Horizon:Volume 8B Chapter 44
Chapter 44: Imaginer on the Rejection Stage
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…
“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!’!”
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.
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.
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?”
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?
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.
“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.”
“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.
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?
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.
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.
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