Horizon:Volume 8B Chapter 33
Chapter 33: Clue Finder with Solid Footing
It is something you can see
It is something you cannot see
It is something that just works
Point Allocation (A Deal)
…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.”
“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.”
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.”
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.”
“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!”
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.”
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.”
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.”
“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.
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.”
“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…”
“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.”
“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.”
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.”
“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?”
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…
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…”
“The Roi-Soleil is waiting there for Mouri’s triumphant return after their defeat at Hashiba’s hands.”
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