Horizon:Volume 8C Chapter 58

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Chapter 58: Curious People in a Curious Place[edit]

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Oh?

Some people

Are talking about me…

Point Allocation (Should We Trade Places?)


“And with that said…”

Reizei watched the Musashi Vice President speak with her arms spread.

“I want you to trust what you see and feel here.”

How am I supposed to do that!?

Automatons had an especially hard time with problems they had to think through on their own. After all, their souls were generally born to provide assistance. They had trouble wanting things, thinking about things, and doing things on their own.

So in negotiations, they generally sought the optimal answer for both parties to ensure neither side lost out. If possible, they would prioritize an optimal answer that matched their master’s wishes, but even then their idea of “optimal” was to avoid anything that went against the other side’s optimal answer.

They did their best to reach an optimal answer that was a positive thing for both parties.

Simply put, it was an absolute form of compromise.

That attitude was crucial for keeping the Imperial Palace inviolable. Reizei had held herself to that standard ever since the Age of Dawn. However…

This is my first time negotiating with someone whose optimal answer is war!

After all, the people constructed the current system during the Age of Dawn specifically to avoid any further war. And we entered the Imperial Palace to assist with that…and some other things as well.

Why did this girl want war? The Musashi Vice President appeared to be forcing a smile.

“To be very clear, Musashi is a pacifist nation.”

Yet…

“We can’t take the option of war off the table when dealing with the other nations, but it is always a last resort. Musashi never starts a war. If the world finds peace, we intend to disarm ourselves.”

However…

“May I ask something?” said Reizei.

“Judge. What is it?”

Reizei just came out and asked it.

“How often have you relied on war to resolve your problems with other nations?”


Masazumi considered that.

There was Mikawa…but we didn’t really have a choice there.

The Armada Battle was something we agreed on while speaking with England. The battles among the Special Duty Officers before that were something England started.

The IZUMO battle, Magdeburg, and Mikatagahara were things we got roped into against our will. Oh, the three nations meeting didn’t lead to war with Mogami. And in addition to that…

Gold Mar: “Seijun, Seijun.”

Vice President: “Hm? What is it, Naito?”

“Judge,” said Naito while making rolls of coins.

Gold Mar: “She asked how often we used war to solve our problems, not how many times we’ve declared war. Make sure you answer the right question.”

Art-Ga: “Have we ever solved our problems with something other than war? And how many negotiations have we had that didn’t lead straight to war?”

Horizey: “What about Ookubo-sama’s fun and exciting student assembly at Mito that we didn’t participate in?”

Tachibana Wife: “That was only used to gather opinions within Musashi, so I don’t think it counts as solving our problems with another nation.”

Uqui: “Then what about the negotiation with Ankokuji Ekei the other day?”

“Oh, yeah!” shouted the others.

Me: “I can’t believe one actually exists!”

Do I need to kick your butt!?

Meanwhile, everyone opened sign frames without stopping their work.

Wise Sister: “Heh heh. But are there any others? Out with it, everyone! Spill the beans!”

Flat Vassal: “Judge! What about when the Satomi Student Council President and I went to Mogami!? The 2nd Special Duty Officer having fun in Date and Sviet Rus going to Novgorod don’t count, though.”

Asama: “Um…wouldn’t the negotiation with Oushuu Fujiwara technically count?”

Scarred: “What about your negotiation with Howard?”

Novice: “That was more Bertoni-kun’s negotiation than Musashi’s.”

Me: “So is that all of them?”

I sure hope not.

That thought was cut off by Mary nodding and speaking.

Scarred: “We have had a lot of negotiations and we are short on time, so wouldn’t it be better to conclude we have had five or so peaceful negotiations instead of checking over them all right now?”


Reizei watched the Musashi Vice President nod and speak.

“To answer your question, it sounds like there have been five or so times my negotiations haven’t led to war.”

Reizei found an extremely upsetting decision being made in her mind.

“Five times?”

“Five or so times. Or so I’ve been told.”

“Isn’t that really low?”

“Hmm.” The Musashi Vice President crossed her arms and groaned a bit before answering. “Whether it’s high or low is a subjective thing, so I can’t really give you a definitive answer. It sounds like a lot to me personally.”


Asama: “Five times is a lot!? Are you sure you should be saying that, Masazumi!?”

Vice President: “It’s called negotiating, okay!? Agreeing with her that it’s low let’s her control the conversation!”

Art-Ga: “Let’s see, Asama’s line on this page can be ‘five times isn’t anywhere near enough for me’.”

Still Got It: “And it shouldn’t be! Five times is when you’re just getting started! Don’t let her outdo you, Nate!”

Silver Wolf: “Why are you a part of this conversation!?”

Novice: “This is really making us sound like a yakuza nation, isn’t it?”

Flat Vassal: “Eh? Is it?”

10ZO: “It kind of is. I mean, if 5 times without war seems like a lot, then it implies we intended for even more of our negotiations to end in war.”

Vice President: “Oops.”

Almost Everyone: “Think before you speak!”


Reizei watched the Musashi Vice President smile and speak.

“You know, now that I think about it, that is pretty low. Only five times without war? That’s disastrously low, don’t you think?”

What kind of question is that!?

Reizei simulated her possible answers in her head.

  • Say it is a lot → She says “then let’s not do that again” and declares war.
  • Say it is low → She says “might as well stick with what we know best” and declares war.

Every option leads to war!

Reizei worked her brain for around three seconds, running more than ten quadrillion simulations.

“T-to answer your question,” she said. “Whether it is high or low is a subjective thing, so I cannot provide a definitive answer.”


Vice President: “See, what did I tell you!? People’s opinions of how many times we have and haven’t gone to war are subjective! I was right.”

Unturning: “So you are leaving that as a question for later historians to answer.”

Bell: “Wh-what happens…then?”

Tachibana Wife: “Musashi and the Vice President are attempting to create a peaceful world, so the question is how that peaceful world will judge her war declaration rate when looking back on this age. The answer seems obvious to me.”

Art-Ga: “Wayyyy too much war!”

Vice President: “Hey, have you all forgotten this is the Warring States period? This is the standard way of life for the people of our age. It doesn’t matter what people in the future think.”

Gold Mar: “Now you’re just making excuses.”


Anyway, we have to be in a better position now that the Musashi is armed and we can use the threat of war when negotiating. Probably, anyway.

Masazumi just about convinced herself with that wishful thinking, but…

Horizey: “Masazumi-sama, I understand that starting negotiations with an attitude of ‘eh, might as well go to war’ is how your Masazumi Rules work, but that will fill Musashi’s Evil Gauge much too quickly for my liking, so could you possibly limit yourself to no more than three times a day?”

Me: “Wouldn’t once a week be better?”

Horizey: “No, Toori-sama. If we restrict her too much, she will be unable to contain herself and might began an entirely unprovoked invasion.”

No, I wouldn’t.

And three times a day sounds like enough to conquer the world in about a month.

That’s pretty fast. Maybe that should be our plan!

No, it shouldn’t.

My thoughts are switching back forth a lot today. Could it be the festive mood?

Anyway, I’m coming off as a big war proponent, but it should only be used sparingly. Yes, sparingly. I only need to sprinkle a bit of war on top of our negotiations. I need to stay positive. That’s crucial for a politician.

War was always a possibility and it was a possibility that influenced the other side, so it could be useful in negotiations.

She felt like she was getting the order backwards and she would probably have to fix that later, but it was always possible to get a fresh start.

What mattered now was she had trapped Reizei in this discussion.

Reizei had tried to run away and compromise, but Masazumi had trapped her right in front of her now. And in a way, that was thanks to the others causing a scene behind her. Now there’s an idea I don’t like. Isn’t there any other way of interpreting this?

Bell: “M-Masazumi…you look…sad?”

Gold Mar: “I bet it’s just heat exhaustion. It is hot in the Ariake after all.”

How do they stay so positive at all times?

Anyway, I need to fight back too.

Remember to stay positive. So…

“Exactly, Reizei. Whether we go to war a lot or a little doesn’t matter. This is the Warring States period and the age of the Thirty Years’ War, after all.” Masazumi addressed Reizei who looked cautious. “I am a pacificist and Musashi tries to avoid war whenever possible. Yes, wars do sometimes happen and I can’t really explain why, but I say we chalk that up to the age we live in. Let’s stay positive, Reizei. …Now, when does Akechi Mitsuhide plan to die?”

She asked the question Reizei had dodged earlier.

She says she can’t tell us anything about her master.

So Masazumi only had to ask this.

“I want to hear your thoughts on the matter. Not the truth your master knows – your own personal thoughts.”


Reizei considered that.

My thoughts?

Her personal thoughts about her master.

In a way, that felt like a contradictory request. But she also knew this question was directed at something automatons had trouble with and something they excelled out.

In an automaton’s thoughts, all questions and answers were separated out.

Automatons could not mix their thoughts together. They were worse than humans at comprehensive thinking, but they excelled at what the Musashi Vice President had just asked about.

She could separate her own personal thoughts from her master’s thoughts concerning his death.

Humans could not do the same.

Akechi Mitsuhide had already told her what he had decided on the matter.

Humans could not forget what they had been told.

And as long as they had their memory of being told, they couldn’t say for sure that any thoughts they had were truly only their own.

A connection had been created there.

So even if they successfully isolated their own thoughts on the matter, they could never stop doubting and neither could anyone else. That was why humans placed more weight on connections than on their own personal thoughts.

Because they can no longer isolate their personal thoughts.

But automatons were different.

If they were given parameters to use, they could produce their own isolated thoughts.

They could not handle comprehensive thinking since the conditions branched off so much, but they could always select what was needed with something that could be scanned and categorized.

When Akechi Mitsuhide had conveyed his decision to her, she had repeatedly examined it. That was the only way for her to trust in what he had said and it supported her now.

But now she would eliminate that support.

She would consider this question without the decision he had told her.

“You want to know when Akechi-sama will be lost?”

She unemotionally focused on her personal thoughts.

She placed herself a step removed from Akechi Mitsuhide to perform her own duty and nothing else.

“Musashi negotiator, I have a request for you as the Imperial Palace’s negotiator.”

She had to make this clear as a defender of the Imperial Palace.

“Will you preserve the Imperial Palace’s inviolable status?”


Reizei spoke to the Musashi Vice President to fulfill her duty.

“I cannot answer your question if you cannot do that.”

“Why not?”

That was the expected question.

It was also a question she had faced several times in the past.

Yes.

Tomoe Gozen was standing to the side observing the discussion in silence. Reizei had answered the same question in Tomoe Gozen’s time.

The regents had stormed in and asked if there was any way of saving Tomoe Gozen and the others.

She had warned them there were a few different reasons and their questions were a problem.

Tomoe Gozen was surely thinking back on that time. She had not stormed into the Imperial Palace back then, but that was why she imagined the scene now.

She was realizing what exchange must have occurred then.

And Reizei provided the same response she had back then.

She had no sentiment.

Her answer had always been the same and it always would.

“Because the Imperial Palace is the Emperor’s residence. It must remain inviolable.”

“Then,” said the girl. “Why is Akechi Mitsuhide allowed to interfere with you?”

Reizei was unsure if she should answer that one.

She chose to answer because this girl was the type to dig in her heels.

Any member of the imperial court would back off when she gave that standard line. They knew displeasing the Imperial Palace by refusing to back down would lead to political conflict.

But these people felt no such fear. So Reizei answered not to further negotiations but to convince Musashi to give up.

“There is a simple reason why Akechi-sama can interfere with us.”

It was because…

“We have accepted him as our master.”


Unturning: “Hm? Wouldn’t the Emperor be master to the Imperial Palace’s automatons?”

Horizey: “Asama-samaaaaa!”

Asama: “Yes, yes, yes. Um, I don’t know very much about those automatons, but automatons can operate without a master, can’t they?”

Horizey: “A masterless automaton sounds like a sort of mysterious phenomenon to me.”

Unturning: “Kiyonari, I can’t…”

Uqui: “You let her win if you react. Look, you see her arms down at her feet gesturing for you to say something, don’t you?”

Asama: “Umm, as you can see, there are some automatons without masters. For that matter, the Musashi’s automatons are masterless too.”

Art-Ga: “Oh, one of them kind of has a master, so I’ll ask the Musashino’s bridge about it real quick.”


Musashino: “ ‘Musashi’-sama? We just received a divine transmission from down below asking if Sakai-sama is your mast- ‘Musashi’-sama!? Why did you shut down our connection!? Hello!? Can you hear me!? Over.”


Silver Wolf: “Well, officially anyway, none of the Musashi automatons have masters.”

Gold Mar: “It feels weird only realizing it now, but I guess I never really thought about it before. So how can they function without one?”

Smoking Girl: “Because they are part of a larger system. In this case, the Musashi’s massive flight system. Their position there provides them with a clearly defined role. To put it another way, you could view that role as their master.”

Tachibana Wife: “I can only speculate, but if they do have a clear master, they need that master’s decision about anything they do. But in a system that must remain running at all times and must respond to emergencies, needing to seek out their master would only waste precious time.”

Flat Vassal: “Um, in that case…”

Asama: “Yes, Reizei-san and the others like her have been given roles within the Far East’s ley line management system centered on the Emperor. Did you get all that, Masazumi?”


“I see.”

Masazumi could now make a few guesses and recognized some connections that had been left unsaid.

Reizei stood in front of her.

The crowds were walking by nearby and anyone who wasn’t paying attention probably saw them as friends chatting next to the sales table. Anyone who was paying attention would see it as two nations “happening across each other” at the event. They would either pretend they hadn’t seen anything or try to spy on them from a distance.

Vice President: “Crossunite.”

10ZO: “Judge. I have already called in the Ariake’s guards and had them arrest some people I noticed people using lipreading and other spying techniques.”

A student was yelling at a nearby intersection while the guards took him away.

“N-no! I was only mouthing the words I just lipread, not savoring the scents of all the nearby girls in my mouth!”

I’m pretty sure both of those options are bad.

At any rate, it sounded like they could speak here without being overheard. Back behind the sales table, Naruze said they were down to just two boxes left and the others cheered, but Masazumi had no idea how impressive that was.

But she could see something more clearly now.

“Reizei.”

She had to confirm something before asking Reizei her thoughts on Akechi Mitsuhide’s death.

“I think I know what it means for Akechi Mitsuhide to be your master,” she said. “You see him as someone who shares your understanding of and problems regarding the Imperial Palace system, don’t you? You have accepted him as your master because you can incorporate him into the Imperial Palace management system.”


Tomoe Gozen was monitoring the progression of negotiations. And her thought here was…

So she understands that the Imperial Palace is a system.

Since Tomoe Gozen had been born in an age when the imperial court still held a lot of power, she had a strong understanding of the palace as the center of the Divine States’ political system.

But people born in the current age tended to not even know what the imperial court really was. They just pictured people with white makeup and shaved eyebrows reciting poetry and getting rich off of their court rank.

That image wasn’t entirely wrong, but people these days could take a more detached view than in Tomoe Gozen’s time. That meant they didn’t fear the court and could freely talk about and analyze them.

“I see.”

Tomoe Gozen repeated the Musashi Vice President’s line because she agreed with that she had said.

If Reizei and the other automatons lacked a master, it was because they belonged to the system that was the Imperial Palace. Their role was probably to protect the Emperor who managed the ley lines within, so they had to keep the palace inviolable.

Just like a delicate device or spell, the system was not designed to be messed with.

The Imperial Palace had held more political authority back in Tomoe Gozen’s time, so she had to wonder how that inviolable system had dealt with her situation back then.

She knew everyone had been turned away at the entrance.

But then she found herself questioning the strict adherence to the Testament back then.

If the Imperial Palace was a single complete system, then she could only think of two possible reasons they hadn’t been granted leniency with their history recreation.

First, it was a way of pushing them away and keeping the Imperial Palace inviolable.

And second…

I wonder.

She wasn’t certain, but this other possibility dealt with a major problem regarding that system.

When she considered the rejection of her issue back then in comparison to the current discussion, that possibility was hard to ignore.

What if rejecting situations like ours was an intended part of the Imperial Palace system?

That would mean, she added, following that line of thought.

This idea had occurred to her while listening in on someone’s discussion at this noisy event, but if she were to convert it into words…

“Could it be?”

She kept her voice too low for anyone to hear and completed the thought in her mind.

Is forcing compliance with the Testament part of the system to preserve the Imperial Palace?


Tomoe Gozen did not understand why she had gasped.

What does this mean? she thought, about several things at once.

Did she mean her guess? Did she mean what that guess pointed to? Or did she mean herself considering these things here?

She wasn’t sure.

But that was the question on her mind.

What if the system to preserve the Imperial Palace included a forced compliance with the Testament?

The Musashi is rejecting a part of their system by using interpretations.

In that case, this could lead to a direct confrontation between the Imperial Palace and Musashi.

That was too dangerous.

But she also knew what it meant for her to be thinking about all this.

“Ha.”

She belatedly realized what Reizei had meant earlier and what Matsunaga Hisahide had meant when he spoke to Musashi that one time.

I see.

They were starting to question the old order and the things it took for granted.

But this new order would not destroy the old. If the Imperial Palace would choose their death through the destruction of that system, then Musashi would attempt to stop the losses that would cause.

They were a troublesome lot, but that was why she had left this with them. It hadn’t been entirely subconscious, but she had known they could reveal the truth of the Imperial Palace.

But she had been able to guess they would not crush or end the palace after revealing its truth. She had guessed they would turn it into something new, which would not satisfy her old grudge.

And now the Musashi Vice President was working at just that.

She made it sound like a greeting.

“I find it fascinating to think Akechi Mitsuhide has a strong understanding of the Imperial Palace. Because that means someone living in the present can involve himself in a system that has existed since the Age of Dawn. And…” She made her move. “That means it would be possible for us to involve ourselves in it as well.”


“That is not possible,” stated Reizei. Immediately.

That will not happen.

There were a few reasons why. But the most important one was also the one she could safely give them.

“Akechi Mitsuhide-sama is all we need.”

“That’s the thing.” The Musashi Vice President pointed at herself with her thumb. “We’re saying we’ll take his place. By receiving his inherited name.”


“You cannot do that.”

Masazumi heard Reizei’s denial.

She did not take it as a rejection because she knew this was merely a decision of whether or not it would be possible.

Of course, Masazumi didn’t know why it was impossible.

But she doubted Reizei would be willing to tell her.

She did have one thought, though.

Reizei had some reason to think of Akechi Mitsuhide as special and he shared some problem with Reizei and her fellow Imperial Palace automatons. And this had to be something Masazumi had already seen and experienced. Because…

“Yeah, I can see why you have to be so vague about your reasons.” Masazumi chose her words carefully. “Because if you say it any more clearly, you’d be taken away, wouldn’t you?”


The Double Border Crest.

Masazumi had that term in her mind when she saw Reizei freeze.

The automaton chose not to move. And for a long time.

That meant she understood what Masazumi had said.

The Double Border Crest.

Reizei understood that, but she was having trouble determining why Masazumi had hinted at that.

Of course she was having trouble. She had been inside the Imperial Palace, so she hadn’t seen or experienced what Masazumi had.

Why did Musashi know so much about the Double Border Crest?

If she didn’t have an answer to that, then her automaton mind would spin in circles until she ended that train of thought.

This problem tended to show itself the more important an issue it was for Musashi.

So…

“I can have the Asama Shrine send over the relevant data if necessary, but we – I – have encountered it.”

She thought back to those times.

It had honestly been enough to make her tremble.

For her, her mother had disappeared, and…

“William of Orange, the Chancellor of Holland, was taken away in the Age of Dawn ruins located below Novgorod. And when he was, it appeared behind our backs.”

And…

“We saw it again the other day with Mori Ranmaru who was sent to P.A. Oda from the Imperial Palace.”

“#32?”

“Correct, #18.”

Masazumi asked the question inside her. The question summed up her thoughts when her mother disappeared, at Novgorod, and the other day with Ranmaru.

“What is that?”

There were several implied whys in that question.

Why did my mother disappear?

Why was I targeted?

Why are you targeted?

Why is it all connected to the Imperial Palace?

Why?

She doubted Reizei could actually answer those questions. If she did, it was sure to appear behind her.

But she had her own thoughts on the matter.

“Mori Ranmaru asked us not to attack your Imperial Palace.”

“#32.”

That was the same designator as before, but this time it wasn’t a question. It sounded to Masazumi like a statement of acceptance or resignation.

Masazumi only had to continue speaking to approach this automaton.

“We can go to war and fight back against any force that attempts to destroy us, but I’m sure the same is true of you. You can’t just take it when someone attacks you for no reason.”

But…

“What is that?”

The Double Border Crest. And to combine that with what the Prince of Orange had said…

“What is the Princess?”

Again, she knew she wasn’t going to get any answers to these questions. But…

“Answer me.”

She connected it all back to her initial request to Reizei.

“What are your thoughts regarding your master?”

In other words…

“When and where does Akechi Mitsuhide intend to be taken away by the Princess?”


Mary briefly shrank down while handing books to the line of buyers.

He intends to be taken away by the Princess?

She had never thought of it that way.

Her father, Henry VIII, had been taken in the Princess Disappearances. It was a mysterious phenomenon and he had been taken away so thoroughly that she and her sister had both failed to follow the ether remnants.

They had still been children at the time, but the adults had all said the king had been taken away.

Afterwards, the general consensus had been to put her sister on the throne while Mary would assist in the history recreation, but they had ultimately reached an impasse there.

She had sometimes thought their father would have had a solution if he had still been with them. She had also wished there had been an authority over the two of them who could have helped when they needed to right a misunderstanding brought on by their respective positions.

But their father hadn’t been there.

He had been taken away, so she just had to accept it. Their inability to follow him had taught them all too well how real it was.

“Mary-dono, you appear to be running low on books.”

He passed her a fresh stack of books from the side.

“Oh.”

Had he noticed she had gotten lost in thought? He ignored the way the people in the line all opened their sign frames and started typing something.

“An event like this really is a group effort, isn’t it?” he said.

“You mean…?”

He nodded, telling her they couldn’t hold up the line so she should keep her question short when she sent it.

“If you have any thoughts, someone will make sure you can step forward and ask about it.”

So…

“You are free to think.”

He did understand. Knowing that felt like enough for her.

“Master Tenzou, do you mind if I ask too much of you?”

“Judge. You are really setting your sights high this time, aren’t you?”

“Eh?”

“None of your requests have ever felt like too much to me.”

She felt heat rapidly rising from her neck.

Oh, um, wait…

She had thought she had gotten over this weird tension after rearranging their room the other day, but here it was again. She felt like she had gained a new switch inside her after Odawara and he kept unintentionally hitting it.

But the spilling flowers didn’t lie. Her blood instantly heated up.

“U-um, I apologize, but the heat seems to be getting to me. Can you take over for me?”

He had intended to do that from the beginning, but now she had a reason to ask for it. She bowed toward the line in front of her.

“I am sorry, everyone, but Master Tenzou will be taking over.”

“Judge!”

They all nodded unusually vigorously and began typing away at their sign frames for some inexplicable reason.


Art-Ga: “The thread I started before the event just exploded. What did you do, Tenzou? It’s honestly scary.”

10ZO: “N-none of this would have happened if not for you, Naruze-dono!”


Mary lightly slapped her heated cheeks and returned to the inventory space. The crossdressing Chancellor had a bamboo water bottle for her. She drank some of that, accepted a wet hand towel from Asama, and pressed it against her face.

It’s cool.

The folded hand towel had a cooling charm attached. The unexpected chilliness helped her adjust her thoughts with a sigh. She brought the water bottle’s reed straw to her mouth again.

She wasn’t sure what to think when she recognized the flavor of yuzu in the water.

But for now, she hurriedly opened a sign frame to ask her question regarding what she had heard earlier.

Scarred: “Um, I have a question about what you said concerning the Double Border Crest.”

This was her question.

Scarred: “Would someone really intentionally let it take them?”


Tenzou nodded at Mary’s question while watching the line of expressionless people who kept glancing his way.

If that is an option, then what about when Henry VIII was taken?

Then again, they didn’t know one way or the other if he had wanted to be taken.

However, it was always a possibility.

Asama: “Someone…with a connection to it? Well, I don’t know if that’s how it works, but someone like that could summon it to them to intentionally have it take them away. We saw it nearly happen to Mori Ranmaru-san and Reizei-san appears to be in a similar situation.”

Vice President: “I’d like to believe it wasn’t intentional with my mother, though.”

Horizey: “Judge. I find it hard to believe the mother of a girl who regularly collapses on the side of the road and spends all of her monthly income on books would abandon her daughter by letting herself get Double Border Crested.”

Was that supposed to be comforting? But Tenzou, and probably Suzu, heard a quiet snort of laughter from Masazumi.

He could only say one thing for now.

10ZO: “It would be best to assume some of the crest’s victims were taken willingly.”

Silver Wolf: “By why do that?”

Each of them probably had their own reasons. But…

Vice President: “Did you forget? The Nonexistent Academy was trying to befriend the Princess, but that failed and so the Prince of Orange, a student there, was taken by the Princess Disappearances. Thinking back, that may have been something he wanted.”

No, silently replied Tenzou. And…

Me: “Seijun, aren’t you getting a little overexcited here?”

Vice President: “What’s wrong with that?”

Me: “Did you think up some awful pun?”

Vice President: “It isn’t awful. It’s just so clever I doubt any of you would get it.”

A concerned stir ran through the others.

But their Vice President relaxed her shoulders. And…

Vice President: He was trying to leave a message for us, but that got him taken by the Princess. …The Princess has caused us a lot of trouble, but I think we finally know where she lives.”

The Imperial Palace.

That place connected Mori Ranmaru, Reizei, and Akechi Mitsuhide.

Of course, Reizei wouldn’t answer if asked about this.

But Masazumi asked the question needed to obtain further confirmation.

“Akechi Mitsuhide said he has no intention of dying. But what about being taken by the Princess Disappearances?”

And she asked another question.

“When does he intend to summon a Princess Disappearance for himself?”


Reizei just about responded.

She could immediately give an honest answer. However…

How much does she know?

How much did she know about the Double Border Crest and the Imperial Palace? This question told Reizei that the Musashi Vice President was searching for a certain answer.

Can they share our problem?

Her master was Akechi Mitsuhide.

That would not change until she deemed him to be unfit as a master.

They had all made that same decision as automatons, so they all obeyed him.

So he would remain their master for the time being. And given when he would be lost, it was highly unlikely he would ever be deemed unfit as a master before then.

Thus, these people here could not become her master.

That is correct, she told herself.

These people had not arrived in time.

They had been slower than Akechi.

Also, they had yet to reach the center of it all. They were still searching for that.

“It is too bad.”

If only they had had more time or fate had dealt them a better hand.

Then we might have welcomed you as our master.

They could not share her problem, so she decided to provide a plain response.

But in that very moment, the Musashi Vice President spoke unexpectedly.

“We will not disappear. …And we don’t intend to let Lord Akechi disappear either.”

“–––––”

“Do you get what I mean?” she asked. “Your answer was meant to bring that option into view for you. And if you believe it will happen soon, then we can demonstrate our intent to intervene. Of course, I doubt we’re qualified to do that yet, but if we can make up for that,” she said. “Then a single word from you would be enough to prevent your master from being lost.”


That was a bold move, thought Narumi.

She did not know much about automaton thoughts and traits. There hadn’t been many of them in Date land, but more than that, she wasn’t the type to intrude on other people’s thoughts.

But her life and experiences on the Musashi had taught her the general way they thought.

They always sought the optimal answer.

That in turn gave them trouble with grasping comprehensive information. So…

She has her trapped.

When would Akechi Mitsuhide be lost? That question had forced the automaton to bring the answer to mind and then the Musashi Vice President had overturned that assumed loss with a possible intervention.

Reizei has accepted the loss of her master, but what if she doesn’t have to accept it?

Unturning: “When an automaton does have a master, how significant is it when they lose that master?”

Narumi considered that question.

Unturning: “If they might not lose their master after all, is that a plus in their mind? Or is it nothing since it means nothing actually changes?”

But she could see something here: Reizei.

The automaton hadn’t moved for a while now.

She couldn’t move.

“If she gives her answer, it’s all over.”

The automaton’s stillness eloquently answered the Musashi Vice President’s question.

“Because if she gives her answer, we will intervene. She wants to avoid that, but she also doesn’t want to avoid it, so she freezes up. That’s all the answer we need,” said Narumi. “Akechi Mitsuhide will be lost soon.”


Masazumi watched Reizei.

The frozen automaton might as well have answered the question already.

Akechi Mitsuhide would have himself lost soon.

When would that be?

The Battle of Yamazaki? The Honnouji Incident? Some other upcoming event?

If it was Honnouji…

We will intervene.

She did not know if Reizei would answer or not. It was very likely she would reject them. But if so, they could still negotiate with Akechi Mitsuhide himself.

It was too soon to say this would work. With the Battle of Yamazaki, there was a good possibility that Akechi Mitsuhide’s decision would come after Honnouji.

What would they do then?

No.

The question now was when it would be. They could focus on the rest after they knew that. And…

“–––––”

Reizei resumed moving.

She straightened up and opened her mouth.

And at precisely that moment…

“Wow, sorry about all this trouble, Reizei-kun.”

A male voice suddenly came from behind Reizei.

Masazumi looked that way to see a tall and lanky man. He wore a tightly-wrapped turban pulled down over his eyes, he wore a large backpack, and he used a wooden forked cane.

Masazumi heard what Reizei called him when she turned his way.

“Akechi-sama!”