Horizon:Kimitoasamade 1B Chapter 8
Chapter 8: Singer Atop the Box
Who wants to say
That is exactly why
Instead of saying
You leave me no choice
Point Allocation (Us)
There were several methods of traveling from Takao, third starboard ship, to Oume, which was on the other side of Okutama.
The standard was to use the land route across the towing belts between Takao, Okutama, and Oume. This could be done on foot, by carriage, or by relatively cheap but inferior vendors who offered the spell-based “Racing Piggyback Ride” or the physical-based “Prostration Palanquin”, but…
“The most direct way is on top of a container on the towing belt ring.”
That comment came from Margot Naito, the Schwarz Hexen who sat on a wooden container being transported to the rear of Musashi with her broom still between her legs.
She opened a Magie Figur on top of that wooden box that measured twenty meters long and five meters wide and tall.
The screen was not transparent and did not display anything on the reverse side. The visible angles on the left and right were also narrowed. After making sure that no one else could see, she checked what had just been sent to her.
“An Edel Brocken tester, hm?”
This isn’t good, she thought. She had a simple reason for that.
…I can’t seem to get motivated.
“Tonight we need our second Gagaku Festival rehearsal on Asakusa to make up for last night’s pathetic rehearsal, but…”
They had three songs to sing, but they had run out of time after just the first one the day before. That was due to the short rehearsal time, but they were similarly only planning to sing the second song today. Her second Magie Figur contained the lyrics for the second song and stick figures showing the choreography.
…The first one is easy to sing and pretty catchy, so we need to add more depth with the second one.
The song’s title was Streiken Schreck. Instead of referring to a worker’s strike, it referred to a striking cannon. It was a Technohexen song. They had made their own version of the old requiems that spoke of resistance.
From the Middle Ages to the present day, the Technohexen had resisted persecution and that continued in some areas even now, but they had their own songs of resistance that were meant to inspire and connect them together.
Even Technohexen who lived in peace needed to fight to save, shelter, and preserve the peace of their fellow Technohexen. Having a song of resistance at times like that meant a lot to their trust in each other.
This song was not something to make very public. After they performed it at their second year Gagaku Festival to confirm their presence in Musashi as Technohexen before becoming the main force of the students as third years, they had thought about hiding the song, but…
Naito thought about their rehearsal and replayed the lyrics in her head, but she could not get into the mood. She started with Naruze’s part.
“She who shows no resistance. A child who turns her back and falls to earth.”
She tried emphasizing “resistance”, but she still was not feeling it.
“Abandon the holy and outlast the gallows. Without a sound, look ahead to the future.”
Should that be “look ahead to” or “view”? she wondered, but she still was not feeling it.
Then she reached her part.
“The racing flame, the quaking iron, the gouging steel, the piercing spine of wind.”
Is it coming?
“I understand. This is my home. Even as we turn our backs, we are white and black.”
No, it just isn’t working, she thought while taking a breath.
As she muttered the lyrics to herself, she reverse-crossed herself as was customary for Technohexen songs.
“Nema. I accept that everything was in reverse.”
She placed a hand on the brim of her hat and pulled it down before continuing.
She took another breath.
…Hmm. I just can’t get motivated.
What was this about becoming an Edel Brocken tester?
That meant taking part in Edel Brocken’s development of new equipment. It meant to become the next generation and remain active until someone even greater came along. And until that happened, they could use all the latest equipment they wanted. They would have to go through the right channels, but they would have backups for all the expendable goods and they would have proper insurance.
It was the ultimate luxury for a Technohexen if they did not wish for a peaceful life.
“If I try to become a tester, I have to challenge Wild Kamelie…”
That was when she heard a loud noise in the low sky created by the stealth barrier. Something was pressing on the wind, creating what sounded like the rumbling of distant thunder or a large drum.
She looked up into Shinagawa’s sky.
Several torii-style sign frames appeared inside the stealth barrier from the bow of the ship to its stern.
The sign frames were resetting the stealth barrier because it had been nearly shaken apart by something passing through it at high speed.
And that something was…
Two Magino Figur that measured speed appeared in Shinagawa’s sky at a distance of precisely four half-miles.
What speed could they reach in the four half-miles, or approximately four hundred meters, between the two? Technohexen called that acceleration race the Null Vier. The race was popular because it was short and thus easy to take part in even if you still had some afternoon work left.
The eternal champion of that race had just shot through the sky as the opening practice flight.
That was Wild Kamelie.
The result that had shaken the stealth barrier was visible even from Naito’s position.
“2.80 seconds on the 0-400…”
The final speed was also given in miles, but Naito read the one that said 912 kph since she found it easier to understand.
The woman had reached the upper limits of subsonic speeds in just under three seconds. That was partially due to the specs of her schale besen, but it also required an excellent acceleration control spell.
Needless to say, one’s acceleration did not rise at an even rate. The limits of one’s output and one’s balance was greatly influenced by the size, structure, and materials of their schale besen. But since that woman had achieved a result like that, there was no point in belittling it.
Naito knew for a fact that Wild Kamelie was better than her.
…Could she reach the speed of sound if she had twice as much distance to work with?
Breaking the sound barrier in a little over five seconds was more acceleration than the fourth generation aerial gods of war that were becoming the main forces of the modern nations.
That would make her a threat to the Testament Union and the Tsirhc-focused European nations.
“That’s probably why we limit ourselves to the 0-400 and only compete when we aren’t being monitored.”
Naito looked to the skies around the Musashi.
The woman behind that result was circling around the Musashi to slow down. Her orange jacket was proof she had been part of a Technohexen unit deployed to fight against Sviet Rus. The color was meant to resemble the sunset when Russia looked back toward M.H.R.R. and it was meant to bring fear to Sviet Rus as the power to bring “twilight”.
Naito did not know what had brought Wild Kamelie to Musashi.
There were a variety of theories about that: she was rejected by a man despite being the head of the Technohexen unit, she fired on the house of a politician who asked for the impossible, she had trouble keeping the weight off while eating pirozhki every day, etc. Naruze had her own new theory.
“They found out she actually has a penis and chest hair. She’s got that kind of face.”
That one had started to spread recently and, long story short, Wild Kamelie had taken a liking to them.
Take now for instance:
“Hey there, Zwei Fräulein. Riding a container to preserve auspuff?”
Wild Kamelie called out to her while passing by the rear of Okutama in the distance.
Naito nodded toward her superior Technohexen in the distant sky.
“I messed up a bit planning deliveries the other day.”
“What did you do?”
“There’s a limited edition and a normal edition and I chose to deliver the normal edition, figuring it would be lighter, but it turns out the limited edition just has a super rare card with it while the normal edition has a one-tenth chance of randomly including a replica of the general’s head. …Oh, and this isn’t a porn game; it’s the fourth entry in the FPS series Modern War Fair.”
“What? Was it heavy or something?”
“No, the severed head replica fell down while I was delivering it and caused a huge commotion in Tama’s shopping district.”
“Oh, so you were the reason the alarm was ringing in the next wide block over when I was eating.”
“Judge, judge,” she nodded.
“You should really modify that broom or get a new one.”
“No, no. I can’t do that.”
“Someone gave it to me.”
Wild Kamelie briefly paused before replying.
“Then I guess there’s no helping it.”
Not asking too much about others was the rule for Technohexen. There was no point in trying to determine the identity of those at the Sabbat, so it was merely crass.
Technohexen were separated from the modern world. That was why they delivered packages and then left.
“Schwarz Fräulein, who do you have left?”
“Marine, I think.”
For the time being…
“If we shoot down Marine in a mock battle, we’ll be the tentative champions.”
“Marine will be fired up about getting back at you for Almirante, so be careful.”
“You’re rooting for us?”
“Judge,” said Wild Kamelie as she circled toward Takao. “Marine is from Tres España, but you’re from M.H.R.R., making you the pure Technohexen. I’m the same. …I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t root for you. And…”
“This might be rude, but I do know about the Weiss Hexen village and Schwarz Hexen village in the mountains of southern M.H.R.R. And I know they both had their own anti-Technohexen unit.”
“I don’t think you really need to know about that.”
“Are you mad?”
“No. Now isn’t the time to decide if I am or not.”
“When is it the time?”
“I can’t tell you that.”
“I see.” There was a bitter smile in her voice. “You’re pretty scary, Margot Naito. …That Weiss Fräulein with her biting aura is quite something herself, but both of you have a troublesome atmosphere that keeps anyone from approaching you too carelessly.”
“Are you trying to get me to let my guard down?”
“Are you trying to provoke me?”
“What if I said I wanted the position of tester?”
She went ahead and said it, but…
“Wait your turn.”
Naito knew what that immediate response meant.
It was exactly what she had expected, so…
“But I’m really not that motivated.”
“Don’t expect me to give you any.”
“Then maybe I should ask Ga-chan for some.”
“What is it?”
“Judge,” said Wild Kamelie as she grew more distant. “Are you planning to challenge me just because you got psyched up with your friend?”
“Only if that gives me the motivation. Also…”
“I wouldn’t be challenging you.”
“Are you saying I’ll lose to Marine?”
“No, no.” Naito looked straight up into the sky. “Our next challenger is Marine, but that’s not what I meant. If I do get some motivation from Ga-chan, I’ll only be after the position of tester to make sure that motivation doesn’t go to waste.”
“So you wouldn’t even be focused on me?”
“I already know who’s going in the center of my frame. I’ll let you in behind it or outside it, though.”
“You know what’s going to happen if you don’t get motivated after saying that, don’t you?”
“The reason I’m not feeling any motivation is that I think a peaceful life might be nice.”
Naito stood up.
The container she was riding was reaching the peak of its circular motion. At this highest point, she could cover quite a bit of distance just gliding, so she hooked the cart carrying the packages on her broom and started to take a step off of the container.
But a great noise filled the stealth space.
Someone had produced great acceleration in the sky above Shinagawa.
She heard a few cheers from there.
She then checked the time and speed for the 0-400.
The final speed was above 980 kph. The acceleration had risen rapidly at the end and that had produced a result rivalling Wild Kamelie’s.
…That was Marine.
She was the final subordinate of Almirante, current manager of the individual delivery business, during his Tres España days. She was a winged descended angel just like Naito.
However, she did not use a broom to fly like the others did. The metal wings attached to her back and waist formed the basis of…
“An aerial mobile shell…”
“Tres España made those for landing and ship-to-ship battles what with the Armada battle coming up. To make sure any mistakes during testing weren’t disastrous, they were primarily tested by winged nonhumans with narrow shoulders. The project eventually came to a standstill and Marine came here with one of the abandoned prototypes.”
Naito nodded at Wild Kamelie’s explanation.
…Everyone with their own unique issues ends up gathering here…
That was why they joined together and that was why they came into conflict. And…
Several screams were approaching from Takao to starboard.
What is that? she wondered as two girls in their academy uniform ran from near Mt. Takao to the boarding zone for the towing belt ring.
It was Asama and Mitotsudaira. And the reason behind the screams was chasing the girls.
“Heh heh heh! C’mon! Stop running away, Mitotsudaira, Asama! With this many divine protection sticks, the boys will never even get close!! In fact, I’ve set these so any boy who approaches a girl covered by the smoke will be castrated!”
Kimi held bundles of divine protection sticks up like torches and ran after the other girls with smoke rising from both hands. Everyone in the vicinity cried out and fled, but Kimi suddenly stopped and looked both ways.
“You there! You’ve got the look of a guy who wants to be castrated!!”
After putting some distance between them, Asama fired an arrow at Kimi who was trying to castrate random passersby.
“Kimi-chan’s pretty great at dodging, so I doubt that’ll hit.”
That was exactly what happened, so the Takao loading zone only grew more chaotic. Then Naito vocalized a thought that came to her.
Because this place was a gathering of people with their own unique issues…
“This is normal for here.”
“If this is normal, then this is fine. But when I look at it like that, I really can’t seem to work up any motivation.”
The container moving up the towing belt ring had railings on the top because those transport containers were also used to view the Musashi.
Asama and Mitotsudaira fell to all fours and gasped for breath atop one.
But the idiot sister was not even out of breath as she spun around behind them while holding a new charm stick like a smoke bomb.
“Heh heh heh. The temple said the castration would be good advertisement but they didn’t want me to force it on anyone, so they gave me a charm stick for exorcising the impurities that affect beauty. Buddhism can be pretty great sometimes! C’mon, Asama! C’mon, Mitotsudaira! Let’s get nice and clean with this smoke! It’s on me today!!”
Curse this crazy girl, thought Asama while thinking back on everything she and her brother had done in the past. But…
…Huh? She hasn’t been all that bad today.
“T-Tomo, you’ve started looking at this in a weirdly positive light, haven’t you!? I can tell from the look on your face!”
“Well, this did give the Buddhist temple some advertisement.”
She saw Kimi spinning around with the smoking charm stick while Uzy opened a sign frame. It immediately booted up a spell named…
“Judge. No one else can hear us up here in the sky. So…”
Kimi used a gentle spin to send her hair dancing through the air and looked Asama in the eye as her gaze passed by.
“If you’re asking us to form a band, you’ve made at least one song, haven’t you? Sing it here, Asama. That might change our minds.”
That crazy person’s ideas were always far too sudden. In fact…
“B-but my song isn’t finished!”
She got up onto her knees and waved her hands back and forth. Then Mitotsudaira tilted her head.
“If it isn’t finished, does that mean you’re writing one?”
“I-I don’t have a song!”
“Then do you have the lyrics?”
Asama was unsure what to say. Her substitutions as a shrine maiden prevented her from lying, but she was allowed to remain silent or divert their attention if it was to preserve her privacy or keep others out of harm’s way. But even if writing a song was a private issue…
…I kind of have to share that if we’re forming a band…
She decided there was no point in risking a violation of her substitutions.
“I’ve been thinking…a bit…about some lyrics.”
She meant the night before.
On the way home from Suzu’s bathhouse, she had thought to herself in her heated head. She had thought not about herself, but about herself and her surroundings. She knew there was a lot she did not see or understand and she had created lyrics out of everything beyond herself that she could think of at the time.
She had not created even a single line of lyrics yet. She only had some keywords.
…Yes, that’s right.
That was what it meant to write a song. She did not know how others did it, but for her, those were the words she wanted to make into a song. She wanted to send them outside. She wanted to ask them.
Would she blush when she said them? Or could she do it without any fear?
She did not know, but she had one thing to say now.
“I do have some words I want to make into a song.”
“I see,” said Kimi.
Asama felt like her heart was being pulled upwards. She felt like Kimi had understood her feelings.
“U-um, it’s about-…!”
“Oh, you don’t have to tell us now.”
When Asama nearly argued back, Kimi held out the smoking charm stick to stop her. Asama was confused by that and by how the girl shrugged.
…Why won’t she let me tell them?
She wanted to sing those words and they would eventually be made public, so what was wrong with hearing them here and making a decision on them? But…
“Can a shrine maiden really present incomplete lyrics? She can’t, can she?”
“Listen. When people present an incomplete work, they might feel that was enough of an accomplishment and stop there or they might not get the feedback they were hoping for and change what they were trying to do. If you’ve written plenty of songs, you can probably still finish it like that and changing the lyrics based on your changing feelings can work. But…”
“What you’re making now can only be made once.”
Asama knew what she meant.
“My ‘very first’ lyrics…”
“Judge. You need to treat this with care. …Asama, I will protect what matters to you even if I have to protect it from you.”
Asama nodded a little at that.
She had been leaning forward, but now she leaned back and lowered her butt into a sitting position on the container.
She had relaxed. And now that she thought about it…
…That was a close one.
I really can get too focused on this kind of thing.
It was not often that she was so intent on revealing something about herself, so…
“Do you understand?”
“In the very, very end, I try to force myself through.”
“I think my foolish brother and I are the only ones who can stop you there. Then again…” Kimi smiled bitterly as she turned to the side. “You need to reach that position too, Lady Knight. It’s your job to prevent people from getting carried away, isn’t it?”
“Y-you say that, but…”
Mitotsudaira looked over at Asama’s relaxed sitting position.
When Asama gave her a puzzled look, the girl’s golden eyes arched a little.
“I quite like that side of Tomo.”
“I-I’m more interested in what you think of me as a shrine maiden.”
“But I know very well that there’s more to you than just being a shrine maiden.”
“I’m going to do what I can to interact with that side of you. Just like that idiot girl and boy do. It might be a difficult position, but I still want to do it.”
“Why does this make me feel really useless…?”
“That isn’t what this is about,” said Kimi. “You’re just a beginner at putting yourself out there. You’re very skilled at dealing with others, but you’re very poor at dealing with yourself. Being honest with yourself is a wonderful thing!”
“What happens if I’m honest with myself?”
The idiot girl spun the smoking charm stick around in her fingers and struck a “c’mon” pose.
“Ah! What’s that look for!? Heh heh heh. But you’ll be one of us before long! So, Mitotsudaira, you sing in her place!”
“What!? Why me!?”
“I heard all about it from my foolish brother. You sang a song for a knight league party or something, didn’t you? You must have a knight’s marching song. As the Extra Special Duty Officer for the Chancellor’s Officers, you have some kind of song prepared, right?”
“That settles it! Mitotsudaira will be singing a song for us.”
Mitotsudaira was still confused, but Kimi pulled a microphone from her cleavage and tossed it to her. The Turning Point acoustic spell was already playing a few rhythms.
“It’s making sure the sound doesn’t scatter. Just start singing and it will play matching chords.”
Asama had a thought as she watched Mitotsudaira grip the microphone in both hands.
…She has her own song.
She had expected as much, but it felt somehow meaningful now that she knew for sure. Even a classmate who was not like Kimi had a song.
Of course, Mitotsudaira only had it as a part of being a knight, but…
…How much does that really matter for the peaceful Far East and Musashi?
Mitotsudaira had likely decided to write her own song to create an opportunity for herself, just like Asama had.
She had wanted to put the contents of her heart to words. So…
Asama faced Mitotsudaira while seated.
Mitotsudaira groaned and stepped back, but Asama did not care.
“This will be the first time you’re revealing your song, won’t it?”
“Eh? …Well, yes.”
“Then,” said Asama. “If you’re fine with us being the first to hear it, then please sing it.”
Mitotsudaira had a thought.
…Someone wants to hear it.
Did she have anyone she wanted to hear her song?
She briefly thought of her promise with her king, but…
…This song is different.
“Tomo, you two can hear it first.”
“The song inside me is about my insufficiency as a knight. Letting my king hear it would be the same as exposing my inexperience to him.”
“Heh heh. In other words, it’s a song about preparing yourself? That’s perfect for us now. What’s the title?”
“Hurrah for Late-Blooming.”
Asama gasped in surprise, so Mitotsudaira shrugged at the change in her expression.
“Didn’t I tell you? This isn’t a song I can let my king hear. I plan to give it an Hexagone Française title once I make the true version.”
Mitotsudaira tried timing the tempo with her hands. It seemed a little fast, but…
…This is about right.
Kimi responded by tapping Turning Point’s sign frame with her toes.
Its tempo matched hers, and…
Kimi released her voice.
She closed her eyes and gathered the note in her throat. It was the same way Asama produced her voice during Shinto rituals.
However, this was not a single sound. It started low and gradually grew higher. The reverberation continued at length, twisted back as if echoing, and finally bent.
“Oh, I’ll take that one.
On Mitotsudaira’s instruction, Uzy spun in midair.
The Mouse waved her fan and lifted up the instant of vocalization Kimi had just made. She recorded the sound that Mitotsudaira thought was appropriate for the first key.
Kimi looked to the sign frame that Uzy held up and smiled.
“I can make most of it from this. Okay, Mitotsudaira, sing for us until the container reaches the top. This will be a test and you can do it for real next time.”
Mitotsudaira looked to Asama who was looking her way with her eyes fully open.
Mitotsudaira felt a small smile deep in her chest.
…Is she that interested in someone else’s song?
“Don’t expect too much. This is a song of preparation, after all.”
Asama nodded, but she maintained her firm seated position.
A drum played. It was a Western style one.
The tempo was a little different from the four-on-the-floor one that Kimi always used. There were more other noises in this one, but…
…It’s an ensemble version.
The sounds overlapped and joined together. After counting to three, Mitotsudaira felt the timing was right.
She held up the microphone, opened her mouth, and closed her eyes.
…Oh, am I showing off?
With that thought, she began singing.
“Hurrah for late-blooming. Hurrah for constant change.”
The wolf’s voice slipped into Asama’s ears.
“Far, far ahead with nothing to guide the way.”
Asama sensed something.
“I pretended to trust in myself.”
She sensed that this was different from the usual Mitotsudaira.
“A mistaken hurrah for late-blooming.”
Was she usually this self-restrained?
“Far, far ahead where I can’t bear to look.”
Asama sensed something else as well.
“I knew there was nothing there.”
She sensed that this was the same as the usual Mitotsudaira.
“A cowardly hurrah for late-blooming.”
This was her old self.
“Hurrah for late-blooming. Hurrah for constant change.”
It was the part of her that could not forget what had once happened.
“Not enough is new.”
Mitotsudaira had said this was about her insufficiency.
“I make my embrace by crawling.”
She had said it was not yet suitable for her king.
“I act tough by saying that is only natural.”
But she acted tough and added in a howling “lu lu”.
“Hurrah for late-blooming. Hurrah for constant change.”
She repeated herself and faced ahead.
“Everything from the past is so kind.”
Oh, thought Asama in silent admiration.
“What is holding me back crumbles away.”
Mitotsudaira was from Hexagone Française.
“I feel so much lighter in the moonlight.”
She was proud of that while also standing on Musashi’s side.
“Hurrah for late-blooming. Hurrah for constant change.”
She swore to eventually overcome her past self.
“The new things are so miserable.”
But the silver wolf knew she had a long way to go.
“I weep and then stand back up.”
That was exactly what she had done.
“Hurrah for late-blooming. Everything changes.”
She had once suddenly returned to them and then cried as if howling.
“I believe in it all and act tough.”
And now she acted as if nothing had happened.
“Even if I wish to immerse myself in the past.”
She had a single piece of evidence.
“Hurrah for late-blooming. I slip from the yoke.”
That evidence told her that nothing like the past would happen again.
“Without howling, I now race through the wind.”
And so she had chosen to continue forward.
That was the end of her lyrics.
…You could tell I wasn’t sure if I should sing in my usual tone of voice or not. I need to work on that.
She repeated part of the latter half as a refrain as if trying to convince herself of something. And…
When singing it on her own, she was at home and playing a string instrument, so there were no drums. Kimi’s Turning Point supplied that and she could tell how much having the bass notes helped.
…If she can make sheet music out of this, I should probably get a copy.
As she thought that, the accompaniment ended, as did the song.
She took a breath and faced forward.
Asama was there.
What had that girl thought? It had likely sounded strange to someone so familiar with Gagaku, but…
She trailed off. She had wanted to ask the girl what she thought, but her lips formed different words.
She asked a question.
“Why are you crying?”
Asama was confused by Mitotsudaira’s question.
The words “I can’t be crying” and the thought “I guess it’s fine if I am since I’m with friends” mixed together inside her.
She brought a hand to her cheek and did indeed find tears there.
What did this mean? She was a Shinto shrine maiden who had a close relationship with words and controlled herself with words, so how had someone else’s song shaken her in such a mysterious way?
Oh, I get it.
That song must have shown me something of her.
What had once been, what was there now, and what would likely be there one day had all reached Asama in words that were noticeably Mitotsudaira’s.
There had been no lies in it.
Something had happened to Mitotsudaira in the past. Asama knew the beginning, had seen the middle, and did not know much about the end.
But she could make a good guess what had happened in the end.
Those words had created who Mitotsudaira was now and they had allowed her to say goodbye to her former self and become something new while still accepting who she had been before.
That was a song about not giving up despite knowing how difficult it is to make herself into something different.
The powerful self-restraint and self-admonition was likely because it had to do with how wild she had once been. So…
…Will the contents of this song eventually change?
Mitotsudaira had said it was a song of preparation.
She had said she would use a different song when with her king. In that case…
“I hope you can make your song something else one day.”
Asama wiped away her tears as she said that.
Mitotsudaira’s eyes widened in obvious surprise.
That was a song of preparation. It was her song at the moment, but it would no longer suit her at some point. It would become a song of nice memories. So Asama had something else to say.
“I know you can do it.”
She sent her words to the girl.
Mitotsudaira held the microphone in both hands and stared at her, but then…
The Cerberus on her head tilted its three heads and its weight pushed her head forward.
Fingers quickly wiped at the corners of the eyes behind the long bangs, but when the silver wolf raised her head again, she was smiling.
“Of course I can. A knight cannot spend her entire life preparing herself.”
“Heh heh. Why are you two crying together?”
Behind Mitotsudaira, Kimi spun the charm stick in her fingers as it began to lose its smoke.
“I was not crying,” said Mitotsudaira. “That smoke you’re waving around stung my eyes is all. I am a half-werewolf, so I am sensitive to that kind of smell.”
“Oh? Well, we can go with that if you want.” Kimi put her hands on her hips. “But Mitotsudaira. …That song is your song, but it’s also a song of preparation, isn’t it?”
“Judge. I use it to fill my heart when I advance as a knight.”
Mitotsudaira’s plain statement led Kimi to slowly glance over at Asama. Asama knew what Kimi wanted to say, but she let her say it.
“This wolf knight certainly is full of something, isn’t she?”
“Wh-what do you mean by that?”
When Mitotsudaira blushed and protested, Asama could only nod.
But she also understood why Kimi had had Mitotsudaira sing.
…The lyrics and intent of Mito’s song are pretty obvious to us.
If someone ignorant of her past heard that, it would probably sound like the song of a knight who was hard on herself and filled with tragic bravery and self-admonition.
But it was different to them.
Asama thought on the fact that the song would send a different message to different people.
…Oh, I get it.
It’s okay if that happens, she realized as calm filled her.
She had been confused about something after speaking with Torii and the others the night before. How could that girl expose herself and her feelings with no one to communicate those feelings to?
But how people interpreted one’s feelings differed from person to person.
Asama only needed try to convey her thoughts in her own way.
If that stimulated something in the listener’s feelings or memories, then it was a good song.
“Heh heh. Why do you look so enlightened all of a sudden?”
“Well, I do feel pretty enlightened about something…”
The task of writing a song felt like less of a burden now, but she also felt like she understood the depth of meaning and breadth of mind behind it.
There were no rules about how much of herself to expose, how much of herself to hide, how much to let people know, and how much to keep away from people. The level of one’s “self” in the lyrics differed from writer to writer and from song to song.
Inside jokes were okay to use. It was okay to make it so others could understand them or notice them, but it was also okay to keep them hidden.
Love songs were the same.
She often heard songs from Musashi or other nations. With most of the love songs she had heard, how much had she actually thought about the writer of the song?
Of course, if a writer was producing lyrics for a singer, the lyrics would have no direct link to the singer. But in that case, how would the singer present the lyrics given to them?
…In that case, the singer’s feelings will create another layer on top of the writer’s feelings.
If they lined up well, it could create deeper meaning. If not, it could lessen the meaning.
…Then, um, wait a second. That would mean…
The appearance and quantity of lyrics on the lyrics cards or on the sign frame when singing karaoke with everyone was not what mattered.
There was also a “feelings” aspect to it all.
So how could one strengthen the “feelings” contained inside their lyrics?
Would the song’s writer sing it or would they leave it with a different singer?
How did one place their “feelings” in the song they were singing?
Did the song match them?
Did their voice match the song?
And how much would the listener be able to understand?
Asama felt faint when she imagined the incredible variation allowed by different intensities and arrangements of expression.
In Gagaku, she was always singing songs for her god.
She was confident that she could sing nice and loud and she thought she was decent at playing an instrument, but…
…Everything I’ve done has been made to play before my god…
Depending on the song, she sometimes included her emotions to help convey the meaning to her god.
But she did not know how the lyrics she used had been created. She had simply seen the instructions to “sing this part happily” and thought back on her experiences to summon up the emotion of happiness and sing accordingly.
A shudder ran through her body.
She had performed Gagaku for so long, but was it possible she had never truly performed a song before?
“Heh heh. Why are you hanging your head in shock?”
She thought for a bit.
Her singing was quite good as a Shinto ritual and did an excellent job of taking command of the scene. But…
“I might be good when I have a set form laid out for me…but that’s useless as a free singer, isn’t it?”
“Oh? I would say skill at a set form gives you an incredible advantage.”
“That’s right,” added Mitotsudaira. “That means you know how to vocalize a song and it means you have all the basic knowledge. …In my case, there are hardly any Western music teachers in Musashi, so I had to take lessons from a high school teacher to reach this level.”
“That’s pretty amazing really. And in that case, just how abnormal is Kimi?”
“Uzume gives me everything I need,” said the abnormal girl. “And my foolish brother is about at my level. He performs song offerings with me.”
Asama could tell she and Mitotsudaira had stopped moving.
“Toori-kun has an entertainer god contract with our Sakuya, not with Ootsubaki, so he shouldn’t have the same advantages as you, Kimi.”
“Then maybe that means he has even more skill than me. Heh heh. Not bad for a foolish brother. I need to challenge him next time we do karaoke together. But…”
Kimi patted Mitotsudaira on the back as the girl stood in dumbfounded shock just like Asama.
Kimi could not hide the crescent moon smile beyond Mitotsudaira’s shoulder.
“Being a knight must be tough. …You’ll be in trouble if you sing in front of your king and you turn out to be worse at it than him, won’t you? Heh heh heh.”
“Without those last three words, I could have just ignored that provocation in about two seconds!!”
Mitotsudaira bared her teeth and turned back toward Kimi, but then she reached back, grabbed Asama’s hand, and gave her a sharp look.
“Let’s continue our date!”
Why? she wondered, but the silver wolf answered before she could ask.
“You need to work harder to make sure that idiot girl and I will…join your band! At the very least, I can’t sing in front of my king until I can sing better than this crazy person!”
Kimi opened her mouth where Mitotsudaira could not see and silently mouthed some words.
“Such an indirect girl!”
Asama could clearly make out the exclamation point, but that may have been thanks to Kimi’s skill as an entertainer. That skill was surprisingly high.
But at the same time, Mitotsudaira’s gaze grew harsher.
“How about it!?”
When will she ever be able to reach Kimi’s level? she wondered, but…
…It’s a goal at least.
She nodded toward Mitotsudaira.
“I’ll do my best to make this date a success.”
While holding Asama’s hand, Mitotsudaira opened a sign frame and checked back over their date plan.
Kimi could tell her own expression was relaxing as she watched from behind.
…Such slow girls.
She was one of those girls, but the others were far less aware of it.
When she found herself hesitant to act, she would immediately take action. That was her motto.
But when the other two realized the same thing about themselves, they would start by finding a compromise. They would wonder if it was okay for them to do it and seek out a reason beyond the simple fact that they wanted to do it.
They lost their chance to strike while the iron was hot.
By the time they caught on, they were buried in reasons and could not dig themselves out when they grew tired of it all.
That method was not nimble enough.
…But maybe I don’t need to worry.
As she watched Mitotsudaira and Asama checking over the date plan, she could tell Asama had not lost her motivation despite learning how hard writing a song was and she could tell Mitotsudaira was fired up as well.
Most likely, Mitotsudaira had also sensed the will behind Asama’s reaction.
The song she had sung was definitely that knight’s present self. And while placing her feelings in a song, she had kept them hidden.
Kimi was not about to ask why that was.
Mitotsudaira would have sensed that her feelings had reached Asama. The feelings inside her song had entirely gotten through to the other girl.
Kimi was glad Mitotsudaira had not looked back for a while.
She was glad Asama was not looking her way.
After all, what had her expression been when the silver wolf had finished her song?
You might not know it, but we’re preparing for something different from ten years ago.
“I’m looking forward to what that will make me feel and how I will accept it.”
She whispered that under her breath, but then…
“Hi. It looked like you were busy, so I was watching from above.”
The Schwarz Hexen flew down toward them.
“Ah,” said Asama and the others as they made room.
Kimi watched as Naito flew down with her golden wings whipping up the wind.
The cart hanging from the Technohexen’s broom was full of packages. If she was on her way to deliver those…
“Heh heh. Shouldn’t you hurry? Or do you need something? This impurity exorcising incense is still active.”
When Naito landed while still on her broom, Kimi grabbed her hat and waved the incense charm stick around saying “How about it?” over and over. For just an instant, the Technohexen’s divine protection spell reacted, but…
“Is that okay?”
“Eh? Oh, judge. It doesn’t seem to mix well with Classic Signs, but since it’s Buddhist, it should fall under the pagan spell category and provide me with about 80% of its effects. So it’s fine.”
Kimi smiled bitterly as Naito lifted her feathers to let the incense pass through her wings.
“So did something happen? Heh heh. If you need some advice, I might be willing to listen.”
“Judge. We’re doing another Gagaku Festival rehearsal at the Asakusa cargo plaza, right? Well, we were just so lame at last night’s rehearsal.”
“In your styling?”
“No, no.” Naito shook her hand. “In our choreography.”
“Kimi, you’re an expert at that, so if you go…”
Mitotsudaira trailed off as she realized something.
“Oh, Tomo, we have a shift working for your shrine tonight, don’t we?”
“Yes, so we’ll be heading there regardless. …And personally, I kind of want to hear Naito and Naruze sing.”
“Judge, judge. It would be great if you and Mito-tsan were watching as an audience.”
It made Kimi kind of happy how seriously Asama repeated “as an audience”. But…
“But what is this about, Naito? I wouldn’t think Naruze would care about people watching her.”
“Well…” Naito lowered her eyebrows in a way that was unusual for her. “We have our reasons. Lately, I’ve wanted to avoid doing anything that lets people look down on us.”
“Did you do something to the third years?” asked Mitotsudaira.
That meant a lot more coming from a former trailblazer in that field, so Naito quickly waved her hands back and forth.
“No, not the third years. Someone even higher. Y’know, from the delivery business.”
“Oh, you mean the people in the Geheimnis Shabbat? You’re pretty high up in the ranks, aren’t you?”
“That’s pretty much it.”
She must have had a major match coming up.
Everyone was acting on their various thoughts.
“I can’t just sit around either.”
As Kimi said that, she heard a song in the distance.
It was a song she had heard in the mornings and afternoons more often lately. It was an automaton singing the Song of Passage.
“Are there feelings behind this too?”
“Heh heh. Asama, even automatons have souls.”
Mitotsudaira, Asama, and Naito must not have known about P-01s because they did not connect the comment to the song.
“We used to play with Horizon a lot using this song, didn’t we?”
Everyone’s expression changed at that, but Kimi no longer felt any fear. The time to sit around had ended the night before. So…
“C’mon, Asama. Let’s continue our date.”
Asama’s expression changed again when she heard that.
“Yes, that’s fine. …We need to continue from Oume to Murayama!”
Musashi’s shrine maiden grabbed Mitotsudaira’s arm and pulled it close.
“I’ll make sure this is a success!”
Make sure you take good care of that.
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