Horizon:Volume 8B

From Baka-Tsuki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Cover Flap[edit]

Kawakami Minoru:

Born on January 3, 1975. From Tokyo. Writing Part C while battling another year of rampant pollen. Claims staying chilled will fight the allergies, but is that really a good idea?? (Editor)

Satoyasu:

Born in Yamagata and raised in Tochigi. “Commercial pickled eggplant is too sour, but I love eggplant enough I’m considering making some lightly pickled myself.” How did the eggplant turn out?

Installation[edit]

Horizon8B 000d.jpg

Christina


This one is from my notes before drawing up a rough illustration.

It came together well enough that I had Ya-san do his design based on this, so there isn’t a main design image this time.


She is normally discussed as Christina in the story, so I will explain Lady Nagaoka here.

I think more people will know her as Lady Gracia than as Akechi Tamako. She is well known as Akechi Mitsuhide’s daughter, but she was really his third or fourth daughter. There are discrepancies between the different records when it comes to Mitsuhide’s children, but there are always more girls, which kind of gives you a certain image of the Akechi family.

She initially got along well with her husband Tadaoki, and that was thanks to Nobunaga, but the Honnouji Incident put Tadaoki in a poor position and he isolated and confined his wife. Thanks to Hideyoshi’s mediation once he had taken over, she was moved to her Osaka home two years later, but she was still confined to her home. That was where she was baptized by her maid, Maria, and took the name Gracia.

Just before Sekigahara, Mitsunari’s forces tried to take hostages from the families of those who lived near Osaka, so she had her home surrounded. After letting her family escape, she had herself killed and blew up the house to not leave behind a body.

This incident was turned into a drama by the Jesuits who were in charge of her baptism and, after crossing the ocean, it was long performed in Australia.

Now, her husband was a bit of a pain. He had absolutely insisted that she made sure she died alone, yet he disinherited his oldest son after finding out he had fled the home instead of staying with her. He also held a memorial for her at a Kyoto church on the first anniversary of her death. Kind of an extreme tsundere if you ask me…

But he was actually a cultural person, so the year his wife told him about her new faith, he had a church built in their home. He seemed to understand her well enough, so if only he could have been more honest about that.

Anyway, she was blessed with children and she was stuck at home, so she ended up being quite a doting parent. When her third son was sickly, she was so worried she arranged to have him baptized, so you can tell she did everything she could for them.

And of her three sons, the oldest was disinherited due to her husband being an extreme tsundere, the second was beheaded at the Siege of Osaka, and the third inherited the family and even became the first lord of the Kumamoto Domain.

That third son later called the oldest son back and reconciled with him, but the oldest son had already made a name for himself as a monk and poet. He declined to return to the family and went back to Kyoto, but I feel like the way they overcame that previous falling-out shows that their grandfather Mitsuhide’s talents as a politician and their father Tadaoki’s talents as a poet were cultivated in them through Lady Nagaoka’s parenting.


For her design, I made her look like an elegant Japanese-style beauty at first, but with some European elements like the blue eyes.

Her clothing is primarily meant to be reminiscent of burial garb and the explosives are, like I’ve said before, due to history.

The historical version was the same age as her husband, but this one was given the inherited name early by the Testament Union as a link between Europe and the Middle East, creating the age difference.

(Kawakami Minoru)


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

Horizon8B 008.jpg

I am watching.


Characters[edit]

Horizon8B 001-003.jpg
Horizon8B 004-006.jpg



Swimsuit Intro[edit]

Horizon8B 007.jpg

Title: Musashi Divine Transmission – Travel Edition

Article title: Musashi Ariadust Academy Girl’s Swimsuit

Left insert: Swimsuit Back

Right insert: Nametag

Nametag: 3-Plum / Aoi


Bottom right: Model – Aoi Kimi


Kimi: Heh heh. How do you like my academy swimsuit!? I would call it criminal, except sinful is more accurate. Simply sinful❤ Heh heh. Just packed full of sin ready to burst out! So look out, all you sinners, you’re about to get a feast!

Asama: Yes, yes, Suzu-san is ready to remeasure you, so stop being crazy and get over here.

Toori: Wait, Sis! Sis! Where’s mine!?

Horizon: Anyway, it is divided into three parts: the chest, the stomach, and the bottom. And that boy needs to come answer to me about his inappropriate comment.



Characters[edit]

Horizon8B 010.png
Horizon8B 011.png
Horizon8B 012.png

Musashi

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

Academy Officials

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

Hexagone Française

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

P.A. Oda

  • Niwa Nagahide: #2 of the Six Heavenly Demon Army and Five Great Peaks. A dancer and quick to adapt.
  • Mori Ranmaru: Nobunaga’s page. An old-fashioned automaton who originally belonged to the Imperial Palace, but was sent to P.A. Oda.

M.H.R.R.

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

Other Forces

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


Glossary[edit]

Horizon8B 013.png
Horizon8B 014.png
Horizon8B 015.png

A[edit]

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

B[edit]

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

C[edit]

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

D[edit]

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

E[edit]

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

F[edit]

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

G[edit]

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

H[edit]

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

I[edit]

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

J[edit]

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

K[edit]

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

L[edit]

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

M[edit]

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

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

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

N[edit]

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

O[edit]

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

P[edit]

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

Q[edit]

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

R[edit]

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

S[edit]

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

T[edit]

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


World[edit]

Horizon8B 016.png
Horizon8B 017.png

The Story So Far:

Hello, everyone. This is “Nishi Kokubunji”. If your first thought was “who?”, then allow me to explain: that is the name of the area badly damaged by the transport ship that went ‘wham wham wham’ the other day and I am the automaton in charge there. Yes, the transport ship went ‘craaaaaaaash!’ there, but my area also had holes torn into it with “voids” or whatever, which also falls under my responsibility. Yes, a Testament note says Nishi Kokubunji will later become known for an unofficial mascot called Nishiko-kun, which is worrying to say the least, but for now I will explain recent events in a quiz format. Which of the following do you think happened?

1. “Take this, and this.”

2. Forest-destroying dark forces.

3. A teacher lashing out unfairly.

4. Liberation of the Udons

5. Attempted execution of a bald man

The correct answer is “all of the above”.

Hey! I already explained who I am, Chancellor! Anyway, please enjoy your stay on the Musashi. Over.


Divine Chat Screenname List:

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


Far Eastern Powers: [Same map as before]


Relationships Between the Major Powers: [Same as before]


Musashi’s Plans:

Toori: Sis! Sis! We’re right in front of Kantou, but what’re we doing now!?

Kimi: Heh heh heh. Kantou brother, the summer event on the Ariake is coming up, but since the Musashi hasn’t entered Kantou yet, we need to negotiate with the Azuchi about that. Then we’ll negotiate with Nagabuto’s wife about Sweden and how we’ll intervene in the Honnouji Incident.


Study: Current Locations[edit]

Horizon8B 018.png

Toori: Sis! Sis! What general locations are the Musashi and whatnot in!?

Kimi: Heh heh heh. General brother, they are in these general locations.


1: Musashi (Above Former Houjou Land)

2: Mouri, Yamagata Castle (Reine des Garous and Yoshiaki are on the Musashi)

3: Satomi (Yoshiyasu, Ookubo)

4: Azuchi

5: Kantou Clans to Oushuu

6: Sanada


Toori: Um, so are we in Kantou or the eastern sea?

Kimi: The boundary is a little unclear with Houjou gone, isn’t it? But the Musashi is big, so these general descriptions are about right.

Toori: We’re really half-assing the Warring States period, aren’t we?

Chapter 28: The New and the Old at a Thoughtful Destination[edit]

Horizon8B 019.png

I’ve gone so far

I’ve returned so close

And I had a dream

Of a nearby reality

Point Allocation (It’s All White!)


It had not been all that long since she last saw it, but the sky here still felt nostalgic.

Kani looked all around at the sky from a white field.

Snow in the summer is wild!

This was a harmonic region on the northern border between P.A. Oda and Sviet Rus. There were usable roads and a land port here, so they used this year-round snowy region to keep an eye on Sviet Rus.

Kani was native to M.H.R.R., so snow was not new to her. Still…

“I never thought I’d go somewhere snowy for a summer vacation training camp!”

“P.A. Oda has more climate variety than you would think, Kani-kun.”

She looked back toward the voice to see someone in a red-dyed summer uniform standing in some conifer woods next to the field.

“Oh, Maeda-senpai! Are you supervising us today!?”

“Because Shibata-senpai left on a trip. But I know Hashiba-kun can trust an officer like me to do things right.”

“So you’ll be looking after us!? We already got everything set up yesterday and the day before that!”

“Michi helped you with that, didn’t she? Did you she give you any warnings?”

“Testament!” Kani pointed south, where several large aerial ships formed something like a city. “She said not to go out at night much and to make sure we could gather all our things in a single day since we’re moving once summer break is over! We have to carry our own blankets!”

But one thing puzzled Kani. If they had so many ships on the front line…

“Why are we moving the ships after summer break!?”

“Is that a problem?”

“Testament! We can’t do the history recreation during the break! If that formation is meant for use against Sviet Rus, it really only becomes useful after the break ends!”

“A reasonable interpretation.”

Maeda sat down and she looked down to see a leisure mat below him.

Huh!?

All of a sudden, she found a tall woman seated there.

She wore a black shirt and was opening a large bento. A closer look showed she was wrapped in faint light, just like Maeda. The glow was only noticeable in the shade of the conifer woods and it told Kani who this was.

That must be Matsu-senpai!

She had seen Matsu’s small Mouse form in divine transmission images, but this was her first time seeing her true form. It had to be a rare experience.

Maeda accepted a teacup of something and sighed. And…

“This means the Shibata forces have something big planned for after summer break. So, Kani-kun, shortly after you return to Hashiba-kun, we will be paying you a visit.”

“Eh!? Shibata’s team is joining us?”

“No, only me.”

Because…

“We need to prepare for the Battle of Shizugatake.”


Toshiie viewed the snowy plain shining in the summer sun.

This troublesome time really snuck up on me.

He probably had Musashi’s efforts to thank for that.

His school days of moving back and forth between P.A. Oda and M.H.R.R. had been a lot of fun, but autumn was fast approaching now.

It was only summer break, but the end of the break would mean entering the latter half of the school year. And…

“Well, I’ll be along for the ride almost all the way to Sekigahara.”

In a way, that made it easier for him. He didn’t have to worry anyone else.

But in another way…

What am I supposed to do?

He was already dead, yet here he was worrying about the people whose lives were only getting started. Was this some kind of karmic retribution?

Still, he knew some of them would probably choose death and it could be hard to live the life you wanted while also responding to the events around you.

The Battle of Shizugatake was coming.

According to the Testament, after Hashiba killed Akechi Mitsuhide at the Battle of Yamazaki, the Oda clan split between an up-and-coming Hashiba faction and the established Shibata faction. Hashiba was the superior of the two and they ultimately parted ways and fought a decisive battle.

The battle was fought at the Shibata base of Kitanosho Castle and the nearby Shizugatake.

I switch to Hashiba’s side there, making an enemy of Shibata-senpai and the others.

Takigawa Ichimasu and others had sided with Shibata and the battle grew to a very large scale for a conflict within the Oda clan, but a group of newcomers made their debut there.

That group was known as the Seven Spears of Shizugatake, on which Hashiba’s Ten Spears were based.

Fukushima Masanori, Katou Kiyomasa, Katou Yoshiaki, Wakisaka Yasuharu, Katagiri Katsumoto, Kasuya Takenori, and Hirano Nagayasu.

Those seven made a name for themselves and some became the major players of the next age.

Toshiie saw it as the next generation taking over.

His generation’s glorious school life was coming to an end and they would be handing the reins over to their underclassmen.

The Battle of Shizugatake was like the ceremony for that.

So he understood why Shibata had called Fukushima here for a training camp. Fukushima had fought alongside them at Novgorod and lost to Musashi’s Vice Chancellor, but she had improved enough to defeat Celestial Dragon Katou Danzou at the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle the other day.

If she could defeat a Celestial Dragon on her own, then she was officer level and could even be Vice Chancellor of a smaller nation.

That was why Shibata had called for her.

“He’s telling her to get stronger,” commented Matsu with a smile. “He’s adorable.”

She had a tendency to openly speak her mind and that had only grown after spending so long as a Mouse. But…

“You think Shibata-senpai is adorable?”

“And Oichi-sama. They both are.”

Matsu then turned her smile toward Kani.

“A question.”

“Yes!?”

“What would you do if you had to battle your respected upperclassmen to the death?”

Now there’s a dangerous question, thought Toshiie, but Kani did not even need to think about it.

“Testament! I would do my best!”


Kani was happy Matsu had spoken to her.

But not because Matsu was a name inheritor or famous.

She was a ghost. Maeda was too, but Matsu generally stayed in her Mouse form.

Kani could tell the time Matsu spent in her original form was special to her.

So she found it incredible that Matsu had spared some interest for her.

Instead of worrying over what the correct answer was, she decided to just state what it was she could actually do.

“I would do my best to put up a good fight against those respected upperclassmen!”

“Then,” said Matsu. “What if you died or killed them?”

“Testament! If I died, I would leave everything with them! If I killed them, my hard work would be my way of honoring them!”

“You’re willing to kill if you do your best?”

“Testament! That is one possible result of doing your best in sports, academics, and work, so it would be unfair to not allow it on the battlefield!”

In other words…

“Every day of my life is a battle! Is it not for you!?”

That was why she always gave it her all. She could try to hide it, watch from a distance, or take a step back, but…

Everyone around me is giving it their all!

“Please don’t get careless and die against me! If you ask me, that would be the worst outcome! And as long as it isn’t the worst outcome, then I can find something good about what happens!”

Once she said that, she noticed some movement. Maeda was hanging his head in laughter and tapping Matsu on the shoulder.

Matsu looked to him.

“Honestly.” She smiled a little and then slowly turned back toward Kani with a smile in her eyes. “You’re adorable.”

“Thank you!”

Kani bowed and found Maeda looking her way. He took a sip from his teacup before speaking.

“I’ll have to tell Shibata-senpai’s group not to let their guard down. Still, I was thinking of testing your skill with some quick training.”

She thought she knew what he meant.

And the next thing he said confirmed it.

“Is Fukushima-kun okay back there?”


Kani looked over her shoulder.

Fukushima stood about 8m back from her. She had her back turned and held Ichinotani, but her head was tilted limply back.

From behind, she looked like she was staring up into the distance.

“Um! Fukushima-senpai!”

Kani tried calling, but Fukushima did not respond. Instead of responding with silence, this was a lack of any response at all.

“Kani-kun, is she always like that?”

“N-no! She’s normally really sharp, but something changed when we left the Azuchi.”

She noticed some bugs flying around above Fukushima’s head, presumably drawn in by the summer sun.

“She even has flies swarming around her!!”

“I don’t think that’s related.”

Anyway…

“I was planning to have you run 10 laps around the training ground – oh, that’s what I’m calling this snowy plain, by the way. You look like you could run, but I get the feeling Fukushima-kun couldn’t. She looks dead.”

“N-no! She’s not dead! Are you, Fukushima-senpai!?”

Kani took a step toward Fukushima and slapped her on the back.

Fukushima immediately collapsed limply to the snow like her strings had been cut.

“A-are you okay!?”

She looked down to see an empty look in Fukushima’s eyes. She was not moving, but she was breathing.

“Adorable?”

“Ma-chan, don’t point and laugh when you say that.”

At any rate, Kani was unsure what to do about this.

“I imagine she’s in some kind of slump,” said Maeda behind her. “But I believe Hashiba-kun will be negotiating with Musashi today, so she should contact us once that’s over.”

Now.

“What to do? Or the real question: how will this turn out?”


What am I supposed to do about this?

Masazumi was having trouble reaching a decision atop the bridge in front of the academy.

The automaton brought by “Musashi” stood in front of her.

“Mori Ranmaru.”

The automaton’s demand was clear.

“Are you telling us to stay away from Kyou because Akechi Mitsuhide is there?”

She asked just to be sure and Ranmaru nodded once before speaking.

“Akechi-sama is in Kyou.” She spoke calmly with no emotion on her face. “I have just one request: Please do not approach that place until the Honnouji Incident is complete.”

She nodded again.

“That is what I said before.”

She held her head high.

“You asked if I told you to stay away from Kyou because Akechi Mitsuhide is there.”

She returned to her neutral stance.

“I did not say that.”


Gold Mar: “Is she trying to get on my nerves?”

Art-Ga: “Oh? Shouldn’t you be sleeping, Margot?”

Gold Mar: “Hm, looks like you didn’t eat any breakfast. Want me to fix some?”

Art-Ga: “Please. I’ll pick up something for lunch.”

Gold Mar: “That sounds great. See you then.”

Art-Ga: “Judge. See you later. Okay, now to the print shop.”

Almost Everyone: “Get back on topic!!”


“Hm,” thought Naito with a tilt of the head in the kitchen at the back of their room.

Their Technohexen cauldron was an extended pot-au-feu pot. She scooped some of the pot-au-feu into a smaller pot for breakfast when Naruze returned, broke an egg into it, and stirred it in. Then she chopped up some bacon, sprinkled that in, and brought it to a boil. After that…

Gold Mar: “So what’s this about, Seijun? Did someone stop by with a personal request?”

Vice President: “It would seem so. She isn’t an ambassador or someone’s representative, so she boarded the Musashi as a simple passenger.”

Asama: “That is how she’s registered with us. Her stated purpose was ‘travel’ and all of her weapons and such were loaded as cargo with conditional seals in place. Same as any other ordinary passenger.”

Me: “Hmm, but then why is she with ‘Musashi’?”

That’s the question, thought Naito.

Oh, my brain still hasn’t woken up.

Had she been joining Naruze on too many all-nighters recently, or was she always like this? Still, she added.

Something about this bothered her.

“Quick question,” she began.

Gold Mar: “Why is that automaton telling us to stay away from Kyou?”


Masazumi thought of Naito’s question in a few different ways. First of all…

P.A. Oda probably doesn’t want us messing with them right now.

But…

“––––”

That isn’t it, she decided. That assumes we can actually interfere.

And that’s what our upcoming meeting with Hashiba is all about.

Since Ranmaru had come to her about this before the meeting…

“Is this not about what Hashiba wants?”

“You may interpret this as a personal request.”

That smooth response did not give Masazumi much to work with. No, she was an automaton. An older model in particular would determine the optimal response and cut out everything other than that.

Just like Horizon used to.

Yeah, Horizon really has changed. And while it’s easy enough to just say she’s changed, explaining how she’s changed is trickier. She seems more mentally and physically active than before. Yeah, like with those arms.

“Just out of curiosity, do your arms move around with a mind of their own?”

“I am not sure what you mean.”

Oh, she’s surprisingly normal, thought Masazumi, but did that mean her own standards were skewed?

Either way, she had another question.

“ ‘Musashi’, why did you bring her to me?”

“Judge. It is a simple matter. I determined she has a connection to the matter you are considering.”

In other words…

“Mori Ranmaru-sama here is an old-style automaton. Her body has been replaced, but her base unit number is 0032 of the original 4-digit models. Over.”

“Wait, Crossdressing Honda-kun!”

Someone rudely shouted down from above. Damn him, Masazumi thought, looking up to see Neshinbara leaning out from the Student Council rec room. He did not seem to notice the idiot next to him who seemed to think he was showing off by drinking milk in the nude.

“An original 4-digit model is exactly what we need!”

“What, did you think up another weird magic spell? I saw those notes you were taking with Aoi before. Tearing Slash Bullet – Capac Flash? Is it a slash, a bullet, or a flash?”

“Sh-shut up! I couldn’t decide which category of magic I wanted it to be!”

But Neshinbara was already getting to his point.

“The old-fashioned original 4-digit models were the initial automatons built in the Age of Dawn!”

And…

“Most of them were kept at important locations around the world after the Harmonic World’s creation, but barely any of them survived this long due to deterioration as they aged and as they had their core’s salvaged. Some even refused to take on a new body. But there is one place that still has some! And listen carefully because this is really impor-”

“The Imperial Palace in Kyou. Over,” cut in “Musashi”.


Horizey: “Neshinbara-samaaaa! Oops, too late.”

Four Eyes: “Why are you so bad at keeping the initiative when you talk?”

Unturning: “Couldn’t he have explained everything in just a line or two?”

Novice: “D-dammit! I don’t care! I’m working hard at my manuscript! I’m serious, okay!? That’s all I have left now!”

Laborer: “That’s probably for the best.”

Art-Ga: “The receptionist asked me about your manuscript, so I told them you weren’t submitting one. I’m so tired.”

Novice: “Noooooooooooo! Why would you do that!?”


Would it qualify as a national disgrace if their Secretary couldn’t attend a major summer event? It was hard to say.

Those things count as a history recreation of the printing press, book markets, and renga, don’t they?

A note in the Testament said fan works of famous works and markets for self-published books were already a thing by the time Matsudaira’s reign began. With the Far East, the other nations would use the provisional rule to demand they share the related technology. But anyway…

“The Imperial Palace?”

The conversation had taken a wild turn, but that helped it make a lot more sense. Because…

“Kyou is…the Emperor’s home.”

“Exactly, Masazumi-sama. Mori Ranmaru-sama is an automaton sent from the Imperial Palace by P.A. Oda. Over.”

“Does that make her something like your ancestor, ‘Musashi’?”

“Musashi” looked to Ranmaru, but both them of them shook a hand side to side.

“Ranmaru-sama was created spontaneously while I was created with a purpose in mind. When a spontaneously created automaton fulfills the duty they have personally assigned themselves, their soul will usually rapidly fade and disappear.

“Meanwhile, if an automaton like me has her mold damaged, our official purpose gives our soul itself a mold of its own, meaning we can usually be salvaged. That is the primary difference between the modern and old-style models. Over.”

“Old-style automatons are automatons in the sense that we spontaneously began to move,” added Ranmaru. “Whereas modern automatons are automatons in the sense that they can move without outside assistance. But once we are moving, there is little difference except for when we meet our end.”

Ranmaru waved her right hand, producing a Mlasi-style insha kotob.

It displayed a map of Kinki.

“Most of my relatives are in Kyou’s Imperial Palace.”

And…

“I have reason to believe there is a considerable risk of harm coming to them if the Musashi approaches.”


Masazumi focused on the word “harm”. In other words…

“You think Musashi would end up fighting the Imperial Palace?” she asked. “Listen, it is true Musashi stated world domination as a goal at Mikawa, but that doesn’t mean we go around declaring war on everyone we meet.”

Me: “Why would you say that? Are you asking us to make jokes now?”

Horizey: “Sh. Sometimes politicians have to say things they don’t believe.”

Black Algae: “Gaffe? Gaffe?”

Don’t you start. But she had something else to say.

“Listen. What we want is peace and our first goal is stopping the Apocalypse. We plan to use Westphalia to ask whether or not our gathering the Logismoi Oplo is the correct way of doing that. So to earn the rest of the world’s trust, we’ve been going around fighting wars- no, let me rephase that. We have been going around seeking peaceful resolutions that – on occasion – end up causing a bit of excitement that some might classify as war-adjacent. My point is…”

Nagaya-Stable: “This is hopeless.”

Horizey: “Ookubo-sama, you mustn’t give up! Masazumi-sama is putting up a valiant (if doomed) effort to prove that you and the rest of Musashi are pacifi-gh.”’

Silver Wolf: “Horizon! Horizon! Did you just jam your finger typing an unfamiliar word!?”

Horizon really has changed, thought Masazumi as she faced Ranmaru again. And…

“Well, you get the picture.”

“Eh?”

Ranmaru froze and “Musashi” raised her hand after a moment.

“How about you sum it up thusly: leave us alone and we will leave you alone. Over.”

“Hm, yeah, that sounds good.”

Masazumi accepted that compromise and asked a further question.

“We have no reason to attack the Imperial Palace. Do you still insist we stay away?”

“Testament. That was not the reason for my request.”

Ranmaru’s response carried one important meaning.

Masazumi held her palm out toward Ranmaru and nodded.

Vice President: “Did you hear that? If that wasn’t her reason, then she wasn’t assuming we were going to declare war against them. I told you people don’t see us that way.”

Tachibana Wife: “Sounds like she has a rude awakening coming.”

Tachibana Husband: “Almost certainly, yes.”

Worshiper: “Why did you all look so surprised when Ranmaru said that?”

Vice President: “Wh-what, did you want me to declare war!? Well, fine! Maybe I will!”

Asama: “Masazumi, you need to stop declaring war just to fit in.”

Don’t imply I’ve ever done that before!

Part of her thought maybe she had done it before, but she decided she was imagining things. Anyway…

“Then what will attack the Imperial Palace?”

“Well…”

Just as Ranmaru began to answer, Masazumi saw something behind the automaton: a red light

She recognized the small red glow visible past Ranmaru’s left side.

That’s…

The familiarity brought a certain memory to mind, but then another light appeared all around her and in the sky above.

That was a defense barrier. A powerful purification linked directly to a ley line had appeared all around them.

“Masazumi!” Asama shouted from the Student Council rec room. “It’s the Double Border Crest!”


“Musashino” ordered to have all the ships’ defenses boosted with the sensor systems.

The Double Border Crest was a mysterious phenomenon detected on the Musashi before, but they had never observed how it formed. The mysterious phenomenon itself was a ley line distortion, but it might not register as dangerous depending on the nature of the change.

The information Asama-sama acquired at Novgorod came in handy here.

When the Double Border Crest had appeared behind a few of them below Novgorod, Asama had negated it with a defense spell she had prepared.

No, further testing was required to say if it had really been “negated”, but a spell had still managed to detect it. And…

“It is curious that it was an emotional suppression spell that did it. Over.”

Automatons like her had no emotions, so they noticed something was off when emotions rose to the surface. Those with plenty of experience working as a point of contact with non-automatons had created a detection spell based on that.

“It has arrived. Over.”

Automatons and the Musashi had high reaction speeds, so she made a call using a divine transmission directly linked to the Asama Shrine.

Musashino: “Asama-sama, a Double Border Crest has activated and we have completed preparations to resist it! Over.”

Asama: “Oh, don’t worry about it. It’s already over. Thanks, though.”

“Musashino” froze.

Oh?

She had planned to investigate, evaluate, and analyze the Double Border Crest in order to research how to oppose it. But…

Musashino: “It’s…over? Over.”

Asama: “Eh? Um, yes. As soon as it was detected, it seemed to disappear on its own before my resistance spell could even activate.”

Asama groaned in thought.

Asama: “And all’s well that ends well, right?”

Judge, thought “Musashino”. She knew what this meant.

Why do humans always ignore the details!?

This mysterious phenomenon makes people disappear.

Several VIPs have already disappeared and it’s kind of been a big deal. And I thought we were trying to figure out what it is. And yet…

All’s well that ends well?

“Kokubunji. Do you have time to accompany me as I complain? Over.”

“Umm, Nishi Kokubunji! Nishi Kokubunji! Over.”

“No, uh, Kunitachi! Kunitachi! Over.”

“Uhhh, next is Tachikawa. Tachikawa is the last stop. Over.”

“D-don’t declare me the last stop! I’m sending it right back to Mitaka! Over.”

The task was passed around in their thoughts for a few quadrillion rounds and “Musashino” worked to clean up that mental noise.

She noted that even automatons could find a task annoying.

Asama: “Anyway, thank you for getting every ship to respond. It goes so much faster with the bridge involved. …Please do the same thing if this happens again.”

Musashino: “Judge.”

“Musashino” felt the others’ eyes on her.

Musashino: “We plan to return to Kansai, meet Akechi Mitsuhide-sama, and intervene in the Honnouji Incident. If all of that succeeds, we will have a lot of trouble to deal with. The Musashino bridge is always at your service as the Musashi’s primary bridge. Over.”


Masazumi only now realized how rapidly she was breathing.

Just like at Novgorod.

“The Double Border Crest can take automatons too?”

No light remained behind Ranmaru. The Double Border Crest had disappeared prematurely.

Torii-style ether detection spells remained on alert around the ship. The lights she could see here and there would be the ether forms of Musashi’s local gods.

She had heard the thought of losing their followers made them feel ashamed for failing to protect those followers.

Asama: “Sakuya is a water god and Mount Fuji itself, so she is sensitive to ley line activity. Musashi’s help allowed us to detect this quickly.”

Unturning: “So you can defend against it?”

Asama: “I wouldn’t go that far. This was more like the trigger was never fully pulled or it disappeared before it was complete.”

Asama was up front about what had happened.

Asama: “But I think this time and the time at Novgorod were both triggered by us talking about something. In other words, the Double Border Crest was ‘summoned’ as a mysterious phenomenon. In this case, it was a low power version, like it was only keeping an eye on things.”

10ZO: “But something could have triggered a high power version?”

Asama did not deny the possibility.

Asama: “Yes. And when it comes to us, I think it uses the high power version. I need to figure out how to fight it if that happens. But…”

Vice President: “But what?”

“Well,” began Asama.

Asama: “The Double Border Crest is a mysterious phenomenon. It is not a spell, a trick, a trap, or a combination thereof. It is a single mysterious phenomenon.”


“I see,” said Masazumi. “Understood.”

Does that mean Mori Ranmaru is in a tricky situation here?

She had not expected Ranmaru to show off something so dangerous.

“So if I ask what will attack the Imperial Palace, you get attacked by the Double Border Crest?”

“Testament. I do apologize. We could fight it to an extent while I was inside the Imperial Palace, but that seems to have made me a target. It had been a while, so I got careless.”

Ranmaru opened an insha kotob and checked some of her divine protection settings.

“I have a detection spell in place, but yours was faster.”

Asama: “Oh, Masazumi. Can you ask her what kind of spell it is?”

“Out of curiosity, what kind of detection spell is it?”

“A will-sensing spell. It is very similar to your emotion-sensing one. You appear to be on the right track there.”

“I’m just glad it let us avoid disaster here.”

“Testament,” agreed Ranmaru, but there was not much she could say.

Asama sent a word of thanks on the sign frame.

But based on what had happened…

“Could we solve the mystery of the Double Border Crest and the Princess if we visited the Imperial Palace?”

“I cannot say anything, but I am here to ask that you do not attempt that.”

Asking why would just bring them back to square one.

Or it could summon the Double Border Crest again.

This is a lot of pressure.

Masazumi had been one of those attacked below Novgorod. She was pretty sure the disappearance of the Prince of Orange had triggered it and they had been targeted for being nearby, but…

“I’m glad this is only a personal request.”

“Are you going?”

“I have a personal request of my own,” Masazumi said to Ranmaru. “Will you let us in during the Honnouji Incident?”

“I…”

Ranmaru swallowed the word “cannot”.

Instead, she nodded, still expressionless.

“I can only say the same thing you did.”

“Do you resent me for it?”

“Do you resent me?”

They really were in the same position.

Ranmaru bowed her head.

“I am pleased to have learned you have your own circumstances to consider.”

“If it does happen, don’t think it’s because we don’t care.”

“Do not worry.” Ranmaru raised her head and spoke without taking a breath. “You will be on the side trying to stop it.”


“Huh?” said Masazumi.

We’ll be stopping it?

She wanted to ask “stopping what”, but she could not.

“Excuse me. I believe you have a meeting with Hashiba-sama soon.”

Ranmaru turned around and a few people appeared in the windows of the Student Council rec room behind Masazumi.

With the encounter complete, Crossunite and Mitotsudaira must have wanted to get a look at Ranmaru.

Anyway.

Masazumi nodded and spoke to the departing automaton.

“Until we meet again.”


Chapter 29: Officers on the Forefront[edit]

Horizon8B 047.png

Oh

I actually

Wasn’t thinking anything

Point Allocation (Good to Look Thoughtful)


After “Musashi” led her to the bottom of the stairs, Ranmaru moved off on her own.

The ship had more than one P.A. Oda embassy building, but she was staying at the one on Tama.

“Yasuke-sama,” she said while walking through the nature park on the starboard side. “The internal investigation and warning are complete, so it is time we left.”

A figure appeared from her shadow where it intersected with the shadows of the trees behind her.

The massive form covered in black armor was a half-dragon.

He had small wings and was specialized for ground combat. He stood more than 2.5m tall, yet he slipped out of her small shadow to stand behind her.

“Ranmaru-kun.”

“Yes?”

“I apologize. They noticed me, didn’t they?”

“Your Shadow Walking is a trait of the shadow walking half-dragon species, so it is not your fault. When I turned around to leave, Musashi’s 1st and 5th Special Duty Officers approached because they feared you would attack from my shadow.”

“Testament.” He pointed above his head where an insha kotob floated. “The local shrine sends these out to support life on the Musashi, but it popped up after I emerged from your shadow. I switched it off earlier, but it reappears when I adjust my presence.”

“We have no intention of causing trouble, but I see it would be risky if we did.”

“It’s not fair they don’t display these for the residents.”

“Don’t get too upset. We are effectively outsiders here.” Ranmaru came to a sudden stop. “Is that the famous Remorse Way memorial?”

She looked to her right where a stone memorial was half buried in the summer greenery.

It bore the name Horizon along with a bit more text.

Yasuke scratched his head and looked that way as well.

“Oh.” He pointed at the memorial. “I remember the kawaraban newscasters making a huge deal about it during the reporting on the Battle of Mikawa. Something about the bond between the Musashi Chancellor and the Ariadust Princess. They also said a ghost would appear nearby.”

“As none of the Musashi tourist information mentions the ghost, I have determined that is something the reporters invented on the spot. A shame this will not give us a better story to bring back with us. But while we are here…”

Ranmaru struck an expressionless pose with the memorial behind her and Yasuke snapped a photo with his insha kotob.

She checked the photo and applied a filter for her facial complexion.

“Now we can send this to our master and the others. As our scheduled check-in.”

“Shouldn’t you be taking this more seriously?”

“Spend enough time as an automaton and you master most everything, so only these trivial matters still hold any value.” She looked to the memorial sitting in the shadows of the trees. “But I have determined this is strange.”

“In what way?”

“Shaja,” she responded. “I have seen this many times over the years, but why do people have so much trouble settling on a single meaning for the things they create?”


Ranmaru explained herself.

“I can guess that memorial applied pressure to everything the Musashi Chancellor did.”

But…

“His life has moved beyond that point, so he does not even consider it worth removing. In fact, he likely considers it part of what pushed him to do what he did at the Battle of Mikawa. It is a reminder to never allow something like that to happen again.”

“Probably so, yeah.”

“Why is that?” she asked without looking back.

Yasuke tilted his head.

“Why is what?”

“That memorial exists because Horizon Ariadust was considered dead at the time. Why has its meaning and its psychological effect changed more than once within the same person?”

This puzzled her.

“Someone’s death is a single fact, so how can people gain more than one thing from it? And how can its influence on them change over time?”

“Would my answer even be useful?”

“I have been asking this same question of the people near me for a very long time so I can pool all of their answers for reference, but I have not received a new answer for the past 200 years. …So what is your answer, Yasuke-sama?”

“Hmm.” He placed a hand on his chin. “That memorial is frozen in time at the point that she was considered dead, right?”

“But the survivors are not frozen in time and their environment changes. As the gap between the environment in the memorial’s time and the environment in the current time grows larger, people view it from a different perspective and their opinion changes. Is that what you are trying to say?”

“Incredible, Ranmaru-kun! You really were listening to me for once!”

“For reference, your response is the same as 27% of respondents. And the more you speak, the more your answer overlaps with past ones, so think of this as gauging the depth of your answer, not categorizing it.”

Ranmaru then turned around and resumed walking.

Yasuke made sure to bow toward the memorial before doing the same.

“Oops. Paying respects is pretty meaningless with a memorial for someone who isn’t dead, huh?”

“Even outside unnecessary actions such as that, you non-automatons are such a pain to deal with and never play fair.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Automatons generally accept all things as a single fact. We can perceive things as patterns as a precaution against a great variety of things, but we cannot use that to determine which of the facts are most convenient. In the worst case, we can even corner ourselves from multiple directions at once.”

“We do that a lot too.”

“But you also avoid doing it. That is not fair.” Ranmaru picked up her walking pace. “It is not fair that you can fear death but also eventually leave it behind.”

The forest eventually cleared out and they walked out into the summer sun.

“I wonder what Hashiba-sama thinks about all that.”


“Take care of Hashiba-sama, Ishikawa-sensei, and the others for me.”

Kiyomasa bowed toward everyone while using a sunblock spell lernen figure to avoid the sun’s rays.

She was on the half-repaired boarding deck on one side of the Azuchi’s 1st central ship. She was preparing to board…

“A transport ship to Sanada. I won’t return here until we’re in Kansai after summer break.”

“Good luck,” said Koroku who had shown up to see her off.

She nodded back from the boarding ramp, noting the weight of her head.

She had not slept much recently.

I can’t believe this.

She knew why she was not sleeping: Fukushima.

She was having trouble – a lot of trouble – keeping her thoughts off of that girl.


The usual thought returned to Kiyomasa on the boarding ramp.

I really said it.

She had confessed.

She had finally done it the other day. In the moment, she had been certain it was the right thing to do, but now it felt more like a mistake.

Wh-why did I have to make my confession like that!?

But aside from her own choice, she was upset with Fukushima.

She felt this was Fukushima’s fault, but she also wondered if that was her sulking or trying to shift blame. However…

“–––––”

The memory of confessing caused her to sweat anxiously below the summer sun.

W-wow.

If she ignored Fukushima’s role in it all, then she had basically cried, confessed, and fled.

Yes. She cried, confessed, and fled. In other words…

The classic CCF!

Inventing an abbreviation did nothing to help.

If she was being generous, the crying was acceptable. They weren’t going to see each other for a while.

If she was being very generous, the fleeing was also acceptable. She had been on the boarding ramp when the ship was trying to leave.

But no amount of generosity could save the choice to confess.

I can’t believe I did that, she thought.

If she had not confessed, she and Fukushima could have continued their usual friendship when they were reunited.

She knew that would be bothering Fukushima.

Or rather, she had set it up so Fukushima would be bothered. Like she was forcing the girl to feel some of the pain she was feeling.

Yeah, she thought. I was upset because she wasn’t behaving the way I wanted her to.

She had done that during their training the other night and she had done it here. When Fukushima deviated from the idealized version in her head, she tried to fix it.

But that was not “fixing” her. It was forcing Fukushima to be the person she wanted her to be.

“Ugh.”

She was only now realizing just how selfishly controlling her thinking had been, but…

F-focusing on all the bad things will only depress me!

There were two sides to everything. There was good and bad to everything, so pointing out that something was actually bad was the same as pointing out it was actually good. The point was to figure out what the hidden and bad side of an issue was for the other person.

Fukushima-sama.

How had her confession affected that girl?

“Kiyomasa.”

Koroku’s voice pulled Kiyomasa out of her anxious reverie.

She had lost herself in thought on the boarding ramp.

Gasping, she addressed Koroku to smooth things over.

“Do you need something, Hachisuka-sama?”

“It’s about Fukushima.”

The blood drained from her face just before even more blood and plenty of heat filled it again.


Wh-what could this be!?

She knew she was being overeager, so she quickly worked to restrain herself.

Calm down.

But if it is about Fukushima-sama, could it be about the other day? Yes, it probably is. It must be. What other recent event links her to me?

Wh-what is she going to say?

She tried to keep her cool, but she could not stop sweating. And her face felt so hot it would dry off that sweat.

But when Koroku spoke, it was like none of that flustered behavior existed.

“I’ve been using her room and it’s pretty comfortable.”

O-oh, that’s right!

Hachisuka was borrowing Fukushima’s room because a mysterious phenomenon had appeared in her own room.

She had tried to get it exorcised, but when she had called in the lethal weapon of exorcists – the Shinto ones – things had gotten out of hand and they were arrested. Hachisuka had concluded it was too much to deal with and requested a room change.

More exorcists were being called in, so it should all be dealt with by the end of summer break.

That’s right.

So this was not about the other day.

The tension drained from Kiyomasa and a warmer sweat poured from her skin.

“Are you worried about Fukushima?”

“–––––”

That surprise attack in question form made Kiyomasa gasp.

And eventually…

“Testament.”

What did that response mean? That she was worried about Fukushima’s training camp? That she was worried about Fukushima herself? Or that she was worried about the result of her confession to Fukushima?

There’s no hidden side to this.

She had conveyed her feelings with the confession, but she had also thrust them upon Fukushima.

She felt freed by getting that off her chest, but it must feel binding for Fukushima.

But, she thought.

Once time had passed, she had managed to give it serious thought. And as her environment changed, the two sides to this issue would also change.

In fact, she was already feeling bound by her own confession.

The confession remained frozen in time within Fukushima.

But Fukushima was in a different environment now and she would view that time-frozen confession from that changed perspective.

That would give Fukushima more options when making a decision about it, but what about for Kiyomasa? The version of herself in Fukushima was “frozen”.

So would she ignore Fukushima’s feelings and let herself change too? Or would she stay the way she was?

If she changed, she could show Fukushima a new version of herself when they were reunited.

That too felt selfish in a way, but…

I wouldn’t be forcing it onto her.

It was contradictory and a betrayal.

If she forced her feelings onto Fukushima, she would remain unchanged and it would not be a betrayal.

But if she did not force them onto her, she could change, but it would also be a betrayal.

“––––”

I can’t believe this.

Her thoughts had reached this point in only a few days. But…

“We need to leave soon too.”

It felt like cheating.

Spending so much time trying to figure out the right thing to do felt deceptive to her, but it was all a matter of perspective.

Lies could be useful tools.

Was there a way to bring this all to a good ending, even if it was unfair? She knew where she could find the time and space to think about it.

“I hope to learn a lot in Sanada.”

“Is that so?” replied Koroku.

Just then, a roaring of air pushed up from below.

“A mechanical dragon!”

“Kiyomasa-senpai! We’ll be going on ahead!”

It belonged to Nabeshima. Due to its weight, its repairs had been carried out aboard a large transport ship floated on the ocean below.

Its flight between the ships had been a makeshift flight test and a way to directly transport it.

Kiyomasa sighed as she looked up at the red mechanical dragon roaring up above them in an instant.

She decided to give Fukushima more thought. She was the one who had made the confession, so it was up to Fukushima whether she had betrayed her or not.

And to give herself time for that thought…

“Bye. I imagine the result of Hashiba-sama’s meeting with Musashi will arrive while I am en route to Sanada.”


“Let’s get started, shall we?”

Masazumi stood on Musashino’s bow deck where repairs were still underway.

She was surrounded by the others, a sweets stand set up by Ohiroshiki, some parasols, and other items.

Vice President: “Why are all of you here?”

Me: “It’s summer break, isn’t it?”

Horizey: “Correct. We were bored- that is to say, we had enough time to spare, so we came to tease- to provide moral support. We are all waiting for you to declare war- to arrive at a peaceable conclusion.”

Vice President: “Trying to be nice doesn’t help when it makes you impossible to understand.”

At any rate, she had a reason for choosing this location.

Asama: “The divine transmission system and the ship’s sensors are concentrated on Musashino’s bow, so the information security is strongest here. That allows us to repel any viruses like Ootani Yoshitsugu that might show up. Plus, Mito’s mom’s efforts have, um, cleared out the center of the ship, so the bow can be easily data purged if those defenses are insufficient.”

Hearing that, Masazumi looked back at Musashino.

About three blocks’ worth in the center had been cleared away like a ravine. It almost looked intentional now, but that was only because the damaged portions had been removed and cleaned up last night. It had been a rush job, but the Musashi already managed everything in units of blocks thanks to their long house culture. Still…

“I never imagined the Musashino’s bridge would be damaged by one of our gym classes.”

“It’s more my mother’s fault than anyone’s,” added Mitotsudaira.

“Yeah, but saying that would cause problems with Hexagone Française. And it’s summer break. It’s best to say she was here as a volunteer and that we owe them one.”

Still Got It: “Yes, I’m a volunteer! A boon to society!”

Silver Wolf: “By driving up public investment, maybe!”

Well, it was summer. So…

“Now is the time to get our economy running with something other than consumption.”


“Milady! The Vice President just inquired when you will be returning to the Musashi, but it is a devilish trick! If you are returning, do it to rebel!”

“If I go back now, she’s 1000% percent demanding I find the funding needed to repair the Musashino! Why do I have to clean up after their makeup gym exam!?”

“Milady! I said as much, but now she is demanding you be back by the 10th!”

“Ahhhhhhh! I should really just join Satomi! A small country’s finances and administrative duties must be so much simpler! And the fish is so good!”

“Representative Committee Head, we would welcome you, but you can’t just run away from your problems.”


“Anyway, it looks like Ookubo will be back soon and she’s sure to find some money from the Kantou Liberation or wherever else. That’s another reason to return to Kantou.”

Masazumi opened a sign frame.

This one was for personal notes. She summed up what she wanted the Musashi to do in the near future.

Not too long ago, I did all this on paper.

She had fallen out of that habit thanks to Tsukinowa on her shoulder there. She only did it when absolutely necessary.

In fact, she had been so focused on working towards being a politician back then. The current state of the world did not allow Far Eastern students to hold any real power, so she had hoped to follow in her father’s footsteps and work for the Far East on the Provisional Council or something similar.

She had only seen the Vice President position as preparation for that, but…

What is it I’m doing now that we’ve thrown off that oppression and given the Student Council and Chancellor’s Officers some real power?

Politics.

She honestly did not think much about how she was working for the Far East.

She was too focused on keeping the Musashi alive and eliminating the injustices placed on the Far East.

It was in England that she had learned allies were needed for that. And it had taken until arriving in Kantou for her to realize they needed strength to avoid losing those allies.

And now they had returned to Kantou once more.

This time, they were not taking shelter in Mito or helping liberate Satomi.

“The question is whether or not the Musashi is allowed inside Kantou.” She raised her right hand. “This might take an unexpected turn, but all’s well that ends well. Keep that in mind as you help me out here.”

The arms gave a fist pump down at her feet to say “leave it to us”.

That’s worrying.

She was already having second thoughts, but…

“Here it comes.”

There was movement in the sky far to the east.

A white cloud appeared past the Bousou Peninsula that looked like a blue shadow from here.

“Musashino bridge here. The Azuchi is turning toward us. Over.”

Novice: “They were more worried about Satomi and Mouri, but now their focus is on us. Because we could use our gravitational cruising to attack.”

Nine-Tail Fox: “They see you as a threat. Our Yamagata Castle still has its them in its sights, but they have chosen to focus on you.”

Yoshiaki laughed over the divine transmission.

Nine-Tail Fox: “Hashiba does love to ignore the more immediate threat.”


Takao had a nature district. The large district was managed by the Ookubo family and the crust blocks had been stacked high for the Musashi, creating a small mountain and a waterfall. It was known as Mount Takao.

A fox was replenishing her sake supply in front of the shrine situated atop the small mountain.

The waiters in tengu masks and the local squadron known as the Tengumen were roasting beans and cooking mochi, a sweltering but aromatic process for midday during summer. Mogami Yoshiaki had her handheld bottle filled with sake and then corked it.

“The Azuchi has been surrounded and monitored by Satomi, Mouri, and the other Kantou nations, so what to focus on most has been a major question for them. And while undergoing repairs after their defeat, they must determine who is their enemy. Meaning…”

Meaning…

“They are now turning this way to view a distant enemy over the closer threats surrounding them. Exposing their side to the Kantou forces to face the Musashi sends a message to their crew. …Foul monkey, you dare show your face to the Musashi when the fox and the wolf are aboard?”

Still Got It: “Oh? Mogami Chancellor?”

Nine-Tail Fox: “What is it, Hexagone Française Vice Chancellor? Care to join me atop the bridge for some drinking.”

“That sounds delightful,” replied the other woman.

Still Got It: “But we are currently on the Musashi as volunteers.”

Hearing that, Yoshiaki pulled the fan from her hip and slapped it against her forehead.

Nine-Tail Fox: “Oh, that’s right. …Foul monkey, you dare show your face to the Musashi when the world’s two most adorable volunteers are aboard!?”


Me: “Are the grownups showing off more because it’s summer break, or what?”

Horizey: “Mitotsudaira-samaaa!”

Asama: “Yeah, Mito would be the first one to ask.”

Gold Mar: “What do we do, Mito-tsan?”

Silver Wolf: “Hassan! I suggest we summon Hassan!”

83: “A dry curry is best during the summer!”


A dry curry would be enough to keep those grownups occupied, concluded Masazumi with her arms crossed.

Anyway, the Azuchi is taking this seriously.

The clouds were moving in the eastern sky. A large disturbance ran through the cumulus clouds, but the movement soon came to a stop and some of the clouds scattered.

The Azuchi had completed its turn.

She could somehow tell that it was facing them. And…

“Masazumi.”

“Let it through, Asama.”

“Right away,” replied Asama as a sign frame popped up.

The enlarged screen displayed someone in the sun. It was…

“Ankoku-G!! A! K!!!”


Masazumi saw Ankokuji strike a sparkling pose at the center of a screen with extreme direct light.

Oh, right. He went on ahead.

He had boarded the Musashi as a Mouri emissary meant to work things out between Hashiba and Mouri. After taking him this far, the Musashi had been stopped by Ishikawa Kazumasa, but the students of other academies had not been restricted in that way.

At Ankokuji’s request, they had sent him on to Hashiba. He would have met with Mouri along the way, so…

“Mouri and Hashiba must be completing their reconciliation for Bitchu Takamatsu Castle after this.”

Just like Musashi would be discussing Christina’s possible assistance in the Honnouji Incident after this meeting with Hashiba.

Whether or not the Musashi would enter Kantou was a crucial factor for Musashi and for Hashiba. But…

“Musashi! I have arrived at a compromise with Hashiba-sama here!” Ankokuji struck another pose, rubbed his head like he was embracing it, gave the camera a flirtatious glance, and finally swayed his body once. “I hope you are thankful!”

Me: “Could someone shoot that baldie for me?”

Horizey: “Asama-samaaa!!”

Asama: “I-it would just be cruel to hit him from this far away, Horizon!”

Unturning: “Wait, you can do it at this range?”

Uh, oh. I never even questioned that she could. Eh, the Date Vice Chancellor will get used to it eventually.

Ankokuji appeared to be in top form. In a way, joining Hashiba had been what he really wanted this whole time. The more he did for them, the more it would benefit Mouri. So…

“Ha ha ha ha ha! Cunning Musashi! You are truly blessed to receive this audience with Hashiba-sama! But do not forget who you have to thank for this: none other than the great Ankoku-G! A! K! Ha ha ha ha ha!”

Art-Ga: “I’m waiting while they check over my manuscript, but should I draw up another one real quick?”

Vice President: “Hmm. I feel like he would actually like that.”

At her feet, the arms pumped their clenched fists up and down and she was surprised to find she understood it as an expression of anger. Back when I was working so hard to become a politician, I never imagined I would be a Vice President with arms for an ally and dry curry as a means of avoiding danger.

“Um, Masazumi? Why do you look so tired?”

“Oh, you know. Life.” Masazumi looked up to address Ankokuji. “Ankokuji, put Hashiba on.”

“Huh!? Why should I!? Is that any way to ask someone a favor!?”

Without a word, she placed her right thumb on her neck and slid it to the side.

The blood instantly drained from his face.

“R-right away! I will have her on immediately! One moment please!”

Worshiper: “Hard to deny her reign of terror now.”

Obscene: “Ha ha ha!! He did tell her to be more convincing!!”

Vice President: “Come to think of it, that wouldn’t have worked if we hadn’t met the other night.”

Tachibana Wife: “Given how awkward it would have been if it failed to work, I support the way you handled that.”

Right? she thought as she saw movement on the sign frame.

Two figures arrived from the left: a short one and a tallish one.

They were Hashiba and Takenaka. Hashiba spread and raised her arms and the footage zoomed in to the indicated frame. Taller Takenaka’s head was cut off by that frame, so…

“I should probably sit down, huh?”

“Oh, sorry, Takenaka-san! Up here! Up here!”

Hashiba raised her hands high and jumped a few times, but the footage zoomed further in on her and a red light flashed at the top.

Gold Mar: “They started a personal recording?”

Circle Be: “This will be all over the divine network later, so I need to be ready!”

Horizey: “Kh, she knows how to get a reaction out of her audience all right!”

Masazumi noticed the idiot sister aiming the meeting’s camera sign frame toward her.

The dancer stepped away after altering the settings somehow. It was concerning to say the least.

“Hey, idiot sister. What did you do?”

“Nothing much. I only set the focus to track your crotch. To compete with her.”


“Tadaoki-sama? Why did you just change the channel so fast?”

“N-no reason! I swear it’s nothing! Hey, how about we go out for some ice cream!?”


Asama: “Wow, there’s such a flood of connection requests coming in to the Musashi that the eastern end of the Shinto network is nearly overloaded!”

Vice President: “Hey, how do you undo this setting! Hey!”

Me: “You know standing in front of the sign frame to operate it means an even more close up shot of your crotch, right?”


“Nobu-tan! Nobu-tan! Cast a curse that makes a (female) rhino beetle latch onto the dick of anyone who sees the image if you must, but I would recommend making yourself immune first! And when you did that to me during a punishment game, its grip with those pointy legs was so strong I couldn’t get out of bed for two weeks!”

“Ha ha ha. How about we bump it up to one of those Hercules beetles we had smuggled in from the New World, Koni-tan!?”


Gin had a thought while watching the group bickering below the parasols.

This is who Tres España lost to?

Really, they seemed even worse than back then. In fact, she had a feeling their grade of crazy kept rising since she and Muneshige had joined. And while she desperately hoped she was imagining things…

I feel like we have been leveling up along with them.

Hopefully that was an illusion, but she hated how aware of it she was recently. She knew it would be easier if she let her sanity slip away and joined in with their cannibalism, but she wanted to remain human.

“Gin-dono! You look tired!” said Futayo. “Is the summer heat getting to you!? Some eel will fix that right up!”

Quiet, Queen of the Crazies. You don’t have to slurp that udon noodle salad right next to me. You also don’t have to give me those worried glances as you grab the cherry tomatoes with your chopsticks.

At any rate, the Asama Shrine Representative raised her hand.

“The results are in! Masazumi’s crotch is more popular than Hashiba-san’s jumping!”

“Monkey Girl’s probably at a disadvantage since this is an away game for her,” said the Chancellor.

“Don’t give me those results! Why is this being broadcast so widely, anyway!?”

“Because it is summer break, Masazumi-dono. No one across the Far East has anything better to do at this time of day.”

Gin just about agreed with the ninja, but she restrained herself.

“I suppose that makes a decent opening skirmish,” she said while glaring at the sign frame.

Hashiba and Takenaka stood in the frame. They could not see everyone on this end, but…

“This is a meeting, Vice President,” said Gin. “State a topic of discussion.”

“Judge.”

The Vice President regulated her breathing and sat down on the deck in front of the sign frame. She must have deactivated the crotch-tracking, but that had fixed it in place, requiring her to sit down to get her face in frame.

“I am Musashi Ariadust Academy Representative Vice President Honda Masazumi.”

She began by naming herself.


AK froze in place. While striking a pose, of course.

The meeting has begun!

As a liaison, he often participated in negotiations. He had been a central player on several occasions.

His history recreation had already begun, but he had never before participated in a meeting with such big names. He had expected his first meeting of such importance would be the reconciliation of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle between Mouri and Hashiba.

I never imagined the first would be outside the history recreation altogether!

Life was unpredictable. But he was with Hashiba now.

“Hashiba-sama, Takenaka-sama. Musashi is trying to find a way into Kantou.”

That was true.

They definitely wanted to return to Kansai, but his meeting with their Vice President had proven that entering Kantou first was their current top priority.

They wished to harass Hashiba.

They were motivated by that horribly simple word. So…

“Do not let your guard down.”

“I won’t,” said Takenaka. “I’m the primary negotiator this time. Hashiba-kun is only here for show. This is an international discussion during summer break, after all.”

Ohh.

She was the oldest of the Ten Spears and their staff officer.

She had a double inherited name, but the Kuroda Kanbei side of that was a representative of a force that had opposed Mouri.

Kuroda Kanbei had searched for a means of opposing Mouri’s invasion, considered the overall situation in the Far East, and chosen to side with Oda.

It reminded him of how he had chosen to join Hashiba while searching for a way to help Mouri.

She was a former enemy, but they had both come to Hashiba for the same reasons.

So…

“This is in your hands,” he told her.

He was a liaison and she was a staff officer. Her role was to advice Hashiba here. And if she needed some information, she could find it herself.

He knew how these things worked, so…

“Now, let’s get down to business, Hashiba. First up, you know how we were trying to get the Musashi into Kantou?” The Musashi Vice President spoke from the screen. “Can we back out of that?”


“Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!?”

Katou Yoshiaki was up in the sky on guard duty, but she still heard Ekei’s yell.

He has a set of lungs on him, she thought as she looked down.

“Are you kidding meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!?”

Did that man ever stop posing?


Chapter 30: Struggling Girl on the Deck[edit]

Horizon8B 077.png

Now we begin

So take my hand.

…Take it

Take! It!

Point Allocation (Stubborn)


Uh, oh. Here it comes, thought Takenaka. Aaand there it is.

She had predicted this meeting would be a challenge, so she had made sure not to eat much.

“Ero ero ero ero.”

“T-Takenaka-san! You can’t just turn the other way! You have to move outside the frame! Outside!”

“Don’t worry, Hashiba-sama!” A PR Committee member clenched her fist. “I added in a God Flash!”


Horizey: “Did she just turn around and fire a beam from her mouth?”

Silver Wolf: “I’m just glad they didn’t give it a color.”

Vice President: “This can’t be easy for them.”

Almost Everyone: “And whose fault is that!?”

Asama: “Anyway, what did you mean, Masazumi? You said we’re backing out of going to Kantou, but that isn’t enough for anyone to understand.”

Circle Be: “That’s right, that’s right! Lots of merchants were planning to send our wares down to Edo and Satomi to do some trading, so this is bad idea! You’ll have to pay damages.”

Vice President: “By ‘lots of merchants’ do you mean you?”

Circle Be: “O-oh, come on! W-w-w-w-we wouldn’t make such a serious mistake again so soon.”

Worshiper: “Yet you sound awfully flustered. What do we even do with those two?”


Hmm, they have a point, thought Masazumi.

She had an idea and she thought it was probably their best option, so she explained what she could at the moment.

“We have to return to Kantou regardless once the Testament Union gets after us. With Westphalia coming up, we can’t afford to disobey them.” She tried to keep a smile on her face. “So how about we give up on entering Kantou for now and wait for the Azuchi to complete its repairs?”


In a stone hall with a view of a snowy field, a demon woman looked out the window from a large wooden table.

“This is a trap. Don’t you think, Kagekatsu?”

“Yes, an excellent one at that, Marfa. Well played, Musashi Vice President! You create the illusion of peace to throw them off their game and then lure them right into the fires of war!”

Kagekatsu reached for the giant theme park model set up on the table. He had noticed the wild animal sabbath was facing the wrong direction, but Marfa happened to reach out at the same moment.

“Ah.”

Their hands touched. They both gasped and froze in place just before a man in shorts rushed in from the back of the hall.

“Kagekatsu-kuuuuun! It’s a trap! The Musashi Vice President has laid a trap! Oh, and I was injured while battling the Ikko-shu.”

“You dung beetle!”

While the thunder attacks flew, Marfa joined in with her metal staff. But while she did so…

“What will the other nations think of the Musashi Vice President’s choice?”


“Is this a trap, Juana?”

“If you can’t tell, Chancellor, I don’t know how you expect me to.”

Juana and the others were in a corn field viewing the cornice firma displayed in the sky, but she shook her head.

Why am I even here if I can’t answer mister’s questions!?

So she made a firm statement.

“It is a trap.”

“I-is it?”

“Testament. The Musashi Vice President previously borrowed the power of a god from the Age of the Gods to throw us into chaos and then played Gin for a fool with the sword breaker she was carrying.”

“What happened to you then was a disaster, wasn’t it?”

Juana recalled what had happened back then.

“Wh-what happened with their Chancellor was an accident!”

“Which is why I called it a disaster.”

“Oh,” she said, realizing he had been trying to kindly talk around the issue. He attempted to pick a head of corn while he continued.

“Between the New World and here and between the Harmonic Territories and the normal land, we can grow four varieties of corn, but the ones in the Far Eastern land carry the most water. They’re sweet, but they squish easily, making them a poor choice for cooking.”

“Try grilling them and flavoring them with sugar and soy sauce, Chancellor.”

“Hm, you know a lot about this.”

“I interact with the baseball team a fair bit. Anyway, let’s try to have it all harvested by the end of the month. A lot is bound to happen then. Because…”

Because…

“If the Musashi Vice President has laid a trap, summer break will be anything but peaceful.”


“Um, Masazumi? You have a divine transmission from England. The Fairy Queen says, ‘A trap, huh!? You can’t fool me! But if you’re going to make it that obvious, the payoff had better be good!’ ”

“Why does she think this is a trap!?”

Still Got It: “Oh? Is it not, despite all appearances to the contrary?”

Silver Wolf: Mother, Masazumi is trying to hide that this is a trap, so it would help if you played along.”

Nine-Tail Fox: “You are bold, Musashi Vice President.”

“Wait.” Masazumi shifted her legs below her to move outside the camera’s frame and then held her palm out toward the others. “I just said I wanted to keep things peaceful and that conflict should be avoided. You get what that means, don’t you?”

The Date Vice Chancellor raised her hand.

“That you are planning a major attack.”

“Good, Narumi!” said Urquiaga. “You’re learning how to read between the lines!”

“Wait!”

“Indeed,” said Futayo as she and Horizon stepped forward. “Please wait, everyone. Masazumi is Musashi’s political representative. Politics are how a nation manages its own affairs and they are crucial to the survival of the nation. War cannot always be the top priority.”

“Judge. That is true,” said Horizon. “I can tell Masazumi-sama is using every means available to ensure our nation’s survival.”

“Exactly right, Horizon-sama. She has used politics to ensure Musashi’s survival on several occasions and she has not hesitated to use war as a tool there.”

Horizon8B 085.png

“That means she uses a magical variety of politics that always leads to war. So the Musashi has chosen a path to survival that requires winning those wars.”

“Which tells us one thing about her politics.”

“Her politics and war are one and the same.”

Futayo and Horizon exchanged a glance and started sweating.

“Horizon-sama, where did we go wrong in our defense?”

“I don’t know. I was swept toward that conclusion as if by the current of a mighty river.”

“Cut. It. Out.” Masazumi held out both hands. “Do you people want to go to war that badly? Because I’ll do it. Don’t think I won’t.”

Hearing that, everyone looked to the bow behind her.

She looked back to see the Tachibana Couple facing away from them with Cuatro Cruz at the ready.

“Master Muneshige, accounting for the sea breeze, the easiest target would be the row of light warships positioned out ahead of the Azuchi.”

“I see. So we could let the Musashi’s defense barriers handle the Azuchi’s shots while we slip through the gaps to attack?”

They were ready to go.

No, it was worse than that.

10ZO: “Have they already started?”

Vice President: “I just hope they don’t start firing on their own.”

“But,” said Mitotsudaira, raising her hand.

Silver Wolf: “Masazumi? Are you saying your statement was not a trap?”

Vice President: “Oh, it was a trap alright.”

Almost Everyone: “Then don’t deny it!!”

The Tachibana Wife wordlessly loaded a shell.


There’s this thing called pride, you know?

Masazumi crossed her arms and the Date Vice Chancellor raised her right hand.

Unturning: “That is a relief.”

Me: “Right!? I thought Seijun had gone crazy!”

Wise Sister: “I know what you mean! Taking over the world with the anteater by her side is supposed to be our summer homework! And today’s research project is to make seafood out of Hashiba! They’re the amberjack!! Oh, no, am I going to be the soy sauce!? Okay, Asama! You be the tamari! Give us all those fluids you have stored up for us! C’mon! Horizon, you hold out your hand too! Mayonnaise!”

Asama raised her right fist, so the idiot, the sister, and Horizon fled.

It was all very noisy, but…

Scarred: “This means my sister was right, doesn’t it?”

Vice President: “I wish so badly I could say otherwise, but yes.”

10ZO: “But how are you going to work this out? They might take you seriously and say ‘Sounds good! Meeting over!’ ”

“Yeah,” agreed Masazumi with a nod toward the others.

Vice President: “But I’m sure Ankokuji will keep that from happening. The question is what they’ll do afterwards.”


“This is a trap!!”

Takenaka felt a headache coming on as Ankokuji yelled at the top of his lungs.

He is probably right, though.

That girl’s statement could hardly have been more suspicious. She could not openly advocate an international conflict during summer break, but…

“She would never give up on entering Kantou and ask nothing in return!” exclaimed Ankokuji. “That would be a complete capitulation! It must be some kind of trick!”

6: “Are we sure this guy isn’t the trick?”

Majority Rule: “Not to worry, Koroku-chan. If they have something hidden here, Takenaka will discover it.”

That’s a lot of pressure, Sensei.

Takenaka’s stress was on the rise.

“We are in dangerrrr!!”

The cause of her headache remained, but he also put her in a “to hell with it” attitude. However…

Kuro-Take: “I think they’re being honest here.”

Majority Rule: “For what reason?”

Kuro-Take: “They’re being too honest.”

As far as she could tell, they were serious about this. Or rather…

“I-I can’t believe them!” shouted Ankokuji. “First they say they’re eventually returning to Kansai, then they show up here, and now they say they’re handing Kantou over to Hashiba-sama!? What are you they thinking!?”

You’re giving away all their information, you know?

The current situation was enough to guess Musashi wanted to remain in Kansai, but this was the first time someone with firsthand knowledge had confirmed it. And since Musashi was here anyway…

Kimee: “Musashi would have a hard time remaining in Kansai, so are they temporarily withdrawing to Kantou?”

Majority Rule: “Heh heh. Why not crush them here and now?”

Kuro-Take: “I’m pretty sure teachers aren’t supposed to say things like that.”

Ishikawa had a bad habit of making extreme suggestions as a joke.

But those suggestions had a way of pointing them in the right direction or turning them away from a bad idea, so…

Maybe she is doing her job as a teacher.

Ishikawa was naturally disposed to act with the confidence of the overwhelmingly powerful.

Her strength let her be calm and composed. She knew she was too reliant on that strength, so she had learned ways to inhibit that strength. The problem was how she would also intentionally choose not to inhibit herself at times. During training, Fukushima and Kiyomasa had never managed to defeat her even while working together. According to Ishikawa herself…

She claims she trained herself to handle those two.

She had always believed her strength would never allow her to lose.

Meanwhile, she also went overboard when showing her adoration for the things she liked. That usually means the Spears, but not me. I’m probably too old for it. Not that I’m actually all that old, but she clearly puts me in a different category since she invites me out to go drinking and then complains about her job. Ero ero ero ero ero.

“Takenaka-san! A-are you all right!?” asked Hashiba.

“Yeah, just warming up.”

“Takenaka-sama! A-are you all right!?” asked Ankokuji.

“Maybe if you would shut up. Urp.”

Takenaka took a breath, wiped her mouth off with a handkerchief, and took another breath.

Ahh, the ocean air smells like the sea. It’s so salty. Just like vomit. Maybe I should puke some more. No.

“I have a question. Let’s say the Musashi does stay out of Kantou.” She spoke to the Musashi Vice President displayed on the lernen figure in front of her. “If the Azuchi remains here, where will the Musashi be?”


A few of them exchanged a glance at that question.

Masazumi saw the idiot take Horizon’s hand.

“Horizon! I am here and you are there. Do you get what I mean!?”

“Kahh, peh,” spat Horizon. “What was that, Toori-sama? I didn’t quite catch it.”

“I-I-I am here and…”

“Look at him squirm. He has no idea how to respond.”

“Th-then, Tenzou! Where are you? And I’m looking for a philosophical answer!”

They looked over to see Crossunite crossing his arms, but there was a tug to his right arm. Mary was already blushing and refusing to let go of his sleeve.

Flat Vassal: “What is going on? I swear no one would believe me if I tried to explain our class to them.”

10ZO: “I-I dub Mary-dono’s move here the Sleeve Tug!”

Art-Ga: “Aaand it’s gone. It was so forgettable no one even remembers it anymore.”

Gold Mar: “If anything, shouldn’t it be ‘Mary-dono’s Tenzou Sleeve Hug’?”

Asama: “I will register it under that name.”

10ZO: “Wh-why would you do that!? Oh, no. Now it’s at the top of the predictive text list when I type an ‘M’! Are you trying to get me on as many assassination lists as possible!?”

Laborer: “Ha ha ha. Look who’s Mr. Popular.”

Yeah, that’s about right, thought Masazumi. But…

Where will the Musashi be, hm?

That was implying a distance between the Azuchi and the Musashi. It put Musashi and Hashiba in different positions, but…

It’s more than that.

Vice President: “Let’s show them just how different our positions are.”

After that comment to the others, Masazumi addressed the sign frame.

“You want to know where we will be if you stay off the coast of Satomi?”

That was simple enough.

“How about we stay here above Houjou, without actually entering Kantou? We will have to move toward the ocean to avoid casting much of a shadow on the land, though. And,” she continued. “To avoid showing any hostility toward you, we will direct our bow northward. Because even the Musashi would heat up too much if we faced south in this summer sunlight.”


Koroku stood atop a transport ship.

It was a small one and a god of war stood on the deck with her.

The heavily-equipped female god of war was the Genbu.

The Genbu’s gravitational control was much more useful than people or carrier devices, so the transport ship was flying it around to different construction zones to provide it something to stand on.

The meeting’s divine transmission had arrived while she was thinking about her next assignment.

AnG: “The Musashi’s going to stay in Houjou? And face north to avoid showing us hostility?”

I see, thought Koroku. That would let us focus on repairs without worrying about them.

The Musashi would control Houjou, but north from there would take them along a western line toward Kansai, which was entirely P.A. Oda territory. Even if a conflict did break out, the Azuchi could receive reinforcements immediately.

So…

Are they giving up?

She had her doubts, but this was a better result than they could have hoped for. So…

6: “Could this work?”

Kimee: “No, it couldn’t.”

Her idea was immediately denied by someone in the sky.

Kimee: “It’s a silly matter of honor, but we can’t let Musashi stay in Houjou. That would mean the worst possible end to our Keichou Campaign.”


Ishikawa was at a store within the Azuchi. The Far Eastern Academy Store had started to stock more colorful clothes. She could relax a lot more if she was not worried about staining her summer shirt at the repair sites.

But when she held a shirt in front of her to look in the mirror…

This mirror is too bent.

She considered asking for a more standard mirror, but Schau Essen were in here, so too realistic a reflection might make it harder for them to view their individual pieces of equipment.

Ishikawa sighed and checked the lernen figure she had open.

It showed a map of Kantou drawn up by Yoshiaki. Yoshiaki was not as good an artist as her sister, but using a visual aid to help explain herself was still useful. +1 point for her. I’m such a good teacher. And they’re such good kids, since they can do so much by themselves. Which means I can leave them be for however long I like. Yes.

At any rate, Yoshiaki drew more on the map, so it now showed the Musashi and the Azuchi facing each other in south Kantou.

Kimee: “If the Musashi is in Houjou facing north, it would look like this.”

On the eastern end, the Azuchi was pointing its bow toward the Musashi in the west. But…

Kimee: “Once our repairs are complete, the Azuchi will return to Kansai. Using this route.”

The Azuchi started to move west.

The shortest route to Kansai took them through Houjou.

In this case, the Musashi would be allowing the Azuchi to pass north of it, but…

6: “What’s the problem?”

AnG: “Hm, was this one too tough for you, Shouroku? Or is it just your personality?”

Majority Rule: “Koroku-chan, it’s a matter of honor.”

Ishikawa explained while holding the hanger under her chin and grabbing another shirt.

Majority Rule: “Like this, the Azuchi will be passing right in front of the Musashi’s nose.”


Yeah, and what’s the problem with that? wondered Koroku.

“Hmm,” she groaned, tilting her head.

6: “We’d just be passing by them.”

Kuro-Take: “Maybe this doesn’t do a great job of showing what it would look like.”

What’s that supposed to mean? Koroku glared at the map as it rotated. It was given a third dimension to show the scene from the Azuchi’s perspective.

That viewpoint showed the Azuchi flying along with the Musashi to port. With that view…

6: “It looks a lot like we’re pushing the Musashi back.”

AnG: “Wow, I can really feel Shouroku’s love for the Azuchi.”

Shut up.

Azuchi: “I appreciate the vote of confidence regarding my strength. Over.”

That was not quite what she had said, but she let it slide since she did think the Azuchi was strong.

“But,” said Takenaka.

Kuro-Take: “How does it look from this side of things?”

The same scene played out from the Musashi’s perspective.

The Musashi’s bow stretched out in front and the Azuchi entered from the right of the screen.

The Azuchi continued on past, but…

Hm?

She was not sure what they were getting at. Wasn’t this just the Musashi watching while the Azuchi boldly flew past?

6: “What’s the problem with this?”

Majority Rule: “Koroku-chan? How did you describe the Musashi last time?”

6: “It looked like they were being pushed back.”

Majority Rule: “But they had actually been in that position for several days.”

Oh, realized Koroku.

Once it hit her, she had to make sure.

6: “Takenaka, show me the map from the north. And from below.”

The map rotated to that perspective. The “camera” was still high above the ground, but it was looking up at the ships.

The Musashi looked massive from the ground below. From Houjou’s land. She started to figure out what it meant for those 8 ships to be facing north.

She watched as the Azuchi arrived from the east – from the Musashi’s left.

The Azuchi was only flying by in front of the Musashi.

The map provided no sound, but now she understood.

6: “Houjou land is Kantou’s borderline with P.A. Oda.”

So…

6: “The Musashi has inherited Houjou, so if they stop there, they become Kantou’s new gatekeeper.”

A gatekeeper would watch everyone who passed through the gate. Which meant…

They never show their back.

What did that say about the scene playing out on the map?

6: “The Musashi let the defeated Azuchi complete its repairs and then let it run home with its tail between its legs.”


They aren’t responding. Does that mean they figured it out? wondered Mitotsudaira.

If the Musashi watches the Azuchi leave, it demonstrates that we were the winners and they were the losers.

A land was ruled by the gatekeepers, guards, or whoever else controlled the gates and checkpoints.

The Azuchi had been defeated and needed repairs. There was no way to pass that off as the Azuchi having defeated Kantou.

Meanwhile, the Musashi had won an effective victory at Nördlingen.

The Musashi had stopped above Houjou, which acted as the border between Kantou and P.A. Oda.

They would choose not to fight and to let the Azuchi go.

They would not just pass each other by.

The Musashi would be facing north, so the Azuchi’s flank would be exposed to them.

“We didn’t fire Kanesada or make any other attack on them because of how powerful the Azuchi and Hashiba were.”

But…

“That is a thing of the past.”

Things had changed. The Azuchi and Hashiba had lost a battle and were being allowed to make repairs and withdraw.

“The Musashi let the Azuchi make its repairs,” agreed Gin. “And now we would be allowing the defenseless Azuchi to leave. It no longer has to do with their strength.”

“Judge,” nodded Mitotsudaira. “This demonstrates that we could defeat them whenever we wanted. At the very least, the Kantou forces would cheer and feel true victory as the Azuchi passed in front of us.”

They could turn their back toward the Azuchi afterwards.

Once the loser was vanishing into the distance, the Musashi could turn its bow toward Kantou.

That was what Masazumi had presented to their opponent and their opponent had understood the message. So…

“Will Hashiba allow this humiliation and mockery?”


Chapter 31: Stubborn Girl on the Deck[edit]

Horizon8B 099.png

Does it look like this?

It does

Can you see it now?

I can

Point Allocation (Incomprehensible)


Koroku crossed her arms and leaned against the Genbu as the transport ship approached the inner side of the 1st port ship.

The black armor was hot from the sun and she found it interesting how the sweat-soaked back of her suit dried up all at once.

6: “So that isn’t an option?”

Kuro-Take: “It isn’t a good look.”

6: “But…”

It’s only about honor, she thought.

It was nothing but appearances. Or vainglory, to use a term that had come up a lot lately.

6: “It doesn’t actually change anything.”

Nothing real would change. Not their abilities and not their spirit. It only affected how people saw them.

If anyone had a problem with it, they could show them what’s what. So why did it matter?

6: “What’s the big deal with this?”

“Well,” said Takenaka, giving herself time to think.

Kuro-Take: “The problem is how the rest of the world would view Hashiba as a force that needed our enemy to spare us.”

6: “But…”

Koroku thought for a moment.

6: “That doesn’t change us in any way.”

Kuro-Take: “True.” But…

Kuro-Take: “The other nations won’t see it that way. And even if some do, we will still be seen in general as the people who needed to be spared. And…”

She paused to choose her words.

Kuro-Take: “When the rest of the world sees Hashiba as weaker, it creates an international consensus that gives them an upper hand when negotiating with us.”

In other words…

Kuro-Take: “Our status as a powerful nation has given us a few perks. When trading with other nations, we can monopolize the resources and food we want. When traveling, we can pass through other nations’ checkpoints without an inspection and we can use their roads like our own. And in politics, we can influence other nations’ policies, demand extraterritoriality, and receive inside information. But if the rest of the world sees us as weak, they will stop giving us those perks and demand we pay ordinary fees. Really, they’ll try to take us to the cleaners.”

6: “Can a one-sided change of opinion really do all that?”

Kimee: “Only when it’s an international consensus, meaning all of the nations we deal with do it at the same time. What the Musashi Vice President just suggested is being sent to all those nations, so they wouldn’t even need to coordinate their response. Before the Azuchi is even back at home, they’ll all have changed their view of Hashiba and listed up the privileges they can strip from us.”

And…

Kimee: “When they do it, their representatives will all say, ‘Yeah, but all the other nations are doing it too, so maybe go talk to them first?’ ”

6: “Even though nothing would have changed?”

Kuro-Take: “How do you propose we prove nothing has changed?”

“Well,” said Koroku, unsure what to say.

If they were going to prove they were still powerful, they would have to show off their strength. And not just displaying their equipment. A real show of force would be best. Which meant…

6: “War?”

Kimee: “Going to war for honor would make us a barbarian nation.”

She knew that, so she knew they could not actually do that. So…

6: “What do we do?”

Kuro-Take: “Our best option is to not let Musashi watch us leave like that.”

But…

Kuro-Take: “If it does happen, we either go to war on the spot, or we let them do it for now and defeat them later on to make up for it.”


What a pain, thought Koroku.

Adults had an annoying way of thinking about things. And it didn’t seem fair.

They would all know nothing has actually changed.

But they would get their story straight and pretend to believe a lie just to strip Hashiba of some privileges.

And if Hashiba insisted it was false, they would insist Hashiba go along with it because “that’s how the world sees things now”.

There wasn’t much Hashiba could do once the lie was created.

It wasn’t fair.

Kuro-Take: “Oh, right.”

What now?

Kuro-Take: “Despite everything we just said, we all feel the same way you do, Hachisuka-san. We’re asking you to understand it, not to accept it.”

AnG: “Hmm. Then maybe I’m a bad example. I was kinda thinking ‘yeah, that’s about how the world works’.”

Kimee: “Only because you know that’s a good way to avoid carrying around too much stress.”

That meant Yoshiaki did the same thing.

What a pain. But…

6: “What do we do?”

Kuro-Take: “We ignore it for now and overturn it later using a different issue.”

Koroku could tell Takenaka was shrugging.

Kuro-Take: “Since it isn’t true, the other nations can’t force us to do anything. If they take it too far, we might decide it’s worth proving it isn’t true. None of them want to be caught in that, so they’ll all pull back. They’re only focused on the possibility of removing some of our privileges with it.”

AnG: “And if we hand over those privileges?”

Kuro-Take: “We would effectively be admitting to our weakness, so they would continue demanding privileges. So the best option is to prevent the lie from occurring in the first place. In this case, that means not passing by right in front of the Musashi as we leave.”

And…

Kuro-Take: “Some nations will want to make the Musashi Vice President’s suggested scenario a reality, so we must take a firm stance against those nations.”

6: “Such as?”

Kuro-Take: “If a nation threatens to take a stricter stance on our trade or political interference, hoping to remove some of our privileges, our best course of action is to stop all trade with them for a month. A large nation will have a lot more stockpiled than a small one, so while a large nation can wait it out, a small one cannot afford to have trade cut off. We could even release P.A. Oda’s reserves into the market at a reduced price to crater the value of their trade resources.”

A lernen figur appeared by her hands, displaying a massive cascading list of data. The items scrolling by too fast to read had to be trade items. Takenaka must have listed up the items other nations would try to use to ‘threaten’ them and checked their reserves of each. The list was likely being sent back home in real-time so the various committee members could use automatons to take immediate action.

A countermeasure would have been worked out by the time the Azuchi was back home.

Kuro-Take: “There isn’t anything more we can do here, so let’s accept our loss. The other nations will mock us and attack us, but we can take a firm stance against them and use the coming battles to prove this loss is a thing of the past.”

Takenaka continued before Koroku could say anything.

Kuro-Take: “And that might not mean Sekigahara or Komaki Nagakute. You had it rising in my throat, Musashi, but I managed to swallow it back down.”

And…

Kuro-Take: “Thank you, Hachisuka-san.”

6: “Huh? For what?”

Kuro-Take: “I sometimes forget about people like you. No, I always forget. So let’s see how far we can take this. Let’s step into their trap and see what happens.”


Masazumi watched her negotiating partner.

With the double inherited names of Takenaka Hanbei and Kuroda Kanbei, she could handle both politics and negotiations. She had to have been making a lot of the behind-the-scenes decisions this whole time.

She was now facing Masazumi from atop the Azuchi while it underwent repairs in Kantou.

“––––”

She brushed her hair back and then sent the same hand forward.

Immediately, several lernen figurs appeared below her hands and on either side of her. They formed a line that split into several lines which continued to split, spin, trade lernen figurs, and otherwise remain in constant motion.

“Let’s get started, shall we?” Takenaka was not even looking at Masazumi. Her eyes were moving between all the lernen figurs spread out on either side of her. “A trap is much easier to deal with when you know what it is when you trigger it.”

Hearing that, Horizon looked to Masazumi and held a hand up next to her mouth to whisper.

“Masazumi-sama, Masazumi-sama. She noticed your trap. What’s Plan B!?”

“Failure? Failure?” asked the black algae.

Why do they all expect so much from me?


Takenaka readied herself.

Now, then.

Based on the information reaching her, Musashi was surprisingly cut off from Kantou.

It made sense. After Mikawa, they had gone to Kantou for the Battle of Mikatagahara, but only because they were driven north by the Azuchi’s attack.

They had stayed in Mito and its vicinity.

They had no real connections with Edo, Satomi, or the other nations near the center of Kantou.

That was why they had used the Keichou Campaign to enter Kantou as liberators and used that to become the major power there. It was a fairly natural progression since it corresponded to the history recreation of the Matsudaira clan, but it still meant their connections to Kantou were weak.

That was a relief for one major reason.

I highly doubt they’re working with the Kantou nations behind the scenes here.

If anything, they might have connections with Satomi or the scattered remnants of Houjou. There was Mito too…but that was too far away and it would mean leaving Kantou anyway.

In that case, thought Takenaka just before noticing something.

“–––––––”

Next to her, Ankokuji had finally ended his infernal shouting. Instead, he was sitting cross-legged, writing something on a lernen figur.

She nodded after seeing what he was writing.

“Hashiba-kun, I’m not the best speaker, so I’ll just come out and say it.”

“Y-yes!? Testament! What is it!?”

“Testament. This has trap written all over it, so I will figure out what we can do if Musashi does manage to return to Kansai.”

But…

“I will also earn us as many wins as I can manage, so keep your hopes up.”


“Let me get this straight.”

Masazumi listened to Takenaka.

“You’re saying the Musashi will watch the Azuchi return to P.A. Oda once repairs are complete?”

“That is what it would mean, yes,” she confirmed.

She had the PR sign frame set at perfect height for her seated position, but Horizon respectfully held out a cushion.

“Please, use this. Sit on it.”

“Wouldn’t that push me up a little too high?”

Well, I can move my legs out from under, she concluded and did so.

“We will be facing north to be as nonthreatening as possible. I mean, we can’t face south since that would look like the Musashi was mooning you as you left. …Is that a problem?”

“It is.”

Oh? she thought.

Her demand was blatantly ridiculous. You could come up with any reason you wanted for why a specific direction was good or bad, so she could come up with a comeback for whatever this complaint was.

Whether I do so or not is a different issue.

But she was curious.

What reason had the inheritor of the Takenaka and Kuroda names found for demanding the Musashi change directions?

“What is this problem?”

“Testament.” Takenaka responded calmly. “I have aichmophobia, so I can’t bear to see the Musashi’s pointy bows sticking out toward me.”


AnG: “Are you kidding me?”

Kimee: “Takenaka, I promise I won’t get mad, so just tell me why you said that.”

6: “You vomit no matter what you see.”

Kuro-Take: “I-I was only trying to stoop to their level!”


Oh, no!

Masazumi sensed danger.

Vice President: “Sorry. I let them get a good hit in there.”

Unturning: “Can’t you just ignore that?”

Silver Wolf: “Not when we were the ones to ask what the problem was.”

10ZO: “Masazumi-dono gave a stupid reason, but she failed to account for how that legitimatizes any stupid reason they provide in return.”

Masazumi hesitantly looked to the side.

The idiot, the idiot sister, and the arms were bending themselves into an S-shape and then pointing her way with both hands.

Damn them!

But the meeting had already begun, so she had to ignore them.

Still, this is legitimately bad.

They had answered her stupid reason with a stupid reason of their own.

That aichmophobia had to be something Takenaka thought up on the spot. Besides…

“Can’t you go belowdecks while passing in front of the Musashi?”

“I’m part of the ship’s command crew, so I have to be looking out from the bridge when so close to a ship like the Musashi.”

That answer came immediately and it was probably true. Then someone descended from the top of the screen.

“Take!”

Their Schwarz Hexen alighted on the deck.

Masazumi appreciated how their fighters narrowed their eyes at this, but the Schwarz Hexen held a hand out toward Takenaka.

“Look, a fork from the dining hall.”

“Yikes, it’s so pointy! Ero ero ero ero.”

Takenaka spent around 10 seconds facing away from the camera before turning back around.

“See? Aichmophobia.”

“How do you ever eat in the dining hall?” asked Masazumi.

“Testament.” Takenaka nodded. “I always eat at home.”


6: “Hey.”

Kuro-Take: “Just roll with it!”

6: “You shouldn’t lie.”

Kuro-Take: “I’m putting in an effort here so the rest of you don’t have to lie! So don’t let it bother you.”

AnG: “Pretty sure they aren’t buying it, though.”


“Now,” Masazumi heard Takenaka say. “Since the Musashi’s bows would hinder the Azuchi’s departure, please point them the other way when we pass by.”

“Unfortunately, we can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

Masazumi looked to the others.

Vice President: “Why not?”

Almost Everyone: “Think before you speak!!”

They all started to panic, but Horizon raised a hand.

Horizey: “Letting them stare at the Musashi’s ass would be humiliating for ‘Musashi’-sama.”

Musashi: “It does not bother me. And ‘Okutama’, ‘Takao’, and ‘Oume’ feel the same way. Don’t you? Over.”

Rear Ships: “A-absolutely… Over.”

That idea was immediately rejected and the rejection forcibly verified.

Asama raised her hand next.

Asama: “How about you tell them the Musashi’s spell barrier is weaker in the back, so it would leave us vulnerable?”

Vice President: “No, that would establish that the Musashi is so weak it has to let them pass by in front, which would give an entirely different reason for us watching them as they leave.”

Silver Wolf: “There is a large yakiniku place on the stern, so couldn’t we say we’re watching them leave while throwing a party?”

Vice President: “What am I even supposed to say to that one?”

Balfette waved her hands side to side.

Flat Vassal: “But they could just call our bluff and say ‘bring it on’!”

Me: “Eh!? So if I say I’ll be standing on the stern doing some nude milk-drinking, they’d tell us to ‘bring it on’, Seijun!?”

Vice President: “Don’t just assume I’ll answer every stupid question you give me!”

But this had helped her organize her thoughts, so she knew what her next move was.

“Okay.” She raised her right hand and spoke to Takenaka. “This all a huge pain, so I think we’ll leave Houjou and head there now.”


Eh? thought Takenaka.

Umm, she added.

That’s really bad!

I can’t let that happen. Because…

6: “Hey.”

AnG: “See?”

Kimee: “Yup.”

They were all conversing in monosyllables now, but she knew why.

The Boy: “Um…what happens if the Musashi comes here?”

Kimee: “That’s simple: the Musashi gets to watch us up close while the Azuchi is repaired, which is way worse than having them watch us leave. I mean, it’s basically the same thing but for an extended period of time.”

AnG: “Where did we screw up this time?”

Kuro-Take: “W-well, um, I thought we were winning after using that silly excuse to keep them from facing north.”

No one said anything for a full five seconds after that. And finally…

AnG: “Takenaka, are you actually a terrible negotiator?”

Kimee: “You should probably come clean about that sooner rather than later. Everyone’s bad at some things and I’m starting to wonder why we thought a shut-in like you could handle international negotiations. ‘Azuchi’, you should probably start preparing to make an attack on the Musashi.”

Kuro-Take: “Do you have to all insult me like this?”

Anyway, she thought, holding her palm out toward the others.

Kuro-Take: “Don’t worry. I will make up for this.”

AnG: “Ehh? Really? Are you sure?”

You don’t have to give me that look from your ultra-low-altitude flightpath.

At any rate, there was a way to prevent the Musashi from approaching the Azuchi.

“Listen, Musashi. I cannot permit you to enter Kantou and approach the Azuchi.”


Masazumi listened as Takenaka explained why the Musashi could not approach them.

“Because…”

Because…

“If you get close, the Azuchi will explode.”


6: “Hey.”

Azuchi: “Excuse me, but I do not like the sound of, um…over.”

Kuro-Take: “Give me a second! I’m not done!”

The Boy: “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”


Masazumi looked to the others and they glared back at her.

“T-to be clear, this isn’t my fault!”

“Crossdressing Honda-kun, you were the one that led us to this point. And what is your response to their threatened explosion?”

“What would your response be, Neshinbara?”

“Heh.” Neshinbara pushed up his glasses and swept his hand forward. “Looks like it’s my time to shine.”


Art-Ga: “Welp, we’re all screwed.”

Gold Mar: “Like in your doujinshis?”

10ZO: “Hopefully, she’s being more metaphorical here.”’

Novice: “Sh-shut up! The point is I excel at this type of bullshittery, so let me handle it.”


Neshinbara raised a hand and took Masazumi’s place on the deck.

“I am Secretary Neshinbara. This talk of exploding suggests you are in serious danger.”

He was speaking with Takenaka, a name inheritor. In fact, she was a double name inheritor who also held the name of Kuroda Kanbei.

“Might I have your autograph?”

“Huh?”

“No, um, just speaking to myself. It slipped out.”

Everyone was glaring at him from behind the sign frame, but he could not imagine why. Did they not want this famous person’s autograph? Such a ridiculous notion. But anyway…

“You say the Azuchi will explode if the Musashi approaches?”

“Testament! The whole thing will go kaboom! Do you have any idea how much damage that would cause?”

“I do indeed,” said Neshinbara. “The entire Far East would be obliterated, would it not?”


Takenaka gasped.

Her very first thought after hearing their Secretary’s question was: Are you crazy!?

As large as the Azuchi was, its explosion could never obliterate the entire Far East.

“N-no, it wouldn’t be quite that devastating!”

“It wouldn’t!? Then why all the fuss!?”

Could that boy only think in extremes – peace or utter destruction – and nothing in between?

Kimee: “Doesn’t he remind you of Lord Motonobu from the Mikawa footage?”

AnG: “Yeah, he’s just like him.”

He really is, thought Takenaka.

Just then, he struck a pose with his right hand raised to cover his face.

“Now I get it! The explosion itself will be smaller.” He laughed. “But the Dark Energy of the blast will produce Hell Contamination, won’t it? And then we can kiss the Far East goodbye!”


I see, thought Neshinbara.

“Yes, you must be carrying some of those dragon line reactors, so if our approach causes you to explode, the entire Far East would be contaminated! This is indeed a crisis!!”

“Hey.”

“Yes, Crossdressing Honda-kun?”

“Why would the Azuchi explode when the Musashi approaches?”

She glared at him, but he shrugged.

“You don’t get it?” He laughed once. “The spell barrier protecting the Musashi has been in top form of late, but the Azuchi will of course have a similar spell barrier, but it will currently be weakened while they undergo repairs.”

Four Eyes: “You just used ‘but’ twice in the same sentence.”

Shut up, I’m trying to explain. You can send me editorial notes later, he thought before opening his mouth to continue.

“Listen. We are both large aerial ships, so interference between our spell barriers is bound to cause some damage. The Musashi has a major advantage at present, so the Azuchi will take the brunt of that damage and all 18 of the dragon line reactors it is secretly carrying will explode.”

Which means…

“Which means we cannot let the Musashi approach them.”


AnG: “Do we really have 18 of them?”

Kimee: “If we did, I bet we could conquer the Far East with them alone.”

Kuro-Take: “W-well, if it will keep them away, I say we let them go on thinking that.”


Wise Sister: “Asama, how is the spell barrier doing?”

Asama: “Um, there will always be interference when battling a hostile force, but otherwise, we set it to avoid interference because we don’t want any of the gods running into it. We couldn’t trade with other nations otherwise. Yes.”

Horizey: “Ouch, a critical flaw was just found in Neshinbara-sama’s premise. How will he ever recover?”

Novice: “Th-that isn’t a flaw! The accidental interference is only a problem because the Azuchi is not operating at 100% while undergoing repairs, so, uh, the interference avoidance mentioned by Asama-kun does not apply here!”

Asama: “But, um, that isn’t at all how it works. Now, this is hard to explain without getting into the weeds of spell field operation, but I’ll do my best.”

Silver Wolf: “Tomo! Tomo! Tearing apart the Secretary’s premise destroys our negotiating position!”


Takenaka was glad Musashi had said themselves they could not approach.

She recorded that statement and nodded. She kept her eyes on the lernen figurs to her left and right while speaking with the Musashi Secretary.

“To repeat, the Azuchi will explode if the Musashi approaches, so we would appreciate it if you stayed away.”

“You can’t eject the reactors somewhere?”

“No, trying to move them like that would cause them to explode.”

Kimee: “It’s a sad sight when someone loses all shame.”

Shut up. But the conclusion here was obvious.

“To sum up, the Azuchi cannot move from this spot. Due to the danger and all.”

“Judge. I understand completely.”

Ohh, thought Takenaka. Musashi is actually going along with it.

“Are you saying the Musashi will stay where it is?”

“That is the plan, yes.” Their Secretary laughed and brushed a hand through his bangs, but the adlibbed movement was awkward and unpracticed. “But you are in luck.”

“What?”

“Listen.” He entirely ignored her confusion. “The Musashi has an emergency response fleet known as the External Seventh Fleet. Its crew has been trained to handle dragon line reactor crises.”

So…

“We will send the Seventh Fleet your way to save the Azuchi.”


Chapter 32: Speaker at an Indirect Location[edit]

Horizon8B 125.png

What do I do when this happens?

What should I do?

I don’t know what to do

When the irritation hits me all at once

Point Allocation (Yes, you do)


Takenaka glanced down.

Hashiba was there, looking over her shoulder and waving a hand side to side.

That meant “don’t”. It was true the Seventh Fleet bluff was entirely unnecessary. Not that that stopped Musashi’s Secretary.

“Ha ha ha. The Seventh Fleet is skilled indeed. Every single member is an expert in special combat. We have finished analyzing the design of your dragon line reactors, so we know how to keep them from exploding.”

“No, we don’t need your help.”

“The Seventh Fleet is primarily composed of Europeans. It all began when the people pushed out of their own countries moved to Musashi and formed a night watch using the knowledge they brought from their warrior training in their homelands.”

Takenaka tilted her head once before responding.

“Um, if you send something like that, we would refuse to let them board.”

“Would you?” he said, opening a sign frame. “The Seventh Fleet’s flagship is named Freedom. Pretty cool, isn’t it?”


Asama saw Horizon slap Toori out of the blue.

“Owwww! What was that for, Horizon!? Did I make a joke without noticing!?”

“No, Neshinbara-sama’s performance here irritated me so much I could not help myself.”

Asama sort of understood what she meant. But…

Asama: “Do we have a Seventh Fleet, Masazumi?”

Vice President: “…”

Horizey: “Yayyyy! When did we obtain such a top-secret fleet, Masazumi-sama? I am truly impressed that you managed to pull this off behind the scenes!”

Me: “And we’ve figured out how their dragon line reactors work too!? That’s so cool, Seijun!”

Art-Ga: “You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you?”

Masazumi looked to the southern sky, which turned her back to the others.

Vice President: “You could say he is performing beyond my wildest expectations.”


“Now,” said Neshinbara. “The Seventh Fleet is ready to go. It carries 742 warriors, all of which I can send in at a moment’s notice. Quite a few of them are originally from your nation, you know?”

He displayed a certain image. It was a reference photo taken from Sanuki a few days ago. He had searched out the best time of day for a low angle shot and he had used an extreme wide-angle lens to show off the long row of ships. The sun shined bright from behind them, but that just gave it some flavor.

“Now, they will board your ship and take control of your dragon line reactor and engines. Are you willing to accept our help, Hashiba?”


Kimee: “He’s obviously bluffing. That’s an amateur photo of some ordinary transport ships taken with the sun shining in from behind them. Correct for the brightness of the sun and I bet you’ll see those are the Hexagone Française ships.”

The Boy: “But that might be camouflage. What if it’s true?”

Kimee: “You can’t be timid with someone bluffing. So call his bluff, Takenaka. Tell him to send out this Seventh Fleet of his.”

AnG: “Um, Kime-chan? Time out.”

Majority Rule: “I second the time out.”

Kimee: “What? If we let their bluff scare us, we’ll lose this chance to unbalance them.”

Kuro-Take: “Um, Yoshiaki-san. I agree that this is a bluff. In fact, us blowing up, my aichmophobia, and Musashi’s reason for facing north are all either bluffs or just plain lies. But…”

Kimee: “But what? C’mon, out with it.”

Kuro-Take: “Testament. You are correct that we can’t be timid about his bluff, but right now, we can add another bluff to the pile.”

6: “What do you mean?”

Kuro-Take: “Whoever lets the dream die first is the loser here. So I already know how to respond.”


“Unfortunately,” said Takenaka. “You would not be of much help here.”

Because…

“Our 32 dragon line reactors are all of the new model. Special forces trained to handle the old model would be no help whatsoever.”


Oh? silently rejoiced Neshinbara.

Horizon8B 131.png

She knows how the game is played!

If she had dared him to send in the Seventh Fleet, he would have attached an officer to a randomly thrown together group of warriors, dumped them on a transport ship, and launched it with one of the Musashi’s side catapults.

Novice: “Nenji-kun and Itoken-kun would be the leaders! Gives it a real special forces look, doesn’t it?”

Seeing those two cheerfully crossing a contaminated land to perform heroics would be a wonderful mismatch!

But the enemy had seen that dream coming and moved to stop it.

Vice President: “Hey, Neshinbara?”

Novice: “I know. We have an objective here. If they tell us to show them the Seventh Fleet, we can send volunteers to the Azuchi and eventually conclude that the Azuchi is in no more risk of exploding and the Musashi can safely enter Kantou. Then we can monitor the Azuchi for the rest of its stay. My dreams are big enough to handle bluffs of that level.”

Listen.

Novice: “When you find you can no longer speak of dreams, it does not mean you are living in reality. People throw out the unrealistic things and other things that were not even worth throwing out. They think that is a sign of maturity, but the supposed reality they gain from it is no more than another dream they have decided to call ‘reality’. And for some reason, the people in that dreamed reality end up holding onto the most boring of the unrealistic things.”

That’s right.

Novice: “You have guts trying to crush my Seventh Fleet. But I happen to be even stronger than that.”

He spoke. He explained. He pontificated.

“You are using a new model of dragon line reactor? Lucky for you, enough information on them has leaked to us that we have already analyzed their design. …Now, launch the Seventh Fleet.”


I see, thought Ookubo.

She sighed inside a wall-less teahouse with Kanou and the Reine des Garous accompanying her.

Kanou had placed a bamboo glass of ice water and a full teacup next to Ookubo. Instead of chugging the ice water, she would only take the occasional sip while primarily drinking the tea. That helped her produce cooling sweat, refreshing her. Whether she left some tea or ice water until the end depended on her mood that day and she enjoyed having the choice.

“It’s pretty nice.”

“I am glad you enjoy it. …But what is with this bizarre exchange of bluffs?”

“You could say he has found something he is uniquely qualified for.”

Up to this point, the conversation had felt like a childish argument or like an exchange of fighting words, but…

“They’re using the bluffs to discuss and negotiate the facts they have no way of checking up on.”

Mouri Liaison Ankokuji Ekei had used a similar technique by not revealing all the conditions until later.

“You state something only you can know the truth of and have it act as a ‘fact’ for the other side.”

They could always demand proof, but that proof could also be fabricated.

And at the moment, the Azuchi was a black box for them. They did not know what it was like inside or what secrets it carried.

If Hashiba used the Azuchi’s internal state as a shield, they had no way to disprove it.

So they had sent out the Secretary.

Hashiba had used an alleged fact about the Azuchi to stop them, so they used an alleged fact about the Musashi to negotiate.

The discussion itself sounded absurd, but it was actually getting back to the basics.

How would they get the Musashi into Kantou? And how would they stop their opponent’s bluff?

Those were the only real things under discussion.

Hashiba could call their bluff, but that might be a trap. That was exactly what the Secretary had tried to do. He had set up the Seventh Fleet as a ridiculous bluff for Hashiba to call, but Takenaka had prevented that by making a new bluff of her own. So the Secretary had course corrected by sending another bluff back to Takenaka.

I could never do this.

She could use bluffs during negotiations, but she made sure they could not be identified as such. She could never throw out one adlibbed bluff after another, each more blatant than the last. The rational part of her would stop her.

The scariest part was Takenaka. This could not have been her original negotiating style, so she must have figured out how it works on the fly and chosen to use it herself. And…

“From a rational perspective, the Secretary just made a major attack.”


He’s going in for the attack, thought Takenaka.

He just claimed to have some of our top secret information.

It was an excellent example of an unprovable lie because she had invented the supposedly top secret information as her own bluff.

It was all a lie.

There was no such thing as a new model of dragon line reactor.

That meant Musashi could not have information on it. It was impossible.

So, thought Takenaka.

What do I do about it?

She could easily overturn his claim by revealing it was all a lie.

But she had a concern.

Part of her wondered if there was more to this.

Meanwhile, he made a flourish of his right hand.

“I get the feeling you doubt my claim.”

A photo appeared on the divine transmission screen.

It showed a piece of parchment with a series of numbers written on multiple lines.

“This is the coded document containing our analysis of your new model of dragon line reactor.”


When Neshinbara swept his right hand outside of the camera’s view and snapped his fingers, Tenzou took it as his cue.

Even if the boy failed to actually snap the fingers, producing only an odd sound of struck skin.

Tenzou carefully watched the image of Hashiba and Takenaka on the screen.

How will they react!

What Neshinbara had shown them was not analysis of a new model of dragon line reactor.

It was Carlos I’s coded letter brought to them by Christina.

They had all guessed it contained something related to the secret of the Princess. And Neshinbara was in charge of deciphering it.

But there was one reason for concern.

The Princess incident has some connection to Akechi Mitsuhide!

Akechi was a powerful member of P.A. Oda. As was Hashiba. So…

“––––”

Tenzou saw Hashiba’s jaw clench and Takenaka’s eyes briefly freeze in place.


They moved!

Suzu used the Musashino bridge’s assistance to monitor to the audio from the divine transmission sign frame.

When Neshinbara had shown them the letter…

Bell: “They…moved.”

Hashiba and Takenaka had responded with some obvious motion before catching themselves.

Neshinbara had used some supposedly impossible information – not even worth dignifying with a response – to confirm something.


Asama thought to herself while using eye contact to warn the others not to do anything.

This means they know about the letter.

What did that mean? She asked the first question on her mind.

Asama: “They shouldn’t know what it says, right?”

Vice President: “Judge. The letter was sent from the Prince of Orange to Sweden Chancellor Christina. The Prince of Orange was Chancellor of Protestant Holland and he was anti-M.H.R.R. What happened from there was up to Christina, but knowing how strict she is with information, I doubt she would have revealed it to anyone else.”

Then what did this mean? Asama voiced her guess out loud.

Asama: “Does Hashiba know that Carlos I and the others used this sort of coded message to discuss the Princess Disappearances?”

There was a brief pause before she received a response.

Masazumi needed time to think, but only a few seconds.

Vice President: “It means Hashiba knows a fair amount about the Princess Disappearances and the other mysteries we have been pursuing.”

Asama nodded as she recalled a few things that had happened.

Come to think of it…

Someone else responded instead of her.

Tonbokiri: “When we made our way below Novgorod it was Fukushima-dono of the Ten Spears who stood in our way.”

Asama: “And it was Hirano What’s-Her-Name who sniped Celestial Dragon Sasuke in the Sanada ruins when he was about to tell us something about the Ten Spears.”

They all may have had an example in mind. But for now…

Vice President: “Well done, Neshinbara.”

But…

Vice President: “How do you plan to get us out of this mess?”


Novice: “Wh-why would you even think of dragging me back to reality, Crossdressing Honda-kun!? Ha ha…ha ha ha! I nearly plummeted back to boring-old reality! But never fear! I am about to launch the Seventh Fleet! I can see it! I can see my fleet!”

Unturning: “Do we really need him to come back?”

Art-Ga: “By the way, did you ever finish your manuscript? The receptionist keeps asking and it’s honestly pretty annoying, so hurry it up.”

Novice: “Noooooooooo! My white wings!”


Takenaka paused to think.

What do we do about this?

That letter had to be one of the ones Carlos I’s group used to communicate.

She knew they existed and had even seen a few of them, but this meant they had one.

Kimee: “I saved a snapshot of what he showed us. I should have it deciphered in no time.”

“But,” added Yoshiaki.

Kimee: “Do you think they’ve deciphered it?”

Kuro-Take: “That’s the big question.”

Takenaka continued thinking as she replied to Yoshiaki.

Kuro-Take: “Whether they can read it or not, this is meant to reveal whether or not we knew about the letters. What it says and if they can read it are a separate issue.”

So…

Kuro-Take: “This is yet one more thing to be cautious about.”

Takenaka sighed just as the other side resumed speaking.

“Now, if you have no objections, it is time you authorized our Seventh Fleet’s approach.”


God, what a pain, thought Angie.

The enemy claimed that coded message was an analysis of their “new model of dragon line reactors”. Claiming otherwise would be difficult. By his claim, Musashi had written the text, so they would be the experts on what it says.

But Angie heard Takenaka breathe in and respond.

“Unfortunately for you, that coded text is a misunderstanding.”

Because…

“That is a dummy code you stole from us. It is nothing more than a marzipan recipe. That is why I can read it. The part that I could see was talking about the best ratio of almond meal and other ingredients. What idiots did you have steal that without even checking to make sure it had anything at all to do with our new model of dragon line reactor?”


Novice: “Kh! She’s digging in her heels! I’m impressed!”

Flat Vassal: “I feel like this has devolved into a battle between two very low-level villains.”

Azuma: “By the way, what is marzipan?”

Horizey: “Originally spelled ‘Mars pan’, it is a special form of punishment where you hit someone so hard with a pan that they fly to Mars.”

Me: “I-I don’t like the way you’re eyeing me and pulling out a frying pan!”

10ZO: “Um, would you care to give the real answer, Mary-dono?”

Scarred: “Judge. Marzipan is a sweet with origins in the Middle East. It is made by mixing almond meal and sugar and thickening them with a bit of egg white, so it tastes a lot like adzuki.”

Gold Mar: “We snack on it during our deliveries. We store it in our coin roll stockers.”

Art-Ga: “When they’re too cheap for white sugar and use brown sugar, it gets really brown, so it looks a lot like it belongs in a toilet when it’s shaped into a stick.”

Horizey: “In other words, Neshinbara-sama has acquired classified poop information.”

Novice: “No! Stop making crap up!”

Vice President: “Hey, what are you actually going to do about this?”


Takenaka noticed her opponent reset from his silence.

I put us on equal footing here!

He claimed the letter was about a new model of dragon line reactor, but he could not prove it.

She claimed the letter was a marzipan recipe, but she could not prove it.

By answering an absurd claim with another absurd claim, they were now binding each other with their supposed evidence. Which meant…

We can’t continue this discussion any further!

If either of them tried to say anything more, the other could say they never proved their claim and insist their own claim was correct. So they were both stuck here.

Kuro-Take: “I think I know what’s happened here.”

Takenaka sent their enemy a compromise and a verbal attack all in one.

Kuro-Take: “The odds are admittedly miniscule, but what if that letter happens to be a string of text that ends up as a marzipan recipe when using our code and, by complete coincidence, looks like an analysis of a new model of dragon line reactor when using your code.”

By accepting that, they could forget any of this ever happened.

So she kept going with an argument that would get rid of his Seventh Fleet.

Kuro-Take: “A letter that works under both our codes is one hell of a coincidence, but these things do happen. Of course, since we can read it, you must have taken it from us and our reading is the correct one.”


She’s piling on more absurd claims while simultaneously tearing down the entire conversation!

Masazumi inwardly groaned.

Takenaka had immediately claimed the letter was a marzipan recipe and she claimed she knew so because it belonged to them.

It was a forceful argument, but a consistent one. And Musashi had no way of proving it wrong.

Masazumi was impressed with how forceful and skilled Takenaka was.

That reminded her of Takenaka’s Urban Name: High Damage, High Return.

This would indeed damage everything they had set up so far while providing a decent return for Hashiba. Because…

Silver Wolf: “This keeps us from using the Seventh Fleet.”

Horizey: “I would prefer to stay out of this conversation, but why is that, Mitotsudaira-sama?”

Silver Wolf: “Judge. Takenaka is saying that the letter is only correct under the assumption that it came from them. That means the Secretary can’t just claim we wrote it. She would tell him to stop lying.”

So to sum up the situation…

Vice President: “Now that we can’t send out the Seventh Fleet to control the dragon line reactors, we can’t touch the dragon line reactor issue. That means the Musashi can’t approach the Azuchi and we can’t enter Kantou.”

In other words…

Unturning: “The Secretary’s negotiations were a failure?”

Everyone fell silent and turned to look at Neshinbara.

Vice President: “Hey.”

Horizey: “Is it udon time for Neshinbara-sama?”

Asama: “N-no, divine punishments aren’t given that easily. Besides, this was a part of his official duties, so as much as I hate to disappoint you all, his failed negotiation does not qualify as a sin, even if it was a loss for Musashi.”

Novice: “What do you mean that’s a disappointment!?”

Then what are you going to do about it? they all asked him with their eyes.

He pointed his right hand skyward and shook his head once.

Novice: “You leave me little choice.”

He typed his response out on the divine network.

Novice: “I will use my trump card.”


Good, thought Takenaka. I’ve managed to defend us and give us some time to safely think.

She had brought an end to the absurd claims arms race. So…

“I think I have a solution for us.”

The Azuchi’s repairs would continue and they would return to P.A. Oda as soon as possible. And when they did…

“How about the Musashi enters Kantou just as we are leaving?”

While they traveled west toward P.A. Oda, the Musashi could turn left and begin moving in. That would at least present them as equals, not a winner and a loser. However…

“Wait.” Musashi’s Secretary gave a flourish of his right hand. “I apologize, but the Seventh Fleet is already on the way there.”


“Huh?”

Takenaka froze.

She thought she had brought an end to his absurd claims. She thought she had ended them in a way that gave her the advantage. So…

What is this!? What does he mean they’re already on the way!?

AnG: “Did you outplay him so badly he went insane?”

Kimee: “I’m glad I’m not in Takenaka’s position.”

Takenaka hated to admit it, but she wished she wasn’t either. Also, Hashiba glanced over at her.

“Um, uh…this is an international negotiation, isn’t it?”

“Testament. It unfortunately is.”

She could feel the urge to ero growing inside her, but she had to suppress it for now. She had a question to ask, so she inhaled and waited until she felt calmer before speaking.

“What do you mean they’re already on the way?”

“Judge.” He pushed up his glasses. “I thought this might happen, so I sent the elites of the Seventh Fleet on ahead. They should have just arrived on the western end of the Miura Peninsula in stealth cruising,” he said. “Which means the situation has been developing the entire time we hold this meaningless conversation, Takenaka Hanbei. Surely you will let them onboard before the dragon line reactors put the Azuchi in any more danger.”


Scarred: “Master Tenzou, when did we do that!? This sounds serious!”

10ZO: “Mary-dono, can you call in a spirit that identifies the biggest idiot present? That should explain a lot about what is happening here.”

Vice President: “Do you even have a plan?”

Novice: “Heh. She’s about to find out what happens when you try to destroy my Seventh Fleet!”


He’s turned this into a game of chicken, thought Takenaka.

She had never imagined anyone would be stupid enough to take a bluff this far.

The Boy: “Um, what is even happening anymore?”

Kimee: “We’re stuck in a real pain-in-the-ass situation. We have a fake ‘enemy fleet’ approaching us and we can’t prove it isn’t real.”

What did that mean?

Kuro-Take: “If we announce our acceptance, it means the Azuchi is so weak it needed Musashi’s help. It might look like a sign of friendship, but we would be indicating that they are the masters of Kantou.”

The Boy: “And if we refuse?”

Kuro-Take: “People could question the Azuchi’s abilities for allowing a stealthed enemy fleet to approach.”

“So if you ask me,” said Takenaka. “Bring it on.”

High Damage, High Return.

She would go along with it. She would see it through to the end.

“Stop your approaching fleet. If you do not…”

She raised her right hand.

“We will aim all movable cannons toward the Musashi and activate our spell barrier and defense barriers. We will then proceed to eliminate that fleet. Are you sure you want that?”


Well played! thought Neshinbara.

It’s been a while since I found someone who could “see it” this well!

If she was an author, they could create a virtual document based on this imaginary collaboration.

After all, she was preparing an actual aerial ship’s cannons to respond to a threat from the imaginary Seventh Fleet.

Impressive, he thought.


What is wrong with you!? thought Masazumi.

Has his sickness really gotten this bad?

If the other side got fed up with it, they might actually start firing in the middle of the negotiations.

After all, they were preparing an actual aerial ship’s cannons to respond to a threat from some imaginary fleet.

I sense a war brewing, thought Masazumi.


Mitotsudaira notice something in the silence that had fallen over them.

Oh?

Whatever Neshinbara was blathering about appeared to have led the Azuchi to prepare for battle.

She wished she could have followed along, but nothing they were saying made any sense to her. However…

Righteousness: “Hey! Wait! Why is the Azuchi aiming its cannons this way!?”

Me: “Huh? Flatty, you’re not with us?”

Righteousness: “What’s wrong with spending summer break back home!? And Righteousness isn’t fixed yet!”

Me: “Then your summer research project can be measuring the power of the Azuchi’s cannons.”

Righteousness: “Damn you!!”

Vice President: “Technically speaking, their cannons are aimed at us, not Satomi. The angle makes it hard to tell, though.”

I’m impressed she is willing to get involved, Mitotsudaira thought, regarding that underclassman.

This is dangerous.

This negotiation was making people worried.

But not anyone directly involved like Neshinbara and Takenaka. The people outside of Musashi and Hashiba were sensing the rapidly growing threat.

So Mitotsudaira quickly spoke up.

“Masazumi!”

“Judge.” Masazumi nodded. “I forgot to mention it, but the outcome of this will be determined by a vote held during the current meeting between Musashi and Hashiba. Do not forget that, Hashiba.”


“Damn, and that was the perfect timing too.”

Someone clicked their tongue in the sky with the Azuchi on the left and the Musashi on the right.

It was Mouri Terumoto.

She had her hands on her hips atop the Pension Versailles, which had landed on the western slope of the Miura Peninsula. That pose kept her shoulders from drooping, but she did sigh.

“I was so hoping to condescendingly tell them to calm down and bring this all to an end. That way I could show everyone that Mouri was the top dog here.”

“You waited a little too long, princess.”

“Not like I had a choice.” Terumoto cracked her neck. “I couldn’t deal with such a dumb debate even if I did try to step in there. That’s why I was waiting for it to die down before I made my move.”

“Will you force your way in now?” asked Mouri-01, carrying a glass of barley tea on a tray.

Terumoto grabbed the glass, took a sip, and waited a few seconds before swallowing.

“They’re too cautious right now. And I’m sure they have a countermeasure in place. Besides…”

She began to walk.

She moved to the shade provided by the large oilpaper umbrella set up on the deck and sat on the bench there.

“The real problem is that we don’t know if we can start summer break yet or not.”

But…

“We have a trick up our sleeve too, so now we wait and see how this turns out.”


“So, what will you do, Takenaka Hanbei?”

Neshinbara struck a pose without wiping the sweat from his brow.

The way my messy hair sticks to my forehead and cheek is so cool!

Wise Sister: “Ew, you reek of sweat. PU.”

Horizey: “Neshinbara-sama, would you like a horse enema of highly-concentrated salt water to get your sodium levels back up?”

Worshiper: “I get the feeling he thinks that actually looks cool, so just leave him be.”

Novice: “D-do none of you understand the power of subtle details!?”

At any rate, he had launched his attack.

Takenaka was viewing him through the screen.

She had been looking down towards her hands before, but he finally had her full attention.

Ohh, a major name inheritor is looking at me!

He was sure he could brag about that for half a year at least, but he unfortunately had to focus on his work.

She was an enemy. That left only one thing to say.

“You say you aimed your cannons at my invisible fleet?”

“Why wouldn’t we? You sent it toward us without our permission.”

Is that so?

“Then I know exactly what I must do.”

He struck a pose by swinging his elbow outwards and swinging the hand inwards to brush up his bangs.

“I have set the stage for you, Vice President Honda-kun. This is in your hands now.”


Go to hell!

Masazumi’s clenched fist trembled as she watched Neshinbara step away. But then he swept both hands to the right and turned with a single large swish of his body.

“I was just getting to the good part, but the rules say I have to hand this off to you. Now, Vice President Honda-kun, you are free to manipulate the world as you wish.”

Everyone exchanged a glance while he walked over to Ohiroshiki’s food stand for some water. Including those who were not physically present.

Gold Mar: “He was just getting to the good part? What good part?”

Unturning: “The part where the slightest mistake means war, maybe?”

Nagaya-Stable: “Are you absolutely certain I don’t have the authority to have him executed after that one?”

I would have the authority before you.

But Masazumi took a breath. The negotiation had been passed to her.

They had even prevented Mouri’s intervention. So…

“Takenaka Hanbei,” she said. “Our stealth ships are not stopping. What are you going to do about it?”


Chapter 33: Clue Finder with Solid Footing[edit]

Horizon8B 155.png

It is something you can see

It is something you cannot see

It is something that just works

Point Allocation (A Deal)


Takenaka gasped.

Their Vice President is going along with that nonsense!?

Their cannons were at the ready. Firing could cause the entire situation to explode.

But if they did not fire, Hashiba would be mocked as all talk.

Was it better to trigger an unnecessary conflict, or to be mocked for not firing? Which was the right thing to do?

Could she really sit here and not fire?

The Azuchi was undergoing repairs. Bringing all that tension back to Kantou now would be a foolish mistake. That could trigger new war during summer break and, even if the war did not actually materialize, the Testament Union could still criticize them for it.

But that was not the right thing to do.

The right thing for Hashiba to do was to fire.

They had just lost a battle and the other nations were assessing their new standing. Hashiba had used the history recreation and the Testament Union’s support to gather power, so what would happen to them if they were weakened to the same level as the other nations? Those nations were waiting to see just how weak they now were.

If Hashiba bowed down and begged for mercy, no one would take them seriously again. A single mistake could determine their future. And…

“––––––”

Why did we admit defeat by the time the Azuchi arrived? thought Takenaka.

Kuki could have continued fighting under her command and pulled through in the end, but he had admitted defeat, rendering the Azuchi’s arrival meaningless.

Why had he done that? The answer was obvious.

To avoid any interference in the Honnouji Incident!

They had suffered a major defeat, but they had protected their nation’s crucial history recreation.

High Damage, High Return.

The enemy had liberated Satomi and Kantou, but they had lost any way of intervening in Honnouji.

So. So she had to preserve that. If they were still being forced to evacuate, she knew exactly how to respond.

“Musashi Vice President.” Takenaka pointed toward the Musashi. That meant west and toward the Vice President displayed on the floating lernen figur. “The Azuchi’s cannons are aimed at the Musashi.”


Yoshiyasu heard a rumble.

It came from the sky in the west. A giant shape and some white fog were rising in the ocean sky there.

She viewed it from behind the open-air teahouse they were using as a government office.

“The Azuchi is ascending!”

“She thought this through.” Ookubo had several sign frames open in the teahouse. “The Azuchi’s cannons are aimed at the Musashi, not the imaginary fleet headed their way. Do you know what that says about the imaginary fleet?”

Yoshiyasu thought for a bit before finding the answer. In the negotiators’ imaginations, the invisible fleet was moving from the Musashi to the Azuchi, but if the Azuchi aimed for the Musashi…

“It makes the imaginary fleet an obstacle when aiming at the Musashi?”

“Judge. Ether cannons fire in straight lines, so they will have to pass through the imaginary fleet to reach the Musashi. Which means…”

Ookubo opened a simple map. It provided a sideways view of the Azuchi and Musashi’s relative positions. The imaginary fleet was shown after leaving the Musashi.

“Look. The Azuchi can avoid dealing with the imaginary fleet by saying it’s blocking their shot on the Musashi. That lets them say the Musashi is their primary concern and they won’t bother dealing with a minor nuisance like the imaginary fleet. That makes them look strong.”

“Would they really go to all that trouble when the fleet doesn’t even exist?”

“They would.” Ookubo scratched her head. “Their reputation is on the line here. Also, Kuki and the rest of Hashiba’s eastern group have joined with the Azuchi group and they understand what it took to admit defeat at the Kantou Liberation.”

More deep rumbling came from the sky, like the sea roaring several times at once.

The wind was blowing. The air was sucked toward the ocean as the massive Azuchi’s ascent altered the pressure. They were not even using buffering spells, so the Azuchi scattered its virtual ocean as it rose.

“This resets everything concerning the imaginary fleet, but it sets up a tricky situation.”

“How so?”

“The ball is in Musashi’s court now. Whether or not the Azuchi fires is dependent on whether or not the Musashi approaches.”

In other words…

“If the Musashi enters Kantou, they will fire. And even if the Musashi stays, the Azuchi might decide to fire if the Musashi upsets them in some way.”


Okay, we need to actually make some progress at some point, thought Masazumi.

Hashiba had figuratively drawn their sword to preserve their pride. Provoke them further and they would probably attack with the pride of a powerful nation. But…

Novice: “Vice President Honda-kun! Why would you waste my Seventh Fleet’s efforts!?”

Vice President: “Pretty sure your Seventh Fleet has vanished out into the Pacific by now.”

Novice: “Dammit, how could you!? Do you have any idea how hard that was to set up!? Fine! I just have to create a second and third Seventh Fleet!”

Please don’t. But anyway, it was her turn to respond.

And given this new stance Hashiba had shown…

Good job, Neshinbara.

They could now solve this with more extreme measures and they had revealed the other side’s true position.

Hashiba was willing to fight as a last resort. And…

Vice President: “Hey.”

Me: “Hm? What is it? Feewing wonewy?”

Vice President: “Shut up. …I was just noticing how much of a pain this is. We provoked them and got them to ready their cannons, but Kantou doesn’t have the strength to resolve this on their own yet.”

So…

Vice President: “Becoming the masters of Kantou by ending a fight we started in the first place feels somehow wrong.”


“Why worry about that now?” said Ookubo, her hand on her forehead. She was converting all of Satomi’s receipts from the Hashiba format to the Musashi format. “We left Kantou. So even if the Kantou nations have liberated their land, they have enough wiggle room to claim Musashi hasn’t proven our power. Simply put, they know we helped them, but they don’t have to admit it.”

“So you’re saying,” said Yoshiyasu, pulling a bamboo water bottle from the outdoor icebox. She pulled out another for Tokishige and attached them both to her hip hard points. “Musashi can’t wield its power because they have to stay on friendly terms with the Kantou nations, but those nations can use that to their advantage by claiming Musashi has yet to prove they have what it takes to carry out their future plans?”

“Exactly. So if Musashi encounters danger here, it is still worth suppressing it. We need to show off our strength.”

Ookubo pressed the “work complete” key on her sign frame.

“Milady,” said Kanou, checking over the data next to her. “Why don’t you say this over the divine transmission?”

“Why should I have to help? What kind of politician is she if she can’t figure that much out on her own? There’s more to it than playing at being a villain.”

Just then, the Vice President’s voice came from Musashi’s divine network.

“You know what? Forget all these details.”

Ookubo shattered her sign frame with a fist.


To hell with it, thought Masazumi.

“We just have to deal with this here.”

They would suppress Hashiba.

They would force down the fist Hashiba had raised so they could continue taking over the world.

That would not cause any problems for Kantou. Because…

“Hashiba won’t be returning to Kantou after this,” she said.

It was just like how Hashiba was trying to keep the Musashi out of Kansai by trapping them in Kantou.

“In a few days, the Hashiba forces can never again return to Kantou’s skies.”


Masazumi knew Hashiba had prepared their cannons as a warning to the Kantou nations.

Hashiba had to return to Kansai eventually, so any conflict here would be a temporary thing.

But whether or not that conflict occurred was up to Musashi.

Vice President: “Ookubo, are the Kantou nations protesting the way this is going?”

Nagaya-Stable: “They are, of course. They are protesting the Musashi’s decision to bring danger back to Kantou over such obvious provocation.”

“I see,” said Masazumi. “Judge,” she added.

Vice President: “Then tell them this: the Musashi will visit your clan directly once Hashiba has been driven out.”

Not just a generic “you”, but “your clan” specifically.

Vice President: “As the new master of Kantou, Musashi will respond to your clan’s problems.”


She certainly knows what to say, thought Ookubo while pulling several sign frames in close.

Those frames contained the protests from the other nations. She replied with the Vice President’s words verbatim and attached the Vice President’s seal.

Yoshiyasu peered over her shoulder instead of returning to her post.

“Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?”

“It’s simple.” Ookubo set them to be transmitted simultaneously and readied her hand. “The Kantou nations care a lot about bloodline and inherited land. They will assist each other when necessary, but they will also strike and conquer each other as soon as they see an opening. It seems contradictory, but that is just how they are.”

Someone from Satomi would be even more familiar with that than her. But…

“For so long, they have been fighting each other internally while acting as a single group when dealing with outsiders, but now a ‘master’ has come to Kantou. And that master says they will greet them and help with their problems not as a whole, but as individual clans. Their suspicion of each other will prevent them from doing much of anything.”

No single clan could do anything against Musashi and each clan was facing he same problems.

They’re worried about the national borders and territories that are being determined around this time.

But asking Musashi for help with that would tear apart the connections between the Kantou nations.

They would need to contact each other, get their story straight, and reach a behind-the-scenes agreement.

But that meant nothing if Musashi visited each clan individually.

If any of them decided to go back on the deal, that was the end of it.

“This binds them.”

Ookubo gave the send command.

Was she being sentimental when she felt like this tiny finger movement had determined Kantou’s fate?

They were changing the world with a textual reply, without needing to dirty their hands or go to great effort. Or to put it another way, they had reached a level where they could unintentionally change the world, so…

“We need to be very intentional in our politics. Of course, that’s an oversimplification.” Ookubo watched the sign frames turn to scattering light. The city’s roofs blocked her view of the Musashi far to the west, but she turned that way regardless. “Now, how will you keep the Azuchi from attacking?”


Vice President: “Bertoni, Augesvarer.”

Masazumi addressed those two.

Vice President: “Begin trade negotiations with Kantou’s weaker coastal nations. Hurry.”

Because…

Vice President: “The Kantou nations probably have a treaty creating an alliance and assuring nonaggression based on certain conditions. Now that they’re all suspicious of each other, the larger ones will want to activate that treaty’s effects to ensure they interact with us as an alliance and not individual clans. Simply put, ‘betray us and the rest of the alliance attacks you’.”

That would be a pain. Musashi would have no way of winning them over clan by clan.

Vice President: “So…”

Money Lover: “I understand. You wish to create a new trade agreement between Musashi and those clans.”

Mitotsudaira’s eyebrows rose, showing she understood the implications.

Silver Wolf: “You mean a new agreement superseding their alliance treaty?”

Vice President: “Exactly. You know why, don’t you?”

Money Lover: “This doubles as a land survey for possible bases for the major trade route we will eventually build to connect Oushuu and Jouetsu.”

“Judge,” said Bertoni.

Money Lover: “Wait 14 days, Honda Masazumi.”

Was he saying he would pay back their debt? And…

Money Lover: “I can finally discuss money with you once more.”

Vice President: “All the udon talk wasn’t about money? Oh, and any further crimes stack on top of your old ones.”

Circle Be: “Fine! Fine! Just you watch! Since we’re in Kantou, it might be Musashino udon with its unique texture, but we’ll win in the end! We’ll work as hard as any noodle chef!”

Or you could not. But it did sound like they could create a foothold in Kantou.

Vice President: “Earn us some money.”

With that final command to the Treasurer duo, Masazumi spoke to Hashiba again.

“Let’s chat, Takenaka Hanbei…and Hashiba Toukichirou.”

She had just one thing to say.

“Remove the Azuchi from Kantou. You can complete your repairs while leaving, can’t you? We will provide any supplies you require. Surely you aren’t going to say your ship is immobilized, right?”


Kimee: “She’s coming on strong!”

Even Yoshiaki expressed surprise at the decision she heard from her Magie Figur. She had laughter in her voice because she was honestly impressed.

It was like seeing a well-executed attack.

“Is she mocking us?” asked Angie.

“No,” replied Yoshiaki. “She isn’t backing down even with our cannons aimed their way. She’s telling us to scram, but she’s also offering to assist with our repairs. It’s condescending, but it effectively shows who’s boss here in Kantou.”

So…

“Threats won’t work on her. Showing off our cannons doesn’t even matter now because they’re willing to aim theirs right back at us. It means we’re equals.”

Yoshiaki viewed her Magie Figur with a hand covering the bitter smile on her lips.

“Takenaka, strength alone won’t work here, so what now? How will you lower our readied cannons?”


“She strikes an excellent balance. Making a show of force but not ruling out support.”

Mogami Yoshiaki sighed atop the bridge-shaped bridge of Musashi’s 1st central ship.

The bridge was still being repaired after the damage it took during the exam. Most ships had been stopped for the important meeting today, but construction boats were still coming and going. The gods of war were working on the front end, so an entire wide block of the business district had been placed there to provide its services.

Yoshiaki was at an open-air teahouse near the center of that and she was accompanied by someone else.

“The Far East’s eastern side is especially hot in the summer.” The Reine de Garous wore a track suit with two cooling charms hanging from her neck. “At least I managed to finish removing the sections I damaged.”

“Hard to believe I played ping-pong with someone who could do that.”

Yoshiaki realized anew just how ridiculous she was herself, but that was part of the reason Musashi was even here.

This place is even more comfortable and dangerous than I thought.

She did not find Mogami uncomfortable just because it snowed there even in the summer, but it was still nice to be further south where the summers were hot and sunny.

“If only Mogami was like this.”

“Isn’t that the point of the trade route?”

“Testament,” she confirmed. So this queen knows all about that, does she?

Well, from a global perspective, they’re the big city.

At the counter, Yoshiaki ordered some ice water and some yuzu to squeeze into it.

“Do you need anything more?”

“Just some honey to go with it.”

“Very well.” Yoshiaki nodded. “We can reach each other by air, but not by land.”

“If everyone could reach you by land, they would bring war with them.”

“Which is why I want a stable world.”

This was the perfect chance for that. Her generation had lost so much, but…

We can open up Mogami by land.

So she spoke.

Nine-Tail Fox: “Musashi, come to me if your trade negotiations with Kantou are denied because of summer break. I have connections with those clans and I am allied with you. Also…”

Yes, there was one thing foxes did far better than the wolf before her.

“What is that look for?” asked the Reine des Garous.

“We foxes are nothing but trouble.”

So she continued speaking.

Nine-Tail Fox: “If the Testament Union takes issue, tell them you were tricked by Mogami’s fox. They might try something, but Mogami is out of their reach as long as you deal with Hashiba.”


That is some impressive covering fire, thought Masazumi, feeling a cold sweat in her mind.

Takenaka Hanbei viewed her quietly, but occasionally glanced to the sides or down.

Takenaka had several lernen figurs covered in various data opened there. She would draw out the relevant data, line it up, and repeat the process to refine her decisions.

What did that mean exactly?

She does not base everything on a set conclusion. Everything is in constant flux and she works toward whatever answer appears best at any given moment.

Her answers were not conclusions. She might find an answer, but she would continue to gather information, refine it, and search out other paths.

She would improve her fluctuating thoughts to improve her fluctuating answer.

That meant she had infinite decisions to choose from and could choose one near instantly.

Nagaya-Stable: “Vice President, you know how to stop her, don’t you?”

Novice: “Be careful! This is the person who managed to stop my Seventh Fleet!”

Shut up.

But there were a few ways to stop Takenaka’s ever-changing answers. For example…

Vice President: “I could provide my own conclusion and end the discussion there.”

That was simple enough to do. However…

Horizey: “Is your conclusion war!? It is, isn’t it!?”

Vice President: “I knew one of you was going to suggest that!”

“Listen,” she began.

Vice President: “I don’t really have to provide a conclusion myself. After all, providing an answer usually means taking responsibility for it. It’s also easier to be judged for it, which can cause problems in later negotiations.”

Flat Vassal: “But what other option is there?”

Silver Wolf: “She could press her opponent to reach a conclusion.”

Exactly.

Masazumi had made her first move toward that earlier.

By showing that “force” would not work on her, she had unilaterally shown some common ground.

The Azuchi only had to leave Kantou. Since she had made the decision, it was the Azuchi’s responsibility if they chose not to do so.

Hashiba was forced to choose one of two conclusions: leave or stay. So…

Vice President: “Once Hashiba chooses whether they will leave or stay in Kantou, I only have to provide further options for them. If they choose to leave, we can decide where to position the Musashi. And if they choose to stay – this is much more dangerous, but we can decide what to do about that.”

But…

Vice President: “I have offered support and shown a willingness to find common ground. Whatever happens now, I should be able to use that to justify our actions.”

Just then, a response came without warning.

“Musashi Vice President.” Hashiba had their answer. “The Azuchi cannot leave Kantou.”


Horizey: “Masterfully played, Masazumi-sama. You maneuvered us into war so smoothly I barely noticed!”

Vice President: “Not yet, I haven’t. Besides, they still have some choices to make.”

Art-Ga: “What kind of choices? Like a rapid assault versus a war of attrition?”


Takenaka sighed. They had finally arrived at the main issue.

“For one thing, we still have business to attend to here in Kantou.”

Such as…

“We were planning to work with Mouri here to finalize our withdrawal to end the Keichou Campaign.”

Takenaka saw someone nod next to her.

Ankokuji Ekei kneeled and bowed before her.

“Please do!”

She understood completely. This was the best plan for a genuine Mouri servant.

He had set this up himself.

A moment ago, he had shown her some text on a lernen figur.

He wanted to know what we would do about Bitchu Takamatsu Castle’s reconciliation.

They could do that here since Mouri was in Kantou.

That would give Hashiba a connection with Mouri while here.

That allows Mouri to intervene in our discussion with Musashi.

They had eliminated Mouri from the discussion earlier, but this new condition brought Mouri back in.

Takenaka paused for a breath to help focus herself.

“According to the Testament, Mouri Terumoto served as the Keichou Campaign’s rear guard without crossing the ocean. That means it is within acceptable bounds for Mouri to be here.”

Needless to say, that was one hell of an interpretation. But it was worth calling it “within acceptable bounds”.

We must capture Mouri here.

Why? Because it would allow the Azuchi to remain in Kantou, but aside from that…

“Finalizing the conclusion to the Keichou Campaign gives Hashiba a connection to Mouri.”

And…

“We will use those negotiations to ask for Mouri’s assistance at Sekigahara.”


Yoshiaki heard an “oh?” from the Reine des Garous.

“That could be trouble. Is she trying to force us to oppose Musashi?”

“What will you do then?” Yoshiaki watched the Reine des Garous squeeze a yuzu while keeping it away from the porcelain tumbler. “Takenaka effectively just said it was Mouri, not Musashi, who liberated Kantou. That would mean Musashi is not the master of Kantou.”

“More of that trouble I mentioned,” agreed the Reine des Garous. “The Kantou nations could not ask for better support from Hashiba. They would prefer to receive the benefits of the liberation from Mouri since that does not require accepting Musashi or destroying their current social system. After all, Mouri cannot return to Kantou after this. And if Musashi did return, they could insist that Hashiba never lost to Musashi.”

“Testament,” agreed Yoshiaki. “Part of me wants to sit back and ask the Musashi Vice President what she plans to do about this, but…”

“But what?”

“Well,” said Yoshiaki, reaching for the honeypot next to the Reine des Garous’s container.

“Oh? I believe that is mine.”

“You already used it.”

“Since you did not try to trick me out of it, you can have some,” said the Reine des Garous, smiling bitterly.

“You and your sweet tooth.” Yoshiaki held up the container. “Anyway, the real question is whether your leader will let this happen.”


“This pisses me off.”

Terumoto glared up into the eastern sky.

She sat cross-legged on a bench below a parasol. The Azuchi had risen so far she could see the bottom of the hull, a sight that made her click her tongue.

“Dammit, Ankokuji. This wasn’t the time for that trick.”

“Yes, he does seem rather desperate. But, Princess, I think he knows what he is doing.”

“Yeah, I get that he got Hashiba to offer assistance and that he’s trying to support us at Sekigahara. He probably thinks that’s better than nothing.”

“So you do understand.”

Mouri-01 smiled bitterly and Terumoto lay down on the bench and stretched her arms up.

“But I still want more than that.”

Now, then.

“What will you do, Musashi Vice President? You have a plan that gets me much more, don’t you?”


Takenaka did not see this as her finishing blow.

By naming Mouri and not Musashi as the victors in Kantou, she could trip up Musashi so soon after the Kantou Liberation. And she could use that favor to draw Mouri in.

If she used those things to whittle away at Musashi’s influence in Kantou…

We can negotiate with Mouri and the Azuchi can complete its repairs here.

It was all about appearances, which could be a real pain.

Now then, she thought. What will Musashi do about it? Three Thousand Worlds showed her a future where Musashi tried to somehow stop Bitchu Takamatsu Castle’s reconciliation, but…

AnG: “Hey, what’s Musashi going to do now?”

The Boy: “Claiming that Mouri shouldn’t be here in the first place seems the most likely option to me.”

True enough, thought Takenaka.

The Boy: “They should take issue with our claim that it is ‘within acceptable bounds’. And they will bring another nation into this when they do.”

Namely…

The Boy: “Mogami.”


“What are you going to do?”

The Reine des Garous addressed the fox who was drinking her yuzu ice water. She was prepared to play the trickster, so she appeared to be toying with the fates of the nations here. And since her neighbors might just be ordered to do as they were told…

“Mogami did not actually cross the ocean for the Keichou Campaign,” said the Reine des Garous. “But you were present for the Kantou Liberation.”

“Remember, though. We did not actually support the Mouri forces. We were simply ‘present’.”

“In that case,” said the Reine des Garous, smiling. “If Mouri is ‘within acceptable bounds’, then Mogami must be as well.”

And…

“Mogami was involved in mediating Mouri and Hashiba’s withdrawal. And since Mogami is allied with Musashi, they too can take part. Or so they’re sure to argue.”

“Yes, that is an interesting idea.”

Oh? thought the Reine des Garous.

Was I wrong?

It felt like so long since she last heard the “ko ko” of the fox’s laughter. Then Yoshiaki hid her mouth below her fan and stared into the distant eastern sky.

“Just watch and listen. This was set up well ahead of time.”


Okay, thought Takenaka. I can make a pretty good guess what the enemy will do now.

She could see a few different branching paths, but the most likely one was Mogami’s involvement. The next most likely was for Musashi to use a newly-formed treaty with one of the Kantou nations to intervene.

And as a last resort…

Musashi can claim they fall “within acceptable bounds” themselves.

Just like Mogami, Matsudaira’s Motonobu did not cross the ocean for the Keichou Campaign. But they had supported the beginnings of the Kantou Liberation and sent some of their officers to support the rest.

Musashi would likely use that to apply pressure to Hashiba. So…

“We will fight back by accepting Mouri alone as a ‘representative’ for them all.”

“C-can we do that?” asked Hashiba, looking back.

“We can,” replied Takenaka.

We really can.

High Damage, High Return allowed her to make a comeback from any situation, no matter how bad. It was one form of the ultimate tactic.

This was no different. She intended to turn these negotiations around and win big. So…

“Now,” she said, but not to Musashi this time. “Mouri Terumoto. We need to hold a quick meeting of our own.”


What now? wondered Takenaka.

If they did not intervene here, Mouri would be Hashiba’s. And control of Kantou would be Mouri’s.

But the form the intervention took would reveal everything to her. So…

What will you do?

She said more.

“Mouri Terumoto. How about we visit you?”

She used her words to keep things moving. And Mouri did send a reply.

“Hey,” said their leader. “Do you know what it is I want most?”


What!?

Katou Yoshiaki wrinkled her brow at Terumoto’s question.

What does Mouri want most here?

What could that be?

No, Takenaka would already have the answer to that. Her Three Thousand Worlds displayed countless possibilities and she could use her data processing spell to search through it all.

But there was no response from Takenaka. What did that mean?

“There isn’t anything they want most.”

“Course there is: love. Her husband’s love,” said Angie, spinning her broom around.

She was only kidding, but…

Oh.

Yoshiaki realized what this had to be. There was a case where Three Thousand Worlds’ countless possibilities were meaningless.

“This is Three Thousand Worlds’ greatest flaw or greatest advantage, depending on how you look at it.”

“Eh? What do you mean?”

There was no need to answer Angie’s question.

The Musashi Vice President explained what it was Mouri Terumoto wanted.

“Mouri Terumoto, I was planning to speak with you after our meeting with Hashiba, but doing it here works just as well.”

She pointed her right thumb back from Musashino’s bridge, pointing into the sky to stern. Several large shapes could be seen between the ships.

“We brought transport ships from the Udon Kingdom to replace your lost ships. You can use them to hurry back to Hexagone Française. Because…”

Because…

“The Roi-Soleil is waiting there for Mouri’s triumphant return after their defeat at Hashiba’s hands.”


Chapter 34: Pirates Settling the Score[edit]

Horizon8B 183.png

How joyous is it

To gain something without losing anything?

Point Allocation (Acceptance)


Takenaka lightly ero’d.

Wow.

That was well played. She didn’t want to say she had been bested, but it had still been well played.

Her Three Thousand Worlds data processing spell had its pros and its cons.

The better it is as a data processing spell, the more “our side of the equation” is known.

Kimee: “There wasn’t much we could have done to prevent that.”

6: “What do you mean?”

“Testament,” replied Takenaka, considering what she needed to say about this.

Kuro-Take: “Three Thousand Worlds processes the data and then shows me the optimum answer and the continuation of the pattern. But it doesn’t actually show me how to accomplish something we truly cannot do.”

So…

Kuro-Take: “They have offered a transport fleet to immediately send Mouri back to Hexagone Française, but that is not something we can prepare right away. Three Thousand Worlds shows me several possible responses we can use instead, but…”

But…

Kuro-Take: “If Musashi offers an immediate transport fleet and Mouri accepts, there’s nothing we can do.”


Katagiri thought while climbing the stairs to the deck.

Don’t we have transport ships, though?

The Boy: “Didn’t we secure some transport ships with supplies in northeast Bousou during the Keichou Campaign? Can’t we use those?”

Kuro-Take: “Those are holding our Kantou group that was already here. And not even those will be enough to transport our people back home because quite a few of them were destroyed.”

Kimee: “We have Musashi’s Tachibana Couple to thank for that one. They should have continued to Satomi after entering north Edo Bay, but they decided to fire on our descending transport fleet instead.”

Those two had probably been worried about a pincer attack from the north, but as a result…

Koni-ko: “They really were the secret MVPs of that battle. It was their attack on the transport fleet hampering coordination with the northern unit that kept us from stopping the Reine des Garous’s charge and led to my negotiation with Musashi’s Representative Committee Head. And we’re still feeling the effects of that now.””

That’s true, thought Katagiri.

And the Tachibana Couple had likely pulled it all off with ease.

“They really are the Peerless in the West. Their every move influences the course of the battle!”


“Look, Gin. I took some photos of when we shot down those Hashiba transport ships the other night.”

“Master Muneshige, should a warrior really be taking commemorative photos on the battlefield?”

“I couldn’t help myself. You just looked so beautiful shooting down ships while eating your bento with the explosions illuminating you like a fireworks show. …Who else wants to see them?”

“W-wait, Master Muneshige! You haven’t uploaded them to your site have you!?”


This is all thanks to that couple enjoying an artillery-filled date night.

But, thought Masazumi.

No matter how much negotiating ability, military might, and pride Hashiba had, they could not immediately procure something they did not have.

“But we have it.”

Masazumi spoke to the sign frame in front of her, but the nod she saw from Mitotsudaira told her the Reine des Garous was receiving this as well.

That meant it would be reaching Hexagone Française.

With that in mind, she raised her right upper arm.

“Listen,” she said. “Musashi will support Mouri Terumoto’s triumphant return home. Right here and right now. …How does that sound, Roi-Soleil? Wouldn’t you like to see the moon in the summer sky?”


“Not a bad offer. Of course, I will not ask for more than you can provide.”

The true nudist lay cross-armed on the roof of a white mansion surrounded by farm fields in Paris.

“Roi-Soleil!” Henri called from the ground below in her red summer uniform. “I have determined sleeping there will get you sunburned!”

“Not to worry, Henri. I am the Roi-Soleil, so I shall me-burn the sun in return.”

“Hey, Henri? What do humans do when someone is wrong on such a fundamental level?”

“Listen, Armand. If the princess is anything to go on, the answer is always the wooden sword.”

“So the answer is love, is it?”

“Indeed it is!” The Roi-Soleil spread his arms on the roof. “It has been days since I have held Terumoto in my arms! Yes, the Roi-Soleil has been separated from the love of his life! Ahh, how can I ever express this heartache!?”

Armand raised a hand.

“Roi-Soleil, can’t you just hit yourself with a wooden sword?”

“Heh. That is not how it works. Terumoto knows how to place her love in her sword blows. No one else can replicate it.”

“Is that true, Henri? I’m really hoping it’s just him being insane.”

“I think that is how he interprets her utter lack of hesitation. He would go easy on himself and anyone else would be hesitant to strike their king.”

Armand raised a hand.

“Roi-Soleil, doesn’t a willingness to hit you indicate a lack of love?”

“Heh. That is not how it works. Terumoto knows how to hit you in a special way that words cannot adequately explain.”

“And that’s love, is it?”

“No. The princess has a distinctive way she moves her wrist, so I suspect that is what he is noticing.”

Armand turned to face Henri.

“As her trainer, shouldn’t you fix that?”

“What if the Roi-Soleil stops feeling her love afterwards?”

“Wouldn’t it make him normal for once?”

“No, the people could never relax if she could no longer contain him with her sword.”

“I see.” Armand brought a hand to his chin. “Would she need to upgrade to a metal rod?”

“Heh. This conversation is taking a harsh turn, don’t you think? But that is perfectly fine with me. Terumoto can pound me with her rod all she likes!” He spread his arms in a welcoming gesture. “Anyway, Musashi’s offer is not bad at all. Their transport ships include the Udon Kingdom ones that accompanied them to Kantou to help them resupply.”

And…

“The Udon Kingdom’s transport ships use Hexagone Française control and piloting systems. That was more efficient since they will be our greatest trading partner in the coming age and they are right in front of us. The rest is simple enough.”

Henri continued for him down below.

“The usage fees can be sent back with the transport ships returning to the Udon Kingdom. The abandoned ones can be transferred to us and the sold ones can be bought or rented to send the princess back home. The Udon Kingdom’s true form will have a long relationship with us later on, but it would mean a lot if we could begin that relationship without any intervention from Hashiba.”

And…

“The Udon Kingdom’s true form is an undiscovered region still unknown to the Testament Union, but Mouri has long dealt with Shikoku and even expanded its territory into Shikoku for a time. The history recreation stands in Hexagone Française’s way here, but the princess can do it for us.”

“Magnificent. You are the greatest wife in the world on the political and economic fronts as well, Terumoto.”

“Testament.” Henri nodded. “The future accepted by Lady Anne came to fruition in the following generation and the current generation. Roi-Soleil, the princess will be more popular than ever after her return, so be careful.”

“Heh. Whose side are you on, Henri?”

“Testament. I am on the side of the princess and of you when the princess is with you.”

“I see.” He laughed. “As am I, Henri. Even the moon shines on Hexagone Française now. Prepare for her return and tell the Reine des Garous that the Roi-Soleil accepts Musashi’s small favor.”


Silver Wolf: “Um, Masazumi? My mother keeps sending messages that just say ‘c’mon’ over and over again. I think her brain might finally be broken.”

Your mother never makes any sense, so what else is new? wondered Masazumi.

The sign frames she had open were all the documents and contracts necessary for the Mouri return plan.

Augesvarer and Ookubo had put them all together.

Circle Be: “Why do I have to set this up? I was hoping to sell those transport ships in Kantou and make a fortune, you know?”

Vice President: “Which is why I gave you a trade agreement instead. That should be better than just selling the transport ships.”

Art-Ga: “I see.”

Naruze’s words appeared on the divine transmission. Her location data suggested she had finished submitting her manuscript.

Art-Ga: “That explains why I haven’t seen many of the ships that were flying around since morning. You’ve been reworking the ownership and style of the transport ships we dragged along from the Udon Kingdom, haven’t you?”

“Judge,” replied Masazumi while a new wind blew through.

Countless European-style transport ships began to ascend from between the Musashi’s eight ships.

Circle Be: “That isn’t actually quite enough, so we’re buying some from the Musashi and other nations along the way. But this should be enough to start with.”

And…

Circle Be: “If the Hexagone Française forces have any unneeded materials that would only be dead weight on the trip home, we will purchase them at a reduced price, so we’re making money either way.”

Money Lover: “Heidi, gather up all the relevant data for me. Also, I will be negotiating soon, so please prepare a throwing candy box I can use to intercept their prostration. The kind that springs up as a counterattack would be best. Time is of the essence in this one.”

The Treasurer wasn’t making much sense, but what else was new? Masazumi then summed up their plan.

“We will buy up transport ships between here and Satomi, so they don’t have to wait for Hexagone Française to send ships for them. We can rent them, buy them cheaply, commandeer abandoned ones, or whatever else. This might be their triumphant return, but it doesn’t have to be fancy. After all…”

Masazumi pointed at her sign frame, but this was not directed at Hashiba.

She spoke with the knowledge that Mouri Terumoto was watching.

“Mouri’s fighting force is the Murakami Navy, the greatest delinquent naval force in the Warring States period. Procuring a ride home on-site is just how they do things. What matters to them is that their commander is safe and that they return successful. Isn’t that right?”


“What can I say!? When you’re right, you’re right!”

Terumoto sprang up from her bench.

She was honestly not fond of having people set everything up for her in advance, but that was only for her herself.

She felt differently when they did it for others.

When her subordinates – the people who propped up someone as useless and powerless as herself – were kindly taken care of, she had only one thing to say.

“Glad you understand. That’s what really matters, to me at least.” She snapped her right fingers. “Hey, contact Musashi’s Asama Shrine Representative. Have her cancel Mouri’s primary shrine setting in Kantou! Also, contact Mouri-02 at Mouri’s Suga Shrine. Have her work with the Asama Shrine Representative on that task and then have her reroute our divine protections through the Dosojin and their related shrines and temples along the route back.”

“What do you mean, princess?”

“We’re headed home. Isn’t that obvious!?”

Terumoto opened a signe cadre. No, she opened several at once.

The displayed images showed her subordinates who were on the beach or in the forest after losing their transport ships and warships. They all looked up at her, but…

“–––––”

She answered their silent, puzzled gazes with a toothy grin.

“We’re headed home, Murakami!” She laughed. “Musashi says they’re giving us some transport ships thanks to your presence. Hard to say no to that.”

“Terumoto-sama.”

Murakami Motoyoshi bowed his head at the center of the group where he had been viewing Kantou sea charts and air charts.

He looked a lot more tanned than when he had left Mouri.

“We left as Mouri warriors, we will be returning as pirates, and we will arrive home as students accompanying our princess on her triumphant return. It is hard to keep track of who we are even serving anymore.”

“Don’t fret over it. I’m just the Student Council President.” She crossed her arms. “Again, we’re headed home! Get ready on the double. Not one of you had better be late!”

“Testament,” the all replied. More cries of “testament, testament, testament” followed.

“Testament. We are the Murakami Navy and we are many!!”


AK listened to it all while kneeling on the Azuchi’s deck.

What sounded like cheers arrived from far to the west, and…

The sound of aerial ships starting up.

The Pension Versailles was ascending. And the remnants of the fleet were following.

“Hey.” Mouri Terumoto sent a divine transmission to Takenaka. “Once we’re home, stop by anytime and we can do the reconciliation for Bitchu Takamatsu Castle or whatever else you want. But we’re throwing a party first. Show up in time and you can join us.”

Takenaka sighed quietly in response. Or AK thought she did.

But he kept his head bowed.

Well done!

When the meeting began, he had honestly suspected Musashi had betrayed them. He had thought their Vice President had lied to him at the Udon Kingdom, setting him up.

But what he saw now was so beneficial for him he felt a chill in the pit of his stomach.

They would not be doing Bitchu Takamatsu Castle’s reconciliation in Kantou, but Terumoto had made it clear they would do it eventually.

So until they did do it, he would still have real authority while here on the Azuchi. Also…

“Hey, Hashiba. Our priest is there, isn’t he?”

AK bowed even deeper.

“That reconciliation is his history recreation, so go to him for anything related to it.”

“Testament,” said AK, fully prostrating himself this time.

The period of time until the reconciliation would be the last time he could work for Mouri. He would be fully on Hashiba’s side afterwards, but he now had permission to do so.

Terumoto understood his situation and how he felt about it.

“Please do!”

The rest was up to him. Meanwhile, Takenaka brushed up her hair.

“Testament. That settles it then.” She inhaled and then addressed Musashi. “The Musashi will be moving from there, won’t it?”


“She is downright obsessed with their pride,” said the Reine des Garous, licking the ice from her ceramic glass.

The Mouri fleet was ascending far to the east. Terumoto had said they would accept and join with the Udon Kingdom transport fleet supplied by Musashi.

They would ascend and then reorganize in a region and over a wide enough area for them to land. Then they would be the Murakami Navy.

Their trip back to Hexagone Française begins tonight.

But she had a thought about this. The Mouri fleet would be taking a southern route through the Far East to reach Hexagone Française, but…

“Mouri will also want to avoid any appearance of Musashi keeping an eye on them as they leave. That is why Takenaka concluded the Musashi will be moving from there.”

“Testament. If Musashi clears the way for Mouri, Hashiba will demand the same treatment. If they do return to that spot to keep an eye on Hashiba, their hostility will be hard to deny,” said the fox. “So what do you have to say about that, Musashi Vice President?”


Masazumi nodded.

She spoke with her right hand still raised.

“All hands, listen up.”

She provided instructions.

“The Musashi will now be moving east. We will join with the Mouri fleet.”


Katou Yoshiaki raised her eyebrows.

Is it happening!?

They hurried westward on their brooms and she opened a telescope spell to check on the situation. She used a wide-angle setting to get a view of Satomi as well, but…

“Listen, Hashiba and Takenaka,” continued the Musashi Vice President. “The Musashi will now join with the Mouri fleet. That way we can ensure Kantou’s defenses are complete after seeing Mouri off.”

“Wait,” said Angie. “Are they planning to fight us?”

“Then it could happen right away,” replied Yoshiaki, seeing Takenaka raise her right hand in the Magie Figur.

Would they do this or avoid it?

In the meantime, the Musashi Vice Chancellor’s voice reached them.

“Once the Musashi has visited and greeted the Kantou nations, we will temporarily join the Ariake for repairs and supplies. Once those are complete, we will travel to our usual position in Kantou and eliminate anyone there we deem to be an enemy.”

So…

“The repairs will be complete on August 10. The Musashi will enter the Ariake on that day and then make our next move. If the Azuchi has not left by then, you will have made all of Kantou your enemy, Hashiba.”


“Musashi is providing a compromise, but the condescension hasn’t changed.”

Unno viewed the southeastern sky from the shimmering heat of the sunny rooftop. She listened to Mochizuki’s analysis while the automaton moved a planter of sprouts into the shade.

“Not a bad choice. Musashi must be worn down after fighting several battles in a row, so after quickly dealing with the Kantou nations, they will join the Ariake. If they emerge to protect Kantou afterwards, Kantou and the other nations can hardly say they ran away. Also,” continued Mochizuki. “The Musashi will effectively not exist in the sky while inside the Ariake. That means the Azuchi can ignore their presence, making it much easier to move around.”

“How is Hashiba responding to this?”

“Repairing the Azuchi and returning home was their original plan. Musashi has simply applied additional meaning to that. Hashiba will want to complete their repairs before the 10th, resupply in Kantou if possible, and return home at a nice leisurely pace. That way they can make it look like the Azuchi took its time resupplying yet the Musashi was unable to attack them.”

“Those higher ups love their silly performances, don’t they!?”

“I await your next performance on the stage, Unno-sama.”

She had to bring that up, didn’t she? Unno smiled bitterly. “Maybe I’ll be back on the stage by the end of summer or during the first autumn festival.” Unno sighed and turned her gaze back to the southeast. She could see the Musashi and the Azuchi there. “They’re starting on their next moves, are they? But…”

“But what?”

Unno nodded and let her shoulders slump.

“Most of the damage the Musashi needs to repair came from that final exam, didn’t it?”


Takenaka checked a few lernen figurs and then sighed.

Pushing us too hard here would be a bad idea.

The possibilities displayed by Three Thousand Worlds were beginning to show a lot more conflicts and battles. Battle was looking like the most likely option and even the methods of avoiding that could be entirely overturned by external factors. So…

“Testament. Then let’s say we both have our problems and we are both working to resolve them.”

She changed the direction of those possibilities.

She tilted the future toward a plan where they hurried the Azuchi’s repairs, giving them more time to work with in Kantou.

She swapped out several of the lernen figurs arranged in multiple rows to look further and further ahead, but she could not lose herself in that at the moment.

She had something else to do now.

“This concludes our meeting, Musashi. If you need anything else, our divine transmissions are always open.”

With that, she closed the lernen figur.

The meeting was over.


“Good.”

Masazumi sighed after closing her own sign frame.

Everyone else also sighed and ordered drinks at Ohiroshiki’s food stand. The arms brought her a bamboo bottle from there. Very thoughtful of them.

She took the bottle and gave the arms a nod of thanks, so they made an “oh, it was nothing” gesture before leaving.

Am I imagining it, or am I learning to communicate with them?

This had to be unprecedented in all of human history, but she figured it was fine since they were harmless enough.

She saw Asama helping armless Horizon by giving her a bamboo bottle on a neck strap and sticking a reed straw in it. Horizon caught the straw in her mouth and took a few tentative sips.

“Perhaps I should install some sub-arms.”

“That feels like missing the point to me, but I could attach an autonomous movable latch on your neck hard points. You know, like the arms that automatically remove sabers or ammo from a backpack in mecha anime. Couldn’t you use one of those to remove things from the space behind you?”

Smoking Girl: “We use a lot of those, so why not try it out with one of our older ones? I could fix one up and bring it by tonight. How about a sword or a hammer?”

“Wh-what’s with the contemplative look in my direction as soon as someone mentions weapons!?” asked the idiot.

Nothing out of the ordinary there.

But there was movement in the sky.

The Musashi was beginning to head east, with the transport fleet out ahead of them.

The invisible spell field covering the ship caused enough movement in the humid summer air to form foggy clouds. The Date Vice Chancellor asked a question while they watched those clouds.

“Did we win those negotiations just now?”

“We have the advantage for now, but Hashiba can gain the advantage if they take the right attitude when they leave.”

“Whoever acts last leaves the strongest impression, so are you sure we aren’t in trouble there?”

“We’ll be fine.”

“Really?” asked the others, so Masazumi nodded.

“We will be returning to Kansai later, so we will be acting last. Hashiba can strut on back to their base if they want, but we’ll overturn everything afterwards.”

Movement filled the others.

“Um.” Balfette raised her hand. “We have to visit the Kantou nations and then go to Ariake, right? Will we really be able to return to Kansai?”

“Yes, we can. But we are going to pretty busy from here on out, so bear with it.”

“With the Musashi’s repairs and building a new relationship with the Kantou nations, right?”

“It starts with that, yes,” agreed Masazumi.

She walked forward to join the others and pointed to the northeast.

Mito was in that direction and the Ariake would be floating in the sky there.

“If we held any serious international negotiations, we’d get in trouble for violating summer break. So we’ll just do Musashi’s usual thing: use trade and business to show off the Musashi’s value to the Kantou nations. We have to do that before and after our repairs, so our schedule is going to be fairly packed.”

“I had a feeling,” grumbled the others, shoulders drooping, but the idiot sister shrugged.

“But we have some extra time today, don’t we? Because today is all about handing off the transport ships and traveling to the Ariake.”

So…

“Let’s get back home for the first time in forever and get some rest. We all have a lot to do there, don’t we?”


That evening, after learning of the Musashi’s plans, the Ariake announced its summer event schedule. The event held within the Ariake itself was a history recreation of the Far East’s printing technology. Managed under the provisional rule, the Printing of Unique Stories for Sale to You event was scheduled to begin on August 15.

This summer version was known for short as the Hot PUSSY event and Naruze and the other participations were fired up about it, so that settled most of Musashi’s summer plans right there.


Chapter 35: Elites Heading West[edit]

Horizon8B 205.png

The sun sets

It descends into the scarlet

Yet the coming night will not cover it as a lid

Point Allocation (A Connected Sky)


“So the Mouri fleet will be returning here?” asked Kasuya. “I am near Sanuki, so do you need me to do any recon?”

“No,” replied Takenaka via divine transmission. “All of that can wait until we do Bitchu Takamatsu Castle’s reconciliation with them, so you focus on your training camp.”

“If you say so,” said Kasuya below the evening sky.

She was above the Mediterranean Sea on her way to western K.P.A. Italia.

There were coasts to the north and south. The one stretching east to west on her left was Shikoku’s northern coast and the one on her right was K.P.A. Italia’s southern coast. As night fell, lights began to turn on across both coasts.

The Mediterranean had a lot of islands. Her ship was flying straight toward the setting sun, but in the shadows cast by the sun’s light, she could see a series of lights to the left and right and below. They seemed to continue on forever.

They’re beautiful.

She was from M.H.R.R. and until recently had been in a snowy region under Shibata’s command, so this was nearly her first time seeing the south Mediterranean and the surrounding scenery.

She viewed the sunset reflecting and scattering off the water, the wake of ships sailing in the ocean, the lights of the coastal cities sitting at low altitudes, the many trees, and everything else.

“––––”

She had never seen so much of this and it was changing as time passed.

She could tell the view would be so different between morning, noon, and night. The changes surprised her, but she knew there were people who had seen it all so often they barely noticed anymore. And she knew the same would likely happen to her if she stayed here long enough. She could only think of one word for it.

“A luxury.”

What else could you call it when you knew something held great value but took it for granted?

She inhaled. The smell of the sea reminded her of seafood, but that may have been her food-focused lupine instincts at work. However…

“Is the damage from the fight against K.P.A. Italia still evident?” asked Takenaka.

“Testament. I can see it in a few places.”

She sent her gaze out to where a few artificial shapes had fallen to the coast.

Those were the ships sunk during that battle. Most were the small ships of the Murakami Navy, but her ship passed above some that were large enough to mistake for a small island.

Those were the ironclad ships Kuki had used.

Eight of them had fallen, but that sacrifice had allowed them to take Aki. And even if they had still possessed that greater fighting force…

We could not have changed the Keichou Campaign’s outcome.

Kasuya had fought on that battlefield, so she knew how absurd it had been.

She also saw something else on the route that seemingly broke its way between the two coasts.

“Aki.”


Kasuya saw a boxy shape split into three pieces backlit by the sun.

There were actually five pieces, but two of them were not visible from this angle. Each block had secured their suspension bridges and large ship frames to prevent further collapse.

It had originally been an enormous floating island. The city on top was Aki, although it was also considered Rome, and it had been the center of the Testament Union.

It still was.

Hashiba owns it now.

A portion of the fallen and split Aki had survived.

Since it had split, some of the blocks had shielded the others from the destructive crash.

The blast had still swept across the city, but the underground facility providing the floating island’s power still functioned.

So they had kept the surviving pieces intact and worked on repairs. They had also added in reinforcing parts, so Aki was on the road to recovery as a city split into five pieces.

Each block had had its own role and the inland Block 2 had handled diplomacy and tourism, so it was being remade with help from nearby residents.

Reopening during summer break did not sound like much, but on the way here, Kasuya had heard that was their goal. A bridge acting as a land route to Aki was being hyped up as the city’s new selling point and it would be opened as a central destination for Tsirhc Catholics.

The nearby nations were watching the changes with either caution or cooperation.

“Now, then.”

Kasuya opened a lernen figur.

Their ship already had a course set for Aki, so it had begun communications with the city.

She occasionally saw course guidance lernen figurs appear in the air between them and Aki. They would arrive at the city under repair if they followed those, but…

Nari Nari Nari: “Kasuya-sama, are you here to support us?”

Kasuya pressed her lips together at the unexpected divine transmission message.

Black Wolf: “Support? I’m here for the training camp.”

Nari Nari Nari: “That is another way to put it. Regardless, thank you for joining us. The Mitsunari forces, Shima Sakon, Onitakemaru, and more are awaiting your arrival in Aki.”

Mitsunari bowed on the lernen figur.

Nari Nari Nari: “This is a fairly troublesome issue, so it will likely require your assistance. Thank you again.”

“If you say so,” she replied, just like with Takenaka. Then the lernen figur vanished and she tilted her head.

“This is fine with me since I am here to test my strength regardless.” She stretched and took a deep breath. “I wonder what the other training camp groups are up to.”


This is more trouble than I was expecting, thought Kiyomasa.

She had left the meeting in Takenaka’s hands and arrived in Sanada today, but…

“See, I don’t really care what our folks at the top decided.”

“Did you honestly think we’d just let you in? Did you really? Hm, did you?”

“Especially after our rich kid went and allied himself with Musashi, got some porn made about him, and took a beating before limping back home.”

The three Terrestrial Dragons in front of her would not shut up.

They had stopped her before she entered Sanada.

This was the border between Sanada and old Takeda. There was a large landport there because this functioned as a road between the two kingdoms and as a land route for trade when necessary.

It was inconvenient, but Sanada was not going to let other nations enter their land via air.

Sekigahara showed a connection between Sanada and Hashiba, but they had a reason for ignoring that to stop her here.

“We have our own reputation to think about.”

“Now, we’re not asking for as much as you did in your meeting with Musashi.”

“But,” cut in Kiyomasa. “Hashiba-sama and the others have already dealt with all of that. That is why we are here in the first place.”

She was wearing her summer uniform as formal wear.

A transport ship and a mechanical dragon sat around 50m behind her. She had asked that none of the others show themselves. If the Terrestrial Dragons insisted on a fight, they could cause serious damage to a human. But…

Nabe3: “Kiyomasa-senpai, I’ll come running if anything happens, so take care of this.”

Asano: Nabeee-san, you’re too hot-blooooded.”

She appreciated it, but it was true.

This was a national border. They were from a large nation, but they were here to receive Sanada’s help.

If anything, they should have been bowing to Sanada. Of course, from a national hierarchy perspective…

We should stand tall and demand their assistance.

Calm down, she told herself.

She had made a terrible mistake the other day. Thoughts raced through her mind whenever she wondered what Fukushima was doing at the moment, so she had to avoid that distraction.

Calming herself came first.

She knew perfectly well why these Terrestrial Dragons had made an appearance here.

“Besides, we’ve got our Ten Braves.”

I thought as much, thought Kiyomasa.

The inherited names of the Ten Spears were originally meant for the current Sanada Ten Braves.

They had been set to become the Ten Spears later on, but Kiyomasa’s group had defeated them in duels and taken the names for themselves.

You could even say they had overthrown those ten.

After leaving P.A. Oda, they had arrived here in Sanada and taken over for the old Ten Braves.

The Celestial Dragons of the old Ten Braves and these Terrestrial Dragons must have accepted them.

In that case, she thought.

“I will not apologize,” she said. “Because an apology would be an insult to our opponents in those duels. It would bring into question why we did it at all.”

“Then what will you do?”

“Testament.” Smiling, Kiyomasa opened a lernen figur. “Our representative, Hashiba, will once more speak with your representative, Nobuyuki-sama, and have you let us through.”

“H-hey, no fair!”

“Our rich kid’ll give in right away if you do that!”

“All the better for us.”

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, someone burst from the nearby forest.

He was a large man and he kicked at the ground as he cursed.

“Goddamn that instructor! I go all the way there to get my mechanical horse license, but he decides I’m not ‘cut out for it’ during the section where you draw out the starting symbol a bunch of times!? Don’t decide who I am based on a silly symbol! Does he think a simple symbolic representation is all you need to describe someone!?”

The large man stopped shouting when he noticed her.

He gasped, his eyes widened, and he ran over.

“What’s this busty blonde doing here!?”

He described her using a simple symbolic representation, so she knocked him to the ground with Caledfwlch’s hilt.

After a solid impact, he rolled for a bit and stopped moving.

What was that about?

Then the Terrestrial Dragons took defensive stances.

“Hey! He deserved that, but what the hell are you doing!?”

“That’s right! He definitely deserved that, but do you have any idea what you’ve done!?”

“Yeah, he deserved that and more, but there are some things you really shouldn’t do, even if it’s probably for the best you did it!”

“I will take that to mean I did the right thing.”

She heard a comment of “what a rude lard-ass” from the mechanical dragon behind her. Nabeshima-san, that is being rude too. Anyway, the Terrestrial Dragons skillfully crossed their front legs.

“Listen up, you!”

“Testament. What is it?”

“He deserved that, but we can’t let anyone in Sanada after they kick our Chancellor’s ass!”

“Eh?” Kiyomasa looked over at the person she had hit. “Your Chancellor?”

“Correct.”

She looked back at the dragons.

“I had heard Sanada had fallen on hard times, but I didn’t know it was that bad.”

“The polite thing to do is pretend not to notice!” The dragons recrossed their front legs. “Anyway, he deserved that, but we cannot allow you in Sanada!”

“I am here on official business, so the opinion of three random citizens isn’t really relevant.”

“We have a private reason to refuse that official business.” The dragons looked straight at her. “Any enemy of the Ten Braves is an enemy of Sanada.”


Fair enough, thought Kiyomasa.

Her group had taken the position meant for those ten and Sanada would be aware of it. And…

We defeated some of them at the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle.

Celestial Dragon Katou Danzou and the more literature-focused Miyoshi Nyuudou had both challenged Fukushima and been defeated, but Kiyomasa had played a role in both.

She brought a hand to her throat because she had nearly been decapitated in one of Katou Danzou’s illusions.

Sanada had been an enemy and they still were.

The Terrestrial Dragons must have realized what she was thinking

“Then again, you weren’t all that prominent an enemy.”

Were they saying she was not a threat?

She blossomed with hope of reconciling their differences, but then the dragon’s throaty voice continued.

“I’d say our real enemy would be that Fukushima girl.”


Nabeshima rested her head in her hands inside Unambitious’s cockpit.

Her current mood was boredom. She had descended from the transport ship in combat readiness mode, but she couldn’t start a fight with the Terrestrial Dragons without Kiyomasa’s authorization.

Asano had been rocking in the back seat saying “so sleeeepy”, but she had since fully reclined her seat for a nap. Nabeshima didn’t want to wake her, so she could not say anything to her or put on some music with a New World beat.

Man, this is boring.

But then she heard something.

“Oh?”

She looked up and saw a sudden light from dead ahead.

A spear of light had launched from Kiyomasa’s hand, extended several hundred meters in an instant, and blasted one of the Terrestrial Dragons into the sky.


The Terrestrial Dragons made a swift decision.

The enemy’s weapon was divine-class. Sasuke and Saizou’s investigations were enough to know the sword of light could extend to a maximum of around 3km. And just now…

“Don’t underestimate us!”

Sign frames appeared around the sword of light that had extended into the sky and shattered.

Those spells converted the sharp slash into a blunt impact.

She had blunted her attack.

The dragons took action the instant they realized that.

The center of the three had been blasted skyward.

The one on the right fell back to assist their airborne friend. The one on the left swung his right foreleg at their opponent, as if pouncing on her.

“How dare you!”

It only took an instant.

Dragons were a combat species. They tended to lie around a lot, which made them look lazy, but they would strike the instant they deemed someone an enemy and their battles rarely took long.

The strong had to project confidence.

And that confidence had to be backed up by the ability to instantly crush an enemy when they put their mind to it.

Everything changed when that switch was thrown. However…

“Oh.”

Something landed behind the enemy as his right hand swung down toward her.

The large black and white case resembled a coffin. The impact with the ground caused it to burst open, releasing what lay inside: armor.

The heavy white armor flew out and fit itself to its master.

It automatically connected to the hard point parts to attach to her shoulders, chest, head, back, and hips.

“–––––”

The dragon threw his strength at her.


When Nabeshima heard the rumbling, she kicked one of the piloting foot pedals to start up her mechanical dragon.

The legs were in mountain mode even though she was back at the landport, but these settings gave her more torque from the get-go. From there, she only had to forcibly throw it forward.

“Kiyomasa-senpai!”

“Hmmm, whaaat, whaaat?”

She wished she could just tell Asano to stay asleep. But…

“My lady!” called the Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji. “That sound wasn’t what you think it was!”

Hearing that, she looked down by her hands instead of out ahead. The lernen figur there showed Kiyomasa through the mechanical dragon’s sight devices. The image was based more on heat and ether readings than visual light, but it showed Kiyomasa still in one piece. No, not just in one piece:

Unharmed!

The Terrestrial Dragon’s attack had gouged into the ground to her left.

It had missed her entirely. So…

“Was it only a threat, my lady!?”


What? thought the Terrestrial Dragon who had made the attack. I should have hit her just now.

But he had not.

His right foreleg had dug into and smashed the ground to her right.

Assuming she had dodged, he immediately made a second attack.

His large frame and great strength gave the attack even more speed than force.

It was going to hit.

His attack flew toward her white and black armor with the velocity of a high-speed artillery shell.

It hit.

And in that moment, he saw what had happened.

She did not move. But his claws and arm were…

Redirected!

The autonomous movement of her shoulder armor caught his claws from below.

He thought he would crush or shatter the armor.

But instead…

“––––––”

She did not budge. Only her hair fluttered. Him, on the other hand…

“Kh.”

His attacking hand dropped to her right. And unlike before, it slid past her as it did.

That threw him off balance. He pitched forward, his jaw moving past her on the right.

He could not stop it.

Then he saw her directing a single sickle spear his way.

“Finish this, Caledfwlch!”


The extending light was launched as a blunt impact.

The staggering dragon was going to take the blow to the jaw, but he made a different move just beforehand.

His right foreleg had slid forward and gouged into the ground, so he slammed the elbow into the ground, creating a gap between his face and elbow.

His opponent’s light was going to hit him, but he gave a shout.

“Do it!”

Someone responded.

Behind him, one of the others had fallen back to help the one attacked earlier.

He would be leaning against his friend and crouching low to help prop the other one up. So…

“Ohhhh!”

With his head lowered, he would be able to see the enemy through the gap between this one’s face and elbow. The rest was simple. This one would take the attack, but the gap he created would let through…

A dragon cannon!

The one behind him roared.

A dragon cannon, a dragon’s greatest attack, crashed into their opponent.


Asano saw three movements in her bleary vision so soon after waking.

Dragons?

No, Kiyomasa was with them too.

The first movement was Kiyomasa’s Caledfwlch landing an uppercut on a dragon as he collapsed forward.

He leaned back so hard it looked like his neck joint had been messed up.

“Wowww,” said Asano.

Thaaat’s gotta hurt. I’ve never felt it myselllf, but it’s just goootta. But whaaat’s happening? I don’t geeet it.

Then came the second movement. A dragon crouched low in the distance launched a dragon cannon while supporting another dragon.

“Ohhh.”

Nabeshima’s mechanical dragon could launch a dragon cannon too, but its was artificial while this was a natural one. Asano felt like this one looked weaker, but it also looked like there was more of a trick to it than with Nabeshima’s. Howww straaange.

It scored a direct hit.

But Asano had a thought as she watched that exploding light.

Waaait a seeec.

“Doesssn’t Kiyooomasa-senpai have another offf those spearrrs?”

The dragon cannon split apart and exploded.

Kiyomasa had drawn the other Caledfwlch and pierced the beam.


The light immediately scattered and the two Terrestrial Dragons were blown away.

The one who attacked with his claws and the one who attacked with a dragon cannon had both been hit in the jaw.

The claws one bent backwards and the dragon cannon one had his gaping lower jaw struck from head on.

The former collapsed backwards and the latter curled up into a ball, starting with his jaw.

They were removed from the road and the surrounding trees collapsed.

The trees easily split and the summer leaves rustled heavily.

But the dragons were not down yet.

The first to take a hit from Caledfwlch got up after losing the support of the dragon cannon one.

“Not bad!”

He swung his full body forward to leap at the enemy.

But something flew in from the distance and stabbed into his forehead: a fan.

“Oh,” he said, bending backward and coming to a stop to view the fan. And…

“That’s enough, you three. I do appreciate the concern, though.”

Two people emerged from the forest – both women. The dragons recognized them.

“Unno and Mochizuki!”


Chapter 36: Chooser at the Rendezvous Point[edit]

Horizon8B 225.png

You made her cry

You made her cry

You made her cry

Point Allocation (Don’t Get Carried Away!)


I can’t believe them, thought Unno as she waved her right hand dismissively.

When they decide someone is one of theirs, they do not half-ass it.

Maybe that came with being a minority species. Or maybe they saw the dragons as the guardians of everyone who lived in Sanada.

She appreciated it either way. But…

“You know.”

“Yeah? You got a problem with this!?”

“You were planning to kick her out since she and her group are why we came to Sanada, right?”

And…

“Once you kicked her out, you thought it would be easier to say we’re their equals here in Sanada, right?”

The three Terrestrial Dragons grew defensive.

“N-no! W-we weren’t doing this for you or anything!”

“Y-yeah! Dragons are a combat race, so we get aggressive! That’s all!”

“Don’t get such a big head, young lady! Do that again and we’re not defending you next time! Got that, babe!?”

Mochizuki slowly turned toward Unno.

“Why the effeminate pitch to the voice?”

“He’s so busy trying to hide his embarrassment I think he went crazy.”

It was embarrassing for Unno as well.

They must think that stuff in our past still bothers us.

There was truth to that, but only some at this point.

They had gotten a lot better about it since the Siege of Odawara. But…

“And you. Now, I know we attacked you here, but…”

Unno addressed Katou Kiyomasa.

That is some heavy-duty equipment.

She had only had Caledfwlch when they had fought in the past.

Saizou had been her opponent, but it had been more of a group battle than a series of individual duels, so there had been no clear divisions between who fought who. Still, Sasuke and Saizou had been separated out by this girl and Fukushima to buy some time.

Caledfwlch had not fired any glowing attacks back then, so she may have been holding back.

No, she’s probably grown stronger since then.

Her equipment was different too, so she would have been less experienced back then.

But, thought Unno as she took a breath and stepped toward Kiyomasa.

Instead of approaching, it was more like stepping in for a better view.

5 meters was beyond arm’s reach, but within another step of it. She crossed her arms and viewed the girl from that distance.

“You…”

Hearing her voice, Kiyomasa turned her way.

There was caution in her eyes and she was prepared to move at any moment.

But Unno spoke her thoughts about the girl she saw here.

“You weren’t this irritable before, were you?”


Kiyomasa realized something from Unno’s question.

What had she just done?

She would have died if she had not reacted and she had been kind enough to cast a blunt impact conversion spell on Caledfwlch.

She could explain her actions, but she had been the first to strike.

Their words had so infuriated her that she had launched an attack with Caledfwlch.

But thinking back…

What was it they said?

The Terrestrial Dragons had refused to acknowledge her as a threat. And then…

They said their real enemy would be Fukushima.

Fukushima.

Someone who wasn’t here.

A terrible person. A liar. A liar who tried to deny it.

But once they even jokingly referred to her as an enemy…

“––––”

Why did that make me so angry? thought Kiyomasa.

I said what I wanted to say, I cried, and I ran away, but…

“Ugh.”

Now I’m doing this.


Unno saw Kiyomasa stick Caledfwlch in the ground and cover her face with her hands.

Eh?

Unno was unsure how her question had led to this, but…

“Eh? Hey, wait.”

Just as she reached out, the trio of dragons shouted in unison and the collapsed herbivore got up and joined them.

“You made her cry!!”


Unno realized the Terrestrial Dragons were pointing and protesting her actions.

“Hey, Unno! Why the hell’d you make her cry!?”

“Wow, that’s messed up! Like, really messed up! You only had to approach her to make her cry!”

“I mean, some delinquent girl in a track suit suddenly stepped out of the forest. That would make anyone cry.”

“Y-you were having a big kaiju battle!!” shouted Unno.

“Ehh? We’re not kaiju. We’re Terrestrial Dragons.”

Damn them, she thought, but then the herbivore ran over, also pointing at her.

“Hey! Is that any way to treat a guest sent by Hashiba-sama!? …I am so very sorry about this. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t have her makeup on, but our ninj- I, uh, mean, our somewhat gawdy girl is saying some things she doesn’t mean. Just leave this to me and I assure you I will make sure she never again-”

Mochizuki swiftly threw a sign frame that stabbed into his forehead.

“This is your work quota for the day. It appears you have yet to complete it, so please rectify that.”

“R-really!? You’re using your own Chancellor as a gofer!?”

“No. Everyone is eager to see you demonstrate your skills and I do not wish to disappoint them.”

I’ve never seen Mochizuki make such a big fake smile before, thought Unno, but the herbivore seemed to get the message.

“Oh!?” He spun around once. “Then maybe I should go help out my subordinates! …Hey, you! Treat our guests with respect! Got that!?”

“Tes, tes. Just get going.”

“Will do,” he said before running off with surprising speed. He always had a surprising level of skill, but his usual behavior did more than enough to keep it surprising.

But the real problem was still here.

Weeping Kiyomasa had reached the part where she wiped away the tears. She should be able to hear me at least, decided Unno.

“So, um, how about you come with me?” She pointed her thumb up toward the Sanada city and Sanada Academy. “We can grab some tea.”

“Unno-sama, are you hitting on her?” asked Mochizuki.


Mitotsudaira had thought they would start with some tea, but she was immediately proven wrong.

The Main Blue Thunder was her king’s home. She was living there too and had brought her things there, but…

“The place really has changed.”

The space given to them for rooms had originally been her king and Kimi’s rooms, just with added curtain partitions. If anything, they had Kimi to thank for opening the place up to give them space, but…

“They removed the wall to the adjacent unopened room.”

Asama stepped into a large space kept separate with a curtain divider.

The entire space had tatami mats elevated by wooden boards. Curtains hanging from the ceiling created rooms of about 5 square meters. Each of those counted as one of their rooms and there was another curtain dividing them down the center.

“That gives us some privacy if the curtain to the hallway is open, doesn’t it?”

That would be for when they were changing or trying to focus on studying.

Which would mean they generally left the hallway-side curtain open, letting anyone in and creating something like a garden in front of the rear partition.

“Oh,” said Asama.

In the back, there were no boards elevating the tatami mats, creating a lower space, but the floor there was made to be removed. There were also hooks for hanging shelves above there.

I could put a dresser on the side…no, the side would be for underwear and everyday items. The dresser could be attached to the hanger from the ceiling and hold my uniform and everyday clothing.

“Heh heh. Redecorating the place in your heads already, you two?”

Kimi placed her elbow on Mitotsudaira’s shoulder from behind and, irritatingly enough, guessed exactly what Mitotsudaira was thinking.

She brushed off Kimi’s arm and sighed. She knew what she had to ask the girl.

“Did mother set this up?”

Kimi immediately opened a sign frame and sent a divine transmission to the Blue Thunder.

“Mom! Mitotsudaira just called you mother!”

“Good, good. I like the sound of that.”

“Now!” Kimi turned the sign frame toward Asama. “You too!”

“Eh? Eh!? Oh, um, well.” Asama bowed toward the sign frame. “Th-thank you for having us.”

“Ha ha ha. That works too! I’ve just got to tell Asama-kun that Tomo-chan is mine now!”

“And last but not least! Horizon, you’re up!”

“Owner, do you need my help tonight preparing for tomorrow morning?”

Horizon did not miss a beat.

“I-impressive, Horizon!”

“Heh.” Horizon raised both thumbs. “Composure and always having a plan is how Super Horizon does things.”

“Super Horizon?”

“I only need two more Logismoi Oplo before I am Perfect Horizon, so that title seems apt. Also, Owner, I can always send just my arms to assist tonight.”

“Hmm, last time you did that, the arms started kneading dough and chopping firewood without turning on the lights. Someone saw it while out on a walk and fainted.”

“Judge. I should have them turn the lights on, then.”

“Could you do that please?”

Won’t that just make the horror easier to see? But…

“Tell me if there’s anything you don’t like. I wouldn’t have a café in the surface city if I was hurting financially, after all. Also I feel like celebrating this momentous occasion. …If you want a second floor, we can have one built.”

“N-no, we don’t need that much.”

“Oh, you’ll want more eventually. I used to think we could get by with an even smaller place. When people first move in, they tend to restrain themselves more than average, so you’ll eventually want to cut loose and relax.”

Was that how it worked? Still…

“You’ll see that play out in our future interactions,” continued her king’s mother.

“By interactions, do you mean like conversations?”

“Yes,” said the woman. “There are people you feel comfortable telling anything you want and then there are people you feel comfortable telling even the things that don’t need to be said. The former requires a balance between the two sides, but the latter only requires the listener to put up with it. This is the same. …When you get past your restraint, will you become the former or the latter? It’s wrong to find you can’t say anything to someone, but it’s also wrong to force them to listen to things they don’t want to hear, right? You need a balance between what you want to say and what you don’t want the other person to have to listen to. And this applies to more than just conversations. There’s also the distance you put between each other. So keep all this in mind.”

“Oh.” Asama looked up in response. “So ‘what’s necessary’ and ‘what doesn’t need to be said’ are different things.”

“You like your nitpicky details, don’t you, Tomo-chan?”

“Well, you could say that’s my job.”

“That can’t be easy,” said the woman and Mitotsudaira felt much the same.

“We are not going to make things easy for Asama-sama, are we?” said Horizon, arms crossed.

“Yeah, well, I’m prepared for that. Sort of.”

“Judge.” Horizon nodded and raised her right hand. “Then let us allot rooms via rock-paper-scissors.”


When Horizon suddenly suggested they choose the rooms with rock-paper-scissors, Asama responded with confusion.

“Okay!” responded Kimi on reflex. “Everyone start with pa- rock! Freeze!”

Playing paper based on that initial syllable had been a mistake.

“Kimi.” Mitotsudaira glared at her. “Switching from paper to rock means the people who react to the second part lose.”

Mitotsudaira had played rock. So had Kimi. That meant Asama’s paper beat both of them, but…

“Then this was my victory.”

Horizon had played scissors, but her claim to victory was more of a “because she says so” thing than anything.

This gave Horizon the closest room to Toori’s. From there, it was Asama, Mitotsudaira, and Kimi.

“We can go with this for the first week,” said Horizon. “From there, we can periodically change rooms based on a rotation or more rock-paper-scissors.”

“Why?” asked Mitotsudaira.

“Judge. Because it means I don’t have to clean up my- because it will keep things fresh and help air out the place.”

Asama was only finding more things to add to her to-do list.

From there, they continued to work out their relative roles in this new household as they moved their luggage to the appropriate rooms and shut the dividing curtains.

Ohh.

Now it really felt like she was starting a new life.


Asama checked the state of the partitions on a sign frame. The sign frame allowed residents to check on the Main Blue Thunder’s generic divine protections and it already had each of their rooms registered.

Any divine protections set to open mode could be checked through that sign frame. The fact that an estimated monthly ether usage was set to visible showed the Aoi family knew what kind of life they lived.

It was unusual for Asama to see household settings like this. When she was doing Asama Shrine work, the system would be fully unlocked for her, so…

Wait. Can’t I use my authority to do that here too?

But she had a feeling the Aoi family would politely decline an offer to give them unlimited use of a public service like that. Was that part of the restraint thing from before? Still, it would probably be best to discuss it with them eventually.

“Hmm,” groaned Asama.

There was a lot to think about concerning the sign frame in front of her, but she knew she was only pretending to think. It was her way to forcibly calm herself regarding the current situation.

The side curtain leading to Horizon’s room was waving in the shape of an arm for some reason or other. Hopefully that wasn’t too much of a cause for concern. The arm shape in the curtain would occasionally crawl or hop up nearly to the ceiling, so it may have been part of Horizon’s dream redecoration.

Oh, they’re using the noise blocking.

The sign frame showed that no one outside their rooms would be able to hear what was happening within. She had supplied and set up that spell, so she appreciated that it had come in handy. But…

“Now, then.”

Still in her summer uniform and without unloading her luggage from the wicker basket cart, she sat down on the tatami mats.

Wow.

Now she could think of the Asama Shrine as her childhood home. It was no longer her current home.

The tatami mats here were so new. She recalled that the ones in her Asama Shrine room dated back to her father’s generation. Thinking that they might be even older made her feel oddly homesick.

She decided to pull out her pajamas, but after being called “defenseless” so many times, she had made sure to bring underwear from the Asama Shrine this time.

“And a spare uniform.”

Oh, she realized. It’s summer break.

She had completely forgotten with all her official duties and a life that seemed to be a constant back and forth between Suzu’s bathhouse and the Student Council rec room with the occasional stop by the Asama Shrine.

She had her shrine maiden uniform for her Shinto work, but she had casual clothing as well. She had even packed a yukata even though she probably didn’t need it.

Huh.

I was more serious about this than I thought.

She sighed and walked on her knees toward the futon folded up near the window.

“Okay.”

She unfolded it and then flopped down on top of it.

She looked to the ceiling above, realizing she would see that every morning from now on.

When they had stayed here the other day, everyone had been sleeping wherever and they were all packed in close together, so it had felt like their usual sleepovers – something just for fun. But now…

“Yes.”

It suddenly hit her that this was her home now.

She had not truly left the Asama Shrine to come here. She could return there any time she wanted. Her father had said so and she felt that way too.

So this didn’t replace her old home – it was an additional home.

“––––––”

Kind of amazing that just lying here on the futon made me realize all that.

But, she thought.

I’m not just visiting here.

I am here.

No, I should say I am here too.

“That’s right.”

She reached both hands toward the ceiling. Her fingers clutched at the air, like she was trying to grasp the light from the illumination spell.

But she wanted to remember every thought she had had today.

She was the Asama Shrine’s heir. She was Musashi’s Shinto #2 and its top representative after her father.

But now she had a home other than the Asama Shrine.

Oh.

I can relax more, can’t I? she realized.

So she breathed in, relaxed her chest, and let the tension drain from her body.

What do I do now? We need dinner. Maybe I should make it. But if he’s going to do it, I can leave Horizon in charge there. So maybe a bath? Purification is my job. Cleaning and water heating are common spells, so…

“Okay.” She took a breath. “There’s a lot to do, isn’t there?”

A smile found its way to her lips and she held a hand to her cheek, as if touching her own emotion.

“There’s so much I can do.”

And then…

“Lying on the futon, her clothing disheveled, Asama said, ‘There’s so much I can do for you.’ ”

Hearing a voice, she gasped and sat up.

She spotted Naruze and Naito’s faces through the hallway curtain.


Mitotsudaira tilted her head at the strange “eek” or “ohh!?” she heard from the partition next to her.

She had set the partition to block all noise while she was unpacking her luggage, checking the shelf positions, and so on. But…

If they haven’t set the noise blocking, it can still reach me.

Asama hadn’t set hers, proving herself to be as defenseless as ever. She had laid out her futon and now there were sounds of rustling clothing and quiet voices.

Wh-what is she doing!?

Still Got It: “Nate! I just heard you referred to your king’s mother as ‘mother’! To avoid confusion, you should start calling me ‘maman’ like you did when you were litt-”

She shattered the sign frame. Who told her about that? she wondered before immediately realizing Kimi would have exchanged addresses with her mother. And she felt it was important to get closer to her king’s mother anyway.

There’s no escape.

Still, she was starting to form some plans for the future.

She had moved her room’s curtain partition pretty far back toward the window. She did not know how the others would do theirs, but she hoped they would keep the hallway-side half of their rooms mostly open so they could all come and go or gather for meetings there. That would preserve the usual sleepover atmosphere.

She felt certain Asama would do the same, but even if it was only a curtain, shutting it really helped you lose yourself in thought.

There were times when that was necessary, times when it was harmless, and times when it was unnecessary.

Which is it now? she wondered, but when she heard a voice from the neighboring room, she deactivated the noise blocking divine protection and spoke.

“What are you doing here, Naruze? Did my king ask for something again?”


Naruze saw Mitotsudaira open the side curtain and enter Asama’s room.

She just walked in without a second thought.

She was a little embarrassed, but she did not try to hide it. The flustered shrine maiden had not reached that level yet. She never knew what to do when she was caught off guard.

But after Mitotsudaira’s arrival, Kimi emerged from further back and Horizon from the other side.

The four partitioned rooms were connected together to create one long one.

“Hm.” Horizon viewed Asama. “I see Asama-sama already has her futon out and is ready to go.”

“N-no, it’s not like that! I just felt like taking a quick nap!”

“Oh?” Mitotsudaira glared at her. “Then explain all the squirming and strange voices I heard from your room.”

“A-a change of environment makes you think about a lot of things, doesn’t it!? And, um…Horizon, don’t do your ‘you thief’ bit with the curtain!”

“How do you not realize they’re teasing you?” asked Naruze.

“Right?” said Margot. “But, Horizon, what happened to your old room? It was on Tama’s second floor belowdecks, wasn’t it?”

Horizon froze in place.

After a while, she frowned and brought a hand to her chin with sweat pouring down her brow.

“…?”

She started making right-to-left gestures in midair, so Margot started sweating too and waved her hand.

“Well, um, you don’t have to give it that much thought. You just left it as-is, I take it?”

“Most everything I need is stored in the space behind me.”

Damn, that’s gotta be convenient, thought Naruze, but she wasn’t one to talk since her Technohexen clothes and such were stored in a coffin-shaped alternate space.

For a change of subject, Horizon opened her curtain to show off what were displayed on the poles and hooks set up in front of the curtain.

“I have displayed everything from the Muneshige Cannon to the latest: the Pride and the Vainglory. I thought it might be nice to view my collection in smug self-satisfaction while I drift off to sleep.”

“That’s an entire nation’s worth of firepower in a single room,” said Naruze.

“Um.” Asama raised her right hand and asked a question. “Why are you two here?”

“Oh, were we interrupting something?”

Asama suppressed her reflexive response and finally managed to say something else.

“This is not part of the shrine.”

A good answer.

She means this is equivalent to her old room at the Asama Shrine.

Horizon and Mitotsudaira would see it similarly. Kimi was smiling back behind them, so she may have seen herself as the landlord.

But as a Technohexen, Naruze was satisfied with the response she had gotten. So…

“Fine. We’ll knock next time, so set up a doorbell divine protection or something.”

And…

“Neshinbara is afraid he won’t finish his manuscript in time, so he’s going to use the café in here for an all-nighter. We’re his assistants. …Do any of you want to help?”


Chapter 37: Creators in a Hidden Place[edit]

Horizon8B 247.png

Please

I beg you

Not on the cover

Point Allocation (Good Luck With That)


Masazumi walked through the city at night while Tsukinowa was organizing her sign frame.

She was on Musashino, on her way to the Main Blue Thunder. She could already see it across the way at this point.

“I really want to discuss our plans, but all they seem to care about is finishing some doujinshi.”

Shouldn’t they be relaxing more over summer break?

She thought to herself while slowly walking around in what little light remained in the night sky.

The Musashi was on its way to Mito and repairing the damage done during their exam.

That region north of Edo belonged to Mitotsudaira and acted as the entrance to Oushuu. The Ariake, a floating dock for the Musashi, could be found there, a location central to all the Kantou nations.

Most of the repairs were complete, but the plan was to do what they could with the Kantou nations during summer break and then do the final maintenance in the Ariake.

The Azuchi was working on its own repairs.

“And Mouri is returning from Kantou to Hexagone Française.”

She looked to the south.

She could see the horizon as a line of lights.

That was the Mouri fleet. The fleet was made of transport ships sent from Musashi and any ships still capable of flying at standard speed, but they still numbered enough to cover a decent chunk of the sky.

The bigger ships like the Pension Versailles were towing the transport ships that could remain afloat under their own power.

All of the ships had their lights on and would continue west throughout the night. They would be circling south of Mikawa Bay on the way, so she had heard they would be traveling over the ocean tomorrow.

And then they make their triumphant return.

That isn’t something Musashi can do since our nation is our ship and our fighting force.

They could celebrate a victory, but they could never return home and be greeted with cheers. Except…

“I guess you could say Ariake is kind of like that.”

When she thought about it, Mikawa should have been like that for them. But a warm welcome from Lord Motonobu would have been…a bit much. Then again, it probably is from the Roi-Soleil too.

“Hey, Musashi Vice President…Honda.”

A sign frame appeared without warning. It showed Terumoto and was being relayed by Asama.

There was a decent back light to the image, probably because Terumoto was on that horizon of lights. Her face was enshrouded in shadow, but the lifted corners of her mouth were just barely visible. Or they seemed to be. So…

“I am pleased to see you are in a good mood, Mouri Terumoto.”

“And I’m pleased I look that way to you. Once we’re back, we have to drag out the reconciliation for Bitchu Takamatsu Castle. What about you?”

Trying to sound us out? she wondered, but that was part of how Terumoto showed she cared. So…

“I’m about to help finish up some doujinshis at a bakery.”

“Reading too much manga makes you stupid.”

Did not expect that lecture from her.

“Don’t worry about it. I think there’s one about you.”

“Oh, a history manga? Sounds great.”

“Judge. I guess you could call it that if you really wanted to. I’ll let Naruze know she has your approval. Also,” continued Masazumi. “We’ll head there sometime around the 15th.”

“You’ve figured out a way of staying here?”

“Yes. A very stupid one.”

Terumoto glared at that.

“Are you talking in some kind of code here?”

“No, I’m just telling the truth. Like I always do. …But anyway, we do have some business with you then. Our 5th Special Duty Officer has suggested we investigate your Vice Chancellor’s home.”

Kasuya of the Hashiba Ten Spears had used a weapon that may have come from Joan of Arc. Mitotsudaira would want to know if that future enemy had any connection to her. If they knew what Loup-Garou family she came from, she would be easier to deal with.

So Mitotsudaira had said she could figure something out by checking the shed at the Loup des Garous’s house.

And then we’ll probably all spend the night for fun.

Because the group going nuts at the Main Blue Thunder now would 100% be going with Mitotsudaira. So…

“We have a lot to do over summer break.”

“Same here. But…” Terumoto spat out a laugh. “This is the busyness of building on success, not the busyness of recovering from failure.”

“I’m hoping this doesn’t make us enemies.”

“Agreed.”

Masazumi felt a chill at that.

Terumoto’s words meant she saw Musashi as a possible enemy.

And the casual way she said it lacked any of her former vainglory.

If they wanted to wage war here, they could do it.

Masazumi could sense it so plainly from Terumoto.

What do I say to that?

“So the next time we meet, we’re enemies?”

“If you tick all the right boxes for an enemy, then yes.”

“Judge.” Masazumi nodded. “Then let’s keep working together until it comes to that.”

“Sure thing,” said Terumoto with a raised hand.

Masazumi raised her hand in response. She was walking through the city at night and only Tsukinowa would know what the gesture meant. The scattering of other people around had their own interpretation of the raised hand.

“Eek! That’s her ‘go to war’ gesture!”

“Oh, no! She’s starting something!”

“She isn’t declaring war on Hashiba while no one’s around to stop her, is she!?”

How do people see me? she wondered, but once nothing came of this, they would learn they were wrong.

So she continued her conversation with Terumoto.

“Are you leaving soon? Then get home and get some sleep.”

“And you get out and have some fun over summer break.”

Terumoto knew how to hit where it hurt. But for now, they both lowered their hands and spoke in unison.

“See you.”

“See you.”

Terumoto gave a toothy grin as the sign frame vanished.

Masazumi knew she would have been as stony-faced as ever. That felt like a minor loss on her part.

But she took a breath.

“Oh.”

She heard some ship’s horns in the distance.

That would be the Mouri fleet. The transport ships and warships blasted their horns like trumpets to play a short tune. They also shined their floodlight spells around.

“What are you, a bike gang?”

She smiled bitterly, but that was not the end of it.

A great noise rang from below her feet.

This time, it was the Musashi.

All eight ships blasted their horns to answer the call from the south.

All other sounds ceased as the doors, windows, and thatch and slate roofs of the nearby buildings shook and clouds of dust flew into the air.

“Musashi” had likely chosen to do this, so was this the way of aerial ships?

Once the noise faded away, Masazumi turned away from the south.

“–––––”

She saw the lights on in the idiot’s house, which doubled as the Main Blue Thunder. I’ve been coming here at night a lot recently, she noted.

“Hey, I’m here. What are you doing?”

She opened the door and stepped inside.


Horizon8B 255.png

Naruze was supervising.

Their goal was getting Neshinbara to upload his manuscript, so they had to get him working on that manuscript by any means necessary – be it doping him, casting an automatic writing spell on him, or letting him blow off some steam ordering things off the divine network.

Naruze herself opened a Magie Figur while dangling from a ceiling beam by the back of her knees.

“Tenzou and Urquiaga, you work as assistants! Mary, you focus on making snacks for us. Asama, you focus on providing a late-night meal for us. Mitotsudaira, you complete odd jobs with your chains, which will mean anything from tidying up to shopping. Adele, you and Suzu wait for proofreading. Narumi and Gin, watch some videos to gain the basic knowledge needed to take over if need be. Tachibana Husband, you do the same. Everyone else can move over there and use the memos Neshinbara writes to set up some advertisement on the divine network and in the newspaper. Oh, I nearly forgot. Kimi, just do whatever. Horizon, make a late-night meal and snacks for the Chancellor’s group. Chancellor, you stay seated right there. Masazumi can talk about politics, I guess.”

“H-hold on, Black Mar! Why don’t I get to do anything to help!?”

“If you like, Toori-sama, I can whip you into shape so you might actually be able to help,” suggested Horizon.

“N-no thanks! I’m good with this!”

“Kiyonari, I just started this video but only the mouths are moving. What’s so entertaining about it?”

“Look more carefully! It features an elder sister!”

They were causing a racket already, but Naruze noticed Masazumi waving to her down below.

“What are you doing?”

“Oh, Neshinbara said his novel wasn’t going to be ready in time, so he’s going to put out a reference book and pretend that was his plan all along.”

“I-it’s not a reference book! It’s a pen-and-paper RPG!”

“Oh, yeah.” Masazumi nodded. “Those are popular in the elementary school. That’s where you have to announce what actions you take based on a set of rules, right? I remember the kids using poison to contaminate the dungeon’s water supply before going in, redirecting a waterway into the dungeon and sending in the smithing guild’s heavy metal waste, setting long-term fires around the dungeon to eliminate all the oxygen inside, or otherwise slaughtering all of the enemies without taking any damage themselves. They could do pretty much anything they wanted since they didn’t have any war treaties with the enemy, so the enemy commander clearly should have focused more on negotiations before the fighting began. Connections are crucial.”

“I-it’s just a game! Stop taking it so seriously!”

“Says Mr. Seventh Fleet,” said Naruze.

But once everyone was busy at work, Naruze had to supervise.

“Ga-chan, aren’t you going to draw some illustrations?”

“That wouldn’t be fair to Shakespeare.”

“But Shake doesn’t do illustrations.”

“My point exactly.”

“I know what you mean.” Kimi opened an acoustic spell along with personal headphone-style acoustic sign frames and a public speaker-style one. “There isn’t much you can do when a rival does something you can’t.”

Exactly. So Naruze turned to someone else.

“Asama, Mitotsudaira. What do you think?”

“A-are you ever going to stop teasing us every chance you get, don’t you!?” asked Asama.

“I’ve been doing it since before Nördlingen and it’s still funny, so probably not.”

Mitotsudaira turned her way while using her silver chains to adjust everyone’s seats to keep a walkway clear. She was currently adjusting the idiot’s seat.

“If you need something done you can’t do yourself, just tell me. …But I will not try to do everything myself. I would only burn myself out.”

“But what if someone else does something the Chancellor loves? Then he would be focused on them and not you.”

The wolf looked to her king.

He mimed taking something from the desk and setting it down out of the way.

He likely meant “don’t worry about that”. And…

“Whenever Nate’s with me, we’re always focused on each other.”

“We are. And I have not forgotten how important that is.”

“Wow.” Naruze looked daunted. “It’s getting a lot harder to tease you.”

“I was well trained.”

They had settled nicely into their roles as knight and king. They were like two clenched fists shown to each other as a sign of agreement.

They had become connected differently from what Naruze had hoped to see.

But she didn’t mind, maybe because it gave her more material to draw.

She knew it had to be the same with Asama and Horizon too.

No, Horizon got there first and encompasses all of them.

She looked over to see Horizon placing a lid on a frying pan in the kitchen. The Chancellor froze in place.

“Wait, what did you just hide?” he asked.

“My, my. Mighty suspicious, aren’t we? I have hidden nothing, unless you count a secret ingredient as ‘hidden’. All will be revealed in three minutes’ time, so you three boys over there can play rock-paper-scissors while you wait.”

“C-could you at least tell us if the winner or the loser has to eat whatever that is!?”

“Tenzou, you fool. You have no elder sister, so you obviously go first.”

Chaos was already setting in, but Mitotsudaira smiled a little.

“To answer your question, I would rejoice with everyone else. And when my king was focused on me, I would rejoice in whatever I could do for him.”

“I see.” Naruze nodded. “Chancellor, don’t you dare die.”

“Asama’s dad was worried about the same thing,” he said. “Oh, but everyone except Horizon has some healing skills, so I’m good.”

“So you’re saying Horizon wears down your stamina and you go to the other two to recuperate.”

“Wh-why are you jotting down notes, Naruze!?”

It was called an on-site investigation.

At any rate, things were underway and she appreciated the ample material she was bound to get from all this. And…

“Masazumi, got anything to say as our politics expert?”


Mary felt some slight excitement and enthusiasm. Because…

They have two stovetops and a stone oven here!

It made sense for a bakery. The kitchen had a worktable in the center, as well as a sink and ice room. With this much to work with, she could easily fix everything she had enjoyed back in England.

This was simply not possible in the small room she shared with Tenzou.

But she could not be picky. She had defected and the two of them were working to support themselves. Also, this was a café/bakery, not an ordinary residence.

She was just happy to know that it was possible to build a kitchen like this. Also…

“Anyway, that’s the general path we’ll take. We’ll mostly be visiting the Kantou nations.”

Masazumi was here. She had a sign frame open to show their plans until they arrived at the Ariake.

After seeing some extra jam and milk in the ice room, Mary was planning to make a simple pudding. But she also needed something that would be done sooner, so she rolled out some kneaded dough, cut it into sheets, added some jam and such on top, rolled it into tubes, and stuck them in the oven. The large worktable let her lay out several sheets at once, speeding up the process considerably. She could make so much more this way.

That just left the pudding. It was easy enough to make, so while she was focusing on it…

“Lady Masazumi, are you saying we will not be going to the Ariake right away?”

“Judge. It turns out we can complete most of the repairs with materials inside the Musashi, so we’ll start with that.”

Smoking Girl: “You have to remember that the Ariake belongs to Kantou IZUMO. The Musashi was built by IZUMO, so they’re affiliated but not the same. We have to pay for any repairs done at the Ariake. We set up a joint-work deal to expedite the repairs after we were so badly damaged that last time, but that isn’t normally how it works.”

Vice President: “Our analysis shows most of the repairs this time are on Musashino. Most of the damage was to the basic hull and the bridge, so the 1st port and starboard ships’ stock parts for residential blocks will be enough. The bridge is going to require some adjustments to its internals though, so that will have to be done at the Ariake.”

Mary nodded at their explanations.

“So we want to do whatever we can on our own?” asked Asama while cutting up some fried foods and eggplant.

Ookubo: “Hiring out work is sometimes cheaper, but with the Ariake, we have to buy the materials as well. But that lets us get rid of some dead stock, so whatever.”

“Besides,” continued Ookubo.

Ookubo: “That isn’t the only reason to wait on sending the Musashi to the Ariake.”

“Judge.” Masazumi nodded and gestured for them to continue cooking without worrying about all this. “For a few days, we’ll be visiting the Kantou nations while doing our repairs and inspections. We’ll mostly be dealing with some odds and ends and greeting those nations, but we also have to purify our course, don’t we?”

“Yes, that is one of the Musashi’s standard tasks that has nothing to do with the history recreation.”

“Then we can use that to go around showing off the Musashi’s presence.”

Hearing that, Adele raised her hand. When Masazumi looked over, she tilted her head.

“Why did you say that part just to us and not to Ookubo?”

“Judge. Because she already knows since she’s the one I put in charge of all that work.”

“Masazumi-sama! Are you saying we get to focus on summer break while shoving all the tiresome work on our underclassmen!?” asked Horizon as she shook her lidded frying pan over the stove.

“Then I would love to use some spare time to set up the usual artificial beach next to the ship,” said Asama while walking toward the ice room.

“Oh, we should be free, so we’ll go help you get it set up right,” said Naruze, dangling from the ceiling.

Everyone raised their hands in agreement.

Mary was unsure what to do herself.

I did say I would make lunches for Master Tenzou, didn’t I?

Then the idiot spoke.

“Okay, once it’s all set up, let’s go to Musashi’s beach together. …Seijun, there’s gotta be one day you aren’t working Tenzou to death, right?”


Narumi heard the Vice President respond with a “judge”.

One day to kick back and relax might not be a bad idea.

She was planning to rethink Unturning Centipede’s design over summer break. That way she could focus on making any changes she wanted once they arrived at the Ariake. But…

“Will that be after we arrive at the Ariake? I want to get some things done before then.”

“You’ll have to ask Asama about that one,” said the Chancellor.

She looked over to see the Asama Shrine Representative carrying bottles of soy sauce and sesame oil over to the worktable.

“Frying something?”

“No, something fried would be too heavy, so I’m only going to boil it. By including some grated ginger, I thought it could help warm us up while still being light. …Would you fry it back in Date?”

“They just like fried foods since it’s so cold. But with ginger in it, it should be good boiled.”

She was at the point where she used “they” in reference to Date. But the Asama Shrine Representative smiled.

“Well, the tuning of the artificial beach will be done before we reach the Ariake, but we can wait until we arrive to visit. Masazumi can decided on a date since she’s the one working Tenzou-kun to-”

She stopped speaking when she noticed white flowers spilling from the English Princess’s hair and shoulders where she had been rolling something up on the kitchen worktable.

That girl never hid anything. Or maybe she was just bad at hiding it. Musashi’s princess was scooping up the white flowers from the floor and tossing them around, so what had happened to her frying pan? That was a bit worrying. But…

“I like how you can tell what she’s thinking without her having to say anything,” said Narumi.

“I can tell what you are thinking without you having to say anything,” he said.

“If I don’t say a word, am I in a good or a bad mood?”

“It depends. But like I said, I do not need your words to tell.”

“I see. Then maybe I should start talking more.”

It amused her that she followed that up by shutting her mouth and saying nothing more. But no one took issue with it and it wasn’t really worth taking issue with anyway.

So what does it matter? she decided. I like who I am, she added with a smile.

“W-wait a second, Aoi-kun! What do you think you’re doing!?”


I saw this coming a mile away, thought Naruze, still dangling from the ceiling. So just out of curiosity…

“What did he do? Keep it simple.”

“Well, you see, since it’s a game, I let Aoi-kun design the monsters! I thought that was safer than letting him come up with the story or the main characters! And then this!”

Neshinbara held up a sign frame displaying a monster drawing. It looked like a bare-chested macho man with a hairy flower in place of a face and a single giant eye in the center.

“Whaddya think, Black Mar!? Looks strong, right!?”

“Is that an original design? What’s its name?”

“Anus Eye! He’s called Anus Eye!!”

That one she had not seen coming, so Naruze fell from the ceiling.


“Th-this is supposed to be all-ages, so why would you make this so much more difficult for us, Aoi-kun!?” demanded Neshinbara.

“Huh!? You’re the one that said to make something original so copyright wouldn’t be an issue!” protested Toori.

“Ga-chan, Ga-chan, you shouldn’t be laughing at this,” said Naito.

“I-I’m not, Margot! Bring on the next one! I refuse to lose to this!” shouted Naruze.

“Tomo? Tomo? Why are you looking the other way with your shoulders shaking?” asked Mitotsudaira.

Well, this is a disaster, thought Masazumi.

In the kitchen, Horizon was pouring water in her frying pan to steam whatever was inside.

“Toori-sama, isn’t that name a little too on the nose?”

“But if it’s for the general public, you need to keep things simple, right!? And the eye is the weak point, so it’s perfect. Okay, for my next one…”

“Please no morrrrrrrrrrrre!”

Neshinbara grabbed the idiot by the collar and shook him. Meanwhile, Crossunite and Urquiaga placed Anus Eye on the cover of Neshinbara’s manuscript and drew on the “adults only” symbol.

“We should probably compile all the images now,” said Crossunite.

“Yes, and delete the backup data,” said Urquiaga.

Masazumi did not entirely understand, but it sounded like Neshinbara had no escape now.

“You must stop this, Aoi-kun! I created such a beautiful world of light and dark, but now it has an Anus Eye in it! How are you going to fix this!?”

“Eh, what’s wrong with them living there?”

“What kind of ecosystem is something like that supposed to live in!?”

“Well, let’s say they descend from the clouds every so often.”

“You’re ruining my brilliant worldbuilding!”

“Tomo, Tomo. Get back to the kitchen before your broth boils over,” said Mitotsudaira.

Speaking of Mitotsudaira, wasn’t this a job for her since she was doing odd jobs? But anyway…

“We’ve been so busy lately, but with Mouri leaving and everything with Hashiba settling down, it finally feels like summer break.”

“You poor naïve girl.” Naruze got up from the floor. “We don’t get a break until the festival is over.” She pulled a pen from her pocket and pointed it toward Masazumi. “Also, we still have to deal with those two who haven’t joined us here: Nagabuto and his wife.”


Self-Destruct Girl: “As you can see, we have some exciting days in store for us. Yes.”

Christina heard the response of “I see” carried by the gentle breeze.

She was on the port side of Tama, Musashi’s 2nd starboard ship. She looked down on the city from a 2nd floor balcony of the Swedish embassy in the diplomatic district.

She had already memorized the layout of Musashi’s surface cities, even if her information was not entirely up to date.

Based on her memorized information…

Self-Destruct Girl: “The Musashi has changed a lot since Mikawa.”

“Testament,” came the reply.

Lady AM: “All the foreign officials left back then and then they had major improvements done after Mikatagahara. But I believe most of the embassies remained staffed.”

Self-Destruct Girl: “Probably so those nations would have an excuse to take what they could get if the Musashi did sink.”

Christina could tell she had a smile on her face.

Self-Destruct Girl: “But that never happened, so I get to be here now.”

Lady AM: “What is that on your plate?”

“Testament,” replied Christina, looking to the side.

Next to a glass of wine were five skewers of grilled chicken on a long white plate. There were also some empty skewers.

Self-Destruct Girl: “When Tadaoki-sama and I took a look around the repair sites for the recent damage, we happened across a popular yakitori place that had already been repaired, so we each bought some dinner there.”

Lady AM: “Why not eat together?”

Christina blushed.

Self-Destruct Girl: “I didn’t know what he would think of a woman who can eat yakitori as well as I can.”

Lady AM: “He’d probably find it less of a pain than you’re being now.”

That would be nice, said Christina, her hand on her cheek to feel the smile on her face.

And she sighed.

Self-Destruct Girl: “Is it wrong to feel happy when the Apocalypse is so close?”

Lady AM: “It’s better than trying to blow yourself up when the Apocalypse is close. Because you aren’t being a nuisance to everyone else this way. But more than that…”

Self-Destruct Girl: “It seems that Sweden wants to provide the bare minimum of cooperation with Musashi.”

Lady AM: “That would make sense.”

Christina nodded at Tomoe Gozen’s response.

Self-Destruct Girl: “Looking at Europe’s history, the Catholics don’t have any real history recreation victories left now that Nördlingen is complete.”

Lady AM: “But they still have interpretations, so M.H.R.R. will be aiming for ‘de facto victories’. Just like how we ‘lost’ at Nördlingen. …The Testament says the Thirty Years’ War is on the decline, but people are not that easily controlled anymore. Which is why I asked Musashi to keep Hashiba and Oda in check.”

“Testament,” replied Christina.

To change her train of thought, she stuck a skewer in her mouth and pulled off two pieces of chicken.

When she bit into them, the soy sauce and salt flavor soaked in between her teeth. She chewed the greasy meat and then took a sip of wine. She held the astringent and sour flavor in her cheek, swallowed it, and let out a faintly heated breath.

When she inhaled, she felt a mixture of the wine’s scent and the chill of the air. Maybe that was due to the alcohol in the drink. She then nodded once and spoke.

Self-Destruct Girl: “But it’s summer break now. Every nation out there will be searching for a favorable compromise concerning the Thirty Years’ War while also gathering domestic opinions on the matter. And…”

And…

Self-Destruct Girl: “Those compromises will be greatly influenced by Hashiba’s actions. Hexagone Française is closer to Hashiba thanks to the reconciliation of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle and such, so you could say they have a slight lead on the race to conquer Europe. But Hexagone Française and Hashiba also have a problem they must face.”

Lady AM: “The Honnouji Incident, you mean?”

“Testament,” replied Christina.

Self-Destruct Girl: “That incident brings great change to P.A. Oda and, if it throws off the balance of power in Europe, it could mean trouble for the European nations that are looking forward to finally ending the Thirty Years’ War they have fought for so long. If Musashi can keep P.A. Oda in check, great. But if Musashi’s attempts instead spur P.A. Oda to action, Hashiba could do to the other European nations what they did to K.P.A. Italia.”

Thus…

Self-Destruct Girl: “The European nations want a quiet end to the Thirty Years’ War, but they also want to avoid any responsibility if something does happen.”

Lady AM: “Then what about us Protestants and Hexagone Française who have asked Musashi to keep P.A. Oda in check and have worked closely with them?”

Self-Destruct Girl: “If you learn things are not going well for Musashi, you will assist them, won’t you?”

I already know you will, thought Christina as she continued.

Self-Destruct Girl: “That is when the powerful nations, smaller nations, smaller forces, and territories taking a ‘wait and see’ stance will finally act.”

So…

Self-Destruct Girl: “If the powerful nations and forces are going to act, it can be useful to support them. After all, they will be named the victors at Westphalia, so take their side and you can share that victory with them.”

Lady AM: “I already knew that, but I kind of hate it. It seems cheap to me. Is that because I’m from the Far East?”

Self-Destruct Girl: “Opinions there are so influenced by national character that it can be a boon to your nation’s people even if you personally think it is cheap or opportunist. Also…”

Christina smiled bitterly.

Self-Destruct Girl: “Tsirhc teaches us we should share our excess wealth with the poor.”

Lady AM: “Then treat me to some yakitori next time we meet.”

Christina smiled a little at that.

Self-Destruct Girl: “No, I don’t think so. Because…”

She did not need to reach up and check what this smile felt like.

This was a natural one that she did not have to create.

Self-Destruct Girl: “This is not wealth. It is the result of my date, so it belongs to me.”


Chapter 38: Discussers at the Meeting Place[edit]

Horizon8B 273.png

When did I

Start looking up at

So many different ceilings?

Point Allocation (Most of Us Do)


“So I honestly think Sweden will wait until after Honnouji to decide whether or not to side with Musashi. They will want to see what Hexagone Française and the Protestants do about us first.”

Masazumi explained her thoughts while sitting cross-legged on a futon and holding her feet.

The futon was laid out atop the tatami mats in the “girls’ room” they had created in the Main Blue Thunder. They had all loosened their summer uniforms for comfort, taking the cleaning and purification charms prepared by Asama, and placing them in their collar or hip hard point parts.

They were taking a break and getting deeper into their work.

Compiling Neshinbara’s weird book was going to take all night, but Balfette and Mukai had already nodded off. The girls were primarily working as assistants, so once the late-night food was ready, Naruze had told them anyone without any work could get some sleep. She had warned them they might have to be woken up before the morning, but there was no point in staying awake for the time being. Thus, they were getting some rest or working on their own stuff in here.

Late-night work could be exhilarating, but the excitement did not last long.

According to Naruze, “Everyone wants to stay up all night, but they don’t actually prepare themselves for it. That’s why it’s best for beginners to ride the excitement and work to keep it from fading as the night wears on. Do that and you’ll have less of a rebound when you do get tired and need to rest.”

With the boys, Noriki had left early to get back home, but the others were apparently still working in the café space. Masazumi occasionally heard them hitting each other and Horizon’s arms would join in, but things were mostly peaceful. Their progress was automatically sent to Masazumi every 45 minutes, so she was in charge of organizing the changes and corrections.

Since the idiot could cook at any time, they wanted to make the most of what Asama, Mary, and the others could make.

“It all comes down to Neshinbara’s progress, doesn’t it?”

“We have two or three hours of leeway there,” said Naruze. “So Mary can go first.”

“Mary?”

“We can have her whip up something to wake everyone up. Asama’s Far Eastern food wouldn’t have the punch of the herbs Mary would put in.”

Mary was over in the Aoi Sister’s section, receiving a lecture on the best shops on the Musashi and what kind of swimsuit to choose. She had flowers constantly spilling from her hair.

“Her excitement is keeping her up now, but I get the feeling she’ll pass out once she’s cooked Tenzou’s portion.”

“Yeah, Ma-yan’s the type to let her excitement carry her through and then crash once she’s done,” said Naito. “Probably makes for a fulfilling life.”

“I see,” nodded the Tachibana Wife. With Balfette and Mukai out, she was checking over the completed manuscript pages. “We have a general idea of Sweden’s intentions now, but what will we do about Honnouji? We would have a hard time roping the Swedish Chancellor into this.”

“I have some thoughts regarding that,” said Masazumi. “I think we’ll be returning to Kansai no matter what, but instead of roping her into it, I imagine we will be discussing a way to reach a consensus with her.”

“Discussing? Do you have a meeting date set?”

“The 10th. The same day we arrive at the Ariake. …Which is also a school day.”

“Oh,” they all said, with Horizon raising her right hand. She was sweating. “Um, I thought we dealt with all that school nonsense with our final exams, so how can we possibly have another school day so soon? Our academy-run society is more oppressive than I thought.”

“It’s really just a day to check in with the name inheritors to make sure they aren’t doing any history recreations during the break. We can also rent out the school facilities that day, so I’ve submitted for us to use the pool. It’s not the ocean, but it still sounds summery to me.”

“Oh?” The Date Vice Chancellor turned her way. “You had arranged that before we decided to visit Musashi’s ocean earlier, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, I did. I wasn’t going to work you throughout the break without any time to relax.” She crossed her arms, looked to everyone gathered here, and continued. “Listen. I am not obligated to provide worker benefits as Vice President, but I’m not a monster. It probably won’t seem like much since I don’t know what normal people enjoy, but I hope you can kick back and relax in the pool during our upcoming school day.”

Everyone exchanged a glance and nodded, so Naito raised a hand.

“Hey, Seijun?”

“What now?”

“Relaxing at the pool sounds great and all.”

“Yes, and?”

Masazumi tilted her head and Naito pressed her lips together before answering.

“Didn’t you just say we would be having a meeting with Chrippe about Sweden? That’s just more work.”


“Hmm?”

Mitotsudaira saw Masazumi tilt her head, arms still crossed.

She went on to tilt her entire upper body to the side by about 90 degrees and place Tsukinowa on her head when he nearly slipped from her shoulder.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Deal with it.”

“Go to hell!”

Mitotsudaira joined the others’ complaint and even the arms pointed at Masazumi in protest.

“Masazumi?” she said. “Are you saying we’re having a meeting on the poolside, not in the pool while we swim?”

“I think I might pass out from the heat and die,” said Naito.

Mitotsudaira appreciated how Asama opened a sign frame and jotted down a note about getting them enough water.

But Masazumi’s plan led her to a realization.

“Masazumi, you are placing a lot of weight on Sweden.”

“Judge. Looking at the victors of Westphalia, they rival Hexagone Française and M.H.R.R.’s Protestant principalities. They grew powerful during Chancellor Gustav’s rule and they adopted pacifism during Christina’s rule, but her people continued to fight. Their pull during the first half of the Thirty Years’ War and their control during the second half forces us to focus on them as much as the Protestants and Catholics. Also,” said Masazumi. “Sweden is the west side of the Noto Peninsula. On the Far Eastern side of the Testament, that land originally belonged to Uesugi, aka Sviet Rus, but it was conquered by Shibata before Honnouji.”

Someone responded to Masazumi’s explanation in confusion.

It was Horizon and she was tilting her head.

“Oh? But the Shibata forces have not yet conquered that land, have they? When we dropped down onto Novgorod and went hog wild, I believe that battle counted as a few different history recreations, one of which was Shibata’s front line in Hokuriku being pushed back to the south.”

She was sharp.

Mitotsudaira knew what Horizon was asking.

“The Testament says Shibata is supposed to control Noto, but they were pushed back without taking it. And you want to know why that is.”

“Judge. It was an insightful question from the most brilliant and erudi- gah! Yes, I just bit my tongue, but it was on purpose to wake myself up.”

“Horizon! Your vainglory is getting better!”

Horizon gave Mitotsudaira two thumbs up.

Then she opened a sign frame, made a search, and nodded a few times.

“Now, according to my flawless memory…”

“You openly made a search just now…”

“You were imagining things, Naito-sama.”

But Horizon left the imagined search results in front of her as she continued.

“According to the Testament, the two history recreations held at Novgorod were the Siege of Nanao Castle and the Battle of Te…Tedorigawa? Uesugi Kenshin dies after those two, so Shibata tries again to invade No…Noto and conquers it.”

Everyone eventually gave a scattering of applause.

Horizon held out her hands and bowed to the left and to the right to accept their praise. And then…

“I am impressed you could all keep up with my brilliance.”

“W-we mostly experienced those events ourselves, so we can handle it, Horizon.”

Mitotsudaira nodded in agreement with Asama. And…

I know a fair amount about Shibata’s actions.

On the way to Sviet Rus to negotiate with the three nations, she had done her own research and checked on the Shibata forces’ actions after Novgorod.

“Look,” she said while opening a sign frame.

  • Siege of Nanao Castle: Uesugi and Oda join forces and attack Nanao Castle (Novgorod).
  • Battle of Tedorigawa: Oda attacks Uesugi, but is repelled.
  • Siege of Uozu Castle: After Kenshin’s death, Oda attacks Uesugi’s territory. But the Honnouji Incident occurs shortly thereafter.

She wrote out the three battles that Novgorod had stood in for.

“I believe I see Shibata’s strategy here.” Mitotsudaira tapped the sign frame. “First, they began the Siege of Nanao Castle to take Novgorod. But the Siege was complete once they arrived at Novgorod’s city hall, so Sviet Rus switched over to the Battle of Tedorigawa.”

Thinking back, that battle had been pretty reckless. She and the 1st Special Duty Officer had worked together to sever Shibata Katsuie’s right arm.

All the fighting had ultimately repelled the Shibata forces, but…

“They decided to call their retreat the Siege of Uozu Castle. Instead of using it as the history recreation of a victory, they focused on their withdrawal to arrive at Honnouji. That might force P.A. Oda’s hand on Honnouji, but it does allow the Shibata forces to rush there right away.”

“In that case.” Horizon raised her right hand. “The Shibata forces left Joetsu before conquering Noto, didn’t they?”

“Judge. The Testament says Shibata only held Noto between the Battle of Tedorigawa and the Siege of Uozu Castle. That was only a short time, so…”

Mitotsudaira added information to her list.

  • Siege of Nanao Castle: Uesugi and Oda join forces and attack Nanao Castle (Novgorod).
  • Battle of Tedorigawa: Oda attacks Uesugi, but is repelled.

(After Kenshin’s death, the Shibata forces attack and conquer Noto.)

  • Siege of Uozu Castle: After Kenshin’s death, Oda attacks Uesugi’s territory. But the Honnouji Incident occurs shortly thereafter.

“This is what happened in between there, but they moved right past that gap at Novgorod.”

“Why would they do that?” asked Horizon.

“As we have said before, to fight back against Honnouji,” answered Mitotsudaira with a smile. “The Siege of Uozu Castle ends in a victory for Shibata, but since Honnouji happens immediately afterwards, its history recreation is also one of the triggers for Nobunaga’s assassination. By completing it in advance, the Shibata forces prepare themselves for Honnouji and prevent other countries from intervening. It also lets the other nations know that the Shibata forces are ready to take action during Honnouji if need be.”

Everyone fell silent there.

She knew that was the correct response.

They had been thinking about intervening in Honnouji since before summer break even began, but P.A. Oda’s leaders had been thinking of ways to fight that intervention since well before even that.

This was no half-hearted effort.

But Mitotsudaira also smiled on the inside. Masazumi, Horizon, Narumi, Gin, and everyone else were looking silently over at her. And…

“Mitotsudaira-samaaaaa!!!!!”

“D-do you need something, Horizon!?”

“No, not really. I just couldn’t stand the silence and you had been in control of the conversation for so long I thought it was about time I shouted.”

“I see,” said Mitotsudaira while noticing everyone’s gazes.

The expectation in their eyes set off warning bells in her mind.

“I-I only know this because I researched it on the way to Sviet Rus.”

“I’ll let their Chancellor know that,” said Naruze.

“Eh?” thought Mitotsudaira while Naruze wrote something on her Magie Figur and sent it.

Masazumi looked her way and tried to help by giving an explanation.

“This involves them, so we have to let them know. We’re recording the relevant pieces of information.”

“We don’t want to interrupt their work too much,” agreed Narumi with a quiet snort. “But Sweden’s situation sounds like trouble.”


“It does,” agreed Gin.

She was from Kansai, so her knowledge of the area around Sviet Rus was limited to what she had looked up on her own. But…

“Sweden was assuming the Shibata forces’ control would reach them.”

Their treatment of Christina implied as much.

“By keeping their Chancellor outside, the Shibata invasion would have less of an impact. It’s the opposite of the usual situation with a provisional ruler like Chancellor Christina. And if Shibata controlled Sweden from the Far East side, it would make intervention after the Thirty Years’ War easier, which would have benefitted both sides.”

“But didn’t the Shibata forces withdraw instead?” asked the Asama Shrine Representative.

Gin nodded.

Some of this doesn’t sit well with me.

Shibata’s actions suggested the Honnouji Incident was more important than intervention in the Thirty Years’ War.

There was only one thing she could say given the current situation.

“Shibata strikes back at Hashiba after Honnouji and is defeated in the Battle of Shizugatake. The Shibata forces are wiped out and Hashiba inherits Noto from them, so Shibata probably saw no real reason to intervene in Sweden at this point.”

So…

“When Musashi intervened in Sviet Rus’s affairs and carried out Shibata’s history recreations at Novgorod, Sweden found its plans falling apart. They had hoped to work with Shibata, but now they have to choose to side with Hashiba, with Europe, or with us.”

That was followed by the sound of a disembodied right arm slapping the Vice President’s shoulder from behind.

Eventually, the arm’s owner spoke up.

“Your harassment is now affecting more than just P.A. Oda, Masazumi-sama.”


Tenzou sensed a change in the mood as the clock struck 3 in the morning.

He thought he could feel tension coming from the door next to the kitchen, which led to where the girls were gathered.

They were apparently going over some Sweden information and the end result had been sent to him.

All of this history-related information would distract Neshinbara-dono.

The boy was liable to join the conversation, which explained why the girls were doing this in another room.

Here, Neshinbara was silently typing away at a sign frame and Urquiaga was using his half-dragon knowledge of the climate and atmosphere to type in the worldbuilding sign frame.

Toori had finished his rough illustrations for the monsters, passed them off to Persona-kun and the others to clean them up, and was now in the kitchen preparing some drinks and checking on what Mary had made for them.

Tenzou could not help but notice how he was pacing a lot.

“Toori-dono, if you have nothing to do, you can always get some sleep.”

“Tenzou, be blunt with him. Tell him he needs to get to bed because he’s a nuisance!”

“Y-you tell him, Uqui-dono!”

“How about telling Uqui that isn’t what you meant!?”

But the idiot opened a sign frame, turned it toward them, and began to speak.

“You see, it’s summer, right? And late at night? The café’s air conditioning and other stuff need to be turned on, but only sis, Asama, and I have control privileges there.”

“Yeah, keeping that sorted out sounds like a pain,” said Tenzou.

He decided to take a break and something occurred to him, so he commented while Toori handed him a paper glass of barley tea.

“I can’t believe Horizon-dono and the others agreed to all this.”

“Hm. If anything, it’s more like they came to me. Wasn’t it the same for you?”

Tenzou thought back. A lot had happened in England, but it had all been necessary.

“I guess you’re right. What about you, Uqui-dono?”

“I only did what anyone would have done.”

I should have expected that answer from him, thought Tenzou, but then Toori said more.

“I’ve said it before, but I think you’re way more impressive, Tenzou. All of my relationships came from inside Musashi, but yours came from outside.”

“Toori-dono, you are well on your way to becoming king of the world.”

“Horizon might just say she prefers being a bakery worker, though. Honestly, she’d probably be stronger that way, but, well, that too might change.” He smiled. “But I never imagined I’d have so many people to share my life with.”

“What did you expect?”

“I had vaguely hoped for something like this…but looking back, I think it’s always been like this. When I’m with Horizon and the others, I feel like I don’t have to hold anything back.”

“Is that so?” said Tenzou.

“Ask, and it shall be given you,” said Urquiaga.

“That doesn’t apply to sex though, does it?” asked Tenzou.

Urquiaga gave a snort of laughter.

“Toori and the girls are Shinto. While I view everything through the lens of Tsirhc’s teachings, I also respect other religions. And Shinto’s motto is be fruitful and multiply.”


“But the real problem is Westphalia. If we intervene at Honnouji, we can use all of our results to get a seat at the table, but that’s when we can finally discuss the Logismoi Oplo and the Apocalypse.”

Mitotsudaira nodded in agreement with Masazumi.

“If only we had the power to demand a gathering of the nations so we could hold a public meeting on our own terms. Unfortunately, there isn’t a nation or an organization out there with that kind of power.”

“Right,” said Masazumi, but Mitotsudaira was not done talking.

“But, Masazumi? Do you remember what you said in your negotiation with Ankokuji Ekei the other day? You said the world would eventually be unified or equalized in a way we can’t even imagine now.”

“I don’t think I said it quite like that…”

“No,” said Gin, glaring down at Futayo who was sleeping face up on the tatami mats. “Is it rude or impressive that she can sleep literally anywhere?”

“Gin, Gin. Try not to respond to every little thing you see. Didn’t you have something more relevant to say?”

“Judge.” Gin nodded and looked to Masazumi instead. “When discussing anything, it is useful to keep in mind that the current system is not perfect and it should be further modified to suit the current age. Also…”

Also…

“You have given some thought to what kind of system will be used in the future, haven’t you?”

Oh?

Mitotsudaira and everyone else turned to look at Masazumi.

Their Vice President scratched her head in response.

“Well, I do have a father on the Provisional Council and I understand that Musashi is being oppressed. And I get that the Testament prevents the nations from just holding a public meeting whenever they want. But,” she said. “Authority over the Testament is held by the Testament Union, but Hashiba has taken control of that from K.P.A. Italia and the Tsirhc Catholic Pope-Chancellor. So I think we need to take another look at how we do things.”

“Seijun, is that why you said interpretations could take precedence over the Testament?”

“It’s a huge pain otherwise, don’t you think? People use it to force death on others and they use it to kill themselves or others. When someone has given up on the world and people are being hurt, there aren’t many people you can rely on when those doing harm have such a widely-accepted justification for their actions.”

It was clear Masazumi was choosing her words carefully. Statements like this could easily get you expelled from the current Testament Union. Because…

She’s openly advocating a system where we place ourselves above the Testament and only use it for reference.

But how well would that actually work?

“If we ignore all of those standards, some might work toward their own self-interest,” pointed out Mitotsudaira.

“Yes, almost certainly.” Masazumi nodded. “And if someone powerful does that, it can be hard to stop them or it could lead us all to destruction. We don’t really know for sure, but I imagine that was the cause of most wars during the Age of the Gods. Same for the war in the Divine States during the Age of Dawn.”

“Probably so.” Naruze sounded somber as she moved her pen along her Magie Figur. “The world was once as strict as Masazumi used to be and then some reformers like the current Masazumi advocated greater freedom, but as people used that freedom to pursue their own self-interest, it led to wars like the ones Masazumi always starts, and they eventually learned their lesson and reverted to an era of the strict Masazumi. And it loops from there.”

“I might have agreed with you if you didn’t insult me every step of the way.”

But Mitotsudaira thought there were some accurate points in what Naruze said.

“We just have to steer things in a positive direction during that cycle of conservatism and reform, don’t we?”

She too was a provisional name inheritor. She had been left with the land of Mito, but in the current time period, that did not grant her much power.

But she was here, she was thinking, she was seeing things, and she was touching things. She could be absolutely certain that she was indeed here.

But how certain was that from a historical perspective? All of the people on the Musashi, in the other nations, and in the Far East as a whole were definitely “here”, but most of them would not go down in history.

Existing and being remembered were two different things, as were not existing and not being remembered. The difference was obvious, but it was also a funny thing to think on.

“How many people are born and die as time flows from one era to the next?”

“Getting kinda poetic there, Mito-tsan.”

“I won’t deny it. I was trying to get a grasp of something abstract within me. But,” she added. “That flow of time might be ended by the Apocalypse.”


The Apocalypse.

The weight of the word only hit Mitotsudaira after she had already said it.

While camping in Sanada, they had discussed what the Apocalypse was and made some educated guesses.

The world thins out until it is destroyed.

Just like your consciousness fading away, the entire world would fade away into nothingness. Nothing would be entirely missing, so they would fail to notice the thinning process while it happened all around them.

And at some point, the world would end.

It might be happening already for all they knew. But…

“Shinto is measuring the amount of ether at important points in the ley lines, but the levels are not dropping off at this point.”

Everything in the world was made from ether, so it was assumed a thinning of the ether would signal the beginning of the Apocalypse.

“You mean the density of ether isn’t dropping?”

“The ether density fluctuates a lot due to the flow of the ley lines and we have to use an average value, but wars and big explodey events can also affect it. The approach of a ship like the Musashi can also cause a lot of fluctuation.”

“This sounds like a real pain, Asama-sama,” commented Horizon.

“It is. I do think long-term comparative readings can give us the answer we want, but it might be difficult to get an accurate value for the period starting with the Testament ceasing to update.”

“So all you can say is ‘it looks fine-ish for now, we guess’?” asked Mitotsudaira.

But if the Apocalypse really had yet to start…

“The Testament stops at the end of October this year. Do you think the Peace of Westphalia will be the trigger?”

“That would make the Apocalypse look awfully intentional, wouldn’t it?”

Narumi was right. What from that time could trigger this?

“There’s so much that we think we understand but don’t really.”

Horizon suddenly raised her hand.

“I just had a thought. Is there anything we can do to combat the world’s big diet?”


I didn’t even consider that, thought Masazumi concerning Horizon’s question.

A way to combat the Apocalypse.

They had discussed what the Apocalypse was, but never how they might combat it.

There were two main reasons for that: Musashi and the other nations still were not sure what the Apocalypse was at this point and they were not openly exchanging what information they did have.

Well, the other nations might individually be considering ways to combat it, but…

“It’s a good question.”

Musashi’s own Apocalypse theory was mostly guesswork. But…

“If we know what it does, we might be able to deduce a way to combat that effect.” Masazumi and the others turned toward Asama. “What would you do I the ether density dropped?”

“Eh? I think we would figure out why it had dropped and fix that problem.” Asama lowered her eyebrows and tilted her head in thought. “But if the Apocalypse is ‘something that just does that’, that won’t be so easy. For example, if it somehow destines the ley lines to deteriorate beyond repair.”

“What would you do in that case?”

“Well.” Asama nodded and held out her open palms. “I think Shinto would suggest global cutbacks and restrictions on ether-consuming technology.”


Asama continued after seeing the others fall silent.

“When a spell consumes ether, it doesn’t actually go away – it’s only converted into another form. But like I said earlier, spells and machines that consume large quantities of ether – such as the Musashi – will distort and place a heavy burden on the ley lines. So if the ether density drops, that burden will be even greater and some restrictions will be necessary.”

“Will those restrictions allow the density to recover?”

“No. The extra burden would mean more mysterious phenomena, so the restrictions would be meant to prevent those. I can’t say for sure the density wouldn’t recover, but the reduced burden would mean greater stability and I think the drop in density would slow.”

“Is that how it works?” asked Masazumi.

Who else here knows a lot about ether?

Naito and Naruze knew a lot as Technohexen, but their techniques were about processing ether and had little to do with the ley lines themselves. That just left…

“Mary, what do you think?”

“Eh? Oh, um, my understanding is more about intuition, so I have trouble explaining the theories behind it. I’m sorry.”

Asama couldn’t say much more when Mary sounded so apologetic, but Mitotsudaira raised her hand instead.

“My mother has that move where she directly taps into the ley lines, so she might know.”

“Is that so?” said almost everyone, turning toward Mitotsudaira as she opened a sign frame. She turned it toward them all so they could see the Reine des Garous on the divine transmission.

Huh? There would have been more of a lag if she was on Terumoto-san’s ship. Is she still on the Musashi?

Asama realized she had yet to receive notification of the woman’s departure.

Perhaps this transmission was her way of saying she was staying here.

“Um, mother? We have a question about ether concerning the Apocalypse discussion we had the other day.”

“Nate… Didn’t we just establish a new rule demanding you call me maman? But that can wait. So what did you want to know about ether?”

“Judge. If the ether density has dropped due to a decrease in the absolute quantity, is there a way to fix it?”

“There is.”

“Eh?” said Asama. A few others tilted their heads to ask “really?”, but…

It isn’t supposed to be possible for the absolute quantity of ether to change.

Was there some special method for it?

Asama nodded to the others and looked to Mitotsudaira, who pointed at the sign frame and made eye contact with the others.

“Um, mother? How are you supposed to fix the ether density?”

“Simple. Just wait about half a day and it will be good as new.”

“H-half a day!?” shouted Asama because she had never heard anything like this.

Mitotsudaira must have picked up on her frantic tone because she raised her voice.

“Mother! The ether density will really recover in just half a day!?”

“Yes, that’s what I did and now it’s thick and plentiful again. …Oh, you did mean ether as a euphemism, right? You are in your king’s bedroom, after all.”

Mitotsudaira smashed the sign frame with a karate chop.


Asama saw Naito looking her way.

“It’ll be good as new in half a day?”

“The ley lines won’t. And that is all anyone was ever talking about here.”

How did they get on this topic?

I shouldn’t have let Mito talk.

Was that a failure on her part, or had it been inevitable?

“Okayyyy, moving along. Let’s say the world’s ether density has dropped.”

“Yes, and let’s say it didn’t get better after half a day. Please, continue.”

Shut up, Naruze.

But from a Shinto perspective, it was obvious what they would do then.

“We would hold an emergency international meeting and have every nation agree to a non-aggression pact.”

“So a ban on war,” said Masazumi.

That was one way of putting it.

“And a temporary pause on the history recreation. That would be the first step. And…”

And…

“The divine transmission infrastructure would be left in place while all wartime ether consumption was stopped. Then I think every nation would exchange what information they had to help avoid any wars caused by confusion or misunderstanding. There would have to be an international police agency to enforce it, so not everything could be dismantled. But…”

With the world the way it was, a lack of enforcement would lead to mutual suspicion and ultimately more conflict.

So everyone had to be stripped of their weapons so they could not consume any fuel with them.

“You’re sounding like more of a politician than me, Asama.”

“No, um, this is all based on guidelines introduced back in the Age of Dawn.”

Asama opened a sign frame and displayed a few images depicting events from the Age of Dawn. She had gathered them as material for their meeting with Yasuhira and for investigating the area below Novgorod, but…

“Back then, people were so intent on war they nearly wiped themselves out, so they gathered everyone together, gathered up everyone’s weapons, and tried to talk things out going forward.”

“But not every force could speak with every other force at all times. What happened when your representative returned home?”

Narumi’s question was easily answered.

Anyone closely involved with a religion would know the basic response there.

“That is why they created the Testament. The representatives sent out to the other regions were given a manual to follow. That allowed them to remain organized even when they were apart.”

“But…oh, I do apologize for asking so many questions, but just one more,” said Narumi. “What did they do if the Testament said something that worked against them?”

Oh, thought Asama. We talked about this when discussing the Anti-Decline Pro-Tuning Project.

But Narumi-san wasn’t at our meeting with Yasuhira-san, was she?

And the Date clan knew what it was like for the Testament to work against them. Narumi had already found her own solution to that problem, so now she had to be furious that this was a reoccurring problem and not just something that happened to her. However…

“In that early period, they still remembered the fear of utter destruction, either from experiencing it directly or hearing about it from a relative, so they apparently used interpretations to deftly avoid any loss of life. At that point, I think they peacefully talked things out.”

It wasn’t a bad way of doing things. At the very least, they were working to avoid losing anyone.

Then someone spoke up to assist her explanation: Mary.

She rolled one of her ether flowers around in her hand as she spoke.

“The Testament helped there, but I have heard that religions also played a role. The explanation I heard focused on the Tsirhc side, of course. …Simply put, they created standards for the people to follow through the religious precepts of the Testament and god instead of basing it on a system of laws.”

In other words…

“They showed people how to cooperate through faith instead of resorting to self-interest.”


Narumi sensed a theory behind what Mary said.

It probably helped that she emphasized how this was from the Tsirhc perspective. She felt like she understood what the Asama Shrine Representative was saying now.

Simply put…

“Back then, they used interpretations of the Testament when necessary and avoided harming each other whenever possible”

It wasn’t a bad idea, so Narumi tried testing it on herself. She knew it was forceful, but she did it anyway.

If we did things that way now, would I be feeling this anger?

Couldn’t that system have saved some people?

But Narumi also remembered that the fox had been married just before Novgorod was destroyed. So…

“Yes.” She nodded, stopped leaning forward quite so much, and smiled bitterly at how she had just tested herself. “It’s ironic that they created a pacifistic era when facing near certain doom.”

She managed to get it out without pouring any of her personal feelings into it.

I’m so dumb.

She knew he would rebuke her if he knew. But then she would make an excuse, saying the late-night mood had gotten the better of her.

Musashi’s princess turned her way.

“With all the warring they did before, that later peace averages out to normal, don’t you think? Almost makes you want to ask them why they think they deserve to call themselves peaceful.”

Narumi’s eyebrows rose, but…

“True.” She smiled a little. “But I think it would help if we were equally shameless.”

Is this the future I want?

The Vice President must have thought the same thing because she nodded, crossed her arms, and spoke.

“Sounds like they wanted about the same thing we want now.”

“Because the foundation of crisis management hasn’t changed much since then”, said Asama. “If anything, I think they were in an even greater crisis during the Age of Dawn. After all, they had little infrastructure, the different groups couldn’t meet very often, and the population had dropped considerably.”

“True,” agreed Narumi.

I’m being awfully open here. This late-night mood is an odd thing. However…

“But what were those standards? And how did they convince people to follow them?” asked the 3rd Special Duty Officer, the Schwarz Hexen. “I’m curious what kind of standards could be used to control a world in crisis.”


Naito was a Technohexen. She had been born one, or born into a family of them, so it was what it was.

She had briefly tried to distance herself from it after seeing the Tsirhc history of the Technohexen hunts and it had scared her to find how Shinto was even more lax than Technomagie, but…

“What kind of standards did the religions create outside of the Testament? I mean, I mostly know the answer already, but I was wondering if there were any common elements between the different religions.”

Mary, Gin, and Asama all turned her way.

“To be open and accepting,” said all three of them at once.

That wasn’t just in stereo – it was 3D audio!

“Oh,” said the three after noticing. Asama gestured for Mary to go first and Mary did the same to Gin.

Gin looked around and saw Adele, the other Catholic, was asleep, so she took a breath and explained.

“It is all a gift from god.”

In other words…

“Everything is part of god’s plan and comes from him. It is crucial that faith makes you open to and accepting of the reality around you – as opposed to simply obeying.”

Naito could tell this was something profound.

The way Naruze stopped moving her pen made that clear enough. But Naito could only see it one way:

“So just give up and accept your fate?”

“No,” immediately replied Gin. “You must be open and accepting first and foremost, but then you can decide what to do about it. Why does every religion divide a land into administrative regions that can provide mutual aid? Because they need a process for accepting reality before they can work together on solving whatever problem they might be facing.”

So…

“Denying a problem exists does not make it go away, so the point is to place that problem in the box labeled ‘gifts from god’ to let yourself relax enough to actually face that problem and deal with it.”

“Oh, I get it,” said Naito. She also had the sudden urge to ask something else. “And Muneo was that for you, Gin-chan?”

Gin gasped, but after a moment, she pointed to the space next to Naito.

Naito looked over to see Naruze staring dead ahead with pen at the ready. She was even holding her breath.

“Ga-chan, Ga-chan. Can you give me that pen?”

“You are the only person in the world I would do that for, Margot. And I can just record the audio anyway.”

“Thanks,” she said while taking the pen. The tension left Gin’s shoulders and she continued.

“Master Muneshige was not a gift from god. Our relationship is the result of our hard work together.”

“Ohhh…” gasped the entire group.

But this was a rare opportunity for a Technohexen.

“Not everyday I get to hear from Shinto and Tsirhc at the same time.”

“The Technohexen are all about independence, but even we divide into regions for the Sabbat and have a mutual aid system in place,” said Naruze.

“You do?”

Naito was mildly pleased by Asama’s surprise, but she decided to sum up what they had discussed.

“So the traditional solution is to get everyone to face reality and work together instead of everyone going into hiding and growing paranoid.”

“When you think about it, that’s what we’re doing here for Neshinbara’s manuscript.”

“That almost sounds sweet, but there’s nothing sweet about what we’re doing here.”

“No, there isn’t,” said Naito, smiling bitterly.

“I see,” said Masazumi, sprawling her legs out on the tatami mats.

“What has you all lost in thought?”

“We just discussed so much about the different religions and history, but I was noticing how people came up with their own response to a crisis way back when and that still lives on today in a number of ways.”

So…

“I think I understand what Lord Motonobu meant when he likened all that to a ‘class’. And how we’re straying from the path he laid out, like we mentioned before.”

Asama nodded.

“We are paving a new path here, but that doesn’t mean we are alone. I just hope we can join with some likeminded people at Westphalia.”

“Agreed,” said Masazumi just before Naruze raised her pen.

Everyone’s eyes gathered on her as she spoke and drew out a rough illustration on her Magie Figur at the same time.

“We’re just lucky we have Asama who knows so much of this from the Shinto side. And there is one important factor to all the measures they took back in the Age of Dawn.”

The corners of Naruze’s mouth curled up, but Naito was unsure what she meant.

“Was there something related to Shinto in all that, Ga-chan?”

“It isn’t exclusive to Shinto. But it sounds like Shinto had the most solid position at the time, which was carried over from the Age of the Gods. And…” Naruze raised her pen. “They needed a way to increase the population. …You’re the expert there, aren’t you, Asama? How about you explain it for us?”


Chapter 39: Both Sides Speaking through the Partition[edit]

Horizon8B 307.png

For the most part

We’re thinking

The same thing

Point Allocation (Midnight High)


Tenzou sensed another mood change.

He had noticed a lot of noise coming from the girls’ bedroom before, but now…

Th-they’ve gone quiet.

They were not asleep. It was more like they were holding a serious discussion.

They had been sending out records of their thoughts on politics and the Apocalypse for a while now, but it had all stopped after the mood change. Toori must have noticed as well.

“Hey, Tenzou. Let’s grab some snacks as an excuse to barge in on them.”

“B-but what if it goes bad? Like during the school physical exam.”

Despite what the idiot said, he looked somehow satisfied. He had his eyes on the wall blocking his view from the kitchen.

“I was really hoping something like this would happen.”

“Even though you aren’t a part of it yourself?”

“Idiot, I’m plenty a part of it. I mean, they aren’t hiding the fact that they’re discussing something in secret, right? And…”

And…

“Horizon, Asama, and Nate are chatting in the same way Sis and I always do. And Mary, Uqui’s wife, the Tachibana Wife, Seijun, and the others are joining in. The people I care about are reaching out to others to enjoy something, and that’s enough to make me happy.”

“You make it sound so simple…”

But Tenzou felt much the same. Mary was living a normal life after defecting from England. You could easily guess she was shedding flowers while discussing something embarrassing with the others.

Although with our girls, imagining some pretty scene might just set me up for a greater shock when I get hit by the cold reality.

Still, he felt certain that Mary and the others like her could get by on the Musashi.

So she should be fine even if she does go back to England.

Calling it a “refuge” sounded wrong, but this gave Mary another home to return to.

This unique silence was proof of that. He could guess Urquiaga was thinking much the same thing about Narumi. And…

“Toori-dono can rest easy as well.”

Horizon, Asama, and Mitotsudaira were acting normally now.

The changes in their relationships had settled down and they were using those changes as stepping stones to reach further changes.

It’s so strange.

What even was everything that had happened when he first met “Scarred” in England?

Thinking back, it had all been necessary, but he felt like they didn’t need it anymore.

They were the same people they had been back then, but those things would never happen to them again.

So…

Tenzou stopped working as something occurred to him.

We inherit things even within ourselves. Our old selves are inherited by our new selves.


“–––––”

Tenzou had stopped to think and Urquiaga noticed.

“What’s wrong, Tenzou? Some new illness?”

“Y-you never change, do you!?”

But that had woken him up. And when he got his thoughts moving again…

I guess it shouldn’t be surprising. We are always changing, whether we are aware of it or not.

When you accomplished something, you did not repeat that same task forever. You started on something new.

Eras, ages, nations, and organizations all worked that way. The same applied to the opponents they had faced and the battles they had fought. Most wars and negotiations were related to the changing of the nations, so they had seen it happen on more than one occasion.

And there are those like Satomi Yoshiyori-dono who have others inherit a new way of life for them.

Yoshiyasu had inherited a new way of life from him and used that to give Satomi a new beginning. Toori and the rest of them would not soon forget what Yoshiyori had left with them.

So Tenzou decided to remember what had happened in England.

He would never forget it no matter how far they were from that nation. That way he would never forget the things they had inherited from the events in England. And…

“Toori-dono.”

That boy was an idiot and he had a knack for making things difficult, but…

Has he been inheriting new things and then wondering if that was for the best?

He could be pretty careless, so there was a good chance he would just shrug it all off with an “eh, it’s probably fine”, but he did appear to be making an effort to actively gain more beyond what he passively inherited and lost. So…

“Things are pretty good right now.” But, thought Tenzou. “I wonder what the girls are talking about.”

“Tenzou, how many kids do you want with Mary?”

“Wh-where did that come from!?”

“You idiot,” said the idiot. “The location, time, and mood in there are perfect for that topic.” He crossed his arms and grinned wide. “And the location, time, and mood are perfect out here too, so don’t you forget it.”


“And so after Izanagi and Izanami’s argument over how many people they would have born or have die, the Asama Shrine – well, Shinto as a whole – has decided to focus on the births.”

Asama felt some mild heat in her cheeks while she wondered what to discuss first. If she was being honest, Shinto took things to some pretty freaky extremes. There were stories of people having babies with not just the standard dogs and rabbits, but also birds, crocodiles, and lava. The Far East is kind of messed up, she belatedly realized.

But this story was more serious.

It had played out in the Age of Dawn and throughout history.

The population had to grow to prevent it from dying out.

“Simply put, if a nation restricts population growth, it is on the path to destruction.”

“Yeah, I imagine so,” agreed Masazumi. “Not only will their production slow, but they will have fewer people to maintain infrastructure and less tax revenue. In times of frequent war like the current age, and in historical periods that required expansion, no nation could get by if they did that.”

“Question.” Adele must have woken up at some point because she raised her hand while seated next to Suzu. “What about on the Musashi? I keep pretty close tabs on the taxes, since I’m Catholic and live on my own. So are things different here than elsewhere?”

“A larger population increases our taxes and gives us the personnel we need to function as a trade ship, so we promote population growth,” said Asama. “The weight tax has an age exception and a family credit, so people who live alone like you do end up paying more than others.”

“True,” said Masazumi while looking up a little. “The relationship between tax revenue and population would be the territory of a religion with divine protections for giving birth.”


“Yes,” agreed Asama. “The per-person taxes are all about population, of course. And there are also the external Blessing offerings that are classified as a tax. Every religion and nation needs these things to run, whether they’re Tsirhc Catholic, Tsirhc Protestant, or Mlasi. You can think of a nation’s population as its capital.”

Asama tried to keep this as simple as possible. Then Naito raised her hand.

“So you could say people are a nation’s pressurizer?”

“You could,” replied Masazumi who sat straight across from Asama. “Judge. It is the people who earn and spend. Through taxes and Blessings, that cycle can earn enough for the elderly and disabled, which is all the more reason for the Tsirhc nations in particular to advocate it. The greater the population, the greater the tax revenue, the greater the gross income, and the greater the consumption and production, so the excess can be used to begin trade and improve the nation’s position in the international economy. …So, yes, people’s work is like a pressurizer for that cycle.”

Everyone quietly cheered and applauded Masazumi’s summation, but Asama wanted to get back on topic.

“Well, the government will want to advocate population growth and the Asama Shrine, well, this is kind of awkward to say, but, well, we do have ‘replacement’ divine protections and such…”

Asama repeated the word “well” too much because she felt like she was standing on a precipice.

This discussion did have a political side. She considering the Musashi’s current state as she spoke.

But this was not part of her job. She was speaking with her friends. Also, they were currently in a bedroom.

Th-this is the most common site for “population growth advocacy”!

Mitotsudaira and Horizon were currently focused on their curiosity, but Kimi had her back turned with her shoulders shaking. Asama knew she had to say something about that later on.

But Mary tilted her head about what Asama had said earlier.

“Replacement? What does that mean here?”

Naruze smiled a little.

“How do you think babies are made? The principle behind it, not the physical method.”

“Let’s see.” Mary thought for a moment. “Judge. I believe we mentioned this before…but they are a gift from god.”

“I’m relieved you didn’t mention cabbages or storks. …Now, the gods actually exist, right? Tsirhc doesn’t have a specialist in births, so how it works with them is pretty vague. Technomagie is a technique for us mortals, so you have to work at it yourself. But when you have a myriad of gods like Shinto does, there is a god in charge of it and she manages the ‘fortune’ of who gets one and who doesn’t.”

“I see,” said Mary, a former Catholic. Her knowledge made it clear she had studied Shinto since arriving, but she still seemed surprised to find a god would be that closely involved in people’s day-to-day lives.

The gods are pretty much everywhere, which means they’re involved in everything.

The Tsirhc god was a massive and vaguely-defined being, but the Shinto gods had specific jobs they were in charge of.

“So,” said Asama. “In Shinto, Izanami and Izanagi determined the number of births and deaths and the number of births is higher. So the gods have created various spells to promote births, even if they are kind of lazy.”

Hanami held a sign frame:

<Hey, it isn’t easy. By, God.>

“Now, it has been said since the Age of the Gods that the birth rate will fall for some reason once there is peace, a robust welfare system is in place, entertainment is plentiful, and a solid infrastructure system has been built. So that can be a problem.”

“Heh heh. Musashi is well on its way there, isn’t it?” said Kimi.

“It is our job to ensure love flourishes, so we will do what we can.” Asama turned to Mary. “To answer your question, Mary, the god of births grants her worshipers’ wishes to have a baby or not. She does this by balancing both sides’ fortunes.”

“Um, what does that mean?” asked Masazumi, wrinkling her brow.

“If one couple doesn’t want a baby yet, their ‘have a baby’ fortune is redirected toward a couple that does want one,” answered Naruze. “I’ve heard it isn’t perfect, but the god of births is in control and Shinto allows gods to manage the fortunes of their worshipers.” Naruze sighed. “This is part of the reason rape and such is so hard for Shinto worshipers.”

“Oh, to be clear, the couples’ fortunes aren’t fully swapped and it requires the consent of both couples. You see, mutual consent has been promoted in Shinto ever since the land creation story.”

“Is that really any reason to have a long history of teleporting things into violators’ asses?”

“I see,” said Mary. Whether she actually understood or not was another matter.

But then she asked something else.

“Um, who is the Shinto god of, uh, births?”

Asama felt everyone’s eyes turn her way. She felt an oddly warm sweat while she hung her head and raised her right hand.

“There are more than one, but the biggest one is, um…Sakuya from our shrine.”


<It really isn’t easy. By, god.>

Asama sighed when she saw Hanami’s sign frame. Then Kimi laughed quietly.

“Heh heh. In that sense, it’s amusing that the Asama Shrine is on the Musashi. With the god of births on our side, we will be the Far East’s only independent territory not on its way to destruction.”

“Won’t politicians try to use you?” asked Masazumi.

“She can win them over with a well-placed kaboom,” said Naruze, miming firing a bow. Adele, Suzu, and Narumi all nodded.

“Makes sense.”

“N-no, I’ve never done that…I think.”

“Then why do you know how to blast people like that?” asked Gin.

Horizon placed her hands on Asama’s shoulders from behind to demand an answer.

Asama sighed and raised her right index finger before answering.

“It’s said we were nearly used by politicians long ago and a lot happened, so the Asama Shrine built its rear shrine on Fuji’s peak and declared it inviolable.”

Shinto was independent beneath the Emperor. They handled the Far East’s infrastructure and divine protections, so in the days of the most powerful clans, they had attempted to build up some military might and it was said they had even fought a battle.

But all of that is kept as a Shinto secret, just like the records from the Age of Dawn.

She had a feeling Yasuhira would tell them all about it if they asked. But…

“Anyway, none of those old reasons matter anymore and the Asama Shrine is part of Musashi. Now, there are spells and arrangements used for those who want a baby and those who do not. Yes. …Naruze, don’t give me that weird look.”

<My husband is enough for the one-time-use divine protections. By, god.>

“Oh?” Naito looked to the sign frame. “That’s one form of love…”

“We’re having an awful lot of divine visitations tonight.”

“We’ll be in the Ariake soon, so IZUMO has asked her to stay inside Musashi’s spell field. The Ariake has its own spell field and its own god and we don’t want any interference, so she has to stay inside. She won’t actually be physically summoned here, but her presence on the Musashi will mean no time lag for our divine protections.”

“Won’t it stress her out to be holed up like that?”

“We can have a summer festival to help cheer her up.”

It was interesting how Mary nodded several times in interest.

“Is this different than the spirits you know, Mary?”

“Yes. The spirits have their own natural roles, but they don’t have a defined political structure or specific jobs. At most, they have divisions like ‘king’ or ‘lord’.”

Asama really wanted to ask more about that, but that would stray too far from the current topic.

“Mary.”

“Yes?”

Small flowers scattered from her tilted head.

She must have been enjoying the conversation, or just the general mood, so Asama felt the need to make her point.

“There are preliminary divine protections for these things, so…feel free to come to me if anything happens.”


Eh? thought Mary.

She assumed they were asking because they found any information related to her and Tenzou to be amusing, but…

“U-um.”

What did they want from her here?

Oh.

When she had left England, there had been talk of her giving birth to the next King of England.

That might make them a foreign name inheritor and treating inherited names as hereditary was banned, so that would be a lot easier said than done. But…

“U-um, uh.”

Why couldn’t she stop the white flowers spilling all around her?

She was so terribly embarrassed, she had no idea what they were talking about, and she knew this was a selfish feeling, but…

“I-I will discuss it with Master Tenzou.”


Gold Mar: “Tenzou.”

10ZO: “Do you need something?”

Art-Ga: “I so hate that I can’t share this with you! Just know this is my reaction: die.”

Uqui: “That does not narrow it down very much with him, Naruze.”

10ZO: “I-I am so confused.”


“Heh heh. You focused on England here so you wouldn’t have to talk about yourself, didn’t you!? Didn’t you!?”

Hearing Kimi’s comment, Mitotsudaira tried to keep a low profile.

I can’t let them drag me into this!

Asama was her shield. She needed to change the topic while those two were busy going cannibal at each other. So…

“Masazumi, will there be negotiations about these things?”

“Honestly, I think that will have to wait until after Westphalia. But once this age of extended war is over, it is the number of people who will support a nation’s strength. If Shinto could make their ‘hidden’ settings more prevalent…” Masazumi thought for a moment. “We could actually set our sights on settling the outside world.”

“Heh heh.” Kimi looked away from Asama to face Mary. “How many do you want?”

“Judge. My sister has helped me in so many ways, so I think it would make for a lively family to have at least two.”

Mary placed her hand on her cheek, making no attempt to stop the floral cascade.


Gold Mar: “Hey, Tenzou.”

10ZO: “Wh-what now!?”

Silver Wolf: “No need to be so defensive, 1st Special Duty Officer. It is a simple matter. If Mary tells you something in the near future, we will never forgive you if you run away.”

10ZO: “W-well, now I’m scared!”

Asama: “Now, now, Tenzou-kun. Calm down. This is nothing bad. …But we won’t forgive you if you run away.”

Gold Mar: “You have no escape.”

Art-Ga: “I had run through most of my material for the manuscript I just submitted, so I do appreciate all the excellent material I’m getting tonight.”

10ZO: “Th-that last one is only in it for self-gain!”


Asama realized that Kimi was looking behind her.

Horizon was there.

What is she up to now? she wondered, moving to block Horizon from view.

But Kimi asked her question regardless.

“We’ll have to ask my foolish brother’s opinion later, but how many do you want, Horizon?”

“Wait, Kimi. Horizon may not be thinking about that kind of thing yet.”

A smile immediately entered Kimi’s eyes.

“Fair enough. …You, though, are thinking about those things, aren’t you?”

Eh!? thought Asama just before she felt hands on her shoulders from behind.

“An impressively aggressive stance on population growth advocacy, Asama-sama.”

Captured between the two girls, Asama started pouring with sweat. It had been a while since her body temperature fluctuated so much in a single day.

“No, um, I…wait, what about Mito!? Hey, don’t shut that curtain with such a relieved smile!”

“Forget her,” said Horizon from the side. “Just answer the question.”


Horizon considered the question for herself. If she were to have children…

“I would need to consider what had happened with the Apocalypse and with the political state of the world. Not to mention what happened with me.”

This is really the only thing to say, she decided before speaking again.

“Any children would be born into a difficult age, so they might wish they had never been born. But,” she said. “Every new life makes the world that much more exciting. Of that I am certain. And even if they are faced with a harsh reality, I am sure Toori-sama, Asama-sama, Mitotsudaira-sama, Kimi-sama, and the other life intervention extremists would do something about it. If possible, I would simply tell them one thing.”

That is…

“Do not let this scare you, because all of us will save you.”

So…

“Keep on fighting.”


Horizon suddenly sensed a shadow.

It was Kimi, who was now kneeling in front of her.

“Hush.” Kimi placed her right index finger on Horizon’s lips and narrowed her eyes with a smile. “Heh heh. That was clever of you, Horizon. You framed it as all of us doing something, but you were really saying that you would save your child.”

“So you noticed.”

“Oh,” said the others, so Horizon gave a double thumbs up.

“I am second to none when it comes to relying on others.”


Mitotsudaira looked to the others from in front of the curtain.

Everyone turned their eyes or heads her way and nodded. Even Naito and Naruze.

This is just between us.

She would not tell her king about this.

Horizon could tell him if she felt like it, or she could never tell him. So for now, the curtain in her hand acted as a barrier.

This is a secret.

That was why they all nodded, telling her to keep quiet about this. And…

“And next up is…”

Horizon placed a hand on Asama’s shoulder, looked Asama in the eye, and shouted…

“Mitotsudaira-samaaaaa!!”


Asama realized her execution had been delayed by one turn.

Th-that was a close one!

No, this only delayed the inevitable, but it gave her time to mentally prepare. It was the difference between standing in the batter box with 2 outs versus with 1 out. She was still safe. Except that she feared she couldn’t bring herself to swing at the ball regardless.

But part of her was relieved by Horizon’s earlier answer.

Probably because she already knew she would be doing that kind of thing with Toori-kun.

Horizon already had a vision of the future in mind.

Would she ask the others about those things, either directly or through him?

Asama knew she had to give good answers as the Asama Shrine and as a tenant. And…

“Mito?”

The wolf holding the curtain shut looked confused.

It took a bit before she finally gasped.

“Y-you mean me!?”

Red rapidly spread across her face.

Wow, her reactions are pretty amusing, thought Asama before wondering if she reacted like that too. If so, I can see why everyone teases me over it. …I’m really sympathizing with her tonight, aren’t I?

“Asama-sama, is something wrong? It’s like your spirit has left your body.”

“It’s nothing. I just came to understand something that does me no good whatsoever to understand.”

“Anyway,” said Naruze, her pen at the ready. “I’ve drawn a few variations in preparation, but I was really hoping for some pillow talk material. Now, out with it.”

“Wh-what exactly have you been drawing!? Besides, this is a relationship between a knight and a king!”

“Oh, that’s perfectly normal. In the Testament, it’s almost cliché for a knight to be accused of homosexuality and for a royal to forgive them due to reasons. …So stop thinking this is unique to you.”

“Y-you know a lot about this, Naruze!”

“No one’s better than Ga-chan at researching the least useful information out there.”

It was true Naruze’s inquisitive nature could be impressive at times like this.

She can know the weirdest things about Shinto. Sometimes things I didn’t even know.

Of course, she also immediately forgot anything that she couldn’t use for her doujinshis.

Meanwhile, Mary smiled and placed a hand on her cheek, flowers spilling everywhere.

“Lady Mitotsudaira, no one is going to make fun of you.”

“Yes, I know that…but still.”

Asama saw Mitotsudaira’s eyes flit over to her partition while she pursed her lips.

She knows there’s no point in denying it.

She was holding that curtain shut herself. So…

“Since I am half Loup-Garou, I honestly don’t know how hard it will be for, uh, that to happen. My birth means it is at least possible.”

“Yeah, there is the Reine des Garous’s legendary 24 days.”

Why did Adele sound so awed as she said that? And hadn’t that ended up in the lyrics to some song?

But the wolf shifted her eyes toward Asama.

“Also, I have heard that hereditary traits often skip a generation.”

In other words…

“If my king and I had a child…they would probably take after my mother.”

What would that mean? Kimi immediately gasped.

“You would lose to your own daughter! Because you take after your father!”

“How did I know you were going to say that!?”


Mitotsudaira sensed everyone giving her sympathetic looks.

Wow, they think this is really big deal, don’t they!?

Personally, she had hoped they would laugh it off as a joke, but it felt like they had taken it extremely seriously. But anyway…

“I expect I would raise them to be strong.”

She then turned a smile toward Asama.

And she knew exactly what to say next.

“What about you, Tomo?”


Mitotsudaira saw Asama respond by taking a deep breath.

She was not too afraid to answer, but she was not locked up in thought either.

She has to do everything seriously, doesn’t she?

Since everyone knew Mitotsudaira had turned to Asama as a joke, she did not have to come up with a serious response, but Asama (being Asama) was going to do so anyway.

“Well, just from my point of view, there is one thought I’ve long had about this. See, I’m an only child, right? So, well…” She glanced over at Kimi. “I do think it would be nice to have more than one, so they can each have a sibling. But…” She glared at Kimi. “I also know that would make them exponentially more difficult to deal with, so maybe that’s a bad idea.”

“A-Asama Shrine Representative, um, you could have omitted that last part.”

Gin had a point, but siblings really did seem like too much trouble when using that sister as an example.

But Asama relaxed her shoulders, turned toward Horizon, and then looked to Mitotsudaira.

“But, well, if we are blessed with the opportunity, I’m sure at least one of you will give them a brother or a sister.”

“D-do you have to lay the pressure on me!?” asked Mitotsudaira.

“Mitotsudaira-sama, not long now until you can attempt to break your mother’s record.”

Horizon’s comment made Narumi frown.

“Since she’s only half Loup-Garou, will it take twice the time, or half the time?”

“Even 12 days sounds like a lot,” said Asama. “But I think 48 days would kill Toori-kun.”

“If you hogged Toori-sama to yourself for that long, I believe it would affect the family finances, so I recommend we devise a schedule or something,” said Horizon.

“I-It might not be like that with me!? Maybe!?” insisted Mitotsudaira. “Also,” she added, turning toward Asama. She definitely had something to say here. “Tomo, I do not want you limiting yourself to one for our sakes.”

“I guess you have a point there,” said the shrine maiden, the bashfulness gone from her face.

The Shinto idea of Kotodama said spoken words carried actual power, so maybe Asama had used that line to reach some internal decision.

“I think that is something I will decide only after discussing it all with Toori-kun and the rest of you. Also,” she said. “My mother taught me so much about Shinto and housework and so on, but that must have been a lot of work. Thinking back, she only could have raised one, maybe two, that way.”

She stopped speaking there.

Mitotsudaira looked over to see Horizon raising both hands toward Asama while sweating profusely.

“What is it, Horizon?”

Horizon8B 333.png

“I am ashamed to admit I have none of that knowledge, so can you handle all of that education for me?”

“Heh heh. Horizon.” Kimi tossed Horizon a set of summer uniform sleeves. “Try folding them.”

Horizon stood up and carefully draped the sleeves over the hook sticking out from a curtain pole.

Then she gestured at it with both hands.

“How is that, Asama-sama!?”

“I’m beginning to think I should start by teaching you first.”

“To be perfectly clear, I prefer to live as easy a life as possible.”

Asama had no idea how to respond to that, but Mitotsudaira quickly arrived at the only viable solution.

“You need to find an easy way to teach her. That will probably be easier for you to teach a child and easier for the child to learn.”

“Hmm… So maybe record it on a sign frame so they can check it at any time. Oh, and have the video pop up automatically when they do it.” Asama looked back up. “But anyway, I will take care of whatever I can.”


Asama took a breath and Horizon sat down to show her agreement. And…

“Now, how about we take a break?” Horizon pulled a teacup and teapot from behind her. “I swiped this from the kitchen earlier. Oh, I also have a kettle of hot water.”

“Huh? Then what are these snacks?”

“Toori-sama made them.” Horizon nodded. “I switched them with the ones I made.”


“Toori-dono! I opened up this dessert you made and found it’s nothing but sugar!”

“Oh! I dunno how this happened, but it must be Horizon’s love! Her love! I bet you’re jealous! And we were just discussing that too!”

“Let’s see if you can say that after you break through this bedrock of sugar!”

“We would probably be better of pouring coffee on it and drinking it as the ultimate Georgian coffee.”


“Wow, the Chancellor put a lot of effort into this. Each one is unique.”

“That clever bastard… Oh, but I too made each one of mine unique…at the very bottom.”

Adele decided it was best not to ask what kind of surprise Horizon had left for the boys.

But this talk of their futures had brought something to mind.

“Oh,” said Adele.

Should I ask or not?

This was awkward to say, but she did have a question.

Umm…

She worked her sleepy head to figure out how to phrase it when the Date Vice Chancellor spoke up next to her.

“Going back to that previous conversation, can Musashi’s princess even have children?”

She just came out and said it!

Adele paled, but she knew the Date Vice Chancellor felt like it was her job to ask these questions.

And the response did not come from Horizon herself.

The Vice President raised her right hand first.

“Back when Horizon was still known as P-01s and we learned what was going on there, an engineer checked over her functionality while the Blue Thunder’s owner sat in as an observer.”

And they discovered…

“She can do all that just fine.”


Asama heard Horizon’s “judge” of confirmation.

She held a cup of pudding in her usual perfect seated position.

“Whatever else he might have done, my cruel father must have wanted his daughter to live a normal life.”

In other words…

“If Toori-sama enjoys ‘combining’ with me, then we will know that he has the same preferences as my cruel father.”

Asama spat out her tea.


“W-wait! If you tell Toori-kun that in the middle of that, uh, activity, it might just kill him, so please don’t! Can you promise me that!?”

Asama grabbed and shook Horizon by the shoulders.

“But I need to hit him with at least one good one while we do it,” said the shaken girl. “There is no way I can resist the temptation.”

“Actually,” said Gin, her cheeks flushed. “When you have a prosthetic made – especially a biological one – they tend to use your own cells, so the same may have been done for your body.”

That reminded Asama of something.

Gin-san has some of those, doesn’t she?

Asama had seen Gin’s slender prosthetic arms.

She had worn black biological prosthetic arms when the Musashi arrived at IZUMO because the larger ones she used for combat and everyday life were being repaired.

Those must have been made in the way she mentioned. And in the same way…

“Yes. If she was created that way, then even if she has an automaton base, her body should be close to what it would have been.” Narumi showed off her right hand by rolling it around. “I too have biological arms and legs and the center of these are reinforced biological to allow for attachment. But the reinforcements can be hard to notice since the exterior is so similar to my original limbs.”

She smiled bitterly. Because…

“Back in Date, I thought I only had these because I was reluctant to give up my limbs, but here I don’t have the money to use combat prosthetics as spares for Unturning Centipede, so I end up using these biological ones all the time. …I thought I only kept them around out of reluctance, yet here I am getting so much use out of them.”

“Wouldn’t you call that a blessing from god?” asked Mary.

The others nodded.

“Umm, now that we’ve finished that discussion, how about a toast?” suggested Asama

Everyone raised their teacups.

Horizon brought her cup to her mouth just like the others.

She tilted it back and drank the contents, earning a question from Asama.

“Wait, didn’t that have pudding inside?”

Horizon froze.

After a bit, she made a sound that was not quite a cough and not quite a choke as something slid down her throat.

A few seconds later, she finally moved her hips up and down a few times.

“That was a close one. Heh, but I will never lose.”

“I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but I bet Toori-kun will be happy to know you were satisfied.”

Since Horizon pulled out another one, she must not have had time to actually taste the pudding.

“Aren’t you eating an awful lot for the middle of the night, Horizon?”

“Fair point. My bodily structure is nearly identical to the real thing, so I need to consider small fluctuations in weight. Even if my cruel father set it up this way, it is somewhat infuriating.”

“Y-you’ll be…fine…Horizon. You have…the arms,” said Suzu.

“True. This is something not even Gin-sama and Narumi-sama can do. They also do not seem to have a storage space behind them. I should use those advantages to name myself superior.”

“In that case,” said Kimi, entering her own partition. She left the curtain open and pulled out a futon. “Heh heh. Your heart is nice and warm at the moment, but you will need a space for when it’s feeling colder, won’t you?”

“I get the feeling you’re about to tease us again,” said Asama with a glare.

Kimi also pulled a futon from Mitotsudaira’s partition.

But instead of saying they should get to sleep, she seemed to be saying they should lie down and take a break.

“So what if I am?” asked Kimi. “We just confirmed we have something fun awaiting us after the Apocalypse and we can use that to kick my foolish brother’s ass into gear. We’re just having fun tonight, but it’s still worth dreaming about the kind of reality we hope to create for ourselves once summer break is over.”

So…

“Nothing can scare us if we have dreams of a post-Apocalypse world.”


They ultimately got Neshinbara’s manuscript complete at 4 in the morning and the sun had risen by the time their rushed editing was complete as well. After Naito and Naruze carried the manuscript data to Musashi’s international divine transmission shrine, they chose to sleep in the bedroom space they had created. They based the decision on Suzu’s parents calling to tell them the bathhouse would be ready sometime in the morning.

“This really only feels like an extension of the usual,” commented Masazumi.

She, Mary, and the others smiled bitterly while they decorated their uniforms or hair with fashionable purification charms, showed them off to each other, and gradually fell asleep.

The boys had all fallen asleep as they were in the café area, but after the girls finished getting dressed and completed some simple grooming, they ate some breakfast in place of lunch and made their way to Suzu’s bathhouse. However, the wolf whispered to the shrine maiden on the way.

“Tomo, I think my king invited everyone to the Main Blue Thunder last night so we could spend this time together.”

Because…

“We were only now moving in for real, which could have made us nervous and uncertain how to tell the others afterwards, so he invited the Secretary over and made sure it was a fun night instead.”

“And Kimi was doing something similar…just in a very Kimi way.”

It was never easy to say whether she was more thankful or annoyed with those two, but Asama passed on the message from the sign frame that appeared by her face.

“The Ariake is appearing ahead to port!”

In the midday sky, a massive amount of white fog appeared beyond the horizon.

White armor panels appeared as if breaking through a waterfall of white wind. That floating dock was larger and wider than the Musashi and its hangar hatch was sitting open.

Masazumi spoke while viewing the Ariake’s impressive form in the distance.

“We won’t be entering the Ariake quite yet. But this appearance signals that we have arrived. From here, we will visit the Kantou nations while using the Ariake as a floating port and loading supplies inside it. We might not be going inside, but it will still function as our Kantou base.”

She noticed the Ariake was displaying a sign frame bearing the message “Welcome Musashi”.

“Once Hashiba returns to Kansai in the Azuchi, we will be heading that way ourselves.”

So…

“Make sure to complete your preparations before then.”


Chapter 40: Average One on the Testing Ground[edit]

Horizon8B 343.png

If this continues to come true…

When will I

Be able to believe in it?

Point Allocation (Get Over It)


“It’s done.”

In a shadow created by the afternoon sun, a boy raised both hands in celebration and leaned back against the wall.

He stood on the aft thruster of a large aerial ship floating in the sky.

I actually did it, thought Terumasa.

He had fully repaired the ship.

Including the final adjustments, he had expected it to take until the 14th, but…

“Four days early. I actually got it done by the 10th!! And in the middle of the day even!”

A glowing woman-shaped Mouse slapped her hand on his head.

“G-g-g-good jo-jo-jo-jo-job. Terrific, Terrific.”

“Hey, you did a good job too, Osakabe-hime. I wouldn’t have known how to adjust the deeper parts without you.”

“Com-com-compliment-ment?”

“Testament. That was a compliment.”

Osakabe-hime said “twirly” out loud while she spun on the spot. It may have been her way of acknowledging an assessment more than an expression of joy. And…

“Compliment you too, Terumasa.”

“Oh, did you finally learn my name? The whole thing is Ikeda Terumasa. You can search me out with that if anything happens, so try to remember it.”

They may have reached a mutual understanding during their repairs of the Azuchi.

His job was to repair and control the ship. Osakabe-hime’s was to assist him, sometimes perform the work herself, and also submit the data he needed.

With the exception of the repair spells, she seemed to be doing a lot more work than him. Given the location of the repair sites, it was best if they could run power tests right away. It also helped that a Mouse like her did not wear out as fast as a human and did not need much in the way of food or shelter.

Those were more or less all she brought to the table, but she had been a huge help.

Of course, all of her work was built on the foundation of his instructions.

He would make a guess, make some predictions, and look to the right answer. That process took a lot of intuition and experience, so a Mouse or automaton would end up eliminating those things as “mistakes” and never reach the right answer.

So her more relaxed attitude let her accept his answers either directly or through compromise.

That allowed him to give her instructions that he knew she would follow. And as a result…

“Okay.”

He looked up to see that the torii-style thrusters on the back of the Azuchi had been restored.

This had been a big job and it had been necessary to assist the Hashiba forces as a whole, so he had really felt the pressure on this one.

But he had done it. He had actually finished the basic work late at night on the 7th and he had thought that was enough. He had based that on the decision to have the Azuchi repaired by the 10th and so he could get back to his original job.

But then he had had another idea.

Why not see it through to the end?

Did that mean he was growing a sense of responsibility and affection toward his work as a construction expert? Or did he just want to ride the momentum he had built up with such a good start on this big job?

Either way, he had fully completed the repairs.

He had only needed to get the ship up and running again, but he had gotten greedy and been free to keep going, so he had done the rest as well.

The armor was none of his business. Nor was the state of the internal frame.

But if they chose to use gravitational acceleration cruising, they would find the power system was good as new.

He felt proud of that.

The Azuchi was leaving Kantou on the 10th, so he had worked to see how much he could get done by that day and he had arrived at the perfect answer.

“I did it!”


“Asano, Ikeda is acting all weird.”

Asano caught the lernen figur that Nabeshima tossed her way.

They were in the forest near Sanada Academy. This was the area of forest where some ruins had recently collapsed.

Sanada had said they were free to use the collapsed basin that measured a few kilometers across. Sanada also asked them to draw up a map if they could.

Asano felt like Sanada and their Terrestrial Dragons should do it, but…

Thiiis was prooobably their suuummer homework.

That explained why the Terrestrial Dragons were so friendly and watched over their training every day. Also…

“If you have word from the Azuchi, you can take a break here.”

Mochizuki of the Sanada Ten Braves was working as Asano’s coach.

She was a name inheritor, a skilled fighter, a ninja, and an automaton. Asano was not the athletic type and she knew she could be hardheaded, so she found it difficult to disobey an instructor like that.

After all, she could not win with logic. And even if she could…

Thaaat logic would be puuutting my preferences firrrst.

Even when her logic was based on something emotional, like “I don’t have the courage” or “I just can’t”, Mochizuki would respect that choice. But when Mochizuki accepted it too easily, it ignited her contrarian side. Wowww, I’m a paiiin in the butt.

She knew Mochizuki was probably just trying to be nice. Automatons did not wear out easily and the heat was not a problem with her cooling system, but she still let Asano take regular breaks.

Like this one.

She hated being seen as a “guest” from Hashiba, but the only way to avoid that was to learn these lessons and prove herself in practice. It was all about practice. She had really enjoyed the past few days because she had been able to learn new things and rethink the skills she already had. And yet…

Asano: “Whaaat is it? I’m tryyying to train.”

IT: “I just thought you might want to know I finished my big job here.”

Asano: “I’m tryyying to traiiin.”

IT: “O-okay…”

Stopping for this message made her feel like a guest again when she was supposed to be proving herself, but she also understood how happy he had to be finishing a big job like that.

Asano: “But, anyway, congraaats.”

IT: “Um, thanks. How are things with you?”

Nabeshima turned her way from over by the mechanical dragon and made a winding motion with her right hand.

She apparently meant “wrap it up”.

Nabeshima would be training with the Terrestrial Dragons after taking a break. They were apparently starting with the absolute basics. She had put it like this last night: “They’re finally letting me run tomorrow. I swear they’ll never let me fly at this rate!” But the Terrestrial Dragons had noted that her basic mechanical dragon movement could use a lot of tightening up.

Their claims made sense and she had sensed some problems there herself, so she was going along with it.

Nabeshima was enjoying her time here just as much as Asano was.

So…

Asano: “How arrre you?”

IT: “Eh? Oh, testament. I’m about to go submit my report and then head straight for Mikawa.”

Ohhh, yeah. He said sooomething about some investigaaation or sooomething there.

Asano: “Whaaat about the Shirasaaagi Castle?”

IT: “I’ll get to it later. Mikawa comes first.”

Ohhh, she thought. So you caaan do the impooortant stuff fiiirst.

Repairing the Shirasagi Castle would help recover P.A. Oda’s aerial forces, but Ikeda’s spells were still experimental and the ship would be given to him afterwards, so they must not have expected much fighting out of it.

That suggested the Shirasagi repairs were more about P.A. Oda showing Kantou they could not be kept down. It would show they could shrug off the damage done by the Musashi.

Of course, the Shirasagi repairs had to be important for Ikeda personally.

But it didn’t do so much for the nation as a whole.

So he was putting the Mikawa investigation first.

Asano: “Goood luuuck. You could uuuse the poiiints.”

IT: “Yeah. It shouldn’t take me long. Also…”

Theeere’s morrre?

She did not feel like asking what he meant. But…

IT: “They say Nagaoka is getting along well with the Swedish Chancellor on the Musashi. Some important teacher joined us and she saw him there.”

Asano: “Heee’s our enemy nowww.”

She made sure to say that first, but at the same time…

Asano: “I’m sure Kaaani-san will be deliiighted to hear it.”

IT: “Yeah. Anyway, I just thought I’d pass that along.”

“Sure, sure,” she replied before ending the divine transmission.

“You sure took your sweet time,” said Nabeshima with a smile.

“Y-youuu passed it to meee! Youuu did!”

The Terrestrial Dragons held a hand to their mouths alongside Mochizuki.

“Oh, dear. Is someone in love?”

“That is a difficult judgment for an automaton to make, but based on past examples, probably so.”

“My, my! That’s something that will never happen to our Unno-san!”

“I heard that, you assholes!” shouted Unno, who was inspecting the remnants of the collapsed ruins and working with Kiyomasa to figure out how best to set up a defensive formation there.

Those two were keeping some distance between them, but they were working fairly close together here.

Asano had expected them to see each other as enemies, but…

They caaan work togetherrr when they have a taaask to complete.

She rolled her shoulders while wondering if she could do the same.

She had gotten enough of a break, so…

“Baaack to the training. If you’re reeeady.”


Mochizuki determined Asano had an aptitude for this.

Not just as a ninja, but as one of the Ten Braves.

She ticks a lot of the boxes.

Nabeshima did as well. Surprisingly, so did Kiyomasa.

In human emotional terms, this was probably a pleasant thing, but an automaton like her would not intrude on those emotional things.

Instead, she focused on teaching this girl her own techniques.

Asano stood at the entranceway to a lot of different possibilities.

What kind of tactics would she specialize in? What kind of personalized touches would she introduce to those tactics? She might think she had already made those decisions, but she had not.

Mochizuki had taught her how to walk and run in the mountains or in a wasteland, as well as how to choose her footing along the path she had chosen.

She appeared especially interested in learning how to move along mountain paths. She asked about all sorts of terrain patterns she could choose as paths and they began a practical lesson whenever they found one.

She was learning them one by one.

She had to be smart.

But she was not what people called a genius. She gradually built up knowledge instead of having a sudden flash of insight. She made sure she was well prepared instead of rushing right on in. Which showed…

She has an aptitude for this.

Mochizuki was the same way. She defeated her opponents with her many learned responses and her ample preparations.

But she had lost to the Date Vice Chancellor after using up all of that. Musashi had again defeated her with the spontaneously but officially named “Master Tenzou Love Love Homerun”.

Careful preparations were not enough against them.

But be that as it may, she still had to teach this girl her techniques. So…

“Asano-sama.”

Their break was over and Asano attached her bamboo bottle to her hip hard point.

“Yeees?”

“Starting today, we will begin practical lessons with traps and combat techniques, but let us hold a quick sparring match first.”

“Huh?”

Her surprise was to be expected. She wouldn’t have expected to be asked to fight before she was trained in combat techniques. She had some training already, but she would not have expected anti-personnel combat until later.

But there was something she had to learn now.

“I am not all that skilled,” said Mochizuki. “I have already lost to Musashi, so I think it is safe to conclude that you can never surpass them by following in my footsteps.”

But…

“There is something I want you to see before we begin today’s practical lessons. I think you will understand in only 5 seconds.”


Kiyomasa and Unno both turned around.

Oh?

They were in a depression full of collapsed dirt and rubble. The forest itself had been slanted by the crust movement, giving it a twisted shape.

Asano and Mochizuki were fighting atop the dirt piled up flat there.

This was obviously for Asano’s training.

But Mochizuki’s stance was unusual. Her right leg was positioned forward and her left leg backwards.

That gave her equal ability to move forward or backward.

That was not something used for training.

It’s too unique.

Summer break had only just begun and they had plenty more time for training, so why use such an idiosyncratic stance now?

Kiyomasa felt something more standard would be better.

And Asano was a name inheritor, so she was prepared to respond.

Unno must have been interested because she tilted her head and asked a question.

“Hey, how does that girl fight?”

“Testament. She opens an armory-like space behind her and uses its contents to attack.”

“Perfect for a ninja.”

“That’s not all.”

Kiyomasa had seen Asano’s combat records.

The girl could predict her enemy’s movements.

During the Keichou Campaign, she had attempted to eliminate Ookubo, a Musashi name inheritor. To do so, she had drawn in Yagyuu Munenori, who served Ookubo, and tricked him. She had been attacked by the Tachibana Couple afterwards, but she had managed to escape.

Right now, Asano was probably trying to predict how Mochizuki would fight. She never spoke much, but her phase space had to already be stocked with new weapons and such.

She would be able to fight on the level of an entire company of warriors. So…

Carelessly testing her is a dangerous move.

Kiyomasa saw Mochizuki gently swaying back and forth.

She had set up a rhythm between attacking and withdrawing.

Normally, it would be best to rush her when she was pulling back. The standard skeletal structure made it harder to move backwards than forwards and she would also have difficulty gathering her strength.

But the positioning of Mochizuki’s feet let her move in either direction just fine.

Even if she chose to flee to the left or right, she could use her rear foot as a pivot point to swing her front leg to the side and begin moving without delay.

In that case…

“Figuring out what you would do if that were you?” asked Unno.

Kiyomasa shook her head.

“No, I wasn’t.”

That was true. Because…

I’m hopeless.

She had briefly imagined someone else moving in ahead of her.

When facing an opponent like Mochizuki, that person would fearlessly move out ahead and Kiyomasa would follow after.

Who was it she felt so comfortable giving that leading spot to?

She did not need her imagination to tell her that one. But…

“I really need to work on this.”

Her relationship with Fukushima was broken. If they could not pretend none of that had happened once summer break was over, then it was possible she would have to move out in front.

So she had to think about something else right now.

“I need to imagine myself in her position, don’t I?”

“You’re a scary girl.”

Kiyomasa wasn’t sure how to respond to that.

Denying it felt somewhat wrong, but she didn’t want to agree with it either. She settled on assuming Unno was not looking for a response.

“Look, they’re starting.”

Unno gestured over with her chin and Kiyomasa looked to see Mochizuki moving forward.

She had converted the swaying into her movement.

It happened so naturally.

The automaton’s movement was so smooth it would catch you off guard if you were not paying close attention.


“Oh,” said Nabeshima, jerking back a bit.

She suddenly realized Mochizuki was moving forward.

When did that happen? she wondered, but this explained why Mochizuki had been chosen as a coach. Honestly, I was kinda underestimating you. My bad.

But Asano does the same thing.

Asano’s storage phase space was originally meant for shipping, but she instead stored weapons in it and activated them with spells.

She used guns, cannons, spells, and sometimes even water, sand, or construction materials.

She would be using primarily guns right now.

That was the only option if she wanted to protect herself in case something happened while on Sanada land. Larger weapons like cannons might be thought of as excessive self-defense. And…

Nagaoka left us.

Asano had been casual about it in her conversation with Ikeda earlier, but it actually meant a lot.

Still, she probably didn’t think it mattered much and she was not trying to replace him.

Nevertheless, she had chosen to use guns because their gunner wasn’t with them anymore.

She probably wasn’t sure herself why exactly she had done that.

Maybe it was meant to fill the gap left by Nagaoka, but she would be creating a new gap by replacing some of her own weapons with the guns.

This was not done in his honor, nor was it meant to remember him by.

She would deny any of that if asked about it.

But Nabeshima had known Asano long enough to feel certain she had prepared guns. So…

“Are you ready?”

Mochizuki moved forward.

She approached by about 12 steps, crouched low, and…

“–––––”

She sped up. At the same moment, Asano took a half step back.

“Youuu wiiin!”

Asano fell back onto her butt.

She admitted defeat on the very first move.


Mochizuki came to a stop.

She was about 6 steps away from Asano.

“Testament.”

She straightened up and stood with legs together.

She saw Asano seated where she had fallen.

Her arms were extended forward with the palms out to say “stop”.

She had admitted defeat. And after only seeing Mochizuki approach.

I am not sure what exactly cowardice is.

But she could say one thing about Asano’s decision.

“Well done, Asano-sama. That was a close one.”


Kiyomasa’s shoulders lowered in a sigh of relief.

Unno shrugged next to her.

“That’s no fun.”

“I can’t have you injuring my underclassman for fun.”

“Oh?” said Unno. “You saw what Mochizuki did there?”

“Testament,” confirmed Kiyomasa. “During her approach, she used the movement to alter her knee joints.”

It had happened in a split second. And it had happened right as she was crouching, so it had been difficult to notice. However…

“Her very next step was longer. Only by about 3cm, though.”

“She can do that more each step, for a total of 30cm by the end.”

“That much?” gasped Kiyomasa.

An extra 30cm each step would mean 60cm between both legs.

Since a Far Eastern sword or a European short sword were about that long, Mochizuki could give herself the reach of a maneuverable sword with just her legs.

And she makes the change midbattle.

Even against an opponent with a long weapon, she could arrive within her own striking range before they expected it.

And by then, her opponent would have to step back for the optimum range of their own weapon.

But Mochizuki could also change the length at will.

She could suddenly retract that extra reach, or she could give her legs different lengths when making a turn in order for a rapid turn or a spin turn.

And.

That was why Asano had admitted defeat.

“That’s a smart underclassman you’ve got there,” said Unno. “As soon as she noticed what Mochizuki had done, she realized she could not compensate for it.”

“She could calculate out the difference if Mochizuki always used the same step length, but when that number can change at any time, there’s no way to know how far she will move.”

Asano divided a phase space into compartments and used the contents to strike back at her opponent.

She determined where to place those phase space compartments by predicting her opponent’s movements.

But when that opponent’s movements are so variable, the phase space compartments she’s already set become useless to her.

So she admitted defeat.

It was a good decision. But…

“She’s smart, but she needs to go for it anyway. You can’t have her wussing out in an emergency, right?”

“Hence the training camp.”

Kiyomasa finally understood why Takenaka had sent Asano and the others here.

Asano took Mochizuki’s outstretched hand and stood up, her eyes focused directly on her coach. And…

“Listen, Asano-sama,” said Mochizuki. “I can do that, yet I have lost to Musashi twice now.”


Asano looked to Mochizuki.

The automaton was looking to her with a seemingly emotionless face.

But Asano appreciated that. This person could decide what was and wasn’t necessary without letting any extra emotions or useless thoughts get in the way.

“Telll me one thing.”

“What do you want to know?”

“Howww can I keep myself frooom losing?”

“Asano-sama,” said Mochizuki. “It is said that people cannot imagine a genius beyond their own imagination.”

So…

“Do you know how ordinary people can fight back against a genius beyond their imagination?”

“No…”

“It is simple.”

Mochizuki must have already known the answer. And it had to be something she had known for a long time, not something she had just come up with.

“Genius is about ideas. A genius thinks up something new, not based on the existing knowledge and wisdom of ordinary people. And ordinary people cannot come up with those ideas because their thoughts are founded on those things.”

“I knowww thaaat.”

She was the same.

There were several “geniuses” at her school and even more throughout the nation. Plenty of people could instantly reach an answer or reach their answer in a way no one else had thought of.

But she had competed against them.

She did not have the talent they did.

Instead, she had studied her textbooks. She had gone over them time and again to drive the fundamentals into her mind.

Mochizuki was exactly right.

She never had those flashes of insight or brilliant ideas that geniuses had, so she only ever reached the answer using existing knowledge or wisdom.

But this automaton had more to say.

“There is one way for an ordinary person to overcome a genius.”

Namely…

“Repetition.”


“Listen,” said Mochizuki. “Genius is about ideas – about flashes of insight. But those ideas only apply to that one situation.”

However…

“Let us say an ordinary person has performed an ordinary action one time. So…”

So…

“If you are aware you are ordinary, you can look back at what you did.”

Do you see where this is going?

“Once you make an adjustment to that move, it becomes something an ordinary person could not come up with on the spot.”

“You mean…?”

Is this a good sign? wondered Mochizuki when she saw the look in Asano’s eyes.

So Mochizuki answered Asano’s prompt for more.

“Then you continue to adjust your ordinary moves. Over and over again. You will end up with something other than a genius’s immediate flash of insight, but when other ordinary people see it, they will wonder how you did it.”

Mochizuki pointed at her own face.

“We have one such person here.”

She pointed at Asano.

“And another. By combining both our ordinary knowledge, we can nearly guarantee success. Do you now see how our situation is perfect for solving the problem at hand, Asano-sama?”

“Nooot really?”

“Testament,” said Mochizuki. “We have arrived at a point where we can defeat a genius while remaining ordinary.”


“Yeah, let’s see if that pans out,” commented Unno with a bitter smile. Kiyomasa sensed a newfound closeness in that.

They had been enemies before and they still weren’t quite allies.

But she appreciated that Sanada was training her underclassmen. Those two still had a lot of room to grow and the long break was the perfect chance to let them bloom.

Good.

When the Azuchi had picked up Nabeshima’s unit and Asano after the Keichou Campaign, they had been exhausted and injured, but more than that, they had felt defeated.

Asano in particular had been at a loss about what to do. Nabeshima tended toward keeping busy at times like that, so she had distracted herself by repairing her mechanical dragon.

That hadn’t worked for Asano, mostly because she had never before experienced such a major defeat. Katagiri had considerately taken her along on jobs, but…

“Kiyomasa,” Hachisuka had said. “You probably shouldn’t let Katagiri know, but the underclassmen say they can’t stand him.”

“What did he do now?”

Thanks to that, Kiyomasa had remained worried about Asano.

But now Mochizuki was working with the girl. Her coach pointed toward a patch of short trees in the basin and said she would teach Asano some practical techniques.

All of this was bound to be crucial for Asano.

And for me.

I need to learn how to get by on my own.

“––––?”

Kiyomasa heard a deep rumbling in the sky.

It came from the east where an oblong, light blue form was visible.

That was the Ariake.

“Oh, the Ariake has opened its armor for the Musashi,” said Unno. “The Azuchi’s repairs are complete now too, aren’t they? So if the Azuchi doesn’t leave Kantou before the Musashi leaves the Ariake, they’ll have to battle the repaired Musashi.”

“I heard Musashi would be leaving for Kantou on the 10th. That’s today, so what about their repairs?”

“They apparently completed them on-ship while visiting the Kantou nations. Because they can’t depart on short notice inside the Ariake. So,” she said. “Now that the Azuchi’s repairs are complete, the Musashi must be entering the Ariake for a full inspection. That should take until late in the night. …And you know what happens then, don’t you?”

“Testament,” was all Kiyomasa said about that.

This was like a code passed between the Azuchi and the Musashi. They would not meet and they would not speak, but the Azuchi would leave Kantou late at night and the Musashi would arrive to take its place and defend the region.

“It’s all such a pain.” Unno pointed into the southeastern sky. “It took a while, but it seems to me the Azuchi’s departure signals the end of everything that went down in Kantou.”


Christina looked up as the sky rotated around the Musashi.

This was the blue sky of early afternoon. She had expected it to be hot since it was summertime, but it was surprisingly nice out thanks to their altitude and the atmospheric buffering.

Nördlingen had its defense barrier and some level of atmospheric control.

The Nagaoka residence had been on the outskirts and thus beyond the range of that, so whenever she had walked to Nördlingen proper, the subtle difference in environment had made it feel like a journey to a foreign land.

But she had abandoned all that to be here now.

She walked toward the stairs leading up to Musashi Ariadust Academy.

As nice as the weather was, the artificial structures still soaked up the heat of the sun. Shimmering heat rose from the stairs and some mist was periodically sprayed on the landings to keep them cool.

And when she looked up to the first landing, she saw…

“Tadaoki-sama.”

“What took you? I was about to head on up, assuming you were already up there.”

“Why didn’t you?”

He pointed toward the bow.

“I saw you on your way here.”

“I see.”

Had he thought he could see her if he climbed to the first landing?

Or had he been on his way up and looked back on a whim?

Either way, she was glad it had worked out this way. I’ve gotten awfully easy to please, she noted.

She walked up alongside him.

“Let’s go,” he said and she gave a “Testament” in reply.

“Where is your swimsuit, Tadaoki-sama?”

“I’m wearing it below my clothes.”

She had no idea how to respond and just about died. Her hands needed something to do, so she clenched them into fists and waved them up and down a bit.

“…What are you doing?” he asked.

“T-this is your fault.”

“Hm? Oh, I get it.”

He held out his hand.

She was briefly confused, but then she realized what he meant.

He had misinterpreted why she was falling behind and flailing her arms on the stairs.

She probably should have told him he was wrong and told him her dirty mind was to blame, but if they would both benefit from this, then why not go along with it? So…

“Thank you.”

When she took his hand, he squeezed and pulled.

“Sure,” he said, pulling her along. You know, Tadaoki-sama, when guiding someone up the stairs, you need to pull up to support them. Hurrying them forward like this is actually dangerous.

Then they passed through the mist.

They looked up to see Musashi Ariadust Academy’s school building.

“I do wonder how this is going to work out,” she said.

“Yeah, holding a meeting while playing at the pool seems irresponsibly casual to me.”

“I don’t mind, Tadaoki-sama. After all…”

They were about to discuss Sweden and Musashi’s relationship. They would primarily be working out how involved she and Sweden would be in Musashi’s Honnouji Incident intervention.

Christina summed up her main thoughts on what the future held for them.

“You never know what is going to happen with these people.”


Chapter 41: Meeters at School[edit]

Horizon8B 373.png

Wow

What do we do about this?

Point Allocation (Something)


Adele took a look around while feeling the afternoon heat on her skin.

She sat at the edge of the pool on the port side of the academy building.

The entire class sat on the wooden poolside, looking at each other.

With the heat in the air and the water so close by, they were watching to see who would make the first move.

“Hey,” the 2nd Special Duty Officer suddenly said to the 1st. “Tenzou, since you lack an elder sister, I grant you the first swim. The water is nice and cold?”

“N-no, thank you! Besides, Mary-dono is an elder sister, so that condition doesn’t apply to me!”

“That would also rule out my king because of Kimi.”

The 5th Special Duty Officer’s comment earned a groan from the 2nd.

“Damn! My religion does not make things easy at times!”

“I thought you were Catholic,” said Adele.

Meanwhile, Oriotri spoke from where she stood on the poolside.

“Okay, today counts as a school day, so go do a quick 500m long-distance swim to get it over with.”

“Sensei, I have a question.” The 6th Special Duty Officer raised her right arm which had a float attached. Then she pointed into the pool. “How are we supposed to swim in this?”

Everyone glared over into the pool, which glittered in the summer sun. Specifically, the solid objects on the surface were glittering.

“I mean, there are huge chunks of ice floating in it.”


“Oh, that.” Tenzou heard Oriotri say. “Some 2nd-year girls just had their swimming class, but there was a lot of direct sunlight and the water temperature was rising fast, right? So the aquatic and plant nonhumans had to tap out pretty quick.”

“So they created this icy environment?” asked Tenzou.

“No. When they left, they all considerately casted a freezing spell ‘so the next people wouldn’t have the same problem’. And since it’s a spell, it’ll freeze you too if you carelessly touch it.”

“That just makes it worse!!”

“Um.” Mary raised her hand. “Shall I fix it with a spirit spell?”

“Really, Mary-dono? What kind of spell?”

“Restricting the power enough will be tricky, but it heats everything up all at once.”

Asama: “I think she’s saying her spirit spell is powerful enough to blow away a transport ship falling on England if she doesn’t restrict the power.”

Art-Ga: “So she’s suggesting property damage?”

Tenzou considered it. If Mary’s spell worked well, all was good. But if it didn’t…

She could blow up the academy.

He decided to ask about it.

10ZO: “Everyone, you won’t…interfere, will you?”

Me: “No! Of course not! Don’t worry!”

Gold Mar: “Yeah, we wouldn’t mess with Ma-yan.”

Horizey: “In fact, we would need to cheer her on.”

That’s a yes then, concluded Tenzou. They won’t directly interfere, but they will cheer her on and tease me to get her too fired up.

And what would happen then?

Our new home fund would undergo a forced class change to repair money.

Horizon8B 379.png

He wanted to avoid that, so he placed a hand on Mary’s shoulder.

“Mary-dono.”

“Y-yes, what is it?”

He viewed her from head on, noticing that the way her curves bulged out from the school swimsuit made her the perfect object of worship.

He switched from his mental camera to his mental video camera as he spoke.

“This time, I believe you should trust that the others can find a solution to this. You are no longer a guest here, after all.”

In other words…

“Can anyone else here solve this?”


Unturning: “Why couldn’t he be this thoughtful when he was abducting the Nagabuto boy in Kantou?”

Uqui: “That is obvious, Narumi. Because Mary is an elder sister and Nagabuto is not.”

Bell: “H-how does that…make any…sense?”

Asama: “Suzu-san? Trying to understand the things they say will only drive you mad, so it’s best to ignore them. Yes.”


They had to remove some ice. It actually felt like a school assignment, which contrasted with the meeting they were actually here for.

But the 1st Special Duty Officer and Mary have already withdrawn, noted Mitotsudaira.

That would make the coming conflict a lot more difficult.

Masazumi knew no one was expecting anything from her here, so she scooted over to the poolside and placed Tsukinowa on one of the chunks of ice.

“See how cold it is? Never seen ice this big, have you?”

While she played with the Mouse, some black algae creatures emerged from the ditch and moved up next to her.

“Ice? Icy? Audience reception? After Masazumi joke?”

They were hitting her with some pretty hard truths.

But Mitotsudaira looked over to see their fighters exchanging a glance.

The first to speak was Futayo. She held a sign frame list of shaved ice syrups.

“I just had the best idea!”

“Um, Vice Chancellor?” said Adele. “Maybe close that sign frame before talking?”

“Oh? You don’t like shaved ice, Adele-dono?” asked Tenzou.

“I never said that,” she replied before realizing what she had said and gasping. She quickly looked back toward the others. “T-to be clear, I do have enough money to buy shaved ice!”

“Shaving your own ice with a pick and dumping sugar water on it doesn’t count as shaved ice, you know?” said Mitotsudaira’s king.

“I-I don’t do that! I use my leftover jam from breakfast!”

Wouldn’t that be jam on ice instead of shaved ice?

It was a new form of dessert at any rate. But…

“This ice doesn’t seem to be melting.”

Mitotsudaira agreed that the ice filling the pool was unlikely to melt on its own.

Just out of curiosity, she asked a question.

“Sensei? What happens if we can’t swim during this school day?”

“You’d have to do a makeup class later. But that sounds like a huge pain for me, so please don’t.”

“Sensei, there’s such a thing as being too honest!” said her king. “I’ve heard of this! It’s called the dark underbelly of society!”

“Then do you have any ideas to shine some light on that darkness, my king?”

“Can’t you gather it all up with your silver chains?”

“They are currently stored at the Main Blue Thunder. I collected them from the rec room for summer break.”

Everyone had perked up when he made the suggestion and they slumped back down when she rejected it.

They really thought I could do that, she realized bashfully, but none of this was getting them any closer to a solution.

Then someone raised his hand: Muneshige. He spoke while doing his warmup exercises.

“You were all eager to play in the water during our study camp, but you seem a lot more hesitant now.”

“We can’t help it,” said Mitotsudaira. “Almost everything on the Musashi is artificial, so the depth of all water is carefully managed for safety. That means even the rivers are small and shallow, meaning we can only splash around instead of swim.”

After all…

“You don’t need to know how to swim when you live on the Musashi. We might enjoy the water, but actually swimming requires a bit of mental preparation.”

All of that was true. Gin must have been surprised because she asked a question about it.

“Does that mean the Musashi residents don’t know how to swim?”

Mitotsudaira shook her head.

“The Musashi or a transport ship could fall into the ocean in an accident, so we do know how to swim in case of emergencies. Anyone in high school can manage long-distance swimming. It’s just that we never learn how to do it for fun. If anything, we view swimming as something you do during a disaster or accident.”

So…

“That is why swimming requires some mental preparation. Swimming for fun marks you as someone who can take time off on the mainland, so it acts as something of a status symbol.”

“I see,” said Gin. “Master Muneshige, we should go to the beach for some Musashi evacuation training.”

“Good idea, Gin. We can check on the emergency exits while we’re at it.”

“In that case,” said Mitotsudaira’s king. “Let’s all go to the beach, like we were talking about before. The one made on the outer edge of the Musashi.”

The Tachibana Couple had done a good job of drawing out that suggestion. And…

“I’ve finished checking over the artificial beach, so that would be fine, Toori-kun.”

Mitotsudaira and the others had assisted Asama’s approval checks since they could be viewed via sign frame. They had been working through a lot of Musashi matters that had been piling up while they were at war.

They were fully shifting over to summer mode right now.

The seasons always change eventually.

Everything would have shifted over on the mainland as well. After all, no one could engage in politics or conflicts with the other nations.

Will the Far East itself change?

And while Mitotsudaira considered that…

“Okay, that’s enough escapism. You need to get swimming now. You have a meeting coming up, don’t you?”

Their teacher demanded they get moving.


“If we must.”

Mary saw Tenzou get up and roll his shoulders.

“I have been busy ever since summer break started, but at least I have Mary-dono’s lunches. So I will provide an example of how we can work toward a solution here.”

“Master Tenzou! Are you sure you know how to do cold-water swimming!?”

“I will be fine, Mary-dono.”

She was fairly certain he had smiled just for her.

Kyah.

She felt like she was not worthy of that smile, which made her embarrassed.

No, I shouldn’t belittle myself like that, she scolded herself, but he was already speaking again.

“I mean, no matter how cold it is, anyone on Musashi has a body temperature regulation divine protection. So really it comes down to working up the nerve to take the plunge.”

He stood up on the diving board. And…

“Sensei! I have a question!”

“Ask away.”

“You said we were doing long-distance swimming, but could we possibly climb out on the other side and return here instead of swimming back and forth?”

Good one, Master Tenzou!

Mary understood Tenzou’s plan here.

By swimming to the other side and leaving the water there, they would have a brief time to restore their strength. They could reset the chilling of their body.

No matter what he said, he was not overestimating himself. Mary nodded when she realized that.

“Yeah, you would get pretty chilled otherwise,” said their teacher. “Sure, you can do that.”

“Judge! Thank you.”

Tenzou dove into the water. He dove far out into the pool to reduce how long he was in the water. But he managed to pierce down between the chunks of ice instead of bouncing up off the water.

“Excellent form, Master Tenzou!”


Asama heard Kimi speak about 10 seconds after Tenzou dived in.

“Hey, Asama?”

“Yes, Kimi? If you need a drink, they’re in the break area over there.”

“Heh heh. Thanks, but that isn’t what I wanted.” Kimi tilted her head. “Did Tenzou have his hard point parts on just now?”

“I think he had the neck ones on.”

“That would give him the main functionality, but what about the divine protections?”

“The body temperature regulation probably counts as basic life support.”

“And what happens if he enters extremely cold water like this?”

Hm, thought Asama. It wasn’t a common scenario, but…

“I think he would enter a state of suspended animation.”

“Master Tenzou! Master Tenzou!!”

“Hm, he dove pretty far, so dragging him back out is going to be a pain,” said Toori.

“Th-then I just have to go in after him!”

Mary prepared to dive in, but Asama stopped her.

“Wait, Mary! I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Sensei said the freezing was caused by a nonhuman spell, so if it was a spirit spell, the environment’s mold may have been altered.”

“Wh-what would that mean?”

“If you dive in, your compatibility with spirits could get you ‘dragged in’, getting you stuck down there with Tenzou-kun.”

“Is this different than the Yomi from before?”

“That was a stagnant cold, but this is an active cold. With Yomi, the weight was greater after you were dragged in, but the ‘dragging in’ power is greater here.”

“Heh heh. Then what do we do, Asama?” asked Kimi.

“Waiting for it to melt on its own would be best.”

Mary reflexively started diving in when she heard that, so Adele had to pull her away from the poolside.

“C-calm down, Mary-san! Having you meet the same fate as the 1st Special Duty Officer would be a huge pain in the- I-I mean, it would be a tragedy we must avoid!”

“B-but I have to save Master Tenzou!”

“Mary-sama, why not calm down and have some tea?”

“Oh, thanks you.”

Mary obediently accepted the teacup from the arms and everyone froze.

After a while, Naito took a look around, and…

“Sh-shouldn’t we be discussing this now that you’ve calmed down, Ma-yan?”

“Y-you’re right. Um…” Mary set down the teacup and clasped her hands. “Wh-why didn’t you tell us it was so dangerous here!?”

Asama looked to the others just like Mary was. Mitotsudaira, Horizon, and he also exchanged glances with everyone.

“This reaction is new,” muttered Naruze.

That was true, but Asama chose to ignore it for fear of further complicating the issue.

While looking around, Naito tilted her head, turned toward Mary, and spoke with the ends of her eyebrows lowered.

“Tenzou just seemed so confident I thought maybe it would work out.”

“Right? He made it sound like he was a step away from a perfect solution,” said Toori.

“Judge. I thought maybe the ninja was going to accomplish something useful for once,” said Futayo.

“You thought the same thing, didn’t you, Mary-sama?”

Horizon’s question gave Mary pause.

That suggested she had felt the same. And then Narumi stood up.

“I have prosthetic limbs and Date is about as cold as an icy pool, so you can see polar bears riding on drift ice when you look out to sea and you could hammer a nail with the beef tongue you left outside. I can rescue him.”

“Not sure why you needed to go on about your home like that, but what do you think, Mary-san?”

Mary looked at Narumi, who tilted her head.

“Are you willing to let me do this?”

“N-no! I should do it!”

“W-wait, Mary! This isn’t the time to get emotional!” Asama stopped her and Mary turned her way with a gasp. “Listen. If you dive in, there is a decent chance you will be ‘dragged in’ to join Tenzou-kun at the bottom of the pool.”

“Y-yes, judge. But…”

“And while waiting for it to melt on its own would be best, it will be too late by then, right?”

“Y-yes. So…”

“So…wait, what are we going to do?”

“Keep your mouth shut if you don’t have an answer!”

Everyone yelled at Asama, but that didn’t seem fair. C’mon, you usually come up with a good idea mid conversation. I just didn’t come up with one this time. So it’s all good.

Meanwhile, Toori spoke.

“Hm, what about Nenji?”

Everyone turned toward Nenji, who hopped up onto the poolside. He extended a portion of himself and stuck it into the water.

“Nenji-kun! You’re freezing from that end!”

“Mhh! As I suspected, this is a threat even to me!”

“Eh?” said Adele as she viewed the scene. “Why does Nenji-san freeze when the water doesn’t?”

“Balfette-kun. For the same reason hot water freezes faster.”

“Th-the Secretary actually said something convincing for once!”

That’s not the issue here, Adele. At any rate…

“Um, how are we going to save Tenzou-kun?”

“Hey, over here. They say they can do it,” called Masazumi.

She had a group of black algae creatures gathered at her feet.

“Will work.” “Fine with cold.” “Easy easy peasy?”

They’re right, realized Asama. Those things were known to live in the ditches, but they actually lived in the sewers and plumbing. Since they could live in hot water or near-freezing locations, they were in charge of purifying it all. However…

“Um, if they dive in while so filthy, won’t they contaminate the water?”

But washing them with pure water flushes the nutrients from them, killing them.”

“Oh, yeah. I had heard about that before.”

“Judge,” replied Naruze. “If they dive in, they’ll probably break apart before they even reach Tenzou. Besides, how many of them do we have here? It would take a lot to carry Tenzou.”

“Won’t work?” asked one of the creatures.

Masazumi was forced to say yes.

“Drat, and I really thought that would work.”

Masazumi was probably speaking on the creatures’ behalf with that. Then she said something frightening.

“Sorry. The rest of my class says they want to do this themselves, so they get to try first.”


Worshiper: “D-did that old hag just casually shove this task onto us while keeping herself out of it!?”

Flat Vassal: “Hey, the black algae creatures are saying ‘too bad, so sad…Muneshige?’ ”

Tachibana Wife: “Master Muneshige! Master Muneshige! They remember you!”

Asama: “Um, Gin-san? I know you’re excited, but try to calm down.”

Uqui: “They live close to the ground, so they would mostly remember him from when he falls to his knees or collapses in despair. The association does make sense.”

Vice President: “Don’t just sit around analyzing it!”

Almost Everyone: “This is your fault to begin with!!”


Asama noticed everyone looking to either side.

But instead of defensively keeping an eye on each other, it was more like they were circling around to go on the attack.

“Hm.” Toori raised a hand. “Muneo, could you do it on pure momentum?”

“I-I find it hard to imagine Master Muneshige carelessly diving into a spirit field and getting caught! But on that note…how did the 1st Special Duty Officer get caught?”

“You switched from talking about Mune-san to dissing Tenzou-kun so fast I barely noticed.”

“It came naturally.” Gin shook her head. “Anyway, Master Muneshige has trained himself to have twice the lung capacity of most people, so he should be able to resist even if he was dragged in.”

She doesn’t hold back the praise with him, does she? thought Asama, but she left it unsaid.

Gold Mar: “Gin-chan assumes Muneo can survive just about anything, doesn’t she?”

Flat Vassal: “Based on what I’ve heard about their training in Tres España, that’s probably because she’s used to hitting him with wooden swords and metal poles.”

Asama was not sure what that was about, but it sounded like that couple had some different ideas about health maintenance.

“Well, he does have a lot of strength,” commented Asama before realizing Mary had to be worried sick right now.

We can’t just stand around talking much longer.

“Understood.” Asama readied a sign frame. “This might count as abusing my position in the shrine, but I will reset all of the spells cast on the pool.”

“A-are you sure about that, Asama-sama!?”

“Yes. We have to look at this from Mary’s point of view after all.”

Hearing that, they all exchanged a glance.

“…”

And she received scattered applause.

“I-I don’t think I’ve ever heard such insincere applause!”

“No, I mean it.” Mary bowed. “I knew you would understand my situation here.”

She expected that much from me? wondered Asama.

“Judge. Because you experienced something similar during the Siege of Kanie Castle.”

“Oh, that,” said Asama as the memories came rushing back.

Yes. During the Siege of Kanie Castle at Houjou, someone she cared deeply about had sunk to the bottom of Yomi and what had she done then?

O-oh, wow!


“Lady Asama!? Lady Asama!? Why have you stopped moving!?”

Horizon8B 395.png

Mitotsudaira saw Asama frozen in place with her blushing head lowered.

It was impressive she had not run away or crouched down to curl up in a ball, but she was only answering Mary’s questions with meaningless monosyllabic responses.

Well, that did happen pretty recently.

She had gotten used to it, but these surprise attacks still got to her. Mitotsudaira could at least get a retort back when someone teased her about such things, so she felt she was at a somewhat higher skill level.

On a curious whim, she turned to look at her king.

Oh?

He was groaning in thought while scratching his chin and narrowing his eyes toward Asama.

He was probably wondering if he should help her out or not. But…

“Unsure what to do, my king?”

“Yeah…what do you think I should do?”

“P-please do not ask me.”

At any rate, it was unusual to see her king like this. It was kind of cute. So…

“My king.”

“Yeah?”

“In the past…did you ever ask other people’s opinion…when it came to me?” she asked.

“No.” He replied quickly but casually, with a clear “why do you ask?” in his voice. “Because I’m your king.”

“Judge,” she replied, feeling relieved. This further proved his relationship with her was different than his one with Asama. In that case, she decided.

“Tomo will get used to it too. And once she does, she will be able think back on all this and smile.”

It was a knight’s duty to help her king, so she answered his question. And…

“C’mere, Nate,” he beckoned.

Puzzled, she approached. And…

“–––––”

He pressed his lips against her forehead. And he clearly sucked in a bit before pulling away.

“…”

She became entirely useless for a brief moment.


Th-that was way too close!

The wolf was impressed with herself for not instantly backing away.

She could feel heat rising in her head, but…

I-I guess I have trouble with the surprise attacks too!

She could see her king giving her a toothy grin.

“That’s for giving me an answer.”

“Y-you shouldn’t give those away for almost nothing.”

She could not say much when it had nearly made her brain crash. But…

“Set that kind of precedent and I might start expecting that and more.”

“I’ll do my best to live up to your expectations, so you play your part, okay?”

She wished that proposition did not make her so eager to do things for him. She wanted him to give her his first order right away.

But for now…

“W-well, it’s summer break and a lot is going on at the Main Blue Thunder,” she said.

She then turned to Asama to avoid discussing that any longer. The girl was still in a state of confused silence.

“My king, I think Tomo took a lot of damage.”

“Hm, if this keeps ups, maybe you should call me in.”

“Yes.” Horizon nodded by his side. “But Asama-sama clearly needs more training if the mere memory of a kiss is enough to break her.”

“I seem to remember you kissing me in a moving scene where you were in tears.”

“Oh? And what makes you think I am stupid enough to forget something like that?”

But…

“I believe that there are even greater levels of happiness out there, so fondly thinking back on those old memories is fine, but getting trapped in them seems like a waste to me. Indulge in the happiness of the past too much and you will neglect the present. Toori-sama, I am counting on you to provide me with more and more happy events.”

“Man, you’re demanding.”

“No,” said Horizon. “It just means I am determined to find happiness. As is Mitotsudaira-sama, I am sure.”

Mitotsudaira thought about it and realized Horizon was right.

How had she felt when she arrived in front of the Main Blue Thunder with her luggage the other day?

I never would have done that if I didn’t think I would find happiness there.

That settled it. But…

“What do we do here? Tomo isn’t much use like this.”

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Mitotsudaira spotted a powerful ally at Mary’s feet.

Mary noticed as well, gasping and looking down.

She named the ally aloud.

“The Vicereine’s arms!”


Seventeen seconds later, Naito saw Tenzou resume breathing after being dragged up onto the poolside.

“Thank you so much!”

She also saw the English Princess prostrate herself to thank the arms that were crossing themselves.

Gold Mar: “I have a feeling no one has ever seen anything like this before.”

The arms gave a triumphant pose and then a pose of unclear meaning, but they finally took Mary’s hands.

“Y-you want me to raise my head!?”

Such gentlemen, thought Naito as the arms gave a light wave to say “don’t worry about it” and then returned to their owner.

Once Mary breathed a sigh of relief, someone emerged from the locker room on the aft end of the pool.

Did someone else need to take an exam?

Naito looked over curiously and found a familiar face.

“Chrippe?”

It was Swedish Chancellor Christina. She wore a black track suit over a school swimsuit.

“I heard the meeting was being held here, so here I am. Yes.”

“Oh,” said Masazumi who had been playing with Tsukinowa and the black algae creatures. She first looked up at Oriotri. “Um, Sensei?”

“You had better solve the ice problem later, but you can have your meeting first.”

“Ohh,” said Naito.

Asama opened a large parasol spell in the air and Christina smiled over at them.

“The meeting is to discuss Musashi’s relationship with Sweden, but from what I have heard, you are considering intervening in P.A. Oda’s affairs, aren’t you?”

“Judge,” confirmed Naito and the others just before seeing something else.

A blushing Nagabuto walked through the pool entrance wearing a swimsuit and a vest.

“What’s that vest? It’s not part of the school-approved swimsuit, is it?” noted Naruze disinterestedly. “He is going to get eaten alive here.”

He was.


Chapter 42: Troublemakers on the Poolside[edit]

Horizon8B 401.png

Greater than expected

Suave return

Exactly as expected

Suave damage

Point Allocation (That’s About It)


Mitotsudaira took a break to swallow some of the plum drink in her bamboo bottle while she watched it play out.

First of all…

“Okay, boys! Hell, girls too if you want! Form a wall around Nagabuto!”

“H-hey! Sop that! What the hell!? Let me go! Let me goooo!”

“Um.” Adele turned toward Christina. “This question is off the record, but do you want to see Nagaoka-san in a school swimsuit?”

“Off the record, you say?” Christina crouched to put her on Adele’s eye level. “Then this is my answer.” She formed a circle with her fingers.

Everyone who saw that answer exchanged a nod. Mary also formed a circle with her hands and directed it toward Tenzou.

“Isn’t this mood great, Master Tenzou?”

Gold Mar: “Now that is a difficult question for him to answer.”

Wise Sister: “Heh heh. If he simply agrees with her, the topic dies right then and there.”

Horizey: “Now, let us watch and see if Tenzou-sama can manage a suave response.”

They all saw Tenzou briefly freeze up, but he finally took a deep breath and formed a heart with his fingers.

“I think this is nice too, Mary-dono.”

Naomasa slammed a nearby sandal into the pool’s ice with an overhand throw. The loud slap made Oriotri look up from her sign frame while seated on the diving board. She was likely researching the best food on the Ariake.

“C’mon, Naomasa. Don’t throw things.”

“Yeah, I know. But you’d want to throw something too if you were over here.”

But the next thing they all knew, Mary was mimicking Tenzou.

“Y-you’re right,” she said with a blushing smile. “I want to support this one too.”

What have we here?

The 1st Special Duty Officer has changed a lot, thought Mitotsudaira, but Mary’s change was a lot more remarkable.

She had learned to speak with him more since the end of the Battle of Nördlingen. She was still not as calm as she might be, but she had made a lot of improvement.

Asama had demonstrated something similar just a bit ago. So…

Silver Wolf: “My king.”

Me: “Yeah. Tenzou, I want to support this one too.”

Uqui: “I too would like to support this one.”

Laborer: “It should go without saying, but I would like to support this one.”

They all directed heart gestures toward Tenzou.

10ZO: “You don’t all have to do it!”

Me: “Yeah, but you don’t get many chances to do something this bold.”

Gold Mar: “Then how bout we do this every time we speak to Tenzou from now on?”

Meanwhile, things were progressing within the circular wall of boys.

“Hey! Stop! Wh-what do you think you’re doing!?”

They work fast, thought Mitotsudaira as a pair of red swimming trunks and a shirt were tossed over the wall of boys.

The arms swiftly collected them and passed them to Asama, who folded them and passed them to Christina.

“Do you want to wash them?”

“No, then Tadaoki-sama wouldn’t have anything to wear on the way back.”

Silver Wolf: “She’s surprisingly sensible.”

Bell: “Eh? Oh, I-I guess. Relatively…speaking.”

Did I say anything weird? At any rate, the wall of boys was finally done.

“There, that’s taken care of. Dismissed!”

They all scattered, leaving Nagaoka out of breath and lying on the floor.

He was wearing one of Musashi’s blue swim trunks.

“D-damn you all!” He slammed his fists against the wooden floor and looked to the others. “Don’t you dare forget this! Because I’m getting back at you! I swear it!”

“Sure,” said Masazumi with a nod. Then she waved her hand. “Okay, everyone, let’s get the meeting started. Nagaoka, you stay there. Everyone else, take a seat wherever.”

Ignored, the Nagaoka boy slammed his fists against the floor.

“Damn you all!” he shouted again. “You’re the dark underbelly of society!”

That makes you sound like a sore loser, so maybe find a better line.


“Now that the Swedish Chancellor has joined us, I would like to begin our meeting with some parts being off the record. Asama, make sure the records are protected.”

Masazumi glanced over to make sure Asama nodded.

“Now for the main topic of discussion,” she said. “How can we best harass P.A. Oda?”


Christina raised her right hand.

“I thought you were going to be rebuilding your relationship with Sweden?”

“We will.” The Musashi Vice President shrugged. “But doing that would be dangerous for you if you don’t first know what we plan to do and what we hope to accomplish, right? When I talk about harassment, I primarily mean our intervention in the Honnouji Incident. How much of your information would come in handy for the wide variety of harassment we have planned? If you can help us, I would like to begin negotiating with Sweden right away. So how about it?”

Christina thought on that question.

Let’s see…

What didn’t she know?

How Musashi would involve themselves in Honnouji was certainly one example of that.

But they planned to discuss exactly that in this meeting.

Which meant…

Some very meaningful information will be created here.

So what would she do?

She immediately felt a desire to see it happen. She could focus on what happened here and use that information to decide whether or not Sweden would take part.

Some water had been splashed onto the poolside. She assumed that was where you were meant to sit.

So she settled down on the damp wooden boards as she responded.

“I think it would be best if I viewed the information here and made a judgment based on Musashi’s plans. So show me what kind of harassment Musashi is suggesting.”


Unturning: “Well, then. Calling it harassment now has international approval.”

Laborer: “The term might be a little too on the nose.”

Me: “Yeah, it’d be more interesting if we had a cleverer name for it.”

Vice President: “Sh-shut up! I was dumbing the conversation down to your level!”


“Listen, all of you.” Masazumi pressed her lips together before speaking. “We have a few different ways of intervening in P.A. Oda’s affairs.”

“Oh, we do?” asked Naruze.

She nodded and had Tsukinowa open a sign frame.

“There’s always the simplest method, which most people would call a last resort.”

“Hm? It’s simple and most people would call it a last resort?” asked the wolf.

“Judge.” Masazumi displayed some text on the sign frame. “The ‘give up on politics and just barge on in’ method.”


Horizon saw everyone freeze and fall silent.

Suzu gave her a troubled nod, so she took action.

She raised her hands, stood next to Masazumi, counted down from three, and lowered her hands as a cue…just in time for the arms to pop off.

The clattering of the fallen arms threw off everyone’s timing.

“Tha-” started Adele, but she quickly stopped when Naito shushed her. She clapped a hand over her mouth and nodded to show she understood.

“Sorry about that,” said Horizon. “I have been letting my arms do so much lately that I have started giving the joints a looser setting. Now, follow the arms’ lead.”

The arms dipped their hands down a few times and then raised them as the new cue.

“That is not what most people would call a last resort!” everyone shouted.


Vice President: “Huh? But isn’t barging in always the last resort you all use? Or are you upset I’m suggesting we even try politics first? Sorry, but we have to at least try.”

Novice: “N-no, Crossdressing Honda-kun! That is not our problem here!”

Four Eyes: “Then what is. Explain it for us.”

Novice: “Well, um, th-that’s just the feeling I get! It’s about the general mood here, you know? Also, why is an off-the-record meeting being transmitted to England anyway!?”

Asama: “Eh? It’s just Shakespeare-san, so what does it matter?”

Novice: “Asama-kun, why are you so lax all of a sudden!? I’m not the only one that thinks this is weird, am I!?”

Art-Ga: “Huh? Who cares when it’s just Shakespeare? Heh heh heh heh.”

Novice: “W-with you it’s not a surprise! You’re always like this!”

Vice President: “C’mon, stop that. Anyway, since you volunteered, Neshinbara, what is your problem with this?”

Horizey: “Mitotsudaira-samaaaa!”

Silver Wolf: “J-judge! What do you mean ‘barging in’ is our last resort?”

Vice President: “Technically, I said ‘give up on politics and just barge on in’.”

Silver Wolf: “That’s worse! Masazumi, this is what you’re saying here: even if we don’t have any good ideas, we won’t give up, so we’ll ignore the academy rules and ‘barge in’ in the middle of summer break!”

Gold Mar: “So if we don’t come up with any ideas, we have to go to war with the entire world during summer break?”

Vice President: “Isn’t that what all of you were planning, too?”

Almost Everyone: “Too!? So you admit it!”


Narumi raised her right hand. She had a question about this.

“Musashi Vice President, if we do barge in on P.A. Oda, will it affect Date too?”

“Huh? They’ll be fine as long as they don’t try to get anything out of it.”

“Then I have no complaints.”

She didn’t even need to think about it.

Seated next to her, Urquiaga spoke to her without turning her way.

“Narumi.”

“You’ve already called me ‘cool’ enough for one day.”

“Then do you want a more embarrassing compliment?”

“Such as?”

“You are beautiful.”

She had to pause before responding to that one.

“Don’t say that.”

Because…

“I’m not even wearing a dress right now.”


Flat Vassal: “Sometimes I think the 2nd Special Duty Officer might have it worse than the 1st.”

Gold Mar: “But it’s over once he says his thing, so he’s harmless.”

Me: “Eh? So Tenzou’s harmful? You hear that, ninja? You’ve been designated harmful.”

10ZO: “I-I didn’t even do anything this time!”


“Wait just a moment,” said Masazumi while everyone’s excitement boiled over for some reason.

She appreciated how they were all seated and facing her. They were focused. The weird tangents that concentration could take scared her, but that was a habitual behavior for them. It was as set in stone as a law of the universe, so she just had to accept it. But should I accept it? We waste a lot of time that way. And isn’t the whole point of concentration to guide us toward our original destination?

“Masazumi!” shouted Futayo. “Are you going on a weird tangent while concentrating on something!?”

“Okay, I didn’t expect to be called out by Futayo of all people!”

Masazumi and Tsukinowa tapped the sign frame from earlier.

“Anyway, we need to do what we can to keep this from happening.”

Itou raised his hand.

“Ha ha ha. Are you saying it is destiny for us to do that!?”

“If it were, we wouldn’t get in so much trouble for doing it.”

“D-did we need such a realistic answer!?” asked Tenzou.

“Just listen up, all of you. You see this? This gets us in deep trouble, so we need to find a better plan.” Masazumi opened a map of the Far East zoomed in on Kinki. “Now, let me explain why we’ll be in deep trouble.”


Christina noted that the Musashi Vice President was explaining their present situation to help prepare for their harassment.

The meat of the discussion was yet to come.

But Christina had a question regarding Musashi.

She felt like she had a decent understanding of Musashi’s skill after gathering information and speaking with Tomoe Gozen in the leadup to the Battle of Nördlingen. But…

What is the third power beyond military power and political power?

It was…

Intelligence.

Before the fighting or the politics began, that power ensured you understood your enemy and yourself.

That power allowed you to make anyone your ally. In a way, it allowed you to control the world without resorting to war or unnecessary politics.

How did Musashi stack up there? Christina pondered that question.

“–––––”

She concluded that Musashi was probably weak when it came to intelligence.

Because…

They end up in battles and political confrontations far too often.

What caused that?

Or what reason did they have to do that?

As an intelligence-focused person, she wanted to know.

After all, it would affect Musashi’s safety. The answer could greatly influence her own value to Musashi.

She wanted to trust Musashi, so she wanted them to be safe.

But she did have a concern.

What if?

What if they had called her here because they wanted a connection to Akechi Mitsuhide, the P.A. Oda leader in Kyoto?

Her Far Eastern inherited name made her Akechi Mitsuhide’s daughter.

She could find a reason to meet with him.

She did not know if he would actually meet with her, but making an official visit to P.A. Oda-controlled Kyoto would still mean a lot.

But she had already used that coded memo to repay them for saving her at Nördlingen.

So she decided that was the end of it.

That meant she was free.

Sweden was still telling her not to return and she did not owe Musashi anything.

She was free.

So if they asked her to meet with Akechi Mitsuhide on their behalf, she would lose her freedom.

It would create a new debt between Musashi and her.

She would no longer be free.

In that case, she would shift to dealing with them on equal footing as the Swedish Chancellor. Then she would use the conditions they suggested to decide whether or not she would let them use her connection to Akechi Mitsuhide.

So how would this go?

Her mind was a shifting mass of caution and uncertainty as she listened to the Musashi Vice President.

“You see,” said the girl. “The state of the different nations is going to change again during summer break. And that means trouble.”


Mitotsudaira understood what Masazumi meant, so she restated it for her.

“You mean their respective strengths will change over the break, so their attitude toward Musashi might also change?”

“Judge. Exactly. I mean, think about it.” Masazumi tapped her Kinki map. “P.A. Oda is currently gathered here. Losing Kantou means they’ve lost their trade route in the east. And all the resources they used to hold Edo and Satomi went to waste.”

“Vice President,” said Adele. “Does that mean they’ve been weakened, or are they stronger after gathering all their forces?”

“Both,” replied Mitotsudaira. “P.A. Oda has lost most of the benefits they hoped to gain from Kantou. They failed to establish a larger marketplace there and to set up a profitable industry there. So they will use the break to reassess their likely profits and whatever funding and resources they can’t make up for will remain as losses. But,” she continued. “The funding and resources they brought back from Kantou were not originally counted in the budget for running P.A. Oda headquarters. So now that they have been brought there, they will be used like an unexpected bonus.”

Gin nodded once and asked a follow-up question.

“You mean the P.A. Oda headquarters and Kantou forces operated on separate budgets, so combining them now will strengthen their capital?”

Mitotsudaira nodded.

This was easier to understand for her since she owned a few companies and for the Tres Españans who had been deployed to various regions as warriors.

“Um, so you’re saying however much profit Hashiba could bring back from Kantou will strength the P.A. Oda headquarters?” asked Adele, who had asked the original question.

“That is correct.”

“Then,” said Adele, tilting her head. “Wouldn’t trapping Hashiba in Kantou be a valid strategy here?”

Simply put…

“We give Hashiba permission to stay in Kantou and then hang them out to dry. Can’t we weaken them by preventing them from returning after their defeat?”

“If we did that, there is always the risk of them taking back control of Kantou.”

Masazumi’s response silenced them all.


“If we trapped the Azuchi in Kantou, we could indeed cause financial trouble for P.A. Oda. I of course considered this before our meeting the other day.”

But…

“They have a last resort as well. And it’s something we saw during that meeting.”

Mitotsudaira agreed with Masazumi.

That is very true.

The Azuchi had their own independent thoughts and actions. That meeting had made it clear that they were not going to do whatever Musashi wanted. So…

“That’s right,” agreed Neshinbara who had taken charge partway through that meeting. He opened a sign frame and displayed a map of Kantou. “Hashiba lost in Kantou because Kuki, the commander of their fleet, announced their defeat. But Hashiba arrived immediately afterwards, so they could force a continuation of the battle in exchange for letting Kuki go. They would claim that they were being held in Kantou because we wanted them to remain involved in Kantou’s affairs.”

“Could they really get away with something so forceful?”

“Margot, have you already forgotten what our last resort is?” asked Naruze, who was making quick nude sketches of the girls around her. “The enemy isn’t going to worry about appearances when they’re stuck using a last resort either.”

The others nodded deeply in quiet agreement. And they all glared at Masazumi.

“That’s right. We’re just as bad as them.”

“W-well excuse me for having a Plan B! It’s pretty easy to run out of options during summer break, you know?”

“Masazumi, you sound like a child refusing to do her summer homework.”

Asama was right, but Masazumi wasn’t wrong either. So…

“Are you saying the Azuchi is already backed into a corner, so trying anything more would be dangerous?”

“Isn’t every nation in pretty much the same boat?” asked the king. “If you don’t want to give up, you’re gonna keep fighting.”

“I recall something similar happening at Mikawa,” said Horizon, sipping at a teacup she had pulled out of thin air. She took a breath. “You never know what someone will do when they feel trapped. At Mikawa, for example, an incompetent nudist actually donned his uniform for once and fought to rescue a virtuous, innocent, honest, trusting, kind, beautiful, charm- gh.”

“Horizon! Horizon! You bit your tongue trying to throw in too many complimentary adjectives there, didn’t you!?”

“Do not worry, Mitotsudaira-sama. I am sure everyone understands what I meant…”

“That trailing ellipsis doesn’t make you sound so sure,” said Naito.

“Anyway.” Mitotsudaira cleared her throat to bring everyone’s attention back from Horizon. “Once the Azuchi returns to their HQ, I am sure Hashiba will bolster their forces. In that sense, the European nations have to fight back as well.”

So…

“Do you understand what I mean?”

Everyone looked right back at her.

That meant they all understood what it meant for Europe to fight back.

She didn’t particularly like how her king wiggled around with his eyebrows lowered and held up a sign frame saying “Tell me and only me!”, but she sent him the relevant material anyway.


The wolf draped a shirt over her shoulders and spoke in front of everyone.

“Do you understand what I mean?” she asked again. “As far as the history recreation is concerned, we have cornered Hashiba and P.A. Oda. And now that P.A. Oda has lost Kantou through its Liberation, they can now gather their forces in a central location. Plus, they will be using summer break to recover their national strength.”

Meaning…

“P.A. Oda has been partially cornered but the European nations can’t do anything about it during summer break. And P.A. Oda might be dangerous again once the break is over. …That sums up the current situation.”

So…

“If nothing changes until the break ends, P.A. Oda will have recovered or even increased their national strength and they will resume their activities in Europe. If that happens, the other nations might make a show of accepting our restraint of P.A. Oda, but they will actually think we shouldn’t have done it at all or at least got the timing wrong.”

“In that case.” Masazumi crossed her arms and asked the knight a question. “What is it we need to do?”

“Judge. That is simple enough. We must continue our harassment.” The wolf smiled with eyebrows raised. “We must continue to restrain P.A. Oda during the break and earn the other nations’ approval by the time the break ends.”


That is simple, thought Narumi.

She also asked a question. She was pretty sure she knew the answer already, but she wanted to make sure they had a consensus here.

“Vice President, may I ask something?”

“What is it, Date Vice Chancellor?”

“Judge. If, as the Mito Lord says, P.A. Oda recovers their national strength and resumes activities in Europe, leading the other nations to distrust Musashi,” she said, “wouldn’t the Kantou Liberation have been not just a waste of effort, but a plus for P.A. Oda?”


It’s a reasonable question, thought Masazumi.

The summer break restriction could work in their advantage, or it could do the exact opposite.

Looking to the future, P.A. Oda did indeed still have plenty of strength and they could be working to further boost that strength.

In that sense, Europe might decide the Kantou Liberation had been a waste of time and even dangerous. But…

This is like practice for when I have to defend against these questions for real.

The Date Vice Chancellor would have understood that when she asked the question.

So Masazumi raised her right hand to tell the Date Vice Chancellor to wait.

“I’ll ask someone on the scene.”


Ookubo was working.

She was outdoors, outside the city. The recovery work made the Satomi city and the ships so noisy, so it kept her from concentrating.

She wasn’t sure if that meant she was too busy or not busy enough.

Either way, she had wanted a more comfortable work environment, so she had carried her sign frames out into the forest north of the city that morning.

This had originally been a temporary gathering spot for lumber. Thanks to that, there was a river nearby and insect-repelling incense, making for an excellent work environment.

The wind blowing through the forest occasionally carried the scent of spell explosives or burning metal, but that was unavoidable. She had Kanou and Yagyuu with her as bodyguards and she would work with the recovery-related council members who occasionally came to meet her.

I could get used to this.

She considered visiting the beach once her work was done.

That night, she would be meeting with the local Satomi representatives.

After that, she would make a final check with the Azuchi via divine transmission.

Her interactions with the Azuchi didn’t amount to much. They were simply holding realistic talks about handing off the badly-damaged ships, wreckage, and other unneeded supplies the Azuchi was leaving behind

They were both enemies and allies in this case, so it didn’t help to restrict her options with either definition.

The food was the same.

The Azuchi had combat rations onboard and they would gather seafood using transport ships, but they also had a lot of local products.

After living here for a while, they were used to that food anyway.

So to help their various negotiations run more smoothly, the food for Musashi’s stationed troops had been provided from the Satomi supplies given to the Azuchi for August.

With that groundwork laid, Azuchi personnel would negotiate sales of unneeded supplies while also leaving behind pieces of wreckage.

It’s all going well.

Satomi could not rely on their neighbors for recovery materials. It would bring their autonomy into question if they did.

Ookubo had wanted to give them materials from the Musashi, but…

“What were they even doing during that final exam?”

She should have realized a serious battle was in the works when their homeroom teacher called back the Vice Chancellor’s aide and the 6th Special Duty Officer.

Regardless, it was fortunate Satomi could rely on the Azuchi instead of the Musashi for materials. It was fascinating how similar the Azuchi’s internal block structure was to the Musashi’s. That was probably because Lord Matsunaga had come up with the basic design for them both. That had made the materials a lot easier to use once they were brought to Satomi.

Lord Matsunaga had lost his life when the Musashi entered Kantou, but it felt like he had given them another helping hand here.

People’s deaths aren’t the end of the story. Their accomplishments live on after they’re gone.

Ookubo decided she needed to avoid any negative accomplishments as a politician.

“They had quite a few transport ship materials too.”

Had the Azuchi been planning to run some kind of business in Kantou?

There are so many mysteries, she thought just as a sign frame arrived from the Asama Shrine Representative.

Vice President: “Hey, Ookubo. Can I ask something real quick?”

Last night or before, this would have infuriated her.

But today she was making good progress on her work and the forest had helped relax her.

She could handle a little extra work. So…

There’s no correct answer with her because just asking what she wants counts as accepting the task with her.

She knew that from experience, so she glared at the sign frame as she responded.

Nagaya-Stable: “I’m not joining you until tonight. I’m trying to work right now.”

Vice President: “Yeah, but don’t worry. This is a school day for us.”

Nagaya-Stable: “Don’t contact me in the middle of class!”

Vice President: “What’s got you so bent out of shape? Is your work too hard?”

That really pissed her off, but she suppressed the feeling.

Next to her, Kanou was clenching her fists and saying “Rebel, milady! The time of rebellion is upon us!” Maybe it was a bad thing that actually helped calm her down somewhat.

Then the question arrived.

Vice President: “I was wondering.”

And after that preamble…

Vice President: “Do you feel like everything you did was a waste of effort?”


Masazumi gave Tsukinowa an instruction.

“Hey, Tsukinowa? A bunch of sign frames are about to appear, so can you delete them all at once?”

“Maa?”

Tsukinowa’s puzzled head tilt was immediately followed by a book’s worth of protest mails flooding in.

Tsukinowa was clearly disturbed by the quantity at first, but then the Mouse stood up.

“Maa!”

All of the arriving mails were shattered.


CAN: “Milady! Our protest message saturation attack was blocked by an anteater!”

Nagaya-Stable: “Now, there’s a sentence you don’t hear every day.”

CAN: “Milady! Don’t give up already!”


Masazumi saw Tsukinowa turn back to her as if to say “anyway”.

“Maa.”

The Mouse raised its front legs in a pose of victory.

“Good, good. You did great, Tsukinowa. You’re more powerful than the Representative Committee Head.”

“Vice President, are you saying the Representative Committee Head is ranked below an anteater?”

She had basically said that, but what could you do when it was the truth?

Tsukinowa selected a few messages and displayed them. None of them repeated any information and they contained the reason for all the protests.

She read through that and then asked Ookubo another question.

Vice President: “Ookubo, explain yourself.”


Huh? thought Ookubo while taking a look around.

Everyone working with her here had been with her since the Kantou Liberation.

They were looking to her, wondering what all the fuss was about. So…

We could use a change of pace.

“Listen, everyone.”

She tapped her materials sign frame so she could continue working while she spoke.

“I will now explain what exactly the Kantou Liberation has caused. More than a week has passed since then, after all. Which do you want first – the bad results or the good results?”

“Milady, I would like the bad first.”

“Is everyone else all right with that?”

They all exchanged a glance and then nodded.

Nagaya-Stable: “Thanks for guiding them in that direction, Kanou-kun.”

Kanou did not respond because she considered that to be no more than her duty.

Based on that, Ookubo concluded it would be safe to follow this discussion through to the end.

“There have been two bad results.”


Chapter 43: Vertically Separated Thinkers[edit]

Horizon8B 431.png

Kill the urge

Build up what you have

Prove that you can build up

What is needed to change the urge

Point Allocation (Harassment)


Nagaya-Stable: “There have been two bad results.”

Masazumi considered what Ookubo was saying about the Kantou Liberation.

She really loves her lists and collections of small things.

But the underclassman kept speaking.

Nagaya-Stable: “The first bad result was allowing P.A. Oda to concentrate on Europe since Hashiba has to withdraw from Kantou. They are no longer split in two and forced to divide their budget and personnel. Their greatest force will be back at their central HQ and can no longer ‘arrive too late’ because they were in Kantou.”

Masazumi’s group had mentioned that already, but Ookubo had more to say.

Nagaya-Stable: “And the other bad result.”

She continued.

Nagaya-Stable: “The Oushuu and Kantou forces are kept from doing much of anything during summer break.”


“She’s making me feel awfully self-conscious so soon after returning from the Musashi.”

A fox judged Ookubo’s words while wisps of smoke rose into the sky.

She was on the beach south of Satomi. Near the fishing harbor that had been turned into a scrap pile the other day, the locals had set up a space to eat and periodically exchange information with the Musashi warriors.

They rested below the sunshades or in the huts built on the beach.

They ate around the stoves and kitchens set up on the beach.

They all looked to the ocean, gazed out at the distant Azuchi or the Miura Peninsula on the opposite coast, and talked among themselves. Some snapped photos of the scene with their sign frames and others called home to their families.

Among them, the fox ate fish off a skewer after returning to Satomi aboard the Yamagata Castle.

She walked across the beach, watching the people and the cooking smoke and occasionally using a long-ended brush to sign her autograph on a coat or armor at the request of a female student.

“I thought I would visit since the talks with Hashiba are complete and Mouri has left, but they’re recovering faster than I expected.”

“Yoshiaki-sama! The bonito here is delish, mon!”

“I already had some.”

“I recommend trying it again with soy sauce mayo, mon!”

“That sounds nice.” Yoshiaki grabbed Shakenobe, stretched him, and released him.

“Yoshiaki-sama!” said the salmon Mouse. “I have a question, mon!”

“Is it about Musashi’s Representative Committee Head?”

Shakenobe shook his entire body up and down. Seeing that, Yoshiaki stuck a skewer of pacific saury in her mouth. She bit through it, bones and all, before finally wiping her mouth with a napkin.

“The girl is quite right. The meeting held after the Siege of Odawara and before the Kantou Liberation keeps the Kantou and Oushuu forces from doing anything. We have Date to thank for that.”

Had that been some nice foresight on Hashiba’s part?

“Date is stuck because they already used the history recreation of Masamune’s delay and apology. Thanks to their heavy gods of war and other aerial forces, Date is the greatest wild card in Kantou and Oushuu. That is why Hashiba rushed to the Kantou Liberation to hold Date in check.”

Yoshiaki narrowed her eyes and pressed the napkin to her mouth.

She wiped off her tongue as if licking the paper.

There had been a small bone there. She could have swallowed it, but it had stayed in her mouth.

She had decided to let it out and hid it in the napkin. And…

“The apology for Masamune’s delay requires her to be called to Kyoto. That means P.A. Oda can take Masamune hostage whenever they like.”

“How, mon!? Masamune is strong, mon! No one can make her a hostage, mon!”

“What makes you think she is so strong?”

“She is your niece, mon!”

“I never can be modest with you around.” Yoshiaki smiled bitterly. “Now, imagine that happens during summer break. The other nations can’t interfere, so they can’t come to her rescue. And what do you think Date alone can do against the core of P.A. Oda? Masamune’s apology requires her to cooperate with Hashiba, so they will have restrictions placed on them at that point. And even if they try to fight their way in and attack the history recreation itself, they will be hopelessly outmatched.” She sighed, folded the napkin with a bone in it, and stuck it in her pocket. “Even if they did win, it would only be a localized victory. Date, the greatest power in Oushuu and Kantou, would be unable to drive back P.A. Oda and would be destroyed. And P.A. Oda would use the Testament Union to punish them for violating the history recreation. In the end, Oushuu and Kantou would lose any influence in the rest of the world.”

Describing it all filled the pit of her stomach with displeasure. She knew something much like that would happen if things went that way, but at the same time…

“Mogami’s lack of any real history recreations involving Kinki or Kansai is a real pain at times like this.”

“You are the leader of Mogami, mon!”

“I never have to forget my place in the world with you around.”

She smiled and stopped walking.

The beach continued on ahead of her, but there was no longer anyone around her.

She stood on a deserted afternoon beach in the height of summer, but…

They still don’t have enough people to fill the beach this far.

The summer beach was a rare treat for someone from Mogami, so she found it a shame that such beauty was going unappreciated. And…

“Listen. Date’s position prevents any of the Kantou and Oushuu forces from acting. P.A. Oda and Hashiba hold enough power at the moment that we can’t stand up to them even with Musashi and Date’s help. If we did try, they would have no qualms about crushing Date to teach us a lesson.”

That was what Musashi’s Representative Committee Head was getting at.

This was all decided before the Kantou Liberation.

Those bonds had initially been meant to bring Houjou to Hashiba’s side and give them an advantage in the Kantou Liberation, but they held a different weight now that the nations were isolated by summer break.

“Hashiba is meticulous, I’ll give them that.”

The Kantou and Oushuu forces had breathed a sigh of relief with Kantou liberated, but…

“We’re forced to remain in this state of relief because we can’t fight the next battle.”

So, she thought.

Not even Date would return in one piece if they attacked P.A. Oda.

However…

“Musashi is prepared to do just that and call it an ‘intervention’.”


“So if Musashi does intervene in P.A. Oda’s business, we will likely be alone.”

Harassment as national policy is a real pain in the rear, thought Ookubo.

If P.A. Oda decided to focus on Europe during summer break, it would reduce the European nations’ opinion of Musashi. And if Musashi gave up on intervening…

We wouldn’t earn many points toward Westphalia.

Of course, that was all behind the scenes. Officially, those nations could not ignore the fact that they had asked Musashi to deter P.A. Oda. Ookubo figured that gave them an opening they could use.

If the other nations complained about Musashi’s actions, she could use that for her negotiations. She could say they had created the hook, so it was those nations’ turn to make use of it.

“So what do we do now? After liberating Kantou, Musashi can effectively do whatever we want.”

And every nation out there would have something they wanted Musashi to do.

Which is why I don’t consider this part a negative.

They might even manage to sell off their services and increase their standing.

“So,” she said to the others. “The bad results of the Kantou Liberation are as follows.”

She displayed them as a list.

1. P.A. Oda will now strengthen itself.

2. Oushuu and Kantou’s actions are restricted.

“This means Musashi has no allies, yet we must intervene with an even stronger P.A. Oda. That will not be easy.”

But anyway.

“Those are the bad results.”

She swept her gaze across the gathered crowd and raised one finger on her right hand.

Then a second and third.

“Now for the good results.”


Christina watched Musashi’s assessment with Tadaoki by her side.

I see.

Musashi’s Representative Committee Head had a lot of confidence. Not only in her information-gathering skills, but also in the way she chose her words carefully based on an internal interpretation and analysis of that information.

“Does everyone from Musashi enjoy viewing things in a negative light?” she muttered with a bitter smile.

“Huh?” Tadaoki looked over at her.

“Um, just talking to myself.”

“Oh,” he said before resting his head in his hand. Christina had a thought as she watched him.

He has such a skinny back.

He was a trained warrior and wouldn’t actually be as scrawny as he looked, but while she stared at his back, she began to wonder what he would do from now on.

He was currently with Musashi. The defection process would be underway, but he would have a hard time transferring to Sweden. Because…

Him joining Sweden would be far too great a burden on the nation.

Musashi had intervened in Nördlingen as a mercenary force. But that was only the official reason and it had secretly been related to some other nations’ plans.

Specifically, the European nations.

So if Tadaoki joined Sweden, the full responsibility for all of Europe would be placed solely on Sweden’s shoulders.

Whatever Musashi’s real reasons, they had only been mercenaries. Once Tadaoki left them, responsibility would fall outside of Musashi. And Hexagone Française would likely hold their tongue about their role as intermediary.

If that happened, it would all fall on Sweden.

But if he remained with Musashi, it would remain unclear where responsibility lay. That was the current state of things, but…

“–––––”

That is a problem, thought Christina.

Would Musashi use this in their negotiations with Sweden?

They could use her help thanks to her connection with Akechi Mitsuhide.

So would they use all of this as a condition to get her to do that for them?

She wasn’t sure, but more than that…

What am I supposed to do about this?

She had two thoughts on the matter. First, she felt pathetic for considering all this after they had saved her and given her a home here. And second…

Tadaoki-sama.

She was dying to know what he thought of her.


Christina had enjoyed the past few days.

She had conversed with him a lot and they had shown each other their preferences.

When she had learned their preferences differed while shopping, she had been glad they lived separately since that meant they didn’t have to bring those things back to the same home.

She hoped they could learn now how they were incompatible and figure out a way of handling that by the time they lived together.

So this is a valuable time for us.

But she was older than him. She was an adult. She saw it as her role to accept the selfish things he said.

But what he thought about her was a different matter. She had angered him by treating him like a child back at Kyoto’s Nijou Castle and she wanted to avoid doing that again.

So how did he see her when she made a coldhearted decision as an adult and as a Chancellor?

She had very little information to work with.

She sensed a chill in her heart separate from the summer heat.

I am so inexperienced.

Her thoughts were so scattered.

She had never planned for any of this. Every part of her life should have ended, yet now it was continuing.

She did not know what to do, but she had a knowledge of her surroundings and a position for herself. She wondered if the dead would feel similar if they were suddenly resurrected. However…

“…”

There was one important factor here.

She remained the Swedish Chancellor.

So…

There are decisions I must make, she thought while viewing the words from Kantou. Musashi’s Representative Committee Head’s lines arrived as text.

Nagaya-Stable: “Listen.”

The confidence in her words was palpable.

Nagaya-Stable: “Now I will go over the good results.”


Gin focused on the Representative Council Head’s words.

Of all the members of Class Plum, she had the most information on Europe’s current state.

The English Princess was keeping her distance from the European mainland just like England as a whole.

And the Swedish Chancellor…

It was unclear if she had really joined them yet. She probably didn’t know that herself. It had been the same for Gin and Muneshige at first.

She had not really felt like she belonged on the Musashi until around the Battle of Mikatagahara. The unity brought by combat had been even stronger with so much on the line during that battle.

The Swedish Chancellor was not at that point yet.

So Gin considered her job to be testing their advantages here.

So she looked back to the Representative Council Head’s words.

Nagaya-Stable: “The first good result is…our current situation, to be blunt.”


Ookubo first explained the reasoning that answer was built on.

Nagaya-Stable: “We’re bound to get complaints since we don’t know what the future holds for Europe or for P.A. Oda, but our answer is simple: would you prefer things went back to the way they were before? Would you really want Kantou to remain oppressed and P.A. Oda’s strength to remain untouched?”

“Listen,” she said before being interrupted.

Tachibana Wife: “I believe the European nations will tell you that would indeed be better than having P.A. Oda focused entirely on Europe.”

Tachibana Gin chose her words carefully.

Tachibana Wife: “Kantou is irrelevant to the majority of European nations. Tres España, Portugal, England, and Holland might trade with Kantou, but the Liberation is no more than a regime change for them. What do you have to say to that?”

“I would call it shortsighted,” said Ookubo using the audio input.

This was the starting point. The basic assumptions. If she screwed this up, no one would have any confidence in anything she said.

And confidence begins with self-confidence.

That was hard to convey through text, so she used her voice. And she took a breath before starting.

“If P.A. Oda still held Kantou, they would grow much more powerful over summer break.”


“Listen,” said Ookubo.

“P.A. Oda chose to hold Kantou in order to trap us there and restrict our movements. But they had other reasons for it as well.”

Namely…

“Trade. And resource acquisition.”


Masazumi listened to Ookubo’s explanation.

“You see,” she began. “P.A. Oda currently has very few trade partners in Europe. Not too surprising when they’re waging war all across Europe. When a large nation is consuming resources but can’t earn more, it leads to internal inflation.”

“What’s inflation?” asked the idiot.

“You don’t know?” asked Horizon. “It is hard to describe, but it is that white, charcoaly, sweet, crunchy, fish paste thing they serve before the main dish at Italian restaurants.”

“Y-you’re doing everything you can to trick me, aren’t you!?”

Mitotsudaira hung her head and raised her right hand.

“Inflation refers to an increase in prices due to limited supply or other reasons.”

Horizon placed a hand on the idiot’s shoulder.

“See, now you know the answer thanks to me. Personally, I think you should thank me.”

“D-damn you’re bold, Horizon! Oh, or is this your pride in action!? Thanks to you too, Nate!”

“Think nothing of it,” said Mitotsudaira and Horizon gave her a thumbs up.

They now had a basic explanation, but…

“This would be so much simpler if the udons were here.”

Circle Be: “The udon thing is over! I can enjoy my meals in peace today!”

The female former udon was complaining again.

Gold Mar: “Are there any lasting effects?”

Circle Be: “Yes, actually. This morning, I felt a…I guess you would call it a phantom udon trying to slip on out, so I ran to the bathroom as fast as I could. Maybe I should write and sell a book based on the experience!”

Not shy about selling out, huh? thought Masazumi. But…

Vice President: “Are there any economic sanctions or trade restrictions placed on P.A. Oda in Europe?”

Circle Be: “I’ll tell you if you pay me!”

Vice President: “How about 70?”

Circle Be: “70 grand!? Yay! You have a deal!”

Sorry, I meant 70 yen. So many books are coming out this summer, after all.

But the female former udon was already talking.

Circle Be: “Simply put, Europe hasn’t placed any economic sanctions on P.A. Oda.”

Novice: “Eh? But that doesn’t add up! By my estimation, all the European nations should have agents working together behind the scenes to prevent a P.A. Oda invasion.”

Four Eyes: “ ‘By my estimation’? ‘Agents’?”

Novice: “Y-yeah, agents! Like diplomats and whatnot!? See, I’m right!”

Four Eyes: “Those are called diplomats, not agents. And the summer event is coming up, so I would love some information from you.”

Damn, she’s strict, thought Masazumi while text rapidly filled up her sign frame. It was from the former udon girl.

Circle Be: “Simply put again, the European nations have had a hard time keeping trade routes with P.A. Oda ever since they decided to resist P.A. Oda. They might be able to separate their economy and the war, but the frontline is always on the move and their producing regions get caught in the fighting, so their trade with P.A. Oda is automatically cut off without the need for sanctions.”

“But,” said the former udon.

Circle Be: “But there are nations that need to preserve trade with P.A. Oda to survive, so every nation makes its own decision. And the ones fighting the wars will also use those other countries as intermediaries to trade with P.A. Oda behind the scenes. They could do that openly in Mikawa since it was neutral, though. …Anyway, based on all that, there aren’t any Testament Union demands for economic sanctions or anything like that. Now, there is pressure from larger nations on smaller ones to follow their lead and keep quiet about it.”

“True,” agreed Asama. Shinto was generally untouchable, but they would still get caught in the middle of battles when war broke out. “There will be times that a region’s economy or trade grinds to a halt. They can get by if they use their infrastructure to quickly use another nation as an intermediary, but there are times when the resources can’t get through all the fighting.”

Circle Be: “You can think of war itself as a type of economic sanction.”

“But,” said the female former udon.

Circle Be: “Thanks to all of this, the western nations have become pretty strict with each other. I suspect Hashiba joined with M.H.R.R. and reached toward the western nations at such an early stage because they wanted to use their Far Eastern position to perform intermediary trade between P.A. Oda and Europe.”

Vice President: “You only suspect it?”

“Yes,” she said.

Circle Be: “Hashiba’s efforts have led M.H.R.R. to begin the Thirty Years’ War in earnest and the European market is growing more isolated again, so we would have to ask Hashiba themselves to know for certain.”


That was fairly interesting, even if it is only expanding on a rumor.

Christina amused herself by rolling the information around in her head and polishing it.

Musashi’s Treasurer’s Aide had recently been in a fairly avant-garde situation where her illicit activities had earned her a divine punishment where udon came from her butt, but her opinion here was partially correct and partially insufficient.

It was true Europe had been unable to trade due to their caution concerning P.A. Oda.

When their former Chancellor Suleiman had been ousted, the Testament Union nations had deemed it illegal and refused to recognize P.A. Oda’s new order. They had hoped to gain favorable political and trade conditions in exchange for recognizing P.A. Oda as a state.

But P.A. Oda had refused and left the Testament Union. That had left the Testament Union nations still not recognizing P.A. Oda as a state.

That was a problem since they could not trade with an unrecognized state. If they did, they would be forced to trade with other unrecognized states and territories.

That had automatically led to an embargo.

But P.A. Oda used their position in the Far East to develop themselves on their own and they continued strengthening themselves with an eye on Europe, but that ultimately led to the second economic crisis.

But someone spoke up before she could think any further.

Tachibana Husband: “The Treasurer’s Aide’s explanation requires an addendum related to the New World.”

It was Tachibana Muneshige.

I see.

He was from Tres España. His other inherited name of Garcia came from the family that began Spain’s first private postal service.

He had managed Tres España’s information and held connections to representatives in different regions. The New World would be one of those regions.

And Christina had heard he was deployed to the New World for a time.

Tachibana Gin continued for her husband.

Tachibana Wife: “Hashiba worked with M.H.R.R. in order to interfere with Europe, to give them passage through the area, and to swiftly complete Hashiba’s history recreation, but sending Hashiba into their territory had the effect of weakening the embargo between P.A. Oda and Europe. But just like the Treasurer’s Aide said, the Thirty Years’ War between M.H.R.R. and Hexagone Française heated up and the Catholics and Protestants within M.H.R.R. began to fight, allowing for only a limited opening of the markets. P.A. Oda was shut out once more. However…”

Silver Wolf: “Embargoes can be a double-edged sword.”

Everyone’s focus turned toward the Mito Lord.

She would indeed be the one to talk to about Europe and Hexagone Française.

Horizey: “Mitotsudaira-samaaaa!”

“Judge,” replied the silver wolf.

Silver Wolf: “Europe had a harder time accessing the larger market once P.A. Oda was out of the Testament Union. M.H.R.R. joining with P.A. Oda provided a similar economic blow. After all, the middle ages have passed and populations are on the rise. But if the resources can’t keep up with the rising population numbers, it leads to relative inflation. Hexagone Française in particular consumed a lot of resources to prepare their national military, so prices rapidly rose just like the Testament describes.”

“And,” someone else said.

Tachibana Wife: “That is where the New World comes in. After building their Grande y Felicísima Armada, Tres España used gold, silver, and other trade goods from the New World to repay their debts to the other nations. But…”

Gin shrugged.

Tachibana Wife: “Not even all that gold, silver, and other goods were enough to truly enrichen Europe. They were expanding their wartime materiel with prices rising, so it all went to compensation for those things. I suppose you could say their culture was growing, but improving their civilization required money.”

“That is partially why our home declared bankruptcy in the Testament.” The Vice Chancellor’s Aide sounded troubled. “But that might not happen here thanks to the efforts of Chancellor Segundo and Vice President Juana. Maybe I am biased with it being my former home, but I do think Tres España is an incredible nation.”


Gin narrowed her eyes at what Muneshige had said.

So it’s our “former” home now, is it?

It was no longer their home, but nor was it an unfamiliar land.

They had come from there. It was the land that had built the foundation of who they were.

So she nodded and added to what he had said.

Tachibana Wife: “When Hashiba invaded westward, they put off attacking Hexagone Française’s Mouri and instead sent their forces to Shikoku and to Kyushu’s coast. That was because there were Mlasi nations on Africa’s northern coast, but they had another reason.”

Which was…

Tachibana Wife: “By holding Africa’s northern coast, they can more easily trade with the New World. And since holding Kyushu before the Thirty Years’ War truly began allowed Ryuuzouji to join the fight, Hashiba’s plans seem to have paid off.”

She started to say more, but someone else took over: Musashi’s Representative Committee Head. She had an obvious smile in her voice.

Nagaya-Stable: “P.A. Oda did gain access to Europe’s market that way, but they’ve reached the limit there. They need to search out some other market.”

She tied this all back to the real topic at hand.

Nagaya-Stable: “When they hit their limit in Europe, P.A. Oda reached east – to Kantou. Hashiba had the perfect history recreation for that: the Keichou and Bunroku Campaigns. So they followed Musashi into Kantou and took over.”


“Listen,” said Ookubo.

Nagaya-Stable: “We know Hashiba treated the locals fairly well and permitted economic activity after invading. They wanted to preserve Kantou’s ability to function as a market. And, well, there is one thing I’d like to say about that. …Vice President?”

Vice President: “Yes, I think I know what you’re getting at.”

“Very good,” said Ookubo, taking that as permission to proceed.

Nagaya-Stable: “When the Azuchi Castle flooded Paris, they apparently used materials aboard the ship. That means the Azuchi was already carrying those materials, but that raises a question, doesn’t it?”

This was something she had learned while negotiating with the Azuchi.

Nagaya-Stable: “What was the Azuchi planning to do with those materials in Kantou?”


Yoshiyasu was repairing Righteousness in a forest clearing.

She of course had a sign frame open next to her to watch the discussion between the Kantou group and the Musashi group.

She made an assessment of Ookubo’s information-gathering and comprehension abilities.

She’s far better than me.

But that did not mean she had to belittle herself. She simply had a different role. But…

“The materials the Azuchi was carrying?”

There was an obvious answer.

“Weren’t they to rebuild Satomi and Edo?”

After losing the landport and their homes, the locals needed as many materials as they could get for residences and such. However…

Rebuild, huh?

She thought about that word and what Hashiba had done.

Based on Satomi’s current state and what Tokishige had said, Hashiba had not simply ruled over Kantou.

They had not plundered the place or set exorbitant taxes.

But Yoshiyasu doubted Hashiba had done that out of the goodness of their hearts.

It wasn’t pleasant, but there was a more selfish way of looking at it.

“Avoiding trouble and remaining more hands-off helps things run more smoothly.”

That explained Satomi’s situation perfectly.

In that case, thought Yoshiyasu. Hashiba was planning to use Kantou for something.

They could use the idea of rebuilding to incite the Kantou residents to action. In other words…

It was all about business.

Is there more to this? she wondered before having a realization.

Righteousness: “Musashi Vice President.”

There was more to it. There was a type of business they could get Kantou working on by rebuilding.

Righteousness: “They had the same idea as you.”


It was not Masazumi who answered Yoshiyasu with a “judge”.

It was Ookubo. She spoke through her sign frame.

“Hashiba likely intended to begin a certain business by transporting in a large quantity of materials. They intended to rebuild and thus remake Kantou. In other words…”

In other words…

“They planned to build a major commercial city and a primary road connecting Edo, Satomi, and the rest of south Kantou with Oushuu and Houjou.”


That’s the same thing the Vice President proposed at the three nation meeting with Oushuu, noted Ookubo with a sigh.

Also…

“With P.A. Oda’s connection to Houjou and their use of former Takeda land, they could build something on a larger scale than the Vice President had in mind. P.A. Oda and its allied nations would not form a western boundary, so it would have become the eastern end of P.A. Oda’s trade routes. I can’t say how many years it would have taken in all, but they could start right away if they began by constructing a center for air routes. They even have builders like Ikeda Terumasa at their disposal. And,” said Ookubo. “Through these largescale expansions, P.A. Oda could transform Kantou and Oushuu into their own New World. It isn’t all that great as far as market sizes go, but it is enough to easily outdo Europe. Once the population increased and they began making money, they would be able to place their own embargo on Europe.”

Novice: “But we prevented that, didn’t we?”

You’re getting ahead of yourself, thought Ookubo with a bitter smile.

So she said more.

Nagaya-Stable: “Judge, we did. By liberating Kantou, we preserved the embargo on P.A. Oda. Listen, P.A. Oda is trapped. If Europe plays their part, P.A. Oda will decline from within.”

So…

Nagaya-Stable: “They can’t go on the way things are. When people look back on it all in the future, I bet they will pinpoint the Kantou Liberation as the beginning of their decline. We have to keep all of this in mind as we proceed. No matter what anyone says, we have to remember that we already snatched up a path to victory and handed it over to Europe.”


Suzu focused on Christina’s behavior while listening to the others.

It feels like…she really, really wants to join…the conversation? She’s restless?

Every time someone said something, she would either nod a little or move like she wanted to interject.

For her, this was a review or reassessment of information she had already gathered for herself. But…

Sh-she’s…stopping herself?

As Swedish Chancellor, she was a guest. She was not allowed to give them advice. Suzu understood that, as did the others.

Gold Mar: “Man, Chrippe wants to join in so bad.”

Unturning: “Just like we do when we see someone else fighting. But her position complicates matters.”

Advice to another nation was too valuable to provide for free.

Then Ookubo said even more.

Nagaya-Stable: “Now for the second good result.”

It was….

Nagaya-Stable: “We have revealed and reduced P.A. Oda’s personnel and equipment.”


Masazumi knew what Ookubo was trying to say.

She tended to measure combat equipment as simple numbers, but that was why Ookubo’s statement worked here.

Vice President: “An extra aerial fleet was sent in from eastern P.A. Oda for the Kantou Liberation and we eliminated Takigawa and the Sanada Ten Braves at the Siege of Odawara.”

Nagaya-Stable: “Judge. If we hadn’t done anything, that equipment and personnel would still be out there once summer break ends. Along with the additional fighting force they built up during the break.”

“Listen,” said Ookubo.

Nagaya-Stable: “The third good result is a combination of the previous two. Equipment and personnel can be replenished, but only if you have the money and the people. However, P.A. Oda as a whole has had a reduction in their total amount of equipment and personnel. And with their troubles earning foreign currency, they will only be able to replenish so much.”

Vice President: “When do you think their recovery will be complete?”

Nagaya-Stable: “The first week after the break.”

Ookubo had an immediate answer.

Nagaya-Stable: “They can work on recovery during the break, but they still need to work with the other nations to do so. If they put in orders with the related nations during the break and receive the shipments after the break, then their recovery ends about a week after the break does.”

“But,” said Mitotsudaira.

Silver Wolf: “P.A. Oda’s new order is, in a way, a cornered P.A. Oda. Won’t they be at their most dangerous?”

“They will,” agreed Masazumi.

That went without saying. Ookubo’s good results were all accurate, but because they were accurate…

“P.A. Oda understands all of this and will go on the offensive to turn it all around. They will not let their guard down anymore. Instead of sending representatives to different places and attacking at specific ‘points’, they will likely concentrate all of their forces on the M.H.R.R. front. And,” said Masazumi, “Europe’s smaller nations and stronger principalities can’t survive that. They will blame us for their predicament, so we need to take action now. We need to intervene in P.A. Oda’s affairs just before they manage to get back on their feet.”

Specifically…

“We need to involve ourselves in the history recreation that gives them a new leader: the Honnouji Incident.”


That would indeed mean the Honnouji Incident.

Christina admitted this part of the conversation was complete.

They understood the significance of the Kantou Liberation and Nördlingen, they understood what had been happening in Europe and Kantou before that, and they had tied that all back in toward the big unknown that was the Honnouji Incident.

The rest of this was about the unknown – the future.

There was a lot she had wanted to say and comment on.

She concluded that Musashi’s overall grasp of the information was sufficient.

They did not all understand everything, but they could discuss the big picture when they gathered like this.

Perhaps that was the perfect method of understanding for Musashi.

But from her perspective…

They don’t seem to be looking in one dangerous direction.

There was one major factor missing from everything they had just discussed.

A factor they needed to include in the discussion.

Something important.

But, she said to herself. I can’t get any more involved.

Information was her weapon, so she could not give it away for free. Especially when she hadn’t even been asked.

I must resist, she decided just as Tadaoki turned her way.

“Hey.”

“Yes?”

“Do you get all this confusing crap they’re talking about?”

“I…do?”

“That’s incredible.”

Then he faced forward again. And…

Oh.

She realized she had just created a gap between them.


Christina sensed a change inside her.

In an instant, Tadaoki’s attitude had entirely changed. Simply put…

This is bad.

She was back to who she had been before Nördlingen.

She had intended to continue being who she had become after Nördlingen.

She had thrown her life away, so she had given it to the person who had wanted to treat it with greater care.

So she could be someone other than who she had been before.

Hadn’t she just recently made that decision? So…

“–––––”

She was Sweden’s Chancellor. She could not change her viewpoint or position. But…

“May I say something as the wife of Tadaoki-sama, who eventually joins Matsudaira?”

He turned to her with a “huh?”, so her heart leaped in her chest.

He was looking at her.

Yes. If I make him look away from me, he won’t take good care of me.

So she was glad she had said it.

A few days before, this love had been an impossible fantasy, but now she was his wife. And she had said it herself.

I actually said I’m his wife.

Did love require a self-confession like that? Did she just have to put up with the embarrassment?

She didn’t know.

But she swore to herself she would let her feelings show in her actions.

Calm down. Act like an adult. Everyone already knows you are his wife. Yes.

And…

“Here.”

Tadaoki couldn’t look her in the eye as he slapped the floor next to him.

He audibly slapped the wood a few times.

When she realized what he meant, she felt heat rising from her neck.

Oh.

She suddenly started trembling.


“You made her cry!”

Tadaoki had no idea what was going on, but he could tell everyone here was his enemy.

And from his point of view…

I don’t get it!!

The woman he loved had called herself his wife, so he had told her she could sit by his side.

But once she sat there, while extremely tense for some reason, she had started crying.

Did I do something wrong!?

He didn’t think she was sad. Probably, anyway. But he didn’t understand why she would be so happy either. Things like this had already happened several times, so why would it make her cry this time?

But when the two arms appeared in front of him, they each gave a thumbs up.

“Well played, Nagabuto-sama!” said the arms’ body.

“That’s one way to get involved, I guess.”

“Nagaoka, I’m not sure I entirely understand this, but prepare yourself. This might become an international incident.”

How am I supposed to react to any of this!?

He wanted to protest, telling them he was a beginner here, but he knew that was a bad idea. That would be like telling the crying woman she was a nuisance to him.

I brought her here.

She knows that much. I think.

So this is fine. I can live with this.

“Have your fun if you must, you weirdos, but there’s nothing wrong with crying.”

There, he said it. Next to him, she sucked in a breath, looked to him for just a moment, started to smile, and…

“–––––”

It fell apart.

Even more tears spilled down her cheeks, but she wasn’t crying out loud anymore.

I really don’t get it.

But as he placed a hand on the crying 28-year-old’s cheek, he gave it further thought: This probably isn’t anything I did. It’s probably something with her. Telling her to sit next to me was only the trigger.

He felt like it would be crass to ask her why. It felt like demanding she evaluate herself.

So he remained silent, but then he realized all the others had fallen silent too.

Eh? he thought as he looked out and saw the gold-winged girl raise her hand.

“Nagabuto.”

“Yeah?”

“Can you say that again?”

He wasn’t sure what she meant. But these people were like noisy oddities in clothing, so he just repeated himself.

“I told you to have your fun if you must, you weirdos.”

They all exchanged glances at that.

“We’ve got permission! But you restrain yourself, Chancellor!”

“Huh!? But I was only gonna make some sushi! Some black inari or mint blue inari would be perfect for Nagabuto!”

“Then I shall create a thread for the poor boy who lacks an elder sister. It is only polite.”

“For official business!? You mean for official business, right, Uqui-dono!?”

“Waiiiiit!”

Tadaoki protested, but the arms’ body blew a whistle she had pulled out of thin air.

“Nagabuto-sama, protesting after granting permission earns you a yellow card. Do it again and you get a red card.”

“What happens then?”

“Yerrrrr outta here! Just kidding. It will be far worse than that.”

She’s aware how awful they are!? he thought, but there was nothing he could do about it. But then he noticed something.

“Ha.”

It was more a tearful laugh than anything, but his wife had stopped crying. And…

“T-Tadaoki-sama.” Her voice grew more relaxed. “It is official between us now, isn’t it?”

He wasn’t sure, but he got the feeling their information had just been spread all over the divine network.


Christina took a breath.

That was not how she wanted to be seen. But only by everyone else.

She was now okay with him seeing her like that.

She could cry, laugh, and live how she liked around him.

She was the Swedish Chancellor and Lady Nagaoka. She had overcome death. She was a pacifist. So she knew what to say here.

“I would like to ask you a question, Musashi.”

Specifically…

“Do you think P.A. Oda is your only enemy?”


Chapter 44: Imaginer on the Rejection Stage[edit]

Horizon8B 469.png

I never imagined

It would turn out this way

Point Allocation (Tragedy Will Soon Follow)


“This is looking like trouble, isn’t it, ‘Musashi’-san?”

The smells of cooking lingered on a street where a man and another figure walked together.

“There has been so much trouble lately, I would appreciate it if you specified what you are referring to, Sakai-sama. Over.”

“Fair enough.” Sakai’s coat was slipping off his shoulders as he placed a hand on his chin. He rubbed his mouth with his thumb and then pointed the finger at his inro. “It’s really not allowed?”

“This is a no-smoking street. Because it is repairing the scorch marks left on the floor blocks is a pain. Over.”

“Things can be a pain for automatons?”

“Musashi” glared over at him. And…

“Over.”

“You wound me, ‘Musashi’-san. Also, look.” Sakai pointed at one of the greengrocers along the street. “Those eggplants would be great in some tempura, don’t you think?”

“You’re talking about cooking now? Over.”

“I am.” He sighed and saw “Musashi” use a sign frame to call up the Musashi receipt journal that doubled as his wallet. “What are your thoughts on the Kantou Liberation, Nördlingen, and our return to Kantou?”

“If I may ask first, when will we be returning to Kansai? Over.”

“We can’t until the Azuchi returns to Lake Biwa Azuchi. We certainly don’t want to have that giant ship following after us. I’m sure Masazumi-kun has figured out the best timing and method for all that, so wait for her instructions.”

“If they follow after us, couldn’t we just speed up? Over.”

“I guess,” he said while “Musashi” gave their order to the shopkeeper.

The shopkeeper knew her well enough for a “good to see you again”.

“Is this from the surface?”

“It’s from Satomi! But…” The shopkeeper pointed toward Asakusa. “I still have some European vegetables we got at the Udon Kingdom, so just ask if you need some. Their mushrooms were really popular, so if we do return that way, I’m hoping we can get some through the European trade routes again.”

“Sounds like a lot of work,” said Sakai before taking a breath. He turned to stare into the west even though Europe wasn’t visible from this distance. “I’m sure the European nations are doing a lot of thinking and political maneuvering right about now.”

“Do you think anyone other than P.A. Oda and the European nations will take a harsh stance against Musashi, Sakai-sama? Over.”

“It’s a good question,” he said. “That probably comes down to what it is Masazumi-kun, Toori, and the others try to do. And I’m sure the vagueness of it all is a real pain for you,”

He smiled and placed a hand on his inro but didn’t open it.

He looked up to see “Musashi” holding her right hand back toward him.

“If this discussion will only be a pain, then I will ask you to stop there.” She did not turn around to look at him. “For now, how about I search the databank for some options on cooking these vegetables? Over.”


Mitotsudaira frowned at what Christina had said.

Is she saying we have an enemy other than P.A. Oda?

Her first thought was her home nation.

“Do you mean Hexagone Française? Because Mouri will be Musashi’s enemy at Sekigahara?”

Christina did not respond.

But not because she was ignoring her.

Something about the way she sat there said this silence was a conscious choice to not answer.

That means I was wrong.

It was not Hexagone Française. So…

“M.H.R.R. maybe?” suggested Margot.

Mitotsudaira watched Christina.

How about that?

M.H.R.R. was working with Hashiba and was a constant enemy at present.

And they would likely be the greatest obstacle toward Musashi’s intervention at Honnouji. However…

“–––––”

Christina remained silent.

M.H.R.R. was also not the enemy she was referring to.


Christina kept silent.

She was not being cruel or petty. It was partially because she understood the value of information, but also…

It would only bring trouble if I was too cooperative here.

She had her position to think about. She could cooperate, but every time she supplied them with information, she would be placing Sweden on Musashi’s side.

That would place a burden on Sweden and on Tadaoki for pushing her to do this.

If possible, she wanted to set things up so she was only ever “agreeing” with information they produced themselves.

But there was a problem.

This is tricky.

She could see this enemy of Musashi quite clearly.

This was an enemy other than P.A. Oda.

It was a factor they could not ignore if they were considering intervening at Honnouji. And by her estimation, they would end up facing a sort of enemy they had never faced before.

They had come very close to discussing it earlier, so…

“They should be able to guess it.”

If they couldn’t, she would just have to tell them. But she wanted to avoid that if at all possible.

Let’s see if they can find the answer, she thought.

That was when their Chancellor raised his hand.

“Ooh! Let’s all just shout out random ideas! And if any of us gets it right, Nagabuto’s wife can say, ‘Bingo! We have a winner!’!”

Ehhhhh?

That’s really pushing it. And I wouldn’t say it like that, she thought while the idiot pointed in a random direction to get things started.

“Okay, you’re up first, Adele-kun!!”


Asama watched the disaster play out. Adele was first.

“U-um…the Protestants!?”

Christina looked a little disturbed by it all but kept her silence. Next up was Urquiaga.

“Those heretical younger sister lovers!”

Silence. And why wouldn’t he follow up Adele’s guess with the Catholics? But Naito, Neshinbara, and Ohiroshiki soon followed.

“The Technohexen, maybe!?”

“The Dark Guild has been plotting in the shadows, I bet!”

“Those Catholics who reject life worship!?”

Um, why do I get the feeling the intelligence level of these guesses is deteriorating rapidly?

But Mitotsudaira went next, perhaps to fix that very problem.

“Um the Ikko-shu or something like that?”

“Heh heh. I’ve got it!” announced Kimi. “The bald warriors! It must be the bald warriors!”

“So the smooth heads?”

“No, Narumi, the shiny heads.”

Are we just making things up now?

Circle Be: “Money!!”

Silence. No surprise there.

“You’re turn, Tenzou!”

“Eh!? U-um, well, uh.”

“Buzz, too slow! Mary!”

“Oh, u-um! Th-the same as Master Tenzou!”

“Impressively done, Mary-sama!” said Horizon. “Tenzou-sama wins a year’s supply of seaweed from me!”

Asama: “Um, we’re not even trying anymore, are we?”

Asama could see Christina staring off into the distance.

Sh-she can’t believe what she’s hearing, can she!?

Maybe it was time to just give up. But then he turned toward her.

“Asama, you got any ideas?”

A confused “eh?” filled her mind, but she also felt some déjà vu.

Wait…

What enemy would she least expect?

This had happened before. But that time it had been in a very serious discussion, not this silly nonsense.

It was during our discussion with Fujiwara Yasuhira.

She made her guess while thinking back to that meeting.

“Is it Shinto?”


Mitotsudaira watched Christina.

How about it?

Mitotsudaira felt like this was a distinct possibility.

As a religion, Shinto helped form the very foundation of the Far East.

You could even say they are the “shin” and “toe” of the legs we all stand on. …Oh, god. I’m turning into Masazumi.

“Hm? Why are you staring at me, Mitotsudaira?”

No reason.

Anyway, Shinto helped form the very foundation of the Far East.

That meant Shinto was an ally to a Far Eastern force like Musashi. That created a subconscious assumption that they would never be an enemy. But what could overturn that assumption?

“Tomo.”

Mitotsudaira hadn’t been there, but Musashi had met with Oushuu Fujiwara’s representative the day before the three nations meeting. During that meeting with Fujiwara Yasuhira, Asama had been forced to take a more critical view of the Shinto religion at the core of her identity.

She was doing the same here. It wasn’t quite the same as self-criticism, but…

“I think this is something only you could have said.”

Asama silently nodded.

And then Mitotsudaira saw Christina moving.

That one was right!?

Christina pulled two explosive tubes from somewhere and crossed them to form an X.


Asama: “H-huh? Huhhh? Th-that’s weird. That really, really looked like she was preparing to say it was right, didn’t it?”

Wise Sister: “Heh heh. What kind of idiot gets it wrong after all that buildup? Oh, this kind right here? Why don’t you get some extra brains in those boobs of yours!? There’s plenty of space!”

Asama: “Wow, the Asama Shrine cannot afford to be called an idiot by Kimi of all people! And the rest of you thought that was right too, didn’t you!?”

Almost Everyone: “…”

Asama: “Your silence hurts. It hurts so bad.”

Horizey: “Settle down, everyone. There is no shame in being wrong. The rest of you were making random guesses as well – and then there was Neshinbara-sama’s whose was especially bad – so how is Asama-sama any different? So cheer up, Asama-sama.”

Asama: “Th-those aren’t exactly the people I want to be compared to!”

Novice: “So you’re saying I win since mine was the most memorable!?”

Four Eyes: “It is high time you learned to feel shame and immediately disemboweled yourself.”


Maybe I gave them a little too much there, thought Christina while putting away the explosives.

She had primarily used paper-wrapped ones at Nördlingen, but these were hard-coated with bamboo. That waterproofed them, making them perfect for use at the pool.

“Why were you allowed to bring those with you?” asked Tadaoki.

“I said I need them for my history recreation.”

Hearing that, everyone turned toward the Vice President.

“We’re led by someone who blows up fireworks, so I don’t see the harm,” said the girl. “It’s not like she’s using them to sabotage us like the Sanada Ten Braves did.”

“Oh, and if she does use them for private purposes, the Asama Shrine will make a judgment and Kagutsuchi won’t grant permission to detonate them unless the area is clear,” explained the Asama Shrine Representative.

“See, they’re safe. Yes.”

They all nodded in understanding while Christina thought on the shrine maiden’s earlier guess.

She was close.

Very close. Hence Christina’s reaction.

The answer was a short one: Kyou.

That was the Emperor’s headquarters and thus the center of Shinto. Not even IZUMO could ignore Kyou.

And Kyou would have reason to become Musashi’s enemy.

That made Kyou an enemy other than P.A. Oda.

It was simple enough if you thought about it, but she could not guide them toward the answer.

The Asama Shrine Representative had nearly made it there, but now that she had guessed Shinto, Christina doubted any of them would think to guess Kyou.

They will steer their thoughts away from anything related to Shinto.

So they had failed.

They would not reach the answer.

Now the question was when she would tell them.

She hoped their Vice President would prod her in that direction.

“Now, then,” she started to say, but Musashi’s Chancellor looked to their Secretary and cut her off.

“Hey, Neshinbara. How about you show Shakes what you’re capable of instead of just letting her bully you?”

“Heh. Leave it to Aoi-kun to call on someone as shameless as I.”

The Secretary, who had already made a terrible guess, turned toward Christina and then spread his arms.

“I can see right through you.”

The others behind him were shaking their hands side to side in perfect unison.


Masazumi was honestly worried if Neshinbara could handle this.

Vice President: “What do you think?”

Art-Ga: “The same as you.”

Then he can’t handle it.

Silver Wolf: “N-no, this will work out just fine. I mean, my king asked him to do this!”

Now I’m even more worried.

Flat Vassal: “Really, it’ll be fine! Right!? Remember when he negotiated with the Houjou Chancellor before the Siege of Odawara and confused things for everyone involved!?”

Yeah, he can’t handle this. And he did that one right in front of me, didn’t he?

Masazumi honestly felt Neshinbara could not handle this.

But he formed right angles with the thumb and forefinger of both hands and held them together to form a frame.

“Neshinbara, what purpose could that possibly serve? Explain it to me,” demanded Urquiaga.

“I-it gathers the power that has been spread throughout the air around me!”

Why? wondered Masazumi and everyone else, but none of them said it out loud. Because they knew he would prattle on and on if they did.

But Neshinbara himself crouched down, viewed the Swedish Chancellor, and spoke.

“I see it.”

For some reason, everyone looked to Masazumi, not Neshinbara.

Naito did not bother hiding the caution on her face as she lifted her hand with the palm up. That likely meant “get him moving”. Masazumi honestly didn’t think this was her job, but she did it anyway.

“What is it you see, Neshinbara?”

“Judge. I will now explain it for all of you.”

Uqui: “Leave me out of this, Masazumi!”

Vice President: “You think I can control him!?”

Neshinbara slid to the side and spoke with his eyes on the Swedish Chancellor.

“The first thing I saw was the aura of misfortune clinging to her destiny.”

“An aura, huh?”

Masazumi had used what she thought was a “cut the crap” tone, but he simply said “judge”, slid back to his original position (what was wrong with the new one?), and nodded.

“Listen,” he began. “The presence of that aura means she wants an answer from us but is doomed to never receive it. Even if we do find the answer, the aura’s misfortune will intervene and cause us to unwittingly alter our answer.”

Art-Ga: “Can I…just run up to him and smack him with my broom?”

Horizey: “Resist, Naruze-sama! For a little while longer at least!”

But Neshinbara spun toward them and held a hand to his forehead.

“The fact that even our relatively fortunate Asama-kun had…gave the wrong answer should show you just how powerful this aura is.”

Asama: “That isn’t a very nice thing to say.”

Vice President: “And don’t change which verb you’re using after you’ve already used it.”

But Neshinbara performed a certain action. He crossed his arms in front of his chest like he was about to wrap his arms around himself.

“Remember when she crossed her bombs like this earlier?”

“You mean the explosive tubes.”

“The specifics don’t matter, Naomasa-kun. That action was in fact a message from her inner instincts.”

The question “what?” was written on all of their faces, but while he saw it as “what message is that?”, they actually meant “what in the world are you talking about?”

Nevertheless, he raised his eyebrows and smiled.

“Oh, you don’t know? You could at least try. Ha ha.”

Unturning: “I’m so glad he wasn’t part of Date.”

Uqui: “Narumi, you keep a wonderfully cool head even in this heat.”

He really needed to get to the point and fast, but instead he held up his crossed arms for them to see.

“What does this look like to you?”

Naruze raised her hand.

“An idiot?”

“N-not me! My crossed arms!”

It was truly incredible how Mukai uttered a confused “Eh? He knows he’s one?”

Meanwhile, Horizon gave an answer regarding Neshinbara’s crossed arms.

“When your back is itchy and you can’t quite reach.”

“Eek, I’m changing! Badump, badump.”

“Tokusatsu Hero Buddhaman’s Archaic Beam?”

They all gave their guesses, but Neshinbara shook his head.

“This isn’t an association game. …Doesn’t it look an X?”

“So it is an association game!!” they all shouted, but it wasn’t enough to stop Neshinbara.

He moved his arms back to either side, raised in something like a boxer’s stance.

“That was the sign she was making using the bombs. And this is the sign she was making with the arms holding the bombs.”

He asked if they understood now, so they all exchanged a glance.

Not one of them nodded, so Masazumi chose to minimize the damage done.

“No, we don’t.”

“What, not one of you understands?”

“Judge. We don’t.”

She stuck to her guns. He knew the answer, so he would spill it eventually. However…

“Oh, come on. You could at least try to give it some thought, you know?”

Horizey: “Annoying guys like this are never popular.”

Asama: “H-Horizon! We don’t say those things, no matter how true they might be! And don’t look at Toori-kun when you say it!”

But Neshinbara sighed in a satisfied way. The way Naruze was clenching her fist right next to him was troubling, but it would be fine for now. He hadn’t noticed her.

And Neshinbara gave his answer.

“These arms are meant to be vertical lines.”


Masazumi listened to Neshinbara.

“Now, we have an X in the center and a vertical line on either side. Do you know what that means?”

She kind of did actually.

That would be…

“The kanji for bad luck.”[1]

“What about the line on the bottom?”

“Shh, Suzu-san. You don’t want to get involved in this.”

Thank god Balfette is handling that one. But a different comment arrived from Kantou.

Nagaya-Stable: “And what is that supposed to mean?”

“Heh. It is an appropriate character for Lady Nagaoka to display what with her aura of misfortunate, but in this case, she was using it to send us a different message. A message about our new enemy. Do you see what I mean now?” asked Neshinbara. “There is no organization or location with that name, but how is that character pronounced!?”

He displayed the answer on a sign frame.

“Kyou! How about that!?”


Christina could not believe what she was hearing.

Ehhhhhhh?

Information was used to convey details about things. By combining different pieces of information, you could understand the connections between things, corroborate facts, and draw conclusions about the truth.

She had been doing that all her life.

But this was somehow different.

He was clearly running entirely on intuition. It was like a random fortune-telling not based on any actual spells. And yet…

How did he arrive at the right answer!?

As long as he was right, how he had arrived there shouldn’t matter.

But this was just too much for her to accept.

Did she really have to reveal the answer she had found through solid hard work when all he had done was…that?

She ended up staring at him in bewilderment.

“–––––”

She still couldn’t believe it had worked, but they had found the right answer.

I’m never accepting this, she thought, but she had no real choice. At least I know it can never happen again, she thought, but…

No, surely not.

A horrifying thought occurred to her.

What if this was how they arrived at all of their answers?

That just isn’t possible.

She had to believe that. The guidance of information was the only way to arrive at solid facts. Anything else was mere coincidence.

And the path they had taken to reach this point had been too difficult to have traversed it by no more than coincidence.

“Hey, um, just so you know,” said Tadaoki. “The thing about them is…”

“Yes?” she asked.

“They can accomplish some incredible things when they work together to ensure a win.”


Tadaoki’s words sent a chill down Christina’s spine.

Ensure a win. In other words…

They can turn even a losing situation into a win?

She understood.

It was all there in her informational knowledge of Musashi.

They were the Far East. They were oppressed. They had very little land and power. But because they had nothing to lose, they had chosen to laugh and go for it. And that had led them to a certain answer.

They viewed their current situation as the worst case scenario.

No matter what they did, it had to be better than nothing. As long as they did something, things were bound to improve in some way. It was guaranteed.

Calling it “searching out the good in life” wasn’t quite right. They were searching out the victories in life. No matter their situation, they would find some way to achieve victory there and focus all their efforts on that.

Now that she thought about it, this was the same.

She had hidden some information, so they had focused all their attention on that one point.

Then they just had to find the answer however they could. They had even made some wild guesses before the Secretary even got started. If she had stopped them there, she would have “won”.

But I didn’t.

From the moment she had felt exasperated and unsure what to do, she had “lost”.

Because they were not alone. They had their Chancellor’s Officers, their Student Council, and others with excellent abilities. If they guessed at it enough, they would eventually find the answer.

If the Secretary had been wrong, someone else would have found the answer. So…

“I would like to ask something,” said Christina.

“What is it?” Musashi’s Vice President turned toward her. “If it’s about our Secretary’s outrageous behavior, we can always have him punished.”

“No, um, it isn’t that. …It’s a hypothetical question.”

“And what is it, Lady Nagaoka?”

That name told Christina that their leader understood how to view this conversation. So…

“What would happen if I requested a serious meeting based on this discussion?”

“Judge.” The Vice President looked to the others, scratched her head in thought, and muttered “well” while turning back toward Christina.

She pointed her thumb back at the others.

“Then we would accept that request. But you’ve seen what our people are like, so any help from us is bound to be noisy.”

I can imagine so.

Christina resigned herself to the truth.

She had been looking at this all wrong. She had assumed the idea was to have an accurate grasp of the information and she had worked to help them do so.

But with them, it was not about having an accurate grasp of the information.

They had made the information accurate.

They win.

Wasn’t that exactly what they had done when discussing the situation earlier too?

It wasn’t that she had overlooked that. She had just never imagined they would do the same for information that only she had.

I still haven’t seen the full extent of what they can do, she concluded.

She had set herself up to lose here.

I have so much left to learn. So…

“I want to learn more. Yes.”

No one knew how to respond to that. They only tilted their heads.

But she faced them and actually spoke to them this time.

“You are correct. Kyou will likely become your enemy.”

“Yesssssssss! In your face! Did you see how brilliant I am!? You have no idea how exhausting it is having to put up with people who can’t recognize true intelligence.”

They all kicked the Secretary into the pool and the arms counted 100 seconds on their fingers before splashing water on themselves and diving in with textbook form.


Chapter 45: Debaters in the Forest[edit]

Horizon8B 493.png

This forest has nowhere to go

Yet several places to go

Can be seen from within the forest

Point Allocation (Look Outward)


“Milady, would you like to take a break now? A-also the meeting should be making some progress now that the Secretary has been knocked into the pool.”

“Yeah, I heard most of that, but none of it makes any sense.”

Ookubo sighed toward Kantou in the forest clearing.

Kanou provided her with some sign frame documents. All the necessary fields had already been filled out, so she only had to check over them. But…

“Sorry, Kanou-kun, but I would like to focus on the Musashi’s meeting right now.”

She could see the Satomi Student Council President standing at the clearing’s entrance.

The girl raised a hand in greeting when she noticed Ookubo, so she was probably monitoring the meeting as well.

She sent a message on a same frame.

Righteousness: “It looks like they’re using another of their bizarre arguments to overpower a Musashi newbie.”

Nagaya-Stable: “I really wish they would stop that since it puts people on guard.”

“But,” Ookubo said, addressing Kanou now.

Nagaya-Stable: “Kanou-kun, do you know what she means when she says Kyou will be our enemy?”

CAN: “Judge. Recall who Kyou is currently managed by.”

Yes.

CAN: “Akechi Mitsuhide, #3 of P.A. Oda’s Five Great Peaks. And father of Lady Nagaoka via inherited name. The city of Kyou has been left in his care, making him its effective administrator.”


Kyou, silently groaned Masazumi.

Everyone from the Far East was familiar with the location Christina had named.

The unaging Emperor, leader of Shinto and the Far East, who was said to be a woman, ruled from there. But she was in fact so busy managing the ley lines from within the Imperial Palace that she could never emerge from within that fortress. And…

“Kyou is currently managed by your father, Akechi Mitsuhide, isn’t it?”

“Testament. He is only my father by inherited name, but yes. P.A. Oda sent him there to preserve order in Kyou and to bolster its defenses. And Kyou accepted the offer.”

“I see.” Masazumi nodded. This matched what Mori Ranmaru had told them the other day. “I think I know what you mean.”

She more or less understood what Christina was getting at.

Most of what she wanted to say could be gleaned from what she had just said.

“If we intervene in Honnouji, you’re saying Kyou will turn against us, aren’t you?”

Because…

“The Honnouji Incident is caused by Akechi Mitsuhide. If we want to intervene, we have to set something up ahead of time. But if we do that…”

“Judge.” Mitotsudaira glanced over at Masazumi. “If we try to contact Akechi Mitsuhide to set that up, we will be entering P.A. Oda-controlled Kyou. But P.A. Oda will never agree to our presence there. That means we will arrive in Kyou as intruders, making us their enemy.”

Everyone turned toward Masazumi with an “and if that happens…” look on their face.

Narumi asked the question on their behalf.

“How do you intend to intervene? A general idea is enough for now – I just want to hear a few different plans.”


This is a test, thought Ookubo.

Everyone around her, including the Satomi Student Council President, was looking her way.

She stretched and sighed on the lumber she was using as a seat.

She wanted to look calm and confident.

The rest of this discussion is not going to be pleasant.

And, she decided to add.

“Oh, is the test over already?”

A very conspicuous person walked up.

Ookubo understood why the others spoke up in surprise. Most everyone here was from the Far East, so this newcomer’s color stood out.

The light gold of twilight was the color of her glossy hair.

“The Reine des Garous?”

The woman was in her ordinary form. She was wearing a Far Eastern uniform – a twilight color version.

“I like how well this uniform keeps you cool.”

“Why are you back here? I thought you were going to return with Mouri Terumoto?”

“Testament, Terumoto and her group will be holding a meeting with P.A. Oda once the Azuchi heads back there, but I wouldn’t be much help there. I thought I would be more useful as a Mouri presence in Satomi and then I can join my daughter on the Musashi and act as a contact between Musashi and Terumoto.” She smiled. “Also, the Musashi will be returning to Kansai in the near future…no, almost immediately, correct? I plan to hitch a ride back with you.”

I see what you’re up to, thought Ookubo with a smile on the corners of her pursed lips.

This was interesting.

The Reine des Garous had gone to Musashi, acquired the latest intelligence there, and now returned to Satomi.

Returning to Musashi again later might make it all seem like a meaningless back-and-forth, but they had to remember that the Azuchi was still up there in the sky.

That threat was still casting a shadow on Satomi’s land and sea.

Hexagone Française’s powerful Vice Chancellor had come to Satomi for the Kantou Liberation.

She may have been the most powerful single individual in the world, so it meant a lot that she was currently helping out Satomi.

The Azuchi can’t invade Satomi like this, noted Ookubo.

But the ordinary people would have their own thoughts on the matter.

She was of great value to the Satomi people and of decent value to Hexagone Française.

She could singlehandedly remind everyone who it was that had liberated Kantou.

And when she was on the Musashi, she was probably looking to see if they intended to return to Kansai.

If she returned to Kansai with Musashi, then her powerful presence in Satomi would not be overwritten by Musashi

“Are wolves always so calculating?”

“Wolves are clever creatures. And clever in the positive sense, not in a sneaky way.”

So she claimed.

She kept her true intentions hidden and presented a false front, but Ookubo appreciated that. It built up the kind of habits she needed. She did think it was wrong to think of international relations as a type of game, though.

“Now, then.”

The Reine des Garous approached while swaying a little. She was glowing with…

Ether light.

She appeared to back from normal after taking that spirit form, but the tall woman still had something like leaves of ether light tangled around her.

“My, my. You can see the light in the dark forest, can’t you? And after my husband and I worked so hard to keep it inside me.”

“Did he survive that?”

“Oh, he is just brimming with life. He was even crying with joy earlier.”

“Sounds lovely.”

The woman closed the gap between them while they chatted.

Kanou gestured to ask if she needed to be on alert and Ookubo gestured a no.

They were fine. If anything happened, they could defeat the Reine des Garous with curry. There was some not far away. She could also be defeated with ping pong. Ookubo couldn’t manage that one herself, but surely someone around here could. The Mogami Chancellor is here, isn’t she? Oh, but it might be even crazier next time if she’s managed to learn the rules.

“Is something the matter?”

“No, no. Just thinking about recreational activities.”

“I see,” said the Reine des Garous, taking a seat next to her.

Ookubo felt all her hair bristle. Because…

This is lumber!

The lumber she sat on now had small branches and leaves growing from its surface. It split open as new growth pushed out from within.

“Hm? What is it?”

By the time she heard Yoshiyasu’s voice, green leaves were growing all across the wood.

Anywhere the forest’s ruler sat became part of the forest.

Her power influenced her surroundings.

“This might become a European forest after this.”

The Loup-Garou queen smiled, caught Yoshiyasu’s eye, and patted the surface of the wood. She was telling the girl to take a seat. And…

“Now, I have a question.”

Ookubo could guess what she was going to ask, so she said it herself in order to repay her.

“You want to know how we plan to intervene in Honnouji, don’t you?”


The Reine des Garous nodded toward the two 2nd years seated to her left.

They were both important.

They had both played crucial roles in the Kantou Liberation and holding a meeting with them would be valuable. Because…

“The history recreation has us as enemies in the future.”

“Judge.” They agreed. And…

“But it isn’t time for that yet, so we can ignore it,” said the Satomi Student Council President.

Musashi’s Representative Council Head shrugged in response.

“We do need to keep it in mind, but do tell us if anything changes.”

Such easygoing girls.

And they created that vibe so effortlessly at this point.

This is nice, thought the Reine des Garous.

She could predict these two would become very important members of the Far East. They could already hold their own against Hashiba, after all.

Of course, they had not defeated the enemy on their own.

It had been a joint effort.

Politics, war, and everything else was a group effort with Musashi.

Was that the result of living in the cramped confines of that aerial ship, or was it the result of living under provisional rule?

Friends, companions, and every other kind of bond went both ways there and people with different abilities and combat styles would gather when they needed to make sure they were victorious.

It was the same even with a battle looming so close.

Nate was the same.

When the Reine des Garous had fought her daughter south of Magdeburg, the battle had been decided by the arrival of a sword belonging to the English Princess, her daughter’s friend.

That sort of teamwork was not limited to the officers. With Musashi, it was found among their warriors and even their ordinary citizens.

Their king was unreliable but gave them solid direction, so they would decide it was up to them to help him out and make sure they could follow that direction.

The Reine des Garous had participated in their final exam the other day after her daughter’s homeroom teacher approached her about it and that had proved entertaining. She had been able to observe Musashi’s brand of teamwork from the perspective of an enemy and she had been able to watch her daughter work hard as their trump card. That was nice since she only played a small role in the Kantou Liberation.

If she had not worked so hard, the Reine des Garous would have activated her parent day mode and shouted, “Go for it, Nate! Raise your hand and volunteer to fight on the front line! You can do it!”

But that had not been necessary.

Very impressive, she thought, comparing them to Hexagone Française’s current situation.

Hexagone Française had lost an admirable leader but the next generation had stepped up and taken over. However, they were only following their king and the lateral connections were still weak.

They need more war, was her honest thought there.


In the Reine des Garous’s opinion, war was the best place for people to work together and help each other out. During wartime, people knew any damage to those near them would also harm them, so they would treat those people with care.

As the queen of the Loup-Garous, she knew very well just how much fear and anxiety could influence people.

It was the threat of the animals in the dark night that had led people to build villages, gather together, protect each other, and sleep in each other’s arms.

To find value in knowing your neighbor, you had to know that they could be lost.

But the Loup-Garous were no longer out there.

So war would have to do. These were real battles, not imagined conflicts and verbal debates.

Hexagone Française was powerful, which made it harder to notice external threats. That strength had been Anne’s goal, but it still distanced people from their neighbors.

The Reine des Garous was glad her daughter had managed to make friends.

Could Hexagone Française do the same? And…

“Hee hee.”

Nothing felt wrong about the two seated next to her, which suggested they knew exactly how troublesome she could be.

I need to watch out for them when the eventual battle comes.

With that thought, she asked her question again.

“What will you be doing to intervene in Honnouji?”


Yoshiyasu sensed something in the Reine des Garous’s question: anticipation.

That wolf is enjoying this.

Yoshiyasu firmly denied having a canine side, but the dog was still the symbol of Satomi, which made this woman a challenge to deal with. She tried to do everything right, but it always felt like the Reine des Garous was outdoing her at every turn.

She’s so different from her daughter. And not just in the chest.

But she had seen an answer on the divine network earlier.

“Musashi will be intervening in Honnouji. There is no stopping that now.”

“Will you be taking part?”

“I will accompany them.”

The Reine des Garous narrowed her eyes at that phrasing.

She was smiling. And the hand she moved past Ookubo’s back suddenly rubbed Yoshiyasu on the head.

In the past, she would have pulled away and told her to stop, but for some reason…

Fine, whatever.

The woman had to have a reason for doing this, so she had no real reason to resist it.

“Hee hee. Later, I will give you a perfume with a natural divine protection that repels even smoke.”

“I’m not sure what you’re getting at, but thanks.”

Nagaya-Stable: “W-wait! Would that be a royal Loup-Garou perfume?”


“Hey, Mitotsudaira, we’ve got a question from Kantou. Does your mother make her own perfume? And if so, how much is it worth?”

“Huh? I don’t know what you’re getting at, but if it’s handmade by my mother, it would be a gift from the forest spirits and animals. She receives a drop of it every night of a full moon, so I imagine it would be considered priceless.”

“Nate, is that the factory stuff you’re wearing? Y’know, the milky one that sis used up the last of.”

“Um, Toori-kun, Kimi, and Horizon? You don’t have to gather around and sniff at her.”

“I-if you must smell it, then do so at the base of my neck, not the end of my hair.”


Ookubo could not believe the information that came back from the Musashi.

I so want to put that up for auction to fund our budget!

If she sold it to members of the Provisional Council, they would likely end up bragging about it when engaging in diplomacy with the mainland, which would be a complete disaster, but at least it would help spice up their diplomacy. Don’t blame me if they cause trouble, though.

But that was all moot since it sounded like it would belong to the Satomi Student Council President. Ookubo just had to hope the Reine des Garous had a plentiful supply and that she could draw her attention.

She switched trains of thought.

Greed could come later. For now, she needed to open a sign frame and go over what she needed to say.

“We have a few routes leading to Honnouji,” she began. “Our one and only last resort would be fighting our way in. Now, that really is a last resort that I want to avoid if at all possible, but I want you to remember that it is an option.”

“And Musashi really will do it, won’t you?”

“The Provisional Rule made us this way.”

Oops. I shouldn’t say things like that when not even I know if it’s a joke or not.

But the Reine des Garous smiled bitterly.

“But you aren’t planning to do that, are you?”

“We are not,” Ookubo confirmed, bringing an end to that line of thought.

Then she opened a sign frame, well aware this was her field of expertise.

“We have three general plans for Honnouji.”

She had a list of examples.

“Vice President, listen to this. It’s important.”


Ookubo realized no one in the clearing was hiding that they were focused on her.

That focus was not a bad thing. In fact, they would help spread what she was saying here. And it excited her to have so many eyes on her. It’s nice.

So she tapped her sign frame to expand it large enough for everyone to see. Once Kanou grabbed it and adjusted its angle, she only had to speak.

Nagaya-Stable: “If we have to fight our way in as a last resort, I know we can figure something out, so let’s start with something else. My first idea for intervening in Honnouji is to use the Testament Union.”

The sign frame displayed a map of the area from Kansai to Setouchi.

Nagaya-Stable: “We send the Testament Union a request, saying we want to inspect the Honnouji Incident, and we participate as an observer.”

“Oh? But the Testament Union is currently run by Hashiba via K.P.A. Italia,” said the Reine des Garous. “Won’t they just reject your request?”

“Only if Musashi makes the request.”

The words are coming more freely now, realized Ookubo.

Nagaya-Stable: “There are still plenty of Testament Union nations not under Hashiba’s influence, so we negotiate with them, have them send in the inspection request, and then have them name Musashi as their representative. With the support and votes of enough nations, Hashiba can’t refuse if they hope to keep the Testament Union intact.”

She noticed the Satomi Student Council President crossing her arms.

“Is that idea realistic, though?” she asked.

“What makes you ask that?”

“Judge,” she replied, turning Ookubo’s way.

There was no doubt in her eyes. She saw this as her role in the debate.

“History recreations with other nations are forbidden during summer break, so visiting and negotiating with them will not be easy. And that grows more challenging the more nations you have to visit. We could speak with the Kantou nations and Musashi could speak with the European nations, but what about the other regions?”

“We would just have to figure something out.”

Ookubo made a point of shrugging.

A puzzled stir spread through her surroundings and Kanou asked the question on all their minds.

“Milady, do you not have a plan for that part?”

Ookubo smiled at the emotionless question.

Nagaya-Stable: “Kanou-kun. Could you maybe express a little more surprise?”

CAN: “I am sorry, milady, but I have yet to deactivate my combat mode. But I will be in shopping mode starting tomorrow, so you can expect a wonderful expression of surprise then.”

That sounds like trouble in its own way, thought Ookubo, but everyone would have the same question as Kanou.

So Ookubo made sure they could all hear her answer.

Nagaya-Stable: “I am still thinking on that one. I have yet to settle on a direction there. But once you know if something is impossible or not, you also know whether it’s a real option or not, right? So with that in mind, we can set it aside and move on to the next idea. And once we line up all the options and decide which one we want to do, we can start thinking about how to actually pull it off.”

She raised two fingers on her right hand.

Nagaya-Stable: “The second method is to arrive as a mercenary for a nation with the right to intervene.”


“Can we do that?” Mitotsudaira asked in the poolside break area. She still had her bamboo bottle’s reed straw in her mouth, but she didn’t care. “How do we make ourselves another nation’s mercenary? And is there any nation with that right?”

She heard a splash behind her.

The boys were testing different ways of melting the ice in the pool.

“Damn. Splash water on it and the water freezes too!”

A perfect arch of ice bridged the gap between the pool ice and the water scoop in the 1st Special Duty Officer’s hand.

Her king ran over and placed his crotch at the end of the arch.

“Frozen Manneken Pis!”

The arms shoved him from behind and his stomach hit the ice, breaking it.

“B-be more careful! What if the ice stabbed into the tip!?”

The arms made an exasperated pose. Their owner Horizon was viewing a sign frame with Asama.

“Um, they tend to move around like this while you’re asleep,” said Asama, explaining what had happened with the arms up until Nördlingen.

It looked like they were all taking a break, but in reality…

“Man, it sure is nice when Ookubo just gives us all the answers.”

“Um, Masazumi. Stop taking it easy and help explain this for us.”

Christina had been watching Tadaoki’s attempts to defeat the ice with the other boys.

“…”

But she kept glancing back this way.

Their thoughts had also turned toward the pool now that Ookubo had taken over. So while the boys tried to melt the ice, Masazumi and the rest of the girls were following along with Ookubo’s argument.

But that argument coming from Kantou caught Mitotsudaira’s interest.

“What nation can intervene in Honnouji?” she asked.

“Yeah, you would think it’s all P.A. Oda since it’s a civil war, right? But,” continued Masazumi. “Can you explain it for us, Tachibana Couple?”

“Judge. We can, Vice President.”

Gin showed no hesitation.

Tachibana Wife: “The nations that play a role are M.H.R.R., K.P.A. Italia, and…Tres España.”


Ookubo saw Tachibana Gin’s words on her sign frame.

She has a good eye for this.

She used to be Tres España’s 3rd Special Duty Officer. And her husband had been their 1st Special Duty Officer, in charge of intelligence, and he had known a lot about the western nations to preserve his position as Peerless in the West.

Ookubo had received some advice from her before she returned to Musashi.

And now…

Tachibana Wife: “M.H.R.R. includes the Catholic principalities held by Hashiba and the Protestant principalities held by Tomoe Gozen and the like. The Protestants border Kyou in a forested region, so they could ask the Catholics to hold peace talks related to Nördlingen on the border with Kyou. And then we could possibly take part as mercenaries for the Protestants.”

Unturning: “That would be pretty forced, but we could claim the Protestants are still worn down from Nördlingen and thus need to hire Musashi as a mercenary force.”

Tachibana Wife: “Judge. We could also travel to Kyou to provide help for Nördlingen, so it seems like working with the Protestants would be easiest.”

“No, I don’t think so,” said the Reine des Garous, opening a sign frame.

Still Got It: “There is another reason that would be difficult.”


When the Reine des Garous interrupted, Gin looked to the Vice President.

She had been playing with her anteater before, but now she was viewing her sign frame. She must have noticed Gin looking her way because she waved her hand in a “don’t worry about me” kind of way.

So Gin took a breath and silently thanked the Asama Shrine Representative for placing a shade spell sign frame overhead as a parasol.

I knew this was coming.

Her Protestant suggestion had a flaw and Hexagone Française’s Vice Chancellor was not one to overlook it.

So this was her chance to address and resolve that problem.

“There is a problem with using the Protestants like I suggested.”

Namely…

Tachibana Wife: “It would require speaking with Hexagone Française first.”


Yoshiyasu saw the wolf’s expression change in front of her.

Earlier, the Reine des Garous had looked like she was refraining from saying something, but now her lips curled up into a shallow U.

Still Got It: “Oh? But Hexagone Française is quite crafty.”

Tachibana Wife: “That actually works in our favor, Reine des Garous.”

“Indeed,” agreed the wolf while more text appeared on the sign frame.

Tachibana Wife: “Musashi must clear one obstacle before taking a mercenary job for the M.H.R.R. Protestants. We already fought as Hexagone Française’s mercenaries at Nördlingen.”


“That is correct.”

The Reine des Garous waved over at the warriors in the clearing who were worshiping her from a distance and talking about “the power of faith” and whatnot.

Still Got It: “Your intervention at Nördlingen was a success for Hexagone Française. You even managed to rescue Lady Nagaoka while you were there, but your accomplishments there technically belong to us since we hired you.”

So…

Still Got It: “If M.H.R.R. uses Nördlingen as an excuse to visit Kyou, then we are looking at a continuation of Nördlingen. And if you tag along, we could always insist that you are still working for us.”

She thought for a moment.

But would we do that?

She thought about her superiors.

Anne would likely have made the decision based on the specific situation at the time.

But the sun nudist would claim Musashi as his regardless. He could be surprisingly strong-willed like that.

And Terumoto would tell them to have it their way.

Who would fold: the sun or the moon?

She does have a spare wooden sword, so it probably comes down to the Roi-Soleil’s endurance.

The decisions coming from her nations’ top two could be so hard to predict.

But that keeps us on our toes.

Not knowing what would happen was a wonderful thing. Her husband had taught her that one.

What would happen tomorrow? You might open the front door in the morning and find someone standing there. That kind of possibility made every new day a joy.

And if things go bad, I can get through it. I’ve still got it, after all.

So she spoke up in order to share this with the others.

Still Got It: “Let’s just say that it is a possibility.”

Musashi’s Representative Committee Head did not bother hiding the disgust on her face.


Christina viewed the information and decisions coming in from Kantou.

She had not just been idly listening in. Because…

The Reine des Garous is there. Yes.

Christina had never visited any other nations once she was essentially confined to M.H.R.R. and Hashiba territory.

There was so much she wanted to know about the Loup-Garous who played such a large role in Europe’s history.

She had of course met Loup-Garous several times in the past.

And there’s the Mito Lord here. Those animal eyes and the way she sniffs at the air when she realizes something are just so cute. Yes.

But an even more incredible example was there in Kantou.

And she was actually assisting them in their political discussion.

Christina wished she could have contacted the woman when she was on the Musashi, but she had spent most of her time visiting the bridge and the school, which were in a gray area between official and private visits. She had also hung around with the woman’s daughter a lot.

Ugh.

Christina so wanted to speak with her.

She had actually had a chance when she had been hanging around Musashi’s main force, but Christina had had Tadaoki to worry about. He was in middle school and didn’t hang around the high schoolers when he could avoid it. He saw himself as below them and she felt like she needed to help dispel him of that notion.

And while she worried over all this, Tadaoki walked up next to her with a drink in hand.

“Hey.”

“Wh-what is it, Tadaoki-sama?”

“If you’ need to wash your face, do it over there.”

She gasped. She must have been fidgeting a lot. And that comment came from his interpretation of it.

Telling her to go “wash her face” could only mean one thing.

Uh.

She hated that she forced him to be so kind, but saying anything in response would be too embarrassing, but she was also ashamed with herself for feeling that way, so…

“M-my death is the only way out!”

She pulled out and readied some explosive tubes, forcing him to turn back her way.

“Hey! Wh-what the hell do you think you’re doing!?”


Chapter 46: Deciders Near the Flirting[edit]

Horizon8B 519.png

Wow

I have no idea

What I’m supposed to do

Point Allocation (Put Out the Fire)


Naito thought to herself while watching Naruze sketch everyone in their swimsuits.

So the flirting has begun.

She could hear their voices.

“I-I have shamed myself, so I must die! I must be blown to smithereens!”

The presence of live explosives meant those two had reached quite an advanced level of flirting for so early in the day.

Naito had no intention of stopping it, but she did want to know more to help Naruze with her storyboard.

“Um, Nagabuto, what did you say to her?”

“Nothing really.” Nagabuto turned back with his eyebrows raised. “She was fidgeting a lot and she just had something cold to drink, right? So, um, do I have to explain the rest!?”

“You’re scum.”

“Wh-what did I do to deserve this!?”

“N-nothing at all! Tadaoki-sama did nothing wrong! All the fault lies with me!” insisted Christina.

“…”

The girls responded by waving at her in a way meant to ask her to calm down.

Meanwhile, Naruze turned toward them, scratching her hair with the head of her pen.

“Hey, Nagabuto, try expanding your imagination next time. If you wife is fidgeting next to you, it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s into watersports. She might be pissing herself in joy as part of some doggy roleplaying like Mitotsudaira does.”

“I-I do not do that! I don’t!”

For some reason, Christina gasped and looked over at Mitotsudaira, but it was best not to ask any more questions there. There’s so much we don’t know about how wolves like her live.

Ignoring how Mitotsudaira shattered a sign frame displaying her mom that popped up, Nagabuto crossed his arms and spoke to his wife.

“Don’t kill yourself over that!!”

“B-but…I have shamed myself!” she retorted.

Tadaoki pointed toward the pool.

The nudist was on the poolside contorting himself into a C shape to try and press his hips against the ice.

“Nwohhhh! Almost there! My Excalibur is so close to reachiiiiiiing!”

“I’m not sure I want that to melt it, Toori!”

They were up to their usual antics, but Tadaoki sighed.

“If he doesn’t feel the need to kill himself in shame, you sure as hell don’t need to.”

“B-but I would never do that!”

Tadaoki’s eyes flitted back over to the horror on display there and blushed.

“Yeah, I should think not.”

“Hey, Nagabuto, buddy! You just imagined what that would look like, didn’t you?”

Christina blushed and everyone looked her way again.

When they all said “oh”, she pulled out twice as many explosives.

“I-I’m going to kill myself even harder! I’ll blow myself to smithereens right here!”

Gold Mar: “Hey, this is getting interesting.”

Art-Ga: “It certainly is giving me some good material in ways I never expected.”

Asama: “I’ll have you know some of us are busy managing bomb-restriction spells right now!”

Meanwhile, a voice shouted over from the other side of the pool.

“Hey, Nagabuto’s wife! Those things are pretty sweet!”

The Chancellor pointed at her and ran over in the nude. Before Christina could recoil in horror, he pulled two paper glasses and two swizzle sticks from the drink station.

“Asama, can I get some ice? The stuff from the portable ice room, not from the pool. Yeah, that stuff. Thanks. …Anyway, here you go.”

With impressive speed, he swapped out the explosives in her hands for the paper glasses.

They contained crushed ice and…

“That’s matcha milk. Enjoy them with Nagabuto while listening to Seijun talk.”

His speed and intensity left Christina too dazed to do anything but nod and accept. Nagabuto looked more exasperated, but…

He isn’t going to say anything about it.

He was even willing to talk back to his wife, but he only frowned and fell silent with the Chancellor here.

He must have accepted the other boy’s actions in this instance. And…

Art-Ga: “Hm, would that pairing be called Nagabutoori? It’s a common enough dynamic in this age, but not one you see often in the Musashi genre.”

Gold Mar: “Including Chrippe could cause trouble with Sweden, so try to think this through, okay?”

Meanwhile, Naito noticed a chance in Christina.

She was looking up at Nagabuto while he glared at the Chancellor.

His attention had been diverted elsewhere.

And she had noticed it.

“Tadaoki-sama.”

She held out one of the paper glasses and he took it. He sat next to her and sighed, just like everyone had expected. But…

“Hey, do you understand anything they’ve been talking about in Kantou?”

He got back on topic. Good on him for doing that all on his own. But Christina nodded while everyone watched.

“Testament. I do. Yes.”

“That’s incredible,” he said, but he didn’t stop with just that. “Could you explain it for me?”


“–––––”

Christina resisted the urge to leap at this opportunity. I need to show self-control. Yes.

For an instant, terms like “teacher”, “tutor”, and “hands-on lesson” came to mind. Stop being so indecent. Yes. I might be Chancellor for the so-called Uncensored Kingdom, but that doesn’t mean I’m shameless.

But she did respond to him.

“I can do that. But not in the middle of their meeting. You can ask about anything you don’t understand afterwards.”

“Sure,” he said in obvious relief and she felt just as much relief herself.

She hoped that relief would eventually be unnecessary, but then she heard a voice from across the pool.

“Foolish brother! You brought the explosives, right!? Then it’s time: bombs awayyyyyy!”


Mitotsudaira cursed that her mother speaking in Kantou kept her from moving away from Masazumi.

My king is over there having fun!

Technically he was problem solving, but the end result was the same. As his knight, she wanted to prevent him from touching or otherwise playing with the ice. And outside of that, she also wanted to play with him.

But right now he was waving around the two explosives while he goofed off with Kimi and the others.

“Okay, let’s blow up this pool!”

“Wait, Toori. I would assume this goes without saying, but if you just throw the explosives into the pool, they will float on the surface and the blast will be directed skyward.”

“For real, Noriki!? How do you know this stuff!?”

“Explosions are the foundation of civil engineering.”

I’m not sure they’re the foundation, thought Mitotsudaira, but he was the expert so she decided it wasn’t her place to disagree with him. And…

“Hey, foolish brother? How do you intend to get them to blow up underwater?”

“Hey, Tenzou. Can you dive into the pool again holding these? You said you wanted to try blowing up sometime, right?”

“I-I said nothing of the sort! Even Masazumi-dono’s terrible jokes are better than that!”

“Hey, leave me out of this!” protested Masazumi.

“That’s right,” said the king. “Don’t even think about comparing my brilliant jokes with Seijun’s.”

Horizon suddenly filled her mouth with water and turned toward the pool.

“Akhhh, peh! Did you say something, Toori-sama?”

“Do all your responses have to be so damn hard to respond to!?”

That was all par for the course with them, so Mitotsudaira checked to see what Asama was doing.

“Mito, why not go join Toori-kun and the others? I have to manage the break area over here.”

“I-I can’t just go play. You could though, Tomo.”

“I have to manage the drinks, as well as prepare Toori-kun’s tea and Horizon’s matcha. …And Kimi asked me to ‘surprise her’.”

“And,” said Mitotsudaira. “I have to deal with my mother.”

Just then, a new sign frame appeared. From her mother.

Christina was looking her way, but she understood why.

“If Musashi tries to act as some other nation’s mercenary, Hexagone Française can intervene because you used that same logic at Nördlingen. So you were discussing which country you could work for, correct?”


Gin reached a certain deduction from what the Reine des Garous said.

It would be dangerous to intervene in Honnouji as Hexagone Française’s mercenary.

It came down to the geography.

Hexagone Française was located west of M.H.R.R. If Musashi attempted to visit Kyou with the Protestants while working as their mercenary, it would introduce the risk of an attack from both sides.

Kyou and Kansai’s P.A. Oda were to the east and Hexagone Française was to the west.

They were enemies from a European perspective, but they were allies from a Hashiba perspective.

And the M.H.R.R. Catholics might join in from the south.

Musashi would be entirely outnumbered. They had broken free of and escaped a similar situation at the Battle of Mikatagahara, but they wanted to avoid being left in that state again.

Of course, this might just be overthinking the problem. But…

The Testament Union is our enemy.

The enemy could force a history recreation or forcibly punish them for being in violation of the recreation. Especially if they tried anything during summer break.

The Reine des Garous appeared to know that.

Still Got It: “I think Hexagone Française might just stop by to play.”

Tachibana Wife: “So it seems.”

The situation was in flux, so even the Reine des Garous would have a hard time knowing what would actually happen.

Hence why she said they would “stop by to play” and decide what to do after checking on the situation.

And if that happens…

Gin looked over to see Muneshige looking down at the pool from the diving platform. He raised a hand toward her.

“Gin, I think we should move on from the idea of using Hexagone Française.”

“Judge,” she replied and moved her thoughts to the next plan.

Tachibana Wife: “Next we can discuss the idea of having K.P.A. Italia hire us.”

Righteousness: “Is that even possible? Aren’t they pretty much the Testament Union itself?”

The Satomi Student Council President provided a near immediate reply.

But she had an answer to that…

Tachibana Husband: “It is very possible.”

Muneshige answered for her. With a smile.

Tachibana Husband: “Did you forget that we fought at Mikawa as part of the K.P.A. Italian forces?”

Righteousness: “Well, I wasn’t actually there.”

Tachibana Husband: “You weren’t, were you?”

Way to shrug that off, Master Muneshige!

Gold Mar: “Did he just…?”

Buckethead: “…”

Almost Everyone: “Rare Persona-kun reaction!”

Well done, Master Muneshige. And the Satomi Student Council President has said she was listening on the divine radio, so this one is a draw. If anything, Master Muneshige wins for shrugging off his mistake.

Tachibana Wife: “Now, Master Muneshige, enlighten us as to how Musashi can work as K.P.A. Italia’s mercenary.”

Tachibana Husband: “Judge. K.P.A. Italia has direct control over Rome and the surrounding areas as the Papal States, but the Tsirhc religion forbids the possession of a personal military force. Thus, they generally hire mercenaries as warriors and guards.”

“And,” continued Muneshige.

Tachibana Husband: “With M.H.R.R. in control of K.P.A. Italia, Tres España has been putting off lending their forces to the Papal States. Tres España has decided they need to recover from the Armada battle and focus on national politics instead.”

Vice President: “So you’re saying the Papal States are in need of a mercenary force?”

“Judge,” confirmed Muneshige.

But the Reine des Garous tilted her head.

Still Got It: “Testament. I see how you could get yourself hired by K.P.A. Italia, but how would that let you intervene in Honnouji?”

Tachibana Wife: “Judge. P.A. Oda will need to hold all the necessary internal meetings before Honnouji. Did you forget they had their VIPs meet at Kyou before Nördlingen? So they should hold something similar for all the relevant national representatives. I can’t imagine them announcing the replacement of their leader in a divine mail.”

Still Got It: “Should? Can’t imagine? Those are dangerous words.”

Tachibana Wife: “We just have to make sure they do it that way.”

Gin felt confident as she turned toward the Vice President.

Tachibana Wife: “And that sort of harassment is Musashi’s specialty.”


“Indeed it is!” shouted Futayo. “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire! So the answer is to start a fire! I am impressed with Gin-dono’s brilliant suggestion! And this is the age of starting devastating fires! …What is wrong, Masazumi? You can play with your Mouse later.”

“Well, um, I was just wondering if that’s what comes to mind when people think about me.”


“That aside, is Gin’s idea workable, Masazumi?”

Masazumi answered Mitotsudaira with a nod.

“We could do it if we wanted to. It would mean bowing down to Sanada or Sviet Rus, though.”

She saw nothing but question marks on everyone’s faces.

“C’mon, I’m talking about addition and subtraction. …Hey, idiot.”

“What do you want, Seijun?”

“No one wants a serious response out of you. Got that?”

“N-now I’m feeling left out.”

Horizon threw a kick behind him with her toes jabbing up at him from below.

Christina cried out in surprise. Oh, yeah. She might be the Uncensored Kingdom’s Chancellor, but she was still raised in a Kansai city.

So she’s got class, huh?

Not something you’ll find around here, decided Masazumi, opting not to think about it anymore. The idiot had fallen to his knees, so she addressed the girl behind him instead.

“Horizon, are you listening?”

“Aaaaaabsoluuuuuuuuuuutelyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!”

“You I do want a serious response from.”

“Is that so, Masazumi-sama? Yes, you would expect better from me. Heh.”

“Absolutely! Absolutely!” excitedly parroted the black algae creatures.

Anyway, she had a question to ask.

Vice President: “Let’s say we work as a mercenary force for K.P.A. Italia. But we are also K.P.A. Italia’s enemy. Do you know how K.P.A. Italia could benefit from that arrangement?”

Horizey: “Aaaaaabsoluuuuuuuuuuutelyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!! Oh, pardon me, Masazumi-sama. That was more fun than I had expected. I will restrain myself in the future. …Anyway, to be blunt, their best option would be to work Musashi to the bone.”

Horizon pulled out bamboo sticks bearing an O and an X to indicate right and wrong answers and Masazumi nodded twice before asking another question.

Vice President: “And what could they do to benefit even more?”

Horizey: “Judge. What if they had us attack another Musashi force or some of our allies while we worked for them? That super cannibalism would be of an ugliness rarely seen in the history of the world.”

“Yes, it would,” groaned Mitotsudaira and some others as they hung their heads at how plausible that sounded.

Which meant that was a good answer. And Masazumi could see something more.

Vice President: “We could split the Musashi forces into two groups – a Musashi group and a Kantou group. We kind of already have with that unit still in Satomi.”

So…

Vice President: “If necessary, we could maintain and increase that split. And after K.P.A. Italia hires the Musashi group, we would have the Kantou group ask Sanada or Sviet Rus to hire them.”

The rest was simple.

Vice President: “At some point before Honnouji, the Kantou group is sent to P.A. Oda. Anywhere close to Kyou would do. They could claim it is to prepare for an invasion once summer break ends. P.A. Oda would likely have K.P.A. Italia send us in to oppose it.”

Silver Wolf: “That would require our two groups to battle, wouldn’t it?”

Vice President: “You mean the super cannibalism? That’s for the rest of you to figure out. Leave me out of it.”

Why did they all turn her way, smile, and nod?

At any rate, she had to keep talking.

Vice President: “While that cannibal war rages on, some of us would intervene in Honnouji. We would claim the Oda defenses looked shorthanded, so we decided to help protect Honnouji from the Musashi battle.”

“That would be a hard sell, Masazumi-sama.”

“Yeah, well, I only just now thought it up. I’m sure I can come up with something better for the political stuff later,” she said. “But…”

Vice President: “It might be a hard sell, but it isn’t impossible.”


Tachibana Wife: “As you can see, it is possible, Reine des Garous.”

Still Got It: “You never do anything the easy way, do you?”

The Reine des Garous was smiling, which Gin took to mean she had passed.

She had demonstrated some other ideas and possibilities. So now…

Tachibana Wife: “My primary suggestion is that Tres España could hire Musashi.”

The Satomi Student Council President gave her a skeptical look.

Righteousness: “Can you do that? I mean…”

Gin knew what she was getting at.

Tachibana Wife: “Judge. Tres España is located west of Hexagone Française, so it would seem difficult for them to play a role in Honnouji.”

“But,” she said.

Tachibana Wife: “Have you forgotten what the Testament says? During the Thirty Years’ War, Tres España occasionally sent troops and fought political battles to prevent Holland from declaring independence.”

Righteousness: “I’m from a Far Eastern force in Kantou, so I don’t know much about all that.”

Tachibana Wife: “You are, aren’t you?”

Now I’m shrugging it off like a pro. And that toothy grin from Master Muneshige makes it all worth it.

The others were saying “Did she just…?”, but she shrugged that off as well and continued. Because that was how the daughter of a samurai family does things.

Tachibana Wife: “Listen. In the days of Carlos I, who was known as the Emperor Chancellor, M.H.R.R. and Tres España were a single unified state. They eventually broke apart, but they still hold a strong connection as fellow Catholics and they reserve the right to intervene in each other’s affairs in times of emergency. The current situation could apply. So…”

So…

Tachibana Wife: “If we arrived at Holland as Tres Españan mercenaries and then intervened in M.H.R.R., we could intervene at Honnouji. If a representative of an ally like Tres España entered M.H.R.R., Hashiba would have to respond appropriately. So we could work to participate in their meeting with national representatives before Honnouji.”

“Testament,” said the Reine des Garous.

But she was only expressing her comprehension. Because…

Still Got It: “But would Tres España really hire Musashi?”

Gin responded by looking to the others.

Everyone except Muneshige had the same question in their eyes.

I need to give this a real answer.

In order to gain a clear answer, she opened a divine transmission sign frame.

“Asama Shrine Representative, do you have a moment?”


The summer sunshine had grown to its midafternoon heat.

Intersecting green and yellow spread out below the burning color of that light.

This was a cornfield.

Partway up the tall stalks, the ears pointed skyward with some of the yellow kernels showing.

The field was located on the gentle slope of a hill with a town situated at the top.

People from the town tended to the field and more people would arrive from another nearby town to buy and transport the corn.

The hilltop residents would carry the long stalks back to the town’s square where they would chop them up into smaller pieces and carry them to a storehouse. And then…

“They extract the fibers and make animal feed out of it, Lady Juana? They have so many uses for it, don’t they?”

“Yes.” A tall woman in a white summer uniform nodded, making her black hair sway. She was replying to a girl in a baseball cap. “If you don’t actually eat the corncob, you can use it for animal feed, which cuts down on farm feeding costs by quite a lot. Food crops with secondary benefits like that will expand what we can cultivate in our environment. This is another form of cost-cutting, Flores.”


Juana sighed as she received a report on the field’s status and recorded various statistics.

She fixed her straw hat and turned toward Flores Valdes who was accompanying her as a bodyguard.

“Flores, this corn is showing a lot of promise. Although when we prepared the hill for planting, the merchants were very insistent that we make a vineyard.”

“A local wine would have the merchants fighting over some imaginary profits in their head, but only tourists would ever buy it. Hexagone Française is right next door after all.” Flores pointed at the rows of corn. “Which is why I like this better. And you can eat it raw off the plant.”

“Raw…” muttered Juana before smiling bitterly and lifting her hat. “This hat is actually made from corn straw.”

“Was it a gift from the Chancellor?”

“He was worried the direct sunlight would be too strong.”

“I see.” Flores grinned and straightened her baseball cap. She could not see the hilltop town from here, but she could see the town at the bottom of the hill. “There’s a lot more green in the towns lately.”

“I didn’t expect the potted plants to be so effective, but it has added some natural beauty to those cramped towns of earth walls and dried bricks.”

Pottery was one of Tres España’s specialties and it was primarily used for tableware.

“The Chancellor was staring at the flower beds in the academy when he wondered if the stone frameworks used to keep water in could be used to grow plants in people’s homes.”

He had gone on to order the production of large planters. They had deep bottoms and were hung up with strings on either side.

They were attached at the windowsills and below the eaves of people’s homes so they could grow their own food crops.

“I looked into it and you only need a 1-are field to grow a year’s worth of vegetables for a single person. The planters are a meter wide and 30cm across and the average Tres Españan middle-class home is 6m across, so surrounding it with planters can provide more than an are of arable land. That allows a family of four to grow a quarter of the vegetables they will consume in a year.”

“The Chancellor asked you to re-crunch those numbers when you forgot to take the width of the planters’ edges into account, right?”

“I just finished doing that.”

Juana hated that she blushed at the reminder of her mistake.

A cadena firma appeared without warning and the glowing frame displayed a single word.

Emergency?

Juana soon realized why. Flores was still tilting her head, so Juana explained in a quiet enough voice that no one else would overhear.

“This is from Gin on the Musashi, Flores.”

“From Gin? What does she want?”

Juana thought about that question.

Could Gin be unhappy with her life over there?

An aerial city ship that flew around the Far East was very different from her birthplace of Tres España.

That would take a lot of getting used to and Juana had heard she had just fought in the Kantou Liberation at the end of last month. Whatever role Gin and Muneshige had played in that, contacting Juana now meant this was urgent.

“Could it have to do with her inherited name?”

If so, Juana would need to ask the Testament Union and the Chancellor for their opinions.

Or…

Juana stopped speculating.

Whatever this was about, Gin and Muneshige had to be worried about something. So…

“This is Juana. What is it, Tachibana Gin? Are you in some kind of trouble?”

“I will get straight to the point: Is Tres España willing to hire Musashi as a mercenary force?”

She was asking for a job.


Chapter 47: Friends from Back Home[edit]

Horizon8B 541.png

Is this Lady Juana?

Don’t worry

This isn’t anything weird

Point Allocation (Persuasiveness)


Is Tres España willing to hire Musashi as a mercenary force?

Gin realized how careless she had been as soon as the words were out of her mouth.

Tachibana Wife: “I may have said too little.”

Vice President: “Um, yes. I’m not sure they know what you meant.”

That was a problem.

Gin also noticed Asama frantically pointing to the top of her sign frame.

A number was rapidly growing there.

That was the divine transmission fee.

Tres España is far away.

Leave it to the age of consumption to use increasing costs to show her how far she had come from home.

But the fee was still going up, so she hurriedly opened her mouth.

She needed to explain to Juana what she meant.

Vice President: “Oh, but don’t openly state our plans, Tachibana Gin.”

Gin had just about mentioned their Honnouji intervention, so she quickly swapped that out for something less direct.

“Lady Juana, we intend to harass P.A. Oda as a matter of national policy.”


“Harassment as national policy!?”

Juana wasn’t sure what that meant.

Wait a second.

“Excuse me, Tachibana Gin? What exactly do you mean by harassment?”

“I cannot say because the Vice President is stopping me. Oh, and by the Vice President I mean my superior here, not you. You remember her, don’t you? The sword breaker girl.”

“Oh, her.”


Gold Mar: “Her who?”

Art-Ga: “Probably Utamaru over here.”

Vice President: “Come to think of it, I probably didn’t leave a good impression during that encounter, did I?”

Asama: “It’s a bit of a pain, but should I have Juana-san join in as a one-way guest participant? She wouldn’t be able to see what we say.”

Flat Vassal: “You mean we could dogpile her in the divine chat and she wouldn’t even know?”


Meanwhile, Gin continued speaking. She knew what she had to say.

Tachibana Wife: “The Vice President will not allow me to provide any details regarding the harassment, but I will say we are putting together a detailed plan for it.”

Juana: <A detailed plan for harassment!?>

Tachibana Wife: “Yes. The Vice President says we will do it even if they try to stop us, so I believe nothing will dissuade her at this point. I recommend giving up and accepting it as inevitable. And on that note, will you please hire Musashi as a mercenary force?”

Silver Wolf: “Um, how is she supposed to say yes after all that?”

Oops. Maybe I came on too strong.

“Grin, try backing off a little,” said Muneshige. “Leave it at the level of vague hints.”

“Judge. I understand completely, Master Muneshige.”

Gin followed Muneshige’s advice.

Tachibana Wife: “Do not blame me for what happens if you refuse. …But what other option do we have if you will not even answer the question?”

Juana: <W-wait, Gin!>

Gin nodded.

Tachibana Wife: “Master Muneshige’s advice worked like a charm.”


Masazumi tried to figure out how she could get out of this without holding her head in her hands.

Naruze wrote a word on her Magie Figur and held it up: “Treat?”

Did you miss the “h” in threat there?

Regardless, leaving this in the official records seemed like a bad idea. Christina was staring at her with pursed lips. I know, I know. I know this is bad.

She said what had to be said.

Vice President: “Tachibana Gin, can you ask her if this is even a possibility for Tres España?”

That was all they needed to know. It really was. Gin was probably trying to ask that, but she had just phrased it poorly. Presently, Gin nodded and turned to look at Masazumi.

Tachibana Wife: “But I can’t ask directly?”

Vice President: “Yeahhh. They have their own issues to worry about, so hints would be best.”

“Understood,” said Gin.

Tachibana Wife: “I will indirectly ask her if Tres España is in a position where they can accept Musashi as a mercenary force.”


Juana wasn’t quite sure why she was sweating so much in front of the cadena firma that had gone silent.

W-we might be in trouble.

Gin had always had a tendency toward acting on her own discretion – and on her own unique understanding of things – but she had always made the right decisions.

But that was only while she was in Tres España.

Now that she was with Musashi, she would be “one of them”. What if she had combined that Musashi-ness with her own discretion and her own unique understanding?

“I see Gin’s as unstoppable as ever.”

Shut up, Flores. You’re only worrying me more.

But Gin did have someone to stop her: Muneshige. His direct divine transmission line had to still exist. Assuming the Asama Shrine had replaced his Catholic baptism number with a Shinto number.

It could cause an international incident if word got out she had called him like this, so she tried calling him with her number unlisted.

Oh, it got through!


Asama: “Huh? There’s an anonymous divine transmission trying to reach Mune-san in about the most suspicious way I can think of.”

Horizey: “He has been busy updating his site lately, so we shouldn’t interrupt him.”

Asama: “I’m not so sure about that, but I wouldn’t want anything interfering with Gin-san and Juana-san’s discussion, so I’ll just disconnect it.”


He disconnected!?

Juana’s hands froze in front of her cadena firma.

“What’s wrong, Lady Juana?”

“Oh, um, I was trying to contact Tachibana Muneshige, but my divine transmission actually got rejected.”

She had a unique way of sending divine transmissions.

Tres España’s finances were in a bad state, so they had to cut back on divine transmissions costs wherever possible. First, she would distribute the data across the entire European divine transmission infrastructure and make multiple insertions. That reduced the speed and quality, but it also created something like a large wave of data that could not be rejected on the receiving end once it was all gathered back together.

Never before had anyone successfully avoided it.

This was Musashi’s doing!

Even the European infrastructure had the Shinto network at its foundation. Also, the data would have to gather back together just before reaching independent aerial territory like the Musashi, so they would be able to detect it in advance.

The multiple waves were meaningless when they could detect and fix the very first one. They could eliminate all of them as easily as a normal transmission. So…

Horizon8B 549.png

Tachibana Wife: “Lady Juana.”

Here it comes!

Juana cautiously acted as a scout. In other words, she made a preemptive strike.

She had to make sure she could handle even the craziest thing Gin might say here.

“W-we are trying to cut costs at the moment, so we can’t offer you much!”

Tachibana Wife: “Is the Chancellor doing well?”

“Eh?” Juana tilted her head because this felt like a sudden topic change. She made sure not to hit her earrings as she reached for the brim of her tilted straw hat to straighten it out.

“Testament. He is doing very well.”

Flores glared at her, but she ignored it. And Gin continued.

Tachibana Wife: “Is that machismo?”

“Huh?”

Juana had no idea what that was supposed to mean, so she directly asked.

“Machismo? What do you mean by that? I honestly don’t know, Tachibana Gin.”

Tachibana Wife: “Judge.”

Gin did not hesitate to reply.

Tachibana Wife: “We can leave it at that.”

Before Juana could ask what that meant, the cadena firma closed. Gin had ended the transmission.

“Eh? Wait, Tachibana Gin!”

“Lady Juana, you’re going way too easy on her.”

Flores held out what remained of the raw corn she had bought at the market.

Juana accepted it.

“I’m so confused!”

She took a bite from the side and found it was pleasantly sweet.


Tachibana Wife: “That settles it. The Chancellor and Lady Juana are still on good terms, so it should be possible for Tres España to hire Musashi.”

Worshipper: “Wait, uh, what kind of logic is that?”

Still Got It: “I understand! I understand perfectly! Creating peace between a couple is the first step toward creating peace within a nation!”

Horizey: “How very right you are. So with Toori-sama and my relationship going so swimmingly and Asama-sama and Mitotsudaira-sama on base to make it a grand slam, we have taken three steps toward triple the peace.”

Scarred: “Y-yes. And trouble between Master Tenzou and me would mean trouble for England, so the logic works in reverse as well!”

Flat Vassal: “Why do I get the sinking feeling that marital troubles are going to tear the world apart?”


Gin now addressed the Representative Committee Head.

Tachibana Wife: “This has proven that it is possible for us to use the European powers to intervene without antagonizing Kyou. It might be difficult to pull off and we might find some better methods if we search, but these are the options we already know we have.”

So…

Tachibana Wife: “As the Vice Chancellor’s aide’s attendant, I believe we need not use our last resort.”

That was her main point.

It was admittedly a stretch, but she had to get it out there. Because…

The Representative Committee Head and Vice President are not actually who I am presenting these options to.

Demonstrating they had options opened up a certain negotiation tactic.

This was all for…

Nagaya-Stable: “That about sums it up. So what do you think, Swedish Chancellor?”

The Representative Committee Head took a breath.

Nagaya-Stable: “What will you do now?”


So that is their plan, realized Christina.

“Testament.”

This entire debate had been laying the groundwork for building a relationship with her.

This is all about how they will work with me.

She was the daughter of Akechi Mitsuhide who managed Kyou.

If she took action, Musashi would have a connection to Akechi and Kyou.

But she was also the Swedish Chancellor.

“Your discussion here has shown that you can still intervene in Honnouji without me.”

Which meant…

“Are you saying that Musashi does not need Sweden?”


Christina knew this discussion had been meant to give her freedom and to ensure Musashi was not restricted by Sweden.

That was the smart choice on their part.

According to the Testament, she was a moderate in regards to the Thirty Years’ War.

However, guiding Musashi to Honnouji and allowing them to take part were not the actions of a moderate.

But if Musashi were to establish their own connection to Kyou here…

“Sweden would be able to cut all ties with Musashi.”

That was a good thing, but it told her something else too.

That something was the entire reason they had held the discussion in front of her even though it was eliminating her own value in providing them a link to Kyou.

“You have presented me with quite the tricky problem.”

She knew what Musashi was telling her.

It’s simple really. Yes.

“I provide a much easier path to Kyou, so you aren’t going to let me escape that easily, are you?”


“Hey, you really need to do something about that ice before long!”

In the shade of an overhang on the poolside, Oriotri called over to them while searching the divine network for Ariake restaurants.

Masazumi raised her hand to reply.

“Don’t worry. We’re almost done over here!”

“And how are you going to end this?” asked Christina.

It was a simple question, but she clearly did not expect an easy answer.

Masazumi responded by crossing her arms and brushing a hand through her sweaty bangs.

“Well-”

The instant she opened her mouth, the idiot stuck an explosive between his legs on the other side of the pool.

“Sexy dynamiiiiiiiiites!”

“Ignore him. And why use the plural with just one?”

“Yes, let’s just ignore him.”

“Hey! Hey! What gives!? You’re missing some comedy gold over here!”

They ignored him.

Masazumi groaned in thought, opened a sign frame, and spoke to Christina.

“I have a simple suggestion for you, Swedish Chancellor Christina and Lady Nagaoka.”

“What is it?”

“Well.” Masazumi spoke slowly. “You don’t have to do a thing.”


Christina frowned at the Musashi Vice President’s suggestion.

“If I don’t need to do anything, why did you rescue me? And why did you have this discussion here?”

The Musashi Vice President crossed her arms and groaned in thought.

“I would personally like to use you to give us a simpler route to Honnouji. That was honestly one of the primary things on my mind during Nördlingen.”

“Then…”

“But I’m not the one who decides where the Musashi goes.”

She looked across the pool.

There, the Musashi Chancellor was facing them with two explosives at his crotch now.

“Sexy dynamiiiiiiiiiiites!”

“That’s more accurate now, but still ignore him. It’s a recycled joke.”

“Yes, let’s ignore him.”

“Hey! Hey! No fair ignoring it after you set it up for me! Don’t you have any feedback this time!?”

“Swedish Chancellor, did you find that funny?”

“Not at all.”

“Hey, idiot, she says your joke sucked.”

“Sh-she’s lying! My cute bunny heart can sense the amusement hidden deep inside her!”

Masazumi had Tsukinowa write her next line on a sign frame.

“Hey, idiot. I can sense what’s hidden deep inside her and she thinks you’re annoying.”

“You have been shot down, Toori-sama.”

“H-Horizon, you’ll support me, won’t you!?”

Musashi’s princess walked over to the pool and faced away from them.

“Akhhh, peh! Did you say something, Toori-sama? How far back in this conversation must we go?”

“Y-you’re getting way too good at that!”

Musashi’s princess gave them a double thumbs up.

That was fast.

Christina was having trouble keeping up, but then the Musashi Vice President sighed and continued their conversation.

“He gives us direction…and that exists outside my ideas of what’s most efficient.”

She knew what the Musashi Vice President was going to say.

“We will always save those who are being forced to die or who have been left with no other option.”

“I understand that. But…”

“No, you don’t understand.” The Musashi Vice President cut her off. “Unfortunately, that idiot has made this decision for us. Of course, the unfortunate part is the idiot, not the policy itself. So there are times when we have to follow that policy against our best interests.”


Yoshiaki stopped walking when she saw the divine transmission from the Musashi.

She was north of the Satomi village, at the forest entrance past the destroyed northern gate.

The forest’s European scent told her the Reine des Garous was in that forest, participating in the meeting. Yoshiaki had just been wondering if she should join too, but…

“No, I needn’t bother.”

She closed the sign frame receiving the Musashi Vice President’s words.

“I they have not forgotten that and can explain it to others then they do not need my help. Instead, I can take a look around and see if any Mogami products would bring value to Kantou or Toukai.”

After turning away from the forest, she took a breath.

“Are you worried as well, Masaki Tokishige?”

A figure gasped while inspecting the gods of war extracted from the forest. The Satomi gods of war – both Integrity and Filial Piety – that had carried Musashi’s heavy god of war had landed in the northern square here.

They were both badly damaged, but repairs appeared to be underway.

“Filial Piety was sliced in two, so could you use one of its arms for your god of war?”

“It’s not that simple. Besides, I use a different weapon.”

“Are you new to politics?”

“What’s this all of a sudden? …I’m generally bad with politics. I mean, you have to take responsibility for everything.”

“And you don’t in battle?”

“I consider injuries and damage as a sharing of responsibility.”

Yoshiaki smiled at that comment from the girl climbing across the god of war and marking the damaged locations with sign frames.

“That explains why you lost.”

“…What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Yoshiyasu is very good at what she does.”

“I’m well aware of that. Meanwhile, I’m just a fighter who’s never really left home. And,” said Tokishige, “that’s why I don’t want to be responsible for anyone else.”

“My apologies. You seem to know your place very well.”

The fox held her fan over her mouth and approached the god of war. Tokishige turned toward her and the other workers looked up, but she only gave quick nods in greeting.

Yoshiaki saw Date’s heavily-equipped gods of war as the standard. Those ones had thick frames and large power systems for long-term battles in a frigid environment, so the Satomi ones designed for aerial combat looked very thin to her.

“Anyway.” She slapped a god of war with her fan. “Can you get these fixed during summer break? Oh, some parts fell out.”

“Don’t hit it!”

“Oh, dear. They break that easily?”

“That one’s mine.”

“Ha. That attitude won’t do at all. You will be serving as Vice President and Vice Chancellor now, won’t you?” Yoshiaki twirled the fan in her hand and put it away at her hip. “Then you need to complain about damage to other people’s possessions as well. Consider this your very first politics lesson.”


“Are you saying you saved me because that is Musashi’s policy?” Christina chose her words carefully. “Does that mean you were not motivated by self-interest when you responded to Tadaoki-sama’s request?”

“It means our policy told us to save you,” said the Musashi Vice President. “Whether or not we also had self-interested reasons is a separate matter.”

“Hey, Seijun!” the nudist shouted across the pool. “Tell her about how Nagabuto fought the Sviet Rus shield chick, thinking he could beat her, but it went badly for him and he cried and begged us to help with his dick all black!”

“Black!?”

Wait, no. That isn’t the part I should be reacting to. Yes.

“Tadaoki-sama cried?”

She wanted to hear more about that. Very badly so. But he shouted back across the pool.

“She doesn’t need to know about all that!”

“Huhhh? If you don’t like it, then come on over here and stop me! If you can catch me, that is!”

Christina wasn’t sure what all was happening here, but Tadaoki clenched his fist and resisted some kind of urge. Did he know responding would only encourage the nudist?

Then Tadaoki sighed and kept his eyes off of her and on the other side of the pool.

“I didn’t have a choice.”

“Huh?”

“I said I didn’t have a choice.”

That isn’t the point, she thought, but he was gradually slumping down where he sat next to her.

“I asked around for advice and I got passed around to the Protestants, Hexagone Française, and finally Musashi. They were the only option I had left.”

“Well, the other nations had their own issues to deal with,” said the Musashi Vice President with a sigh. And, “But we had demonstrated our policy at Mikawa. And since we have less of a connection to the other nations, we’re more free to act on that policy. So my point is…” The corners of her mouth lifted a little. “Nagaoka, you didn’t have to cry.”

“That was over losing the battle! It hurt like hell! I didn’t cry because I thought you wouldn’t help me!”

This was all news to Christina.

This was the real value of being so close to him. There was so much about his time on the Musashi she still didn’t know.

“Anyway, the downside to our policy is that we have to accept jobs like this as well. We still had to approach Nagaoka and help him even if he did screw up and cry.”

“Then,” said Christina.

If Musashi’s policy had saved her life…

“Why aren’t you going to ‘use’ me?”

“Let me ask this instead.” The Musashi Vice President stared straight at her. “Do you think you’re the keyman for the Honnouji intervention?”

“Seijun! She’s a woman, so wouldn’t she be the keygirl or keylady!? Yay! Seijun-kun needs to study up on her Eeeeengliiiiiiish!”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Aoi-kun!” added Ohiroshiki. “Old hags like her should all be called keygran- no, I will be kind and use keyperson as a compromise!”

“Swedish Chancellor, you can ignore all of them.”

“I see,” said Christina while giving this some thought.

Is she saying I do not have the greatest authority for a Honnouji intervention?

That was unexpected, but not enough to call it a surprise. She did not even find it doubtful.

It actually made a lot of sense given the Musashi Vice President’s attitude during this meeting. Why had she been thinking up different plans without placing any priority on Christina?

“I had thought I was a last resort you wanted to avoid using.” Christina spoke this aloud to observe the girl’s response. “But Musashi has another method before reaching that last resort, don’t you?”

Her question did not receive an answer.

But that silence spoke volumes. Because…

“That method must be something you are hesitant to speak aloud.

“That method must be something that requires sacrifice.

“That method must give you a more certain and powerful chance to intervene at Honnouji.”

But…

“You thought up those other methods because you did not intend on using that method, didn’t you?”

Again, no answer.

That confirms it.

This was something they did not dare say out loud.

But that created a new question. What was this method for a Honnouji intervention that was even better than using her? Also…

This is strange.

Christina found another question within herself.

And if she was right about this…

“Did I create this method?”

“What makes you think that?”

The Musashi Vice President asked her own question, so Christina answered immediately.

“Earlier, I presented Kyou to you as an enemy other than P.A. Oda. That was new information and a new point of view for you, so it seems odd to me that you would have come up with an even better method than me before you knew Kyou was your enemy.”

“Maybe you and Kyou just aren’t as important as you think.”

“Even then,” Christina smiled a little. “This method must be something that works even with my information about Kyou. Which would mean…

Which would mean…

“It has some connection to Kyou.”


Asama: “Did you lead her to that conclusion?”

Masazumi denied Asama’s suggestion. She also suspected Asama knew the answer herself.

Vice President: “Don’t worry about it. She’ll reach the answer on her own soon enough. That’s the kind of person she is. So if we throw in some hints, she’ll pick up on the fact that we mean no harm even if we are holding back on some information.”

Art-Ga: “If you’re counting on her to read that accurately, you must think highly of her information processing skills.”

Flat Vassal: “Is that what this is about?”

“Judge,” replied Naruze.

Art-Ga: “Expectations, distrust, misunderstandings, knowledge gaps, generation gaps, and plenty of other things can lead to biases in how people interpret the exact same information. So people who want to misuse information will understand that information perfectly but distort it through their own personal biases and insist that their interpretation is the only correct one and that everyone else must use it as well.”

That was more or less it.

Vice President: “When you work with data enough, you learn that you don’t need to include your interpretations in that data. After all, you just want the data itself. If your data says a nation collapsed, that’s all it is: a nation collapsed. But the reasons behind things are another story altogether. Whatever the reasons might be, they have always been interpreted by the level and sort of knowledge held by the person coming up with them. And when people start to believe that something must be true if it ‘makes sense’, they end up distorting the base facts and end up unable to read anything accurately. As this continues, people start to focus more on the reasons than the facts and they start to misread things themselves.”

I used to do the same thing with the state of the Far East, thought Masazumi. But…

Vice President: “She knows how to gather information and accept it as no more than that. In that sense, we fully trust the Swedish Chancellor.”


Masazumi watched Christina place a hand on her chin in thought.

She would be using some kind of process to work through a vast amount of information in her head.

Since she didn’t open a sign frame, she must not have checked on information that way in order to highlight it for herself.

By not creating a path of initial impressions, she avoided reaching a conclusion ahead of time.

Does that mean she creates multiple connections between her information and doesn’t narrow it down until reaching her final conclusion?

When she had one piece of information, she would list up the information she could link to that and continued expanding from each of those in turn.

Once that expansion arrived at an answer, she was done.

That process was simple enough to describe, but any one piece of information could have countless connections.

It was like traveling an unfamiliar land without a map and with no definite destination in mind.

But she must have been doing this all along.

Lady Nagaoka had effectively been under house arrest. The Swedish Chancellor had been made a hostage by M.H.R.R., but she had transformed the outside world from something she could only imagine into something she could “explore” using only information.

So…

“Well, Swedish Chancellor? Have you created your world?”

“Can I ask one thing first?”

“Ask away.”

“If you do this, Musashi will likely end up in a position far above the other nations. And this will be something you can do for subsequent events, not just for Honnouji,” said Christina. “So why don’t you do it?”


Adele tilted her head at Christina’s question.

Does Musashi really have something that incredibly useful?

She turned to ask Suzu about it, but Suzu must have predicted the question and was shaking her head.

And when Adele thought about it…

Flat Vassal: “It must be you, Suzu-san! You’re Musashi’s ultimate bangs weapon! I mean, the Musashi couldn’t even function without you anymore! With you on our side, the P.A. Oda forces at Kyou don’t stand a chance!”

Bell: “Th-that isn’t…true. A-and what about…you, A-Adele?”

“Oh?” Adele started assessing herself. With the answer still unknown, there was still a possibility it was her. So…

Flat Vassal: “C-could I be our ultimate weapon!?”

Wise Sister: “Heh heh. Then I must be our penultimate weapon!”

Horizey: “Mary-sama and Naomasa-sama’s destructive power is hard to determine since their weapons are so similar.”

Gold Mar: “What is this, a game of twenty questions?”

Flat Vassal: “It isn’t! It isn’t at all! Because we got it in one: I’m our ultimate weapon!”

Seriously though, she knew full well it wasn’t her.

But in that case…

Flat Vassal: “What is this amazing thing Christina-san is talking about?”

The idiot started doing squats at an impressive rate on the other side of the pool and the ninja, half-dragon, and laborer soon joined him. They must have been self-conscious too.

But the answer arrived without warning.

Christina straightened up and fixed the shirt she wore over her swimsuit before speaking.

“This isn’t your ultimate weapon, but it is a more powerful method than me.” She threw her words out there into the summer sun. “The former crown prince. If you have Prince Azuma step forward as Musashi’s representative, you can enter Kyou with ease.”


Azuma.

Masazumi nodded at this reference to the former crown prince.

But she also crossed her arms and looked upwards.

She sat below the newly-constructed break area, so she only saw the wooden eaves when she looked up. But she looked to the sky all the same.

“Judge. We do have Azuma and I agree we would could invade Kyou using him. But,” she said. “This is only my personal opinion, but I think that should be our actual last resort.”


Masazumi faced forward again, well aware she was breathing a self-deprecating sigh.

The Swedish Chancellor was staring at her.

The look on her face made it clear she wondered what Masazumi was getting at here.

She probably sees this as hypocritical.

So Masazumi made something very clear.

“To be clear, Azuma’s situation is a little different. He was originally the emperor’s child, but he’s left that life and now he’s no more than one of our students. And I expect he will stay that way.”

This was different from a name inheritor using their status for political purposes.

“Azuma is here so he doesn’t have to do that.”

So…

“It is our duty to use the law to protect his idea of happiness as much as possible. That is a nation’s duty to all of its people.”

“But aren’t you being a little naïve?”

She knew she was, but she let the Swedish Chancellor explain anyway.

“How can a nation survive if it goes to war rather than make use of a single citizen’s status? The nation gives all of its people a place to live, so doesn’t it take priority over any one citizen in an emergency? Every nation must make that choice.”

“That’s the thing.” Masazumi nodded to show she understood Christina’s point, but there was something else she had to say here. “But from Mikawa to Nördlingen, we’ve made it very clear how much we value even a single individual’s life.”

“Then…” The Swedish Chancellor briefly glanced over at Nagaoka. “I am one of the individuals you have saved, but there is more to that story.” She sighed and raised her eyebrows. “Musashi has also been saved by the lives of individuals and even watched as it happened. How do you account for that contradiction?”

“Judge.” Masazumi scratched her head and groaned. “Yeahhh, I don’t really have a good answer for that one.”


Uqui: “Masazumi! That’s the kind of answer I would expect from Toori!”

10ZO: “Judge! I feel like an idiot for being so moved by what you were saying!”

Nagaya-Stable: “Hey! Quit saying things that make me sweat!”

Vice President: “Shouldn’t you people be used to this by now? Isn’t this the Musashi way?”

Almost Everyone: “That’s not an excuse!”


Chapter 48: Sweetheart at the Conclusion[edit]

Horizon8B 573.png

When using the past as a foundation

And looking to the future

How can you

Reach that conclusion?

Point Allocation (Confounding)


“You see,” Christina heard the Musashi Vice President say. “That is our current policy. We want to keep it that way and we will do whatever we can to come up with measures to further that policy. …We want everything to follow it, but is it so wrong that we sometimes fall short of that?”

If so…

“Why do you think religious precepts and laws have existed since the Age of Dawn? No, since the Age of the Gods before that?”

“You are straying from the point, aren’t you?”

Christina was honestly not that great a negotiator. She had done everything in her power to never leave home. That allowed her to focus on the data and prevent her from being rattled emotionally, but that did not mean she knew how to negotiate.

“I am looking at this on a case-by-case basis and I want to know why Musashi made the decisions they did in the cases where it ended that way.”

“So you want to know if we think we won or lost in each of those cases?”

“Testament. You can look at it that way.”

“Judge,” replied the Vice President. “Then I have a question of my own. I don’t have a clear answer myself, but…”

She asked her question.

“What does it mean to live and to die?”

I believe that is two questions.


Horizon’s eyebrows moved in response to Masazumi’s question.

That is similar to what I asked the Sanada Celestial Dragon.

She also asked herself that a lot and had found some answers in the actions of the nations and the decisions of the people.

She had arrived at some level of a conclusion. And…

“Swedish Chancellor, where is your embassy located?” asked Masazumi.

Christina tilted her head as she answered.

“It is on Tama, but why?”

“Then you must have passed through the nature district on Okutama’s port side on the way here.”

What was that place called?

“Do you know why it used to be known as Remorse Way until recently?”

“Well…”

“Long ago, Toori-sama failed to prevent me from kicking the bucket in an accident there and his remorse prevented him from visiting there again.” Horizon looked Christina in the eye. “But now that I think about, that feels like a form of group bullying against him. Naming a location after the worst mistake of his life is an awful thing to do.”


Me: “Yeah, but it really was my fault and the name told me that everyone understood how I felt about it, right? It also shows that none of them forget about you.”

Novice: “Looking back, I think I just thought it was cool to give it a name that hinted at some story behind it.”

Art-Ga: “And having a name is convenient even if it’s unofficial. Just calling it ‘the street’ would have been awkward, like we were tiptoeing around the subject, you know? And calling it Remorse Way let the Chancellor know we understood him. …Actually, did that message get through to you?”

Me: “Well, it did tell me you weren’t going to handle my issue with kid gloves.”

Gold Mar: “See, Ga-chan? Your kind unkindness worked!”

Horizey: “I knew he was stubborn, but I didn’t realize it was this bad.”

Asama: “Horizon! Horizon! Naruze was actually being nice for once, so let’s take this in a different direction now!”


Well, they all have their issues,'’ thought Masazumi.

“We are opposed to losing people, but we also consider how painful remorse can be.”

“Can’t you just work to get over that remorse?”

“Judge. That is an option and our idiot did just that. But I still think remorse is a tricky thing.”

Because…

“Remorse makes you want to die while you’re still alive.”

The idiot sister had corrected that very desire in the idiot’s past. And…

“So to help people through their remorse and to prevent any further remorse, we want to make sure people will seek life instead.”

Do you understand?

Nagaoka, I’m talking about you. As well as the idiot, Crossunite, Satomi Yoshiyori, Anne’s group, the Sanadas, and the Houjous.

The best way to overcome remorse and avoid further remorse was to choose life. But…

“Aren’t you just swapping out the word death for the word life?”

Me: “Hey. Someone should let Nagabuto’s wife know that antagonizing Seijun is a good way to get her to start a war with Sweden.”

Horizey: “A word replacement quiz can lead to war too? Masazumi-sama has an endless supply of variety, doesn’t she?”

Masazumi nearly responded to that but resisted the urge. She had a clear answer for the Swedish Chancellor’s question.

It was something they had all demonstrated already.

“My answer to that is no.”

Because…

“The people who seek life actually get to see what happens after they accomplish their goal.”

Indeed.

“No one sees that goal as the finish line. They’re thinking about their new self and the new world that awaits them afterwards and they think about how they can finally live without the remorse they have felt in the past. That is what drives them. …They are not looking to the literal dead end that is death.”

Masazumi continued with a line she had used before.

“That is what makes this so frustrating.”


“Is assisting in that process really all we can do? If possible, we want to knock some sense into people and accompany them in their pursuit of life. Our past experiences have taught us we need to be a nation that can do just that.”

Asama watched the text scrolling along her sign frame while she listened to Masazumi.

Oh?

Horizon was speaking to him.

Horizey: “Toori-sama, I believe I heard you mention before that, if you had never been reunited with me, you had planned to descend to the mainland and either renew yourself or continue on as you were.”

That could only mean one thing.

Horizey: “Were you thinking that it was time you moved on and actually lived your life?”

Me: “Yeah, but I didn’t put as much thought into it as Seijun has. Also…”

Also what? He answered her unspoken question.

Me: “After sis smacked some sense into me, I still had remorse, but I could separate that from my actual life, you know? So I was enjoying each new day and I had everyone to support me.”

“Judge,” replied Horizon.

Horizey: “That is excellent, Toori-sama. We have finally circled back to the topic at hand.”

Asama more or less understood too. She knew what Horizon had been trying to confirm with him.

This is about his feelings for her.

Horizey: “So once you were reunited with me…well, you have already stated you could have moved on without me, so…”

Yes, agreed Asama, convinced she knew where Horizon was going with this.

Horizey: “Well, let us set aside whether the current hard-working Horizon is the same as the Horizon who used to screw up making breakfast. Those details aren’t as important here. …But when you saw me by your side working so studiously, diligently, and sagaci- geh! Ahem, working so hard, did it made you feel like you never would have to experience remorse like that again?”

Silver Wolf: “Horizon! Well done courageously marching on after tripping over your words!”

Horizon gave Mitotsudaira a double thumbs up.

Horizey: “This is important, so I had to get it all out.”

Because…

Horizey: “And if Toori-sama were to lose me now, he would again be forced to make the difficult decision to either find a new self or accept himself if he is.”

Gold Mar: “Um, is this a new form of dependence?”

Art-Ga: “Less a dependence and more like a switch to be thrown. Between a ‘Horizon’ and a ‘No Horizon’ state.”

It wasn’t that he was hopeless without her. Instead, he would live one life with her and another without her. That was what her presence meant for him.

Oh, I get it.

After Horizon had settled in as a stable part of their lives, he had come to view Asama as important as well since she was a positive force in his life.

And Horizon had to similarly see Asama as necessary for supporting him and keeping his life from drifting in the negative direction. She feared that, on her own, she wouldn’t be enough to keep him out of the negative and push him in a positive direction.

That was why she had reached out to touch Asama’s tears. They had looked so strange to her because they appeared to be a negative thing but were actually a positive and the proof that she had made the right decision, so she had wanted to touch them.

Um, yeah.

Asama realized it had been the same for her, but the shock was a lot more powerful when she didn’t notice it until after the fact. Horizon was probably feeling the same way now.

“Masazumi.”

They could see their conclusion in its current form, although that form could always change in the future. So…

“We will support you in that endeavor.”


Masazumi nodded.

“Well, this is an overly complicated way of putting it, but if that isn’t what Azuma wants or if he would be trying to sacrifice himself for us, then we would be using him as no more than a political tool, which would logically be the exact thing we have been working to prevent. Which would make it our loss.”

“Then,” said the Swedish Chancellor. “If you insist on viewing the former Crown Prince as an ordinary citizen…can you be so sure that one of Musashi’s warriors, or anyone else who ends up fighting for you, are not going along with the status quo against their will?”

“You can’t expect everything to work out exactly right. People are free to think and feel what they want. In fact, that’s why we fought some student body assembly duels at Mikawa. Everything surrounding the Armada battle was rough on the newer students and we had a lot of people leave after Mikatagahara, not to mention another student body assembly. We did receive an influx of new people after Houjou fell, but that doesn’t change that people are free to come and go as they please.”

But…

“When you get down to it, there is a system in place to change the status quo if you don’t like it. If you aren’t willing to use that, then you’re either just complaining or just providing your opinion. I appreciate the latter, but if you only ever do the former, then you’re really nothing more than a tsundere.”

Me: “You’ve neve used that word before in your life, have you?”

Gold Mar: “Isn’t she basically saying they’re tsundere for war?”

Art-Ga: “N-no! I’m not fighting for your sake or anything! I don’t like doing this at all! But…no, I love war! I love it so much! (echo effect)”

Vice President: “Shut up, all of you.”

The Swedish Chancellor must have been thinking much the same thing because she smiled bitterly.

“You’re quite the tyrant, aren’t you?”

“Well, the other people aren’t a former crown prince. That changes things. And I do work hard to keep that from happening.”

Also…

“If they don’t want to get caught in the nations’ fight, they can either vote us out in the next election or hold another student body assembly. We’ve gotten the hang of those after two of them. But if you have some better method in mind, I’d love to hear it. Anyway,” said Masazumi. “If we truly have no other option and we must force someone to assist our intervention, it means we have lost as a nation. In that case, I think we should start considering making a last-ditch charge with all our fighters. And if it comes to that, I will be carrying the happiness of all Musashi’s people on my shoulders.”

“It won’t be you,” said the Chancellor.

“Yes, it will. I’ll just pass that burden onto you afterwards. No one would want to leave this in your hands.”

“Um, Masazumi?” chimed in Mitotsudaira. “While I do agree with you, maybe you should watch what you say in front of people?”

That idiot has been gaining more allies recently, grumbled Masazumi while glaring over at Mitotsudaira.

“In that case,” said a voice – the Swedish Chancellor’s. She turned back toward Masazumi. “Why won’t you use me? I am not a Musashi resident and I am a Chancellor. I wouldn’t hold that position if I wasn’t willing to get involved in politics. Do you still refuse to use me because you are applying your own ideas of life and death to me?”

“No, it’s not that.” Masazumi raised her right hand. “Like I said before, you don’t have to do a thing.”


Masazumi repeated what she had said earlier.

And then she swung her right hand.

Nothing appeared in front of it.

She looked down in confusion to find Tsukinowa playing with a black algae creature. The anteater was rolling the algae creature around to clean the poolside, but they both seemed to be having fun.

Tsukinowa is growing up.

“Masazumi! Masazumi! You need to focus!”

“Oh, right. Hey, Tsukinowa, give me a sign frame real quick.”

“Maa?”

No, you don’t need to come back. Seeing this is all I need.

The Swedish Chancellor was glaring back and forth between her and Tsukinowa. Yeah, he is cute, isn’t he? No, you can’t have him.

The politician laughed, letting her animal-loving nature show while she operated the sign frame with her right hand. After doing it wrong twice in a row, she asked Asama for help and finally managed to access what she was looking for.

She tossed it toward the Swedish Chancellor.

“This grants you the right to go wherever you like aboard the Musashi. It will also prove your passenger paperwork is in order once authorization from Sweden is attached, but I imagine your signature would suffice there.”

“Wh-what is the meaning of this? It has nothing at all to do with our discussion.”

“Oh, but it does.” Masazumi spoke softly. “It means we want you to remain aboard the Musashi for as long as possible.” She took a breath. “Preferably, until after the Honnouji Incident is complete. I ask nothing more of you.”


Christina now understood what the Musashi Vice President meant.

Why didn’t she need to do anything?

Why was she given permission to move around the Musashi?

Because Musashi is searching for an independent intervention method.

“I will act as a deterrent against P.A. Oda, won’t I?”

“Right up until our Honnouji intervention, yes,” said the Musashi Vice President. “Your presence will make that intervention much easier.”

That is true, thought Christina, aware of her position all over again.

As Akechi Mitsuhide’s daughter, she could intervene whenever she wanted. So…

“It is true that my identity as Lady Nagaoka is all I need to intervene if I wanted to.”

“Judge. So the rest is simple. Actively using you would create friction with Sweden, so instead you’ll be supporting our actions by giving the illusion that you’re working in the background.”

“You intend to deceive the other nations?”

“Your presence on the Musashi provides really does give us a chance at intervention.”

So…

“Whether the other nations suspect we’re up to something or try to capitalize on our actions is an entirely political issue. Also, Swedish Chancellor, other people can’t bear to stare straight at the data quite as much as you can. They tend to twist the facts into something more or less convenient for themselves.” She shrugged. “Which is why I just want you to enjoy your summer break on the Musashi.”

“That sounds a lot like a form of house arrest to me.”

Tadaoki cleared his throat next to Christina, which reminded her of something.

I had put myself under house arrest until recently.

He must have known what that meant because he spoke up with exasperation in his voice.

“I think you’ll be safe here for now. But if you don’t feel like you’re being taken care of properly, you can always go somewhere else.”

Christina found herself gasping.

As a 28-year-old, she didn’t want to cause any more trouble for this 14-year-old and she saw the Asama Shrine Representative speaking with the 3rd Special Duty Officer.

“See, Asama-chi? That’s how you indulge in your partner’s kindness. You can learn a thing or two from her.”

“But wasn’t she just lashing out?”

Oh, I really am a pain in the rear, aren’t I?

I’m so ashamed. I need to do better.

But she also wanted to ask about something.

“How will you work this out with my home nation of Sweden?”

“Oh,” said the Asama Shrine Representative. She opened a sign frame and pointed it toward Christina. “Remember your servant, Maria? She has returned to Sweden and says she will do everything in her power to work this out over summer break. She says the Swedish Student Council, Chancellor’s Officers, and even the citizens are excited about your eventual return as well as your marriage plans. And since Shinto is so lax about these things and because the Asama Shrine helped out at Nördlingen, I do hope you will use our services when it comes to that.”

“Tomo! Tomo! You slipped into a sales talk toward the end there!”

But for Christina…

That’s right!

In the era described in the Testament, she was well past prime marrying age.

Of course her nation would be celebrating her survival and her marriage plans. Plus, any kind of party boosted the student council’s approval rating. So instead of sneaking back home during summer break…

“It sounds like they don’t want to receive word of your return until morning assembly on the first day of the second term.”

The Musashi Vice President was right. And Tadaoki tilted his head next to her.

“I’ll be going too, right?”

“Judge. You will probably be expected to take a second inherited name for your time in Sweden. We will train you here during summer break, so I hope you’re thankful.”

The Musashi Vice President pointed across the pool to the ninja, the half-dragon, and the idiot who was holding an explosive at his crotch. They started doing squats to show they meant business, but somehow the arms giving thumbs up seemed the most reliable. This would all be a nuisance for Tadaoki, though.

But when Christina looked to him again…

“Can I really just do that?”

She noticed the relief on his face and realized she had been mistaken about something.

Tadaoki-sama.

He always took a positive view of being with her.

He didn’t feel apologetic or think it was a nuisance.

Oh.

He was 14, he had been hopelessly outmatched, and he had cried.

Compared to that, a chance to train must have looked like bliss. As for the idiot offering the training…

“Hey, Nagabuto! The hero bubble in Sweden doesn’t last long, so you’d better train up while you can!”

“You don’t even have a bubble here, so shut up!!”

That was exactly it.

Christina sighed and shut her eyes for a few seconds. She gathered up the information presented to her here and she faced it directly. Some of it was a nuisance, some of it was dangerous, and some of it felt downright unfair, but all of that was a small price to pay for gaining her own happiness. If her home nation was rejoicing, then her own shame and embarrassment was worth it.

Honestly.

I didn’t realize I could accept so much change.

So she opened her eyes and responded.

“Testament. I will agree to that on the assumption that we can negotiate changes at a later date if need be.”

Everyone looked to her, but she no longer cowered from their gazes. After all…

“I have Tadaoki-sama with me, so now all I need to do is get used to life here.”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea.”

Tadaoki turned toward her with his gaze lowered.

In only his swimming trunks, there was no hiding that he was only a middle school boy, but she asked him a question.

“Is it okay if I do that?”

“If you’re willing to, then of course it is.”

“…I see.”

She nodded and thought of someone else.

Tomoe Gozen.

That woman had chided her about many things before the Battle of Nördlingen at the end of last month, and it had all come true.

Would she be surprised to see Christina now?

“Okay.”

Christina held her right hand out toward the Musashi Vice President.

In Europe, a handshake symbolized agreement between two parties.

She did not hesitate to offer her hand.

“I have accepted your proposed relationship with Sweden. Musashi will attempt its own intervention into the Honnouji Incident and I will simply enjoy my time on the Musashi with Tadaoki-sama so that my home nation can celebrate my return at a later date. This is the first step toward a greater relationship between our two nations. But,” continued Christina while the Musashi Vice President raised her eyebrows but still took her hand. “I plan to prioritize life from now on. I can count on Musashi’s support in that endeavor, I hope?”


The meeting was complete and they were approaching a solution on another problem as well.

They were making progress with the ice floating in the pool.

First, Futayo had offered to slice it apart with her cutting power, but they had concluded that would slice through the bottom of the pool as well. The idiot’s “blow it up” plan, the idiot’s “push Tenzou in” plan, and the idiot’s “make it part of my crotch” plan had all failed.

“Then what are we supposed to do?”

Suzu raised her hand.

“There…use those.”

She pointed at the lane ropes. They were not currently in use, so they were hanging over the fence on the poolside. However…

“You mean divide the pool up with the lane ropes and push the ice toward the outside?”

“Wouldn’t the water still be ice cold?”

“No…not that. You can…weave them together? With three each way.”

“Oh,” said Mitotsudaira, realizing what Suzu meant. “You mean make a net?”

They crisscrossed the lane ropes with three vertical and three horizontal, tangling them together where they intersected. That created a simple net with large holes, but…

“Could we add the excess length in diagonally?”

“Do too much extra stuff and untying the whole thing will be a pain.”

With an exchange of ideas and corrections, they had the net complete in around five minutes. After scooping the ice out with that, the ice covered one end of the poolside, but there was now room in the pool.

The “weaving” idea probably came from Mukai’s experience with sewing, but…

“Just add in a bit of creativity and you can do just about anything.”

“We also had plenty of time to think. If only we always had that luxury.”

After they got in the pool, the swimmers saw a structure in the sky.

Massive walls jutted up from below the Musashi on either side. And they knew what those were.

“The Ariake’s upper armor!”

The Ariake had opened its top surface to the left and right and the Musashi was descending inside.

Several sign frames appeared outside the ship and the high-speed guide ships floated up between the Ariake and the Musashi. The transport ships outside the ship hurried back to the Musashi.

“Okay, the Musashi will be docked inside the Ariake for a while now,” said Masazumi.

Christina looked back.

“But when will you be returning to Kansai?”

“You’ll find that out shortly. We’ve already made the arrangements. Because this is going to be tricky for them as well.”

Another wall became visible behind Masazumi. They were now surrounded by walls instead of just the ones on the left and right.

The Musashi was descending into the Ariake itself.

Asama added “confirmed” or “approved” to all the sign frames popping up around her and then closed them while everyone viewed the Ariake’s interior from the Musashi.

Christina gasped.

“I don’t believe it!”

“See, I told you it would happen shortly.” Masazumi indicated the Ariake’s interior with a gesture like she was whipping up the wind. “We’re coming, Kansai. But who will we ask to be our herald?”


“I see. Testament, testament. So Christina is finally settling in.”

Someone spoke while seated on a stone stairway in the evening.

It was Tomoe Gozen.

She was in the M.H.R.R. Protestant principality of Saxony. That region was essentially her home base and this eastern city of Dresden had a large forest to the east and bordered P.A. Oda territory.

It was a front line city, but…

“Summer break has given us so much freedom. …The Kyou region is just on the other side of that forest, so I should probably nab some Middle Eastern goods through their limited-time trade deals.”

Instead of her summer uniform, she wore a black inner suit with a skirt and she leaned over to tighten the laces of her special ghost shoes.

“We just had a major battle, so I think I will spend the next 5 days traveling around hunting, fishing, and eating wild animals. If any problems crop up, you can deal with them as you see fit. Do not use my name. As long as you leave that as a final piece of insurance, you are free to use your own discretion. And make sure to send a report to Saxony if anything happens. I asked the other principalities to do the same, so…well, your job is to deal with everyone’s complaints.”

“Testament!” replied the scattered group around her.

But a new set of footsteps approached that group.

It came from the top of the stairs behind her. The footsteps were rushed and skipped every other step on the way down.

“What do you want, Kappa? Running down the stairs is a good way to break your neck.”

“My name is not Kappa, Tomoe Gozen! It is Guericke and I have a report!”

Guericke leaped from the stairs.

He soared over Tomoe Gozen’s head and took a prostration pose in midair. He also used a standby boost from his right arm’s hemisphere to spin around in the air.

“Tomoe Gozen!”

The kappa completed the spin and nailed the perfect prostration landing.

“I come bearing an urgent report!”


Chapter 49: Visitor in the Heights[edit]

Horizon8B 597.png

Some things can only be seen

When facing them head on

Point Allocation (U-underwear?)


Tomoe Gozen nodded in the evening sun shining on the stone stairs.

“Glad to see you’re doing well, Guericke.” She tapped her arm with a bottle of sunblock lotion. “A midair horizontal rotating prostration leading into a stairway prostration? That must have hurt your knees. For that, I will hear you out.”

“Testament! An open-front skirt is pushing it at your age, don’t you think?”

“Hey, someone get over here and execute this guy. Remember when he made a scene sucking things in the city? Split him in two like that.”

“I misspoke!”

“You have a tendency to blurt things out, so do be more careful. Also, don’t get up from that prostration. …Now, someone record this and distribute it over the divine network.”

“Tomoe Gozen, why did you call us here today?” asked the local Saxony Representative Committee Head.

“There’s a lot I don’t understand, so I’m leaving all of you in charge, including planning for the post-Nördlingen celebration. I tend to rush through things too quickly when I do them myself.”

So…

“With Nördlingen done, the Protestant and Catholic forces are where they’re supposed to be. Do you know what that means?”

“Testament,” replied Guericke, still prostrating. “We can release our own printed works without having to go through other nations! Sweden, the uncensored kingdom, is basically already celebrating and they’ve sent in so many event doujinshis based on their Chancellor!!”

“You don’t have to show them to me on your lernen figur. And I said to stay prostrated.”

“Testament!” he replied.

Tomoe Gozen sighed and spoke to them all.

“Christina will now be able to return to Sweden after summer break.”

So…

“There’s a decent chance we’ll be seeing all-out war between the Protestants and Catholics after the break.”


Tomoe Gozen appreciated how everyone gasped.

Good.

They knew that meant them. She loved how the Protestant principalities were always ready for battle. With war a constant companion, they never cut corners in commerce or their everyday lives.

She had once held back and regretted it, but this meant they could get by without her. So…

“I bet all the major national representatives think P.A. Oda’s Honnouji Incident will be recreated near the end of summer break. The question is what to do about the Thirty Years’ War in response. It’s strange that the actions of an enemy like P.A. Oda have such an influence on our future decisions.”

So…

“The first half of the break will be spent on preparations. As the Protestant Representative, I plan to travel around seeing how everyone is doing. Especially in the regions where important people have requested a meeting with me. I might be able to hitch a ride with the Musashi. And…”

Something Christina had said had caught her attention.

The Imperial Palace.

Kyou was currently controlled by P.A. Oda’s Akechi Mitsuhide, but what were things like inside the palace?

She doubted she could get there from M.H.R.R., but it was still worth keeping an eye on.

“Whatever. My point is, I’m going to be busy. I’m sure each nation and principality will be using the first half for preparations and investigations, so do everything you can to respond to that and manage as much of it as you can on your own. The real fight begins once I return.”

“Testament!”

Good, she thought while putting on her backpack. Unlike her usual combat one, this one only had a Protestant Testament copy on either side. The hammer pole had been lightened so it could be used as a staff.

I also brought a fishing rod and a collapsible bow.

Makes it look like I’m planning to live in the mountains, she thought, but there was a chance she would be visiting places she could not openly visit or pass through. This equipment would come in handy then.

But, she thought. This isn’t going to last much longer.

Either from the Apocalypse or the end of the Thirty Years’ War. Which, I can’t say.

“Now, Guericke, what is this report you have for me?”

“Testament! Look at this!”

He held up a lernen figur. She scanned through it, reread it, and smiled bitterly.

“Ha. Guericke, are you saying you want to do this?”

“Testament! It will be a great economic boon!”

“In that case,” she said, standing up.

She faced forward.

Looking down the stairs, she saw a city surrounded by a wall. That was Dresden, in eastern Saxony.

About 50km past that, beyond the vast forest east of Dresden, was an enemy city.

She viewed that Far Eastern city that had shimmering summer heat rising from it.

“Accept the deal, Guericke. It can run for three days starting on August 15. I will be back by then, so we can celebrate.”

Listen.

“The Protestants are in a partying mood this year. And that includes me.”


Black Wolf: “So what are your plans after the Azuchi’s repairs are completed today?”

The lernen figur displaying that question illuminated the surrounding area.

That area was an underground passageway made of stone. Kasuya was walking down it, making intentionally loud footsteps.

She held up the lernen figur to check the stonework around her.

Black Wolf: “Musashi ordered the Azuchi to leave on the 10th. That’s today. They plan to attack the Azuchi if it’s still there when they leave the Ariake, don’t they?”

If so…

Black Wolf: “Wouldn’t it be safest to make your preparations to leave now?”

Her question was answered along with three footsteps from Kantou.

Kimee: “The Azuchi intends to leave tonight. And at the last possible moment.”


Kasuya turned a corner and tilted her head at Yoshiaki’s response.

Black Wolf: “Tonight? How is that supposed to work?”

“Testament,” replied Yoshiaki, displaying a schedule.

Kimee: “The repairs to the Azuchi’s rear thrusters were mostly completed three days ago, so we managed to clear out a lot of the personnel then. Since then, we’ve been selling the Azuchi’s unneeded supplies to Satomi and the Kantou nations. Konishi has been doing a really good job there.”

Kasuya honestly didn’t understand any of this stuff about commerce or trade, but if they were selling off their supplies…

Black Wolf: “Are you planning to hurry back?”

Kimee: “No. The thrusters were repaired, but if we fly back as fast as we can, it would look to Kantou like we ‘ran away’. So we’ll be taking it nice and slow in standard cruising mode, at least until we leave Kantou. The plan is to depart tonight at 23:59 PM.”

That really was cutting it close.

Black Wolf: “And the Musashi won’t attack?”

Kuro-Take: “In my opinion, we should be fine as long as we make it really obvious we’re preparing to leave. I mean, it would be a big risk on their part if they came and attacked when we were just about to leave anyway. The Kantou nations might criticize Musashi for chickening out even though they know full well how it would look if they did attack, but Musashi will know it isn’t worth starting an unnecessary battle with the Azuchi. After all, that would mean destroying their southern Kantou trade route and they don’t want to lose that again.”

What would happen then?

Kuro-Take: “If they don’t receive the food, marine products, and other resources that normally come from Satomi, Edo, and the Houjou region during the summer, the Kantou nations will have a hard time getting through the winter this year.”

Black Wolf: “And the Kantou nations would still criticize Musashi for not attacking?”

Kimee: “Because they know good and well the Musashi will let the Azuchi go.”

Takenaka interrupted before Yoshiaki could say more.

Kuro-Take: “But I’m sure Musashi has thought this through themselves. I bet they have something in the works to keep the Kantou nations from complaining, or to show them who’s boss. And in fact, there were reports of some largescale anti-ghost work using the Musashi’s spell field on the lower coast of Oushuu the other night.”

“Testament,” replied Kasuya as she turned a corner and saw a gentle downward slope leading to some stairs.

She knew intellectually where those led, but she had to wonder if it was true. She held those doubts in her head while Yoshiaki continued.

Kimee: “We’re starting to see a real hierarchy take shape for the forces distributed across the Far East. Those who have been looking outwards and fighting the other nations are finding themselves above those who did not. And that’s about to happen here in Kantou too.”


“Heidi and I intend to visit the most promising Kantou nations, making our final preparations.”

Hearing Shirojiro’s comment in the Ariake that night, Masazumi raised her right hand and replied.

“Good luck. And don’t forget to repay me.”

“Judge. We would never. Our honor depends on it.”

They held their conversation on the Musashi. Specifically, at the diplomatic port on Tama’s wing deck.

A few transport ships there bore the Musashi Student Council logo next to the Circle Be mark.

“Screw this up and you will look fondly back on the days when udon was all you had to worry about.”

“Horizon!” shouted Heidi. “We don’t need that kind of pressure! That brings back some bad memories!”

“Either way, make sure you do your job.” Masazumi glanced back toward the others seeing those two off. “We will depart for Kansai once the Azuchi leaves. Once you’re done making deals with the Kantou nations, meet up with us using the trade route south of Mikawa. Got that?”

“Judge. Your business honestly sounds like a more entertaining way to make money, but this way will earn more. So wait for us. We’ll pay you back in full on the 15th,” said Heidi before tilting her head.

She was looking toward Masazumi and the others seeing them off.

But then she bowed her head and opened her mouth. While pointing.

“I appreciate the banner, but did it have to say ‘good luck, udons’? I would really rather it didn’t.”


Adele looked to the others.

Class Plum was joined by a lot of the warriors and the relevant committee members. Most of the banners had been made by those other groups.

“Yeah, if it said ‘keep fighting, kishimen!’, it would sound like some kishimen had formed a tokusatsu group of 5.”

“Wait, we never passed any kishimen! Right, Shiro-kun!?”

“Judge. We did not. Which means it could always have been worse. Perhaps we were too quick to judge you for your lack of kindness.”

Meanwhile, Asama opened a sign frame and frowned.

“Hmm,” she groaned. “The tree of variations includes thick and hard kishimen. It also contains just plain fried noodles and fried okoshi. Which would you prefer, Heidi?”

“You’re already planning to put us through that again, aren’t you, Asama-chi!? Fried noodles would tear our asses apart!”

Adele noticed some people commenting “what even is this conversation?”

But even if there was a tree for udon variations…

“Whether or not that happens is entirely up to you, right? So what is your plan, Treasurer and Aide?”

“Well.” The Treasurer’s Aide turned Adele’s way. “We’ve already set it in motion, but we’re starting by resetting the Kantou nations.”

“Resetting them?”

“Judge,” confirmed the Treasurer. “We will be slapping them with a stack of cash.”

“I-isn’t that being too direct!?”

“Figuratively speaking, of course.” The Treasurer opened a sign frame. “Our most basic strategy is splitting up the Kantou nations, like we discussed in that meeting. Previously, those nations have formed a collusive trade zone similar to a territorial state. So we will provide priority trade for the nations that cooperate with us. And…”

He displayed some text on his sign frame.

“We will loan them transit tax rights.”


Mitotsudaira understood the treasurers’ plan.

But Horizon was sweating profusely. And not just because it was summer.

“Um, Horizon? Is something wrong?”

“Wh-what’s this, Mitotsudaira-sama? You wouldn’t be suggesting anything as silly as me not knowing what transit tax rights are, would you?”

She doesn’t know, does she?

But explaining that would be a pain, so she decided to have someone else do it for her.

“Wh-what are transit tax rights, my king?”

She chose to ask her king because this could help earn him some points with Horizon. And I like it when he answers my questions.

She found her king sweating profusely as well.

Oops.

Just because she understood did not mean her king did as well. So…

“Um, my king?”

“Huh? Wh-what is it, Nate? Surely you don’t think I of all people don’t know what transit tax rights are.”

“Then, um, can you tell me?”

“If you insist.” He shrugged. “You see, transit tax rights are…you see,” he repeated while pointing into the sky. “W-well, you get the basic idea, right!? It’s so intuitive!”

Horizon slapped him from behind.

It made an incredible sound and he doubled over, but she grabbed him by the collar.

“Why would you try to hide that you don’t know the answer? …Now, please explain it for him, Mitotsudaira-sama.”

This conversation sure took a turn, thought Mitotsudaira, but she needed to help settle this.

So she started by nodding.

“J-judge! Transit tax rights are the right to collect a tax on any trade goods that pass through a nation’s territory.”

So…

“If a trade route is built from Oushuu to Kantou, then any nation granted that right can make money through transit taxes without even needing to buy or sell a thing.”


Gold Mar: “Wasn’t she the one who initially asked the question?”

Flat Vassal: “I feel like what happened before that was even more incredible.”

Horizey: “I knew the answer all along. I just wanted to give Mitotsudaira-sama a chance to show off. Yes.”

Me: “I-I knew too! I swear I did! …Hey, what are those looks for!?”


Suzu noted the usual process playing out, but she now understood what Shirojiro and Heidi were doing. Simply put…

“You’re going to…h-harass the Kantou…nations?”

A small stir ran through the others and Horizon rapidly approached her.

“Impressive work, Suzu-sama. A perfect example of how to view everything through the lens of Masazumi-sama’s policy. I had completely forgotten that Musashi’s primarily political policy was to harass everyone everywhere.”

“For the record, that’s not quite accurate.” Masazumi pointed at Shirojiro and Heidi. “These two will be setting up trade and all that, but they will also clear a road for the future by granting temporary transit tax rights to the nations that take a friendly stance with us.”

“C-clear a road…for the future?”

“Suzu-sama, she means anyone who stands in our way will be blasted by the Musashi’s Kanesada.”

“Oh, I-I see.”

“No, you don’t see,” said Masazumi. “That’s not what I meant!”

Toori raised his hand.

“This wouldn’t happen so much if you said things more simply.”

“Yeah, I suppose.” Masazumi crossed her arms. “Simply put, we will be slapping them with a stack of cash.”

“We’re right back where we started!!”

Suzu joined the others for that retort.


“Wait, hold on.” Masazumi held out her hands to stop them. “Calm down, all of you. Rights aren’t the only form of money. The introduction of currency means you can generally buy anything using money. Or to put it another way, money is transformed into other things inside each nation. Even fuel can be bought with money, so it is effectively the most powerful bargaining chip.”

In other words…

“Do you know what it means to receive money from other nations?”

The answer was simple.

“You also receive purchasable goods from those other nations. Do you know that means?”

The idiot raised his hand and she nodded.

“What do you want? Oh, I get it. All this serious talk has you starved for some laughs. Fine. If you insist, I will tell this one joke I jotted down in my notes three days ago.”

“Masazumi! Please don’t! The damage would be too great!”

What’s that supposed to mean, Naruze?

But she was curious about the idiot’s question.

“You still have your hand up? What is it?”

“Well, uh, this is a bit of a change of subject, but how are we getting to Kansai? You keep saying we’ll be going, so I was wondering how we would do that.”

Oh, is that all? she thought and nearly said out loud. Because…

“I’ve already discussed that with those in charge. We only have to wait here.”

“Really? We aren’t going to do anything?”

“No, not this time. We should get to sit back and relax until we arrive at Kansai.”

Were the responses of understanding and appreciation a sign of their trust in her? Either way…

“That is also why I have left the Treasurer pair in charge of the Kantou nations. If they can get those nations on our side during the break, we can still receive supplies and repairs in Kantou even if we find ourselves in a largescale battle after Honnouji.”

Horizon raised her hand.

“To backtrack a little, why does that tax stuff clear a road for the future? Please tell me that, Masazumi-sama.”

“That’s simple. Like I said, if a nation receives money from other nations, they can also accept things other than money.”

“Things other than money?”

“Yes,” said Masazumi with a nod. “We are not loaning them money. We are only lending them transit tax rights. Which means…”

She raised her right hand and a diagram appeared.

It displayed two different circles side by side.

The right circle was labeled “Kantou Nations” and the left one “Transit Tax Right Nations”.

A line labeled “Foreign Trade Goods” pierced the left circle from top to bottom.

“If Oushuu to the north and Kantou to the south are linked by trade, traders will have to pay transit taxes to the nations in the center who have transit tax rights.” She swung her right hand to the side and Tsukinowa traced its movement to draw a line from the left circle to the right one. “The Kantou nations are like a territorial state. They form a single whole, but they are divided in between, which gets in the way of transportation. That is why goods from Oushuu and Edo have only ever traded with the border Kantou nations. But in the future, the nations in charge of the transit taxes will take control and hold the right to trade with the interior Kantou nations. And that will come with the protection of not just Musashi, but Oushuu and Sviet Rus as well. So what happens then?”

She ran her finger left to right along the previous horizontal line.

“The transit tax nations will be able to monopolize intermediary trade with the interior Kantou nations. Only they will be able to purchase trade goods from Oushuu and Kantou and then sell them.”

This was all very basic stuff. But…

“That will prevent the Kantou nations from using their original foreign trade network. Because that was a tiny regional network when compared to the major commerce pipeline we’re creating with the alliance between Date, Mogami, Sviet Rus, and Kantou.”

“But the transit tax nations have no real experience with foreign trade, so they might screw up their inventory management or investments. What happens then? How do we keep them from failing?”

Balfette’s question already had an answer.

“We clear a road.”

Masazumi placed her finger on the sign frame again and drew a line from the left circle to the right circle.

But this time, she added a second, third, and fourth line.

“Well, I’d be here all day drawing all of them, but you get the picture.”

The left circle and right circle were connected by multiple lines.

“Do you know what this means?”

Naruze raised her hand.

“A trade gangbang.”

“What’s that supposed to mean!?”

Sadly, that was enough to know they had understood her.

“With more goods being traded, a single market would be overwhelmed. We learned at Mikawa that a single tax checkpoint causes congestion.”

Thinking back, this had all started with Principal Sakai being sent to Mikawa while viewing that congestion.

Things sure change fast.

That only worked because Mikawa acted as the Musashi’s home port and it would stay there longer than it did elsewhere.

But if the trade goods required quick “transit”…

“We need enough markets sufficiently spread out to trade with all of the Kantou nations without leaving any inventory behind.”

What would that mean?

“That requires constructing a trade road infrastructure from the transit tax nations to the interior nations. And…”

And…

“The transit tax nations need to hurry through that construction. We will only be lending them the transit tax rights, so those rights will go away eventually. For the most part, they will use the tax income to construct the infrastructure and, once they lose their transit tax rights, they will use the infrastructure they built to focus on intermediary trade.”

“Flat Honda-kun, may I ask one thing?”

Ohiroshiki raised a hand, so she turned his way and he nodded once before asking.

“You said they will be constructing largescale infrastructure for intermediary trade and that the primary trade will be on a much larger scale than the local-level trade they engaged in before this, correct?”

What would that mean?

“The transit tax nations will grow into powerful trade nations and the other Kantou nations will be forced to join in on the trade to preserve their place in the power balance. …That will change how those nations interact.”

“Judge. Our plan is built around that.” She took a breath before stating this quite clearly. “By building Kantou and Oushuu into a single alliance centered on this economic bloc, they will gain the power needed to influence Europe.”


“Listen,” began Masazumi. “This is all about Westphalia,” she said. “Kantou, Oushuu, and their individual nations are powerful, but they are still no more than the lords of a small region. And of a region that only exists on the Far Eastern map. But the nations that will be participate in Westphalia are the world powers with the European conqueror at the top. The amount of land held might be similar, but looking at the Testament tells us they are historical world powers and the nations here are only regional lords of the Far East.”

That led to a certain question. Mitotsudaira held a hand to her chest and got right to the point.

“Are you suggesting that the Kantou nations’ opinions will not be heard at Westphalia?”

“Judge. I am. Of course, the Peace of Westphalia is a European history recreation, so I doubt any nations east of the Middle East can participate. Sviet Rus can use their Russian side to get in, but Mogami and Date won’t be so lucky.”

She opened a map of the Far East. Of the entire Far East. The area from Oushuu to Kantou was rapidly filled in with white.

That created…

“But what if we brought together everything from Oushuu to Kantou? That’s more than 2/5 of the Far East.”

Everyone gasped a little.

But she wasn’t done yet. She colored in Sviet Rus and the M.H.H.R. Protestants with gray.

“If our national power and our right to speak are ignored, any attempt to manage the Far East is doomed from the start. If we can convince them of that, I’m sure we can get them to join in as observers or even join the Kantou-Oushuu Alliance itself. And if we pull that off…”

What would happen?

She indicated what she guessed most of them could easily imagine on their own.

“We will have created a solid ally for ourselves at Westphalia.”


“I see,” said Heidi.

A single absolute ally.

After being saved herself, she knew very well what that meant.

A single person’s efforts could make all the difference.

This would not just be a pawn of the majority rule. They would have one other person with the same intentions. In that sense…

“We would have double the odds of success at Westphalia.”

“Judge. That’s right. So we need you two to do this right.”

“You just want us to make money, correct?” asked Shirojiro.

Masazumi nodded.

“Exactly. But look far to the future. This isn’t a short-term game. Guide us toward an even greatest victory down the line.”

“Ha ha. That makes this so much simpler, Masazumi.” But Heidi needed to check on something. “You more or less know which nations will be the transit tax nations, don’t you? So we only have to focus on making sure all those nations can make plenty of money. The others might eat the losses and end up in financial trouble, but a loss like that is the perfect opening for the next deal. …We can make even more money that way!”

She could feel herself smiling.

The transit tax nations would be making out like bandits, so she and Shirojiro could make so much off of bribes, insider deals, and collusion. But…

“I think we’ll try to keep it clean this time.” She did not want to risk a second round of udon, so she made that announcement up front. “But try to look the other way when we jack up the prices to help make deals or host trade deals to help repay our debt. Do that and everything else will be legit and above board.”

“Heidi, are you prepared to prostrate?”

“A girl’s prostrations are a pricey thing, Shiro-kun.”

“The one at Odawara was a joint task between us. I do not owe you anything.”

“That’s my Shiro-kun,” laughed Heidi.

Ahh.

It had been so long since she had smiled like this.

They had to pay back their debt with legit, above-board work, but that also made the perfect cover.

“Money makes the world go round,” said Shirojiro. “So our work in Kantou will reach you all in Kansai. We would never hold back when it comes to preparing to earn money. And we can ignore any national worries or personal feelings. …But we will repay our debt. Because that debt reduces any money we earn. So the rest of you can do the things we do not understand or have no interest in. But when dealing with the Azuchi and whatnot, do not do anything that would lose us money.”

“Judge. You don’t have to worry about that. Besides, they should be about ready to move.”

Just as Masazumi said that, an announcement played throughout the Ariake.

“This is ‘Ariake’. Light has been detected coming from the Azuchi’s stern to the south. I have determined they are running a test activation of their main thrusters. Over.”


“Ether output detected. The Azuchi’s usual pattern confirmed. The power has increased somewhat – by about 2% maybe? ‘Azuchi’, you can simulate how much of a margin of error we’re looking at once we get moving.”

“Shaja. Thank you very much, Yoshiaki-sama. I have determined that this test activation will have informed the Kantou region we are up and running once more. Over.”

Yoshiaki released a deep breath into the night breeze while listening to “Azuchi”.

She then inhaled, filling her lungs with the unique chilly but damp air of a summer night.

The wind is so clear.

She could see the Azuchi below her. The repairs to its exterior were still underway, so even this high in the air, she could detect the scent of metal and the aroma of ether-related processes.

But this was very different from the skies of M.H.R.R. or the winds of Kansai with its inland sea.

The night breeze blowing freely in from the Pacific barely had a scent.

That direction felt entirely deserted and it mostly was. Far out in the Pacific, there was a rapid current known as the Devil’s Current where dragons were said to live. Also, the ships that humanity had used to descend onto this planet in the Age of Dawn were abandoned out there, sticking up from the ocean surface like gravestones.

She thought the Azuchi or the Musashi would be able to fly that far out to sea, but most of the outside world was undeveloped.

She felt it would be reckless to try to travel there, but that may have been M.H.R.R.’s strict nature rubbing off on her. Also…

“The Apocalypse is coming,” she muttered, her eyes turned to the northern sky.

Far in the distance, a massive roof shined bluish-white in the moonlight.

That was the Ariake. The Musashi was inside there and had yet to emerge. Takenaka predicted it would leave late at night, around when the Azuchi departed.

But will it really?

Whatever the Musashi did, Yoshiaki knew what they had to do.

“End it but not let it end.”

“Kime-chan, want me to take over?”

The unexpected transmission from Angie made Yoshiaki smile bitterly. She spun her broom and butt around to look the other way, but she didn’t stop there.

“You can take over once you get up here.”

“Okay! I’ll be up in a flash! Half a flash even!”

The rear of her circling broom drew out a circle of scattering ether light. She knew Angie would use that as a guide and fly to her.

“It’s so strange, but I do it, Angie does it, and all the others do it.”

She breathed in the night air, telling herself this was probably the last time, and then spoke some more.

“We’ll eventually forget any of this ever happened, so why do we seek out meaning in the present?”


“Why would she call me here at this hour?”

Kasuya was two short turns away from the end of the stone hallway.

The underground passageway felt somewhat chilly even during the summer and a metal door awaited her at the end.

She slowed her pace and approached the three people gathered in front of the door.

Oh?

Her step faltered when she saw the three people illuminated by the spell lights. Two were somewhat indistinct figures made of ether light and the third…

“What?”

She was tall, she wore a black mobile shell, and she removed the helmet to look back, her white hair rippling.

“Eh?”

The simple turn displayed great strength and nimbleness. The movement itself was rough, but the application and positioning of the strength showed polish.

She would be a formidable foe in battle. Kasuya’s step had faltered while looking up at her.

So after coming to a stop…

“Mitsunari, who is that?”

“Testament! I am Ootani Yoshitsugu, a virus created by Hashiba-sama herself!”

No, not you, thought Kasuya, swallowing the words. But the tall figure was facing Mitsunari, not Kasuya.

Mitsunari was looking to Kasuya and failed to notice the tall figure’s gaze.

Which meant…

The tall one is waiting for Mitsunari to introduce her, but Mitsunari doesn’t realize it?

Mitsunari probably expected her subordinates to handle such things on their own. She was a relatively young data entity and she had yet to learn that everyone handled things differently. So Kasuya tried to help out by asking again.

“Um, Mitsunari? Who is-?”

She had a pretty good guess already, but she was interrupted by a voice from the mobile shell helmet held in the tall figure’s arms.

“Hey! What makes you think you can ignore a question from a superior like this!?”


Sakon was honestly unsure what to do.

She knew who this had to be. This was someone who could speak on a friendly basis with Mitsunari.

And those eyes mean she’s a Loup-Garou, don’t they?

She had also heard that Kasuya Takenori of the Ten Spears would be joining them for their training camp.

But Sakon was Mitsunari’s subordinate, so she felt it would be wrong of her to go over Mitsunari’s head and introduce herself. But then there was her mobile shell’s voice.

“When someone asks who you are, you introduce yourself! Is even that beyond you, Kohime!?”

It was a male voice and a thundering one at that.

It didn’t help that it echoed a lot off the stone hallway’s walls.

Y-you’re too loud!

She cried out and started beating on Onitakemaru’s helmet.

“Wh-what is the meaning of this, Kohime!?”

“U-um, you’re too loud, so I’m trying to find the volume controls or the sleep button. Oh, I won’t shut you off completely, so don’t worry about that. I don’t want you passing on.”

“Damn you!”

“Oh. You are the Shima Sakon and Onitakemaru I’ve heard so much about.”

“Eh?” Sakon was so taken aback she stopped beating on Onitakemaru. “Y-you know of me?”

“Because I’m going to be working with Mitsunari.”

“Makes sense. But who the hell are you!?”

Sakon slammed an accelerated karate chop into Onitakemaru’s head. It made a nice noise and the lights indicating he was functioning wavered for a moment.

“Y-you fool! I had to go through an adjustment for that one!”

“You’re being rude, Onitakemaru-san.”

“Huh? I’m the Shogun! I outrank Mitsunari and even Hashiba! You got a problem with me demanding the respect I deserve!?”

“I’m so sorry. He’s always like this. Just think of him as starved for attention, if you don’t mind.”

“If you say so,” said the other girl, pursing her lips together. Then she turned toward Mitsunari. “Mitsunari, why did you call me here?”

“Testament. To introduce you to what you will actually be doing for your training camp here.” Mitsunari raised her hand and indicated the metal door behind her. “Sakon-san, would you please open that? Your training task lies within.”

“Of course, of course. Here I go!”

Sakon donned Onitakemaru’s head and grabbed the doorknob.

It was located low enough that it was faster to get down on her knees than it was to crouch down.

And she pushed. I should put some real force into it, right? she thought, but since she had her knees for support, she just pushed straight forward.

The door moved far easier than she had anticipated.

No resistance at all?

She found that odd, but she also looked through the opening door. Ootani, Mitsunari, Kasuya, and Onitakemaru had to be doing the same.

Her long arms pushed the door open enough for them to see inside.

She was curious what this training camp would entail.

What she found was the bared fangs of a Terrestrial Dragon too large to fully see through the door.


Chapter 50: Strict One in the Dark[edit]

Horizon8B 629.png

Wait, what?

I don’t think

That’s supposed to be there

Point Allocation (Close It Already)


“Ahhhhhhhhh! What in the world is that!?”

Sakon slammed the door shut and pressed her back against the metal surface while turning toward Mitsunari.

“M-M-M-M-M-Mitsunari-sama! Th-there was a b-big…giant…big thing in there!”

“Kohime, you’re pretty big yourself, so what are you freaking out for?”

“A-anyone would freak out after seeing that! I mean, what even was that!? What kind of attraction throws a Terrestrial Dragon in your face 2 seconds after you open the front door?”

Kasuya tilted her head and turned to Mitsunari.

“It doesn’t make any sense for such a large dragon to exist in an enclosed space underground. Um, can you explain this, Mitsunari?”

“Testament. Here is who to ask. He is in charge here.”

Mitsunari opened a lernen figur. The white frame displayed…

“Good evening, everyone! It’s me, Holy Roman Emperor Matthias!!”


Matthias was in M.H.R.R.

This was the Catholic land of Austria. He was inside a European fortress city located on the countryside west of Kinki.

This was originally Kuroda land, where Shirasagi Castle was located, but when M.H.R.R. had agreed to work with Hashiba, Shirasagi Castle had been turned into an aerial warship, this land had been given to Austria, and the Europeans had rapidly developed the area.

Normally, the oppressed Far Easterners would have been displeased and resisted, but there were two reasons that had not happened.

As thanks for handing over the land, Hashiba had given the Far East the right to open markets there and had given them infrastructure such as roads.

Also, Europe had left the farm work and management to the students under Hashiba’s command, sending the direct profits to the Far East.

On top of that, Matthias had made a good scapegoat.

He had political power but none of the skill needed to wield it, so that had suited him just fine. His brother had chosen to isolate himself, so Matthias had felt the need to get through the Thirty Years’ War on his own.

He had concluded that was impossible and had hoped to just take things easy, so Hashiba’s arrival had been a godsend for him.

I love being a puppet!

He had gone ahead and performed all the oppression and whatnot as a puppet of Hashiba and he had helped escort Hashiba who had yet to find her legs in diplomacy at the time.

His management of this land had been used as a test case, but it had gone well and his family, who owned the academy and the city, had expanded their power.

This was one of the results of that expansion. It was a villa under Hapsburg control. As a puppet, he had a Hashiba bodyguard and had to remain on the roof of the walled fortress, but…

“I guess I was hoping for too much when I thought one of you would come guard me, but a puppet can’t be picky. But I am ready to come running and do some butt-kissing whenever you might need me during summer break.”

“Thank you, Emperor Matthias. Now, I was hoping you could explain this here.”

Mitsunari gestured toward an underground door he was very familiar with.

I know Mitsunari-kun knows this already.

But I must not complain. She’s one of Hashiba’s direct subordinates. If she asks for an explanation, I need to raise my hand and ask “Ooh, ooh, do you need a Holy Roman Emperor to answer that one for you!? Because there’s one right here!”

Yes, I am a puppet, so I need to let them boss me around.

“Testament. I see. You need someone to explain that place for you? Then shall I head there immediately?”

“No, you don’t need to do it in person. Over the divine transmission is fine.”

Oh, come on! You’re supposed to demand I get there in 30 seconds or less!

Hashiba’s subordinates don’t know how these things are done. My puppet spirit is going to waste.

Yes, you outwardly compliment me but then you make impossible demands. That is how you treat a puppet! Like the other day, when Niwa was busy withdrawing from Nördlingen and asked me – without so much as a glance in my direction – to take some boxes of unnecessary materials to the dump. Now that one sent a tingle through my heart. That’s the kind of thrill I want – nay, that I need!

But as much of a disappointment as this was, he was prepared to answer. So…

“If I am going to explain that place, I will first send you the necessary documents. Oh, and I made these documents myself. You don’t even have to read them because they include an audio description. This includes a map introducing you to all the important points of that underground area and an introductory document that doubles as index of all the other documents. As an added bonus, each document you read earns you a Holy Roman Emperor Point! Earn 100 of those and I will treat you to a wonderful dinner, so I do hope you try to collect them. Now, what did you want from the emperor?”

“Oh, um, a simple explanation will be sufficient.”

You can’t do this to me!

What, does she think the Holy Roman Emperor is a common tour guide? No, that’s not the point. I am a puppet and will guide you on a tour of whatever you want. But…

“Um, Emperor? Could you explain this to us?”

That’s more like it!!

Was that Kasuya? Her phrasing managed to ignite my puppet spirit.

“Very well.” He raised his dinner glass toward Aki and K.P.A. Italia. “That is the bedroom of Olimpia, the current Innocentius X and the original one’s older and younger stepsister. But her dreams are manifested in her immediate vicinity. And…”

And…

“She treated herself to a few dates with me where we viewed the stars, but she has since gotten hooked on dreaming and will not wake up.”

That was a bit of a problem. He had hoped to take her to Nördlingen and have her fall asleep to summon a Terrestrial Dragon that could obliterate the enemy, but…

Well, sleep is a luxury for her.

She belonged to a reverse-aging people and she grew younger whenever she dreamed. They would eventually become babies and disappear, but they saw sleep as a happy death and luxury that consumed their “youth”.

But Olimpia appeared to be having another exciting dream. Plus…

Her dreaming spell seems to be showing her something somewhat troublesome.

“Doesn’t it seem bad to not have the pope around? So if possible, I was hoping you could defeat her dream and wake her up. Oh, and one other thing,” he said. “The credit will of course go to you and to Hashiba. I will make sure to let M.H.R.R. and K.P.A. Italia know all about what you did for us. How does that sound?”


So that explains it.

Kasuya checked her equipment.

Her summer uniform had defense divine protections in strategic locations, which she figured was good enough. After her experience fighting the Reine des Garous in Kantou, she had made sure to include ether and Shinto divine protections that diverted any impacts that hit her.

Her weapon was hanging from the back of her hips. Argent Clou would also be good enough. So…

“Mitsunari, about that dragon. If it is a manifested dream, is it made of ether?”

“That would be the logical conclusion.” Mitsunari placed a hand on her chin in thought. It only lasted around two seconds, but a few lernen figurs spilled from the back of her hair. “Firing an ether cannon in diffusion mode would likely eliminate the entire space.”

“That probably is true, but were you planning to drag a warship cannon down here?”

“Would a spell field work?” asked Mitsunari.

Sakon raised her right hand.

“Based on what I saw for that split-second earlier, that was a weirdly large hall, not a bedroom…I think? So isn’t it some kind of illusion? So what would happen if we established a new field to perceive that room in its proper position?”

“Would the effects of the dream be eliminated within that field?” speculated Mitsunari.

“It’s a good idea, but if it was that easy, they would have done so already.” Kasuya decided to ask about that, so she opened a lernen figur. “Emperor? Is there no way to erase the manifested dream with a spell field? Please answer me.”

“Testament! An excellent question! The problems is, that isn’t a divine protection or a spell – it’s a dream playing out in real time. So the spell field will temporarily erase it, but that will be overwritten a moment later.”

“What about a powerful and continuous spell field?”

“That too is a good idea, but how would Olimpia feel if you simply erased the dream she is spending years off her age to see instead of simply waking her up?”

The two data entities exchanged a glance at that.

Eventually, Mitsunari turned toward Kasuya with her head somewhat lowered.

“E-excuse me, but what does he mean by that? We have too little experience to understand these things.”

“Oh,” replied Sakon, spreading her arms. “I think I know. It’s like the difference between a manga that ends with a proper conclusion and one that’s suddenly canceled in the middle of an arc!”

“Sorry, I don’t read manga, so…okay, I do, I do read it. I’m sorry.”

Kasuya had never seen a data entity capable of being so self-conscious and apologetic.

But logically speaking…

“The reverse-aging people dream in order to reduce their age. Waking her up by concluding her dreamed battle would be fine, but if we unnaturally ended it with a spell field, would it be bad for that de-aging process?”

“Testament.” Ootani clapped his hands once. “Mitsunari-kun, think of it like this. When you are adding a new program to your functionality, would you prefer to wait until the installation is complete or stop the installation partway through?”

Mitsunari thought for about two seconds and then turned toward Kasuya.

“I understand now. I understand it fully and perfectly! We must not do that! We must follow the proper procedure!”

“Well, I’m glad you understand now.”

“Kohime! Why would you use manga as an example!? Are you ever going to grow up!?”

“W-well, excuse me. Besides, I am still in middle school, even if it’s cause I was held back five times. So I’m still a kid.”

That answer is only going to set Onitakemaru off again, concluded Kasuya.

Sakon was 20. She was definitely an adult, even if she was still in middle school. So…

“Read some books along with your manga, Kohime.”

Oh?

Did not see that one coming.

“It can be something simple, popular, and fun. But you are a commander now, so you must learn that not all information comes with illustrations. I will not ask you to read anything difficult, unpopular, or boring. But…”

But…

“Expand your horizons, Kohime. Otherwise, you will become a nuisance to others.”

“Wh-why am I being lectured by a Shogun!?”

“I am merely stating the obvious, not lecturing you, you fool!”

Ah, there it is, thought Kasuya with an inward bitter smile.

Testament. I see. Mitsunari really did give her a decent partner. Because…

Sakon can be careless, but she has talent, so it’s good that Onitakemaru doesn’t just yell at her all the time.

Sakon had a breadth of talents, but she was limited by her own viewpoint. Onitakemaru also had a wide breadth of talents, but he rarely let them show due to his habit of scolding her. They drew out each other’s strongest points when they worked together.

Kasuya’s thoughts turned elsewhere while she watched those two begin arguing again.

Those two were defeated by…

The Mito Lord. Musashi’s 5th Special Duty Officer. The Reine des Garous’s daughter. And…

“Catching up to her is going to be difficult.”

“Eh? Catching up to who?”

“Obviously not you, Kohime. She is on Mitsunari’s level.”

“B-but the neighborhood kids were always jealous of my height, so she might mean that.”

“That would certainly be something,” said Kasuya with a smile.

This was nice. She had only met those two a few minutes ago, but Hashiba and the others had gathered some really nice people.

If she was being honest, being around the 10 Spears could be a little stifling. Especially with the original 8, which included her. They trusted each other, but they understood each other a little too well, which led them to feel too much responsibility for each other.

She had met Kani in Kantou and now she had met Sakon and Onitakemaru.

She was glad she had left the Shibata team’s territory for her training. And if possible…

I want to try battling them.

Their training would probably begin with that dragon inside the dream room. So…

“Okay, let’s-”

Before she could say “go”.

“Okay, I believe I shall test my skills in there!”

Ootani raised his right hand and walked up to the metal door.


Sakon had been about to do the same thing, so this threw her off.

Ootani Yoshitsugu was a data entity, just like Mitsunari.

But as a virus, he was apparently made for more offensive uses than Mitsunari. She wasn’t sure what exactly that entailed, but…

You sometimes see things about a lernen figur getting a virus. Is that what he does?

“Um, I have a question.” She was curious, so she tried asking. “Since this is a training camp and I expect we’ll be working together for a while, Ootani-san, there was something I wanted to ask you. Is that okay?”

Ootani turned around. So did Mitsunari.

“Hm.” Ootani crossed his arms. “It is true you are part of Mitsunari-kun’s team. And Kasuya-sama belongs with her as part of the 10 Spears, so it is true I am something of the odd one out here.”

“That is not true, Ootani-kun. You are the same model as me.”

“That is not necessary, Mitsunari-kun. I was made as your prototype, so I should be treated accordingly.” Ootani spread his arms. “And questions are a way of reaching a deeper understanding of each other. This means Sakon-sama wishes to understand me better. So what is it you wanted to ask me? I will answer to the best of my ability.”

Ohh, thought Sakon. She felt like she hadn’t had any normal conversations like this in a while. She also appreciated how he seemed to trust her. Well, so did Mitsunari, which made sense since she and Ootani were the same model.

So she decided to ask her question about his viral nature as politely as she could.

“Um, my question is about how you’re a virus.”

“Testament. What did you want to know about that?”

He kept a positive outlook.

Sakon could feel themselves reaching a deeper understanding already.

“Since you’re a virus, does that mean you spy on people’s divine mail, peep on people changing in their room, and steal people’s personal information?”


Kimee: “I seem to recall a virus rummaging through an important name inheritor’s underwear instead of doing his job the other day.”

Super Justice: “W-wait just a second! I was searching her house!”

AnG: “I know, I know. I know how tempting it is to make excuses like that, Tsugy.”

Super Justice: “Why are you two spying on our divine transmissions!?”

Kimee: “It’s okay when we do it.”

Super Justice: “I-I knew it! You’re using that absurd Technohexen logic again!”


Ootani realized Mitsunari was trying her best not to look at him.

“M-Mitsunari-kun. What is the meaning of this reaction!?”

“Nothing really. But when you were in the Nagaoka residence…”

“What in the world did he do?” asked Kasuya and Mitsunari beckoned her over.

The two of them walked to the end of the hallway and Mitsunari spent a dozen or so seconds explaining something with hand gestures and a diagram on the wall.

Eventually, they returned and Kasuya spoke with a smile.

“We’re all good now. She explained what really happened.”

“Sh-she did!? This horrific misunderstanding has finally been resolved!?”

“Testament. She told me you can’t help it because you’re a man.”

“That’s just making it worse!” he shouted before another voice interrupted.

“Hey,” said Onitakemaru from Sakon’s head. “Do that to us and I will erase you from the family register. Remember that.”

That carries a lot of weight coming from a Shogun!

But Sakon frowned, tilted her head, and turned toward Ootani.

“D-does that mean you are interested in Onitakemaru-san’s underwear?”

“It would certainly be something if I was!!”

“Calm down,” said Kasuya, still smiling. “Um, how about we head inside?”

“O-oh, right!” Finally, some help! concluded Ootani as he raised a hand toward the others. “If the Terrestrial Dragon and everything else in there are made of ether, then I should have an advantage seeing as I too am made of ether! I may even be able to infect them as a virus and communicate with them as a data entity!”

Ootani opened the door a crack.

“I may be able to solve this all on my own, so sit back and wait for the good news!”

He leaped feet-first through the crack.


Kasuya saw the door close.

It shut with a solid thud and silence returned to the hallway.

Mitsunari’s shoulders drooped.

“Ootani-kun was never the type to do that. Where did it all go wrong?”

Kimee: “That’s life, Mitsunari. People grow in any number of ways and not always in a good way. And once they’ve been corrupted, there is no going back.”

That didn’t seem like a helpful answer.

But someone raised their right hand: Sakon. She pointed at the metal door.

“Um, is there no way to know what’s going on in there? If something happens, shouldn’t we go help him even if he is a criminal?”

“Oh, that.” Mitsunari opened a lernen figur. “This is monitoring our status. You can see Ootani-kun’s here at the top.”

A blue bar stretched horizontally across the screen.

“Is that his health bar?”

“Testament. Although ‘ether level’ would be more accurate than health. Think of it like his total amount of fuel. When he is full, the bar is blue and reaches the right side of the screen. When he is nearly out, the bar is red and barely leaves the left side. It is currently blue and all the way to the right, so he is unharmed.”

Ootani’s bar suddenly reduced to a red sliver.

“Ahhhhhhh, Ootani-kun! Ootani-kun! What are you doing!?”

“That dropped fast. Did he get overkilled, but he has a special skill that prevents one-shot KOs?”

“Yeah, like a willpower skill or something.”

Kasuya and Sakon worked together to open the door.


The loud sound echoing through the night sky was of flesh being beaten.

In a clearing surrounded by forest, several enormous spears were jabbing into a giant by the light of four campfires burning the cardinal directions.

The giant swung its arms to strike and drive away the spears. The movement was somewhat bland compared to the speed and quantity of the spears.

But as far as winning was concerned, the giant had the advantage.

The spears raced through the air and clashed with the giant, but the giant was not taking much damage. The giant was colored black, had long limbs, and spoke toward the position the large spears seemed to be coming from.

“That isn’t going to cut it, Kani-kun! It won’t work! Not on me anyway!”

The giant took the flying spears head on, but they were noisily deflected.

“It simply won’t work! Not on Mori Nagayoshi’s Boneless Man!”

“I’m not done yet!” a voice shouted from among the launching spears.

Kani moved swiftly in an attempt to pierce an opening in Mori’s god of war.

She zigzagged on her way forward.

“I still haven’t shown you everything I can do!”


Mori saw Kani as a diligent person.

He wasn’t sure if she qualified as his generation or the generation after. Their debut battles were Novgorod and Odawara, which wasn’t much of a difference. Kani referred to him as “Mori-san”, which he liked a lot since almost no one other than Hashiba did that. That alone gets her a lot of points in my book. Or maybe I’m only now realizing how awful everyone in the Shibata Team is.

Since he was a tentacle and all, he had tried to avoid leaving a bad impression when he first met her. And he had worn a mask to hide the embarrassment on his face, but Fuwa…

“Mori, why are you wearing one of those rubber products?”

“It isn’t rubber! It’s wool!”

But when he had been introduced to Kani…

“Wow! You really do look like that, Mori-san! You look just like the stuff I see at Sakata-san’s offal shop three doors down! You look tender and like you’d cook up real good!”

He had left a good impression with her, although thinking back he wasn’t sure if it was the kind of impression he wanted.

“If we’re going with body parts sold as food, I would’ve said…well, you know,” Toshiie had commented.

The word you’re looking for is pizzle! I’m a knowledgeable tentacle. Eh heh.

But Fukushima had been acting odd for the supposed #1 of the Ten Spears.

She had stood behind Kani and given only monosyllabic responses to his greeting. There had been no life in her. He was so used to people recoiling that her lack of response filled him with a strange sort of disappointment. According to Kani…

“Fukushima-senpai is in a bit of a slump right now!”

He would just have to trust her on that one. Everyone hit a slump from time to time. Yes, even I get all sad and limp during the rainy season. And it doesn’t help that Sassa-senpai will so rudely claim I’ve “gone flaccid” and ask someone to lend me some porn. He has the whole idea wrong. A drooping tentacle isn’t the same as a flaccid one!

Anyway, Kani had arrived as Fukushima’s aide and she had never skipped a training session and asked everyone for any special training they would give her. Mori had to wonder if she was trying to make up for their #1’s slump.

This was part of that.

Night had already fallen. Even in summer, it grew dark once the sun set. Training by the light of campfires seemed meaningless since she couldn’t see his precise movements, but…

“––––!”

Kani did not give up.

And he was a tentacle. We tentacles love the darkness. Which makes me a tentacle pioneer for venturing out into the bright sunlight. Oh, but I shouldn’t call myself a pioneer. Why does that word sound so dirty? Pioneer. Reverse the syllables and you get ‘near oppai’. Oh, how indecent!

“Got you!”

Kani’s attack crashed right into his face.


I got him! thought Kani.

Before this, she had not landed a single effective blow.

She had been working to increase Sasamura’s precision and power ever since she arrived here.

That meant to make her aim better. That decreased the distance between the launch point and the hit point, which naturally increased the power of the blow.

First, she had fought an army of the dead summoned by Toshiie.

That had honestly been a ton of fun.

After all, the destroyed warriors had gathered together for a power boost. That gave her an opponent worthy of several spears as large as Sasamura.

And since they’re the dead, they were perfect for night training!

Once her training with them was complete, all those broken warriors had lined up and departed for heaven, which had been kind of moving. Toshiie had said they were mercenaries hired with money, but some of them had even waved goodbye to her.

That proved to her that you could build a friendship overnight.

She had started with some light combat, but that had gradually grown until she was fighting an entire battalion and she had to incorporate strategy into her fighting style.

Yesterday, they had set up tents within the trees of the forest to create a fake “town” they could fight in.

She had shown real results there, so…

“You’re ready to fight the real thing.”

She had been introduced to Mori.

At first glance, he looked like moving yakiniku. She had decided he would be tasty if cooked up, but she could not say that out loud in front of him. But she did conclude that someone so tasty-looking couldn’t be a bad person. But…

“Huh!? We’re doing a 1-on-1 battle now!?”

“Just try it, okay?” Toshiie, her coach, had said with a smile. And…

He was right!

She had discovered something once she tried it.

Horizon8B 651.png

“I got an attack in!”

That had to have been a direct hit to his face. But…

“That is not enough!” shouted Boneless Man while deflecting Sasamura and shooting out white exhaust. “That will not work on me, Kani-kun! Keep trying!”


Kani realized how insufficient she was, but she remained on the move.

She sharpened her aim as she ejected Sasamura, aiming for her opponent’s joints and the seams in his armor.

She was not targeting his vitals. Instead of stabbing him, she would stop him by targeting places that didn’t let him deflect the attack.

It’s the only way!

Her attacks did not work.

Until yesterday, her eight Sasamuras had shattered countless opponents and cleared a path for her, but they were no use at all today.

They were deflected, dodged, rendered useless.

She understood that Mori’s god of war was a mass of artificial muscles.

Instead of being solid, it was more like a tightly-packed bundle of muscle fibers covered in a sticky goo.

That made it bouncy and slippery, so Sasamura could not stab in and was deflected instead.

She had scored a few clean hits, but that was a god of war. A Sasamura attack could be blocked by the giant’s great strength, so it was only stopped for a brief moment.

She was honestly impressed.

“Incredible!”

This god of war had taught her where her limits were and helped her understand the reasons why.

She picked up on it faster than she might have thanks to all the fighting she had done recently.

She had fought Yoshiaki, Musashi’s Vice Chancellor, and the Reine des Garous. She had been no match for any of them. She always tried to do her best, but her best hadn’t been enough.

Her goal would require “doing her best” more than just a few times.

Doing her best was only a single step toward that goal.

Every time she did her best, she had taken another step forward.

She didn’t need any kind of reward for doing her best other than the fact that she had done so.

How long did she have to do her best? Until she had achieved her goal. It couldn’t be any simpler. Doing her best was like walking – it was only a means to an end.

She could not be satisfied with simply doing her best. She knew that because…

“My parents taught it to me!”

Her parents ran a greengrocer. They stocked and sold vegetables every day, but that was far from simple. They had to ask the village head what the local buying price was, do their own investigation, choose who to buy from, and then negotiate.

They had to work well into the night, but they also had to get up early. Watching them had been enough to know how much work it was, but she had once asked them why they did it all. And how long they were going to keep doing it.

Her father had rubbed her head and answered her.

“You’ll be the same as us once you know the answer to that.”

She had written that off as some grownup thing, but eventually she had found the answer. It happened when she started middle school. She had been given a brand new uniform and bag and her textbooks. That was when it hit her.

It was something anyone living in a shopping district would come to understand. None of those items had been free.

They cost money.

But where had that money come from?

What had people done to earn that money? And most importantly…

“Mom, dad!”

Once she returned from her first day of middle school, she had called out to her parents in front of their house.

“Raising me is a lot of work, isn’t it!?”

Her father had placed his hand on her head as usual.

“Of course it is.”

But…

“Life is always a lot of work. So you know what?”

“What!?”

“The work we do for you is just part of the work that we do every day from birth to the grave. But the work for you is different than all the other work. It makes for a nice change of pace and it’s a lot of fun. We pour a lot of work into you, but it doesn’t end with you. Don’t assume that what we do is only for you. Do you get what I mean?”

She did. But she wasn’t sure if she was supposed to. It felt like he was just spoiling her.

But she had made a decision then.

“I’ll do my best!”

Just like her parents had been doing their best without her knowledge.

“I’ll do my best!”

So they could be proud of her and she could be proud of herself.

So she gave everything her all. She might be unsure of herself, she might not understand something, and she might come to a stop, but she would do everything in her power to make that a part of her efforts.

She knew her parents, their parents, and so on had done the same for generations, so she had done her best to achieve her goals even when she was unsure or angry.

Every day was a new challenge to be overcome.

She saw that as the normal thing to do. As long as she refused to consider herself finished, she could always draw on the strength she needed. So…

“I’ll do my best!”

Kani made another attack. She had a target in mind.

The inside of the god of war’s left elbow!


Fuwa more felt than heard the sound.

A series of absurd impacts was followed by some unusually energetic comments from Mori: “Wait, no! Not there! Yes, there! Hit me harder there!” The nearby village was even sending complaints: “Um, Shibata-san’s place? Could you maybe keep it down?”

She had come here to pass on those complaints and because it would be dinnertime soon, but…

How can they do that when it’s so dark out?

Still, she didn’t want them to notice her approaching.

Kani was new, but she was a name inheritor. Her training was important and Fuwa wanted her to focus on it.

I hope she can improve herself every single day, thought Fuwa before she heard a voice from the side.

“Go for the left arm.”

“What are you doing here, Maeda?”

“Oh, I was just watching because this is quite fascinating, but hiding my presence is a real pain. I’m glad you’re here, Michi. Now I can just relax and watch.”

Maeda was seated below a tree and he flicked his right pointer finger toward the clearing.

“That’s the ticket, Kani-kun.”


Kani noticed something about Mori actions.

His left arm!

When he swung his right arm – either to attack or defend – he always bent his left arm to pull it back.

That was done to keep his balance, but he didn’t do the same with his right arm when swinging his left arm.

That seemed strange, but it had to be one of his idiosyncrasies.


“Do you see how Mori-kun is bending his right arm a bit? I doubt he even notices it himself.”

“I’ve been wondering. Why does he mimic human motions when there aren’t any bones in that thing?”

“Probably his environment.”

“That makes sense, but I didn’t actually expect an answer.”


Kani saw Mori’s god of war move both its arms.

Most likely, he was punching with the right and pulling back the left.

But the left arm’s movement was what mattered to her.

It told her his right arm was about to move, and…

He bends his elbow!

The inside of the bent elbow had to be perfect for stabbing with Sasamura. There was no armor and the gathered bundles of muscle fibers created a seam. So…

“There!”

Kani struck with Sasamura.


Mori failed to predict Kani’s attack.

The small girl seemed to sink into the darkness as she ducked down to dodge his right arm, but that much was the same as usual.

Her usual pattern was to send a spear toward his torso afterwards. She would eject one or more spears at close range to try and pierce the seam between the god of war’s stomach and chest.

But that did not work.

And with the light fading fast, this would be her last chance to attack. So Mori made a prediction.

She will attack somewhere other than my stomach!

He had previously proven to her that a blow to his face was ineffective. So that left…

The arms or legs!

There were a few different locations worth attacking, but she couldn’t deal with all of them the way she was fighting today.

So Mori expected her to go for his swung right arm or the left arm. As for his legs, he twisted his forward-stepping right leg at the knee to fill in all the gaps at the seams between artificial muscles.

He was ready.

She could not get any kind of attack into his joints or seams.

That would finalize his flawless victory today.

“Please make your move!”

He felt the need to be polite.

But he would still defeat her.

Kani had come to the Shibata Team to grow stronger.

What did it mean to be stronger?

Mori did not think of himself as strong. After all, I’m just a cute little tentacle. I have a daily skin care regimen to keep me all pink and smooth.

But there were things even he knew.

He had once lost himself in an impure lifestyle in a dark underground place. To be fair, I was forced into it. I can’t deny some of it felt good, but more importantly…well, that kind of thing is unhealthy.

But if he had not lived that life, what would he have thought of the blue sky once he was rescued?

If he had only lived in the humid rainforest, would he have seen that blue as no more than a color? Would he have seen the bright sun as no more than the reason it was so hot out?

But he hadn’t seen it that way.

He had lived a different life.

He could never return to that life of self-indulgence. He wanted to fall in love like a normal person and he wanted an ordinary life where he wouldn’t lose sight of who he really was.

That blue sky had been a turning point for him.

This girl had to have something similar in her past.

A memory that led to her current strength. Otherwise, she could never work so hard to do her best.

But, thought Mori.

That is why I must defeat her here!

Maybe nothing would ever surpass his memory of the blue sky. Maybe first impressions overpowered all else, even if they were bad.

But having them allowed you to make it across the second and third gap as well.

If she knew how to do her best, then she needed to know more than the taste of victory.

“…!”

Just as he decided to give her a taste of defeat, her final attack hit him.

It hit his left arm, but not one of the joints like the elbow.

“The hand!?”

A large spear struck down at his clenched left hand from above.


Kani’s attack confused Fuwa.

It had only lasted an instant, but she was used to seeing high-speed attacks thanks to Sassa, Shibata, and Oichi before Novgorod. Honestly, most other attacks paled in comparison to what she had seen Oichi do.

But here, Fuwa saw Kani’s spear strike the left hand of Mori’s god of war.

Huh?

“Why would she attack there?”

Meanwhile, Kani’s spear slid off and was deflected.

That’s what happens with Mori’s god of war, thought Fuwa, but Toshiie surprised her.

“She has the right idea.”

“Eh?”

In her confusion, she looked to the god of war’s left hand.

Kani’s attack had not pierced it.

But being struck and deflecting the spear had made him clench the fist harder.

And what happened when he gathered his strength there?

“Clenching the fist first makes it harder to tense the elbow. Tensing the elbow and then clenching the fist works fine, though. And if his hand is fixed in place, he can’t pull his elbow back to reduce the damage that way either.”

So what was she seeing here?

Fuwa watched as new spears were ejected.

Two additional spears were sent into Mori’s left hand.

And two were sent toward his left elbow.

All four spears struck.


Fuwa heard a single unified impact, not four individual ones.

That showed just how precise Kani’s attacks were.

But even with two spears sent to fix his hand in place and two sent to his elbow…

“Not one of them got in!”

And just before the four spears were deflected into the air…

“Can you raise your precision even further, Kani-kun?”

A sixth spear was ejected.

It was located between the two already sent to his elbow.

It flew into that gap where it would clearly be squeezed between them and have its course altered.

Sparks flew as the sixth spear passed between the leading two. The friction drained its speed, but Fuwa understood what Kani was doing here.

The first two are guiding it!?

That increased its precision. The first two had never been meant to do damage. They were guiderails to send the sixth spear right into the joint’s seam.

It followed those rails and scored a direct hit, producing a solid sound. But…

“That isn’t good enough!” announced Mori.

The two guide spears were blown away and Mori’s god of war pushed its tilted body forward.

Then the last two of the eight Sasamuras flew in.

One at Mori’s face.

That one was meant to stop Mori from continuing forward. And the other one…

It all comes down to precision!

Fuwa saw exactly what she had predicted.

The last spear was ejected from thin air so it would collide with the butt end of the spear that had been guided into his left elbow.

The guides had positioned the one spear against his elbow and this one would hit it from behind to jam it in.

Kani was not relying on just the one spear to pierce her opponent.

This was more like lining up a chisel with a guide and then driving it in with a hammer.

Perfect precision came together for a point-blank piercing attack.

“…!”

It hit.


The chisel strike sent a metallic noise echoing through the forest.

The leaves rustled and the forest’s slumbering birds took flight.

But two figures were facing each other at the source of that noise.

One was a girl down on one knee in the forest clearing, her upper body drooping forward.

The other was a god of war facing her from a short distance away.

The god of war was in a fighting stance, its left elbow deeply bent.

That arm was meant to be fully extended, but…

“Do you see now the beauty of my artificial muscles, Kani-kun?”

It grabbed its left fist with its right hand and made its left arm muscles swell out.

“In the art of bodybuilding, which has its roots in 11th century India, this pose is known as the side chest. And…”

Meanwhile, something fell between the two of them.

It was a spear.

It was a spear, but at the same time, it was two.

One spear had pierced the butt of another spear, splitting it about halfway through.

Then the god of war moved.

The flickering light of the four fires illuminated the motion.

Starting from the side chest pose, it faced straight forward and slowly rotated both arms upwards.

“––––”

That was enough to see its left elbow was not damaged. It was unscathed.

But it did give a fist pump and then spread its arms to the side.

“I win, Kani-kun.”

Kani responded by placing her hands on the ground and lowering her head.

“Thank you for your training!”

And as if pushed by her own voice, she collapsed backwards.

With her limbs spread out.

“I get it now!”

She lay on the ground with her arms spread as if to embrace the sky above.

Her voice sounded relaxed and there was clear relief on her face.

“My Sasamura doesn’t work on a name inheritor!”


Chapter 50: Girls Pushing Themselves to the Limit[edit]

Horizon8B 667.png

You cannot see it

You can see it coming

You cannot grab it

It comes to grab you

Point Allocation (The Next Stage)


Toshiie sighed in the woods while watching Fuwa go call the others to dinner.

Mori-kun is giving her some serious training.

He had gotten his lesson through to Kani.

Toshiie had started by having her fight his ghost warriors in order to teach her what victory felt like.

His ghost warriors were numerous and could strategize, but you could accurately calculate out how strong they were.

By defeating them, Kani had become aware that she was stronger than an entire group of ordinary warriors.

That had gone smoothly. She had cleared each new task he gave her and she had learned the lessons well.

But the problem was what came next.

Based on her results, she was not skilled enough to handle a Vice Chancellor class fighter or above.

That was to be expected. Someone at her level wasn’t supposed to stand a chance against them. Or stand a chance-ellor against them.

Oops, I don’t want to turn into Musashi’s Vice President.


Vice President: “By the way…oh, keep working, everyone. Anyway, when we arrived in Kantou the other day, I realized something. I just can’t-o stand that the Azuchi is in Kantou.”

Wise Sister: “Glance, glance.”

Me: “Okay! Okay, everyone! Seijun-kun is about to make us laugh!”

Vice President: “But I already finished my joke! Horizon, I don’t need you and the black algae as an audience!”


I need to be careful since her puns are devastating, thought Toshiie. I mean, they’re wide-area attacks just as powerful as curry.

It was up to him and the other upperclassmen to be on the lookout for those things since they had actual experience with them.

As for the underclassmen…

“They have their work cut out for them.”

Kani’s skill was likely equivalent to the other nations’ special duty officers. But it was possible she would need to face Vice Chancellor class fighters in a month or two.

The Honnouji Incident was approaching fast.

She was with Hashiba, so that was an important event for her. After the Battle of Yamazaki and Battle of Shizugatake, they had the showdown with Matsudaira at Sekigahara and the Siege of Osaka.

Of course, the Hashiba forces would have split between east and west by the time Sekigahara came along. He didn’t know how they would respond to that, but they could use as much skill as they could get during that major battle.

So.

Now that Kani had fought and lost to some Vice Chancellor and Chancellor class fighters, she needed to learn what it was she lacked.

The method was simple. First, she learned what victory felt like. She had to understand that she could normally win.

Then she would fight some Vice Chancellor and Chancellor class fighters and learn that she could still lose despite normally winning.

That process would teach her an important fact.

You are not weak.

Escaping a battle with a Vice Chancellor and Chancellor class fighter intact was enough of a feat. And her handling and precision with her eight spears was impressive.

“But you lack strength.”

It was a simple matter.

Sasamura was not sturdy enough and was not ejected with enough speed.

Sasamura was an anti-personnel weapon and had clearly only been designed for gods of war at the most. A multi-use weapon that could both protect the Fukushima Unit and tear through the enemy front line was a good thing for Fukushima’s aide.

But reality required more power than it was designed to provide. The Chancellors and Vice Chancellors that fought on their own were like one-person armies. An anti-personnel or anti-god of war weapon could not reach them.

Kani had to learn that.

But the only Chancellor or Vice Chancellor class fighter available in the Shibata Team was Shibata himself and he was not exactly the teacher type.

That was where Mori came in.

His Boneless Man was all muscle and a god of war. If Kani was told she had to pierce him with an attack to win, then his great defensive power would make him equivalent to a Vice Chancellor or Chancellor.

That plan had worked like a charm.

The way Kani stared at the spear lying before her told Toshiie she understood.

Not even the second strike that split the butt of the first spear had been enough. It was exactly the answer she had needed to find.

Sasamura was not sturdy enough to break through Mori’s muscle armor. Nor was it fast enough.

But her precision was excellent. So was her ingenuity.

I couldn’t have asked for a better result.

Her recent string of losses could mostly be blamed on her equipment.

After losing to the Musashi Vice Chancellor in Kantou, the on-site maintenance team had repaired Sasamura while trying to make the spears sturdier. That team must have noticed her solid combat skills and the deficiency in her weapon.

We do good work, thought Toshiie.

Even a lowly maintenance team had identified and attempted to fix a flaw in a nearly no-name fighter.

That meant they had entered summer break with an excellent sense of unity. So…

“I hope you can get everyone as strong as you need them, Hashiba-kun.”

“What’re you getting all sentimental about? You don’t even have Matsu with you this time.”

Sassa walked over from the village made of ships.


“Oh, Ma-chan is currently cooking in the dining hall. Since Oichi-sama is away. And since I have this work to attend to, she waits for me to get back,” said Toshiie. “What about you, Na-chan? Walking around in the dark with sunglasses makes me wonder if you hit your head one too many times, but are you here for Michi?”

Sassa pursed his lips.

“Trying to pick up the slack for Mr. Annoying while he isn’t around?”

“We are working as instructors, so we kind of are acting as Shibata-senpai’s replacement, Na-chan. Anyway, they’re being much too serious for my tastes out here. How are things on your end?”

Sassa turned both his palms upwards.

“Not good. It’s like that Fukushima girl’s soul has left her body. I mean, she’ll listen to me and she understands what I’m saying, but her heart isn’t in it.”

“It’s that bad?”

“She can handle the basics and adapt to the situation. To be honest, her movements are better than mine.”

“Only because you just like to charge in and attack. Run and punch are the only commands you accept.”

“Oh, shut up. When your attacks do major damage even when they just graze the enemy, what good are precise movements?”

“Fine, fine.” Toshiie held out his hands and changed the subject. “So how is she doing?”

“I expect you would diagnose her with ‘no drive to improve’ or something like that.”

“So she has decent skill, but she’s hit a roadblock?”

“How should I know!?”

“What are you yelling about now, idiot?” said Fuwa from the clearing.

They looked over to see her helping up Kani. She continued to support the weakly-smiling girl as she spoke.

“Hey, do either of you have anything to drink? She’s mildly dehydrated and what she has on hand isn’t enough.”

“Oh,” said Toshiie. “I’m a ghost, so…you know.”

“I don’t have anything either.”

“Fine then.” Fuwa gestured over the god of war. “Mori, carry her for me. …Kani? I know you can’t get up, but are you otherwise fine? Then stay like that. Now, anyway…” Fuwa stood up and glared over at Toshiie and Sassa. “There isn’t a single decent coach here, is there? I wonder how the other training camps are doing.”


Another training camp was battling a dragon.

They were inside a great subterranean hall, but they could not see the far end. Because…

“This is a dream!? Oh, dreams are so nice. I mean, I can’t imagine how much the rent on a room this big has to be! If I could create this with my dreams, I’d never wake up!”

“The dragon is coming, you fool!”

Sakon leaped over the horizontally sweeping dragon cannon in something like a Fosbury flop. But the Fosbury flop was not something she had learned in middle school. I just don’t like the straddle technique because it makes me feel like a frog.

So she made her jump, bent her back…

“Toh!”

…and cleared it.

After landing, she found the side of the dragon’s head 30m away.

The dragon was colored white. It glowed slightly, maybe because it was made of ether and maybe because this was a dream, but either way it was beautiful and Sakon decided Olimpia had to be a good person.

But at the moment, she had found an opening in the enemy’s defenses.

She dashed toward the side of its head.

With her strength and Onitakemaru’s support, the soles of her shoes dug into the cold stone floor.

“Oh?”

Her confusion came from the figure that burst out ahead of her.

She’s so fast!?

No, this wasn’t just fast.

The figure moved near instantly from one point to another. She had seen Musashi’s 5th Special Duty Officer do the same thing at Nördlingen.

“Bursts of speed!?”


Kasuya was briefly surprised to realize Sakon had caught up with her.

She can keep up at her normal sprinting speed?

Before arriving, Kasuya had been told Sakon’s physical abilities had been boosted just like the Holy Roman Emperor’s. She still had her sense of pain, but she did have the full regenerative ability. Plus…

She’s so tall.

Each step of hers was nearly twice the length of one of Kasuya’s steps. If she had the same muscular strength as an ordinary human except scaled up to her size, then she would be able to run twice as fast as an ordinary person.

Add the emperor’s strength and that mobile shell’s power assistance and she could likely reach speeds several times greater.

In that case, thought Kasuya.

This was their first time sharing the battlefield. They had nothing even resembling teamwork since they had not been trained for it. So…

“Let’s go all out, Shima Sakon!”

“Testament! Understood.”

They had to go all out. They might not understand how the other did things, but surely they could show results if they fought with all their might. So…

“I will go in first and knock it down!”

She made a burst of speed to the right and then made two bursts to the left. All to reach…

“The right foreleg!”

The Terrestrial Dragon’s right foreleg was digging into the floor in preparation for a dragon cannon blast.

All three claws were larger than Kasuya was tall, but…

Why should I care!?

She accelerated and jammed in Argent Clou in drill mode.


Sakon saw Kasuya’s attack knock the Terrestrial Dragon’s foreleg out from under it.

There was a thundering crash and the three claws were shattered by the impact.

Blood flew in an arc and the dragon roared from the severed nerves in the claws.

But the dragon’s foreleg was torn from the floor and the white-scaled leg was knocked outwards like its stopper had been lost.

A single attack had done all that. Sakon stared at the spectacle as she ran.

She’s so powerful!

When she had fought Musashi’s 5th Special Duty Officer, the girl’s speed had been a problem. But based on Kasuya’s attack here, Musashi’s 5th Special Duty Officer would be able to do this much as well.

Sakon realized it was only due to chance that the girl had stuck to sword strikes at Nördlingen.

She shuddered as she realized how that battle could have gone. I did ask some weird questions about a potter’s wheel, didn’t I?

Then again, even if she had used her full power and torn off my arm or something, it would have come back in 7 seconds or so. But imagining these things and experiencing that great power in person are so different psychologically.

Meanwhile, something else happened in the fight against the dragon.

The dragon’s head collapsed sideways, falling toward her.

With its right foreleg knocked outwards, the dragon was falling to the right.

“…!”

And it continued the dragon cannon even as it lost its balance. The blast gouged into the wall and tore a strip through the ceiling.

Rubble flew through the air and the sound echoed through the empty hall.

The dragon was collapsing.

Sakon decided to attack when the dragon hit the floor.

Once its face had fallen, she would hit it head-on with a high-volume voice pressure attack. That might shatter its face or at least briefly confuse its vision.

But that plan was immediately canceled.

“Kohime!”

Hearing Onitakemaru’s cry, she looked over to see a small figure.

Someone was running toward her from below the collapsing dragon.

“H-help me!”

It was red-gauge Ootani. He had shrunk to only about 15cm to maintain his existence here, but that meant he was slow and was clearly not going to escape the dragon press falling toward him.

Sakon wasn’t sure if she had time to rescue him.

“Kohime! Do you not see that!?”

“Wh-what do you mean ‘that’? Y-you need to be more specific.”

“I mean Ootani Yoshitsugu!!”

Oh, man, complained Sakon.

She couldn’t pretend she hadn’t noticed now that his full name had been used.

So she sped up. She already considered Onitakemaru’s power assistance to be a part of her standard strength.

That power assistance wasn’t to boost her strength – it was to keep her from harming herself. So she didn’t have to worry as she poured all of her strength to run in.

“Wait just a second!”

It only took her a moment to reach him. Her continuous straight-line running speed had to be even higher than Kasuya’s.

The trick was to use that speed to dive below the collapsing dragon.

“Mitsunari-sama, catch!”

She leaned and stepped forward in what amounted to a somersault more than a dash while she scooped Ootani up in her right hand.

“Here he comes!”

She threw Ootani between her legs.

Onitakemaru immediately yelled at her for it.

“Your aim is trash!”

Ootani slammed into the falling dragon and bounced down into the floor.


Ootani was prepared to be annihilated.

Th-that one hurt!

All the health he had recovered over time had been taken away. It would take him a few seconds to recover, but by then the dragon would have collapsed and crushed him.

Was this really how a name inheritor was going to go?

Still, he had lived a fulfilling, if short, life. He had been developed by Hashiba, the Mito Lord had used a table to score a home run with him during his first battle, Yoshiaki and Angie had sicced a cat on him, he had been blasted as a pervert at Nördlingen, and now his life was ending after being slammed against the ground by a horribly aimed pitch.

W-why can’t I think of even one good thing!?

He started to think maybe it was for the best if he was annihilated here, but he decided that would only bring trouble to Mitsunari.

But if he was to survive, how was he supposed to avoid this dragon press? That question was answered by…

“Sakon! Nice pass!”

A black wind leaped toward him.

It was Kasuya.

Her foot hit him with a heel kick during one of her bursts of speed.

Oh.

Now, I’m dead, he decided, feeling himself soar through the air.

That had extracted him from the dragon press. But in exchange…

Now Sakon-sama is in the way!

He could see Mitsunari rushing over, but he also saw the wolf’s decision.

She transformed the Argent Clous on both her arms. From drill mode to pile bunker mode.

“Take this!”

She did not escape from below the dragon.

She made a burst of speed straight toward Sakon.


Sakon twisted around in midair.

She had thrown Ootani between her legs, but by leaning to the side and leaping forward, she had managed to face the falling dragon like she was doing a Fosbury flop.

And Kasuya was approaching.

Is she going to do it!?

The wolf was leaping below the Terrestrial Dragon to strike it from below and knock it upwards.

Sakon honestly thought it would never work.

Plus, she was would be fine. If she was crushed below a dragon, she would turn to bloody smoke and start regenerating soon thereafter.

But Kasuya still intended to do this. And Sakon’s presence had to be a part of that.

In fact, Sakon’s presence was the entire reason Kasuya was doing this.

That meant Kasuya could only send the dragon back up because Sakon was here.

But how?

Onitakemaru: “Kohime!”

Onitakemaru shouted at her.

Onitakemaru: “You have nothing to protect here!”


Sakon inhaled.

That’s true.

There was not a single thing for her to protect here. She felt a little bad for her botched rescue of Ootani, but he was already out of harm’s way.

And now Kasuya was coming.

She knew what Sakon was, but she was doing this anyway.

Why is that?

Oh, realized Sakon. Is she protecting me here?

She wouldn’t die no matter how much she was hurt or how much someone tried to kill her, but there was still someone willing to rush to her aid, hoping she would be safe.

“Why?” she asked out loud.

Her question did not reach Kasuya. Not over the rubble smashed by a dragon cannon or the roaring wind.

But someone did respond.

Onitakemaru: “Don’t ask why! It’s the same as when you do it!”

Onitakemaru shouted at her.

Onitakemaru: “Don’t ask why other people do something when you do it too!”


Kasuya transformed her arms’ Argent Clous into drill launcher mode. Instead of just hitting with the drills, they would be launched into the dragon like a pile bunker. You could even call it a drill bunker.

Can I do this!?

She could.

She needed to keep herself on the floor to send the full force into her target.

But that also meant she would be exposed to the dragon’s full weight for a brief moment.

If she did this wrong, her skeleton would be overburdened and shatter or slip permanently out of place.

But she had one way of making this work.

Her bursts of speed.

In the very instant the attack hit the dragon, she would accelerate her entire body like it was a single spike.

She had to target a precise point.

Instead of taking the dragon’s full weight, she had to send the full impact of her strike into a single point. That would send the force of the impact to the rest of the dragon’s body, just like with a well-placed stomp sending a tremor through the ground.

She could see the timing she needed. So…

I just have to do it!

She prioritized her determination above all else, so she went for it. She took such solid steps her feet seemed to bounce from the floor and she let that force pass through her to help raise her twin weapons.

In that instant, she heard a voice. It came from Sakon who was falling over nearby.

“Attack!”


Mitsunari saw the double attack launch the dragon upwards.

It happened just as she caught Ootani while trying to keep tabs on the progress of the overall battle.

First, Sakon’s shout was converted into a solid blow that shook the falling beast.

Then Kasuya launched her drills like a pile bunker.

She hit it.

That was teamwork, thought Mitsunari.

If you thought of the dragon as equivalent to a large unit of warriors, then this was a cooperative defense against a large group.

Sakon had used her voice pressure attack as a counterattack against the enemy front line and then Kasuya had opened a hole in their defenses with Argent Clou.

Mitsunari could imagine exactly this kind of teamwork occurring on some future battlefield none of them had yet seen.

The dragon was thrown through the air, flipping onto its back.

Kasuya crouched low and Sakon controlled her stance as they emerged from behind it.

One used a burst of speed and the other great speed born of tremendous strength. They were both a black wind leaping across the stone floor, whipping up the wind, and continuing their attack on the dragon.


To those who primarily fought in close quarters, attack was prioritized above all else.

Even when they were focused on defense, it was only to wait until an opening for attack showed itself. Every move they made was meant to worship the concept of attack.

Kasuya demonstrated that faith here.

The previous attack had fully knocked the Terrestrial Dragon off balance. Now she only had to pursue it at high speed and use her momentum to strike at…

The left foreleg that’s facing me now that the dragon is on its back!

She started by smashing the unharmed left foreleg.

The blow deflected the three claws and sent a tremor through the wrist.

Now the dragon would be unable to get up again. Severing the nerves in all its foreleg claws was sure to cause intense pain. Now she could work with Sakon as she caught up.

“Here goes!”

She struck.

She made her attack before the dragon’s momentum from the previous attack had even faded, sending it back into the air.

The blow pierced through the dragon’s armor as pure speed and she felt it “push” on the dragon’s bones.

It was a solid blow.

Forced to fall back, the dragon roared. The roar was now more like pure noise than a voice. It only conveyed a vague sense of rage. Rolled on its side, it turned its stomach toward them and curled up defensively as it backed away.

Kasuya and Sakon only had to pursue.

Kasuya’s shoes dug into the stone floor and she attacked alongside Sakon. They slammed the dragon into the back wall. And…

“Let’s finish this!”

“Testament!”

A sudden shape dropped down in front of them.

The dragon had managed to twist its body back around and slammed its clawless right foreleg down as an attack.

Kasuya launched herself diagonally right with a burst of speed. Sakon accelerated diagonally left.

The great log of a leg crashed down between them, smashing the floor and sending out a spray of stone shards.

But none of it hit them. Now Kasuya only had to crouch down and launch herself forward.

“…!”

She accelerated.


Kasuya made a flurry of attacks. Instead of slamming her entire body against her foe, she pictured herself growing up out of the floor, using the ground’s support to leap upwards.

Every landed blow produced a sound.

These are solid hits, thought Kasuya. I can feel the dragon’s body bending and the force reaching its bones.

Then the dragon swung a foreleg her way.

She dodged that attack and moved forward. She struck as if trying to peel the entire foreleg from the floor.

But the dragon twisted its body. Since it could not use either foreleg, it moved as if crawling to get up and face her.

It launched a dragon cannon.

This one was swung across the floor instead of sweeping horizontally.

But the dragon was basically bending its head to the side to shoot her. The bend to its throat reduced the power of the cannon and limited the vertical angle of fire. Also…

“The recoil is lifting it from the ground!”

She rushed in.

She slipped below the white horizontal beam of the cannon, closing in on the dragon in no time at all.

She bent her knees and planted a foot firmly on the ground. She stomped hard, twisted her hips, and stretched her body upwards while launching her right drill.

It hit.

The dragon’s armor shattered and she sent in the left one for a second blow.

The dragon floated up and Sakon gave a yell after catching up on the left.

“…!”

The vocal cannon may have been similar to a dragon’s explosive pressure roar. It was a powerful attack that bent the dragon’s body and clearly tore it fully from the floor.

How strange.

The two of them stood at opposite sides of the dragon’s forelegs. They could not even make eye contact at the moment.

But they were working as a team. Their timing was a little off at times and it was far from perfect, but they each knew what the other was doing and did their own job accordingly.

This reminded Kasuya of two things.

The first was that night in Kantou.

She had been outmatched when fighting the Reine des Garous on her own, but once she was working with Kani, they achieved some limited results.

Kani was short and fought with high-speed multi-ejection spears.

Sakon here was tall and fought with her hands and voice.

Those two were entirely different types of fighters, but she was once again showing results.

How were they working together so well?

For close-range fighters like them, their primary goal was always the same: defeat your opponent. And…

These opponents are powerful.

They were big in size, strength, and everything else.

You didn’t have many options against an enemy like that.

Hiding was rendered meaningless, so you had to force your way through.

This was the same.

They would strike, evade, and continue forward. It was the stuff they had practiced constantly in training. Kasuya was reminded of something as she carried out actions she had done countless times before.

She remembered Mikawa three months ago.

At the time, the Ten Spears had been visiting different places under Hashiba’s command to build up their fundamentals. Kasuya had been fighting demons from Sviet Rus and the Ikko-shu with the Shibata Team.

But one night a divine transmission had arrived.

“Aren’t crises fun?” Matsudaira Motonobu had said during the destruction of Mikawa.

She had been furious at the time, thinking it was a foolish thing to say. She had thought he was causing all that chaos for no more than his own amusement.

But she had come to understand something since then.

When faced with a powerful enemy, extraordinary fear, and an overwhelming crisis, she and everyone else with power could come together.

She struck the dragon and continued onward.

Beyond the dragon’s destroyed forelegs, she knew Sakon would also be attacking even though they had only just met earlier. So…

We can work together.

Maybe they couldn’t prevail, but they could at least do that.

The group they had to stop – the people who were their raison d'être – had become a powerful enemy.

But this power should still work against Musashi!

With that thought, she delivered one more blow.

The dragon’s back crashed into the wall. The force of the impact caused it to slide along and bounce up into the wall.

Now was the time to finish it off.

Their enemy was pinned against the wall, so the force of their attacks would remain contained within that white body with nowhere to escape.

In that case, she thought, readying her right hand and giving her legs a burst of speed.

Just then, Mitsunari’s voice rang through the hall.

“The dragon’s tail!”


Sakon noticed it since she was to Kasuya’s left.

The dragon had been slammed against the wall with its belly toward them, but it could still swing its tail toward them by curling up.

That was exactly what it did.

The mass was more than a third of the dragon’s full length. It was like an armored whip that flew toward them with a water vapor explosion and a bursting noise trailing behind it.

That’s bad!

Kasuya wouldn’t have seen it with the dragon’s destroyed foreleg in the way.

That cover would delay Kasuya’s evasion.

Sakon had noticed, but what was she supposed to do about it?

Kohime: “Onitakemaru-san!”

Onitakemaru: “Your voice pressure attack isn’t enough to block this!”

She knew what else she could do. She left the dragon to Kasuya while she spread out her limbs in front of the incoming tail and opened her mouth.

Onitakemaru: “God, why don’t you question these decisions?”

But…

Onitakemaru: “I will activate my defense divine protections and shift to anti-shock power assist settings to support you as much as possible, so I hope you’re thankful!”

I am thankful. I really can feel myself smiling.

But don’t worry. I’ll make sure you aren’t hurt, Onitakemaru-san. So…

Kohime: “Here it comes!”


Sakon could see it.

Oh?

She didn’t just see it. She could see it.

The dragon’s tail was swinging in at such great speed she shouldn’t have been able to see the series of armor scales.

But she could see it.

She could see the shape of the armor, the seams between it, the trajectory of the tail, and the sharpness of the point.

Ohhhh?

What does this mean? she wondered. Is this what they call focus? But…

“Eh?”

She could no longer see it.

Like waking from a dream, everything sped back up and she could see the air of the dimly-lit hall more than the incoming tail.

It’s going to hit me!

She had been prepared for that, but the moment when she could see it had distracted her.

She was in position, but she could not avoid a direct hit.

“–––––!”

She gasped just as it collided with something right in front of her.

The entire tail burst.


All the armor was instantly blasted from the dragon’s long tail.

A piercing power was to blame.

Something had broken right through the tough armor scales, destroying them.

It had flown in at high speed and pierced the dragon’s power.

Then it flew off into the distance inside this great hall of manifested dreams.

Even after colliding with so much power, its speed remained and it sliced through the air to vanish into the distance.

Sakon identified the object that glowed with ether light.

Horizon8B 697.png

“An arrow?”

“Close, but no. That was a sword.”

A voice reached her from the hall’s entrance. A white and vermilion figure stood in front of the metal door.

She wore a shrine maiden inner suit and a straight sword at her hip.

“Ten Spears #6, Hirano Nagayasu, here to join the Mitsunari Team.” She shook her long hair. “Looks like I arrived just in time to defeat our first opponent.”

As if answering Hirano, Kasuya’s strike slammed the Terrestrial Dragon into the wall.

“…!”

The dragon roared and burst into light.


Kasuya looked to Hirano through the scattering ether light.

After exchanging a few words and lernen figurs with Mitsunari, she shook her black hair that looked nearly purple to turn toward Kasuya.

“Kasuya, was I intruding?”

“No, but what brings you here all of a sudden?”

“Well, I finished the Tsurugi Shrine’s initial setup, so I came here to help set up Aki as well. I’ll be moving back and forth between Aki and the Tsurugi Shrine for a while.”

“Does that mean…?”

“Yes.” Hirano smiled and nodded. “We have a date set for Honnouji.”


“Really, it’s been nonstop Genesis Project work for me lately. So much for getting an actual break over summer break, I guess.”

After seeing Kasuya gasp, Hirano looked elsewhere.

The ether light shards were spreading toward her like a cloud of cherry blossoms, but at the center of it…

That’s the one who tried to protect Kasuya.

Shima Sakon.

Hirano knew who she was and what she could do.

She was talented, but it mattered even more that she had tried to protect Kasuya just now. That was why Hirano had launched her sword to save her.

There was a new face among them, but…

“It feels like forever since I’ve spoken with any friends outside of work.”

She had last seen the others just before Novgorod, when she had given Fukushima and Kiyomasa their combat divine protections before they left for Kantou, but she worried she wasn’t conversing probably. She feared she stood out and now lived in a different world from the others. Also…

“Mitsunari.”

She had seen and spoken with Mitsunari a few times via divine transmission, but this was her first time actually meeting her.

Hirano had played a large role in her ether adjustments, and those for Ootani there in her arms.

It looked like Mitsunari was doing fine on her own and had even found people to work for her.

“I’m both happy and disappointed that you don’t need me anymore.”

“You do love looking after hopeless people, don’t you?”

“Personally, I would say it’s adorable people I like. But,” continued Hirano. “I would like to ask one thing. May I?”

“Testament. Go ahead.”

“Well, I heard Fukushima made a man out of Katagiri-kun by doing him from behind. What is that about?”

Mitsunari froze. After a moment, she looked up toward Hirano.

“Testament. If I had to explain it, I would say that Fukushima-sama gave Katagiri-sama a penetrative rite of passage from behind.”

“She wasn’t asking about the specific act! She was wondering what led to that situation!” said Kasuya.

That is true, but I’ll find figure it out eventually.

Hirano breathed a sigh of relief at receiving that reaction from her old friend.

“Hm, I’m not sure whether to be happy or disappointed.”

“You seem to be in a complicated situation here,” said Mitsunari. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” said Hirano with a dismissive wave.

She had come here because there were some things she wanted to ask about. She could indirectly discuss those things with Kasuya and Mitsunari. And if the truth was bad enough, they could accept it more easily if she was the one who asked about it.

Plus, there’s no point in visiting the Shibata Team without Shibata-senpai there and there’s no point in me going to Sanada after I went there to silence that Celestial Dragon!

She felt the sword arrow she had fired into Sanada had been one of her better shots.

Those dragons weren’t supposed to talk about those ruins or the Ten Spears, but they had decided to do so anyway.

The Sanada Celestial Dragons must have “approved of” Musashi’s princess and her companions. A dragon’s decision superseded any promise they had made with humans. They had not underestimated or feared the humans. They had simply stayed true to their pride as dragons.

That was why their ether had been so beautiful as it ascended into the sky afterwards.

Even Hirano had bowed and wished that they would be reborn as another good dragon.

She had been holed up at the Tsurugi Shrine ever since, but…

“Did Katagiri-kun undergo some psychological change that helped him grow up?”

“Um, Hirano? You should really wait until you can talk with him yourself.”

“Yes, I suppose so, but that’s the impression I got from the glimpses I’ve seen on the divine chat and such. Oh, and I know jumping to conclusions about things is a bad habit of mine.”

But…

“If he has grown up, that’s one less unreliable member of the Ten Spears. If only Koroku-chan wasn’t so levelheaded.”

“What’s so great about unreliable people?” asked Mitsunari. “They sound more like a liability to me.”

“Ho ho?” Hirano glared and pointed at Mitsunari. “How about this, Mitsunari? You are very functional and can do a great many things, can’t you?”

“Testament. I am designed to supervise many tasks both great and small, including combat command, flight control, and weapon management.”

“Then,” said Hirano. “Would you choose a partner who could do the exact same things?”

Mitsunari briefly looked up at the ceiling. She was probably thinking. And…

“A statistical outlook tells me human romance ignores all of that and focuses instead on relationship and psychological compatibility.”

“Then let’s say you have filtered your possibilities based on relationship and psychological compatibility and that leaves you with just two equal possibilities. And let’s say one of them has the same abilities as you and the other does not. Which one would you choose?”

She heard some comments of “Which would you choose?” and “Don’t ask me!” from Sakon and Onitakemaru behind her, but she kept her eyes on Mitsunari who was staring up at the ceiling. And eventually…

“Testament. I more or less understand what you are saying.” She looked Hirano in the eye. “Everyone would make a different selection there and the selection criteria you have prepared are based on your own unique standards. But I also know what I would choose as a program. Why should I even exist as a program if I need not use my functions?”

So…

“If I had to choose between another me and Ootani-kun, I have determined I would choose Ootani-kun.”

“Based on those criteria, I would also ask that you select me since I could make up for any deficiencies you have in defense or offense.”

The data entity duo made an excellent decision.

They had no emotions and Hirano had no way of knowing if they would ever understand the meaning of what they were saying here, but it still made her smile.

“I would do the same. Whatever my feelings for that person might be, I have the homemaking and Shinto skills my mother taught me and plenty more as well. I think I would enjoy my life more with a partner who let me use those skills than one who did not. And that person is sure to have plenty of skills I do not.”

“Hirano…I feel like you’re asking for too much there,” said Kasuya.

“L-look, marriage is difficult enough when you work for a shrine, so let me dream, okay?”

That about summed it up.

Regardless, they had defeated that dragon, so…

“How about we wake up the Pope Chancellor and clear this mission?”

Then they could take a break. She liked the sound of taking it easy here on Aki, but then she noticed something.

Huh?

The dragon she had shot had disappeared.

But something else remained: the floor below their feet, the walls around them, the air they breathed, and everything else.

“Why isn’t it all disappearing?”


Sakon heard a roar.

She also saw a few lights in the darkness down the hall.

But they were not meant for illumination.

Something was approaching from the unseen far end of the hall.

“M-more dragons!?”

They were coming this way. And based on the number of ether lights, there were three of them.

Their movements sped up with each roar and the tremor in the floor gradually grew stronger.

“O-oh, no. Wait, wait, Mitsunari!” Hirano placed her hands on Mitsunari’s shoulders. “Um, no one told me there would be a second course! What is happening!?”

“Testament. It would take too long to explain all the details, but Lady Olimpia fell asleep shortly before Nördlingen. She has been sleeping for more than 10 days now. Which means…”

“If there’s a dragon for each day, are you saying there are ten of them!?”

The roars echoed through the hall and Sakon realized what this meant. Even if they did defeat all the dragons here now…

“We can’t wake the pope without also defeating an additional dragon for each day it takes us?”

“Someone should think of a countermeasure before you get started. What are you people doing?”

“Exactly! Exactly right, Onitakemaru-san! For once I’m in complete agreement!”

But Kasuya raised her right hand.

“I can maybe manage one more, but I’m getting hungry.”

“And I didn’t think to bring multiple sword arrows.”

That settled it. Sakon agreed they should prepare weapons before continuing.

“Mitsunari-sama? What should we do?”

“Testament. “Mitsunari raised her right hand. “We should withdraw. But the training camp continues. I never imagined that would mean having the Holy Roman Emperor command us to slay dragons in order to save the pope.”

Sakon hurried to take up a protective position behind the others.

“Honestly…”

A long-distance dragon cannon struck the wall next to the metal door.

They passed right by that tremor as she spoke down to the others.

“I know it’s meant to prepare us for fighting Musashi, but this is a really wild training camp.”


Unno let the night breeze wash over her.

She had climbed onto the roof of Sanada Academy. It was the highest place around, giving it the best view.

I can even see the Azuchi and the Ariake from here.

Now that it was night, the massive structures reflected the moonlight and shined with their own lights, making them more visible than during the day.

She decided to watch the Azuchi leave from here.

But she was not alone on the rooftop.

“Are you worried too, Katou Kiyomasa?”

She spoke to Kiyomasa who wore a white track suit.

The girl was sitting on the east side of the rooftop and she looked back over her shoulder to answer.

“I wouldn’t say I’m worried. This is more like a duty. I need to tell my underclassmen what happened with the Azuchi.”

“Testament. You’re an excellent upperclassman. From what Mochizuki and the Terrestrial Dragons have told me, those sound like some unexpectedly passionate underclassmen. Training the underclassmen is one of my own tasks, but Sanada’s warriors are generally required to have some kind of productive side job. We don’t like the idea of someone whose livelihood is reliant on fighting, you see. …I always end up spoiling them.”

Nabeshima’s mechanical dragon was impressive enough that the Terrestrial Dragons were holding early morning meetings where they crossed their forelegs and wondered what to have her do with it next. The five Four Heavenly Kings of Ryuuzouji were also fascinating since they kept busy making prosthetics, support parts, and beds for the elderly Terrestrial Dragons. However…

“But keep in mind that Sanada is a little too idiosyncratic to be a good teacher. If you find anything they’ve learned in a weird way, make sure to correct it.”

“Testament. I will. But I must thank you for looking after us in so many ways.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Unno realized Kiyomasa was looking at her. “Shouldn’t you be watching the Azuchi?”

“Eh?” She didn’t seem to know what Unno meant, so she looked back to the Azuchi. “It hasn’t left yet. And I do think they will send me a message once they are leaving.”

“You think? I expected P.A. Oda to be more organized. I could have sworn they were when we were still there.”

“I used to think so too, but maybe they were always like this.”

Maybe they were.

She has a point.

When Unno had been with P.A. Oda, she had mostly thought of herself as one of the people who supported a powerful nation. In other words, she had held very strong pro-P.A. Oda views. She had felt like all of its strong points had applied to her as well.

I guess you call that love.

“To be oved is to be recognized,” was a common enough saying, but she felt like it was true. The problem was how a nation was a system and that system had cast her out in accordance with their rules instead of just betraying her.

What did you call a love that only went one way? A delusion, an illusion, a one-person performance. Oh, so it’s an artform.

But, thought Unno. If Kiyomasa was aware how unorganized P.A. Oda could be…

“You have a fairly detached view of P.A. Oda, don’t you?”

“Do I?” Kiyomasa tilted her head. “I feel like those in a position of authority experience firsthand how personnel arrangements and tasks don’t always work the way you want them to, so they must end up taking a more realistic view of things.”

“I would say you’re already in a position of authority yourself. I mean, that’s why we wanted to be the Seven Spears.”

So…

“Do you have another reason to take a realistic view?”

“Well, that has to do with our origins…”

“What are your origins?”

I’m asking a lot of questions here, realized Unno, but…

“I cannot tell you that because it would cause certain problems.”

Kiyomasa declined to answer, so Unno nodded.

“Sorry, shouldn’t have pried.”

“Don’t let it bother you,” said Kiyomasa, but Unno thought she saw a small light behind the girl.

Hm?

She thought it had to be coming from the Azuchi in the distance, but…

“Hey!”

A circle and a horizontal line glowed red behind Kiyomasa.

Unno had heard the rumors about that.

“The Double Border Crest!?”


Chapter 52: Chatters at a Set Distance[edit]

Horizon8B 709.png

Ohhh?

What’s that?

Yeah, it’s the Ariake

I knew that

Point Allocation (Drunk)


Unno saw a smile on Kiyomasa’s mouth with the red light of the Double Border Crest behind her.

But that was not a smile of happiness, self-deprecation, or bitterness.

Unno could only describe it was a daring smile.

But this was a pressing situation. The effects of the Double Border Crest were known in Sanada. It swallowed people up, vanishing them.

Unno had never visited it herself, but Matsudaira Nobuyasu’s laboratory was located deep in the ruins guarded by the Celestial Dragons. She had heard the Double Border Crest had once appeared there and taking Lord Nobuyasu away. After going to investigate, the current Sasuke and Saizou had said its shape remained there.

But what is it doing behind her!?

Puzzled, Unno opened a sign frame. As the shrine maiden of the Yamaga Shrine, she was technically Sanada’s Shinto representative. She didn’t know much about the Double Border Crest, but she knew it would take a spell field or defense spell to resist it.

She chose a few spells and started to activate them, but she saw Kiyomasa take action before she could.

The girl placed her raised index finger in front of her mouth.

It was an obvious shushing gesture.

Unno did not know what she should do, but she decided to obey Kiyoma’s instructions and stopped what she was doing.

She went silent, the standard choice for a ninja.

She crouched low and made sure she could spring to action at a moment’s notice, but she held her breath and waited. And…

“––––––”

The light behind Kiyomasa wavered. It tilted to the right as if searching for something, but then…

It disappeared?

The light scattered away, as if it were rolling up from right to left.

Finally, it fully vanished, like it had burned itself out.

Nothing at all remained.

But Unno did not dare resume breathing as she looked to Kiyomasa.

She saw Kiyomasa slowly exhale before clenching her fists near her hips and finally smiling over at Unno.

“Looks like it didn’t notice.”

“What was that? …Let me guess, you can’t tell me?”

“It appears to be extra sensitive at the moment, which makes sense given the location. This is dangerous with those kids down there, so I need to be more careful.”

Unno knew what Kiyomasa was trying to say. But…

That’s insane.

After all, she was implicitly saying the Double Border Crest was monitoring her.

And she had said it had some connection to this land.

What did that mean? Saying it out loud would likely get her caught.

Unno held her right palm out.

“Tell me to stop the instant things get too dangerous.”

“Testament. What do you want to know?”

“Testament,” she replied. “Do all of the Ten Spears have this…issue?”

“Eight of us. And our superiors know about it.”

That’s most of them, thought Unno. And I’ll bet it’s the eight that we fought.

But Unno had another question.

“Why did it appear here?”

“It’s just extra sensitive here. And, well…it is already summer break.”

That wasn’t much of an explanation. What did summer break have to do with it? Could they reveal their secrets at some point during the break?

But whether she was lying or not, it was clear she couldn’t say much about this topic.

“I thought there was more to your group than met the eye and it looks like I was right.”

“I hope this will help you understand what we are doing during the break.”

Just as Kiyomasa responded, Unno saw some light behind her.

Not again.

But this light was white, not red.

Kiyomasa checked her lernen figur and then turned around.

“Oh, the Azuchi is leaving.”


Terumasa felt the night breeze and heard a rumbling in the sky behind him.

He was on a transport ship en route to Mikawa.

After reporting on his progress during the day, the warriors had picked him up and thrown him into a wine barrel where he had passed out until earlier.

Once he woke up, he found they had used a portion of the deck to hold a carnival to celebrate the Azuchi’s repairs. But I was passed out for the whole thing. There’s a bunch of bones and dirty plates everywhere, but please tell me they didn’t eat all the food without me. Um, um, excuse me!

At any rate, it looked like the party had continued with its star unconscious.

So he had left on a ship to Mikawa to start on his work there as soon as possible.

But traveling to Mikawa now meant…

“I end up leading the way as the Azuchi returns to Kansai!”

He could see the Azuchi turning in the night sky behind his ship. The scale could be confusing with such a massive object, but it wasn’t actually moving yet. It was only turning its bow his way.

But even that gave the illusion that the front of the ship was going to reach him out here.

It was truly enormous. And…

Kuro-Take: “Okay, Ikeda-kun, your ship is going to lead the Azuchi until Mikawa. You think you can handle that?”

IT: “Um, Testament! You can count on me!”

Kuro-Take: “Of course, it’s night and we’ll be traveling past the coast, so I doubt any other nations will try to attack. But if they do, you should be able to detect them with…Osakabe-hime, is it?”

He now felt like he had placed himself in an extremely risky situation.

Then a white figure rolled out into the empty air from his neck hard point part.

Osakabe-hime quickly regained her ordinary form.

“Are we going to Shirasagi Castle-astle-astle-astle-astle-astle-astle?”

“After we go to Mikawa. My people are still repairing it, so it should have come together a lot more than when we left.”

“So it will be fixed-ixed-ixed-ixed-ixed?”

“More than it was before. I bet we’ll have the central ship afloat by the time the break ends. I learned a lot from repairing the Azuchi.”

“Then let’s go. To Mikawa-kawa-kawa.”

“Wait, you actually understood that?”

Osakabe-hime walked toward the bow and pointed far to the west.

“That feels weird-eird¬-eird-eird.”

Osakabe-hime was an aerial ship control system, so she could sense ley line currents and such, at least to an extent. Had she already sensed something odd at Mikawa?

“It’s pulling-ulling-ulling us forward-orward-orward.”

“Is it?”

“It is-is-is,” she replied, looking back at him with her hands on the bow’s edge.

“What will we do there-ere-ere-ere?”

“I’ll be checking over anything salvageable after the destruction of Mikawa…which you probably aren’t familiar with. And I’ll be checking for any classified information that might be left over. New Nagoya Castle was something of a black box after all. Also…”

He crossed his arms and gestured behind him with his chin.

Multiple rows of long barrels were set up on the deck.

They were connected to a metal and wood base and installed with torii-style lernen figur devices.

“Know what those are?”

“Souls-ouls-ouls-ouls?”

Thought you might, he thought.

“Correct. You were probably created in one of these.” He gestured again at the devices lined up behind him. “We’ll be using these to salvage automaton ‘souls’. Feeling nostalgic?”


Terumasa saw Osakabe-hime approach him.

She walked right past him and approached the devices behind him. These extraction devices had taken the form of long barrels in order to reduce their weight and complexity, but some would have ether tuning containers and the top-of-the-line extractors were made of glass so you could see inside them.

Osakabe-hime tapped at one of the 2m-tall barrels several times.

“Empty-ty-ty-ty.”

“They don’t even have the extraction Orei Nero in them yet.”

“Are they for Mikawa-kawa-kawa? Are the souls there-ere-ere?”

“Probably, yeah.” Will she even understand this? Terumasa wondered while she looked at him. “The idea is simple. Mikawa was destroyed by a massive ether explosion. Anything caught in that blast would have had its mold destroyed, causing it to scatter.” He returned her gaze. “But even if the mold is destroyed and the object itself is annihilated, if it was created from an ether fluctuation, its composite parts will ultimately return to the ley lines. And the ley lines don’t flatten everything out right away. Mikawa’s ley lines still haven’t stabilized because they want to annihilate everything and get it all under control, but the heat…is that really the right word? Well, the ‘whatever’ it had while they still had molds has become idiosyncrasies in the ley lines which are fighting back and refusing to disappear. That’s what’s causing all the mysterious phenomena around there.”

And…

“There’s some pain-in-the-rear beings there.”

“What are they-ey-ey-ey?” asked Osakabe-hime.

Terumasa pointed at her.

“Beings like you. Automatons and the like have relatively little cohesion between their soul and their body.”

An automaton’s body and soul were separate things. That was true for humans as well, but the two were far more divisible with automatons. And an automaton’s soul was unique.

“Their souls are a lot like a Tsukumogami. The ley lines gradually gather in the mold for their soul until a soul finally forms. We call the thing the soul resides in their ‘core’, but the gathered soul itself refuses to go away even if the core or mold is destroyed. It wanders in search of a new home while it gradually fades away.”

So…

“Mikawa should be full of fading automaton souls that have lost their core and mold but are still wandering around. There might be some that remain fully intact after having their core or entire body blown away in the blast, or some might have protected their core with a defensive divine protection. If we can salvage any of those, then Mikawa’s automatons can start working for P.A. Oda. And if they still have any of their memories, we might be able to dig up some secret information about what was going on inside New Nagoya Castle at the time. …So as you can see, the automaton souls are pretty important.”

“No people-eople-eople?”

“For people, it depends on their regrets.” He tilted his head at her. “Do you actually understand what I’m talking about here?”

“I will remember it-it-it-it. I can check it later-ater-ater.”

Oh, thought Terumasa. That’s right. Her memory storage and format are based on the Shirasagi Castle. When she learns a new piece of data, she gives it a priority, stores it, and waits until she can understand it. Then it changes from “data” to “knowledge”.

“In that case,” he said. “There are rare cases of someone having their soul sent inside an automaton body, but their soul is only residing in the automaton’s mold. Without that, it would disappear pretty quickly. Well, unless it had fused with the automaton’s soul, I guess.”

Didn’t they try to disintegrate that automaton princess at the Battle of Mikawa? It’s true a human soul couldn’t survive that process. I bet even an automaton would need some regrets to retake their original form after that.

But the disintegration field would at least need both poles.

In that sense, simple annihilation is more efficient, since it can cause largescale destruction with just the one pole, thought Terumasa with a hand on his chin.

Wait. Was that a really engineer-y thing to think?

Annihilation, reformatting by overwriting everything with a powerful mold, and other salvage theories were the foundation of his ether repair techniques.

Anyone who had studied religion and ether techniques would be able to understand and come up with these ideas. An expert at repairs would naturally be an expert at understanding and combatting destruction.

“My repairs should be so much easier once Osakabe-hime understands all this.”

“I will learn-earn-earn-earn.”

Glad to hear it, he thought.

“…!?”

Osakabe-hime suddenly looked to the north.

Terumasa could only see the night sky, but he knew what was there: The Musashi. No, in this case…

“The Ariake. …Is the Musashi leaving!?”


Koroku stood out on the Azuchi’s starboard deck with the Genbu.

Being out in the open would make her visible to the Ariake, but she had decided they needed defenses beyond their defense barrier in case a high-speed attack flew in.

She had to make sure they were fine no matter what might happen. With Fukushima and Kiyomasa gone, she was the only one capable of fighting on that level.

Well, Yoshiaki and Angie are out too, I guess.

Angie had been out on patrol, but now she was up in the sky to the Azuchi’s starboard side. Yoshiaki had been woken up to head back out to join Angie. And Koroku could just imagine Yoshiaki calmly complaining about it.

Koroku faced forward to see a massive white shape on her lernen figur.

That was the Ariake.

It was even larger than the Musashi, so simple movement caused a largescale atmospheric disturbance, surrounding it with foggy white clouds.

She viewed it using the assistance of the Azuchi’s image processing.

The combat records said it was only equipped for defense. In a battle, it would focus on largescale defense barriers and activating its stealth mode.

But the Musashi was another story.

The Musashi would have sent out god of war snipers as mobile gun emplacements and opening the upper armor would allow the Musashi to fire while using the Ariake’s side armor for cover. Also…

Satomi and Mogami are down below.

The Azuchi was traveling west from the southern end of the Bousou Peninsula. That would mean exposing their lower starboard side to Satomi.

How far along were the repairs to Satomi Yoshiyasu and Masaki Tokishige’s gods of war?

And Mogami’s Yamagata Castle had to still have its cannons aimed their way.

“What a pain.”

They had no idea when an attack might begin. Koroku had brought the Genbu to the starboard deck to defend against the Musashi, but it may have been better to board a transport ship and move below the Azuchi.

She was uncertain, but…

Kuro-Take: “The Azuchi will continue west in normal cruising mode. Ikeda’s ship is searching for enemies out ahead, so we should be able to follow along at his pace.”

Meanwhile, the Azuchi approached the end of its turn.

Even with gravitational control, a ship that size took some time to stop turning. So…

Azuchi: “We will begin forward as we turn. I have determined that should make it more difficult to hit us for a potential attacker below. Over.”

The Azuchi started forward.

Koroku kept a cautious eye on their surroundings while she nodded.

“Farewell, Kantou.”


The Azuchi was on the move.

Spray splashed from its virtual ocean and it left a trail of mist in the summer night. Its great size pushed at the wind, creating a roar of pressure. The points of its armor glowed with St. Elmo’s fire and the Tsirhc students crossed themselves.

The Azuchi took its final flight path while it flew forward.

It felt like the ship’s trajectory had drifted about 200m northward so it had to be corrected westward.

And it flew.

The people up on the deck, in the dining hall, and in the corridors spoke quietly and cautiously.

They were moving again after 10 days of nothing. In the dining hall, people raised their hurriedly prepared wooden mugs of alcohol and their glasses of nonalcoholic arak.

“Can’t really blame them.”

“Testament. We really can’t.”

“Our castle is finally on the move again.”

They had lost a battle here. They had collected all their people and towed in all their transport ships, so now the Azuchi was flying into the west.

Up on the deck, everyone clapped their hands together, leaned over the edge, and viewed the sky, earth, and sea.

Everything was moonlit shades of bluish-black with the occasional collection of lights. They faced Kantou, which was only visible as a coastline and bright towns.

“This is goodbye.”

“Goodbye, Kantou. Goodbye Satomi, Musashi, and all the rest.”

“Yeah, goodbye. I honestly liked all those Satomi people.”

“So did I,” someone said. “This place feels like the middle of nowhere compared to Osaka or Kyou, but that’s why even the kids went home and helped out their family after school.”

“Between work, meals, and getting to bed, their families were always so busy from morning to night.”

“Yeah, it was a nice place.”

“In that case,” said a deep voice coming form the first of the transport ships being towed.

A demon with a prosthetic arm stood in the moonlight there.

“General Kuki.”

They all raised their voices and Kuki raised his wooden mug.

“A toast, everyone.”

“To what? Our health? Our eventual victory? Or to peace and love?” asked Magoichi seated next to him.

“To the advancement of history, Suzuki-kun,” replied Kuki. “Historically, this was something only we could do.”

And…

“A toast to say goodbye!”


“Goodbye,” said Konishi, listening to Kuki from the starboard ships being towed. “Goodbye, Kantou.”

But she had more to say.

“I doubt I’ll be back until after the Genesis Project.”

She laughed and downed her drink.

“We will end everything but not let it end. Of course, I’ll probably have to do Sekigahara before that. I might end up executed along with that Ankokuji guy.”

“Don’t say that,” said a nearby girl. “We love how you treat us to meals when we lose a battle!”

“You make it sound like you never get anything to eat.” Konishi smiled bitterly. And, “Besides, the next one treating you will be Kuki-kun, not me. You’ll have the perfect justification to take him for all he’s worth.”

Before she could say anything more, Konishi noted an oddity in the northern sky.

Huh?

The Ariake was there, surrounded by white fog.

The Musashi was supposed to be leaving there soon. Supposed to be.

But it wasn’t. The Ariake blew the white fog away as it moved on its own. In other words…

“Hey, quiet down, all of you!”

The Ariake was flying south. It was accelerating with the Musashi still inside it.

“The Ariake’s headed this way!”


Yoshiaki and Angie made their decision in a split second.

As soon as waves of fog rose from the Ariake’s east and west sides, they concluded it was moving south.

But why?

Yoshiaki set her questions aside and took action. She first switched Weiss Fürstin to its acceleration-focused normal mode.

“Angie!”

“Got it!”

Angie had made the same decision. But Yoshiaki didn’t even confirm that. She trusted it to be the case as she soared toward the northern sky.

Her acceleration seemed to throw her forward as she rapidly shifted up gears.

Their destination was the Ariake high in the northern sky.

It was about 150km away. That might seem like a lot, but break the sound barrier and it was just over a 6 minute trip. And they would arrive even sooner since the Ariake was traveling south.

We need to hurry.

This was not just a scouting trip. They were either doing some aggressive recon or sending a warning. The enemy might even be attacking, so they had to make the first strike.

Fine, then, thought Yoshiaki. She was prepared to do what it took and either preventing or starting a full-on battle here felt like a decent job for a Techno Hexen.

First, they had to figure out what was going on here, so she accelerated further.

“Angie!”

She shouted the Schwarz Hexen’s name and immediately saw a black shape dive down below her.

That was Angie. She was flying upside down without even looking Yoshiaki’s way. Past her Schale Besen, Schwarz Fürstin, she was staring intently to the north.

But she did do something else. Angie spread her arms, just like Yoshiaki did. And…

“Weiss Fürstin, Schwarz Fürstin. Enter combined form.”

Their Schale Besens split into left and right halves.

Weiss Fürstin and Schwarz Fürstin were both just a collection of gravitational thruster panels held together with gravitational control. They were weapons designed to accelerate but also to transform for whatever task they might face.

Presently, they came apart like two towers they held in their hands.

The rest was simple.

“Hold still, Angie.”

“Don’t tense up, Kime-chan.”

Yoshiaki could feel herself smiling as they embraced each other with their acceleration towers in hand.

Once their arms intersected, the twin thruster towers also intersected and rapidly exchanged data. Once the embrace was complete, the towers in their hands recombined.

“Nh.”

To secure them, gravity latches attached to the back of her Techno Hexen outfit’s hard point parts – both shoulders, both sides, and both hips. Then the front of those hard point parts attached to Angie’s.

“Are you ready, Kime-chan?”

“Whenever you are, Angie.”

A Magie Figur displayed the progress of the combination in illustrated form, showing them entering high-speed flight mode. From there, their power systems combined and they blasted their way through the air resistance.

“Okay.”

The nose of the craft fixed into place over their heads, using what had originally been the broom handles. All of the parts were fixed in place by gravitational control and they gave a light flap to confirm it was all solid.

Several metallic noises rang out.

Ether light scattered through the sky to indicate the combination was complete. So…

“Zwei Fürstin – combination complete!”

The acceleration seemed to kick them forward as they rapidly closed in on the Ariake.


Angie provided assistance while embracing Yoshiaki.

Several Magie Figurs had opened about 5cm in front of her eyes. They provided information on power output, form control, and secondary weapon power control.

My focus won’t last if we keep this up for too long.

She used the movement and intensity of her gaze to operate the Magie Figurs.

She noticed an ether reading on the enemy scanner.

“Is that the Ariake?” asked Yoshiaki without even looking Angie’s way.

Angie shook her head with her chin pressed into Yoshiaki’s chest. Ohh, my chin is completely buried, she thought.

“If that ether reading isn’t the Ariake, then it must be them,” said Yoshiaki with a bitter smile.

“Testament. They’re coming too.”

The Magie Figur showed a line traveling south with nearly the same speed as them.

That was not a projectile. And it technically wasn’t a single craft either. They knew exactly what was accelerating rapidly toward them.

“Zwei Fräulein’s combined form is heading straight for us!”


Their opponent was approaching fast.

Angie felt an intense heat rising from near her collarbones to her cheeks.

Wow.

“Isn’t this exciting, Kime-chan!?”

“It is. Last time, we passed them in something like a surprise attack and we won with ease. But,” she added while viewing the Magie Figurs displayed in front of her own eyes. “Their acceleration here is absurd. Those are supposed to be the same Schale Besens as at Novgorod, but they’re nearly matching our speed.”

How did they manage that? wondered Angie, but at the same time…

“What does it matter, Kime-chan?”

After all…

“What happened at Novgorod must have motivated them to do this.”

“You’re right.” Yoshiaki let out a breath that could have been a sigh or a laugh. “Why did we have to make this even harder for ourselves?”

A few different Magie Figurs glowed in front of Yoshiaki’s eyes. And while embracing Angie, she grabbed Weiss Fürstin behind Angie’s back to operate it like she was playing a string instrument.

“Let’s do this.”

They accelerated. If their opponent was matching their speed, they just had to show they could fly even faster.

“Let’s do this!”


Wow, that is nasty!

That was Naito’s assessment while operating Zwei Fräulein in high acceleration form.

They were already at the top speed of their combined form, which had them well past the top speed Zwei Fräulein was designed for.

“Margot!” shouted Naruze, opening a Magie Figur over Naito’s shoulder and redrawing its contents with her pen.

“I can handle it!”

She appreciated Naruze’s assistance, so it put a smile on her lips.

“Then let’s take it even further!”

Their acceleration was already pushing well past its limit.

They had prepared a ridiculous amount of acceleration Technomagie charms which were being poured into Schwarz Fräulein and Weiss Fräulein’s thrusters.

Weiss Fräulein used cumulative acceleration and Schwarz Fräulein used repulsion acceleration.

They had prepared tons of both type and were sending them straight from the carton into the thrusters’ fuel systems.

Instead of a standard carton, they were using ammo magazines attached to their hips. The guidelines drawn out by Naruze accurately sent the charms into the fuel systems.

Of course, they had been forced to hastily make these modifications after the Schale Besens were summoned, so the craftmanship wasn’t perfect. But Naomasa had looked over their plans and made an attachment to help keep it all airtight for them.

“If we break them like this and Edel Brocken finds out, they might take them away,” said Naito.

“Knowing Edel Brocken, they’ll be ecstatic and demand we send them all the data on it,” replied Naruze, still working her pen behind Naito’s back.

She was drawing out the acceleration spell guidelines and a full picture of Zwei Fräulein’s combined form.

The latter was especially important right now. That picture was made from her Weiss Hexen guidelines, which were transferred from the Magie Figur to Zwei Fräulein itself, strengthening the entire craft.

It felt a lot like making Zwei Fräulein stick together better. That may have been because the guidelines connected and strengthened all the components.

But the way she was working her hands really tickled Naito’s wings. Naito looked back to see if she was doing it on purpose, but…

“Margot! We’ve entered their ether detection range!”

You’re super focused, Ga-chan.

Yeah, sorry. I’m super sorry I got a little turned on there. I guess supersonic sex isn’t really a thing, huh? Yeah, I guess not. So…

“Time to push our acceleration way past the limit!”


Takenaka realized the Technohexen had set up a challenge for each other.

She walked out onto the roof of the bridge on the Azuchi’s rear central ship where she could see their acceleration lights like two stars to the north.

She could see Zwei Fürstin flying away and Musashi’s Technohexen approaching.

They both consider this the front line, don’t they?

Her ether detection lernen figur told her both sides had taken a direct collision course. It was unclear which side had started it, but they had set up a game of chicken here.

The Boy: “Takenaka-sama, what is this?”

Kuro-Take: “Testament. They are daring each other to cross the front line.”

The rules were simple.

Kuro-Take: “They both form the front line for the Azuchi and the Musashi. They act as the boundary to each side’s airspace. But if they keep this up, they will collide.”

The Boy: “So one or the other will break away?”

Kuro-Take: “Correct. If they break away and turn back, that will determine where the front line lies. If the other one does not break away and keeps going, they will have crossed that front line, so pursuing them becomes fair game.”

“Then,” said Katagiri.

The Boy: “Would it be best to have Yoshiaki-san and Wakisaka-san break away and turn back at some point and then lure the enemy in?”

6: “Not an option.”

Koroku’s sudden comment made Takenaka smile bitterly. The girl understood this well. Because…

6: “If we let them fly in, they’ll make an attack run on the Azuchi. And…”

And…

6: “Breaking away and turning back would count as ‘running away’. We aren’t allowed to do that. And the Technohexen would refuse to do it regardless.”

“That’s right,” agreed Takenaka. The rest was simple enough. “This is a challenge, so let’s see what Musashi chooses. Will they lure us in and pretend to open up the front line, or will they keep going and make an attack? Got that, you two?”

Just then, a message came in from one of the towed transport ships.

Koniko: “Okay! Which’ll it be, everyone!? I’m good and drunk now, so it’s gambling time! Who turns tail and runs first: our Technohexen or Musashi’s Technohexen!?”

Their people were proving quite resilient after their loss.


Yoshiaki accelerated.

She could now see their opponent’s acceleration lights out ahead.

The lights shining from their backs left an afterimage behind them that resembled scattering feathers.

Those are spell charms.

Yoshiaki mostly understood how they had managed this new level of acceleration. They were using spell charms to externally boost their Schale Besen’s acceleration.

Not bad.

Managing that at such high speeds required an impressive understanding of their brooms. Not to mention an understanding of each broom’s pros and cons. However…

“Kime-chan, I think we might be in trouble!”

Angie’s concerns were explained by the Magie Figur in front of Yoshiaki’s eyes.

The two sides were getting closer.

Their Zwei Fürstin was using gravitational acceleration to fly. By altering the direction of gravity, they could force themselves through perpendicular trajectory changes.

But their opponent’s Schale Besens flew using repulsion acceleration and cumulative acceleration. That prevented them from making 90-degree turns, so they would have to take a large curve instead.

So if one of them was going to break off and turn back, the other side had to make that decision earlier.

If they waited until the last second, then their large curve would end up crossing the Azuchi’s front line.

That meant they had to do it sooner. They would have to break off and thus run away. So…

Our victory is assured!

But for some reason, Yoshiaki felt an odd uneasiness inside her.

“That’s right.”

She had learned all too well at the Siege of Odawara that you could never predict what Musashi was going to do.

So she opened a telescope spell to get a closer look at their movements. For now, she would leave the decision in their hands. She and Angie only had to do one thing.

“…!”

Accelerate.


Naito knew they were about to cross the point of no return on this collision course.

If possible, she honestly wanted to break away safely and not engage in a battle. There would be a lot of discussion about whether that meant the other side won or lost or whatever, but…

It’s better than colliding and getting us all killed, right?

They would all understand that much, so she knew they would all break away if things got too dangerous. That helped her relax about the whole thing. But…

“What’s up, Ga-chan? You keep glancing over at my face.”

“Well, it’s been a while since I’ve seen you this close up, so I’m drawing you. Oh, don’t worry about the reinforcements for the acceleration and everything. I drew up a bunch of those in advance.” Naruze smiled. “Anyway, Margot, I’m having trouble drawing with the restriction on my wrists. Could you raise your arms a bit for me?”

“Um, Ga-chan? This is kind of a crucial moment. Crucial in the ‘we could die’ kind of way.”

Naruze frowned at that and then pouted her lips.

“Oh, c’mon. It seems fine to me.”


Yoshiaki saw her opponent’s determination.

The telescope spell showed them in their combined form as well. The Schwarz Hexen piloting it had removed her hands from the controls to lift her arms over her head.

W-wait.

“Are they suicidal!?” shouted Angie from down by Yoshiaki’s chest after seeing the same thing. “They’ve let go of the controls!!”

A collision was unavoidable now. And…

“They’ve crossed their point of no return, Kime-chan!”


Chapter 53: Advertisers in the Right-Angle Sky[edit]

Horizon8B 739.png

This is

Another result

I really didn’t want

Point Allocation (Collision)


Angie followed Yoshiaki’s decision.

They separated their brooms.

That decision was made in a split second, so the following course change also had to be instantaneous.

Their opponent was flying with their hands off the controls. And at reckless speed too. Or to sum it up…

Are you crazy!?

Angie separated just as Yoshiaki angled her broom to the west. It was a little rude, but they kicked off each other to rapidly move apart.

They split up.

Angie flew east and Yoshiaki west. At the moment of separation, almost all of their thrusters were pointed away from each other’s heading. Flying with gravitational control allowed them to forcibly break free of their momentum.

“Here goes!”

Angie took a nearly 90-degree turn.

She pressed her entire body against Schwarz Fürstin and let it carry her like a ball bouncing off a wall. And after that…

Fly!

She let the bouncing momentum carry her.


I bounced!

That was how Yoshiaki interpreted her heading.

The maneuver had worked out well. Her thrusters were attempting to push her Schale Besen forward. That was something of a problem, but her poor attempt at breaking free caused the tail end to drift forward instead.

To prevent that from getting worse, she adjusted her position to let the momentum pass through the front of the broom instead.

What did they do!?

Musashi’s Technohexen must have passed the point of no return by now, so they must have overshot the front line created by Yoshiaki and Angie.

That would mean Musashi had violated Azuchi’s inviolable airspace.

Politically, that was a bargaining chip. Martially, it gave them a reason to attack. Either way, she and Angie had set up a situation that worked against Musashi.

That was a job well done for them, so Yoshiaki checked on the Azuchi’s position and the Musashi Technohexen’s course while she flew westward. She used the ether sensor Magie Figur in front of her eyes.

“…Eh?”

She found a Schwarz Hexen flying alongside her to the north.

Is that Angie? she wondered, but no. This Schwarz Hexen had golden hair and wings, which could only mean one thing.

“Musashi’s Schwarz Hexen!?”


Angie saw the Weiss Hexen flying alongside her at a distance of 30m. No, 25, 20, 18 – she was skidding closer through the air.

How is she so fast!? And how did she make that turn!?

She and Yoshiaki had blown past those two at Novgorod.

And those two didn’t fly using gravitational control.

Yet now they were keeping up.

No, she could see the Weiss Hexen’s Schale Besen vibrating wildly and occasionally bouncing through the air. She barely had it under control, so it was more like forcing the broom along than actually controlling it.

But she had still made up for her failure at Novgorod.

“But how?”

The speed Angie could understand. The Weiss Hexen had thrown in a bunch of acceleration spell charms. Enough that it could burn out the acceleration engine and make the entire broom explode if she wasn’t careful.

But, thought Angie. How did she make that turn?

When she glanced back, she saw something along that line.

More of her!?

She could see several more of the Weiss Hexen’s Schale Besen lined up behind her.

No, they weren’t actually there.

The Weiss Hexen’s Schale Besen was leaving behind several afterimages. In fact…

“Hand-drawn afterimages!?”

Schale Besen diagrams drawn from Weiss Techno guidelines were being abandoned behind the Weiss Hexen.

Now I get it.

Angie understood what her opponent was doing.

“You couldn’t make that turn, so you forcibly bent your course! You used guidelines to draw out a picture of your broom to forcibly guide the broom itself!”


I’m drawing up a storm today, thought Naruze.

She was using the same basic idea as drawing up a guideline for her bullets. She would draw several images of her Schale Besen’s movements like frames of a video to guide and assist the broom through maneuvers it couldn’t normally manage at this speed.

At 24 frames per second, she had enough inbetweening to interfere with the broom around every 4m even when it was moving at the speed of sound.

She was drawing up those frames for Margot and herself and storing them in their Schale Besens’ storage tanks.

The rest was up to them. And once they forced themselves along the guided path, they found…

“This really works!”

Naruze tossed a single Magie Figur into the air.

Margot did the same to the west.

These were not attack or defense spells.

“They’re an announcement – an advertisement.”

Their Magie Figurs grew to several meters across, displaying some text in the night sky.

The giant screens showed Naruze’s handwritten text and a stylized version of herself and Margot making an announcement.

<Ariake Summer Event Announcement: Authorized by the Far Eastern Printers History Recreation Committee>

<The Summer Exchange of Immaculate Morals in Manga Form begins on August 15>

As for the location…

<This year, the Ariake has been invited to join the M.H.R.R. Protestants at the home of the printing press.>


“Huh?”

Takenaka uttered a confused grunt when she saw the text on her telescope spell.

Wh-where is the Ariake going?

<To eastern M.H.R.R. Protestant territory.>

Thanks for the direct response, but wait just a second, she thought. How were they going to do this, what kind of funny business had been going on behind the scenes, and who had given them authorization?

“Wait. The Ariake is moving to M.H.R.R. Protestant territory!?”

Takenaka opened a lernen figur atop the silenced Azuchi.

She needed to protest this immediately. She could act as a Testament Union representative and she could not let the Ariake move to M.H.R.R. as the site of an event based on the history of printing in the Far East.

That is not allowed.

She knew all too well what border they would be near in eastern Protestant territory.

“Kyou.”


This is very bad! thought Takenaka.

She knew what Musashi was trying to do here.

They would move from eastern M.H.R.R. Protestant territory to Kyou. It was as simple as that.

So they would keep the Musashi inside the Ariake and travel to M.H.R.R. for this event.

She knew what their argument would be:

“Musashi can’t go to Kansai, but the Ariake can. But that’s really pushing it!”

They were taking it too far this time.

But it was still bad. She could not let them reach the Protestant principalities.

There was a rather large forested region between Kyou and M.H.R.R., so they were not direct neighbors. But they were close enough for something as large as the Musashi or Ariake.

This was bad. Kyou belonged to Hashiba just like M.H.R.R., but Akechi Mitsuhide was managing it to indicate that the Honnouji Incident had not yet occurred.

And even if Hashiba controlled M.H.R.R., the nation was split between Catholic and Protestant principalities for the Thirty Years’ War and the Protestants were within reach of the Kyoto region.

Of course, the Protestants would have no reason to invade Kyoto. They could even end up contacting the untouchable Imperial Palace and receive harsh opposition from the other nations that feared a return of the Harmonic Unification War.

Also, Akechi Mitsuhide was one of P.A. Oda’s Five Great Peaks. His forces weren’t especially powerful, but they were sufficient to manage a crucial city like Kyou.

Musashi, however, was a different story.

They’re definitely trying to use Akechi-san to intervene in Honnouji.

This would have been fine if the Musashi remained in Kantou. Even if some of Musashi’s forces attacked, they would have no way to withdraw or receive supplies and they wouldn’t have the attack power of that giant ship.

But this would give them the entire Ariake. The Ariake gave them supplies and defenses, not to mention the Musashi. It was the combination of those two ships that had brought down the Shirasagi Castle.

So Takenaka had to stop it. She had to protest and go over their heads, so she opened a lernen figur.

“I demand you-”

Her demand was cut short.

“Good evening! Ariake Representative Mishina Shouichi here!”

A new image appeared on the previous Magie Figur.

It depicted a middle-aged man in glasses and a white coat, but he had a vast space behind him.

That was the Musashi’s specialized dock within the Ariake, but it now contained many rows of tables and the docked Musashi itself was covered in decorations, ladders, and stairs to make it a part of the event venue.

Mishina gestured back toward it all.

“To really leave an impact on Europe this time, we’re holding a Musashi exhibition at the same time.”


Unno sat directly on the rooftop.

She honestly didn’t have it in her to watch the Azuchi traveling west through the southeastern sky.

The Ariake was traveling south as if following the Azuchi, but she couldn’t watch that either.

She was watching…

“This is…being sent everywhere, isn’t it?”

Kiyomasa was seated on the edge of the roof viewing her lernen figur. Unno was doing the same. And…

“Hey, Unno!”

The Terrestrial Dragons looked up from the forest in front of the schoolyard and even Torahide could be seen there. He skillfully rose from the waterway and rested his elbow on the edge of the roof, making sure not to damage the schoolyard.

“What do they mean the Ariake’s going to the M.H.R.R. Protestants!?”

“How should I know!? Go ask Mochizuki!”

“I am sorry, but not even I have that answer,” said Mochizuki via divine transmission. “Can they really do this?”

Someone actually answered her question.

Kiyomasa raised her hand and bowed her head toward Torahide.

“Um, I believe I understand their plan.”

“So you understand this? Out with it then.”

“Testament,” said Kiyomasa, displaying a map from Europe to Kantou on a lernen figur.

She drew a few red Xs on Europe.

“Europe was fighting the Thirty Years’ War before the break. The M.H.R.R. Protestants and Catholics in particular fought at Magdeburg and Nördlingen, not to mention with Hexagone Française. But there is one thing they have been neglecting.”

“You’re going to have to just come out and say it if you want me to understand,” said Unno.

“Ha ha! That’s how we know you’re stupid!”

She swung up her right fist, making Torahide stagger back, but he returned soon enough. Damn, he’s getting used to this. I’ll use my fan sword next time, she decided while Kiyomasa smiled over at them.

Kiyomasa erased that smile and cleared her throat.

“Basically, they have had a hard time with cultural events. When cities are at war, they are in no position for cultural activity and all of their development and industry is used for war. So M.H.R.R. has fallen behind in a few areas. One of those is…” Kiyomasa checked M.H.R.R.’s interior treasury data. “The printing industry.”


Kiyomasa tapped northern M.H.R.R. on her lernen figur map, adding a blue marker there.

“Once the printing press developed by Gutenberg is mass-produced, it is used to print the Bible – especially for Protestant versions of the Bible and other Protestant texts. Later on, the Catholics and other Protestant sects begin printing Bibles in English. This becomes an important source of trade and each nation works to establish their own printing technology, but at this point, the Protestant printing guild and others are beginning to alter their religious rules to allow printing as a form of business while the other nations hire the M.H.R.R. Protestants to print the things they are unable to print at home.”

“Oh, is that why the M.H.R.R. Protestants seem to know so much about those drawings of us, or whatever they are?”

“Testament,” replied Kiyomasa. “But recently, the M.H.R.R. Protestants have been caught up in the war and unable to utilize their printing industry. The large presses capable of trading with other nations are doing okay, but the smaller presses that only do domestic business are having a hard time.”

“Do you mean…?” asked Unno.

“As things are, the Ariake cannot hold its event,” said Kiyomasa. “The event is based on a recreation of the Far East’s printing history, but it is held under the other nations’ provisional rule because letting the Far East do it would mean granting those rights to the Far East. M.H.R.R. is primarily in charge thanks to their superiority with the printing press. The Far East has a close connection to M.H.R.R. through printing, but what happens if M.H.R.R. is unable to print anything?”

“The Ariake will travel to M.H.R.R. and relieve the stress on their printing industry?”

“Testament. That reduces the transport time for print products between M.H.R.R.’s Protestant territory and the Ariake. The Ariake can also join with their printing guild to help take on some of the work. That will allow the M.H.R.R. Protestants to complete their history recreation without issue.”

“Wait,” called a deep voice. It was Torahide, tilting his head toward Kiyomasa. “How can the Far East do print work for them?”

“Testament. The truth is, the Far East has long been a leader when it comes to printing. The Testament tells us the world’s oldest printed works were from the Far East in the 8th century. Woodblock printing has been common there since the Heian period and all sorts of books were printed at the shrines and temples. And by the Warring States period, they had even begun letterpress printing.”

“Really? I thought everything was all done by hand, like with sutra copying, so I assumed Far Eastern books just copied everyone else’s tech.”

“I thought so too, but I’m going to call you an idiot anyway,” said Unno. “Idiot.”

“Take that back!”

“Um…sutra copying is a type of training, not a form of printing.”

Seeing the dragon’s large head and Unno both nod in fascination made Kiyomasa kind of happy. But…

“Why does this foreign girl know more about Far Eastern culture than me?” asked Unno.

“I never expected to be learning so much here after living such a long life,” added Torahide.

Kiyomasa was forced to try and smooth things over with a bitter smile.

And she had something else to mention to help them understand the current situation.

“International history recreations are banned during the break, but this will be done under the M.H.R.R. Protestants’ authority. It comes from their right to manage Far Eastern printing, so it will qualify as a purely domestic matter as long as they follow the academy rules.”

Kiyomasa realized something here.

My explanation makes it sound like I’m taking Musashi’s side.

That was a problem, but this was Sanada and they were already pro-Musashi. So…

“What’s so amusing?”

Had they noticed?

She realized a calmness had set in within her.

Fukushima-sama.

This was a very strange place and the Azuchi, their headquarters, was leaving. She still had her underclassmen with her, but she was the only member of the Ten Spears here.

But, she thought. If I find Musashi’s strategy amusing…

“I feel like I’ve managed to take an objective view of this.”

Even now, she still couldn’t forget about Fukushima. But instead of being an unpleasant feeling, she suddenly found she could carry it with her more easily.

She still could not look directly at her feelings and did not know how to interpret them, but she felt like she could hold onto her feelings regarding Fukushima and carry them with her.

Meanwhile, the Ariake had started to turn west, as if to follow after the Azuchi.

“This should cause a major political change.”


“That about sums it up. We look forward to seeing all our kindred spirits in Europe!”

After that last comment in Mishina’s voice, Konishi saw her sign frame disappear.

The Magie Figur in the sky also disappeared, leaving only the Ariake there in the northern sky.

An ad sign frame saying “Begins August 15!” had appeared on its upper armor.

“So the event lasts until the 17th, but the printing exhibition and negotiations continue until the 25th. And the Musashi’s exhibition and mercenary negotiations with Europe continue until the 31st. They aren’t holding back, are they?”

Nine Horns: “Konishi-kun, what do you think about their announcement just now?”

Koniko: “The Protestants did this on their own. But do you really think they’ll quit just because the Catholics tell them to? If anything, they’ll be happy to have more reasons to fight. I mean, they’ll have the Musashi with them. They would love for the Catholics to pick a fight with them while such a powerful ship is visiting.”

Kuro-Take: “So, Konishi-kun, I would leave to hear how you think Europe will respond.”

You already know that, thought Konishi with a glare.

I can’t stand Takenaka. Well, I don’t dislike her, but I don’t like having to work with her.

The risk is way too high.

You could learn a lot from Takenaka and she would provide a lot of food for thought, but she had a tendency of going too far and starting on her high damage, high return thing. Konishi was only interested in doing business and increasing her profits, so she could not accept that as an end point.

But Takenaka seemed to know that, which actually made her come to Konishi more casually.

I wish I could be that mature, she thought while answering the question.

Koniko: “I have the inherited name of a Catholic daimyo, right? That gives me more of a connection to Europe. So let’s say the Ariake enters the Protestant principalities in late August. The European nations will probably all move to support that.”

“After all,” she said.

Koniko: “This event is an exhibit and exchange of printed works and printing technology. But it also gives people from different nations a chance to gather in the same place. They can’t hold international meetings during the break, but this allows them to exchange information. Which matters a lot with such an important event approaching: the Honnouji Incident.”

Kuro-Take: “This is going to be trouble, isn’t it?”

She knew exactly how to phrase it.

Koniko: “We’re looking at high damage, so how are you going to turn that into a high return? I don’t have a solution to this one, but you know how to do it, don’t you?”

In other words…

Koniko: “You need to complete the Honnouji Incident…and pave the way to the completion of the Genesis Project.”


“Now we wait and see how this turns out.”

Inside the Ariake, Christina watched Mishina Shouichi descend from the stage on the bow before she turned to see the Musashi Vice President sigh.

They were on Musashino’s bow deck.

Festival stands and stages were being set up there, so she could guess this place would look like a small fortress by the time they arrived in the M.H.R.R. Protestant principality on the 15th.

They seem well accustomed to this work.

As far as she could see, the large dock had been divided into several blocks with the Musashi acting as a wall. The area by the bow would be used to exhibit and introduce the printing technology to the other nations while most everything else would be used to sell printed works.

She knew this event was only possible for the Far East, where printing was common, and for the M.H.R.R. Protestants, who managed that printing, but…

“I never imagined you would send the Musashi to Kansai inside the Ariake.”

“This is why I made sure we could enter the Ariake during out negotiations with Takenaka.”

“Makes sense,” agreed Christina. “As long as the Azuchi couldn’t move, the Musashi was effectively being watched by them.”

They had needed to prepare the Ariake for this, but they also couldn’t have Hashiba catching on.

So Musashi had visited the Kantou nations, pretending they were only solidifying their position in Kantou.

“So you entered the Ariake 10 days before the Azuchi’s departure.”

“Their attention would have been on the Musashi flying around outside, but the Ariake was what really mattered. We might have some P.A. Oda people on the Musashi, so we went out and gathered attention while the preparations were made inside the Ariake. We made sure we remained inside the Ariake for as short a time as possible.”

That had led to the current situation.

“I’m sure the Azuchi receives information on the Ariake’s actions as well, but the people in charge on the Ariake aren’t stupid. They made sure the information that really mattered didn’t make it out. I almost feel bad doing this to the Azuchi, but they’re going to be leading the Ariake as far as Mikawa.”

“That is kind of mean.” Christina smiled bitterly. “But this allows the Musashi to return to Kansai, doesn’t it?”

“Technically, it’s the Ariake doing it and only to M.H.R.R. Protestant territory. It’s all in the name of assisting a Protestant history recreation. …Of course, this will ‘just so happen’ to bring us within a stone’s throw of Kyou.”

“You have a plan for what to do then, don’t you?” asked Christina.

The Musashi Vice President’s eyebrows rose slightly at that. And…

“I’m glad to see you understand how this is going to work. The Ariake’s event itself ends on the 17th, the printing negotiations and negotiations with the Protestants end on the 25th, and the Ariake returns to Kantou on the 26th. But…”

Here it comes, thought Christina, so she went ahead and gave the answer herself.

“The Musashi will remain in Protestant territory after the 26th. My guess is you will claim to be negotiating for mercenary work related to the Thirty Years’ War.”

Because…

“The break will be ending soon, so if you are going to establish a mercenary contract and fight after the break, returning to Kantou would be a waste of time, especially when the break would be over by the time you got back anyway.”

Returning to Kantou would have been a valid option if they could predict the Honnouji Incident would be happening well after the break, such as in October. Then they could wait until after the break to arrive in Kansai for trade and to negotiate a mercenary contract with a European nation.

But Honnouji would probably be happening sooner. Christina expected it to happen within a week of the break ending.

Musashi needed supplies to function, so they would need to negotiate with the other nations. Taking that preparation into account, they would never arrive in time if they only got to work after the break ended.

They had to act now. And with that in mind…

“You planned this out well in advance.”

“Don’t get upset if my predictions don’t pan out.”

“I have recently learned that failed predictions can be enjoyable too.”

Meanwhile, Christina looked down to see Tadaoki and some other students constructing a stage on the dock below.


Christina watched as Tadaoki worked alongside some Musashi students. They looked to be middle school kids. This appeared to be a cooperative effort between the different schools, so a newcomer like Tadaoki could fit in just fine. But then…

“Hey, Nagabuto!”

A Weiss and Schwarz Hexen descended from the bow to some cheers from the girls.

The Schwarz Hexen waved appreciatively to the underclassmen and the Weiss Hexen…

“Here, this is yours.”

She placed a manga on Tadaoki’s head.

What could that be? wondered Christina as he grabbed it and flipped through it.

“What the-!? This is porn!”

“I said it was yours, didn’t I?”

The weirdly cheerful Weiss Hexen ascended again with the students calling out to her. The two Technohexen soon vanished into the air above Okutama.

Below, Christina saw Tadaoki roll up the manga and tuck it into the side of his workpants.

My, my.

“What are you going to do about that? You have some questions, don’t you?”

The Musashi Vice President glared at her with her lips pursed, but she chose to ignore it.


“How am I supposed to ignore this!?”

Terumasa watched it all from the stern of his leading transport ship.

The Azuchi was following after him and the even bigger Ariake was following after it.

“Now it looks like I’m leading everyone…”

“To Mikawa-kawa-kawa?”

“Yeah,” sighed Terumasa.

If the Azuchi is on its way to the Lake Biwa Azuchi, then it should turn north after passing through Mikawa.

Its path would split from the Ariake’s there. The Ariake itself would presumably continue along the coast to Osaka Bay and then turn toward M.H.R.R. Protestant territory, but…

“Yeah, this really bothers me.”

The Azuchi had ordered him to just watch, but he could tell they had all of their cannons turned aft.

Talk about dangerous.

He knew that Takenaka, Hashiba’s staff officer, had the Urban Name of High Damage, High Return. The exciting stories he had heard about their attack on Hexagone Française told him the name was well deserved.

And at the moment, she was choosing not to act.

“Does that mean we’re in the high damage phase?”

Then she would not stop that damage. She would keep taking it until she could convert it into a high return.

Which means the next battle is already starting.

Hashiba most likely viewed Musashi as their enemy. If they were going to take this high damage, they would definitely make sure they earned a high return next time.

“Musashi is in serious trouble if they let their guard down next time.”

“Next time-time-time-time?”

“Testament,” he replied while viewing the eastern sky.

He could see the white Ariake past the black Azuchi.

They were traveling to Kansai with the enemy. But, he thought.

“Can the Musashi return to Kantou after this?”


“Okay, this is goodbye to Kantou for now.”

Mitotsudaira stretched a bit in front of the Main Blue Thunder.

The night sky on the Musashi was usually either dark blue or the white of the stealth barrier.

But for the first time in a while, it was replaced by the Ariake’s ceiling and lights. The lights were dimmed at night, but as a nonhuman, she found the lack of a true night interesting.

It might be fun to invite my king and the others to go see the construction work.

“Anyway, there is a lot the Ariake handles for us now. So…”

“Testament. We’ve finally returned, haven’t we?” Horizon stepped forward and placed her hand on the Main Blue Thunder’s door. “Ooooooooopen!! Seeeeeeesameeeeeee!”

“Um, Horizon? Our divine protection lock scans our faces like normal, so you don’t have to do that.”

“And Sis and I are right behind you.”

Also true, thought Mitotsudaira, but then the door opened on its own.

Eh? she thought when she noticed no one on the other side.

“Ho ho.” Horizon nodded once. “So it opens at my command, does it? A well-made door indeed.”

Mitotsudaira decide to pretend she hadn’t seen Horizon’s right arm emerging from within and reattaching to her shoulder.


Chapter 54: Nest Makers at Home[edit]

Horizon8B 763.png

Somehow

It feels more awkward

Wearing something below

Point Allocation (Fairly Common)


Asama tried saying “I’m home” and was a little bothered by how natural it felt.

Horizon stepped into the Main Blue Thunder ahead of her and…

“Maaaaaaaake wayyyyyyyyyy forrrrrr Horiiiiiiiizon!”

Maybe it was that, maybe it was how the arms carried her slippers to her, maybe it was how he said “welcome home”, maybe it was how Mitotsudaira said “we are back, my king”, and it probably wasn’t how Kimi said “Look, foolish brother! Slippers! I was warming them in my pockets!” But regardless…

It feels like forever since we were last here.

She had been so busy with the Musashi joining the Ariake and with managing the ether pathways for the Musashi’s repairs. Mitotsudaira had always been involved in everything, perhaps because she thought an officer should take a visible role in things, and he had actively joined in this time to get in the way- No, let’s say he was helping things run smoothly. Sort of.

For several days now, they had generally only been at Suzu’s bathhouse, the student council rec room, and their work sites, with the occasional other destinations for Musashi duties or for fun.

But they could finally rest tonight. The Ariake would be handling most everything until they arrived in M.H.R.R. Protestant territory.

Thus, they were back at the Main Blue Thunder, but…

“The place seems a little different.”

Since she needed it for purification, Asama saw preparing the bath as her job, so she checked that room to find an IZUMO shrine water heater. Her father must have arranged things so she could get purification water here. She recalled Naomasa mentioning some kind of construction work.

It felt awkward taking the first bath since she needed to purify and inspect the equipment. She usually used the shrine’s spring, so she wasn’t used to having people waiting for her to finish. And Horizon had established an order for them all while they ate a light late-night meal beforehand.

“Asama-sama goes first, then Kimi-sama, Toori-sama, myself, and Mitotsudaira-sama.”

“Um, is that from most Shinto to least Shinto?”

“No, it is by volume. That way there will always be enough bathwater even when some overflows.”

Mitotsudaira spat out what she was drinking, but Kimi asked him for some tea.

“Heh heh. Mitotsudaira’s hair soaks up the water like a sponge, so she does need to go last. And she can enjoy soaking in my foolish brother’s used bathwater.”

“Wouldn’t it be a mix of all of us, though?” asked Asama. “She wouldn’t be able to tell.”

“I-I can tell with my king.”

You can? she thought, weirdly impressed.

But then Horizon opened a sign frame and raised both arms.

“Tah dahhhhhhhhhh! It is now time to add up the Blue Thunder Girls’ expenses!”

“In other words, you’re going to calculate the cost of the food and whatever else we need to see who is the biggest burden?”

“Judge. Very perceptive of you, Mitotsudaira-sama. We are all living here now, but we cannot expect to live according to that boy’s standards. For example, Mitotsudaira-sama eats meat, meat, and more meat for every single meal and Asama-sama needs to be chugging booze all day long if she hopes to stand out.”

“Um, I doubt even drinking would help me stand out compared to the rest of you.”

Horizon gave her a double thumbs up.

At any rate, they discussed things with him and calculated out their individual needs for food and other necessities.

“If you are ever wondering if you should earn some money to help out, this can help you make that decision,” said Horizon. “On the other hand, Asama-sama has enough money to pay off two udon’s worth of debt, but she has the good sense to not waste it.”

“Yeah…not even I’m going to spend money unnecessarily when it comes to Toori-kun.”

Mitotsudaira and Kimi both gave her emotionless smiles and nodded.

Th-they don’t trust me at all, do they!?”

But Horizon turned toward Mitotsudaira.

“And if Toori-sama were to ask Mitotsudaira-sama to do some task he should really just do himself, she would bark and pant while pulling out her silver chains to oblige him.”

“I-I do not react like that.”

Asama discovered exactly the feeling that led to one of those emotionless smiles.

But she also had a thought about Horizon’s suggestions here.

She feels the need to lay out some ground rules.

Really, it could all be summed up as “don’t get carried away”.

Now that they were living together, if any of them got carried away in how they lived their everyday life, it would place a burden on the others. So…

Try to solve things on your own if you can.

Horizon nodded.

“As long as we do that, we can keep that boy from pushing his luck.”

“Now wait just a minute. This was sounding real nice, so why do you have to turn it all against me in the very end?”

After Asama finished her bath and put on a shrine maiden swimsuit in lieu of underwear, she really did feel like she was beginning a new life.

This new life had actually already started, but she had been too busy to really notice.

We’re going to see what this new life is really like over the next few days.

During their study camp to Sanada, Mitotsudaira’s mother had said she was being offered his everyday life as a present. So…

“…”

Kimi would take the next bath, but since he would go after that, she made sure to adjust the temperature setting.

And before putting on her pajamas, she checked the mirror to see what she looked like in her swimsuit.

It’s no different from when we were at the beach or the study camp.

The lack of shrine maiden underwear was the real problem here. Not to mention how she had recently learned it was dangerous to leave herself exposed in front of people. So if she was going to be

wearing something underneath, she had to take possible emergencies into account. Since she would need something with decent divine protection and spell functionality, this was the better choice than simple underwear. But…

“Next time I’m at the Shinto shop, I need to look at the supporters and other options they have.”

She was still a shrine maiden, but she was no longer just that. She had left the shrine to live alongside some others.

She kept that in mind while she returned to her room partition and found the space felt unusually large.

Would it eventually feel cramped?

“That was a long bath. Did you enjoy it?” asked Horizon, from beyond a partition.

“Yes, I wanted to make sure I started off this new life on the right foot.”

Asama suddenly realized there were plenty of others who had undergone changes much like this one.

I wonder how they’re doing.

Did they also put a lid on their feelings, wait for the right moment, and occasionally stubbornly refuse to admit how they felt?


How am I supposed to explain how I feel? wondered Tenzou.

He stood in front of his room on Tama. Mary stood by his side, but that much was normal.

However, something concerned him.

Come to think of it, we haven’t slept in the same room ever since I started being so suave with her.

Ever since the Siege of Odawara, they had kept their things here and returned for meals, but they had always spent the night elsewhere.

He had thought they could return earlier than this, but then he had spent the night at the Main Blue Thunder to help complete Neshinbara’s doujinshi. He honestly felt that like that had helped give Mary and him some more time to prepare for this.

Is she nervous?

Mary stood next to him blushing and staring at the floor.

Her clenched fists suggested she was very focused on something. But the flower petals scattering from the back of her hair suggested it wasn’t a negative thing for her. In fact, didn’t it mean she considered it a positive thing? Hopefully.

But he understood why she was nervous. They would be living together with no distractions for the next few days.

Their trip to M.H.R.R. Protestant territory would be almost entirely handled by the Ariake, so the rush to repair the Musashi and make various preparations was over.

That meant he and Mary would be all alone in their own private room for several days.

Yeah, I’m definitely excited, realized Tenzou.

Just then, Mary grabbed his hand.

“Eh?”

He turned toward her to find she had angled herself a bit toward him.

“M-Master Tenzou!”

“Judge, what is it?”

“U-um, I will clean and tidy up in here, so give me a moment!”

He was about to say he would help, but he swallowed the words when he saw the pursed lips below her bangs.

So what could he do?

I must mentally record Mary-dono’s actions.

With that settled, he took her hand in both of his.

“Judge. You know how to do that better than me, so I will let you handle it this time. But if there is anything you need help with, feel free to ask.”

“J-judge, I will! A-also…”

“Yes?”

By the time he asked, she had already turned around like she was preparing to dash toward the sliding door.

“Do you mind if I do some minor remodeling!?”

Their room was small, which limited the possible layouts, but if they were going to change anything, it would be easiest now while it was still mostly empty. As a ninja, he could eat and sleep in any environment, so he was fine with anything she might want.

“Judge. If a change would make you more comfortable here, then by all means make it.”

“Judge. Thank you!”

He caught a glimpse of her face past her bangs, but why did he see raised eyebrows instead of a smile?

Whatever the reason, her hair vanished beyond the sliding door.

“Oh.”

Through the closed door, he clearly heard her hit her shin while trying to step up onto the tatami mats.

Th-that would be due to staying at Suzu-dono’s bathhouse and the Blue Thunder where they don’t have a dirt entranceway.

“M-Master Tenzou!”

“Do you need something?”

“Judge,” she replied. “Th-this is going to take some time, so please be patient.”

He could guess what the issue was, but he did not mind in the slightest.


The Azuchi and the Ariake’s movement was visible from the roof of Sanada Academy.

Both ships seemed to be moving awfully slow to Unno. The Azuchi was probably intentionally keeping its speed down to avoid looking impatient to leave. That probably doubled as a way of delaying the Ariake’s arrival in M.H.R.R. Protestant territory.

“Glad I don’t have to keep up appearances like that.”

“But their slow movement allows us to inspect the Ariake’s side. And we should be able to inspect its stern tomorrow morning.”

“What, you aren’t going to sleep?”

“Oh, I will. I’ll just be using a compressed sleep spell.”

“Never mind then,” said Unno before something occurred to her. Shortening sleep time was a common skill for ninjas, yet here she was worrying about someone else getting enough sleep.

I’m slacking.

Or had she just settled down more?

“Anyway,” she said to Kiyomasa who had stood up to aim a recording lernen figur toward the Ariake. “How should I put this?”

This is probably my own personal issue, but…

“We’ve learned to just casually chat with each other now, haven’t we?”

Kiyomasa’s shoulders jumped in response. And after a moment, she nodded.

“We have.”

And…

“Thank you.”

“Huh? For what?”

“Oh, nothing really.” Kiyomasa smiled a little. “I had a falling out with someone…so it’s nice to be able to have a normal conversation again.”

“Huh? So you had a fight with someone?”

She didn’t respond, but after a while…

“Uh…”

Kiyomasa suddenly hung her head while operating her lernen figur. It looked an awful lot like…

Eh?

“You made her cry!!”

The Terrestrial Dragons stood from the forest nearby, sending leaves and branches soaring.

“Did you see that!? That brute Unno-san has no tact at all!”

“If you ask me, she could really stand to learn some manners. She can be so thoughtless.”

“Yet she has the gall to always order a dessert at the dining hall. A dessert with fries if you can imagine it!”

“Oh, shut up, all of you! You don’t have to point. And why are you spying on us anyway!?”

She raised her fan sword and they immediately ducked back down into the forest. And…

“Ha…ha.”

Kiyomasa wiped away her tears and turned around.

She inhaled and spoke in a shaky voice.

“You have such good friends.”

“Their ears and eyes are good, but it only causes me trouble.” Unno gave a dismissive wave. “Anyway, I won’t tell your underclassmen about this. We’ve gotten to know each other well enough for that.”

“Testament. Thank you again.”

Kiyomasa bowed and Unno smiled bitterly.

“Don’t worry about it. I know what it’s like to have your feelings get the better of you.”


What is going on inside our room?

Five minutes had passed since Mary locked him out.

Tenzou was gathering attention standing in front of his door.

It was getting late at night, so everyone was heading home for some sleep after helping the Ariake take over their tasks and preparing for the following days. That meant a lot of students were passing by behind him.

“Oh, what’s this? Did Mary finally kick him out?”

“Oh, dear. That ninja finally pushed his luck too far with Mary.”

“Hey, check that out. Yeah, that!”

Hey, that last one might not be about me!

Art-Ga: “Hey, Tenzou. There’s a new ‘what did the 1st Special Duty Officer do this time’ discussion thread up. Do you mind if I have some fun getting them even more worked up?”

10ZO: “In what world would I say no!?”

But salvation arrived in the form of Mary’s voice from inside.

“Master Tenzou. W-would you mind coming in now!?”

This time, he did not mind in the slightest, so he stepped inside while the crowd watched and commented.


“It feels good to be back home.”

“Yes, welcome home,” said a voice from the floor.

Mary’s bed and living space were located below the raised loft he used as a bed.

The lower area was made of four tatami mats arranged with two lengthwise rows of two mats.

However, the entrance and the kitchen were smaller areas with dirt floors. Looking from the door, the dirt entrance was immediately on the left side and the kitchen was on the back right. That forced the lower area’s tatami mat rows to be shifted enough to accommodate the dirt areas.

Horizon8B 779.png

Tenzou first noticed a curtain surrounding the kitchen in the back.

And next…

“Mary-dono.”

Mary sat on the futon she had laid out in front of the door. She always had excellent posture, but he did notice one difference from usual pre-bedtime routine.

She was wearing kosode-style pajamas.

She normally slept in the nude, but now she fixed her collar and blushed.

“U-um, Master Tenzou. I plan to dress like this at night from now on.”

That was a disappointment.

Now when am I going to get those lucky glimpses at night or after waking up early in the morning!?

But on the other hand…

I did dislike how I couldn’t look directly at her after she went to bed and before she dressed in the morning.

Both options had their pros and cons, so if this was what Mary wanted…

“Judge. That sounds like a good idea. You were still going by the habits you picked up in England, so were you thinking of doing things the Musashi way now?”

“Eh? Oh, yes. …I got used to wearing pajamas at the Blue Thunder and the other places we have been spending the night recently.”

So…

“I started to feel like it would be better to keep doing that.”

Tenzou nodded and stepped up onto the tatami mat floor.

Mary’s shoulders briefly rose, but he didn’t let it bother him. He kneeled in front of her.

“I need to do everything I can to ensure we can support a lifestyle that requires pajamas even if you eventually return to England.”

“Judge. But…”

“But?”

She lowered her head.

“Should I really be doing this? I was trying to match the lifestyles of the people who lived on the third and fourth levels.”

“It is arrogant to think you can understand someone just because you live the way they do.”

“But do you think I can understand them if I don’t live the way they do?”

Tenzou did not attempt a suave response.

He only touched the scar on her nose and then took her hand. The back of that had was covered in sword scars and the front had calluses and scars from a daily life working at the beach and on the farms.

“Listen,” he said. “You have gained all of this from the people there, so I doubt any of them would let anyone say you don’t understand them.”

And…

“And if anyone does say that to you, I will touch your scars to remind you.”

She glanced up at him and then took both his hands.

Eh?

She placed his hands on her chest and pushed them up from below to have him hold her breasts.

“M-my scars are not the only thing I want you to remind me of, Master Tenzou.”

Sensing the heat from her pajamas, he sucked in a breath and…

“A blonde! With! Giant breasts!”


Mary was initially surprised because it had been so long since she heard him say that.

Oh.

She remembered.

She couldn’t believe it had taken her so long, but she remembered what had happened in England.

She had completely forgotten, even though she was the one who had just said she wanted him to remind her.

That had helped her remember where the two of them had begun their relationship.

“Ha…ha…”

A few gentle laughs escaped her while her shoulders and head shook.

“Yes…that’s right.”

She had been so happy recently it had slipped her mind. She had forgotten how she had hoped the two of them could be happier.

And the happiness she had found had lasted so long she had lost sight of that.

But the point wasn’t just to be happy.

“I want to be happier. I always want to find even greater happiness on the horizon.”

That same thought had occurred to her a lot recently as she saw the others interacting and experienced so much herself. She felt certain the people she had spoken with in Suzu’s bathhouse and the Main Blue Thunder hoped for the same thing.

She had grown so flustered and not known what to do, but…

It’s okay to change.

She carried England’s history with her, but she didn’t have to do everything the English way. Because when she left England, she had decided to be happy.

If she had found even more happiness here and if she was going to find more in the future, she should accept it all.

So she took his hands again and gave them a squeeze. And…

“Master Tenzou, that half is yours.”

Her futon sat on the entrance half of the somewhat crooked tatami mat floor.

And something else sat on the other half by the kitchen.

“Doesn’t that seem like a good place for your futon?”


Tenzou took a deep breath.

So that’s where she was going with this!

How very bold of her! Actually, she can get surprisingly bold in the most wonderful way when she gets fired up about something, but this is a lot even for her!

But, he thought, squeezing her hands back.

“Judge. That does seem like a good place.”

There was a good reason to do this.

“I intend to get us a larger room soon. Then there will be no column in the middle and we can place our futons right next to each other, so this will make good practice for that.”

Also…

“Now that you are not sleeping in the nude, I no longer have to worry about where I am looking.”

“Oh, um, that decision had nothing to do with this.” She shrank down a little. “And it was fun.”

“What was?”

“Judge.” She nodded and intertwined their fingers. “I can control spirits, right? Well, in England, I would call the spirits of sleep in with a song to help put the children to sleep.”

But…

“At Lady Suzu’s bathhouse, the student council rec room, and the Main Blue Thunder, I have been able to chat with the others my age about things we enjoy and about our future plans while we fall asleep.” She squeezed again. “It was a lot of fun.”

So…

“I don’t think I can go back. And…”

Tenzou realized where she was going with this. It would be fine for him to say it, but…

She needs to say this for herself.

So he held his tongue and let her speak.

“I can’t go back, so I have decided this will be my new normal. Because that will bring me even greater happiness.”

“Judge,” he said and embraced her.

She smelled nice, she was soft, and she was warm. He found it hard to believe someone so wonderful cared so much about him. And…

“You did well.”

She had made some friends. He knew she would have been worried if she was allowed to do things the way the others did. That was not something he could solve for her. It was her problem.

But if there was anything he could feel full of himself about, it would be what she might have said if the girls ever discussed the genre of boys they liked. Is that really a genre? I guess it is. Yes, it’s a genre!

And in the end, Mary had reached her own decision.

Instead of asking if she was allowed to, she had accepted it as normal. So…

I should be proud of her.

She had once hoped to be imprisoned and executed, but now she was the same as the others. Wait, do I really want her to be the same as the girls in our class? Well, that aside, this means she has found the kind of freedom everyone hopes for.

So from now on, they would place their pillows side to side and go to sleep while discussing their days, their plans, pointless things, things they had noticed about the people they cared for, and so on.

“You did well.”

“Judge.” She nodded. “And I have you to thank for that.”

“Judge.” He nodded too and hugged her tighter. A muffled cry reached his chest. “But I will probably be away on work a lot from now on.”

“A-and?”

Mary sounded uneasy about being alone again, so he gave his response.

“So I need to make sure our class’s girls don’t rub off on you too much while I am gone.”


The Ariake passed through south Mikawa the following afternoon. Its path diverged with the Azuchi’s there.

They both continued observing each other for a while after that, but by the time they rounded the Kii Peninsula, the Azuchi activated its stealth and disappeared. By the time they passed through Osaka Bay the next day, they could not detect any readings from it at all.

And on the afternoon of the third day, the Ariake arrived at its destination in M.H.R.R. Protestant territory.

“Ha ha! I thought this would take you longer, so none of our preparations are complete. I’m still busy greeting the different nations, you see. You had better be ready to party by the time the event begins.”

They were greeted and joined by a Protestant fleet that relayed that message from Tomoe Gozen.

They completed their final preparations starting on the fourth day and the Ariake finally opened its diplomatic port on August 15.

The ship was located on the far east of M.H.R.R.’s Protestant territory. They had carefully adjusted their position so they were tucked just inside the provisional border of the region adjacent to Kyoto.

Fireworks burst in the sky first thing in the morning, the early morning preparatory period went by quickly, and the bell rang for 10 AM.

That loud, carrying tone indicated the beginning.

Guericke and Mishina Shouichi each raised a hand to announce the start of the Summer Exchange of Immaculate Morals in Manga Form.

Or Summer ImMoral Manga for short.


Chapter 55: Participants at the Exchange[edit]

Horizon8B 787.png

Water: check

Map: check

Bag: check

That just leaves manners and a pinch of courage

Point Allocation (I’m not sure what you mean)


The Musashi is big, but the Ariake is ridiculously big, thought Azuma.

He, Miriam, and the girl were on the Ariake floor below Asakusa’s starboard side.

The corporate guilds in charge of print distribution had displays set up in this area and the student publications, mostly from M.H.R.R., had shops set up around those.

Several lines had formed and people were constantly coming and going, but some people used the occasional gaps to get some rest or eat a snack bought at one of the temporary food stands.

There were stands and people everywhere you looked. The space had turned into an event city, including some lodging facilities here and there.

This is incredible.

It was sunny outside the Ariake. Azuma knew they were in a foreign land, but even with the upper armor lifted to improve ventilation, the Ariake itself was large enough to call a city in its own right. In that semi-enclosed space, it didn’t feel like they had traveled anywhere.

There was only one thing that did make this place seem foreign.

“All the visitors.”

“What has you so fidgety, Azuma?”

“I’ve never been anywhere like this before.”

“Really? I have a few times.”

“Really?” parroted the girl, making Miriam smile.

“Admittedly most of the books for sale are of the indecent sort, but there are some that I like. Whenever they hold a smaller-scale market event on the Musashi, I sometimes take a look around and buy anything that interests me.” She picked up the translucent girl with a smile. “But this time, we’re the sponsors.”

“I want a picture book,” said the girl, raising both hands.

“Did you hear that, Azuma? What are you going to do about it?”

“I feel like we could spend all day just going around looking at it all.”

In that sense, they were entirely off duty today.

Azuma walked and Miriam used her balance to move her wheelchair alongside him.

“Do you want me to push you?”

“I can handle it. But I’m not the one deciding where to go.”

“I’m not entirely sure where to go either.”

“Oh?” Miriam smiled a little. “Where are the others? What are they doing?”

“I heard they were selling Neshinbara-kun’s book on Musashino’s bow.”

Azuma opened a sign frame.

“Tenzou-kun says…to stay away because it would hurt our reputation.”


Juana avoided the crowd as she walked.

Wh-what is with this event!?

Her first mistake had been visiting Kansai to cheer on their baseball team at the nationals. Her second mistake had been letting Segundo hear about the event: “Juana, wouldn’t it be an economic boon if we could cheaply obtain some printing equipment?”

Her third mistake had not been stopping him before he said more: “The Testament says you follow after your grandmother Juana I by banning books that violate Catholic precepts in order to spread Catholicism in Spain. So if you do that here, couldn’t you get out of banning any books domestically?”

Her fourth and perhaps biggest mistake had been accepting the list Fusae had made of where the Tres Españan clubs had set up shop at the event.

Flores had said her friend’s club was here, so Juana had let her decide where to go. After putting on some light clothing and preparing for a day at the event, it was time. And after taking a look around…

“Wh-what is this filth!? I do not spread my legs when the Chancellor prostrates for me! Banned! Banned!”

She opened a banned book form on her cadena firma and added her signature to make it official. Flores handed that to the club representative.

“This means you’re not allowed to sell this book in Tres España.”

“Eh!? Y-you mean that’s the real Lady Juana!? Yes! ‘Personally banned by Lady Juana’ is the best advertisement I could get!”

“Eh!? Really!? Um, Lady Juana! I’m with the royal warriors, but I drew one of you and the Chancellor playing shogi! Look, it shows you getting upset and eating champon and getting drunk after you lose, so you’re going to ban mine too, right!?”

“Um, my signature goes on a banned book form, not on an autograph sheet.”

“Lady Juana! Don’t be so uptight! Hey, all of you in that row, you’ve got some books for Lady Juana to ban, right? Let’s see those sample copies!”

“Testament,” they all replied.

“We are those who are now restricted to selling in foreign nations!”

“We are those who must now work diligently back home!”

“We are those who must now earn foreign currency with exciting new material!”

“Testament!”

She was sure the Chancellor would laugh when she reported this later on, but for now she just had a headache. She could only sigh and recite a certain phrase.

“If we have money, we’ll use it. We’ll give in to our passions, have a party, and forget everything unpleasant.”

The Chancellor used to say that. It was a long-held attitude in Tres España.

Were the people here living up to that?

“They are.”

They were in the right. The fact that she could see it that way showed just how much she had changed after the Armada battle.

I really have changed.

Then she began to wonder what it would mean for her to give in to her passions, have a party, and forget everything unpleasant here.

“Flores, are any more of our people selling books here? Banning the filth is my job, so I think it’s time for a banning spree.”


Lady Juana really has changed, thought Flores.

She opened a cadena firma and compared her checklist to a map of the Ariake. She had already memorized what kind of books each block was selling. And…

Lady Juana is a surprisingly good walker.

She probably had trouble running, but she could walk fast. Her long legs helped of course, but it was mostly how much practice she had walking all around the academy and city to hear the people’s opinions. So…

“I’ll accompany you, Lady Juana, since I don’t want to get left behind myself.”

“Testament. But do be careful, Flores. Just like we are here undercover, some other national representatives might be here in casual clothing. Maybe even Special Duty Officer or higher.”

“Yeah…I thought that was a Mouri automaton we passed by earlier.”

“Well, this is a festival. We aren’t allowed an international meeting, but we can still exchange information with anyone we encounter here. Although I imagine most of the representatives will be meeting with the corporate guilds to hasten their printing-related history recreations, just like the Chancellor wants for us. But,” said Juana. “Keep an eye out. It would be best to know who all is here. There must be some high-level people here…but Gin and Muneshige should be here too.”


Suzu worked to understand what all was happening.

She was at the front of Okutama’s bow. Neshinbara and Naruze’s shops were set up there. They had created a semicircle of long tables and a line had formed for them both.

Both lines were technically there, but Neshinbara’s always seemed shorter.

Are they wandering over…from Naruze’s side?

As if to bolster that impression, Naruze had to break open a new box of books from the storage area behind the tables.

Horizon8B 795.png

“Neshinbara.”

She wore a summer Schwarz Hexen costume and tried to tear apart the empty cardboard box until Naito handed her a knife to use instead.

“Hey, have you made any progress on that code? The one we got at the nagashi udon place?”

“What about you? Didn’t you notice something at the Houjou ruins?”

“I more or less know what I saw there. I should be able to show everyone after this event. And you?”

Neshinbara, who was also wearing a Schwarz Hexen costume, shrugged.

“I have an idea, but I still need to prove it. I can do that after hearing everyone’s praise for you.”

“Quit trying to look cool and actually get some work done for once.”

“Judge.” Neshinbara nodded. “I will catch up soon enough. To be honest, most of my line here is coming from yours and you really saved my rear at the Main Blue Thunder.”

“Did you tell Shakespeare?”

“Not having to tell her is what I meant by ‘saving my rear’.”

“I see.” Naruze smiled a little. “You can thank me in pastry form. One of the Main Blue Thunder’s tarts.”

“Yeah, they always sell out in no time when Aoi-kun makes them.”

“Good luck with that,” she said, returning to dismantling the box. Then Asama, who was also wearing a summer Schwarz Hexen costume, checked an inventory management sign frame at the corner.

Asama: “I have to work out the Honnouji Incident’s date, so I will need all of that information.”

Silver Wolf: “You said it would probably be on a lucky day or some other critical point like that, right? Do you have a good guess already?”

Asama: “For some reason, P.A. Oda’s ether usage had one spike during August, but has otherwise remained stable. But I do have a few possibilities in mind, so I wanted to reference what they had discovered.”

Horizey: “I see. …Oh, I already sent my right arm on ahead to you. Think of it as a lunch delivery from the Blue Thunder. I want to keep Toori-sama on his toes.”

Me: “Where is it!? Where the hell is it!?”

Suzu doubted searching for it would help.

But she did reach a conclusion while listening to them all.

They all know what they’re doing.


Suzu had come to a recent realization: the others had learned to stay true to themselves outside of their usual comfort zones.

Suzu herself had learned to open up more outside of school and the bathhouse, but seeing the others do it still came as a surprise.

This here was a good example. It was really just a place for some of their hobbies, but after getting their actual work complete, they made sure to keep things going here as well.

Suzu’s family worked in the service industry, so she knew how much work it was to keep such a long line moving and how hard it was to offer something that would live up to the customers’ expectations.

Especially when they were not selling food or clothing here. Their product was not a necessity.

Spending money here meant to give up some of the capital you needed to survive.

Suzu started to wonder if her bathhouse was a necessity.

“Hmm.”

She decided it wasn’t worth thinking about. They still had customers, which meant they provided a service worth the walk and the price. That meant the customers cared that much about the service. The rest was a matter of how you decided to label such a service.

“Right.”

She nodded and focused on her work again. She sensed everything around her. And…

“Oh, over there.”

When she pointed, Urquiaga and the others managing the lines raised their signs that indicated where the line was.

Her job was to detect in advance when the line was going to bend and block the flow of foot traffic.

She could track the movement of all these people without assistance from Musashino’s bridge. She could get that assistance if she wanted it, but…

Th-this is sort of like…training.

She felt like she had grown too reliant on that assistance from Musashino’s bridge of late. She was receiving noise and heat sources at such higher quality than she could herself, so she was worried she had forgotten how to deal with the noise and general atmosphere she had to deal with ordinarily.

And now that she had tried it…

It’s been…so long since I…felt this!

Before the first term, it had always been like this when she went outside after a break.

Just as she had gotten used to how quiet things were around her, she would feel an overwhelming amount of information pressing in on her.

“Good.”

She would be fine as long as she didn’t forget this feeling. She even noticed some familiar people on occasion. Some were the usual suspects, some were representatives of other nations, and then there was the voice she heard coming from Oume to the left.

“Honey! We’ve been walking around for an hour now, but we already have enough materials to fuel our late-night education for a full year! Our next task is to find some for Nate and send them to her.”

That was concerning and Suzu considered telling Mitotsudaira, but then she wondered if telling her would accomplish anything. Regardless, she also noticed someone closer by. The woman wore black short sleeves, a thin skirt, and a veil over the horns on her forehead.

“Oh. T-Tomoe Gozen…-san?”


Tomoe Gozen met those idiots in person for the first time in a while.

The section occupied by Musashi’s Secretary and 4th Special Duty Officer was obvious even from a distance. Because…

“Why are all your salespeople dressed as Schwarz Hexen? Are you picking a fight with Tsirhc?”

“They’re just costumes. Summer costumes. …Suzu over there made them.”

That was the 4th Special Duty Officer who stood at the divide between two long tables and bowed.

Tomoe Gozen nodded back and looked past the sales tables out front. There she saw Musashi’s 3rd and 5th Special Duty Officers, the Asama Shrine Representative, the charging vassal, and…

“You’re wearing a male costume, Musashi Vice President?”

“This is worn over our normal inner suit, so I’m wearing girl’s stuff below. Anyway, what brings you here, Tomoe Gozen?”

“I’m only browsing. I couldn’t believe Musashi’s Student Council and Chancellor’s Officers were selling doujins here.”

“Yeah, a mistake here could hurt our national reputation. Which is why I’ve been keeping an eye on things since the preparatory stage,” said the Musashi Vice President.

And then…

“Hey! If it isn’t Miss Gozen!”

She turned to find a Schwarz Hexen talking with the Musashi Chancellor’s voice. Who is this girl? she wondered. Until….

“That is an impressive disguise.”

“I’ll take that as high praise coming from you. And here’s a prize for seeing through it.”

“Huh? Is this one of your books?”

“Yeah, it’s looking like we’ll have a lot of dead stock, so I thought we could give some out to important people to help advertise.”

“Hey, who says this is dead stock, Aoi-kun!?” protested their Secretary.

“Calm down,” said the idiot, opening the book so Tomoe Gozen could see.

“Is any of this supposed to make sense? What is this ‘dark force’ and ‘great bloodline’ supposed to mean?”

“Don’t give up yet, Miss Gozen! That’s just the beginning! The best part is here, see!?”

The idiot flipped ahead to a section titled “monsters”.

“Yes! This is where the pop-up encyclopedia begins! Pull on that string there! Yeah, that one! Check it out: Anus Eye just keeps growing and growing!”

“Hey! Someone call the guards! You have my permission!”

“Eh, the ship is pretty busy right now, so can it wait?”

Then the Musashi Vice President raised a hand and asked a question.

“Are you here to exchange information?”

“I was interested in your plans for after the event.”

“Judge.” The Musashi Vice President nodded. “Once the event ends, we will be traveling to Hexagone Française in secret.”


“Oh?”

Masazumi watched as Tomoe Gozen nodded.

Doesn’t look like she knew or suspected.

Masazumi had surprised the woman, so she kept talking to avoid any confusion.

“After the event, the Musashi will be on display within the Ariake. The Ariake will return to Kantou on the 26th, but the Musashi itself will remain here for mercenary work with Europe. I’m sure P.A. Oda will throw a fit over that, but by then…”

Masazumi pointed at Mitotsudaira who was organizing inventory in the storage area.

“Do you need something?” asked the wolf before noticing Tomoe Gozen and bowing. “I believe I know what you want to know. We have something we would like to investigate in the latter half of the break, so we plan to visit my mother’s home.”

“Judge. And she’s an Hexagone Française representative, so that means we’ll be meeting their Vice Chancellor as well. If necessary, we can even discuss hiring us as a mercenary force. Those negotiations regarding events after the break give us an excuse to keep the Musashi here even as P.A. Oda protests. Also…”

Masazumi changed the subject to something more immediate.

“We have already started on a plan for intervening in Honnouji.”

“What will you be using?”

“Akechi Mitsuhide,” replied Masazumi. She paused on that name before finally continuing. “The first step is finding a chance to seek an audience with Kyou’s Akechi Mitsuhide.”


Meeting Akechi Mitsuhide was something Masazumi felt they had to pull off no matter what. However…

Art-Ga: “I’m just over here breaking down these boxes, but…can we really do that?”

Horizey: “We will be threatening him, won’t we? I understand completely. Yes.”

Me: “Hold on! We’re using Imperial Boy as a hostage!? A pretty bold move, Seijun!”

Musashi: “I think most anyone would listen to us if we parked the Musashi low above Kyou, but I do not recommend attempting that method with a trade ship. Over.”

Stop fleshing your jokes out into something halfway plausible!

“You see,” Masazumi said into her sign frame. She hesitated to tell Asama to link her to Tomoe Gozen when that idiot was dressed as a Schwarz Hexen, but she changed her mind since that was just part of the event.

Vice President: “It’s only a last resort and would make us look bad, but we could ask the Swedish Chancellor or Azuma to arrange an audience with Akechi Mitsuhide for us. That means we have more methods at our disposal than usual with him. We should try to live up to our ideals and policies, but it’s still nice to have some insurance letting us intervene in Honnouji no matter what.”

Me: “But didn’t you say using Azuma would lead to war? I remember it because that was when we were touching our dicks to the magic ice in the pool.”

Lady AM: “What in the world were you doing?”

Gold Mar: “Negotiating, technically speaking.”

Vice President: “Don’t make this any more confusing than it already is. …Anyway, war would be a possibility, but we could find a way to stop it and they might make an offer of their own. It’s even possible Kyou would come to us with a deal regarding Azuma.”

Masazumi sighed.

Vice President: “I will take responsibility for whatever happens. And I will make up for it.”

Wise Sister: “Heh heh. Did you think we wouldn’t take your side if you did that, poor girl?”

The Aoi Sister had modified her Scwharz Hexen costume to look like a dancer and she was currently helping manage the line.

Wise Sister: “Anyway, it would be best to act soon. Because then we still have time to negotiate with the other nations if the deal goes bad. But how do you plan to get an audience with him?”

Masazumi had an answer for that one.

Vice President: “We have one major offer we can present to Akechi Mitsuhide. So we can start by approaching him about that.”

“And,” she said, spreading her arms a bit.

Vice President: “The Ariake will eventually leave the Musashi here. P.A. Oda will need to negotiate with us and work out our intentions using a Kyou Representative near the provisional border.”

Horizey: “Masazumi-sama, it seems to me that contains an implicit threat.”

Musashino: “ ‘Musashi’-sama, if we do drop some of the ships to crush the city below, I recommend we begin with Okutama. I already took damage to the surface recently. Over.”

Okutama: “I-I took a fair bit of damage the other day too! Trees and nature can’t be repaired right away, you know!? Over.”

Mitotsudaira averted her gaze while working at inventory management. We couldn’t have completed our makeup exam without that, so don’t worry about it.

“Anyway,” said Masazumi looking back toward Tomoe Gozen.

The woman responded with a snort of laughter.

“Going right toward the intervention you want, huh? You’ve been awfully confident in yourself, Musashi Vice President, including how you brought the Ariake here. Are you saying you can pull this off without using the Swedish Chancellor, the crown prince, or your last resort?”

“Did the Swedish Chancellor tell you about this?”

“She sounded delighted as she passed on the news. That’s why I sped up my visits to the Protestant forces so I could be here today. Do you know what I mean?” she asked, the corners of her lips rising a little. “You must know. The Asama Shrine Representative inspects the Ariake’s visitor records.”

“Judge. We are well aware that Akechi Mitsuhide is already here.”

“That simplifies things. This is far from perfect…but the Protestants will do you a favor here.”

Tomoe Gozen shifted one shoulder’s width to the right.

Someone stood behind her. The slender person with perfect posture was…

“An old-style automaton?”


Tomoe Gozen was satisfied with the Musashi Vice President’s reaction.

There was surprise on the girl’s face.

I like that look.

That was the surprise of someone who hadn’t expected this but knew what she was seeing.

You could say this simply caught her off guard. The Musashi Vice President’s eyebrows moved in a way that a warrior would think of as leaving her “wide open”.

“So you’ve met an automaton like her before, have you?” asked Tomoe Gozen.

Then she stepped forward.

She wore a black Far Eastern maid uniform and she bowed toward the Musashi Vice President.

“I represent the automaton division left in charge of the Imperial Palace in Kyou. To accommodate the current time period, we have been granted the inherited names of the entire Konoe and Reizei families. Currently, you can think of us as primarily the Reizei.” She remained bowed as she spoke. “We protect the Imperial Palace as Akechi Mitsuhide-sama’s aides, but we are also willing to engage in combat on his orders.”


Masazumi realized she had experienced something like this before.

“Is Mori Ranmaru one of you?”

The Reizei automaton lowered her bowed head further.

“We are the automatons who date back to the Age of Dawn. She is #32. I am #18.”

This was the real purpose behind Ranmaru’s visit.

She had predicted the Reizeis’ movements and made a demand.

“She told us not to attack Kyou.”

The reason for that now stood before Masazumi.

“Mori Ranmaru asked us to avoid doing anything that would harm all of you.”

“My younger sister is a cowardly automaton.” Reizei raised her head and gave Masazumi a look that could even be described as sharp. “State your purpose, representative of the sky nomads. We have our reasons for taking Akechi-sama’s side,” she said. “So we are willing to drag Kyou and the Imperial Palace into battle if need be. What is it you wish to negotiate with Akechi-sama? Please answer me.”


Miriam saw someone she recognized.

Azuma had taken the girl to an area selling picture books, so she had moved out of the way of the lines where she could engage in some people watching while she waited.

She always remained below the Musashi’s surface. She did not know many people and this man was a book-lover who frequented places like this, so she recognized him right away.

“Oh?”

She raised her hand to catch the tall, lanky man’s attention.

“Huh?”

He looked both ways and then approached her.

“Miriam!” He lifted the turban he had wrapped low as if to hide his eyes and head. “Miriam. Miriam? I don’t believe it. What are you doing here?”

“Waiting for someone. They should be back soon. …It’s true. All of it.”

“It is?”

“Judge. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but I do think we will be following after you.”

“I see.” He nodded and adjusted the pile of books he was carrying on his back.

“What, still collecting research materials?” asked Miriam when she noticed.

“Well, these are for the Chancellor and the others. They tend to get books like this made out of them.” Only then did he finally take a deep breath. “I’m glad to see you’re doing well. I want to let everyone know.”

“I’m glad I got to see you too.”

“What will you be doing now?”

“I said I’m waiting for someone, didn’t I?”

“I see.” He took another deep breath and adjusted his turban. “I’ll be going.”

“And I will be waiting.”

“Testament. I’ll be going…and praying that you can wait long enough.”

“Don’t make it sound like we’ll never see each other again. You were too much of a coward to contact me in secret, so just go about your business.”

“Fair enough,” he said. “The Chancellor told me the same thing.” He straightened up. “Bye then.”

He did not look back. He simply walked quickly away until his tall form vanished into the crowd.

Miriam watched him go before finally letting out a deep breath and sinking down into her wheelchair. And then…

“Mama!”

The girl and Azuma walked up next to her.


Miriam fixed her drooping expression.

“Oh, what’s this?”

By the time the words left her, she had an honest smile on her lips.

The girl was not one for tact, so she immediately held out a picture book with a ghost cat and a boy fighting on the cover.

“Read it to me!”

“Oh? Are you sure that’s all you want? Shouldn’t we look around for more?”

“I can get more?”

Miriam turned toward Azuma.

“Can she, papa?”

She found Azuma sweating badly. The Ariake had a tall ceiling and the passageways were well ventilated, but the sales areas were still stuffy. Miriam passed him the bamboo bottle stored on the side of her wheelchair.

“Don’t get so overexcited you faint on us,” she told him.

“You know how sometimes you just get really sweaty all of a sudden?”

He smiled bitterly in a way that suggested he had learned his lesson. He also checked the clock on his sign frame.

“It’s still morning, so I guess we can look around some more. …We also have to figure out what to do about lunch. I think it would be best to grab something before the lunch rush.”

“Sometimes your cluelessness can come in handy.” Miriam looked him in the eye again. “Guess what just happened.”

“What?”

“I ran into an old friend.”

“Eh?”

“Why do you look so shocked I have friends?”

“N-no, it isn’t that. Really, it isn’t.” Azuma shook his head. “Are they from Musashi?”

“No. To be honest, it’s a bit of a mystery where they’re from.” She thought back on a time probably only she still remembered. “He was lost, just like old times. So I showed him the way, but maybe I was being too condescending.”

“Miriam, you need to stop intimidating people without meaning to.”

She knew she did that, but she didn’t think it was something she could change. However…

“Have you seen anyone here, Azuma? I bet a lot of people are running into people they haven’t seen in a long time.”

“Actually, yes. Well, maybe. …I saw someone who looked a lot like a person who used to look after me when I was in Kyou. He was headed the other way, though.”

“Who was it?”

“Hmm.” He tilted his head. “He was dressed completely differently, so maybe it was only someone who looks similar or some kind of costume, but he reminded me of, um…”

Azuma spoke a certain name.

“Akechi Mitsuhide-sama. But I can’t imagine him carrying around his own books, so I doubt it was him.”


“Our purpose, huh?”

Masazumi faced Reizei next to the doujinshi sales table, where she could see the crowd walking by.

The sign frame in her hand showed Crossunite’s 1st Special Duty Unit hurrying to track down Akechi Mitsuhide. The Ariake’s visitor records, which required Asama’s shrine visitor authorization, said the person they wanted to see was currently on the Ariake. That meant he was here. Even if they couldn’t meet him today, he had sent his aide Reizei to see them, suggesting he was interested in Musashi.

If it came to it, Masazumi felt they should forcibly meet with him, so…

“Would it be possible for us to meet with Lord Akechi now?”

“Please wait a moment.” Reizei opened a small sign frame, held it to her ear, and nodded a few times. “I am sorry, but Akechi-sama is currently in line for a book that is likely to sell out shortly after he purchases his copy, so he is unable to move for around half an hour.”

Vice President: “Crossunite, do you know which line that is? If so, we could probably go and negotiate with him there.”

10ZO: “Th-that is not enough information to narrow it down much at all!”

Gold Mar: “Yeah, most people are running low on inventory at this point.”

Art-Ga: “And if you start negotiating in the middle of lines this bad, you’d better be ready for the staff to throw you out.”

Vice President: “Are our crucial negotiations going to get thrown out by event staff now/”

Well, this wasn’t really the place for negotiations.

Masazumi took a breath and looked to Reizei again. Reizei raised her right hand.

“Akechi-sama is very busy, but I have been authorized to speak with you with all of his authority.”

“All of his authority? Are you sure about that?”

“Testament. As far as basic negotiations go, you can safely view it that way. …Or are you saying you have some business that exceeds my authority and requires negotiating directly with him?”

“Judge. That’s the kind of business I have in mind.”

“And what is this business?”

Masazumi first glanced over at Tomoe Gozen.

The Protestant Representative had her arms crossed and was still smirking with the corners of her mouth.

The look practically screamed “tell her already”.

“Judge.”

Masazumi nodded.

This had to be a test by Tomoe Gozen. She wanted them to show this automaton what they had already done a few times already.

She wanted them to throw this in the face of someone who saw themselves as a solid, unchanging foundation.

“Very well then.” Masazumi began with some preliminary information. “We believe that Lord Akechi is preparing for a major history recreation event. So…”

The business she was throwing in this automaton’s face was what Masazumi considered their best bet for intervening in the Honnouji Incident.

“Would it be possible for him to grant Musashi the rights to his inherited name of Akechi Mitsuhide?”


Afterword[edit]

And that was Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon 8-B. As summer break enters its latter half, everyone is thinking hard about what they should be doing and who they should be. If you ask me, everyone goes through that during summer break. And I could only write this thanks to all of your support, so thank you very much.

There are some realizations you can only reach during summer break and you meet not just people but media and other things, so I was wondering what that sort of thing was like during the Warring States period or the Thirty Years’ War.

After all, they didn’t have any solid means of communication or transportation at the time. Entire areas could be behind the times or not with the current fashions because the things developed in Kyou had no way of reaching Kantou. In that sense, I can see why people liked the thoughtfulness of Buddhism and Shinto and why they liked to exchange letters or collect books. It’s known that Nobunaga liked unusual things, but I think that was both a way of entertaining himself and a way of satisfying his subordinates’ curiosities and boredom. Think of it like a boss who lets you play a brand new video game and provides commentary on it. If he could show you some foreign item and use it to fascinate you enough that you could talk about it for an entire evening, I can see why everyone came to love Nobunaga.

Anyway, time for the usual chat.

“Got any embarrassing stories from your school days?”

“What, you want to hear about how I nearly failed my kindergarten entrance exam?”

“That’s a lot higher level than I expected, but sure.”

“One of our freeform assignments was to ‘draw a picture’. Now, everyone else drew normal things like a car or an animal, but I decided to draw the ink wash painting displayed in an alcove at home.”

“You were an ambitious child, weren’t you? But if they knew what you were doing, why wouldn’t they pass you?”

“Unfortunately, the other kids took all the black paint, so I had no choice but to draw the clouds and waterfall in purple. They thought I was drawing a storm of violence in a disconcerting color, so they ended up calling my parents in to speak with them. Apparently, I really wouldn’t have been let in if my older siblings hadn’t gone there.”

You could’ve chosen something other than purple, you know? Anyway…

“Who was thinking most about what they should be?”

That’s the question this time. My work background music was Nandattanda? 7Days by the Barbee Boys. Their other song Megitsune on the Run is more summery, but I think this one’s lyrics and music fit summer break better (although I have a feeling only people from my generation would understand why). It really gets to me when I hear it while on the move under the summer sun.

Anyway, the next one starts with summer on the Ariake. Wait just a while longer.


January 2015. A morning without snow.

-Kawakami Minoru



Notes[edit]

  1. This one: 凶


Back to Volume 8A Return to Main Page