Horizon:Volume 8B Chapter 32

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Chapter 32: Speaker at an Indirect Location[edit]

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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.

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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?”