Horizon:Kimitoasamade 3A Chapter 4
Chapter 4: Deliberators Before the Darkness
The things found in dark places
Are not good things
They are simply hidden things
Point Allocation (Is that a euphemism…?)
The talented are always in demand, thought Neshinbara.
…As a future author, so many people request my talent even during the festival preparations.
This demand, and thus the task that only he could accomplish, was…
“Do the lettering for an event’s hanging banner.”
A thick Far Eastern brush was soaked with neon pink ink. And with that…
He felt the characters he produced were truly excellent and he quickly filled the 5m hanging banner.
…You know you did a good job when you splattered ink everywhere! Right!?”
He had also been asked to make an abbreviated version, so he prepared to move over to a shorter banner.
He twisted his body as he leaped and then landed. He wobbled around in a circle, but that was within acceptable bounds. And then…
The brush and his body raced out.
While he wrote out the name, an event committee member monitored a stopwatch sign frame for some reason and then raised a white flag in his right hand.
“Judge. That’ll do.”
“…Is this some kind of competition?”
“No, one of the conditions for writing it was to ‘not hesitate’.”
“And if I broke that rule?”
“The regulations count that as misrepresentation of skill, so you would be kicked out and the word ‘loser’ would be written on your stomach with ink that cannot be erased for a full year.”
That was a frightening rule. But when he looked back at his results…
“Wonderful. My talent scares me sometimes.”
The banner was for…
“A doujinshi event given the difficult theme of placing sympathy, empathy, and excellence at the foundation of politics in this wild Warring States period: The Party for Promoting Sympathy, Empathy, and Excellence.”
The abbreviated version was written on the next banner over.
“The SEX Party…”
That’s perfect, thought Neshinbara before he noticed something.
Outside the academy, a group of mostly boys were putting together festival stands and carrying materials around, but…
“Where is ‘Okutama’-kun leading Asama-kun and the others?”
Asama looked back and saw Neshinbara waving at them from across the road. The hanging banner he had presumably written had just been lifted up.
Asama and the others all saw it.
“Hey, what’s the matter!? Won’t you come over here to talk with me!?”
Naruze’s response was immediate.
“You’re the worst.”
“Wh-what was that for!?”
“Place your hand on your chest and think long and hard about it. Oh, and I wasn’t talking to you there, Mito.”
“P-please wait! There’s been some kind of misunderstanding!”
“Heh heh. If you want to know what happened, you should probably look to your own chest and ask there! Oh, and I wasn’t talking to you, Mitotsudaira.”
“I haven’t said anything, so why am I being treated like this!?” protested Mitotsudaira.
“Now, now,” said Asama while patting the silver wolf’s shoulders to calm her down.
Regardless, it was probably best to let Neshinbara know what they were doing. He was in contact with Toori and the others, so this meant the actions of the Class Plum girls would definitely be passed on to the boys.
“We’ve found something I need to shoot, so we’re on our way to the Asama Shrine to get my equipment.”
Hearing that, all of the people working in the area fell silent and turned their way.
“Huh? Huh? Why are you all slowly backing away? It’s okay. I promise. I won’t shoot you unless you have some kind of weird impurity.”
“Come to think of it, you’re technically a dragon slayer now, aren’t you?”
“So are the rest of you. And you did the most work there, Mito.”
“The announcement said it was done by a representative of the Asama Shrine,” explained Mitotsudaira. “So along with the Non-God Sword the day before last, that firepower was your first serious diplomatic debut, Asama.”
“W-wait! I take issue with that! And what do you mean ‘serious’!? You make it sound like my previous firepower was only a ‘so-so’ diplomatic debut!”
Hearing that, everyone took about two steps back. Then they formed a scrum. After about two minutes of conversation, Adele raised her right hand.
“Back in middle school, you shot down a flying dragon chasing an Asama Shrine dove, didn’t you? Hexagone Française had been working really hard to hunt down that dragon.”
“No, that was, um…I think I just got a lucky shot. I was really surprised when he fell down, so I gave him a major scolding and let him go.”
“I see,” said Adele as she lowered her hand, but Mitotsudaira raised hers instead.
“Um, last year on Murayama, yes, in the underground area on the edge where my land is? Well, remember when a fuel leak started a fire in the transport district there, but you converted your firepower to purge the entire blazing wide block from the ship?”
“Well, that was with the support of the Asama Shrine. My shot was only the catalyst for the conversion. A-and the transport district wide blocks are just empty floors with no homes on them, so it was actually pretty easy to-…no, I mean it was still quite difficult even if it was just a floor.”
Kimi raised her hand.
“Don’t you just tend to shoot things a lot?”
The scary part was how she found herself unable to deny it. But…
“B-but my Shinto jobs involve Gagaku or ritual prayers far more often. Compared to the purifications I do every morning, every night, and with every single job, I don’t fire my bow all that often, do I?”
“No one would let you get away with firing that thing every morning and every night.”
That did seem true. And in that sense…
…Oh, if the Gagaku Festival had only been a few days earlier, my diplomatic debut as a band shrine maiden would have come first…
But reality rarely went the way you wanted. Even now, a sign frame opened, showing Heidi who had returned to their classroom.
“I’ve been gathering some information from outside, but K.P.A. Italia is broadcasting all sorts of excuses to dodge responsibility for what happened yesterday. To show how dangerous a presence Musashi is, they’ve been saying things like, ‘The wicked dragon was repelled by the main force of Musashi’s Asama Shrine: the Dragon-Slayer Shrine Maiden.’ Look, there’s even a Western version of you laughing drawn in the Italian comic style.”
“Couldn’t they take a lesson from the neighboring Bandes Dessinées and draw some cleaner lines?”
Naruze glared at the drawing and her criticism was hard to deny. Asama had trouble accepting a drawing of herself where she looked thirty and was covered in muscles. Her father even sent his opinion over the experimental divine chat.
Asama Father: “This is unacceptable! I’m going to contact them via Aki!”
Um, dad, fixing the art doesn’t fix the fundamental problem. And I’m not sure I want your screenname to be based on me.
But that aside…
“Well, if they’ll make the Musashi sound powerful, it can both help us and hurt us. The diplomats will just have to do their best to make sure it helps us.”
“Hee hee. That’s a lot like the Shinto idea of purification.”
“I guess I can’t really argue with that…”
If she started performing in a band, how would it influence people’s image of her?
“Asama certainly is famous. Is that due to the Asama Shrine?”
Masazumi had returned to Class 2-Plum’s classroom after finishing with the measurements and she spoke to Heidi who was starting work on a few sign frames.
“Wait just a moment, okay? Shiro-kun and I have some things in Okutama’s underground, so I want to protect it from what’s about to happen before any of the other merchants can do the same.” Heidi had her wait.
Of course, Masazumi appreciated Heidi’s behavior.
This meant someone nearby was already starting to work at a professional level. Given Masazumi’s own position, that was reassuring, but also…
…I need to work harder.
It was like a rebuke or a reminder to do better. But…
“I can’t just say I’ll do better later,” she said quietly.
Your path through life was not something you would start on later. It was something you had already begun.
She hoped to become a politician, so she was reading books, collecting information about the world, gathering her thoughts, and storing it all inside her. That may be akin to child’s play to a professional or expert.
After all, some of her peers were already going out there and working. But…
…It means I’ve already started.
Those who were heading out there could contact the real deal.
Meanwhile, those who were not heading out there could only contact what was not real.
But even so, there was no rule saying it was wrong to contact that which was not real.
It isn’t accurate to say what I’m doing “isn’t real”, thought Masazumi.
The political science books she read were feedback from the people working in the field. If reading those things would help her understand the real deal and provide her with a starting point…
…It isn’t what’s “real” that I haven’t reached yet.
If she had to describe it…
“As I am, I can’t learn what exists at ‘a higher level’.”
She may have only been explaining away her own cowardice, but it would be better to view it like this. Otherwise, she would never go beyond reading those political science books and criticizing the people doing the actual work.
She did not want to be a commentator.
She wanted to be someone who made a difference in the world. So…
“Okay, Masazumi. What was it?”
“Eh? O-oh, right.”
Masazumi focused outwards again and looked to Heidi. She tilted her head just like the white fox on the girl’s head.
“So about what you were saying. Just how famous is Asa-…”
She started to ask how famous Asama was in the other nations, but she changed her mind.
“Just how famous is everyone?”
“Not as famous as the third year officers. They get put in white papers and almanacs.”
“What about you, Heidi?”
“Judge.” Heidi smiled back. “Shiro-kun and I are seen as Musashi international trade merchants…but only at the second year level. If we haven’t improved our standing by the time we enter the third year, we’ll have to go for a get rich quick scheme.”
“Judge. But we’re not going to stop at being merchants within Musashi. We want far more money than that.”
Masazumi did not quite understand their values, but that was apparently how it was. However…
“The most famous one would be Azuma-kun, although he’s not with us at the moment. He’s the imperial crown prince. To be honest, there was a time when it felt like Class Plum’s reputation was singlehandedly supported by him.”
Masazumi had yet to see him, but she knew about him.
“I hear he’s currently in Kyoto, preparing for secular life.”
“Yes, yes. They say he could be the source of some conflict over succession since the emperor is unaging. So to keep him as far away from the Shinto emperor as possible, they’re having him join the Buddhists and also start a secular life. Meanwhile, the Far East is fighting back by strengthening the syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism. …Thanks to that, there’s a divine transmission fan community called the Azuma Lovers and they’ll pay a lot for secret photos of him.”
“Azuma-kun is starting to make a name for himself as an individual, so the reputation of Class Plum as a whole has been gradually dropping. Nowadays, we’re known – at best – as the crown prince’s class. …It looks like we’ll have to work individually to get our name out there.”
“We’ll have to work individually…to get our name out there?”
That was a weird phrasing. She understood what it meant, but it still felt contradictory. Heidi smiled bitterly when she pointed it out.
And she explained.
“Not even I should really be mentioning this.”
“Masazumi, if you do become a politician, then our class can provide you with the most important thing you could ask for.”
“Not that either.”
Heidi sat on the desk and smiled.
“You’re only looking at your hands. You won’t find the answer there.”
“Can you become a politician with funding and connections? Well, you’re not one yet, so I guess you wouldn’t know. So I’ll answer as a merchant. …So can you become a merchant with funding and connections?”
“But…that says nothing about whether you can remain a good merchant for very long.”
“I’m not talking about some kind of idealism. But it’s not a physical ‘thing’ either. Sales are found through trust. So instead of a ‘thing’ you can hold in your hand, you need…”
Heidi held out her hand with the palm up.
“I’m not paying you.”
“But it’s some really good information. It’s a trick you’ll definitely need to succeed as a politician.”
“And that’s why I’m not paying you,” said Masazumi. “A politician can’t buy her trust from a merchant. …I will become a politician who is valuable enough for the merchant to want to pay me. That is best.”
“Oh.” Heidi smiled. “So you won’t become our ‘thing’?”
Her smile became a sigh of relief.
“That’s really good to hear.”
I see, thought Masazumi.
…The people in this class are selective.
They would not become hers. They would not just let her have her way. She was surrounded by people like that.
And if someone was careless enough to fall under their control…
…They would probably keep their distance or reject that person.
“Are we a group of people who need each other but won’t sacrifice ourselves for each other?”
“That information would be very expensive.”
“We all know of a certain remorse that could not be saved. And a lot of it’s on a subconscious level at this point, but Kimi-chan makes a pretty clear distinction about who isn’t one of us and Mito seems to check to see who she can stand side-by-side with. However…”
“I’m relieved that our future politician isn’t someone who will completely understand us.”
“Wouldn’t it be more convenient if I was?”
“No, no. I mean, think about it. If we had a politician who understood us, she would listen to everything we said, but do you know what that means?” Heidi lightly kicked her legs as they dangled from the desk. “That politician would only ever enact the kind of economic policy that a mere merchant could think up. She’d be small-time.”
“You sure are strict.”
“Because I’m a merchant. I have that merchant-like strictness. And the others will of course go right ahead and ask for what they want. That’s just the kind of class this is. Adele, Suzu, and the boys don’t hesitate to ask for something if that person can actually do it. So,” said the merchant girl. “If you need something, Masazumi, just put in an order.”
“…Is that why Asama and the others left earlier?”
“Judge. That’s right. …I think I know what’s going on here, but will they be able to do this right?”
Asama invited everyone into her room to change clothes.
The room was about 15 square meters and it had not been touched since she, Kimi, and Mitotsudaira had woken up this morning. Their presence was still there.
“Oh, my. Just this one blanket is warm. What were you girls doing together…?”
“W-wait, Naruze! Stop digging through the folded futons.”
“Heh heh heh. Do you want to know, Naruze!? We spent a hot night together with Asama sandwiched between Mitotsudaira and me! Then Asama told me she wanted to do it ‘with you until morning’, but I said that wasn’t fair since it excluded Mitotsudaira. Then Asama said not to worry since ‘Mito is already right there inside us’ and Mitotsudaira said ‘yes, I am inside both of you, aren’t I?’ Oh, they just looked so happy!!”
“What was that cheer for, Naruze!?”
Should we really be making this much noise at the shrine? belatedly wondered Asama, but then she started to explain their strategy for today.
“I was caught off guard yesterday because I wasn’t expecting an exciting event like a Hidden Dragon showing up. So we need to be properly prepared this time.”
“Judge,” they all agreed. Asama undid her inner suit and pulled her shrine maiden outfit from a wooden box she had carried in.
“For the most part, we will head out in shrine maiden uniforms. But this is a mission requested of the Asama Shrine instead of an investigation by the shrine, so I can say we hired you for the job.”
“Then Margot and I would like some Technohexen secondary equipment.”
“I…well, engine division equipment is surprisingly ill suited for combat,” said Naomasa. “I guess I’ll head out in a shrine maiden uniform, too.”
“So will I,” said Mitotsudaira. “What about you, Kimi?”
“I’ll use dancer equipment since it’s more efficient for offerings.”
Kimi opened the dresser’s top drawer, much to Asama’s surprise.
“Eh? Ah! Wait! Why are you going through my dresser!?”
Meanwhile, Kimi pulled out a white dancer’s outfit.
There was little point in asking when that had gotten there. Kimi would occasionally work part-time here and she often came over to play. It was not all surprising that she had stored some spare clothing for when she spent the night. Or rather…
…She’s completely outdone me here…
“Some of my foolish brother’s clothes are stored here too, you know? Since he sometimes works as a part-time shrine maiden.”
“W-wait just a second! My king changes in here!?”
Asama was confused.
…I-is there anything wrong with that…?
As she wondered that, Asama somewhat hesitantly explained.
“W-well, you know. He c-can’t exactly do it in the girls locker room or the boys locker room…right? I mean, he’s crossdressing, right? Yes, Shinto has a lot of crossdressing material, so it’s fine that he does it, but, but…oh, I know. There might be some people who would get turned on by it. …That’s the problem, yes. And this room is under my control. Oh, but that doesn’t mean I’m watching. Besides, Toori-kun only uses it when I’m not here. I assume he gets the information from my dad. And afterwards…well, I’m a shrine maiden, right? So I purify it. Yes, so it’s clean! Everything’s perfectly clean! And there’s no harm in the crossdressing! How about that!?”
She had started hanging her head at some point, but she raised it with that final question and found the others forming a scrum.
“Isn’t that exactly like she’s a…what would you call it? …A mistress?”
“Who’s the wife in this scenario?”
“I think we can definitely say she’s been spoiling him too much.”
“Judge. So this is why my king can’t stop crossdressing…”
“Unfortunately, I think there’s another reason for that.”
“E-everyone…we need to…trust Asama…-san.”
Oh, no. That’s a lot of pressure, Suzu-san.
But Kimi, who had already stripped half-naked in order to change, placed her hands on her cheeks and shook her head in an obvious act.
“No! Asama has reached the point where she can’t live on without my foolish brother and me! Oh, the Aoi blood is such a forbidden fruit! No family causes you more trouble!”
“That’s not a good thing, Kimi.”
“Anyway,” said Mitotsudaira while raising her hand. “If my king only uses this room while Tomo isn’t around, well, I guess that’s fine.”
Just then, the idiot opened the sliding door and tried to enter.
They all turned around.
With a shrine maiden outfit in his arms, he tilted his head and shut the sliding door.
And through the door, they heard him walking down the hall.
“Hey! Asama’s dad. They’re in there! They haven’t come out yet!”
After his voice faded into the distance, Asama glanced over at the others.
Everyone but Kimi was staring back at her with their mouths spread horizontally.
Then Naomasa raised her right hand and spoke.
“I think you should stand up to him a little more.”
“Wh-what makes you think that!? B-besides, this proves I don’t watch Toori-kun change, doesn’t it? This isn’t a problem.”
“She’s hopeless…” a few of them muttered with drooping shoulders.
Was there something wrong with her if she did not see what they were so worried about? But…
“A-anyway, we were in the middle of our strategy meeting. …Suzu-san.”
“I want you to stay at the Asama Shrine as our backup.”
Everyone fell silent. It was Naruze who decided to ask.
“…Who would be doing that?”
“Just out of curiosity, who would be in the very back?” asked Mitotsudaira. “Who would that be?”
As a bow-user, Asama would be the rear guard, so she raised her hand.
“W-wait a minute, Asama-san! Are you planning to blow us all away!?”
“Just to be clear, I didn’t say anything weird during that scrum meeting.”
“Masa! You’re trying to protect yourself with that, aren’t you!? Tomo! You need to be out at the very front this time!”
“That is certainly an unusual party formation!!”
More importantly, she had to correct Suzu. So she raised her right index finger.
“Suzu-san, what I want you to provide is backup. ‘Okutama’-san, I also want you doing that from outside, so you send us instructions and advice.”
“Yes. I noticed in the last battle that it’s dangerous to have your only viewpoints be on the battlefield itself. It’s safer to have someone who can monitor the overall movements, the actions of the enemy, and the ether and ley lines condition. And if things get too dangerous, you can purge the entire area we’re in. Also…”
“I was in charge of all that during the last battle, so it delayed my participation in the battle. Against an ether opponent like a Hidden Dragon, a shrine maiden with purification abilities will need to go through more preparation before joining in. And that can cause a critical delay. That’s why I want to leave most of that with you instead.”
She truly thought that.
Against a human opponent, a shrine maiden generally could not join the fight and could thus focus on backup. But she needed to stand on the front line when the opponent was a mysterious phenomenon.
“Mito said earlier I should be out in front, but that might actually be the right way of going about this.”
“Then,” said Kimi, who had already changed into her dancer outfit. “If you’re in the lead, what kind of equipment are you going to give us all? And you immediately accepted when Sensei arrived with the request, but why was that? Spill the beans.”
“Oh, yes. As for the equipment, you can use any level of official Shirasago products. None of it will be custom-made to fit you, but the grips and handles can be swapped out and the anchors are detachable, so feel free to use some if you’re accustomed to them from class.”
“Oh, I brought a practice lance, but can I get a divine protection charm for it?” asked Adele. “Charms are consumables, so I can’t just borrow it and return it, can I?”
“As an Asama Shrine shrine maiden, you can use as much as you want as long as we don’t go over the budget allotted for this mission.”
“Ohh,” said Adele, sounding quite impressed.
Asama then looked to Kimi and Mitotsudaira. Kimi nodded and Mitotsudaira tilted her head.
“Below the academy…or more accurately, in Okutama’s underground area, there is a Gagaku instrument storeroom managed by the Asama Shrine. But…”
“But? But what?”
“Well.” Asama had meant to tell Kimi this earlier. “The official Gagaku instruments belong to the shrine, but since that storeroom is below the academy, it naturally includes instruments for students from different nations. …Simply put, it contains a variety of modern instruments.”
Her meaning seemed to get through to them. Mitotsudaira’s expression lit up and the Cerberus barked on her head.
…Do they share their emotions?
It was not a Mouse, so maybe she was only imagining it. There are some unknown things about that Cerberus, thought Asama before saying more.
“Mito, you would probably know how to play Western instruments, and there should be some of those there.”
“Oh, could we borrow some of those too?” asked Naito.
“To be blunt, Western instruments aren’t used in Gagaku… We include the latest models just in case, but there isn’t anyone to use them.”
“Then you’ll rent them out? Would twenty reserved copies of my doujinshi cover the rental fee?”
“That’s based on me, isn’t it!? And if they’re reserved copies, does that mean I have to go to the event to pick them up!?”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Kimi with a smile while checking through the ear-shaped sensors for a shrine maiden and looking for one that would fit with Suzu’s Noise Neighbor by repeatedly putting one on the girl and then removing it. “It’s time we left…to prepare for the Gagaku Festival.”
- One interpretation of Kimitoasamade.
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