Horizon:Volume 8A Chapter 27
Chapter 27: Visitor at the Waking Point
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.
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.
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.”
“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?”
“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.
He tilted his head and she sucked in a deep breath.
“That’s enough. I got stubborn before, but I didn’t realize I would have to state this so plainly.”
“This is your room too. 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.
Bedmaking and other everyday skills.
Exercises for reducing exhaustion and stress.
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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
“Tell our class what you’re planning and they’ll try to keep it from happening.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.”
|Back to Chapter 26||Return to Main Page||Forward to Afterword|