Horizon:Kimitoasamade 1A Chapter 2
Chapter 2: Chicks at Home
The usual is not supposed to change
But if I change
The usual will also change
Point Allocation (Nighttime Stroll)
When moored inside its stealth space, the Musashi was bright even at night.
“It has no real charm, but it isn’t bad if you think of it as scenery exclusive to Musashi.”
Kimi was walking port through Tama’s surface city.
She had returned to her home on Musashino, but as no one was there, she was now on her way to the Tama’s Blue Thunder.
She was hungry.
That was partially due to the questioning at the Asama Shrine after the earlier incident was dealt with.
She had needed to describe the Non-God’s rhythm and movements to Asama and her father and also perform the spell she had used to interfere. Recording those things would provide evidence that the incident had occurred and allow a quicker response the next time something similar happened.
Records of interactions with mysterious phenomena were important.
After all, Non-Gods and other monsters or mysterious phenomena created from changes in ether or ley lines were rare on the manmade Musashi. It had been intentionally designed that way, so Musashi’s Chancellor’s Officers, guards, and religious officials had little experience with them.
Musashi did contain quite a few refugees and immigrants from other nations, so they could always get help from others who had relevant experience.
…But we need to take care of these things on our own. Independence is important.
Kimi looked up at the white sky of the stealth barrier. Also…
“Trade continues at night, so there are sign frames to allow ships in and out…”
More than just hide the Musashi, the stealth barrier buffered against the noise and weather effects such a large object would have simply by floating in the sky. When engaging in trade, ships were let in and out by intermediary spells that opened holes in the barrier without destroying it.
Currently, most of the trade was at Asakusa. Arrows appeared in the sky to guide ships there and a sign frame provided a timetable of arrival and departure times. Occasionally, a transport ship would fly by with a heavy sound.
When Kimi focused her ears, she could even hear the derrick cranes lifting and lowering cargo.
In the past, she had not known what the sound meant and it had scared her at night, but…
“The scariest thing of all was the silence when the ports weren’t running.”
As she smiled bitterly at that old memory, a divine chat sign frame from Asama appeared. The girl was using a prototype divine transmission system designed for Musashi.
Asama: “Kimi, thanks for everything you did today.”
Kimi accepted the sent sign frame as her own.
She formed words verbally rather than typing and she slowed her pace toward Blue Thunder to secure more time.
Wise Sister: “Heh heh. …You did a lot too, so aren’t you tired? I’m perfectly fine, though. So how did it go after I left?”
Asama: “My dad settled the reverse spell issue by saying the Non-God Sword drew you in and made it that way, so don’t worry.”
Wise Sister: “Heh heh. I don’t mind either way. A mid-level like me shouldn’t even be able to pull off a spell that matches the broken rhythm of a stagnation or distortion like a Non-God. …But a reverse conversion is an illegal form of purification, isn’t it?”
Asama: “Yes, but my dad said our god will accept the wrong methods as long as your heart is in the right place.”
Wise Sister: “Does he really think my heart was in the right place?”
Asama: “He’s a fan of yours. At the school year-end festival in March, he was on the front row for your solo dance with one of those, um, glowing sticks. What are those called?”
Wise Sister: “Pleasure rods.”
Asama: Oh, right. He was swinging his pleasure rod around.”
Wise Sister: “I can’t believe this shrine maiden actually said it!!”
“Eh?” said the other girl. And after a while…
Asama: “Ahhhhhhh! An odd meter just shot up! Wait, Hanami! Damage control! You can break the sign frame! Just break it!”
Wise Sister: “You need to calm down, Asama. And this super wise sister will teach you a magic spell to calm you down! Lift your breasts up from below and shout ‘dor erusaelp’ three times backwards! Now, begin!”
Long story short, three meters filled up and she scolded Kimi.
“Oh, honestly,” sent Asama.
However, the sign frame gave her location and it was not the Asama Shrine.
Wise Sister: “You’re on your way to Asakusa? Did they find an imported porn game that needs a shrine maiden inspection?”
Asama: “Just to be clear, Toori-kun has calmed down somewhat lately, so the armed shrine maidens and public morals priests haven’t had to board many of the trade ships. I think the last porn game smuggled in was ‘Sneaking in to Meet Imagawa-san for an Early Morning Battle’ back when we were at Mikawa.”
Wise Sister: “I think I remember when that happened. Heh heh. But are you going to Asakusa for that music I can hear?”
Kimi could hear a Gagaku band playing in the distance.
Wise Sister: “Are they rehearsing at Asakusa? Why not on the Tanigawa Castle?”
Asama: “After what happened today, the Buddhist consecration priests are cleaning up the ship. The Tanigawa castle is a Shinto-style shrine, but that’s why some things get overlooked.”
Kimi recognized the song she heard. It was the third most popular band at the previous year’s school festival. They were the infectious death strings unit Plaguer and this was their staple song Black Deathmatch.
“I woke up in the morning and the village was wiped out. I’m the only one alive. Excluded again.
“Everyone’s turned into the Living Dead. I’m the only one feeling sleepy. Left out again.”
“My schoolteacher once said only death cures an idiot.
“So my battle begins here today.
“I’ll stay an idiot forever. I’ll stay an idiot a while longer.
“It’s not like me, but I’ll live on alone.”
She listened to the lyrics and sang quietly along. Lyrics that told a story had become more common lately. From here, the protagonist searched for a way to heal the disease that had wiped out his village, but the healed Living Dead became mere corpses and rested in piece in true death.
“Everyone’s so smart. Digging the graves is up to me.
“Everyone needs to get some sleep. Thanks for staying up so long.
“I know I worried you, but I’m okay now.
“I won’t say I want to die ever again.”
Similar things had supposedly actually happened in Europe during the middle ages.
Kimi felt that songs and dances based on actual experiences and records were something else entirely.
Asama: “Night rehearsals can activate and distort the ley lines, so I was called in as a tuner. But they’re doing it on top of the containers instead of an official stage, so it shouldn’t be much of an issue. How about you stop by later, Kimi? If you tell the guards you’re helping me, they’ll let you through even after curfew. I’m thinking about calling Mito too.”
Wise Sister: “Why is a shrine maiden trying to raise delinquents? Besides, I’m going to eat dinner at my mom’s place and then head home. I don’t know where my foolish brother has gotten off to, but he should be back by then.”
The distant music changed. A four-on-the-floor rhythm on a reinforced tsuzumi had begun.
Wise Sister: “Is that our upperclassmen?”
Asama: “Yes. They’re rehearsing on Asakusa’s third cargo plaza. Want to stop by?”
Wise Sister: “I already said I won’t. But say hi for me, okay? The President has helped me out with the underground flower beds and some other things too.”
Asama: “Torii-san does seem to like you a lot. Since she’s also from the Ootsubaki-style, I bet you enjoy that a lot.”
Kimi considered denying it, but stopped since that was as good as an admission.
They must have finished tuning their instruments because she heard a voice.
Wise Sister: “Heh heh. I thought they were done tuning?”
Asama: “It’s best to ignore what Torii-san does. Remember when she went missing when she was appointed President in April? When an El Azor flew by on guard duty, it got caught by the rope she had set up and she swung it around the Musashi while screaming in delight. They didn’t do anything about it to avoid the shame of overlooking the rope, but we couldn’t have complained if they had shot down one of our ships. Toori-kun absolutely loved it, though.”
Wise Sister: “…”
Asama: “Should I not mention Toori-kun and another girl?”
Wise Sister: “It isn’t that. It’s just that my foolish brother has been trying to do the same thing and it’s been a lot of trouble.”
Kimi could hear Torii’s song. She was pretty sure its title was Routine and Torii’s voice arrived clearly from the distance.
“Let’s head out into the night. Into the city. Just like always. Nothing changes.
“We can all do it. I can do it. The sky surrounds us. The night surrounds us.
“My outstretched arms cannot reach the surrounding cage.
“I extend them into the night, but no shade falls on them.
“As long as I have my song and my dance
“The night’s usual atmosphere will invite me out once more.”
What a sarcastic song, thought Kimi.
The Far East was under the provisional rule of the other nations. They had lost the Harmonic Unification War and been placed under the rule of the other nations as well as constrained by the academy system.
That rule restricted them and left them unable to fight back, but…
…We can’t touch those restrictions.
As long as they did not seek political equality or try to reach the same level as the other nations, the Far East would have peace. The Far East’s Student Council President and Chancellor would normally be the leader of their army, but to escape the other nations’ suspicion, it was customary to appoint someone “incompetent” to that position. This year, that was Torii.
That may have been why she sang this as the Far East’s leader.
“Let’s dance in the night. In the city. Just like always. Nothing changes.
“Anyone can do it. Even I can do it. Look up into the sky and see through the night.
“And if my embraced heart desires to leave that surrounding
“That heart will surpass its racing pulse.
“Just like normal and just like always
“The night gives me another push forward.”
Kimi commented on the song she heard.
Wise Sister: “The Apocalypse’s limit is coming next year, but just how ‘incompetent’ is this President really?”
That’s a good question, thought Asama concerning Kimi’s comment.
She was currently on Asakusa. She stood on some cargo stacked up higher than the deck. The large wooden containers were stacked along some guiderails and their tightly-packed top surface created a large open space.
These were commonly known as cargo plazas and this one was behind the third derrick from the front. Hence, it was known as the third plaza.
Asama watched the rehearsal.
Even when packed together, the containers did not provide an entirely flat surface. One raised area was being used as a stage with the others acting as audience seats.
The plaza was two hundred meters square.
Beyond that, the containers were stacked even higher or missing, but Festival Committee members were inspecting audio equipment and lights on the higher stacks. When they noticed her, they greeted her.
One of them was an upperclassman who worked part-time as a shrine maiden and she spoke to Asama from the edge of a container.
“Another five groups are performing. They’re not going all out today, so it should be over before long.”
“That’s good to hear. It gives me less tuning to manage.”
A familiar duo landed on the stage. They caught everyone off guard by suddenly descending from the sky. The host introduced them.
“Next up is the new second year unit Eisen! The duo is made up of Margot Naito and Malga Naruze. They’ve flown in from the sky while also advertising for their delivery business! They have three songs prepared for us today!”
Can’t they let a second year be the MC? wondered Asama, but letting Naruze speak would only lead to a series of unpleasant remarks.
…Oh, but there are actually a lot of people who like that these days.
Naito had a guitar and a spell xylophone while Naruze had a viola. The other music was supplied by Technohexen spells. The beat of the spells was stronger and their instruments were sometimes used in place of their voices.
Naito opened her mouth.
“When I woke up in the morning, you weren’t next to me.”
Naruze followed by moving her lips.
“All I found was lost intimacy in my arms.”
“What should I do today? I have work to do too.”
“This daily life is no longer just an obligation.”
The two of them had joined the delivery business after entering high school, so they were busy with that as well as the races between the others in the business. Naruze also drew doujinshi as a hobby. True to her M.H.R.R. origins, she strived for “realism” and thus real people were made the victims.
On the stage, they used subdued movements to swap positions and swing their instruments around. Asama could clearly see the difference in experience between them and the third years.
It felt bad to call them “nervous”, but they seemed unsure how much they should show off.
It had even taken Asama a while to realize she should not worry about her surroundings during her shrine work. The world was all about skill, but not many people could truly control their own power well enough to let it out properly. And that included Mitotsudaira who had grown more focused on defense.
“I guess it’s the people who can do that that end up on the Student Council or Chancellor’s Officers.”
This time next year, it would be her class’s turn.
She wondered how that would turn out but knew she was getting ahead of herself. She then opened a sign frame to search the surrounding ley lines and begin tuning.
“Oh, the westward flow is a little strong…”
Not even the stealth barrier stopped the flow of the ley lines. When the Non-God Sword had appeared and been destroyed, quite a bit of ether had been scattered. That ether would eventually return to the ley lines, but the ley lines had grown more active to fill the temporary gap.
If the ley lines in the western sky were active, Asama felt the Gagaku Festival could succeed despite the Non-God Sword disaster.
But it was true the incident had affected the Musashi’s ether fuel pathways, so she would create a map showing the direction of activity and where the greatest burden would fall. Once complete, she would send the map to Musashino’s bridge.
She summoned Hanami, showed her an example, and then split up the work with her. The music rehearsal helped. The cargo and containers of the cargo plaza were relatively unaffected by the ley lines, so she could easily pick out just the areas influenced by the music.
She had a feeling she could finish this before the rehearsal ended.
“So we meet again, Miss Tits!”
A sudden voice called out to her and someone groped her breasts from behind.
Eh? thought Asama while briefly left unable to react. She only knew one person who did things like this.
No, the voice had not been his. It had been a girl’s voice and she had recognized it.
Asama turned around and found Torii carrying a bamboo pole microphone on her back. Vice President Tadayo and Vice Chancellor Oosuga stood behind her, as did…
…Um, who is that girl with the spear?
When she looked over, the blonde girl bowed while holding a metal spear with a microphone attached.
“I’m 1st Special Duty Officer Watanabe Moritsuna. The Asama Shrine does a lot of business with my mom’s shop.”
“Oh.” Asama recalled the shop on Oume’s third underground floor. “You mean Nabe Style, the cookware shop? Thank you for all the Orei Metallo equipped cookware.”
“No, no. Thank you. That’s how we make money.”
Watanabe raised her lowered head and Asama looked to the four Chancellor’s Officers and Student Council members in front of her.
The Treasurer and Secretary positions were held by the heads of the Industrial Committee and Public Relations Committees. The rest of the Special Duty Officers doubled as committee leaders and second-in-commands, so these four were the main force of Musashi’s current Student Council and Chancellor’s Officers.
The four of them had apparently known each other since elementary school.
…They’re a lot like us.
Just like Asama’s Class 2-Plum, Torii’s Class 3-Plum had mostly been together since elementary school.
That may have been Principal Sakai’s doing.
Interested in the instruments all four held, Asama asked a question.
“Your band is called Kagami, isn’t it?”
“Judge,” replied Oosuga while adjusting his grip on a large torii-necked biwa. “This idiot asked us for some help since she didn’t know much about the Gagaku played at the festival her own family’s shrine puts on. That was how it all started three years ago.”
“It was four years and three months ago, Suga-kun.”
“Is that so, Watanabe? We’ve been doing it that long, have we? …Even if we weren’t taking it too seriously, I guess you get pretty good when you’ve been at it for four years and three months.”
“Hah,” laughed Vice President Tadayo. Her stage armor made quiet noises as she moved. “You say that, but you’ve practiced more than any of us, Suga. …You know what?”
Tadayo turned toward Asama.
“That guy actually writes the lyrics for the love songs since Torii’s no good at that.”
“You’re the ones that asked me to do it. Laugh at me for it and I’ll never do it again.”
“Calm down.” Tadayo slapped Oosuga on the back and faced Asama again. “Do you think it’s funny he wrote those songs?”
“Eh? Well, um, I don’t know which ones that would be…”
“Ones like Mismatch or Flower Day.”
…Wow, I really like those songs!!
“U-um, I’ve been wondering something about the line ‘And the world tastes like tears’ at the end of Chicken Stun. Is that because chicken is salty? Or am I supposed to read a little deeper and say reality is better with tare?”
“Miss Tits, did you forget that shichimi is an option too?”
“I didn’t think of that.”
She decided to keep that in mind next time she was eating some chicken to go with her sacred sake.
But Tadayo and Torii must have noticed her reaction because they both slapped Oosuga on the back.
Torii went a step further and continued slapping his back.
“Way to go, Suga! I’ll leave that to you next time too! You really know how to think like a girl in love!”
“You shove anything troublesome onto me, don’t you?”
“But love songs are too embarrassing.”
“Then don’t ask me to write them!!”
Asama tilted her head at that.
“You find it embarrassing, Vice Chancellor?”
“I do, I do.” Tadayo faced her. “Can you really emotionally say ‘I love you’ or ‘I adore you’ in front of a crowd?”
Asama thought about singing “I love you” or “I adore you” as the lyrics to a song.
There were words of congratulations in Shinto prayers, but on a more personal level…
…I do say that kind of thing pretty loudly.
For a shrine maiden who utilized the power of words, words related to emotions and willpower were important. Mass-producing them or saying them to no one in particular was indecent, but…
As she imagined it, heat rose from her neck to her cheeks.
If it was not nighttime, everyone would have seen her blushing. However, she was not sure why. She had no feelings like that at the moment.
But if she were singing about emotions that were normally kept hidden…
…I would have to reveal those feelings in myself. And for real.
She would have to seriously say “I love you” or “I adore you” to the audience.
But the audience would not be revealing anything of themselves. They were only there to listen and watch.
She would be the only one revealing her feelings with no one to reciprocate.
She would need to think about it differently to get used to it, plus she had no experience doing that.
She had fallen silent, but Tadayo smiled a little and slapped Oosuga’s belly.
“What do you think, Suga?”
“I would never feel ashamed by what I’m presenting to the world.”
He did not hesitate to answer.
He’s the real deal! thought Asama while Torii raised her right thumb behind Oosuga.
Asama then saw some lights around Torii. They were fragments of ether light.
…Those surround Kimi during her spell dances.
Torii was an Ootsubaki-style shrine maiden. The Ootsubaki-style focused on entertainment and was based in Mikawa, so it fell under the Asama Shrine’s management on the Musashi.
Ootsubaki-style shrine maidens generally gained their power from Mikawa using the Asama Shrine as an intermediary, but Torii had a direct contract that did not go through the Asama Shrine.
Her power grew weaker the further the Musashi was from Mikawa, but the direct contract gave her more plentiful spells and reduced the cost and effort of the contract.
And Torii had taken measures to combat the weakness that grew with distance.
…When we were in Mikawa this spring, she became an authorized high-level shrine maiden.
To avoid friction with the other nations, Musashi’s Chancellor and Student Council President had to be incompetent.
Torii was no exception and she had won the previous Student Council election and passed a test for the Chancellor’s Officers.
Even so, on their stop in Mikawa during her third year, she had passed her high-level shrine maiden test at Ootsubaki Shrine.
She had gotten ahead of Asama in that way.
Asama was trying to gain high-level qualifications at the Asama Shrine for next year, but regardless of the shrine, achieving high-level was not easy. Torii waved her hand to manipulate the ether light created by her high-level spell dance.
“I only got this with everyone’s help.”
“That’s because you chose two practical skill tests for the elective subjects on the Ootsubaki high-level test. The Chancellor’s Officers and Student Council were absent for the entire day. We would’ve been in trouble if it wasn’t at Mikawa.”
“Um… The Testament Union wasn’t upset about that?”
Tadayo waved a hand dismissively at Asama’s honest question.
“Torii only has dance and music spells. No matter what happens, dance and music are over when they’re over. They’re really only useful for festivals or cheering people up. Since they aren’t permanent, the Testament Union actually sees them as a way of letting Musashi let off some steam. Also…”
“Torii has an inherited name.”
Asama’s confusion was not about Torii having an inherited name. She did not know what that had to do with the Testament Union’s reaction.
But her upperclassmen did not respond. Tadayo simply began groping Torii’s breasts through the scant material left on the chest of the girl’s modified uniform.
“How did you get an inherited name when you’re just an idiot who’s only good for entertainment? Was it these indecent breasts?”
“Ohhhh! A little higher, Tada-yon. Higher, higher. Ahhh, yes, yes. There, there. Aheen!”
“Don’t moan like that, Chancellor!!”
After nodding at Oosuga’s jab, Torii smiled and fixed her uniform’s bikini-style chest.
“I can’t help it. My body’s just too honest. But anyway, I can’t believe I passed that test. …For the practical skill part, Nabe calculated out the relationship between the pass rate over the last two hundred years with the odds of a wardrobe malfunction. I think it was something like a wardrobe malfunction increases your odds by thirty percent or something. But I was doing well, so I didn’t do it.”
Torii nodded and pointed at Asama’s chest.
“When you’re taking your high-level test next year, letting those giant things slip out will up your odds by thirty percent! Remember that, okay!?”
“Mine’s a Sakuya-style shrine…”
That might be useful for Kimi to know though, she thought as Watanabe lightly raised a hand.
“You three, we need to give our report to festival HQ before long.”
They would review the information on the acoustics and output during their time on stage. The students in charge were impatiently waving at them from the bench and inspection equipment on the starboard side.
On the stage containers up front, Naito and Naruze had finished their rehearsal and were receiving some information via sign frame from the student in charge of the stage.
The rehearsal was making progress.
Tadayo said “see you,” Oosuga nodded, and Watanabe took the lead. Torii started to follow, but…
She called out to Asama, turned around, and continued walking backwards.
“I called you that on a whim, but now that I think about it, it’s one letter off from something pretty outrageous.”
“Um, if I agreed, it would fill up a meter, so can I ignore that?”
“Sure, sure.” Torii nodded with a serious look on her face. “Anyway, Asaman.”
“Wh-why are you getting even closer to that dangerous word!?”
“Umm, this is a Chancellor’s order.”
…What kind of Chancellor’s order begins with “umm”?
As Asama wondered what it could be, Torii continued.
“After what happened today, one band is dropping out. About three people on the Aki side can’t perform now, so our mainly Italian band ‘ROMulus and REMus’ will be filling the holes in Aki’s lineup. Yeah, they’re the ones with MC section that goes on forever.”
“You sounded pretty good today, so how about you take part as a band?”
She understood what she was being told, but she could not grasp it. So…
“W-wait. What do you-…?”
“Judge. I’m sure someone like you can find some random band members. And since you can tune, you won’t affect the overall tuning by joining in and you can keep things safe if something does happen. …We’ll put you in somewhere in the center. If you can do it, send me the form by the day before.”
“Think about making a band, okay? I want to hear it a little, got it?”
Mitotsudaira was fixing her hair before going to bed, but she was interrupted by a suspicious divine transmission. It was from Asama and it was in Asama’s voice, but…
“M-Mi-Mi-Mi-Mito…Mi-Mi-Mi-Mi-to-to-to-to-to-to. Miiiito. Miiiito.”’
“Tomo! Tomo! Are you rapping about meat!? You are, aren’t you!? But this isn’t like you! What happened!? Did all those years finally catch up with you and fry your brain!?”
“What do you mean by that!? Um, uh, but!? Listen!”
As a werewolf, Mitotsudaira had divine protections to take care of her hair, so she could easily stop brushing. However…
“Um, wait. Could I finish brushing my hair first?”
“Ehhh!? W-wait. N-no, it’s just that. Um, uh, brushing? Bru-br-br…band!”
“Breast band? Is that supposed to be a challenge, Tomo?”
“No….eh!? Oh, th-that’s not what I…um…”
Asama took a breath before continuing.
“Meet me below the academy bridge at six tomorrow morning! I have something to tell you!”
The divine transmission ended.
Mitotsudaira was briefly dazed by the conversation and its sudden end, but after some thought, she reached a certain conclusion.
Mitotsudaira felt her blood rising from her neck to her cheeks for no real reason.
Her brushing hand picked up speed.
“Eh? W-wait? Could it be?”
With no one else in the mansion, Mitotsudaira frantically tried to confirm her thoughts.
She searched for someone to talk to.
The three-headed wolf was sleeping sprawled out in the center of the bed.
…Oh, I might have to sleep on the floor or the sofa tonight.
Sensing her defeat, she looked around again.
But there was of course no one around to speak to, so she asked herself the question instead.
“Wh-what is going on?”
Why was Asama trying to confess to her?
…It could of course be about love, but it can also be about someone to support you in the future.
But Asama was a shrine maiden.
Shrine maidens offered themselves up to their god in body and soul, so they generally lived in a world of abstinence. She did not know how that worked in practice, though.
But she did know a shrine maiden lost their exclusivity with their god when they married and offered themselves up to another. That normally meant a restriction to their power, so…
…Does she want a “marriage” between girls to gain someone to support her without losing her divine power?
“O-oh, right! I read about this in Naruze’s book!!”
She had a feeling that book was not the most credible source, but with how ridiculously well “Asama Shoots – Pilot Edition” was selling, it had to be something the general public would accept. It was safe.
But how had this happened? She could only think of one possibility.
“Was it because I showed off my good side during that battle today!? Was that it!?”
Destroying the Non-God Sword’s leg had been a delight for Mitotsudaira since she generally acted on defense.
…Oh, but Tomo uses a bow and arrow and arrows are a metaphor for men. If a shield is a metaphor for women…
“Women are a shield, so, um, the chest is…”
She decided not to think about it.
But in that moment of thought, she felt like those metaphors for men and women fit together in her brain. In other words, even when restraining from such things, a shrine maiden was still 50% sexual. And if Asama was willing to act at 50%, she saw no reason not to go for a full 100%, but she decided not to think about that either.
At any rate, she had to figure out what to do. She needed to come up with a strategy concerning the coming confession, but her experience points were far too low. So she tried to think of someone with more experience.
…That would be a bad idea.
Kimi was too dangerous. And it would frighten her if Adele had any experience with that. Heidi had gone full circle and become a slave to money, and she had a feeling Naomasa would dodge the issue even if she asked. Naito and Naruze had reached the finish line together, but that seemed somehow different. That left…
“Sh-she’s the most dangerous one of all!!”
Her mother was a very bad idea. She had to avoid her at all costs.
She had often been told the story of how her parents had fallen in love, but that had clearly followed the following sequence: Devour → Docking → Fusion → Enlightenment. When she tried counting it all up, that battle had apparently lasted more than twenty days, but they obviously could not do that under the academy bridge. As much as Naruze would love it if they did. In that case…
What about that crossdressing girl that transferred in this year? she wondered.
“She doesn’t have a handheld shrine, does she?”
She was paying her own tuition, so she had not had enough money to pay for sign frame service. That only left…
She opened a sign frame and called him, but…
“Huh!? Nate!? Oh, wait a second. I’m about to drop my spoon!”
What are you doing!? she thought, but she cleared her throat before speaking aloud and checked his location.
…The Blue Thunder?
Kimi viewed the scenery below the dim white sky.
A dozen meters ahead, she saw the lights of a café/bakery.
It was the Blue Thunder.
The door opened and a boy stepped out.
That was her younger brother.
Their mother ran the Blue Thunder and there was no real problem with him leaving it. That was, of course, only if one ignored the fact that he had not gone there for nearly nine years now.
…I had heard he’s been coming here lately.
Seeing it for herself piqued her curiosity.
…What could this mean?
Her brother had stopped visiting here nine years before for a certain reason, but now he was suddenly back. And from what she could see, he was carrying back a bag filled with bread for dinner.
Without noticing her, he left while speaking into a sign frame by his face. He made his way port, toward Musashino.
He was apparently going home.
However, Kimi came to a stop.
She was to the right of the road and she was glad that did not place her behind a building. She was also glad that her brother was distracted by the sign frame.
That meant she was not hiding and that he was not ignoring her.
She began moving again. She looked inside the Blue Thunder up ahead. She wondered if the reason for her brother’s return lay inside.
“Heh. That isn’t what a proper woman does. Don’t sneak around, Aoi Kimi.”
After calming her breathing while taking two steps, she walked boldly through the Blue Thunder’s door and spoke.
A bathhouse existed on one of Okutama’s underground residential long blocks.
It belonged to the Mukai family and the attendant booth was generally manned by their daughter.
“Huh? Suzu-chan isn’t here today?”
The male guests all asked the same question when they saw the mother sitting at the attendant booth. The woman smiled bitterly.
“She’s tending to a guest who passed out in the bath.”
“Oh, that’s too bad…”
“Oh, that’s really too bad…”
“Oh, that’s really, really too bad…”
“Hey, Suzu! The guests are getting depressed, so can you step out here real quick?”
Quiet footsteps soon followed and a small form left the changing room for the women’s bath. The girl had long bangs and a ponytail. She used the sensors on her ears and waist to make up for her lack of sight.
She hesitantly tilted her head toward the men’s bath.
“…Nn. Wh-what…is it?”
The men all exchanged a glance.
They silently stood tall and slowly bowed.
The mother nodded and placed a hand on Suzu’s head.
“Thanks, Suzu. You can head back now.”
“Go on.” The mother smiled at Suzu’s confusion. “Tomo-san collapsed, right? She summons our ignition and heat control spells, so we can’t ignore her. Continue looking after her.”
Asama lay on a bench at one end of the changing room. She wore a yukata, a clothes basket sat upside down on her head, and she slowly calmed her breathing.
The hard points on her neck, sides, and waist tuned her blood flow and ether. There was no point in using any Blessings to speed up the process, so she was using a slower recovery based on her metabolism.
As her heated body calmed down, she just about fell asleep.
“U-um, Asama…-san. …Would you like…c-coffee milk or…fruit milk?”
“Oh, thanks. I’ll take the fruit.”
She slowly sat up while accepting a bisque ceramic bottle with a hemp straw sticking out.
She took time to drink the milk. For the time being, she drank about half.
…Now I’m feeling better.
She did not remember much after Torii had asked her to perform in a band on Asakusa. She had wanted a relaxing place to gather her thoughts, so she had chosen Suzu’s bathhouse. However, soaking in the warm water seemed to have released everything in her mind.
She had a vague recollection of contacting Mitotsudaira while in the tub, but she did not remember what she had said. A memo from Hanami said they had agreed to meet below the academy bridge at six the next morning, so she guessed that was to invite the werewolf girl to join her band.
Now that she had calmed down, she could tell she intended to do this.
The shrine maiden of the Asama Shrine who represented Musashi’s Shinto was going to perform “common” music rather than Gagaku.
That would probably cause some accusations and other problems, so…
Asama turned toward Suzu. Suzu must have sensed it as she sat politely in her wide-sleeved summer uniform.
The girl tilted her head quizzically, which Asama took to mean she should continue.
…Suzu-san can be ignorant in a good way, so she’ll give you a straight answer.
She hesitated but tried asking. She used a speaking technique to add directionality to her voice so the guests changing around her could not hear.
“What do you think about me in a band?”
The girl immediately responded.
Asama groaned in her heart.
She had expected this answer, but it still did not feel good. It left her enthusiasm dead in the water.
Suzu must have noticed her speaking technique because she brought her knees in closer, raised her eyebrows a little, and leaned forward as she continued.
“You said…you wouldn’t… No bands.”
When she had been stricter in the past, she did remember forcing herself to say that kind of thing.
Wait, but that was because I wanted to distinguish myself from the others. That’s the key to being a cute girl… Oh, but I’m still a cute girl. I am. Right? But, um…
“You…promised,” said Suzu. “No bands.”
…Did I ever go so far in my anti-band talk to make an actual promise?
If she had, this was bad.
To earn Blessings for her spells, she had placed a few restrictions on herself as substitutions. One of those was to never break a promise. Permanent promises were efficient because they would continue providing Blessings as long as she kept them, but a promise had to be approved before it worked as a substitution. Everyday promises would not make the cut, but…
…Promising not to join a band would have been approved.
If she had used a promise like that for a substitution, getting it rescinded would be difficult. It would also reduce the amount of Blessings she earned on a daily basis, so she would have to rethink her personal Blessings management.
Promise substitutions held for years gained a perfect attendance bonus, so losing that substitution could require making several restrictions to fill the gap.
I hope it wasn’t an old promise, she thought as she tried asking.
“Um, Suzu-san? When did I make that promise?”
“Elementary…school. …F-fourth grade?”
That was seven years ago and she would have been ten at the time. It did not reach the twelve-year mark, but it was over five years.
In the Shinto substitution plans, even the standard “Easy Promise Substitution Plan” gained a substitution bonus at three and five years. As a shrine maiden, she would get more Blessings than a normal person and she might have even gotten a bonus at seven years.
Oh, no, she thought in silent shock. Making up for the loss of a promise substitution like that would require adding on five additional restrictions.
She had already taken on all of the most efficient substitutions. For example:
- Periodically dedicate sake to your god using your own body. (1 Bottle/3 Days)
- Periodically dedicate grilled chicken to your god using your own body. (5 Skewers/3 Days)
- Never drink happoshu.
…Hmmm? This almost looks like I just want to drink…
Just for reference, she decided to check the list for someone else whose contract she managed. She was curious what it was like for them.
…Um, how about Kimi?
- Dedicate a dance for four hours every day.
- Get eight hours of sleep a day.
- Maintain a bodyweight of less than 48 kg.
…What!? Is she an athlete!? And how can she possibly look like that at less than 48 kg!?
She was in charge of this contract, so this lapse in memory may have come from her trying not to look at that cruel reality. Anyway, I need to check someone else, she thought.
…What was Toori-kun’s like again?
- Periodically strip. (1 Time/3 Days)
- Periodically crossdress. (1 Time/3 Days)
- Periodically make strange noises. (1 Time/1 Day)
Even if she was in charge of this contract, she had to wonder if this just made him a crazy person.
She also wondered if she was partially responsible for setting him in that strange direction, but she decided to ignore that possibility since his rate of stripping was easily thirty times the rate required.
What about her? There was a lot to her contract and it was all complexly intertwined, so checking would be difficult. So…
“Um, Suzu-san? What exactly did I promise?”
“Nn. Y-you promised Toori-kun…no bands…”
“I promised Toori-kun!?”
She would never have guessed it was a promise to him. But…
…Toori-kun suggested I start a band…
In that case, would it even count as breaking her promise? She decided to check the details of the contract later and asked Suzu a question.
“U-um, h-how exactly did that, um, promise with Toori-kun go?”
Suzu seemed surprised.
Had it been that important a promise? Asama started sweating at the fact that she did not remember it at all, but she gathered her courage and asked.
“Well, it seems I’ve, uh, completely forgotten how that promise went, so could you maybe tell me?”
“A-are you sure?”
“Eh? Y-yes. I asked, so I can’t exactly complain.”
“Then,” said Suzu as she slowly got up and circled behind her. “A-are you sure? H-here I go. This was the promise.”
“Eh? Oh, okay. Go ahead.”
“Nn. I’m playing…Toori-kun’s role, okay?”
Just as a very bad feeling came over Asama, Suzu stuck her hands below her arms and began groping her breasts with a strong but inexperienced grip.
She squeezed them.
Asama gasped at the sudden occurrence and Suzu’s mouth trembled.
“Wh-when you were…wearing a band…Toori-kun, um, said shrine maidens…aren’t supposed to…wear bras. He groped you…while crying.”
“I did promise not to wear any breast bands, didn’t I!?”
At that very moment, Naito and Naruze stepped through the cloth divider into the changing room.
“Oh?” Naito’s eyebrows rose. “Huh? You’re here, Asama-chi?”
As for Naruze…
“We don’t often run into you here at this time of-…”
As soon as Naruze saw Suzu groping Asama’s breasts through her disheveled yukata, she froze in place and dropped the viola case she was holding.
Naruze turned extremely slowly toward Naito’s question. Then she nodded.
“I’m okay, Margot. I’m okay. I’m A-OK. See?”
As soon as she nodded, two beams of blood shot from her nose.
“Waaah! Are you okay, Naruze!?”
The Weiss Hexen responded to Asama’s question by covering half of her face with her right hand. Blood dripped down with enough force to be heard and she gave a wave of her other hand that said, “Don’t worry about it.”
She then spent two seconds audibly sucking air in through her nose.
“Khah… Whether I’m fine doesn’t matter. I want to know what the two of you are doing!”
“Nn.” Suzu calmly nodded. “Asama-san…had forgotten her promise…s-so I was playing T-Toori-kun.”
“So it was by force!? You were forcing it onto her!? Asama was lonely, so you came at her saying ‘If you’ve forgotten our promise…’ ”
“This will work! I wasn’t sure what to do after the pilot edition, but now I know just where to take it! Herrlich!!”
“Shut up. I need to make a detailed rough!”
Naruze rubbed her finger in the blood from her nose and began drawing out a storyboard on her viola case.
What am I supposed to do about this? wondered Asama.
“Um, uh, Suzu-san? You can stop groping me now.”
“Wait!! I’m still drawing, so don’t stop!! Stay like that until I’ve finished my sketch!! Please! This might become a regular source of income for me!”
“I’m not sure I want that…”
“More importantly, Suzu! Dig your fingers in a little more and lift them up! Yes, so I can see, so I can see. Good. Now stop breathing…and breathe out…and stop! Yes!”
“Why are you giving them a physical, Ga-chan?”
Naruze responded to Naito by wiping off her hand and grabbing her partner’s breasts. “Ohh,” said Naito as Naruze lifted them two or three times and looked to the storyboard on the viola case.
After a beat, she nodded and spoke.
“Okay! …Okay! I was just about to get the feel of it all wrong! Seeing ones as big as hers threw off my sense of perspective!!”
Naruze nodded again and added a “judge”, but that sent a second eruption of blood from her nose.
Naito cried out and frantically pulled out a healing charm. It scared Asama how practiced the action seemed.
As Naruze said “oh, dear” far too casually, Asama raised a hand.
“Um, Naruze, this is someone else’s home, you know?”
“If it’s coming out, it’s coming out. I can’t help it. I do need to get in the bath to wash the blood off, though.”
“But,” said Naito as she removed her shoes and tilted her head. “What’s this about a promise, Asama-chi?”
“Nn. …No bands.”
“Oh, that promise with Too-chan. You haven’t worn a bra since, right?”
“That’s private information! Stop revealing all my private information!! …And that isn’t the point.”
The three other girls tilted their heads.
“What do you think about me in a band?”
She wanted to know as a shrine maiden.
She had made a show of disliking such things, so this was a change of policy. How would they view that?
“What do you think about that idea?”
After Asama sked, the two Technohexen exchanged a glance.
Asama then heard Naruze speak first.
“How about you ask again after you find one that actually fits you?”
“When you aren’t used to it, the lines can be noticeable over your clothes, so you need to be careful.”
“Y-you need…T-Toori-kun’s p-permission.”
“N-no, not that kind of band. A-and Suzu-san, you can protest just as well without groping me.”
What am I supposed to do about this? she complained in her heart.
Apparently they had a hard time linking the word “band” with a group of performers when it came to her. She decided to choose her words more carefully.
“I’m talking about a musical band.”
“Do any instrument brands make bras, Ga-chan?”
“Asama is pretty crazy, so she might be thinking of making a bra out of trumpet horns.”
“T-Toori-kun did that…on his crotch…before…”
They think I’m like him? thought Asama while feeling a little depressed.
This is hopeless, she thought while not quite sure what exactly was hopeless.
It seemed simply impossible for them to think of her in a band. In that case, she would never get a clear answer when asking them about the possibility.
…Maybe it would feel better to actually form a band and surprise them all.
Yes, she decided. I’ll invite Kimi and Mito to form a band tomorrow.
She took a breath and Naito tossed a Magie Figur her way. She took it as Naito removed her side skirt and loosened the collar of her inner suit.
“This is from before.”
“Judge. It’s the footage of our rehearsal. With audio. It looked like the President captured you and discussed some things with you, so I thought you might not have gotten a chance to listen to it.”
Naruze cut in while undoing her hair next to Naito.
“We’re in there with the third years, so there’s some real pressure on us. We need to spread this everywhere to let everyone know we’re doing this and raise the internal pressure,” she said. “But you might not be interested in this kind of thing.”
“Eh!? Um, well…”
Asama thought about her past self and her current self.
Her past self would have congratulated Naruze and Naito for the chance to perform, but she would not have accepted this. But now…
“Yeah, Asama-chi has always had trouble with this kind of thing.”
Naito prepared to pull back what she had tossed Asama’s way.
But Asama grabbed Naito’s spell circle as if snatching it away.
Oh? thought Naruze.
…Asama has changed a lot this year too.
In elementary school, a certain girl had had great power with her spells, but she had been unsure whether she should use that power or not. She had often been with an idiot and his sister. It had seemed like the other two would play around without restraint, but that girl had become a strange sort of safety device or stopper for them.
In middle school, she had been something of a prodigy who had gained her official qualifications as a shrine maiden at a rate not often seen in the entire history of the academy. But her stricter side had been counteracted by always being with the idiot and his sister.
…But deep down, she took everything seriously.
Even when someone wanted to be left alone, Asama would decide to say what she had to say. Even if that hurt someone or distanced them from her, she was tough enough to accept it as a natural part of being a shrine maiden, regardless of what she actually thought.
If she had been on the side of the religious officials during the Technohexen hunt, she would have been dangerous indeed.
She prioritized her decisions as a shrine maiden over her own personal decisions. That was how Naruze viewed Asama.
She was the perfect person if you got along with her or found a convenient connection with her.
For Naruze, she was someone she could tease and get warnings from without worrying too much. But…
“Do you want to listen to our Technohexen music?”
“Asama-chi, what kind of music do you listen to at home?”
“Eh? W-well, um, things like Plaguer, Kagami, or Girl Viewer…”
She seemed to have the major ones covered. The lack of idols suggested her tastes were similar to Naruze’s. So…
“We can probably leave that with you then.”
“Eh? Um, are you sure?”
“Judge, judge. Margot gave it to you, so it’s not my place to decide.”
She loosened her collar and finally relaxed.
If it turned out someone like Asama understood their tastes, should she be happy or should she try to keep her distance? Asama’s reactions were too much of an unknown to say for sure, but…
“It is nice finding someone who shares your tastes.”
Kimi spoke inside the Blue Thunder.
She sat at the further back of two tables. There were not many customers at this time, but…
“Well? I heard from Toori that you had some fun outside today.”
A woman sat in the seat diagonally across from her. She was the Blue Thunder’s manager and Kimi’s mother.
She had removed her usual mitts and scarf and she looked to Kimi while resting her head in her hand. She showed off her teeth and seemed unwilling to overlook Kimi’s expression.
But Kimi did not try to oppose her. She crossed her legs in her summer uniform and held out her right palm.
“Mitotsudaira charged in like this. And then I…”
She made a humanoid figure with her left hand and twisted it around.
“I used my dance to get rid of the…would you call it a storm barrier? Mitotsudaira took out one leg and then Adele…”
“Wait a minute. Where did Adele come from?”
“I’m bad at explaining things, so go easy on me. She was there for a part-time job and got dragged into it. She can make a good charge, so…”
“She got blown away a little, didn’t she?”
“How did you know?”
Kimi smiled bitterly. Her mother knew most of the students who came here. She could recognize them and she knew their various traits.
…She was a real samurai, after all.
“Maybe she should add some weight anchors to her leg guards. Also, she needs to get some proper supplies for when she goes running with those dogs.”
“Tell her that yourself next time she stops by for some bread crust. …Anyway, with both legs destroyed, Asama fired a bunch of times to end it. The Student Council and Chancellor’s Officers showed up, but I think it was really over after Asama’s attack.”
“Agreed.” Her mother lifted her head from her hand. “Tomo-chan really has grown up.”
“How about you praise your daughter? She did good too.”
“You could have done a lot more. Don’t think I’m not familiar with Ootsubaki.”
“No, I couldn’t have.” Kimi waved her hands back and forth. “To go for a spell better than that, I need a proper backup band and instruments.”
“You don’t have one?”
“Heh heh. Everyone in my class dreams too big.”
“So they aren’t going to settle for backing up someone else, you mean? Of course you second years are busy. You’re all thinking about next year. So Kimi…”
“To take that thing on with nothing but a dance, I would need to reach high-level and gain permission to create my own spells.”
“I’ll pay for the exam, you know? I’m willing to support a kid who’s motivated.”
Kimi pulled back a little, but…
She straightened up when a presence approached from the side. Instead of just taking a natural pose that let her take action at any moment, she also relaxed her expression.
“Sorry about the wait,” said the presence next to her. “Here is your fried chicken and seasonal salad. And your mountain vegetable and kombu chazuke.”
“Mom… I’ve been meaning to ask. Is this really a bakery? If you’ve been lying about that, I’d like to know. So is this actually just a restaurant?”
“After running this place for so many years, my repertoire has gotten a little chaotic. But more importantly…”
Her mother then looked to the presence beside her.
It was an automaton in a sweater and apron. She had long silver hair and blue eyes. A waterproof and heat-resistant black material covered her body in places, but other than that, she was a lifelike model.
Kimi and her mother exchanged a glance, and…
“This is my daughter Kimi. …Do you recognize her?”
The automaton looked to Kimi. She took a single breath, stuck a finger in her right ear, and twisted it.
“I remember. She occasionally stops by here, but while running along the roof as a group the other day, she shouted ‘Watch out, Asama!’ to Asama-sama, grabbed her from behind, and self-destructed together with her.”
“Oh, that was our PE class last week. Our teacher said it’s time for practical lessons outdoors since she’s more or less taught us how we’re supposed to fight. It was supposed to last until we reached Musashino’s stern, but we were all wiped out before even reaching Okutama’s bow. I can only laugh that the last of us was taken out in front of the graves.”
She remembered it well. After the vanguard had been taken out, Asama had readied her bow, but then the vanguard had flown right at her. She had been a good distance away, but according to Neshinbara, the vanguard had been sent flying into the rear guard without slowing their teacher down any.
“It all happened just as Asama prepared her bow, so it had to have taken some speed.”
“If Tomo-chan wasn’t fast enough, that teacher must be the real deal. I had guessed as much after the incident with Ishikawa-san, but hearing it from someone who actually lost to her is something else entirely.”
“I told you the day it happened too. Heh heh. It’s such an embarrassing story.”
“You did, but stories about your daughter’s embarrassing failures never get old. But Kimi, why don’t you head out to the front line?”
“I think it would suit me. Entertainer god musicians are meant to take the ‘middle ground’. But you know my foolish brother and I can’t head out to the front line.”
“Well, that’s true. Either Tenzou-kun and the others need to work a little harder or you need someone with more attack power on your vanguard. You seem a little lacking as you are,” said her mother. “Anyway, I think I received a divine transmission from home about that teacher. She’s from IZUMO and I’ve seen her spells, so I can take a good guess who taught her.”
The woman turned back to the automaton.
“Sorry for getting sidetracked. Do you remember anything else while looking at Kimi?”
“Judge. Other than what I just said, I sometimes see her at night playing with cats on the side of the road, carrying a lost Mouse to the shrine, or speaking with the black algae creatures.”
“Kimi, are you actually going the gap route?”
“Heh heh heh. A girl has to indiscriminately contact anything that’s cute!”
Kimi smiled when the automaton mimicked her thumb’s up.
Then the automaton turned toward her mother.
“But manager, I really do seem to have no memories from before arriving at Mikawa.”
Kimi mentally tilted her head at that.
“Have you checked whether she’s lost her memories or if her memories were just in their initial blank state? Where is she from?”
“Shockingly, I am of unknown origin and my first memory is being hungry in one of Tama’s streets.”
“The black algae noticed her and told me. I decided to give her something to eat and it turns out she’s lost her memories. The records say she arrived from Mikawa, though.”
Kimi’s mother lightly kicked her shin below the table.
Kimi knew what that meant: those records themselves were suspect.
Her mother had originally been a samurai who worked as a bodyguard. With this suspicious automaton, some human support was needed, but safety was also a concern. But…
“It’s been three months since Mikawa…but she wasn’t here when I stopped by two weeks ago, was she?”
“Judge. At the manager’s request, I was performing a number of tests. And I too wanted to know whether I, P-01s, am dangerous or not.”
“Girls can be dangerous things. But what’s that P-01s about?”
“Judge.” The automaton nodded. “I suspect it is short for ‘Panties-0ptional 1nterface System'.”
“Mom! This girl! This girl is excellent! How about I adopt her as a little sister!?”
“Hmm, I had a feeling you two would get along.”
Kimi and the automaton exchanged thumb’s ups and Kimi asked something else.
“Is this why Toori’s been coming?”
That question earned her another light kick to the shin.
Kimi briefly did not understand what her mother’s shin contact meant.
But then P-01s tilted her head.
“Eh? Oh, she means Wet Man.”
“Oh, Wet Man. The one who drops a lot of spoons.”
Kimi was a little confused, but apparently her younger brother was known as a mysterious peeping tom.
But then P-01s looked to the clock on the wall and bowed.
“Please visit us again, Kimi-sama. It is now time for me to clean the kitchen.”
“Judge. Heh heh. I look forward to visiting again, cute little automaton.”
Her words coincided with P-01s rising from her bow.
She started on the food while the automaton left. By the time the echoing footsteps continued into the kitchen, Kimi could taste the food. The salad made by the automaton had the vegetables laid out to fill all the gaps, the chazuke was the perfect temperature, and the fried chicken…
“Because she does it manually. When making an omelet, she uses her automaton load detection sensors to cook everything inside completely evenly. It was quite a surprise.”
That meant it was not actually bland. Every single part of it tasted exactly the same. From a flavor perspective, it was a lot like a drink in solid form.
Chicken was a fairly randomized ingredient, but the automaton had changed the density of the breading. She had strengthened its flavor where the flavor of the meat was weaker and weakened it where the original meat was stronger.
It showed excellent management, but…
“She must think deviations are a weakness, so everything comes out too perfectly and evenly managed. Unfortunately, ordering her to do it less carefully doesn’t work. To convince herself she’s being less careful, she goes a little too over the top.”
“Did Toori have to eat any of those ‘over the top’ ones?”
“He said, ‘What’s this!? Talk about new!’ ”
…He found a clever way out, didn’t he?
“Why are you in a bad mood, Kimi?”
“Heh heh. I’m not in a bad mood. I’m just not used to this.”
…Not used to it, hm?
For a certain reason, her brother had been avoiding this place, but now he was back. She was now certain of why, so it came down to whether she could accept it or not.
…Can I do that?
“Mom, as a big sister, would it be more interesting if I sulked, if I tried to show off in weird ways, or if I rooted for him?”
“It looks to me like you’re already accepting this pretty rationally.”
“Hmm. I know there’s a part of my relationship with that foolish brother that will never change and I’m not going to take that lightly now. …I don’t quite understand everything yet, but I can pretty much see how I hope it all turns out. So it really comes down to how I can have the most fun in all the twists, turns, and ahahhhns in between.”
“And how do you hope it all turns out?”
“Heh heh. You want to know? …But I won’t tell you! I have a right to remain silent even with my own mother! Mom, why are you looking toward the counter? I know you hide a sword behind it, but what are you planning to do with it?”
“The details don’t matter. …If you can see the ending already and you know you can get there, then it probably would be fun to go along with all the twists and turns, whether that means sulking or whatever else.” Her mother smiled bitterly. “Besides, doing nothing isn’t an option, is it?”
“Judge. I know I’ll be better off down the road if I make sure to acknowledge this now. I can’t accept a ridiculous absence like in the past. Ever since then, I’ve been all for going on the attack and making your way to the best possible ending.”
A long time ago, she had received a large absence.
That was why.
She had been inexperienced back then. Now, she wanted to head in the more interesting direction. And that was why she thought about what was going to happen. Instead of an away game, their everyday life would be an extreme home game.
In that case, she thought.
“It might not always be fun, but I’ll trust in and worry for my foolish brother while also pouting and adoring him.”
She made up her mind and continued eating. The chazuke had gone cold and the rice was beginning to soak up the tea, but that made it seem nice and homemade. She munched on the evenly flavored fried chicken as she said something more.
“Everyday life isn’t even at all. Oh, and…”
“I’m sure you know, but I’ve already made up my mind about that automaton girl. …My lost little sister has returned in a new form. God does some strange things.”
“I see,” said her mother while standing from her seat. “Don’t tell anyone about that. A few have already caught on, though.”
“What about you?”
“This isn’t about my generation. And I’m not absolutely certain. So…she’s an automaton working part-time here. Sometimes I do wonder, but I don’t mind if it never goes beyond that. I’ll stick with it as is.”
Kimi raised her left hand and her mother struck it with her own left hand.
“You don’t hold back,” said Kimi with a bitter smile as she started thinking about how to pout beginning tomorrow.
“Hm? A divine mail from Asama?”
She stopped eating and looked at the sign frame.
“ ‘Meet me below the academy bridge tomorrow morning.’ …Is she planning to confess to me?”
Asama walked to the Asama Shrine on the Musahi’s surface at night.
She could not see the sky due to the stealth barrier.
She could view this as normal for the Musashi.
But she also felt like her body temperature was higher than usual.
It may have been due to stopping by the bathhouse or because she had failed to regulate her breathing.
She was not sure.
But despite not knowing, her step was light. Instead of her body pressing down on the soles of her feet, she felt like the tips of her toes were pulling her forward.
She muttered those words, but…
So she opened her lips again.
“To the sky.”
That isn’t it either, she thought.
What was wrong with it? What was not fitting?
She did not know that either, but she vaguely knew what she was doing.
“In the sky.”
That seems to fit, but it’s a little much.
“I can’t see it.”
No. Not seeing it is normal. I can’t make that seem tragic.
“I see it.”
No. I’m the one speaking, so it has to be more than just “me”.
That’s too strict. I’m going back to my old self! It can’t be my will. Um…
She hesitated, but she said it.
She was not sure if she should say that, but she still exposed a small bit of herself with her words. But…
Her body was moving forward, so she spoke.
She moved her body forward. More than stepping forward, she seemed pulled forward by something ahead of her. And…
“In the sky.”
“I see it.”
For some reason.
She moved her posture forward.
She hummed with the tempo of her walking feet.
“In the sky is the usual night. I see it and my heart won’t stop.”
She did not know what she was trying to say.
But she knew this was the right answer at the moment.
She might wonder what she had been thinking by the following day, but it was the right thing for her current heated mood.
…This is what I am right now.
So she accepted it.
“How about I do it?”
“How about I sing?”
Asama continued forward.
She walked forward below the usual night.
Before it had been Gagaku.
Gagaku was still a part of her work.
She had often thought that she would continue doing it forever.
Now things had changed.
Those thoughts had not been wrong, but things had changed.
She walked below the usual white sky of the night. That closed sky cut off her view of the stars and the moons.
But all sorts of things existed beyond that sky.
That was not something to be thinking after all this time.
She had seen that sky so often in the past.
She had grown up on the Musashi, so she had been familiar with it before entering elementary school.
They felt this life on the Musashi would give them long lives.
Some would leave for the surface for a variety of reasons. Asama was planning to travel around the mainland training after graduating and Mito had said something similar.
But in the end, they would return here. So…
“It’s the usual scenery.”
It all stayed the same.
It would stay that way forever.
“How am I supposed to look at it differently?”
In fact, could she even do that?
She did not know.
Shrine maidens worked with the power of words. They defined things and purified away the excess.
She had been doing that all her life, so her view of things tended to be strict.
She knew she was strict. She knew she had always been that way.
With music, she had not tried to learn about any other kind and had avoided coming into contact with anything new or foreign.
Her words sounded almost like a hope.
“I am different, aren’t I?”
She wanted to find out whether she was or not.
…I’m not sure I like that this was all started by a strange invitation from Toori-kun, though.
But she did have someone who directed her interests and gave her a place to answer those interests.
“It depends on whether my destiny wants to go in that direction.”
The others had not noticed that she wanted to see whether she had changed or not.
Of course, he might have noticed an early sign of this.
But the rest was up to her.
She continued forward and thought.
“If I do change and it fits within my proper destiny…”
She viewed the usual scenery around her.
“Will I see something that hasn’t changed yet looks different to me?”
- Manko means vagina.
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