Horizon:Volume 8A Chapter 14

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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?”