Horizon:Volume 8A Chapter 6
Chapter 6: Plotter in a Cage
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.”
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.”
Ookubo stood up within the teahouse.
…That would make things so much easier!
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
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 bout 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.
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.”
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.”
If something happened, she could go to him. So this would be fine. And…
“Excuse me, Toori-kun.”
She moved over to him, shifted her hips, and then placed her arms around Horizon and Mitotsudaira’s shoulders.
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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 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.”
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.”
“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.
“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.”
“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.
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