had noticed Asama’s tears and tried to wipe them away. Her brother must have also noticed Asama’s shaken emotions.

That foolish brother had once tried to die, but he had since regained Horizon like a missing part of himself and he was now trying to bring other people to his side.

Asama and Mitotsudaira had known him for a long time and part of them probably believed that he was restoring himself. That was certainly true, but…

Being accepted as a part of it all is a different matter.

“You’re so easy to get crying, Asama,” said Kimi too quietly for anyone to hear.

That girl had changed a lot.

Most likely, it was back at Mikawa when she had started to think about his loss again. She had constructed his ether supply spell herself, so she would have known what it meant when she gave it to him.

By expressing her anger when signing that spell contract, she had sealed away the resolve she had felt when they all descended the stairs in front of the academy. She had probably believed that she was only doing her job.

But after the Battle of Mikatagahara, while the Musashi was being repaired in the Ariake, she had spent the night at their place and the feelings she had sealed away at Mikawa had come rushing back to her.

Kimi had been a little inconsiderate about that, but Asama must have remembered what happened in elementary school. After remembering when he had not returned home back then, the relief of knowing he was there now had brought tears to her eyes.

She was a crybaby.

And at the time, Kimi had thought Asama was not aware of it.

So there was no need to hesitate.

Horizon was the same. The Battle of Mikatagahara had strengthened her desire to never allow anyone to be lost. She had lacked a dream of her own, so she had decided her dream could be making everyone else’s dreams come true. And she had decided to do that by not letting anyone be lost and by construction a relationship where they could help each other out.

And now she’s using that to surround herself with happiness she can share.

That was a happiness they could not have acquired without Horizon’s acceptance.

It was Horizon’s confusion over that being expressed through tears that had led her to reach out her hand.

Why was Asama crying when she was happy?

Why was she crying when she was not sad?

Horizon did not understand. This was her accomplishment, but she did not understand it. So she must have wanted to touch it and see what form the fruit her actions had taken.

Well, the size of Asama’s breasts had gotten in the way of that, but Horizon’s intentions must have reached her all the same.

Kimi was much the same.

“Mitotsudaira.”

“What?”

“I might just force you and Asama to suffer through some incredibly deep complaints later on.”

“If it is about my king or Horizon, then feel free. And if it is a problem that can be solved with force, then it would be right up my alley. And in exchange,” said the knight. “I will not hesitate to go to you when I need help with work, such as coming up with a new song for a festival.”

“Heh heh. Then I’m sure you’ll need my help to finish it off.”

At any rate, Asama had changed.

She could now cry tears of happiness instead of from anxiety or relief.

Horizon must have been thinking much the same thing because she nodded and placed her head on Asama’s lap.

“This means I will now direct all my complaints toward you, Asama-sama.”


Mitotsudaira asked a question while watching Horizon settle into that position and Asama smile bitterly.

“Um, Horizon? Do you ever complain?”

Horizon gave her an expressionless look.

The breasts had to be blocking her view. Her hands moved up on either side of the breasts and seemed unsure how to react to the situation, but she finally gave up on that.

“It is true I generally resolve my complaints right then and there. Isn’t that right, Toori-sama?”

“What!? What’s that look for!?”

“Now, now,” she said while sitting up. “Anyway, it is about time we got going. The udon awaits.”

“Oh, wait,” said Mitotsudaira while raising a hand. If they were on their way to the Udon Kingdom, she was curious about something. “Adele? This is our celebration, but did you invite anyone else?”

“Judge. I invited the Swedish Chancellor and the Nagaoka boy.”

“In that case…” they all said while exchanging a glance.

“We might have to treat this celebration differently,” concluded Masazumi with a smile.


Chapter 10: Worrier in a Closed Room[edit]

Horizon8A 263.jpg

What does it mean to think?

To reach an answer?

Or to doubt your answer?

Point Allocation (Giving It Your All)


Fukushima awoke with a gasp.

She saw the white of the ceiling and had to briefly think about where she was.

This is my room!

Her next question was the current time. Before she could even remember why it mattered, she grew curious and checked the clock on the wall instead of on a lernen figur.

It was 7 PM.

She doublechecked the location of the hour and minute hands before finally remembering why she was checking.

“I have to leave for M.H.R.R. early tomorrow morning.”

But she had to do something else first.

Her preparations for the trip were more or less complete, so she only had one other task to complete before leaving.

“I thought it was to get some sleep.”

But she had just been asleep.

“Mh?”

Something was not right.

She was supposed to go to sleep later. That was why she had completed her preparations already. She would sleep until just before departure.

But something had happened earlier. Yes…

I ordered a game for Hachisuka-dono in lieu of a parting gift.

No, not that. Why had she gone to Hachisuka’s room in the first place?

“––––––”

It all came back to her.

She felt her face going pale and then she stood up.

That’s right.

She had decided she needed to tell Kiyomasa how she felt.

And after rolling around in her bed thinking about that, she had suddenly felt weary.

“I must have fallen asleep.”

That was a close one. She had not set the alarm on the PC installed in the wall next to her bed. If she had overslept, it would have looked terribly irresponsible of her.

That was far too close.

Since she was going to go to sleep again, she booted up the PC and set the alarm for just before departure.

“Testament. That is done then.”

But what was she supposed to do now?

I decided I would tell Kiyo-dono how I feel.

But how was she supposed to tell her that?

She also felt like she had behaved somewhat cold during the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle.

She felt certain she would be unable to look Kiyomasa in the eye right now.

“Kh…”

Then what could she do?

What if she went to meet her, failed to say anything, and came off as cold again?

And before that, there was the question of how Kiyomasa felt about her.

Kiyo-dono is very popular.

Fukushima was aware she also had a lot of supporters among the girls. But the boys seem to see me more as an athletic upperclassman than anything.

She thought it was a good thing because it gave them bonds of mutual trust to handle things on the front line.

Kiyomasa, on the other hand, was popular among the girls and the boys. The boys seemed to put her up on a pedestal or exaggerate things when it came to her because they would even refer to her as a goddess.

“…”

I am overcomplicating this, thought Fukushima as she shook her head and sighed.

All she had accomplished was fill her breaths with heat.

But the main point was that everyone liked Kiyomasa more than her. They viewed her with a fondness and worship that was different than simple trust.

That is one tricky part of being a female name inheritor, thought Fukushima.

Since a name inheritor’s sex often differed from that of the original from the Age of the Gods, gay marriage was allowed as a form of interpretation. The M.H.R.R. Protestants had even developed a technique of creating a child between two people of the same sex and doing that outside the body was accepted as an interpretation for a virgin birth.

Fukushima opened a lernen figur and looked up information on that.

“So in the most extreme form, you only need a single hair to have a child with someone.”

Then it can work for us!

She clenched her fist in excitement, but then gasped and shattered the lernen figur with that fist.

“Why am I looking up how to have her child!? Why am I already defiling her!?”

No, I was only looking up some knowledge, so it’s fine. No, it isn’t. Or is it?

Either way, she had confused herself.

Her mood kept shifting wildly and she could not relax.

What was she supposed to do?

She would never reach an answer if she only ever pondered theoretical scenarios in her head here.

I must take action. I am #1 of the Ten Spears. I am our forward.

“Indeed!”

She had made up her mind.

She only had one option here, even if it was an extreme one.

I do it and see how it plays out. If she shoots me down, then she shoots me down.

“Okay!”


Two minutes later, Fukushima stepped out into the hallway wearing her track suit.

She was not emptyhanded. She held a pillow below her right arm. The pillow had a single word written on it.

Testament!

She had hurriedly handwritten it on there, but it was well done. A splendid job.

Writing a word on a pillow and showing that to your partner was an ancient tradition.

A note in the Testament talked about pillows being used in place of letters:

<At the time, pillows were made of wood and the wife would write either “yea” or “nay” on one so she need not say anything for her husband to know whether she was willing to accept his love or not. And if their opinions on the matter differed, well, the woman already had what amounted to a wooden club with her, so she could take direct action to remedy that. That is why sturdy loquat wood was preferred and, starting in the middle period, they developed a hammer style that had a hole in the center to attach a handle. This refined tradition was later incorporated into poetry, which is why love poems began to use pillow words.>

Fukushima was satisfied after reading that on a divine network reference site.

Her plan was perfect.

The end of the Testament note had said <Every era has its own traditions, but some of those mention “transforming robots” and “a color-coded team of five” along with everything else, so it is thought some of this may have been invented.> But she chose to ignore that.

Anyway, I will do it with this.

Kiyomasa’s room was not far away. If she handed Kiyomasa the pillow at the entrance, the girl was sure to know what she meant. And if she did not…

“If she does not…”

Fukushima gulped while standing in front of the room in question.

“It is time!”

Taking action cleared her mind. He thoughts were entirely focused on handing Kiyomasa the pillow.

She held her hand in front of the lernen figur on the wall and the Western-style door slid open in front of her. She initially thought that was careless of Kiyomasa, but she had only gotten in thanks to her Ten Spears authorization.

Not just anyone could get in. That special access felt like a good sign as she looked inside.

The room was deserted.


“There was no on else there, but when I woke up, someone – or something – had left me an offering.”

“An offering?” asked Kiyomasa in the steam rising from the bathwater.

She was speaking with Hachisuka. After leaving the rest of the work with the night shift and heading back to her room, she had found Hachisuka standing pale-faced out in the hallway.

It had looked like she was crying, so she had called out to her and the girl had rushed over and clung to her.

This side of her was not well known because she rarely let it show, but it was appropriate for her age. Kiyomasa noted that it was a rare experience even for her.

“It happened again.”

“Again? What happened again?”

“A mysterious phenomenon.”

According to Hachisuka, she had heard a strange banging sound and fainted. And when she came to…

“Some rice balls and some water had been placed in offering next to me. Some incense had been lit too.”

“That does sound an awful lot like a ritual to say farewell to the dead.”

Hachisuka said nothing and did not look over at Kiyomasa, but she nodded several times.

“I heard a banging sound like that before too.”

“You did?”

“The other night,” was all Hachisuka said. She must not have wanted to remember it.

“Did you get the room purified of mysterious phenomena?”

“I did. With Mlasi, Catholic, and Shinto. But…”

“But?”

“The ending of the Shinto purification was…let’s say ‘too exciting’, so I called it off.”

“Yes, Shinto is a nature worshiping religion, so it is strongly indigenous.” Kiyomasa used what knowledge she had to converse with Hachisuka. “I have heard Shinto mythology requires you to dance in the nude when worshiping the morning sun.”

“Just for the morning sun!?”

“Testament. And, um, when the morning sun rises, they call it ‘a man opening the woman’s cave’. Now, I am fairly certain that is a euphemism, but Shinto is the type of religion to highlight that sort of thing in the center of their mythology.”

“So they give Sweden a run for their money, huh?”

“Testament. Sweden’s inappropriateness comes from their secular side, but with Shinto, it comes from the state religion. In that sense, I think Shinto may be more inappropriate. Maybe it has spread so far that no one thinks to question it anymore.”

“Now I see why the provisional rule is necessary.”

“Very necessary.”

“Because they’re ‘too exciting’.”

“Much too exciting. Yes.”

“Then what am I supposed to do?” asked Hachisuka with her face pale again.

Kiyomasa raised her eyebrows and nodded. Then she took a breath, shook the bathwater, and stood up.

“How about this, Hachisuka-san? You can have a Shinto purification done while you are somewhere else. That way you will not have to see it no matter how exciting it might be.”

She moved to the washing area. She had already washed her hair, so she considered leaving the bath.

In truth, she wanted to be alone after this.

“Oh, Kiyomasa.”

“Yes?”

“You should check Fukushima’s room.”

“Huh?”

That caught her off guard, so she felt her stomach leap up inside her.

U-um?

“Wh-why should I do that?”

“Testament. The banging sound I heard came from the wall.”

So…

“It might have happened in her room too.”

Kiyomasa could not tell her to go check on Fukushima herself.

Because.

She had already been planning to visit Fukushima’s room after this. And she wanted to do it alone.

“U-umm, what will you do, Hachisuka-san?”

“Hmm. Probably order a Shinto purification and then kill time somewhere. Maybe in the dining hall.”

“Will you be okay on your own?”

Kiyomasa was glad she had managed to ask that. She could not allow herself to prioritize her own feelings for Fukushima and put off helping with Hachisuka’s troubles.

But Hachisuka must have had her own thoughts on the matter because she nodded.

“I just needed to get this off my chest.”

So she would do the rest on her own.

Kiyomasa smiled at the fact that the girl trusted her enough to confide in her like this.

“Thank you.”

She took her time leaving the bath so Hachisuka would have plenty of time to change her mind.


After entering the dressing room and shutting the door to the bath, Kiyomasa breathed a sigh.

“…!”

She silently dashed over to the shelves of clothing baskets.

She had to get dressed and visit Fukushima in a hurry. Because…

She has a tendency to fall asleep quickly!

What if she was already asleep? If she was, her room would probably be locked and Kiyomasa would be unable to get in. But if she could get in…

“I need to be prepared!”

Fukushima would be leaving for M.H.R.R. early tomorrow morning. It was for training, so she was taking Kani with her and joining Shibata’s team, but that training would last until the end of summer break.

Kiyomasa would similarly be taking some underclassmen to Sanada, so they would not see each other for about a month.

That was a problem.

Why was it a problem? First of all, the thought put her in a bad mood.

If only she had not seen Fukushima making a man out of Katagiri in the bath the other night. There had been some concerning developments before that, but she had thought those two were simply a normal amount of friendly.

But seeing that had triggered some kind of feeling inside her.

She could not explain it well, but that had provoked something inside her that she had been subconsciously suppressing.

There was a side of her that feared Fukushima would be taken from her or leave her if she was not careful.

If she grew flustered every time anything happened, she could not fight on the front line with Fukushima. If she panicked on the inside every time anything happened, she could not look Fukushima in the eye and speak with her. If she lost control of her emotions every time something happened, Fukushima would think she was weird.

Oh, no! Every single one is about Fukushima-sama!

She was shocked all over again by that realization, but she also could not help but notice how much trouble she was being.

She was confident that she could assist Fukushima better than anyone else and she had proven it, so she had a tendency to prevent anyone else from getting close to Fukushima. She could only view Kani in such a positive light because her position as an underclassman put some distance between those two.

And after that incident in the bath, she had also realized she wanted Fukushima to look at her and only her.

She was such a terrible person.

She knew it was wrong.

Especially that dream I had after the bath incident. What even was that? I know it was indecent, impure, and harmful, even if I can’t remember the details. Perhaps I should find a way to recall it in hi-res to further investigate just how wrong it- no, no. I mustn’t do that.

Anyway, that had broken something inside her.

And she was not confident she could hide it. If she tried to do that, she would be plagued by legit sex dreams and she would be a risk on the battlefield if she grew flustered every time she remembered those dreams.

She only saw one answer here.

“I must tell her how I feel, give up on her if I must, and build a new relationship with her based on the result.”

Would she cry if Fukushima rejected her?

But they would be separated for a month after tonight. That much of a cooling-off period would allow her to recover no matter how badly this went.

Hopefully Fukushima would accept her feelings.

But if she would not, that was acceptable too.

In that case, she thought while dressing in a hurry. She put on her track suit. On her upper body, she only wore the shirt, keeping the jacket draped over her shoulders. Her hair was still damp, but that could wait.

She was going to head straight there, so she needed a weapon to help express her feelings.

“This!”

Her jacket had been hiding something inside her clothing basket.

It was a pillow.

“This traditional ‘Testament’ pillow is sure to get through to her.”

I did my research!

This should work perfectly, she thought while leaving the dressing room. She opened the door, stepped out into the hallway, and found Kasuya and Kani there.

“Oh? Kiyomasa?” asked Kasuya with eyebrows raised.

“Massive Katou-senpai! Where are you headed!?”

“Excuse me, but I have something somewhat important to take care of with a friend, so I need to be going. Oh, and I imagine ‘Massive Katou’ was Takenaka-sama’s idea, but you can simply call me Kiyomasa.”

She quickly responded to Kani and Kasuya, but then she turned around again where those two were giving her a puzzled look.

“Hachisuka-san is inside there, so make sure you say hello.”

“Oh, we’re about to do some bath karaoke, so we’ll ask her to join us.”

“Setting up a rotation with the three of you would probably be lots of fun!”

That would also give Hachisuka something to kill the time. But…

“I must be going!”

Kiyomasa knew she was breathing heavily through her nose, but she could not help it.

I wonder what Fukushima-sama is doing right now, she thought.


What do I do now? wondered Fukushima with her head in her hands.

She had worked up the courage to pay a visit with the pillow, but Kiyomasa was not there.

Stepping inside the room had been a mistake because now she heard several voices out in the hallway.

They were coming from Hachisuka’s room.

A heavily-equipped group had come running in and lined up out in the hallway.

“We are the Azuchi’s Purification Emergency Necessary Intervention Squad! Or PENIS for short!”

“Captain! It really doesn’t seem fair that keep using that abbreviation!”

“You fool! Why do you think I only ever do it when no one else is around!?”

Someone is around.

Well, if they have not noticed me, then that is fine. Actually, no, it isn’t. And regardless…

I can’t be here when Kiyo-dono gets back!

She had broken into the girl’s room.

What would Kiyomasa think of her then?

But it sounded like Hachisuka’s room was being purified. So…

“Did she have a mysterious phenomenon in her room?”

How did that end up happening?

Come to think of it, she does seem to be passed out every time I see her in there. That is not normal and you could even call it mysterious. I was so distracted by Kiyo-dono that I failed to notice Hachisuka-dono was suffering from a curse.

At any rate, the purification of the room appeared to have begun.

Once the hallway grew quiet, she wondered what she should do now.

“Hm.”

She held the pillow in her hands.

The best option would be to return to her own room and wait for Kiyomasa to return.

But what if someone was out in the hallway when she left this room? What if she ran into Kiyomasa herself?

And if she did make it back to her own room…

Will I be able to return here once Kiyo-dono is back?

She still had 5 hours before she had to leave. Kiyomasa would likely return at some point during that time, but she doubted she could maintain her own resolve that long. She was worried she would find an excuse to avoid returning to this room.

In that case, she decided while breathing in.

“I can wait here instead.”

She was prepared to do that. She sat on Kiyomasa’s bed and placed the pillow at the head of the bed. It was important she made sure the “Testament” part was visible.

And…

“Waiting is a valid tactic. There is no point in losing my nerve after coming this far.”

She relaxed her shoulders and waited for Kiyomasa while wondering what that other girl was doing right now.


I wonder what Fukushima-sama is doing right now.

Kiyomasa stood blankly inside a dark room.

Fukushima’s room had been sitting open with no one inside.

That seemed careless, but it had also looked like the girl intended to return soon. After all, the luggage for her trip was sitting out.

While Kiyomasa tried to figure out what to do next, the neighboring room grew noisy. The Shinto purification team that Hachisuka had called in was starting their work. She could hear them via the hallway.

“Okay, you and you strike a pose there! Don’t be embarrassed! Take this seriously!”

“Captain, you’re the one that isn’t trembling enough!”

“Tingle, tingle, tingle, tingle!”

What she heard made her wonder if this was some underground evil cult instead of Shinto, but at least they were pouring their hearts and souls into their work.

Regardless, this made it hard for her to leave.

“I can’t believe this.”

She was not sure if that comment was directed at herself, at the current situation, or at Fukushima, but she sat down on Fukushima’s bed all the same.

Fukushima would be back soon.

There were still 5 hours until she left, but she had left her door wide open.

That honestly is just like her.

Kiyomasa smiled, placed her pillow on the bucket she had carried from the bath, and held that in her arms while she sighed.

“I’m so nervous.”

Carrying that pillow with her was enough to be confident in her own feelings. But…

“Will Fukushima-sama accept my feelings?”


“Sensei! The Udon Kingdom just about refused us entry thanks to you!”

“Yeah, sorry about that. I ended up destroying several of their punching udon machines.”

They heard their teacher laugh over the divine transmission and they also heard Sanyou yelling “Senpai! Senpai! They’re catching up!”, but they decided to ignore that part.

They were at a riverside restaurant on the Udon Kingdom’s central road. They were seated at the table Adele had reserved on the stepped terrace continuing down toward the river.

“Master Tenzou, what is a punching…whatever that was?” asked Mary.

“Judge. It is a game where the amount of udon you get to eat is based on the cumulative amount of force after three hits to a punching machine! It is very popular with the military commanders in this region.”

Art-Ga: “This ninja is trying to show off by regurgitating what he read on the tourism site.”

Gold Mar: “Ohhh, you’re showing incredible restraint, Ga-chan. You would normally give him that look to his face.”

10ZO: “A-a little more restraint than that would be nice!!”

Anyway, it sounded like their homeroom teacher was enjoying the first night of her summer break too.

“Okay,” said Masazumi while facing the others. “Did you all receive your tentative report cards?”

Those came as sign frames and she held up her own while it was only displaying the cover. The others nodded in response.

They opened theirs and showed them off to the people they were comfortable doing so with.

“Ho ho. Exactly the excellent grades we all expected of me,” said Horizon. “Toori-sama, is that that supposed to be your ranking? And here I thought the people at the top were supposed to have good grades.”

“D-dammit! What is wrong with you!? A double digits ranking is pretty good!”

“My king, you did above average in the subjects you came to us for help in, so I don’t think you need to worry.”

“Then Toori is on the borderline between idiot and average,” said Urquiaga.

Everyone froze.

Balfette and Crossunite immediately moved their eyes or head to keep an eye on their surroundings, Horizon and Asama remained calm, Noriki raised his hand to go ahead and announce his ranking, and the Date Vice Chancellor watched it all play out with narrowed eyes. The various reactions were pretty amusing. But…

“Heh heh,” laughed the idiot sister. “I challenge you, foolish brother! Let’s see who has the better ‘teacher’s comment’! Mine is, ‘I guess this’ll have to do. It’s a little late to expect you to start studying in your senior year.’ How about that!?”

“Incredible, sis! All I got was ‘make sure to build up your stamina during summer break or you’ll regret it later’!”

Asama spat out the water she was drinking and Horizon raised her right hand.

“I am the candid type,” she said. “And I think the standard thing here would be to have a big emotional scene before the final battle – in this case, before the Honnouji Incident. So I was thinking I could give everyone what they wanted there.”

“Hey,” said Toori. “So you’re willing to do that, but you aren’t willing to let me touch your boobs?”

“This is very different from having my boobs touched. In what world are they the same, Toori-sama?”

After a pause, the girls (even those at other tables at the restaurant) applauded Horizon’s comment.

After she raised her hands toward them all and bowed, Balfette hesitantly raised a hand.

“Bringing up something like that out of the blue is a lot like you, Vicereine Horizon, but is that really something you want to do?”

“It seems like a good idea,” readily replied Horizon. Because, “I am the kind of person who will join in just because I am excited with how you have made breakfast. In fact, I feel like I must join in to prove myself. And on top of that…”

She tapped on the idiot’s head a few times.

“I am also trying to become a new me. This allows me to do both at once. So, well…”

She gave Asama and Mitotsudaira a nod and then looked to everyone else.

“I am aware that it would be best if we could deepen our relationship through shared experiences. They might be intangible, they might crumble if you try to touch them, and they might be lost if you are not careful, but if there are indeed things that you can gain through death, contradictory thought that may seem…”

Then…

“I will try to seek out the forms of happiness that extend beyond just myself. I have recently come to think such things may be where true happiness is found.”


Masazumi listened to Horizon.

“Toori-sama has shown me such things, brought me to them, and given them to me as a part of my world, so I am truly thank- gweh!”

“Horizon! Don’t bite your tongue quite yet! Try to get at least this much out first, okay!?”

“Calm down,” said Horizon while holding out a hand to stop Mitotsudaira.

Then she tapped on the idiot’s head again.

“How about you, Toori-sama?”

“Me? Hmm.” He looked up into the sky. “I would love to do some sexy things with you, but you haven’t got all your emotions yet, right?”

Masazumi tilted her head at that.

“Just a second, idiot.”

“H-hey, only idiots call people idiots! Heh heh, so you’re an idiot! Bet you hate being called that!”

“Shut up, idiot. Now, are you listening?”

“Don’t tell me to shut up and then ask me a question!”

He really needed to shut up. But there was something she had to check on.

“The other night, we learned that Horizon’s Logismoi Oplo are essentially sermon weapons. Isn’t that right, Asama? In other words, their activation suppresses the corresponding emotion by filling her with a hatred or dislike of them.”

“Yes, that is my current theory,” said Asama.

“Then,” said Masazumi. “When Horizon gets Porneia, won’t it make her dislike sexual things?”


Chapter 11: Separating Girl by the Flow[edit]

Horizon8A 287.jpg

Now

Let’s get down to business

Point Allocation (Manly)


Mitotsudaira saw everyone fall silent.

Horizon alone moved. She lightly punched her left palm with her right fist.

“I see.”

“I-is that really our only reaction, Horizon!?” asked Mitotsudaira. “Are you okay with that?”

“It would be pretty funny if it made me hate even being touched.”

“Nooooo! Are you trying to kill me with sorrow!?”

Horizon’s ruthlessness could be a problem at times. But…

Oh?

Mitotsudaira realized something about her king’s comment.

“If not being able to touch her would make you sad, my king, does that mean you do in fact want to do that kind of thing with her?”

“Well, yeah. …Wait, what’s that look supposed to be, Horizon!? It’s new, I’ll give you that! But anyway.” He turned toward Mitotsudaira. “For example – and our relationships are different, so this isn’t meant as a comparison – when I’m with you or Asama, it helps me be the best version of me I can be. It’s like a big plus to my strength.”

“And it is the same for me. So…”

If I were to lose you, the sense of loss would be devastating.

But Mitotsudaira kept that last part unsaid. She sensed that this was not the time for that and that it would be best to let her king talk about himself for now.

Their relationship was the same in both directions, so…

“If I didn’t have you or Asama, it would be a pretty major minus to my strength, taking it down close to zero.”

“W-we aren’t going anywhere.”

“Judge, judge. I get that. And I’ve also got sis and the others, like that guy…was his name Tenzou? So I wouldn’t go all the way to zero even in that hypothetical.”

“D-did you have to insult me in the middle of that!?” asked Tenzou.

“Master Tenzou, that’s only a plea for your attention,” insisted Mary.

“Incredible,” they all muttered, but Mitotsudaira also understood what her king was trying to say.

He opened his mouth to respond to her thoughts.

The first thing he mentioned was something she too had experienced.

“If I lost Horizon, it wouldn’t just take me down close to zero – I’d probably have to change who I am. I’d have to change myself even if everything else stayed the same.”


Mitotsudaira nodded at her king’s words.

She had not forgotten back when he had shown signs suggesting he wanted to descend to the surface eventually. That plan had likely been a way of changing himself.

She had vaguely realized what he was planning, so she had planned to go with him and she must have been nervous about what he would decide about her once they were down there. That was why he had shown her the answer to that.

If he did something like that, she would actually be able to support him in something other than strength.

But…

“That is not going to happen now.”

She needed to say this now.

She had a lot of thoughts on the matter, but that was all she could say.

Talking about a now-defunct hypothetical would only serve to show off her own loyalty, but this was her king and Horizon’s time. As a knight, she wanted to focus on guiding his words.

Plus, she wanted to hear this too.

Because she had once truly lost her king and changed herself because of it. So…

“If you lost Horizon, you would not just drop to zero, you would end up in the negative? Is that what you are trying to say?”

“So changing yourself while everything else remains the same would be a negative thing?” The Date Vice Chancellor thought about that for a bit before nodding. “You would be throwing out all the pluses you already had and starting again from zero, so I guess that would be negative when you focus on the difference.”

But…

“You would need to assume you could never again gain the same kind of pluses again.”


Yeah, thought Toori.

He had thought about this a lot around the same time last year.

He had wondered what he would do if his future did not work out.

“In my case, I would be giving up on creating a kingdom Horizon could live in and figuring out what else I could do.”

They had discussed this last night as well.

He was standing on the stairs, so he walked firmly into those thoughts instead of letting them fade away.

He let his mouth say what it would while guessing this was probably what he needed to say.

“Becoming a king gets all of you involved too. So I may have gone for the looser goal of ‘creating a kingdom where Horizon could have lived if she were still with us’ and I bet we would’ve kept adding more onto that. Like creating a kingdom where my children could be happy.”

Or…

“Maybe I would have thrown all that out, apologized to all of you, and started working at the Main Blue Thunder. Or if I really didn’t want to apologize, maybe I would’ve gone down to the surface and looked for a job there.”

“My king. I do not like the sound of that option.”

“Then,” he said while turning Mitotsudaira’s way.

Their relationship was built on the foundation of being king and knight, but…

“What would you do if I wasn’t a king anymore?”

“I-I would not let it happen a third time. Two is enough and I would not have actually lost you, so…”

“You would have made that option something you did like the sound of?”

“Wh-why are you just assuming I would go with you?”

“Isn’t that what you’ve recently decided to do?”

The wolf’s eyebrows shot up and she blushed.

“That is a separate issue.”

That response brought a question to Toori’s mind.

Huh?

Her reaction suggested she had not expected this at all. But that would mean…

“Oh, right. You were asleep when we talked about this last night.”

“Eh!? When were you talking about this!?”

Horizon raised her hand.

“Logically speaking, wouldn’t it be while you were asleep?”

“That isn’t what I meant.”

With a smile of resignation, Mitotsudaira chose not to argue with Horizon and instead glared at Toori.

“My king, um…”

“Oh, Mito, this didn’t happen at Suzu-san’s place,” said Asama. “It was when you fell asleep during the withdrawal from Edo. And Toori-kun said he wanted to take some time to discuss it with you later.”

Me: “Asama, I did think that, but wasn’t it you that led me in that direction last night?”

Asama: “What difference does that make? Now, hurry up. Mito is waiting.”

She’s a major plus for me, he thought.

And I guess it doesn’t make a difference.

“Nate, I promised to let you show off your swimsuit, remember? So I was thinking of doing it then.”

“Then please do. I want to hear whatever you have to say that relates to me.”

“Sure. I mean, there’s a lot of this stuff that I can only talk to you about.”

He received his knight’s approval, so he took a breath and got back on topic.

“Anyway, setting aside any issues about doing lewd things with Horizon, I feel like I’ve managed to get a better grasp on myself, or like I’ve regained a part of myself.”


Suzu listened to Toori speak.

He was talking about it in a roundabout way, but he seemed to have already made up his mind on the inside.

He had never been the type to speak his heart. That was why he could inspire such surprise, joy, and even tears, but Suzu was impressed with his recent change that allowed him to talk about these things more often.

She felt like the things he said made her worried about him more than anything, but that was fine since they could all work through this together. Asama-san and Mitotsudaira-san should be able to handle it. I think. But Kimi-chan’s engine has been warming up lately, so that could be a threat too. And Horizon has been adding a turbocharger to it all. I hate that I can only give them a place to sleep and a bath to use, but I’ll do what I can.

However…

“So, well, if I could do stuff like that with Horizon, outside of the lewdness of it all, it would be a huge relief, is I guess what I’m saying. Like I’ve been accepted by something I need in my life. Or maybe I’d feel more happy and proud that she wanted to do that kind of thing with me?”

That comment earned a response via divine transmission.

Gin-san?

Tachibana Wife: “Um, Chancellor? This is a bit of a tricky issue and I am hoping you can see it in a different way, but…”

Suzu kind of got what Gin was trying to say.

I-it is, isn’t it?

She gave her mental response in advance of Gin’s explanation.

Tachibana Wife: “If anything…isn’t that the heroine’s point of view?”


Art-Ga: “That is useful information. I don’t draw you often since your prosthetic arms are such a pain to draw, but I want to make up for that by doing it right when I do do it.”

Tachibana Wife: “I-I actually predicted you would say that! I really am gradually learning how this place works!”

Tonbokiri: “You do have strong feelings for Muneshige-dono, don’t you?”

Tachibana Husband: “Ha ha ha. Which is perfectly fine since I feel the same way, Gin.”

Tachibana Wife: “A-are you trying to kill me, Master Muneshige!?”

Smoking Girl: “Oh, damn. I really need a smoke, but I can’t out here in the forest.”


“Anyway.”

Kimi heard her brother speaking.

“Maybe I shouldn’t say this out in the open, but you’re all on my side, so I’ll say it anyway.”

“Do not worry, Toori-sama,” said Horizon. “I am on your side.”

“Y-you’re the worst enemy I’ve got!” After looking over at Horizon, he looked to all the others and scratched his head. “With Horizon, I feel so damn lucky that I can just be with her all the time. That really would be enough if it’s all I could get, but if I could also do lewd things with her, well, that would only deepen our relationship, which would bring a bunch more relief. I mean…I know relief and happiness aren’t a one-way street and it would make me happy to know Horizon feels the same way.”

“Asama-sama, Mitotsudaira-sama, this heroine is attempting to justify his desire to grope my boobs.”

“Well, um, uh.”

Kimi smiled as she watched their exchange.

“And what’s wrong with that?” she said. “It really does make it sound like the two of you are one in spirit. My foolish brother can avoid needing to become someone else and it proves to him he hasn’t drifted into the negative range…while Horizon can feel the same. And with Asama and Mitotsudaira, he can know he has someone to add to his strength no matter who he is, which can again be mutual.”

“C-could you not drag us into this?” asked Mitotsudaira.

“And what about you, Kimi?” asked Asama.

Kimi brought a hand to her mouth and thought about the shrine maiden’s counterattack.

“Good question,” she said. “Listen. He has the strongest relationship with me in both senses of the word.”

Suzu immediately nodded, so she must have known what she meant. Asama and Mitotsudaira spread their mouths horizontally in wonderful looks of displeasure.

Kimi herself decided to explain herself with a hand on her cheek.

“If my foolish brother is going to do lewd things with people, who do you think he will be most compatible with? Why me of course!”

“K-Kimi!” shouted Mitotsudaira. “What are you saying!?”

“Oh, but just think about it. The two of us came from the same place. That gives me an advantage that some stranger could never hope to match. You could say I am 1P and he is 2P!”

“Sis! Sis! But we’re very different people.”

“Heh heh heh. The adjustments they made for 2P seem to have been for the worse, foolish brother. But when it comes to hair, skin, blood, and tears, mine are the closest to yours. In fact, you feel so perfect in my arms because it almost feels like holding myself. Sometimes I even think maybe that is me in my arms.”

“Then what if I was your little sister, sis?”

“Why, that would be absolutely perfect as far as physical compatibility goes.”

Asama and the others frowned and Horizon hesitantly raised a hand.

“Kimi-sama, could you go easy on us in your assessment here?”

“My, my, if you insist. But remember this: If you even try to compete amongst yourselves, there is a part of me you can never hope to match.”

So…

“Make sure to focus on what you yourself can do best.”


This is about what I would expect from them, thought Masazumi as the waiters brought over some large bamboo strainers.

“Hey, Balfette, the udon’s here.”

“Eh!? The Treasurer is!?”

“Not that udon!” everyone shouted back.

Meanwhile, Masazumi pointed at the four bamboo strainers placed at the top of the stepped terrace.

“So what do we do with those, Balfette?”

“Oh, judge! Um, you pour water in from the top like this…see how it’s flowing through the bamboo placed down the center there? You pour the water down there and then pour in the udon from the strainers.”

“Oh, so it’s like nagashi somen but with udon.”

Masazumi noticed everyone’s eyes on her.

They were all giving her curious looks, telling her to give it a try.

Well, as Vice President, I suppose I can go first.

You just do it the same as nagashi somen, right? she wondered while readying her chopsticks. The water was already flowing down the bamboo. It was a little dirty, but she placed her chopsticks in the water to prevent any mistakes.

“Okay, Balfette, I’m ready when you are.”


“Judge! Here goes.”

Balfette grabbed the udon with bamboo tongs that resembled a fork and released them into the water. Masazumi moved her chopsticks forward to catch them.

“Oh?”

The chopsticks easily broke on contact.

Before she could do anything, the udon had passed by everyone.

“The udon moves so fast!” said Mitotsudaira with a gasp. “Oh, but not that fast. I still saw everything that happened.”

“Master Tenzou!”

Crossunite leaped into the air and side-flipped to land atop the flowing water. He prepared to catch the incoming udon on his chopsticks, but…

“Oh?”

The current was too great for him and he was washed away.

“Toori-kun! Tenzou-kun was just swept away with the udon!” said Asama. “Toori-kun! Stop taking photos!”

“Are you sure you aren’t speaking some strange new language?” asked Masazumi.

In the end, Horizon’s arms held up a bamboo strainer at the final defensive line where the water fell away and caught it all.

The arms carried over the strainer of udon and Masazumi accepted it.

“There, that’s how it’s done,” she said.

“Liar!!” they all replied.

She had to frown at that one.

“Yeah, well what else am I supposed to do when trying to scoop it up normally breaks the chopsticks?”

“Um, Vice President, the menu does list metal chopsticks!” said Balfette. “But they cost 300 yen each!”

“I’m not paying for that.”

But what am I supposed to do? she wondered while grabbing a new set of chopsticks. Next to her, Futayo spoke up while sharpening her chopsticks with a rubbing motion.

“Shall I cut it for you?”

“I’m not sure what you mean, but I’m pretty sure doing it would leave us on the run just like Sensei.”

“Then,” said Mitotsudaira. “I think what happened was due to your poor technique.” The wolf swung her right hand. “When you stick your chopsticks into flowing water and move them against the current, the weight of the water works against you. Masazumi, you seem to hold your chopsticks toward the top, so yours were probably already bent a bit above the water’s surface. And then you add the weight of the udon on top of that.”

“Yes, they were broken by an udon counterattack,” added Futayo.

How is this a conversation I’m actually having? wondered Masazumi as Mitotsudaira readied her chopsticks and called out to Balfette.

“Adele, could you send some down?”

“Judge!” replied Balfette before some udon was launched from above.

Now that it’s not me doing it, I can see just how fast it is, realized Masazumi while the udon sent water spraying into the air on its approach to Mitotsudaira. The spray clearly passed her by and continued on down.

But then…

“There, that is how it is done.”

At some point, Mitotsudaira’s chopsticks had scooped up the udon.

“Huh?” Masazumi realized her voice had escaped her mouth. “How did you do that? Didn’t it pass you by?”

“Judge. And I scooped it up from behind. From behind, the udon has already parted the water, so it barely affects your chopsticks at all.”

“But can anyone but you actually pull that off?” asked Urquiaga.

Futayo and Crossunite both raised their hands.

“Hm,” said Crossunite. “It would seem the three of us need to be on udon scooping duty.”

“Th-that completely defeats the purpose of this!” protested Mitotsudaira. “It’s supposed to be a party!”

“Narumi, I know you can do that, so why did you not raise your hand?”

“I’m too hungry to bother.”

Yeah, that sounds like Narumi, thought Masazumi before hearing a voice from above.

“U-um, I feel like I’m stuck on launch duty up here,” said Balfette.

“Is that a problem?’

“I-I made the reservation, but I won’t get to eat any of it like this!”

“Hm,” said Toori. “Okay, Adele, you can eat straight from the strainers up there.”

“How sad would that look!? Besides, why don’t you do it instead!?”

“Adele, provoke Toori-kun too much and he really will do it, so please stop before this gets much worse.”

“Asama-san, I’m having a hard time figuring out whose side you’re on!”

“I have an idea.” Horizon raised her hand. “This sounds like a pain, so how about you bring those large strainers down here so we can all eat it normally?”

“B-but that rejects my identity as the one who made the reservation!”

“You’ve built your entire identity around that?”

“You don’t have to ask that out loud.”

“If we eat it normally, what do we do about this water flowing down the middle?” asked Toori.

“Can’t we think of this as an udon shop with a constant supply of drinking water flowing down the center?” suggested Mitotsudaira.

“Wh-why did I even bother making us a reservation here!?”

Their director was never satisfied. But then an unexpected hand rose into the air: Mary’s. She already had ether light floating around her like a scarf.

“This water is connected to the river, so I can summon water spirits here. I hate to act as a replacement for Master Tenzou, but shall I weaken the water’s current?”

Masazumi saw everyone respond with hopeful nods. Then Balfette spoke from up above.

“Oh, now that you mention it, you can set the current strength up here! It’s on ‘artillery’ right now, so I’ll lower that to ‘training’!”

“Go at least three levels below that!!”

Everyone yelled back up at Balfette while Masazumi separated her new chopsticks.


“This is a nice change of pace.”

Narumi held her chopsticks between her teeth and pulled with her prosthetic arm to separate them. She had a bowl of udon sauce in front of her, but…

“In Date, we always ate hot udon, but they have a lot of iced varieties here.”

“I’ve never heard udon described as ‘hot’ and ‘iced’ before.”

“Come to think of it, what is the opposite of ‘chilled’ called?”

“Udon is ordinarily eaten warm,” said the Secretary seated across the bamboo waterway. “So it doesn’t require a qualifier like chilled udon does.”

“Maybe, but I have my doubts.”

“Come to think of it,” said the Asama Shrine Representative while scooping up some udon. “The Far East has a strong culture of washing things in cold water, so we see value in chilling things. I think that is why we emphasize that something is ‘chilled’ to make it sound nicer.”

“Coming from you, I see no reason to doubt it.”

“Wh-why do you doubt me but not her!?”

“Probably because you’ve given her reason to doubt you,” said a voice from the sky.

Narumi looked up to see the 3rd and 4th Special Duty Officers descending along a spiraling path. They already held their brooms under one arm, so they were using their wings to glide down.

They’re pretty quiet when they do that, she realized before the Weiss Hexen spoke up.

“We’ve finally caught up with you. …There isn’t an entrance fee, is there?”

“Judge! We have two empty seats set up for you, so go ahead!”

“Sure thing.”

The Schwarz Hexen spun around in midair. It was a vertical spin that began with the head.

The full rotation was made to allow a more compact landing. Their thrust came from the wings on their backs, so they leaned forward by default. When trying to descend onto their heels, they could not move their hips forward until they had decelerated enough.

Hence the full rotation that forcibly slowed them while also throwing their legs forward first.

“There.”

Landing right behind the seats with just enough space between them for their wings was impressive.

It was a blessing to see technique like that displayed on an everyday basis. Narumi was briefly reminded of Sendai Castle’s landing zone and her everyday life there. And once those two were standing there with their brooms pressed together…

“Is everyone here now?”

“No, Margot. The Udon Couple isn’t here.”

Circle Be: “Why would we be there, dammit!”

“Tomo? Were those two released?”

“Eh? Yes, Masazumi and I arranged that on the way here.”

I see, thought Narumi.

She had fought the Treasurer during the Siege of Odawara. He had guts taking on a Vice Chancellor, but she appreciated that. And with everything based on money, the loss and compensation of his defeat was very simply calculated out.

Of course, this is only my opinion as someone who does not know the Treasurer pair’s temperament.

“Kiyonari, what kind of people are the Treasurer pair?”

“They base everything on money, so their losses and compensations are very simply calculated out.”

I see, thought Narumi while deciding not to think on this any further.

But more did arrive via divine transmission.

Circle Be: “Anyway, we’re arranging for some upkeep to our shop and ship. If you like, we could send a ship to pick all of you up. For a fee!”

Vice President: “If it’s a reasonable fee, that is acceptable. And you can pay us back by the 14th, can’t you? If it isn’t looking good, you can come to me for help, so don’t try running away, got that?”

Circle Be: “We’ll be fine! We’ll double the money and pay it back!”

Why do I get the feeling they won’t manage it?

Narumi cut that line of thought short because some udon was coming, but while they were enjoying their time there…

“Someone is coming. Someone we were waiting for.”

She heard some footsteps. Everyone was here and there were other customers further away, but…

One set of footsteps is from someone untrained in combat and the other is from someone still early in their training. Also…

Narumi looked to their surroundings.

Everyone was waiting for the udon, readying themselves to scoop some up, or giving warning looks to those downstream of them, but they were all silent.

That meant they were focused on the other sounds surrounding them.

“Oh? You’re all already here? We would absolutely love to join you.”

The new visitors were Christina and Nagaoka Tadaoki.

The former wore a white shirt and long tights. The latter wore a kariginu shirt and shorts.

“Now,” said Christina while holding up a hand with a smile.

She had pulled something from her pocket.

“Carlos I left a memo in Rudolf II’s tower, remember? This letter explains what he was asking about. It was given to me by the Prince of Orange.”


Chapter 12: Partial Joiner in the Lamplight[edit]

Horizon8A 309.jpg

Look

I have something

You should like

Point Allocation (Personality?)


Christina had brought the letter containing Carlos I’s question.

Everyone imagined what that letter given to her by the Prince of Orange would say, but first…

“We’ll be examining that next, but…what do we do with the udon?”

“This system of eating is not very compatible with a meeting, is it?” said Naruze while snatching up the launched udon at her own pace.

Masazumi gave Christina and Nagaoka an excuse (“Sorry. We only just now got started, so we aren’t ready yet.”), but Christina was excitedly holding the letter high and Masazumi felt like she had embarrassed her. At any rate…

“Adele, were you ever planning to eat any, or are you just going to keep sending it down the bamboo all night?”

“I want to eat! I do! But I can’t figure out when to head down while serving up enough for everyone!”

“You leave me with no choice then,” said Mitotsudaira while pulling out her silver chains.

“?”

The chains curved into a question mark, but once Mitotsudaira gave them their instructions, they headed toward Adele. I forgot they did this back at England, thought Naruze.

“Anyway, this allows Adele to join us too. The udon couple must be watching and I imagine we can get a link to the Kantou group, so now would be a great time to see Carlos I’s question.”

Asama responded by opening a sign frame.

It contained the memo they had received from Mouri Terumoto the night before.

It said…

<A wordplay question for Taikyou-sama.

Can you take care of this, William?>

Naruze looked to Swedish Chancellor Christina while reading that text.

“This memo says Carlos I wanted Holland Chancellor William, Prince of Orange, to pass a question on to a ‘Taikyou-sama’,” Masazumi said to Christina. “And Mouri Terumoto told us you had the question he was referring to.”

That much was true since Christina now held the letter containing that question.

Parchment, hm?

That would be for more than just history recreation accuracy. Words digitized on a sign frame had a way of spreading across the divine network.

Using a hard copy was a form of security.

If this parchment letter was the only copy, then this information only existed here.

What Masazumi said next suggested she understood that.

“Can you tell us what is written in that letter, Swedish Chancellor?”


Mitotsudaira observed Christina’s reaction.

She tilted her head and spoke.

“I thought my interactions with Musashi were based around your involvement in the Honnouji Incident.”

Mitotsudaira understood what she was getting at. So…

“Are you asking us to let you refuse any talks related to Honnouji if you help us with this letter?”

“This is an international negotiation, so Sweden would be at risk otherwise. Yes.”

That was true enough. And Christina’s expression was one of resignation.

She probably wanted to help Musashi out as much as she could.

I doubt she is lying about this.

She would gain nothing by earning their sympathy and she probably was not that skilled a negotiator.

She excelled at maintaining a straight face.

When gathering and producing information, it was safest if she feigned indifference.

But she had a weak point.

Herself.

She could feign indifference when it came to things beyond herself, such as other people and other nations. She could treat them as mere “things”. But she could not do so when it was directly related to herself.

Her emotions seeped through and her shell of indifference crumbled away.

You could say she excelled at being an observer but had trouble being part of the action.

This was a good example.

She probably saw herself as “on their side” after Nördlingen, but that made her current political position a challenge for her.

Sweden wanted to safely complete the Thirty Years’ War and name themselves as victors at Westphalia.

Her nation would not want her to get involved in Musashi’s affairs.

And she could not simply ignore her political position. So…

“Then what will we do, Masazumi?” asked Mitotsudaira.

“Judge.” Masazumi nodded. “We will take that letter in exchange for rescuing you at Nördlingen.”

Narumi’s eyebrows rose at that and she lifted her chopsticks.

“Musashi isn’t going to get her help with intervening at Honnouji?”

“I have a few ideas on how we can do that, so like I said before, we will negotiate that out with the Swedish Chancellor starting with a clean slate.”

Narumi nodded in response.

“If you have options, then I will leave it with you. Sorry for the unnecessary question.”

“No, it’s important to make sure everything is on track. …Is this okay with you too, Swedish Chancellor?”

Christina relaxed her shoulders and nodded.

“Testament, that will make this easier for me as well. Yes.”

So…

“I would prefer if the negotiations over any requests you have for Sweden concerning Honnouji wait until some other time.”

Mitotsudaira nodded at that. Asama recorded the statement and Neshinbara nodded as well.

Since Christina placed a hand on her chest and nodded as well…

That statement has become “official”.

They would debate with her over Honnouji in the near future.

Silver Wolf: “This is a major step.”

Vice President: “It’s too soon to relax, but it does open up our possibilities. It’s a good thing.”

“Anyway,” said Masazumi as she turned back toward the Swedish Chancellor. “Let’s be careful about this handoff of the letter as well.”

And Masazumi asked one more thing.

“Swedish Chancellor, is your husband on your side?”


“Eh?”

Christina was confused by the sudden question.

Her husband stood by her side. Well, Tadaoki was not yet of age, so they could not actually get married yet.

So, um, I’m not sure what to say when they use that title…

She felt someone touch her fingers.

It was Tadaoki. He was trying to hold her hand.

“–––––”

He pulled his hand back once and she made the mistake of reaching out without thinking what that meant.

Just as he reached out again, she did the same.

He ended up reaching too far and grabbing her wrist.

But he still squeezed and looked over at the Musashi Vice President.

“You want to know if I’m on her side? Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be? I’m not a stranger. What else would I be?”

Christina gasped when she heard it.

What can I even say?

They were trying to define their own relationship instead of leaving it up to the laws, traditions, or customs.

This is so refreshing.

Once she accepted what this meant, she responded. Oh, dear. I think I’m smiling.

“Testament, that is correct. Tadaoki-sama is on my side.”

She said it with confidence.

“Ohh,” said Musashi’s 3rd Special Duty Officer while their Vice President nodded.

“Then we can share that letter of yours with the Nagaoka boy?”

Christina realized what that question meant.

Musashi was trying to accomplish something through this conversation.

How thoughtful.

She understood the implications. And since she could fully agree with it, she nodded back at the Vice President. And…

“Tadaoki-sama, can you take a look at this?”


Christina passed the parchment letter to Tadaoki. He casually accepted it and opened it with a flick of his wrist.

He let it hang down from his hand as he viewed it.

“Hm?”

Then he held it sideways and muttered “oh”. He did not notice that everyone was focused on him.

He moved his face in close to the parchment and squinted before finally tilting his head.

“Here, you can have it back. …What the heck is it?”

After taking it back, Christina asked him a question.

“What did you think?”

“What could I think?” He looked to the side and spread his mouth horizontally. “It was just a bunch of numbers. Don’t look at me if you want some math done. I couldn’t make any sense of it.”

The person who responded to him in a troubled tone of voice was not Christina.

“Judge,” said the Musashi Vice President. “I see. Then we will take that letter, Lady Nagaoka. Horizon, can you send out your arms? Please accept it ‘in secret’.”

“Oh.” The Musashi Chancellor raised a hand. “Horizon, can you pass it to Nate? I think that would be best.”


Tadaoki did not understand what was going on.

He did not know why it was happening this way, but it seemed like Christina was giving the letter to Musashi because he had failed to read it. Although he was not entirely certain of that either.

What is this?

He watched as the arms crawled under the table and Christina handed them the letter.

“Hey, wait. Should you really give them that? It’s yours, isn’t it?”

“Tadaoki-sama, you are not supposed to say that out loud here.”

When she gave him that troubled look, he could not just back down.

He felt like he had caused a problem just now, but he hated feeling like the only person who did not know what was going on.

He was younger than everyone else, so he did not want them to make fun of him or use his ignorance to manipulate him.

The Musashi Vice President must have realized how he felt because she spoke to him.

“We aren’t making fun of you, Nagaoka. Your opinion of that letter is the same as Lady Nagaoka’s.”

“Huh? You mean she can’t read it either?”

“Not quite.” His wife smiled. “I can no longer read it.”

“Huh?”

He could tell that was a lie, but…

She’s using my answer, but not out of pity. That must mean…

“Um, so does my opinion become our opinion?”

“It already did. Right, Swedish Chancellor?”

“Testament. I have never said a word about whether or not I could read it.”

That would mean the same thing about whether she could read it now.

So she never said if she can or can’t read it.

And once he said he could not, it was assumed that she could not either.

“So whether or not she can read it was up to me?”

No, that was not it. Not quite.

It wasn’t up to me. They made it up to me.

He wanted to understand all this, so he groaned in thought. And…

“Heh heh. Foolish brother, Nagabuto is having trouble.”

“Fine, I’ll help him out. …Hey, Nagabuto and his wife, c’mon over here next to us. There’s an open spot upstream of us, so pull up some chairs.”

“Hey, you can’t just cut into this conversa-”

Tadaoki felt a tug on his hand and looked up to see his wife lifting his wrist.

“Let’s go, Tadaoki-sama.”

He did not like this. It made him feel like he was being used and he could not at all understand why. But…

Well, that just means I’ve gotta grow up so much they can’t take me so lightly.

He still had enough confidence left to think “just you wait until next year” at them. So…

“Fine, then. But tell me this, Vice President. What would you have done if I could read it?”

“I’d have let this idiot read it.”

The girl’s immediate respond caused everyone to freeze, but she spread her arms and explained.

“You all know more or less what would happen then, don’t you? He might have even lost the letter or had it taken by the guards as circumstantial evidence. But one thing’s for sure: he wouldn’t be able to read it. He’d make terrible excuses that ruined our meal and might even haunt us for the rest of our lives. I’m sure of it.”

“I’m almost afraid to ask, but what would you do then?” he asked.

The 3rd and 4th Special Duty Officers covered their ears.

“Okay, Masazumi, you can tell him now.”

“You two sure are quick to defend yourselves. …Anyway, Nagaoka, if the idiot couldn’t read it, the rest is simple.” The Vice President lifted her chopsticks and moved them as if grabbing at the air. “That would make the letter worthless trash, so I would have kindly taken it off your hands.”


“Huh?”

Nagaoka tilted his head because he again did not understand what the Vice President meant.

“But that letter is valuable, isn’t it? Why would it be worthless if that idiot couldn’t read it? Is he a god or something?”

He protested, but…

Wait.

He felt like what he had just said was connected to all this.

The idiot shouted over as if to help him understand.

“What would you do if that happened?”

“Well, I’d say it wasn’t true. I’d say I could read it and it had value since I knew what it said.”

“But I wouldn’t be able to read it.”

“Then I’d just have to tell you what-”

It finally clicked for him.

Oh, so that’s it.

He understood now. If the idiot could not read it but he could and wanted to prove its worth…

“You couldn’t determine its worth unless I told you what it said.”

“Exactly,” said the Vice President. “We would demand to ‘see the product’ you were trying to sell us.”

So…

“You would have to read the letter to us.”

Yes. If he could read it but that idiot could not and he wanted to prove its worth, he would have no other choice.

Musashi would never accept its value unless he let them know what it said.

That would make for a safe negotiation, but it carried another problem.

It would put Sweden in a bad position.

They would have essentially given up on negotiating after revealing their bargaining chip to Musashi.

His wife must have realized he understood now because she spoke up too.

“Yes. In that case, I would have demanded you keep the contents of the letter to yourself.”

I suppose so, he thought while thinking about her circumstances.

“Hey.”

“Yes?”

“Don’t you intend to side with Musashi?”

“As Swedish Chancellor, I cannot answer that question.”

Then, he thought. What about as my wife?

He was holding her wrist. If that was her palm, she could have squeezed his hand in response. But…

“I’m on Musashi’s side.”

At Nördlingen, he had confessed, been accepted, and joined Musashi. He had known what that meant when he accepted it, so his wife must have as well. He trusted her.

So what would that mean in this case?

“You don’t have to demand I keep the contents of the letter to myself.”

“Really?”

“Judge. Because I saw the letter and I’m willing to say it was worthless. So…”

He pointed at the parchment he had accepted from his wife earlier.

I know that thing’s super valuable politically speaking. I get that it’s so important that Musashi wants it in exchange for winning that battle.

But if I say that, my wife will have a harder time giving it to them. Sweden doesn’t want anything to do with Musashi and she would have to act as their Chancellor.

So I have to say this since I’m on her side and I can speak on her behalf.

“We don’t need that letter. I read it and it’s a bunch of nonsense. But,” he said while tugging on his wife’s hand and walking toward the seats they had been offered. “Give us some dinner to eat. It’s worth that much.”


“Are you done now?” Naruze asked with her hands still over her ears.

Mitotsudaira nodded in response.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, thought the wolf as she accepted the letter from the arms.

“That worked out thanks to my king’s assistance and Horizon’s arms.”

“Ariadust-kun’s arms were treated as an unidentified mysterious phenomenon back at Nördlingen, so could we pass that letter off as a gift from a mysterious phenomenon?”

It scared her how plausible that sounded. But anyway…

“This does mean none of us directly accepted it. …Now, Masazumi.”

“Hey, idiot, why did you have it sent to Mitotsudaira?” Masazumi asked the king.

But the king and Horizon were fully focused on eating udon.

“Eh? What? Gah! Th-that’s gross, Horizon! Don’t use your arms after they’ve been crawling around on the ground!”

“Heh heh heh. The tears of the vanquished are the sweetest of nectars to the victorious.”

“Um, Horizon? Your nose is running…”

After Asama’s warning, Horizon slowly turned around, held one side of her nose, and produced a sniffling sound.

After a bit, she turned back around like nothing had happened.

“Did you say something, Asama-sama?”

“No, um, if you’re fine with that, then never mind.”

Apparently she was fine with it.

“Um, my king? What am I supposed to do with this letter?”

“Eh? Oh, nothing really. It’s just that you got us the original memo too, so I thought it might help Hexagone Française and your maman save face if that letter belongs to you.”

“You’re overthinking this,” replied Mitotsudaira with a bitter smile.

She stood up and looked over to see Christina shrugging with a bitter smile of her own.

“International relations are a tricky thing, aren’t they?”

“Only at first. Once Musashi gets used to you, we get way lazier about these things.”

“That sounds much nicer, actually.”

Mitotsudaira held up the letter that woman had given them.

Everyone was watching her, but she started by bowing. And then…

“Um, I present this to you, my king.”

She took her chair over and sat behind the king and princess.

I need to show this letter to my king first.

She tried to block Horizon and her king’s gazes from herself with the opened letter. She held that parchment while thinking she was acting like a child who had just been bought a new toy.

And when she finally looked at the brown parchment in the light of the illumination spells…

“What is this?”

It was nothing but a long string of numbers.


Chapter 13: Thinkers by the Current[edit]

Horizon8A 327.jpg

What is this?

What could it mean?

Ooh, I know!

Point Allocation (You Be Quiet)


Mitotsudaira unfolded the letter they had received from Christina and found a string of characters within.

They were numbers. Double and triple digit numbers. And they were formatted like the letters in an ordinary text.

Mitotsudaira started to read them aloud, but she doubted anyone would be able to understand it.

So instead, she opened a sign frame and used a photography spell to read in the parchment’s text.

“Um, do any of you know what this means?”


Christina viewed the image of the parchment that had been sent to Tadaoki too.

She recognized the text displayed there.

“12 – 46 – 57 – 68.”

“You have this memorized?”

“I stared at it an awful lot, so I remember it pretty well.”

“That’s incredible.”

He seemed genuinely impressed, which made her a little happy. She was proud of her memory.

So she looked him in the eye and recited the proof of that pride.

“58 – 78 – 66 – 110 – 32 – 43.”

Then a blank line.

“96 – 26 – 94 – 115 – 79 – 90 – 26 – 42 – 106 – 43 – 82 – 115 – 91.”

And another blank line.

“90 – 92 – 42 – 23 – 79 – 81 – 104 – 83 – 42 – 105 – 11 – 87 – 84 – 85 – 86.”

“You really do have it memorized…”

Oops. I got carried away and now he’s a little creeped out by it.

“U-umm.”

She hesitated, but he seemed to mistake what that meant.

“Oh,” he said and moved his sign frame so she could see.

He must have thought that was as much as she had memorized and could not continue like this.

But in fact, she had the rest memorized too.

However, her husband’s misunderstanding and concern made her happy.

“Thank you.”

She made sure to state her appreciation before reading off the numbers again.

“31 – 24 – 84 – 73 – 100 – 64 – 43 – 18 – 75 – 90 – 26 – 42 – 83 – 84 – 85 – 86 – 55.”

She took a breath in preparation for the last line. That row of numbers was located further away from the rest.

“81 – 43 – 75 – 67 – 19 – 20 – 36 – 77 – 101 – 23 – 90 – 25.”

That was all.

She relaxed her shoulders and looked up.

Everyone around her had fallen silent.

But this silence did not contain the cautious and ominous sese the previous one had. They were all staring at their sign frames.

“Um.”

She had decoded this, so she was going to ask if they wanted any advice. However…

“Oh, go ahead and eat some udon, Swedish Chancellor. We’re busy making some initial thoughts on this matter. The silver chains will serve you, so don’t mind us.”

She looked up to see a chain holding a pair of chopsticks and looking down at her.

Will it understand this? she wondered while nodding at it. The chain wrapped a twisted hand towel around itself and began to serve the udon.


Vice President: “Okay, we have the letter now, so what are your initial impressions?”

Art-Ga: “Nerd, figure it out for us.”

Novice: “Wh-what kind of command is that!?”

Horizey: “Neshinbara-samaaa!!”

Novice: “So now you’re willing to come to me for help!? Only now!? …But I do know what this must be. Each number is either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ and by figuring out which is which and reading only the ‘yes’ ones, they form words!”

Four Eyes: “Didn’t the Hexagone Française President say it was using numbers in place of written characters? That would mean you are wrong.”

Horizey: “Mitotsudaira-samaaa!”

Silver Wolf: “My kiiing!”

Me: “Horizooon!”

Horizey: “I get the feeling this is a lost cause.”

Almost Everyone: “D-don’t give up already!”


Gin was watching the disastrous goings on from Kantou.

It looks even worse when you’re looking on from the outside.

She was on the beach at night. Fishing fires were burning out at sea and the fishing boats were casting their nets at the fish that approached them. Meanwhile, several stoves were being prepared here on the beach.

On Ookubo’s suggestion, everyone was going to eat out on the beach assuming the weather remained clear.

That would simplify the food distribution and storage and make it easier for everyone’s opinions to be heard.

“Master Muneshige, we did this sort of thing at Alcalá de Henares or at the public market back at Tres España, didn’t we?”

“The Tachibana home was situated a little higher than the rest of the city, so I would eat at the market’s open-air food stands on my way to and from there. The rumors I sometimes heard about you were fascinating.”

This was the first she had heard of that. She could not believe he was talking about it now, but it also told her he was enjoying things here.

“On the day of our final duel, they all saw me off with words of support, but I ended up staying at your place for a while afterwards since I cut off your arms and everything, so there was a rumor going around the city that you had finally killed me.”

“Does that mean they assumed you would lose? But regardless, I am glad to have heard about this.”

And…

“Don’t worry. You are plenty strong now, Master Muneshige. And you were back then as well.”

“And I’m going to get even stronger. I just know it now that I’ve seen this place and everyone in it,” he said quietly. “Winning a battle brings a sense of relief, but it also makes me feel like I’ve helped set history in motion.”

“Having history set you in motion is not a bad thing either.”

“That’s true too,” he said while they shared a smile as two who had lost in the past.

Then his face moved in towards her.

“–––––”

She felt indecent doing it here, but she allowed herself three seconds to celebrate their victory.

And after taking a breath…

“Master Muneshige, have you seen how everyone back on the Musashi is acting?”

“I have and I believe that letter contains complete sentences.”

That reminded her of Muneshige’s second inherited name. In addition to Tachibana Muneshige, he was also the head of the García family who had begun and run Spain’s postal service.

He had a decent amount of knowledge concerning letters and the text written therein. So…

“Master Muneshige! You can add this to your site!”

“I did not expect for my talents to come in handy here.”

He began to input his words to a sign frame.

Tachibana Husband: “Good evening! Tachibana Muneshige here!”


Flat Vassal: “This is weird. Why did the greeting tell me who it is more than him actually giving his name?”

Me: “Hey, that could’ve been Itoken too! Show her, Itoken!”

Obscene: “Hello and good evening! No one suspicious here! Only Itou Kenji the Incubus!”

Bell: “Oh, Itoken-kun said…um, ‘hello’ first.”


Me: “Hey, Muneo! You should say ‘hey’ or ‘hello’ first or it’s too sudden and surprises Bell-san.”

I see, thought Muneshige.

Tachibana Husband: “Hey, understood! Hey, I will be more careful from now on! Hey, just leave it to me!”


Horizey: “You lose again, Toori-sama.”

Me: “D-dammit! It wasn’t my fault! It wasn’t my faaaaaault!”

Asama: “It’s okay, Suzu-san. That wasn’t your fault, okay? …Um, that would get annoying fast, so I’ll tell Gin-san to fix it.”


Fix it she did. And after taking a breath…

Now, let’s see if we can get back on track.

“Master Muneshige, why do you say that letter contains complete sentences?”

“Judge,” he said into his sign frame.

Tachibana Husband: “First of all, the lines of numbers have empty lines between them. If this were a list of items, it would look more list-like, but it would also not leave any empty lines to more efficiently use the space. And if they were all the same sort of thing, they would all be lined up together with only commas or spaces to separate them.”

10ZO: “You wouldn’t need empty lines between complete sentences either, though.”

Four Eyes: “If I may interject, I think each sentence is an entirely separate thought.”

Novice: “Since when are you shy about interjecting!?”

Gin was a little irritated by the Secretary’s response and the English author must have been as well.

Four Eyes: “You expect me to interrupt another nation’s officer? How stupid are you?”

Art-Ga: “Fine, I’ll teach him a lesson.”

Novice: “Wait! Stop drawing that storyboard!”

Four Eyes: “Someone is awfully demanding.”

Novice: “Please stop drawing that storyboard?”

Art-Ga: “You expect me to do what you say when you won’t even look me in the eye?”

“That was a splendid diversion leading into an equally splendid finishing blow, Gin.”

“Judge. Musashi’s people are very skilled in such things, making them easy to converse with. But anyway,” said Gin. “Can you say anything else about the parchment’s contents?”

“Yes. As you can see by looking at the numerical strings, each sentence is longer than the last.”

In other words…

“They may be writing about something on a higher level with each sentence. There is also that final sentence after several blank lines, but that may be something like a PS.”


Mitotsudaira saw everyone thinking about that.

If the Vice Chancellor’s Aide is correct, this must have some important meaning.

It was not just a quick memo or a list. So…

“Then how do we decode these numbers?”

“The most basic method would be to give each of the kana a number and then apply some other formula to that,” said the Secretary with a hand on his chin. “First, you would convert the kana into numbers and then you would add in some extra noise by applying some other code or formula that only your people knew.”

“Such us?”

“Since this is from Carlos I, you could add 1 for ‘the first’. I doubt it’s actually that simple and it’s probably something else entirely, but we’ll just have to do some searching to reach the right answer.”

Can we reach the right answer?”

“We know someone here can read it.”

He gestured toward the Swedish Chancellor.

She, however, grabbed some udon without providing a real response. That suggested her having read it was to remain unsaid here.

But they received a fragment of a hint from somewhere else.

It came from Asama. She frowned and tilted her head, but…

“I can see what look like something familiar in this.”

The Secretary turned her way.

“Really!? P-please tell me what you see, Asama-kun! I guess your work with prayers helps here, doesn’t it!?”

“Um, Neshinbara-kun? Is it just me or have you been especially shameless lately?”

“Only because the rest of you work to destroy any pride I might have! Anyway, please tell me! I have to think up a major project for the upcoming summer event, so I don’t have much time!”

Art-Ga: “Your official duties come second to the summer event?”

Four Eyes: “You should set your priorities better.”

Novice: “I-I don’t want to hear that from either of you!”

“Calm down,” said Asama while opening a sign frame and holding it up to show off the end of the string of numbers.

Then she turned toward the king.

“Um.”

Before she could call his name, Horizon grabbed his head and yanked it around toward Asama.

That would be Horizon’s way of helping, but it must have been a little too sudden.

“Gweh.”

A weird noise escaped the king, but that was just Horizon’s idea of (physical) affection.

It took him about five seconds to recover.

Once he was back up, he noticed Asama looking at him with a bitter smile.

Asama: “Toori-kun, I would like to test something.”

Test?

The king responded by first looking to Mitotsudaira and the others.

He was checking with them before answering.

Me: “Okay, Nate, Bell-san, and…Tenzou too. You three help out Asama.”


Mitotsudaira gasped when she heard her king’s instructions and selection of people.

She knew what they were to do and there was no need to look to Suzu and the 1st Special Duty Officer to ensure they did as well.

Unturning: “What is this about?”

Silver Wolf: “Judge. There is only one thing the three of us would be needed to ‘test’.”

Me: “Yup. So get to it, Asama.”

They did not need to be told twice, so the three of them listened to Asama while holding their breaths.

Asama stood up and showed her sign frame to everyone. It was zoomed in on some of the numbers.

“Umm, will you please look at this?”


Christina listened to the Asama Shrine Representative.

It was adorable how Tadaoki was so focused on the nagashi udon like he was at a waterpark, but she also focused on the voice she could hear.

“Here and here. The final numbers are the same. Just take a look. The last two of the longer lines have ’84! 85! 86!’ at the end. And those three numbers are in order! That must be pretty rare! And that’s not all!”

Christina realized something while listening in.

That’s how they talk on the Shinto Net Asama late-night shopping show!

There were recent rumors that the Asama Shrine’s primary representative would be retiring from that show. If he had been training his daughter to take on that role, those rumors might just be true.

Christina hated that she was not set up to record this. However…

“Take a look here!” said the Asama Shrine Representative. “84! 85! 86! The three are all in a row, right!? And near the end of the line! That suggests to me that they might be one of the polite sentence enders that are common in Far Eastern!”


Suzu immediately typed out a response.

Bell: “No.”

A moment later, another response supported her decision.

Silver Wolf: “Judge! That is incorrect.”

Gold Mar: “Eh? What is? Asama-chi’s guess?”

Yes, but that was not what they were focused on.

Toori had chosen Suzu, Mitotsudaira, and Tenzou for a reason.

10ZO: “We were focusing on what kind of response the Swedish Chancellor gave to Asama-dono’s suggestion.”

But…

10ZO: “She continued eating her food just the same afterwards.”

“Yes,” agreed Suzu.

That response and everything else they were saying were confined to the divine chat. Christina was here with them and she might notice any outward movements they made.

They had a single task here.

Monitor Christina’s responses to see if Asama’s reasoning was correct and how important it was.

Only Suzu, Mitotsudaira, and Tenzou were so sensitive to sound and motion.

If Asama had been right…

Bell: “That would have…changed if it…was right.”

Her desire to confirm it would have shown itself somehow.

They did not know how well Christina could hide her inner thoughts, but she had shown no reaction whatsoever.

That would have meant nothing if she had not heard the suggestion, but…

Horizey: “Asama-sama was using her loud sales talk voice, which is guaranteed to have reached her and grabbed her attention.”

Asama: “Oh, no. What if she thinks I always talk like that?”

Gold Mar: “Asama-chi, you lose if you let it bother you.”

But not letting it bother her at all seemed like surrendering.

At any rate, Christina had ignored it.

Bell: “She ignored…Asama-san’s…performance.”

Asama: “Um, Suzu-san? Do you have to call it a performance?”

Unturning: “But isn’t it possible that the Swedish Chancellor specifically did not react because the Asama Shrine Representative’s performance was accurate?”

Kimi placed a hand on Asama’s shoulder and Asama brushed it off, but Suzu chose to ignore that.

Because…

Art-Ga: “There’s no chance of that and Suzu knows why.”

That was a lot of trust there, but she did know.

Bell: “Because Tadaoki-kun…is with her.”

Suzu explained the odd sense she had noticed in how Christina ignored them.

Bell: “She isn’t…alone.”


Scarred: “Hm? What does that mean, Master Tenzou?”

Tenzou nodded at Mary’s comment made while they viewed the udon side menu on a sign frame.

10ZO: “Simply put…oh, they have tempura, which is basically Far Eastern fritters. If you want something chewy, go with maitake or a root vegetable. For a different flavor, go with shiso. If you’re feeling like something wilder, you can go with a more chopped-up vegetable. And if you want it to go with something else, you could get the whiting tempura.”

Scarred: “I-I’ll do my best.”

Do your best at what? he wondered, but then a sign frame appeared over Mary’s somewhat lowered head.

Wise Sister: “Heh heh. Hoping she ‘feels like something wilder’ tonight, are you?”

Gold Mar: “Was all of that supposed to be innuendo somehow?”

Horizey: “He has to make his move eventually.”

That is none of your business, he thought, but Mary had already made her order.

He also answered her question about what was happening.

10ZO: “She is not alone, Mary-dono.”

In other words…

10ZO: “It does not matter if Christina-dono reacts in some way because she has Tadaoki-dono with her. In fact, she can use him to camouflage any secret information by making it unclear if her reaction was to him or not. But she chose to provide no reaction at all, suggesting she is not used to this sort of thing.”

He got the full answer out there. But…

Asama: “No, um, that’s not quite right, Tenzou-kun.”

Silver Wolf: “Judge. The 1st Special Duty Officer’s view isn’t quite correct.”

10ZO: “Eh? But…”

“Um,” said Mary as she opened her sign frame again.

Scarred: “Would Lady Christina really be able to use Master Nagaoka as camouflage like that?”


I screwed this one up, sighed Tenzou.

10ZO: “So without using Nagaoka-dono as an option, Christina-dono’s only options were to react or not react on her own?”

Silver Wolf: “Judge. But she already views the Nagaoka boy as on her side, so if Tomo had been right, she would have shown some hesitation because she was not sure if she could get him involved or not. After all, they only just concluded that they would not have just one or the other decide for both of them.”

However, she had not shown any hesitation and she had not checked with Tadaoki about anything.

10ZO: “Then Asama-dono’s suggestion really must have been wrong.”

The similar endings to the two sentences were not polite Far Eastern sentence enders. Which meant…

Tachibana Husband: “The letter is not written in a polite or formal way. It simply states what must be said.”

Gold Mar: “The memo we received before said ‘Can you take care of this, William?’, right? So could those three numbers be a question phrase?”

Asama: “No, I don’t think that’s it.”

Asama was quick to respond.

Asama: “The end of the 3rd and 4th sentences look similar with the ‘84 – 85 – 86’, but the 4th sentence has a 55 after that. A question phrase would come at the very end of the sentence, so it would be weird to have one more character after that.”

Art-Ga: “Maybe the 4th one has a question mark at the end.”

Novice: “I know what this is…! He added an ellipsis or exclamation point to his sentence to make it sound more important…!”

Almost Everyone: “Only you do that!”

“About that,” said someone from Kantou.

It was Naomasa.

She had not spoken up in a while and the rest of her statement came after a short pause.

Smoking Girl: “If it simply states what must be said, it’s probably a list of instructions. And with growing intensity.”

Everyone exchanged a glance.

Flat Vassal: “With growing intensity?”

What did that mean?

Horizey: “Um, Naomasa-sama, if you could tell just me the answer and not tell everyone else you told me, then I could act like I had figured it out on my own.”

Everyone shuddered in fear at the audacity it took to ask that out loud.

Smoking Girl: “That request was enough, Horizon.”

And…

Smoking Girl: “This is a special trait of Far Eastern. You can increase the intensity of a command by adding just one more character to the end.”

Novice: “That would suggest this is a very businesslike and high-pressure letter.”

Neshinbara leaned back in his chair and scooted his butt forward. It was a lot like someone who had eaten too much, but he gave it a more somber look.

Novice: “Carlos I may have initially intended to simply ‘ask’ a question, but while he was writing it, it turned into some kind of command. That would mean his real question is here.”

He drew an arrow made of red lines on his sign frame.

Novice: “The PS at the very bottom would be his actual question and the 4th line just before it is probably some other command pointing to a pressing situation.”

Vice President: “Make some wild guesses here, Neshinbara. I’ll allow it.”

“Judge,” said Neshinbara while picking up his chopsticks and using that as camouflage to rapidly type at his sign frame.

Novice: “We know Carlos I was pursuing the Princess Disappearances. And we began to notice something irritating while pursuing those disappearances ourselves.”

Namely…

Novice: “Recall what we have seen in the mysterious facilities at Novgorod and the Sanada ruins and in the underground ruins at Houjou. It seems the Princess is connected to something from the Age of Dawn.”


Neshinbara spoke while breaking apart his chopsticks.

Novice: “We know there was a ‘nonexistent academy’ and we have recently come to realize it must have been around quite recently. Most likely, during Carlos I’s generation – about 30 years ago. Most of the people there have probably fallen victim to the Princess Disappearances. But what were they doing there? And at Novgorod, we heard that they were trying to befriend the Princess. Now, this next part is a guess.”

He took a breath, stuck his chopsticks in the water running down the bamboo, and scooped up some udon as he said more.

Novice: “Lord Motonobu created the Logismoi Oplo as a means of stopping the Apocalypse. We know from Mikawa that the Genesis Project was his work as well. And at the ‘nonexistent academy’, he tried and failed to befriend the Princess. So here is my conclusion: Carlos I and the others were working on a solution to the Apocalypse at their ‘nonexistent academy’. Or to put it another way, the ‘nonexistent academy’ was a Testament Cross-Borders Unit meant to stop the Apocalypse.”

And…

Novice: “There, they came up with two different ways of saving the world from the Apocalypse: the Genesis Project and the Logismoi Oplo.”


Four Eyes: “And? What question did Carlos I ask in that letter?”

Novice: “Eh?”

Vice President: “Hey, I asked you to make wild guesses about Carlos I’s letter, not about other random crap.”

Novice: “Eh? Hold on. I was getting to that! Give me another chance!”


Everyone saw Neshinbara splash at the water with his chopsticks to camouflage his conversation.

Almost Everyone: “Stop playing around!”

Novice: “I couldn’t think of any other motion to disguise my typing!”

But he did answer the question.

Novice: “We don’t know when this letter was written, but I imagine it must have been before P.A. Oda proposed the Genesis Project. Then it’s simple.”

Horizey: “It may have just been ‘Let’s do the Genesis Project and the Logismoi Oplo!’ ”

Horizon’s casual comment caused Neshinbara to freeze in place for a few seconds before Horizon spoke up again as if something had just occurred to her.

Horizey: “Oops. I should have let Neshinbara-sama say that himself. How careless of me to not read the room there. My apologies. …Now, go ahead.”

Novice: “You intentionally screwed up my timing, didn’t you!? Didn’t you!?”

But he did continue while soaking some udon in his bowl.

Novice: “I think this must have been some form of verification or command regarding that. This should be evidence to what Lord Motonobu and the others were up to and much, much more as well. So while I do have the summer event coming up, I will work hard to decode this.”


I guess there’s a first time for everything, thought Masazumi concerning Neshinbara.

Their Secretary was usually extremely self-centered and honestly a lot like their Treasurer in that sense, but here he actually wanted to do his job.

Does that mean he’s found a personal interest in it?

Masazumi herself had gotten so engrossed in a book that she forgot to eat or sleep on more than just a few occasions. So…

Vice President: “Go for it, Neshinbara. You have until our Honnouji intervention. That is probably when we will make contact with Akechi Mitsuhide, so it would mean a lot if we knew by then what the Prince of Orange was trying to tell us at Novgorod.”

“Judge,” said Neshinbara and the others responded too.

Unturning: “Yes, and the Secretary’s girlfriend is skilled at decoding things.”

Gold Mar: “Judge. We should be fine with Shakespeare working on it.”

10ZO: “Indeed. Shakespeare-dono should be more than enough. Right, Mary-dono?”

Tonbokiri: “I see. So the glasses boy will act as our intermediary. Then there is nothing to worry about!”

Novice: “Waiiiiit! Do you really want to see my power that badly!? You’ll regret it.”

Laborer: “Shut up now if you don’t want to make this worse.”

Masazumi took a breath as the others devolved into their usual cannibalism.

But what came next was what really mattered.

“Okay, that solves our problem for the time being. So…”

The Swedish Chancellor turned toward her.

“You remembered?”

“Judge. You think I didn’t notice? When you got here, you said that ‘we would love to join you’, but that ‘we’ meant more than just you and Tadaoki, didn’t it?”

In other words…

“Who else is with you? And what is it they want?”

As soon as she asked…

“That is a simple matter!”

A deep voice boomed from overhead.


Masazumi gasped and looked up to the top of the bamboo waterway at the top of the stepped terrace.

The angle put the night sky in the background.

But she could not see anyone standing there. She could simply hear the sound of a chain rattling and a male voice.

“Ah! Hey, s-stop that! Eek, no! My legs do not spread that far!”

“Mitotsudaira, the silver chain.”

The wolf wordlessly tugged on the silver chain. And…

“Oh, qu-quitting already!? Tighter! Bind me tighter!”

“Hey…Mitotsudaira?”

The wolf gave another wordless tug. There was no response at first, but about three breaths later, something came into view at the top of the stepped terrace.

A student was dangling down from the chain.

It was a chubby middle-aged man.

His head was shaved and he wore a kasaya-style Far Eastern uniform even though it was summer.

But one person reacted to the man illuminated in the light spells: Neshinbara.

He had been retyping the contents of the parchment, but now he looked up.

“I-is that who I think it is!?”

“Oh, do you know him, Neshinbara?”

“You don’t!? That’s Ankokuji Ekei, leader of the major Kansai doujin group Ankoku-G Risho-To!”

“Wrooooong! Dead wrooooong!”

Once the silver chains let him down, he pulled a hand mirror from his pocket.

He used his fingers to skillfully reapply the makeup around the corners of his eyes and elsewhere.

“I am currently a monk diplomat for the Mouri clan and will soon transfer to M.H.H.R. Hashiba’s command! You must not use that old, boring name for someone of such foresight and skill!”

He crossed his arms then spread them again and twirled around on the spot, his kasaya flipping up as he did so.

“People call me Ankoku-G…”

He suddenly planted his feet firmly down, struck a pose, and shouted at the top of his lungs.

“A! K! …Do not forget it.”

Everyone who saw it wordlessly elbowed their neighbor in the side.


Chapter 14: Emissary from the Darkness[edit]

Horizon8A 355.jpg

Ankoku-G

A!

K!

Point Allocation (Everyone had the Same Thought)


AK looked around from below the illumination spell.

Ho ho.

The Musashi students who made up the Far East’s main players were lined up on the stepped terrace.

He had never met any of them before. He was a monk diplomat, but he generally dealt with Mouri’s history recreation. There was not much interaction between Mouri and Matsudaira during this time period.

His own history recreation took a turn with the flooding of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle. He was the one to manage the reconciliation with Hashiba and he would move to Hashiba from there.

But that meant he only had the public information and documents related to Musashi’s people.

On the other hand, he knew one of them quite well from his personal life.

Her.

“You there.”

A boy in glasses stood up in response.

“Do you need me for something, Ankoku-G AK?”

“Who are you?”

Everything ground to a halt at his question. But I really don’t know who he is. There are an awful lot of signe cadres popping up around him, so did I respond poorly there?

On the other hand, the person he had actually been speaking to had ignored him entirely. She was eating udon and discussing its quality with her partner. Why the fuss? You can eat udon like this whenever you want in the Mediterranean region.

“You there.” This time he named her. “You are Black Hair & Wings, are you not?”

He even smiled her way, but she still ignored him.

Hm.

Anyone in the doujin world would know who he was. He generally wrote novels, but he had the incredible foresight needed to predict what the next trends would be and the impressive productivity to produce multiple genres at once. That was why some people had started buying his novels as a catalog of the latest trends.

He was a monk diplomat and he had connections to both Mouri and Hashiba, so a lot of others focused on his writings and more than a few saw him as their superior.

The current trends were Musashi and Hashiba. Since Mouri was a western nation, stories about allying with or opposing Hashiba were popular there. A lot of people found it odd for a Mouri author to write pro-Hashiba stories, but that was his history recreation. He just had to gain support through the power of his writing.

On occasion, simply being pro-Hashiba is not enough and I need to weave in some of the events that occur after Hashiba’s defeat.

And now here he was.

He had finally seen Musashi’s people for himself.

The most formidable one here is definitely Black Hair & Wings from the Musashi Manga Research Club.

Stories about Musashi and the Kantou nations were popular at the events in eastern nations, so he would occasionally write those too. He produced novels and she produced manga, but they sometimes ended up with similar material and he had even written a character modeled after her.

She would be aware of that.

He did not like to brag, but he was influential. He was a name inheritor. When he showed interest in an author, they usual responded with gratitude or awe and tried to stay on good terms with him.

But he of course could not just come out and say he wrote porn based on her. He could not even hint at it by thanking her for her help. She could easily sue me for such a faux pas. It isn’t good manners.

They were technically enemies. But no matter what they thought deep down, they had to remain friendly on the surface.

So for now, he simply spoke to her with a smile.

But she did not even turn his way.

“Oh, Margot. Could you pass me the pepper?”

She was outright ignoring him.

She could clearly hear him, but she was rejecting him. So…

“Madame Black Hair & Wings?”

He called out to her again.

“–––––”

She still ignored him. But someone did speak up from the side.

“Naruze, is he a friend of yours?”

It was the Musashi Vice President. He greatly appreciated it. They were not actually friends of course, but…

“We aren’t friends,” she replied.

Because…

“Why would I ever respond to someone who uses my penname outside of an event?”


Naruze heard Ekei say, “I see.”

“What are you even doing here?” she asked him. “Aren’t international negotiations banned during summer break?”

“Now, about my international negotiation.”

“I just said-”

She was cut off by Christina.

“His history recreation is ongoing from before summer break.”

If he had yet to complete some part of his personal recreation, he could continue it even if his academy had begun summer break. In fact, he could not begin summer break himself until he did complete it.

But what kind of history recreation was it?

“That’s simple enough,” said Naruze. A certain incident led to Ekei’s debut in the Warring States era. “The reconciliation at Bitchu Takamatsu Castle. He made peace with Hashiba as a representative of Mouri, so I’m guessing that isn’t complete yet. After all, Hashiba is in Kantou.”

Someone next to her reacted to that.

It was Margot. She lightly bumped her thigh against Naruze while passing her the pepper.

That was meant to ask “Have you noticed?”, but Naruze could not help but focus on the feel of her partner’s tights, the thigh within, and the body heat pressed against her own thigh.

It is summer, isn’t it!?

She suppressed the reaction inside her and simply accepted the pepper. When she did, she touched Margot’s fingers and lightly tugged.

That was her way of saying “I know.”

And what was it she knew?

“You want to ride Musashi to Kantou, don’t you?”

In other words…

“You can’t let the Musashi stay in Europe. You want to eliminate it.”


Naito heard laughter.

Ekei waved his hand back and forth while shaking his head side to side.

“Eliminate the Musashi?” he said. “I wouldn’t go that far. I simply have business with Hashiba-sama in Kantou.”

He does know what to say, thought Naito. But…

Gold Mar: “Ga-chan, why do you know this Ankoku baldie’s history recreation?”

Art-Ga: “Judge. I was thinking of holding my own event here if we were stuck here for summer break, so I looked into what was going on in the region.”

She probably already had a storyboard complete. She had a tendency to get started while still in the research phase. Naito was more of a thinker, so she appreciated having someone who would jump to action based on any information at all.

But, thought Naito as she asked a question while waving to Masazumi behind her chair.

“How do you justify taking the Musashi to Kantou?”

“That is simple enough. Musashi is still working as a Hexagone Française mercenary on Terumoto-sama’s authority. So the Musashi will travel to Kantou to pick her up. Simple, right? And you will bring me with you. Oh, so simple.”

He brazenly explained the entire plan.

But Naito tilted her head while wondering what would happen if they did that.

“Since we have a mercenary contrac-”

Tsukinowa raised both front paws on Masazumi’s shoulder.

Oops.

That was a close one. She just about admitted they had one. If she did that, odds were good he would simply demand they bring him, a Hexagone Française student, to Kantou. So…

If we did have a mercenary contract, then I would have a question.”

“And what is that?”

“A mercenary contract is a contract for mercenary work. Giving us an extra mission would mean paying us more, but are you prepared to do that? Who would be paying?”

“Terumoto-sama obviously.”

This could be trouble, thought Naito when he so readily gave an answer.

Art-Ga: “I think this Ankoku baldie is pretty much working for Hashiba already.”

Agreed, thought Naito. Because…

Gold Mar: “Seijun, can I ask something?”

Ekei’s statement was dangerous.

Gold Mar: “Do you think Teru can pay for that?”


Not a chance, concluded Masazumi.

Vice President: “It would be one thing if he had said Hexagone Française would pay, but he named Terumoto specifically. An individual – and even a single Far Eastern reservation – does not have the money on hand to fund the Musashi.”

Horizey: “Hm? Does the Mouri clan not have much power within Hexagone Française?”

Vice President: “Why do you think it was such big news when Terumoto married the Roi-Soleil?”

“I see,” said a lot of them, but Adele spoke up while slurping up some udon.

Flat Vassal: “Ah, gh, ohhhh! Th-this is so good, wait, um, hold on.”

Asama: “Calm down, Adele. We’re in the Udon Kingdom, so you can eat udon like this every day if you want to.”

Flat Vassal: “Oh, s-sorry. It’s just been so long since I could chow down on something so good! B-but, you’re right! I can eat this every day now!”

Me: “Won’t this be the last time since we’re being sent back to Kantou?”

Flat Vassal: “Eh!? P-please don’t hit me with despair like that! Am I back to figuring out how many different ways there are to eat bread crusts!?”

Horizey: “Think about it, Adele-sama. Udon is made from flour and salt and bread is made from flour. So if you sprinkle salt on some bread, the contents of your stomach are no different from if you ate udon. And it will be even more similar coming out the other end. Now, learn to think of salted bread crusts as a tasty treat.”

Flat Vassal: “Wh-what is this, some kind of persuasive seminar!?”

Vice President: “Enough, just tell us what you wanted to say, Adele.”

Flat Vassal: “Judge! Um, right! If the Hexagone Française President is in Kantou but can’t pay, isn’t the mercenary contract null and void? So we can just stay here feeding our udon fever!”

Gold Mar: “If only.”

Naito looked up to face Ekei.

“Quick question: What would you do if Teru can’t pay?”

“That would never happen.”

“Huh?” said Masazumi.

“Terumoto-sama just liberated Kantou,” he said. “She saved Kantou, so she would make sure to pay instead of causing trouble for the Kantou nations.”


Gin and Muneshige were monitoring the situation in the Udon Kingdom while cooling down on the beach after dinner.

The divine chat was being sent to them on their sign frames.

“This Ankokuji Ekei is hard to read.”

“Judge. I assumed he was on Mouri’s side since he claims to be there to make peace for Mouri, but instead…”

He was putting Terumoto in a tough spot.

Asama: “Oh, Mr. Ekei is being displayed as an unaffiliated ‘Who’s This Weirdo?’ for Gin-san and the others. Out of respect for him, I will change that to Ankoku-G.”

What about the AK? wondered Gin as “Who’s This Weirdo” changed to “Ankoku-G” on her sign frame.

Silver Wolf: “Tomo, you seem more childish than normal on the sign frame.”

Novice: “And what’s wrong with that!? It isn’t often she gives someone such an excellent nickname!”

That did not seem to be giving much thought to the future, but anyway…

“Should the Secretary really be saying that, Master Muneshige?”

“Ha ha ha. I’m sure it’s okay just this once.”

That’s Master Muneshige for you. Always keeping a positive outlook.

But she was curious about something related to Ankokuji Ekei.

“If he has sided with Hashiba, then what is his strategy here, Reine des Garous?”

She looked back to the beach dinner area. The person she addressed looked to her while holding a full roast leg of lamb.

“Oh, what’s this? Urgent business?”

“It is related to your leader.”

“My, my.” The Reine des Garous straightened up and then gave an immediate answer. “Terumoto doesn’t have that kind of money.”


Didn’t think so, thought Masazumi.

That made this man’s intentions clear.

“Ankokuji Ekei, am I interpreting you correctly?”

“What do you mean?”

“Are you hoping to acquire a gift for Hashiba?”

Ankokuji’s expression changed in response.

He smiled a little. And based on the timing…

He wants to say that isn’t what this is.

But that did not mean it was not. That was why she had kept Naito from admitting they were mercenaries earlier.

“Let’s continue this discussion as a hypothetical, just like with the mercenary business earlier.”

She remained cautious. She stated her assumptions before speaking.

“Let us say Musashi is currently working as a mercenary for Hexagone Française.”

She stated it as a hypothetical.

“We have been paid for leaving most of the Kantou battle to Hexagone Française and for the benefit they gained from the rescue of Lady Nagaoka at the Battle of Nördlingen. But I can see no way in which returning to Kantou now would benefit Mouri. If you wish to send the Musashi to Kantou, you would need an official request and payment.”

“My words qualify as an official request. Because I must visit Terumoto-sama and Hashiba-sama if I am to make peace at Bitchu Takamatsu Castle.”

He stated the nature of the job more clearly than before.

Gold Mar: “Wow, sorry, Seijun.”

Bell: “Eh? Wh-what?”

Art-Ga: “Margot failed to get that baldie to say earlier that he would be visiting both Terumoto and Hashiba.”

No, she had done well enough, but this was still a problem.

Unturning: “He may be the type to change the terms after the fact.”

Flat Vassal: “Change the terms…after the fact? What’s that mean?”

Silver Wolf: “If it looks like he’s going to lose, he’ll add on a new condition or reveal some new truth to change that.”

Houjou Ujinao had done that to escape when she was cornered in a discussion.

But in the end, Neshinbara had ended the discussion and turned it all around.

But this guy must use that as his primary tactic.

Novice: “Judge. He’ll generally be making it up on the spot, so he can talk his way out of things and, if you follow him down that path, you’ll get further and further off topic. So if he does it, you have to put a stop to it by saying you only want to discuss things based on the initial terms. Otherwise he can continue shifting the focus of the conversation until he wins.”

Art-Ga; “But what if he uses that to claim he’s won?”

Novice: “You can ignore that.”

Neshinbara glanced over at Ankokuji as he continued.

Novice: “If our opponent or one of their people says something, we can still win whatever the originally argument was. That will leave them only able to use whatever new argument they came up with, so we just have to face each of those in turn to crush them all. And an argument thought up on the spot will be full of holes, so it will get easier with each consecutive argument. Plus, nyone watching on will have an easy time telling who’s winning.”

Almost Everyone: “…”

Novice: “What is it, everyone? Bowled over by my superior debate tactics? Then feel free to openly praise me. No, wait, that isn’t it, is it? Ha ha. Yes, you just think this pose is unbelievably cool, don’t you? No, wait, it’s about my bangs, isn’t it?”

Gold Mar: “Why is he lowering the bar further and further when none of us are saying a thing?”

Art-Ga: “Shh. If he’s going to get more and more pathetic on his own, I’m gonna see how low he’s willing to go before I deliver the finishing blow.”

She sure was tough.

But Neshinbara’s strategy only really applied to a clash of opinions.

In actual debates, people sometimes had hidden conditions ready to use.

Masazumi herself had a few escape routes prepared just in case.

Using them would not be ideal, but…

Vice President: “You can’t get away with it at a formal meeting, but we’re both prepared to overturn everything by saying ‘oh, I forgot to mention this one condition’. And if the other side uses that against us, we can escape by saying that was their mistake and thus the entire discussion doesn’t count. It’s pretty useful as a defensive tactic, but it can also be a risky move.”

It was a fairly tolerant technique since it could be used to insist you were not losing and it could be used to hide risk factors. However…

Holding a discussion with that in mind is a real pain.

Vice President: “We have to do this while trying to reveal his hidden hand.”

For now, she took a breath.

She looked to Ankokuji and asked a question.

“Are you listening? Let’s say you can make an official request to send the Musashi to Kantou.”

Then…

“How will you pay for it?”

“Terumoto-sama will pay.”

“Is Terumoto capable of paying?”

Before, he had escaped this obligation by insisting that she would pay, so this time Masazumi asked if she could pay.

Because there was no conceivable away that she could right now. But…

“She is.”

He did not hesitate to respond.


Masazumi felt an odd chill.

This isn’t good.

But before she could put up her mental defenses, Ankokuji said more.

“What kind of question was that? Of course Terumoto-sama is incapable of paying.”

Everyone made eye contact with Masazumi after that one.

Scarred: “U-um, excuse me, but was that a yes…or a no?”

Art-Ga: “There’s a lot that would be a yes for Mary and a no for Adele.”

Flat Vassal: “Come to think of it, that applies to pretty much anything other than blonde hair, doesn’t it!?”

Gold Mar: “Does that mean Adele is blonde hair in its purest form?”

Flat Vassal: “Oh, maybe I never got a chance to upgrade anything because I can’t pay.”

Scarred: “No, you have plenty I do not, Lady Adele.”

Flat Vassal: “R-really!? Is it anything practical that can make me happy!? Like what!?”

Worshiper: “Doesn’t she just mean poverty, bread crusts, and video game friends?”

Flat Vassal: “That’s all stuff I want to upgrade to wealth, feasts, and real friends!”

Balfette lives a rough life.

And while it was not quite that bad, Mouri Terumoto was in a similar situation. She could deploy a largescale force as part of Hexagone Française, but not as a representative of Mouri.

“Wait,” said Masazumi. “Ankokuji, you have Mouri Terumoto’s authorization for this, I assume?”

“It is part of the history recreation.” He readily stated a new condition after the fact. “If Terumoto-sama does not obey, she will be in violation of the Testament Union. That is also why I have not begun my summer break. I cannot imagine she would not give authorization.”


“Oh, dear. He’s really putting Terumoto in a bind.”

The Reine des Garous sighed while serving the Tachibana Couple some lamb ribs. Her husband was enjoying some egg and goat milk pancakes and she would occasionally take some cream from his lips.

“If this is part of the history recreation – and limited to the Far East at that – Hexagone Française will have a hard time intervening in Mouri’s affairs. And that is exactly why Ekei can speak with Far Eastern Musashi.”

“Doesn’t that Ankokuji Ekei serve you?”

“Hmm,” groaned the Reine des Garous with a finger on her lips and a tilt of her head.

That is a tricky one.

“I am Hexagone Française’s Vice Chancellor.”

“Are you saying you are not Mouri’s Vice Chancellor and thus have no authority over him?”

“Not necessarily.”

This was a difficult thing to explain. But…

“Mouri is under provisional rule. We in Hexagone Française view it as a cooperative thing, but they are effectively under our command. But some of their positions do have some level of autonomy.”

“What positions are those, Reine des Garous!?”

I do like how energetic the Peerless in the West is.

To thank him for that, she gave a prompt response.

“Their Liaison Committee that deals with Hashiba.”


Masazumi listened to Ankokuji as he crossed his arms and puffed out his chest.

“Hexagone Française did in fact predict the risk to themselves during the Thirty Years’ War. They needed to prepare a bare minimum of connections with M.H.R.R., the Catholic nations, and more so they could make peace if need be. In other words, a connection was created to share a certain amount of information as a line not to be crossed even if relations worsened. That would reduce the temptation to send in spies. Mouri’s Liaison Committee was given that task.”

“But you seem to have too much authority for a simple liaison.”

He laughed at her comment.

“I am a Mouri liaison.”

Which meant…

“Hexagone Française must make enemies of the M.H.R.R. Catholics and Hashiba before the rest of Europe, so we in Mouri must act separately from them and support them in secret. My authority and actions are meant to support Hexagone Française, so why would they require the influence of Terumoto-sama, a Mouri representative? If she carelessly stopped me, it could put Hexagone Française at risk.”

Masazumi mentally spread her mouth horizontally at that.

Why didn’t you say so earlier!?

He really was big on revealing things after the fact. She had managed to guess he was not just a negotiator and was thus a liaison.

But his position was different from an ordinary liaison. He did the dirty work necessary to keep his nation safe. And if he was willing to ignore his superiors to do that…

He’s going to be trouble!

Flat Vassal: “Um, I think I get what this means. Isn’t he pretty dangerous?”

Unturning: “Judge. He carries something extremely irritating.”

Vice President: “He acts independently for the good of his nation…which means those actions are classified material.”

Masazumi explained it to everyone.

Vice President: “We have nothing to corroborate what he says. Only he knows what kind of connection he has with Hashiba and we have no way of determining if what he tells us is true. But at the same time, he can wield the full authority of Mouri.”

This was the exact opposite of what happened with Nagaoka and the letter.

While Nagaoka’s words had determined the letter’s value…

Vice President: “We have no way of proving if anything he shows us has any real value.”

Horizey: “Masazumi-sama, shall I do something about this?”

Masazumi imagined it for 5 seconds.

What if she put Horizon in control here?

I can’t deny the result would be satisfying.

She noticed the arms shadow boxing below the table.

They were ready to go. Is she planning a physical resolution to this? Is that what it means?

Vice President: “No, you should probably hold off on that for now.”

Horizey: “I see. If you ever do need my arms during a negotiation, just let me know.”

That is an offer I never could have imagined a year ago, she thought while watching the arms wave below the table and depart.

But the problem was still just as troublesome.

So he wants the Musashi to go to Kantou.

That was not out of the question. They were only in the Udon Kingdom now so they could be out of the way. It was simply a location that would receive fewer complaints from the other nations during summer break.

“On the other hand, we can’t just send the Musashi out at a moment’s notice,” she said as a warning. “We would need payment up front.”


Is that so? thought AK.

He had predicted this, so he knew exactly how to respond.

“Your payment…will come from Terumoto-sama. I am no more than her messenger.”

“But she isn’t here.”

“Then,” he said. “You can add it to her tab. She will pay you once you arrive in Kantou.”

“That isn’t good enough. It has to be paid up front. We can’t agree to anything else.”

She fell for it, he thought.

She had fully taken the bait, so he made his next move.

“Then the answer is simple.” He smiled and scratched his bald head. “This is all Terumoto-sama’s responsibility for failing to prepare payment. A delay to my history recreation will delay not just Mouri’s but Hashiba-sama’s history recreation as well…and responsibility for that delay falls squarely on Terumoto-sama.”


“You idiot.”

Ookubo regretted not being there.

She was in a Satomi hot spring town. She was taking a break in a multistory teahouse after taking a bath.

I don’t know if the Vice President did that on purpose or if she’s serious, but she was a little too eager there.

She had to have noticed that this man drew you in by hiding things.

“He was drawing you in by revealing the method of payment.”

Terumoto would pay.

But Terumoto was not there.

So she would pay it later.

“But you made a mistake when you said that wasn’t acceptable.”

You really are stupid.

Don’t just fall for his rhetorical tricks like that.

People were quick to understand things they found easy to imagine. And the Vice President had let that happen here.

So…

“You let him place the blame on Terumoto.”

A simple payment negotiation had transformed into a discussion over how Terumoto would take responsibility. And…

We could take the lead and prepare traps in the financial discussion, but he has complete control when it comes to Terumoto.

“Damn,” muttered Ookubo.

“Milady.”

Kanou was seated next to her. The hot spring’s heat must have built up within the automaton because the thermal exhaust ports were opened at her joints and elsewhere to expose them to the open air.

“Ankokuji-sama is about to make his move.”


AK spread his arms and looked up into the night sky for just a moment.

“I hate to do this, but you leave me little choice if Musashi must be paid up front. Mouri and Hashiba-sama’s history recreations will be delayed as I must miss this perfect opportunity where both are gathered in Kantou. And I must reluctantly place full responsibility for this failure on Terumoto-sama.”

Really, though.

“I have no choice but to head home and submit a full report to the Testament Union’s K.P.A. Italia headquarters on the way.”

“Wait,” said the Musashi Vice President. “What kind of report?”

“That is simple enough.” AK turned his head to look around him just once. “I must inform them that my continued history recreation must be halted on Terumoto-sama’s responsibility. And the reason why…well, you already know that, don’t you?”

He took a breath.

“Because Musashi unreasonably demanded that Terumoto-sama pay up front.”


Naito was not sure if she should stop eating the udon.

I’m not enough of a debater to join in here.

But she more or less understood how things were going.

Gold Mar: “Simply put, he’s putting Teru in a bind while also putting Musashi in a tight spot?”

Asama: “But the situation seems extremely complicated.”

10ZO: “This is the gist of it.”

Tenzou summed it up on a sign frame.

  • Musashi goes to Kantou → Musashi cannot take part in the Honnouji Incident and will encounter Hashiba in Kantou.
  • Musashi does not go to Kantou → Ankokuji cannot make peace and the responsibility falls on Terumoto and Musashi.

That summary made one thing clear.

Gold Mar: “Isn’t Musashi in trouble no matter what happens?”

10ZO: “In that sense, Ankokuji-dono’s strategy is meant to attack Musashi first and foremost.”

Vice President: “Yes, that is what he has set up here.”

Hearing that, Naito turned toward someone: Christina.

She had brought Ekei here as an intermediary.

Gold Mar: “Is Chrippe so thoroughly specialized in gathering data she doesn’t really think about how much trouble something would be?”

Horizey: “Judge. She probably figured she could ignore that factor because Masazumi-sama would resolve everything with a war no matter what happened.”

Silver Wolf: “Masazumi? Are you planning a war against Ankokuji and Mouri as a whole?”

Vice President: “It’s summer break!”

“Calm down,” Naito said to the others. She had a better grasp on the situation now, so…

Gold Mar: “Seijun, can I ask him about something fairly basic?”


AK saw a raised hand nearby.

It was Black Hair & Wings’s partner who had responded to him when he arrived. Was she part of the on-site staff? A professional and personal relationship is the perfect material. Much appreciated.

At any rate, she was asking him a question.

“Why not find another flight to Kantou?”

“That’s a good point,” said Black Hair & Wings without even looking his way. “If you want to meet Terumoto and Hashiba in Kantou, you can take a personnel transport ship instead of the Musashi. Why go out of your way to use the Musashi? They don’t want any trouble with the Azuchi, right?”

“I have no choice because Musashi is acting as a Hexagone Française mercenary.”

The blonde tilted her head at that.

“You say Musashi is a Hexagone Française mercenary. Judge, let’s say that’s true,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean the Musashi has to go anywhere Mouri Terumoto asks.”


Naito looked to the target of her question.

Based on his appearance, she guessed Ankokuji Ekei was middle-aged. The man placed a hand on his forehead and gave a small laugh.

“I work for Hexagone Française and Mouri is no different. I can consider myself more one or the other based on my current position, situation, and mood, but generally there is no difference. Anything else would mean Mouri had left Hexagone Française’s provisional rule. Ohh, now that is a scary thought. You weren’t luring me into claiming that, were you?”

“Of course not,” said Naito while realizing she had failed.

He managed throw up a smokescreen.

Ekei insisted it was Terumoto and Musashi’s responsibility if he could not get to Kantou. In that case, Terumoto would be involved as part of the Mouri clan.

But if Musashi refused to take him to Mouri Representative Terumoto as a Hexagone Française mercenary, he would make a different claim.

He’d say that Teru being a Mouri representative means she is part of Hexagone Française, and thus we have to go to her.

So which is it?

Was Terumoto only with Mouri, or was she part of Hexagone Française because she was with Mouri?

It was all very unclear and felt like a double standard, but…

Gold Mar: “Can he get away with that interpretation?”

Vice President: “Unfortunately, he can. It would count as a double standard if Mouri and Hexagone Française had equal rights, but Mouri is in fact under Hexagone Française’s provisional rule.”

So…

Vice President: “Hexagone Française has the right to intervene in Mouri’s affairs, but Mouri can’t do the same to Hexagone Française. That one-way authority allows that double standard to exist depending on the specific conditions.”

Ugh, silently groaned Naito before Neshinbara added his own thoughts.

Novice: “Basically, one advantage of the provisional rule is the ruling nation’s ability to claim everything beneficial about the ruled nation while refusing to claim anything that might bring trouble. The ruling nation can take credit for anything the ruled nation accomplishes, but the ruled nation is stuck with its own troubles.”

So…

Vice President: “That’s why it was such a big deal when Terumoto married the Roi-Soleil. It gave Mouri a route to present its opinions to the highest level of Hexagone Française.”

Silver Wolf: “Then can’t Terumoto pass this on to the Roi-Soleil?”

Horizey: “I sincerely doubt it.”

Horizon quietly spoke up.

Horizey: “Such wise and virtuou- gah!”

Asama: “Horizon! Did you just jam your finger after trying to type an unfamiliar word!?”

That was incredible, but it happened so fast Naito was not quite sure what the joke was even supposed to be.

But to sum up…

“Basically, Mouri has to handle this on its own?”

“Testament. That is correct. Besides, Terumoto-sama is not the type to rely on Exiv-sama to pay off her bills.” Ekei nodded while still smiling. “I believe she would insist on resolving this on her own.”


“Our Hashiba Liaison sure knows what to say.”

Terumoto was monitoring the situation in the Udon Kingdom based on what the Reine des Garous was sending her.

She was no longer on the ship’s deck she had been on so often recently.

She was now on a Miura Peninsula hill that gave her a view of Satomi on the opposite bank.

The maid dolls’ Lourd de Marionnette unit had set up a base on the Miura Peninsula, so the Mouri fleet’s main force had established a base here instead of descending to the Satomi side.

That was partially to avoid applying pressure to Satomi, but also…

This is our defensive line against the Azuchi.

Satomi could not act as a shield. If the Azuchi invaded them again, its great size would crush Satomi at present. At best, they could pull off mutual destruction.

But with this formation on the Miura Peninsula, their Lourd de Marionnette unit could fire across the Uraga Channel or even cross it for a direct assault.

Mogami Yoshiaki on the Yamagata Castle did not seem that fixated on Satomi, but she seemed to have the same idea. If the Azuchi tried anything, she intended to load up the Satomi and Musashi forces and withdraw to the Miura Peninsula.

She would then return fire from the Miura Peninsula to buy time for Satomi. Even the Azuchi would have a hard time if it had no support and was being fired on from a ship using the hill’s slope as a shield.

The distance between them would allow for a temporary stalemate.

So…

“The Azuchi will not attempt another invasion to make up for their loss, Princess.”

“It feels like we’re the rook or bishop in shogi. Staying put can be meaningful too. But…”

Terumoto looked around the area.

This was the western slope of the Miura Peninsula. The forest was relatively intact compared to the eastern slope where the mechanical dragon and Lourd de Marionnette unit had fought and it provided cover against the enemy. The Hashiba ships had cleared an area for their counterattack, so the Pension Versailles and other ships had settled down in that same area.

Up on the ridge, they were having dinner while watching the lights in Satomi. Terumoto had lifted the ban on alcohol for the first time in a while. With plenty of Pacific fish and other meat, the Belle de Marionnettes were having a great time.

They had clearly made way too much food, so Terumoto had instructed to have regular transports take it over to Satomi.

“The Azuchi will have a hard time leaving Kantou with us here.”

“If that was only vainglory, Hashiba would be free to go where they pleased,” said Mouri-01 with a bitter smile.

Terumoto scratched at her head.

“Refusing to give in isn’t easy, you know? But I can’t back down here and I have to keep up appearances.”

She grabbed something wrapped in ham from the plate Mouri-01 offered her and ate it. Mouri-01 held up the fork she was supposed to have used, but Terumoto did not care. She swallowed it after only two or three bites.

“Fried tofu? I wasn’t expecting that.”

“I tried making it after that meal on the Musashi.”

“The west makes the best tofu. It’s just softer, you know? Oh, but you do need to include two or three cooked beans to provide some texture when you’re chewing it. This is good enough, though.”

“Testament. I will perfect the recipe so you can serve it to the Roi-Soleil.”

“You just cook the tofu and wrap it in ham. Even he could do that,” said Terumoto. “Besides, this’ll be my triumphant return. He’s the one that has to come take my hand and escort me home. But that means I can’t have anyone making a mockery of me here. We need more than just vainglory, so they’d better do something about that bastard Ankokuji.”

“Testament. So what will you be doing?”

“Testament.” Terumoto nodded. “Tell Musashi to bring it on if that’s how it’s gonna be, Mouri-01.”


Mouri1: “Please pass that message on to Musashi, Vice Chancellor.”

Still Got It: “Testament, understood! Terumoto does seem to be in a pressing situation, so I will let Musashi know!”

Mouri1: “Oh, but the way she put it sounds a bit like she is picking a fight with them, so I would appreciate it if you took that into consideration.”

Still Got It: “Testament. You want me to phrase it more simply for them?”


Asama: “Mito, your mom just sent the following message: ‘If you really want to do this, feel free to do whatever you want to me.’ ”

Gold Mar: “Was that meant for her husband?”

Silver Wolf: “Wh-what is she saying!? Excuse me, mother!”

Still Got It: “You don’t get it, Nate? If you don’t want to be mocked, you have to keep at it for a good long time. Oh, but don’t forget that everyone loves wrapping that delicious thing in meat and that a little bean can make things all the more delightful.”

Silver Wolf: “P-please tell me you’re talking about food!”


Masazumi was not sure what any of that was about, but at least Mouri sounded peaceful.

And isn’t that all that matters? thought Masazumi.

Wait, no, it’s not.

She refocused her mind. Right now, she had to focus on Mouri Terumoto. If Terumoto ran into a financial problem, she would not let someone else pay for it, just like Ankokuji had said. So…

Vice President: “We lose if we have Terumoto pay.”

Flat Vassal: “But wait. Does the Mouri President really not have any money?”

Art-Ga: “How are we supposed to ask about that? Just straight up ask ‘hey, are you broke’?”

No, we can’t do that, thought Masazumi.

“But we can check, so we probably should. Just not phrased like that.”


Still Got It: “Mouri-01, Musashi has a question for Terumoto: ‘This is an awkward question, but does Mouri see any problems with us traveling to Kantou?’ ”

Mouri1: “Testament. I will pass that on to her.”

Still Got It: “But that question is terribly indirect, don’t you think?”

Mouri1: “It is. I will rephrase it for her.”


“Terumoto-sama! We have a divine transmission from Musashi.”

“Great, so what do they want, Mouri-01?”

“Testament! They asked, ‘hey, are you broke’?”

“I’ll kill them!”


Asama: “Mito, another message from your mom: ‘I will now send you to heaven.’ ”

Art-Ga: “More authentic dialogue I can use!”

Silver Wolf: “Motherrrr!!”

Vice President: “Why do I feel like there’s an actual conversation going on here? Am I delusional?”

Me: “If this is your idea of a conversation, you could probably talk with a pond snail or a loach.”


This is dangerous, thought Masazumi regarding Ankokuji.

Mouri Terumoto will almost certainly insist on paying if she’s asked to.

But she did not have that kind of money while in Kantou on her own and the Mouri clan itself did not have enough of a budget to send the Musashi to Kantou.

But Terumoto would pay.

She would not go into debt over it. After growing up on a reservation, she would know just how dangerous moneylending was.

So instead, thought Masazumi before Ankokuji interrupted.

“The most likely option would be selling the Mouri fleet.”

He’s right, thought Masazumi.

Satomi had been considerably worn down by the Kantou Liberation and Houjou had been destroyed.

If the Musashi did not return to Kantou, their allies in Satomi would be in charge of Edo and Houjou in their place.

Mogami and Date were there too and the Kantou nations would not try to steal Edo and Satomi’s land…she hoped anyway. But Satomi would need power to have any real influence in Kantou. So…

Worshiper: “What if Musashi gives Satomi some reconstruction funding and Satomi uses that to buy the Mouri fleet? Then Mouri can use that money to call in the Musashi. And I will be respected by little girls the world over for coming up with such a brilliant idea.”

Unturning: “Kiyonari, why hasn’t he been arrested yet?”

Uqui: “Calm down, Narumi. We must first determine whether those little girls are elder sisters.”

You calm down, thought Masazumi, but Ohiroshiki did have a point.

Asama: “That’s similar to the deal we worked out before, isn’t it?”

It was.

Musashi would pay out some money and then retrieve it from Satomi via Mouri.

Of course, the amount would fluctuate along the way, but the losses would be minimal. However…

That would be tricky.

She prepared to explain why when someone interrupted from Satomi.

Tachibana Wife: “We have met up with the Representative Committee Head since this seems like an important meeting. And with that said, may I say something?”

Gin asked her question from the area in question.

Tachibana Wife: “If Mouri sells their fleet, how will they return to Hexagone Française?”

Horizey: “I am fairly certain Mitotsudaira-sama’s mother could run back.”

Mitotsudaira hung her head, but that seemed like a special case. And…

“Mouri can’t sell their fleet.” Masazumi spoke out loud so Ankokuji could hear. “If they did, they would have no means of fighting M.H.R.R. after returning to their home base.”


Oh? thought AK with a mental nod.

Finally.

This was what the Musashi Vice President had just said.

“You mean Mouri must retain an anti-Hashiba stance?”

As Mouri’s Hashiba Liaison, he could not overlook that comment. Because…

“So Musashi intends to continue its opposition to Hashiba and you intend to force Mouri to join you?”


Chapter 15: Gatherer During the Discussion[edit]

Horizon8A 395.jpg

That is another way of doing it

Attack without fleeing

Fall back without fleeing

Point Allocation (Resolve)


Ookubo’s tongue click echoed through the air.

Kanou glanced over at her, likely to say that was poor manners.

In fact, several people turned toward the noise.

This was the heart of the Satomi city being reconstructed. The walls had been removed from a teahouse so it could function as a town hall.

A landed Hashiba transport ship had functioned as the town hall while Hashiba was in control, but that had since been removed.

They still needed to reclaim the last few months of town hall work, but Ookubo had been tasked with getting the town hall running again and to manage the recovery data.

Night had already fallen, but she could hear the crashing waves in the distance, the groan of wooden structures being torn down around the city, and the occasional voices shouting.

Still, it was mostly quiet enough to notice the sounds of sign frame operation.

Similarly, her tongue click had gotten the Tachibana Couple to turn around from their work.

“Do you not like the sound of that, Representative Committee Head?” asked Tachibana Gin.

“No, I don’t,” she had to agree.

She was pissed off. But…

What is the Vice President doing?

She had said they were not interested in selling the Mouri fleet. Because…

Mouri still has to face M.H.R.R. as Hexagone Française.

That was probably true and Ookubo knew it was important.

But Ankokuji appeared to be pro-Hashiba, so saying that in front of him was dangerous.

“If the Musashi does come to Kantou, that opinion will act like a threat against the Azuchi.”

And that statement carried another problem too.

“Musashi is effectively pulling Mouri and Hexagone Française into the fight against Hashiba.”


AK felt that the Musashi Vice President had said too much.

Her statement was not a condition of their negotiation. It was no more than her own opinion.

She wants Mouri and Hexagone Française to continue their opposition of Hashiba and M.H.R.R.

In other words, she wanted Mouri to remain an ally of Musashi.

Her statement had been dripping with that opinion.

And it also put the Musashi’s position at risk.

“Musashi Vice President.” AK spoke to the girl in front of him. “You are hoping for too much. The Mouri fleet belongs to Terumoto-sama. Only she can decide what will be done with it.”

“I see,” she said. “Then are you saying Mouri is taking a pro-Hashiba stance?”

That was a leading question.

She was trying to get him to confirm that.

But he knew exactly how to respond.

“Mouri siding with Hashiba is part of the history recreation.”

He did not say they would be “pro”-Hashiba, but they did know where they would stand in the future. The Testament was very clear on this.

She nodded once and raised her right hand.

“Then I guess we’ll give money to Satomi and have them buy the Mouri fleet.”


“Oh?”

Masazumi saw Ankokuji look up.

He tilted his head and asked a question.

“And what would that accomplish?”

“Judge. It would let us carry you to Kantou with the Musashi.”

Mitotsudaira gave a snort of laughter at that.

“Excuse me,” she said and straightened up.

Ankokuji gave her a sharp look and Horizon raised her right hand.

“Excuse me!”

A moment later, Asama hurriedly waved the menu to fan the idiot and Horizon.

“Ahh, it’s so hot. Isn’t it just blazing out tonight, everyone!?”

Horizey: “Ohh, nice excuse for fanning it away, Asama-sama.”

Silver Wolf: “T-to be clear, I was referring to my laughter!”

Me: “And Horizon? You can fake it with a vocal sound if you have to, but without some kind of noise, it’s hard to tell what the joke was.”

Horizey: “I had little time to prepare, so if I had forced it that quickly, I was afraid some so called ‘udon’ might come out.”

Flat Vassal: “Could you not say that!? I was late to get started, so I’m stilling eating some actual udon!”

Almost Everyone: “Excuse me!”

That excuse me move sure is convenient, thought Masazumi, but she understood why Mitotsudaira had laughed.

“This is how I see it,” she said to Ankokuji. “If you, Ankokuji Ekei, meeting with Terumoto after the Kantou Liberation will make Mouri pro-Hashiba, then we can’t support that.”

So…

“Our best bet is to have the Mouri fleet sold cheaply to Satomi to eliminate a powerful naval force that would go to Hashiba.”


“Yes, of course,” said the Reine des Garous while walking along the beach toward the city.

Her right hand carried a paper bag full of seasoned and cooked meat while her left hand held her husband’s hand as they walked toward the lights of the city.

“The Testament tells us Mouri and Matsudaira will be enemies at Sekigahara. How that will be dealt with us up to later interpretations and the situation everyone finds themselves in, but you can’t forget that the two will be enemies.”

“Then what will Musashi do?”

“Testament,” she said to her husband. “If that liaison sees a future where Mouri and Musashi are enemies, the path she laid out is an option. In other words, they can work to weaken Mouri now.”

And…

“And she has another move she can make that should come as a surprise for that liaison who is plotting to trap both sides – or trap Musashi at least.”


Masazumi inhaled.

This guy is not easy to work with.

He held some secrets in reserve so he could entangle Musashi and trap them no matter what happened.

So she had to show real resolve here.

“We will buy the Mouri fleet and give that funding to Terumoto.”

But…

“Mouri must reorganize their fleet during summer break.”

“Are you saying Musashi is taking a hostile measure against Mouri?”

“Didn’t you just say that’s part of the history recreation, Mouri Liaison?”

Since he had said that himself, Ankokuji had to base everything on the history recreation.

Vice President: “Let’s see how deep his plans go.”

Silver Wolf: “He very nearly has us trapped, so are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“I am,” said Masazumi.

Vice President: “Some of this will be a pain to set up, but Ookubo will figure it out.”


“Milady! Milady! You can be mad about this! Don’t just sigh in resignation!”

“Lately, I’ve started to think I win as long as I figure out how to do these things for her.”

“Milady! If you have to invent your own definition of winning, it means you’re losing!”


“Anyway,” said AK. “If I understand you correctly, you are saying Musashi intends to oppose both Hashiba-sama and Mouri?”

That was the history recreation, so he could use this to his advantage.

“Musashi will take me to Kantou, where the Azuchi and Terumoto-sama happen to be. So…”

So…

“I am willing to wait a week before making the trip.”


Gold Mar: “Huh? What’s the point of that delay?”

Smoking Girl: “We can tell you that from here in Kantou.”

Naomasa explained over the divine network.

Smoking Girl: “The Azuchi will be mostly functional again given a week. A name inheritor with a weird way of doing repairs has apparently arrived on the Azuchi. The main thrusters are covered by a shield. From the look of things, I’m guessing it will be moving again in a week.”

Bell: “Then would…the Azuchi and…the Musashi end up…fighting a war?”

Art-Ga: “No, Masazumi! Resist the temptation of war!”

Vice President: “I knew someone was going to say that!”


“One question,” Masazumi said to Ankokuji. “Have you forgotten that summer break prevents us from fighting a war in Kantou?”

“No one said anything about a war.” He shrugged. “However, every nation has a last resort. Mouri does, Hashiba-sama does…and Musashi does. Isn’t that right?”

“Would you be willing to repeat that if this discussion were being recorded?”

“I will say it as many times as you like.” He spread his arms and looked her straight in the eye. “The Musashi will go to Kantou for the history recreation. Hashiba-sama and Terumoto-sama are there and the Azuchi is repairing its damage, so anything could happen there.”

“In that case,” she said.

Vice President: “Time to see how deep his plans go.”

She enjoyed how tense everyone was around her.

“What will Mouri Terumoto do after the reconciliation at Bitchu Takamatsu Castle is complete?” she asked.


“That’s it,” said Ookubo after hearing the Vice President’s question.

Everyone was focused on her and the Vice President’s words did not move from the sign frame.

After the reconciliation at Bitchu Takamatsu Castle, huh?

“Milady, why ask about Mouri Terumoto after the reconciliation?”

“Think about it, Kanou-kun.” Ookubo tried to focus on the sounds outside as much as she could while she spoke. “The Azuchi is recovering and the Musashi will be coming. That will be a dicey situation. But what will Mouri Terumoto do? Remember, she’ll have already sold her fleet.”

So…

“She will have no choice but to follow the history recreation and ask Hashiba to shelter her aboard the Azuchi. Sigh.”


Narumi saw Ookubo’s opinion on the sign frame.

That is true.

On a personal level, she wanted Musashi to protect Mouri, but based on the history recreation, that role would go to Hashiba.

Unturning: “Musashi is at a disadvantage here.”

Tachibana Wife: “Judge. After all, Hexagone Française is the biggest winner at Westphalia, so it would be best for Musashi to not oppose them or Mouri if at all possible.”

Exactly.

If the Mouri President had her power stripped from her with her fleet sold, she would have no choice but to ask someone for help.

But that would effectively make her a hostage of that group.

And there was an even worse aspect to this.

Unturning: “Once Hashiba has the Mouri President as a shield, they can safely do anything they want to us.”

Righteousness: “Then can’t Satomi take Mouri in instead?”

Me: “Eh!? Flatty’s adopting!? Way to go!”

Nagaya-Stable: “No, that would force Satomi to leave Kantou unguarded while taking Mouri back. Besides, Satomi isn’t an Hexagone Française mercenary, so you couldn’t go to Europe.”

Me: “Yayyy! Better luck next time, Flatty!”

Righteousness: “Damn you!”

They did not have many options here.

Narumi was reminded of the Siege of Odawara because the different forces were essentially laundering their mobility. There did seem to be a solution, but…

Unturning: “This is a pain, but we have seen how deep his plans go.”

In other words…

Unturning: “He wants to keep the Musashi in Kantou while forcing Mouri to submit to Hashiba. Looking at the history recreation, you could say he is working to help Mouri prosper in accordance with the Testament.”


Help Mouri prosper?

Adele thought while eating her udon.

Mouri was a Far Eastern force under Hexagone Française’s provisional rule.

Her parents were from Hexagone Française, so she had done some research into this. I’ve forgotten most of what I learned, but it’s not my fault. There’s so much else to do in life.

But she did remember one thing.

Flat Vassal: “Mouri becomes the leader of the Western Army at the decisive Battle of Sekigahara.”

The Eastern Army was led by Matsudaira, but the Western Army’s collapse was partially due to betrayal. Mouri rapidly declined after that loss.

That’s why the Roi-Soleil married the Mouri President.

Mouri’s defeat and decline would be a thorn in the side of Hexagone Française, conqueror of Europe.

Their marriage gave Mouri the support of Hexagone Française and made it harder for other nations to interfere with Mouri. But…

Flat Vassal: “What’s this about helping Mouri prosper? Don’t they only decline after this?”

Novice: “Not necessarily.”

Horizey: “Neshinbara-samaaaa!!”

Horizon’s voice suddenly echoed across the divine network.

Everyone immediately looked to the Secretary, but he inexplicably looked to the 5th Special Duty Officer.

Everyone gave him a “seriously?” look and he finally realized his mistake. He looked to his sign frame and did a triple take at the part where Horizon was calling for him.

Novice: “Eh? Ehh?”

Four Eyes: “What has you so rattled?”

Novice: “Th-this is a precious moment, so I have to savor it! I-I do apologize, Ariadust-kun, but once more!”

Me: “Neshinbara-shama?”

10ZO: “That sounds nothing like her and why the question mark?”

The left arm immediately grabbed the idiot’s collar and the right hand began slapping his face side to side, but everyone was used to seeing that by now. The Secretary continued over the idiot’s pathetic cries.

Novice: “Here’s the thing. The Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle occurs at the same time as another event.”

A comment from Kantou arrived in response.

Tachibana Wife: “You mean Oda Nobunaga’s assassination at the Honnouji Incident, don’t you?”

Novice: “Judge! So you see-”

Tachibana Wife: “Hashiba wanted to rush there, but since he did not want word of the assassination getting out, he wanted to end the Siege early. Right!?”

Novice: “Yes, that is correct. So-”

Tachibana Wife: “Ankokuji and the other Mouri negotiators picked up on what Hashiba wanted, so they worked at reconciliation to end the battle early. That allowed Hashiba to hurry back to Oda territory to hunt down Akechi Mitsuhide before anyone else could.”

Tachibana Husband: “Hashiba managed to take over the Oda clan after Honnouji in large part because he moved fast and managed to take revenge for his lord. He later gave Mouri an important position and a warm welcome for allowing such a quick reconciliation.”

Flat Vassal: “So are you saying Mouri prospers underneath Hashiba during the period between Honnouji and Sekigahara, Secretary!?”

Novice: “Yes…that’s it…that’s exactly it…”

Four Eyes: “To sum up, Toussaint, you like to talk a lot, but you have no confidence and let others talk over you.”

Novice: “Is that really what we needed to sum up here!?”

But Adele more or less understood now. Basically…

Flat Vassal: “Mouri has a chance for prosperity between Ankokuji-san’s reconciliation and Sekigahara.”


That’s right, silently agreed Masazumi.

We’ve finally done it.

She could see what Ankokuji Ekei was really after.

“This is about Mouri, isn’t it?”

“What do you mean?”

“You aren’t working for Hexagone Française. You’re working only for the Far Eastern power of Mouri.”

She understood.

“I misunderstood, Ankokuji Ekei.”

“Misunderstood what?”

“You aren’t pro-Hashiba.” She took a breath. “You’re with the Far East. And you always put Mouri first.”


Masazumi found the words leaving her mouth felt oddly refreshing.

How should I put it?

Why did it feel so refreshing to say someone was simply with “the Far East”?

She knew why.

“The Mouri clan is under Hexagone Française’s provisional rule, but Mouri’s history recreation is about conflicts with other local powers. The great commander Mouri Motonari turned Mouri into a great power that dominated the Chugoku region, but he never found peace. He formed an alliance with the surrounding nations and he had enemies beyond that. And Hexagone Française was no different. The other nations were hoping that Mouri’s history of decline would drag them down.”

But…

“On the guidance of Chancellor Anne and due to the circumstances of the individuals involved, Hexagone Française was bound to Mouri through marriage and promised to support them. Mouri had an unfortunate history recreation for the Warring States period, but they managed to make their decline no more than an interpretation.”

Ankokuji tilted his head and narrowed his eyes at that.

“What is your point?”

The look on his face said he was hiding something, but it was Masazumi’s turn to throw this back in his face.

“Hide your true intentions and you can’t blame us for making assumptions.”

Wise Sister: “Heh heh. That’s the worst thing you can say when escorting someone.”

Vice President: “I don’t mind. Defining who we’re dealing with here is an important step for later.”

Bell: “What do you…mean?”

Novice: “After joining Hashiba, Ankokuji Ekei will work as their liaison with other nations. The odds are good we will be dealing with him again. It will mean a lot then if we’ve reached a consensus on his stance. We will have records of this meeting, so we are essentially introducing ourselves and demonstrating our stances for each other.”

Yeah.

Masazumi had known that, so… “Mouri is promised peace and prosperity under Hexagone Française’s rule. But we still have a problem. What happened to the prosperity Mouri was meant to receive when they join Hashiba?” She took a breath. “Before Terumoto’s marriage to the Roi-Soleil, the leaders of Mouri must have been planning for when they joined Hashiba. It might not last long, but Mouri is guaranteed prosperity then. Various interests will be tied up in that, but I bet they had one major objective.”

“That is-”

Ankokuji began to say something with the corners of his lips bending upwards, but Masazumi cut in before she could see if the next word was “incorrect”.

“I said we’re making assumptions, remember?”

So…

“During their short time with Hashiba, the Mouri clan can achieve more prosperity for them and them alone than at any other time. Thy can use the history recreation as the perfect shield to resist any interference from the more powerful nations and they can use it all to support Mouri when it does decline later on. So you’re willing to trap Terumoto and force her to receive Hashiba’s protection to achieve that.”

Ankokuji shrugged.

“That sounds a little idealistic to me.”

“Which is why you’re hiding it. You do the dirty work, so you have to hide the pretty ideals.” Masazumi argued back. “Mouri will decline, but only the pure Mouri that provided this prosperity needs to vanish from history. Terumoto and the next generation can remain with Hexagone Française.”

So…

“Ankokuji Ekei. Your history recreation is meant to give the old Mouri one last hurrah that you can use to see the new Mouri off into the future.”


“You’re getting carried away,” said Ookubo with a hand on her forehead.

She knew exactly why everyone was glancing her way. After hearing what the Vice President had to say…

They’re thinking it sounds plausible.

But while she complained, Ookubo had learned something from this.

That must be why Terumoto can’t do anything despite the gravity of the situation.

She had spoken to them through the Reine des Garous earlier, but this had to do with her own history recreation. Shouldn’t she give Ankokuji clearer instructions or approval?

No. She should not.

This was not about her or the younger generation that had chosen to continue on with Hexagone Française.

This was about the older generation that had chosen to act as the purely Far Eastern Mouri clan.

That explained something from earlier.

“It explains why he was so picky about the history recreation.”

Because he was Far Eastern.

The Mouri that had joined with Hexagone Française had the protection of a major nation, so they had more leeway with the history recreation. They had Europe’s conqueror on their side, so they could use interpretations.

But the Far Eastern Mouri could not.

They were ruled by a powerful nation, so the only way to fight back against that great force was to use the academy rules or use…

The history recreation.

Ankokuji and the others like him were trying to bring prosperity to Mouri while acting as an independent Far Eastern power. They must have been planning this for a long time.

He sided with Hashiba to the point of seeming pro-Hashiba because that position would protect Mouri.

He would act like an enemy, but that would protect his lord.

It was a very Mouri thing to do.

The great commander Mouri Motonari had once sent one of his own children to a neighboring nation to indirectly rule them and thus bring stability to Mouri.

Selflessness was more powerful the greater the objective it was used for.

In this case, it was used to preserve Mouri.

Terumoto and her group had to be aware of this plan and these efforts. Chancellor Anne would have been aware of them in her time.

That would be why Terumoto married the Roi-Soleil to free everyone from that form of selflessness.

“Oh, hell.”

I’ve really gone soft.

When dealing with, fighting against, or deceiving another nation, there was no need to reach an understanding of your opponent. But…

“Milady,” said Kanou out of the blue. “Sympathy, tolerance, and understanding are unnecessary when striking down an enemy, but all those things are necessary when gaining allies.”

“Where did you learn that saying?”

“I merely reversed the original statement. But…the comparison here is clear.”

“It is,” sighed Ookubo. “I didn’t expect to run across a purely Far Eastern force that does not conform to its ruling nation and does not use the provisional rule. And I definitely didn’t expect to find it in one as major as Mouri. You could say Musashi has found its first real neighbor.”

But…

“Their history recreation makes them Musashi’s enemy. What now, Vice President? Sympathy and understanding here will put Musashi in danger.”


Asama realized the situation was not improving as she showed her recording sign frame to Toori and Horizon when they peered in from the side.

We know what he wants now, but this means he really is Mouri.

Even if they would not accept a major nation’s support, Mouri and Matsudaira were still enemies.

That was unavoidable when this man was working based off of the history recreation.

She turned toward him, wondering what he was thinking.

“Hmm.”

He appeared to be thinking. She doubted it was anything good, but since Horizon did not hit him, she was apparently wrong about that. Probably anyway.

However, it was Horizon who actually asked the next question.

“Asama-sama, I have a question.”

“What is it, Horizon?”

“Judge. Why is he not satisfied with happiness given to him by someone else?”

That was a tough one.

It would be simple enough to just call him greedy, but she doubted that was the real answer.

“Well,” she said while choosing her words carefully. “Horizon, do you remember what Toori-kun said when he came to save you? He said he would go to you and asked you to come to him. This is the same.”

“What do you mean?”

“It isn’t that he isn’t satisfied with happiness given to him, that he’s greedy, or that he’s insane. Someone might be giving him happiness, but he still isn’t going to stop trying to grasp happiness for himself.”

Asama raised her hands with the palms facing each other.

“When you clap your hands – well, there are tricks to it like shifting them a bit, but you get a better sound when you hit them both together instead of hitting just one against the other.”

“That is true,” said Horizon. “When I slap him, I get a better sound when I grab his collar and pull him toward my swinging hand instead of just holding him still. An excellent insight, Asama-sama!”

That seemed a lot more violent than what she was talking about, but it worked out in the end. And to supplement…

“In other words, it’s important to do things yourself and not just let other people do them for you.”

Art-Ga: “Got it. You’ll embody that motto in my next manuscript.”

Gold Mar: “Wow, this is looking great, Asama-chi.”

Wait.

But the others were still talking. Ankokuji was glaring at Masazumi with his arms crossed.

“Now,” he said. “What will you do now that you are aware what I want? Will you carry me to Kantou and thus make an enemy of Terumoto-sama by bringing her together with Hashiba, or will you remain here and make Terumoto-sama and the others responsible for neglecting my history recreation? You must choose one or the other.”


It came down to those two options.

This guy is a pain.

Ookubo could guess that his negotiation style was the opposite of hers.

They both prepared in advance and made sure to have some tricks up their sleeves, but while she would make sure all those tricks were leading toward a single answer, he would give his answer first and then start pulling out all the tricks he had.

Ideally, his opponent would accept his answer before he had used all of this tricks.

But if they did not, he would use those tricks to rhetorically dodge out of the way while aiming for victory.

Neither one revealed their hand in advance, but…

“He uses more negative methods.”

She was a little surprised to find herself describing someone in that way, but then she realized something else.

The sign frame.

The sign frame displaying the situation in the Udon Kingdom had frozen.

The one by her hands was operating and it responded to her commands, but the data from the Udon Kingdom had frozen and stopped arriving.

What is this?

Two other things happened at the same time.

Tachibana Gin and Muneshige stood up.

“Everyone, please move to the wall of the teahouse.”

And Kanou quickly spoke to her.

“Milady,” she said while the others obeyed the Tachibana Couple in obvious confusion. “We can use the local divine network, but anything beyond that is locked down. The lock was applied by the Mishima Shrine. That is the shrine that the Asama Shrine Representative placed in charge of the Mouri divine network for this region.”

Which meant…

“I do not know why, but Mouri has taken control of the infrastructure outside Satomi territory.”


Gin and Muneshige stepped outside of the teahouse.

The teahouse had a single wall on the kitchen side of things, so they could gain a full view of their surroundings by standing its two corners instead of standing at opposite corners of the entire building. However…

This is incredible.

An oddly cool sensation rose up from her feet. Not even coastal land should have felt this chilly on a summer night.

This was not the wind and not a fog.

She knew exactly what it was.

“This is a forest.”

She had seen the same thing last night.

It was the Reine des Garous’s power. Her “forest” was trying to manifest here.

She was suppressing it. She was waiting. Just like a predator patiently waiting for a chance to pounce on its prey. That was the sense Gin got from the chill rising from the ground.

Does this mean what I think it does?

Tachibana Husband: “Are they saying they will take Satomi and us hostage if need be?”

CAN: “I do not know. It could also be divine transmission trouble. With the Kantou Liberation complete, the local shrines have been released from their previous stress.”

In other words, it was impossible to know how the gods felt about all this. However…

Tachibana Wife: “They may be taking advantage of that.”

“Yes,” said Gin about her own statement. “It is possible the true Mouri force participated in the Kantou Liberation and is doing something the Mouri President and her group knows nothing about.”

So…

“What happens here depends on the decision made in the Udon Kingdom.”


Asama took a breath to calm herself.

She had already informed Masazumi and the others of the situation in Kantou.

Asama: “With the Kantou Liberation, the authority of the Mishima Shrine’s god removed their shrine from the Asama Shrine’s authority.”

10ZO: “Um, isn’t the Mishima Shrine’s god the father of the Asama Shrine’s Sakuya?”

“Yes,” confirmed Asama over the divine transmission.

Asama: “The Shinto infrastructure is built from contracts with the gods, but the gods are living beings and they have their own interests. The Mishima land took a fair amount of damage during the Kantou Liberation, so I think their god, Oyamatsumi, wants to bring this all to end as soon as possible and begin repairing his land.”

Horizey: “So the father had held back all this time since it was his daughter’s job, but he finally got fed up and decided to do it himself?”

Asama: “If this was the work of their god, then probably so.”

“But,” began Mitotsudaira.

Silver Wolf: “The divine transmission settings there were changed to give Mishima priority, right? Normally, you would have free use of divine transmissions in the Mishima territory because your daughter god is more important.”

Asama:' “It feels like Oyamatsumi worked a little too hard this time. Or maybe he wanted to show how upset he was that his daughter keeps putting her work over him.”

Silver Wolf: “So something like ‘daddy isn’t going to put up with this much longer’? But what is Sakuya doing right now?”

Asama sent that question to the Asama Shrine. She went through the official process, including repeated use of the divine network clapping clicker.

Asama: “How are things going?”

<I’m going to rush over there to set him straight, so wait just a bit. 5 minutes max. By, god.>

She was taking this seriously.


“Princess, the Mishima Shrine has sent you a divine transmission from…god?”

<I might be in trouble. By, god.>

“I don’t know what this is about, but why is our god so useless!?”


Asama made a few arrangements.

Sakuya had gone to let her father have it, so she installed a temporary divinity sent by IZUMO.

But the various privileges were determined by the god’s upper limits, so there was nothing much for her to do herself.

She only had to watch, but she made sure to check who the temporary replacement was.

Oh, I got Iwanaga? I should make a deal for a peace and longevity divine protection while I can.

She has a lot of crazy spells too, thought Asama before speaking aloud to Masazumi.

“5 minutes.”

In 5 minutes, Sakuya would have beaten up her father and returned everything to normal. So…

“Can you wait 5 minutes, Masazumi?”

“No, if this was set up, everyone in Kantou is in trouble.”

Unturning: “Especially if it was set up by the Mouri forces and the Reine des Garous.”

She appreciated how Narumi would state things so plainly. And…

“Now, let’s settle this, Ankokuji Ekei,” said Masazumi. “My general policy for Musashi this summer break is to stay out of Kantou.”


“Oh?” Naito heard Ankoku say.

Wow, he really is an enemy.

Masazumi had chosen not to bring Ankokuji back to Kantou. That would prevent the reconciliation for the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle and it would place responsibility for that on Musashi and Terumoto.

Was that choice her way of telling Mouri to stop involving Terumoto in all this?

Or to put it another way…

Mutual destruction.

That worried Naito, but Musashi did still have a trick up their sleeves.

She had set up the first step for it.

It was powerful enough to overturn this entire discussion, but…

“Now,” said Ankokuji. “I would like to confirm something.”

What was this about?

“Now that we have revealed our hands to this extent, I have no intention of keeping it hypothetical. Are you prepared for that?”

He nullified their trick.


Gold Mar: “Wow, this is just not my day.”

Scarred: “Eh? Why not?”

Uqui: “Before we began, Naito’s refusal to admit we were mercenaries allowed Masazumi to claim this entire discussion had been hypothetical. So if we were ever in a bind, she could shout ‘this was all hypothetical!’ to turn it all round.”

Silver Wolf: “We would have gotten a fair amount of flak for it, but it would still work as insurance. And it would also let both sides safely reveal their hands.”

Flat Vassal: “But aren’t we in trouble now that we can’t use that?”

Horizey: “Things are heating up at the Udon Kingdom Debate Club, so let’s check in with our reporter on the scene.”

Vice President: “None of you are really all that worried, are you!?”


This no longer hypothetical, thought AK.

He had shown off a lot of his hand and they understood him now.

So what decision would they reach?

“No matter what you choose, responsibility will fall on Musashi and your opposition of Hashiba-sama will begin. And you claim you wish to drag Terumoto-sama into it as well?”

However…

“That will mean making an enemy of Mouri.”

Were they okay with that?

The Mouri forces were fine with it.

After all, the history recreation said Matsudaira and Mouri were enemies.

That decision would lead to Mouri’s prosperity.

That’s right.

They would prove it.

They would prove that Mouri could find prosperity as a Far Eastern nation without the protection of Hexagone Française.

Their only chance to prove it was when Terumoto’s generation was inheriting everything from his.

Her generation onward would be working with Hexagone Française.

His generation was the last one where Mouri could act alone.

So.

So they had to use this chance to prove just how much Mouri could do on its own.

Hexagone Française had its own issues to deal with. Chancellor Anne had had her own reasons too, but she had also understood their hardship.

That was part of why she had set up the Roi-Soleil and Terumoto’s marriage.

They owed her a debt of gratitude

And they might be betraying that gratitude with their choice here. However…

“Mouri is not reliant on Hexagone Française for protection, so are you really prepared to make an enemy of Mouri and Hexagone Française both?”

“That wouldn’t be much of a problem.” The Musashi Vice President relaxed her shoulders, raised her right forearm, and opened her mouth. “Listen.”


Masazumi made a pronouncement to Ankokuji.

“I will now tear down everything you’ve set up here.”


Chapter 16: Decider at the Foothold of Agreement[edit]

Horizon8A 431.jpg

Have you noticed

That someone is always watching

Where you stand

Point Allocation (Future)


Masazumi spoke to Ankokuji.

“I will now tear down everything you’ve set up here, Ankokuji Ekei.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I’ll start with this.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “I never thought of this discussion as hypothetical.”


Horizey: “You beat him to the punch, Masazumi-sama! That means you win, I hope!?”

Gold Mar: “Wow, not even I was expecting that one.”

Art-Ga: “Isn’t she just being argumentative because she was losing?”

Vice President: “Sh-shut up! I’m willing to use every means available to me!”

Laborer: “That’s a reaction I would expect from Neshinbara.”

Novice: “Wait! I’m not that painful to watch! Because I give up way sooner!”

Almost Everyone: “You’re not afraid to admit it either, are you!?”


That was a lot of background noise to tune out, but at least they were doing well. A little too well.

Anyway, she had a way to tear down what Ankokuji was doing here.

“I think Mouri is mistaken about something here.”

Namely…

“You seem to think that clearly establishing our hostility with Hashiba will act as a bargaining chip here.”

But…

“We were already enemies.”


“Listen,” said Masazumi. “We announced at Mikawa that we would let the world decide what to do with us at Westphalia. So our journey around the Far East to gather the Logismoi Oplo and stop the Apocalypse can also be seen as a pilgrimage meant to prove ourselves to the nations we visit.”

And…

“On the way, we held a meeting with Hexagone Française’s previous Chancellor, current President, and more. There, we were presented with two conditions necessary for receiving the support of Europe’s nations and the Testament Union nations. We must restrain M.H.R.R. and Hashiba and we must complete Oda Nobunaga’s history recreation as a way to restrain P.A. Oda.”

She looked Ankokuji in the eye as she spoke.

When she saw his angled eyes staring back at her, she opened her mouth to continue.

“We have already announced Hashiba as our enemy. Hexagone Française, more of Europe, and the Testament Union demanded it and we have found our own reasons during our journey. So if Mouri insists we oppose Hashiba or becomes our enemy themselves, we will give you want you want.”

“And how will you do that?” he asked. “Terumoto-sama is closely connected with Hexagone Française. If Mouri will be your enemy once we join Hashiba-sama, then Terumoto-sama will also be your enemy. But she is also the Hexagone Française representative who asked you to oppose Hashiba. So,” he said. “How do you intend to resolve that contradiction?”

“That’s simple enough.” She already had an answer for this. “We follow the history recreation.”


AK very nearly gasped.

This is not good.

If they followed the history recreation, Terumoto would be defeated at Sekigahara and lose so much.

They were prepared for that to happen. That was why Terumoto had been wed to Hexagone Française so she could rest easy without worrying about her decline.

But that decline was an unexpectedly heavy burden for those who had to bring it about.

Had he gone soft because he knew a powerful nation would take him in even as he accepted that future?

Or was there simply no way of preparing yourself to face something like this?

He did not know.

But he did breathe in.

This is our duty!

If this opponent would lead Mouri to decline, they would have to build up as much prosperity as they could before that happened.

The time for action had arrived. So…

“I see,” he said. “So you are saying Musashi will follow the history recreation and become Terumoto-sama’s enemy?”

He received an answer right away.

“We will if that is what Terumoto and Hexagone Française want.”

That was the Musashi Vice President’s answer.

He just about agreed, but…

Hm?

Something felt off about her answer.

He could not say what it was, but there was an odd – but not quite dangerous – sense to her statement.


What is it?

AK tried to figure out what felt wrong to him about the Musashi Vice President’s answer.

What about it bothered him so much?

His intuition had spotted something.

His liaison’s intuition was warning him of something not quite dangerous about her wording.

What is it?

“Musashi Vice President.”

He called out to her while keeping his thoughts racing. That was a basic skill for a liaison.

He used that smidgen of extra time to consider what she had just said.

She is making Terumoto-sama’s position as Musashi’s enemy reliant on Terumoto-sama and Hexagone Française.

She was leaving the choice in Terumoto’s hands.

That implicitly stated that Musashi had no hostile intentions.

But that was not what bothered him.

There was something in her statement that would be so easy to overlook.

But what is it?

It irritated him that he could not see it right away. He tried repeating the important terms in his head.

Terumoto, Hexagone Française, want.

No, he realized. A negotiation has more than just one side. The meaning of a statement can change considerably when combined with the other side’s statements.

So what had he said beforehand?

“Musashi will follow the history recreation and become Terumoto-sama’s enemy.”

He spoke the words under his breath to confirm them for himself.

He was confirming the flow of the conversation, so he then repeated her words to himself.

They will if that is what Terumoto and Hexagone Française want.

Then it hit him.

“–––––”

His eyes were opened.

He understood.

The instant it came to him, something like a chill or a tremor ran along his spine and he just barely got his voice out.

“Musashi Vice President!”

He felt like he would lose if he did not say this.

No, he had spent all this time fighting against what he was about to say.

It was the source of the odd sense he had noticed.

“You just said you would if that is what Terumoto-sama and Hexagone Française want, didn’t you!?”

That was definitely what he had heard. Which would mean…

“But Terumoto-sama and Musashi’s hostility is required by the history recreation! Yet you claimed it was up to her and Hexagone Française’s discretion!!”

In other words…

“You are saying she and Hexagone Française are free to decide how they want the history recreation to go!!”

What did that mean? To put it simply…

“You see yourselves as superior to the Testament and think you can do what you want with the history recreation!”

The Musashi Vice President did not look remotely concerned.

She simply pointed at him and replied.

“You are the ones trying to make us do that, Ankokuji Ekei.”


“There’s one thing I know. No, one thing I’ve figured out here,” said Masazumi. “I now know why Anne and the others entrusted everything to us and departed.”

That had bothered her and she felt like she had gradually come to understand it recently.

It was as much an understanding as it was an excuse for herself, but it was the best answer she had.

“They recognized our ability to take care of what they were leaving with us.”

Ankokuji tensed with eyebrows raised.

“You think you can be a replacement for Anne-sama!?”

“No one can replace her. Her departure was a net loss for us all.”

“Then…”

“Which is why it was a tragedy.”

She admitted it.

It was a tragedy.

That’s right.

It was.

She had recently started to think that from time to time.

Hexagone Française’s previous Chancellor had been such a remarkable person that she had set Hexagone Française and Europe in motion and protected them all from her sickbed below Magdeburg.

At Magdeburg, Masazumi had tried to be considerate and had barely managed to speak with her because she failed to realize just how valuable that opportunity was.

But looking back, she wished she had spoken with her more.

Anne had truly faced the world, so what kind of person was she really?

Masazumi wished she could have chatted with her about everyday things like books, the scenery, and her hometown. She wished she had asked to hear some old stories, asked where she had come from, and asked what she had done. She could have learned so much from her.

I would have had someone else I could enjoy spending time with.

Yeah, and I bet time with her would be relaxing in a way our class doesn’t know how to do.

But that possibility had been forever lost. She had to say goodbye to all of that. So…

“It was a tragedy.”

But…

“But we have Terumoto and the Roi-Soleil.” She recalled the silly way she had described it as a net loss before. “We can get by with Terumoto, the Roi-Soleil, and all the others.”

“But…”

“It’s simple. Since Anne and the others entrusted this with us, we just have to surpass them and set foot in a new era,” she said. “Interpretations are assumed when dealing with the Testament and history recreation these days. That’s because the Warring States period and the Thirty Years’ War have everyone fighting everyone else, but we’ve all gotten closer as we develop new ways to avoid fighting.”

The world could change and it was changing.

“If someone tries to die, someone will stop them. If someone tries to force someone to die, someone will stop that too. Even a small nation can influence a powerful nation with the support of the other nations. The other nations can band together to decry and oppose the oppression of a powerful nation. …That is the new era we will bring about.”

Ankokuji frowned at that.

“You think the bonds between nations will allow small nations to restrict powerful nations?” he asked. “Once that happens, everyone would restrict each other to the point that no one can do anything. Aren’t you only ushering in an age of deadlock?”

“If that happens, conflict will spread across the world once more. I don’t know if it would be armed conflicts like we see now, political battles, or trade wars, but someone will try to use the stagnation to get ahead, dragging us back into conflict.”

And…

“That will create and spread a new way of life we can’t even imagine right now.”

She finally understood what someone had once said.

Lord Matsunaga.

It was all about destruction and creation.

In the current age, P.A. Oda’s Oda clan got ahead with the breakthrough of overthrowing your master. Musashi was constantly faced with the question of how to fight against that and create something new, but…

The answer is relationships.

“Anne and the others showed us how to resist Hashiba. Instead of strengthening ourselves, we need to build close relationships with the other nations.”

So…

“Musashi will earn the greatest understanding and the greatest relationships at Westphalia. That is the new era we will create. …That era will one day grow old and then we and the others like us will entrust everything with the next generation. Just like your generation is doing now.”

“Then.” Ankokuji spread his arms, breathed in, and asked his question. “What will Musashi do now? My history recreation is very much at a standstill. But if you travel to Kantou, your opposition of Terumoto-sama and Hashiba-sama will be made plain for all to see and you will be unable to intervene in the Honnouji Incident! But stay here and you must take responsibility for delaying my history recreation!”

“Didn’t I say I was going to tear down everything you’ve set up here?” She pointed at him. “Ankokuji Ekei, you will obey the history recreation, correct?”

“Of course I will!”

That settled it.

“Then let’s do this.” She pulled her pointer finger back toward her neck and then slid it to the side while Tsukinowa mimicked the action. “Ankokuji Ekei. We will now carry out your final history recreation – your beheading as a loser at Sekigahara. Then we can ignore everything else you ask of us.”


AK gasped while he listened to the Musashi Vice President.

“Listen, Ankokuji Ekei. To be clear, you don’t actually have to die. We can settle it with an interpretation. But if you do want to die, watch out because you’ll have to convince that idiot and Horizon. Not to mention me and the others. In the unlikely event you can manage that, then you are free to die. But don’t worry if you can’t. When a name inheritor’s death is assured and they have no future, they have no interests left.”

That was true.

Doing his death early would mean the end of his history recreation was already in view. As soon as his history recreation was complete and he was considered “dead”, there would be no point in negotiating with him.

And if that happened…

We lose everything Mouri has been working toward!

“You chose the wrong opponent here, Ankokuji Ekei.” The Musashi Vice President opened a sign frame. “Who is it that beheads you for supporting the Western Army’s main force? That’s right: Matsudaira of the Eastern Army. That means us. And your crime is convincing Terumoto to lead the Western Army and supporting that position.”

In other words…

“Your attempt to build hostility between us and Terumoto fits those conditions. We’re willing to do this early, but what about you?”

AK sighed.

I cannot believe this, he thought.

I pushed too far.

He could have maneuvered his way out of this if he had not been so insistent on the history recreation. He may have managed if he had not answered that final question about obeying the history recreation.

But their position required that.

So…

“How strange,” he said while feeling the tension leave his shoulders. “I thought everything was already over for me, but here I am hoping for more of a future.”

He could not accept death here.

He still had something to do.

In that case, he thought while uncrossing his arms and placing them on his lap.

He lowered his head in a bow.

“I would like us to forget this entire meeting ever happened.”

And in exchange…

“You are free to do with me as you wish.”


Art-Ga: “Oh, were we not supposed to be doing that already? I was drawing up a doujinshi.”

Vice President: “Is that why I haven’t heard much from you recently?”

Unturning: “Anyway, Vice President, what are we going to do with him?”

“Good question,” said Masazumi while putting a hand on her hip with Tsukinowa mimicking the action. “Yes.”

She made up her mind and raised her right forearm.

“Let’s take the Musashi to Kantou.”


AK did not so much gasp as he continued inhaling for too long.

Everyone around him was dumbfounded, but there was one thing still moving.

The udon?

No.

It was a pair of arms.

The black and white arms slid down the bamboo waterway starting at the top of the stepped terrace.

They picked up a fair amount of speed and the wrists and elbows moved in a synchronized fashion as they passed between everyone and then took a certain action.

The wrists lowered once, bobbed in a count to three, and then lifted up again as a signal to the others.

“Why even have this discussion!?”


You don’t have to shout, thought Masazumi while flinching back.

“Hold on. Calm down, everyone.”

“H-how are we supposed to stay calm!?” Balfette stood up and turned her way. She was still holding a bowl of udon and a pair of chopsticks and her eyebrows were raised. “You can’t just do this! Do you have any idea why I’m so mad, Vice President!?”

“Because you wanted access to cheap and delicious udon every day.”

Balfette immediately turned back toward Naruze and the smiling Weiss Hexen smacked her on the forehead.

“Owww!”

Trembling, Balfette turned back toward Masazumi.

“H-how can you all read my mind!? Are you psychic!?”

“I think you’re just far too expressive.”

Balfette fell to her knees just as Mitotsudaira returned after rescuing the arms before they were swept away down the river.

She released the arms near Horizon and turned to speak.

“Masazumi? Are you sure it’s a good idea to send the Musashi back to Kantou?”

“It’ll be fine.” Masazumi nodded. “I’m sure Ookubo will figure something out.”


“Milady! Milady! Now is the time to fight back, not to slump down on the table! Hurry! Hurry and start your rebellion!”

“Ughhhh. It’d be faster to fix that girl’s personality. That would solve everything.”


“That was a very curious conclusion, don’t you think?”

Gin responded to Muneshige with a nod in front of the teahouse.

The Musashi will be returning to Kantou?

She honestly did not know what this meant. There were several problems there, including the conflict with Hashiba and their relationship with Mouri. Besides, how would they intervene in the Honnouji Incident if they did that?

“Well, she’s asking for a lot, but I’ll figure something out.”

Ookubo got up with a sigh only to find someone standing in front of her.

“The Reine des Garous?”

“My, my. Patrolling outside is helpful, but would you care to join me for a snack?”

She unwrapped a paper wrapping on a table to reveal some roast lamb skewers flavored with soy sauce and miso. She held a skewer out toward Gin with her husband by her side.

“I’m glad we don’t have to be enemies.”

“Judge. Let’s leave it at that,” said Gin while finally relaxing.

The Reine des Garous had appeared earlier.

It had not happened out of the blue. She had emerged from the chill of the forest and sat down in the teahouse before anyone could stop her.

They had let her through because she had seemed relaxed and void of hostility. Also…

“This wolf.”

A wolf made of fog was seated next to Gin and Muneshige. It was breathing and looking curiously up at them and it was probably the same as the ones seen in that forest from the night before.

It was not an enemy. If anything, it was a guard dog. So…

“Did you take advantage of the divine transmission vulnerability to search out the pure Mouri members of Mouri?”

“I have no real issue with them since their convictions will benefit Hexagone Française.” The Reine des Garous smiled. “But since they were only going to complicate things here, I decided to hold them in check just this once.”

Several signe cadres appeared around her and disappeared again. They came from the Pension Versailles and the Belle de Marionnettes in the local area.

“Their passion means they must make a show of Mouri being on Hashiba’s side. That way Hashiba won’t have to criticize us for not properly taking their side.”

“But now…”

“They won’t do anything. If they fought here, it could bring conflict back to Kantou. While they did make a show of it, but did not actually take Hashiba’s side. They are smart enough to make that distinction. However…”

A voice seemed to respond to the Reine des Garous.

It was a distant howl.

A wolf’s howl reached them through the night sky.

“That’s all of them captured. When I report back to Hexagone Française, I will tell them I briefly brought down the local infrastructure because I sensed some stress after the Kantou Liberation.”

Then a sign frame appeared in front of Gin.

<Divine transmissions are back up – confirmed>

<I let him off with only a punch. By, god.>

She was curious what that report looked like from the Mouri side of things, but she chose not to ask lest she hurt them by doing so. But she did sigh.

“This was a useful opportunity.” She nodded and spoke to the Reine des Garous. “But it looks like we won’t have a chance to be enemies until later on.”

“Hmm. It is mostly up to Terumoto’s mood when Sekigahara happens.”

“Be that as it may.” Gin watched the wolf next to her tilt its head. “I have now seen what you can do. Be careful.”

“Testament. I appreciate the warning.”

That woman sure was confident.

But Gin had seen it. She had seen how those wolves moved and the “relaxed” way the Reine des Garous moved. If the others had seen her “active” fighting style last night, then Gin had seen her “passive” fighting style here. That was bound to be useful.

Thinking these things is probably rude.

But she was a Tachibana, so this was who she was. And…

Tachibana Wife: “Satomi President. Are things okay over there?”


The wolves were following Yoshiyasu around.

She had wanted to see how Righteousness was doing while also inspecting the public square with Tokishige who had begun repairs on Integrity. Then several of the Reine des Garous’s wolves had shown up. They kept disappearing, combining, and splitting apart, but…

“Why do they like you so much?” asked Tokishige.

“Don’t ask me! I thought my genre was dogs.”

“Genre?”

Oh. Yoshiyasu crossed her arms. Tokishige isn’t familiar with that way of talking.

“It’s Musashi slang.”

“What does it mean?”

“What type of character you are?”

Tokishige frowned and tilted her head for a while before finally responding.

“That’s dumb.”

She removed the wrench from her hip hard point part and turned her back.

“Just ignore the wolves. You won’t be able to sleep otherwise. Oh, and if the Musashi does decide to come here, make sure to report everything to me. You have a tendency to do things without telling us anything.”

“Wait! What do I do about these things!? They keep touching me even when I ignore them!”

“They’re your ‘genre’, aren’t they?”

Yoshiyasu was pretty sure Tokishige had not grasped the meaning of that term.

But when she looked to the other side of the public square, she saw Yoshiaki throwing a stick to play fetch with the wolves.

Did she secretly protect us from something?

She had not received word about Yoshiaki’s presence or anything else. However…

“Yoshiaki, how are things progressing?”

“Hm? Oh, they ended the one thing and are starting on the next. The Musashi is returning to Kantou.”

“I see.” She sat there for about seven seconds before opening a sign frame and shouting into it. “What is the meaning of this, Musashi Vice President!?”


God, what a pain, thought Masazumi.

“Listen, everyone. I will now explain what we gain by retuning to Kantou.”

First of all…

“I want to establish more of a connection with the Kantou nations after the Kantou Liberation. And when you get down to it, it’s kind of awkward to have the Musashi at the Udon Kingdom. Once Hashiba finally returns, I just know they’re going to protest it.”

“Then what will we do?” asked Mitotsudaira.

“That’s simple enough,” said Masazumi. She looked over to see Asama nod and activate a voice barrier. They could now speak privately. “We’ll head back to Kantou, pretend to be nice and obedient, and then officially return here.”


There is a way of doing that, thought Masazumi She had thought it up earlier. Setting it up would not be easy, but…

“We’ll return right away. My goal is to be back in Kantou in three days’ time since that’s the perfect way to harass Hashiba. Because if we get back quickly enough, we can be all, ‘What, you losers are still doing repairs? Scram already.’ ”

“Masazumi-sama! Musashi is the obvious bad guy in that scenario!”

“Don’t let it bother you. Besides, we all know that’s how our class does things.” Masazumi got back on topic. “Then we get back here in mid-August. Or at least by the 20th. That is going to take a lot of setting up, so I hope you’re ready. And that begins tonight.”

She observed them all.

She thought they might protest and say it was not possible, ask if she had actually thought this through, or say they wanted to eat more udon in Sanuki.

But they all exchanged a glance and nodded.

“Judge.”

She knew that agreement was to be expected, but she also felt some surprise.

Oh.

They were learning how to respond to fast-moving international situations.

She nodded in satisfaction, but then they began whispering to each other over the bamboo waterway.

“Judge. Coming back here would indeed be some largescale harassment,” said Mitotsudaira.

“Judge. That sounds like some splendid harassment of Hashiba, Masazumi,” said Tenzou.

“Judge. Harassment as national policy sounds kind of exciting to me!” said Futayo.

“Can we stop using that word please?”

Masazumi lowered her gaze, sighed, and looked forward again to see Ankokuji kneeling before her.

She nodded back at him.

“That’s our plan, Ankokuji Ekei. Now, can I ask something of you?”

“What is it?”

“Judge,” she responded. “You have a role to play in this.”


Chapter 17: Realizer at a Standstill[edit]

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Wow

Youuu are suuuper annoying

Whyyy is thaaat?

Point Allocation (It’s Called Love)


“So you’re saying that Muuusashi announced they’re coming baaack to Kantou?”

Asano was in one of the Azuchi’s internal corridors with her left arm in a sling.

Her question was directed at the upperclassman walking ahead of her: Katagiri of the Hashiba Ten Spears. They both had a lernen figur open as they visited the Azuchi’s repair sites which were still busy even at night.

Asano was here because her transportation spell came in handy.

She had personally wanted to help with repairing Nabeshima’s mechanical dragon since they were friends, but that had not been in the cards.

I have myyy post.

She had a lot on her mind, but her mind was sharp. That was thanks to getting her usual evening nap while her injuries were being healed.

“They will apparently come here three days from now,” said Katagiri up ahead of her. “Their excuse is transporting an emissary for the reconciliation after the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle.”

She knew exactly what he meant. Although it took some speculation on her part.

“That emmissaryyy did a suuuper good job.”

“Testament. He did. However…”

Katagiri looked around.

They were surrounded by the noises and occasional tremor of construction. Ether light would also scatter, lighting up the area. They could hear it from above and below them on this internal corridor.

“We still need around 10 days for our repairs.”

“Are weee going to fight in Kantouuu?”

Katagiri’s eyebrows rose.

Oops. She had a tendency of reading too far ahead in a conversation. Ikeda had told her it was a bad habit. But I knowww that alreadyyy.

But this upperclassman only nodded and responded.

“We have to consider it as a last resort.”

“Dooo you think it will haaappen?”

“Officially, I have to say it is my duty to consider such things. Personally, I don’t think it’s happening.”

That explained it perfectly.

He must beee smart. Smart in the saaame way as me. But…

“What will Muuusashi dooo?”

“Good question,” he said. “This is only hypothetical, but let’s assume Musashi tries to avoid conflict and stays out of this airspace.”

She listened to his answer.

“If they keep things peaceful, my guess is they will stay in the former Houjou land, send the emissary to us via transport ship, and then head to Mito. Because the Ariake is there.”


Asano pictured the Ariake since Katagiri had mentioned it.

“Ohhh, that biiig thing.”

Ikeda had been repairing the Shirasagi Castle because it had been destroyed by the Musashi and the Ariake working together.

Everyone in M.H.R.R. was familiar with the Shirasagi Castle. Since the Testament said it never suffered from the fires of war and since it was a high-speed stealth craft, people had often said it would be used for forced reconnaissance and transport jobs.

Whenever it had come up, the boys in her class had started arguing over which aerial ship was the strongest and they had always settled on the Shirasagi Castle being around #3.

I doubt Ikedaaa ever thought heee’d be repairing it.

He was currently helping repair the Azuchi, but once that was done, he would be back to repairing the Shirasagi Castle and inspecting Mikawa.

“Whaaat’s in Miiikawa?”

“Eh?”

Oh, whoooops. That was toooo much of a leap. But Katagiri responded while holding up his lernen figur of notes to attach a large notice on the ceiling.

“There’s probably a variety of things there. A lot of which we would want if we can recover them.”

“I thooought it was destroyyyed?”

Ether light sparks entered through the open window to their side while some armor panels were cut away. She made sure to avoid that noise and light while listening to Katagiri’s answer.

“The ley line reactor’s explosion used pretty much the exact same system as a dragon line reactor, so we know how the explosion and subsequent destruction works. No living creatures could have survived, but there is something we can salvage.”

“Ghooosts?”

“Not quite.”

She thought about it for a bit, but…

“Well, Ikeda-kun was put in charge because we aren’t sure if it will work out or not. The setup and everything else were left to him, so you can try asking him.”

“Testament.”

Ikeda, huhhh?

He would have been watching from a distance when she lost at the Keichou Campaign. He would also have heard that she was beaten pretty badly and Nabeshima had lost too. However…

Kanitama: “Good morning! Let’s all do our best on this brand new day!!”

Asano: “Kani-sannn. You’re awfully cheerfulll so soon after a maaajor loss.”

Kanitama: “Testament! Because our training camp begins today! I was asleep until just now!”

The Boy: “Oh, right. You all are departing soon, aren’t you?”

The training camp had them leaving the Azuchi, but Asano thought that was a humongous pain and Kani found it a cause to celebrate. Since they had come from the same shopping district, they would have been eating and drinking the same things as they grew up, so where had this difference come from? And…

Kanitama: “I passed by Ikeda-kun before I went to sleep, so have you said hi to him yet, Asa-chan!?”

Asano: “I dooon’t want to hear that from someone who only passed byyy him.”

Kanitama: “Sorry! I was picking up speed even though I was on the way to get some sleep!”

Kani was such a genius that Asano could not even make sense of that statement. But that would have shown Ikeda that they were not just down in the dumps after losing. Because Kani was even faster than she used to be.

That boy would head back to Mikawa before long. Asano would be going to Sanada with Giant Katou, so she would be spared his overly obvious lectures for a while. But…

“What, are you and Ikeda-kun an item?”

“Huhhh?”

That one caught her off guard. She wanted to say “where did that come from” or “shut up”, but she knew he was smart in the same way as her.

He was also an upperclassman, so she settled for giving him a hateful glare. But…

“Ah, love.” He crossed his arms and started talking. “It’s never easy, is it? But it helps us grow as people, so it’s always worth it if you ask me.”

“Ohhh, is thaaat how it worrrks?”

“Yes, it’s a valuable experience. Even if it does end in heartbreak.”

He was clearly trying to get her to ask what he meant and she seriously considered ignoring him, but when they happened to pass by a stand selling kebab rations, she instead imagined grabbing just the skewer and jabbing him in the rear with it.

Was he alllways this annoyyying?

She had previously heard about him being caught on the receiving end of a “back attack” from Fukushima in the bath, so she was not sure she wanted a lecture on love from him. At any rate…

Asano: “Kani-saaan. Is therrre anything fun to dooo around here?”

Kanitama: “Yes! The training camp! It’s gonna be so much fun!”

Oops. She’s alllready in training camp mode. But…

Asano: “Whaaat, you’re leeeaving already?”

Kanitama: “Testament! I’m already at the port! But Fukushima-senpai isn’t here yet! I wonder where she is! I thought Massive Katou-senpai would be here to see her off too!”


Kiyomasa awoke with a start.

She had fallen asleep.

First and foremost, she felt surprise at having fallen asleep like this.

“…!”

She sat up inside a bed.

That was a normal place to fall asleep, yet it also felt wrong somehow.

Oh?

She fell asleep and woke up again every single day. But she had not gotten much sleep since arriving in Kantou because the Azuchi was so busy with repairs. She had managed to get some rest eventually and then…

“Umm.”

She felt like she was refusing to look at something important, but then she heard a sound.

It was a bell.

The rapid ringing sound was not from a real bell. The PC embedded in the wall next to the bed had opened a Catholic lernen figur while playing an alarm clock sound.

She was confused why there was a PC there.

The PC in her room was installed in the kitchen and the wall next to the bed had a space for her pajamas and changes of clothes.

Why had the layout of her room changed?

“How odd.”

She tilted her head and then saw the text on the lernen figur.

Kanitama: “Fukushima-senpai! It’s almost time to depart!”

“…!?”

She remembered now. She had made up her mind to visit Fukushima in her room. After finding Fukushima was not there, she had chosen to wait on the bed and then the exhaustion had hit her, so-

“N-now is not the time to analyze my actions!”

She quickly checked to see if the lernen figur was transmitting video or audio of her to Kani.

It was not. She was safe. She felt bad doing this to Kani, but she had to ignore that message.

U-umm.

Was it a good thing or a bad thing that she was here?

She felt it was not bad as far as demonstrating her intentions was concerned, but Fukushima had never returned. She may have gone straight to the port from somewhere else.

This would all work out if Fukushima returned, but it would look like Kiyomasa was breaking and entering if anyone else happened to stop by. Not to mention…

“The Testament pillow!”

That was bad. Very bad. She could not let anyone else see that.

She tried stuffing it inside her track suit to hide it.

Oh? I don’t look that different when it’s stuffed into the chest.

Was the volume there so large already that an extra pillow did not make much difference? At any rate, she picked up her bucket and left the room.

“What other choice do I have?”

Fukushima was not returning and she had to leave soon.

Even if Fukushima did return now, they would not have time to discuss anything.

“That’s only an excuse, isn’t it?”

But she did think this was her best option right now. And based on the lernen figur, Kani might come running here to check for Fukushima, so Kiyomasa had to leave before that happened.

“Where is the departure port?”

The transport ship was waiting to be launched on the port side of the Azuchi’s 1st central ship.

She would probably see Fukushima there. Being able to say goodbye would help calm her feelings for now.


Fukushima awoke with a start.

She had fallen asleep.

First and foremost, she felt careless for having fallen asleep like this.

“…!”

She sat up inside a bed.

She repeated the word “bed” in her mind because something about this felt wrong somehow.

Oh?

She fell asleep and woke up again every single day. But she had not gotten much sleep since arriving in Kantou because the Azuchi was so busy with repairs and she had been preparing for their departure. She thought back on what she had been doing.

“Oh?”

She felt like she was averting her gaze from something important, but then she realized something.

The alarm clock.

She had set it to ensure she would wake up in time for their departure. Since it was not ringing, had she woken up before the set time? I must be ready to go in spirit as well.

In that case, she thought while reaching toward her PC on the wall.

“Hm?”

Her hand did not find the solid PC there.

She instead found an open space with some soft cloth inside.

Strange, she thought while pulling her hand back, but something had gotten tangled on her hand.

“Boobs!?”

Of course not. A closer look showed this was chest underwear. In other words, a bra.

But this was clearly not hers. She only knew one person who needed one of this size.

“Kiyo-dono.”

Then the truth hit her.

“This is Kiyo-dono’s room!”

She scrambled up from the bed and needlessly looked around.

There was no sign that anyone else had stopped by the dark room. But…

I am clearly breaking and entering.

She was also curious about the time.

“Um.”

There was a clock on the wall that told her it was almost 2:05 AM. It was just about time to leave.

Oh, no!

She could not afford to be late, but she could still just barely squeak by with this. Still, forgetting all about their departure because she had entered Kiyomasa’s room without permission was a scandal. People will think me a pervert and the elementary school students will have to head home in groups starting tomorrow! No, wait, it is summer break. I am panicking too much.

“No, that is not the point!”

Her luggage was in her room, so she quickly reached toward this room’s door.

“Oh.”

She felt so pathetic needing to make sure the coast was clear before stepping out into the hallway.

At any rate, she rushed down the hallway and back to her own room.


The night breeze felt nostalgic to Koroku.

The port bow of the Azuchi’s 1st central ship was already full of noise from the transport ship making a special trip to northern M.H.R.R. It was up and running and would begin moving forward as soon as its mooring hooks were released.

Good thing we got this place repaired already.

Repairing the ships’ ports had been given high priority. Some of the ports had still been functional, but Houjou’s attack had been along the inner edges of the ships. The final mechanical dragon in particular had raced along the side of the ships and destroyed the inner edge ports that provided the shortest route between each ship.

Her people had been in charge of repairing those areas, but she had used the Genbu for transporting parts when they were in a hurry. But moving the Genbu around a lot on the ships would have been dangerous, so she had used its gravity impacts to punch the repair parts to the other ships.

That was a lot of fun.

It had only taken about half an hour, but it was not often a job required such precision from a god of war. It had been even more fun once she realized it caused less damage to the deck when she used a shallow trajectory that skipped the parts along the deck instead of a high trajectory that had them drop down to their destination. They had managed to repair this port as a part of all that, but…

“Fukushima still isn’t here. What is she doing?”

“Oh! She just told me she’s on her way!”

Kani had already finished carrying her luggage onto the transport ship, so now she was running back and forth along the gangway.

She was restless, but Koroku kind of understood.

They were spending their long break at a training camp with some major name inheritors. That would probably be exciting to the outdoorsy type. And…

“Hachisuka-senpai, do you need someone to escort you!?”

“Why would I?”

“Because it’s late at night!”

“I can’t go back to my room anyway.”

“Oh, yeah! It’s being exorcised, isn’t it!?”

“It is,” was all she said.

The Shinto exorcists were currently seated in a punishment cell.

Before their work, they had insisted she not spy on them during their purification. What are you, a crane or a Yuki Onna? The maid automaton that had delivered food to them had seen what they were doing and later reported back to Koroku: “I determined they needed to be arrested. Shaja.” But that meant the purification was incomplete, so she was afraid to return to her room. So…

“I guess I can use Fukushima’s room.”

Having the PC on the wall next to the bed was inconvenient for her since she liked to sit on the floor while playing games, but that was still better than being haunted every time she played anything. The save data was kept on the ship’s server, so as long as she logged in with her account, she would not even mess with Fukushima’s PC environment.

I guess I’ll do that.

I need to get her permission and then tell Takenaka.”

“Oh? Has Fukushima-sama already left?”

Just then, Kiyomasa stepped out onto the deck while wearing a track suit.


Kiyomasa started by looking around for Fukushima. But…

She isn’t here.

Was she already inside the transport ship? Kiyomasa looked to the windows in hopes of glimpsing her, but then Kani called out to her from the wharf.

“Massive Katou-senpai! Have you seen Fukushima-senpai!?”

“Eh?” She was surprised because she had not noticed Kani, but also, “You mean she did not beat me here?”

“Beat you here?” parroted Hachisuka.

“Yes, because I was in her-” Kiyomasa started to respond, but quickly swallowed the words and restated that. “Y-yes, because I was considering going to her room, but I never did because I was pretty sure she had already left.”

“You don’t need to check her room.”

That’s the part you focus on!?

But she could tell she was being too self-conscious about all this. Blindly denying everything would only rouse suspicions, so she looked to Kani and simply asked.

“Where has Fukushima-sama gone?”

“Not even you know!?”

Why do you assume I would?

The words “why” and “for what reason” kept repeating in her mind, but everyone probably knew the two of them were good friends. That thought brought a brief burst of happiness, but she was afraid that response would begin an infinite loop and she would come to a stop. It certainly felt like she was already failing to make any progress.

I’m around her a lot, but I don’t actually understand her very well.

That thought got her down due to the strength of her feelings.

I hate this, she thought. These dark thoughts and worries kept swirling through her mind and she was going to be a nuisance to the others if she did not resolve them soon. So…

“I will go search for-”

Before she could get the word “her” out, a gust of wind blew in from behind her.

Fukushima had arrived on the deck from the passageway behind her and she was carrying her luggage on her back.

“My apologies! I overslept!”


Fukushima ran out onto the deck and rushed toward the transport ship wharf.

But she saw someone on the way there: Kiyomasa.

Kiyo-dono!

She was there.

She existed here. That fact felt as solid as a stone wall and she was not sure what to do about it.

Her running legs nearly came to a stop after noticing the girl.

She did want to stop. She had been in Kiyomasa’s room earlier, so she had already worked out how she felt.

So she decided to say something to her.

She just had to say “Kiyo-dono” and “I will see you after we return”. That was how it had always been between them.

But…

“Uh…”

When Kiyomasa looked back in surprise, her blue eyes looked straight into Fukushima’s eyes. Fukushima could have sworn she heard stone crashing together when their eyes met.

She felt like Kiyomasa could see right through her and was accusing her, so she quickly averted her gaze.

She looked down. But…

Nh!

Kiyomasa’s chest was huge. No, massive is the accepted term. This is no different than usual. And yet…

Why do they look even bigger than usual!?

That could not be. Human breasts could not grow so much in such a short period of time. If so, people would not make such meaningless entreaties to the gods and governments of every nation.

Then is this due to my own dirty thoughts? Am I doing an indecent naked-eye zoom on that part of her because I only see Kiyo-dono as a pair of breasts? I must stop myself from using that Indecent Zoom technique in the future.

She felt lucky she was running because she could board the ship without Kiyomasa noticing her dirty thoughts.

She did feel bad boarding without saying anything to her, but…

“–––––”

Ahh, I hate myself right now.


Fukushima had to admit it.

It was so bad that she could not even look Kiyomasa in the eye anymore.

She did not want her to realize how she felt. Because…

Now is not the time for that.

She could have done it if they had met up in her room. There, they could have worked it out between just the two of them.

But that was not possible here.

They were outside. Hachisuka was here and so was Kani. There were plenty of other eyes on them as well.

She could not disturb everyone’s harmony for her own personal issue.

But that meant she could not bring her own feelings into order.

Which was why she hated herself.

She hated that she could not just turn around and say goodbye to Kiyomasa.

And her inability to do something so simple confirmed something for her.

I really do love Kiyo-dono.

But she could not say so.

Not right now anyway.

They had just lost a major battle and they were about to begin a training camp.

The defeated Hashiba forces were heading out to strengthen themselves, so the two of hem had to be a source of hope for the others.

They had to return from this camp as someone who inspired confidence in people and convinced them they would not lose next time.

So she could not interrupt all that by getting her heart broken.

“Uh.”

She realized something while running across the gangway from the wharf to the ship.

I’m just assuming she would reject me.

Of course she was.

With her good looks, she is bound to already have a partner or two. No, wait. Two partners would be a problem, so I do hope it is only one…no, wait! I want her to have zero partners!

It was currently possible to marry and have children with a member of the same sex. And if neither of them could carry the child for whatever reason, someone else could carry it and there was also a new method that allowed it to be done entirely artificially.

She had been thinking that would be nice to try out if they had the opportunity…

But that can never happen if Kiyo-dono does not want it.

She had come to realize that two people could be thinking very different things even when they seemed to agree on so much.

Just because she was interested in something so niche did not mean Kiyomasa felt the same way.

She was bound to be rejected.

C'est la vie, like they said in Hexagone Française.

I can go drinking with Katagiri afterwards. He too was rejected by someone – or in his case, by fate – so he should understand how I feel. But not in the bath this time. The dining hall would also be a problem, but we can find a place somewhere.

“Fukushima-senpai! The ship is leaving!”

She realized she had come to a stop on the gangway.

That was taking her to the second level of the transport ship and Kani was already looking down at her from the deck overhead. Kani probably had a nice view from up there, so she could probably see the people seeing them off.

So Fukushima decided to go there.

If she looked down from the deck, she would be able to see Kiyomasa. If there was nothing they could do from that distance, then she felt like she would be able to give her a smile.

Yes, that is what I will do. So she continued toward the ship.

“Fukushima-sama!”

The voice from behind caused her to flinch just before she entered the ship.


Chapter 18: Accuser at the Port[edit]

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How did you

End up like that?

Point Allocation (I’m the Same)


Kiyomasa only now realized what she was doing.

She was on the boarding gangway leading to the transport ship as it prepared to depart.

Fukushima was boarding the ship and she stood at its entrance.

The people seeing the ship off were already gathered on the wharf.

The ship would be leaving once Fukushima was onboard and it would be above enemy territory to begin with. It would be hurrying to the west to disguise its course and thus keep its destination a secret.

Now was not the time to be approaching the ship.

She was very clearly interfering with its departure. However…

Fukushima-sama.

Her eyes had met Fukushima’s when the girl had arrived on deck earlier.

She had looked surprised, but Kiyomasa had seen something else in her face.

Fear.

Why was that?

Did Fukushima want to avoid her?

She did not understand. Plus, Fukushima had proceeded to lower her gaze, look scolded, and then look away from her entirely.

That had honestly been a close one.

Kiyomasa was hiding her “testament” pillow in her chest. Having that discovered would be very bad indeed. She did not want to be labeled “weird” immediately before they left.

But she had something else on her mind too.

“Fukushima-sama.”

Fukushima was not turning back toward her.

Kiyomasa called her name, hoping that unmoving back would look her way.

I…

She wanted to say something about the look on Fukushima’s face earlier. But…

“––––”

Her voice would not come. She tried to form the words, but only her lips moved.

I can’t do it.

Why did you look at me that way?

I don’t get it.

We were together so much and shared so much time together during the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle and the training before that.

We laughed together, we accepted each other, and it was so much fun. So…

“Fukushima-sama,” she said. “Did I do something to you?” She took a breath. “Why did you look so frightened when you saw me?”


Fukushima reflexively turned back toward Kiyomasa.

I was not!

Had she reacted to the word “frightened” because she was a warrior?

No.

That was not it.

She was not afraid of Kiyomasa. Quite the opposite. She wanted to be with Kiyomasa.

But she could not gather her thoughts on the matter and she feared any careless act here might just make Kiyomasa hate her.

Her fear was directed at her own actions, not at Kiyomasa. So…

Kiyo-dono.

She tried to say Kiyomasa had it wrong. But…

“–––––”

Their eyes met.

Kiyomasa’s blue eyes were staring straight at her.

She felt like those eyes were seeing right through to her thoughts and she could tell she was worrying Kiyomasa, which made her feel even more apologetic.

“…”

She could not bear to look directly at Kiyomasa.

She turned her eyes to the right while trying to make it as unnoticeable as possible. Looking down was not an option because then she would see that chest again.

But once her gaze was removed from the girl, her mouth managed to move.

She let out an unusually heated breath while her lips parted.

Her voice was pathetically quiet.

“I…am not afraid of thou.”


Not again, thought Kiyomasa.

Fukushima was acting strangely.

That girl prided herself in her strength, so why was she afraid of Kiyomasa? And…

Why is she lying about it?

She had never shown this kind of fear during their interplay of offense and defense while sparring. She had fled from attacks, but she had never hidden and she had always remained on the same stage.

This was different.

She was running away, cowering, and trying to hide.

She was running away, but she was not searching for a path toward fighting back.

She was running away and nothing beyond that.

So she lied.

That was what hurt most.

Why?

Why was she lying?

Kiyomasa just wished she knew the reason why.

If she had done something wrong, she might be able to fix it if she knew what it was. And she was prepared to forgive Fukushima for anything.

And yet…

“Why?”

Fukushima refused to look her in the eye, responded with fear, avoided her, and kept her distance, but none of that was the worst part.

Her lies hurt more than any of it.

Because it told her Fukushima did not trust her.

I’m so stupid.

Was I wrong all this time when I thought she trusted me?

And now everything I thought I knew is falling apart.

“Please don’t lie.”

She tried to feign calm as best as she could manage.

Fukushima reacted with a gasp, and…

“I am not lying.”

That response was joined by the transport ship’s horn.

It was leaving.

The horn nearly drowned out her voice, but it still reached Kiyomasa’s ears.

“You are.”

“I am not.”

“Then,” said Kiyomasa. “Can you tell me one thing?”

She had been wondering this.

If she received an answer to this, she would forget all of her doubts about Fukushima. It was a very easy question to answer, but she placed such great weight on it.

Because she wanted so very badly to trust her.

“Where were you before coming here?”


Fukushima thought she could hear the blood draining from her face.

She doesn’t know, does she!?

No, she could not. If Kiyomasa had noticed her there, she would have woken her, sat by her side, or made some other approach. She trusted Kiyomasa enough to know that.

But, thought Fukushima.

Her own room had been empty when she had rushed back there to grab her luggage.

So she calmed her breathing and responded.

“I was napping.”

And…

“Napping in my room.”

Kiyomasa spoke before she was even finished answering.

“You’re lying.”

That response was enough to elicit an “Eh?” from Fukushima. But…

“You’re lying!”

Hearing that, Fukushima wondered if Kiyomasa really had seen her in her room.

Whatever the case, her thoughts raced, trying to find some way to smooth this over.

But then she saw it.

“You’re lying…”

Kiyomasa was crying even as she accused Fukushima.


Horizon8A 489.jpg

No.

I mustn’t cry. It would worry her if I did. But…

I don’t want this.

I don’t want her to lie to me.

I don’t want her to not trust me.

I don’t want her to ignore everything I say.

I don’t want any of this.

Why can’t all of this be a lie or a dream so it can just go away.

I can’t take it anymore.

“No.”

She wiped the tears from her eyes, but more took their place.

“Kiyo-dono…”

“Stop it.”

Stop it. Don’t bother. If I’m not important enough for the truth…

Then don’t bother pretending to care about me!

I never knew kindness could make you feel so pathetic.

But they’re leaving. I’m only in the way. Yes, she doesn’t even trust me, so all I am is in the way. But…

“Fukushima-sama.”

I’m sorry.

I’m already crying and there’s no hiding it now. So…

“Can I burden you with one last thing?”

I’m allowed this much, aren’t I?

“O-of course. Anything.”

“Well,” said Kiyomasa. “I love someone.”

She could not believe how easily the words came.

“But,” she continued. “It looks like I’m nothing but a nuisance to them.”

So…

“I’m going to tell only you who it is and then forget any of it ever happened.”


Fukushima thought she heard the horn sound a second time.

The ship was leaving.

Kani was shouting something from the deck up above, but it did not reach her ears.

She was frozen in place.

Kiyo-dono loves someone?

She could only think of one thing to say.

“Who is-”

“It’s you.”

As soon as the words reached her, the transport ship’s door shut.

They were out of time.


Kani saw the ship leave and the gangway withdraw at the very last second.

On it, Kiyomasa was walking away with her back turned.

Kani looked back toward Nabeshima and Asano, but…

Massive Katou-senpai!?

She had not heard what those two had said, but it had not looked like an angry argument. And yet Massive Katou had ended up in tears.

Is it about friendship!?

But Fukushima herself was not here. The people down on the Azuchi’s deck would fall out of view before long.

“Fukushima-senpai!”

Kani ran toward the stairs leading below deck.

She opened a lernen figur, but there was no response or post from Fukushima. Only…

Nabe3: “I guess Kiyomasa-senpai really does love Fukushima-senpai.”

Asano: “Yeahhh, I heard some realllly annoying talk on thaaat subject today.”

She did not know what that was about, but she left the rest of them on the deck. She was used to these kinds of things after seeing it happen so much in high school, but…

“Fukushima-senpai! Massive Katou-senpai ran away!”

She ran down to the second floor corridor and found Fukushima collapsed there.

Collapsed on her back.

Her head was leaning against the wall with the rest of her sprawled out in the corridor.

“Fukushima-senpai!?”

After running over to the motionless girl, Kani found she did appear conscious.

But her eyes were on the fully-shut door and her emotions seemed to have shut down.

When Kani lifted Fukushima’s hand and let go, it flopped right back down to the floor.

“Fukushima-senpai! Hey! Are you okay!?”

That question resulted in sudden movement.

Fukushima sprang up into a sitting position and then collapsed forward.

“Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!”

Kani could see a mixture of tears and anger as Fukushima shouted.

Then Fukushima slammed her forehead against the door like she was trying to break through it.

With a loud thud, the corridor clearly shook. And…

“Aghhh!”

She sucked in a dry breath of anger and collapsed back down onto the floor.

She stopped moving again.

Kani could guess that Fukushima had failed at something.

B-but what!?

She had no idea what was going on, but…

“Umm, how should I carry her!?”

When in doubt, rely on the M.H.R.R. Warrior’s Manual. She followed its guidance by ejecting Sasamura and placing Fukushima on top to transport her to the medical room.

“You had a tough time in battle, so you need some rest!”


“Okay, rest time is over! The name of the game tonight is time reduction!”

The sky overlooking the Seto Inland Sea was gradually rotating.

The view was clear in all 360 degrees. The sky was visible above and a giant aerial city was visible below.

This was the Musashi.

The giant ship was made of 8 smaller ships and now it was turning in the dead of night.

The bow was shifting from southwest to east.

“We are preparing for our trip to Kantou. While we turn, evenly distribute the ships’ supplies and the transport ships arriving from below. Are the supplies still coming in from the Udon Kingdom!?”

Masazumi gave instructions in the emergency Student Council command center set up on Musashino’s bow.

She looked up into the sky to see many transport ships coming and going, but the ones from the Udon Kingdom were all coming alongside Musashi’s larger ones and carrying their cargo inside their holds or onto their decks.

Circle Be: “Yayyy! I love harbor management work!”

Vice President: “Hey, are you sure about this? Can we really leave by morning?”

Circle Be: “It’ll be fine! Just fine! There’s a trick to it, but I’ll have all the supplies and support materials loaded so we can leave for Kantou.”

Masazumi put a hand on her hip and sighed at Heidi’s response.

“It’s a rough method, but that’s unavoidable in a race against time.”

Gold Mar: “Loading the supplies and materials normally takes 3 days no matter how much we speed it up, but we’re doing it all in one night.”

“Yeah,” said Masazumi. “We need to hurry to Kantou with supplies and materials for Satomi and Mouri.”

Which required this.

“We’ll finish the basic preparations tonight and the Musashi will depart for Kantou tomorrow morning. But the trip to Kantou will take three days. That’s our current plan.”


They needed to secure supplies and materials for Kantou and stock up the Musashi’s own reserves.

They would effectively complete that tonight and depart.

Masazumi knew the plan was unrealistic and everyone was wondering the same thing.

Worshiper: “Is this really possible? I’m sure the Musashi already had its own reserves, but still.”

Ohiroshiki was answered by Augesvarer.

Excitement filled her voice.

Circle Be: “It’ll be fine! Just fine! The trick is that it takes three days.”

“You see,” she began.

Circle Be: “Musashi is an aerial city ship. We all know that, but people tend to overlook it. The Commerce and Industry Guild doesn’t of course and our transport ship fleet is arranged accordingly, but I don’t think they’ve ever done something on this large a scale.”

The basic idea was simple. To sum it up…

Circle Be: “We’ll be resupplied by pursuit.”

Meaning…

Circle Be: “The Musashi is a giant ship, but it doesn’t use up all of its reserves right away. So all of the supplies plus what we’ll use up en route are loaded up on transport ships that pursue or move out ahead of us to get the supplies to us. You can think of it as being resupplied over three days while we travel. Taking three days to reach Kantou is a pretty slow pace, but since we can resupply while doing so, this should speed everything up.”

10ZO: “Won’t the pursuing transport ships incur high fuel costs?”

Circle Be: “That’s why we’ve gathered up merchants within Musashi who want to prove themselves. The Udon Kingdom is a major trade city, so buying up enough reserves for the Musashi and enough supplies and materials for Kantou will be an excellent deal for everyone involved. If they can find the profit line here, then establishing a connection with the Udon Kingdom will mean a lot.”

Flat Vassal: “Not to mention that the Udon Kingdom is also known as Sanuki!”

Circle Be: “You’d almost think that was its real name!”

10ZO: “You are in awfully high spirits, Heidi-dono.”

Art-Ga: “Because she’s finally working again. There’s nothing sweeter for a money-lover like her.”

Gold Mar: “She was also freed from the udon.”

Unturning: “She still has to pay back her debt, so it’s more like she’s living in denial while she can.”

Circle Be: “Don’t say thaaaaaaaaat! And who just started a thread titled ‘Udon Recs: Prostration Special’ on the divine network!? Partner with us and let us plaster the thread with ads!”

She never changed.

Anyway, the female udon was probably commanding the transport ships from the sky above.

Circle Be: “Some of the merchants are planning to get cargo takeout at a trade port along the way instead of buying it at the Udon Kingdom. Nothing beats a wide array of connections. Once a ship is ready, they’ll load as much cargo onto the Musashi as they can. Once the Musashi’s deck is too crowded for that, they’ll go on ahead and the Musashi will catch up to them, accept their cargo, and say bye. The more maneuverable small and midsized merchants are flying out ahead of us right away to reduce overall transport costs.”

Vice President: “That explains why I see so many ships flying east instead of coming and going here. We really have to thank the Udon Kingdom’s capacity. I’m impressed they could handle all of this.”

Circle Be: “Oh, don’t think that. That’s exactly what they want.”

“Really?” asked Masazumi.

Silver Wolf: “The Udon Kingdom hasn’t been getting as much trade traffic since K.P.A. Italia was absorbed by M.H.R.R. The trade lines used to sell grains to K.P.A. Italia and Hexagone Française are being reworked to assist M.H.R.R., but until they get that done, they have inventory sitting around without anyone to sell it to.”

“Exactly,” said Augesvarer.

Circle Be: “Plus, Europe wants cheap food right now thanks to the Thirty Years’ War and that will only increase after the war. Because the population explodes once peace arrives. That means a grain-producing region across the inland sea from Europe is going to be doing tons of business in the future. So the major merchants want to protect their connections with the Udon Kingdom and the midsized ones hope to get a piece of or outright take over the major ones’ connections by buying up all that dead inventory. They might lose money in transport costs this time, but it will all be worth it if they can steal those connections here. As Treasurer, we’re paying 10% of the fuel costs to ensure everyone can keep up without any delays in departure and arrival times.”

Some of the large transport ships in the sky were directly linked with ones from the Udon Kingdom.

Is that how they’re sending entire transport ships to Satomi or Mouri as supplies?

The Udon Kingdom directly faced K.P.A. Italia and Hexagone Française. Their flight would not be much different from a full-size aerial ship. They were already forming a row of ships to the east with a virtual ocean trailing behind them.

So…

Circle Be: “The trade negotiations must end by dawn. Once everything is decided, it’s time to leave for Kantou. Masazumi, your job is to ensure the Musashi leaves on time and to manage its travel. ‘Musashi’ and the others will handle all that, but you’re in command.”

“Then,” said Masazumi. “The Musashi will depart for Kantou tomorrow morning. The Treasurers will handle payment of the transport ships in Musashi’s care. Because I am sure they will come in handy in Kantou as well.”

Me: “Hey, I’m being forced to work for free at the non-main Blue Thunder, but is it really worth getting to Kantou so quickly?”

Vice President: “Yes, there is a simple reason for that.”

Tachibana Wife: “I have to ask. Is there any way this will not lead to a clash with the Hashiba forces over here?”

“Judge,” replied Masazumi.

Vice President: “Simply put, it’s all a form of harassment.”

Why did it take a full ten seconds before anyone posted anything else on the divine network?


Chapter 19: Announcer from the Viewing Platform[edit]

Horizon8A 501.jpg

Are you free during the break?

Do you have work to do?

Or what?

Point Allocation (It Depends)


“So Musashi will be passing south of here today?”

Unno was using a water scoop to water the wooden planters on Sanada Academy’s roof.

Her injuries had yet to fully heal.

This was meant as exercise to assist her recovery and Mochizuki was helping her.

“Unno-sama, spreading your arms as much as possible while carrying the bucket would work toward the rehabilitation of your shoulders. As would not moving your wrist when swinging the water scoop. …As for Musashi, this is the third day since they left Sanuki, so we should see them between the southwestern mountains at around midday.”

“Why did I think it was a good idea to have you manage my rehab? …But why is Musashi coming this way all of a sudden? Weren’t they better off over there?”

“I doubt that information would be useful to us,” said Mochizuki while removing some weeds from the planters.

“How do they get weeds up on the roof?” asked Unno.

“This type has extremely small seeds which can be carried by the wind or birds. It is also possible the seeds were in the soil to begin with.”

“I see,” said Unno as she tapped the water scoop against her head. “Feels like I’m useless outside of combat and Shinto.”

“I apologize. I just happened to know that one is all.”

Then a few Terrestrial Dragons rose up from the forest in front of the academy. They were around 80m long and they began whispering among themselves while looking Unno’s way.

“Because Unno-san is the athletic type, you see.”

“She’s hopeless when it comes to cooking, isn’t she?”

“Should we help her out? Invite her to our next party?”

“You are very popular, Unno-sama,” noted Mochizuki.

“When you’re that big I can hear you whispering!” shouted Unno.

The dragons cried out in surprise and sank back into the forest, making Unno sigh.

“I really hope they’re actually doing their jobs. We’ve got some visitors coming for training, right?”

“Led by Katou Kiyomasa of the Hashiba Ten Spears, yes.”

Mochizuki looked southeast.

She gazed over the mountains, past the plains, and beyond the blue sky.

“Can you see it?” asked Unno.

“I have been able to for a while now. The Azuchi is there off the coast of Satomi.”

Mochizuki crouched low as was her habit when viewing a target.

“Which one is our enemy, I wonder.”

“That is a very Sanada question to ask. Some might have asked which is our ally.”

Unno thought about what that meant.

“Ha,” she laughed bitterly. “We supposedly paved the way to a new Sanada, so I’ve got to work on that.”

“Testament.”

Just then, the door to the roof was kicked open.

They looked over to see a large man burst out and stomp on the floor several times.

“Dammit, dammit, dammit! What the hell!? Summer break was supposed to be my big summer debut. I was supposed to go to a training camp to get my mechanical horse license, meet a cute girl there, and ask her out. ‘Yes, I’ve developed a bit of a fear of girls lately thanks to some recent violence including a heel to the face. Ha ha. Oh, me? I’m Sanada Nobuyuki, Chancellor of Sanada Academy. I’m the herbivore type. Cause I live in the mountains. Ha ha ha.’ Then I flash her my pearly whites and it would’ve gone perfectly, but now the Azuchi is visiting for a training camp!? And if that wasn’t bad enough, the Musashi is coming back!? Papa is gone now and I can’t possibly suck up to both of them at the same time! Please come back, papa! Let me live on easy street!!”

Could you keep all that to yourself? wondered Unno while Mochizuki gave her a silent look that suggested she was thinking the same thing.

Then the herbivore type noticed them.

“Wh-what are you doing here!? Were you eavesdropping on me!?”

“It’s not eavesdropping when you shout it at us. And if anything, you’re the whiner type.”

“Is that any way to speak to your Chancellor!?”

A few Terrestrial Dragons stood up in the forest out ahead and waved their front legs side to side while glaring at him.

Then they sank back down into the forest.

“Damn them! I deserve more respect!! Listen, respect means you speak to me politely and do what I say while I sit down and eat like this!”

The supposed target of respect used his athletic ability to sit in an imaginary chair and then blew imaginary smoke from his mouth.

“Excellent.”

“Anyway, shouldn’t you be preparing for the Hashiba training camp?” asked Unno.

“What are you doing here?” added Mochizuki.

“Wh-what do you take me for!?”

“A survivor whose survival is honestly baffling.”

“Add that he is someone who is untouchable…while at home, Unno-sama.”

“D-dammit, you have to hit me where it hurts, don’t you!?”

Mochizuki opened a sign frame, grabbed it between two fingers, and tossed it to Nobuyuki.

“Wh-what’s this? A love letter!?”

“Wow, I’ve never seen Mochizuki give anyone that look before.”

“I am sorry, Unno-sama, but I could not help myself.”

“You two! Stop moving from one comment to another so fast! I can’t keep up! And what is this!?”

“Very well,” acquiesced Mochizuki while continuing to weed the planters. “I wrote up a list of things Sanada’s Chancellor should really get done today. As an automaton, I would appreciate it if you added ‘go to sleep and never wake up’ to the very end.”

“Oh, so you’re saying you’ll come wake me up instead!?”

“Yeah, he’s a survivor all right,” thought Unno as she glared at the man holding up the sign frame in both hands.

“Hey!” he shouted back at them.

“What is it now?”

“Thanks!” he smiled. “Papa and the others left me in charge, but I’m no good at thinking things through! I’ll use this to guide me for now, so give me another one when I’ll need it!”

“Is that any way to ask for a favor?”

“I’m the Chancellor, remember!?” He ran back down toward the hallway. “Wait for me, cuties at the training grouuuuund!”

Unno sighed at the very un-ninja-like pounding of his feet. And…

“What now?”

“If he comes to complain again, I recommend throwing that at him.”

“Good point.” Unno relaxed her shoulders. “How does he have so much energy during summer break?”

“That is his natural state, but it does make me want to avoid him.” Then Mochizuki noticed something. “Oh, Unno-sama, your arm is moving well.”

Sure enough, she could move her arm more than she thought. The movement was more light than smooth. She kind of felt like her arm was still being supported by a sling, but…

“At least he helped rid me of my excess tension.”

She waved the empty water scoop and stopped it in midair. It was pointing southwest.

“I wonder if Musashi has as much energy as ever.”


“Okay, it’s getting hot and we’ll be entering Kantou soon. You should be busy once we arrive, so let’s get your last retest out of the way.”

Masazumi wore her summer uniform as she listened to their homeroom teacher’s voice up at a windy spot.

Everyone was gathered on Musashino’s bow deck. And…

“Um, Sensei, we’re actually still busy this morning, so I would appreciate it if we could get this exam done sooner rather than later.”

“Huh? I thought you were free this morning.”

Augesvarer raised her hand in response while Kimi combed her mussed-up hair.

“Not only are the supplies still coming in, but the empty cargo containers from Mouri have already arrived. Then again, we’re lucky they arrived this soon.”

“That plus what we received from Sanuki should give us full use of the next 58 hours instead of just 24 hours.”

“That’s true,” said Asama while opening a few sign frames. So many different nationalities of ship are passing through the Musashi’s barrier, so I have to continue the docking procedure even as we travel.”

“Sorry about that, Asama-chi. This is making us a lot of money, so I’ll thank you later.”

“Yes, yes,” said Asama.

Masazumi knew that girl had not been anywhere other than the Student Council rec room and Suzu’s Bath for the past two days. In fact, most of them had been doing that.

This is a huge burden on us all.

“I won’t say I’m sorry, though. Because we have a good reason for all of this,” said Masazumi. “It means a lot to enter Kantou early. Staying in the Udon Kingdom like that would have been nice too, but we have a safer and more justifiable reason to return to Kansai.”

“Are we using the Swedish Chancellor?”

“Hmm. We would need a signature for that, so we can’t be so open about it.”

But…

“We have a number of last resorts here, which means we have other options.”

And…

“We need Hashiba’s help as well.”


“Hashiba’s?” asked Mitotsudaira.

She had a hunch she knew what Masazumi was thinking. If they would be returning again to the west from Kantou, then they would have to use something in Kantou.

They would have to use their political position and their physical supplies for that. So…

I can make a pretty good guess.

But she did not know how that could be used to send them back to Kansai. Their preparations for that must not have been complete. At any rate…

“We can work on that as our own problem later,” said Mitotsudaira. “Sensei, what kind of exam will this be? And,” she added. “Naomasa and the Tachibana Couple are in Satomi, so what about them?”

“Hm, we’ll figure something out for them, I guess.”

That woman was as irresponsible as ever, which did not seem ideal for a teacher.

“I ate a bit too much last night, so I’m in the mood for some exercise.”

“Exercise?”

They all tilted their heads and she smiled.

“Judge. So let’s make this a quick and simple exam.”

Such as…

“I’ll run to the academy and you win if you can hit me just once on the way. We can take a break there once it’s over.”


Oriotri watched their reactions.

They did more than just tense up.

Asama hid a yawn with her left hand while raising her right.

Several pieces of metal fell from the sky. They were transport pallets made by modifying reinforced bamboo launchers for use in battle.

They contained the silver chains, Tonbo Spare, Umetsubaki, and…

“Master Tenzou.”

“I’m tired, so let’s say this is enough, Margot.”

“I hate that Unturning Centipede was destroyed, but I can still transfer in the mandible swords and the legs.”

All of the pallets popped open and they all retrieved their weapons from within.

“–––––––”

Then they all came at her at once.

There was no hesitation and no one had signaled the beginning of the battle. But once they had clearly-defined winning and losing conditions, they made their move. Behind them, Neshinbara already had a sign frame open and was sending instructions.

Did he guess this would happen and worked out some strategies on the way up? If so, well done!

Oriotri dashed back and started to jump, but…

“Oh.”

She noticed a shadow overhead and then Raging Beast dropped down at her from directly overhead.


The crash was a series of metallic impacts and wooden splintering.

Adele raised her right arm to say Raging Beast had been successful launched from the engine division.

“We did it! I’m glad I had it ready for launch at any moment just in case something happened in Kantou!”

She ran forward to find the engine division had done outstanding work. Raging Beast had actually landed on its feet.

The legs were held together for landing and not even their teacher’s gorilla-like strength could have saved her from that metallic stomp.

Come to think of it, maybe this is bad?

“Sensei! Are you all right!?”

After checking, Adele ran toward Raging Beast. She heard her classmates’ footsteps running up behind her, but as she approached first…

…'’Eh?

Their teacher was waving from between Raging Beast’s legs.

She was perfectly fine. In fact…

“Oh-”

The following “no” was erased by the impact to Adele’s hastily-raised spear.

Their teacher had burst from between Raging Beast’s legs and swung her sword up from below. The very end of that attack had caught at Adele’s spear, lifting her feet from the deck.

“––––––”

She was launched backwards.


Adele suppressed her voice in the air.

She had been sent airborne by an attack. That much was fine. Well, no, it’s not. But it wasn’t right to be thrown from the deck when just the tip of a sword caught you.

But last time, she managed to spank me with it, so I’ve improved a lot to actually defend myself!

Yes, she had gotten her defenses up this time. She had only been lifted from the deck, so she only had to stick the landing and continue her pursuit.

They had a lot of fast people, so she could continue on with them and avoid a similar mistake again.

Like the 1st and 5th special Duty Officers!

“Okay, Mary-dono, let’s go for it!”

“My king, Horizon, I will carry you with my silver chains!”

Adele suddenly felt very lonely. In fact, she felt like those two had become a lot slower than her. Did that mean she was their class’s top sprinter because she was single? No, there was still the Vice Chancellor.

But she acts almost entirely on a whim.

At any rate, she wanted to keep her motivation from dropping quite so rapidly. I’m doing a good job here. I nearly crushed her with my mobile shell and I blocked her counterattack.

That just left landing.

“Nailed it!”

Just as their teacher slipped past Raging Beast and prepared to dash away, Adele pursued, quick on her feet. She knew she could catch up and launch an attack from behind.

Defeating their teacher would be difficult, but even if she failed at that, she could still buy some time for the others to catch up. So…

“Here I go!”

“Adele!” shouted Asama from behind.

What is it? she wondered while looking back.

“Watch out, please.”

Hassan flew in from behind her with a giant plate held overhead.

He had probably been aiming for Oriotri, but he ended up on the same path as her.

“Ah.”

They collided.


Everyone saw Hassan added to the defeated list.

He was lucky that his plate was not broken and Masazumi brought a hand to her chin while carried over Futayo’s shoulder.

“That’s the last thing Balfette needed after last night. Because-”

“Because she was hit with ‘a plate’ after being ‘up late’?” Horizon easily predicted the answer but then hit herself in the head. “I do apologize, Masazumi-sama. You were making such a clever pun based on how similar those two pairs of words sound – yes, you must have spent the last three days and three nights coming up with it in the hopes of bringing yourself closer to the rest of us – and yet I went ahead and ruined it for you. Now, if anyone is having trouble figuring out why such a lame pun is funny, allow me to explain-”

“Enough analysis.”

But when they all ran over, they found Adele collapsed with the large curry plate resting on her head.

“If you ask me, this looks like the corpse of a curry villain from a children’s TV show,” said Ohiroshiki.

“If so, it’s gonna explode in a few more seconds,” said Toori.

“How heavy is that curry anyway?” asked Mitotsudaira.

“Around 7kg including the plate,” helpfully supplied Hassan.

“Oh? So her head was crushed by 7kg?” said Horizon. “That means Adele-sama was taken out by curry, but that is probably how she would have wanted to go.”

“Hey, quit standing around and come after me!”

Their teacher’s voice got their stopped feet moving again. Asama sent Adele a healing sign frame and Neshinbara sent her some instructions. Then it was time to move from Musashino’s bow to the warehouse district below.

“Let’s get to it!”

Their teacher had already descended the stairs from the bow.

The class rushed after her.


Novice: “Hassan-kun has an impressive record against some truly monstrous foes, so losing him and his curry hurts a lot.”

10ZO: “Yes, I was thinking that his curry might be capable of defeating Sensei.”

Unturning: “Does Musashi think curry is like a sacred sword or something?”

Uqui: “Narumi, can you eat a sacred sword? You cannot. Does it have mild and spicy varieties? It does not. Can it satisfy an entire family? It cannot. Thus, curry is superior to a sacred sword and it is rude to curry to compare them.”

Unturning: “I appreciate the valuable lesson.”

Gold Mar: “Anyway, we’re going on ahead!”


Naito and Naruze leaped into the open air from the top of the stairs.

They had already filled their wings with air, so they only had to flap them.

“Go!”

They soared upwards with brooms in hand.

“Should we summon Weiss Fräulein and Schwarz Fräulein!?”

“I think these are good enough for catching up and shooting her. And,” said Naruze. “We’re not stupid enough to challenge Sensei to close-quarters combat. We’ll move out ahead and snipe her from beyond her reach. Even if we can’t hit her, we can at least slow her down.”

“Then…”

“We’ll set up shop at the academy before she arrives.”

“Judge,” said Naito while placing the broom between her legs. She activated its spells, placing the acceleration spells around it.

“Okay, let’s go.”

She pointed toward the academy, but…

Oh?

Something grazed her cheek at high speed. She knew what it was: a large bullet made of light.

“That’s a slowdown bullet used for mock battles.”

“Indeed it is,” said a male voice while deep laughter echoed down from above. “They’re also known as decay spells used to stop violators. …This is part of my job, so let’s do this, Zwei Fräulein.”

Naito looked up to see a familiar face. No, two familiar faces.

“Almirante and Wild Kamelie!”

“If you don’t Verwandlung, I won’t either!” The woman that flew in already had an attack Magie Figur open. “Your teacher asked me to do this. Sorry if you fail your exam cause of me!!”


Mitotsudaira saw a battle beginning in the air.

She was currently racing through Musashino’s city. She was pursuing their teacher while her king and Horizon sat in silver chain chairs. However…

“Sensei, you asked for help!?”

“That’s right,” said a voice from up ahead. “It wouldn’t be much of a final exam if I didn’t up the ante a little!”

Their teacher’s voice was already growing distant. The provisional council building was located toward the bow and the business and government buildings were spread out aftward from there. The mansion used by the Knight’s League was there as well, but…

None of it helps us stop Sensei!

That was why Naito and Naruze had gone on ahead, but those two had been stopped by enemy reinforcements.

Novice: “This is the reverse of the usual route, which poses a problem. She normally pulls out ahead in Okutama’s nature district, but we catch back up in the residential district. Because we can travel on the roofs. But Musashino has more government buildings than residences and has less foot traffic, so she can run right through the city.”

That was bad. Because…

Sticky King: “We normally end at Asakusa or Shinagawa, but this route is shorter by a ship or two!”

Obscene: “That means an initial head start can make all the difference. We’re in trouble!”

Vice President: “Um, is that true?”

“Judge,” confirmed Mitotsudaira while moving out ahead. She pulled her king and Horizon in close, so they were effectively sitting on her shoulders. “The residential and business districts let us use the roofs and they cover the center of Musashino back to the stern, along with the bow of Okutama. Sensei’s speed will drop there, but she can speed up on the rope pathway between the ships and she can make a last spurt in Okutama’s nature district right at the end.”

“With a distance this short, her stamina is irrelevant and the multiple opportunities to speed up are a problem. In that case…”

“I will take the lead!”

Futayo did exactly that.


Narumi was among the leading cluster.

The Vice Chancellor was on the left, the Mito Lord was in the center, and Urquiaga and Narumi herself were on the right.

They ran down a straight path leading directly to the residential district. And if the teacher was going to lay on the speed…

“Soaring Wings!”

“A burst of acceleration!”

“Kiyonari!”

“Judge,” he said while accelerating.

That aerial half-dragon was plenty tough, but he also rivalled the fully-equipped Technohexen in speed.

Narumi crouched down and jumped onto his arm.

Half-dragons held their arms out front when flying, so he naturally ended up holding her as he flew.

I was always comfortable with this.

She could entrust this flight with him. He even bent his elbow just enough to give her more of a seat.

Then he shot forward. His initial speed was blazing fast. He instantly passed the Vice Chancellor and Mito Lord at low altitude.

“Here we go,” said Narumi.

Go they did.


Chapter 20: Greeter at the Entrance[edit]

Horizon8A 523.jpg

It goes without saying

But this should be

Thoroughly inspected before

Sharing the joy and pain

Point Allocation (The Efficient Type)


Mitotsudaira saw Urquiaga and Narumi’s teamwork.

Urquiaga was on the left and Narumi on the right.

They were attacking from behind, but there was one crucial factor here.

“Which one will attack first!?”

One was a half-dragon and the other the Date Vice Chancellor. Urquiaga had the greater momentum, but Narumi had the greater skill. Narumi was not using Unturning Centipede this time, but…

“That should be fine with her,” said Horizon.

Just one step after landing, those two shifted to an attack.

They did not even wait for Oriotri to look back.


Narumi made a short dash to come up alongside their teacher when she saw their teacher had a hand on the hilt of the sword she carried over her back.

The hilt stuck up from the left side of her back, so if she drew it and swung with her right hand…

The attack is directed at me on her right.

That was fine. Narumi ejected a mandible sword into her left hand. Then she repeated the process twice. She drew three of the swords out past her elbow, attached them to her elbow in midair, and swung them.

“Triple Slash.”

Then she reattached her original arm and drew a mandible sword with that as well.

For the real attack.

The Triple Slash had created an opening for this final attack.

Just then, she heard a noise. Their teacher had produced a solid clang while running out ahead.

It came from her sword, yet she could not have struck anything with it. Which could only mean…

“– – – – – –”

Narumi reflexively twisted her body to the right.

She kicked off the ground for a midair spin.

Something else happened immediately afterwards.

It came from their teacher.

Her speed suddenly dropped. But instead of braking by bracing her feet against the ground, she entered an immediate skid that made her pitch forward.

Narumi did not need to check and see what the previous clang had been.

The tip of the scabbard.

Their teacher had not been preparing to draw her sword. She had instead pushed it down so the tip tore into the ground.

The first two strikes of the Triple Slash had not hit.

She had not even needed to dodge. By lowering her speed, the distance between them had dropped. Then she had used the skidding from the scabbard’s tip to send herself just barely airborne. So…

“…!”

Narumi placed her hopes on Urquiaga while twirling through the air. No eye contact or verbal signal was needed. She knew he would handle this. So while she twisted around…

I need to get the timing right.

When she had predicted their teacher’s skidding, she had known she too had to reduce her speed. Hence the spin. The midair spin delayed her by about two steps. From there, she only had to launch another mandible sword to automatically change her movement from a backhand blow to a tornado slash.

She could slice into her opponent. She knew the timing was dead on. And…

The third one!

The third strike of the Triple Slash would reach her opponent, even if it was not a clean hit.

She knew Urquiaga would use that as a feint to make his own move, so she poured all of her strength into her next move.

The follow-through of the backhand blow made for a horizontal slash.


Mitotsudaira and Futayo, who was picking up speed, saw what happened next.

Urquiaga struck with his right arm that doubled as his right main wing. He swung it toward Oriotri.

His arm was both large and long. He generally kept the elbow bent to balance his upper body, but when stretched out, it grew to nearly 2m long.

He pushed that arm out instead of swinging it. The blow also carried all of the speed he had built up.

Narumi’s third strike was also going to reach Oriotri. It was swinging in low toward her legs from behind.

Would she dodge or deflect the attack to her feet? Either way, Urquiaga’s attack would reach her while she was dealing with it.

A solid sound rang out.

Narumi’s third strike had hit the long scabbard lowered from their teacher’s back.

Their opponent had chosen to defend.

That caused her to freeze up for the instant of the blow, so she could not make another move right away. And then…

“…!”

Urquiaga’s right punch flew in.


Narumi had set everything up perfectly for her attack.

Their teacher had chosen to defend, which made the next step simpler.

Urquiaga only had to hit with his attack. And even if he did not, Narumi was still here.

She drew another sword from her high-speed spin and swung the blade from her right shoulder.

Narumi made sure to visually confirm the enemy’s position. Her intuition had already told her what she needed to know, but it was still worth checking.

The teacher was no longer there.

Huh?

When she looked back, all she saw was Urquiaga.

The teacher had vanished between them. The woman was not to the right or left either.

Where did she go?

That silent question was followed by two sharp but solid sounds.

Then she saw Urquiaga’s fist fly through empty air. That meant his attack had not hit, so…

“––––”

She looked up.

Sure enough, their teacher was performing a layout backflip high in the air.

That was not a move made when running forward. And even if you did pull it off, you would not gain that kind of height.

But Narumi did not question how she had done it.

The third strike!

That final strike had swept low toward the legs. Their teacher had caught that on the scabbard lowered from her back, but what if she had meant it as more than just defense?

She had performed a midair backflip to avoid the attack coming at her from behind.

That would normally not be possible, but some extra initial speed could make all the difference there.

She had used the momentum of her skidding to kick herself upwards and then she had caught the blade on her scabbard. The mandible sword had been given plenty of force by a prosthetic arm, so what if she had caught that to boost the initial speed of her flip?

“…”

Not bad, thought Narumi.

She did not mind because she could follow her opponent’s moves.

Their teacher was going to land in the middle of Narumi’s horizontal slash. So…

I will get this hit.


That had been an impressive evasion, but Narumi knew that meant they had driven their opponent to the point of requiring such a fancy move.

Their teacher was only moving from one improvised move to another, so…

I will hit her as she lands.

She did not mind if it was blocked. This time, she was aiming for the torso instead of the legs. Just to be safe, she used a snap of her wrist to give it a somewhat downwards twist. That would push her opponent into the ground, thus preventing her from using the blow to escape upwards like before. That left just one thing.

“–––––”

Narumi made an immediate decision.


Futayo saw Narumi let go of her mandible sword.

She suddenly threw her weapon, which could be seen as abandoning the fight.

She had forcibly twisted her wrist to send it rotating up over the half-dragon’s head.

But Futayo had just one thought upon seeing it.

Well done!

Three actions overlapped a moment later.

The first was Narumi kicking off the ground to move a step away from Oriotri.

The second was their teacher landing.

With an exclamation of surprise, she dashed forward.

And the third…

“Kh.”

Something flew down toward where Narumi had just been and where the half-dragon still was.

They were a pair of mandible swords – two of the three Narumi had used earlier.

Did Sensei knock them upwards when she made her flip earlier!?

Futayo had heard a solid sound then, so that must have been the tip of the scabbard forcibly catching at the two blades. That had guided the two swords toward the path Narumi and the half dragon would be taking.

At the same time, Narumi had thrown a sword over the half-dragon’s head.

“…”

With a solid clang, the two blades scattered through the air.

Then Narumi shifted to the right and the half-dragon to the left. Their speed had already dropped, so their teacher pulled out ahead.

“Narumi, Urquiaga,” she said. “You two make a lot of moves and weave your attacks together well, but that tends to fall apart when someone forcibly intervenes. So watch out for that.”

That applied to Futayo as well.

She was reminded of the training she used to receive from her father and Kazuno. They had always given her some advice after defeating her. Whenever her father gave some advice, Kazuno would generally correct him with, “Incorrect. What Tadakatsu-sama did was also a poor lesson for you, so just assume that he got lucky this time, Futayo-sama.” Her father would then insist “N-not true! It’s all about getting a feel for it! Don’t think – feel!” Kazuno would then roll up her sleeves and chase after the man.

That really takes me back.

She had not been taught by anyone since before they left for Novgorod, but she had a feeling that instance was not strictly the same thing as training. So…

“Please train me!”

She moved forward.

The surrounding city was changing. They were leaving the area full of business and government buildings and entering a residential district with lots of student longhouses. The city grew a lot shorter here and there was more foot traffic, so their teacher made a great leap.

She landed on the rooftops.


Mitotsudaira was concerned about something while she accelerated.

A middle group was forming and following behind her leading group. They were primarily the noncombatants. In gym class terms, these were the ones who were satisfied simply finishing the race.

The ones like Neshinbara and Ohiroshiki were low prior- No, I shouldn’t think about my classmates that way. But regardless, some of that group created their usual “main formation”. However…

Silver Wolf: “Tomo.”

Mitotsudaira asked Asama a question while she ran.

Silver Wolf: “You have Umetsubaki ready to fire.”

So…

Silver Wolf: “Why are you back in the middle group?”


Asama: “Eh?”

Mitotsudaira listened to Asama’s response.

Asama: “What are you talking about? That’s usually where I am when I use my bow. I use Persona-kun’s shoulder. Yes.”

Silver Wolf: “Hm, I guess you’re right. Then can I ask about something else?”

Asama: “Ask away.”

“Judge,” said Mitotsudaira as she smiled and did so.

Silver Wolf: “You can use your ether detection to tell when Sensei’s reinforcements are approaching, can’t you?”

Asama: “No, no, no. The ether detection is triggered by far too many things on the Musashi, so that would be a challenge.”

Silver Wolf: “But you have a general idea, don’t you?”

Mitotsudaira was certain of it now.

This is dangerous.

But just to be sure, she asked anyway.

Silver Wolf: “Tomo?”

Yes.

Silver Wolf: “I take it she actually went through the visiting procedure, didn’t she?”

Novice: “Hold on! I don’t like the sound of this!”

Neshinbara interrupted from the rear group just as they passed through the gate to the residential district where there were actually people on the streets. They would be traveling on the roofs from here, so Mitotsudaira searched for some footing up above.

“–––––”

That was when she saw something.

A beam of light shot in from behind. That was Ex. Collbrande. It flew to her from Mary back in the middle group. She snatched its hilt from the air.

“Sensei’s reinforcements have arrived, haven’t they!?”

Excalibur had reacted to a threat.

It came in the form of two pieces of destruction.

From the front came several bursts of air that tore into the roofs near Futayo before disappearing.

And from behind…

The ground!

The crust block sprang up from below and someone emerged from below, wearing a yellow track suit.

“Mother!?”


Suzu sensed the enemy force from Persona-kun’s shoulder in the middle group.

I don’t believe it.

No, she had to accept that this was really happening. But it still seemed ridiculous. Her response was closer to exasperation than surprise or anger. After all, the ground behind them had launched skyward and someone had jumped from below.

“Oh? I was trying to hit your middle group from behind, but they were faster than I thought.”

M-Mitotsudaira-san’s…mother!

Hexagone Française’s Vice Chancellor was lifting a crust block with her right hand while inexplicably wearing a track suit. And to the front…

“Ko ko. Kids these days have so much energy!”

It was a fox.

A nine-tailed fox in a track suit stood on a roof.

“Mogami Yoshiaki-san!”


This is bad, thought Neshinbara. Very bad. How is it bad? By being really, really bad. Because…

“Sensei! Are you trying to fail us!?”

“Hm, I just want you to put some real effort into it.”

“That doesn’t answer my question!”

Still, this was a very dangerous situation.

They were well aware how absurd the Reine des Garous’s physical abilities were. The rear group was primarily the indoorsy types, so they would do little to stop that woman from catching up.

“Fine. I’ll do it.”

Noriki had stuck with the rear group as their guard, so he bumped his fists together and then turned around while still running.

“Can you really do this, Noriki-kun!?”

“I don’t have much of choice.”

Everyone watched as he took a fighting stance.

Just then, a sign frame appeared next to him.

His classmates and the Reine des Garous watched curiously as he nodded toward it and then smiled back at them all.

“Ha ha ha. Ujinao’s mad that I was thinking of hitting a woman. Guess I can’t do it after all.”

“Then how are you supposed to attack Sensei!?”

“I’ll just ask her again if it comes to it.”

He answered with a smile, so Neshinbara silently removed Noriki from the list of fighters. Then Suzu gasped and looked back.

“Sh-she’s…coming! The mother…the mother is c-coming!”

Horizey: “That is not inaccurate, but try to calm down.”

Silver Wolf: “What even is my mother at this point?”

Still, it was true the Reine des Garous was running toward them.

Her rooftop movements looked carefree, but she was moving quite quickly. This is bad, thought Neshinbara again.

“Ohiroshiki-kun! You be our shield! Now go! Buy us as what little time you can!”

“I was afraid you’d say that!”

At any rate, Neshinbara knew what their teacher was doing here. The rear group would always take a command or support role, but this was a way of getting them to fight as well. But…

“You could have eased us into it a little more than this!”

He decided to try asking.

Novice: “Mitotsudaira-kun! What is your mom doing!?”

Silver Wolf: “D-don’t ask me!”

Horizey: “Neshinbara-samaaaa!”

“Eh?”

Th-this was my question!

Just then, someone grabbed the back of his neck.

“Eh?”

He was lifted up and dangled down, so he looked up and saw the Reine des Garous’s face.

“Caught you.”

“Oh, uh, h-hi.”

She held him with her left hand and held something else up with her right hand, all while continuing to run.

The thing in her right hand was a wolf made of ether. It was panting and wagging its tail in excitement.

“This is one of my forest’s wolves. When one catches you, they’ll suck you dry.”

“Of our life force, you mean!?”

Four Eyes: “Can’t even give an amusing reaction to that, can you?”

Shut up, he thought.

“Now, play nice, you two.”

The Reine des Garous pressed her arms together, bringing the large wolf toward Neshinbara, and then she tossed them both to the ground.


“Gwaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh…”

Mitotsudaira heard a scream that started off powerful but gradually faded away.

Neshinbara was being loved on by a wolf behind her mother.

Art-Ga: “I took a peek while fighting, but it’s clearly just playing with him, isn’t it?”

Gold Mar: “Judge. I took a peek while fighting too and it’s definitely just playing with him.”

Four Eyes: “Excuse me, but could I get a photo of that? A video would be even better.”

The sign frames that opened told Mitotsudaira more or less what was happening, but then she heard Horizon’s voice.

“I shouted his name to warn him of the danger, but I never imagined he would mistake it for part of our running gag.”

“Eh, he would have been taken out sooner or later anyway. He’s obsessed with famous people.”

Then they received some last words from the obsessive.

Novice: “E-everyone…d-don’t worry about me.”

Almost Everyone: “We weren’t.”

Worshiper: “The thought never crossed my mind.”

10ZO: “Worrying would be dangerous given the situation.”

Art-Ga: “You didn’t even manage to buy us any time.”

Novice: “Wait! Did you really think I failed to accomplish anything before I was taken out!?”

Everyone exchanged a glance while running and ultimately turned toward the 1st Special Duty Officer. The ninja made a “why me” gesture and Mary tilted her head.

“Master Tenzou?”

“Judge. I will find something useful Neshinbara-dono did!”

Mitotsudaira thought she heard a sarcastic “good luck” in Naruze’s voice from the sky, but maybe she had imagined that.

10ZO: “D-do not worry, Neshinbara-dono. I-I know what you set up here?”

His statement became a question since he did not in fact know, but the Secretary seemed to believe him. He managed to give a thumbs up from behind the happy wolf.

Novice: “Good…so it wasn’t for nothing.”

Silver Wolf: “What are you saying you did?”

Novice: “Eh?”

Silence fell over the divine transmission.

Four Eyes: “Did you only say that to feel better about yourself? Surely you aren’t going to say you were buying them time. That excuse was already rejected.”

Novice: “No, um, well.”

“Mother!? The Secretary hasn’t been defeated yet!”

“Okay, fine,” said her mother while creating three more wolves from the ground. They finally silenced the Secretary, but…

Horizey: “Well done, Mitotsudaira-sama! You prevented his sacrifice from being in vain and revealed the process by which she creates the wolves!”

But that’s all it accomplished, she thought before noticing her mother lightly skipping along and blowing her a kiss.

“With that, I have taken out your chain of command!”

Everyone thought about what that meant. And after around 5 seconds, they all reacted just like Neshinbara had earlier.

“Eh?”


Uqui: “He was our entire chain of command!? Really!?”

Laborer: “A frightening thought.”

Musashino: “Thank you very much for visiting my ship today, Reine des Garous-sama. However, your assertion just now is extremely concerning, so please refrain from repeating it in the future. Over.”

Vice President: “In his defense, other nations’ Secretaries often are the ones who put together their strategies.”

Silver Wolf: “That is a defense of what my mother said, not of the Secretary.”

Horizey: “Anyway, this is a dangerous situation, but what is our next move?”


The Reine des Garous saw Musashi’s princess turn back her way while carried by a silver chain.

Oh, dear.

That was her daughter’s king’s wife. That made her the head of her daughter’s household. As a Loup Garou, her daughter would find a female pack leader more comfortable. The Reine des Garous wondered if she would have made Anne a part of her “pack” had she been healthy.

But after the princess raised a hand in greeting, she raised her voice.

“Shirojiro-samaaa!”

That was Musashi’s Treasurer. Thanks to the records and seeing him at the Siege of Odawara the other day, she knew he fought using money. She had heard he had received the ultimate udon punishment, but he must have been pardoned.

He was not a threat to the Reine des Garous, but she still had to be cautious. He had used money sniping at Odawara and if he were to use that here-

“Oh?”

Sensing a shadow overhead, she looked up.

She saw the bow of a transport ship.

It was dropping toward her from directly above.


“Yesssss! I’m so glad we called it in from its original route!”

Heidi and Shirojiro stood on the rear deck of the vertically-oriented transport ship.

They had used one of the supply ships from the Udon Kingdom. It was one of the one-way ships that was to be abandoned after making its delivery, so they had planned to use it as a mobile warehouse in Edo or thereabouts. However…

“Any ship capable of flying near the Musashi needs solid armor and anti-ether spells!”

“Judge.” Shirojiro crossed his arms. “Honda Masazumi! Here is a free service to thank you for releasing us!”

With that, the ship shook. They knew exactly what the vertical shaking meant.

A direct hit.

“Yes!”


Heidi snapped her fingers at the transport ship bull’s eye.

“We did it, Shiro-kun! Perfect aim! We’re bound to get some reward money for this!”

But then she noticed something.

Huh?

This wasn’t right. Because…

Why did we our descent stop?

After a direct hit, the ship should have at least broken through the surface. Yet they had not lowered a centimeter since hitting. Then what was going on?

“Eh!? Wait!”

The ship swayed backwards. Or so it felt.

That was inaccurate.

It was moving forward. The transport ship was running forward while still oriented vertically. And with a skipping tempo.

Heidi could guess what had happened.

“Sorry, everyone!” She laughed from the transport ship’s rear deck. “The Reine des Garous is running toward you while holding the ship!!”


Narumi watched it all from a few breaths behind the others.

She was about two blocks to the right and a bit behind them.

From that distance, she could see more clearly what was happening.

“She really is carrying the transport ship while she runs…”

Narumi was the type to just accept things, but even she trailed off in disbelief this time.

The Reine des Garous was running along the street in one of Musashi’s residential districts and she was holding a 300m transport ship overhead. And yet…

Why isn’t she breaking through the floor?

Martials arts were the only possibility.

Did it take being an embodiment of strength to pull this off, or was it a simple matter of her species’ superior muscles and bones? Narumi did not know, but…

“I don’t like this.”

A fellow Vice Chancellor was doing this. Of course, there were plenty of things Narumi could do that this opponent could not, but the gap between them still felt massive.

“Kiyonari.”

“You need Unturning Centipede,” he said from the other side of the Reine des Garous. “Never hold back against this class’s opponents, even in your imagination.”

“Fair enough.”

She felt a strange urge rising from the bottom of her chest, but she used his words to suppress it. That was why she appreciated him. Back in Date, she would have faced this battle like it was nothing, but now she could face these battles with the importance they deserved. She felt like she had changed a lot, but…

“It isn’t a question of when, because I have to do it right here and now.”

She might never fight this woman again, but if she did poorly during their one and only battle, she would only be creating a bad memory for herself. So…

“Watch this, Reine des Garous. Watch and see how we respond to your absurd strength.”

“Everyone is already responding,” he said. “Those that predicted it are already on the move.”

And…

“Only she can launch a proper counterattack here.”


Suzu sensed a powerful attack.

300m transport ships were a familiar thing on the Musashi. They would fly between the Musashi’s ships even during combat and they could be used for transporting personnel, defense, or offense if need be. There were specialized warships and aerial ships that functioned as castles, but Suzu thought the transport ships were the real hardworking MVPs. However…

“H-here it comes!”

A transport ship was oriented vertically and skipping this way. No, the Reine des Garous was supporting it from below and running this way, but something of that size had never felt so real to Suzu. She felt bad for ramming or luring their previous enemies with or toward these things. She decided to go for something less frightening next time.

But the skipping was picking up speed. And…

“Okay, I hope you’re ready now!”

Joy was the only emotion Suzu sensed in that carefree voice. Oh, Mitotsudaira-san’s mom…isn’t a bad person.

O-or wait? Does this make her…even worse?

But just as the transport ship’s movements sped up, Suzu raised her voice.

“Asama…-san!”


Narumi could not detect any haste in the Asama Shrine Representative’s movements.

There was no hesitation or delay in them either and it all flowed together as naturally as breathing.

Narumi finally understood why that girl was with the middle group.

The Asama Shrine managed visitors from the outside, so she would have known that the Reine des Garous and Mogami Chancellor were visiting.

So just in case, she had chosen the middle group this time. From there, she could snipe the enemy whether they came from the front or the back.

That’s why the Mito Lord questioned it earlier.

She stood on Persona-kun’s shoulder while attacking with her Umetsubaki divine weapon, so she could not use her direction fixation spell. However…

“With the ground below and the transport ship above, the target has no way of avoiding this.”

She aimed for the Reine des Garous.

“Hit!”

The shot flew perfectly straight.


Heidi could feel the result of Asama’s shot. First…

“Ohh?”

She floated up. She definitely felt herself rise up to knee height. And then…

We’re sinking!?

She fell back down. The fall was exactly what she had expected to happen during the initial crash.

The bow of the transport ship had broken through the surface. So…

Did she take out the Reine des Garous!?

“You deserve a reward for that, Asama-chi!”

She shouted with her hands down on the deck, but there was no response. She realized why after looking down.

“–––––”

Persona-kun with Asama on his shoulder and the others were all running. At full speed.

They were clearly running away from here, but based on how far the transport ship had sunk, Heidi could only assume the Reine des Garous had been squashed. However…

“Huh?”

A light shined behind her.

She looked back but could not see past the stern armor. Still, she knew what that light had to be.

It was ether light. And from a powerful spell. Since it was directly behind her and Shirojiro…

Circle Be: “Is that light below us from Asama-chi’s arrow!?”

Asama: “Oh, did it self-destruct like I wanted!?”

It had not hit. It had done well for a non-homing shot, but if it had not hit, then what had happened?

We floated up a bit at first.

That must have been the Reine des Garous tossing the transport ship up.

However, that was not enough to dodge Asama’s arrow. And now the ship had broken through the floor. Heidi could only think of one possibility.

Did she abandon the ship and dodge to one side or the other?

No, that did not explain one thing.

Why were her classmates fleeing directly away, like they wanted to put as much distance between them and the ship as possible?

A thought occurred to her and then something happened.

She heard a straining and another odd sound. And…

“Whoa!?”

The transport ship was moving. Forward. While breaking through the surface city’s floor.

The Reine des Garou was holding it from below the deck and dragging it forward.

She broke through the floor herself when she tossed the ship!?

She was at some risk up top since she could not use her hands or dodge, so she had gotten creative. She had gone down a level. So now she was running underground while carrying the transport ship that stuck up through the deck.

She knew the path ahead was perfectly straight, so she didn’t need to see.

The transport ship tore through the surface like a giant shark fin.

“The bill for all this destruction had better not go to us!”


Chapter 21: Multiple Presences at the Fork in the Road[edit]

Horizon8A 553.jpg

It is there

It is not there

It has a form

It is formless

Point Allocation (Yes-No)


Mitotsudaira sensed danger as she ran.

The battle – or the situation – was splitting into two different locations.

The fox was up ahead and the wolf was behind them.

“The Far Eastern proverb is ‘a tiger at the front gate, a wolf at the rear gate’, but it seems we have swapped the tiger for a fox.”

Vice President: “Our wolf is more associated with the Yellow Gate.”

Art-Ga: “I could release some doujinshis that associated her with the ‘rear gate’, if you know what I mean.”

Mitotsudaira wanted to put a stop to that conversation, but the situation was too dangerous for that. Because at this rate…

“Sensei is getting away!”

Uqui: “This is not good. How about we earn what points we can just by reaching the finishing line?”

10ZO: “That would mean a failing grade for Neshinbara-dono and anyone else knocked out of the fight!”

In that case, thought Mitotsudaira before she heard her king’s voice from behind.

“Nate, move out ahead,” he said. “It looks like Samurai Girl is dealing with Yoshi-foxy and I’m sure someone will deal with everything behind us. That leaves only you to go after Sensei right now.”

“B-but what about you and Horizon?”

“Asama-sama is with the middle group, so she can keep us safe.” Horizon nodded to her while grabbing her king by the collar. “Do not worry about us and go ahead.”

“Why do your assurances only make me more worried?”

She decided to check just in case.

Silver Wolf: “Are things going okay back there? Hassan can’t use his curry right now, so I’m the only one who can deal with my mother.”

Sticky King: “That duel showed just how crucial curry is to Musashi’s defense!”

Laborer: “Someone other than me will have to deal with it. But I guess that goes without saying.”

They were telling her to go. So…

“My king, Horizon. Try to get along, okay?”

Horizon nodded while still holding him by the collar.

“Not to worry, Mitotsudaira-sama.”

That worried her plenty, but it also seemed wrong to treat this situation as normal. However…

“Okay, my king.”

“Judge. Do everything you can.”

He had made his order, so she nodded.

“I’m off.”

The wolf created a forward burst of speed with Excalibur in her right hand.


Asama watched as Mitotsudaira moved out ahead.

Hitting Sensei with an attack is not going to be easy.

But they were sharing this battlefield. Their individual results might seem small, but they were sure to accomplish something great together.

That applied to them all. For example, the silver wolf was not the only one who had gone out ahead.

“Futayo!”


Futayo had not lost sight of her target.

Oriotri was out ahead of her. She was about to arrive at the tall building that acted as a windbreak toward Musashino’s stern.

Once she crossed that building, she would be at the stern. Then she would run across the rope passageway to Okutama.

Futayo still had to travel along the roofs, so that would let Oriotri pull out ahead.

Not good!

But she had to get past someone else to continue after their teacher. And not someone she had expected.

“Mogami Yoshiaki-dono! I am honored!”

“You should really be on your guard even as you flatter me.”

An attack arrived even as Yoshiaki spoke. She swung the large metal fan in her right hand.

Here it comes!

It was a void.

An area of nothingness covered a diameter of several meters ahead of the fan’s swinging path.

Multiple such areas appeared. Futayo did not understand at first and assumed they were wind projectiles.

“Hold on,” said Masazumi from her shoulder. “Those are tearing into the roof.”

She was right. The roofs and eaves of the longhouses were torn away, allowing her to see inside.

Tonbokiri: “That is not good. Damage to the student longhouses is not so bad, but damage to ordinary homes would mean plenty of complaints directed at the Student Council.”

Asama: “Wouldn’t the students complain to?”

Gold Mar: “Or are they too afraid to complain? Y’know, cause of Masazumi’s reign of terror.”

Vice President: “My what!?”

“Ha ha ha. I think they are saying you are doing a good job.”

“Are you sure?” she asked gloomily, but Futayo knew it was best to keep a positive outlook in life. And anyway…

“Don’t get distracted,” said the fox.

Another void appeared. And…

“How about this?”

She was approaching. No, Futayo was running forward, so Yoshiaki had simply slowed down.

But that still means she is approaching!

Futayo had to push her back because the others were behind her.

They were at risk if Yoshiaki was trying to target them. Not many of that group could fight at close range. Three-Punch Boy could not hit women and the ninja had recently started to use projectiles like boomerangs.

That meant Futayo had to hold her back.

“What did I say about getting distracted?”

The fox rushed in with a sighing relaxation.

She moved to Futayo’s right with what looked like a slight step.

“–––––”

Except she moved in a split-second. The high-speed movement easily shifted her to the next wide block over.

“Here goes.”

Yoshiaki was on her way to the others.

She had slipped past Futayo. But Futayo noticed something about this new arrangement.

“An opening!”

Her opponent had her back turned behind her.

“Bind – Tonbo Spare!”


The roof broke and the fox jumped.

Not bad!

After slipping past her so easily, Yoshiaki had honestly thought this opponent would continue on ahead and let the rest of her class deal with her.

But as soon as her back was turned, the girl attacked.

Yoshiaki did not consider that unfair. This battle had no defined rules. It’s supposed to be a final exam or something like that, I think.

But that girl’s power was real. Yoshiaki had needed to jump aft to let the horizontal line of power pass below her feet. And then…

“That’s more like it.”

A wind blew in from behind, accurately targeting her blind spot.

Shinto acceleration spells were continuous, making 180 degree turns difficult. And this opponent had to be aiming for the moment she landed. So…

“How about this?”

Yoshiaki’s tails swung through the air as she danced. She used the swaying of her body for something.

“–––––”

She used a fox’s physical copy technique. And she made nine copies all at once.


Yoshiaki prepared for battle in midair.

She swung her fan behind her to send a void toward the approaching Musashi Vice Chancellor.

She had nine physical copies.

The enemy had just the one blade. She might lose one copy to that, but she would still have eight attacks left. That was too much to dodge and she doubted that Tonbo Spare had anything resembling rapid-fire. So…

“How will you escape this one?”

The answer was already evident as the enemy leaned forward to accelerate and thrust out the tip of her spear.

“Extension device!”


From Futayo’s shoulder, Masazumi had the perfect view of the enemy’s incoming attack.

Ahh!

As Yoshiaki fell through the air and prepared to land, she multiplied to nine, forming a wall of bodies.

But Futayo lightly twisted her body and thrust out her spear in response.

“Extension device!”

She held Tonbo Spare near the butt end as it extended to its maximum length.

“…!”

The blade pierced her opponent, but not just one of her. It skewered three of them.

Then the void was released.

But Yoshiaki’s barrage was short three and Futayo used that as an opening.

“Ohh!”

Futayo stuck her foot out toward the gap created by the three she had diagonally skewered.

Several sign frames appeared at her knee and then her knee twisted around.

Ohh?

This seemed slow to Masazumi. The movement seemed to play out in slow motion even with so many acceleration spells activated.

That was an illusion.

While Futayo twirled, something like wind blew through on either side of her.

That was the void.

It felt like time had slowed just for them, but Masazumi soon realized what this was.

“The ideal movement!”

“Not quite,” said Futayo as she stopped facing forward.

The six remaining enemies had already landed, but…

“That is fine by me!”

Futayo ran forward.


Yoshiaki mentally gulped.

I did not expect to be skewered like dango!

The girl had instantly calculated out where those three’s positions would align. Yoshiaki had not meant to leave an opening, but each of the copies were individuals. They each had their own positions to think about and they had been busy attacking, so they had left openings to the front and back or on the sides.

Their actions must have been too uniform. So…

“How will you handle this one!?”

After landing, Yoshiaki took a step back and sent out sextuple voids.

A moment later, she saw the Musashi Vice Chancellor throw her arms in the air as if cheering.

“Masazumi!”

Without warning, she chucked the Musashi Vice President toward Yoshiaki.


That is a new one!

Yoshiaki was oddly impressed by this.

Weapons came in many forms: swords, spears, bows, guns, and on and on. But…

Time to add “a person” to that list!

She had seen people use a corpse as a shield to escape on the battlefield, but never before in her long life had she seen someone throw a living VIP at their opponent.

“That seems like a bad idea!”


A bad idea, huh?

Yoshiaki’s comment sent Masazumi’s thoughts in a philosophical direction.

In one sense, I agreed it’s a bad idea. In another, this feels like par for the course in our class. Then again, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a bad idea, but if this counts as participating in the battle, maybe I can get a higher score than just for reaching the finishing line.

Anyway, Futayo must have a plan. She’d better. Please tell me she does. Oh, who am I kidding? She probably expects me to save myself here. I guess this is it for me.

“Oh?”

She spoke up for a reason. Futayo was running up after her.

And she swung her right hand.

“There!”

She threw Tonbo Spare toward Masazumi.


You fool!

Yoshiaki failed to instantly grasp Tonbo Spare’s path.

She had first worked out whether the thrown spear would hit Musashi’s Vice President.

It would not. But the enemy had made another move while she was checking that.

“Can she move more nimbly without the spear and VIP!?”

Musashi’s Vice Chancellor ran full speed toward one of Yoshiaki’s copies and performed a certain action.

She jumped over or circled around the launched void before it could expand, and…

“Ohhh!”

She tackled the copy.

She slammed her shoulder into the fox with her shoulder blade and back behind the blow. She had essentially moved to the side of the copy after it had swung its arm to launch the void and then she had forcibly knocked it from the ground.

With a loud sound of impact more than a crash, the copy vanished.

She just powered through that!

This girl had too freestyle a fighting style. But at the same time…

“How delightful!”

Yoshiaki provided her assessment while thinking back to the Siege of Odawara.

Kani Saizou was a good girl. She was earnest and honest and she had attacked with everything she had. She had also admitted to it when she lost.

That girl had clashed with this one at the Kantou Liberation.

Kani had lost in the end.

Does that mean, thought Yoshiaki, that Kani’s earnestness and honesty failed to reach the Musashi Vice Chancellor?

No.

The Musashi Vice Chancellor must have been much like Kani once.

She would have been trained.

Yoshiaki could guess she had been taught her fighting style by Honda Tadakatsu and the automaton named Kazuno. That meant the Peerless in the East and an automaton capable of singlehandedly battling a god of war.

But they had only taught her methods.

Methods were easy. You taught people what they could do and the theories behind that and, even if they could not copy the movements exactly, they would learn to replicate them in their own way.

But you could not copy your memories, experience, and decision-making to a pupil. So you had to teach them the movements in some foundational patterns that would let them select the best option on a case-by-case basis.

The records said the Musashi Vice Chancellor had dueled Tachibana Muneshige during the Battle of Mikawa.

She had drawn on all the movement options she had learned through training and used them to their fullest to emerge victorious over him. Muneshige, on the other hand, had been born an ordinary citizen and he had been trained by Tachibana Gin who excelled at multirange combat, so the foundation of his combat was in breaking down those formal “kata”.

During that battle, the Musashi Vice Chancellor must have been much like Kani.

She would have fought by following the kata she had learned from her father. In fact, the records confirmed it.

But she had changed at some point.

She had grown so ill-mannered in her fighting. She still started from a foundation of decision-making and movements built up through training, but now she broke the rules she had mastered to move ever onward.

She must have made different breakthroughs at England, the Armada, Magdeburg, and Novgorod.

Had she made even more progress at Sanada by battling a Celestial Dragon who was immune to ordinary human methods?

If so…

“How wonderful.”

Because…

“You are one possible result for all those growing children.”

The girl who had lost to this one – no, all of the children who had lost to her – would be working to catch up to her. So…

“I will play along.”


Suzu sensed two of the Yoshiakis disappear.

Was a tackle a specific technique, or a genre of them? Either way, Futayo blew away the two Yoshiakis in her path after throwing Masazumi as a distraction.

Yoshiaki was down to four copies.

And according to Tenzou…

“With physical copies, all of them are real! This is dangerous!”

But Futayo seemed to define the one closest to their middle group as her primary enemy. That was the one she had thrown Masazumi and then Tonbo Spare at.

Will it hit her!?

Yoshiaki avoided the blow by deflecting it. And she deflected it out to the right instead of up into the air.

Then the four Yoshiakis moved simultaneously. They surrounded Futayo, raised their fans, and swung them.

“Watch out!”

Several voids were launched.

But just beforehand, Suzu heard a shouted warning. It came from Futayo.

“Masazumi!”


Masazumi’s decision was a simple one.

While she flew through the air, she saw Futayo move out ahead of her and lift her knee.

Oh, now I get it.

So Masazumi raised her right leg. She stuck out her shoe’s sole as if kicking it toward Futayo. And…

“Understood!”

Futayo sent the bottom of her own foot toward Masazumi.

Masazumi’s guess and Futayo’s foot were both accurate.

They pushed off of each other’s right foot and Masazumi held Tsukinowa to her chest.

“Oh.”

Thanks to Futayo’s excellent sense of balance, the force of the kick on the sole of her shoe passed straight up her spine. Or so it felt.

And Masazumi knew that Futayo’s jumps were just as powerful as Yoshitsune’s Hassou Tobi. So…

“––––––”

They flew apart from each other, one forward and one back.


Yoshiaki laughed deep in her gut.

Fascinating!

The Musashi Vice Chancellor had thrown someone and then used them as midair footing to launch herself again. The Yoshiaki copy that had taken a step back in the lead was forced to catch the flying Vice President, preventing it from attacking with a void. At the same time, the Vice Chancellor crashed back-first into the copy approaching from behind.

“…!”

It began to vanish.

But the Vice Chancellor was already moving by then. She sighed, and…

“There!”

She grabbed the wrist of the disappearing copy and aimed the metal fan at another copy.

When the void was released, it scored a direct hit on the copy to the left, causing it to disappear.

Meanwhile, the disappearing one lost the last of its strength and vanished.

“–––––––”

The Vice Chancellor used the force of her swinging left arm to turn toward the lead copy holding onto the Vice President.

Only that one and the one to its right remained.

The one on the right ran alongside them and the one in the lead took a step back without letting go of the Vice President.

The Vice Chancellor responded by controlling her orientation with the many sign frames spilling from all over her body. She turned her gaze toward the lead copy.

When she saw it was holding the Vice President, she gasped in surprise.

“Only cowards take hostages!!”

“You threw her at me!!”

Then Yoshiaki saw some light.

Oh?

It came from her chest. A sign frame had appeared above the Vice President’s shoulder.

The anteater Mouse there bowed to her.

<Explosion Spell – Transfer – Activate – Confirm.>

The corners of Yoshiaki’s mouth rose just as the sign frame exploded.


The lead Yoshiaki was blown away, leaving only the one on the right.

Futayo reviewed the situation.

The lead one was gone. Masazumi appeared as the smoke from the blast faded.

Masazumi was moving. She had fallen onto the roof and she was wiping away the smoke from the explosion spell behind her.

She had to wipe away some tears caused by the smoke, but she was fine. So…

“––––!!”

Futayo moved in.

She curved a bit to the right to reach the final Yoshiaki there.

She had one chance at winning this.

She will need to adjust for the change in vision after the copies’ destruction!

There had been several Yoshiakis, but now they were gathered into just the one again. Her vision, hearing, and other senses were being narrowed back down to just the one.

There would be a delay before she managed that. So…

“I can use that!”

Futayo had no weapon. Nor did she have Masazumi’s weight. She would have to attack with her shoulder.

By tackling!


Narumi was chasing after the others when she saw Yoshiaki’s decisions and the other movements that followed.

First, Yoshiaki swung her right hand. But she swung it backwards instead of at the Vice Chancellor rushing in at her.

She launched the void toward unoccupied space.

That seemed meaningless, but the gouging power would likely eat through the air. So while the space seemed empty, there was wind there to be devoured.

“––––––”

Yoshiaki was sucked in toward the absence of air. With the sound of a bursting vacuum, her track suit was torn, but she managed to take a large step back.

That put more space between her and the Vice Chancellor.

It was not much, but Narumi judged it was enough for Yoshiaki. Because…

It gives her time to recover from the sensory confusion caused by the copies!

That meant the fox would be back to normal.

There was no more opening there.

She turned to face the Musashi Vice Chancellor who was defenseless now that her attack had been dodged.

And she swung her large fan as a counterattack while the Musashi Vice Chancellor prepared to take another step.

But just as she made the attack with her left arm…

“…!”

She was blown away.

The Asama Shrine Representative had sniped her in the back from the middle group.


She…did it!

Suzu sensed the perfect hit.

She had noticed Futayo and Masazumi’s combo play make short work of Yoshiaki’s copies and now she knew why.

“It was to hide…this.”

Throwing Masazumi had been to draw Yoshiaki’s attention in that direction.

And Futayo had done something when Yoshiaki had adjusted herself at the end there.

After her final attack was dodged, she had prepared for her next move but not actually made it.

By staying still, she had kept Yoshiaki from moving out of Asama’s sights.

And focusing on Futayo had required the fox to turn her back on the middle group.

That was Futayo’s reason for continuing to fight even after losing her weapon. She had made that tackle to prove she could still fight.

It was all…so she could distract her from…us over here.

Asama only had to make use of that opportunity. And…

“Hit!”

She had done so.

But once Suzu thought about it…

“W-wait, isn’t that…overdoing it?”

Yoshiaki was nowhere to be seen at the site of the direct hit. Only a wisp of ether light smoke remained.


Worshiper: “Was that even an anti-personnel attack?”

Scarred: “Master Tenzou? Does a physical copy count as personnel?”

10ZO: “Well, the last of the physical copies is considered to be the original person again.”

Me: “Then let’s test it out on Tenzou! Asama! Lend me your bow!”

Asama: “I-I can’t do that. You need special permission to use it!”

Art-Ga: “You would’ve given it to him if it didn’t?”


Futayo took a breath on the roof.

She relaxed and then released her Soaring Wings spell.

I can’t catch up to Sensei from here.

But she had done her duty. They had achieved a great feat as a group here.

“Mogami Yoshiaki has been-”

The word “defeated” never arrived.

Masazumi raised both hands while walking toward Futayo on the roof. Then she placed her hands on Futayo’s shoulders.

Nh?

Something about this felt wrong. The feeling was a lot like a chill.

“Futayo!”

Then she heard Masazumi’s voice, but not from the girl standing in front of her.

It came from a hole created by one of the voids.

“I’m down here!”

She did indeed see Masazumi down in the broken building.

What does this mean?

“Too bad,” said the Masazumi smiling with her hands on Futayo’s shoulders. She spoke with Yoshiaki’s voice.

There was no need to question it because a glowing mist scattered and that Masazumi disappeared.

Track suit Yoshiaki stood there instead.

“That was indeed a close one.” She placed her hands below Futayo’s arms now. “The anteater on the Vice President’s shoulder used an explosion spell. It could have been an impact spell, a repulsion spell, or anything really, so why an explosion? To hide the scene behind me with the blast.”

In other words…

“I knew you had to be preparing something behind me.”


I screwed that one up, thought Masazumi with a hand on her forehead in a dusty storeroom.

Her mistake had been the selection of spell. She had tried to be clever, but that had felt unnatural.

Which may have been why she had been dropped into this hole created by a void when the blast hit.

Yoshiaki had used the empty space to cushion against the blast. Still, Masazumi had thought Yoshiaki must have taken some damage and that her own absence would not change much really. However…

“I didn’t expect her to transform into me!”

Futayo had set up a checkmate against the Yoshiaki on the right, but that had not been the final one. It was only a decoy.

And now, up on the roof, Yoshiaki spoke with a fan over her mouth.

“The thing about foxes is, we will feign injury to lure the hunter away from our nest. You fell for exactly the same trick.”

Masazumi wanted to complain, but it was a solid tactic. Yoshiaki had taken Masazumi’s place to ensure her own safety, almost like she was using camouflage magic.

“Ko ko,” she laughed. “You seem to fight well against an honest opponent who fights by physical means, but you appear to have difficulty with illusions.”

That was true.

At Mikawa, the Armada, and most every battle since, they had generally fought powerful nations and fighters who used their strength and skill to stand in their way. If anything…

The duels in England were the closest thing to this.

“You understand, don’t you?” said Yoshiaki. “This is my specialty. Musashi has a long way to go if you would fall so easily for a fox’s illusions.”

She lifted up Futayo and then hugged her tight.

“Caught you! Finally, one of the big ones!!”


Art-Ga: “Nice. Public humiliation is exactly the kind of scenario I’m looking for.”

Asama: “W-well, this was a Chancellor against a Vice Chancellor!”

Uqui: “We all work together and this is how it ends?”

Bell: “U-um…are you ready…t-to work together…again?”

Horizey: “Why, Suzu-sama? I did not take you for the bloodthirsty type.”

Still Got It: “Oh, come now. Forget about me and I really will hit you with this ship.”

Almost Everyone: “Ahhhhhh!!”


Mitotsudaira got Oriotri in her sights just before the rope pathway.

She was running across the top of the tall building at Musashino’s stern and her quarry was about to cross between the ships.

At this pace, I should catch up in Okutama’s nature district!

She had the greater speed. She was out of breath by now, but…

“I can still carry out my king’s command!”

Okay, she thought while preparing to run down the vertical wall.

“Eh?”

A shadow was cast from behind her.

It was still morning and they were traveling east to Kantou, so the bow was pointed east. Any shadows would be cast aft, but…

What’s tall enough to reach the top of this building!?

She knew who to blame without needing to look back.

“Mother!”


The Reine des Garous smiled when her daughter contacted her for once.

Still Got It: “My, my, Nate! What has you missing your mother so much in the middle of class? Is there a problem you need help with!? I can answer anything you might need to know about reproduction, home medicine, and stamens and pistils! So don’t be shy and raise your hand! C’mon! Do it!”

Silver Wolf: “Mother! What are you doing right now?”

The Reine des Garous thought as she ran. She placed her right index finger on her lips and tilted her head.

Oh, that stall ahead on the left smells nice.

She paid with a signe cadre and snatched up some chicken skewers from the underground food stall, all while continuing to run. She held the skewers between her fingers to partake of their chickeny goodness.

Still Got It: “Nate, I am busy consuming a drink at the moment.”

Silver Wolf: You mean chicken, don’t you!? Chicken skewers!? If you got that one level down on Musashino, it must have been from Hattori Hen-zo, run by an Iga ninja! You didn’t destroy it, did you!?”

Still Got It: “My, my, Nate. I think I cleaned them out for the day.”

Silver Wolf: “Mother! First you destroy the Musashi and now you’re depriving the rest of us of chicken!? Do you think you can get away these atrocities!?”

“Hm,” thought the Reine des Garous. And…

Still Got It: “Nate? But I’m not a Musashi resident.”

Silver Wolf: “Have you ever heard taking responsibility for your actions!? Also- uh, oh.”

Still Got It: “Uh, oh?”

Just as she tilted her head, the transport ship held in her raised left arm shook like a ringing bell.

The ship had crashed into something up above.


Unno spat out her water while watching from atop Sanada Academy.

Terrestrial Dragon Kakei Torahide glared over at her while resting his elbow on the edge of the roof to watch the same thing.

“Gross. Clean that up.”

“Yeah, but…did you see that!?”

She pointed over at Musashi’s 1st central ship, Musashino, where the vertical transport ship had hit the bridge-shaped bridge.

Not just hit, crashed into.


Chapter 22: Noisy Girls Above and Below[edit]

Horizon8A 583.jpg

What are you doiiiiing!?

Ahhhhhhhhhh!

Take this, and this

Point Allocation (These Things Happen)


Asama heard screams coming from all over the Musashi.

Legally, this qualified as property damage.

The vertical-oriented transport ship had been run across the Musashi until it slammed into the bridge-shaped bridge.

It hit. It tried to break through. No…

It’s slicing through!?

The ship dug into the bridge like a blade.

Everyone shouted and looked up to see fragments glowing and scattering in the sky.

It had to have been moving at around 60km/h and it was plenty big.

Shortly after hitting, it took half a step back and produced another loud crash.

It sounded like all sorts of metal crashing together to create a great roar.

The Musashi groaned and shook.

This was as close to an earthquake as a ship could have.

Meanwhile, Asama confirmed that several defense barriers had appeared overhead. “Musashino” and the others had to be collecting the fragments.

Also…

Horizey: “Asama-samaaa!”

Asama: “Um, Mitoooo!!”

Silver Wolf: “Motherrrrr!”

Still Got It: “My, my. I wasn’t looking where I was going.”

Almost Everyone: “Take this seriously!!”

Still Got It: “But it seems to be caught on something up top, so… take this, and this.”

She slammed the transport ship against the bridge like she was beating a futon, causing a great rumbling and shaking.

Musashino: “Um, I hate to interrupt, but this is the greatest threat to my ship since its construction. Over.”

Asama: “Listen, Mito’s mom! You can’t just push! Try pulling a little. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and think things through!”

Art-Ga: “Says the girl who did exactly that so much that she never ended up doing anything.”

Asama: “I-it worked out all right in the end! Anyway, you need to stop pushing, Mito’s mom!”

“Very well,” said the Reine des Garous. “I will try your plan.”


Asama and the others saw the results while they ran toward the windbreak.

The 300m transport ship pulled back.

It tilted backwards like a lever being thrown.

“Yes! It’s moving away! Mito’s mom can be reasoned with!”

Asama clenched both fists in celebration.

Still Got It: “You were saying I need to pull it back to build up speed, right?”

The ship swung rapidly forward to crash into the Musashi’s bridge-shaped bridge. Defense barriers opened, but most of them were too slow as the transport ship made its physical collision.

“Ahhhhhh!!”

Asama raised her right hand amid the shaking and rumbling.

Asama: “I-in my defense, no one could have predicted this!”

Musashi: “Who was it that suggested we give the ship an endurance test over summer break? Over.”

Musashino: “In my defense, no one could have predicted any of this. Over.”

Musashi: “A captain is responsible for her passengers’ behavior, ‘Musashino’. You know that, don’t you? To be clear, that does not apply to my position of overall captain. Oh, Sakai-sama, do you need more tea? Over.”

Okutama: “ ‘Musashi’-sama, you can’t just ignore what is happening here! And “Musashino’! Deal with this before the damage spreads to me! Over.”

Musashino: “Excuse me, everyone? Could you perhaps move on to Okutama now? Over.”

Still Got it: “Take this, and this.”

“Ahhhhhhhhh!!”

Several defense barriers appeared in the air and one of the Technohexen contacted them.

Gold Mar: “Kind of impressive that the greatest threat to the Musashi is one of our final exams and not like the Armada battle or the Battle of Mikatagahara.”


“Mochizuki, things look pretty bad on the Musashi right now. Any idea what’s going on?”

“Testament, Unno-sama. According to the message they sent out earlier, this is a final exam.”

“How in the hell!? Torahide, do you understand this!?”

“Why would I!?”


The Reine des Garous tilted her head at the stubborn obstacle up top.

“Hmm, this is going to be a challenge.”

She raised her weapon, tilted her body to the side, and then made a vertical tornado strike.

“How about…this!?”


The next hit to the surface was very different from the previous ones.

The transport ship was pulled back as far as the hole allowed and then slammed forward with full strength. It had enough force behind it to harness the transport ship’s full length.

“The end!” shouted Suzu.

Sure enough, water vapor exploded off the stern of the transport ship.

That bursting sound was followed by the roar of the air being parted as the transport ship flew toward the bridge.

“––––!”

Everyone continued running as they watched saw the transport ship suddenly rupture just before impact.

“What was that?”

Another ship floated in the sky above.

It was a personnel transport ship from Kantou. Everyone recognized the attack that had ruptured the attacking ship.

“Gin-san!”


Gin flipped around in midair.

This type of high-altitude dive was taught in Tres España. It was used when moving between ships in the armada or to save yourself if you fell, but…

We also needed these skills in the New World!

Muneshige had learned it as well, so the two of them were now dropping toward the Musashi.

Tachibana Wife: “Asama Shrine Representative! Please handle the procedure for our return to the ship!”

Asama: “Don’t worry! You already have a free pass in and out!”

<It’s cool, it’s cool. By, god.>

The Asama Shrine’s Sakuya had apparently gone to Kantou to hit her father before, but she must have been back to the Musashi now. That meant…

Our divine protections are active.

“Master Muneshige.”

Just then, her vision went dark.

She had dived in through the stern of the transport ship she had blasted through.

She twisted around from her diving descent to bring her feet down below her.

She had built up a lot of speed, but Musashi’s divine protections allowed her to activate a descent spell. However…

“We must finish this in an instant. Taking too long would put the Musashi in danger.”

“Judge. Then let’s do it, Gin.”

“Judge,” she replied as she kicked to the side. Her foot clanked against the transport ship’s frame to adjust her descent. She sent herself down the center of the hollowed-out ship.

“Return to me, Cuatro Cruz.”

It returned to her from the emptiness directly ahead of her fall.

A vermilion cross ascended with the metallic noise of its transformation. She needed to retrieve that, descend to the bow, break through the bow, and attack with its siege mode.

That should destroy the ship down two or three levels.

She concluded the wide-range destruction of her weapon’s siege mode could defeat the Reine des Garous.


Gin had learned during the Kantou Liberation that not even a member of the Ten Spears or their aide could touch the Reine des Garous.

That was of course partially because she had unleashed herself as a spirit, but even her base abilities were abnormally high.

And in a short-term battle like this, failure was not an option.

Gin could not afford to miss.

That meant a wide-range attack.

Not even the Reine des Garous had been able to withstand an aerial warship cannon blast during the Kantou Liberation. So…

A surprise wide-range attack should be more effective if I’m attacking at close range!

The Reine des Garous was underground right now.

Underground on the Musashi was a closed space divided into wide blocks and long blocks, so it could be difficult to navigate. She might head outside through the hole in the surface, but Gin accepted that as a calculated risk.

If the enemy moved too far away, Gin could handle it with Cuatro Cruz’s anti-ship attack.

That shockwave destruction was most effective in a closed place like the underground level.

So Gin readied Cuatro Cruz by syncing its movements with her right hand.

“Cuatro Cruz!”

Just before she fired, she heard a voice in her ear.

“Oh, dear. The transport ship will collapse if you destroy its base.”


Muneshige did not hesitate.

The Reine des Garous was on Gin’s other side and behind Cuatro Cruz.

He did not question how she had gotten there.

Taking time to think about that would get him killed. Who had he been training with to learn that lesson?

With Gin.

So he acted on reflex instead of thought. He aimed his Kamenuki quasi-divine weapon toward the Reine des Garous and attacked.

Gin was along the path its blade would take, but that did not concern him. Her neck was aligned with the Reine des Garous’s neck, but Gin was turned to the side and the Reine des Garous was looking head on. An attack from the front was harder to dodge.

Gin reacted.

Crouching down to lower your head would be the normal response, but not for Gin. She gently pulled back her chin to evade with the smallest possible movement and to block the Reine des Garous’s view.

That was all she did.

The blade jabbed right in front of her neck on its way to the Reine des Garous’s neck.

Muneshige knew what would happen next.

The tip of the blade provided him the tactile feedback of hitting something hard.

The Silver Cross!

A small silver box popped up from her cleavage.

The process was the same as at the Kantou Liberation. So…

I won’t let you do the rest!

A metallic sound rang out as it fell.

Kamenuki was accelerating and the tip of its blade pushed hard against the Silver Cross. The silver box touched her as she pulled back, effectively jabbing her.

“Oh, dear.”

She was pushed away from Cuatro Cruz.

He let Gin’s two actions take care of the rest.

First, she placed her right hand on Cuatro Cruz.

And second…

“–––––”

She placed her chin on Kamenuki’s blade. Then she lowered her chin as if nodding, pressing Kamenuki’s freed blade against Cuatro Cruz.

The acceleration of the blade stood Cuatro Cruz up.

She then spoke even with the blade at her throat.

“Cuatro Cruz.”

It was now directed upwards.

“Tear into her.”


Gin and Muneshige shot downwards.

That put distance between themselves and the Reine des Garous.

The echo of the skyward shot was soon left behind above them.

Firing Cuatro Cruz straight up had increased her falling speed.

Muneshige was with her. By passing Kamenuki’s acceleration to Cuatro Cruz, he stuck with it.

Their relative positions remained unchanged. The blade touched her neck and occasionally dug into her skin, but she did not mind. They interacted in that way all the time, so if she did lose her head, it would mean she had lost her edge and deserved to die.

So it was a lot easier to keep going like this.

She loved a lifestyle that made her feel so alive. But at the moment, they were taking their final exam retest.

“Arcabuz Cruz.”

She ejected two cross cannons. They were aimed upwards.

The enemy was pursuing them.

The Reine des Garous had kicked off the destroyed frame.

Did not expect her to keep up with Cuatro Cruz’s flight speed.

How fast would that feel in a surface battle? Gin belatedly decided she needed to ask the 5th Special Duty Officer how much skill it had taken to fight this woman…and how exhausting it must have been.

But right now it was her turn. So…

“Tear into her.”

Gin repeatedly fired the Arcabuz Cruzes without slowing her fall speed.


Suzu heard a noise as she arrived at the windbreak on Persona-kun’s shoulder.

A cannon was firing.

The transport ship remained upright by leaning against Musashino’s bridge-shaped bridge. Its stern had split wide open, so from Suzu’s perspective, it functioned like a giant megaphone. All of the noise reverberated up its length before leaving the stern as a great roar.

Based on the sounds it was picking up, Gin was firing on the Reine des Garous.

That was a 300m fall.

Gin had likely deactivated her descent spell. That would be why she had asked Asama about the return procedure. Deactivating her own divine protections required her contract with the shrine to be reactivated.

Those two had been prepared to go this far when they began this battle. But…

How will…it end?

Suzu did not know. Because of another sound she had started to hear.

She could guess what the metallic noise was.

“Mitotsudaira-san’s mom…is defending against the shells…with her cross.”


Gin knew the standard form for a descent was legs first.

It was harder to attack with your feet in the way, but it was easier to ready a projectile weapon because you could lay it along the length of your body. More than that, your boots’ sole armor and your feet themselves would shield you against the enemy attacks.

However, your speed would drop because you would receive increased air resistance. That was why it was standard practice to descend feet first to slow down enough to land safely when boarding an enemy ship.

But at the moment, neither she nor her enemy were following that standard practice.

The Reine des Garous had her Silver Cross raised like an umbrella, but she was falling headfirst.

She was also kicking off the transport ships interior frame to constantly accelerate.

She was more running down the ship than falling.

Meanwhile, Gin would have been overtaken with a feet-first descent. Instead, she made a headfirst descent and kicked off the frames to run down while firing aft toward the Reine des Garous.

I can’t believe this.

She knew this was insane.

But it was no more than a more extreme version of what she normally did and her enemy’s movements were no different.

She could handle this. She just wanted their movements to be as accurate as possible.

It reminded her of Novgorod when the two of them had fought Oichi with no advance information on the woman. Back then, she had calmly responded to the challenge of someone who could instantly heal any wound.

She had to keep cool.

It would all unravel if she allowed any heat in. That was an ugly side of her she would only show to Muneshige. So…

200 to go.

They were approaching the midpoint. From here on, it would come down to a series of instants, so she sent an instruction to the Cuatro Cruz floating alongside her left hand.

“Tear into her, Cuatro Cruz!”


The Reine des Garous did not hear the roar, but she did see the air splitting in the darkness.

Tres Españan Tachibana Gin’s cross was a size larger – or wider – than her Silver Cross.

Since it could fire at long and short range, it was also more versatile than her Silver Cross. And…

“She can slam it into you too!?”

She knew what was coming.

The path ahead is a lot narrower.

That large cross had hollowed out the transport ship. The ship lacked a combat frame and the center of the ship was used for cargo space, so the cross had easily blasted open a pathway through the ship.

Earlier, the cross had fired a shockwave blast at the bow and then returned to Gin as she charged in from the stern.

The Reine des Garous had caught up and moved them up again, but she had made sure to check on the structure of the hollowed-out ship in the process.

Her memories told her the bow had been widely blasted open by the shockwave.

But the cross had lost its penetrative force just before that, so it had been less effective at destroying the frame. That had narrowed the path through the ship.

If she fights back there, she’ll have an easier time of finishing me off since my movements will be too restricted.

Once the pathway narrowed, she could no longer move to the sides to dodge attacks.

That meant Gin’s attacks would fix her in place.

And what would happen then?

What would arrive then?

“That cross!”

The vermilion cross flew in as a giant striking weapon.

She had very little room to dodge, so it seemed guaranteed to hit. However…

“–––––”

She altered her orientation just before it did.

She had been falling headfirst before, but now she flipped around. By kicking away a destroyed and torn piece of the ship’s internal frame, she caught her foot on the thorny cylinder created by the damaged frame and stood horizontally from it.

“Here I go!”

She took off running with a burst of speed.

The narrower pathway meant a higher concentration of possible footing, so she used all of that to run on.

“––––––”

She used her Silver Cross as a shield as she swung her full body to run straight down.

Gravity was irrelevant.

She let her speed determine her path and accelerated directly toward the approaching vermilion cross.

When she had footing, the flying cross was no more than an obstacle.

The narrow path limited the possible trajectories for such a large flying object. It also limited her own.

A head-on collision was the only option, so…

“I just have to power through it.”

Tachibana Gin fired from beyond the cross. She was probably trying to limit the Reine des Garous’s movable space so the cross would hit.

She approved of how the girl continued to fight right up to the last second.

The Reine des Garous herself crouched low and used the vermilion cross itself to shield herself from the silver blast.

The shell’s sparks decorated the other side of the vermilion cross.

The vermilion cross even seemed to accelerate slightly.

“I saw that!”

Just as the cross flew toward her, the Reine des Garous thrust out her left hand to touch its tip.

Their relative speeds made it hard to say she had “grabbed” it, but she definitely heard the high-pitched sound of straining metal from where she touched.

She had stabbed her claw into it.

A second later, the vermilion cross floated up in a distorted way and the wolf ran below it.


“Still Got It” is right!

The Reine des Garous used her stunt-like footing to touch and deflect the flying cross just enough for her to slip past it. How could she call herself a Loup-Garou, much less their queen, if she could not do that?

“Hee hee.”

She recalled long ago when she had crushed the people attempting to hunt her down. A lot of knights and other people hoping to make a name for themselves had wielded fancy attacks like this, thinking they could fully eliminate a Loup-Garou.

She was only here to fight now because she had crushed every last one of them. Looking back, using their fear to make them her servants before eating them seemed inelegant, but at the time, she had been proud of it as a wolf.

I really have changed.

But right now, she was still moving.

She used both power and speed to push in toward her enemy instead of just catching up.

She had the battles she had fought since IZUMO and the fun she had had with her daughter and her friends to thank for this. She was moving much better than during her debut at IZUMO.

She could really move.

The vermilion metal grazed and tore at her track suit’s left shoulder.

That was fine. She had let it graze her because she knew it would do no real damage.

She bit at the torn cloth with the side of her mouth and fully tore the sleeve away as the cross passed her by. The tearing sound combined with the windy roar as they passed each other by.

“–––––”

A moment later, she realized the true battle would begin here.

So she took another action.

She activated her Silver Cross with her bared left arm and aimed its cannon behind her.

She did not need to look back.

Because I already know.

The vermilion cross had been in anti-ship impact mode when it passed her by.

She had learned that when she touched it earlier. That was why she had touched it.

She had wanted to know if the cross had begun transforming.

She had touched it with her fingertip and claw. A wolf’s claws had nerves in them. She had used her claw as a sensor to search the interior of the object. Its vibrations had told her what it was doing.

It had begun transforming before it even reached her.

The anti-ship impact cannon had been opening.

Why had her opponent been so eager to get that done?

That’s obvious enough.

To attack while still in range as she passed it by.

So she fought back by activating the Silver Cross in her left hand.

“Show her what you look like, Silver Cross.”

She launched a short-range cannon against the vermilion cross’s impact cannon.


Futayo was loved on by Mogami Yoshiaki, something she had never before experienced. She had initially thought that was how Yoshiaki declared herself the winner, but…

“Ko ko. I am glad to see you are doing well. Do you know what it is you did wrong?”

Futayo got the sense that she did not need to answer that question.

This is her way of showing she likes me.

It has been a long time since anyone hugged me like this. In fact, this is a new experience for me. My father was never the huggy type, nor was Kazuno. And the only person who has hugged me lately is…

Gin-dono during the Celestial Dragon fight, I guess.

You can always count on Gin-dono to be manly. And speaking of Gin…

“Hm?”

Futayo heard a familiar sound. Or she thought she did.

I half-thought I heard this a few times before, she thought, but this one confirmed it.

That was definitely Gin’s Cuatro Cruz firing.

She remembered the sound very well after having it fired at her several times and shoving her face between them to dodge. However…

“Gin-dono?”

The sound came from within the transport ship that had been banging against Musashino’s bridge.

“Oh?”

Just fore of center, the ship violently ruptured.

Ether light scattered and burst as the sounds from within grew clearer. They were no longer as muffled as before.

Futayo did her best to speak with her face buried in Yoshiaki’s chest and her head rubbed by Yoshiaki’s chin.

“Gin-dono seems to be doing well.”


After the ether light explosion hit her in the back, the Reine des Garous accelerated downward.

The force of the impact was very clearly pushing at her back.

She could tell the vermilion cross had been launched upwards in the same way.

That meant she only had to pursue the prey below her.

She made a vertical dash.

She kicked off the bottom of all the frames to leap and dance through the forest of destroyed metal.

Wolves, trees, night birds, and bugs.

“I am your queen.”

She accelerated.

“I determine the path of my innocent forest.”

She could see her prey. The Tachibana girl was falling and kicking off the frame to make back steps. She was obviously the type who could conquer her fears. So…

“What if I use my strength?”

The Reine des Garous accelerated further.

The girl fired, but the shells did not belong in the forest’s night. The Reine des Garous could sense their location just like anyone was keenly aware of anything that did not belong in their body.

So she dodged them.

She does have good aim.

Gin likely had a number of possibilities in mind. Such as…

“She dives into the larger hollow up ahead and aims for the moment I follow after her.”

The Reine des Garous would lose her footholds when she dived into that larger hollow.

Gin could shoot her all she wanted then. But the same was true in reverse. So…

“There is a simple solution to that. I dive into the hollow even faster than she does.”

Then she could catch up in midair. Even if she was fired on, she could use the Silver Cross to deal with it. So…

“I know what happens next.” The Reine des Garous readied her Silver Cross, but she held it behind her. “Any husband would pray for his wife’s safety and success.”

A metallic clang came from the Silver Cross when she swung it behind her. Someone had caught up to her while the sparks flew. His footsteps rang loud as he ran alongside her.

“Tachibana Muneshige!”


Muneshige used his Racing Toes acceleration spell to its fullest.

“I finally caught up!”

He had used Kamenuki to follow after the previous Cuatro Cruz.

She might have noticed him, so Gin had started the transformation early so the Reine des Garous had to respond to that.

She appeared to have noticed the transformation, but…

She overlooked me following after it!

He was lucky they had passed by at such high speed. Not even her Loup-Garou nose could detect him that quickly. From there, he had needed to make it past the blast from the two crosses and catch up to her. But…

“–––––”

He had pulled it off.

He had correctly chosen to race alongside the blast rather than try to break through it.

Partway through, it had pushed on his back, increasing Racing Toes’s acceleration.

From there, he had to keep the spell going with each step he took. Now that he had caught up, he only had to throw on a burst of speed, but…

How is she so fast without any kind of acceleration spell!?

He recalled that the 3rd Special Duty Officer was the same. She too accelerated herself with bursts of speed and he was pretty sure she only used a strength boosting divine protection to pull it off.

And this was her mother.

“––––––”

He showed no concern, hesitation, or fear as he made his attack.

He allowed himself to wish that it would hit. Because…

Gin is below!

If this opponent was allowed to continue, Gin would be caught in the hollow below. He needed to delay their opponent until Gin could land and prepare to fire upwards. That required buying a mere second and a half of time.

Kamenuki made several accelerated jabs, but…

“My, my, my.”

Sparks flew and the blade was deflected by the Silver Cross.

These were not light impacts. Each one pushed in toward him and pushed down like they were trying to bring him to his knees.

It was a lot like a wolf pinning down its prey and snapping its jaws down on them. He could feel a great weight bearing down on him.

“…!”

He shifted his position and struck at an opening, but he was always deflected by the Silver Cross coming in from a seemingly impossible angle such as below the arm or above the elbow.

She was a beast.

She did not follow set kata like Gin. She reacted from moment to moment on reflex and instinct.

Muneshige sensed great danger in this. He realized she would be a particular threat for Gin. Because…

She’s all about adlibbing and adaptability!

Yes.

Just like me!


The Reine des Garous could tell her speed was rising.

She appreciated this opponent. He could keep up no matter how much of her animal side she let out. And he would keep up while maintaining his human sensibilities.

Her daughter had done the same thing in their battle. That girl had combined her human skills with her animal ones to use the kata while also adapting to the situation.

This opponent was similar. He would use human skills in an animal way to adapt to her attacks.

Fighting him was fun. So…

“Take this.”

She gave him a small gift.

She let him have 0.2 seconds.

That would not be enough to prevent her from catching up to Tachibana Gin, but it did allow her to do something.

“Hee hee.”

She closed in on him and jabbed the Silver Cross down to free her hands.

Then she used the 0.2 seconds to ready both hands’ claws.

“Ha.”

She laughed as she sent her strength at him in a flurry of attacks.


Chapter 23: Hunter on Vertical Footing[edit]

Horizon8A 611.jpg

Strangely enough

I am falling

Toward you

Point Allocation (Fall Speed)


Muneshige felt strength.

But not the strength of a strike, a blow, or a push.

This was a strength that eliminated all else at a touch.

Nothing would remain and that was the entire idea. Claws were swung with the force of a sword.

“Hee hee.”

Just like a playful animal, her timing managed to catch him by surprise even when he was waiting for it. There was a “pause” before the strength rushed in, forcing him to block it whether he wanted to or not.

When a large animal decided to use its size and speed to play like a puppy, was there any way to avoid it? And if all else would be destroyed from that play…

“…”

Muneshige began his evasion.

He kicked off the frame he was using for footing, hoping to block the way to Gin.

But the animal leaped.

She twisted her body and made a light jump with the seemingly innocent timing of a pet pursuing its owner.

Instead of hunting him down, she was grabbing at him to capture him. And…

“…!”

It was accompanied by a flurry of attacks.

Her claws tore through the air with a high-pitched scraping.

The wind was pierced and the ends of her claws occasionally glowed like sparks.

The light and sound showed the paths of the wolf’s scratching claws.

But this was not one long arc at a time.

More and more long arcs all appeared at once, some moving out ahead of him or circling above and below him.

It was a pack.

If he twisted around and tried to descend, he would be repeatedly torn by the claws.

He was thrown into that flurry of motion in an instant.

I see!

He understood what made ghosts and aggressive animals so frightening. The way they tried to cling to and capture you had the same innocence as a child or small animal.

There were no worldly thoughts there.

There was no hesitation, only the enjoyment of the act.

That was what pursued him now. So…

“How about I play along!?”

He used Racing Toes. But unlike before, he activated it on his stepping feet and moving arms.

“––––––”

He ran on top of the Reine des Garous’s attacks.


Gin saw it happen while she descended.

She could tell Muneshige was buying time for her descent, but during that 0.2 seconds…

They are picking up speed!

Both of them were running on the frame while using something else to accelerate.

They used each other’s attacks to fuel their acceleration.

The Reine des Garous used Kamenuki’s blows to her claws to help pull her arms back.

Muneshige predicted the path of her claws and used that for Kamenuki’s acceleration.

Whenever they had an opening, they would also use their feet.

“–––––”

The two of them repeatedly twirled in the air amid the sparks and minor sounds of impact.

But not because any attacks were landing. They were using each other’s attacks to move themselves.

Master Muneshige!

Standing atop a blade was his special skill. People often laughed it off as an acrobatic stunt, but how else could you explain him using Racing Toes to step on the Reine des Garous’s claws now? And…

“He’s moving forward!”

She kept Arcabuz Cruz at the ready while she noted that he was now using the Reine des Garous’s attacks for footing more than the frames. He jumped off her claws, arms, and attacks to close in on her.

Their battle rang loud, but eventually the time came. A round of the battle had ended, so they exhaled in unison.

For a brief moment, strength left them.

The 0.2 seconds were over. But the very next moment, they breathed in to fill themselves with strength once more.

“…!”

They both sent a burst of speed toward their opponent to end it.


Muneshige watched the Reine des Garous’s jabbing right hand.

He had accelerated Kamenuki toward it when she raised her hand.

But not as an attack.

Targeting her claws now would not stop her. So…

Her head!

The spear had just enough speed to reach her head. But…

“Hee hee.”

She noticed.

And she took action. She used her raised right arm’s elbow to push her long and voluminous hair backwards.

Pulling on her hair would move her head as well. Her entire upper body leaned back.

“Now what?”

The spear tip could no longer reach her.

In fact, she had now used her entire body to ready her attack.

“Here goes.”

With a tornado spin, her claws flew in toward him from the outer left. And in a way that shifted herself to the side, preventing Kamenuki from targeting her head.

He did not panic, nor did he take a defensive stance. He only opened his mouth.

“Gin!”

He received an immediate response.

Something hit hard against the bottom of his left foot.

It was a shell.

While Gin descended below him, she had determined the optimal moment for support and fired Arcabuz Cruz.

This was only an option thanks to enduring the previous flurry of attacks while staying near his opponent.

Kicking off the shell allowed him to adjust his midair attitude and accelerate.

He moved further inward than the queen’s right jab.

He could dodge it.

He had twisted himself to hit her with his right shoulder, so it looked a lot like he was leaping toward her while turned a bit to the side. That only left one thing…

Hitting her in the neck with Kamenuki!

He was aiming toward the jewelry on her neck.

He accelerated the spear tip toward that golden gleam.

In that instant, he saw the wolf’s attack. Her jabbing right hand’s fingers had been pressed together before, but now…

“Here.”

She spread them apart.

It almost looked like a spear tip blossoming like a flower and growing five fingers from within.

Her right hand’s path had been stuck on a course that would miss him, but the spread fingers tore at the air. The ring and little fingers in particular.

This path!

The raised air resistance of the spread fingers altered her hand’s course toward him.

He had already twisted to the right, so he used that. He pulled Kamenuki in and spun to the right to overcome this.

Just then, he sensed movement outside his vision, but the intuition that allowed him to fight someone on this level told him it was another attack.

Her left hand!

Her right hand was meant to hit him, but it was also a diversion.

If he focused too much on that, another attack would reach him: her jabbing left hand.

So he decided to dodge again.

He used the same shell he had stepped on before. It was still in midair.

His memories told him he had pressed down and left on it with his left foot to move right.

So where was the shell now?

He knew the answer: down and to the left.

He could not see it, but it had to be there.

How could he ever lose track of a gift Gin had sent him?

So he twisted Kamenuki around with his body, pointing it in that direction.

Down and to the left was below the fingers sent his way, so he would essentially be sending his rightward twisting body to the left.

That would place a burden on his body, but he did not mind.

This was nothing compared to the burden that had damaged his leg before.

“–––––––”

He used that thought to gather his resolve.

He did it.

Slipping below her fingers would take some doing, but that was a problem he could solve with his own movements.

He could finally see the Reine des Garous’s left hand.

Her summer uniform’s sleeve had been lost and the slender arm was drawing a glowing arc as it flew toward him.

It came from below for something like a smash uppercut.

The angle made it a pincer attack when joined with her right fingers. Which meant…

Whether I kick off her right fingers or left claws, the other arm will catch me and crush me!

The word “bite” came to mind and he needed to escape from it.

“Time to go!”


Muneshige sprang through the air.

He had leaned to the side to dodge below the fingers rushing in from the left.

“Kamenuki!”

He accelerated toward…

There it is!

Gin’s shell was partially crushed and he launched Kamenuki toward it.

He accelerated toward it, but then it vanished.

He did not have time to question it. Kamenuki had already locked on, so it pursued the shell.

That took him toward…

“The Silver Cross!?”

“Sorry. That wasn’t very nice of me.”

His opponent’s right leg was somewhat raised.

She had kicked the shell away. Kicked it toward the Silver Cross pushed out ahead of her.


The Reine des Garous saw Muneshige thrown off course while his spear stabbed into the Silver Cross.

The shell struck and bounced off of the Silver Cross and the spear’s tip lodged itself in a gap in the cross’s frame.

“This is payback for what you did before,” she said.

In other words…

“My Silver Cross can transform too.”

Realization flashed across Muneshige’s face.

Then the cross transformed by folding into a small box. But as it did so…

“It can bite.”

That was exactly what happened.

The compactly folding cross bit at his spear.

“––––––”

The spear was deflected violently outwards.

It was now flying away from the folded silver box.

She had already prepared for a dash and he was floating where he had been knocked away.

“Again, sorry.”

She collected the box from the air and ran.

She accelerated after her prey that had already entered the large hollow below.


The Reine des Garous ran along the vertical frame.

If she could dive down faster than Tachibana Gin and catch up before she stalled, then she would win this.

So she pursued, leaping toward the starting line of this new race.

But before she could…

“Gin!”

Someone passed her by at even greater speed.

She knew who it was. She had stopped his speed just a moment before, so she concluded this was his worry for his wife at play.

This is the speed of his wholehearted devotion.

She smiled, wondering how it would compare to her full strength.

Her own husband had once carried her home when he was worried about her. That had been an issue of strength and this was one of speed, but…

I understand.

She had apparently inspired great concern in him. So…

“That’s just how it is between wolves and humans.”

Pausing to smile had reduced her speed, so she came to a stop.

She stabbed her claws into the vertical frame and looked down from there.

There was a 20m gap directly below her. That was where the vermilion cross’s shockwave had erupted earlier.

The Tachibana husband was holding the wife in his arms at the bottom of that space.

He was looking up at her.

“We got away, so this is our win!”


Gin initially spat out her breath in surprise, but then she cleared her throat and struck Muneshige’s shoulder.

“Master Muneshige, running away is nothing to be proud of. Not to mention that I don’t think those were the original rules.”

After an earnest nod to her, he looked up at the queen overhead.

“Then…can we call this a draw!?”

“I can accept that.” The Reine des Garous smiled down at them and nodded. “I am very pleased with what you showed me here. I will advise your teacher to take that into consideration.”


“Hmm, I guess a draw would be 50 points, but they did manage to impress the Reine des Garous. Okay, Gin and Muneshige get 60 points.”

“Sensei! Doesn’t my mother’s approval deserve more than 10 points!?”

“They can’t finish the race, so they’re lucky to get that.”

Mitotsudaira listened to Oriotri’s response while running through the residential district toward Okutama’s bow and approaching the nature district.

She had the greater speed. She was weary, but all she had to do was hurry and run. Thanks to the distance she could cover with each burst of speed, she could move so much easier than the last time they did this.

Oriotri was technically in range of the silver chains, but the distance was too great for that to be effective. She would “see” it coming like this, so it wouldn’t do anything to slow her. So if possible…

Silver Wolf: “Naito! Naruze! Are you free!?”

Gold Mar: “Um, not really. This is real pain.”

What’s going on up there?

Mitotsudaira’s unspoken question was answered in the starboard sky.

She saw a large group there.

“Eh?”

She could not believe the number of Technohexen and flight devices pursuing Naito and Naruze. Those two would sometimes fire their own attacks and blow up their enemy, but…

Art-Ga: “Dammit, they don’t play fair!”

Because…

Art-Ga: “They recover right away even when we do hit them!”


“So that’s what they’re going with,” thought Naito, feeling legitimately impressed with Almirante and the others’ determination.

She and Naruze had ways of defending and fighting back, but…

“We can’t take them out of the fight.”

“That isn’t the point of this exam anyway.”

“But,” said Almirante at the lead of their pursuers. “It’s a simple trick, isn’t it? None of us are as strong as you, but you can’t beat all of us when we work together.”

“How is it fair to come back after we shoot you?”

“Other nations will have groups even larger than this. Like the ghost ships of M.H.R.R.’s Maeda Toshiie or Hexagone Française’s Bernard.”

And…

“You might end up fighting Hexagone Française and M.H.R.R. at Sekigahara, right?”

“–––––”

The solution to that seemed simple enough.

“We could hit them with a transport ship.”

“Or send a fire ship in at them.”

“You could,” admitted Almirante before the four-winged woman on a flight device next to him raised her hand. That was Marine and she pointed aft behind them.

“But if so, you erred in your first move. You should have sent the Treasurer’s transport ship toward us while you two dealt with the Reine des Garous.”

“You want Technohexen to fight a ground battle against that mom?”

Marine smiled bitterly and slapped a hand against her chest.

“Just keep your distance and use your schale besens as low-altitude thrusters. You’ve flown just off the Musashi’s surface before, haven’t you? …Right, Wild Kamelie?”

“Because they can never make anything easy,” replied the other woman.

Naruze glared over at Naito.

“Margot, why do I feel like we’re being lectured by people who’ve already lost to us?”

“Probably cause that’s exactly what’s happening here, Ga-chan.”

“Hey, what’s wrong with that?” said Almirante. “Play along for a bit and we’ll let you finish the race in the end.”

He waved his right hand.

Are they changing formation?

“We’ll give you a few lessons in large aerial battles. Think of it as some summer homework and present your answers in practical form.”

God, what a pain, thought Naito, but she was also smiling bitterly. She placed her legs over her broom again and prepared to fight.

“We’ll defeat you all again, one at a time, once this is over.”

“Make it a race or whatever you want, but we’ll prove our place at the top of the rankings all over again.” Naruze flew forward. “I hate unnecessary work, but I love to learn.”


Mitotsudaira heard the gunfire and saw the ether light being exchanged in the air once more.

The other top players in the delivery business were shouting lessons at Naito and Naruze – “No! That’s not the play there!” “You need to descend first! Why? Because that’s how it’s done!” – so it was feeling a lot more like a final exam tailor-made for them.

But from the look of things…

Air support might be tricky.

Mitotsudaira kept that hope in a corner of her mind as she accelerated toward the color green.

That was the nature district. They were on the starboard side, so this would take them to Remorse Way.

Her king no longer avoided this route. She thought about how much they had all changed since they had landed in Mikawa back in the spring.

“Huh?”

She saw someone up ahead. Their stance was unusually uneager for reinforcements.

“Naomasa!”


Me: “Eh!? Naomasa’s back!? Wasn’t she in Satomi!?”

Smoking Girl: “…”

Me: “Was the food good!? Did it have all the rural classics, like a candy store that sells old games and divine figurines!?”

Smoking Girl: “…”

Me: “Naomasaaaaaa!? Why ignore meeeeeeeeee!?”

Silver Wolf: “My king, she is trying to concentrate before the battle!”

Horizey: “Is this like what the pope does whenever he’s in political trouble! You know, where he goes into hiding and claims to be meditating!”

Gold Mar: “Pretty sure you’re thinking of Seint Saiya, where the bronze armor and gold armor fight in the papal territory.”

Art-Ga: “The movie compressed it all down to an hour, so they died and were resurrected about once every seven minutes.”

Smoking Girl: “Could you people be quiet!?”


I feel like I was gone so long, but this place hasn’t changed at all.

Naomasa wondered how Musashi was still so restless after the Kantou Liberation and Nördlingen. But…

“I was hoping to complete the whole race, but I didn’t arrive quite in time. So instead, I’ll do whatever I can.”

Their teacher was running toward her. That speed was dangerous. It was well above what anyone should have been using on the Musashi.

But this was the nature district and Remorse Way behind her led to the academy, so not many people used it. Which meant…

“No need to hold back.”

Naomasa clenched her left hand’s work glove and then stepped forward.

They were 15m apart.

If only I had Suzaku.

Jizuri Suzaku was currently being repaired at Satomi. After a chat with Tokishige, she now had the data on Satomi’s god of war flight devices and they were going to create wings for Suzaku. Hiro would be ecstatic, which was fine with Naomasa if the girl would finetune the wings ASAP. But…

“I’d still rather not attack my teacher.”

“What makes you think you can attack me?”

“Judge.” Naomasa nodded. “I primarily use throws, so let’s say I win if your back touches the ground.”

“Sure, I’ll play by those rules.”

They were much closer now.

The 15m had shrunk past 10 and was fast approaching 7. And…

She’s matching me.

Oriotri had matched the timing of her steps with Naomasa’s. And while running.

This will be tough, thought Naomasa. Unbalancing her will not be easy.

When performing a throw, you could normally unbalance your opponent by grabbing their hand or something. Twisting their wrist or whatever would throw off their balance.

But that was hard to do when the opponent matched the timing of your steps. When both sides took their step at the same time, their weights would be simultaneously directed downwards, making it much more difficult to unbalance them.

And matching someone else’s timing while running was no easy task.

But their teacher had done it with ease.

The normal solution here would be to step further in and sweep her opponent’s feet out from under her.

But this was not someone she could approach so carelessly. So instead, she reached out her left hand and…

“–––––”

She took another step.

The rest played out from there. She could still unbalance Oriotri even with their timings matched. She only had to tilt Oriotri in one direction or another. Oriotri stepped with her right foot, so…

That’s to the left from my perspective.

Naomasa only had to pull her downwards from outside that stepping leg.

That was her plan.

Oriotri held her hands at the ready. The right one in front and the left one in back.

And she took her step.

At the last second, Naomasa sensed danger in the motion.

Oriotri leaned forward just a bit.

That means-

Naomasa reflexively slowed her own step, which was the correct choice.

A tremor spread from below Oriotri’s right foot and out across the crust block.

She had stomped her foot.


Asama saw Suzu cover her ears atop Persona-kun’s shoulder.

They were hurrying toward the rope pathway to Okutama. The Reine des Garous herself was working to remove the transport ship behind them and she tossed it onto the larger transport ship that had arrived to collect it, but everything had been so crazy recently that this barely felt weird anymore.

But Suzu was not holding her ears because of that loud noise.

“Did you hear something, Suzu-san?”

“Um, yes. It’s, uh, Okutama’s frame, I think? And, um.”

Meanwhile, Asama saw a light. Warning sign frames appeared all around her, all of them telling her about Musashi’s circulatory system.

Oh, this could be bad.

She then heard running water. Water was spraying and geysering out from the side and surface of Okutama. The warning messages told her a few of the ether pathways had ruptured.

Okutama: “I-I have determined this is the worst! Why me!? Over.”

Musashino: “ ‘Okutama’, would you prefer to have some water pipes burst or be hit repeatedly by a transport ship? I grant you the duty to choose. Over.”

Not even the automatons cut each other any slack. But the leaks were already being automatically sealed by the shrines within the Musashi. The government offices would be shutting off the water pipes as well. They would have to be closed off again once the stress had been removed, but…

“Is Masa okay!?”


Naomasa was relieved to find her intuition had been correct.

Delaying her last step had spared her a direct hit from the stomp. Rattling the ship’s surface with a single stomp was extremely on-brand for their teacher, but Naomasa may have subconsciously inherited something from her since she had previously broken through Okutama’s deck and dropped a long block elevator.

Anyway, she had lifted up her left leg behind her. That kept the stomp from affecting her, but…

This is bad.

Her opponent had control of when she would land and they were both ready to attack.

“Okay.”

She landed on her right toes to alter her landing. By balancing just those toes, she could recover her stability no matter which direction she was unbalanced.

Then Oriotri’s hand moved in.

Her right hand grabbed at Naomasa’s left hand.

“Ha.”

Once she had it, she let out a breath of laughter and worked to unbalance the girl.

She pushed.

Pushed left and down.

Naomasa did not fight it. She instead pushed her left hand against Oriotri’s hand.

There.

She shoved the base of her wrist between the thumb and forefinger grabbing it.

The tendon connecting the thumb and forefinger was located between them. The muscle on the inner side of the tendon would tense when grabbing things, but there was an opening there. Push on the tendon and the grabbing muscle would bend to the side, reducing the hand’s grip.

When grabbing, your grip would be weaker if you grabbed with the entire hand instead of holding it between the thumb and the base of another finger. Naomasa caused the same thing here.

“–––––––”

She forced Oriotri’s hand into that state for just a second.

Oriotri’s grip briefly weakened. And…

Naruze!

A sudden light shot between Naomasa and her opponent.

Naruze had managed to get off a shot while dealing with all the delivery workers in the sky.


“Did you get her!?” shouted Margot.

Naruze had to shake her head.

“Using a homing shot was a mistake!”

“Hey, eyes on your own fight, Zwei Fräulein.”

“Shut up,” growled Naruze, before glancing down again.

Naomasa and Oriotri were reading each other in something that was not quite combat. Naruze passed by overhead, but…

I hope I managed to help.

She would be a disgrace of an aerial fighter if she failed to provide any assistance at all, so she had worked to create an opening while Margot dealt with their primary opponents. However…

I didn’t expect the stomp to rupture the ether pathways.

Her shot’s homing spell was an anti-personnel variety based on ether detection, so it had been thrown off target by the scattering ether. She did not know if Oriotri had done that intentionally or not, but at the same time…

“Knowing her, I wouldn’t have hit even if I shot a normal one.”

“Ohh, way to keep a positive outlook, Ga-chan! …Sort of.”

She had to agree. Even if she had missed, her attack had not been entirely meaningless.

It had blocked their teacher’s view for just a moment.


Naomasa had attacked.

Horizon8A 639.jpg

Her strike between the fingers had loosened her teacher’s grip, but if she kept pushing, she would be caught again. So…

Pull!

She pictured it as pulling her wrist back the length of a single fingernail.

Once Oriotri’s fingers regained their strength, she would tighten her grip to capture Naomasa again, so Naomasa moved her hand. She peeled the strength away from her fingertips and…

“–––––”

She pulled her hand out of the work glove now held in Oriotri’s grasp.


Naomasa emptied her mind.

Extraneous thoughts would lead to unnecessary force that threw off her movements. So she appreciated Naruze’s shot.

That bullet had briefly blocked Oriotri’s view. Pulling her hand from the glove was a forearm movement, but it required relaxing her shoulder. Someone as skilled as their teacher would notice the relaxing shoulder and be on the lookout for the forearm’s movement.

But Naruze’s bullet had prevented that.

Naruze’s 10-yen coin ricocheted off the ground and Naomasa made a snap of her wrist in time with the sound. She pushed down on Oriotri’s right wrist, which still held the empty glove.

She forced it down.

Downwards was an unexpectedly difficult direction to imbalance someone, but…

This is my chance!

This had to be her last chance, so she tugged down on Oriotri’s wrist, as if catching her fingers on it and her glove. And she added a hint of an inward twist.

She unbalanced Oriotri.

“Oh.”

Oriotri appeared to lean against her.

Now Naomasa only had to increase the twist and Oriotri would spin and fall in that direction. If she took a step back, she could also imbalance Oriotri’s footing, making it that much easier.

She sent the twisting motion from wrist to elbow and elbow to shoulder.

She instantly had control of Oriotri’s entire arm from wrist to shoulder.

It was a lot like completing a series of tasks starting from the closest one. She imagined it like connecting components together to gain more length.

The shoulder was easier to move and could provide more resistance, so she gave a single tug to extend the tendons and eliminate the timing needed to resist.

The rest was simple. She twisted “inwards” as if trying to stir Oriotri’s right side with the stick called an arm. This was probably affecting the shoulder blade and such, but she was not sure since she was operating on pure intuition.

But once the work was complete, her opponent doubled over as if from a blow to the side. And…

“There.”

Her teacher let herself fall to the right.

She crouched down in that direction before Naomasa could do it. Was she going to insist it didn’t count because she had made herself fall? No…

I know what this is.

Naomasa realized she had overlooked one thing.

“––––!”


Mitotsudaira saw Oriotri lean forward and drop onto her knee.

“Naomasa.”

Naomasa suddenly tried to move away from Oriotri, but Oriotri pursued her hand from below.

She had released her hold on their teacher, but she did not pull away.

Mitotsudaira wondered why. Naomasa had the upper hand and Oriotri’s top priority had to be escaping her grasp. But…

Bell: “Naomasa…-san! Run…away!”

Asama: “Masa! The aftershock of her stomp is coming!”


The distortion corrected itself.

Asama was just about to reach the end of the rope pathway to Okutama when a large “road closed” sign frame appeared in front of her.

The sign frame depicted one of Musashi’s Dosojin bowing.

<Sorry about the trouble. Wait while I go speak with her. By, Dosojin.>

“The Dosojin are so helpful since they tend to be unworshipped gods.”

“But Sakuya was the one to close the road, right?” asked Ohiroshiki.

The Dosojin was back soon.

<Sorry. W-wait, my front teeth…really!? By, Dosojin.>

Asama let slip a “that was fast” and everyone’s silent glares were kind of painful.

“Well, um, our god has been in a good mood since she got after her father earlier.”

“That doesn’t explain what just happened,” said Tenzou.

Regardless, the Musashi shook before their eyes.

Gravitational control boosting sign frames appeared along the rope pathway, starting with its connection to the ship. Then Okutama’s bow heaved upwards.

Oriotri had made her stomp a bit aft of the ship’s center. It had created one large wave and this was the aftershock. The amplitude was greatest at the stern and bow.

“Wow.”

With the gravitational control in effect on the rope, it looked like the Musashi had just bounced upwards. It had risen about five meters, so…

Asama: “Is Masa okay!?”


Naomasa braced herself against the ground rising up about 10cm all at once.

The bounce had come from the bending of the metal. It was a lot like having the entire ship’s surface striking back at her. And in the areas with shallower dirt, the trees and other plants were sent airborne.

Divine protections kicked in at the residential areas, but the nature district was less protected. The loud splashing she heard likely came from the nearby stream. And…

Not bad!

Oriotri had reversed her wrist.

She was trying to grab Naomasa’s hand.

I see, thought Naomasa. That explains how I managed to imbalance her so easily.

Her opponent had included her stomp’s aftershock in her calculations for the duel.

She had done this before, so she knew from experience that the aftershock would be coming.

Naomasa worked in the engine division and she understood how the ship responded to stress, but…

I didn’t think an individual could do this!

That lack of understanding came from her own naivete. On the other hand, there’s something wrong with her. It’s not right.

But she still had to fall back here. Because…

“Kh.”

Her teacher grabbed her left wrist.

She twisted her hand to escape, but…

Cloth!?

It was the work glove she had removed before. It had been instantly slipped between Oriotri’s palm and the back of Naomasa’s hand.

The cloth stopped her attempt to escape. The glove soon fell away, but by then…

“––––––”

Oriotri had a solid grip on her wrist.

Oh, no, she thought. Oriotri had let herself be imbalanced and dropped to the ground so she could approach and grab Naomasa’s hand. She had known the aftershock would be thrusting up from below, so she had crouched low, used the shaking to stand back up, and used that to attack.

And now the shaking ship would be lowering. The current lack of motion was only a brief respite before it rapidly dropped back down like a spring snapping back into shape. Then it happened.

It was like a silence or a floating. Naomasa saw Oriotri move in the horribly clear summer heat.

She’s surprisingly bad at this.

Her teacher was overly tense as she imbalanced and threw her opponent.

She was not good at it, but she was still effective. She had control of Naomasa’s center of gravity, as well as the ground below her feet. So…

“…!”

Oriotri made her move just as the shaking reversed itself.

She performed a throw.


Mitotsudaira readied her sword while running along the shaking ship.

She had closed in on her quarry. And…

“Naomasa!”

That girl had been attacked, so she had to help out.

But then Oriotri made her throw. However…

Is that…?

Something flew through the air after Oriotri made a throw with a reversal of her wrist.

It was a part of Naomasa’s body – her prosthetic arm.

The large work arm had been purged from her shoulder to fly through the summer sunshine. And…

“Damn!”

Naomasa’s left arm was knocked back, as was Oriotri’s right hand.

They had failed to fully absorb the force built up there.

Naomasa was fine, but her prosthetic arm rolled along the ground and skittered across the stone pavement.

Mitotsudaira knew what must have happened. Just before she was thrown, Naomasa had sent all of the force into her prosthetic arm. Then she had purged it to keep the force from affecting the rest of her. Her arm was thrown instead of her entire body.

That prevented either of their throws from working. And…

“––––––”

Naomasa’s hand was forced upwards by the momentum, so she could not direct it back toward their teacher.

It was over.

Oriotri nodded in response.

“Ha,” she laughed before sending her lowered body forward.

She even used the next aftershock of her stomp to give herself some initial speed.

“Keep at it and you might manage to throw me next time!”

Naomasa clicked her tongue in response. She turned back toward Mitotsudaira with sweat on her skin and passing through her breathable tights. That was the physical proof of her tension during that battle.

She sighed.

“I bought you some time.”

“I will help with your martial arts training if you like.”

“I never thought I’d need your help there.”

Naomasa must have thought she could win this because there was definite frustration in the way she kicked her heels off the floor on her way to collect her arm. However…

Now it’s my turn.

Mitotsudaira had her sword ready and she was closing in on her opponent. So…

“It’s time we settled this, Sensei!”


Chapter 24: Liberator on the Way[edit]

Horizon8A 648-649.png

Now, how much is it?

Yes, it’s this much

Now, how to do it?

Yes, I do it like this

Point Allocation (Catching Up)


The Reine des Garous suddenly looked up while lifting the transport ship.

She had heard something that made her feel nostalgic, but not because it reminded her of her past. It had inspired a more primal sort of nostalgia inside her.

“What a wonderful sound.”

She heard the clashing of metal far to the west.

The attacks had a familiar tempo to them. That girl was short, slender, and took after her father in the chest area, but she could still make such familiar sounds.

“But.” The Reine des Garous tilted her head with a finger on her lips. “She still has a lot of room to grow. In fact, she is entirely missing one thing.”


Mitotsudaira focused on attack.

She was catching up. She only had to send out two silver chains and use Ex. Collbrande as her primary weapon.

“…!”

The wolf clashed with her teacher using a burst of acceleration. She used more than just the sword. She also struck with the silver chains, slashed with her claws, and sometimes even kicked with her feet.

She was a wolf. Every part of her could become a weapon when given proper speed.

And when she attacked…

“Hah!”

She would use her entire body to accelerate the hand swinging her claws or Excalibur.

She liked not needing to hold back with her high-speed attacks. In that sense, it reminded her of her battle against Shibata at Novgorod.

The way she accelerated her feet was most comparable to her battle against Shima Sakon at Nördlingen. She felt it had been really clever of her to use the sword as footing to launch an attack from midair.

She could use all of that here.

After all, her king had given her a command.

The wolf leaped and attacked from every conceivable direction. As for Oriotri…

“Ohh.”

She sounded somewhat surprised as she dealt with every one of Mitotsudaira’s attacks.

Sparks flew from her sheathed sword, but…

I can’t seem to hit her!


The battlefield was starting down Remorse Way.

Mitotsudaira kept up the attack on Oriotri.

A hit would mean a win. A win for everyone, a win for her, and a win for her king.

But Oriotri was focused on defense and her defenses were solid. Also…

She’s slowed down, but not by much.

Mitotsudaira could tell the middle group was moving at about the same speed. So…

“Your tactics were crude, but we still fell for them.”

“Oh? I’m not sure what you mean,” said their teacher.

Mitotsudaira had studied command, so she understood.

“The standard escape tactics are to separate your opponents by movement and speed and then defeat them individually. But our focus is on the overall results, not our personal results, and we have a hard time intervening in each other’s battles, so it actually hurts our chances if we try to fight as a group.”

Of course, that had been true of all their previous mock battles, but Mitotsudaira thought it was obvious what Oriotri was trying to do this time. Because…

“You took out the quickest of us first. As soon as the battle began, you dealt with Adele and Hassan. Then you kept Naito and Naruze from interfering and defeated the Date Vice Chancellor and 2nd Special Duty Officer since they could all fly. And before any exhaustion set in, you called in reinforcements to get rid of Futayo, Gin, and Muneshige who could catch up to you.”

And by pulling out far enough ahead…

“Even if Tomo tried to shoot you, she would be unable to get a clear line of fire. You haven’t had the middle group do all that much, which is unusual.”

“And what does that tell you?” asked Oriotri.

“Even if my king survives, our fighters protect the majority, and we defeat the enemy’s main force…we can still lose. Because real battles are not a race to a finish line.”

“Ha ha.” Oriotri laughed. “Before, it was only a game of tag where I picked you off one at a time, but you’ve finally brought it all together enough for an attacker to reach me despite the reinforcements.”

“Judge,” agreed Mitotsudaira.

Oriotri asked something from behind the sparks binding their swords.

“I have a question, Mitotsudaira. Do you know why you are here?”

She did.

“Because of others’ skilled assistance and because your calculations were not quite sufficient. I should really have been the only one capable of dealing with my mother.”

But the Tachibana Couple had taken on that role.

“I think we could have defeated or restrained my mother if I had worked with the Tachibana Couple, but someone was more interested in the overall battle, not the individual number of wins.”

Namely…

“My king.”

She had come to realize this while answering her teacher’s questions here. She was still lacking some skill in ways so obvious even she could see it, but right now…

“I am here as the final blade of victory my king prepared.”


Naomasa reattached her right arm and began a quick walk.

The chatter on the sign frame told her the middle group was already here, but she could still finish with the rear group even if she only walked.

She had done her job, so rushing here would only amount to a margin of error. However…

“Are you kidding?”

She turned toward the academy – toward the nature district’s forest.

The terrain had been transformed.

Trees were flying into the air and crashing back down to aft. The ground rumbled like a dragon was walking by and Asama and “Okutama” were shouting about something or other on the sign frame, but Naomasa chose to believe she was imagining that part.

But the trees were definitely flying and the occasional flashes of silver had to be Excalibur. The wolf was going wild today.

When Naomasa saw it, she sighed, smiled bitterly, and got moving.

She began to jog and scratched her head.

“Honestly, just because your king can go this way again doesn’t mean he made it his knight’s territory, you know?”


Mitotsudaira wielded her power.

She had to win this. She was already doing everything she could, so it all came down to how far that would take her.

“Here goes!”

Remorse Way was a road through the trees that her king had long avoided. The thick forest was poorly maintained, as was the norm for the inner side of the nature districts.

There’s less wind and sun than on the outer side.

People tended to view the difference between the port and starboard sides of the nature districts as a form of wabi-sabi, but the committee member in charge of upkeep had once been dragged around the nature district by a horse on charges of “using wabi-sabi as an excuse”. So…

“I’m just thinning out the forest a little.”

She looked to the trees lifted up by the silver chains. She had grabbed four just this one time and she had done this several times already.

“J-just a little!”

She had a bad feeling about this, but she could not afford to reduce the chains’ motivation by scolding them, so she kept her smile and threw the trees at Oriotri.


Masazumi rode on Futayo’s shoulder while the girl ran at a quick pace. She could see Mitotsudaira’s battle from the rope pathway between ships.

“Hey, wait. That’s the park where I always read books.”

“Is it? I had no idea there was a park there! Maybe the holes in the forest will make it easier to find.”

Masazumi sincerely hoped not. Because…

If everyone starts going there, I’ll lose one of the precious few quiet spots on the Musashi.

I’d better prepare myself for that letdown now, she thought before looking to Okutama again. She could see the academy from here.

“C’mon, everyone. Win this for us.”


Mitotsudaira slammed the trees down like the front legs of a giant beast pursuing its prey.

She did not bother stripping the trees of their branches.

She would tear them up and slam them down as is.

Even Oriotri could not block attacks like that, but the trees were heavy for Mitotsudaira as well.

With all their branches and leaves, the air resistance was increased and that slowed their movements. However…

I can still swing them!

They were useful as heavy weapons, but she mostly just wanted to apply pressure to Oriotri.

Making them feel hard to dodge would create an opening in their teacher. A smoothed log would only look like a simple striking weapon. And…

All of my efforts will pay off down the road!

Mitotsudaira moved forward and her vision opened up.

She had emerged onto the central road leading to the academy. From here…

“The academy is right up the stairs!”

Oriotri began her last spurt. She had to climb the stairs, but that was barely an obstacle for her. Mitotsudaira swung her silver chains behind her just once more as she pursued.

“Here goes!”


Naito checked on the final stage of the mock battle out of the corner of her eye.

When Oriotri had emerged onto the road to the academy, she had thought they had lost, but…

“Mito-tsan!”

Mitotsudaira was catching up.

Was this the first time they had managed to close the gap and catch up like this?

That was impressive enough on its own, but Mitotsudaira was aiming for more.

It was hard to tell form the sky, but she had gathered up some trees in her silver chains and swung them around once to build up speed.

Ohh.

She threw them, but she did not simply aim for Oriotri.

She threw them toward the top of the academy stairs, to block the way.


Mitotsudaira used a burst of speed.

She had thrown eight trees. Three of them fell down the stairs, but the other five blocked the way at the top.

Oriotri would have to clear them at the very end of her last spurt.

That was why Mitotsudaira had been laying the pressure on her this entire time.

To make it feel like an obstacle. From there, she only had to run toward the tree wall she had built on the stairs.

“…!”

She accelerated.


The wolf ran. She was already starting to run out of breath.

But she had cornered her prey.

Oriotri was their teacher and she had monstrous combat skills and mobility.

“Ohhh!”

Their teacher was running full speed at this point.

Mitotsudaira had the greater top speed. Their teacher could not use these bursts of acceleration, but she did have a stable and unfaltering speed. That continued now. She was more leaping than running up the stairs.

“She’s going to jump right over the trees, isn’t she!?”

Mitotsudaira threw the silver chains out after Oriotri.

She was nearly at the top of the stairs. The schoolyard goal was close.

It all came down to this.

She would be defenseless in midair while jumping over the tree wall, but the silver chains could fly.

So…

“Go, silver chains!”

Mitotsudaira sent them out in time with Oriotri’s jump.

But not at the teacher herself. She had them grab the trees below.

“Ohh!”

And she flung those up toward their teacher.


Oriotri made a split-second decision.

Not bad!

In the past, Mitotsudaira would have attacked by having a silver chain wield Excalibur.

But not now. Her form was far from perfect, but she had prioritized victory. No, victory had been her king’s command, so she would do whatever it took to achieve that.

But Oriotri made a move in midair.

The rising trees were given plenty of momentum.

If she continued her jump like this, they would crash into her from below. Even if she kicked off them to jump, all the branches would make it hard to claim they had not “hit” her.

And a teacher can’t start making excuses against her students.

So Oriotri made her move. She reached for the hilt on her back.

“How about I give you a special treat?”


The Reine des Garous’s ears twitched as she threw out the transport ship.

“Oh?”

Her ears were animal ears. She had partially transformed into a wolf. But this was her transformation as a Loup-Garou, not as a spirit. Why had this happened on a summer day?

“That was an awfully clear sword strike.”

She tilted her head and turned toward Okutama’s stern. She had heard an attack from her daughter’s opponent, but that opponent had not previously drawn her sword this entire time.

She must have drawn it for just an instant and immediately resheathed it, but…

“How sharp is that blade? It sliced through those trees like paper.”


Naomasa had seen their teacher’s attack.

She had honestly failed to perceive the sword strike. It had been too fast. But just as Oriotri had gone behind the rising trees, she had seen…

A light?

It had looked like a flash of light circled around from behind the trees. It had been an inconspicuous and calm light, leading Naomasa to believe it had been a weak attack. However…

“That is disturbing.”

All five trees had been sliced right down the middle. Oriotri then kicked off the slice and jumped diagonally toward the port schoolyard.

The two halves of the bisected trees crashed together, making a solid noise that seemed to push their teacher toward the goal. But…

“Mito!” shouted Naomasa. “Clear yourself a path to victory!”


After putting away her sword, Oriotri checked the air behind her.

Her opponent was there. And…

“I knew you’d aim for this moment!”

The silver wolf used the split trees as midair footing to catch up to her all at once.

The difference between a leap and a midair dash was made plain by the shrinking distance between them.

In the span of a breath, the wolf arrived within a few meters of Oriotri. By then, Oriotri had seen how the wolf intended to attack.

Two arcs trailed behind her over a few dozen meters.

Those were silver chains. They were being swung like whips – one free and one with Excalibur.

They used their maximum centrifugal force plus the wolf’s full strength to send first the tight arm toward Oriotri.

That metal fist was meant to send her airborne.

Oriotri readied her sheathed sword in response.

Then the silver wolf twisted around. She shifted her head to the side, sliding her body one body-width to the left. That pulled strongly at the Excalibur chain, but…

Oh.

A high-speed attack shot through the spot the wolf had just vacated.

It was one of Asama’s anti-ship arrows.


“Hit!”

Asama put away Umetsubaki in front of Remorse Way, on the long block that connected the nature district’s wide blocks. Since she was not in her shrine maiden outfit, she had not used the leg anchors and such, but the directional purification had worked perfectly. This shot had greater power and accuracy than the previous one.

And Mitotsudaira had blocked it from view.

She could not imagine how Oriotri could dodge it. So…

“Did it work!?”

Something exploded in the sky above Okutama’s stern.

Ether light sprayed out over a massive area.

“U-up above!?”

Suzu was correct. Asama looked up to see light exploding at a point 200m above the academy. She knew exactly what had caused that ether light.

My arrow!

Oriotri had not dodged it. Instead…

“She kicked the speeding arrow up into the air!?”

The spectacle in the sky was as eloquent as answers came, but Asama did not bother lamenting this failure. Instead…

“Mary!”

“Judge, it is already on its way.”

Asama looked back to see the English princess showing off her two empty hands. The Excalibur she had held was gone.

“It took off after realizing its friend needed help solving a problem.”


Mitotsudaira kicked off the final log.

She aimed for Oriotri who had thrown a kick in midair and used her momentum for a backflip.

She was about to arrive in the academy’s schoolyard.

That was the goal.

If she arrived there without taking a hit, they would lose.

Of course, losing did not mean death here. They would only lose points. Mitotsudaira would get points for completing the race and she would probably get more for the fight she put up along the way. But her king was in a bit of trouble there. No, a lot of trouble. That would also put Horizon in trouble and it would throw a wrench in any plans they had for enjoying summer break together.

I have to do this!

She sent Ex. Collbrande in on the right and the tight arm in on the left. And…

“The second Ex. Collbrande!”

The additional sword flew in past her shoulder and she caught it in her right hand without even looking back.

She moved in to attack her teacher with this triple midair attack.


Mitotsudaira watched their teacher’s movements while rushing toward her in midair.

Oriotri appeared to be falling back-first toward the schoolyard, so Mitotsudaira first sent the left tight arm in on a collision course.

But their teacher raised her sword just before it hit.

Huh?

Mitotsudaira honestly thought she was defending against the tight arm, but she was not. Oriotri then let go of the sword. And…

It can’t be.

Mitotsudaira gasped as their teacher sent her right hand outwards.

The tight arm was going to crash into her hand from the outside.

But Mitotsudaira did not see a direct hit to or destruction of the teacher’s hand.

“Silver chain!?”

The chain rolled through the air.

She understood what had happened, but she had difficulty accepting it.

“She ‘unbalanced’ the chain!?”


Oriotri answered Mitotsudaira’s question with a nod.

“Yes,” she said while sending her left hand out as well.

Excalibur was rushing in from that direction, so she matched its movement and swung her wrist.

“I can knock these off balance.”

She deflected it.

The sword had made a powerful and speedy attack, but it did not matter. A series of metallic straining sounds rang out just once.

“…!”

And it was knocked away. Neither chain had managed to harm her. Because…

“Mitotsudaira?”

It was just like that girl to be staring at her with strength in her gaze instead of with dazed surprise. Thanks to that, Oriotri felt comfortable speaking plainly.

“One thing you lack is a proper technique for using your silver chains. You could sense that here, couldn’t you?”

“Judge,” replied the wolf, approaching with the other Excalibur resting on her right shoulder. “I can give myself bursts of acceleration, but the chains cannot do the same since they lack a skeleton and muscles.”

So…

“Once I swing them with my strength, my opponent can knock them back if they know how.”


That’s right, thought Mitotsudaira, finally accepting what she had seen.

The silver chains could carry her strength, but then they had to rely entirely on that strength.

Her bursts of acceleration required a skeleton that could function like a spring or make use of leverage. She could swing the chains with her great strength or even use her own burst of acceleration to throw them, but…

She immediately picked up on the flaw in my hidden tactics!

But Mitotsudaira did not stop there.

“Then how about this!?”

She lifted Excalibur from her right shoulder in midair.

“I can accelerate this sword!”

The teacher responded by grabbing the sword floating in front of her.

And just as the two of them were about to reach the schoolyard…

“–––––––”

Raging Beast crashed down toward Oriotri.


“Adele-sama has reached her destination! Over!”

On Musashino’s bridge, “Kokubunji” informed the others her task had succeeded.

“Musashino” gave a performative sigh and turned toward “Kokubunji”.

“Well done, ‘Kokubunji’. I did not expect her to want a second launch after the first one failed. I can only assume the repeated blows to her head have ‘knocked a screw loose’ as the saying goes, but scoring a direct hit on a moving target from Musashino to Okutama’s stern was impressive work. Over.”

Everyone applauded with minimal movement, but one of them raised a hand.

“What is it, ‘Akishima’? Over.”

“That looked like a direct hit on Oriotri-sama, but are we really supposed to crush our passengers? Over.”

“Musashino” looked away from “Akishima”.

She turned toward the front of the bridge where the scene outside was displayed on the wall.

Or it should have been.

The image from the bridge’s front sight devices had a thick black line down the center.

That was the scar left by the transport ship collision. She stared at that and spoke with no emotion in her voice.

“This is nothing compared to what I have endured. Over.”


Adele hopped out of Raging Beast.

I did it!

There was nothing Oriotri could do when she was hit in midair. So…

“Well, Sensei!? How was that for a direct hit!?”

She peeked below Raging Beast to see what had happened to her teacher.

She knew it had worked out this time. Because…

I learned my lesson last time and moved the legs behind it this time!

There was no gap below it, so if Oriotri was below there…

“–––––––”

She spent two seconds in silent contemplation.

Wait.

Asama: “H-hey, was Sensei just squashed flat!?”

Art-Ga: “It would seem we finally have a criminal in our class.”

Uqui: “Pretty sure we already had one of those.”

Me: “Hey, hey, hey! Why’s everyone staring at me!?”

Circle Be: “No, no, we’re the new hotness there! We’re the latest criminals!”

Gold Mar: “The nudist and the udons are our criminals? Gotta admit, that does feel pretty Apocalyptic.”

“C’mon, our class has been like that forever,” said Adele as she quickly checked below Raging Beast.

There was something below it: Oriotri’s sword. The long blue scabbard was stabbed into the courtyard, pushing Raging Beast out of the way.

In other words…

She caught Raging Beast on her sword and escaped?

That would mean, she thought before a karate chop hit the back of her head.

She could not say anything at all before the teacher’s voice reached her.

“That was a good try. I honestly would’ve been in trouble if I wasn’t already raising my sword.”

She looked back to see Oriotri standing there.

The teacher smiled down at her.

“Okay, I’ve reached the goal without taking a single hit. There are no more attacks in progress, so I guess that ends our mock battle, doesn’t it?”


Mitotsudaira sighed as she landed in the same schoolyard Oriotri had reached unscathed.

Once the breath had left her, her knees fell to the ground.

Ugh.

She was terribly worn out.

She had managed to ready that final sword strike, but she had honestly not had the strength left to swing it.

Not after running full speed the entire way here, throwing trees and such on the way.

Endurance will be my next task, she decided while pulling her silver chains back in. Oriotri turned her way, so she asked a question.

“What will happen to my king and the others?”

“Hm, let’s hope they can get here in time. I wonder if the trees down there will cause any trouble for them.”

“Oh, that could be a problem.”

And once she had Oriotri’s attention, she gave a quiet command.

Horizon8A 675.jpg

“Kimi.”

Two hands suddenly thrust out below Oriotri’s arms.

“Ah.”

Oriotri tried to escape, but the hands were slow but accurate.

The fingers reached for their targets on her body and squeezed at the chest of her shirt.

And with those grabbed…

“Heh heh. Got you, Sensei.”

It was Kimi and she shouted down the stairs with a smile.

“There, mission accomplished! See that, foolish brother!? And Horizon!? You have your wise sister to thank this time!!”


Why am I not surprised? thought Adele as she pulled the sword out from under Raging Beast.

Kimi was here because she had been riding within Raging Beast.

They had come up with this strategy when they all began their run. It had been Neshinbara’s idea.

“We need to get an attack in on Sensei at the finish line. That is our top priority.”

And he had known who could pull it off.

“Aoi-kun, your entertainer’s timing has bypassed Sensei’s defenses before. I would love for you to do that again, but I doubt repeat material would work on her. So instead…”

“Heh heh heh. That leaves me.”

So they had needed to get Kimi to the schoolyard finish line, but the timing was key there.

“It can’t be after we all gather there like last time.”

So it had to happen sooner, when the initial rush was arriving.

The rest had been simple. Urquiaga and Narumi had rushed in to keep Oriotri from noticing the discussion and the rest had followed after them.

They knew what they had to do in the end, no matter what obstacles awaited them along the way.

Which is why we won.

This was different from before. The result was similar, but there was a clear difference. Because…

“We won!”

“You did,” admitted Oriotri. She smiled bitterly, slipped away from Kimi, and lightly held her own shoulders. “There’s not much you can do when Kimi lays a trap for you.”

“You are full of openings to me, Sensei.”

“Am I?” Oriotri smiled bitterly. “Then I have a lot of studying to do myself.”

Uqui: “Hey, someone stop her. We’ll never graduate if she gets any stronger.”

Horizey: “Wouldn’t we have to defeat her to stop her?”

10ZO: “And she powers up each time we defeat her!”

It did seem that way. But the rear group was leaving Remorse Way now.

They still had time, so that settled it. Adele clapped her hands and announced the result.

“No one fails! We all reach the finish line, so we all pass!”


Chapter 25: Audience at the Goal Line[edit]

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The world changes

Maybe by a step

Maybe for everyone

Point Allocation (Feeling Liberated)


Asama arrived at the schoolyard a little after the rest of the middle group.

She had been slow up the stairs due to Umetsubaki and its support equipment. Toori and Horizon were also slower, but only because they did not bother rushing.

They really have changed, she thought, remembering what had happened on Remorse Way. She had thought they would keep the past in the past, but they had instead commented on the stone memorial.

“Oh, crap. That memorial’s still there.”

“It gives the sense that Horizon Classic is buried there, so I would like to do something about it.”

“Like what? Take it with you?”

“Would I earn any points for hitting Sensei with it?”

They had discussed the issue with hands on their chins, so Asama had kindly guided them toward the school. And if they were going to deal with it over the break…

Mito can carry it and I can handle the land purification after it’s removed and the ley line adjustments wherever they put it.

Memorials tended to become a local symbol. People had left flowers at that one, so it carried a lot of emotion. So…

“How about we place it in front of the Blue Thunder to commemorate my return, Asama-sama?”

“Umm…”

That would prove difficult.

They used that discussion to relaxed at the finish line. By the time the rear group arrived, Futayo, Masazumi, and Neshinbara had caught up too. Neshinbara arrived last while biting a food charm, presumably for emergency nutrients.

“So what happens now, Sensei?”

“You commanded that strategy, didn’t you, Neshinbara? I’m a little surprised.”

Musashino: “In other words, we can blame all of this on him. Over.”

Okutama: “If only I could ban him from ever boarding me. Over.”

Me: “Neshinbara, try not to be such a nuisance, okay?”

Kunitachi: “ ‘Musashino’-sama! ‘Musashino’-sama! As infuriating as the Chancellor’s comment was, a physical attack is an inappropriate response from the bridge crew! Over.”

I feel bad for the bridge crew.

Meanwhile, Masazumi raised her right hand.

“Asama, can you give me a list of the foreign VIPs on the Musashi? This turned into a really big deal.”

“Shinto-wise, they’re automatically given a temporary contract unless they do something wrong or ask me for something else.”

“Hm. Then can you just give me a list of names and nations for everyone foreign onboard?”

“Oh, that I can do.” Asama opened a sign frame. “The shrine has a list of contracts to be used as ID when participating in festivals and such. You can view that if you want.”

But…

“It’s a long list.”


“Milady! Musashi is yet again oppressing us by sending an extensive list of names and demanding you ‘find the suspicious people on this list’!”

“Stop making such a fuss, Kanou-kun. Now, I’m not going through the whole list, so narrow it down to anyone who arrived after Musashi left for Nördlingen. I’m sure that’s what she wants.”

“Milady! You shouldn’t have to read her mind!”


“Okay, she should give me what I want.”

Mitotsudaira heard Masazumi’s comment while seated in the schoolyard.

She’s troubling the underclassmen again, isn’t she?

But that division of labor was something they had developed over the past few months, so why not use it?

“Here, Nate. You did great.”

Something cold pressed against her cheek. It was a paper cup with a lid and bamboo straw.

“A sports drink, my king?”

“It’s from Asama, so it should be safe to drink. Also, lift your butt.”

She did so, wondering why, and her king placed a handkerchief below her. She had sat directly on the ground out of exhaustion, but…

“Y-you don’t have to do that.”

“I had it, so I decided to use it. That’s all.”

She could not argue with that. I need to wash it and return it later, she decided while he moved his face in close.

“W-wait, my king. I’m all sweaty.”

“But what’s this smell? It’s nice.”

“Really?” said Horizon, approaching and sniffing at Mitotsudaira’s hair. Asama, Kimi, Adele, and more also walked over to see what this was about.

“Is this creme?”

“No, I think it must be vanilla essence.”

“M-making me smell something so tasty after so much exercise is torture!”

If it’s received this well, I need to make it an official product, she decided while a sign frame appeared next to Masazumi.

“What’s that?” asked Oriotri when she noticed. “Worried about what happens next?”

“Judge. We’re about to enter Kantou and there are signs of Hashiba personnel coming aboard with the supplies. Now, Musashi is a trade ship, so that is allowed.”

“Yes,” agreed Asama. “Ever since the Sanada group and the Celestial Dragons boarded us, I’ve been checking for that and making sure we can respond if need be. They’re free to come aboard, but if they try to cause trouble…well, I don’t think they’ll like what happens.”

What did you set up? wondered Masazumi, but it was possible that was the work of her god instead. Those things must be tricky, she thought before asking something.

“Anyway, Masazumi, you said we are about to enter Kantou?”

“Yes. We’re currently right in front of Houjou.”

The Battle of Mikatagahara and the Battle of Nagashino had happened a little further north of here.

A lot has changed since then, thought Mitotsudaira as she looked at the group gathered here. And…

“Then how about we take a break in the Student Council rec room or the dining hall while Sensei grades our performance?”

“Judge.” Masazumi nodded and crossed her arms. “We’re done with our exams now, but we need to be ready for everything that’s bound to happen once we’re in Kantou. Before long, I want to speak with the Swedish Chancellor about where our relationship stands and then we need to discuss how we will intervene in the Honnouji Incident, which could include her.”

Everyone tensed at this topic and Suzu looked up.

“W-we can…go back…there?”

“We need to make sure we’re safe first.”

So…

“We can go back to Kansai, but we will pave our path to Honnouji while in Kantou. And to do that…”

Masazumi looked to the east – to Kantou. Houjou’s land was there and Edo and Satomi were past that. And even further than that, a shadow was visible in the ocean sky.

“The Azuchi,” said Masazumi. “We’ll be picking a fight with that.”

Everyone nodded.

But at that very moment, Mitotsudaira noticed Oriotri make a sudden move. She had received her sword from Adele, but…

Huh?

She suddenly raised that sword next to Masazumi. And…

“Oh?”

A metal clang reverberated out.


Masazumi had no idea what had happened. She simply felt the wind blowing and saw their teacher move.

To protect me?

That was certainly what it felt like, but given their positioning, the attack must have come from…

“The academy building!?”

That confused her further.

Vice President: “Why would anyone from the school want to attack me?”


“Milady! Break a sign frame if you want, but not the one you’re working on! Here, I will open as many as you like, so break them to your heart’s content!”

“No, Kanou-kun. It’s an impulsive act. You lose interest if you have to prepare.”

“I see, so you are an anger connoisseur!”


What did I do to deserve this? wondered Masazumi after needing protection from an attack.

But she could definitely hear a metallic scraping coming from down by Oriotri’s hands. Whatever had been meant for her was still being pushed forward.

She saw it now.

There was a line of metal on the other side of Oriotri’s scabbard. The red line was…

A scabbard?

That meant the attacker and defender had locked sheathed blades. And that attacker stood there in front of Oriotri.

“I cannot overlook what I heard here, Makiko Oriotri.”

It was a woman.

An unfamiliar tall woman spoke with a deeper female voice with long black hair blowing in the wind.

She looked older than Oriotri and she wore M.H.R.R. clothing modified into men’s clothing.

Masazumi was familiar with the concept of women wearing men’s clothing and she had a more pressing question anyway.

“Who are you?”

The woman narrowed her sharp eyes, but the first thing from her mouth was a bitter laugh.

“So five years away and no one even remembers me anymore?”

“Well, I only arrived two years ago.”

“Then forget I said anything.”

I see.

Masazumi felt even more certain than before that this was not something she should get involved in, but the situation was still awkward. Which may have explained what happened next.

“Hey.”

Oriotri pushed out her scabbard to repel her opponent. But…

“No, you.”

Her opponent pushed her scabbard back to resist.

Art-Ga: “What, is she telling Sensei to yield?”

Gold Mar: “Why does everyone have to make everything so difficult recently?”

Asama: “W-why are you looking my way!? I’ve gotten over that!”

No, you haven’t, thought Masazumi, but then Oriotri pulled back and looked over her shoulder.

“Sorry, Masazumi. She’s after me, not you, so stand back.”

She had an unusual look in her eyes – one of caution.

Everyone must have picked up on it because when Masazumi and Oriotri stepped away from the mystery woman, Mitotsudaira got up and readied her hands.

“She’s after Sensei? Who is she?”

“I’m glad you asked.” The woman glanced over at Masazumi and Oriotri before resting her scabbard on her right shoulder. “I am a former Musashi Ariadust teacher.” She introduced herself with a thin smile. “And a current P.A. Oda teacher. My name is Ishikawa Kazumasa.”


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Horizey: “Who is that?”

Novice: “Meeee!”

Four Eyes: “Calling yourself now? That’s new, at least.”

Novice: “Let me do this one! Ishikawa Kazumasa originally served the Matsudaira clan, managed Matsudaira’s administrative work with Sakai Tadatsugu, and proved himself in combat. But…”

Horizey: “But what? Ready, go!”

Novice: “Judge. But after the Battle of Komaki Nagakute, the only real direct battle between Matsudaira and Hashiba, he suddenly ran off to Hashiba. Why is unknown. There are plenty of theories, but since someone in charge of Matsudaira affairs joined the enemy, there were a lot of personnel changes and processing of classified information.”

Unturning: “And for us, she went to P.A. Oda as a teacher.”


Kazumasa felt a slight tickle of satisfaction when she noticed everyone’s reactions.

“This is a tad awkward. If things had played out differently, our positions would have been reversed.”

“What do you mean?” asked the Musashi Vice President.

She had to nod in response.

“I was in charge of the Plum series of students. In other words…”

In other words…

“If not for a certain someone’s interference, I would have been your teacher.”


Asama hurriedly checked the woman’s identification.

She claimed to be Ishikawa Kazumasa.

And sure enough…

Asama: “It’s true! She’s still registered with Musashi, but marked as a runaway!”

That explained why the ship’s divine protections had barely responded to the attack on Oriotri just now.

As a teacher, she used her scabbard to provide instructions just like Oriotri. In that case, it was not too unusual for her to interrupt a class. But Asama was confused about one part of the data in the system.

“Ishikawa-sensei? This says you left Musashi 5 years ago.”

That was the same year someone else had arrived on the Musashi.

Kazumasa answered the implied question with eyes narrowed.

“Testament. A new teacher arrived 5 years ago, but there were no open spots at Ariadust. I dueled her, hoping she would give up on the idea once she lost.” She laughed. “Maybe I got careless and maybe I was simply outmatched, but I lost despite being known as Ariadust’s strongest at the time.”

She pointed the end of her scabbard at someone.

“Makiko Oriotri. That teacher was you.”


Art-Ga: “Does that mean our teacher unintentionally played a role in the history recreation? By accidentally forcing someone to follow it?”

Unturning: “That explains why her students keep forcing themselves to play a role there.”

Uqui: “Do not forget that you are one of her students now.”


Well, thought Masazumi. She’s causing trouble, so it figures she would have Musashi origins.

But she needed to ask something else right now.

“Ishikawa-sensei, could you tell us one thing?”

That being…

“Who…do you teach now?”

“Hashiba students. Primarily, the Ten Spears.”

Mitotsudaira gasped and Kazumasa sighed.

“That said, there is not much I have to teach them, so you could say I am mostly helping them develop the skills they already had. Still, one of them did suffer a painful defeat recently, even if she is a year younger than all of you.”

So…

“I thought they could stand to train during summer break.”

She swung her left arm, opening a lernen figur. It displayed IZUMO’s emblem and the text “Teacher’s League”.

“This is a teacher’s command. The Musashi must not enter Kantou. Doing so risks conflict with the Azuchi and interference with its airspace would influence the surface as well. Besides,” she said. “Didn’t the Testament Union order you to arrive no sooner than August 10? Why are you here now? This sounds like a violation of the Testament Union’s instructions to me.”


Silver Wolf: “Well…we’re doing it to harass them, right?”

Gold Mar: “Yup. And since it’s harassment, there’s no reason to wait.”

Horizey: “We are the bad guys here, aren’t we!? The bad guys!”

Vice President: “Well, excuse me! If anyone knows a more tactful way to put it, I’d like to hear it!”

Tachibana Wife: “Master Muneshige! Master Muneshige! You don’t have to put a suggestion box for that on our site!”


“Could you wait a moment, Ishikawa-sensei?”

Kazumasa heard a voice from directly ahead.

It was Oriotri, who shrugged toward her.

“Our movement here is part of the history recreation since we are assisting the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle’s reconciliation. And when you ask us to stay out of Kantou, you’re speaking as a P.A. Oda teacher, aren’t you? That leaves me little choice but to say ‘no’ as a Musashi teacher.”

Behind Oriotri, a silly-looking boy and a gaudy girl were shouting “Noooooooo!” in as bizarre a fashion as they could manage. Wait, isn’t that their Chancellor?

But she understood what Oriotri was saying.

Teachers were sent by the Teacher’s League to instruct the students of each nation. They would of course also support the nation they were sent to, but…

“There can be no rules between nations for teachers. Isn’t that right?”

“In that case…”

Oriotri did not hesitate to prepare for a fight.

Before, Kazumasa had failed to judge just how far the woman was willing to go. She had gone to lengths that Kazumasa had assumed she would never dare go. But…

“We can do this here.” Kazumasa did not hesitate either. “While you were having fun with your beloved students in that sorry excuse for training, I was neglecting my students to train myself.”

The students exchanged glances and the gaudy girl lowered her hands and then raised them to signal their timing.

“What kind of teacher are you!?”


“Not to worry. I have excellent students who are capable of learning on their own.”

Kazumasa turned toward Oriotri again.

“My students are not like yours. Can yours learn on their own?”

Oriotri turned to look at her students.

They all sat down and turned their backs. Some even covered their ears.

Kazumasa gave a snort of laughter.

“You’ve been teaching them for how long and they still can’t teach themselves?”

“Hey, I respect my students’ freedom.”

“That is the entire problem!” Kazumasa raised her right hand to point at Oriotri. “But what else should I expect from someone who wrote ‘Life is so much fun!’ in the comment field of her first resume!?”

“And life is still fun. I’d write the same thing if I made a resume now.” Oriotri turned to her students. “Hey, I’ve never taught any of you how to make your life boring, have I?”

“In that case,” continued Kazumasa. “How about I bring an end to that fun?” She raised her sheathed sword. “Losing is never fun.”

“Says you.” Oriotri gestured for the students to stand back and reached for the hilt of her sword. “I still found life to be fun no matter how many times I lost.”

So…

“I’m enjoying it even more now.”

“Is that so?” replied Kazumasa. All she had to do was lean forward and begin the fight without hesitation.

“Okay, that’s enough.”

A sudden voice interrupted the two women.

It belonged to Sakai.


Chapter 26: The World’s Executive[edit]

Horizon8A 697.jpg

I will not ask you to notice

But in the silent mornings

When I can’t stand it any longer

I will refuse to accept how much I hate this

Point Allocation (But That is the Rule)


Asama saw Kazumasa quickly jump away and straighten up upon landing.

“P-Principal Sakai! I should have composed myself better!!”

“No, um, Kazumasa-kun, you don’t need to be so tense.”

“I do,” insisted Kazumasa and something about it sounded familiar to Asama.

Oh, she’s just like Neshinbara-kun. Because…

“I am honored that someone like you still remembers my name!”

Novice: “Wh-what!? Why is everyone looking at me!? My schtick is nothing like that!”

He could believe what he wanted. Anyway, Sakai raised both hands a little and told Kazumasa and Oriotri to keep some distance between them. And…

“Makiko-kun. Kazumasa-kun came to greet me earlier and she told me some of what is going on in Hashiba right now. She has been monitoring the situation on the Azuchi from her position in P.A. Oda and she stopped by here on her way to the ship.”

But…

“We have our own work to do and there are things we would like to accomplish, but Hashiba has their own issues to deal with…although I would honestly prefer if they showed some restraint there.”

Oriotri expressed her understanding and Masazumi raised her hand.

“Are you telling us to find a solution that lets both sides save face?”

“Glad you understand, Masazumi-kun.” Sakai turned toward Asama. “Asama-kun, you will be readjusting the Kantou infrastructure once the Musashi arrives, won’t you? Won’t the Azuchi’s presence cause some trouble there?”

He was correct. With an aerial ship the size of the Musashi, the internal shrines would have a lot of authority, which would begin to affect the nearby ley lines.

“Once the Musashi has reached Satomi, we will be interfering with the Azuchi’s internal shrines.”

“And what happens then?”

Wise Sister: “Heh heh. Sakuya will run on over and hit them with a sake bottle, I bet.”

Shut up, Kimi. And I hate how easy that is to imagine.

But she knew exactly what would happen if the Musashi and Azuchi interfered with each other.

“The Azuchi is being repaired, so the Musashi will have more power and our influence on the ley line network is quite powerful too. I expect we would limit the Azuchi’s divine transmissions to those within the ship itself.”

“I see,” said Sakai. “So you’re saying it’s possible the Azuchi would come to us in response.”


Masazumi raised her hand.

Once Sakai turned her way, she shook her head.

“Principal Sakai, we would also prefer to avoid a battle with the Azuchi.”

Me: “Hey, Seijun? You can be honest, okay? Seeing you lie is so hard to watch.”

Vice President: “Shut up. And not so fast. Hear me out before you say anything.”

Gold Mar: “So we can tease you after we hear you out?”

Preferably no…

But Sakai’s suggestion here was exactly what they wanted.

Is he trying to warn us, or does he understand what we’re doing here?

Adults are great at obscuring their intentions like that, thought Masazumi. And…

“Then how about this? We will give Hashiba some time by waiting here in this former Houjou land.”

“Some time?”

Kazumasa tilted her head, so Masazumi knew what to say next.

“You can phrase it however you like once you reach the Azuchi.”

“I see. Then I would like a week.”

“Judge.” Masazumi nodded and gave her own order. “You get a day.”


Worshiper: “You monster! You’re a real monster, Flat Honda-kun! This is how reputations are made!”

Me: “I’m starting to wonder if you’re actually garbage at negotiations.”

Vice President: “Huh? But isn’t this what Bertoni did before we entered England? And I think Neshinbara did it in our negotiations with Houjou.”

Circle Be: “That only worked because we had everything set up right for it!”

Novice: “A-and in my defense, I didn’t say 1! I used 3 as a compromise!”

Four Eyes: “What idiot compromises in international negotiations? Oh, right. This idiot.”

Unturning: “How often do you people do this?”


Whoops, thought Masazumi.

I never have been good with negotiations over numbers.

But this was going to leave a somewhat bad impression with Kazumasa.

She was honestly fine with anything up until the 7th.

What mattered was returning to Kansai with the Musashi fully supplied. And she thought mid-August would be best for that.

The Honnouji Incident would happen around the end of August and she thought two weeks would be enough to prepare for that.

But they also needed a week to prepare the Musashi for the return to Kansai in mid-August.

So if she wanted a week before August 15-ish, they had until the 7th.

And today was the 3rd. So…

Anything within 4 days from now would work.

But, thought Masazumi. Maybe I went too far suggesting 1 day.

Kazumasa was frowning at her. She was currently a negotiating partner, not a teacher.

She tilted her head once and raised some fingers. Five of them. And…

“How about 5 days.”

Ohh, thought Masazumi. What am I supposed to say now?

Should I ask for a little less? Which would mean 4 days?

Or…

Should I ask for 3 days? And then we can settle on 4 days as a compromise?

Which do I do? Either one seems fine, but if I’m going to do it, asking for 3 days and then compromising on 4 might help alleviate everyone’s image of me as a monster. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.

“Then,” she began until Horizon stood up next to her and interrupted.

“1 day. Did Masazumi-sama’s demand not register with you?”


Kazumasa gasped.

Hold on here!

“I-I thought this was a negotiation.”

“Judge. It is. But, Teacher Ishikawa, are you aware who this is you are dealing with?”

She belatedly recalled that this was Musashi’s princess. She was Matsudaira Motonobu’s daughter and wielder of the Logismoi Oplo. The girl gestured toward Musashi’s Vice President.

“Were you not aware that defying Masazumi-sama means war? Tread carefully here if you wish to keep the fires of war away from the Azuchi. Masazumi-sama’s negotiations are like a magical spell that summons war. I thought it would be best if you were aware of that while you negotiate. …So make it 1 day.”

Kazumasa just about nodded but stopped herself.

“Wait a second!”

She saw the students respond to that with looks of surprise.

Huh?

Was there something wrong with her reaction? Her eyes darted around, but none of the students would look her in the eye. With the exception of just one.

Musashi’s princess said nothing and did nothing for three seconds or so.

Kazumasa had no idea what this meant and started to sweat.

Eh?

Just as she started wondering what the silence was about, Musashi’s princess nodded and spoke again.

“I waited a second, and a few more as a special bonus. Masazumi-sama wins 1 point.”


Vice President:I win!? Why me!?”

Horizey: “Judge. I stepped in to support you, so of course the point goes to you. Now, I will earn you many more points, so you stand back and let it happen.”

Vice President: “Ahhhhhhhhhh! There is no way this ends well!”


Kazumasa honestly did not understand what was going on as Musashi’s princess crossed her arms.

“Now, it will be 1 day. Do you have anything else to say?”

It hurt that the girl’s previous bit of super-logic prevented Kazumasa from asking her to wait.

She would say she waited and claim to have won another “point”!

But this was a negotiation.

She was trying to delay the Musashi here to give the Azuchi time for its repairs. The students should really have been doing this, but the Musashi had to be stopped now or it would enter Kantou. She was using her emergency authority as a teacher to intervene.

So I can’t let them do this!

With Sakai watching, she could not afford to grow flustered. So…

“How about this?” she said.

Negotiating over the days had failed, so she would have to give them something in return.

“The Azuchi will move out into the southern sea to disrupt Kantou as little as possible, so give us 5 days.”

“I see.” Musashi’s princess nodded. “I see, I see.” She crossed her arms and nodded several times. “Were you not listening? I said 1 day.”

“H-hey! You can’t call this a negotiation!!”

“I can and I do.”

So…

“Masazumi-sama wins a second point.”


Kazumasa turned to someone else: the glasses boy who served as Musashi’s Secretary.

“Secretary! Don’t you agree this is an improper negotiation!? I demand we restart from the beginning!”

The Secretary’s job was to keep records of negotiations and keep track of the exact wordings used therein.

He would want to avoid having to put this absurd discussion down in the records. So…

“Can you hear me, Musashi Secretary!?”


Horizey: “Neshinbara-samaaa!!”


Kazumasa saw the Musashi Secretary chuckle.

“Heh.” He brushed up his bangs, slid to the side, and crossed his arms. “Proper? Improper? You don’t know what you’re talking about. There is only one rule at play here, Teacher Ishikawa. Our Vice President craves war. That is all there is to it. So…”

He clapped his hands once, twirled on the spot, and looked to the Vice President.

“Our Vice President’s decisions are final. Isn’t that right, Vice President Honda-kun?”

The Musashi Vice President stood before him.

Kazumasa could tell there was a frown on her face, but she had to ask about this.

“Are you serious, Musashi Vice President!? You can’t possibly mean this!”

The Musashi Vice President uncrossed her arms and placed her right hand on her cheek. And…

“Haaadn’t you heard? Musashi’s u-ultimate objective is worrrrld domination!”


Asama: “Um, Masazumi? How are you such a bad actor when you can give speeches so well?”

10ZO: “She’s surprisingly shy.”

Art-Ga: “I honestly didn’t expect her to go along with this.”

Me: “Haaadn’t you heard?”

Wise Sister: “I sure haaadn’t.”

Vice President: “Sh-shut up! What else could I do!? Could you have come out and said ‘actually, no’ right there!?”

Horizey: “I could say it with ease. Why?”

Me: “Hey, uh, you do know you’re the one that got us into this mess, right?”


Anyway, it’s time to end this, decided Masazumi. So…

“Be that as it may, a crippled Azuchi would make for a poor opponent in war. So as much as I would love to insist on 1 day, I will grant you a modicum of mercy.”

This doesn’t sound like me at all, she thought as she continued.

“Out of respect for the bravery it took to enter enemy territory alone…yes, how about 4 days, as a midpoint between our two suggestions? Will that do, Horizon?”

“Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! How merciful, Masazumi-sama!”

Vice President: “What was that ‘yeahhhh’ supposed to be?”

Horizey: “Think of it like a warrior’s version of ‘judge’.”

Gold Mar: “Would that make ‘judge’ Musashi’s version of ‘yeahhhh’?”

Why do I feel like they are about the same thing?

But Kazumasa slowly nodded.

“4 days will be cutting it close. They began repairs on the 1st, so today marks the 3rd day. Another 4 days will mean 7 days, or a full week. Some parts ordered on the 1st were meant to arrive after a week, so they might not be installed in time. Well, the repair team will just have to make it work.”

“Then,” said Masazumi. “How about this? We can hold off on making a decision about when the Azuchi leaves Kantou.”

“Huh?”

Kazumasa must not have known what she was getting at. Masazumi herself was thinking and talking at the same time, so she clarified on the idea she had just thought up.

“I want to hold a meeting with Hashiba 4 days from now. There we will determine whether or not the Azuchi will leave Kantou that day.”

“I see.”

“Masazumi-sama! Masazumi-sama! Musashi must uphold its reputation as a warrior nation with strict standards for jokes, so can we really afford to make such a lenient decision!? Well, maybe just this once. …Heh, don’t forget that you owe us one, Teacher Ishikawa. Anyway, this bread is from the café where I work. Feel free to take it home with you.”

Why did Ishikawa silently hang her head when Horizon gave her a paper bag and a pat on the shoulder?

“Okay, okay.” Sakai cut in with a clap of his hands. “That came out of nowhere, but it’s probably the best way for both sides to save face. Ishikawa-kun, will you be staying here?”

“Eh!? Oh, um, unfortunately, I must take another ship to the Azuchi if the Musashi will be waiting here.”

Because…

“There are students there awaiting my instruction.”


After Ishikawa left, Hashiba sent a meeting request.

It was exactly what had been discussed with Masazumi.

“On the 7th, we will determine what the Azuchi and Musashi will do next.”

The Testament Union’s original instructions were for August 10, so some were saying Musashi had a disadvantage in the discussion.

After all, if the Azuchi was forced to leave Kantou on the 7th, they would only be 3 days short on repairs and supplies, but the Musashi would be locked in Kantou if they were penalized for arriving too soon.

Masazumi casually brushed that off.

“I’ve got a plan for that.”

But she would not share what that plan was. They were having such a hard time reaching Ookubo in Kantou that they wondered if the girl had gone missing, but that was also becoming a problem on the Musashi as they sent supplies to Kantou from above Houjou land. Asama was especially busy as she managed Musashi’s divine transmissions and spell barrier.

“Wait. I just had a touching father-daughter chat the other day, but now I feel like I’m spending every night in the Student Council rec room or Suzu-san’s place.”

And that was only one example. Everywhere on the Musashi was exceedingly busy.

Time passed and everyone was so busy they resorted to meaningless escapism by making plans to visit the artificial beach atop the Musashi’s side wall or buying summer fair books or games to read or play later. However…

“Finally.”

The 7th had arrived. It was time for the meeting.


Chapter 27: Visitor at the Waking Point[edit]

Horizon8A 713.jpg

It is always sudden

But never a coincidence

It is a tangle of inevitabilities

And overflowing surface tension

Point Allocation (Yes, Yes, I Get It)


Naruze sighed down from the sky.

It was late morning, but she was not out for her delivery job.

Gotta get this manuscript in.

She had stayed up all night working to finish this. It was for the summer event on the Ariake, so she was really glad the Musashi had gone to Kantou.

If they were still in Sanuki…

“Well, maybe I could have enjoyed it as a trip then.”

Regardless, she was so thankful to Margot for doing her part of the delivery work recently. Margot had returned to their room just as Naruze was leaving, so she had only been able to give her a quick kiss. Margot would probably be in bed when she got back, so she could get her day started by climbing in bed to nap with her. But…

Art-Ga: “The sky sure has quieted down. …Is anyone up?”

She asked that, somewhat hoping everyone would be asleep, but…

Vice President: “Judge. Everyone else is asleep in the Student Council rec room.”

She had caught Masazumi.


Naruze whistled before responding.

She had been holed up in her room pulling all-nighters the past few days, so she had only seen everyone else’s voices like a text radio sent in via divine transmission.

It’s been a while since I spoke with anyone other than Margot.

And even with Margot, every conversation had only been meant as a quick change of pace before diving back into her work, so it really had been a while since she had been able to just relax and talk.

Art-Ga: “Welcome back to civilization, me. …So how are things there? The sky is awfully quiet.”

Vice President: “We have our divine transmission meeting with Hashiba today, so ship travel is being restricted to the bare minimum. If they can tell what’s going on inside the Musashi, we can’t use that information to negotiate.”

“I see,” said Naruze, viewing a sky void of the intership convection created by the movement of ships and flight devices. She opened her throat more than her mouth to suck in some of that rare air.

Art-Ga: “This is nice every so often. …But can’t the people already onboard tell Hashiba what’s going on? Like that teacher from before.”

Vice President: “Yes. We’re keeping an eye on them and one of them could be a bit of a problem. …Anyway, how’s your work going? Did you finish?”

Art-Ga: “Tell the Lifestyle Committee or Broadcast Committee to give us better divine transmission connection bandwidth at the student longhouses. I’ve created so much data our connection isn’t enough to send it to M.H.R.R, so I’m headed to Okutama’s International Divine Transmission Shrine to get the shrine maiden on duty to purify it.”

Vice President: “That sounds like a pain.”

“Not as much as you would think,” said Naruze with a bitter smile. The Commerce and Industry Guild’s hub ship was floating in the sky out ahead, so she chose a route that gave it a wide berth.

Art-Ga: “When the data is sent out, anything caught by the purification is extracted. That means it won’t go out if I missed censoring something. I skip that kind of service when using my Technomagie communications, so censoring mistakes sometimes slip through. That means going through the shrine is safer.”

“But still,” she sighed.

Art-Ga: “When I pull so many all-nighters, I tend to make a lot of those mistakes and the shrine maiden has to point them out to me. In the process, she’ll ask me what some double entendre means and I have to insist that it has no second meaning.”

Vice President: “Sounds embarrassing for both of you.”

Unfortunately, that was just the unavoidable result of the circumstances.

Art-Ga: “Well, I’ll be freed from this in another hour or two, but I wonder about Neshinbara. The official date of the event will be announced today, but since it’s usually at the middle of the month, we’re only a week away. Has he found a printer yet? Hell, has he finished his manuscript yet?”

Vice President: “He apparently got everyone’s help to make something other than a novel.”

Panicked and asked some casuals for help, did he? she thought, but she knew Masazumi wouldn’t understand.

Art-Ga: “I doubt that will end well. But anyway, after getting some sleep with Margot, I’ll be headed there. You could use a sniper for some added defense, right?”

“Thanks,” said Masazumi, followed by a hesitant pause.

Naruze gave a snort of laughter.

Art-Ga: “What? Just come out and tell me.”

Vice President: “Judge. Earlier…Christina sent a request for a meeting after the one with Hashiba. She said we can choose when to hold it, though.”

Naruze knew what that meant.

Art-Ga: “Sweden wants to decide on a course of action after seeing whether or not we will be trapped here, don’t they?”

Vice President: “What do you think?”

That was obvious.

Art-Ga: “We can always just return to Kansai regardless, right? I say you use that fact to go on the offensive against Hashiba.”

Vice President: “I’m glad to hear you say that.”

“Because,” said Masazumi.

Vice President: “When I make my move here…I think it’s going to be something of a surprise.”

Art-Ga: “I’ll prepare myself for something as shocking as your jokes. This is all in your hands now.”

“Judge,” Masazumi replied before ending the divine transmission.

Naruze had wanted to talk longer, but Masazumi had to be busy.

And Naruze was busy too.

“Okay.”

She had to begin her descent soon. She was not traveling as far as she usually did for deliveries.

She looked down to see Okutama’s surface city in the light of late morning. The deck had been so busy for the past few days that a temporary market had opened up, selling excess supplies.

She spotted a familiar face among the people gathered or passing through there.

“Azuma.”


The market Naruze saw was likely run by the Far Eastern Academy Store. Azuma had just finished working part-time at a register, so he raised his hands to catch the attention of the people who had arrived to meet him.

Those people were a girl in a wheelchair and a translucent little girl.

The crowd of people hindered the wheelchair, but since Azuma kept his hands raised…

“–––––”

The three of them managed to reach each other. Since the wheelchair girl was already holding a paper bag, they would be heading home now. They still don’t act quite like they’re living together, critiqued Naruze while the trio approached the lift down from the deck.

She descended even as she watched them because she was plenty busy herself.


Once they were back in their room, Azuma began cleaning.

“Do you ever stop working, papa? You’ve been working the night shift lately and now you’re cleaning up our room after getting back. You don’t have to stay awake just because I’m up.”

“I can’t be moving around making noise when you’re trying to sleep.”

He was in charge of cleaning the floor.

Miriam was pulling up the bedding and collecting anything that had fallen into the gaps while he swept and mopped below the beds and desks where she could not reach.

“The others had finally cleaned up the Student Council rec room, but it was a mess again in no time. It made me want to keep my personal life tidy.”

“They are good at leading by negative example.”

“They are,” he agreed. He had assumed there would not be much below the desks or beds since she used a wheelchair, but…

“There’s an awful lot down low and underneath things.”

“My chair has excellent reclining and there isn’t much storage space on the Musashi.”

“I see,” he said while checking under her desk and seeing an extra panel installed as a bookshelf.

It was not fixed in place with nails or screws. Some gifts and empty snack containers were set up to support the panel laid out on top of them.

He must have seen it before, but he had only ever perceived it as “some books”.

He paused, feeling like he was violating her privacy.

“Should I really be looking down here?”

“You see under there all the time. If I wanted to hide it from you, it would already be hidden.”

That sounded just like her, but maybe asking had sounded just like him. That thought was cut off by a bitter laugh from Miriam.

“I just remembered something.”

“What?”

“How much of a surprise it was when you showed up in the spring.”

She had seemed surprised by it. But…

“I was upset I didn’t have time to tidy up things like that down there, so I stubbornly refused to do it afterwards either.”

“Are you saying I shouldn’t look at it now?”

“Looking away from a girl’s stubbornness seems kind of rude, don’t you think?”

But…

“I’m over it now. I was just remembering how I felt back then.”

Did the small smile mean she was in a good mood? The translucent little girl had helped with the cleaning at first, but she had since gotten tired and gone to sleep.

Miriam placed a blanket over her.

“It seems so silly now. So much has changed since then.”

“I certainly never imagined I would be cleaning a girl’s room.”

“It’s your room too.”

“Then are your books mine?”

He looked back to see her smile gone and a blush on her cheeks.

Eh?

He tilted his head and she sucked in a deep breath.

“Wait.”

“How long?”

“That’s enough. I got stubborn before, but I didn’t realize I would have to state this so plainly.”

“S-state what?”

“This is your room too. And…”

And…

“People generally don’t comment on seeing their own things. Try to keep that in mind.”

He was not sure what she meant, but he knew her well enough to know he was meant to agree with it. And when he stuck the mop under the desk, the titles of the books on the shelf there came into view.

Sewing.

Bedmaking and other everyday skills.

Exercises for reducing exhaustion and stress.

Hm.

The list matched the Miriam he knew.

There were textbooks and dictionaries too, but they were pretty old. The ones on the desk were the latest editions, so the ones down here would be the ones from previous years, maybe kept around for good luck. And…

Oh.

A few cookbooks were lined up at the far edge of the shelf.


Azuma viewed the titles of those cookbooks on the shelf below Miriam’s desk.

There were only four of them.

Simple home cooking.

Seasonal recipes.

Drinks and desserts.

And cooking etiquette.

He took in a deep breath when he saw them there.

He felt his pulse fall out of rhythm for a few beats. Of course…

Th-they’re just cookbooks.

He forcibly restrained himself to keep her from noting his surprise. But…

Yeah.

He had honestly been wondering what he would do if he found something “larger” there. Like an incomplete world map or traveler’s journal.

He felt like he would have to take her outside in that case.

How conceited.

That was based on the presumptuous idea that he was pulling her along.

“–––––”

The books here were all about things she had to do herself.

But he had never seen her cooking. They generally got takeout. At times, they would buy portable food and eat that.

According to her, “I don’t move much, so I don’t need much food.” Then she would push him onwards by saying, “If it bothers you that much, go eat it yourself.”

He thought to himself here while making sure he kept mopping.

I still have a long way to go.

It bothered him that he had assumed he would be bringing her outside.

The cooking was the same.

If he started cooking and had her help, that would not mean she had cooked.

And if he brought her outside, that would not mean she had gone outside.

Hmm.

He realized he was taking too long to clean under her desk, so he emerged from below it and moved to the next space over.

“Azuma,” she said behind him. “Can you take us outside once the cleaning is done? The child and I want to get the dust off of us.”

He gasped and did his best to keep any tremor out of his voice.

“You want to go out?”

“Judge. I’ve been feeling that way recently. I wonder whose fault that is.”


“You idiot. Why would you start crying all of a sudden?”

Miriam could tell she was half surprised and half calm about his sudden tears.

That’s right.

She had half known this was eventually coming.

She honestly did not know why he was crying.

But sometimes emotions sprang up out of nowhere and sometimes they slowly built up below the surface before overflowing. The former were easily understood, like violating a taboo or rubbing someone the wrong way, but the latter were a different matter.

This had to be the latter.

She knew what he must have seen below her desk, but she did not know what internal change that had caused in him or what had been subconsciously building up inside him.

I’m so insensitive, she thought, but she could accept this.

“You’re such an enigma, Azuma.”

“S-sorry.”

No one would guess his original title if they saw him wiping away the tears holding a mop like this.

But he said something else while wiping the tears from the corners of his eyes.

“Thank you, Miriam.”

“I don’t know what for, but you’re welcome. And don’t forget that I’m thankful to you as well. You tend to work out your problems internally, so that can be easy for you to forget.”

After a pause, he cried even more.

“You know,” she said. “I’ve heard that crying is our brain’s way of telling us it can’t process our current situation anymore. And it uses that ‘alternate processing’ as a starting point to help you accept your situation. Tears of joy mean you don’t know how to accept how happy you are and tears of sorrow mean you’re trying to convince yourself the unhappy reality you face can’t possibly be true.”

“Miriam.” He wiped away more tears with a small and incomplete smile. “Thank you for being the way you are.”

“Do you know when it is I get argumentative with you?”

“?”

“When I’m trying to understand you. Now, come here. No one should have to cry while holding a mop.”

“Sorry.”

Would he ever stop saying that? Or…

Hard to say.

The Apocalypse was approaching. The Warring States period and the Thirty Years War were happening simultaneously. Disabled people like her tended to be even more affected by world events like that. So…

“Come here. Just this once.”

She patted on the blanket next to her and he walked over. She liked that he was bold enough to not even hesitate, but then another possibility occurred to her.

Have I dominated him?

But when he sat facing her instead of just next to her, she noticed some tears in the corners of his eyes.

“Stay still. You’re slenderer than the average girl, so it’s a waste to see you looking so blue.”

“How am I compared to you?”

“I am not the average girl, so leave this to me.”

When she wiped the tears away with her handkerchief, he settled down. The hand movement and general action made her feel a lot like she was applying makeup to a friend, but…

“Thanks for everything, Azuma.”

“What do you mean?”

“I know you’ve been trying to find something you can do ever since the Battle of Mikatagahara.”

Ever since that loss, he had been trying to take her outside and find work outside, but the three of them had also started spending more time together.

He probably saw it as a way of proving how close they were.

She appreciated that he did not try to claim it was only for her and the girl’s sake. And on top of that, he had chosen her above anyone else.

I guess I appreciate that too.

Thinking too deeply about that one would make it hard to be so close to him right now, so she held off on that. She would think about it later.

But she did have something to say to him now.

“Have you told the Vice President about the greatest decision you’ve made in your life?”

He nodded, so she smiled bitterly and leaned over.

She pressed her forehead against his.

“You’re such an idiot.”

“Why?”

“Tell our class what you’re planning and they’ll try to keep it from happening.”

“…Why?”

“Because they’re troublemakers.”

He laughed in a way that said “that they are”. But in that case…

“Here, I’ll help you clean, so let’s head out again once you’re done. You were exempt from the retest since you passed your exams when transferring in and I’m exempt from gym altogether. Summer break had already begun for both of us. And with the others about to start a meeting, it isn’t unfair for us to head out now.”

She then lifted something from the edge of the bed with a finger.

“I found this while I was cleaning. Black hair. What girl does this belong to, I wonder.”

“Isn’t it just mine?”

“Not a moment of suspicion, hm?”

She collapsed sideways onto the bed and responded to his “eh?” of surprise.

“What do you even do with an unintentional troublemaker?”


“So a troublemaker has decided to pay us a visit now of all times?” asked Masazumi.

She was on the bridge leading to the academy’s second story.

She had planned to head home and tidy herself up for the meeting at midday, but…

“Masazumi-sama,” said “Musashi”. “This visitor asked for a secret meeting with you, so I showed her here myself.”

“Judge. That’s fine. But…”

Masazumi looked over to see a slender figure.

She could tell at a glance that this was an automaton. The stiffness and limited lifelikeness suggested she was an older model.

But she does have a certain dignity to her.

Was that something that came with age?

She wore a P.A. Oda uniform, but it was made all white and altered to look like a maid. That appearance explained why she had gone relatively unnoticed on the Musashi.

Her shoulder-length hair swayed as she looked back at Masazumi. And…

“I apologize for the sudden request.” She bowed so precisely that it almost caught Masazumi off guard. “I come to you today with a fervent plea.”

Her flat voice did not seem to match what she was saying. Was that just a thing with older automatons?

But then she raised her head.

Masazumi viewed the brown eyes staring back at her and nodded.

“What does a P.A. Oda automaton want with me?”

“Shaja. Officially, I am here to secure a divine transmission line to our home nation for meetings like the one today. That should have been Ootani Yoshitsugu-sama’s job, but a physical antenna was required since he is blocked by Musashi’s spell barrier.”

She continued by introducing herself.

“I am P.A. Oda Broadcast Committee Head Mori Ranmaru. I officially arrived on board at Sanuki.”


“What’s this? Mori Ranmaru is an awfully big name to drop on us out of the blue.”

“Mito…you’re a pretty big name yourself. A note in the Testament even mentions that you have an impressive economic effect in later years.”

“Yes, well, maybe,” she mumbled. The specifics of those later years were not yet known, but…

To pull that off, I have to visit all the nations out there and sell Echigo textiles, don’t I?

But that can wait until after I graduate, she concluded, crouching low and listening to the situation outside.

Everyone in the Student Council rec room had woken up and were similarly crouching low.

Horizon was giving a double thumbs up with her separated arms, which Mitotsudaira interpreted as a “continue” signal.

So Mitotsudaira focused on the presence outside while Asama recorded everything that was said.

But what was this about?

“Mori Ranmaru is Oda Nobunaga’s chief page or aide, right?” asked Mitotsudaira.

“Yes,” replied Asama. “A note in the Testament says he was often depicted as a crossdressing woman or a gay lover, so I was not expecting an automaton.”

That may have been meant to make Ranmaru androgynous, thought Mitotsudaira before hearing a voice.

“Musashi Vice President.” Ranmaru spoke without hesitation. “Allow me to get straight to the point.”


Masazumi remained calm.

The others were directly above here and they could deal with anything that might happen. So…

“What is it? I will gladly hear as much as you can tell me.”

Horizon8A 735.jpg

“Shaja. Thank you.” Ranmaru bowed. “This is a personal request. It does not come from Nobunaga-sama or anyone else.”

“Understood. I will not tell anyone else about this.”

“Shaja. Thank you. Now, I need to ask one thing first,” she said. “Musashi intends to eventually return to the west and intervene in the Honnouji Incident, does it not?”

Masazumi was not about to answer that question. Ranmaru already knew the answer anyway.

Ranmaru must have interpreted the silence as confirmation because she moved on to her personal request.

“Akechi-sama is in Kyou.”

“Huh?”

Masazumi could not hide her surprise at the sudden mention of that name and location.

But Ranmaru kept her expressionless face directed straight at her as she continued in that flat voice of hers.

“I have just one request: Please do not approach that place until the Honnouji Incident is complete.”


Afterword[edit]

Okay, that was Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon 8-A. An 8th volume officially makes this series longer than my last one. Thank you so much, all of you.

It was all of your support that allowed me to also put out the Girl’s Talk side story last November. It was well received and I hope I can give people the sequel they’re asking for.

Now, the main story has finally reached summer break. When I think back to my own summer breaks, I remember making a business simulator on my X68K, riding my bike to Atami, and, during my middle school years, getting extremely frustrated as I tried and failed to write the story that would eventually become Horizon. So really, it wasn’t that much different from what I do now.

Anyway, the main story continues where 7 left off. International history recreations are banned and a time of domestic affairs and plotting has begun, but looking at the historical time period, this is when everyone was wondering if Hashiba would manage to conquer Japan or not. Most groups were approaching a place where they could settle down, but there was actually a lot of hidden anarchy in the Matsudaira ranks as they approached Sekigahara and laid out the groundwork for their various plots. Given the infrastructure at the time, the regional powers would have been hard to get at, so they would have been winning over their neighbors and most of them ended up accepting their current position after Hashiba’s death. All in all, it had to have been a pretty crazy time.

Anyway, the usual chat.

“So, did anything happen during your school days? Got any crimes or injuries you want to brag about?”

“Well, when I was in college, I was doing some research deep in the mountains and there wasn’t even a dorm there. I was staying at a local apartment, but the person who lived above me made a lot of noise doing something…maybe dancing?”

“If they lived next to you, you could have slammed your hand against the wall and confessed your love to the wall. Then they would’ve run away in a hurry. Anyway, you were saying?”

“I went to the landlord and that didn’t solve anything, but I found a really nice log up in the mountains. So whenever the person above me was being noisy, I would use that to hit the ceiling below them to basically fuck the ceiling.”

“So you were getting metal with a log? Sounds like a good way to break a hole in the ceiling.”

“No, I looked into it and made sure I fucked it where there was a…do you call it a joist? Anyway, after three days of that, the person from upstairs came down looking mad as hell and asked me what I was doing, so I looked over, holding the log, and calmly said I was doing yoga.”

“So you’re a yoga fucker, huh?”

Anyway, my background music this time was Like a Byrd by Danny Byrd. Is that what it’s like to run along the roofs during the summer? Anyway, here’s your question:

“Who earned the most points?”

Wait a little bit longer until the next one.


November 2014. Another rainy morning.

-Kawakami Minoru




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