Horizon:Kimitoasamade 2B Chapter 18
Chapter 18: Doll Looking Back to a Nostalgic Place
Oh, dear. All of a sudden
I’m caught in the middle of this?
Point Allocation (Train of Life)
“Oh, is my foolish brother not here?”
Asama and the others entered the café after Kimi peeked inside.
Asama sat at a table in the back while wondering if Kimi’s swaying hair was naturally so pristine or if it was a spell.
It was a 6-seat table, Kimi sat on the aisle end of the back side, and Adele sat across from her. Kimi liked taking everyone’s orders and Adele had a habit of taking the seat closest to the entrance due to her vassal training.
Asama assumed Naito and Naruze would sit together like always, but…
“Yeah, we feel like eating something, so we’ll sit furthest in.”
They took the furthest in seats on either side. They must have decided that the narrow café table would not have enough room for their plates if they sat right next to each other. Naruze sat on the entrance side and immediately grabbed the menu from the empty table next to her.
Only the central seats were open. Asama took the one on the back end and Mitotsudaira sat next to Adele in the central entrance-side seat.
Asama sighed deep in her heart, but the only sign she let show on her face was her somewhat closed eyes. If she showed too much exhaustion and relief here, the others would only worry.
But across from her, Mitotsudaira’s shoulders noticeably rose and fell.
“Phew… We pushed ourselves a little too far this time.”
“Tired?” asked Kimi with a bitter smile.
“I can proudly say we did an excellent job,” replied Mitotsudaira with a small smile.
“Judge. That’s right. I never thought heading out on an investigation would mean dragon hunting. And 4 of them at that.”
Adele sounded cheerful and Asama could only nod in agreement. But then Asama lowered her head.
“Sorry about all the trouble. Thank you very much for dealing with that and helping me out.”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Naruze who was listing up her order on a Magie Figure.
“Feel free to thank me more, Asama! More! More!”
Naruze glared at her, but Kimi ignored it and pointed at Asama.
“I will admit I did not expect a serious life-or-death situation there. Who could predict a bunch of Hidden Dragons would show up and swing their heads around like tentacles!? But I did my best, so make sure to thank me! Now, bring on the thanks!”
She did not hesitate to hold out her hands with an expectant look in her eyes, so Asama thought about what this meant.
But this was a crazy person. Asama decided thinking about it was a futile effort, so she tried directly asking.
“What do you want?”
“You don’t know? What a useless shrine maiden! Okay, here’s your answer: take it away, Mitotsudaira!”
“Why are you passing it off to me!?”
Kimi looked over and spoke to Mitotsudaira.
“C’mon, Mitotsudaira, think carefully. What kind of service do you want from Asama? Suzu’s family runs two bathhouses, so anything goes. Oh, but if it’ll make Asama cry, wait until we get to her house, okay?”
“What are you trying to get her to ask for!?”
“Eh?” Kimi held up a sign frame. “A marathon of the theatre movies that my foolish brother recommended recently. They’re playing things like ‘Hamlet II: A Cutlet Disguised as an Omelet’ or ‘The Merchant of Extortion’. I want to set the player up somewhere with decent acoustics, but when you start crying at things like this, you can’t seem to stop. …Or were you imagining something else?”
“Nooo, I wasn’t imagining anything at allll. I had a feeling that was what you were talking abouuuut.”
But Mitotsudaira seemed to have a thought.
“Well,” she said in a tone of surprisingly serious thought. “Tomo, I’d like you to show me the musical instruments at your home later.”
It was true the Asama Shrine had a selection of Gagaku equipment. They were mostly for her exclusive use, but…
…Why would she want to see those?
Asama could not figure this out, but she had no problem letting her see them. And if they did that later…
“Do you want to sleep over at my place?”
“Oh, then I’ll go too. Let’s go refresh ourselves at Suzu’s bathhouse first.”
Adele nodded at that, but…
“I have a job early tomorrow morning, so I’ll leave after Suzu-san’s place.”
“Same here. …And we have a lot to think about with what happened today,” said Naruze. Her tone was calm and she did not even look Asama’s way. “We haven’t fought in an actual battle since the school trip in middle school, but that was very meaningful. …It was very eye-opening.”
“I see,” said Asama as she looked across from Naruze where the girl’s partner sat.
That other girl was looking at the menu without reading it.
She was probably thinking about something, so…
“Eh? Oh, sorry, sorry. I’m hogging the menu, aren’t I? …Ga-chan, can you order something for me too?”
“Only if you promise to eat everything I order for you.”
“Sure,” said Naito as she started focusing on the menu in her hand again.
As the two of them started speaking to each other (“Have we ever ordered that before?” “Yes, but we got it to go and it was cold by the time we ate it.”), Asama looked to the back of the café. She had heard footsteps approaching from the kitchen.
She noticed Kimi had already turned in that direction to see who it was.
…The manager. Toori-kun and Kimi’s mom.
Except it was not.
Asama saw silver hair, and…
By the time she realized how familiar the clothing looked, the newcomer had arrived next to the table.
The newcomer had a tray in one hand and she bowed.
Mitotsudaira felt all her hair bristling.
Was this a new employee at the Blue Thunder? She was an automaton. She had silver hair, she had a medium build, and her breasts were-… It is foolish to compare yourself to others, so let’s not do that.
But Mitotsudaira was reminded of something Kimi had mentioned that morning.
Her king was trying to win over another girl.
But why did she recall that now? No, she knew exactly why: the automaton standing in front of her.
Mitotsudaira knew her.
She did not know her.
They had never met before, but Mitotsudaira still felt confident she knew her.
She did not want to definitively say she did not know her. There was an odd feeling of discord that made her want to know who this was. She wanted to know yet she had not forgotten. That was the only way to describe this confusion in her memories.
What does this mean? wondered Mitotsudaira.
“She” was supposed to be dead. He had lamented, Mitotsudaira’s promise to protect “her” had vanished, she had acted violently, and the two of them had exchanged a promise as king and knight.
…That is where my pride as a knight comes from.
Even if “she” returned, Mitotsudaira would no longer be “her” protector. She was now a knight who would accompany her king.
But, thought Mitotsudaira.
…Is this automaton “her”?
She had not confirmed that, so any thoughts on the matter were premature.
But how could she confirm it?
If she called “her” name, would this automaton respond?
But just as the name began to leave her mouth, the automaton suddenly spoke.
“I have some not good news and some bad news. Which would you like first?”
Asama saw the confused look on Mitotsudaira’s face.
She could only guess what Mitotsudaira was thinking, but…
…I-I think I’m feeling much the same thing.
This automaton looked a lot like “her”.
Of course, “she” died 9 years before. A lot had happened between Asama, Kimi, and Toori then and a lot had happened with their friends afterwards to help them all come to terms with what had happened to “her”.
But now an automaton that resembled “her” was here.
And another thought occurred to Asama.
…Kimi said Toori-kun is trying to win over a girl.
Asama immediately sensed that this was that girl. And…
“Um,” she said and the automaton nodded.
“Which would you like first?”
“Uhh…” said everyone but Kimi.
…Should we really just go along with this?
At any rate, Asama shove this onto someone else.
“You go ahead, Adele.”
“Eh!? Ehh!? Me!?”
“Judge. So you are Adele-sama. An excellent name. Oh, but this is merely sales talk, so do not take it seriously.”
“Wow…” said Naruze while hiding her face behind the menu.
Then the automaton spoke to Adele.
“I will give you a chance.”
“Wh-what does that mean!?”
“Whether you choose the bad news or the not good news, something horrible will happen to you.”
“Judge,” replied the automaton.
“Incredible,” said Naito while also hiding her face behind a menu.
After pausing for a breath, the automaton expressionlessly continued.
“And now I gave you enough time to run away, but you failed to do so. It is all over for you now.”
“Eh!? That’s what you meant by a chance!? I didn’t even get a hint at what you meant!?”
“A failure to think leads only to death.” The automaton remained expressionless. “Hasn’t it long been said that people are thinking tools?”
“Are you sure you’re not mixing ‘speaking tool’ with ‘thinking reed’?”
“I fused them for a power-up.”
She sounded so sure of herself that everyone but Kimi exchanged a glance. But Asama placed a hand on Kimi’s shoulder while the girl faced the other way.
Her hand was brushed off. She placed her hand back on and found the idiot sister’s shoulders were shaking with laughter.
“P-01s’s debut is turning out even better than I had hoped.”
“Is this why you brought us here!?”
“Now, now.” The automaton tilted her head. “I do not quite understand, but I am glad if I have brought in some customers.”
“Adele-sama, which will it be?”
Everyone looked to Adele who raised her eyebrows and looked back at them all.
“E-everyone! Are you all really willing to leave your destinies in my hands!?”
“Not to worry, Adele-sama. …This is for you alone.”
“Asama-san! Asama-san! Why did you have to pass this on to me!?”
“Well, you’re closest to the entrance, so I thought you would naturally come first.”
“I didn’t want a logical answer!”
Adele clenched her fists and steeled herself.
“Th-then, the bad news!”
“Judge. Then here is a stew with no soy sauce in it.”
The automaton set down a stew bowl from the stretcher she had carried over at some point. And it contained…
“This provides the perfect harmony of radish, carrot, and onion. I assume. I had to get somewhat creative to make the broth so clear.”
“Eh? What do you mean by creative?”
“Judge. I did not put any soy sauce in.”
“That’s not creative! That’s not creative at all!”
“Not to worry. I included sake as a secret ingredient. Dishes with a secret ingredient are delicious, so this stew must be delicious.”
“I’m not sure what to say to that…”
Was this a new type of sake stew? But Adele hung her head, pushed the bowl over to Asama, and spoke with a shadow of her face.
“This one’s yours, Asama-san.”
“You can’t do that, Adele. You have to eat what you’re served.”
“B-but don’t you love sake, Asama-san!? This one’s clearly perfect for you!”
Where did this misunderstanding come from? wondered Asama as she took a breath and corrected her.
“What are you talking about, Adele? I don’t love sake. I only drink it because I have to.”
“Um, Tomo? That’s exactly what alcoholics say.”
Huh? she thought just as the automaton named P-01s turned toward Mitotsudaira.
She turned just her head to look into Mitotsudaira’s golden eyes.
“You are next.”
“Judge.” P-01s nodded, placed a hand on her forehead, and shut her eyes. “I will now guess your name.”
“Fortunetelling!? You’re doing fortunetelling now!? What happened to the ‘not good news/bad news’ thing with Adele!?”
“I grew bored with it.”
Asama placed a hand on Kimi’s shoulder only to have it brushed off.
But the situation was underway. P-01s said “now, then” and pointed at Mitotsudaira with the hand that had been on her forehead. Then she deeply lowered her head and spoke directly at Mitotsudaira.
“I know the answer now. Your name is…”
Mitotsudaira felt a solid sensation deep in her gut.
…D-does she know?
“She” would definitely know Mitotsudaira’s name. And even if “she” pretended not to, Mitotsudaira was confident she could see through the bluff, so she stared at the automaton and asked for confirmation.
“Judge. My name is…?”
She immediately received her answer.
Mitotsudaira had no idea what look she had on her face.
But Asama gave her as “pull yourself together” look from across the table, so she must have seemed on the verge of fainting.
“I’m impressed she went straight for a family name instead of a given name,” said Kimi, sounding calm.
But then the automaton clearly added to her answer.
“Y-you just forced it to sound Russian, didn’t you!?”
“I was wrong? And after I tried so hard.”
“You didn’t try at all!”
Asama saw Mitotsudaira stand up and place a hand on her chest.
“I am Chancellor’s Officers Extra Special Duty Officer and Rank 1 Musashi Knight Nate Mitotsudaira! My Urban Name is Argent Loup! I rule the Mito reservation on the mainland and I am 2nd in line to ruling the Far East.”
“Judge. I am the automaton designated P-01s. I boarded at Mikawa, but I have no memories. I collapsed from hunger, my vision grew white on the verge of death, and my analysis told me ‘so this is how they welcome me’, but then I was taken in. At first I was needlessly suspicious, stayed in the corner of the room, doubted people’s kindness, and showed off how dangerous I was by shadow boxing, but lately I have been living a peaceful life mostly on Tama. Today a shrine maiden group visited the café, so I decided to introduce myself with the ‘bad news/not good news’ bit.”
“She just explained everything to me all at once!!”
“Heh heh heh. You’ve clearly lost this round, Mitotsudaira!”
As Mitotsudaira unwittingly bought them some time, Asama quickly performed a search.
She checked the Musashi resident registration data. There was indeed a room in Tama’s underground area rented out for a Blue Thunder employee. The Blue Thunder manager’s name was listed as the guarantor, and…
…It currently has a resident…
That resident was P-01s. She was listed as an automaton belonging to the Blue Thunder. But…
As she dug into the search results, Asama’s confusion grew.
Her first question was how this new resident had not been reported to her, the Asama Shrine Representative.
The Asama Shrine handled the ether fuel supply and the application of divine protections to rooms, so they were automatically notified to changes in resident management.
This was because Musashi’s residents were a portion of the Musashi’s weight and also received a supply of fuel and divine protections. Unlike when living in a city on the surface of the earth, people here were a burden just by existing. Even the provisional residential districts on the first port and starboard ships were managed on a district by district basis and it was nearly impossible to live in the Musashi’s high altitude environment without various divine protections provided by one’s hard points.
…So all residents must be approved by “Musashi”-san, the different committee heads, and the guards.
The data on residents was managed by the Asama Shrine, each block, each ship, and the Musashi as a whole. It was also stored in and distributed within the Musashi databank at IZUMO.
All that information was automated using spell programs and the Mice in charge, but people did not enter or leave Musashi often.
So Asama had a habit of glancing through the photos of the resident’s faces, but…
…I didn’t get this one.
She was confused. This had been standard practice for years, but it had not been done. Was it childish that she felt more anger at the rules not being followed than anxiety at finding no explanation for this?
She glanced over at Hanami who was tilting her head.
Hanami assisted Asama with the resident management, so if she did not know…
…That must mean…
Asama checked the bottom of the search results for the underground Tama room where P-01s lived. And then she sighed.
The very bottom field listed the final supervisor and it was not her.
It was her father.
I see, thought Asama as she realized how this had happened but not why.
Her father had long been friends with the Aoi siblings’ parents who managed this café.
The management must have had some reason or seen the possibility for trouble, so they discussed it with her father and he decided to manage this case.
…He should have discussed it with me.
She often came to the Blue Thunder. In fact, it was the best place for her father’s decidedly non-Shinto requests: “I want to eat pizza” or “Have you heard of ham cutlets?”
So she was obviously going to notice this automaton eventually.
…Were they trying to take on responsibility for this?
If there was some kind of trouble, responsibility sometimes fell on the shrine that had managed the individual involved. It was just like a feudal lord taking responsibility for a resident who caused a major incident.
But that was only when the resolution went beyond the shrine or feudal lord level and required a national or international response.
That would be something she could not handle as the Asama Shrine’s #2. But…
Asama saw the automaton serve several black objects onto the plate in front of Mitotsudaira.
“Now, Mitotsudaira-sama, these are fried eggs. Please have all 5. …Do not worry. They are true fried eggs. After all, I fried some eggs. It was not easy doing so without breaking the shell. They have grown quite hard just like baked ceramics, so I will provide a hammer.”
Was the phrase “after all” really necessary when describing your cooking?
Anyway, thought Asama.
…If dad is taking responsibility but leaving things on the scene to us…
She needed to treat this meeting with care.
“What is it, Tomo?” asked Mitotsudaira.
“Well,” said Asama.
Thinking about this too deeply would not help. The automaton resembled “her”, but she had no way of confirming that, the automaton had no memories, and the adults had not prevented them from meeting. So…
“I think we should treat this like normal until something happens and we have to decide on a stance.”
There was a hint of relief in Mitotsudaira’s slight smile. And then Kimi spoke up from the side.
“P-01s, can you take our order? Because your side show was extremely entertaining.”
“Things sure were noisy outside…”
The bridge-shaped ship’s bridge on Musashino was supported by two panel-shaped pillars on either side. Masazumi walked inside one of those while running an errand for her father on the way back from a part-time job interview.
She was walking through an extremely tall structure and she was heading downwards. There was a labor-powered lift if she was in a hurry, but…
…The inner wall stairway has such a nice view.
The inner hull to protect the vital parts was thin on the inner wall. To allow evacuation in an emergency, it had windows at a set interval, but those gave a view of Musashino’s blocks and the opposite ship.
It was already night. The stealth barrier sky was much closer from up here and she could see the current of the periodically renewed barrier beyond Musashino’s bridge.
Aki’s sky would exist beyond that. That was K.P.A. Italia’s night sky.
Just a month before, she had lived further west in Mikawa.
“When your environment changes, it really changes.”
“I’m still not used to this…”
Musashino’s lights were on below to represent this busy time of night. She still had trouble matching up this view from above with the horizontal view she normally had.
The document she held fell from below her arm.
It was Musashi’s income and expenditure report. In addition to providing each division’s financial income and expenditures divided out by nation, it provided news on the wartime status of the other nations and on Musashi’s relationships with the other nations.
…They said this was handled by the giant data processing facility on Musashino and that the automatons all understand this through their shared memory.
The amounts and contents could be sent via divine transmission and checked on a sign frame, but…
“With sign frame data, humans try to look into it too much.”
Masazumi picked up the document while glad all the pages had remained in a clump.
When each page of data was too clear, humans tried to check through it all.
But that increased their concern and exhaustion, so as time passed, they would overlook more and view it less deeply. But…
“We can’t just leave it all to the automatons either.”
Masazumi flipped through the document as she resumed walking.
The automatons had already checked over most of the income and expenditure report, but they had marked the values that they could not explain given their previous data and they had marked the results they determined to be especially good or bad.
Those were the areas they had decided needed interpretation by the humans.
Automatons would always make the best possible decision.
So when they could not make a decision, choosing to not make a decision was the best possible option.
That was where the humans came in.
After receiving this document from “Nishi-Kokubunji”, the automaton aide to Musashino Captain “Musashino”, Masazumi had received the following explanation:
“We would like for the members of the Provisional Council to check over the areas marked ‘important’ or anything that catches their attention. Over.”
“…What do you mean that catches their attention?”
“Nishi-Kokubunji” had responded by tilting her head.
And then she had straightened her head again.
“I do not know how humans experience things, but it seems humans sometimes feel unease, feel doubt, or simply ask themselves ‘is this right?’. Over.”
I see, Masazumi had thought. That seemed awfully human for the strict Provisional Council, but it was probably an issue of being cautious and careful. However…
“And you’ll investigate the parts that catch their attention?”
“Judge. We will investigate them and provide them with the results.”
“And if there’s nothing wrong…then you’ll essentially be providing counselling for the Provisional Council’s worries?”
She had wondered what her father and the others would think if they heard that.
But “Nishi-Kokubunji” had tilted her head again and did not straighten it this time.
“The things that have caught the Provisional Council’s attention have only been wrong 20% of the time. Over.”
Masazumi had been at a loss for words, so she had said nothing.
“————” And she had thought to herself.
That exchange showed that she had no experience in politics, in working at any real duties, or in finding these things that caught one’s attention.
And now she doubted if she was even able to notice things like that.
This showed her just how large a gap there was between her and the Provisional Council members like her father.
But “Nishi-Kokubunji” had straightened her head and bowed.
Then she had looked at Masazumi with somewhat closed eyes and spoken.
“Do you require counselling? Over.”
“No. …Thank you very much.”
“Judge. Is that so? Over.”
“…Why do you sound so disappointed?”
“Judge.” “Nishi-Kokubunji” had nodded and averted her gaze. “Recently, that Aoi Toori-sama has started visiting the bridge for no reason.”
“…Oh, so you want a chance to do some proper counselling.”
“I have determined it would be nice every once in a while. Over.”
The way she put that let Masazumi know that boy was showing up a lot.
But “Nishi-Kokubunji” had had more to say.
“Either way, the Provisional Council, the Student Council, the Chancellor’s Officers, the similar officers of the other nations, and anyone in a similar position must be equivalent monsters in some way, whether they would be able to drive off that previous mysterious phenomenon or not. Over.”
The word “monsters” remained in Masazumi’s mind.
It was true everyone had driven off the Hidden Dragons that had appeared outside the ship. She had been visiting the bridge when that happened. In case of an emergency, the automatons had asked her not to leave the bridge, so she had been able to monitor what was happening from inside the stealth barrier.
Mitotsudaira and some more of her classmates had ultimately defeated the Hidden Dragons by working together.
But the Student Council and Chancellor’s Officers had been a little different. They too had worked together to defeat their enemy, but…
…Each one of them could fight well enough on their own too.
Was it just a difference in power?
The Class Plum group had made up for a lack of power by working together and finished off their enemy.
But with the Student Council and Chancellor’s Officers, it had felt like they were each powerful enough to fight alone but had worked together to settle things more quickly.
A year really makes a difference, she thought.
“But I can’t use how much older my father and the Provisional Council are as an excuse, can I?”
Or could she?
Did her class just not have that power? Or was it simply hidden inside them?
I really don’t know, she thought with a sigh.
She thought on the term “mysterious phenomenon”. And at that exact moment, she heard voices from the guard management floor down below.
“Some monsters have appeared on Musashino’s bow!”
“A group of white sheets with legs has been spotted!”
“Everyone, borrow some anti-spirit equipment from your respective shrines! The Provisional Council was supposed to be having a dinner party in that area!”
The Provisional Council. That meant a mysterious phenomenon had appeared near where her father and the others were.
Masazumi checked her mental map of Musashi and realized she was near there.
…I need to hurry!
She looked to Musashino’s bow outside the window as she ran down the stairs.
A nudist fell past that window with the bra-shaped chest of a Far Eastern girl’s uniform clutched in his hand.
And Torii fell after him.
She fell with only the breastplate cloth covering her chest.
When she saw that, something occurred to Masazumi once more.
…I’m just not used to this place at all.
And so she cried out.
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