Born on January 3, 1975. From Tokyo. Making good progress on the Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon side story along with the main story. Also started a new project called Clash of Hexennacht and working towards its realization.
Born in Yamagata and raised in Tochigi. “I’ve been eating a lot of smoked eggs recently for that distinctive scent.” What scent would that be, Sensei?
Mitotsudaira was Musashi’s #1 knight. She had not wanted that position; she had been given it by the system and so she would be one of the faces seen when other nations visited. She had wanted to cast that aside, but she had been unable to bring herself to do so and thus still carried it around with her.
But she was starting her third year of middle school today, so she hoped she could change at least somewhat.
“Maybe I’m not trying hard enough if all I’m doing is sitting here thinking about it.”
She was looking forward to some things about the new school term. She could see her king every day and she could chat with the acquaintances she was willing to call her friends. And…
“I get to wear the new uniform today!”
This year’s new style of uniform was hanging on the wall of her bedroom. The gray base was traditional for middle school, but the sides of the inner suit were black instead of white. Kimi and some others loved how the tight fight showed off your figure, but she felt some pressure from the cut of the chest and how the supports below the chest were slanted diagonally down toward the center. It felt like she was being told to grow bigger so as not to waste that fabric, but…
…I-I’m just imagining that pressure, right!?
However, some others around her apparently easily covered up those chest supports. When they had all tried their new uniforms on together, she had heard comments such as “I wish we had a chest band like the high school uniform” and “Yes, this doesn’t stop the vertical shaking.” Feigning calm there was not easy. Adele, on the other hand, let the panic show on her face.
“Yet for some reason, I was photographed as the model.”
She felt like she had been set up, but even so, getting together with everyone like that had been a lot of fun. During spring break, that had been displayed on Musashi’s divine network along with models showing off this year’s elementary and high school uniforms, so her king might have seen it.
I wonder if he did, she thought while moving to the kitchen.
There she found a breakfast prepared by the automaton sent here last night. She found bread, soup, and a ham salad, but since they had the opening ceremony today, she wanted something special. Thus…
“Time for some breakfast meat.”
She was so oddly excited that it surprised even her. At any rate, her main dish this morning was pork topped with beef. Then some lamb for the vegetable. The chicken is the drink. But as she added salt, vinegar, and soy sauce to what she had cooked, broiled, and boiled, a sign frame appeared. It was from her king.
“Hey, Nate. When are you leaving home? That new uniform is going to take some time, right?”
That would mean he had indeed seen the picture. She gasped, but…
“I-I will not be wearing that one. I have a personal one with special embroidery.”
“Ohh, that sounds cool! Then shoot me a divine transmission when you leave. We can meet up at the bridge.”
She said “judge” as he ended the transmission and then she took a deep breath.
“Okay.” She stretched her back. “That means no hamburger steak for dessert.”
Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon
Soul and Wolf
–Let’s get started!
Illustrations: Satoyasu (Tenky)
[First, everything behind the text boxes]
Title: Musashi Divine Transmission – Travel Edition
Article title: Musashi Middle School Girl’s Uniform
Left insert: Uniform Back
Right insert: Uniform Top
Text: Now, the Musashi Sartorial Club is excited to introduce you to Musashi’s new middle school uniform. This is the winter version. Almost all of your requests were turned down and we have only made some minor improvements on the existing design that prioritized ease of movement. Our model is Nate Mitotsudaira of the new third year class. She had ordered her own custom version, so later on
[Now, the text boxes]
Horizon: Um, everyone, look what I found while letting my instincts drive my searching habits.
Asama: Wow, this takes me back! I’ll save this as part of the records!
Adele: Oh, this is when we tricked her into getting photographed, wasn’t it!?
Mary: How cute. She already had the wolf look down back then, didn’t she?
Naruze: Really, I wish she would just spread her legs for some nice fanservice.
Naito: Ga-chan, didn’t you say the same thing when it was Asama-chi?
Gin: You can really tell how old this is. The resolution seems somewhat low.
Nate: H-how did you dig this up!? I already know it’s hopeless, but please don’t let my king see this!
Masazumi: Hey, get away from me, idiot.
Table of Contents
Mitotsudaira: In this Girls Talk, we battle some ghost ships and then we reminisce and discuss a similar incident from 3 years ago where I, Mitotsudaira, decided what to do with my life. We will all be joking with each other throughout, so keep that in mind, okay?”
Toori: Sis! Sis! I bet some people will start reading here, so can you introduce our world in a fantasy-ish way?
Kimi: Heh heh heh. Foolish brother, here are the main points.
Kimi: This world exists far into the future. Humanity went to space and had a blast there, but were nearly destroyed by war. That was a real bummer, so they went back to earth. The only livable area was the Far East (Japan) since the environment was more stable, so they tried to redo things there.
Kimi: But since the environment outside was too harsh, silly humanity ended up fighting territorial wars over the limited land of the Far East. They nearly wiped themselves out again, so they decided to create a roadmap for themselves instead of just doing whatever they wanted. They created a history book of the former Earth Age and called it the Testament. Everyone knew civilization could be restored if they followed that roadmap, so they decided to redo history in the Far East (Japan) using that. That made war and such externally managed by politics.
Toori: Did that work out?
Kimi: Not really. The Far Eastern group made a silly mistake that took away the other nations’ land, so the other nations got pissed and started ruling over the Far East. They chose to “educate” the Far East.
Kimi: That led to a world where Japan’s Warring States period and the rest of the world’s 17th Century history are both playing out in the Far East. Since we are being “educated”, the world’s main power is held by the students. It’s restrictive for the Far East, but our aerial city ship named Musashi travels around the Far East engaging in trade as an independent Far Eastern city. …Foolish Brother? Got anything to add?
Toori: Well, here in Musashi, we count as Matsudaira (Tokugawa), but we’re neutral. The rest of the world is fighting against P.A. Oda, which counts as the Oda clan. Also, this story will move back and forth between 3 years ago and the present.
Kimi: The Far East (Japan) has its different regions occupied by the world’s nations like this. Our Musashi travels along the national borders.
Map [More or less top to bottom, left to right]:
Hokkaido (New World)
Floating Island (England)
Tohoku (Siberian Undeveloped Region)
Chugoku Region (Mouri, Hexagone Française)
Hokuriku (Uesugi, Sviet Rus)
Shimonoseki (Oouchi, Ootomo, Tres España)
Setouchi (Aki, K.P.A. Italia)
Kinki (Hashiba, M.H.R.R.)
Kinki – Tokai (Oda, P.A. Oda)
Kantou (Takeda, Qing)
Kyushu (Shimazu, African Nations)
Shikoku (Undeveloped Continent)
Tokai, Kantou (Mikawa Matsudaira, Far East Musashi)
Tokai – Kantou (Houjou, Association of Indian States)
[Top to bottom, zigzagging down]
History Recreation: We’re redoing history in this world, so every nation is required to recreate history. This can be done with war, politics, ingenuity, or whatever else
Name Inheritor: The historical figures necessary for the history recreation. Skilled personnel inherit those names and run their nations.
Chancellor’s Officers, Student Council: The Chancellor’s Officers are the nation’s military organization. The Student Council is the nation’s political organization. The Chancellor and the Student Council President run them like a bancho or a school VIP.
Religion: In the Far East, Shinto is the main religion, but the other nations follow others based on their infrastructure.
Tsihrc: Christianity. Includes a Catholic and Protestant version.
There are others, like magic, but they can wait until later.
The Current Stage: The current stage is Totomi. That’s the area known as Shizuoka.
Upper right: Mt. Fuji
Right: The Musashi’s Course
Ley Lines, Ether: Hm, ley lines are those things from fantasy stories. Y’know, the power lines that run all around the world. And you can think of ether as the MP or fuel extracted from the ley lines.
Musashi: The aerial ship we live on. There are 8 ships in all and each one has a name.
Diagram [top to bottom, left to right]:
1st Starboard Ship: Shinagawa
2nd Starboard Ship: Tama
3rd Starboard Ship: Takao
1st Middle Ship: Musashino
2nd Middle Ship: Okutama
1st Port Ship: Asakusa
2nd Port Ship: Murayama
3rd Port Ship: Oume
- Aoi Kimi (Wise Sister): Toori’s older sister and worshipper of the god of eroticism and dancing. Fundamentally high-tension and selfish in practice.
- Aoi Toori (Me): Protagonist. Musashi Ariadust Academy’s chancellor and student council president. Mr. Impossible.
- Asama Tomo (Asama): Daughter of the Asama Shrine, Musashi’s main shrine. Childhood friend and overall victim of Toori and Kimi.
- Adele Balfette (Flat Vassal): From a vassal family that arrived from France. Glasses girl.
- Itou Kenji (Obscene): Cheerful incubus. Nude, bald, and muscular. Known as Itoken.
- Ohiroshiki Ginji (Worshiper): Gourmet otaku with a Heart-sama style build.
- Kiyonari Urquiaga (Uqui): 2nd special duty officer. Flying half-dragon. Hopes to be an inquisitor. Known as Uqui.
- Shirojiro Bertoni (Money Lover): Treasurer. Young leading member of Musashi’s commerce and industry guild.
- Tenzou Crossunite (10ZO): 1st special duty officer. Ninja and errand-runner who always covers his face with his hat.
- Toussaint Neshinbara (Novice): Secretary. Loves history, wants to be an author, and writes doujins.
- Naomasa (Smoking Girl): 6th special duty officer. Older sister type who works in the engine division. Smokes and laughs loudly.
- Nate Mitotsudaira (Silver Wolf): 5th special duty officer. Member of a knight family and inheritor of the Mito Matsudaira name. Half werewolf.
- Nenji (Sticky King): Slime with about 3 HP. Manly.
- Noriki (Laborer): Laborer boy who supports his family. Clumsy martial artist. Silent and unsociable.
- Heidi Augesvarer (Marube-ya): Treasurer’s aide. Shirojiro’s partner. Has a white fox named Erimaki.
- Hassan Furubushi (83): Calpis logo-style Indian. Lives while eating and drinking only curry.
- Persona-kun (Bucket): Super macho man with a bucket helmet. Silent, strong, and kindhearted.
- Horizon Ariadust (Hori-ko): Toori’s childhood friend and current ruler of Mikawa. Currently an automaton. Her emotions were taken as parts for the Logismoi Oplo.
- Honda Futayo (Tonbokiri): Former Mikawa student. Honda Tadakatsu’s daughter. Uses a strongly old-fashioned speech pattern.
- Honda Masazumi (Vice President): Vice president of the student council. Diligent exchange student who arrived from Mikawa the previous year. Has various issues with her family.
- Marga Naruze (Mar-Ga): 4th special duty officer. Black-haired six-winged Weiss Hexen. Member of the manga club.
- Margot Naito (Gold Mar): 3rd special duty officer. Blonde-haired six-winged Schwarz Hexen. Always smiling.
- Mukai Suzu (Bell): Blind but always gives it her all. Acts as everyone’s stopper.
- Tachibana Muneshige (Tachibana Husband): Former Tres España 1st special duty officer. Amore. Currently working to regain his inherited name.
- Tachibana Gin (Tachibana Wife): Former Tres España 3rd special duty officer. Muneshige’s wife and possessor of cannon-style false arms. Fifty times.
- Mary Stuart (Scarred): Half-sister of English Queen Elizabeth. Well-endowed blonde. Living with Tenzou as his future wife. Owner of Ex. Collbrande.
- Satomi Yoshiyasu (Righteousness): Satomi Academy’s student council president. Small but does not cry. Uses the god of war Righteousness.
- Date Shigezane [Narumi] (Unturning): Masamune’s cousin. Vice chancellor of the Date clan and uses a mobile shell named Unturning Centipede. Confident elder sister type.
- Sakai Tadatsugu (Demoted Man): Musashi Ariadust Academy’s president. Used to be a very able person but was demoted.
- “Musashi” (Musashi): Automaton that supervises the Musashi and overall commander. Her sharp comments are hard to put up with.
Kimi: This story is mostly reminiscing about 3 years ago, so the people who weren’t yet with us then are marked with a star. Their divine chat names are given in parentheses.
Prologue: The Night Sky and a Visitor
In the present
We are far enough ahead
To look back
Point Allocation (Surprisingly Exciting)
A ship traveled through the night sky.
The giant white form was positioned well above the southern coast as it traveled slowly through the moonlight.
It was comprised of 8 individual ships. They were arranged with two ships lined up in the center with the rest positioned on either side like two longer hulls.
Each ship was more than 8km long and had a city on top.
The twin bows of that dual-hulled aerial city ship bore the name Musashi in black lettering.
The Musashi’s great form was currently sliding sideways out to ocean, port side first.
The vast shadow produced by the moonlight was cast across the coastal land and the bluish-black ocean.
Some light appeared in the sky as if in response.
These lights were located well out to sea in the direction the Musashi was sliding, but they were not artificial.
This was ether light. That bluish-white light came from the ether produced when a spell or spirit was manifested. Several of them were currently lined up as if to block the Musashi’s path.
However, the giant ship approached regardless.
The ether lights toward the center reacted. They drew an arc as if to greet the approaching ship and they began to reveal their forms.
They were ships.
Some were 30m long and others were more than 100m, but every single one of them shared a certain trait in common.
They were rotting away.
This was a fleet of what could only be called ghost ships made from ether.
A countless number of ether light ships half-surrounded the Musashi at a distance. The Musashi approached them as if coming up alongside them.
Several people could be seen on the port edge of the Musashi’s decks.
There were students, shrine maidens, Buddhist practitioners, and more – all wearing anti-ghost equipment and wielding weapons wrapped in faint ether light.
Someone moved to the front of the group.
The girl had long black hair and she wore the shirt of a boys summer uniform and the tights of a girls uniform. She pushed up the slipping armband saying Vice President Honda Masazumi.
“Judge. In response to a request from the Oushuu reservations down on the surface, Musashi Ariadust Academy will now perform a largescale purification of this region of sea. The mysterious phenomenon in question has already shown itself and we cannot deny the possibility that this will require combat. Thus…”
She swung her right hand to the side.
“Everyone, perform your final gear check. We will begin on my signal.”
…On my signal, huh?
How courageous of me, thought Vice President Honda Masazumi while sweating on the inside.
…This is my first time actually taking command. I hope I can manage it.
Purifying ghosts fixed to a certain coast or airspace was one of the most common requests sent to them by Far Eastern reservations.
With the world’s nations holding a provisional rule over the entire Far East, the reservations could not engage in combat on their own authority. They lacked the power to purify a largescale mysterious phenomenon.
But in this Warring States period, the academies with provisional rule over the reservations did not have the strength to spare for guarding and preserving the peace in those reservations. In the end, the Musashi would end up doing it as a Far Eastern representative. But…
Asama: “Generally, purifying them will keep them away for 5 or 6 years, but quite a lot of them have cropped up in the past two years. Maybe because of the Apocalypse.”
Next to Masazumi, Asama was dressed in her shrine maiden outfit to signify she was here as the Asama Shrine Representative. She sighed while opening a sign frame in midair. This was a public work performed in the public eye. Her fingers raced across the sign frame keyboard to communicate via writing.
Seeing that, Masazumi opened a sign frame of her own.
The Mouse on her shoulder, an anteater named Tsukinowa, held it up for her to see.
Vice President: “I feel bad saying this after summoning you all here, but this is my first time commanding a purification. Besides, did we even do this last year? With the Oushuu clans – especially the southern region and Kunohe – I thought we got the individual trading done at Mito.”
Asama: “Yes, well, remember what I just said? When you purify a certain airspace, it can take a few years before the next stagnation builds up. And in the years when we have to do that, we will focus more on that region. Also, this one should have been good for another two or three years, but there has been a bit of a disturbance in the ley lines of this area recently, so we had to hasten the schedule.”
Asama: “We are handling smaller scale ones all the time.”
Vice President: “We are?”
Asama: “Yes, the buffering spell cast on the area around the Musashi includes an anti-ghost field, so the courses taken by minor ghost ships will be purified automatically as the Musashi passes through. But…”
Asama: “But the previous purification in this airspace was so deep that the remnants were pushed out to sea and they have reappeared there. That prevents the Musashi from automatically purifying them while passing through since they’re appearing more out at sea.”
“I see,” said Masazumi.
With the Far East under provisional rule, the Musashi generally traveled along the provisional borders between nations. Even on an official duty like this, they still had to tread carefully when moving out to sea.
“Which is where I come in, I take it. I’m sure the Oushuu clans also want to see what we can do nowadays, so this sounds like a pain.”
“It is a pain,” said the winged girl in a Weiss Hexen outfit standing next to Asama. “We’re having to deal with a purification that shouldn’t have needed doing for two or three more years. Is this another annoying effect of the Apocalypse? You know, like two years ago.”
“Naruze, you and Naito were a huge help two years ago. Since it came up so suddenly and all. I seem to recall Kimi screaming and grabbing everyone’s chest because she’s afraid of ghosts.”
Weiss Hexen Naruze and Schwarz Hexen Naito nodded at Asama’s words. Naito held up her schale besen called Schwarz Fräulein.
“She went on to make a boob size list, didn’t she? I was pretty high up on there. And look.”
Naito gestured back with her chin. Masazumi looked back to see everyone holding their equipment at the ready. And beyond them…
Smoking Girl: “The artillery team is ready too. Should we get started?’
Vice President: “Should we really just go all out like this?”
Asama: “Well, with an opponent this dense, a ‘core’ will probably show itself, so keep in mind we have to deal with that.”
Asama used a term Masazumi knew but did not know what it meant in this context.
She did not want to make any mistakes here, so she decided to ask.
Vice President: “A core?”
Smoking Girl: “You’ll know it when you see it.”
An actual answer would be preferable, she thought, but she knew not to expect that from her class.
They were telling her to let them handle it.
And she probably would understand after watching it all play out. So…
Smoking Girl: “We have a way of purifying them as deeply as possible, which is the right way to do it. It’s technically an experimental method, but it’s what we used 3 years ago and it worked well then.”
Asama: “We didn’t do it here two years ago, so I think we can probably manage it this time.”
Masazumi still did not know what they were talking about, but all the others seemed to.
So she chose to focus on her own job.
She viewed the hovering ether light surrounding them at a distance as well as the ones that had formed actual ships.
Vice President: “Then let’s get this started. Um, should we ask them to surrender first? You know, as a formality.”
What a pathetic setup, thought Naruze while making some final adjustments to her schale besen.
“We should do that since it will establish our right to use this airspace and our objective here. We cannot deny the possibility of another nation intervening, and a Terrestrial Dragon or something could fly through here on an aerial stroll. Plus, the Oushuu clans wouldn’t have made this request unless they wanted to see what we could do. We need to go through all the proper steps so they can’t rip us off.”
Asama: “I doubt any of them can approach within 3km of us thanks to the anti-ghost field our shrine manages, but more concentrated things, like attacks, can probably reach us, even if they are weakened along the way, so be careful.”
Mar-Ga: “So the same as always. It was a real pain when they pursued the Musashi 3 years ago.”
“Judge. You can ask Mitotsudaira about it. She’s the star tonight.”
With that, Naruze used her pen device to draw out a crop mark frame Magie Figur. Then she kept drawing to create a zoomed-in image of the distant ether fleet.
…It only needs to be zoomed in enough to make out the individual ships, right?
She enlarged the image and adjusted the brightness so it matched the ships’ ether light instead of the moonlight.
And when she viewed the finished product…
“They really are multiplying. They might just try to fight it out.”
“Hold on, I thought we were only cleaning up the mysterious phenomenon in this airspace. What’s this about fighting?”
“Excited by this unexpected chance at war, are you?”
Meanwhile, their opponent made a sudden move.
Several dozen beams of light shot out. They were…
It happened suddenly.
A fleet half-surrounded the Musashi out at sea and ether light cannons were fired by the dozen or so ships that had taken a definite form.
The Musashi had done nothing yet at this point.
The light rushed toward them in an instant and the giant ship made a clear response.
Several layers of torii-style defense barriers opened to defend them.
The barriers were several dozen meters tall and wide and they were emitted to the port of the Musashi. The beams of light crashed into them.
The ether light forming the barriers shattered and scattered as pure light.
The falling and glowing shards had no weight, solidity, or heat, but the warriors still held up a hand to shield their eyes from the brightness.
“Damn, that was a more blatant attack than I was expecting!”
Meanwhile, they saw movement atop the distant enemy fleet.
The telescope spell showed them the ghosts on the ships’ decks using their arms and bodies to spell out a word.
“Y – E – S.”
“Ah, those bastards are mocking us!”
A second and third wave of attacks soon arrived.
Shattering sounds rang through the air as the light scattered.
More and more defense barriers were emitted, but the enemy only fired more in response.
The cannons were poorly aimed and there was no real tactical thought in evidence. They were simply firing on the Musashi. But…
“They won’t stop!?”
The ether cannon blasts were nonstop.
It was sporadic from any one ship, but they all continued firing regularly. Also…
“Hold on! There’s more of them now!”
There were already 700 ships and the number continued to rise while the larger of the ships fired in turn.
They continued to increase in number and their scattered, poorly-aimed shots made it hard for the Musashi defenders to gather on a single point. Their defense was entirely reliant on the barriers.
“Wait a second.”
The Musashi’s defense barriers were located at a lower position than initially.
“Are they being pushed back!?”
Within the main bridge of Musashino, the Musashi’s 1st central ship, Command Automaton “Musashino” responded to the comment she heard coming from the scene.
“They are not being pushed back. The barrier location has simply been lowered to increase the barrier density. Over.”
“A-are you…mad, ‘Musashino’-san?”
“No, I am not mad. Not at all. What about me makes you think I am mad, Suzu-sama? Over.”
“Musashino” froze for about two seconds and then a tremor ran through her body.
“Full-body adjustment complete. That mysterious anger has been eliminated. How about now, Suzu-sama? Over.”
“W-well, if that’s what…you want to believe,” said Suzu who was managing the Musashi’s movements in the front of the bridge. She pushed an ether model of the Musashi with her hand and turned the port side toward the ocean. “But why…a-are they still firing?”
Asama: “That fleet is capable of firing so continuously because they have become local spirits and that allows them to directly draw ether from the ley lines.”
Smoking Girl: “What does that mean?”
Asama: “They can use the ley lines within this airspace – that is, within their territory – as a fuel source. I honestly would prefer this ley line disturbance does not continue for long.”
Asama operated her sign frames while responding. She opened and operated a few simultaneously in order to check on the settings of the Musashi’s spell fields.
She could use that to change the strength and the extent of the fields.
…Strengthening the ether interference field would weaken their attacks, but…
That would bring its own problems. It would greatly influence the Musashi’s infrastructure and divine protections and it would weaken any of their own ether-based attacks.
So she followed standard procedure by applying fields of different types on top of each other and making adjustments as needed.
The primary field applied on the outside of the ship was a hull spell that would identify and purify mysterious phenomena. However…
“The Musashi generally uses a hull field larger than standard city-wide fields to defend against mysterious phenomena and monsters, but they are so powerful that it would be dangerous here.”
“Dangerous how?” asked Naruze.
“It can affect nonhumans, obstruct external infrastructure, and begin physical interference that drops transport ships into a pocket.”
“Oh, yeah. We get warnings about that for our delivery business.”
“You do,” replied Asama while the scattering light of ether cannons continued to fill the sky. That light had grown awfully close overhead, but…
…It isn’t dropping any more, is it?
Meanwhile, Masazumi placed a hand on her chin and viewed her own sign frame.
“Naito, Naruze. Did we take this kind of concentrated fire the last time we performed a purification here?”
“Of course not. Right, Margot?”
“Judge. I don’t remember them putting up much of a fight last time, so maybe this is because of all our fighting in Kantou.”
“I see,” said Masazumi before turning to Asama. “Asama, do you think the Oushuu clans knew the ghosts in this airspace were so powerful?”
“I think they did.” Asama replied clearly while defense barrier shards poured down on her. “It was the reservation that instructed us to head out to sea, so I imagine the Oushuu clans had already fought a small-scale battle against them.”
“Then I can see a political resolution here.”
Gold Mar: “Oh? Finally ready to get started, Seijun?”
Vice President: “More like I have finally found my role here. I doubt they will use this to declare war against us, but the Oushuu clans will probably decide how to deal with us based on what we do here and on the ultimate result.”
Asama: “Then what should we do?”
Vice President: “We solve this no matter what it takes.”
Asama watched as Masazumi elaborated.
Vice President: “Listen. Musashi intends to treat all nations equally and evenly. And we cannot look down on these nations here just because we have already found some cooperative nations in the area. We are not above or below anyone. We are all equal parts of the Far East. So…”
Vice President: “This much is nothing, so let’s clean it up like we always do. And let’s do a more complete job of it than anyone ever has before.”
Naito nodded in agreement with Masazumi.
“As part of the Chancellor’s Officers, I can’t defy the Student Council’s political decisions.”
“We pretty much knew this was coming anyway,” added Naruze.
Naito nodded in agreement again and then a divine transmission arrived.
Murayama: “Excuse me everyone. This is 2nd Port Ship Captain ‘Murayama’. I am currently constructing a defense spell activation pattern that will stabilize the power usage. I will complete the task in another 117 seconds, but the stationary defenses will be reliant on the warriors. Please move to the location indicated on your sign frame. Over.”
Flat Vassal: “Oh, then we need to get moving!”
The warriors assigned to defense began to move with a thick blue and white mobile shell in the lead. The bespectacled vassal girl inside that mobile shell was displayed on Naito’s Magie Figur.
Flat Vassal: “We will be in position in about a minute, so please begin the counterattack and purification then!”
“Will you be okay, Adele? The barriers are taking a lot of fire out in front of us and above us.”
The enemy attacks were striking those barriers like pouring rain.
…That’s quite a view.
The light and din of destruction made standing on the front line feel like standing in front of a roaring waterfall.
In a real battle, this would be about the same as facing a mid-sized fleet. They were enduring it easily enough for now, but…
“This is thanks to Asama’s field keeping them away and the concentration of the defense barriers, isn’t it?”
“What are your thoughts, Ga-chan?”
“Well,” said Naruze. “Annoyingly enough, a direct counterattack looks difficult.”
Naruze sighed and continued her comment.
“With the enemy bombardment coming from dead ahead, we can only return fire or approach by circumventing that. That either means splitting the warriors to the left and right or sending out transport ships above and below, but what do you make of that from a political perspective?”
Naruze turned toward Masazumi who looked her straight in the eye as she answered.
“Circumvention would take time and hardly qualifies as an overwhelming onslaught.”
“Um, Masazumi? Why do you sound dead-set on an exciting result?”
That tended to happen. But time was of the essence here.
The defense barriers were currently deflecting all of the power raining down on them, but…
Musashino: “Everyone, the calculations are complete for the port side. However, I would like to confirm one thing first, Masazumi-sama. Over.”
“What’s that?’ asked Masazumi while the others gave her a questioning look.
Musashino: “Judge. Even if we respond according to these calculations, the unexpected could always happen. Like you said, it would be best to end this sooner rather than later. Over.”
That’s true, thought Naruze.
The longer this took, the more time there was for the unexpected and the inepter they would look to outside observers.
“Then,” said Naito. “Should we send out a warning instead of waiting for the full pattern?”
Smoking Girl: “Do you want us to clear a path dead ahead?”
Vice President: “You can do that?”
Smoking Girl: “We armed ourselves according to the usual pattern. It’s something of a brute force tactic, but the result should be good fodder for jokes and we can get started right away.”
“Judge. Then let’s do that.”
Masazumi nodded and raised her right hand.
She opened her mouth in front of the constant firing and scattering destruction.
“Um.” Her voice rang loud and far thanks to the Musashi’s external loudspeakers. “Attention ships currently attacking us out at sea. This is Musashi Ariadust Academy Representative Honda Masazumi with a warning.” She took a breath. “The surface reservation requested that we purify this airspace.”
“If you have a problem with that, why not attack the surface instead of us?”
The enemy stopped firing.
Asama could see the night sky now that the enemy’s artillery fire had stopped.
…Oh, the moons are so pretty.
Everyone around her remained as still as could be. She decided not to think too hard as to why while she checked on the enemy through a telescope spell.
The ghosts of the large enemy fleet had formed scrums to discuss something.
Mar-Ga: “So…problem solved?”
Musashino: “Um, what about our pattern? Over.”
Gold Mar: “Don’t worry, don’t worry. This isn’t gonna work.”
Vice President: “Can you at least hope that it does!?”
Asama: “By the way, Masazumi. We’re receiving divine mails of protest from the Oushuu clans down below.”
Vice President: “Oh, forward those on to Ookubo.”
She’s probably going to complain again, thought Asama while doing as instructed. And then…
The ghosts raised their hands on the ghost ship decks.
Everyone focused on that to see what it was about.
“N – O. C – A – N. D – O.”
They resumed firing all of a sudden.
The defense barriers quickly reopened to stop the rapid beams of light. Destruction and spraying light slammed into them repeatedly. Below that noise and colorful light, Naito held both hands out in front of her Technohexen hat.
Gold Mar: “Ah ha ha. See? What did I tell you?”
Mar-Ga: “When you’re right, you’re right, Margot. Besides, the world would be at peace if you could sidestep war by shifting the responsibility elsewhere.”
Vice President: “Well excuse me for trying! Anyway, what was that ‘no can do’ about?”
Asama: “Um, it probably has to do with that core I mentioned earlier. I will omit the details because they’re a pain to explain, but Masazumi? For now, continue your warning.”
“Oh.” Masazumi quickly looked forward again where the cannon fire filled her vision. “Um.”
She held up a sign frame with a surrender document written on it. And as an ultimatum…
“Listen up. We will now begin purifying this airspace. We want each of you to think for yourselves as you respond. Now, do you have any last words or a final wish before you are purified? If there is anything that will help the purification process run smoothly, we would like to provide it.”
The enemy responded even as the cannon fire continued. The ghosts exchanged a glance and then formed letters with their bodies again.
“L – A – D – L – E.”
“So they’re Funayurei,” said Masazumi.
Smoking Girl: “Now!”
Behind her, she heard something ejected high into the sky from Musashino’s stern.
Asama knew what had just happened. The engine division had just launched something they had prepared last year.
But Masazumi did not know.
It was adorable how the girl reflexively looked up into the sky.
“Masazumi, it’s already reached them. Look.”
She pointed toward the ghost fleet.
Her finger pointed at the 300m ghost ship at the center of the fleet, which suddenly split in two.
The answer to Masazumi’s confusion was a blow from directly above.
The thing that had fallen from the sky and attacked the enemy ship could be seen at the center of the bisected ship. It was more than 30m long.
Adele and some warriors had circled around to the defend the diplomatic port and she saw it happen from within Raging Beast, her mobile shell.
After a sound of splitting air from the night sky, blunt weapons poured down on the ghost fleet.
The ether ships were destroyed by…
“I bet they never expected their request for a ladle to be answered by ladles raining from the sky.”
Smoking Girl: “They only have themselves to blame for not designating a size or a delivery method when putting in the order. This is all thanks to Bottomless, a launched anti-ship hammer designed for use against mysterious phenomena. Since we did exactly as they demanded, their own kotodama divine protection will prevent them from dodging. The purification spell multiplies the impact damage several times over. And since they’re made from hardened bamboo, they’ll decompose and become part of a fish reef after falling into the ocean. Also…”
The impacts falling from the sky destroyed the ghost fleet’s main fighting force.
Mar-Ga: “Since they’re launched from the engine division’s launchers, they can soar above the ghost fleet’s attacks to strike them from above. This gives us enough time to wait for a hole in the enemy bombardment.”
Adele saw a gap in the enemy fire on Raging Beast’s console. She confirmed it with Raging Beast’s sight devices and sent the information to the others. And then…
Gold Mar: “Okay, let’s do this!”
The Technohexen began to fly as Musashi’s aerial interception unit.
Like a flock of birds taking flight, the Schwarz Hexen unit’s schale besens moved out into the night.
They kicked off the deck and launched themselves into open air.
Mar-Ga: “We’re going too! Perform midair defense and then get out of there!”
Adele saw the Weiss Hexen unit follow suit. Which meant her group had a task to do.
“Defense unit, spread out to the left and right! Block the attacks that fly by to either side of the path taken by the Technohexen units. And fire as much as you can so they have to concentrate more!”
Masazumi did not really understand the wild battle or assault underway in front of her.
But the ghost fleet began to intercept Musashi’s attacks, making it an exchange of blows. As far as she could see…
“This is how we always do things, isn’t it?”
Smoking Girl: “Hold on. Why are they advancing on us when our launched projectiles are enough to handle their entire fleet?”
Silver Wolf: “Why? Because they are former warriors or have some other kind of pride. They are probably willing to be purified if it is the result of an honorable battle.”
Vice President: “Mitotsudaira? Where are you?”
Musashi’s top knight should have been here right now, but she was nowhere to be seen.
“The idiot isn’t here either.”
“Those two left to go purify the core,” said Asama.
Mar-Ga: “Huh!? Don’t leave yet! It’s too dangerous before we’ve crushed the enemy’s front line!”
Me: “Oh, noooo! We’re gonna leeeeave! We’re totally gonna leave nowwwwww!”
Gold Mar: “Ga-chan, Ga-chan! Don’t aim back behind you. Please. Hitting him wouldn’t be as funny as you think.”
What am I even listening to anymore? wondered Masazumi, but then a single ship departed from down below the deck she stood on.
The defensive ship was well-armored and could produce multiple layers of defense barrier. It was about 300m long and it had ample cargo space as a former transport ship, but…
She had no idea what was loaded on there, but it was probably part of some kind of plan.
She saw a girl standing on the bridge with her silver hair fluttering in the night breeze.
That was Mitotsudaira.
Asama nodded while standing next to Masazumi.
“Yes, this job is best left with Mito.”
“Mitotsudaira’s in charge?”
“Because of some stuff that happened 3 years ago.”
They had mentioned something from 3 years ago a few times already, but that was before Masazumi had come to Musashi.
…Well, I’m sure they’ll explain if I ask.
They would not say much unbidden, but they would tell her as a joke if she asked. That was just how they were.
I’m probably similar when it comes to my past, she realized.
Vice President: “Mitotsudaira, you do whatever needs doing when the timing is right.”
Silver Wolf: “Judge. If you ask me, my king would be a better choice than me here.”
But she went on to say “now then” on the divine transmission.
The enemy artillery fire continued in the sky out ahead, but the Technohexen were clearing a path. The defense ship traveled through there.
Silver Wolf: “I am a knight of Musashi. I am the First Knight of our Chancellor who is my king. My name is Mitotsudaira ‘Silver Wolf’ Nate and I will provide you the response you desire as best as I can.”
Silver Wolf: “If you wish to enjoy this aerial battlefield, then come at me.”
It ultimately took until 2AM to complete that job.
All of the gates on the Musashi were shut, so Masazumi, the rest of the Student Council, the Chancellor’s Officers, and the other VIPs chose to celebrate and spend the night in the Student Council Room on Toori’s suggestion.
His sister Kimi, Horizon, and some others joined them with some food, so they began chatting like usual until the tension and elation had left them. However…
“Hey, Mitotsudaira. What happened during the purification 3 years ago?”
Masazumi’s question led Mitotsudaira to stop eating some chicken.
“You mean the one in Totomi east of Mikawa? That mostly unofficial one?”
Asama nodded in confirmation while using chopsticks to split up the contents of a large lunchbox between Toori and Horizon. Seeing that nod, Mitotsudaira turned toward her king. And he…
“Yeah, go for it. Let’s see where our secrets take us while we keep a log of it all.”
Naruze began booing with a wine bottle in hand, but the wolf paid her no heed. She had her king’s authorization and she knew her secret with him was safe.
“In that case,” she said while opening a sign frame. “This happened a long time ago. A little bit before I joined the Chancellor’s Officers and before I acquired the Silver Chains or the Silver Wolf name. It was a little after I had corrected my wild behavior. We were in the third year of middle school at the time.”
– She’s the star tonight
Chapter 1: Past and Wolf
Something you create
Or something created for you?
Point Allocation (Self-Destruction)
An enormous ship traveled through the spring sky.
The sky was a deep blue that April afternoon. The clouds were stretched and torn by the wind and the season aboard Aerial City Ship Musashi was at the point where the cherry trees were finally budding.
That ship maintained an altitude between 3 and 10 kilometers above ground. The onboard temperature was never as cold as the surrounding air, but it still tended to take a southward course at the start of spring, so the onboard temperature would grow warmer at that time. So…
“We were stopped up north by snow this year and we spent a long time in stealth cruising due to the rebellion in Ming, so it looks like the cherry trees will be late to bloom. We tried to keep the stealth off whenever possible, but the Musashi will probably still have a lingering winter chill.”
“Yes, our shrine’s cherry trees should have bloomed by now too. Musashi’s buffering spell and atmospheric adjustments have warmed the temperature to early spring levels, but the plants still operate on their natural rhythm.”
Those voices could be heard in a classroom of the middle school in Musashino’s surface city.
However, this was not a large school building and schoolyard built into an entire level of the ship. It was made from a modified longhouse located alongside the high school dorms and the student corporate guild building in the area known as the student district.
The building had classrooms for each school year lined up alongside the atrium park that pierced vertical down into Musashino.
Outside the windows were a terrace and a stairway leading down to the park.
At this time of day, the green of the park shined bright in the sun.
The voices had come from one of the dimly-lit classrooms in the long, narrow school building.
“How about we step outside, Mito? They have a snack stand set up in the park down there.”
“No, I am fine, Asama. I am waiting for my king.”
“In that case,” said Asama, the black-haired girl leaning onto the windowsill, while looking away from Mitotsudaira, the silver-haired girl seated nearby.
Asama turned to check the classroom clock, which said it was 4 PM.
“Hmm,” she groaned upon realizing how much time had passed. “I’m waiting for Toori-kun too, so we can wait together.”
“Yes. I need to adjust his divine protections for late spring. You know how he and Kimi are under my care and have agreed to help with my spell development? That means I need to set things up for them as much as for myself. So I need to speak with him about that.”
She opened a sign frame and did a few things with it.
It was 4 PM, which meant she had a task to do.
“Excuse me, but I need to adjust Musashi’s ether pathways for the night.”
“You sure have a lot of work to do when you’re still only training to be the Asama Shrine Representative. You’ve been doing this every day, haven’t you?” asked Mitotsudaira. “I feel like you have had more of this kind of work recently.”
Mitotsudaira saw four different sign frames displayed by Asama’s hands.
The front side shined up on Asama’s summer uniform, but they were set so Mitotsudaira could not see what they said from the back. But based on the girl’s hand movements, she was operating a console, not typing out text. Mitotsudaira had a thought while seeing Asama illuminated from below like that.
…Oh? Asama, th-that lighting makes your chest look unbelievably large.
Asama: “Okay! Okay! Now we get to react! But we are trying to create a record of an unofficial incident from the past, so try to avoid any inappropriate comments! Please!”
Silver Wolf: “Hey, why am I intruding on someone else’s flashback scene!?”
Gold Mar: “I feel like that was mostly you taking the bait. Yeah.”
Vice President: “Hm? So we’re allowed to react to what happens? So in the log, I take it the sections starting with ● are someone’s flashback and the sections starting with ○ are us reacting on the divine chat?”
Mar-Ga: “Anyway, I seem to recall that Asama was considered ‘huge’ as far back as elementary school.”
Flat Vassal: “…”
Asama: “A-Adele!? You haven’t shown up in Mito’s flashback yet, so you don’t have to react yet! Let’s try to avoid a false start here, okay?”
Gold Mar: “You were there, Asama-chi, so how about you fill things in from your side?”
Asama: “Eh? Y-you want me to do it too?”
Asama noticed Mitotsudaira staring while she was operating a console on her sign frame.
That girl had Loup-Garou blood, so she had bestial eyes that seemed to glow in the dark. And…
…Huh? Where is she looking?
It almost looked like she was staring up at Asama’s chest from below. But…
…Eh? Um, why my chest?
I know I have a large chest, but it’s been like this for so long it can be easy to forget. Do I even remember a time in my life when I could see my feet? I don’t think I- no, I do. I definitely do. That ended in 4th grade, though. Yeah. But not being able to see my feet made me pay more attention to fashion in regards to my shoes and whatnot, so it’s a complicated issue.
…Anyway, what is this about? Maybe I’m mistaking what Mito is staring at. And I am a shrine maiden, so…
“Um, Mito? If something is bothering you, I might be able to help.”
She placed a sign frame by her neck to create a wall vertically between her and Mitotsudaira’s gazes. Then Asama checked the 3D shape of Mitotsudaira’s chest.
…There’s nothing there. Wait, maybe there’s a little…no, there’s not…except that isn’t quite true. But it isn’t enough to say otherwise either.
It depended on how she observed it. Was this some kind of chest-related uncertainty principle?
…But why is Mito staring at my chest like that?
Mitotsudaira realized she had grown distracted by Asama’s chest.
She was not going to absorb any of its power by staring at it. If anything, she was worried Asama’s would absorb what little power she had.
…And I may have been staring, but that isn’t what matters.
She had been trying to ask about the sign frames Asama was using. She seemed to be using more of them and more frequently lately, but…
…That means she’s been entrusted with a lot more of the Asama Shrine’s work, doesn’t it?
However, there was no hesitation in the way she operated the keyboard or screen.
Mitotsudaira belatedly wondered when the girl had learned to do that.
They were in the third year of middle school, so it was time to decide on a future for themselves. Mitotsudaira would prefer to forget it ever happened, but she had left the others and gone wild for a bit due to personal reasons. Thanks to that, she felt like she had not found her starting point yet.
She had run into a major setback.
She had gone wild but then returned. She had yet to recover from that, so she had decided to simply do her duty as a student and live an ordinary life so the others would not worry about her. That was how she envisioned her school life.
Asama was in charge of her spells and they had been friends beforehand, so they could still talk together.
But it was that closer relationship that made the well-practiced sign frame operation come as such a surprise.
“When did that happen?”
That girl had skills Mitotsudaira had not known about and she had a role of her own in a job beyond being a student.
I’m probably just jealous, thought Mitotsudaira as she asked a question.
“How did you get to be like that?”
Asama was not immediately sure what Mitotsudaira meant.
Like what? Was there anything about her worth questioning in that way? Could it be…
Was that why Mitotsudaira had been staring?
Had she been so bothered by Asama’s chest that she felt the need to ask about it?
Asama was dumbfounded, but she belatedly realized something.
Mitotsudaira must have been staring at her chest because of their sheer size. That was kind of an embarrassing thought, but since Mitotsudaira had been away being a delinquent for a while, she may not have had a chance to see Asama’s chest for a while.
That period of delinquency had started in the fourth grade and she had finally gotten over it after 4 or 5 years, so this would have been her first time noticing Asama’s growth in a long while.
…In that sense, it might indeed come as a surprise.
But that was not a bad thing. It was unclear what had triggered this bout if insanity in Mitotsudaira, but it also meant she was actually looking at Asama for the first time in years.
Maybe they could even call themselves friends.
Then Mitotsudaira had asked that question.
“How did I get to be like this?”
How had she done it?
…Is she asking what she can do to make hers bigger?
Asama shuddered as she considered that question. This came down to knowledge on increasing one’s bust size, but…
…I don’t know how you do that!
Oops. But c’mon, there are some things not even a shrine maiden knows. Still, this is not good. I did say I might be able to help. So…
“W-wait just a moment, okay?”
She quickly opened another sign frame and made a search.
<Search Terms: Chest, Growth, Make Bigger, Embiggen, Shinto: Begin>
She had an answer in 2 seconds flat.
<Not possible. By, god.>
…That was fast. And directly from my god!
This must have been a frequently asked and very important question even for a god. That seemed somewhat contradictory, but whatever. Such is life.
But when she glanced over, she saw Mitotsudaira looking back at her.
That look of expectation and slight tension made Asama sweat.
What was she supposed to do?
She had just checked on Mitotsudaira’s chest situation, so she understood why the girl was asking. I wish I could just tell her that this excess size is entirely fruitless…well, I guess some people figuratively refer to them as fruits, but that’s not the point. Regardless, this feels like such a hairy issue. A hairy chest issue? Wait, what am I saying? Hairy chests are a guy thing.
When her mind was snapped back into focus, Asama reflexively responded with a shrine maiden smile.
“What is it? You can count on me.”
“Then,” said Mitotsudaira while pointing toward Asama’s chest through the sign frame in between. “Judge. How did level up with those things so much?”
I’m really not sure what to tell you.
Mitotsudaira pointed at the sign frame opened near Asama’s chest and continued her question.
“How hard did you have to work to manage that?”
“Eh!?” Asama tilted her head. “Well, um, uhh, the thing is…i-it wasn’t really about hard work.”
If she had managed to fulfill her current role and job without putting any hard work into it, was it an issue of natural talent?
If so, that was even more impressive.
“So when did you gain that kind of skill?”
“Um, skill? I’m not sure that’s the right word here.” Asama raised her right index finger. “If anything…yes.” She nodded. “You might find it hard to believe, but this just happened on its own.”
Mitotsudaira was stunned.
…On its own!?
They did say people were raised by their environment, so was the heir to the Asama Shrine just surrounded by so much Shinto stuff on a daily basis that she had picked up these skills without even trying?
Mitotsudaira on the other hand…
…I might be in the Knight League and I might still hold the position of 1st Knight, but…
She had been neglecting her Knight League duties. Of course, the position of knight was more of a formality than anything in Musashi, but she had still turned her back on the environment given to her.
She felt ashamed and spoke with a self-deprecating smile.
“I’m such a failure compared to you.”
Oh, no! thought Asama with panic in her heart.
She had hesitated while trying to figure out how to explain that Shinto had no boob buffing spells, but that hesitation had done damage to Mitotsudaira.
She knew she had to fix this somehow because these things could scar people for life. Like with Adele.
So she quickly spoke up.
“D-don’t worry, Mito! You still have a chance!”
“A chance?” Mitotsudaira wrinkled her brow in a troubled way. “What are you saying I should do?”
“Y-you mean, specifically?”
“Just as much as you know.”
Oh! realized Asama. I can manage that much. For example…
“Well.” She put a hand on her chin and went with one of the commonly-cited methods. “It apparently helps to drink lots of milk.”
Mitotsudaira was stunned again.
When you wanted the skills and proficiency needed for your job and role…
“It’s important to drink milk!?”
“Y-yes, it is. I mean, look at Adele. You see her chugging down milk every day.”
That was true enough.
…And she has just started down her path as a vassal.
Adele had always wanted to be a vassal and she had truly started studying toward getting her vassal’s license in this third year of middle school. But…
“I-I find it hard to believe milk can help with that.”
“R-really? I thought this was common knowledge.”
Mitotsudaira was stunned for a third time. When did their society become so milk-focused? Now, she had no real problem with drinking milk, but…
“I had no idea you drank lots of milk, Asama.”
“Oh, I don’t drink very much myself.”
“Then why even bring it up!?”
“B-but it came naturally for me, so I didn’t have to! But if you want to do it artificially, then you have to resort to milk!”
Mitotsudaira had no way of refuting that logic.
And it was true that Asama was something of a special case.
“As far as I can remember, it’s sake you’re always drinking, not milk.”
“Wait, wait. I don’t drink that much sake. After our teacher stopped me before, I’ve been trying to only drink it at home. With an exception at lunch, of course.”
“Um, so is that bamboo bottle you always pull out at lunch full of sake?”
“No, don’t be silly. Today it had last year’s batch of umeshu.”
Drinkers could be weirdly particular about these things, but Asama apparently had more to say.
“Now, to get back on topic, um, there is one other way.”
What other way was there to acquire and master the skills required for your role?
Asama blushed but raised her eyebrows a little as she spoke in a serious tone.
“Getting guys to, uh, massage you apparently works too.”
Mitotsudaira was not sure what Asama meant, so she bluntly stated her thoughts.
“Asama! To put this as softly as possible, are you crazy!?”
“Huh? Isn’t that a little hard-hitting to be putting it softly? But anyway.” Asama held her hands out to tell Mitotsudaira to calm down. She was also blushing. “Listen. A lot of people claim it’s true. It’s especially common to hear it from married people.”
Mitotsudaira was not sure why being married was relevant to this discussion, but maybe it just meant they were older.
…They would have more social experience.
That was when she realized what Asama was trying to say.
So she doesn’t mean a literal massage.
“I get it now.”
…She means getting “massaged” by the harshness of a masculine society, doesn’t she!?
With spells, divine protections, social development, and social guarantees, the genders had equal rights on Musashi in all things outside of the history recreation.
But women were still the ones who gave birth and tended to handle more of the childcare, which took up a lot of their time. And as a ship that transported goods for trade, Musashi had a lot of heavy lifting jobs. Thus, Musashi’s labor force tended to be more male.
So you had to understand things on the worksite to know how the world worked.
Thus, Asama was saying to take the plunge into that kind of social group and let it “massage” your skills.
…I understand now!
“Asama! I apologize for calling you crazy. If you were crazy, how could we be holding such a serious conversation like this?”
“Mito, I’m not sure this conversation qualifies as serious.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Mitotsudaira waved a hand dismissively because she had a question. “So did you end up like this thanks to the ‘massaging’ of a bunch of guys?”
Asama briefly imagined that scene, but the men ended up just being a faceless mob in her head.
…Oh, just like in one of Naruze’s doujinshis.
Yeah, that isn’t realistic at all, she thought with a bitter smile. Besides, that isn’t how it worked for me.
“No, Mito. Like I said, this came naturally for me, so I didn’t need anything like that. Besides, who exactly do you think I would go to for that?”
“My king maybe?”
Asama briefly imagined that scene. The faceless mob suddenly all had his face.
It felt much more real all of a sudden. But you can’t actually make multiple copies of the same person, can you?
<Search Terms: Individual, Splitting, Multiple, Copies, Shinto: Begin>
<Yeah, that one you can do. By, god>
Oh, no. Why did I look that up? And I sort of even got my god’s approval for it. Does Shinto have no shame? Also…
“Asama! Asama! Why are you sitting there blushing and wiggling around!?”
“I-I just took a direct but very unexpected hit is all.”
Asama lightly struck her own head to drive out the naughty thoughts. Once was not enough, so she struck herself a second and third time. Then a fourth for good measure.
“Asama! Asama! Those are some pretty solid hits from the heel of your palm!”
“Oh, I-I’m fine, I’m fine! I got them all out!”
Right now, she needed to help out her friend, not fantasize about being the protagonist(?) of a doujinshi.
She had apparently provided a solution for that friend’s worries because Mitotsudaira’s face had lit up.
However, something about the girl’s words had Asama worried.
So just to be sure, she asked about it.
“Um, Mito? Who do you intend to go to for this massage?”
Mitotsudaira tilted her head with a look that said “you have to ask?”
“Judge. Well, I figure it would best to go to some place where a lot of experienced men work and have them ‘massage’ me.”
Asama briefly imagined that scene. Then she placed her hands on Mitotsudaira’s shoulders.
“Rethink this! Th-that plan is dangerous!”
Mitotsudaira was not sure what Asama meant.
To put it softly, that girl was crazy. To put it normally, she was nonsensical. So Mitotsudaira calmed herself down and asked about this.
“Wh-why should I rethink it? What’s wrong with going to a male-dominated workplace and having them massage me and get rough with me?”
“Y-you need to calm down! Massaging is one thing, but if they get too rough it will have the opposite effect!”
Mitotsudaira was still unsure what Asama meant, but she could tell the girl was worried for her.
“I will be fine. I am very tough, after all.”
“Yes, but…but you need to calm down. Reality can be very harsh and sexual.”
The shrine maiden slapped Mitotsudaira’s shoulders and then placed a hand on her own chin. And after a pause…
“Why not start with some simple practice?”
“Like with just one person? But who?”
“Hmm.” Asama finally offered a name. “I guess it would have to be Toori-kun.”
“I-I couldn’t possibly trouble my king with something like this. And…does he really have the strength to properly massage me and get rough with me?”
“Y-you want to know if Toori-kun could massage you and get rough with you!?”
“Judge,” said Mitotsudaira. She had heard that the workplace could be a cruel place.
…Greedy people hoping to steal your pay will squeeze you for all you’re worth and suck you dry!
“I am prepared to let my king get rough with me, to squeeze me, and to suck me dry.”
Asama wobbled on her feet. She was apparently feeling dizzy.
She staggered and nearly fell onto the windowsill, so Mitotsudaira quickly propped her up.
“A-are you okay, Asama!?”
“Oh, sorry, I just have a nosebleed is all. …Hey, Hanami? Adjust my blood pressure, will you?”
Mitotsudaira had never before seen the Asama Shrine’s heir turn toward her with a handkerchief in her nose.
But she went on to slap Mitotsudaira’s shoulders several times.
“I-I had no idea you were so serious about this, Mito! You might be willing to take this even further than Adele!”
“I-I am not quite sure what you mean, but I am willing to do what I can! Also…”
Mitotsudaira took a breath.
Speaking with Asama about her thoughts had helped resolve the problem within her.
“I feel like I found a solution to the problem I have kept hidden in my heart for a while now.”
“Well, we still don’t know if this solution will work.”
“Even so,” said Mitotsudaira. “I am much less worried about it now. You really never know what will help you get over your worries, do you?”
“You have my thanks…Asama.”
She nearly used Asama’s given name like she used to, but she chose not to.
She felt like it was too soon for that, but was that a sign of growth, or was it just a momentary whim?
Still, Asama nodded and responded with eyes narrowed.
“Don’t worry, Mito. Resolving people’s worries is one of the Asama Shrine’s duties.”
Silver Wolf: “…”
Asama: “Looking back, I feel like Mito and I were having two very different conversations back then.”
Vice President: “How do you two ever manage to communicate?”
Silver Wolf: “You know, I kind of feel like my gratitude back then has been tainted!”
Gold Mar: “Not an uncommon occurrence around here.”
Bell: “So…wh-what happened…then?”
Asama tried to figure out what to do.
…Is it possible to help Mito’s chest grow?
That would be a truly difficult task. She already knew Shinto was powerless to help. The Shinto spell list was updated monthly, so maybe she needed to ask Hanami to monitor that for anything useful.
At any rate, she now needed to decide whether or not to enlist some help here.
Has he still not arrived? she wondered just before hearing a voice behind her.
“Hm? Were you waiting for me?”
His voice arrived through the window along with the spring light.
Toori was there.
Chapter 2: Path and Connection
I cannot see
My own face
Point Allocation (In the Water)
Mitotsudaira stood up quickly enough to knock her chair back.
Her king was there.
They had only been apart for about an hour, but it felt like so long since she had detected his scent. As a wolf, the familiar and comforting scent was overpowering.
Besides, she was sitting in his seat instead of her own. Because earlier he had asked her to wait for him. She had used that as an excuse to approach his desk and seat while excited moans filled her heart.
Asama must have understood all that because, when she saw the wolf wiggling around in that seat, she too had…
Wise Sister: “Let’s see, she too had…how should I put this? Heh heh.”
Silver Wolf: “Stop making up nonsense about excited moans and inserting it into someone else’s flashback!”
Asama: “At least don’t drag me into it too!”
Mar-Ga: “Oh, I get it. If we see an opening, we can butt into these flashbacks, can we?”
Vice President: “Keep in mind that this could end up being used as an official record.”
Wise Sister: “Heh heh. Fair enough. But, Mitotsudaira, you were sitting there, weren’t you?”
Silver Wolf: “A-a knight does not sit in her king’s seat without permission!”
Gold Mar: “But since the Chancellor showed up at the window, he knew you were there, didn’t he?”
Silver Wolf: “Um…”
Hori-ko: “It would seem we are gradually cornering Mitotsudaira-sama here.”
Silver Wolf: “S-since when is this a public trial!?”
“If you’re feeling hot, I can take your jacket for you.” Asama placed her own winter jacket over her shoulders. “Now, why did the teacher call for you this time, Toori-kun?”
“Oh, you know.” He handed her his jacket. “Just some stuff about my family. Aaaand maybe because they discovered the shortcut I made before.”
“Judge,” he replied. “I made a passageway through the attic directly connecting the boy’s bathroom to the central open-air observatory. During lunch, I would go there to read on my sign frame or write a song.”
“Oh, is that where you would sometimes go when we went to the restroom?” asked Asama.
“Sounds like it,” said Mitotsudaira. “But, my king, I cannot protect you if you use that.”
“Oh, yeah, don’t worry about that. I made sure it passes above the girl’s bathroom because the plan was for you to use it too.”
“Makes sense,” said Mitotsudaira and Asama until they froze in place a few seconds later.
“W-wait, Toori-kun! It passes above the girl’s bathroom!? You haven’t used that yet, have you!? Like when you went to the bathroom at the same time as us!? That part of the passageway is incomplete, right!?”
He thought for a few seconds before responding in a dazed voice.
“Dang. I wish I’d thought of that.”
“She was not trying to give you ideas, my king!!”
Asama could not keep the heat from her face, but she made sure to scold him.
“Listen, Toori-kun. I am used to getting you out of the guard station when you cause trouble at school, but if it is about us, I would prefer if you told us in advance.”
“Oh, okay. Also…”
“Wait, there’s more?” asked Mitotsudaira.
“Judge. Our teacher also said someone important would be visiting soon and I’m not to cause any trouble then.”
“The big principal.”
Toori gave a toothy grin and pointed his thumb aft.
Musashino’s surface city and the bridge-shaped bridge were visible there, but he was pointing at something beyond all of that – the stern of Okutama.
…Musashi Ariadust Academy.
Musashi was independent Far Eastern territory and, in this student-led world, the center of Far Eastern power was of course an academy. The principal was the leader of the teachers who ran the academy and he lacked the rights of a student, but he still had a lot of power related to the student’s human resources and votes.
As heir to the Asama Shrine in charge of Musashi’s Shinto side, Asama had met that principal. But…
She noticed Mitotsudaira’s eyes were dropping toward the floor.
She looked troubled about something.
“Look, Toori-kun. Your scent is troubling Mito.”
“I-it is not, Asama!”
She knew that.
Anyone with an important position within Musashi would have met the academy principal. That included the #1 knight of Musashi’s Knight League. But…
…Mito has been neglecting a lot of that stuff.
She should have been some help here, but she was not. That must have been getting her down.
Asama had tried to dodge that issue for Mitotsudaira’s sake, but she noticed he was looking toward the faculty room.
“How about we get going? We can meet back up at the entrance cause I’ve got to grab my shoes. You come too, Asama. Oh, Nate, about my things…”
“I-I will carry them for you!”
“No, I like to leave them in the classroom, so don’t worry about it.”
Mitotsudaira froze in place.
“Just get on down to the entrance in a hurry, okay?” he said to her. “I’ll stop by Asama’s place later, but I need to buy some ingredients for dinner first. Will you join me?”
Asama smiled when she saw the knight obediently nod.
Vice President: “You people have always been weird, haven’t you?”
Mar-Ga: “I bet I know what happened later. Once Asama started managing the Chancellor’s sign frames, she must’ve found information on that hidden passageway and started wiggling around wondering what to do about it.”
Asama: “No, no, no, no, no. That…that definitely didn’t happen.”
Flat Vassal: “Did you check, though?”
Asama: “Toori-kun wouldn’t lie about something like that. Right, Horizon?”
Hori-ko: “Heh. Toori-sama lying? He doesn’t have the guts.”
Smoking Girl: “What’s with the sudden change of nuance there?”
Flat Vassal: “Does she rule through fear- uh, I mean, uh, that must be a game they play together.”
Silver Wolf: “This conversation is taking a turn for the worse, people.”
Gold Mar: “Then to get back on topic…is it possible he was eavesdropping on us in real time?”
Hori-ko: “Sound! Yes, it always starts with a sound. For example, whenever I let out a burst of butt-odor in a crowded place, I make sure to say ‘excuse me!’ …Excuse me!”
Wise Sister: “Already!? Are you demonstrating already, Horizon!? The standards here are lowering fast! So Adele! You do it too! Here, I’ll rub your stomach for you!”
Flat Vassal: “Someone! Help! My stomach is being violated! Ahahahahaha!”
Gold Mar: “Who’s going to come running after hearing that?”
Asama: “Mito! Mito! Get back to the flashback while Adele is distracting her!”
The path from Musashino to Okutama’s Asama Shrine was a straight shot along one of the rope passageways between ships.
Mitotsudaira lived on Murayama, so she was used to taking that path on her way to the shrine.
When she passed through the gates connecting blocks and passed by the guard station there, he would always wave at the guards and Asama would bow.
Her king and Asama gathered attention just by walking through the city. Asama was heir to the Asama Shrine and she managed the infrastructure and divine protections, so when she walked by…
“Oh, Asama-san. We gave some vegetables to your shrine, so leave some as an offering to your mother!”
“Hey, Asama Shrine Representative, my postal route is changing, so prepare the necessary purifications and divine protections if you don’t mind!”
“Oh, Asama-sama. Umeshu season will be here again soon.”
Some she had not seen in a while and some she saw all the time. She would bow to them and she would respond with whatever was appropriate.
…She’s so responsible.
And when Mitotsudaira’s king walked by…
“Ahhhhh! I-it’s Toori! You’re in middle school, so stay away from our elementary school! Stay away!”
“D-don’t come back to our store! Not after you wrapped that eel around your crotch and started singing about how we were going to eat it afterwards!”
“Hey, Toori-kun! Is there any way you can get me the latest doujinshi from Black Hair & Wings!? I need to know what happens next!”
Some he had not seen in a while and some he saw all the time. They would speak up cautiously or run away and he would make weird poses or pursue them with bowed legs.
…Freedom is a wonderful thing.
…Maybe this side of my king saved me too.
Asama: “Stop! You’re trying to whitewash the past, Mito! I remember you looking highly disturbed when you saw him doing that! You need to face reality, Mito!”
Hori-ko: “I see Toori-sama was a nuisance back then as well.”
Gold Mar: “Hm, I wonder how Horizon would have reacted if she had been there.”
Mar-Ga: “Heh. That’s my cue. Let’s make this a ‘what if’ story, shall we? Ready, go.”
The path from Musashino to Okutama’s Asama Shrine was a straight shot along one of the rope passageways between ships.
Mitotsudaira lived on Murayama, so she was used to taking that path on her way to the shrine.
Someone was approaching her from head on.
It was Horizon. She nodded, looked to the idiot, and…
“Oh? Good day to you, dung beetle. Where are you headed?”
Mar-Ga: “W-wait, Mitotsudaira! I’m drawing an illustration for this, so don’t stop!”
Silver Wolf: “Um, Naruze? Not even Horizon would call someone a dung beetle the moment she met them!”
Asama: “Um, Horizon? You shouldn’t have to think so hard on whether or not you’ve done that. Here, drink this tea and relax. Okay?”
Anyway, once they arrived on Okutama, the Asama Shrine was right there. The shrine was built in a nature district that doubled as a park and a Shinto forest.
It was currently evening. The sky was mostly a spring-like yellow, which was entirely visible since the stealth barrier was down.
One only had to look up to see the sky rotating around them. And…
“We are descending, aren’t we?” said Mitotsudaira.
“Yes, we will land in the former Imagawa territory of Totomi tonight,” explained Asama.
The former Imagawa territory continued on toward Mikawa and Suruga in the west, but…
“P.A. Oda manages this land now, so this year we should travel north through the Tian Shan corridor after this.”
“Eh?” he said. “Wait. We aren’t continuing on to Mikawa? We’re going around north this year?”
“Yes. After destroying the Imagawa clan, P.A. Oda is finally speaking with the Testament Union about what to do with the former Imagawa territory and they have reached an agreement there.”
Vice President: “Oh, this I know about. Matsudaira was connected with P.A. Oda and their Mikawa was neutral land, so the Testament Union was trying to give the neighboring Imagawa territory to Matsudaira to expand that neutral land. But P.A. Oda wanted a seaport to the south, so they opposed that plan and entered negotiations.”
Silver Wolf: “Judge. In the end, the seaport issue was solved by creating a more widespread alliance between the Association of Indian States and P.A. Oda. That prevented P.A. Oda from actively taking over Imagawa territory, so it was simply left as their ‘managed territory’. But that meant the Testament Union had successfully avoided conflict with P.A. Oda and left Imagawa territory as untouchable. Musashi thought they would frown on us travelling through Imagawa territory after that, so we chose a route taking us to our trading partners in the Tian Shan region instead.”
Vice President: “Oh, yeah. That is what happened. There was a time there when things to the east across Mikawa Bay were looking pretty dangerous.”
Tonbokiri: “For a time, Tres Portugal and Tres España ships were stationed on the east side of Mikawa Bay staring down the P.A. Oda ships. I was certain Mikawa would finally be caught up in a war, but my father laughed and said we would not be that lucky.”
Tachibana Wife: “I remember that. If the territory east of Mikawa became neutral land, Tres España, Tres Portugal, Holland, England, and the other Testament Union nations who could travel east would need to guard that region. There was a possibility that we would have been stationed there for that purpose.”
Gin drew some water below the sky of a spring evening.
She was at a well. Since they had a field of crops behind their home, the location clearly had plenty of water. The bucket found water quickly and she could see her face reflected in the dark water’s surface when she peered inside.
Of course, if she faced straight down, her face would cast a shadow down and obscure her own reflection.
The reflection in the rippling water shut its eyes while she pulled up the now-full bucket with practiced hand.
Then a cadena firma appeared. It was her father. Unsurprisingly, it was text rather than video or audio. He was supposed to be training the newcomers at the high school right now, she wondered what this was about.
She really wished he would name her as his heir sooner rather than later.
…Do I have to wait until I am in high school for that?
“What is it, father?”
“Tres España seems to have come to a decision about its plans.”
“What plans are those?” she asked while continuing to pull up the bucket.
“Tres España will focus all of its energy on traveling through the Gate and working in the New World.”
He made it sound like none of his business, but that may have been something he had learned over the years. It gave the impression that he had no intention of playing a part in that, but he had more to say.
“The central nations like Takeda, Azai, and Kazan have welcomed the Musashi now that they are headed north from the Mikawa region. Doing that has left the Testament Union indebted to those P.A. Oda allies, so…”
“So the area east of Mikawa will be left alone? I am not very familiar with the east, but will Takeda be moving south?”
“That is more than we know at this time.”
“Testament. What will Tres España do about this?”
“The Chancellor’s Officers and Student Council should be ordered to the New World. With one of our Logismoi Oplo functioning as a spare, that may also help locate a user for it. So…”
“Are you telling me to get used to New World food in advance?”
She knew what he was going to say next.
He would say “that’s the spirit” and then…
…“But you probably should not push yourself too hard.”
Was that his way of showing concern? Did he not really care? Or was he too embarrassed to say more? She did not know.
However, someone must have been converting the text into Tres Españan for their job because the usual line came out as…
“Don’t be pushing yourself too hard. Okey dokey?”
That made her father sound more playful than he was. She wanted to believe that was not on purpose. It certainly seemed excessive.
She realized she had stopped drawing in the bucket, so she got moving again.
She took a breath.
She placed the bucket on the edge of the well and glanced back toward the house.
From here, she could only see the rear of the house, but there was a young man collapsed in the garden out front.
The bucketful of water was meant to wake him up.
She had sparred with him because her father told her to.
“Father even said he wants to make him his heir.”
Was she not good enough for that?
After all, that guy could not even swing a sword properly. She only needed a single wooden sword to deal with him. He had learned to put up a bit more of a fight lately, but he still always ended up sprawled out on the ground after training the was complete.
She was not happy about this and she was not about to go the extra mile and tend to his injuries. Once she splashed water on him to wake him up, she would see him to the main gate. Then she only had to lock the gate after he left.
That might sound cold, but he would come back the following day if that was all she did.
The water in the bucket created a reflection much closer than in the well.
For a brief moment, her face there looked red.
That had to be the light of the sunset, so she looked up and quickly washed off her face.
She did so a second and third time before looking back down at the bucket water which was now rippling from the drops of water falling into it.
Her face was no longer so bright. She could see it clearly. But then she grabbed the bucket.
She did not want to splash that guy with the same water used to wash her face.
She scattered the water across the ground and tossed the bucket into the well once more.
She felt heat in her face when she turned toward the sun setting in the west. She did not like that, so she looked to the colors of night to the east.
The night that came after the sunset was an ominous thing for Tres España since they were guaranteed to decline in the history recreation. A great nation was in motion beyond the sky there, but…
“If I go to the New World, the east may forever be none of my concern.”
Tachibana Wife: “I think this was around the time that happened.”
Tachibana Wife: “Why are you all staring at me?”
Gold Mar: “Now that’s what I call love.”
Mar-Ga: “True love, even. This definitely deserves that title.”
Tachibana Wife: “Must you interpret everything in that light!?”
Asama: “I mean, you really stand out compared to how carefree the rest of us were back then.”
Asama looked to the eastern sky that was rotating above the Musashi.
She had previously opened a sign frame to adjust the Musashi’s spell field for the docking sequence. The Musashi’s spell field was made of multiple spells, including ones to combat mysterious phenomena and ones to keep out any malicious data. It could be kept at full power when in the air since there was nothing else it could interfere with, but it had to be weakened while docking.
That was closely related to the steering and buffering spells used by the automatons, so it was difficult to automate. Buffering and power usage reports were currently arriving as graphs from Musashino’s bridge, so Asama matched the range and power of the spell field to those graphs.
“Making adjustments again, Asama?”
“Um, yes. It’s the usual work.”
“The usual? Did you do this last year?”
“Not exactly.” Asama waved her hands side to side with a bitter smile on her lips. “Last year, my dad had only just given me this job and I hadn’t figured out how to automate any of it, so when we docked, I would head home and use the Asama Shrine databank as a basis for my work. But I figured out the general upper limits after the peak time at the start of the year, so I’ve started automating some of it, which allows Hanami to handle it.”
“Not really. I’m automating it and skipping all the work specifically because it isn’t anything incredible.”
There was in fact a lot she could still simplify. And…
“With the route change this year, last year’s data isn’t all that useful, making this something of a pain.”
“But that gives the Musashi some peace of mind, doesn’t it?”
“Yes. This year, I can focus more on Toori-kun and Kimi’s spells and rank promotions. I can also handle your spells and divine transmissions, so don’t worry,” said Asama to Mitotsudaira. “Especially you, Mito, since you haven’t settled on a primary god to worship. You’re still using the broadly-defined ‘Asama Shrine’ settings that are generally only for a trial period.”
“Y-yes, judge. But that hasn’t been a problem for me.”
“Nate’s from a knight family, so she might get in trouble if she goes full Shinto. But if you feel like taking that next step, I say go for it.”
His first line and second one seemed contradictory, but that was one way he showed he cared.
And she agreed that it might be a nice thing to do if she ever felt like it.
“Well, please come to me if you think of anything. I will help you get it all set up.”
“You’re sounding more and more like a real representative of the Asama Shrine.”
“Oh? How so?”
The knight and king exchanged a glance and the latter spoke up first.
“The drinking, the shooting, and the high-pressure sales tactics?”
“I-I do not use high-pressure sales tactics on my friends.”
“Um, you aren’t going to deny the drinking and shooting?” asked Mitotsudaira.
Those things are necessary. Yes. But…
…This really is strange.
She was walking and adjusting the spell field while chatting with those two, but she probably would have been silently working all on her own if she did not have any friends like them.
She wanted to get better at this work so she would have more time to spend with the others and more time to help them as well. Yes, for example…
“Toori-kun, a guard station just sent me a divine mail asking if they should come here to ‘deal with the idiot’. Any idea why they sent that to me?”
“Huh, that’s weird. All I did today was put on an evil god cultist mask and chase some kids around at the elementary school.”
“That is more than enough!” shouted Mitotsudaira.
Asama could handle something as simple entering school grounds without permission, so she decided to do so. The punishment was…
“Toori-kun, would you rather a divine punishment or a lecture for entering school grounds without permission and causing a scene?”
“Asama! Asama! Isn’t a lecture letting him off too easy!?”
“So what’s the divine punishment for that?”
She searched for it.
“Um…since it was an elementary school, you will have to speak in baby talk for the next 3 months, you will have to recite the times tables 30 times each day for the same period, and a school lunch made of ether will be shoved up your butt.”
“My king, I think you should choose the lecture.”
“Hmm, then I can lecture you at length while making some spell adjustments later on. Oh, and I will sign you up for some public service.”
“Part-time work as a shrine maiden, huh?”
“My king, will you be crossdressing again?”
In elementary school, they had dressed him up as a shrine maiden as a joke and a lot of people had been tricked, but that had apparently taught him that he could pull that kind of thing off. In middle school, he had trained in some disguise divine protections and spells, so even Asama did not recognize him at first sometimes.
Anyway, if he was working at the shrine, she knew he would not be causing trouble elsewhere. That should ensure some peace for the city, she thought while completing the spell field adjustments.
…Okay, now I have to input the new course.
They were headed north. That was an unlucky direction, but it also brought them near Mt. Fuji, the home base of the Asama Shrine. That holy ground corresponded to Sagarmatha and even she had only been there a few times. With this new route, they might start visiting it every year. So…
“What kind of spell field adjustments were you thinking of making for the trip from Totomi to Mikawa?” asked Mitotsudaira.
“Well, I was thinking of making the field a little bit stronger. Partially because this is our first time taking the route, but also because our god will provide the extra power for it while so close to Fuji Asama.”
“I want to try out a number of things right now. I’m thinking of temporarily strengthening the inner spell field instead of just the hull one. I will of course be limiting its power to ensure it does not harm any of the crew.”
“Asama, what happens if you make the field more powerful?”
“Hm.” She placed a hand on her chin. “Simply put, it’s like lighting more bug repellant incense.”
“Oh.” Mitotsudaira nodded in understanding. “So it traps and crushes any mysterious phenomena that try to appear.”
“But make it too powerful and it would affect nonhumans like you, Mito, so it can be a tricky balancing act. You want enough power to purify just the mysterious phenomena without causing anyone else any harm.”
“But if you do that, won’t it force some things to make an appearance all of a sudden?” he asked.
“Hm. We would need something to show up to prove it works.” She placed her hand on the confirm button for the adjustments. “But it should be fine. There has to be a separate cause for those things to appear, but this area is peaceful these days. Just think of this as a test for powering up the spell field.”
She pressed the button.
A subtle change came over the air. It was so subtle only she, he, and Mitotsudaira would have noticed it, since they knew something had just happened.
A tremor ran through Mitotsudaira, shaking her plentiful hair.
“Is that what I just felt?”
“Yes, the Musashi is making a natural descent, so this is no extra burden on the power system. The change felt natural, didn’t it? That means it was safe.”
A moment later, an alarm pierced the air.
It took the form of a series of short blasts that indicated danger. Hearing the wide-range alarm continue on and on, Asama froze in place and looked at the other two in front of her.
“W-wait, why are you giving me that knowing look!? This wasn’t my fault! Probably, anyway!”
Adele was grabbing an early dinner before heading to her part-time job.
Her home was in Murayama’s underground area. It was part of a student longhouse that gave a discount for students, especially middle school ones. She had lost her parents, so she had yet again picked up some bread crusts at the Tama Blue Thunder where Toori’s mother worked.
“Add in my home-grown vegetables and the egg ration and that’s a feast.”
She threw the vegetables into the pot-au-feu left on the stove as additional ingredients.
She placed the new bread crusts in a colander and set them aside to dry. She dumped out the ones that had already been drying, sliced them up to equal widths, and cooked them with butter in a frying pan. Once they gained some scorch marks, she dropped the egg inside with yolk unbroken and added some salt and pepper. Then she put the lid on for about 20 seconds.
After removing it from the stove, she had a still-runny boiled egg with butter croutons. When dropping the egg into the croutons, it was best to gather them together in the middle before creating an opening in the very center. That let the heat reach the egg better.
Washing plates was a pain, so she did not use them. She placed a pot stand and the frying pan on her small room’s table. For the pot-au-feu, she scooped up some from the very bottom and poured it into a cup.
“There we go.”
It was not too heavy and not too light for a meal just before work. It seemed just right to her. She was Catholic, so she made sure to cross herself and say grace.
“Lord, thank you for the blessings that were my parents and that are my classmates…even if they don’t seem like much of a blessing.”
Part of her felt like she should only have mentioned her parents.
But then she heard an alarm.
…That alarm signals a threat outside the ship, doesn’t it?
She opened a sign frame and found a live video from the Chancellor’s Officers. She hoped to be a vassal, so she was registered as part of Musashi’s reserve forces.
Based on the low-resolution footage, this was a scene to port. A line of lights was visible there.
“A ghost fleet?”
There were ghost ships there.
The Musashi used its giant form to purify the ones that grew active every few years in different places. Adele knew that because a similar purification had previously occurred in the mountains and in a specific airspace. But…
“There’s way too many of them!” said a voice on the video. “And they’re already-”
That had to be the 1st Special Duty Officer’s unit. The voice was accompanied by the image zooming in to show…
The ghost fleet was firing a tremendous number of what looked like glowing arrows. Musashi’s spell field was of course weakening and eliminating those, but…
“We’ve detected some ghost ships analogous to light warships! They’re firing arrows now, but they will likely switch to artillery soon! All available personnel gather in Murayama’s diplomatic port or contact your commander for instructions!”
Hearing that, Adele looked to the food in front of her. She could not help but glare for a moment.
“I guess it’s time to run.”
She heard the type of alarm change as she crammed the food into her mouth as quickly as possible.
Chapter 3: Sky and Levels
Is the inexperienced sky too narrow?
Is it enough if you are inexperienced?
Point Allocation (Let's Get Some Sleep Later)
Mitotsudaira hurried to the Asama Shrine.
Her king and Asama were behind her. As a knight, it was her duty to protect them both.
She was currently surrounded by alarms, confused shouting, and the sounds of hurried movement. Off the port side, a ghost fleet was attacking the Musashi from the southwest.
They had only loosed arrows at first, but now they were firing guns, hoping those attacks would actually reach the Musashi.
…Ghost warships are always aggressive, but it’s unusual to see such a large fleet of them.
Asama was using a sign frame to check the reports coming in from the Chancellor’s Officers.
“We should be safe once we reach the Asama Shrine,” she concluded. “I can monitor everything within the ship from there, which will help communicate with the others, so please hurry!”
Being told to hurry did nothing to help here, but Mitotsudaira honestly knew she was fairly slow.
Her running form had gained some odd idiosyncrasies and she felt learning the proper way to walk and run in high heels was partially to blame. Also…
…Maybe it’s because I’m a Loup-Garou, but when I make a conscious effort to hurry, I tense up all weird.
Her pure Loup-Garou mother had not been like that, but now was not the time to think back on that.
They passed through the nature district to reach the Asama Shrine. An artificial forest was constructed out of crust blocks the size of a standard Far-Eastern tatami mat. Her slower king and Asama were both managing to keep up with her through that forest. And when she focused on Asama…
…Oh, I see.
With a decent-sized chest, you could not pump your arms vertically.
And with a chest of that size, you also could not pump them horizontally very much.
“D-do you need something, Mito!?”
“No, um, couldn’t you run faster if you pumped your arms?”
“Eh? I am, though!”
You are? It looks more to me like you’re holding them between your arms to restrain the jiggling.
She then noticed her king was mimicking Asama by holding imaginary breasts between his arms as he ran.
“Wh-what are you doing, Toori-kun!? I don’t bend back that far while I run!”
Yet you can tell it’s supposed to be you? But…
A sign frame appeared by their faces without warning. It was from Suzu, who was supposedly working at her family’s bathhouse.
“U-um, things are…fine here. Kimi-chan is…going around…the baths, so it’s…fine?”
“I see,” said Asama while she ran. “Kimi is dancing around the baths like a crazy person, but that’s normal for her, so it’s fine.”
“How in the world did you reach that interpretation?”
Mitotsudaira was not quite sure what Suzu was saying, but apparently Kimi was there.
Kimi was a classmate and her king’s sister. Kimi must have been curious what was going on outside, especially regarding him.
So Suzu asked another question.
Suzu was in the dressing room of Dangerous Waters, a bathhouse in Musashino’s underground area.
She had been born blind, so Kimi was holding her shoulders to help her bear with the shaking from the incoming attacks. Meanwhile, she heard voices from her sign frame. First, Toori’s.
“Well, you see, Bell-san, Asama pressed a button and some ghost ships popped out.”
I’m sorry, Toori-kun, but I don’t know what that means. How can you expect me to? she wondered.
Also, Kimi suddenly let go of her shoulders and collapsed to the floor.
“Heh…heh heh. I had heard the external threat alarm, but ghost ships? I-I’m going to check out now.”
Kimi was afraid of ghosts – and anything scary, really – but this response seemed too obedient for her.
“K-Kimi-chan…calm down. We haven’t…cleaned the dressing room…yet.”
“Then so be it! I will sink into fear in as wet and messy a way as possible!”
Kimi was being as Kimi as ever, but Mitotsudaira was getting worked up over the divine transmission.
“Y-you need to be more accurate, my king. Asama pressed a button to protect your butt and some ghost ships popped out!”
Mitotsudaira was speaking loudly enough for the evacuating customers to turn Suzu’s way. But…
“Y-you need to stop that too, Mito! I didn’t do anything to cause this! I promised to give Toori-kun a talking to and pressed the spell field tuning button and, by pure coincidence, the ghost ships appeared. You know how things have a miniscule chance of happening at the exact same moment? That’s what happened here. Man, I sure am unlucky, huh?”
Suzu was utterly confused now, so she only had one thing to say.
“All three of you…are contradicting each…other?”
Wise Sister: “Heh heh. Detective Bell is on the case! Now, who was it that pressed the button that made the ghost ships pop out!? As her assistant, I shall identify the culprit with a boobs investigation! You’re up first, Adele! Hmm, no, you don’t make the cut. Better luck next time.”
Flat Vassal: “Wh-why would you start with me!? If the joke is meant to be on me, you should start with the Satomi Student Council President to build up to the main event!”
Righteousness: “Don’t drag me into this! I’m trying to eat over here!”
Gold Mar: “Are you calling yourself the final boss, Adele?”
Mar-Ga: “She pretty much is. …Anyway, we heard all this happening while waiting up above, but we had no idea what you were talking about.”
Asama: “Oh, you two were a part of all that?”
Mar-Ga: “Judge. We were a little unlucky.”
Mar-Ga: “Judge. We just so happened to be up there on a job.”
Naruze stopped her broom amid the blaring of the alarms.
Hers was a feather duster model. It had a large brush for a Technohexen broom, which gave it powerful acceleration, but it could be a pain to stop it in midair. After all, that reduced its fuel efficiency. But…
“For now, let’s obey the stop-in-place requirement while trying to stay out of everyone’s way, Ga-chan.”
“Sure, Margot. Oh, I’ll put up the stop notification display. By which I mean, I’ll draw us up one.”
She used red lines to draw that Magie Figur over their heads. It was hand-drawn, but Technohexen did not buy commercial products and carry them around.
That completed what was required of them while they borrowed Musashi’s airspace. So now…
“Margot, do you know what’s going on?”
“Judge.” Margot pointed toward Okutama below them. “Asama-chi pressed the talking-to button that protects To-chan’s butt, which had a miniscule chance of making ghost ships appear.”
“Heh heh. Oh, Margot. You don’t have to make up weird jokes to help fight the tension, you know? But I might have even laughed had you found something a little funnier to say.”
“No, it’s 100% true. Look.”
Naruze viewed the Magie Figur that Margot held out for her.
It was indeed true.
“What are those idiots doing?”
“Who knows. …Oh, wow.”
Margot looked up into the sky where three lines of light were travelling from port to starboard.
This was not the arrows or gunfire from before. Those three attacks could not be fully drained of energy by the Asama Shrine’s spell field.
“The ghost fleet is firing cannons!? I know those types are always basically asking to be sunk, but isn’t this a bit much?”
Naruze also saw faint lights appear all around the Musashi. The warriors and guards gathered at their posts or stations were all opening sign frames to check on that attack.
The Technohexen were in position to see it for themselves. And…
“That was from south to north, wasn’t it?”
That meant whoever had fired it was to the south.
They could indeed see some glowing ships in the sky there. All of the ships were Dragon-class, but…
“What is that?” Naruze tilted her head. “How odd. Aren’t Funayurei generally found on fishing boats? That should be Kraken-class at the biggest, so why are they riding Dragon-class light warships?”
Naito sensed something strange.
They were west of Suruga, where the coastline was nearly straight and the ocean was calm. Accidents at sea here generally happened in the dangerous currents far out at sea, but few ships went out that far.
The accidents that led to ghosts were few and far between.
Funayurei were generally found in the channel to the west of the Far East or in the rough oceans of the Holland region.
…Besides, have such aggressive ones ever appeared in this region before?
She had her doubts, but she had no intention of looking into it. Nor would it matter if she did.
“There are a ton of mysterious phenomenon lately with the Apocalypse approaching,” said Naruze. “They’ve been talking about it a lot on the divine radio recently.”
“Except for our generation, it’s been like this all our lives, so it all seems normal enough to us.”
Light scattered in the sky. The defense barriers had blocked an ether cannon blast flying along a straight path. People raised their voices in the city below.
The alarms were shifting to a fire bell style. Instead of a general emergency alarm, this was an evacuation alarm.
The people had to get underground. So…
“Zwei Fräulein, it’s me.”
Naruze sighed when a sign frame appeared.
“Who’s this creep? Are you afraid the scary Technohexen will curse you if you give us your name, or did you never develop past being a rude child? Almirante, did you decide running the delivery industry is too much work?”
“You Technohexen never give me anything but lip. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Anyway, I’ve got a minor job for you.”
“Minor? What, you aren’t sending us into the fight?”
“Our firing spells are more powerful than those ones you carry around in secret.”
He knew what to say to irritate them. But Naruze had a question.
“Are you saying you can take on warships?”
“They don’t call me Almirante for nothing.”
A cry rose from the city below and light repeatedly scattered in the sky above. The enemy’s aim seemed to be gradually adjusting the altitude to more accurately target the Musashi.
“Margot, a transport ship is leaving from the port.”
It was one of the Musashi’s transport ships. Musashi Ariadust Academy students and a vassal unit stood on its deck.
Musashi was a trade ship and part of the Far East, so they were generally not allowed to fight in battles.
But that did not apply to battles against mysterious phenomena since they did not belong to any other nation.
The normal residents, the student warriors, the vassals, and the knights were moving out ahead to form the best battle formations they could.
“We were ordered not to participate, so there’s nothing for us to do, Margot.”
“Think again. We just got a nice and boring job.”
She looked down to see a divine mail from Almirante.
“We’re supposed to fly around casting divine protections on the longhouses below? Boring is right.”
“We stop by the Main Blue Thunder but To-chan and Kimi-chan are both still out and then we run into ghosts on the way home. Today is just not our day.”
With that, Naruze looked back and down.
“What is it, Ga-chan?”
Needless to say, something odd had flashed through her field of vision.
“The nature district? No, what is that doing so close to the Asama Shrine?” Naruze opened a communications Magie Figur. “Asama! There’s some weird mess of ether over by you!”
“Eh?” Asama was not sure what the divine transmission from the Technohexen meant. “A-a strange mess of ether?”
“Hm? Not strange, Asama-chi. Weird is the better word for it.”
“I’m not sure what the difference is and could you maybe use a clearer word than just ‘mess’?”
“Judge. I’ll tell you what you need to know,” chimed in Naito. “From above, it looks like…yes, a weird mess of ether is the best way of putting it.”
Asama ended the transmission. Mitotsudaira looked back while jumping from one crust block to another situated higher up.
“Hm? What’s going on?”
“I think 80% is just them trolling me on reflex, but they must be serious about the other 20%, so be on your guard.”
“If you say so,” said Mitotsudaira.
Meanwhile, he suddenly slowed his pace.
“Hm? What is it, Toori-kun? We’ll be safe inside the Asama Shrine’s grounds, so try to wait until we’re there, okay?”
“Yeah, I get that, but…look.” He pointed to port. “What’s that? Aren’t they being chased?”
She looked in that direction and saw an unnatural white ether fog covering the nature district – that was probably what the Technohexen had been talking about. Within that, someone was chasing someone else.
Even without context, it was easy enough to tell the one person was being “chased” because…
Several people were pursuing the one person with weapons in hand.
“Nate,” he said upon grasping that.
“J-judge! What is it!?”
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this. How bout you? And you too, Asama?”
She had to agree.
“I notified the guard station, my dad, and ‘Okutama’, so they will be captured. I am the Asama Shrine Representative and Mito is a Rank 1 knight, but you are a normal citizen, Toori-kun. Still, you have my authorization as long as you promise not to do anything reckless.”
“Are you mad?”
“No, no,” she said. She really was not.
…I just thought it was funny how much of a Toori-kun thing this is to do.
They had a task now.
“Nate, chase after them, will you?” asked Toori. “If things look bad and you think there’s something you can do, then do something about it.”
That was an order.
Asama saw a change come over Mitotsudaira’s face.
Her eyebrows rose and her eyes widened, but she quickly lowered her eyebrows from that look of surprise.
…Wow, that was a good response.
Asama knew this had to be his first direct combat order for her, so she knew she had to provide support here.
“Mito, I will provide you with a physical buffing divine protection to help you pursue that group. I will also send you any additional information as soon as it comes on, so hurry!”
Chapter 4: Power and Contemplation
What is that?
None of this makes any sense
Or maybe I’m just not used to this
Point Allocation (You’ll Get There)
Adele was on the front line.
…Although in this case, that means the diplomatic port of Murayama.
Musashi’s defense barriers handled her defense and the Asama Shrine’s spell field kept the enemy from approaching.
“It’s almost like playing with god mode on.”
“Except, Adele-dono, we have no clear way of attacking,” replied Tenzou who was here with her.
They were both in middle school, but they were in the reserve unit that assisted the high school.
The reserve unit was a shortcut to later joining the Chancellor’s Officers, the vassals, the warriors, and the rest of the Musashi combat jobs.
She wanted to be a vassal and he wanted to join the Chancellor’s Officers, so they were on the same team and worked together a lot. However…
“We’re really the only ones on the communication support team.”
She really wished she could join the defense team, what with hoping to be a vassal and all. A vassal’s primary jobs were to clear a path for the knights, to act as a shield to protect the whole of the fighting force, and to solidify their battle formation. So…
“I really want to start on my shield training.”
“You say that, Adele-dono, but your position already gives you subordinates.”
Tenzou turned back toward the “subordinates” behind them.
He was answered by the barking of a pack of dogs.
They all wore torii-style collars and were accompanied by communication sign frames. There were at least 20 of them in all.
“I mean, yeah, but I’m only borrowing them from their actual owners and I’d be in serious trouble if they got hurt. That only adds to the pressure.”
“True. You can’t exactly ask the owners to accept their pets will be injured.”
“Judge. Which is why I really wish we could give peace a chance.”
Ether light splashed into the air fairly close by.
A shell had landed close enough to elicit a shout from the students out front.
The artillery fire was very scattered. It was plenty powerful, but the density was lacking. However…
“I get the feeling their aim is improving,” said Tenzou.
“Oh, you think so too?”
He nodded while a few communication text sign frames appeared by his hands. He bundled them together and held them between his fingers.
“I will go measure the attacks while moving around to better judge their aim.”
“Oh, thanks. Once I can move, I’ll do the same.”
“Yes, this is our job since we are the only ones who can move around so much right now. I imagine the upperclassmen have already noticed, but it can’t hurt to send them some solid data.”
With that, the ninja disappeared.
…He’s fast, I’ll give him that.
He was good at his work and he was a considerate person, so why couldn’t he find a girlfriend?
Rumor had it he was into busty blondes, but he would have a better understanding of himself once they were in high school. And if that did turn out to be what he wanted…
…I guess he’ll be forever alone.
That line of thinking was cut off by another beam of white light shooting by overhead. Its path was veering aft.
…Huh? That would take it toward…
The Asama Shrine, right?
Scarred: “I see Master Tenzou was a hard worker even back then.”
Gold Mar: “Oh, what’s this, Ma-yan!? Falling in love all over again?”
Scarred: “No, because falling in love again would require falling out of love with him first, which I will never do.”
Flat Vassal: “I-I didn’t even think about you listening to this when I mentioned my thoughts about busty blondes and him not having a girlfriend. But am I getting away with that one!?”
Wise Sister: “By the way, where is Tenzou?”
Scarred: “Judge. He is already asleep, so I will let him rest his head on my lap later.”
Asama: “Okay, let’s get back to the flashback before my blood sugar reaches critical levels! Mito!”
Silver Wolf: “Um, I am not a memory retrieval device, you know?”
Mitotsudaira ran through the forest, kicking off the height differences between crust blocks.
…What in the world is going on!?
A ghost fleet was attacking the Musashi.
The Musashi had excellent defenses, but disaster could still strike and separate problems could occur at the same time.
This emergency could manifest itself in ways other than the attack on the Musashi.
“Like this I see in front of me!”
Ahead on the right, she saw a group of shadows moving through the foggy artificial forest.
They seemed to be pursuing someone. The group of 10 or so had an apparent leader at the front.
The leader was quick, but the others…
…Are slow enough for me to catch up!
She felt excited, which was partially an instinctual response to pursuing a prey, but also…
…This is a direct order from my king!
Her heart danced. It had been so long since she ran through the forest at night. Before her home nation of Hexagone Française had sent her to Musashi, she had often played in the mountains behind her home. And she had occasionally gotten lost.
Her mother had taken her hunting with her before and she recalled walking through the forest to view the stars.
She was far from an expert at forest travel; she simply did not fear the forest night.
She kept moving with her king’s command in her heart.
Mitotsudaira had made a personal vow to only use her strength when it was necessary. It was her way of showing she had learned her lesson after that wild period of her life.
“Use it on me,” her king had insisted. “Cause I’m sure to do some rude things!”
And he really would treat her like a dog, which gave her a chance to release some of that stress. Not that I am always fighting an urge to go wild or anything. It is more like…
Wise Sister: “Heh heh. You want to frolic with and sniff your king, but your pride won’t allow it, which builds up a lot of stress?”
Mar-Ga: “And your king treating you like a dog gives you an excuse to do just that, so you count yourself lucky?”
Hori-ko: “Mitotsudaira-sama, they are scoring bull’s eye after bull’s eye against you today.”
Silver Wolf: “Stop making things up!”
Asama: “Then what is really going on there?”
Still Got It: “That’s right, Nate! As my daughter, you need to be very, very clear here! A true lady wolf will lick all over her beloved and frolic with them, leaving herself all hot and bothered! Age has nothing to do with it!! Now, be true to your instincts: three, two, one, go!”
Silver Wolf: “Why are you getting involved in this!?”
Mitotsudaira was a knight.
She was Rank 1 within Musashi’s Knight League and she was a knight of her trusted king.
She was a knight in both her public and private lives, but she had been neglecting the former part of her knighthood of late.
She felt reclaiming that public position would be difficult after that wild period of her life.
…I honestly would not complain if they stripped me of the title.
But her name was more trouble than she had thought.
Mitotsudaira was an abbreviation of Mito Matsudaira.
The Far East’s representative was Matsudaira Motonobu in Mikawa.
She belonged to a Matsudaira branch family. The history recreation had not reached that point yet, but she was second in line to the Far East since Matsudaira Motonobu had no heir.
Her home nation of Hexagone Française had gotten her that inherited name and sent her to Musashi since the name would let her interfere with the future of the Far East.
Her name and Hexagone Française’s wishes may have been the only thing preserving her position as a knight.
Others probably saw her as coasting by on that name and on Hexagone Française’s backing, but she had decided to throw out everything except for being a knight and work to redo things there.
She had managed that because her king had wanted her as a necessary part of his life instead of “taking her in” or “rescuing her”.
Her king’s orders came above all else because they would lead to the future she wanted.
And he had said, “If things look bad and you think you can do something about it, then do that something.”
She had not lost enough of her wolfishness to think this qualified as bad.
She had lived wild for a while.
She was now simply restraining that wild side, so it had not faded away. And her king must have known that since he had assumed she would “think she could do something about it”.
So she approached the mystery group from the back right. To discover who they were, she focused on her sense of smell as she ran through the artificial forest.
She noticed something.
“This is a group of ghosts!”
Asama nodded at the divine transmission coming from Mitotsudaira.
They had stopped at the aft entrance to the Asama Shrine and were checking for any movement in the vicinity.
With the ghost fleet to port, the personnel on the central and rear ships had moved to the port side. That included the students, the guards, and the youth organization.
That made it hard to find personnel to divert to the issue here.
“Why won’t the guards show up like they always do to arrest me? Oh, do they only do that cause they love me so much?”
“I will be ignoring your jokes since this is an emergency, but a legit attack from a ghost fleet is a rare thing, so I think no one is sure if it’s safe to leave the front line right now.”
That was not too unusual.
…But Mito’s report just now changes things.
Asama trusted Mitotsudaira about her opponent being ghosts.
The girl had Loup-Garou blood, so she had a sharp nose and it was unlikely she would mistake a biological being for an ether one.
“Mito, do you mean they have no scent?”
“Judge! Exactly! Unlike the ghosts who live on the Musashi!”
“What does that mean?” he asked.
“Well,” said Asama. “Mito figured this out by running around smelling and tasting things, but…”
“I did not!”
Mito, please don’t butt in.
But if Mitotsudaira was going to complain, she must have made a poor choice of words. So…
“Then let’s say she figured it out by sniffing and licking things.”
“Again, I did not! It just means no scent is reaching my nose!”
“Of course. Yes. That’s what I thought you meant. Absolutely.”
Mitotsudaira ended the divine transmission there, but she needed to work on her short temper, so Asama forcibly reconnected it. Don’t even try to outdo the divine transmission master. Anyway…
“Even ghosts are influenced by the things they interact with in their everyday lives. They also wear clothes like living people. So a complete lack of that means all of their clothing and equipment is part of their ghost being, which is generally the case for low-level ghosts.” Asama made sure to hedge her next statement. “Most likely, this is a vengeful spirit or something similar with almost no intelligence.”
“So why’d they appear?” he asked. “This is the Asama Shrine’s forest, isn’t it?”
“To be honest, I don’t really know.”
Asama found herself wondering that very thing.
The Musashi’s spell barrier was functioning just fine. The high-density ether cannons were one thing, but if a vengeful spirit arrived from outside, they would have weakened and disappeared well before reaching the Musashi.
…Then did this vengeful spirit already live on the Musashi?
No. If it did, Mitotsudaira would have detected its life on Musashi in its scent.
Asama’s intuition told her this had appeared suddenly.
But how had it managed to appear in the Asama Shrine’s forest?”
The inability to accept a fact you did not understand was a bad habit of the intelligent. Especially when you only had to view the truth before your eyes and act accordingly.
So she nodded and turned toward Toori as he spoke into his sign frame.
“Nate, Asama says it’s a vengeful spirit.”
“Sic ‘em. Ignoring a moving grudge is never a good idea.”
Hori-ko: “Asama-sama, did he really say something so cool?”
Asama: “Eh? I-I think so? R-right, Mito?”
Mitotsudaira received her king’s divine transmission.
“Nate, I have a command for my knight. Allowing a grudge to grow more powerful is never a good idea. But I know you can handle it, so I’m counting on you.”
Asama: “Mito! Mito! The past is powering up as we speak!”
Silver Wolf: “B-but that really is how I remember it. I think?”
Smoking Girl: “So we’ve already discovered a discrepancy in our memories, huh?”
Scarred: “But you will accurately remember the things that truly matter. For example, I remember every word Master Tenzou and I said to each other when he came to rescue me.”
Gold Mar: “Yeah, Ma-yan tends to take words at face value, so that doesn’t surprise me.”
Mar-Ga: “Oh, my thread is going places today.”
Mitotsudaira did not bother observing her opponent.
She had the Asama Shrine’s assurance that this was a vengeful spirit.
She was strong and, at the moment, she was faster too. She only had to keep running as she raised her arms and used the movement to wrap her longish sleeves around her forearms. That helped her move more easily, but it also increased her defense. Now she only had to move forward, and…
She broke through a white fog created from the chill and the ether.
Its currents were bent and broken by her charge, but that was not worth stopping over.
She slammed into the enemy.
She was unarmed, so she made a jab with her hand in a karate chop shape. That was a basic attack for a Loup-Garou.
It hit. And…
It pierced through.
The opponent appeared to be wearing light armor. They were made of ether, but their shape was in flux, making their overall appearance hard to make out. She could see the hard point parts on either side of the neck and hips, and they looked rectangular. Did that mean they were from the Far East, England, or M.H.R.R.?
She jabbed her hand through their back.
She first thought they felt hard, but then they felt more resilient.
Her fingertips sank into something like a taut cloth, but it had a hardness that deflected her.
That did not matter.
She swung her running legs forward to continue on with the attack.
The “cloth” tore.
She broke through the resilience, but she felt it wrapping around her fingers and arm. Her sleeve was already wrapped around her arm, but the chill still reached her skin. It was a terrible chill, even though it was spring. However…
“Sorry,” she said. “But high quality Far Eastern uniforms have defensive abilities and divine protections woven in!”
This opponent would have known that about uniforms before becoming a ghost.
The combination of an inner suit and outer clothing had been standard since the Age of the Gods. It had been designed for functioning in the emptiness of the heavens, under bands of heavy gravity, or under the effects of foreign concepts, but they were primarily designed for combat nowadays.
A name inheritor like her would have defenses and anti-ghost divine protections woven into the base material.
As the ether body wrapped around her jabbing arm, it came apart and spread out like a ripple.
The pattern stitched into her wrapped sleeve glowed to show a divine protection was at work.
Then her opponent came apart.
She had defeated the first of them.
Mitotsudaira rejoiced at her success.
…I can do this!
It had been a while since she had fought in a real battle, but her body still knew what to do.
She was grateful it had been a weak ghost. Once they took clear form, a ghost’s parts would begin to gain the abilities of their real equivalents.
Then it would be the same as facing an actual person or weapon.
But this was different. They looked like multiple people, but it was all just the one ghost. And they were slow to move and react. They would only ever think about fulfilling the regret that had led them to become a vengeful spirit. So…
Ether light silently but forcefully rippled and burst at the end of her arm.
A glowing ripple spread out and scattered.
Then it vanished.
All that remained were the disturbed fog and fragments of ether light.
Finally, the others noticed her. First, one ahead on her right turned toward her.
This ghost was not powerful enough to speak.
But a vibration of the air was enough to convey their anger.
“Mito!” Asama must have been monitoring things. “They seem to be roaring, so are you taking any ghost damage!? That can forcibly inspire an urge to panic, so be careful! I will deal with it if you feel it coming on!”
She was fine. Because…
“A Loup-Garou like me is a more powerful ether being!”
Loup-Garous were spirits of fear. They had been born from the human fear of the dark and of wild animals.
The panic urge produced by these human-based ghosts could not affect a Loup-Garou.
But they were unable to figure that out at this point, so they simply tried to attack. They raised an ineffectual ghost blade in their right hand and tried to turn to face her while running.
Unfortunately for them, they were too slow. She briefly held her right arm – the same one she used earlier – up to the left.
She sent a backhand blow to the right, which looked a lot like an elbow strike.
The enemy must have panicked. Since they were holding something like a sword in their right arm, they attempted to block the blow with their left shoulder’s armor.
The movement was well done. After stopping their opponent with the block, they would jab their blade in from the side.
But Mitotsudaira had a trick up her sleeve: power.
The instant her right arm hit…
She placed her center of gravity on the sole of her running right foot and lowered her right hip. The weight of her upper body was instantly sent to the bottom of her right foot, allowing her to sink down as a single mass.
That stomp made her attacking arm the leading edge of all that downward-directed weight.
She pushed her power through, so the impact smashed the enemy from their left shoulder to their left chest.
Her anti-ghost divine protection could permeate a foe through a physical blow like that.
Damage spread across a wider portion of them than she had actually struck, so their entire left side was blown away.
Light scattered everywhere.
But the enemy was not bound by the rules of biology. They attacked with their sword even with only their right side remaining.
In an instant, Mitotsudaira ducked even lower down.
She lowered her knees forward as if dropping her body downwards.
The ether blade passed by above her head.
At the same time, her body dropped even lower than her right arm from earlier.
She was leaning forward as if preparing to launch herself in that direction.
And her right arm happened to be raised just a bit higher than the shoulder.
Now she only had to launch her entire body forward.
“You are wide open.”
She slammed her right hand toward the enemy’s remaining half.
Humans generally had difficulty touching ghosts. Ghosts used most of their ether on creating their bodies, so the actual density of ether was too low.
But Loup-Garous were different since they were spiritual beings. Mitotsudaira was only half Loup-Garou, but even she could…
…Tear through them!
The enemy’s remaining half tore down the center as Mitotsudaira charged on through.
Ether scattered and Mitotsudaira emerged on the other side.
She took a breath while facing forward.
She was slow, so preventing her speed from dropping was more important than speeding up. She trained herself in such techniques long ago and she still remembered them.
She could do this, so she faced the less than 10 remaining.
“Here I go!”
“Oh? Something’s disturbing the fog by the Asama Shrine.”
Hearing Margot, Naruze looked toward the bow.
They had descended from the sky onto the rear of Okutama’s starboard side. A lot of the school’s people lived there.
Several beams of light tore through the dimly-lit evening sky above and the repeated sounds and lights of shattering defense barriers reached them from port.
Their job was to cast divine protections on the surface city, block by block. They provided defense, soundproofing, and ether infrastructure preservation all at once.
Other members of the delivery business and students who could fly had been tasked with the same job, but the Technohexen were in charge of Okutama’s surface city. They could see upperclassmen and unfamiliar student Technohexen, who were probably important, flying above the cities outside their area.
They had all been given divine protection spells provided by Musashi during emergencies.
“Things really are weird over by the Asama Shrine. Asama-chi sent a message about a vengeful spirit earlier, but do you think that’s true, Ga-chan?”
“I don’t know, but I imagine this will be over before the guards even show up.”
“Why do you say that?”
Naruze nodded at Margot’s question.
White fog filled the bow end of the Asama Shrine’s nature district. Musashi and the Chancellor’s Officers had sent out a notice that no one was to enter that area since it might be dangerous.
But the fog only covered a limited area. Because…
“Okutama’s nature district only covers about a kilometer even though it runs from bow to stern. They’ll reach the end soon enough running like that. I don’t know what those vengeful spirits are thinking, but Mitotsudaira will catch up to them soon enough.”
“Then what do we do, Ga-chan?”
“Good question,” she said just as the Musashi did something different.
Until now, they had been traveling straight in preparation for a descent, but now they began sliding to the right, which meant to the north.
They were putting space between themselves and the ether fleet to port.
“The Musashi must be worried if it’s moving off course for our docking at the landport.”
And just as she said that…
She saw a sudden light.
A single beam of light flew in a shallow diagonal line from the southern sky in order to reach Okutama’s surface.
It was on a collision course.
Chapter 5: Attack and Sweep
“It was flattened!”
“Your chest was!?”
Point Allocation (No, Not That)
Adele saw the attack while running for her communications work.
Musashi Ariadust Academy could be seen as the center of Musashi and it was located on Okutama’s stern.
She was running up a long stairway leading to the academy.
She held a charm containing ether fragments.
An ace of the delivery business had realized one of the ether ships was reaching natural saturation, so they had forcibly approached and sealed some of the ether in that charm.
That might help identify the ghost fleet, particularly what nation they originated from. Adele’s job was to bring the charm back to the academy for analysis, but…
“Th-this is too important a job for me!”
The dogs responded by barking as they followed after her.
She was not sure she wanted canine sympathy, but she did think this job was a bad fit for her.
Just then, light arrived from the south, which meant port, and slammed into Okutama’s surface city behind her.
…What was that?
One ship was sinking in the night sky to port while the Musashi slid away to starboard.
Ether beings like ghost ships could not maintain their form forever. Their appearance was fairly indefinite and they would self-destruct if they failed to get enough food or fuel.
Just now, one of the ships was vanishing in the sky.
It was rising and unraveling. That meant it had been purified as a ghost, ridding it of its regrets and thus lightening its burden, but…
“Did we not expect it to fire while coming apart like that!?”
Musashi must have considered that ship low priority.
The shot it fired had swept diagonally across Okutama’s nature district.
It had hit.
Asama gasped at the attack that raced toward them in a horizontal sweep.
Confusion was her initial reaction.
This made no sense to her for two distinct reasons.
First, the attacking ship had been coming apart after succumbing to the Musashi’s spell field.
Its regrets would have been fading away as the ship itself was purified. It should not have had a mind of its own at that point.
…So how could it fire on us!?
It occurred to her it might have been an accident, but a ghost’s regrets were an obsession. That meant the ship and the fleet as a whole must have a reason for being so fixated on firing here. But…
…What could that reason be?
As for the other reason for her confusion…
“Why would the ether fleet be firing on us?”
Her question was immediately answered by the nature district’s forest being swept away as the enemy’s attack produced a great spray of light.
Mitotsudaira saw two lights collide.
The first was from the ether fleet’s cannon blast flying in from the right to hit up ahead of her.
And the other was…
They first appeared on the floor. They seemed to emerge from the forest crust blocks like the one she was standing on.
The defense barriers were about 3m wide. Those protective panels were made of black light and they must have been set to defend against only larger objects because they passed right through her, the trees, and the spectral figures before coming to a stop at about ankle height.
A dozen or so of them opened to form a path along the route of the attack. And…
From Mitotsudaira’s perspective, the attack seemed to hit farther away and swing in toward her.
It was fast.
It shattered the defense barriers on the ground while it itself shattered too.
But something else burst and disappeared before those many glowing shards: the ether enemies.
The light of the cannon blast blew away the fog, so she got a good look at the formation and appearance of the enemy.
There were 6 of them. She had defeated two more since the initial encounter, so there would have been 10 to begin with.
Was this one or two units’ worth? The exact formation of a unit would depend on the mission, so she could not be certain.
The 6 remaining ones were obliterated in an instant.
Mitotsudaira gasped as the light approached.
She would not survive a direct hit from that. Her uniform’s defenses were meant to protect against anti-personnel attacks, so they would not do much against a direct cannon blast.
But the defense barriers below were fixed at ankle height.
…This is not looking good!
She sensed danger.
She wondered if she had gotten greedy pursuing the enemy, but that was not the case.
This attack should not have happened.
But that gripe was not going to protect her now that it had happened.
…It’s going to hit!
She was certain of it.
“Nate!” She heard her king’s voice. “Stay! C’mon, Nate, stay!”
“I am not a dog!”
That was when the light crashed in toward her like a solid wall.
Gold Mar: “So back to the last checkpoint?”
Silver Wolf: “Th-this isn’t a video game!”
Mar-Ga: “That attack did a lot of damage, but we recovered from it pretty quickly, didn’t we?”
Flat Vassal: “Most of the vegetation could be replaced with the reserves grown on Takao’s farms and such. I think they used the forest for Mt. Takao’s Buddhist theme park.”
Asama: “Replanting those on our shrine’s grounds is certainly one way of bringing Shinto and Buddhism together.”
Hori-ko: “I get that Shinto is down with most anything, but how did Mitotsudaira-sama survive a direct hit from that? Did she use her special move, the Flat-Chest Evasion?”
Silver Wolf: “Special move? No, never mind. It turned out my king was exactly right.”
Mitotsudaira was awash with light.
She was lying on her back. Showing off her belly like that brought some fear to her wolf side.
While collapsed and facing skyward, she could see the colors of evening fading to black and…
…Scattering ether light.
Those were the fragments of the attack and the defense barriers.
The two had crashed into each other almost directly in front of her while she lay down. The barriers floating just off the ground had protected her.
But not because they had risen any higher.
She had fallen below the ground.
When she moved her gaze to either side, she saw the artificial forest’s ground.
The tatami-mat sized crust blocks were positioned at different heights and she had fallen in between two of them.
“That was way too close.”
She was lucky she was such a slow runner.
Because she ran on her heels, it was her heels that had slipped, causing her to fall onto her butt. She had not actually gotten down because he told her to “stay”, but she had still ended up…
…In a gap in the crust!
The stepped height differences of the crust blocks were used for more than just creating the higher areas.
She had rolled butt-first into one of the lower areas created in that same way.
The instant she had ended up in there and pushed her hair down with her arms, the artillery strike had arrived.
That had led up to this moment here. She breathed a sigh of relief at surviving.
Her king was not actually here, but…
“You saved me, my king.”
“Oh, you made it, Nate?”
She could hear the relief in his voice, telling her he had been worried. But…
Then Asama’s voice shouted from her sign frame.
The fog had not disappeared right in front of her. And…
She saw a blade formed from glowing ether and that bright line was lunging toward her.
Asama had located Mitotsudaira’s enemy.
She had already determined the extent of the ether fog and detected a few moving objects and ether readings within it. Thanks to the cannon blast and the Musashi’s defense barriers, the saturation point had temporarily been reached, clearing the fog.
That was not a purification. They had been forcibly broken down by a blow from high-power ether.
But the fog was not entirely gone.
After the ether fragments scattered like chaff, her sign frame showed…
…A smaller area of fog and a single enemy within it!
“That is a solid ether being! It still lacks a full mind and body, but its weapons should be equivalent to the real ones, so be careful!”
She asked herself a question while giving that warning.
…What is this vengeful spirit?
Why had it appeared so close to the Asama Shrine without warning? And why-
“Hey, Asama. Why is it attacking Nate? Because she attacked them from behind?”
“Probably. Vengeful spirits generally won’t redirect their grudge unless they are attacked.”
She had so many questions.
“The questions we have now will probably help us find a solution down the road. I will be making a voice recording, Toori-kun, so if you have any thoughts, please state them.”
Asama adjusted Mitotsudaira’s physical buffing divine protections while tossing Toori a recording sign frame. The idiot held it up in front of himself with a straight face.
“D-don’t breathe on it all weird like that! I’m going to have my god run a search on the questions, okay!?”
“Yeah, but I thought we needed a strong start to really hook ‘em, y’know?”
This was the problem with entertainers. But…
“Nate sure is fighting hard,” he said while returning the sign frame.
She accepted it and realized she had zoned out a bit.
“Oh, um, sorry. I was just surprised by how carefully you’re watching Mito.”
“Of course I am. Just like I’m carefully watching the yearly – hell, monthly – growth of your boobs. As for Nate’s boobs…well, let’s not talk about that.”
“Yes, yes,” she replied before realizing something. “The cannon fire has stopped?”
Suzu noticed it due to the sound, or lack thereof.
An alarm continued to blare out front of the bathhouse. She was handing out the coffee milk bottles that her mother had told her to give everyone taking refuge inside.
“Oh, you noticed too, Suzu? The ship has stopped shaking.”
Suzu nodded and realized something else. Kimi was afraid of ghosts, so she would either go entirely limp or run around screaming at times like this. She had gone with the former option this time, but she had recovered now.
“The ghosts…are gone?”
“Heh heh. I’m not about to go check, but the alarm has switched from ‘external threat’ to a simple ‘warning’.”
…Then will they…stop that noisy…thing?
The alarm had changed, not switched off. Instead of the bell used to inform people of an emergency, it was now playing a low melody telling people to stay where they were. This one used a reggae song from the New World, which must have been the latest trend.
“G-g-g-get ready t-t-t-to evacuate. But remain calm. Oh, so calm. And stay, stay indoors.”
Before, it had gone with a haiku format: “Everyone must / stay precisely where they are / sit your asses down.” But the nobles had stopped to ponder the last line in lieu of evacuating, so they had quickly retired that one.
There were fears this one would make people start dancing and Kimi’s body was already starting to sway with the rhythm, but that was normal for her. However…
“Asama…-san? How are things…up there?”
Adele and the dogs were at the top of the stairs leading to the academy.
The sky had grown quiet. The ghost fleet had suddenly left and vanished.
But Adele did not descend the stairs even as things grew still. She instead sat down and used a Catholic telescope spell.
…I need to check where that previous blast hit!
She knew from the divine transmissions that Mitotsudaira was there. The Chancellor’s Officers also sent a report.
<Report: On a request from the Asama Shrine Representative, the Rank 1 Knight is investigating the mysterious phenomena that appeared in Okutama’s nature district.>
But that seemed too stiff and formal for her friends, so…
…Um, is this a good way of putting it for them?
<Report to My Class: Toori-san asked Mitotsudaira-san to go beat up the vengeful spirit that showed up near Asama-san’s place, so she’s having her fun and there’s nothing to worry about.>
That was much easier to understand, so she decided to send that on to all of them. But…
…Huh? Why did it get longer when I tried to simplify it?
Would it be better not to change it? But this does read much simpler and a friendly touch is always welcome in an emergency. Which one should I go with? Well, the simpler one should be safer.
“Asama-san, can you see inside the forest!? I can see it from here!”
“Eh? How? Were you always that freakishly tall?”
She just about gave the idiot’s question a serious response, but she managed to resist.
She needed to focus on her job right now. She could see down the center of Okutama from the top of these stairs and she had communication equipment for her job.
If she sent a report to the Chancellor’s Officers with images attached…
…I’ll be the first one!
I can do this, she thought. By letting Asama handle the divine transmission due to the emergency situation, it would reach everyone without it looking like she was leaking information meant for the Chancellor’s Officers.
So she raised her video recording sign frame. She recorded the damage and herself like she was taking a selfie with the Asama Shrine in the background.
“Okay, I will now provide a live report from a position overlooking the hit area.”
“Adele! How does my home look from where you are?”
“Can you see this, Asama-san? Look, a huge strip of the forest was flattened.”
“For real!? Flattened!? So the forest has a flat chest now!?”
She just about rose to his bait and replied, but she managed to resist. That was way too cheap a joke to let get to her. She had to bear with it.
She could hear a guard siren in the distance. With the ether fleet scattering into ether light, the youth organizations and others were free to move to Okutama to help.
Adele’s report would help fill them in on the way.
“It starts aft of the Asama Shrine and veers about 120m port from there. About 70m was flattened from stern to bow.”
“So Okutama’s got a 70m flat chest, huh? Don’t let her win, Adele!”
…Now he’s attacking me directly!?
But she had to resist and stay strong. If she replied, she lost. She was sure of it.
Then a broadcast played over Okutama.
“This is ‘Okutama’. I am not flat. I just searched for an image of this ‘Adele’ and I am winning this competition with ease. Over.”
“I-is everyone against me!?”
She had lost. In more ways than one. Her head hung in defeat and she had to wonder what was wrong with her.
“Don’t let it get to you, Adele. Tomorrow could always be a good day.”
“Y-you’re right! Things might just be better tomorrow!”
“Judge. But today still has 6 hours left, so you’ve gotta last that long or your hopes – among other things – will fall flat!”
“Y-you’re not trying to cheer me up at all, are you!? Are you!? I’m sending all my bad luck your way from now on!”
“Um, uh, Adele? The report please?”
…S-stop him from talking first!
She goes too easy on him, she thought, but it had always been that way and she doubted it would change anytime soon. Asama herself was so used to it she did not seem to even notice she was doing it.
Anyway, she could see something from here.
In the sky, transport ships and Technohexen were flying toward Okutama.
On the ground, guards, the youth organizations, and various clubs and groups were approaching the Asama Shrine from different directions.
Some groups were even leaving the academy where she was.
“Hurry! Our Catholic Alchemy Club, Have a Glass of Defeat, must hit those invasive ghosts with holy water!”
“Wait, this is job for our Tao Ghost Research Club, the Ghost Busting Squad! We will exorcise them with white rice and chopsticks!”
“Heh heh heh. Stand back while the Girls Swimming Team’s Buddhist Unit, the Bhikk-Cuties, drown them in a fashionable exorcism!”
“That’s terrifying, not fashionable!!”
Will I be like these people once I’m in high school?
Adele was growing concerned, but their racing footsteps were reassuring. A few turned her way and gave her a quick salute, so she had to respond in kind. Meanwhile…
“Asama-san, can you see this!?”
“Um, no, Adele, I can’t see you from so far away.”
Am I immature if this is getting my blood pressure up? Oh, but I am still in middle school. Yes, I’m still 14, so I don’t have to be mature.
…Which means my chest still has a chance!
But since she did want to be a vassal, she told herself to calm down.
“I-I wasn’t talking to you, Toori-san. I was talking to Asama-san. Okay?”
“Oh, my bad. I’ll put her on. Asama!”
“Eh? What is it, Toori-kun?”
“It’s Adele. She’s asking if we can see her from where we are.”
…I was not!
Her lowering blood pressure shot up again. And…
“Umm, uh, Adele? I can’t really see you from this far way, but, um, should I use a telescope spell? Or is that against the rules?”
She had never known a barrier to communication could exist in such a literal sense.
This really was a (physical) barrier to communication.
She felt like he could really use someone by his side who would punch him at times like this.
Smoking Girl: “Yeah, he is uncannily good at interfering with your work.”
Flat Vassal: “Right!? Right!? I really, really wished someone could do something about him!”
Vice President: “Out of curiosity, why not do it yourself?”
Flat Vassal: “I-it doesn’t work! No matter what I say, he twists it around and then gives me a piece of candy, so I end up standing in front of my door suddenly realizing he got away with everything!”
Tonbokiri: “Free candy? That sounds like a win to me.”
Flat Vassal: “Th-that just makes it all the more humiliating! And once I get used to it, I start requesting the strawberry flavor and stuff like that!”
Gold Mar: “Yeah, sounds like he has you tamed.”
Hori-ko: “I see. This has shown us how crucial my presence is. Without me around, you have no way of eliminating that (physical) barrier to communication.”
Asama: “I, uh, don’t really have a problem with it. I mean, I notice he’s being a bit of a nuisance, but is it really that big a deal?”
Flat Vassal: “A little!? He’s a colossal nuis- oh, thank you so much for the candy, Asama-san!”
Almost Everyone: “Okay, yeah, she’s a lost cause.”
Adele shook free of her hesitation and shouted into the divine transmission.
“Asama-san! I’m sending you an image! There’s still some fog behind the Asama Shrine and I think Mitotsudaira-san is fighting in there!”
“Eh!? …Oh, right, yes. Right, right, right! That’s true, isn’t it?”
Asama’s response threw Adele off. Huh? she thought.
“A-are you okay, Asama-san? Why is your voice draining of energy like that!?”
“Asama,” said Toori. “This image from Adele just shows what you already found yourself, doesn’t it? Should we add it on anyway?”
“B-be quiet, Toori-kun! Yes, I finished it myself while you were messing with her, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t work hard to get that footage!”
“I-it’s his fault!” shouted Adele. “It’s all his fault, isn’t it!?”
“Yes, it is, Adele. It’s too bad, isn’t it?”
“A-Asama-san, stop downplaying this! It’s a big deal! It’s the biggest dealiest deal ever!”
Gold Mar: “Adele, are you sure you can speak Far Eastern?”
Mar-Ga: “Oh, I heard that part of out of context back then and had no idea what it meant. I figured she must have gone crazy.”
Flat Vassal: “Well, I’m glad to have cleared that up three years later. Three cheers for flashbacks!”
Righteousness: “I’m pretty sure this only confirmed her suspicions.”
Silver Wolf: “Um, what about my flashback? I was fighting back then.”
Flat Vassal: “Oh, right! Then let’s tune in to the 5th Special Officer’s channel and hit play!”
Chapter 6: Tricks and Trickery
Is standing up to something
The same as
Point Allocation (Intent)
Mitotsudaira was battling in the fog.
Her opponent moved nimbly about and they would trade places whenever they saw an opening. They had a fairly distinct form for a ghost. She could see they were…
They had a simple silhouette and they were armed with a straight sword. They almost seemed to be breathing smoke from their mouth, but that may have actually been a scarf.
“Mito, please don’t push yourself too hard. The guards and our upperclassmen are on their way.”
Unfortunately, learning that made her feel more pressure to finish this before they arrived.
But not because she was feeling inadequate.
…I have confidence in my own skill.
She saw it as a good thing because it let her respond proudly when her king asked something of her.
She could not respond to everyone in that way yet, but she could with the people she trusted.
Understanding that was good enough for her.
“But this is not an easy opponent with such poor footing!”
She had no weapon.
Since she had the shorter reach, she tended to be chasing after her opponent, but…
The enemy let out a short groaning sound reminiscent of a breath and then jabbed their sword in at high speed. And while still on the move.
…They’re pretty good at this!
If she was being honest, she was on the defensive and mostly dodging. She was only attacking less than half as much as they were.
Either they really were a ninja or they were accustomed to fighting on natural terrain.
They primarily stepped on their heels, which was well-suited for moving in the wilderness, on a mountain, or in a forest.
They must have been trained that way in life. That was not too surprising since they might have been a warrior or even name inheritor.
She too was a name inheritor, but she was a middle school student with almost no combat experience.
It would have been unusual for her to stand a chance here, but on the other hand…
“They are a ghost!”
The indefinite existence of a ghost would have inferior speed, power, and decision-making to their living self.
This was an empty shell that had lost most of what they had once been.
In that case, she thought. I can’t fall back here. Not if I want to test my skill.
She was a knight, so she had not been trained in wilderness movement like a ninja would be.
Wilderness movement classes were taught in high school, but that was only meant for noncombat withdrawal. The middle school classes taught in the nature district were only about gathering food and setting up camp.
But a wolf would not fear the darkness or a forest. Nor would she be afraid of an ether entity like a ghost.
Her main flaw was found in…
She relied on her strength, which reduced her speed. But her Loup-Garou healing would quickly eliminate any minor injuries, so it was easier to rely on strength since she could win as long as she got a hit in.
But strength alone was not enough for this opponent.
Even as a ghost, they were finding solid footing on the Musashi ground which had to be unfamiliar terrain to them.
And their speed was…
She raised her right arm in defense and the sleeve dropped down.
They passed each other by in a split second and the enemy brought their blade alongside her arm with perfect timing. If she had not quickly pulled her arm back, the ether blade would have reached her flesh.
Asama was right that this enemy had a solid physical presence.
She needed to speed up her own movements, but…
…How do I do that?
She realized something while crossing over a height difference in the crust blocks.
She knew the land here.
Asama moved to provide a situation report and to tune the crust as the guards and other cooperators approached.
The academy was on Okutama and Mitotsudaira was approaching it as she fought, so the academy had its officers fortify its defenses just in case while the guards, youth organizations, and club groups were sent out here.
That provided plenty of people.
Now she only had to tune the disturbed ether of the nature district’s surface to create a foundation for them. If she did not adjust the ether pathways to allow for the activation of divine protections and the like, they would be unable to use their equipment on the scene and some would even have their physical abilities reduced considerably.
…The ground never took a direct hit, but when the trees were flattened, it seems to have torn up the crust blocks a fair bit.
She could tell where that was forming natural barricades. But…
“I hope Mito is okay.”
“Yeah, I hope she doesn’t get injured too badly,” said Toori. “Wolves like to play pretty hard. And I swear that side of her is only growing.”
“I know what you mean,” said Asama while his mention of Mito “growing” made her think of something else. “Um, Toori-kun? About Mito.”
She hesitated for a moment, but ended up telling him anyway.
“She’s facing an important question about, um, a massage, so give her time to speak with you afterwards, okay?”
“Sure, that’s fine. …Wait, what kind of massage? The fun kind? The gropey kind!? Then what are we waiting for!? Hurry it up! Bring on the massage! …Oh, whoops. Got a little carried away there. Anyway, is it time yet!? Is it, mom!?”
“I am not your mom. And you could be a little less creepily thrilled about this, you know? But anyway, it’s a complicated issue, so it can wait until later, okay?”
“Sure,” he said with a tilt of the head and a nod.
She noticed a slight movement in his finger.
He was tapping his finger to…
Her confusion must have shown on her face because he raised his hand and smiled while still tapping at the empty air.
“You can’t hear it?”
Hear what? she wondered while stopping herself from typing on her sign frame. For a brief moment, she heard a quiet sound coming from the fog in the forest up ahead.
It came from closer than the distant alarms or the approaching voices.
“Nate found an answer. Probably cause my sis would force her to dance with her.”
“This will let her speed up her footwork.
Mitotsudaira’s movements were picking up speed.
Her enemy seemed focused on landing a decisive blow, so they could not let her get too far away. That meant…
…I get to choose where we go!
So she chose to place her feet on…
The different heights of the crust blocks created a narrow valley and she placed her feet on the walls on either side of it.
The top of the crust blocks was flat and they remained fairly level even with dirt on top.
So when she planted her feet firmly down or kicked off the ground, her feet would slip a bit and her strength would escape.
But these walls were different.
If she kicked off the corners, her strength would push directly at the sole of her foot. That would push her body directly forward.
…Giving me speed!
It was not quite like springing off the wall, but it was close.
It only worked between these equal height differences, but she was free to choose just such a place since the enemy was pursuing her.
She moved her slow body.
She could do this. She picked up speed as if closing in on them.
Between the higher crust blocks, she spun her body in midair and pursued the enemy along a path that zigzagged like a saw blade.
And her opponent…
They let out a groan and rushed her with blade ready to attack. But…
Her diagonal back-and-forth path using the corners naturally allowed her to feint to the left or right.
…I just wish I could do this on normal ground.
Was it wrong to see that as part of the pros and cons that everyone had? Regardless, she was getting used to this way of moving. So…
“Here I go!”
After dodging, she immediately shot forward.
To defeat this enemy.
Mitotsudaira had been focusing on the enemy’s attack timing.
She aimed for the instant the enemy pulled back their blade.
That ghost used their straight sword with compact movements. Instead of making wide swings, they generally jabbed it forward.
After pulling it in with their elbow and wrist, they jabbed the blade out with the back of their hand pointed downwards.
It was a simple movement, but understanding it did not mean she could do anything about it.
She had to focus on when the ghost pulled the blade back.
They could not attack during that process, so she would wait for that moment of safety.
Some might call that cowardly, but while she was confident in her skill, she had decided not to overestimate herself. So…
…I want to avoid rushing in while they’re making their attack!
She would dodge the enemy attack and then strike. That was the way the powerful did things – they did not care about their enemy’s circumstances.
She knew she did not qualify as “powerful” yet.
She did not think she could win this with a single attack made while rushing past her foe, even if they were a ghost. And if she did manage it, it would be thanks to something other than her skill.
She wanted to avoid any careless actions since this enemy’s blade had a physical form.
After all, she was not a wild wolf. She was knight wolf who served her king.
That service would be meaningless if she grew careless and failed to return to him.
Her victory had to be a precise thing. That principle seemed to suit her current reserved personality.
She made a luring attack and fell back to get the enemy to pursue.
And once the enemy had pulled back once, she pushed in a second and third time.
Her timing was good.
The enemy pulled back the blade in their right hand, so she immediately kicked off the edge of a crust block.
She launched herself forward and swung her right arm back for the briefest of moments.
…My right sleeve!
She purged her right sleeve that had been cut away at the shoulder. The movement of her arm flung it into the empty space behind her, lightening her jabbing hand.
She only had to move forward to be in range for this attack.
She could do this. Or so she thought.
All of a sudden, she felt some kind if wind blowing on her left shoulder from behind.
Something had rapidly flown in along a sharp path.
“Oops! Sorry about that, Mito-tsan! I screwed up my ether detection lock!”
Naito was looking down on the destroyed forest and mist from the sky above Okutama.
…That didn’t work!
Her firing spell was a traditional Technohexen spell she had modified for her own purposes. It was a sniper spell that focused on stabilizing the gun instead of providing guidance or homing.
However, the targeting spell used with it had not been good enough.
To lock onto a target at night and in the fog even with some thin obstacles in the way, she had added ether detection on top of the optical data, but…
…I didn’t expect her to throw away her sleeve!
The sleeve thrown forcefully behind Mitotsudaira had defensive divine protections applied.
Through the ether detection targeting spell, it had looked like Mitotsudaira split in two.
One part moved forward and the other back, but which was the real one?
In the heat of battle, Naito had decided on the one moving back.
Mitotsudaira was cautious now that she had a king, so Naito had assumed she would not charge forward here.
She also should have informed Mitotsudaira she was providing covering fire. However…
“How could I tell her? She would have just refused the help and then she would have held back in the fight out of concern and doubt.”
That was why she had cut off her divine transmission while taking the sniper shot.
Besides, she had a good enough reason to fire: the enemy.
The ether detection had shown her the enemy’s movements before Mitotsudaira charged in.
After waiting as a part of their rhythm, the enemy would move in or fall back, attack Mitotsudaira, or dodge.
That rhythm remained unchanged and Naito had seen it only growing deeper. In other words…
…Are they luring her in!?
She had sensed danger when the enemy pulled back more strongly than before.
So she had fired. But I screwed up, she thought.
Partially because the sleeve had confused her, but also…
“That enemy is really good!”
The bullet had missed.
The enemy had sped up further than she had predicted when taking the shot.
And at the same time…
…My ether detection sight shows Mito-tsan isn’t moving!
Naito sensed danger.
Next to her, Naruze started jotting down some notes for a doujinshi, but she tried to ignore that.
Gold Mar: “So what doujinshi were you coming up with back then, Ga-chan?”
Silver Wolf: “Wait, that’s your only question!?”
Mar-Ga: “It wasn’t about you. You know how porn doujins have to quickly set up a scenario on Page 1? I was thinking ‘trapped alone behind enemy lines due to failed covering fire’ could work for that.”
Hori-ko: “They do say failure is the greatest teacher. I hope to learn a lot from you all in that way.”
Tachibana Wife: “Um, I hate to interrupt, but I don’t think that saying was talking about learning from other people’s failure.”
Mar-Ga: “Better than having your failure go to waste, right? Anyway, I used that scenario for AsaShoots3. It began with Asama providing covering fire and blowing everyone away. A neat twist on the idea, don’t you think?”
Asama: “Wait, so I was trapped alone behind enemy lines due to my own failed covering fire!?”
Mitotsudaira saw the bullet fly between her and the enemy.
It was a 10-yen coin and she had heard Naito’s voice over the divine transmission earlier.
…That Technohexen is providing covering fire!?
And she had screwed it up. That much was clear.
The enemy had managed to fall back and dodge the shot and she had reacted to the unexpected shot.
She had hesitated.
Instead of moving forward as planned, she had pulled her upper body back.
She could no longer pursue the enemy.
Instead, she needed to pull back and reset their respective positions. Then she could aim for the next opportunity.
Meanwhile, the enemy was still falling back. Their right arm was pulled back at the elbow in order to send out another jab of the straight sword.
In order to put distance between them again, Mitotsudaira tried to swung her center of gravity back while at the top of the narrow valley of crust blocks.
Just then, the enemy took action. They let go of the straight sword as if leaving it there in midair.
The enemy let go of their weapon.
Practice and classes had left Mitotsudaira with a decent knowledge of how to handle a blade, but this was her first time seeing someone do this.
The enemy’s pulling right hand let go of the sword and tossed it to the left.
She could tell what they were doing.
While pulling back their right arm, they were also moving their left shoulder forward.
Past the forward-leaning shoulder, their left arm was jabbing toward her.
And the hand now held the sword that was tossed to it.
Their action had been a simple one.
By pulling back their right arm, their upper body rotated, pushing their left side forward.
They had used that movement to create a jab with their left arm.
The hand switch-up allowed them to attack half a beat faster than otherwise.
That movement required training and actual combat experience. And…
Her confusion had been a critical mistake while trying to fall back.
The enemy’s blade was going to reach her. She could tell the straight sword would hit nearly to the hilt.
Her center of gravity had not yet been shifted back far enough to pull her body back, so she had only one option remaining.
She threw all her strength into her next movement.
Instead of dodging, she attacked. But her opponent was not the target.
…The crust block!
She threw a hard kick at the crust edge she had been preparing to dig her right foot into.
Suzu heard a loud noise.
She was on Musashino, the Musashi’s 1st central ship, but that had come from the direction of…
She was pretty sure that was where the sound had originated. She had to assume sounds would weaken and scatter when traveling between ships. But…
“Mitotsudaira is making a lot of noise out there.”
Kimi tapped her heel against the floor while handing out bottles of coffee milk from a wooden container in the plaza out in front of the bathhouse.
The short sound was solid and sharp yet it carried warmth too. Kimi smiled bitterly at it.
“How many times have I told her to use a lighter step? …Still, she’s doing better than before since she’s putting her emotions into it now.”
Mitotsudaira wanted to unbalance her opponent, so she destroyed their footing.
She stuck out her right heel and scored a direct hit.
…Reach your target, my power!!
Her mental cry led to exactly what she wanted.
Her power did indeed reach its target.
She fully extended her leg and her power left her right heel and bounced back into her left heel.
With a solid sound, sparks flew while the enemy’s blade approached.
Just as she thought it would hit her, she saw the ground tear up and fly out.
Surprisingly, it happened to her left even though she had kicked with her right leg and used her left leg to support herself.
The crust blocks must have been stacked up over a broader area to her right. The trees swayed and the piled-up dirt launched upwards, but…
“W-wait, Mito! Please don’t tear up my neighborhood!”
Just as Asama feared, the crust blocks over a width of 3m and a length of more than 8m to her left tore up and flew into the air.
The damage was more to the things on top of the blocks than the blocks themselves. The trees, underbrush, and dirt scattered and flew skyward.
She felt the solid blow in the sole of her foot, but her main thought was…
“The crust block connections are surprisingly loose.”
“Well, ether pipes pass through there and the terrain can be rearranged for training, so they’re only held in place by hooks,” said Asama.
“Whoa, watch out!” shouted Naruze. “Hey! Who launched these trees up at us!?”
Mitotsudaira did feel bad for that one.
She checked on her surroundings.
The space to her left was now empty. The crust block she had placed her left foot on had been blown away as well.
Only her right foot remained digging into the edge of the crust block to her right. As for her opponent…
As experienced as they had seemed, having the ground destroyed out from under them must have been a first.
They had lost their footing just as they tried to attack.
They had lost their balance. No, they had lost the ground below them and ended up airborne.
The blade in their left hand had lost its speed so they were simply holding its hilt in hand.
This was her chance.
She sent an attack there.
She had raised her right arm, so she pulled it strongly back.
…Just like the enemy did!
That pushed her left arm forward and toward her opponent’s head.
It was not a clean hit since she only had her right leg to support herself, but it had hit all the same.
“They dodged it!”
That ninja-like opponent had leaned back in midair to bring their head back and down.
Her attack had hit the left side of their forehead instead of slamming straight into their face. And…
It felt different than the other ghosts.
Her hand felt something horribly hard but it was also shattering.
At the same time, the enemy spun around.
They rotated through midair as if making use of her strike.
She cried out just before the color white arrived below her feet.
Something was suddenly blasted upwards from below Mitotsudaira, but it was not the ether fog from before.
It was pure water. It had the smell of the water circulating through the Musashi in the water pipes.
“Mito! The damage to the crust blocks caused a water pipe to burst!” said Asama. “It’s highly pressurized, so be careful!”
That much was obvious already.
The spring night air may have helped, but the mist sprayed straight up more than in the horizontal directions.
Just to be safe, she raised her guard to the front and took a step back.
She quickly left the mist and took a breath.
She could see Musashi’s night sky in front of her.
The surrounding trees were sinking into the rising white mist, but the trees and dirt she had indirectly launched could be seen lying on top of the forest in the distance.
She detected a scent similar to the dirt after a rain. And…
“I may have gone overboard here.”
Several transport ships were shining their spell lights down on her, so she thought to herself in that glare.
…What happened to being a good little girl to make up for my past?
“But it seems my king prefers things on the exciting side.”
The enemy had disappeared at some point.
Vice President: “I bet you didn’t have time to adjust Aoi’s spells after that, huh?”
Asama: “No, I didn’t. I had to do some inspecting and tuning of my own there, so I had Toori-kun head home while Mito and I dealt with the inspection work.”
Unturning: “Was the Asama Shrine accused of providing poor security after that?”
Asama: “No, we were using the standard settings for docking. And by we, I mean the Musashi as a whole, not just the Asama Shrine. In other words, we did everything right, but the ghosts were an exceptional case. If there was a problem, we had to put together a countermeasure to ensure it did not happen again, but that requires money and personnel. And more importantly, we had to figure out why it had happened in the first place.”
Silver Wolf: “Judge. There was an official investigation into why the hostile ghosts had appeared on the Musashi, but I was treated with great care since, even though I was a knight, I was only in middle school and yet I was forced to handle the ghosts on my own due to the delayed reaction from the guards.”
Flat Vassal: “Yeah, but they questioned me until really late into the night since I had some witness information for them. It was a real pain in the rear.”
Smoking Girl: “I was swamped with work getting things ready for docking in the engine division down below, so while I heard there was some trouble up top, I never heard about most of this.”
Vice President: “It is quite the story. But something weird was going on, wasn’t it?”
Silver Wolf: “Judge. We began investigating that the following day. The Musashi managed to dock at Totomi and the ship filled with trade-fueled life.”
Mitotsudaira was stuck at the Asama Shrine until midnight being questioned by the guards and the Chancellor’s Officers.
Her right shoulder was bare since she had lost that sleeve.
Asama had suggested she stay the night, but she had still not been at a point where she could let herself do that.
“Toori-kun told me to look after you.”
Mitotsudaira had not known what “taking care” of her meant in this case, so she had declined.
Once Asama left to deal with some of her duties, Mitotsudaira had left.
Okutama’s central nature district was located behind the Asama Shrine. The investigation and recovery had already begun there, so transport ships and personnel were moving around and working with spell lights active.
Once in the surface city and outside of the Asama Shrine’s spell barrier, the sounds of the city quickly returned to her. And…
Even from Okutama, she could tell how low in the sky they were.
The 3rd port and starboard ships blocked her view of the horizon, but she could see a mountain range and some lights in the distance. She could also see the distant ocean “below” the night sky.
They had finished docking.
When did that happen? she wondered, but that would explain why Asama was able to take a break during the questioning.
Naito and Naruze were probably flying through the sky for their night deliveries.
“Hm? Is that Mitotsudaira?”
Some workers were carrying lumber and pallets toward the nature district. One of them was a half-dragon.
“Judge. Are you headed home?”
“Isn’t that obvious?”
“It is.” He shook his dragon horn as he answered. And, “Toori was waiting for you at the guard station between ships back there.”
That question left her because she had not expected that at all.
Not because it was a surprise for her king to do that kind of thing for someone.
It was a surprise for her to let him do something like that.
“But he said he was leaving because he received a divine transmission from Asama saying she was having you stay the night,” continued Urquiaga. “Is that not what happened?”
“Don’t tell Toori you went home. I won’t tell him I met you here either.”
He nodded as if to make it a promise.
“Then,” said Mitotsudaira while taking a breath.
…That must be why my king told Asama to take care of me.
“If my king left me with Asama, then I will go along with it. That will honestly be easier for me anyway.”
“Excellent. True happiness can be found by sharing people’s company.”
Urquiaga wished to become an inquisitor. He lived by centrist Tsirhc values.
“Urquiaga,” shouted one of the other workers. “Get a move on or we will never finish by tomorrow!”
“Judge. I will be right there, Nenji.”
Urquiaga started running and she called out to him as he left.
“Thank you for telling me what my king was doing.”
She thanked him and felt relief in her heart. Maybe that relief came from how dark it was even with the spell lights everywhere. And…
She let out a breath that might have been a laugh, might have been an embarrassed sigh, and might have been an exhausted breath. She moved her bare right arm to bring the hand to her chest and opened a sign frame.
“Asama, I changed my mind. I will be staying with you after all. Thank you for the offer.”
Chapter 7: Heat and Water
When you wake up, do it slow
When you doze, do it clearly
When you get up, do it decisively
When you breakfast, do it refreshed
Point Allocation (The Natural Way of Things)
Kimi loved the morning after the Musashi docked.
Most residents of that enormous aerial ship had been born and raised in the sky, but when the Musashi docked and fixed itself to the ground…
“I have less of a spring in my step when I dance, but my feet strike the deck more solidly.”
And that was not all. Her own weight felt different simply getting out of bed in the morning. The ship’s gravitational divine protection had been retuned to avoid interference with the surface.
That meant more weight was pulling down on her body, but she enjoyed how it solidified her center of gravity.
By positioning that center correctly, her dance steps had more weight.
When the Musashi was in flight, her dance steps were light and spry, but for these few days, they gained a more solid sound to them.
“Heh heh. We’ll be here for three days this time. I need to record a few sounds to stock up on those different ‘flavors’. Right, foolish brother?”
Still in bed, she called out to the curtain that functioned as the wall between their rooms, but there was no response.
She could only hear the din of construction from Okutama and the rumbling of transport ships flying above. She also heard the occasional carriage passing by in front of their house, but there was no sound of life from within the house.
However, she could smell food. Her brother had not come to wake her but she could smell heated soup. What did that mean?
“Oh, right. He was going to leave something already prepared for me.”
She remembered her brother had planned to go somewhere.
She got up and stretched in the light shining in through the fixed window.
“Right, right.” She opened a sign frame and a divine mail automatically opened. It was of course from her brother. “Judge. He was going to Asama’s place since she never dealt with his spells yesterday.”
Mitotsudaira awoke from a deep sleep.
She was in the Asama Shrine. Instead of the main building, she was in the clinic on the opposite side.
This room was normally only used for the Asama Shrine’s medical services, primarily delivering babies, but she had borrowed it last night.
It looked vaguely familiar and she finally remembered why.
…We had a sleepover here during elementary school, didn’t we?
Her king, who had not yet been her king back then, had caused nothing but trouble and she mostly thought of it as a “strange memory”.
How many years had it been since she was here?
Well, she would stop by the Asama Shrine periodically to get her spells and divine protections adjusted, but it had been a while since she was here for non-business reasons.
She had felt like a bother the whole time here, but Asama had still brought her a late-night meal on the shrine’s open veranda.
She had brought enough for the both of them. The meal of primarily fish and chicken dishes had seemed a bit light since she was so used to Western food, but the great variety of flavors had made it seem like more.
They had exchanged some information and enjoyed some celebratory sake, but before leaving her for the night, Asama had left her with a change of clothes and…
“We don’t have a bath here, so you’ll have to use the purifying spring out back to wash your hair and body. However, the water is still cold this time of year, so you can use this purifying charm instead if you like. But if you do want to use the spring, um, use this swimsuit because it has a divine protection for regulating your body temperature.”
She had held up an Asama Shrine shrine maiden swimsuit from among the change of clothes. It was on a paper hanger, and…
…That is a fairly bold design.
A note in the usage instructions said it apparently functioned as a supporter too. Since it would be worn underneath when working near or in the water, it was likely designed to not interfere with the inner suit.
There was not one for middle school or younger, so it may have been meant for adults who needed that kind of combat-readiness.
Mitotsudaira had Loup-Garou blood running in her veins.
Her species’ grooming divine protections meant she did not actually have to wash herself with water. Soaking in the bath would soothe her weariness and it functioned as a status symbol, but not so with cold water.
However, if her normal self would not have done it…
“It could make for a nice change of pace.”
She opened the door.
It was morning.
Totomi’s Musashi landport was made so the Musashi would face west since it would head west to Mikawa after departing.
Her room was on the port side of the Asama Shrine and the door was on the right side, meaning it faced north.
Opening the door showed the bluish-white sky of morning. She walked to the spring midway between this building and the main building.
The Asama Shrine’s spring was of course artificial.
The Musashi’s water was recycled through purification and a portion of that was diverted for the shrine’s purification purposes. The spring was divided into a large women’s side and a small men’s side, but the women’s side was being shared at the moment.
“So, Asama, do I really have to soak up to the shoulders in here?”
“Like I say every single time, Toori-kun, I can’t stabilize your spells otherwise. Besides, we’re docked on the surface today and it’s spring, so the water is relatively warm.”
Asama was wearing a swimsuit as she reached a hand into the gently flowing spring to check on the temperature.
“Oh, brr. …See, Toori-kun? It’s fine.”
“Y-you just said brr!”
“Just get to it. I want to hurry this up since I have to make enough breakfast for Mito too.”
“Okay, okay,” said Toori who was also wearing a swimsuit as he entered up to his knees. And then, “All the way to the shoulders? You’re sure?”
“Yes. Very sure.”
Asama stepped in, soaking up to her knees, and she clapped her hands once.
Several sign frames automatically appeared around the two of them.
…I could probably do this with my eyes closed by now.
Asama viewed the sign frames floating around them.
The shrine supervisor and a worshiper had entered the same purification field and they were linked via the water.
She confirmed that she had been given authority over the settings for Toori’s spells and divine protections.
“See, Toori-kun? It’s not as bad as it was during the winter, so hurry on in.”
“Wait, wait, wait. Let me get used to it first.”
It was true the water was still pretty cold this time of year. She would use the spring for her morning purifications, but she still had to psych herself up before dumping it over her head.
…I’m usually naked, so the swimsuit makes it seem a little easier today.
She really could not blame Toori since he was not used to it.
“Okay, you can sit on the edge and soak your legs until you’re ready. I’ll make some minor settings adjustments, but there is one thing I never managed to tell you yesterday.”
“Is it about Nate?”
He’s perceptive, she thought, but that was hardly new.
She sat on the wooden flooring at the edge of the spring and patted the floor next to her.
“Take a seat.”
He did so.
He seemed oddly restless for just sitting down, but maybe she was imagining that. Regardless, he continued the conversation.
“You said she wanted to ask me for a massage, right? Did something happen?”
“I think it’s more that something is happening…or maybe she wants something to happen.”
“So what got into her all of a sudden? Did sis tell her something?”
“No, Kimi is innocent for once.”
Asama explained what Mitotsudaira had told her. And…
“Now, Mito is Shinto too, making her a part of our Kotodama culture. So when you massage her chest, make sure to recite the traditional Shinto prayer of ‘grow, grow, growwww!’ ”
“You sure that’s a Shinto prayer?”
“O-of course it is. I mean, any requests made to your god are prayers, right?”
“Is that so?” he said while scratching his head. Meanwhile, she had finished her preparations, so she had Hanami come out and opened a new sign frame.
“Now, Toori-kun. You really do need to soak up to your shoulders now.”
“Eh? C-can’t I have a little longer to get used to it?”
He pulled his hips back, hugged his own body, and wiggled around.
“Can’t I wait till it warms up more? Y’know, like when the sun’s a little higher in the sky.”
“Unfortunately, we have school today, so we need to do this early. So hop to it.”
She stood up and placed her hands on his shoulders. She made sure to keep a smile.
“Okay, let’s start with up to your hips.”
Mitotsudaira was changing in the spring’s dressing room.
She slipped off the kosode she had worn as pajamas and she put on the swimsuit. The swimsuit was attached using the hard point parts, so…
…You can tighten the straps to your liking at the neck and hips.
The hard point parts settings could be used to alter the tightness of the inner suit on the body and the tightness of the various belts you wore.
She would probably start changing equipment a lot more once she entered high school and began combat training, so she would probably need to get help from someone who knew how to set up automatic settings and specialized programs.
“Asama, I guess.”
That would probably be safest, she decided as she spotted something.
Someone else’s clothing was already in one of the baskets on the dressing room’s shelf.
It was Asama’s kosode.
It was neatly folded, but the chest portion near the top looked stretched. Or was she only imagining that?
It was early morning, so Asama was probably performing her customary purification as a shrine maiden.
But knowing Asama was in there put her at ease.
Nothing in particular had happened between the two of them. But during Mitotsudaira’s wild period, Asama had found reasons to keep her distance while still remaining close enough to be there for her.
It probably helped that she was so close to Mitotsudaira’s king. She and Kimi were probably the only people she could really call her friends. So…
“Maybe I should let myself relax around her more.”
That sounds like such an excuse, she thought, but she decided her bitter smile was a sign of being relaxed.
When she attached the swimsuit straps to the hard point part latches, they were automatically tightened.
The fit of the swimsuit grew tighter around her chest, sides, butt, and crotch.
The cloth felt cold, but it soon felt no different from her skin.
She left the tightness setting as is and lightly twisted her body. The tightness flexibly responded to her movement. She let it calculate that bit of extra room into its settings.
…I need to set it fairly tight or it will slip out of place.
The swimsuit had a number of divine protections in place and the fitting process took such things into account, but if she set the straps too, there would be no chance of it slipping. She was honestly amazed nothing ever slipped out of place for Asama or Kimi, but they probably had a specialized program for that.
…Which I don’t need!
She felt an irritated sort of acceptance, but then she sensed something.
It was a scent. A familiar and almost nostalgic one.
What is his scent doing here? she wondered as she turned to look.
A Far Eastern middle school boy’s uniform was in the clothes basket next to Asama’s.
If his scent was here, then he would be too.
Her king and Asama were naked(?) together in the spring.
Mitotsudaira could see two sets of clothing.
For Asama, that was just the kosode, but her king’s included everything, including his underwear.
As for the people themselves…
Mitotsudaira turned toward the entrance to the spring.
She heard voices. When she focused her ears, she could make out a wet splashing and Asama’s voice.
“C’mon, Toori-kun, in here.”
What were they doing? Asama’s voice continued as if to answer that question.
“Hurry up, Toori-kun. Go in. You need to go in.”
“No, wait, it’s too soon. Aren’t you supposed to let yourself get wet first!?”
What are they doing? she wondered as their words gave form to her imagination.
“It’s okay, so come on. Just relax and it will be over soon enough, okay?”
“Hee hee.” Asama sounded somewhat weary. “See, it was fine. And you’re already in up to the belly button. But please go in the rest of the way for me, okay?”
“W-wait, wait, wait! It’s too much, it’s too much!”
“Ah, stop struggling. I’m only guiding you in because you refused to do it on your own, you know? Now, stay in there for at least a count of 100, okay?”
“Now, tell me once you’re used to being in there, so I can get to work. I think you’ll like what I have prepared for you today.”
“Wh-what are you two doing!?”
Mitotsudaira threw open the spring door and leaped out onto the wooden flooring.
There she saw her king submerged up to his shoulders in the spring and Asama behind him with several sign frames open.
This was not even close to what she had been imagining. Well, the two of them being in the spring together fit her imagination, but…
The two looked back her way and her king raised a hand from the spring
“Oh, Nate. You’re up?”
“Um, yes. Good morning, my king. But, um…”
She had to ask.
“What are you doing?”
“Eh? I have some useful new adjustments for his spells and divine protections and applying them requires a few purifications in the spring, but he refused to soak up to his shoulders.” Asama waved her hands dismissively and raised her eyebrows with her mouth spread horizontally. “So I kind of forced him into the water, which may have been a little selfish.”
Mitotsudaira’s shoulders slumped and she raised her hands while turning away.
She knew it was wrong to hit things, but still…
She punched the pillar at the entrance.
Wise Sister: “Hm, or should I have had you sniff my foolish brother’s clothes?”
Silver Wolf: “Kimi! Kimi! Stop making up things that didn’t happen!”
Asama: “But I’m pretty sure you did punch the wall back then.”
Mar-Ga: “I really wish you had let that shift right into asking him for help on the chest massage thing.”
Gold Mar: “Ga-chan, Ga-chan! You have a nosebleed!”
“I see. Not only are you in charge of my king and Kimi’s divine protections and spells, but they provide research support, so they need the same level of preparations as you do.”
Asama confirmed that while Mitotsudaira ducked her head below the spring water to purify herself.
Asama noticed the water bead up on Mitotsudaira’s skin and drip like a mini-waterfall from her hair.
…The cold doesn’t slow her down at all. Is that her knight resolve or her puppy-dog side?
She had finished the settings and tuning for Toori, so he was lying on the wooden flooring of the washing area. She had not had him do much, but…
“Asama had her way with me…against my will…”
“I’m busy this morning, so please don’t cause much trouble. We’re third years now, so I am prepared to be stricter with you.”
“Eh?” said Mitotsudaira.
“Did I say something weird, Mito?”
“Well, um.” The wolf would not look her in the eye. “It sounded like you were being pretty gentle with him earlier, but you call that ‘stricter’?”
“Did I say something weird, Asama?”
“Well, um.” Asama hung her head a little. “I really did think I was being strict.”
Mitotsudaira smiled, tensed her shoulders, and looked like she really wanted to say something about that.
But instead she sighed and said something else.
“W-well, as long as it’s effective, I guess. Right!?”
“Um, I guess so.”
But there was one thing that had been on her mind recently.
…Why won’t Mito sit down?
Both of them were standing up in the spring. That was fine since her purification was complete, but it looked kind of uncomfortable or like she could not relax. So…
“Um, Mito, you can sit down over there.”
Asama gestured toward the washing area where he was collapsed on the floor and Mitotsudaira responded with a bashful smile.
“I cannot sit next to my king without his permission.”
This one really is her puppy-dog side, thought Asama.
But she had work to do.
“Shall I check on your divine protections too, Mito?”
“What does that entail? I know my contract is with you, but I would prefer you not do anything weird.”
“I just thought I could temporarily give you a general-use anti-ghost spell as a divine protection. Given what happened yesterday, it seems like a good idea until we leave Totomi. Oh, but the bill will be sent to Musashi, so you don’t have to worry about that. We must guarantee the safety of anyone involved in that incident after all. Also,” she continued, “can you promise not to talk about what happened in that battle unless I am present, you are on the shrine’s grounds, or you are with the guards?”
“Hm? Are you afraid of the information leaking out?”
“Well, I’m not entirely sure if it will happen, but there is a good chance talking about it could summon them back.”
Mitotsudaira pulled her hands back to her chest and shrank down a bit.
She was nervous. She knew how to fight given her past, but she must have had her own thoughts concerning that battle the night before.
Asama did her best not to frighten the girl while continuing on.
“Last night, that…ninja? Well, the denser ghost attacked you, right? They were supposed to be pursuing something else, but they decided to attack you instead for some reason. We still don’t know for sure, but there is a good chance that you created a spiritual connection between you and the ghost by attacking and letting their enemy escape.”
“Are you suggesting that ninja ghost could be lurking somewhere around me?”
“I can’t say for sure, but it is possible.”
“And you can’t purify it away?”
“Purification works in this world – the world of the living. Ghosts are closer to the ley lines than us, so while purification does affect them if they appear here, it does nothing if they remain in the ley lines. There is one way of doing it.” Asama pointed at her feet. “If you stay at the Asama Shrine for a few days for a long-term procedure, I could probably ask our god to work in her world to break the unwanted connection you’ve created. That would be a lot of work, though.”
“What would happen to the ghost then?”
“Freed from the connection, they would probably appear elsewhere the next chance they had.”
“I can’t let that happen.”
“I had a feeling you would say that,” said Asama.
Mitotsudaira had a plan in mind now, so she removed her hands from her chest and lightly slapped her skin.
“I might have a ghost haunting me, but I bet I can manage with help from your divine protections. So set those up when you are ready.”
“I am ready now. For now, I will strengthen your offensive and defensive ones, but I will also give you one that warns you when that ghost appears nearby. Assume that all of this will be altered or removed when we leave Totomi and approach Asama Okumiya.”
“Eh? Isn’t Asama Okumiya that shrine on the mountain?”
He had sat up from the floor, so he was probably preparing to leave now that his divine protection adjustments were complete.
“Yes, our Okumiya Shrine is at the summit of Mt. Fuji. This here is the Asama Shrine’s main shrine, but Okumiya is on Mt. Fuji like it always has been. It has a closer connection to the ley lines, so it might be best to go there if you did want to sever the spiritual connection. Also,” she said. “Asama Okumiya and the other Asama Shrines in the area have a fair number of worshipers from Matsudaira, Oda, Takeda, Imagawa, and other nations in the area. That is the source of our power, but it also serves to support those nations.”
“So once we depart from here, we can solve most all of this by going to Asama Okumiya?” asked Mitotsudaira.
“Most likely…is how it’s looking. So while that mystery ghost fleet from last night was a lot to deal with, the end is in sight, so you don’t have to worry too much.”
“We haven’t been on the ground in a while. If you have some time, how about heading down for a bit?”
Hori-ko: “So did you head down to have some fun?”
Mar-Ga: “The course change was such a huge deal for us and them that there just wasn’t time.”
Gold Mar: “They did make some adjustments and plans to speed things up, but three days just wasn’t enough time.”
Scarred: “Why was it so much trouble?”
Silver Wolf: “Judge. Totomi’s market was built over a wide area so the Musashi could dock, but there was only so much space for the transport ships and such to land. That meant the more powerful merchants got to send their transport ships in first to make their deals.”
Marube-ya: “And in the most predictable move ever, the more powerful ones intentionally stalled in their deals so the lesser merchants barely got to do anything at all.”
Musashino: “If I may interject, why do humans love complaining about delays so much when you are the ones constantly delaying everyone else? Over.”
Asama: “It makes us feel better I guess? Okay, I don’t really know. Sorry.”
Flat Vassal: “But you and the Treasurer were only trainee merchants at the time, right? How did you deal with that?”
Marube-ya: “Hm? Shiro-kun and I were put pretty much at the tail end of the list, so we went around to all the Musashi’s ramen places to try them out. Our last stop was in Ming, remember? That had led to a lot of new places opening up and we were checking to see which ones would likely survive. If they showed promise, we could back them and enter into a partnership.”
Mar-Ga: “Wouldn’t you get fat that way?”
Marube-ya: “There are, um, ways of avoiding that.”
Righteousness: “Noodles from the butt again?”
Marube-ya: “Can we please never mention that!? Ever again!?”
Silver Wolf: “Um, anyway, Mary, everyone on the Musashi and on the ground were in a hurry to get the trading done with, so the only tourist flights were scheduled for the final day.”
Scarred: “You never saw that in England since you would stay there for a week or two, but I guess it changes depending on the region. I have so much to learn.”
Flat Vassal: “I’m pretty sure that was the most normal response any of us has made this entire conversation.”
They could not head down on the first day, so even after docking, the Musashi’s transport ship docking areas were full of life.
Mitotsudaira remembered eating breakfast with her king and Asama in Asama’s room that morning.
She was not a big rice eater, but the rice Asama had cooked filled her empty stomach nicely. The miso pork and fried egg served with the rice had a strong flavor and a gentle, mature flavor respectively. She thought the fish ball soup was going to smell really fishy, but…
A very small amount of chopped citrus peel had been mixed in.
As a Loup-Garou, she had trouble with powerful citrus smells, but this was subtle enough to only act as an accent. It reminded her of how her father would often cook meat in a citrus sauce back home.
“Hm? Mito, was the fish ball soup too strong for you?”
“No, it reminded me of the past, that’s all.”
It had a nice palate cleansing flavor. She took a mint candy as a dessert and walked partway home with her king.
Asama had lent her a stole when she left the Asama Shrine. She had lost her right sleeve the night before and the left sleeve was damaged as well.
She had removed both the sleeves, making it a sleeveless outfit, but it was still too early in the year for that.
Walking alongside her king with her shoulders covered made her feel defenseless.
…I must not let my guard down. My old senses are returning to an extent.
Their walk eventually took them to the point where their paths diverged. He stuck with her a little longer, taking a longer route to school, but finally…
“Okay, see you at school.”
They parted and kept walking. They would see each other at school soon enough, but…
He had apparently been waiting for her to leave the Asama Shrine.
Mitotsudaira felt doubly bad about that as she walked home.
Once because she had made her king go to the trouble and twice because she had been happy to learn about it.
He would not have known last night when she would leave, which was why Asama had spoken to him and convinced him leave without her.
He was currently headed to school while she had to stop by her home to pick up some things.
She looked up in the sky and walked to Murayama until she received a divine mail from Asama.
It was about last night. She explained in detail about the circumstances of her king waiting for her.
“Thinking back, I feel like I was butting into your business there. Sorry about that. He asked when your questioning would end and it was already late, so I suggested he wait at my place instead of at the gate between ships, but he thought it would look cooler if it felt like you just so happened to bump into each other outside.”
“Why does he care so much about things like that?”
“I know, right? And when I suggested he ask you himself, he said, ‘I would look like a real stuck-up sort of king if I demanded she hurry it up because I’m waiting for her, don’t you think?’ ”
Asama did such a spot-on impression of his voice Mitotsudaira nearly laughed out loud.
…Did he accompany me partway home to make up for that?
That would be just like him.
She would have been delighted if she had seen her king waiting for her last night, but a knight could not worry her king or put him through all that extra trouble. So…
“It was probably best that you let me know he tried waiting for me without actually letting him do it. You did the right thing, Asama.”
“I’m glad to hear that. But, um, for future reference, what would you have preferred as a knight?”
“Good question,” she replied. Of course, she had no idea if something like this would ever happen again. “I wish he had just told me himself that he was waiting. That would not make him ‘stuck up’. A knight is supposed to respond to her king’s summons. And even if he summons you in a stuck-up sort of way…”
“When I have just completed a job for him, his summons are a sign that he is going to reward me. …Not that I accomplished much of anything last night.”
“D-don’t even think about summoning that ghost again to do better this time, okay?”
“Not even I am that crazy,” she said with a bitter smile.
I am such a hypocrite, she also realized.
She said she did not want her king to go to any extra trouble for her, but that described so much of what she was letting him do today.
She needed to be stronger.
She needed to reach a level where she could protect him herself and come running whenever he needed her.
Calling herself his first knight was meaningless otherwise.
…I need to do this right.
The wolf made a silent vow as she looked up into the morning sky where more deliveries were flying around than normal.
Mitotsudaira remembered a time later in that day as well.
She was called to the faculty room for questioning afterschool, but someone approached him before she left for that.
It was Suzu.
She tangled her fingers together in the air and spoke to him.
“We have an…opening this evening…so do you…want to go?”
She started to wonder what this was about, but what she had learned that morning let her erase the question from her mind.
Her king had his own life to live too.
She left for the faculty room so as not to get in his way.
Gold Mar: “Mito-tsan’s really getting the hang of this. She’s even segueing between memories properly.”
Wise Sister: “Heh heh. She’s just full of herself! Full of her wolfy self! She’s feeling such a powerful self-centered high it’s seeping from her skin! Yes, just get a whiff of this! Sniiiiiff! Ahh, what is this sweet aroma!? Lick. Why, it’s sweet yakiniku sauce! With apples and honey!?”
Silver Wolf: “L-lies! I always get the medium spicy sauce! And apples and honey are a curry thing!”
Hori-ko: “Mitotsudaira-sama, I hate to interrupt your food-based identity crisis, but please try to calm down.”
Chapter 8: Preparation and Maturation
Which one did I go with?
Point Allocation (While Making a Suggestion)
On the first day of their stay at Totomi, Kimi realized her brother was uneasy about something when he returned from school late.
They were very close, but more due to how they shared their everyday lives than simply how long they had known each other. She could sense his general mood, but she could not always tell what exactly he was thinking. So…
“Foolish brother? You just had an evening date with Suzu, didn’t you? What has you so lost in thought now?”
He was supposed to have gotten his spells and divine protections adjusted by Asama the previous night, but he was apparently caught up in a bizarre ghost pursuit or something like that. Kimi’s fear of ghosts made her loath to ask for details, but she had heard that Mitotsudaira played a large role.
…I thought he might be thinking about that, but it doesn’t seem so.
Kimi casually opened the curtain dividing their rooms.
She found him holding up a porn magazine in each hand and staring straight at them with eyebrows flat.
“Sis, I got home to find mom had stacked my secret collection on my desk with a note telling me to throw some of them out cause of the weight tax. Which one do you think I should toss?”
“The one on the right follows the current trends, so wouldn’t it be better to hold onto the one on the left?” She entered his room and reviewed his selections. “That certainly is motley collection.”
“Well, I was choosing the best ones from each genre. She told me to get rid of 2/3 of them.”
“Wait, hold that thought.” Kimi opened a sign frame and pulled something out of the multileveled file hierarchy she had set up. “How about you scan them with this photography spell I’ve started using for selfies?”
“Ohh! You’re so smart, Sis!”
He opened one of them up. The right page contained a black-haired nude and the left page was an ad for the Ueno god’s circumcision services.
For some reason, the spell placed a smile detection frame over the diagram on the Ueno ad, so maybe that meant a god really did reside within that.
She snapped a photo, but then they both fell silent for a few seconds.
“Foolish brother, how many pages would this entire stack be?”
“About 2000, I think.”
“Maybe you should buy a scanning sunlight camera.”
“Yeah, but those are black-and-white and they only work in direct sunlight. …Thanks for the help, Sis, but I’ll probably just spend tonight burning all of this into my memory.”
“So what did you spend today doing?”
“Oh.” He immediately shook his hand side to side. “I can’t tell you that.”
“I see,” was Kimi’s response to her brother’s rejection.
That was not a big deal. Some secrets they shared and others they kept to themselves. So…
“Who could you tell?”
He looked at the roof with a magazine still in each hand.
He thought for a bit and then tilted his head.
“Suzu-san and Asama, I guess?”
Kimi opened a sign frame.
“Asama? Did my foolish brother tell you anything today?”
“What? Is he up to no good again?”
“Hm?” Kimi tilted her head at that response and opened another sign frame. “Suzu, did my foolish brother tell you anything today?”
“Eh? Oh, s-sorry, Kimi-chan. I-I am…draining the bath…right now.”
“Hmm.” Kimi thought. “A no from him, a no from Asama, and Suzu is d-draining the…bath.”
“Isn’t that impression of Suzu-san a little off? And you have some guts to call them up right in front of me like that.”
“Heh heh. I’ll find out eventually anyway, so I thought I would get a head start. Besides, I more or less already know the answer now. And I can see why you can’t tell me that.”
His eyebrows shot up.
“That was enough for you to figure it out!? You’re so great, Sis!”
“Heh heh heh. Asama didn’t know despite you naming her, you didn’t name Mitotsudaira, and Suzu is draining the bath. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out.”
Kimi breathed a sigh of relief and approached her brother from behind. She reached past his shoulders and grabbed some of his collection.
“Heh heh. It says this woman is 19, but she looks 32 to me.”
“L-let me have my dreams!”
“I’m only helping you narrow down your choices. Oh? You have an issue of Gorgeous Beauty? That’s what I call vintage.”
“Yeah, I found it at the used book market in Prague last year. I bought it just because, but when I brought it back, I found out it’s actually the very issue that brought Nobu-tan and Koni-tan together as friends.”
“You mean as friends who exchange porn and anime? You’re still underage, so tell me when you want to buy these things. I’ll buy them for you.”
“Yeah, but when you go to those stores, you tend to comment on how the most popular model has fake boobs or something, bringing every guy there to his knees.”
“Then you can come with me and enjoy the show.”
“For real? I’m coming of age within the year, so I’m definitely getting my name on the receipt!”
“Good boy,” she said while rubbing his head with her chin, but she also had something to say to him. “Hey,” she began. “Will you feel lonely if Mitotsudaira gets her act together?”
“Nate’s already got her act together. And I know you know that, Sis,” he said. “Also, I can tell how not together my act is when I look at all the others.”
“Does that bother you?”
“Not really. It makes me…glad I have all of them with me.”
He paused to think mid-answer, but he came up with a good answer all the same. Kimi felt it would be a shame to ask further, but she still wanted to ask about someone she saw as a friend.
“When you say ‘all of them’, are you including Mitotsudaira?”
“Yeah.” He sighed and then shrugged. “In fact, I’ve gotta make sure she doesn’t abandon me.”
“At least you haven’t grown complacent.”
Kimi smiled and lowered her chin from his head to his left shoulder. She pressed her cheek against his and restarted the conversation while choosing the magazines.
“Will you help me choose what fashion magazines to keep later on?”
“Silly brother.” She smiled. “Because I have way too many to scan with my photography spell.”
Hori-ko: “Kimi-sama, could you not emphasize the intimacy of your relationships quite so much?”
Wise Sister: “Heh heh. Horizon? If you find yourself lacking when compared to someone else, you should work to improve yourself and to whip yourself into shape. Everyone has things they want but cannot have, so when you find such a thing, you must either resign yourself to envy or work to improve yourself.”
Silver Wolf: “Looking back, I really want to apologize to my king.”
Mar-Ga: “Because you want him to pamper you, right? Yes, what a lovely idea. What a lovely idea for a doujinshi.”
Gold Mar: “Ga-chan, you’re starting to feel tired, aren’t you?”
Flat Vassal: “But wasn’t the following day a real ordeal for Kimi-san?”
Vice President: “An ordeal? For her?”
Wise Sister: “Now, now, silly girl. The best women must go through the occasional ordeal to keep their womanhood sharp! It’s not quite the same thing as rubbing a pumice stone on your heel. Once you find you need that, either take another look at your footwear or take another look at your age!”
Asama: “Oh, Sanyou-sensei! Where are you running off to!? You just got here!”
Scarred: “So what was that ordeal about?”
Silver Wolf: “We couldn’t visit Totomi with the port so full and we provided a report on the previous night’s incident to the guards and the Chancellor’s Officers, but we found a few questions remaining. We ended up discussing it all during our break, but Kimi is afraid of ghosts.”
During their second day at Totomi, Kimi was being awfully quiet.
…It’s been so long since she barely did anything at all.
Adele was looking over at Kimi whose head was lying flat down on her desk. She had a sign frame over each ear, so she was probably using an auditory spell.
She had been muttering something and wiggling side to side earlier, but Asama had put an end to that:
“Yes, yes, we can give Kimi the attention she so badly craves later on. Right now, I want to bring all our heads together.”
During lunch, their class gathered together and viewed the report that had been sent to Asama and Mitotsudaira.
The seating arrangement was fairly arbitrary. Asama sat near the center and they did not want to bother Kimi over by the window, so they had shifted more toward the center.
But not all of them were there. Noriki had left early for his part-time job. And…
“Did Toori-san leave early, Mitotsudaira-san, Asama-san?”
“Wh-why are you asking me that?” asked Mitotsudaira.
Since everyone responded with a puzzled “eh?”, they apparently thought of her as constantly with him.
Plus, Kimi was not an option right now. So…
“Do you know, Asama-san?”
“No, I don’t. In fact, if I always knew what he was up to, the guards wouldn’t have to contact me when he’s up to something.”
“Yeah, I suppose not.”
“But Toori-kun goes missing all the time. You should be able to contact the Musashi and have them look up his location for you.”
“Couldn’t he have deactivated that divine protection using an entertainer spell?” asked Tenzou.
“Who gave him a spell like that, I wonder?” added Naito.
Everyone turned to look at Asama, so she nodded aback.
“Now, about this report.”
Hori-ko: “Asama-sama dodged that one masterfully. Since when has she been so powerful!?”
Asama: “Th-that’s only because you’ve all gotten so much better at messing with me since then! Kimi, get your hands off my shoulders and wipe that smirk off your face!”
Flat Vassal: “Talking about one thing from the past is really dragging up a whole bunch more old memories, isn’t it?”
Gold Mar: “This is also a good way to give yourself false memories of the past, so be careful. For example, I’m pretty sure I was out doing delivery work to Totomi that day, so I wouldn’t have been there during lunch.”
Marube-ya: “Oh, then that question was probably me. We can sound a lot alike sometimes.”
Mar-Ga: “No, you and Shirojiro were in the home ec cooking room making noodles for your ramen research, remember? I think Margot was there and it was me who wasn’t. We’re registered as a pair in the delivery business, so I could handle it on my own.”
Wise Sister: “Oh? Are you saying Adele remembered correctly?”
Mar-Ga: “No. I’m always on Margot’s side, so I think she was right.”
Almost Everyone: “Which is it!?”
Gold Mar: “Ga-chan, Ga-chan. All your recent all-nighters are catching up to you.”
Scarred: “As a compromise, how about we say everyone was there?”
While they all viewed the report sign frame, Adele saw a hand go up.
She looked over to see it was Futayo.
“Asama-sama! This looks confusing, so could I go grab a bowl of udon from the cafeteria!?”
Vice President: “Hold on, Balfette! Futayo still lived in Mikawa back then!”
Flat Vassal: “Yeah, but we were saying everyone was there even if it wasn’t true, right?”
Hori-ko: “Ho ho? Then I should begin warming up for my big performance.”
Tonbokiri: “April of three years ago? Back then, I was…”
Futayo looked to the eastern sky.
She sat atop a hill near the sea west of Mikawa.
The spring flowers and grass grew thick but short there.
There was a rectangular black patch within all that.
It was an area of dirt packed down enough to prevent any grass from growing.
The dirt area had two sections: a flat area and a sloped area. Futayo looked east from one of the large stones there.
Below her, a slope led down to a long wooden building.
The roof bore the marker for a material drop-off point and “Mikawa 1st Middle – Samurai – Military” in white writing.
That was one of the middle school buildings. Another one was visible a short distance from it.
This hill was near the western pathway between the Musashi’s landport and the general-use landport to the south. The middle school buildings for Mikawa residents were all located on the hill’s eastern slope.
But even if that was a middle school, Mikawa was one of the Far East’s primary cities. It belonged to the Matsudaira clan, who would later rule the Far East, so there were four school buildings divided between four subjects: samurai, farming, industry, and commerce. That building there contained most of the military classes and most of the samurai cultural classes used the Buddhist temple on the mountain.
Futayo attended that military-focused school building, but…
“Futayo-sama, are you training out here again?”
Someone else climbed the hill from the direction of that building.
Kazuno was the automaton that served Futayo’s Honda family. She was made from one of Futayo’s late mother’s possessions, but that had apparently become the automaton’s core, making her incredibly strong.
She did not have any of Futayo’s mother’s memories, but she still had plenty to teach Futayo.
Kazuno walked up through the grass, but she was not actually stepping on that grass.
She used her gravitational control as an automaton to part the grass before planting her toes on the bare ground. A samurai-in-training like Futayo could not hope to match that perfect ascent of the unmaintained slope.
Once at the same height as Futayo, Kazuno bowed and raised a hand.
“One of the teachers told me you were here, so I have brought your lunch.”
“What is it?”
“Last night’s leftovers and some vegetables.”
“More bamboo shoots with rice? Maybe I shouldn’t have asked for seconds and thirds and fourths last night just because it tasted so good.”
“Thank you, but you did not have to do this. I could have waited until I got home.”
Kazuno’s shoulders drooped.
“We both know you wouldn’t have gotten back until dinnertime.”
“But I don’t want you going to all this trouble over me.”
“I was heading out anyway to grab some ingredients for dinner. Plus, Tadakatsu-sama joined Ii-sama and Sakakibara-sama to have some fun in Mikawa while claiming they are hunting mysterious phenomena.”
“So you’re on your way to arrest them?”
“Judge,” said Kazuno as she tossed over the box in her hand.
She used her gravitational control, but she relinquished that control once it reached the downwards part of its arc. Futayo relaxed her wrist the instant she caught it to protect its contents. And…
“From how that shook, did you include a bamboo container of soup too?”
“A clam soup since it is April. I will serve it chilled tonight.”
That meant dinner’s main dish would be something hot. Probably a meat. Since it was paired with a refreshing clam soup, the meat would likely have a sweet and salty seasoning.
That sounds promising, thought Futayo before noticing Kazuno look down at her feet.
Futayo tilted her head at that.
“Is something wrong?”
“No, Futayo-sama. I am merely impressed that you actually spent the past two years making this place according to Tadakatsu-sama’s instructions.”
“He bought this land to make a field, but as we all expected, he abandoned the idea almost immediately, freeing it up for me to use.”
“Judge, I have determined that was a good and non-wasteful choice. I believe it was also a good choice to create this place all on your own.”
Futayo knew what she meant. This packed down area of dirt had begun as something her father told her to do two years ago. Kazuno would still bring her a lunch here on occasion, but since the automaton had gone out of her way to mention it this time, this must have been very near the actual two year mark. But…
“I could only prepare about a third of what he told me to do. I am far too inexperienced.”
“It is best to only ever listen to about half of what he says, Futayo-sama.”
She thought about that, looked up into the sky, and worked out the calculation.
…I have completed a third of what he told me to do and she says to only listen to half of what he says.
That meant 1/2 was her target and 1/3 was where she stood now.
“Kazuno-sama, thank you for pointing out just how inexperienced I truly am!”
“Judge, I fear you may have misunderstood my point, but a drive toward self-improvement is still a good thing. I will tell Tadakatsu-sama to work on his math too.”
The mention of math reminded Futayo of someone.
“Masazumi was always good at that.”
Vice President: “Wait, but I was never any good at math.”
Flat Vassal: “So is this another case of us remembering things wrong?”
Gold Mar: “It’s a scary thought, but could it be that Nida-yan’s brain was so bad that even Seijun looked good at math in comparison?”
Tachibana Wife: “But she did manage to complete that odd calculation in the blink of an eye.”
Asama: “Okay, okay. Less chatting, more flashbacking.”
Futayo realized Kazuno’s eyes were following her gaze into the eastern sky.
“What does the east look like to you, Kazuno-sama?”
“New Nagoya Castle is too large. But beyond that…”
A giant shape was visible in the distant sky beyond even Mikawa Bay. It looked small compared to the closer Nagoya Castle, but…
“The Musashi is enormous, isn’t it?” said Futayo.
“Starting this year, it will be traveling north from Totomi, so it should arrive in Mikawa from the north. It used to arrive from the east, but since the costal route from Mikawa to the Kii Peninsula required an eastern to southern course, Mikawa’s landport was already pointed south. But anyway,” said Kazuno. “Something Tadakatsu-sama and his friends were indirectly involved in is belatedly setting a portion of the world in motion.”
Futayo nodded at that line while seated on the boulder with the lunchbox on her lap.
“Do you mean the Battle of Okehazama that served as the final showdown between Imagawa and Oda?”
“Judge. That battle led to some nuisances, such as Oda hunting down the Imagawa remnants, but Matsudaira suffered minimal damages due to already holding a neutral position with P.A. Oda.”
“When Okehazama occurred, Matsudaira served Imagawa. They were Oda’s enemy.”
The Battle of Okehazama.
Futayo still remembered it well.
…According to the Testament, that battle was fought between Imagawa, who were growing into a powerful nation, and Oda, who had taken their first step toward being a powerful nation.
It was an early but largescale victory for the Oda clan – or really, for Oda Nobunaga who was turning Oda into a powerful player in the Warring States period.
When Imagawa’s forces attacked, Oda had their fortresses taken in the early fighting and their advance unit was slaughtered, but they launched a surprise attack on the main Imagawa camp after it rained. It developed into a frenzied battle where the commanders of both sides ultimately dismounted their horses and fought. It ended in an Oda victory.
The Imagawa Lord, Imagawa Yoshimoto, was killed and his land became the property of Oda and the other nearby forces. The battle increased Oda’s reputation and laid a solid foundation for them.
However, the Testament put Matsudaira in a tricky position there.
At the time, Matsudaira had served Imagawa, so…
“My father, his friends, and Sakai Tadatsugu-sama attacked the Oda fortresses to scout things out and hold them in check.”
Musashi: “If I may interject, the Musashi was in southern Hexagone Française during Okehazama, so Sakai-sama was watching a European soccer tournament at the time. Over.”
Tonbokiri: “Since Mikawa itself was neutral, my father’s group visited eastern Mikawa past New Nagoya Castle and called it an ‘Okehazama Tour’.”
Vice President: “To be clear, I’m pretty sure Lord Tadakatsu’s group was there to protect the Imagawa forces fleeing to Mikawa after their defeat.”
Unturning: “We never heard about any of this up in the north. Are you saying Mikawa protected Imagawa during Okehazama but did not oppose Oda?”
Vice President: “Judge. To remain neutral, Mikawa laid no claims to the land between east Mikawa and Totomi afterwards.”
Silver Wolf: “Masazumi! Record this with a flashback, don’t just say it!”
Masazumi was eating a late lunch in the bell tower of a Buddhist temple in the forest.
That mountain temple acted as the cultural building for the school’s samurai division. It existed under the same division as the military classes, so she would sometimes visit that military school building depending on the class, but the school events here had a strong local color to them.
…Still, this building suits me better.
Some of the samurai family parents complained that their children shouldn’t have to perform farm work when they weren’t in the school’s farm division, but Masazumi thought experiencing life as a producer was important for a future political leader. Lord Motonobu had made the decision and she trusted him, but she really wished he would stop giving them rejected prototype automatons to use as scarecrows in the fields and paddies. The fact that they had all been made to look exactly like him and the way they would occasionally say “Welcome to New Nagoya Castle! It’s huge!” made them terrifying to encounter at night.
But it was daytime now and she had some of her mother’s rice balls wrapped in a bamboo leaf.
There were three in all: one seasoned only with salt, one with an umeboshi inside, and one with mountain vegetables inside.
The bell tower’s thatch roof cast a large shadow, so she had recently formed a habit of eating lunch here while reading. After all, the forest had been cleared between here and the ocean, presumably so the peals of the bell could reach that far.
She would eat lunch while viewing the distant ocean from the forest.
Rice balls were perfect for eating one-handed while reading. According to her mother, her father had similarly said to fix rice balls whenever he needed a meal during a meeting.
…Maybe I take after my father.
“Koni-tan! Koni-tan! Did you hear that!? Setting up those eavesdropping spells everywhere has finally paid off! You all thought I was crazy 10 years ago when I told the Asama Shrine we had to record the vibrations of the wall for ‘quakeproofing purposes’, but look at me now! You never know when these things will come in handy, Koni-tan! What’s that, Koni-tan, you’re sleepy!? Well, if you want to go to sleep, you have to say the magic words: ‘I’m so sweepy.’ …Ha, you actually said it!? But you’re not cute, so no sleep for yooooooooooooou! It’s late-night karaoke until morning for uuuuuuuuuuus!”
Masazumi’s eastern view showed her New Nagoya Castle to the left and Mikawa Bay to the right, but she could see the Musashi when viewing the sky straight out from the forest.
Long ago, the Imagawa fleet had gathered near there.
It had eventually led to a major battle and the adults had argued every day about whether Mikawa should side with Oda or Imagawa and about what would happen afterwards.
According to the Testament, when Matsudaira learned of Imagawa Yoshimoto’s defeat, they secured a portion of the Imagawa land and submitted to Oda.
That was a difficult history recreation for the current Mikawa to pull off.
Imagawa was powerful and Oda was well on its way to being the same. Allying with P.A. Oda in advance would mean an attack from Imagawa and it might change how the Oda clan treated Matsudaira.
But everything had ended so quickly when the time came.
It had poured with rain that day and, once the rain let up, the Imagawa fleet was gone.
She had heard P.A. Oda had attacked during the afternoon. Since Oda was north of Mikawa, they should have been arriving at the Imagawa fleet from the northwest, but…
“They bought a fleet from their allies in Houjou and the Association of Indian States to make a powerful strike from the southeast in the middle of the rain.”
Imagawa had all their defenses turned to the northwest in preparation for Oda’s arrival, but this had come from the complete opposite direction. And the attack had come from below as well.
The Imagawa fleet was routed, but most of them had fled north, since the attack was from the south. But even they were sunk, so…
…Imagawa was destroyed.
Everyone here had discussed so much about the future of Mikawa and what they should do, but Oda’s surprise attack had come during the pouring rain first thing in the afternoon and it had all been over in just a few hours.
Mikawa had been so tense for a while, but in the end, nothing had changed for them.
She had later learned that Mikawa had sent advance word to Imagawa that they would be preserving their own neutrality, but they would protect any of the defeated Imagawa people and prepare a new home for them.
Lord Tadakatsu had put together an “Okehazama Tour”, but that had likely been a cover for taking in Imagawa people.
“I had wanted to ask Futayo about that if we had time, but it’s probably been too long now.”
She got along fairly well with that other girl in her middle school, partially because they both had the same family name. Futayo was the daughter of a name inheritor and they would sometimes run into each other when moving between school buildings, but she never knew how to respond to the bizarre things that girl would say:
“Look, Masazumi! Soba!”
“Such a wonderfully sunny day, don’t you think!? An umbrella!? Why would I need one when it is only sprinkling!?”
“Look! A tomato! To-may-to, to-mah-to!”
Futayo probably just let out whatever random thought was on her mind when she saw her.
Regardless, that girl was the daughter of a super famous name inheritor, so Masazumi had heard she was considering whether she would join the Chancellor’s Officers, join the guard unit, or keep her options open. Masazumi on the other hand…
She held her book up toward the distant Musashi.
Her father was on that ship. He had failed to inherit a name, yet he had not returned from the Musashi.
“That must mean he’s enjoying himself there.”
“Anyway, this is far from an enjoyable topic, but I thought it might help us find some kind of hint. I mean, we don’t really know why the ghosts appeared near my home – that is, in the nature district that doubles as the shrine’s forest. I was hoping this lunchtime meeting could help us get to the bottom of that.”
“I see,” said Urquiaga. “From what I heard, these ghosts were a fairly special case when it comes to the rules of ghost appearances.”
“Our internal divine management system showed no record of anyone’s ghost making an appearance, so a unique case is the best explanation I can give at the moment.”
She passed a sign frame to everyone and then displayed a large one next to herself.
It showed the same thing as the one she had passed to them, so she tapped the glowing frame once before speaking.
“I will now sum up what we know.”
Chapter 9: Listing and Linking
I may lack the skill
But I will nevertheless
Go where the money leads me
Point Allocation (We’re Not Discussing That)
Asama viewed what she had written on the screen. It was a chronological list.
1. The ghost fleet appears
2. The ghost fleet begins to fire on us
3. Ghost warriors appear near the Asama Shrine
4. The fleet’s bombardment hits the warriors
5. The leader(?) ninja(?) of the warriors attacks Mito
The list was based on the notes she had taken while Mitotsudaira fought the ninja-like ghost when ordered chronologically. This was what she had sent the guards and the Chancellor’s Officers, but she did not know if they were investigating it all. But for the Asama Shrine, she wanted to make sure this would not happen again and that they could fight back if it did happen.
So she asked a question.
“During the previous mysterious phenomena – that is, during the ghost attack – I noticed a few oddities and contradictions in the fleet and the warriors that Mito fought. I was hoping you could help me come up with some ideas to answer my questions.”
“We are not going to bother with this if it will not make us any money.” Shirojiro raised his hand. “What do you say to that?”
Asama nodded at him.
“I’m not forcing you to help. I’m only asking for any help you can give me. So in your case-”
Flat Vassal: “Oh, the Treasurer duo are in Asama-san’s flashback.”
Asama: “I do remember having this conversation either then or the day after. It was relevant to the solution, so I thought I would stick it here for convenience.”
Marube-ya: “Based on our receipt records, Shiro-kun and I were eating eels that day. Hm, so it wasn’t just ramen. Oh, right! We found a good ramen place that day, so we bought ourselves some eel afterwards to celebrate!”
Vice President: “You don’t pay all that much attention to your finances, do you?”
Asama saw Heidi and Shirojiro stand up and the latter bowed toward the others.
“We will be leaving to check out the surface ramen shops to find a future business partner. We will be out for 5th period, but we also have to prepare for tomorrow, so we might head straight home afterwards.”
“Prepare for what tomorrow?” asked Ohiroshiki. “Do they have room for you to trade down on the surface?”
“The more established merchants are delaying the process so us newcomers and trainees don’t get to trade, but they have to send their ships back shortly before we leave the landport. Our transport ship is a crayer designed for speed instead of cargo space, so we should be able to make it back even if the Musashi begins its ascent.”
“The Musashi’s atmospheric field and spell field are strengthened once it ascends high enough, so please remember you won’t be able to get back in after that. I don’t give my friends special treatment on the job.”
Everyone looked extremely skeptical of Asama’s final claim, but she could not figure out why that would be.
“Asama-chi, you do that all the time, like picking up To-chan at the guard stations.”
“I do that as a private citizen, not a shrine maiden. And I’ve been doing that so long it doesn’t really count.”
Now they all looked a little disturbed, but she had long since learned there was no talking sense into them.
Kimi would have made a joke here if she were awake, but she was currently out cold. So…
“How about we work at solving these questions?” asked Mitotsudaira while looking back at the large sign frame.
She slid her seat to the side so as not to block everyone’s view.
She was not actually Asama’s assistant, but she was trying to help out anyway. She may not have noticed it herself, but everyone was naturally accepting that.
…She tends to overthink things.
With that thought, Asama decided to get the meeting going.
“Okay, let’s get started again.”
Mitotsudaira had questions.
There were a few things about the previous night’s battle she had not understood. Those had filled her with doubt, but if not for that…
…Would I have won that battle?
She did not know. However…
“Mito, you should try not to say very much here. Because you might summon them here.”
“Judge. I will consider my view as no more than a supporting role.”
Asama tapped the text on the sign frame to emphasize it, but Shirojiro and Heidi crossed their arms as they left the classroom.
“Come to think of it, we have a ramen date planned, Shiro-kun! Do you think they’ll let us take home the free toppings?”
“Judge. We must focus on a possible partnership, but do not forget to haggle for the best price!”
It was honestly impressive how passionate they were at being the most irritating customers imaginable. Heidi smiled back to say bye, so Asama got back on topic.
“First, let’s take a look at each of the events here in order.”
The list was as follows:
1. The ghost fleet appears
2. The ghost fleet begins to fire on us
3. Ghost warriors appear near the Asama Shrine
4. The fleet’s bombardment hits the warriors
5. The leader(?) ninja(?) of the warriors attacks Mito
“Um.” Mitotsudaira tugged on her sleeve and whispered to her. “I’m not sure I like being called Mito in a formal context like this, so can you use Mitotsudaira?”
“No can do. That would be way too long to fit.”
The smile on Asama’s face told Mitotsudaira she had been set up here. But Naruze ignored the embarrassed wolf and raised her hand.
“#1 happened as we entered the docking sequence at Totomi.”
“Yes, I was doing the docking work at the time, so that timing seems right to me. But just to be sure, what were you and Naito doing then?”
“Delivery work, so we received a warning to avoid moving between ships because of the docking sequence.”
“I see,” said Mitotsudaira while Asama added text to #1.
1. The ghost fleet appears while docking at Totomi
“Oh, and add that the ghosts appeared to port,” said Naruze. “Sorry, about all the additions.”
“It’s fine. That is important information.”
1. The ghost fleet appears to port while docking at Totomi
“In that case.” Tenzou raised his hand. “I can explain what I saw, Asama-dono.”
Asama: “Um, Mito? You don’t have to do an impression of Tenzou-kun when telling his part.”
Silver Wolf:'’' “I-I wasn’t. I was talking normally.”
Scarred: “I can explain what I saw, Asama-dono.”
Almost Everyone: “…”
Scarred: “Hee hee. Is a bit of mimicry really that surprising?”
Gold Mar: “That was more than just mimicry. You could really hear his voice. Is that a Kotodama thing?”
Unturning: “That would mean she has a deep understanding of him.”
Almost Everyone: “Ohh.”
Maru-Ga: “Mitotsudaira, feel free to continue with your shallow understanding of Tenzou.”
Silver Wolf: “I-I wasn’t trying to do an impression of him! I swear!”
Mitotsudaira saw Tenzou point back with his thumb, indicating the blue sky out the window.
“Since the Musashi had descended beforehand, the enemy fleet’s altitude was awfully high compared to ours.”
“Crossunite-kun, a higher position is advantageous when attacking a ship like the Musashi,” said Neshinbara. “Because you can do damage to the surface cities.”
“Why would they…want to…do that?”
Suzu’s question brought everyone’s eyes to Neshinbara, who crossed his arms, uncrossed them again, and pushed his glasses up.
“You don’t know? By damaging the people and their homes, you can throw Musashi’s politics into chaos and spread fear through the citizenry.”
“Y-yes, but, um.”
Suzu was having difficulty finding the words, but Mitotsudaira knew what she was getting at. As a knight, she knew all too well. She wanted to come out and say it, but…
Suzu gave a nod of permission while shifting in her seat to face Mitotsudaira.
“I can’t…say it very well.”
“In that case,” said Mitotsudaira to take over. “Is this what you want to say? Are political chaos and fear among the citizenry really worth anything to a ghost fleet?”
They would be important to a knight. When you were placed in charge of a territory, you had to manage it efficiently but also provide peace of mind for the people living there.
But Itoken crossed his arms and asked a question.
“How intelligent is that ghost fleet and the ghost warriors!?”
That seemed like an odd question to be posed by an incubus, but Tenzou was the first to respond.
“From what I saw on the front line, the ghost fleet appeared to make group decisions, but it would be hard to say what they consider valuable.”
“Same for the warriors that pursued Mito,” said Asama. “They and the ninja(?) she fought were vengeful spirits, so I would assume their decisions are based on their grudge.”
“Then why attack us?” asked Naruze. “Do they have a grudge against the Musashi?”
No one had an immediate answer to that one, but Neshinbara did raise his hand.
“The ghost fleet had cannons, so intelligent or not, can’t we say that firing artillery is a part of their existence as ghosts?”
“It is fairly common for ghosts formed from the ‘mold’ of a warship to attack anyone they come across,” said Mitotsudaira. “And the more that gather together, the greater the tendency to do so.”
“Right?” Neshinbara nodded, opened a sign frame, and hand drew the side view of a large ship. “This is the Musashi and this next to it is the ghost fleet.”
Everyone watched as he slid the large ship’s drawing downwards.
And with a hand on his chin…
“This is the Musashi’s docking shequence.”
“I pronounce it shequence, Naruze-kun!” He tapped the lowered Musashi and then the fleet above it. “Anyway, the ghost fleet lacks the intelligence to pursue the Musashi, so it ends up higher than us as we descend, which of course means it is firing down on us.”
“Neshinbara-dono, we very clearly saw the ghost fleet pursuing the Musashi.”
“I was just getting to that.”
Expressionless Naruze made a “throw this loser out” gesture, but then Adele raised her hand.
“Does that mean the ghost ship was intentionally staying above us?”
Adele positioned her hands to indicate two different heights.
“The Musashi is down here while the fleet is up here. Do you get it? You’d better.”
“Adele, Toori-kun isn’t here, so you don’t have to be so forceful,” said Asama.
…Oh, she’s right!
She hated how much of a habit that had become, but for now she kept her hands in those positions.
“I saw it from the academy stairs.” She tilted both hands at an angle at equal speeds. “I think the ghost fleet moved like this, like they didn’t change their relative speed much at all. Once they were enough above us, they stayed in that spot.”
Musashi residents were trained to judge distances in three-dimensional space by eye. Knowing where someone else was located in the air made things safer when working at a port or when moving between ships.
Ohiroshiki raised his hand.
“Why would they match our speed like that?”
Naito looked to Neshinbara.
“Bara-yan, are you just going to ignore that Adele completely ignored what you said?”
“Are you familiar with the saying that honesty is a virtue?”
“Could you prove that for us?”
“Judge. I didn’t actually see what happened. I was at the printing office on Oume trying to keep a stack of unsold books from collapsing.”
Naito applauded with an exaggerated smile on her face. And then…
“I don’t think honesty and self-deprecation are quite the same thing.”
Neshinbara turned his back and slammed an arm against the desk, but that was not new. Adele noticed Ohiroshiki still had his hand up, so he must have known it would go like this.
“Um,” began Adele. “Do you find something odd about them matching our speed, Ohiroshiki-san?”
“Judge. Like we touched on before, do they really have the intelligence and rationality to do that?”
“Ghost ships have an instinctual drive to ask the living for something, so they’re pretty good at giving chase.”
“Did they ask us anything?”
Everyone froze in place. Naomasa spoke up with a “come to think of it” tone.
“You have a point. Funayurei will generally ask for a ladle, a mooring line, or oil. I hate that we needed Ohiroshiki to point it out, though.”
“True,” said Naruze. “It’s so infuriating that we needed him to point it out.”
“That’s not the part you’re supposed to agree with, Naruze-kun! This is why I can’t stand you old hags!”
All the girls except Suzu glared at him until he stopped talking. Then Naito raised a hand.
“Could it have been the attack?”
“What do you mean?” asked Mitotsudaira.
“Maybe attacking our surface cities was the ghost fleet’s reason for appearing there. I mean, a lot of them were warships, so that’s what they do, right?”
“Hm.” Asama put a hand on her chin. “It is true Funayurei will use the ladle you give them to sink your ship or do the same thing by hand. So maybe they were using the same logic to try to sink this ship of the living. In that case…”
Asama looked at the text on her sign frame.
2. The ghost fleet begins to fire on us
“Maybe even this attack on us was part of their nature as ghosts.”
Adele could not quite accept that, so she raised her hand.
“Um, can I say something? I agree attacking us was probably the ghost ships’ objective, but I’m not sure that came from their nature as ghosts.”
Everyone turned to look at her.
The many gazes made her sweat, but she went ahead and spoke anyway.
“Remember the shot that landed near the Asama Shrine? I saw one of the ships fire that while it was already sinking. Is their nature as ghosts really enough to explain that level of fixation on attacking?”
“Tenzou-san was supposed to look into if the enemy had a specific target, right? How did that go? If they had a target, they must have had a clear reason for attacking.”
Adele looked to Tenzou, as did everyone else.
He raised his right hand.
“Do you think honesty is a virtue?”
“Whelp, he’s useless.”
“L-let’s not jump to conclusions, Naruze-dono!!”
“Did you look into it or not?” asked Mitotsudaira.
Tenzou’s shoulders slumped.
“The thing is, a whole bunch of upperclassmen gave me things they wanted taken to Okutama’s underground.”
“Oh,” said Adele. She had been asked to carry some large objects to the surface, so he must have been asked to bring things to the underground. The Chancellor’s Officers office was located there, after all. He hoped to be part of the ninja-focused 1st Special Duty Unit, so he needed to build up connections like that. But…
“It’s hard to say anything for sure without Tenzou’s info.”
However, Mary spoke up in his defense with eyebrows raised.
“Do not worry. He will figure something out.” She embraced his arm. “Isn’t that right, Master Tenzou?”
Scarred: “Oh, s-sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt the story!”
Flat Vassal: “No, um, that’s quite all right. Yes. Oh, look at that thread go…”
Asama: “But you’re not entirely off base there, Mary. I think, anyway.”
Asama saw Tenzou sigh. He must have been feeling down, but…
“Um, Tenzou-kun? If you need a chance to redeem yourself, is there anything else you figured out?”
“Judge. I observed the trajectory of the enemy artillery after Adele-dono made her observation. Now, I didn’t manage to record all of them, but it generally went like this.”
He produced a sign frame displaying a diagram of Musashi’s 8 ships from above.
He had drawn white lines on top of that to indicate the paths taken by the artillery.
…What does this mean?
Asama was vaguely hopeful to find something useful on that diagram.
“They’re awfully scattered, aren’t they?” said Naruze.
“They are, aren’t they?” replied Tenzou.
Those two were in agreement for once. A great number of white lines were drawn over the Musashi and they all took the same general path.
“From Murayama toward Okutama.”
But they were aimed over a wide area. Most of them passed right over the Asama Shrine, but…
“It barely looks like they’re aimed at all,” said Naito. “At the time, I could have sworn they were aiming for the Asama Shrine.”
“Right?” said Naruze. “To the Funayurei, that was the evil temple producing the spell field trying to destroy them.”
“C-could you not describe us that way!?” protested Asama.
Then someone else spoke up unexpectedly.
“Huh? Th-they were…though.” It was Suzu and she put a troubled hand on her cheek. “It really sounded…like they were aiming for…the Asama Shrine.”
“If Bell-rin says so, I’m willing to believe it.”
“Right? If Suzu says so, it’s probably true.”
Those Technohexen sure changed their tune quick. But…
“When the paths are scattered over such a wide area, it looks more like they were generally firing at the sky beyond Okutama, but you thought they were aiming at the Asama Shrine, Suzu-san?” Adele tilted her head. “Then what’s different between what we see here and what you sensed back then?”
Suzu only tilted her head too.
Why hadn’t Suzu experienced it the same way they had?
…How do we reconcile Tenzou-kun’s diagram with what Suzu-san said?
Asama tried to figure out the difference between Tenzou’s diagram and Suzu’s memory.
“Tenzou-kun gave up partway through, but Suzu-san managed to stick with it to the end.”
“I-I don’t like how you phrased that!” protested Tenzou.
But the truth was found there.
Tenzou had a drawn a “record” of the partial information he had gathered, but Suzu was viewing it as a “memory”.
They were viewing a drawing that gathered everything Tenzou had observed.
And they were hearing Suzu explain what she remembered.
There was a clear difference there.
“The process for establishing the information is different. A diagram versus an oral explanation.”
Asama understood the difference between Tenzou’s record and Suzu’s memory.
…The diagram combines everything at once, but Suzu-san is replaying the events in her head.
That was it.
Asama understood this well after learning Shinto techniques through both oral instructions and textbooks.
“Tenzou-kun has provided us with records of all the artillery shots from the start to when he gave up, so while it only shows what he saw, there is no concept of time there. On the other hand.” Asama looked to Suzu. “Suzu-san is relaying her auditory memories of what she sensed from the start to the end. So can I ask you something, Suzu-san?”
“Yes…what is it?”
“Timewise, when were we targeted?”
“Oh,” said a few voices in realization while Suzu placed a hand on her chin.
“It was obvious…starting at about…the middle of the battle…I think?”
“There you have it. Tenzou-kun, you gave up on taking records partway through, but can you display only the later entries?”
“I-I worked hard getting what records I did, you know!?”
As Tenzou operated his sign frame, the black outlines of a spreadsheet appeared, showing he had done this through coordinate points, not hand drawing.
…He probably has coordinates recorded for each of Musashi’s cities.
“Why do you go to all that unnecessary effort?” asked Naruze.
“A good-looking chart is more persuasive when you show it off in public.”
“Can’t you just use a ruler?”
“I am not one of the chosen few who can draw a straight line using a ruler.”
Asama knew what he meant, but she really wished he would stop rising to Naruze’s bait.
“Here it is!”
He held out the sign frame with the new settings. Some of the lines there were a little off, but…
“Oh,” gasped Naito at how concentrated the lines were.
They had all passed above the Asama Shrine since the height was off. Or rather…
“The paths overlap just aft of the Asama Shrine where I was fighting,” said Mitotsudaira.
This came as a surprise to Asama.
Mitotsudaira saw Asama silently place a hand on her chin.
Her crossed arms pushed up her chest, but her arms were also half buried inside them. How big are they? wondered Mitotsudaira, but this was hardly new, so it was not that much of a surprise. Regardless…
“Why would the ghost fleet target the Asama Shrine when you have that pain-in-the-ass barrier to contend with?”
“You could phrase that more nicely, Mito!”
“Good question,” said Naruze. “We know now that Suzu’s memories are superior to the ninja’s half-assed records, but why would the ghosts aim behind what they see as the evil Asama Shrine?”
“Can you please let it slide!?” begged Tenzou.
“Maybe they were scared of what would happen if they did hit the shrine,” said Naito.
“N-nothing at allll scary would happen,” insisted Asama. “I mean, maybe a spell field would activate and annihilate the ghost fleet, but it’s normally no more extreme than that.”
“What could be more extreme than that!?” asked the others while Mitotsudaira rewrote Asama’s sign frame.
2. The ghost fleet begins to fire on the vicinity of the Asama Shrine
She went on to think about what she had written.
…Could it be?
“Were they maybe aiming for me?”
“Wouldn’t they aim for you from the beginning in that case?”
“Then why did that enemy suddenly start-”
Asama frantically held her palms out toward her, so she fell silent.
…Oops! I’m not supposed to talk about those ghosts!
Asama continued for her.
“We honestly don’t know why they started attacking you, Mito, but I really don’t think the artillery fire was meant for you. Especially because they weren’t aiming for you from the beginning.”
Come to think of it, that was true. Asama displayed her notes from the time on a sign frame.
“A cannon shot hit behind the shrine, the ghost warriors went boom, and then a ninja(?) ghost attacked Mito like it was somehow her fault. That’s how it played out.”
“Did they think Mitotsudaira-dono had done it?”
“I don’t think they’re that intelligent. These are vengeful spirits, so they act based on grudges.”
Asama paused there, wrinkled her brow, and finally turned toward Mitotsudaira.
“Mito, you didn’t know that ghost in life, did you?”
“I absolutely did not. I don’t know anyone in Totomi.”
“Oh.” Adele raised her hand. “Totomi is east of Mikawa and there was a lot of arguing after the Battle of Okehazama on whether it would go to the Testament Union or P.A. Oda. I think the Testament Union sent an armed trade fleet from Tres Portugal and España here to insist it belonged to them, so do you know anyone from there?”
“Adele-dono, isn’t it highly unlikely a European would be a ninja? Also…”
Mitotsudaira knew what Tenzou was trying to say, so she finished for him.
“I cut all ties to Europe during the fourth grade.”
Mitotsudaira saw everyone come to a stop when they heard that.
She sighed in her heart. My past actions are coming back to bite me here.
Things might have played out differently if her king was here, but he was not.
…I’m such a disgrace.
She had a tendency to make herself look bad but also act like that was perfectly fine.
She was doing it again here.
“Now, Asama. I honestly do not know if I was being targeted, but if anything does happen, I just have to win. So…”
Before she could finish, Asama nodded and smiled at her.
“So once this meeting is over, I will go tell Toori-kun you’re refusing our help and trying to solve this all on your own.”
Hori-ko: “Relying on him here is a low blow.”
Asama: “I-I’m honestly impressed to find you have your limits, Horizon.”
Gold Mar: “I’m not sure this is about having limits.”
Mar-Ga: “This was exactly when I realized going to her king was a good solution with her. A good solution when you need to come up with a scenario for her doujinshis, I mean.”
Silver Wolf: “Really!? That’s your biggest concern!?”
Mitotsudaira found herself unable to move.
…She’ll go to my king?
This was an unexpected reversal.
And it was more effective than she could have imagined.
All of her gloomy feelings were blown away.
She felt pathetic and ashamed, but she could do nothing about it and simply found herself at a loss for words.
The others had frozen up too, but Naito recovered and nodded.
“Yeah, we really should tell To-chan about this.”
“That is correct,” said Hassan. “Only he and curry could solve this one.”
“That goes without saying, right?”
“W-wait, um, I…”
She wanted to avoid causing her king any trouble here.
She held her head in her hands in her head…however that works, but Asama looked oddly satisfied with how this had turned out.
“Okay, we still need to figure out why the ghost fleet was attacking the area behind the shrine. Did they have some good reason for blowing away their fellow ghosts?”
“Heh. Isn’t it obvious!?” shouted Neshinbara. “The weaker ghosts were offered up as sacrifices to power up the ninja ghost! That must have been their plan!”
But Naruze held out a hand to stop him.
“Buzz. Wrong. The ghosts and the cannon blast were made of ether, so they were obliterated before they could be ‘sacrificed’ in any way.”
“Then could it have been an accident?” asked Naito. “But they were still aiming for the area behind the Asama Shrine, right? Asama-chi, is there a concentration of ether pathways back there or something? Something they would be interested in attacking more than the shrine itself.”
“Our ether pathways are concentrated directly below the shrine. So…”
Asama tapped Mitotsudaira’s shoulder and showed her a cross-section diagram of Okutama on a sign frame.
“Can you see it on this?”
Mitotsudaira located the Asama Shrine in its underground atrium on the diagram. If you were going to aim below the shrine from outside…
“If you targeted the area below the shrine from aft, you would hit the area behind the shrine. But this was from Murayama to port, so the shots would have hit to the port of the shrine.”
“Then what were they aiming for?” asked Ohiroshiki. “And what were those ghost warriors pursuing?”
She honestly did not know.
They had been chasing something when her king first spotted them, but they had never seen what.
So they had no way of knowing.
“Asama? And the rest of you too. Are there any records of something leaving the nature district behind the Asama Shrine during the confusion?”
“No, not that I am aware of,” said Tenzou.
“The Asama Shrine did not detect anything like that either,” said Asama.
“In that case,” said Mitotsudaira while rewriting Asama’s sign frame again.
3. Ghost warriors appear near the Asama Shrine and chased after something
She had a question about what she herself had just written.
What was this feeling?
Something about what Ohiroshiki had said felt off to her. He had asked…
“What were they pursuing?”
Mitotsudaira also presented them with another fundamental question.
“How did they appear inside the Musashi’s spell barrier? And so near the Asama Shrine for that matter?”
No one had an answer.
Since Asama did not know, no one else would either.
So in search of a hint, she began focusing on the other information, hoping it would help her home in on what she wanted to know.
They had discovered what the enemy was aiming at, but…
“The more we discover, the less sense it all makes.”
They knew the end result, but they did not know the origin of the ghosts, why the ghosts had done it, how the ghosts had appeared there, or what the ghosts were.
There was just one thing she was almost entirely certain of.
…Something about the result doesn’t sit right with me.
She could see what the enemy had done and what it had resulted it, but the “why” was a mystery.
Why had they done that?
Why had they appeared here?
Not knowing that meant something.
“Knowing their origin could really change how we interpret this,” said Naito. “Because it would tell us more about their nature as ghosts.”
“Judge. The same result would have a different meaning,” said Naruze. “But we can change our interpretation later, so I don’t think we need to worry about that too much right now.”
Everyone agreed with that.
They now had a good grasp of what had happened and of the end result.
“Let’s look back at the sign frame.”
1. The ghost fleet appears to port while docking at Totomi
2. The ghost fleet begins to fire on the vicinity of the Asama Shrine
3. Ghost warriors appear near the Asama Shrine and chased after something
4. The fleet’s bombardment hits the warriors
5. The leader(?) ninja(?) of the warriors attacks Mito
That was the best they could do, but knowing the result of each step meant a lot. And finding some clear questions to answer had to count for something. But…
“Asama, did this help to define the mysteries more clearly?” asked Mitotsudaira.
“Hmm, I just hope we can get to the bottom of this before leaving Totomi.”
Asama crossed her arms and closed the sign frame to signal that the meeting was over.
At the same time, someone appeared at the classroom door.
A man stood with his hand on the door but did not enter the room.
“Oh, are you all here? Hm, not all of you, I see. I just came to peek in and see how you’re doing.”
This was almost the first time Mitotsudaira had heard this voice in person. It belonged to…
Chapter 10: Preparations and Flowers
Is here to see us
Point Allocation (Casual)
Naruze did not know much about Sakai. Well, she knew he was the principal of Musashi Ariadust Academy, he used to be one of the Four Heavenly Kings of Matsudaira, and he had come to Musashi after being demoted seven years ago, and she occasionally heard him making announcements.
But she had never heard him speak in person. Until now.
“Pretty unusual to have a whole class of general education students by the third year. Did you not lose anyone or have them switch classes ever since elementary school?”
“That is correct, Principal Sakai. The provisional government office has put such a focus on the Far East’s Four Occupations and the European class system in recent years that the general education classes have been kept the same from year to year.”
Asama stepped forward to answer and Sakai nodded. And…
“If you stay in general education for high school, you’ll be coming to my school. Any of you planning to do that?”
They exchanged a glance at that question.
This was April of their third year and planning for the next year generally began around July, but Asama nodded.
“I will be going there. As will Mito, right?”
“Eh? Oh, judge! I have a number of duties to perform.”
“If I may be so bold, I plan to do so as well,” added Tenzou.
“Well,” said Naruze after exchanging a nod with Margot. “That’s our plan for now too.”
For the delivery business, they would be better off studying commerce as part of the Four Occupations or going to a vocational school recommended by the delivery guild, but…
“General education provides more opportunities to work on art and hobbies.”
“And we do like our drawings and music.”
“Judge.” Sakai nodded, brought a hand to his chin, groaned in thought, and nodded again. “If you’re looking for some fun in your life, you are most welcome at my school.”
“We Technohexen can be pretty selfish. …But what are you doing here anyway?”
“Well,” he said. “We’re at a bit of a cooling off period now that April has started, so I’m going around to the different middle schools to ask the third years if they plan to attend my school or another school and if they hope to join any of the committees or the Chancellor’s Officers. I do this every year. …Mostly cause I’d lose my job as principal if I didn’t.”
“We won’t be much help there,” said Asama. “Because we’re something of a delinquent class.”
Her tone made it clear she included herself in that description, but the Sakai’s mouth curled up into a smile.
“Nothing wrong with some delinquents. I like them, anyway. Were you aware this class is a bit of an exception even for Musashi?”
“I can think of so many reasons why I’m honestly not sure which one you’re getting at.”
“Sounds about right.” Sakai nodded. And, “Earlier, ‘Musashi’-san – well, the whole Musashino bridge crew really – was complaining about ‘that idiot Toori’ but also how so many of you take time off of school for your jobs and how many of you are VIPs in some way or another.”
“Hm? Isn’t it normal to leave early if you have a job to get to?”
“Mito? That’s only true for vocational schools. This is a general education school.”
“Exactly right.” Sakai smiled again. “This is Torii-sensei’s class, right? Her husband teaches at my school and her daughter is quite the character herself, which may explain how she’s managed to put up with all of you for three years straight. All the other teachers either want nothing to do with you or insist you need to be split up into different classes.”
“I-it hurts that a normal guy like me is lumped together with the rest of you weirdos,” lamented Tenzou.
Everyone glared at him, but then Margot took a breath and asked a question.
“And what did Torii-sensei say about that suggestion?”
Naruze looked to Mitotsudaira.
The wolf shrank down a bit since she felt disconnected from the class without her king around. She still managed to guess at an answer, though.
“If you ask me, splitting us up would only spread the damage around.”
“Exactly what Torii-san said with a smile. And I agree with her, Weiss Hexen-kun.”
Naruze looked a little surprised. She was not in her Technohexen outfit, nor was she holding her broom, so Sakai must have done some preliminary research into them.
“I look forward to having you at my school. I hope I can get to know you all much better.”
He began to search through his pocket and Asama realized what he was doing.
“This is a no smoking zone, Principal Sakai.”
“So should I go smoke in the bathroom?”
“It’s being remodeled thanks to Toori-kun.”
“What has he been getting up to?” Sakai pulled his still-empty hand out with a bitter smile. “Anyway, we recently hired an interesting new teacher, so I am excited to see what things look like around this time next year. Everyone with exceptional artistic or research talent tends to leave the general education schools, so not much changes usually, but next year looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Judge. You know how the Imperial Crown Prince occasionally visits the Musashi to sit in on the classes? Well, he is finally going to join us in a secular life, so over the next few years, he will gradually begin living here on Musashi permanently.”
Everyone turned to Asama because the Imperial Crown Prince was the Emperor’s son and the Emperor was the head of Shinto. However…
“I had only heard rumors,” she said. “This is the first real confirmation I’ve heard.”
“Not too surprising,” said Sakai. “If Shinto handled the process, he would remain under Shinto control and the Far East might try to make use of him, so they’re going out of their way to have the Buddhists handle it. They’re trying to keep the Testament Union happy, but if they have to shove him somewhere,” he gave a toothy grin, “the more trouble the class, the better, right?”
Naruze smiled bitterly at Sakai’s comment.
“If the principal thinks we’re ‘trouble’, then we must be Technohexen-ing right. But I bet you’ve found what the other classes do best and spoken to them too, right?”
This man had called her a Weiss Hexen, so he was bound to have checked out the other classes and students and given them special messages of their own. However…
“It’s best to leave that part unsaid.”
“A simple ‘yes’ would have been a disappointment, but maybe I’m being overly self-conscious here. Sorry about testing you with that question. Did you only stop by to greet us today, Principal Sakai?”
“Yes, just a quick greeting. Since it’s April. You can forget all about this if you have your own ideas on choosing a path for yourself come July. Also.” He looked around the classroom. “The main reason I’m here is you, Asama Shrine Representative. Asama-kun, you said you had some thoughts about last night’s ghosts and whatnot, so you wanted to verify some things, right? Then let me give you this.”
He tossed her a sign frame.
He pushed it with his finger, but it did not fly her way all that accurately. It fell as it flew and Mitotsudaira caught it while it skimmed just off the floor.
Everyone looked at it to see…
“A school uniform?”
“Do any of you specialize in fashion?”
Naruze nearly raised her hand, but she decided she was overestimating herself there. She did look at different nations’ uniforms for drawing her doujinshis, but that was different from understanding the fashion behind them. If anyone in their class had the knowledge, it was the person Asama turned toward.
“Kimi is down for the count right now. Oh, but what is this about, Principal Sakai?”
“Something stood out to me in the evidence you submitted. But it would save me the effort of explaining if you looked into what nation and academy this uniform belongs to.”
“So you’re telling us to do that.”
Asama nodded and saved his sign frame in Kimi’s storage space. She could do that since she managed Kimi and the idiot’s sign frames. Sakai watched her add a comment there, but he soon looked elsewhere.
“Eh? D-do you need something?”
“Judge,” he confirmed. “Tomorrow will be our last day at Totomi, but since you’ll be able to take a ship there, I was hoping you could take this and greet someone for me. You should have enough time if you take off school sometime during the morning.”
He sent her a sign frame containing instructions.
“Totomi’s war memorial?”
Mitotsudaira understood why Sakai had sent that to her.
Because she knew who was buried at Totomi’s war memorial.
“Those killed in the Battle of Okehazama are there, aren’t they? And you want me to leave them flowers?”
“Exactly. It should really be one of the Chancellor’s Officers that does it, but since I wasn’t really part of the battle, it would be a bit much to send one of the Chancellor’s Officers in my place. It wasn’t just the Imagawa forces who suffered casualties then. The Oda forces did as well. And since we’re about to visit some land connected to P.A. Oda, I thought it would be best to send someone.”
Mitotsudaira had a question about that.
“If this is about Oda, who should I leave the flowers for? The local area is still strongly Imagawa, but P.A. Oda is technically in control.”
“Oh,” he said as if he had only just thought of that. Then a sign frame opened next to his face.
It was from “Musashi”. The presence of two of the Musashi’s major names made Mitotsudaira gasp, but “Musashi” bowed before speaking.
“Excuse me. Totomi is technically under P.A. Oda’s management at present. The Battle of Okehazama ended in their victory, so it should be politically sound to defer to them on the reservation. The P.A. Oda defenders of the fort and their advance unit, which included name inheritors, were both wiped out, so it should be safest to leave the flowers for them. Over.”
“Um, when you say ‘wiped out’…?”
“Judge. The Testament referenced the deaths of two name inheritors in the battle, but one of them had a younger brother and used an interpretation to temporarily take that as a double inherited name. The other had no such out, however.”
Mitotsudaira had heard some about Okehazama since its recreation had occurred in recent years.
As a name inheritor, she had been curious about that battle between name inheritors on Matsudaira-connected land.
She had forgotten a lot of it since, but she figured the names would come back to her once she was at the war memorial.
“That about sums it up,” said Sakai. “So are you willing to go as a favor to me, or as a volunteer job?”
“Um, but why Mito, Principal Sakai?” asked Asama with a tilt of the head.
Fortunately, Mitotsudaira herself could explain why she had been chosen for this.
“Because I am Mito Matsudaira. It also helps that I have more freedom since I am considered an ordinary middle school student.” She turned toward Sakai. “Understood. I will leave school during the midmorning tomorrow to visit the war memorial and leave some flowers in your place.”
“Judge. I would really appreciate that.”
With that, Sakai stepped away from the door.
The way he raised a hand in parting made him feel really close to them, but Tenzou spoke up while finally relaxing his shoulders.
“That man has no openings at all. I sometimes see him when up at the academy for training, but he’s far more impressive up close.”
“He certainly is impressive,” agreed Mitotsudaira.
She raised and lightly waved her left hand to show it off.
“He kept his left hand free the whole time we were talking and he leaned his back against the doorframe so he could quickly move out to the hallway or into the classroom at any time.”
“You can really tell he was Chancellor during his time at Mikawa and led the likes of Honda Tadakatsu.”
The pressure you felt when his eyes were on you told you exactly what all his movements meant, so it was a lot to deal with. His stance allowed him to start fighting at any moment if a battle broke out.
“And he did it all so naturally.”
There was always someone better than you out there.
…I have so much left to learn.
She should not have let herself be pushed back by a ghost. But…
A thought occurred to her as she viewed the instructions that Principal Sakai had given her.
…Could I invite my king to accompany me on this?
But that faint hope was shattered by a certain misunderstanding after school that day.
Asama: “Mito! Mito! These are records of the past, not a story where you have to keep the audience’s interest!”
Silver Wolf: “O-oh? Was I doing that again?”
Scarred: “So what happens next?”
Gold Mar: “Since you’re leaning forward in obvious interest there, Ma-yan, I’ll tell you Mito-tsan got a little mad when she saw the Chancellor with another girl.”
Hori-ko: “Where did he find one this time?”
Silver Wolf: “Th-this all worked out in the end, okay? Okay?”
Smoking Girl: “You were the one that phrased it so cryptically to grab people’s attention, so stop freaking out after the fact.”
Wise Sister: “Heh heh. More importantly, it’s my turn to tell the story. Yes, I ran across some truly unexpected trouble back then.”
Silver Wolf: “And I really am sorry about that, Kimi.”
It was not long before school let out for the day.
Kimi was looking for a quiet place to check over the uniform data from Sakai that Asama had given her.
This was an unusual task for her, so she wanted to enjoy it an unusual place.
Instead of her home of Musashino or her mother’s workplace of Tama, she chose…
“Murayama is on the opposite side from where I’m used to, but it’s a surprisingly calm place.”
Murayama and Tama were symmetrically structured, but Tama contained a lot of businesses and thus had plenty of cafes to match. All the starboard ships had that tendency.
That was because the Musashi more often circled the Far East on a clockwise route. They had all learned in elementary school that a clockwise route would place the starboard side along the coast with the port side out at sea. That meant the successful businesses gathered on the starboard side and the nature of the entire ship changed as a result.
Kimi was recalling that old knowledge because she was hoping to make a place for herself here.
…I hope I can find somewhere that serves tea and cakes.
But Murayama had more set meal restaurants than cafes. The snacks seemed to be more along the line of rice crackers and dango even though those were not local specialties or anything like that.
Of course, that was not necessarily a bad thing.
She was not going to focus entirely on work or play here, so she would work and play as much as she could manage with what was available here.
“If they don’t have something, they don’t have it.”
She looked for a café that was tidy, displayed its products on the sign, and had a calming color scheme.
She saw a red, brown, and light yellow color scheme. She took a closer look and found it was a teahouse affiliated with the Asama Shrine.
She took a seat and a girl of high school age took her order in a shrine maiden outfit. Kimi would work part-time at the Asama Shrine sometimes, so she checked over how well the girl was wearing it as she made her order.
“I will have the Spring Plum three-color dango. …What is this Spring New World? Guarana? I was expecting coffee, but that’s much more interesting, so I will take three to give out as gifts. And I will have the orange matcha to drink.”
She sighed after watching the shrine maiden leave.
“Now, then,” she said while opening a sign frame and uncompressing the data from Sakai.
…All I have is a hand-drawn uniform and I have to figure out where it’s from, huh?
Every nation’s uniform went through minor changes every year. The universal options for the hard point parts, the armor’s ease of use, and the improvement of materials were all crucial since that equipment was used by the people fighting on the front lines for that nation. Larger nations would have variations for students deployed to different regions.
She had been given this task to see how well she knew all of that, but…
“They could have just had the automatons run a search. Even without a library of uniform data, they could have gathered enough new data to find the answer.”
Since Sakai was not doing that, he must have intended this as “homework” for their class.
They were in their third year and would be entering high school next year, so they were being tested.
“He must be focusing on how my foolish brother and the others react to this as well.”
The data finished uncompressing and the file opened.
She saw a hand-drawn figure on the sign frame.
In fact, she saw two. They were both male and their uniforms both looked Far Eastern.
One wore an eboshi-style hat. He had armor with attached floats on his chest and hips and the hem and sleeves were cut wide around the arms and legs.
…Is he a sailor? And this looks like an outfit he threw together himself, not a standardized uniform.
The other one wore a hat that hid his face and the ninja-style outfit was kept tight around the arms and legs.
The attached explanation said the first one was one of the ship’s crew and the second one was one of the attackers.
Just thinking about the ghosts from last night made her feel faint.
“Heh heh. You’re not going to make this easy for me, are you? So we have the ghost ship crew and the guy who attacked Mitotsudaira, do we? W-well, this isn’t really about ghosts. It’s more like a fashion design. But…”
As far as she could see, the way they wore the sleeves and hems loose or tight was not a standardized part of the uniform.
These were modified uniforms.
So that’s it, thought Kimi with a smile of realization.
The automatons could have found the answer with a search or by gathering new data if the uniforms were unmodified, but that did not work when an individual or group had modified theirs for a specific purpose.
Automatons had trouble with deviations from the norm.
Humans, on the other hand, could use guesses and predictions to accept those deviations as “more or less correct”.
That was what was needed here.
The Technohexen had attacked the ghost fleet last night and Mitotsudaira had seen the enemy herself. These images must have been made from those people’s witness accounts and the ether fragments gathered up afterwards. That meant these were a montage, not a perfectly accurate reproduction.
In that case, thought Kimi as she viewed the two uniforms.
“Oh, come on.”
“It’s so simple. Where they’re from is right there staring us in the face.”
She started to type out the answer, but…
She saw a very familiar face across the street from her.
It was her brother.
…I thought he would be wandering somewhere after leaving early, but what is he doing here?
She got up and confirmed this really was him. And someone was with him.
“Who is that?”
Kimi saw something she should not have seen.
Mitotsudaira was walking through Murayama after school.
She was on her way home.
She was headed home without having done anything else.
She had nothing to do, but she honestly did not like being emptyhanded at the moment.
…I really wish I could have invited my king to visit Totomi with me tomorrow.
She had considered sending him a divine mail, but…
“It feels wrong for a knight to invite her king out.”
She felt like she needed a good reason for doing that, but she had failed to come up with one. She felt like he would realize her true reasons if she put it to text.
So she had gone to his home on Musashino in the hopes of speaking with him directly instead, but…
“The Main Blue Thunder is closed today.”
Did that mean he had not returned home after leaving early? She was not sure, but she could always invite him to Totomi tomorrow morning.
So she was on her way home. She had a few different homes on the Musashi she could use. The one given to her by Hexagone Française, the one supplied to her by the knight’s league, the room she kept as personal property she managed in the corporate area as a knight, etc. She did not need most of those, but she was currently living in the home she had on Murayama.
That took her to Murayama on the way home. It was not as exciting as Tama, but she found it calming and there was plenty of food available since its warehouse district was used to store most of the ingredients on the starboard side.
“What should I get tonight?”
She could cook for herself, but she generally ordered some ingredients to be delivered and an automaton would arrive at dinnertime to cook for her. That was courtesy of the knight’s league.
She went with her standard order of pork and lamb and ordered some bread as well.
Then she sighed.
She was a known presence in this area and she felt like her wild time in the past was still influencing people’s opinions of her.
She could exchange a nod with the people she passed by, but she had no idea what they actually thought of her. Kimi would probably say she was being overly self-conscious.
She tried to believe that no one held that time against her, but having to force herself to think that meant she still had a long way to go.
…What do they really think?
She walked aimlessly through the city, peeking inside shops, and nodding when her eyes met those of the manager. Every time, she had to wonder if those people really saw her as no different from everyone else. For example…
“Does my king not see me as anything different?”
Realizing what she had just said, she came to a stop.
Mitotsudaira consciously exhaled.
…That can’t possibly be true.
She was saying stuff without really thinking about what it meant.
Nevertheless, she had come to a stop.
Of course, this did not just apply to him. It also applied to Asama, Kimi, Adele, Suzu, Margot, Naruze, Naomasa, Heidi, Tenzou- No, I need to stop thinking so much about this.
Wise Sister: “Heh heh heh. Why did you decide to stop thinking once you got to Tenzou? Because he’s such a background character?”
Silver Wolf: “I-I didn’t know him as well back then, but I also had less of a tolerance for other people back then!”
But, thought Mitotsudaira. Isn’t what I’m fearing here exactly what I so badly wanted back then?
She had wanted to be left alone, but now that thought frightened her.
She could not stand it.
You could live in isolation, but you could not actually live alone. She had tried to claim otherwise and turned her back on that fact, but she had hit her limit in a few years’ time.
…I was so selfish.
She had changed once her king brought her back.
She had not returned to being who she had been before that. She had tried to, but…
Someone had been missing.
That fundamental change had inspired her to follow her king as he broke new ground.
That was a change that would never be shaken so long as she did not lose, but…
“I’m too reliant on him.”
She sighed and noticed the stiffness vanishing from her mouth.
She was essentially using her king to rehabilitate herself, but she still had some concerns.
She feared she had fallen behind the others and she feared she could never recover some of what she had lost.
“My king is the same, isn’t he?”
She had noticed that her king had fallen behind just like she had.
Asama and Kimi had probably noticed that as well.
He was trying to figure out what he should do as a king.
The term “suspended sentence” came to mind.
When would her king begin to act like a king? Knowing him, it could all of a sudden start tomorrow or it could be a long way off.
…I must protect him and clear a path for him until that day comes.
So what should she do now?
She did not know.
She considered going to the knight’s league and working there as their first ranked knight, but that did not seem right as her king’s knight. That would merely provide her with a workplace.
So what course of action was right for her?
…How can I find that?
Her thoughts were interrupted when she saw someone.
“Kimi? Why is she collapsed in front of a teahouse?”
It was an Asama Shrine affiliated teahouse that doubled as a shrine contract office. The shrine maiden waitress out front was in a tizzy.
“Oh, um…Mito Lord! Kimi-sama here is a friend of yours, isn’t she!? Please say yes!”
How did she get an older girl to call her “sama”?
Wise Sister: “Heh heh heh. You want to know how? You do, don’t you? Then I shall tell you. Heh heh heh. By living a life worthy of the honorific!”
Silver Wolf: “If there’s one thing I know, it was not something you earned through hard work and honest effort!”
Hori-ko: “Are you taking notes, Asama-sama!?”
Asama: “I probably should be. So I can be ready to stop her next time.”
Unturning: “I feel like I’m watching two different conversations here.”
At any rate, Mitotsudaira looked over at Kimi collapsed in front of the teahouse.
For some reason, that crazy girl was collapsed in a pose with her hands pushing up her breasts. A tray lay by her head and it had something written on it in orange-smelling tea.
“Is that supposed to be a dying message?”
There were 5 letters of the alphabet there, so Mitotsudaira read them with an English pronunciation.
“B – O – O – B – S.”
She wordlessly took the dangos from the tray and handed the tray to the shrine maiden waitress while eating the entire skewer of dangos at once.
…How is her entire life a joke?
She had just been getting some good thinking done when this girl provided a rude awakening, dragging her back to reality.
Come to think of it, I’m always thankful when my king does that for me, but I always feel defeated when Kimi does it. Why is that? Is it the boobs?
But then she sensed another scent beyond the sweetness of the dangos.
It came from across the road and a bit aft.
There he was. And he was not alone.
He had a girl with him.
He was smiling and walking with a girl she did not recognize.
The unexpected sight made her freeze in place while Horizon removed the shrine contract office’s door and poked her head out from behind it.
Silver Wolf: “Don’t say you were there when you weren’t!”
Hori-ko: “I apologize, but sometimes I cannot contain myself until I do my bit.”
Wise Sister: “Heh heh heh. I think you need to return my dangos, Mitotsudaira. C’mon! Do it! We can do it mouth-to-mouth if you like! Or will they only come from the butt!? Is there a divine punishment for dangos from the ass now!?”
Marube-ya: “Nooooooooooo! Don’t remind meeeeeeeeeeeee!”
Righteousness: “I swear you people have only gotten louder now that it’s past midnight.”
Mitotsudaira quickly hid inside the shrine contract office.
She had no real reason to do so, but…
He was walking with an unfamiliar girl.
She was European in what appeared to be a modified Tres Españan uniform. She may have been from Tres Portugal. She had brown hair and her chest was decently large. Decently large. Decently large.
…Wh-what is wrong with me? I keep focusing on that of late.
The two of them could not see her, so they walked right on past.
After they left without noticing her…
She felt a horribly heavy feeling of loss deep in her gut.
She honestly felt somehow frustrated.
“I-I should have known.”
She felt like she was always with him and even wondered at times if she was being a nuisance, but he still did have his own life outside of that. But even so…
“Does Horizon mean nothing to you?”
They had chosen to remember the past but to leave it in the past as they continued forward, but this made her feel like her king had moved on ahead of her while she was still stuck back at the starting line.
This is a bad habit of mine, she realized.
When doubts occurred to her, she would fail to actually see if they were true and instead keep them rolling around in her mind until she accepted them as fact. She always ended up acting like the victim because of that vicious cycle where the thoughts spun around and round in her head.
“My relationship with my king is still there.”
They had spent a lot of time together for more than a year now and that had forced her to think about things differently. Asama, Kimi, and so many others were there too, but…
Gold Mar: “Now all the rest of us are just ‘so many others’?”
Mar-Ga: “I can’t believe I’ve fallen so far I can be lumped in together with Tenzou.”
Scarred: “Oh, but that means she puts me in the same category as Master Tenzou.”
Silver Wolf: “How are your demands more complicated when I try to simplify things!?”
Given the time she and her king had spent together, she had thought there was no room for anyone else there.
That might change in the future when she could act more independently and he was free to do what he wanted, but they were not at that stage yet.
…Then who is that girl?
She did not know, but…
“My king must have his reasons.”
“Um, Mito, there’s such a thing as being too accepting.”
“How am I hearing you when you aren’t here right now, Asama? Also, you tend to be that way too. You’re just not aware of it, which seems worse.”
“How odd. Why am I being lectured when I’m not even there?”
Anyway, Mitotsudaira shook off Asama’s phantom voice and began thinking.
My king must have a good reason for this.
Yes, maybe he’s started a job as a Musashi tour guide.
Or maybe he’s started a job of hitting on girls.
Or maybe he’s started a job of dating girls.
…What kind of job is that!?
Well, that kind of job might actually exist, but you weren’t allowed to work them if you were a minor. It all seemed indecent to her knight’s sensibilities, but…
…What is going on here?
She wanted to ask, but that was not an option. He was with someone, so…
“That would never end peacefully.”
She pictured a truly horrifying scene. It might make sense for a knight to get after her king for skipping out on his duties to pick up girls, but anyone else would simply see it as a lover’s spat. She was not sure she could survive that and she felt like she would lose to that other girl’s boobs anyway. Maybe Kimi’s dying message was more on point than I thought.
“Heh heh heh. Feeling shaken? You are, aren’t you?”
“Kimi, you’re lying unconscious over there, so I must be hearing things right now!”
But there was nothing she could do. So, she decided while taking a breath.
“I can just ask him about it tomorrow morning at school.”
That girl would not be with him at school.
I’m probably misunderstanding this or overthinking it, she decided while looking up into the sky.
The ghost fleet had appeared in that evening sky yesterday, but it was peaceful now.
She spoke to herself while viewing that expanse of scarlet fading into purple.
“If only everything from yesterday had only been a dream.”
That night, Mitotsudaira received a divine mail from her king while she was combing her hair before bed.
He often sent her messages, but not at this hour. Curious, she checked it.
“Nate. There’s someone I want you to meet tomorrow, so can you clear some time in your schedule? You can tell me tomorrow at school when’s a good time.”
She gasped at the words she saw written there.
“Someone he wants me to meet? Could it be that girl from this evening?”
She could tell her face had gone pale, so she went to her kitchen and cooked some meat to replenish her blood. She ate a lot. I can see why they say meat is nature’s sedative. Wait, no one says that.
“You’re really weird.”
Shut up, phantom Naruze.
Chapter 11: Misunderstanding and Point of View
And you lose
Accept it as normal
And you win
Point Allocation (Get Used to It)
In their classroom the following morning, Asama and the others were discussing the news that Mitotsudaira was going to be late after eating too much last night.
“Yeah, the next morning is rough when you eat nothing but meat.”
“She needs to at least get plenty of water.”
“I seem to recall Mito saying something incredible about chicken counting as a drink.”
Toori arrived while they discussed it.
As usual, he was not carrying anything with him, but he took a look around classroom and asked a question.
“Huh? Where’s Nate?”
“She is pooping, Toori-sama,” said Horizon.
“That was a phantom voice, Toori-kun,” said Asama.
“Oh? You don’t poop, Asama?” asked Kimi. “Are you sure about that?”
“That too was a phantom voice, Toori-kun. And shrine maidens don’t poop.”
“Tomo! Tomo! Are you still half asleep!?” asked Mito. “You’re not making any sense!”
“That was yet another phantom voice, Toori-kun. …Anyway, to move things along, Mito will apparently be along after second period. And shortly after that, she has to leave on that errand Ariadust Academy Principal Sakai gave her. …Oh, come to think of it, you weren’t here for that yesterday, were you? Principal Sakai asked Mito to go down to Totomi and visit the war memorial there.”
“Did he?” He nodded a few times. “That’s a shame. There’s someone I was hoping she could meet.”
“She should be back by the time school lets out.”
“Then I’ll wait till then. Oh, and I want you to meet them too, Asama.”
“Sure, I guess.” Asama nodded, watched him take his seat, and then remembered her own task.
“Toori-kun, one other thing. Have you helped out Mito yet?”
“You mean that thing you mentioned the day before yesterday?”
“Yes.” She raised her eyebrows a bit. “This is a very important issue for her, so you should probably get it done sooner rather than later. Yes.”
Mitotsudaira enjoyed a very fulfilling morning.
She had made a serious mistake last night. Stoically cooking up and eating meat out of stress was a very bad idea for a middle school girl. Worse, she had eaten three whole kilograms of it. Even worse, she had cooked it all the same and used the same sauce for it all. She really wished she had used salt or miso for more variety. She especially wished that now that her entire home smelled of the sauce this morning. Drawn to the kitchen by that smell, she had found the leftover meat sitting out instead of stored in her simple ice room.
What choice do I have but to eat it all now?
So in order to avoid facing reality at the moment, she had eaten even more meat in the morning as something similar to hair of the dog. That was a nice bread breakfast. Because pork is the bread of the meat world.
After filling her stomach, she prepared for the day as usual.
“Mitotsudaira-sama, is that a euphemism for using the bathroom?”
I’ve been hearing a lot of phantom voices recently.
She was running late for school, but she had already notified them. She decided to not act ashamed and boldly arrived at school just when second period was ending.
A short break had begun, so she would have time to greet everyone before leaving on Principal Sakai’s errand. And if possible, she wanted to invite him along with her.
She knew courage was what mattered here, but she also wanted to have a righteous purpose for that courage.
She had to ask her king about the divine mail that led to her meat bender last night. If not for that, she could have avoided that one-girl meat party.
But she also felt like her werewolf side made her bolder when she had just eaten a bunch, so she could ask her king what she needed to ask him. Or she felt like she could. She at least felt like it. Maybe it is only just a feeling…
“B-but even if it is!”
She psyched herself up and slid open the classroom door.
“Good day, everyone.”
She put on as big a smile as she could muster and spoke as cheerfully as she could manage. Immediately she heard the sound of the sliding door crash into its frame and the entire wooden classroom shook.
Oh, no, she realized.
Slamming the door open with a smile makes me look like I’m brimming with hidden anger.
Adele used her shortness to view the others without having to duck down.
“Um, that sounded bad. I mean, did she hear what we were saying?”
“Yeah, we were getting a little carried away with the Mito-tsan poop jokes,” said Naito.
“In my defense, I think it’s wrong to discuss those things behind someone’s back.”
“We’d just say the same things in front of her, so does it really matter?”
There was something wrong with them since she could only agree with that.
“This just means we need to prepare for what’s coming. Yes,” said Asama. “Is anyone here brave enough to ask Mito if she managed to use the bathroom this morning?”
“Why do the girls in our class always ask for the impossible?” protested Tenzou.
A stir ran through the class, but Mitotsudaira remained motionless after slamming open the door with a smile.
The idiot suddenly stepped forward in that tense atmosphere.
“Nate! You have something to ask me, don’t you!?”
Mitotsudaira accepted his vocal counterattack from head on.
…S-something to ask him?
Was this about last night’s email, or about that girl from yesterday?
In both cases, she had intended to initiate the conversation herself to crank up the pressure of her question, but this shattered what resolve she had built up.
“U-um, well, I…”
“Judge.” He gave a serious nod and raised his hands on either side. “You wanted a massage from me, didn’t you?”
Oh, she said quietly on the inside.
After school three days ago, she had indeed discussed that with Asama while waiting for him. She had considered it would be a good idea to get “massaged” by the harshness of a masculine society.
Asama had been terribly worried for her back then.
She must have asked him to give her some help there.
…Is he going to give me some social experience?
He would still have a lot let to learn himself, but he knew a lot of people and he did a lot of work at the Main Blue Thunder which was built into their home.
And she would be most comfortable if it was with him. So…
“Yes, I would love to be ‘massaged’ by you, my king!”
That sent a stir through the others.
“She actually said it!”
Mitotsudaira was a little disturbed by how weirdly excited everyone was.
Tenzou looked left and right and then raised his hand.
“T-Toori-dono! You aren’t going to do it right here, are you!?”
“Hey, I might as well get the first session done here. That okay with you, Nate?”
This was a place of learning, so it was the perfect location to be taught the rules of the workplace and society. And the perfect teacher for her was right there. If she did not understand something, she could just ask him. So…
“Judge! I have no objection to that! Bring it on!” She slapped her own chest. “Give me a good ‘massaging’ and make a proper woman out of me.”
Another stir ran through the class.
“She said it again!”
Mitotsudaira was again disturbed by how weirdly excited but also somehow worried everyone was.
“Um, what are you all so worried about?”
“Now, now. Calm down, Nate. …Okay, here goes.”
Her king raised his hands as if preparing to place them on her shoulders. She tensed up in preparation and he nodded.
“Okay, breathe in…and out. Good, good, good. Breathe in…and stop.”
What is this about? she wondered.
Then she felt a total of ten fingers on her chest.
It was her king’s hands.
Naito saw the idiot move while all other movement had ground to a halt.
Mitotsudaira was blushing and frozen in place, but the idiot pushed his hands into her chest and leaned some of his weight into it.
“Grow, grow, growwww! Grow, grow, growwww! …There, that should do it.”
After a final, stronger push, he straightened back up, wiped sweat from his brow, and gave her a thumbs up.
“I used a Shinto Kotodama prayer, so that should’ve had some effect. Let’s keep working at this together, Nate!”
“Why would you do that in front of everyone!?”
Naito saw her make a full rotation and strike the idiot with a backhand blow.
Her only thought: Wow, look at him fly.
“Y-you don’t understand a thing, do you!? I can’t believe you!”
Adele watched as a blushing Mitotsudaira held her chest and started to run from the classroom.
Meanwhile, the idiot had already crashed through the desks to fly to the back of the classroom. He broke some of the lockers there, but that happened a lot. Noriki would probably fix them without a word. No one would even ask him. They all knew he would do it without being asked.
The sliding door slammed shut and silence hung over the class. Except for Asama who opened a sign frame.
“Um, Mito? I’ve already arranged the ship to take you on Principal Sakai’s errand. Yes, it will pick you up directly from Musashino’s rear deck.”
“Not much fazes you, Asama-san!” said Adele.
“Giving her some time and letting it fester is the wrong move. Shinto purification is all about eliminating that sort of stagnation.” Asama placed a hand on her chin. “But I think the problem here was Toori-kun saying the ‘grow, grow, growwww!’ part out loud in front of everyone.”
“Preeeeetty sure that wasn’t the main problem,” said Naito.
Adele had to agree.
Gold Mar: “Honestly, I feel like a similar scenario keeps playing out every once in a while.”
Silver Wolf: “And I feel like I’m the victim every single time!”
Mar-Ga: “So, Mitotsudaira, does this mean you don’t want to correct that?”
Silver Wolf: “Correct what?”
Scarred: “In Lady Naito’s flashback, your main issue was that he did it ‘in front of everyone’.”
Asama: “Oh, these records are locked once the next person’s flashback is complete, so if you do want to make a correction to that one, you’ll have to submit a request after this has been submitted.”
Silver Wolf: “Th-that is a minor issue of nuance, so it does not need to be corrected.”
I can’t believe him. I just can’t believe him.
Time seemed to fly while Mitotsudaira grumbled in her heart.
It was just before noon by the time she received the flowers and arrived on Musashino’s rear deck.
Descending to the landport and heading to Totomi from there would mean being caught up in the loading and unloading of cargo. The wagons clogging up the roads would make that dangerous, so she was taking a ship directly to Totomi.
The transport ships had a lot of high school students onboard them. There were apparently some Committee Heads and officers on one of the ships, but they would be on their way to a negotiation. She even heard some musical instruments playing from a distant ship, so it was a lively scene. Her ship was taking some time loading all of its cargo, but it would apparently leave by one.
She stood alone on the deck.
“I can’t believe him.”
She had no idea how many times she had said that today, but for now she opened the instructions from Sakai.
“Leaving flowers at a cemetery feels awfully lonely on your own.”
Chapter 12: RIP and Pride
People’s hearts come to rest here
Do souls also come to rest here?
Point Allocation (A Crossing of Paths)
The classroom failed to remain calm during the period before lunch.
There were a number of reasons – growing bored with the class itself, growing hungry with lunch approaching, growing tired, etc. – but Asama had a somewhat different reason.
…I need to make sure the departure process at 5 goes smoothly.
She wanted to be ready in case anything happened like when they arrived.
So in addition to the ordinary departure procedure and arrangements, she rearranged the spell field in the vicinity of the Asama Shrine. She added in an anti-ghost spell and strengthened it as a whole, but…
…I feel like this isn’t right.
She had reason to question if strengthening it was the correct choice.
3. Ghost warriors appear near the Asama Shrine and chased after something
Those ghost warriors had suddenly appeared behind the Asama Shrine.
Of course, the actual grounds of the Asama Shrine and the nature district behind it were not strictly the same thing. The spell field protecting the former was not fully applied to the latter. However…
…Would they still be able to appear there?
She guessed there was some kind of trick to it. A trick that took advantage of a hole in the Asama Shrine’s spell field or their ether defense system.
“It’s probably something simple.”
She unintentionally spoke out loud and quickly looked around to see if anyone noticed. They were in the middle of math class and the problem on the blackboard was the anything but simple.
The teacher had not noticed her comment, but Suzu was looking her way from the desk by the wall. She used her finger to write on a sign frame.
“No one noticed.”
I can trust Suzu-san, decided Asama.
Anyway, the trick was probably something simple. After all, the ghosts who had appeared had almost nothing resembling intelligence, so it was hard to imagine them coming up with a plan or setting anything up.
…Then what is it? Is there really a hole in our shrine’s security?
She did not know. She did not want to think there was a hole in the system she had inherited from her father, but he could be pretty careless and she would sometimes find things that made her think “Wait, how long has it been like this!?”
Besides, they docked at Totomi every year, so why just this year?
Where were those ghosts from? If she had to guess…
…The most recent possibility would probably be the Battle of Okehazama.
But even if that were the case, why just this year? There had to be some special condition they had met this year.
She considered what had happened to Musashi over the past year and there were too many things to list. But if she was going to limit it to Totomi…
…Is it because we changed our course to the north?
They had held meetings and made plans for that change in advance. Totomi’s shrines would have changed their previously western-facing leyline pathways to face north in order to avoid any effect on the ley lines when the Musashi docked and departed. And since they had a connection to Fuji’s Asama Okumiya to the north…
Asama sensed things fitting together weirdly well.
What is this? wondered Asama. She focused on the route change and the corresponding ley line pathway modifications. And…
…The ghosts of Okehazama?
What’s the connection there? she wondered when a sign frame suddenly appeared next to her.
It was from Kimi. It showed two sketches of uniforms, which were the ones she had been given by Sakai.
“Heh heh. This is kind of fascinating and I don’t quite understand it,” said Kimi’s divine mail. “Because the crew of the initial ghost ships were from the Imagawa clan.”
“The ghosts who attacked you all were P.A. Oda,” she continued. “That means there were two groups of ghosts there.”
“Do you know what that means?” asked Kimi on the divine mail to Asama. “The ghosts on the ships were equipped for serving on an aerial ship, but their hats were eboshi-style. The hats were short, but the shape of the brim and probably the number of ingots indicating rank were the Imperial Court style. The large cut of the sleeves and the kariginu-style also point toward Imagawa since they had a close connection to the Imperial Court.”
“The ghosts who attacked you appeared to have tightly bound sleeves and tight-cut uniforms, but they only looked that way due to their poor resolution as ghosts. Their overall silhouette suggests they were wearing P.A. Oda track suit uniforms. And with only Far Eastern hard point parts attached.”
“Then was that not really a ninja?”
“It might have been one, but it could also have been someone with a turban-style hat who happened to look like a ninja due to their poor resolution as a ghost.”
Of course, there were also times when people used non-ninja clothing to make themselves look like a ninja.
“K-Kimi-dono, why are you glaring at me?” asked Tenzou.
Take a look in the mirror and you’ll see, she thought, but she also had something else to tell Asama.
“Well, that’s about all I have to say. Heh heh. Just imagining this was too much for me, so I think it’s high time I passed out. Also…my foolish brother said he had something to discuss with you, so I wonder what that’s about.”
Yes. She took a look behind her while collapsing onto her desk, but her brother was not in his usual seat in the back row by the window.
Where had he gone?
Hori-ko: “Is that boy out wandering around with another girl again?”
Silver Wolf: “Horizon! Horizon! No weapons!”
Gold Mar: “You should probably ban anything barehanded too.”
Asama: “Anyway, the clues have been scattered around, so the answer was coming into focus amid all the turmoil. Now, can we solve the mystery and reach a peaceful resolution while still in middle school? Peaceful sounds like pushing it, so maybe we should just hope for any kind of resolution at all. Tune in next time for The Wolf’s Barking Arrival.”
Silver Wolf: “Don’t insert a next episode preview when we aren’t even at a pause in the story!”
“Given the time, I can’t stay for long.”
Down on the surface, the ground was not as hard as the Musashi’s deck, but you could still feel it pushing up at your feet.
The orange of evening was already entering the sky by the time Mitotsudaira arrived at her destination.
The Okehazama War Memorial was a large cemetery built on a western Totomi hill.
The actual battlefield had been further west, but that land was considered inviolable now. So here…
“They have gravestones bearing their names and a simple shrine to give it meaning.”
The shrine proved the existence of the deceased’s names via Kotodama.
So after passing through the cemetery’s torii entrance, she first came across the shrine building with a small patch of woods behind it. To the side, a single stone monument stood atop a large storehouse as a monument to victory at Okehazama.
The storehouse likely contained the items won during the battle. In other words…
…Totomi belongs to P.A. Oda as well.
When she visited the shrine for a greeting, a shrine maiden came out to meet her. Word of her visit must have been sent ahead because Totomi’s Student Council had been notified.
Then she visited the actual cemetery to leave the flowers. First, she synced her sign frame with the torii-style information station next to the shrine and opened the provided cemetery information.
“Good morning or good day! Thank you tons for your visit! I, Okehaza-Man, shall be your guide!”
The guide in full-body tights led her along the top of a hill bordering the ocean. The shrine was at the peak and the gravestones were lined up along the slope.
They continued a long way toward the ocean far to the west until a dark-looking forest got in the way.
There were a lot of them. Because…
“Imagawa lost around 5000 at Okehazama.”
She noticed something about the war memorial as she walked through it. The Oda clan dead were at the top and the Imagawa clan dead were at the bottom. The front area was filled with stone monuments to those who had gone missing. What this meant was obvious.
…Oda was the winner, Imagawa was destroyed, and those who might still live won’t be categorized yet.
The distinctions between winner and loser and between living and dead were made clear at this war memorial.
And she noticed something out of place among the stone monuments for the missing.
One of them was shaped like a cross.
Mitotsudaira recalled that both the Testament Union and P.A. Oda had been after this Imagawa land.
After Imagawa’s destruction, it had been made into inviolable land, yet here there was a Catholic-style cross.
The Far Eastern name felt out of place carved into the stone cross, so she opened a sign frame.
She was familiar with the Asahina clan. They had been split into two clans while serving first Imagawa, then Takeda, and finally Matsudaira. But she was not familiar with Mototomo, so she performed a search for…
<Okehaza-Man Search: One of Imagawa Yoshimoto’s most trusted retainers. The ‘moto’ in his name was given to him by Yoshimoto! He went missing after participating in the Battle of Okehazama!>
Mitotsudaira was pretty sure she knew what this was about.
“They must have been sent here by the Testament Union like I was sent to Musashi.”
Since they were considered missing after the fall of Imagawa, they could use an interpretation to say their inherited name had ended its recreation or to say it had not.
…But I think I know what they actually did.
“This land has been made inviolable.”
They were most likely no longer among the living.
That meant Asahina Mototomo had been at the mercy of the changing world just like so many others.
Mitotsudaira wished they had been able to hide somewhere and find some other life for themselves.
The wolf bowed toward someone so much like herself before moving on to the cemetery proper.
Her sign frame read off an explanation.
“It’s said the Oda clan suffered light losses, but a few of their commander-level name inheritors lost their lives! Those gravestones are lined up close to the shrine’s west side!”
She decided to check out those closer gravestones. She hoped she would have something she could report back to Sakai about once she returned.
She viewed the rows of gravestones and walked west.
There were about a hundred years in between the time of Okehazama and the period when her own inherited name was active.
Even when looking at the name inheritors who made up the main force of Musashi and the other nations, there was still a fifty year gap.
That was probably because P.A. Oda had been so slow with the Oda clan’s history recreation. She had heard that had led to a lot of elderly name inheritors participating on the Oda side of Okehazama.
She barely recognized any of the names listed on the gravestones, but she did recognize a lot of the clan names. The name inheritors of their descendants or bloodlines were already active in her generation. And…
There were a fair amount of gravestones for commanders, but one of them was positioned higher than the rest. That would be someone who had fought especially hard or was more well known. Three stone steps were crudely built to surround the rising hill and the gravestone at the top read…
Wise Sister: “Tiiiiime! Time out! I need to slip out for a pee break! But listen! Make sure you’ve finished all the ghost talk before I get back!”
Asama: “Um, Kimi, we haven’t gotten to the ghosts yet, so you’re fine.”
Wise Sister: “Yet!? You mean you are getting to them, don’t you!? You’re trying to spring them on me when I least suspect it so you can see me piss myself like a certain cute wolf I could mention, aren’t you?”
Asama: “No, I would really rather not see that.”
Vice President: “I’m pretty sure you don’t have to take her questions seriously when she gets like this.”
Silver Wolf: “To be clear, I have never done that!”
Imagawa land still had a connection to Matsudaira.
That may have been why Mitotsudaira recognized the name Senshu Shirou as one of the dead from Okehazama.
At the time, it had been announced on the news. Because…
…I remember now. The Senshu clan had a shrine connection.
She did not even need to run a search. The history and origin of the deceased was displayed next to the gravestone.
The information there matched her memories.
“The high priest of the Atsuta Shrine.”
Atsuta was a shrine to a warrior god in Mikawa. They had a close connection to swords, so Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, one of the Imperial Regalia, was stored there. In fact, the shrine had supposedly been built for that purpose. As for Senshu Shirou…
“He formed a defensive line ahead of the Battle of Okehazama, but when Nobunaga approached to assist them, he and Sassa Masatsugu moved out ahead to attack the main Imagawa force.”
“Rushing to the front line prove to be a poor choice and he was killed in an Imagawa counterattack.”
She had no way of seeing if that was what had really happened during the history recreation. But…
“He must have been the name inheritor who Principal Sakai said died in their advance unit. Which is why the Battle of Okehazama was not a complete victory for Oda. They too lost someone.”
Just as Sakai had explained in the classroom the day before, the main Imagawa force’s attack had done considerable damage to the Oda fortress. Members of the Sakuma and Iio clans and members of the Oda bloodline had died in that initial skirmish. Senshu Shirou had been positioned above all those others because…
“He had his position at the Atsuta Shrine.”
The Okehazama records said Nobunaga had visited Mikawa’s Atsuta Shrine to pray for victory.
Had those serving Senshu Shirou been relieved when the very top of their force had prayed to him as the high priest?
She had vaguely remembered the name because of how important a presence the Atsuta Shrine was in Mikawa. The next generation of the Senshu clan served as the Atsuta Shrine’s high priest now and she occasionally saw him over spells and divine protections since that was a combat-focused shrine.
…Shinto has a lot of connections between the gods.
She noticed something when she placed a flower in front of the gravestone and looked up.
A piece at the top of the gravestone was missing.
It was a diagonal piece, like it had been gouged out with a claw. The broken piece was lying down below.
The break looked fresh because it was not colored by moss or mold. The suggested recency made her look around because…
…I-I didn’t do it!
No one was around. I’m safe. No, I was always safe. But…
She arrived at a sudden conclusion.
A conclusion about everything: the ghost fleet, the ghost warriors, her king’s actions – everything.
In that instant, everything clicked into place for her and she understood.
“Could it be?”
A diagram of the truth rapidly formed in Mitotsudaira’s head. The thought brought a tremor to her right hand as she picked up the broken piece of the gravestone.
It was a light stone and she slowly lifted it up before placing it atop the gravestone.
It fit perfectly. Of course it did. That was where it had come from. But she did not remove her hand from the gravestone. She shifted her fingers somewhat to touch the seam of the broken part.
“It must be!”
She inhaled, turned away from the gravestone, and took off running.
On the way, she confirmed Asahina Mototomo’s name on the cross-shaped stone monument for a missing warrior.
The wolf rushed.
She kept her back to the sun sinking in the west as she approached the shrine at the cemetery entrance. The cemetery probably closed once night fell because the shrine maiden was tidying things up at the shrine entrance.
She gave a quick greeting and the shrine maiden raised her eyebrows.
“Why are you in such a hurry?”
“Um,” she said before taking a breath. She looked up at the shrine’s sign hanging from its eaves but asked anyway. “What main shrine is this one affiliated with?”
The shrine maiden smiled a little.
“Well.” She nodded. “With the Asama Shrine.”
Mitotsudaira was struck speechless.
“You’re really playing this up.”
Shut up, phantom Naruze. But…
…There’s no mistaking it now.
That confirmed the connections she had suspected. If this was an Asama shrine, then it was all literally “connected”.
The shrine maiden explained while rolling up the teahouse flag.
“Asama Okumiya can be reached via ley line from here and both Imagawa and Oda would worship at Asama. In fact, Imagawa even held Lord Yoshimoto’s coming-of-age ceremony at Asama.”
Wow, this is getting lengthy. Mitotsudaira learned anew that shrine maidens liked to talk a lot, but this had confirmed what she wanted to know.
Her suspicions were right. However…
…I need something else.
She had to have something with her from now on. So…
“Excuse me, but do you have a transport ship I can use?”
“Sorry, but no.”
The shrine maiden spread her mouth horizontally, but she did not ask why. Probably because Mitotsudaira was here on Sakai’s behalf. But…
…What do I do now?
She thought she could solve all of this, but she needed a transport ship and she lacked the connections to get one. Who could she ask?
He would not be here, but she called for him nevertheless.
“Hm? You need something, Nate?”
Nevertheless, he stepped out of the shrine with tea and dumplings in hand.
“W-wait, what are you doing here!?”
“Well, you seemed like you had something to tell me, right? But, y’know, you seemed kinda mad and I decided to wait until you’d settled down some. So I sent Asama a divine mail about it and stowed away on your transport ship.”
“Stowed away…” she muttered, but it was true the cargo had been delayed before the ship left.
But now was not the time to worry about that. Also…
“Oh? Is the Musashi leaving port?”
The disturbed air to the northwest reached them all the way here. The noise was coming from the mountains, but it sounded like crashing waves.
That was the sound of the virtual ocean that surrounded the Musashi before it left port. A standard departure like this kept the power down low, so the large-area virtual ocean would be deployed gradually.
The sound it made was of waves crashing but not receding.
It would take about an hour to depart like that. If they were to return in time, they had to leave now for Totomi’s port and board a transport ship back to the Musashi. However…
“My king, do you know of any transport ships that can come to us here?”
“Unfortunately, I don’t have a ship hidden in my back pocket. …Could you call in the one meant to take you back to the Musashi?”
“That would be an option since it would shorten the time needed to get back, but it is loaded with cargo for the Student Council, Committees, and Chancellor’s Officers. And there is something I want to transport back to the Musashi.”
“In that case,” he said while opening a sign frame. “Asama, can you ask your dad to send out an Asama Shrine transport ship? You can’t? They’re being used for trade too? You really can’t? For really reals? See, Nate wants to use one for something. Yeah. Then you have no choice? Yeah, I guess you don’t, huh? Yeah. Just this once? Yeah. You can manage it if you send something else to take its place? Ohh, you’re the best, Asama. Yeah. Flattery won’t get me anywhere? Yeah.”
Asama, you spoil him too much! And why can I tell exactly what she’s saying at each step of the way? Anyway, her king closed the sign frame, and…
“Okay, she’s sending out a replacement, so there’s nothing to worry about. Nate, you write up what you want done and send Asama instructions. But…”
He took her hand.
His hand was soft and somewhat damp and cold, but there was definite strength in his grip.
“We’ve gotta get back to the port real fast and I’ve gotta hide in with the cargo, so let’s get going.”
He pulled on her hand and began to run. She had to wonder why he was keeping her from using her hand after telling her to write up instructions, but she could only smile bitterly about it.
She had spoken that word in her heart so many times of late, but it did not come from anger this time.
“Judge. We need to hurry, my king.”
Both of them were slow runners. Even when they hurried, she felt like they moved as fast as the others walked.
She bowed toward the shrine behind her even though its lights were off now and then she began to run.
Once word arrived that the transport ship carrying Mitotsudaira was on its way to the Musashi, Naito and Naruze left to go meet it.
They flew up into the sky where the orange of sunset was fading into the darkness of night.
They were flying higher than usual on their brooms. They were past the area around the ship allowed for the delivery business, so they could look down and see the entire Musashi below them. And…
“We’re at the necessary altitude. Linking with the Musashi’s buffering spell. Confirming cruising spell. All green.”
Naito went through the procedure and the word “approved” appeared from Musashi on her Magie Figur.
Naruze shrugged and smiled while doing the same next to her.
“We fly up this high during the vertical ascent races all the time. This makes me feel like an amateur.”
“But we just discovered how much of a pain it is to ascend at low speed, didn’t we?”
“Yeah, because we have to ‘ride’ the buffering spell instead of breaking through it. But…”
Lights were coming on across the Musashi below them. The ship was preparing for the night. The city lights began toward the stern of the Musashi as it turned.
As delivery worker trainees, they only had limited approval to fly in between the Musashi’s ships, so they would normally never see anything like this. Except…
“I can’t believe we were given pilot duty to guide the ship in through the spell field. We probably have Asama-chi’s recommendation to thank for that, but we also have to thank Almirante for being so understanding.”
“But we have to guide it all the way back to the Asama Shrine, so this is kind of a pain. The Musashi is turning from west to north while ascending and the transport ship is arriving from the southwest. And then Mitotsudaira has to descend from there. Well, she’ll have a descent spell for that, so we don’t have to worry about it. Also…”
Naruze trailed off and Naito saw the lights of a transport ship arriving from the southwest.
“There it is.”
“And we’re in place too,” said Naruze without looking her way.
Her eyes were on the southeastern sky where they could see all the way to the horizon over the ocean. And at a certain altitude above that…
“Those aren’t the lights of fishing boats, are they? …It must be the ghost fleet. They’re rising to match the Musashi’s ascent.”
At 6:17 PM, the Musashi was ascending and turning to prepare for its northern route away from Totomi when the ghost fleet opened fire from the southeast.
Adele and the others were deployed to the stern of Takao, Musashi’s 3rd starboard ship, since the attacks were concentrated there this time. She watched the defense barriers shatter as they blocked the cannon fire.
“Now, what’s going to happen this time!?”
The enemy continued to fire from close range and their appearance was gradually growing more distinct.
The Musashi began moving north while still at low altitude. It looked like they were trying to avoid the cannon fire, but the enemy fleet matched the giant ship’s movement. And…
A high school student warrior pointed into the eastern sky.
Adele pushed up her glasses to look at the night sky straight out from the deck.
“There are other lights that way, Asama-san!”
“I had a feeling this would happen!”
Another ghost fleet appeared from the east and began to attack.
Two different ghost fleets were approaching the Musashi from the southeast and the east. And…
“The eastern fleet is firing too!”
Sure enough, white lines of light were fired from the darkening eastern sky.
But Adele saw two things happen then.
The first had to do with the attacks fired by the new eastern fleet in the sky to Musashi’s starboard.
“Asama-san was right!”
“They’re hitting the southeastern fleet!”
The attacks from the second ghost fleet that had appeared in the east were slamming into the ghost fleet that had appeared first and was trying to attack the Musashi from the southeast.
There was no mistaking this. The eastern ghost fleet must have seen the southeastern one as an enemy.
The shots continued and the southeastern fleet began to return fire.
An exchange of attacks and defense played out between the Musashi and the southeastern fleet and between the two ghost fleets.
While the solid sounds of impact reverberated through the air and light shattered, Adele saw the other movement. The dogs were howling up into the sky where the Technohexen and other delivery workers had begun flying around to check on the situation, but something was approaching from the southwest there.
“That’s the transport ship carrying Mitotsudaira-san, isn’t it?”
The idiot would be aboard as a stowaway too, so Adele wondered if she should report him to the guards before it landed.
Chapter 13: Truth and Answers
Hello and goodbye are connected by a straight line
If hello came in the last light of sunset
And goodbye comes at night
Then I will spin that line around and hand it to you
Point Allocation (Meaning)
Countless spears of light were fired toward the Musashi as it began north.
Defense barriers broke and black light audibly shattered. That light shined on the mountains and forests spreading northward from Totomi and the large form of the Musashi was illuminated in the sky above.
The Musashi was a massive ship. Traveling north from Totomi at low altitude required an ascent similar to climbing those mountains. Its size made an ascent at low altitude difficult. The stern would end up lower than the rest and, even if the bottom of the ship did not touch the ground, largescale atmospheric buffering was necessary.
The automatons on Musashino’s bridge were using their full processing power to find a course that would keep the ship safe. Asama received a report containing their work and the results thereof.
“You made it in time, Mito.”
She stood behind the Asama Shrine, in the nature district where a long strip down the center had been leveled.
The light of the cannon fire to stern illuminated a transport ship ascending away from her overhead.
Alarms were sounding and the roar of cannon fire came from far too close for comfort.
But Asama’s eyes were directed straight ahead. There was a wolf there. She was a knight of Musashi with her king behind her.
“Asama, is it just me or is the Musashi really pushing itself to stay on this route?”
“It isn’t just you. We need to get a little more north to reach our destination.”
“I see,” said Mitotsudaira while approaching at a jog with no tension on her face.
…She’s really calmed down.
Asama could not say if the boy following behind her had done anything to help with that or not, but…
“Mito, do you understand the situation?”
“Judge,” confirmed Mitotsudaira while looking behind her.
Another figure stood back there.
“That person in the Tres Portugal uniform is the one I saw with my king yesterday, isn’t it?”
The woman standing there looked to be in her early 20s. Asama thought her brown hair and slightly tanned skin were a good match for the white and red uniform. As was the white sword at her hip.
“It was you, wasn’t it?” Mitotsudaira said to her. “You were the student the Testament Union sent to make Imagawa land their own.”
“The name inheritor of Imagawa’s Asahina Mototomo was not actually missing, was she?”
Asama knew what Mitotsudaira meant by that.
The woman’s feet grew blurry before fading away altogether.
She was a ghost – a high-density collection of regrets.
Mitotsudaira saw her silently smile with the ends of her eyebrows lowered. That expression told Mitotsudaira something.
“You can’t speak, can you?”
“Yeah, she’s been like this since I found her,” said her king.
The woman nodded to confirm it. She placed her right hand on her neck and slid it to the side to explain why.
She was missing the parts needed to speak.
And the king continued speaking.
“I was looking for something and I brought Bell-san with me to check around the area when Bell-san suddenly mentioned ‘the person over there’. I looked over and didn’t see anyone, but she walked over and began touching at the empty air, so I did the same thing…and I found a butt.”
“This is a shrine forest, so the local divine protections would have given her a physical presence even if she hadn’t manifested fully enough to be seen,” explained Asama. “Suzu-san probably noticed her body heat.”
The way the woman held the back of her skirt and blushed suggested the king was not kidding about how he had found her.
“Remember those warriors you chased down, Nate? She’s the one they were after.”
The woman, Asahina, nodded and Mitotsudaira nodded in response.
“I also know who that was I chased down.”
Talking about this would summon that ninja ghost, but since Asama gave her an encouraging look, they must have had everything set up for this.
Mitotsudaira spoke clearly.
“At the Totomi cemetery, I noticed some damage to the gravestone of Atsuta High Priest Senshu Shirou, a fallen Oda commander.”
She held up her right hand as if to perform a karate chop.
“The damage was the exact same shape as the damage I did to that ninja ghost.”
Mitotsudaira saw Asama let out a breath in response to her statement.
Asama began to speak while Asahina placed a hand on her cheek in a troubled way.
“This explains why I couldn’t figure it out. The ghost warriors and Asahina-san here belonged to Oda and Imagawa who both have a connection to the Asama Shrine. And they’re both watched over by the Asama Shrine at that war memorial too. It makes sense now,” she said. “The Shinto network connects everything via the ley lines, so the ghosts of the war memorial were only moving from one Asama-managed land to another. And while both sides of the battle are buried at the war memorial…” She turned toward Asahina. “Her regrets were stronger and she could not rest in peace. After hearing what Toori-kun had to say and asking her some questions myself, it looks like she wants to rejoin the others from the Imagawa side of the battle.”
“You don’t want to return to your home nation?” asked Mitotsudaira.
Asahina responded by smiling with the ends of her eyebrows lowered. She seemed to be saying that was not an option, but instead of lamenting the situation she found herself in…
…She seems to be smiling bitterly at herself for making that choice.
Mitotsudaira could not sense Asahina’s feelings all that well, but the woman actually looked kind of happy.
The inherited name of Asahina had ended with her death and her name in her home nation would have been stripped from her, so she was no longer affiliated with anywhere at all. She probably did have survivors back in her home nation, but…
“If something brings someone happiness, anyone who insists that isn’t real happiness is only revealing they don’t know how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes,” said Mitotsudaira.
“Right, right,” said her king. “They’re just saying what they would do in that situation, but it doesn’t help the original person any.”
“Judge,” she agreed while breathing in.
She was the same.
She had once tried to throw away her status as a name inheritor, but failed to do it, beat herself up over it, and eventually arrived where she was now.
Something suddenly occurred to her.
…I have my king with me now, so I’m not the same.
In that case, she thought while breathing in.
I beat myself up over it because that’s what I wanted to do, so I should let myself be happy if that’s what I want to do.
There was no reason to live a life where she only ever beat herself up over her past decisions. So…
“I will support her happiness and rescue her. What must I do to accomplish that?”
“First of all, the Musashi is headed north. During the Battle of Okehazama, the Imagawa forces were attacked from behind and slain while they tried to escape north, so that is how she can return home.”
“In that case,” said Adele on a sign frame that popped up. Cannon fire could be heard crashing into defense barriers in the background. “Is that what the ghost fleet from before and the two fleets we’re seeing now are?”
“Yes, Asahina-san noticed the Musashi approaching while turning to face the north and she had a link to the Asama Shrine, so she boarded the Musashi in the hopes of joining the others in the north. But her powerful regrets also allowed a group of Oda ghost warriors to board the Musashi while thinking they were still fighting Imagawa. The fleet that attacked before was not actually firing on the Musashi. They were trying to assist Asahina-san so she could escape the Oda warriors pursuing her.”
Mar-Ga: “Why did some ghosts have to make such a mess of everything?”
Gold Mar: “And their shots didn’t even reach the fighting since the Asama Shrine’s spell field was so strong.”
Flat Vassal: “It is true their initial shots and arrows weren’t working, but isn’t that why they started escalating things?”
Silver Wolf: “I was almost hit by one of those shots, so maybe I should have been angry with them back then.”
Asama: “A-all’s well that ends well though, right!? Right!?”
Adele saw the report from the Asama Shrine via divine transmission.
She had previously noticed herself that one fleet was an enemy and the other an ally.
In the sky, the Technohexen and the delivery workers were returning from their forceful recon mission. They had discovered…
“The fleet to the southeast is wearing the Oda clan outfits from the material Principal Sakai provided! And the eastern one is Imagawa!”
The Chancellor’s Officers sent instructions as if in response.
“The Musashi will now purify this mysterious phenomenon to bring peace to Totomi!”
They would do that by…
“Fire on the ‘unidentified’ fleet to the southeast that is firing on the Musashi! Support the eastern fleet!”
Mitotsudaira heard the Musashi begin to return fire along with cheers and some weirder yelling. The Musashi was not equipped with cannons. Their attacks relied on spells, gods of war, and physical strength, but Mitotsudaira would prefer not to see much of that last one. Because she felt like their class would be in charge of that eventually.
But she had something to say now that everyone was doing what needed to be done.
“My king, um, was this the person you wanted me to meet?”
“Yeah, it was her. She can’t speak and I wasn’t sure who she was, but she was foreign and looked knightish, y’know? So I brought her to your place yesterday thinking you might be able to help, but you weren’t there. I couldn’t bring her to my place since my sis is terrible with ghosts, so I ended up having her spend the night at Bell-san’s bathhouse.”
Yes, thought Mitotsudaira. Everything about this was connected. But…
“So where were you yesterday?” he asked.
“I-I was just out and about for a bit. Yes.”
Asama glared over at her, but she decided to ignore it. This had all been a misunderstanding, so she had been right not to feel too bad back then. But then Asama asked a question.
“Um, why didn’t you come to me with that? I could have even figured out who she was.”
Asahina began frantically shaking her hands side to side in response and Mitotsudaira thought she knew what that meant.
“She can’t speak and she wants to join the others, so she probably wanted to leave any land managed by the Asama Shrine. Since she is bound to that Asama Shrine war memorial, meeting you could have prevented her from getting what she wanted.”
“Oh…yeah. Because I might have purified her away, regrets and all.”
Asahina’s face paled, so this must have confirmed her fears.
“Anyway, she managed to communicate with me in writing,” said the king. “And I sent all that info to Asama in a divine mail before stowing away. Nate, you know what comes next, right?”
“Judge. I do.”
The Musashi was headed north, but that was not enough to ensure Asahina’s safety.
“Show yourself, Senshu Shirou.”
Mitotsudaira called out while watching Asama rearrange the spell field to isolate the nature district.
“I will end your battle here, providing a conclusion for everything that occurred at Okehazama.”
Asama took a deep breath.
He was there.
Mitotsudaira was facing south.
A bluish-white figure stood on the ground in the same direction as the war memorial.
He wore a track suit uniform modified to make him look like a ninja.
As a member of the Middle Eastern Oda forces, he wore a turban-style hat.
Only now was she able to recognize the sword he held.
…An Atsuta-style straight sword.
Modern Far Eastern swords were curved, but this was a combat weapon of the Atsuta Shrine which was built to store the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi.
“Neshinbara here. I thought I would monitor things from the outside this time, but that spell field is awfully strong. Could you maybe let me in?”
Letting him in to gawk would only make things more dangerous, so Asama refused. But he did have more to say.
“At the Battle of Okehazama, Senshu Shirou and Sassa Masatsugu chose to charge at an army of 20,000 with a force of only 300 because Senshu had the divine protections of a war god. He was killed, but his strength in combat is the real deal.”
That information made it hard to say for sure if Mitotsudaira could handle this.
But the facts were the facts. The High Priest of the Atsuta Shrine would have been trained in Atsuta sword techniques. He would not be able to use all that much of those techniques since so much information had been lost as a ghost, but…
“Mito, I will have the guards and the warriors on standby outside, just in case.”
“But if I can do it myself, the Asama Shrine won’t have to owe them a favor afterwards, right?”
That was true, but it was not what mattered here. This had real meaning for them.
“You are a knight, Mito. On Musashi, you are not a warrior, a mercenary, a Chancellor’s Officer, or a guard. As a knight, you have a different sort of power from any of those.”
“Please demonstrate that here.”
“Judge,” said the wolf as she stepped forward.
The ghost High Priest also stepped forward in response.
The enemy drew his straight sword and the wolf raised her flattened hand as if for a karate chop.
Chapter 14: Pride and Thanks
A wolf’s attacks
Come from their claws and strength
But what do they use
For the finisher?
Point Allocation (Fangs)
Suzu heard a distant sound.
She was closing the bathhouse for the evening after hearing from Asama what was happening. She was about to give the place an extra thorough cleaning. And…
Solid sounds reached her through the Musashi’s air.
The spacing between the sounds seemed more compact than the other night’s battle. That would mean Mitotsudaira was moving as quickly as she could manage.
Kimi had arrived at the bathhouse, but she had fainted in the dressing room once the ghost fleets appeared. She had pulled a blanket over her head to make herself look something like a giant dumpling, so Suzu was impressed just how terrified that girl was of ghosts. However…
…I probably shouldn’t tell her that’s the blanket the ghost used last night.
Asama: “Kimi! Kimi! You don’t have to faint now, after all this time!”
Wise Sister: “Ahhh! I can’t hear youuuu! I finally see why my foolish brother and Asama couldn’t tell me what was going on! Also, I had figured it out myself because I’m so wise! But being wise doesn’t help with things like this!”
Asama watched Mitotsudaira fight.
The nature district had been altered this time based on the previous battle. The dirt and trees were not yet set up to allow Mitotsudaira more freedom of movement.
The crust blocks that supported those natural structures were artificial land containing a natural filtration system for the liquid that passed through it from top to bottom. The surface had a wave-like pattern carved into it for placing the ground on top.
She could still kick off the height differences as before, but she could also use that carved pattern to stop her sliding or to catch onto and launch herself in the opposite direction.
Meanwhile, her opponent was a ghost. Most ghosts had no feet and their position was based on the “mold” of the ground’s surface. The type of ground did not matter to them, so the pattern carved into it was irrelevant.
That meant it would work only to Mitotsudaira’s advantage. And…
“Mito! The water’s surface has a very different mold from the ground’s surface, so most ghosts can’t cross over water! If it comes to it, you can always retreat across the central stream!”
She received no response, but even Asama only meant that as a last resort.
…Knowing Mito, she won’t lure the enemy over in that direction.
That was how focused on fighting Mitotsudaira was.
Asama saw the wolf within the disturbed mist.
She planted her feet solidly on that pattern and kept her body low to gain as much speed as possible.
She sank down, gathered strength, and then pushed herself forward.
Her steps rang loud and solid.
She pushed herself up with a heavy straining.
The wolf pursued her foe with winding movements.
Meanwhile, the enemy held her back with his sword tip and attacked when she lost her speed.
Mitotsudaira’s attacks were curved and the enemy’s were straight. Countless open-hand strikes and straight sword jabs crossed paths, pierced the empty air, and whipped up the wind.
“Hey, why’s he attacking Nate instead of this woman here?” asked Toori.
“I think because Mito is in Matsudaira’s line of succession. Matsudaira fought for Imagawa during the Okehazama history recreation and they even defeated an Oda fortress.”
So if this ghost was attacking Imagawa to fulfill his resentment…
“When the enemy lost sight of Asahina-san during the cannon fire the other night, I think they must have shifted their aim to Mito instead.”
“They can tell Nate’s Mito Matsudaira, or whatever it is?”
“Your memories and personality are a part of your mold too. It isn’t just your build and appearance.”
“Even if she tries to reject it, Mito may have received the mold of her family name. In fact, she may have received it even more strongly since she arrived at this point through rejecting it.”
“You mean…?” he asked and she nodded.
“Mito’s mold is closely connected to the Far East’s future. We can’t let her lose to a history recreation from nearly a century ago and I doubt she intends to let that happen herself.”
“That is why Mito is doing this.”
Mitotsudaira was learning to predict her enemy’s movements.
He really did have a limited range of attack patterns. He probably only had the most representative of the Atsuta Shrine’s sword fighting techniques. But even so…
Even after dying and mostly losing his memories, this ghost was still an impressive blade user.
It was like facing sword technique in human form.
She had to wonder just how much practice and training he had gone through in life to learn it all on such a fundamental level. The result of that was now moving and attacking in front of her as a “mold”.
The Atsuta Shrine was established to keep the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, so its sword techniques were for straight swords.
She was a knight, so most of her classes and training had been in the use of swords.
Knights also used straight swords.
Their sword was a power given them by their king, so it was used to display their justice.
His level of training was far greater than hers, but she understood his actions and she could pick up on what the sword was doing.
She had not been aware of it last time, but now she knew.
She knew he was Atsuta Shrine High Priest Senshu Shirou.
So she understood.
The sword technique she had been taught on the Musashi had been the European style, but it was all based on the Far Eastern style.
And Far Eastern straight sword techniques had to work against Atsuta techniques.
The techniques of the sword offered to the top of the Far East were a king’s techniques.
They were faithful and straightforward techniques.
He preferred to make jabs toward the center of the body. The wind of his jabs blowing straight at her felt refreshing to her.
It reminded her that Kusanagi was also known as Murakumo – gathering clouds.
She dodged and was occasionally grazed as she moved forward. Because…
She was still weak and constantly needed assistance. She was always hanging around her king and could not do anything on her own. But one day…
“I too will be my king’s sword!”
Mitotsudaira moved forward.
The enemy held his blade in his left hand.
He jabbed it forward.
She tilted her head to the left to dodge and felt the wind of the blade on her right cheek. She felt no fear. Because she had already dodged it. The attack had not come as a surprise; she had known it was coming there. That gave her time to watch the blade pull back and to step forward along with it.
She took the step while also sending her right hand out below the blade.
She used the blind spot created by the blade to strike at her enemy’s torso.
She was just barely in range, but the enemy used just his ankles to step back. Instead of seeing through her attack, he was simply moving away from her step forward.
He took a half step back while remaining so low his feet never would have picked up from the ground if he had feet.
She realized the enemy’s withdrawn blade was in position to jab again.
She responded by pressing her feet against the ground and fitting the soles of her shoes into the pattern carved into the surface of the crust block.
She leaned her body forward.
She thought of it like lying down, but her feet did not slip back.
Because her feet were caught in the pattern on the floor.
That let her lean forward without slipping and thus the enemy’s blade passed by overhead.
She had dodged it.
If she stood up as the blade was pulled back again, she could move right up to the enemy.
So instead of using her right hand for another attack, she slammed it against the floor.
Standing up with just her legs would have been too slow, so she placed her hands on the floor as if crawling.
She dashed forward.
In that instant, the enemy’s jabbed blade began to move overhead. He’s pulling it back, she thought. Except…
She saw the enemy’s movement.
He did not pull the blade back in his hand.
Asama saw what the enemy did.
However, she did not know enough about combat to understand what it meant.
I don’t need your input, Phantom Naruze.
Anyway, she was not trained in combat, so while the others often said Mitotsudaira’s movements were “slow”, that was not what she was seeing now.
…I can barely see her!
But she had seen the wolf’s last movement.
She had an enemy.
He had made Mitotsudaira duck down below his left-handed jab at mid height.
Below his left arm, the wolf was preparing to throw herself forward.
She could tell Mitotsudaira’s plan was to launch herself forward. If she sent her left hand out from that position, she could pierce right through his body.
That would be devastating for him.
And even if he tried to fall back, he had his sword. It was unclear how much the weight of the sword affected a ghost, but that weight and the motion of pulling it back would slow any attempt to fall back.
Besides, it was hard to pick up speed while moving backwards.
But the enemy had stopped thinking about any of that.
The ghost swordsman let go of the hilt and let his fingers catch on the guard.
With a snap of his fingers, the blade was launched into the air.
Instead of pulling it back with him, he let go of it in the air in front of him.
And instead of tossing it backwards, he gave it a horizontal rotation.
The movement was speedy but well controlled and unhesitating. That was why even Asama could tell what he had done.
The straight sword spun above Mitotsudaira’s head. She launched herself forward a moment later and in response…
“Mito! To the side!”
Instead of moving back and away from her, he moved to the side.
From Mitotsudaira’s perspective, he moved right. The motion of his sliding feet was instantaneous, and…
Once the wolf passed by him and tried to get back up, he swung his right hand. That hand caught the spinning sword’s hilt in a backhand grip.
And with a rapid snap of the wrist, the blade attacked Mitotsudaira from behind.
It was going to hit.
Mitotsudaira made a single decision regarding the horizontal strike from behind.
…Now is no time to worry about how I look!
So she rolled.
She had already started standing back up, so she could not crouch back down again in time.
Her shoes were planted firmly on the floor, but she forced them out of place to instead roll through the night.
She did not remove both feet from the floor at once, so she rolled to the side. She moved her left hip down and crashed her body against the floor.
Then the blade passed by as if stroking her right cheek.
A few strands of her bangs were cut away, but…
She heard a voice. It was her king’s.
“Isn’t it about time you won this?”
Mitotsudaira slammed both hands against the floor.
She rose up to the right as if hopping up from the floor.
Instead of standing up, she struck the floor with her Loup-Garou strength so she lifted from the floor until she had righted herself.
The enemy was right in front of her now.
She had to win this. Her king expected it of her. More than that, he trusted she could do it.
He was supporting her.
She viewed her enemy. The ghost swordsman’s blade left behind a trail of light as he pulled it back in from the snap to the right. The returning path of the sword would take it to…
So Mitotsudaira exhaled and relaxed her body.
She swung her head against the incoming blade.
The strike came at her like a flash of light, but she could see it.
This opponent was accurate.
These sword skills had surpassed memory to remain with him even in death, so he could reproduce them here.
He did not miss and he did not make mistakes, so his attack was aimed accurately at the center of her neck.
She used her mouth to measure out half her neck’s width. When her right cheek no longer felt the heat of her exhaled breath, she knew she had reached that width.
The measurement proved accurate.
She heard the crash of destruction and felt an impact on her neck. The hard point part on the left of her neck had been pierced through.
The metal and processed wood fragments hit her, but…
…I dodged it!
By the time she had that thought, the enemy had already pulled back his blade.
He was fast. He was making his attacks even faster than before. Which meant…
…That action is part of a series of attacks, isn’t it!?
If this was the beginning of a rapid flurry of attacks, she knew exactly what he would do once his sword was pulled back.
He took action in the center of her vision. He pulled the hilt back in his right hand, but…
He released the hilt in midair while pulling his right elbow back.
He let go of his weapon.
He had tossed it to the left where his left hand had already taken a raised position.
This was the same as the other night, so she used this chance to move. First, she swung her right hand outwards
She managed to catch the midair sword with her right hand’s nails to swat it outwards.
Asama saw a series of actions progressing.
Mitotsudaira had swatted the enemy’s blade out to the right, perhaps to neutralize him.
But the enemy was already moving. He swung his entire body to her right as if throwing a disc with his left hand.
The enemy’s left fingers snagged the straight sword she had sent to the right. It looked like he just barely managed to catch it with his fully-extended arm and fingertips, but…
The way he forcibly pulled it back and instantaneously swung his body led right into a full-power horizontal strike with the sword.
The speedy attack drew a line of light in the air that led toward Mitotsudaira.
Mitotsudaira saw what the enemy was doing.
He was fast, so not even she could dodge it now. And he was aiming for…
…My neck again!
Just then, the sound of the wind came to an end.
The enemy’s blade had finished slicing through the air to reach her.
Asama saw the horizontal strike hit.
The ether light blade struck Mitotsudaira on the right side of the neck.
“Mito!” she shouted, but then she saw something.
Something had been shattered, but it was not Mitotsudaira’s life.
The enemy’s sword had come to a stop at the right of Mitotsudaira’s neck and been utterly destroyed in an instant.
Mitotsudaira let out a breath with both her arms raised in a fighting stance.
The enemy in front of her had frozen in place without finishing his horizontal strike.
“Sorry, but this is my win.”
The enemy’s blade split and cracked from where it touched her neck and on down to the hilt.
The hard point part at her neck had similarly shattered. And…
“This uniform functions as armor and Asama gave it some additional divine protections. I let you cut my hair and destroy the other hard point part so I could check on your blade’s cutting edge and location. So…”
She had wrapped her sleeves around her hands as gauntlets and placed the uniform over her neck hard point part to block the attack. Her outstretched right hand had been to push on the base of the blade to reduce its speed.
And whether the blade cut through her uniform or whatever else…
“I am confident in my strength.”
Her bare hand emerged from the scattering pieces of her sleeve.
The fingers were covered in blood. But…
“My Loup-Garou grip was effective.”
Her fingers had held the ridge of the blade from above and below and held it in place like a vise.
She had caught the horizontally-swinging sword.
Even with a straight sword, only the edge of the blade could cut. By holding it from the sides, she could grasp it safely.
From there, she only had to squeeze with all her might to shatter it in her grip.
Its speed had let it split her palm open a bit, but…
“How about it?”
These were the sword techniques of a sword god’s high priest, but…
“Can you find pride in combat after losing your sword?”
The enemy moved in response.
She heard Asama’s voice, but she ignored that and continued to face her opponent.
He pulled back his sword.
It was only a hilt without a blade now, but he still pulled it back and pressed it against his left hip where he likely had a hard point part.
Then he slowly turned to fully face her.
And he bowed his head.
He immediately began to scatter away.
Suddenly and without warning, he scattered like sand in the wind.
She had won.
She lowered her shoulders and felt hands grab both of her own.
On her right, Asama checked the wound on her wrist, but…
“Huh? It’s gone.”
“A cut that shallow will heal almost instantly. It didn’t reach the bone or anything.”
She needed to thank Asama. Without Asama’s divine protections increasing her defenses, she would have been injured much worse from that crude sword catching. And…
“Nate,” said a voice to her left.
She turned that way and saw him holding her left hand and breathing a sigh of relief.
She felt bad for having worried him.
“The wounds received here belong to both of us.”
At first, she did not know what he meant, but…
He was supporting her. And a knight was her king’s sword.
So even if she was injured, it was best if it did not leave a scar.
She was belatedly glad she was a Loup-Garou. And more than that…
“This is not over yet, my king. Because-”
“Hey! What’s up with Okutama!? I brought the greedy merchant here, but no one showed up to greet us! Asama, aren’t you in charge of that!? What’s the deal!?”
That was Urquiaga over the divine transmission. A high-speed transport ship was approaching while avoiding the cannon fire from the south.
The ship said Marube-ya on the side.
It belonged to Shirojiro and Heidi.
Heidi was out on the deck with Shirojiro. A battle filled the night sky, so they could always be hit even while taking this detour. She made sure all of the crew was always equipped with descent spells. As for her and Shirojiro…
“Totomi was a complete bust for us, wasn’t it!?”
“Judge. I did not expect the others to buy up everything in the market before we got there. The Tian Shan corridor coming up must be starved for materials. But…”
Shirojiro turned back in the wind to view the rear of the deck.
Small containers were lined up on the transport ship that felt long to them. She smiled as he saw the containers being quickly loaded onto smaller boats.
“If this helps protect Totomi, they will owe us one. We can do real business at Totomi starting next year, Heidi. Once the money comes pouring in then, we can exchange it all for 10-yen coins and bathe in money together. How about we soak up to our shoulders and enjoy some drinks?”
“That are gifted to us, of course. Why would we ever pay for expensive drinks ourselves, Heidi? We can use silver coins the year after that and gold coins the year after that to truly enjoy being surrounded by money. We must find some way of thanking the Asama Shrine that does not cost us any money.”
“Judge,” said Heidi with a smile while she heard something accelerating overhead. It was Urquiaga and he spoke while flying higher.
“Hey, money freaks. I am on my way over to Tenzou and the others, but you need to hurry up and get your cargo to the stern of Okutama. …The battle is right over there!”
Chapter 15: Soul and Wolf
When someone’s soul
Reaches the other side
It is said they regain their original form
Point Allocation (Life Reset?)
Suzu heard two auditory changes while wiping out the inside of a locker in the bathhouse’s dressing room.
The first was the blaring alarms gradually going quiet ship by ship.
And the other…
She had been able to sense those vibrations and booms with not just with her ears but her body, skin, and soles of her feet, but now it was gone.
“Heh heh. My foolish brother and the others must have done something.”
Kimi crawled out from the blanket on the dressing room floor.
She took a breath, folded up the blanket, and put it in a basket. And…
“Everyone is sure to celebrate either here or at the Asama Shrine. Want to join us if it’s at the shrine, Suzu?”
“Oh, y-yes, but what…did they do?”
“Isn’t that obvious? If a ghost has a regret, the best way to let them rest in peace is to clear away that regret. But in that ghost’s case…” Kimi smiled and nodded. “Now I see why my foolish brother wanted her to meet Mitotsudaira. Shall we head on up? From this distance, you should be able to sense something beautiful with your entire body. I will faint afterwards, though.”
Adele saw the cannon fire from both sides suddenly end from her position at the harbor on Okutama’s stern.
Everyone on the deck there held their breath and did not dare move when they noticed the sudden change.
…Did something happen to stop the attacks?
She had heard the Asama Shrine was working to resolve the battle from the other night. The others would have heard too and she could see some of the others glancing around at their surroundings.
“Everything has quieted down, hasn’t it?”
That divine transmission comment arrived from overhead behind her. Naito and Naruze sent word of the situation while they waited with the other delivery workers above the defense barriers surrounding the area behind the academy.
“No new fleet has appeared and I don’t see any light from an ether disturbance. Everything has stopped.”
“That must mean…yeah, there it is. Look to port.”
Adele did so, thinking she would only see the dark sky, but…
She saw the kind of small transport ship only used to move between the Musashi’s ships. The four of them were less than 30m long and old enough that they should probably just be abandoned. Another, newer ship seemed to be pushing them slowly to the east.
…They’re on their way to the Imagawa fleet.
The bows of those ships were loaded with wooden containers, but the one in the rear also contained two people. One of them was…
The other was a woman Adele did not recognize.
Since she seemed to glow in the dark, she was probably a ghost.
The transport ships carrying them and the cargo were headed into the eastern sky, but eventually…
Naito was correct. The five ships had stopped at a point in the sky.
Mitotsudaira asked Asama a question via sign frame.
“Asama, is this point good?”
“Yes, based on our records, that is the area at which they were destroyed. Well, the actual area is spread out over several dozen kilometers, but that is what you can call the entrance. So,” she continued. “Return to them the ‘spoils of war’ you retrieved from the war memorial.”
“Judge,” said Mitotsudaira.
These transport ships were loaded with the spoils of war stored at the Totomi war memorial.
“This was originally Imagawa land. Constructing a memorial to Oda’s victory is one thing, but how are their spirits supposed to rest in peace when their belongings were stolen to commemorate that victory?”
“Returning those things to their rightful owners should eliminate their regrets about this world. Since this will allow the Imagawa forces in this area to all rest in peace at once, taking those spoils of war from the memorial qualifies as a public good. Our shrine and the Student Council will probably have to do some arguing on the political front about that, though.”
“Sorry about all the trouble,” said Mitotsudaira before looking to the person standing on the ship’s bow.
That was Asahina Mototomo.
She had never spoken with the woman, so it was not like they really knew each other. Still…
…We are the same.
She had been at the mercy of forces outside her control. If she had survived, Mitotsudaira may have gotten to know her somewhere in a few years’ time.
But that was exactly why she had to call out to her.
Mitotsudaira saw the woman turn back toward her.
She had tanned skin and brown hair. She had a gentle look to her eyes, but since she had been deployed out here with an awareness of what that would entail, she had to be a strong person on the inside.
She had been prepared for what was to come, unlike Mitotsudaira who had been sent to the Musashi when she was too young to really understand.
She had chosen to leave this life with the Imagawa soldiers.
That raised a question for Mitotsudaira.
…What about me?
Will I be like you? Can I be like you? Or will I become like you whether I like it or not?
She did not know. The only way to find an answer was to create one for herself. So…
“Oh? What is it?” he responded via divine transmission. “I’m watching.”
She knew he was. But she had something else to ask.
“Do you have anything to say to her?”
Would his answer to this be something he would eventually say to her as well?
Again, she did not know.
Everything was such a mystery and there was no changing that. Meanwhile, his response arrived.
“ ‘Congratulations’. That should be enough.”
Mitotsudaira nodded at what that meant more than the word itself.
That woman had been trying to get where she was supposed to be and she could finally do that.
If Mitotsudaira herself ever managed to fully join her king and the others, he would probably congratulate her in the same way.
She breathed in and looked around her.
She viewed the heaven and the earth and saw someone who had decided where she was headed.
As the one seeing the woman off, she had to fulfill her duty here.
“Asahina Mototomo. My king just sent his congratulations regarding the completion of your journey.”
Asahina’s expression changed only slightly.
She must have realized this was the end because she got down on one knee.
She was a knight. That had never been explicitly stated, but she had been sent here by the Testament Union and the large sword at her hip was hard to miss.
She had just learned that Mitotsudaira had a “king” who she served.
Mitotsudaira had just one thing to do as her king’s agent here.
“As a representative of the Far East and Musashi’s 1st knight, I have a message for Totomi’s knight,” she said. “Your position as knight has been removed. You are now free.”
Asahina responded by grabbing the large sword at her hip with both hands.
She held it up and Mitotsudaira took it. And then…
The sword slowly came apart. It became particles of light that scattered like sand. And…
Asahina stood up and the same slowly happened to her.
“Mito, everything binding her here is gone,” said Asama via divine transmission. “Please see her off.”
Mitotsudaira took Asahina’s hand and guided her toward the four transport ships up ahead. She had Asahina board the ships carrying the belongings meant for her fellow warriors.
The woman said something to her with a smile.
At the same time, the connection to this ship came undone and the other four ships began to turn east.
They began slow, but they gradually picked up speed as if riding the wind.
Asahina had had a clear face and expressions before, but her appearance was growing much less distinct.
She looked so small by the time she joined the Imagawa fleet, but she did bow back toward Mitotsudaira. Or it looked like it.
A moment later, a great light appeared in the eastern sky.
Once the ghost fleet was rejoined with their final member, they scattered with their stolen belongings returned.
Everything rose into the sky and came apart in the atmosphere.
But that was not all.
“Whoa, it’s happening to the southeast too!”
Naito’s surprise there was understandable. When the Oda ghost fleet to the southeast saw what had happened, everyone on their decks threw their hands into the air and spelled out a word with their bodies.
“V – I – C – T – O – R – Y”
“Oh,” said Asama. “Now that their opponent is gone, they too can finally end their battle. Both sides of the conflict at Totomi have been purified and returned to their rightful form according to Shinto.”
The Oda fleet had begun to scatter as well.
A massive amount of ether light flew through the night sky to east and southeast. It almost looked like waves spreading through the night, but Mitotsudaira heard something from within it.
A woman was singing.
Who did that humming voice belong to?
It sounded like a regional song from western Europe, but she may have been imagining that.
That night, everyone from their class ended up gathering at the Asama Shrine and throwing a party.
As far as Naito remembered, Mitotsudaira had stayed near her king and been very quiet, without bragging or anything. But on occasion, she would search for and read through some historical information.
But once everyone had managed to relax some, her king unhooked something from the hard point part on his lower back and handed it to the wolf.
It was a paper bag. When she took it, Asama smiled in a “my, my” kind of way.
The wolf looked inside and found…
It was a uniform’s right sleeve. It had even been embroidered to match Mitotsudaira’s uniform.
“You threw yours out cause it was too badly damaged in the previous fight, right? I felt bad about that since I asked you to do that, so I had Bell-san fix it up for you.”
“Wait, were you out searching for my sleeve at the site of the battle when you met Asahina Mototomo?”
“Don’t make me say it, okay?”
He smiled bitterly and the wolf smiled while holding the sleeve to her chest. And…
“But my other sleeve is a mess now too.”
“Do you mind if I only pay half of the repair cost? Your uniform is pricey.”
“I-I had fun…f-fixing it up.”
Suzu said that with a smile, so that settled that. While the others looked over or scooted over curiously, her king ate some food and told them all about what had happened over the past few days and at Totomi.
But part of the way through, Asama suddenly tilted her head.
“Um, Toori-kun? Mito?”
“Eh? What is it?” asked Mitotsudaira.
“Well,” said Asama with her head still tilted. “Totomi, and Imagawa land in general, is closely connected with the Asama Shrine, so I get that the war memorial is part of our territory. But.”
“Well, you two said you visited an Asama Shrine affiliate at the Totomi war memorial. I was hoping to thank them for their help in all this and looked into it, but…it doesn’t exist.”
Those two tilted their heads forward and Asama asked for clarification.
“Where did you go, who did you meet, and what did you see at Totomi?”
When Kimi heard that, she collapsed onto her side with some fried chicken still held between her chopsticks.
Final Chapter: Silver Wolf and Awakening
How much is true?
How much is serious?
Is that much true?
Is that much serious?
Point Allocation (For Me Too)
Is the wind blowing through the sky above real?
With her black hair fluttering in the classroom window, Masazumi shut the book that ended with that line.
It was their lunch break.
The window was open and the curtain was blowing in the wind. She brushed up her bangs while glancing to the back of the classroom.
Asama, Horizon, and the idiot siblings were there. Mitotsudaira was sleeping with her head resting on her crossed arms.
She must have been fast asleep because she was not waking up even as the idiot sister braided her hair and attached ribbons.
Masazumi stopped her hand on the curtain.
“It makes sense. We did stay up late last night talking about what happened last.”
“You people have some exciting lives.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Well, that story from last night tells me you were involved in some exciting stuff even during middle school. And the more I hear from you, the more frequent those types of stories seem. I have almost nothing like that myself.”
“It’s not as fun as it sounds in stories,” said Asama.
Masazumi beckoned her over, so Asama walked over while asking “Me?” Once the footsteps stopped in front of her, Masazumi asked a quiet question.
“You ended last night’s story in something of an occult way, remember? But that was a lie, wasn’t it?”
Asama’s eyebrows rose and she eventually slapped Masazumi’s shoulder with a smile.
“No, it was true. Completely true. You know what I mean.”
With that, Asama returned to the others. Since she waved her hands side to side in response to a question from the idiot, Masazumi could guess most of them had realized it was a lie.
…If we don’t make those events at Totomi sound like a silly story, then we’re admitting that the Mito Matsudaira name inheritor clashed with the Oda clan.
Those people never considered the consequences, but that may have been why they developed such a strong mutual give-and-take policy.
Masazumi felt certain her guesses were the truth here.
Everyone had their own past and everyone would have skeletons in their closet to some degree or another, but those skeletons would create yet another version of the past.
And our class seems like they have more skeletons than most.
She was not about ready to say that she did too. But…
Mitotsudaira stirred. She was waking up.
Mitotsudaira had not slept long, but she felt extremely rested.
The first thing she did after waking was take a look around.
She was in their classroom.
Everyone was there. Her king, Horizon, Asama, and the others were looking at her.
“Good morning, Mitotsudaira-sama.”
“Judge. I feel like I finally managed to shake off the excitement from everything that happened last night…and continued on until the morning.”
They had discussed something from more than three years ago and that had reminded her of…
…Myself and someone much like me.
She still remembered that woman bowing from the distance as she left.
Her king had told the woman “congratulations”.
She had to wonder what that woman would think of her now. Was she handling herself better than back then? Or was she simply being sentimental? But…
When she looked around, she saw everyone there.
They had been there back then, but she had not realized back then just how important this place and this atmosphere were.
That may have been why she felt this way when thinking back on that time.
“I went through so many changes back then and it led me toward even more change.”
“Ho ho? So being massaged created a change in you, did it?” asked Horizon.
Mitotsudaira narrowed her eyes.
“Judge. You could say that.” She lightly held her own body and let the smile appear on her face. “I am being ‘massaged’ by my surroundings every single day…and that has helped me grow.”
A sign frame arrived from her mother, but she shattered it with a karate chop.
–Do you have anything to say?
That was Girls Talk, a backstory or flashback story for Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon.
I set this a bit outside the main story so people could start reading here without too much trouble. It’s all about the characters teasing each other through flashbacks of their middle school days.
I’ve gotten to the point where I have some time left over even after writing the main story volume and there have been some reader requests for single-volume Horizon stories. There were also a fair number of readers saying they wanted more stories similar to the Kimitoasamade BD bonus novels.
That’s why I decide to write this by coming up with a plot based on a character’s personal history.
I’m doing this alongside the main series, so I still have a schedule to keep up, but I’m managing well enough.
The protagonist of this volume was Mito because she’s easy to make a main character since there’s so much outside information about her. A lot happens with her around middle school, so I decided to use that.
Anyway, this story was about the Battle of Okehazama. I always think of that as the most reckless battle in Oda history, but everyone tends to focus on their victory, so it feels like not many people know that they were essentially abandoned by their subordinate clan, forcing them to fight a lot harder, and Matsudaira sided against them to make for one hell of a battle. It’s honestly amazing Nobunaga forgave Matsudaira after that. Maybe that’s a sign of how well they got along.
Anyway, time for the usual chat with a friend.
“So what did you do in middle school?”
“Well, I was on the tennis team.”
“Oh, so Wimbledon and all that. Did you make a lot of cool-looking shots?”
“For some reason, a bunch of delinquents joined the team with me.”
“That’s not quite the kind of ‘cool’ I was thinking of.”
“You don’t know the half of it. We all kept our modified uniforms in the clubroom, so the place looked like a trade fair. We’d all come in for morning practice in our track suits and, once we were done, we’d do our hair up all delinquenty and put on our modified uniforms. But we’d make sure to take a shower and put on our track suits before heading home, so our parents didn’t have a clue. And our grades were pretty good, so the teachers couldn’t really get after us. …Oh, and our team made it to the Kantou tournament.”
That is a weird sort of double life you were living there. Now, my writing background music this time was Nibun no Ichi by Back-On. Those lyrics really have a way of inspiring courage. But anyway…
“Who had fallen the furthest behind?”
Until the next time I write a cannibalistic discussion outside the main story.
July 2014. The morning of a typhoon.
|Return to Main Page|