Horizon:Volume 8A Prologue
Prologue: Woman in the Shade of the Summer Greenery
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.
She frowned a bit when she pulled her right arm back, but…
She let her arms rest and then sighed.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
…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?”
“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.
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.”
“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.”
“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.
“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.
…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
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
- 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.
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