Horizon:Volume 8B Chapter 45
Chapter 45: Debaters in the Forest
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.”
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?”
“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.
The Reine des Garous approached while swaying a little. She was glowing with…
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.”
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…
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…
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
“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.
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!?”
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