Horizon:Kimitoasamade 1B Chapter 6
Chapter 6: Revealed Ones at a Place of Passage
What in the world
Are you doing?
Point Allocation (Over)
In Kimi’s mind, it had begun from the moment they left the academy.
In Shinto, all things had a “staring point”, so to set up that starting point appropriately, she stopped at the top of the bridge in front of the school building. Mitotsudaira responded in kind, but Asama had her eyes focused straight ahead and started on without the other two.
“Wait, wait. Hold it, Asama. Heh heh. Why are you in such a rush? We aren’t going to run away, you know?”
“Eh!? Oh, r-right.”
Asama looked back, blushed for no reason, and (for once) had difficulty speaking.
She was nervous.
She was supposedly used to being the center of attention thanks to the Shinto rituals she performed on a regular basis, but here she was tense and nearly flustered.
…This is a valuable scene.
Kimi felt the date was already paying off, but there was still plenty to go. Maybe I should tease her a little, she decided while beckoning Asama over.
Asama dashed back to her, and…
“C-c’mon! Let’s hurry on to Oume!”
“Oh, r-right! To Takao! Takao is where Tengu live, so they specialize in Tengu masks! They have a mascot squadron called Takao Sentai Tengumen that wear Tengu masks on their faces and crotches and lately they’ve been running around to protect the ship at night!”
“You need to bow down to Takao right this instant.”
That said, Kimi understood why Asama was nervously rambling with her cheeks flushed.
The girl did not understand what a date was.
She wanted to make sure the other girls did not grow tired of her or feel disappointed in her, so she was desperately trying to fill the silence and show them as much as possible.
It may have been a common trap that beginners fell into.
…My foolish brother is a lot easier to deal with on that front.
After all, he would start by doing this:
Kimi grabbed Asama’s hand.
She held it tight.
Asama’s arms and shoulders jumped.
“Eh? Um, Kimi!?”
“Why are you so jumpy? This is a date, so we need to hold hands, don’t we? C’mon, you take the other one, Mitotsudaira.”
“Y-yes, th-that would be for the best.”
Kimi was on the right and Mitotsudaira on the left.
With two different people holding her hands, Asama could not rush on ahead no matter how impatient she was. But just to be sure…
“Heh heh. I think I’ll make myself feel more at home.”
Kimi embraced Asama’s arm.
Asama was just a little taller than her, so she could rest her cheek on Asama’s shoulder when pressing against her like this. She tried it out.
…Oh, this is even better than I thought.
Asama supported her, perhaps because she had been trained by her Shinto dances and archery. Her arm was softer than Kimi’s brother’s, and…
“No gaining or losing any weight, okay? I can’t let you lose this elasticity. I want it all to myself, so don’t let any other than us and my foolish brother do this.”
“I-I have no idea what you’re talking about. And besides, I’m a shrine maiden.”
“True. A matchmaker shrine maiden like you really would have a divine protection preventing anyone from touching you if they aren’t close to you, so we wouldn’t be able to do this if your heart wasn’t letting us.”
Kimi’s Ootsubaki Uzume divine protection would not allow anyone who interrupted her dance to touch her, but Asama’s Asama Sakuya variety protected her based on romance.
In other words…
“I can only embrace your arm and grope your breasts because of the romance between us.”
“That is not why. Familial love and friendship also counts.” Instead of removing Kimi, Asama just let her shoulders fall. “But with the Apocalypse approaching, there really have been more mysterious phenomena lately. As the Asama Shrine’s #2, I do have a lot of defenses like that in place.”
“Will Mitotsudaira’s Troiko be okay?”
Mitotsudaira tilted her head. Kimi replied when she saw the Cerberus on her head do the same.
“Since it has three heads, I was thinking of calling it Threeko, but since it’s ‘trois’ in French, I decided on Troiko.”
“Troiko? C-could you not give it weird names without even asking!?”
The Cerberus had followed a knight like her, so she did not like naming it like a dog.
…But Kimi loves that kind of thing.
She gave off a mature aura, but she did not hesitate to express her love for cute things. Suzu was often the victim there, but according to Naomasa, “kiddy” things were about enjoying childish things rather than being a child oneself.
…She’s completely indiscriminate there.
This was the same. At this rate, the Cerberus would sound like it was named after the “toro” used in sushi. Naming it after food was fine, but a three-headed wolf was not seafood. In order to protest, Mitotsudaira looked past Asama to Kimi.
But Asama’s obstacles blocked her view.
…Eh!? What is this!?
She knew what they were called. When holding Asama’s hand, she had been able to see the other side. When she raised her head, her vision moved above the obstacles and Asama turned to face her.
“What’s the matter, Mito?”
Mitotsudaira looked down.
She could see the top of the obstacles down below.
…There’s no way she can see her feet.
Looking down would not be enough.
What did she do when cutting her toenails or washing herself? It had to negatively affect her accuracy. They would also get in the way when wielding a weapon.
…Oh, so that’s why she uses the bow. And since it uses a spell bowstring, her body doesn’t get in the way.
To repeat her thoughts from that morning, those things had to be inconvenient and they had to reduce her options in quite a few areas of life. Saying giant breasts were a hindrance in daily life might sound lewd, but that girl had to be putting in a lot of effort that no one ever noticed.
This was her friend, so Mitotsudaira decided not to say anything.
Instead, she placed a hand on the girl’s shoulder and made eye contact.
After giving her a look of understanding rather than sympathy, she looked to Kimi.
“W-wait, Mito!? What was that just now!?”
Putting it in words would reflexively do damage to Mitotsudaira herself, so she refrained from answering.
“Can I say something, Kimi?”
“Heh heh. What is it? Tell me. If you wish to praise me, you don’t need my permission. You need to be more honest. But I’m willing to listen for two whole seconds! Now, go for it, Mitotsudaira! C’mon! C’moooon! Hurry, hurry!! Still nothing!? I’m here! Right here!! Can’t you see me!? C’mon! Take a good look!!”
“Why do you have to go on and on like that?”
“And what am I supposed to do when I’m stuck between you two?”
After Mitotsudaira and Kimi placated Asama, Mitotsudaira looked back to Kimi.
“My Cerberus is supposed to be serving a knight, so I can’t let you give it a dog’s name!”
Kimi called out to it and all three heads barked.
“Eh?” said Mitotsudaira as she tried to look up above her head.
“It said Troiko is fine.”
The Cerberus barked again at the name.
The image in Mitotsudaira’s mind had the Cerberus briskly leading the way with its tail raised, but…
“Are you trying to make it do nothing but eat and sleep all day long!?”
“Don’t let the name influence your mental image that much.”
Kimi glared at her and she decided that might be right, but she still did not like the sound of that name.
“But, um, Troiko?”
The Cerberus must have thought she was calling its name because it barked.
After a pause…
“Can’t we give it a cooler name?”
“Something a little more manly.”
That certainly made the Cerberus sound frightening, but Mitotsudaira was not about to be saying “erection” on a daily basis. And Asama would have a hard time with all the meters filling up. So…
“You aren’t thinking very much before you speak, are you!? You aren’t, are you!?”
“Then as a compromise between Troi-Man and Troi-Erection, we’ll go with Troiko.”
“That is not a compromise!!”
But the Cerberus barked again.
“I see.” Asama nodded and looked to Mitotsudaira.
“Um, Mito. I think we should respect what the Cerberus itself wants…”
“B-but what if it grows up to be toroi? A Cerberus deserves a cooler name…”
The person who happened to be walking by reflexively struck a pose as he faced them. It was Neshinbara. He pushed up his glasses and held a hand in front of his face.
“How about something with lots of voiced consonants like Baldogoria or Darigadregga!? Those sound strong, don’t they!?”
The Cerberus did not react.
“Yes.” Mitotsudaira nodded. “But don’t you have something a little more natural?”
“Then how about Unzen Fugen-Dake!?”
The Cerberus still did not react and Mitotsudaira sighed, but Neshinbara looked to the Cerberus on her head.
“Since Asama-kun isn’t purifying it, are you treating it like a type of local god or spirit?”
“Yes.” Asama nodded. “I think it was made by a ‘mold’ from the Kojima Peninsula. From what I can tell, it has mostly pure ether, so there’s no need to actively purify it away to nothingness.”
Mitotsudaira could sense the Cerberus bristling its fur after sensing danger in those words. She held up its back end to make sure it did not fall off her head.
“Is there some kind of problem if it’s a local god?”
“There are certain situations in which local gods make an appearance.”
Neshinbara summoned his Mouse named Michizane and opened a sign frame. It displayed a page from a local god thread on Musashi’s divine network.
“Most of the time, it’s to visit a festival, but there are other situations typical of local gods.”
“To protect or greet someone, whether a local or a visitor. They’ll always appear when a visitor is lost or a higher god has arrived.”
This had nothing to do with higher gods, but the Musashi itself was a giant visitor. However…
“What about the Musashi is it here to help?”
“That I can’t tell you. But based on the standard situations for local gods, that Cerberus must be here to help with something or tell us something. So…”
“I don’t know what you’re trying to do, but this land’s local gods must have taken a liking to it. They sensed the premonition and created this physical form to bless you with some lively cheer.”
Neshinbara jotted down a description of the Cerberus’s appearance and turned his back.
“I still think a name with plenty of voiced consonants would be good.”
“Yes.” Kimi nodded. “That pretty much settles it for Troiko then.”
“No, it does not!!” shouted Mitotsudaira.
However, the Cerberus barked. Mitotsudaira snatched it from her head and held it in front of her eyes with her eyebrows raised.
“You’re okay with that!?”
Three simultaneous barks clinched it, so she fell to her knees. But…
“Is Troiko safe with the divine protections you always have active, Asama?” asked Kimi.
While listening to Kimi’s question, Asama looked down at Mitotsudaira who had fallen to her knees. The Cerberus was looking up at her.
“My defenses will accept a local god mold. Unless we try to harm each other or clash in some other way, it should be fine.”
“Then Troiko is one of us for the time being.”
Kimi laughed and placed her chin on Asama’s right breast. Saying “stop that” and glaring at her did nothing to stop her. She embraced Asama’s right arm again and tilted her head to look at Mitotsudaira.
“You seem to like Mitotsudaira, so if she comes up with a good name, you go with that, okay?”
The Cerberus replied and Mitotsudaira looked up in confusion.
She quickly picked the Cerberus up from the ground.
“That bark. Kimi, can you speak with this thing!?”
“Speaking with animals is a fairly basic technique for Shinto shrine maidens, you know? Of course, mutual understanding is a high-level technique, so all I can do is convey some slight nuance and grasp its answer like I’m hearing things.”
“Yes,” agreed Asama.
In Shinto mythology, every god could converse with wild animals and fish. Transforming into birds or turning into a fish was a very Shinto thing.
In Europe, that sort of nature worship had been crushed by the spread of Tsirhc.
…But in Shinto, everything is equal before the gods.
“Mito, if you sign a contract as a shrine maiden, you too can learn and level up in that kind of skill.”
“Shrine maidens talk about levelling up? Also…”
Mitotsudaira wiped off the Cerberus’s feet with a handkerchief before placing it back on her head.
“I converted to Shinto in middle school, but signing a shrine maiden contract would hinder me in battle. Shrine maidens generally aren’t allowed to proactively start a fight.”
It did not particularly matter whether she would actually have many options to fight on the Musashi.
She was a Rank 1 Knight and her provisional inherited name placed her second in line to ruling the Far East. Given her position, she had to be prepared for an emergency. But when she looked up toward the Cerberus on her head…
“Working part-time as a shrine maiden would make for a nice change of pace and I could buy a spell for conversing with small animals as payment, right?”
“Yes. That is a standard Shinto spell, so if it’s as payment for shrine maiden work, you can have the god give it to you or have it applied to you by a mid-level or higher shrine maiden like me.”
“Applied to me?”
“You can rent the power from the god for a few days or some other limited period of time. You bow at the shrine when you do part-time shrine maiden work, right? That’s when the god applies a shrine maiden’s authority for the period of your work shift. Similarly, you could get the ability to converse with small animals for as long as the Cerberus is with you.”
“Will you be working again today?”
Mitotsudaira was caught off guard and she thought for a moment. After a while, she opened a sign frame and checked her schedule.
“Would tonight be okay?”
“Yes. Asakusa’s ley lines need tuning, so we’ll do that. Really, it’s just checking over them since everyone’s rehearsing for the Gagaku Festival there.” Asama held a hand out to Mitotsudaira. “I’ll mark you down for that shift. For now, um…”
Still clinging to Asama’s right arm, Kimi shook her body and shouted the words. Asama responded by grabbing Mitotsudaira’s outstretched hand.
She already knew where their first stop was.
“There’s a Buddhist power spot in Takao’s nature district that’s gotten popular lately.”
A female voice sounded below the white sky.
“Okay, we’ve finished our warmup exercises, so let’s get started. Musashi Student Vassal Unit, use this basic training to show me what you’ve learned over the past two weeks.”
The voice belonged to a black-haired girl with an assault spear on her back. On her left arm, she wore a blue armband with “Vice President Ookubo Tadayo” written in white.
Her voice filled a wide open place: the second schoolyard below Musashi Ariadust Academy.
It was located at the bottom of the long stairway extending from the academy. It and the third schoolyard located further below were used as training grounds for the sports teams, the Chancellor’s Officers, and other groups.
Currently, the second schoolyard’s port side was in use.
“Student vassal unit, create a defensive formation with your mobile shells! Then advance and withdraw!”
She opened a scoring sheet sign frame for the student vassals and blew the whistle hanging from her neck.
The sound was not particularly high pitched, but it traveled a good distance and set several objects and people in motion.
The objects were two giant oblong defense barriers that came to life in the center of the second schoolyard. The people were the vassal unit that placed their few mobile shells out front.
There were more than twenty vassals. A few – mostly third years – had mobile shells, but the others were equipped with training armor. Except for one.
“Balfette! You’re in the second year, so why do you only have a track suit!?”
“I don’t have any money! None at all! Will you give me some, Tadayo-san!?”
“Not a single yen!!”
“Hooray! I got permission to use my track suit!”
Do they both have to be so blunt? wondered the others as they watched the second year vassal holding a lance in her track suit. But…
The short track suit girl had been running in front of them before, but she was gone.
She was much further forward.
She was not taking especially long strides. The speed came from the timing of her steps. Still, those running legs brought her forward in the navy blue track suit known as Musashi Blue. She ran toward the two defense barriers standing in the second courtyard.
“Judge! Second Year Adele Balfette! I’m up first!”
With a muttered “oops” or “dammit”, the third years started running too. They were assisted by their mobile shells, but they could not match her initial speed.
The mobile shells started catching up by the third step, but the track suit girl had too much of a lead.
Adele charged toward the oblong glowing torii on the right. She judged the number of remaining steps by eye and held her lance forward.
Just as she was going to hit, Tadayo spoke up with her arms crossed and her eyebrows raised.
“Ha ha. You need to be a little faster than that.”
The defense barrier moved. The one Adele was aiming for moved up and a little forward.
It dodged her attack as if jumping over her.
“Musashi” watched the scene from the large landing halfway up the stairs leading to the academy.
The two defense barriers she controlled were moving. She looked port while moving a barrier forward in a mountain-like trajectory over the charging vassal.
“I modeled that movement on the walking of a heavy god of war.”
Adele flew off her feet below the barrier representing the left leg.
She had not been hit by any kind of attack. She had simply self-destructed.
After running so quickly, the short vassal had tried to rotate her entire body to attack, but she had not made it in time.
…It looked like her momentum knocked her from her feet, but…
A closer look showed something else.
Even if she was light, tripping like that was odd. A look at her chest was enough to know how light she was, but she was holding that lance.
“Did she throw herself into a dive to avoid hitting the ground while still lowering her speed? Over.”
Based on “Musashi’s” memories, the motion was similar to the one a ninja made just before hitting the ground after jumping from an elevated location. The ninja would be spreading out their clothing to increase air resistance, so the vassal’s flailing limbs may have been playing a similar role.
…That vassal belongs to Class 2-Plum and I believe a ninja of equal speed belongs to that same class.
Had she received some advice from that ninja?
The students of Class 2-Plum were doing more than studying on their own and training with the organizations or groups they belonged to. They were also giving each other instructions.
Once she started thinking about it, “Musashi” realized the vassal was not the only one.
The same could be said of the Asama Shrine’s heir, the Aoi siblings who had become much more troublesome of late, the ninja who she had recalled a moment before, and the merchant duo who were beginning to make a name for themselves within Musashi’s Commerce and Industry Guild.
“Could it be…all of them? Over.”
“Musashi” would occasionally look around within Musashi Ariadust Academy, so she replayed her memories of Class Plum from then.
Statistically speaking, the students of Class Plum were constantly exchanging opinions on their techniques and qualifications or giving each other practical advice. It went beyond Oriotorai’s mock battles. They were doing it after school as well. The vassal who was rolling a little to stop her fall had gone running with Rank 1 Knight Mitotsudaira and some others that very morning.
In that case, was Class Plum as a whole exchanging advice and making up for each other’s weaknesses and problems? But…
“Why would they be doing that? Over.”
That question remained.
“Musashi” asked herself why the students of Class 2-Plum were performing their self-training as a group.
Doing so individually made sense. As students, they had to prepare for their future and they might find themselves unable to keep up with others.
People almost always trained as individuals when working toward and settling into a career. They might use school to undergo specialized training and lessons toward that end, but there was no reason to make up for each other’s deficiencies as that class was.
Looking at it that way led “Musashi” to a certain idea.
…Are they trying to accomplish something as a whole rather than as individuals?
That was not all that strange when looking at the world as a whole.
The academies of the world’s nations used their Student Council, Chancellor’s Officers, or the academy as a whole to manage their politics and combat.
It was said “if you are not a student, you are not a person” because students ruled the nation, but that was only true of the nations that held provisional rule over the Far East.
Things were different from the Far East’s point of view.
After all, the Far East was at peace.
With the Logismoi Oplo distributed to the Testament Union nations by Mikawa and the approaching Apocalypse, there were problems, but wars were governed by the rules of the history recreation and the Musashi was a noncombatant ship. It could avoid a course that took it through a battlefield and no one would complain as long as it obeyed the rules of the provisional rule.
That allowed the people of Musashi to live peaceful lives.
None of them would think of combat or fighting as the whole of life.
The vassal unit’s combat training down below was on a much smaller scale than comparable training in other nations.
With the Chancellor’s Officers, knights, samurai, and ninja, there were some that trained in the fundamentals of various combat styles, but it generally ended at that.
Not very many would go beyond the fundamentals and learn the techniques needed to survive and achieve victory on the battlefield.
…I have determined that is due to the provisional rule.
All of the ruling nations wished to benefit from the Far East, so they could not afford to lose the Far East. That allowed the Far East to maintain its peace while running errands and acting as a bank for the other nations.
And thus no one in Musashi specialized in combat outside of the knights and the Chancellor’s Officers.
Even if they did undergo combat training, it was only useful to put down on a resume when entering Far Eastern society.
The title of “vassal” was no more than that to the vassals working so hard down below. Their effort would not make them knights. So…
“They only need to do ‘good enough’. Over.”
The vassal that had self-destructed at full speed hopped back to her feet in order to pursue the defense barrier that “Musashi” was moving. She raised her lance overhead with both hands, and…
“Here I go!”
“Hurry it up!!”
The student vassal unit – including the third years – was accepting of her grandstanding.
She stood out for doing more than “good enough”.
Did the other vassals understand her stance?
Combat was unnecessary in the Far East and on the Musashi. Their peaceful days would continue.
“We are doing our best to ensure that. Over.”
But as if to ignore all that work, some of them were training and helping each other improve.
“Musashi” had not been around them enough to know why they were doing so.
It was possible Sakai had realized something, but she had yet to do any research on her own and it would be pathetic to ask him as a shortcut.
“Oh? The Rank 5s of the vassal unit are training today.”
A group of three approached from behind. It was Asama, Aoi, and Mitotsudaira that “Musashi” had thought of earlier.
They were holding hands as they walked somewhere.
Asama was a little disturbed by “Musashi’s” gaze.
…Ehh? I-I think she’s glaring at us.
“Musashi” was the captain automaton for all eight of the Musashi’s ships. Asama knew her through her work at the Asama Shrine and had even worked with her on reports and business affairs.
But why was the automaton giving her a look of suspicion?
She found an answer almost as soon as she started wondering.
…I have Kimi to my right and a Cerberus on Mito’s head to my left!
They were also holding hands, so she had to look like a strange person in the center. There was no doubt about it. Working to maintain order on the Musashi was one of “Musashi’s” duties, so of course she was suspicious.
…Kimi might be a lost cause with her long history of past offenses, but as the Shinto representative of the Asama Shrine, Mito’s Cerberus is cute-…no, I mean safe. There’s no problem there.
…I feel like “Musashi”-san is looking at all three of us.
She quietly asked about it.
“Did you do something, Kimi? Or did Toori-kun?”
“Heh heh. Leave it to the master detective Clever Aoi! …And no, I didn’t say Cleavage Aoi!”
“Maybe wait until someone actually thought you said that?”
“True.” Kimi nodded. “Asama, I happen to know the password to stop Musashi’s automatons from being suspicious.”
“You’re lying to me again, aren’t you?”
“What are you saying, Asama? Trust me, okay? Now, listen. It’s an equation: π 0 i M Sin. Now, read that backwards!”
“How about you do it?”
“Sign my oppai!!”
Kimi shouted the answer with a smile, but then…
“I told you to say it, Asamaaaa!!!!”
“Nwaaah! You are the worst!”
However, the situation was already on the move. The students heading home from school and the vassal unit down below were looking at them with disturbed expressions of disbelief.
Naruze was spraying blood and falling from the sky on her way to the transport district, but that was nothing new. Asama just hoped it did not interfere with her work.
As for “Musashi” right in front of them…
…Ah, she’s really put up her guard!!
“Asama!” Kimi gave her an extremely serious look. “Calm down! No one’s at fault here!”
“Do you think whoever says that first is absolved of guilt!? You do, don’t you!?”
“What are you staying, you silly girl? I was only trying to cover for you.”
Asama tried to raise her left hand, but Mitotsudaira held it. The crazy person showed no sign of caring as she faced “Musashi”.
“Heh heh. Sorry about that, ‘Musashi’. Our Asama can be so careless.”
“Do not worry about it.”
“Musashi” tilted her head to adjust her thoughts and she fixed her apron.
“Where are you three going and what for? Over.”
Eh? thought Asama as she mentally tilted her head.
“Musashi” never asked things like that. For one, she could track them while they were on the surface or in the corridors.
If she was asking…
…She must be curious where we’re going next.
With the crazy person on her right and the Cerberus owner on her left, it did indeed look like they were going to cause some trouble, so Asama forced a smile.
“We’re on our way to Takao.”
“Are you three training as well? Over.”
After nearly answering the question with a question, Asama quickly swallowed her words.
Takao was used for Buddhist training. Thanks to the history recreation of the syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism, they would work with Shinto and the Asama Shrine supplied them with ether. The area was also used for walks, picnics, and dates, but if students – one of them from the Asama Shrine – were going there…
…I guess you would think it’s for training.
Lying would not help, so Asama told the truth.
“We’re just going there to relax.”
“The three of us are on a date together! Jealous, aren’t you!?”
“Musashi” reacted to Kimi’s words by looking to Asama, Mitotsudaira, and finally Kimi. Then she placed a hand on her forehead.
“This seems quite different from the concept of a ‘date’ in my head.”
“What is a ‘date’ to you, ‘Musashi’-san?”
All of the nearby boys on the way back from school held their breath and tensed up, but “Musashi” paid them no heed as she placed a finger on her chin.
“Using some spare time to visit a sunny part of the deck, stare into the sky, view the world without focusing on ether reactions, serve your partner some tea, and discuss things unrelated to your official duties. Over.”
“I see.” Mitotsudaira nodded and continued with a tone of comprehension. “In other words, what you always do with Principal Sakai.”
“Musashi” gave Mitotsudaira a truly frightening look and the girl and her Cerberus began trembling and sweating. Asama urged them to calm down and looked back to “Musashi”.
“Anyway, um, we’re going on a date to relax a little. …The plan is to follow the towing belts around from Takao to Oume and then Murayama.”
“To relax? Over.”
Asama mentally tilted her head again.
…That was a question?
What had that automaton thought about their plans to relax?
It seemed like something an automaton would have difficulty understanding, but even they had to take some time to “relax” in order to optimize their memories. In that case…
“Is something the matter?”
Once Asama asked, “Musashi” finally lowered her head.
“I apologize. The captain should not be stopping a Musashi resident, especially one as important as you, Asama-sama. However, I have determined I would like to say something,” said “Musashi”. “I now understand that you are living busy enough lives to necessitate some time off to relax. I do not understand what that means, but I will support any possibilities within the Musashi. Over.”
“Is that so…?”
Asama did not really understand, but it was true she was busy dealing with her awful classmates and other difficulties on a daily basis. And that busyness had grown lately with the Gagaku Festival coming up.
Kimi smiled and tugged on her arm.
“Heh heh. Then how about we get going? ‘Musashi’, you take care of Adele and the others’ training, okay?”
“Judge. I will serve them some tea later so they too can take some time to relax. Over.”
“Musashi” bowed and the Cerberus barked in response.
When Asama heard that, she realized Kimi was pulling her forward.
“W-wait, Kimi! I’m supposed to be escorting you!”
“Um, are you okay, Naruze-kun? I certainly didn’t expect you to fall unconscious from the sky with blood spraying everywhere.”’
Naruze got up and found herself in the transport district on the port side of Okutama. The afternoon rush had begun as cargo arrived from other ships and the lower floors.
Outside a relay warehouse, she shook her somewhat empty-feeling head and looked around while sitting on a bench next to some vending machines.
The pedophile and the curry boy were there. Noriki walked past carrying some lumber, but she knew he had likely been guarding her until she came to. Also…
A white handkerchief had been laid out on the bench where her head had been resting.
It belonged to Margot. The girl had continued on with their work instead of worrying too much. Naruze would have felt like a burden otherwise, so she appreciated it. And…
“Ohiroshiki, did something happen while I was asleep?”
“Naito-kun received some kind of document from a representative of the delivery business. She said something about wanting to discuss it with you later.”
“Judge. So it was finally accepted.”
“What was?” asked Hassan.
Someone stopped her there.
It was Noriki. He stopped and looked back over his shoulder.
“We mostly get it already, so you don’t have to tell us.”
“True.” Naruze nodded and looked him in the eye. “You never get entirely involved in our affairs, do you?”
“If you get it, you don’t have to say it.”
“If I think you want me to say it, shouldn’t I say it even if I get it?”
“Then don’t say it.” Noriki smiled a little. “All I can do is earn enough to pay for my siblings’ tuition.”
“Then you’ll be joining us eventually, won’t you?”
“Why would I?”
“Don’t be silly.” Naruze smiled bitterly. “You said that’s all you can do. If it was all you should do, then you would be stuck doing that forever. But when it’s all you can do, you’re freed from that once there’s more you can do, right? You’re definitely planning to join us once you can and once you’re done with this.”
“That’s just a play on words.”
“Well, I am a Technohexen.”
Naruze sighed and sat back on the bench.
“Why do guys love making everything more trouble than it has to be?”
“Wh-what are you saying!?” exclaimed Ohiroshiki. “I love simple things! I do!!”
“Pipe down, criminal.”
She ignored his protests, did not hesitate to blow her nose with the handkerchief, and checked the color of the drying blood. She then threw her legs forward and leaned her back against the warehouse’s wall.
…If Margot shared the document, I should be able to see it.
She opened a crop mark frame Magie Figur.
All of a sudden, someone held a paper cup out to her from the side, so she looked to see who it was.
“This is a treat from ‘Musashi’-dono. There is enough for everyone.”
The ninja then handed cups out to Ohiroshiki, Hassan, and Persona-kun who happened to be passing by.
…I’m such a troublesome person.
She had known all of them for a long time, but she did not feel very close to them. Perhaps that was because she had started living on her own pretty early. That had changed to “with a roommate”, but that gave her a home beyond the class. She also had her position in the delivery business.
She would not go so far as to call herself independent, but she mostly saw the academy as a place to relax. And thanks to her personality, she had a tendency to build walls between herself and others.
…But I’m glad they don’t exclude me because of it.
If they did, she would have no reason to be in the same class as them. Even if she was the one building the walls, if they did truly reject her, she would just fall back on her occupation. She would stop even showing up at the academy.
The ever-changing sense of belonging in the academy allowed for a change of pace just by being there, but…
“You all love looking after people, don’t you?”
“That is not what I’m doing,” insisted the ninja.
“I never said I was talking about you, Mr. Self-Conscious.”
The Ninja groaned and clenched his right fist, but she enjoyed interpersonal relationships with that much tension to them.
Anyway, she thought while looking back to her Magie Figur.
…Edel Brocken’s tester exam.
She was looking at the document granting them the qualifications to take the exam.
…We have the document, but that doesn’t mean we have to take the exam.
This was just one path toward the future.
Edel Brocken was a company located somewhere in M.H.R.R. that developed equipment exclusively for Technohexen. Any licensed Technohexen who had reached a certain level would suddenly have an Edel Brocken pamphlet and passcode sent to them. If they ignored it, they would never have any dealings with Edel Brocken. If they registered, they would have occasional dealings with Edel Brocken, seemingly whenever the company felt like it.
Naruze had seen it once when the Musashi was traveling along the southwestern provisional border of M.H.R.R.
The reflection of the morning sun beyond the early morning clouds had revealed the shadow of a giant floating mountain resembling a three-cornered hat.
“That is Edel Brocken,” Almirante, head of the individual delivery business, had told her.
Edel Brocken sought testers for its equipment, but they generally restricted themselves to one and occasionally two from a nation. They only needed a Weiss Hexen and a Schwarz Hexen after all.
The Far East already had a tester on the Musashi. That tester was a woman named Wild Kamelie, a Schwarz Hexen from M.H.R.R.
That took up the sole tester slot. The Far East had no Technohexen culture in the first place, so a tester for a standard schale besen was all they needed.
But a slight problem had been pointed out the year before.
Edel Brocken was apparently expanding their lineup of equipment to deal with the Thirty Years’ War and the Apocalypse, so they were providing even the Musashi with two tester slots.
One entry in their lineup of next generation Technohexen equipment was apparently a cumulative equipment style of schale besen for both Weiss and Scharz Hexen.
It was rumored to be a high-speed and high-mobility model that required the combat Technohexen outfits that had been optional in the past. It was also rumored to have anti-warship capabilities.
“In that case, what are Musashi’s Technohexen to do?”
Wild Kamelie already had the Schwarz Hexen position, so that left the Weiss Hexen position open.
That gave Naruze the advantage.
If she could take that position, she would be the leading Weiss Hexen on the Musashi. That would guarantee her current lifestyle for as long as she remained a tester and it would likely stabilize her position in the future as well.
It was worth taking the challenge. Simply trying would bring her name to the forefront. But…
The two of them were a Weiss and Schwarz Hexen pair.
They had only been so close for a few years, but their connection went back beyond that, they lived together, they worked together, and they spent their lives together. She was someone Naruze did not want to be parted from.
Of course, Margot would tell her not to worry about it if she said anything, so there was nothing to say. But…
…Am I spoiled if I want her to be the tester with me?
She had asked to let Margot see the paperwork too when it came in. If she became the tester, it would be a big change in both their lives.
What was she supposed to do?
Inviting Margot to the tester exam would be easy, but that would mean Margot had to take on Wild Kamelie.
Wild Kamelie had real combat experience in Eastern Europe and she was only in her late twenties. At that age, she had the best of both worlds as far as experience and physical strength were concerned.
Defeating her would be great, but losing to her would be the end of it all. That would demonstrate their difference in status and settle their position within the Musashi.
But Naruze also had to worry about passing her own tester exam.
It was a troublesome issue, so…
“I could always just not do it.”
“Not do what?”
The ninja looked over, so she smiled bitterly.
“A certain plan for the future.”
“For Musashi’s future?”
He isn’t getting that wrong on purpose, is he?” she wondered.
“Well, you could say it has to do with where we’re headed.”
She stood up from the bench, stretched, and spread her wings.
She drank down the tea in the paper cup, tossed it into the vending machine trashcan, and looked to the others around her.
“If you all have work, get to it.”
“Judge. This was only a detour on the way.”
“That’s exactly the kind of distance I want from you.”
She smiled a little and took off. With a flap of her wings, she kicked off the warehouse wall and soared high into the sky.
“What do you call this?”
Her black wings took her into the white sky that was already filled with many of her colleagues.
“Is it courage or recklessness? I want to do this whichever it is. And the result will be the same either way.”
- Toroi means “slow” especially in respect to intelligence.
- Oppai means breasts.
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