Horizon:Kimitoasamade 1A Prologue
Prologue: The Three Girls of the Asama Shrine
How in the world
Can we work so well together
When we’re talking about
Completely different things?
Point Allocation (Practice, maybe?)
“Hey, Asama, how is the wiring over there going? Did you jam everything inside? Oh, c’mon, I mean into the hole! You wrap it around like this, gather it all together like a tentacle, and…! Ahhhn! Th-the cable is all wrapped around me! H-how dirty! …Hey, you aren’t even looking, Asama! Neither are you, Mitotsudaira! Oh? Why are you giving me that look of scorn while I’m lying boneless on the floor with a cable wrapped around me!? Are you leaving me like this!? Are you!? Because that’s wonderful too!”
A black-haired shrine maiden sighed into the early summer sky as a strange girl writhed on the floor with a hemp rope cable wrapped around her.
They were on a ship in the sky, but…
“Kimi… This is the theatre ship and not the Musashi, plus a lot of the third years are here, so try not to play around so much.”
The nametag on her neck hard point said “Asama Shrine: Asama Tomo” and she crouched in front of the girl whose nametag said “Asama Shrine: Aoi Kimi”.
Asama lightly tapped a few times on the waist hard point of Kimi’s mostly black shrine maiden outfit.
“Can you untangle yourself? This cable is for our work, so we can’t cut it.”
“What are you talking about!? I’m having fun playing tentacles and I need to think about what options I would have if this were a porn game, so don’t interrupt! Or do you want to join in!? You do, don’t you!? But there’s no room, so you can’t! Jealous, aren’t you!?”
“I am a little jealous of that side of your personality. Yes.”
Another girl in a mostly blue shrine maiden outfit stepped up alongside Asama. Her Asama Shrine nametag said “Nate Mitotsudaira”, she crouched down in front of Kimi, and she clearly started to say something, but…
“No, never mind. This is Kimi, so it’s no use.”
“Heh heh. Now, you’ve said it! You admit defeat, don’t you!? Surrender to me and I’m willing to trim you in Asama’s bath every night! But not now; I’m tentacling!”
“Why does she never get tired of herself?”
“It’s true! It’s so true!” shouted the crazy person as Asama and Mitotsudaira stood up.
Mitotsudaira sighed and spoke to Kimi.
“Listen, Kimi. We are trying to prepare for the Joint Gagaku Festival with Aki’s Itsukushima Shrine. The third years are doing most of it, but second years like us were called in to tune the stage for the Asama Shrine. So can’t you show some restraint?”
Mitotsudaira pointed to their surroundings.
As her hand swept around, it indicated third years in summer uniforms and light gods of war preparing for the Gagaku Festival. They were pulling back the floor in places, pulling out the tuners like pillars, and then tuning them.
It was the standard scene of Gagaku Festival preparations.
The occasional amplified instrument was heard for tuning or testing purposes, but the note would vanish into the sky.
Asama spoke with her hair fluttering in the wind.
“The ship’s auditory control spell hasn’t been activated yet, so all the sounds end up dead. As a theatre ship, it will have better acoustics than a concert hall when fully activated.”
Asama and Mitotsudaira looked around at the wooden plaza floating in the sky.
The deck being longer front to back was characteristic of the theatre ships used for plays and Gagaku. The ship was also used for diplomacy, it had a stage on the bow, and tiered seats were prepared near the center.
Two main things were visible beyond the ship.
One was the Far East and the eastern end of the Seto Inland Sea. The other was the giant island floating in the western sky.
A giant torii stood in a manmade ocean on the east side of that floating island, but beyond the shrine and forest were a stone city and a European cathedral.
Asama sounded relieved when she saw that scenery.
“We made it to Aki, headquarters of K.P.A. Italia, this year too.”
Asama could see Aki, which was a floating island and the K.P.A. Italia headquarters of Itsukushima.
Their ship was in the sky three kilometers east of Aki.
It was an early summer afternoon and all of Aki was visible with the sun shining on it from above. The island was longer from north to south. The forested land was surrounded by ocean and a pathway of small torii. A large torii and shrine were visible on the eastern edge where the morning sun would reach them.
…It sure is big.
Because K.P.A. Italia took care of it, its equipment was cutting edge.
Mitotsudaira looked in the same direction next to Asama.
“That’s the headquarters of the Tsirhc religion that uses the Testament as its scriptures and the effective leader of the Testament Union. Look at all those trade ships… They’re showing off.”
“If our shrine had that much, we could do so much more…”
“Heh heh heh. I don’t want to hear that from the daughter of a shady shrine with plenty of underground equipment and sales deals! You should expand into other industries. You could do a lot with custom spells and divine makeup.”
“That kind of thing is in a legal gray area, so we can’t exactly make it standard…”
A shadow of some trade ships passed overhead.
The fleet heading to Aki bore the emblem of the Konishi family.
They all had sign frames open on the back and sides which were running advertisements for the Konishi brand.
But that was not all. Musashi and Aki trade ships were moving back and forth below their ship and in the distant sky. Musashi had sent out a large transport ship that acted as a hub to trade with Shikoku and the opposite coast of the Seto Inland Sea.
The surrounding third years suddenly looked to Aki.
“This is going to be a hot and busy summer.”
“I’m on the industrial committee and manage the ice rooms, so I’m actually going to be freezing…”
“Well, this is the last year we can do this kind of thing as students.”
They laughed and suddenly all looked to the east.
“I wonder if Musashi will stop here next year too.”
It was inside a stealth space, but the Musashi was in the eastern sky there.
Drawn by the third years, Asama also focused on the invisible Musashi. Her false left eye, Konoha, showed her the giant ether reaction in the sky that indicated the Musashi’s presence.
They were positioned between the giant ship and floating island.
And while between Musashi and Itsukushima, they technically counted as diplomats, but…
“The Torii family supplied this three hundred meter theatre ship called the Tanigawa Castle, so it’s a shame it seems so small here.”
As soon as Mitotsudaira said that, they heard a voice on the western deck.
A theatre ship from Aki was rising there.
It was shaped a little different from the Tanigawa Castle and its armor was made from cross-shaped panels. It was the Noh Stage, given to Itsukushima by Kure Manufacturing Divine Ship Industries via K.P.A. Italia.
The Far Eastern students of the Aki reservation were performing similar work on that other ship.
Some shouted and waved their hands to the others while some continued their work.
…Aki’s reservation is full of life.
“We need to do our best too. …We have to support our upperclassmen.”
Asama operated her sign frame to have the stage floor open up.
“We’ve finished the wiring for the preliminary activation, so let’s get to work.”
Asama opened a few sign frames, and in one of them…
“Help me out, Hanami.”
Her Mouse, Hanami, clapped her hands and tumbled out from the sign frame.
At the same time, the floor in front of Asama moved.
The central panels of the stage floor automatically opened and revealed what lay below.
The third year Gagaku Festival workers on the stage let out impressed voices, but Asama did not hesitate even with those upperclassmen focused on her. As a shrine maiden who performed Shinto rituals in front of others, she was used to gathering attention.
At the moment, she was only focused on those playing their instruments or discussing their auditory spells.
Part of her felt jealous, but at the same time…
…Oh, that spell would sound even nicer with another lighter one added in!
She just about interrupted them as an expert, so she tried to calm herself.
As she regulated her breathing, the opening floor came to a stop.
She and the other two girls were currently…
…In front of the ether tuner for the bow stage.
Several dozen pieces of the stage floor were stored away over a wide area. This exposed a dark blue block fifteen meters wide and thirty meters tall.
The ether tuner was known as the Divine Sound Home. That name was engraved into the center of the wedge like structure that was common in products of the IZUMO Conglomerate. They were about to use the device to tune the ley lines in the surrounding space.
With the floor moved, Asama and Mitotsudaira stepped onto the tuner which was a step down from the surrounding stage.
The third years working on the stage gave them interested glances from a distance but never moved in close.
When she saw them, Kimi finally moved from the floor. She laughed, quietly wiggled her black shrine maiden outfit that was tangled in the hemp rope cable, and then sat up.
“Looks like they know this is a Shinto ritual. …Asama, that means this stage is yours.”
Asama’s heart skipped a beat at that.
Kimi was the sister of him, the one who had asked if she would join a band, so it was possible she had heard about it from him. But…
…Calm down, me.
This girl always acted like she was on stage, so she simply talked about other people like they were the same.
So Asama sighed in her heart and took a scolding tone.
“Listen, Kimi. This stage is for the Gagaku groups. I’m only tuning the surrounding ley lines and controlling the flow of ether. This is the shrine’s work,” she said. “Also, this ship belongs to the Student Council. Think of it as a place for students.”
“You take everything too seriously. You’re going to miss out.”
Does she know? she wondered, but Kimi only narrowed her eyes and laughed.
Then she stood up.
“You really are fun to tease.”
Kimi gave a single twist of her body and the hemp rope cable easily fell away. She then looked down at Asama from a step above.
“Now, when is it my turn, Asama? If I still have some time, can I show Aki to Uzy?”
“Oh, Kimi, you get set up in the center. Mito, a little help. …If we’re going to give Uzy a social studies lesson, we can get our work done here first and enjoy a reward as we do.”
Mitotsudaira nodded and ran along with her heels sounding loudly on the top of the tuner.
“Um, will the one here work?”
When Mitotsudaira stopped and asked her question, Asama nodded and used a sign frame to open it up.
“Yes. Raise the edge of the tuner and then do the four counters in a diagonal line starting from there. …Oh, and by ‘there’, I mean the left…which would be your right.”
After Asama apologized to the confused girl, a few large forms approached. Three light gods of war operated by students were walking over.
A staticky divine mail from the engine division appeared next to her face. It was from Naomasa.
“Need some help from the gods of war there? They’re technically supposed to be working on something else, but with your permission, I can get the higher ups to agree.”
“Thanks, but we should be fine with Mito here. That way we can use the purification equipment properly too. Thanks for the offer though, Masa.”
“Don’t worry about it. We’re helping out the Student Council and Chancellor’s Officers too. The Spring School Festival’s Gagaku Festival is the first big job for the student council, so I just hope we’re doing our part to help.”
It was only text, but Asama could almost hear the smile in Naomasa’s voice. The light gods of war raised a hand in greeting and then returned to their original work.
…This job is up to me. Or rather, I had them leave it to me.
I need to do it right, she thought while taking a breath and clapping her hands.
Asama, Mitotsudaira, and Kimi (who had stepped down onto the tuners) exchanged powerful looks and Asama spoke.
“The Asama Shrine’s shrine maidens – Second Years Asama Tomo, Aoi Kimi, and Nate Mitotsudaira – will now tune the ley lines in this place of divine sound.”
Mitotsudaira put on the glove hanging from her right waist hard point part.
The glove had a charm woven into it, so it lowered one’s interference with ether. The formatted meter on the back of the hand indicated the amount used. That meter was currently a blank box, but…
…This isn’t really made for someone like me.
She was a half-werewolf. Since werewolves were close to being spirits, an artifact that lowered ether interference clashed with her very being. Simply placing the glove on her right hand and tightening it caused the square meter to slowly fill with black from left to right. So…
“Tomo, make this quick.”
Asama tossed a sign frame downward with a fingertip. As soon as it sank into the top of the tuner, she clapped once.
Bluish-white veins of light filled the top surface and mold lines of the tuner. The light pulsed and moved from Asama to Mitotsudaira.
She quickly spread her legs because the upper bulkhead of the tuner’s edge had opened where she was standing.
A square space fifty centimeters across opened to reveal a torii-shaped handle and the top of a pillar continuing down.
The pillar was a ley line extraction container. In other words, it was the vessel to hold a god.
A torii-style sign frame appeared on top of the torii-shaped handle. An arrow drew a circle to tell her which way to turn it, so she leaned forward with her legs still spread.
When she grabbed the handle, light spilled from between it and the glove. Ether was leaking out.
Mitotsudaira knew this tuner’s role was to access a god.
…The god is called into the container by the music and festival, which tunes the surrounding area.
In the Far East and the rest of the world, music had long been considered divine. Even plays were offered up to gods or spirits and they were said to reside within them. Those traditions had left Europe and the Middle East after the Tsirhc and Mlasi religions took over and nature worship faded away, and such things had become more about the authority of statesmen even in Asia, but…
“The Far East still sees a connection to the divine in these things.”
When holding a festival, one prayed to a god for success, and at the end one would hold a “conclusion” to let the god know it was over. Gagaku and plays were divine rituals meant to summon festival-loving gods. When that was successful, the area’s impurities would be purified and erased.
The ether tuner created a location for a god to be summoned, stabilized the god’s existence, and got the tuning of the area underway. Just like a portable shrine, the device controlled the ley lines to gather the location’s impurities and then had the god erase them.
It was both a pure location for summoning a god as well as a dangerous location that gathered impurities. The initial tuning work could not be done by normal students, so…
“Mito! It’s stabilized! Raise the container with the ley line extraction inside!”
On Asama’s instructions, Mitotsudaira turned the container’s handle.
This is heavy, thought the half-werewolf as she turned it. Normally, a god of war would use specialized equipment to turn it and pull up the container, so it was not meant for an individual.
…But I can do it!
It was only maybe once a month that she came across some work that required gathering all of her strength.
<Instructions: Spin, spin, spin~>
What is this? she wondered, but when she remembered it was an IZUMO product, she ignored it.
She wrapped just her right hand’s fingers around the handle and turned it three times. On the final turn, she felt something like a screw coming out. At the very end, she felt something strongly fit into place.
<Instructions: Push it in with a mother’s gentle touch.>
Mitotsudaira thought with a smile and finally slowly pushed it in.
She gave it some more thought. “Umm,” she said while changing her previous approach and pushing it in with a stroking touch.
<Instructions: Needs more love.>
“Be more specific!!”
“Mito! Mito! If you don’t hurry up, your glove will expire!!”
She glanced at the formatted meter on the back of her hand and found it was past halfway.
I need to hurry, she thought, but then she came to a stop. She tried to push it in quite gently, so she was not sure what to do now.
…Don’t tell me it requires the much more forceful gentleness of my mother.
She breathed in and emulated her mother when the woman would scold her with a smile.
A great roar passed through to the bottom of the ship and the ground below her feet shook. Asama cried out and nearly fell, but Kimi caught her.
“W-wait, Mito! And Kimi, why are you groping me!?”
“Eh!? What are you talking about, Asama! How can I not grope you!? That’s the standard form for the back-attack according to the version of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War written after he levelled up to being known as Dirty Old Man Sun Tzu! It says to stick your hands through under her arms and say ‘Sorry, our legs seem to have gotten tangled up’!”
“Mito, I’m going to ignore this crazy person, so just tell me why you made a full power strike.”
“Eh? But that was only about 70%?”
The third years looked shocked, but Asama and Kimi looked more understanding. That may have been a sign of what made them worthwhile friends.
At any rate, she looked back to the container’s sign frame.
<Instructions: …I’ll accept that just this once.>
The container rose. It was a metal cylinder, but the middle became a square cage with a thick bundle of charms inside.
The charms were glowing. The density of the charms showed just how much ether was gathered, but they only glowed dully since the ether was stable. Mitotsudaira needed to repeat the process in the four corners, and then…
“Kimi will dance and Tomo will play music to equally tune all of the containers.”
“Yes, if the god is going to be summoned during the actual festival, we need to bring out any stagnated areas now, so be careful.”
Asama was speaking not just to Mitotsudaira and Kimi but to the surrounding third years as well.
Stagnated ether in the ley lines could become mysterious phenomena. And instead of simple ones like strange noises and lights, they tended to appear as monsters.
Most of the third years started paying more attention to them and some placed charms or short swords on their waists. Mitotsudaira prepared a spell shield charm and walked over to the next container she needed to raise.
Asama looked her way and raised the reinforced biwa she used as an instrument.
“Um, you have to play too, Mito.”
“What!? …N-no one told me that!”
“Toori-kun said you played the viola and cello at the Knight Union’s year-end festival, so I brought something like that for you. Yes.”
“Wh-why does he have to do things like that when he never does what really matters?”
“What really matters?”
The other two girls tilted their heads, but Mitotsudaira did not feel like answering.
…I’m talking about treating me like his knight.
She had made a promise with him in middle school. It had happened during a time in her life she was embarrassed to think about and it had created who she was now.
…I wonder if he even still remembers that promise.
She also felt like she had messed up a lot herself.
Making herself his knight would be a one-sided thing if he had forgotten their promise and that made her afraid to find out if he really had forgotten, so she had been unable to ask him.
“But given the times, I get the feeling things might just continue on like this without anything changing.”
She spoke that comment below her breath and turned toward Asama and Kimi.
She thought about “what really matters” again and opened her mouth.
She shifted her thoughts from herself and to the idea in general.
“I suppose what really matters in this age is investigating the Apocalypse and finding a way to stop it.”
“Heh heh. And you’re placing that burden on my Toori’s shoulders? But he’s gotten even more lax since he started visiting our mom’s café again.”
“It’s probably going to be a while before we can get bread for breakfast at the Main Blue Thunder again.”
Mitotsudaira looked at the torii-shaped handle for the container that opened the tuner’s four corners. She then looked to the biwa viola case Asama was holding up.
“Anyway, let’s do what we can in preparation to summon a god. Then we can get some tea as a treat while we look at Aki.”
“Can you hear that noise? Hm?”
Someone spoke in the center of Rome, the city at the center of Aki. The stone steps in front of the academy/cathedral gave a nice view of the sky and someone sat on those steps with an elderly demon standing behind him.
“Galileo, what does it sound like to you?”
“Innocentius, you really are the kind of boy – no, former boy – who likes to ask things you already know the answer to.”
“I try not to trust myself too much. I did that in the past and it did not end well…for K.P.A. Italia.”
“So you have plenty of confidence and you’re simply getting further confirmation from others, former boy?”
Galileo crossed his arms as he continued.
“The Far East’s Gagaku reminds me of the Music of the Spheres. It lacks a few of the sounds, but the gentle cycle and few changes are quite similar.”
“Galileo, you really are the kind of teacher – no, former teacher – who likes to make things more complicated than they need to be. How about you find a simpler way of saying that? Hm?”
“I’m pretty sure you understood well enough. The Music of the Spheres was sought in the Greek era and is still brought up by some odd people today, but the Far East has already grasped it in a more primitive way.”
“You mean how they tune the ley lines with music and sometimes even summon gods? Hm?”
Innocentius looked away from Galileo.
“That’s the problem with heathens. They get close to heaven, but they try to use it as something functional.”
“Testament,” said Galileo again before forming long breaths of laughter. “The religions of uncivilized peoples often contain the divine in their music, dance, and plays. You find it in the Dark Continent and New World as well. …In other words, the less cultural exchange they have and the less developed they are, the more naturally people grow close to gods and spirits. And their music, dance, and plays end up taking on that theme.”
“Not everyone has the ‘abnormal’ ability to create music, dance, and plays, so they view it as a gift from heaven. And so they continue creating gods and spirits with their own power. But…”
Innocentius looked up into the sky.
He listened to the sound coming from the two theatre ships in the eastern sky.
“That’s incompatible with us, isn’t it? Hm?”
“Testament. The Tsirhc religion stopped worshiping gods of nature or worshipping powerful people as gods. Instead, we came to believe in the god that resides in each and every one of us. In that way we are a religion of ‘people’. With our god and our hymns, we follow our commandments, believe those commandments are holy, and thus make ourselves holy as ‘people’. That is incompatible with the Far East’s festivals that summon a god to purify their impurities like some kind of indulgence for their sins.”
“They worship different gods. That is why they are heathens. And that is fine for them.”
“You accept it?”
“I will not accept heretics, but I will accept heathens.”
“Then what are you saying is so incompatible, former boy?”
“Testament,” replied Innocentius. “Do our strong points fit together with theirs?”
He crossed his legs, pulled a water bottle from inside his summer cape, uncorked it, and poured some water in the corner of his mouth.
“We are those who became ‘people’ by abandoning our worship of the ancient gods. By believing that god is within us, we can say that god is always watching over us, so we can go anywhere and we can be alone. We are those who hold god inside. Our commandments and hymns are meant to correct ourselves so that we can remain with god. Isn’t that right? Hm?”
He then added a “but”.
“They say their gods reside in all parts of the environment and they have no real commandments, so they cannot change themselves. They simply curry their gods’ favor with song and dance in order to give themselves more peace. They never became ‘people’. They remain uncivilized. But…”
“Did you know this? Under the Tsirhc religion, it took over a thousand years to reach the Renaissance that allowed us to regain the ‘self’ inside us that goes beyond being mere servants of god.”
“Then,” said Galileo. “Have the Far East’s people retained their ‘self’ for a thousand years longer than us?”
“After going through the Renaissance, we are ‘people’ and we also have our ‘self’. That puts us above them.”
“Former boy, I’m having trouble telling which side you’re supporting here.”
“Catholicism is equal to all, Galileo. But only when under Catholicism’s protection. If those uncivilized heathens wish to hold a festival, they are free to do so once they have our permission. Isn’t that right? Hm?”
Innocentius continued from there.
“Honestly, I doubt those uncivilized heathens have thought about or worried about any of this. To be ‘people’ is to be adults. Don’t you think? Hm?”
“Far Eastern students have to retire after age eighteen, so I am not sure that is entirely their fault, former boy.”
“Then in name and in fact, we are the adults lending our sky to the children.”
Innocentius spat a breath toward the ground without forming a smile.
“The Far East has their childish ‘self’ and has spent over a thousand years without becoming ‘people’. But I will admit that their music for tuning ley lines and their techniques for summoning gods are valuable cultural assets.”
“Why not just be honest and say you like the sound of their music?”
“Hey, hey. I didn’t say that.”
“Then what is it?” asked Galileo.
The pope formed a bitter smile.
“Surely a demon like you can see the movement in the surrounding ether. What do you have to say about the stagnation approaching the theatre ships? Hm?”
Galileo looked up to the sky.
The music had stopped and all hint of motion had vanished from the theatre ships.
“Testament. …Former boy, should we send out help?”
“Didn’t I tell you? Catholicism is equal to all and we will allow heathen festivals. Far Eastern festivals are apparently meant to purify their impurities by summoning a god, but that means their festival will gather impurities. Thus, this is the Far East’s responsibility. Helping them would create an inequality, so we cannot do that. If what happens now remains a part of their festival, then everything will remain equal.”
Innocentius took a sip of water.
“Tell the PR committee to ignore any requests for help from the Far East or Aki until such time as we will be damaged. It will be here in less than three minutes.”
“What do you think it will be?”
“Testament. A type of Apocalyptic mysterious phenomenon. When ether impurities are purified, stagnation will be sucked in to take its place. And often in a bestial form.”
“Here it comes. Aki is made up of noncombatants to prevent a rebellion, so what will Musashi do?”
Asama stood in the center of the tuner with Kimi and Mitotsudaira.
An ether stagnation gathered in the ship and the surrounding air. It formed in front of her eyes. She and Mitotsudaira used their music to tune that ether and remove the stagnation while Kimi’s dance gathered and solidified it.
The third years watched warily on in the distance, but Asama did not turn toward them. Neither did Kimi and Mitotsudaira or even Hanami and Uzy who floated above their heads.
They were focused on the stagnation that had appeared at their feet.
“What is this?”
It was a wolf, but it was only about fifteen centimeters tall. It had nearly super-deformed proportions and it was looking up at them in curiosity while wagging its tail. It almost looked like a stuffed animal at that size, but it was definitely a monster.
“It has three heads. What do you call that? There’s that three-headed wolf in Greek mythology called…oh, right! I know! Youkai Dreimara!!”
“Stop mixing Far Eastern, M.H.R.R., and Indian terms, Kimi. And if it was Mara-sama, it wouldn’t be heads. It would have been pe-…”
After reaching that point in her explanation, Asama realized what she was saying.
“No, wait! Never mind! And that’s Buddhism, isn’t it!?”
…Ahh, this silence is painful!!
Mitotsudaira was the first to recover. She brought a hand to her mouth and cleared her throat.
“Is it because we passed through Kojima, which corresponds to Greece? This is clearly the Cerberus from Greek mythology, isn’t it?”
“Wait, Mito! If you call its name-…”
Before Asama could finish, the Cerberus approached Mitotsudaira and began rubbing its heads against her leg. All three heads tried to do it at once, so it fell over.
“Mitotsudaira’s in charge of it!!” exclaimed Kimi. “It’s yours now!!”
“Wh-why are you moving away from me!? You too, Tomo!?”
“Well, not even a shrine maiden wants to kill something that cute just because it’s a stagnation.”
“I don’t want to either! What am I supposed to do!?”
They needed to purify it here, but…
“There must not have been much of a stagnation around here and the ether in and around the ship must have been doing well. From an ether standpoint, the low-power stagnation couldn’t take form of its own, so it used a ‘mold’ from the surrounding environment and also used the purified ether to manifest here. According to Hanami’s readings, the amount of tuned ether dropped when it appeared.”
“You mean our ceremony was so powerful that a stagnation too weak to make an appearance worked up the willpower to gather the clean ether and make its appearance?”
“It would seem that way. In terms of ghosts, this isn’t one bound to a location by a grudge. It’s more like a weak wandering ghost or poltergeist borrowing the spiritual power of the land to appear as a servant of the local god. But it is still a stagnation, so it is a target for purification. It will eventually lose its physical form, but that will return the stagnation to the ship and surrounding space.”
“When will it lose its physical form?”
Mitotsudaira must have been worried about her footing because she kept glancing down. Asama knew a lie would not help, so she told the truth.
“A bit after this ship or the Musashi leaves this airspace. It will be unable to maintain that form when we leave the divine protections and culture that gave it the Cerberus form. And even if we stay, the Gagaku Festival is being held on the evening of the full moon. Once the moonlight sends its ether reaction to the peak, it should naturally return to being ether.”
Asama smiled bitterly at the look on Mitotsudaira’s face.
“The Musashi can’t move until the Gagaku Festival ends a week from now. The Asama Shrine will purify it then, so don’t worry.”
“That’s right, Mitotsudaira. They’ll use a Shinto grater to slice that adorable little thing to pieces and offer it up to their god, butt-first! Then they’ll throw it in a blender to truly puree-fy it!”
“W-wait! Don’t do that to it!”
Mitotsudaira picked up the Cerberus and took a step back.
Asama exchanged a glance with Kimi and spoke to Mitotsudaira.
“Mito, you’re in charge of it, okay?”
Kimi heard Mitotsudaira shout “Ehhh!?” while not letting go of the Cerberus.
…Getting too attached to it would be dangerous in its own way.
But, thought Kimi. Telling her not to get at all attached wouldn’t stop her.
“If it was me, I would adore it as much as possible to give it some nice memories.”
“B-but it’s a stagnation, right!? Is that really okay?”
“Um, then Mito? Why aren’t you letting go of it?”
As Mitotsudaira’s gaze wandered, Kimi put on a fake pale face and pointed a trembling hand toward the three-headed creature.
“Don’t tell me…you see it as meat…”
The Cerberus looked up at the silver wolf who gasped.
“N-no! I would never do that!”
She shook her head.
“Honestly, I am only holding on to it because I can handle anything that might happen!”
“Heh heh. Then it sounds like you really are perfect for the job.”
Mitotsudaira groaned and leaned back, but it seemed she could not avoid being its foster parent.
Asama took a step forward and crouched down to the Cerberus’s eye level as Mitotsudaira held it.
“Then please look after it, Mito. It is definitely a stagnation, but it’s also a Greek spirit partially made out of the tuned ether from this ship and its surroundings. As I said before, it has a lot of the traits of a local god. Carelessly purifying it could slaughter a bunch of another nation’s spirits, so I think it would be best to use the natural destruction of the full moon to remove the stagnation and offer it up to its god.”
“Remove the stagnation? Offer it up to its god? …What do you mean?”
“Only its stagnation will be removed and the ether will be returned, so only the Cerberus spirit portion will remain. Then we can take it to its god.”
Of course, thought Kimi. If that happens, it will lose the ether it needs to maintain its body.
“It will travel to the ‘realm’ of its god as a Cerberus spirit. Instead of being killed or destroyed, it will become a resident of the spiritual realm, so there is nothing to worry about.”
“Heh heh. So what will you do?” asked Kimi while observing Mitotsudaira’s reaction. “Are you going to abandon it because you know you have to say goodbye? Adele has some guts, so she would probably take it in if we explained the situation. As would my Toori.”
“N-no, I will take care of it. This is part of my job here helping the Asama Shrine.”
“Will you? …Then please do, Mito. Ether stagnations don’t grow stagnated because they want to. Just remember that the stagnation and their personality are two different things. And the more love you show it, the higher its rank when it’s purified and sent to the divine realm.”
Mitotsudaira nodded and lowered the Cerberus to the floor.
“Heh heh.” Kimi narrowed her eyes and placed a hand on Mitotsudaira’s head. “So now the pet has a pet of her own. …Stay, stay.”
“I-I am not a dog.”
Mitotsudaira brushed the girl’s hand away and Kimi realized Asama had naturally started smiling at this usual series of events.
…She really has trouble saying it out loud.
At the same time, the surrounding third years let down their guard. They all exchanged a glance and looked to the Cerberus at Mitotsudaira’s feet.
“Does this mean the stagnation inside us all was this adorable?”
“Wait, it became a Cerberus because we passed through Greece. So if we’d passed through India, would it be Mara-sama?”
“Three heads in that sense? That’s certainly a new kind of creature! That would’ve been awful!!”
If Naruze heard that, she’d have an illustration ready in a flash, thought Kimi.
…What is it?
Hanami and Uzy were facing west, as was the Cerberus at Mitotsudaira’s feet.
All three let out quiet cries at once.
Something was there in the west.
Asama, Kimi, and Mitotsudaira followed their Mice’s attention.
They looked west.
“Heh heh heh. There’s something like a god of war on top of the Noh Stage.”
“No! That’s a stagnation!”
Asama shouted back on reflex and the wind began to move.
A gust of wind swirled around the Noh Stage that had approached from Aki. That wind seemed to surround something that had appeared on the Noh Stage. It looked like an armored warrior made of ether with a heated coloration.
Asama knew what it was. In Shinto, it was a mid-class existence among ether stagnations.
“It’s the remains of a god that never achieved its physical form in a land that combines the molds of several gods! Based on its weaponry form, this would be a Class 2 Non-God Sword!”
“ ‘Musashi’-san, it looks like trouble has shown up again.”
A voice described the situation inside a vast, white, cocoon-like space.
A giant city ship made up of two central ships and three port and starboard ships was contained in that stealth space. Pipe smoke gently rose from the front end as an alarm blared.
The front central ship bore the overall ship name “Musashi” and the individual ship name “Musashino”. A man past middle age stood on the deck at the bow with his elbows resting on the railing.
He lazily wore his short-sleeved summer clothing and he held up a metal kiseru that could be broken down into parts for storage.
“Sakai-sama, this may be occurring outside the Musashi and it may be Aki’s problem, but shouldn’t you sound at least a little bit nervous? Over.”
“Well, you see,” said Sakai as he turned toward the voice behind him.
A maid automaton stood there. He took a teacup from the tray she held and then he frowned.
“Oh, this is hot, ‘Musashi’-san. You seem to like hot things lately.”
“I cannot serve only cold things to an adult who never goes outside and stays in the cooled areas even though it is July. Over.”
“Thanks for the concern, but to answer your question…do I really not look nervous?”
“I am suggesting you make an appearance outside. I do not know why, but every year when we arrive at Aki, you always avoid areas that let you be seen from outside. Over.”
“Well, I just have so many great memories of Aki…”
“I cannot easily search my memories before the great remodeling as they are not set to my standard memory region, so I will simply ask: Is it about a woman? Or money? Over.”
“ ‘Musashi’-san, do you promise not to get mad if I tell the truth?”
“I am an automaton and thus cannot get mad. Now, answer me. Over.”
“The thing is, you sound really mad right now. …Well, whatever.”
Sakai frowned with the kiseru in his left hand and the teacup in his right hand.
“A long time ago, I had a bit of a fight with an idiot in Aki.”
“Hearing any more would likely involve me in some kind of political trouble, so I will ask again when I deem it necessary. But…”
“Did you win or lose? Over.”
“Is that so? I will ask for details at some point. Over.”
“Musashi” bowed and Sakai took a sip from the teacup.
“Oh? I thought this would be ginger flavor, but it’s caramel. It’s pretty sweet.”
“Statistically, I have determined it is popular with the girls. Now, about the current situation which is far from sweet…”
“Judge,” Sakai nodded and held the teacup out toward “Musashi”.
Suddenly, the kiseru in his left hand came apart. An invisible hand grabbed it, gathered the three parts, and even compressed the ashes.
“ ‘Musashi’-san, I only just started smoking those leaves.”
He put the kiseru away in the case hanging from his neck and “Musashi” bowed.
“Smoking is forbidden on the decks while in the stealth space. Please visit the ship’s smoking purification shrine. Over.”
“You sure are strict. …Okay, I’ll tell you what you wanted to know.”
He opened a few sign frames.
“Aki is Far Eastern territory, but it is also a reservation under K.P.A. Italia’s provisional rule. So any trouble in Aki is generally under K.P.A. Italia’s control.”
“You make it sound like a ‘but’ is coming. Over.”
“Judge. There are times when those laws are too strict to work well.”
“Judge.” “Musashi” nodded. “When the ruling nation is transporting warriors or equipment for the history recreation, they might not be able to arrive very quickly when the reservation is in danger. There are also cases when the ruling nation has insufficient strength. At those times, any force able to arrive immediately is permitted to intervene as long as their only goal and only result is the resolution of the incident and as long as they leave behind no records of their presence. Over.”
“Judge. The state of the Testament and the process for the history recreation were determined during the Age of Dawn, well before the Harmonic Unification War. This right to emergency intervention was spelled out in the Anti-Decline Pro-Tuning agreement. That specific clause is often referenced in the stores of the Testament Cross-Borders Unit which some doubt even exists.”
“And thanks to that, many black disks telling such stories have piled up in your closet. …But are you saying K.P.A. Italia is not going to act here? Over.”
“Oh, I’m sure they will, but it won’t be pretty when they do.”
As “Musashi” tilted her head, Sakai took a sip from the teacup.
“I won’t say what caused it, but despite K.P.A. Italia’s temporary prosperity, they have been tossed about by the economic currents ever since the Reformation and the Age of Exploration. …They have Testamenta Arma and a Logismoi Óplo, but their economic foundation has grown relatively weak and the neighboring M.H.R.R. Catholics allying with P.A. Oda has to be an absolute nightmare for them. …Do you know what they’re going to do now?”
“Musashi” narrowed her eyes. After a while, she looked to the sky beyond Sakai. Her gaze turned towards the Tanigawa Castle and Noh Stage that had to exist beyond the stealth barrier.
“If they intervene and determine they cannot settle the problem, will they destroy everything? Will they use the Far East as an example to show the other nations how powerful they are? Over.”
“Judge. If the Far East can settle the problem on its own, K.P.A. Italia can show that they did not consider this to be a problem worth acting on. And if the Far East fails, they can make a greater intervention than necessary to demonstrate their strength to the other nations. …It gives them an excuse for their show of force, so it would be politically safer. And it costs much less than an actual war. K.P.A. Italia would be willing to make a decision like that.”
“You seem to trust them quite a bit. Over.”
“I suppose I do.” He did not deny it, but he did look to one of his sign frames. “Our Student Council and Chancellor’s Officers got moving pretty quick. They’re drawing out the territorial lines with K.P.A. Italia and Aki. I just have to give them my approval as Principal…and done.”
“But Sakai-sama, what about the theatre ships themselves? Surely we cannot leave them undefended until the Student Council and Chancellor’s Officers arrive.”
“Normal citizens and students are allowed to act in self-defense or to save someone. They don’t have to wait until someone’s hurt either. The only question is whether anyone capable of that is there.”
“Judge,” said “Musashi” with a nod.
She opened a sign frame and displayed a list of those who had left aboard the Tanigawa Castle.
“A few students from Oriotorai-sama’s Class 2-Plum are there. Over.”
“What do you think about Makiko-kun’s training scenes?”
“Judge. If I had to express it somehow, I would say they still lack the proper ‘excitement’. I have determined they lack the proper level of physical destruction and the normal citizens’ annoyance level and spectator level are only average. Over.”
“Do you think they’ll be able to compare to the current Student Council and Chancellor’s Officers?”
“Musashi” briefly closed her eyes to perform the high-speed thought of an automaton.
“Mankind can grow and evolve. If they make use of those abilities, they can. Over.”
“Judge. Then I hope they have plenty of reasons to do so. Socializing, as well as unexpected meetings, partings, and confrontations, can all lead to growth. So…”
“What will these children do? These children from the generation that will face the Apocalypse.”
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