Horizon:Kimitoasamade 3B Chapter 9
Chapter 9: Player at the Shrine
Quit doing that
Point Allocation (You love it, don’t you?)
A rectangular section of sky was visible.
That stealth barrier sky was generally white, but it was dyed a pale red as evening fell.
A shrine with a two-level roof was located below that sky. Gravel and a torii sat in front of that. This was…
“The Asama Shrine… It’s been a while since it felt so far away.”
“Heh heh. Isn’t that because you’ve never been carrying all that when visiting before?”
Two people exchanged words there. One was Kimi and the other was Mitotsudaira who sat on the stairs to the main shrine building. She looked in the direction Kimi pointed, and…
“Well, yes, I did think it was an awful lot.”
There was a pile of musical instruments on the side of the stairs. A double digit number of them were stacked up in their cases.
“It looks like we’re preparing for a huge orchestra. We need to put them in order once Asama gets back.”
Mitotsudaira could only lower her shoulders at that.
…Maybe I got too worked up.
The Cerberus on her head barked, but she was not sure if the creature was agreeing with her or critiquing her.
“This was necessary, wasn’t it?”
These instruments were for them and for Naito and Naruze. Also…
“We couldn’t make any noise in the storeroom… Since we have to check on them here, we brought back three promising-looking ones each, so of course it ended up being such a ridiculous amount.”
“We should have put them in the storeroom below the Asama Shrine.”
“We would still have to carry them up to test them. And even if we did that, it would have to be after we selected them. Also, above and below makes little difference after coming so far.”
“You really do take things seriously, Mitotsudaira.”
“I suppose it’s just my personality…”
With that, Mitotsudaira looked back to the pile of instruments.
She had chosen a few string instruments and plucked keyboards, Kimi had chosen some drums and guitars, Asama had gone for biwas, and Naito and Naruze had focused on guitars.
They had all carried their own first candidate themselves, but Mitotsudaira had carried the rest. Of course, she had not carried them on her back. She had strung them from a support scaffolding pillar she had found in the storeroom.
Kimi had said she looked like a peddler, but her wares were far too rare. She was glad the Spring School Festival preparations had been underway on her way from the long block lift to here.
…I would have stood out too much otherwise.
She had been able to blend in with Persona-kun, who had been carrying around a pole strung with a lot of buckets containing goldfish, and Noriki, who had been carrying lumber.
Even if they were only musical instruments, their average weight was nearly 10kg when the case was included. With a total of around fifteen of them, it was a lot of work even for a Loup-Garou like Mitotsudaira.
She had strength, but it used up a lot of stamina when she had to use it constantly instead of in quick bursts.
But it would have been a lot better without the final stretch up the Asama Shrine’s steps.
The problem was the Asama Shrine’s structure, forcing them to descend from the surface to four stories belowground and then climb a story’s worth of stairs back up to it.
After the four flights of stairs down put you at ease, the one flight back up supplied a finishing blow.
“That was rough…”
“Judge. Just when you think you’ve arrived, those stairs get you. It’s honestly absurd that the Asama Shrine doesn’t have an elevator to reach it from below.”
“You say that, but this shrine was built by licensed shrine carpenters who carried all the materials up themselves. The gods must really like making people go to extra effort in their territory.”
Kimi then added a “but”.
She took a long stride with a light step and placed her hand on Mitotsudaira’s right shoulder.
“Did it leave a bruise? If so, you should get it looked at.”
“By Tomo when we bathe in the spring?”
“Heh heh. …You could get my foolish brother to do it, too.”
“I-I have no idea what you mean!”
Mitotsudaira just about imagined the scene on reflex, but she caught herself. And as an excuse for cutting off her thoughts…
“Besides, my king can’t use any healing spells.”
That had to be true. If not, the incident with him being beaten to a nudist bloody pulp in middle school would not have happened.
Of course, it was possible he had learned some afterwards, but she had at least heard nothing of the sort from Kimi or Asama.
Just as she tried to say this had nothing to do with him…
“Expecting actual healing isn’t the only reason to let someone see your injury or exhaustion, you know?”
“Silly girl.” The busty girl stared down at her face from above. “If you let him see, my foolish brother will at least say something like ‘you’ve been working hard, haven’t you?’ ”
Her impression of his voice was so good it made Mitotsudaira’s heart pound.
Mitotsudaira groaned, the Cerberus barked, and the idiot sister used that opening to speak.
“Listen. When you show him, you can’t be showing it off. You have to act natural and say it doesn’t really bother you.”
“B-but if I do that…”
She wanted to somehow change the subject, so she tried to end the current one.
“If I act natural and say it doesn’t bother me, won’t he just accept that and not worry about it?”
“Oh?” Kimi smiled bitterly. And, “He would notice the truth. …Don’t you think?”
Mitotsudaira thought, That’s not a fair question.
When pressed to choose one answer or the other, she would have to choose one.
“See?” Kimi bent down a little. “Let’s say my foolish brother asks you what kind of bruise it is.”
It was a ridiculous thought. If he asked her that…
“I would tell him not to worry about it. Obviously.”
“Then he would ask if it was from that battle.”
He would, realized Mitotsudaira.
…He wouldn’t think it was from carrying instruments…
If she had been injured recently, anyone would assume it was from the mysterious phenomena purification battles against the Non-God Sword and Hidden Dragon. But…
“I wouldn’t want him worrying about me, so I would honestly tell him it was from carrying instruments.”
“Would you? Then would you have him reward you for it?”
“N-no. This is to prepare for something we want to do. I don’t need any kind of reward.”
“Really?” Kimi smiled. “What songs’ll you be playing? How’ll you be singing? How’re you preparing the stage? How much have you practiced? What’s your song like, Nate? And…”
She mimicked his voice for all of it. And to finish it off…
“I can’t wait to see it.”
That made Mitotsudaira imagine it.
The heat rising from her neck into her cheeks came from the person in her imagination. She had no idea what would happen if he said that for real. And…
“Oh, Mitotsudaira. You just want to sit at his feet, rub your cheek against him, and tell him to look forward to it even more, don’t you? You wish he would give you an order like ‘fetch’, but since he won’t, you’re just so happy he’s thinking about you. And that teasing is about to make you pee yourself!”
“You didn’t have to take this in that direction!!”
That calmed her down a bit.
But what would happen?
“Will my king come to the Gagaku Festival?”
“Do you really think he wouldn’t?”
“But,” said Mitotsudaira. “You said he’s trying to win over another girl.”
“Oh, dear. Silly girl.”
How would she react if he came to the Gagaku Festival with that girl?
Would she feel like something else had come between the two of them?
She felt despicable.
She chastised herself for feeling so shocked that other people did not do exactly what she wanted them to. But…
“That would mean we only play supporting roles.”
“Let me say it again: Silly girl.”
“Wh-what makes me so silly?”
“I’m saying,” said Kimi, “that you already have a decent position…or rather, role.”
Kimi raised a finger toward her and first pointed at herself.
“I am his sister. And you are…”
“So you do understand.” Kimi spoke through her thinly smiling lips. “You are the only one that can take the leading role as his knight. In everyday life and both on and off duty, you just have to stay with your king as his knight. Even if I or a lover are there too, you have nothing to fear. There is no replacement for a king’s knight.”
“If you’re worried about your relationship with your king while singing, then you only need to sing as his knight.”
Mitotsudaira was left dumbfounded when she realized what Kimi meant, but the other girl was not done yet.
“Yes, and a knight can of course use combination techniques to confirm the trust between herself and her king. Once you’re finished singing as a cute puppy knight, you can beg him to praise you, accept his reward in your mouth, lick and swallow as much as you want, and then get on top to-…”
“Again, don’t take this in that direction!”
“Well, anyway, a knight does have the right to do that kind of thing.”
The frightening part was how Kimi made it sound like she was scolding her.
But if Mitotsudaira ignored the part where Kimi went too far, she understood what the girl was trying to say.
“You’re saying to keep my eyes on our relationship, aren’t you?”
“Judge. The rest is up to my foolish brother, but there is a part that is up to both of you.”
“Because what a king is capable of is created by those around them. …The more you act as his knight, the more he will be protected, the surer his footing will be, and the deeper he will treat you as his knight.”
“Even if my foolish brother sets someone aside, he will not forget what truly matters to them. If you have your position with him, then it means that position lets you remain by his side. Trust in that fact.”
She just about nodded in understanding, but she stopped herself.
If she did that here, Kimi was liable to take this in an odd direction again. So she shut her eyes, raised her nose, and…
“I have no idea what you are talking about.”
“Oh?” Kimi moved away and smiled a little. “But it was something incredibly important for the future I’m imagining.”
This time, Mitotsudaira really did have no idea what Kimi was talking about.
What are you bringing up all of a sudden?
But the idiot sister apparently had no intention of saying any more. She simply moved away from Mitotsudaira and stood on the gravel. She then removed her side skirts, tail skirt, and the stomach of her inner suit.
“I need to go take care of my usual training.”
“Is it something for a substitution?”
“Judge. I could use my role in the mysterious phenomena purification as a substitution, but I can’t hold back since I need this for my dancing.”
With that, she naturally spread her legs atop the gravel.
She rolled her heels across the gravel, but since the gravel was not shoved aside, it must have been some kind of martial art.
…She takes these things to such ridiculous levels…
Mitotsudaira could not emulate that level of balance. After spreading her legs a full 180 degrees, Kimi leaned her body forward.
But then she raised her head.
She looked starboard where the Asama home was.
Mitotsudaira also looked over and saw someone leaving the building while still wearing a shrine maiden outfit.
“Tomo… Did you finish reporting to your father?”
Asama nodded toward Mitotsudaira while switching her sign frame from document and report mode to everyday duties mode. “I reported on what just happened along with the other material I had put together. Reporting it all to IZUMO Kitsuki is my dad’s job.”
With that, she looked to the other two.
Mitotsudaira and Kimi had already changed back into their uniforms and Mitotsudaira looked a little tired. Asama had known it would be tough carrying the instruments here and she had come up with another way, but Mitotsudaira had insisted she carry them.
Is she still dragging around what happened in the past? wondered Asama. But…
…She should have gotten over that already.
A lot had happened and it had led to Mitotsudaira returning to normal, but…
…She might have picked up a habit of forcing herself to do things.
In that case, that was who she was now.
If that was what she wanted to do, letting her would be easiest for her. Asama felt no desire to fix her or force her, so if she was to be worried about anything…
“Is your shoulder all right? Do you have a bruise?”
“Eh!? N-no, I’m perfectly fine! Y-yes, just fine!”
“Could you sound any less convincing…?”
Meanwhile, Kimi twisted her body atop the gravel and smiled.
“She’s fine. Right, Mitotsudaira?”
“Kimi, is this your doing…?”
“Ha ha. Silly girl. It’s not about me. It’s about Mitotsudaira and her future.”
Kimi twisted toward Asama and then leaned her body forward. She placed her breasts on the gravel and squished them below her body.
“An injury leads to a reward. That’s just how knights work, isn’t it?”
“I have no idea what you mean…” Asama opened a sign frame. “It’s six, so I’ll be closing the barrier. Is that okay?”
“Heh heh. Why wouldn’t it be? Mitotsudaira and I have the same divine protection pass as my foolish brother, don’t we?”
“Well, yes, you do.”
…They really act like this is their second home, don’t they?
With an exasperated sigh, Asama lightly clapped her hands.
Instantly, a wind-like temperature difference raced toward her from between her hands.
Instead of a chill, it was like having a cold blade lightly carve into her body. It was a form of purification, and…
…That was the sign for the security barrier.
The clap that set up the barrier reverberated out as she spoke.
“Okay, that generally makes sure no one can get in or out. Now no one on the outside can see us.”
Asama saw Mitotsudaira’s shoulders relax.
The Asama Shrine’s stealth barrier was a projected one, so everyone on the outside could see a standard image of the shrine, but they could not see or hear what was really on the inside. It was like surrounding the shrine with a curtain bearing a drawing of the shrine.
It also allowed those on the inside to see out and it used several divine protections for defense and surveillance.
Mitotsudaira probably felt the same comfort as closing the door to her room.
Meanwhile, Asama still wore her shrine maiden outfit from the battle and she began managing the barrier from the center of the shrine grounds.
…This should be enough.
A shrine was supposed to be a safe place anyone could escape to at any time and it was a noncombat holy ground due to being in the presence of a god. You might receive some kind of punishment, but everyone was generally welcome. Or that was how it was supposed to work.
“But we do a lot of management for the Musashi…”
“I do always think that sounds like a lot of work,” said Kimi while she straightened up and twisted herself even tighter for her training.
She used a towel to stretch her arms.
“Isn’t there always more work to be done?”
“There is. So most of the work we receive during the day is dealt with in the shrine at night. And a lot of it is related to managing the Musashi as a whole and not just the Shinto contracts, so it requires a lot of data processing.”
Hanami had appeared next to her face and was already starting on that work.
Uzy was poking out from Kimi’s cleavage and she was clearly interested in Hanami. Those two were a lot like sisters, but Uzy probably wanted to play.
“You can’t, Uzy. Your job is to dance and play, but Hanami is doing some other work right now, so you can’t get in her way.”
After saying that, Uzy’s eyes stopped on something else.
Mitotsudaira was lining up the instruments on rush mats in front of the shrine, but Uzy’s focus was on the Cerberus on her head.
Asama looked back and forth between Uzy and the top of Mitotsudaira’s head.
The three-headed wolf seemed to notice Uzy looking at her.
The Cerberus barked and Uzy quickly hid behind Kimi’s head.
Is she afraid? wondered Asama, but Kimi smiled bitterly.
“My, oh, my. You sure scare easy.”
“I think you could learn a thing or two from her, Kimi.”
Kimi smiled bitterly as Uzy stood on her head like a dog.
Kimi was taller than Mitotsudaira, so…
Uzy seemed to feel more comfortable now. And the Cerberus’s barking sounded a bit like she wanted to play. And that may have been why,
“Go on and play.”
Mitotsudaira lowered the Cerberus to the ground.
Seeing that, Asama looked to Kimi, wondering how Uzy would respond.
But Uzy shook her head. She looked down at the Cerberus just once, but she frantically shook her head again.
Kimi exploded with laughter.
“She’s being considerate to Hanami.”
“Looks that way.”
In her own way, Uzy had seen that Hanami was taking her work seriously and had decided she should not start playing without her. But then she could not grant the Cerberus’s desire to play. So…
“Hanami, let Uzy handle your heat reduction. …And Mito, hand the Cerberus over here.”
“Oh, yes. What are you going to do?”
“Heh heh. Just a small dance. You help, too.”
In front of Mitotsudaira, Kimi placed Uzy on top of the Cerberus.
The rest was simple. Uzy’s dance was synchronized with Hanami’s heat reduction setting.
“Okay, Uzy, start dancing. And the Cerberus, um…”
“C’mon, over here, over here.”
Kimi took a light step and let the towel she held flutter just above the gravel.
With Uzy on her back, the Cerberus dashed toward the towel.
“Oh, she’s surprisingly fast.”
“In fact, I think this is the first time I’ve seen her run a long distance…”
Mitotsudaira’s tone was an amusing mixture of dumbfounded and somewhat disappointed.
“Tomo, why are you smiling?”
“No reason. But the Cerberus knows you’re her owner. And…”
After chasing after it for a bit, the Cerberus finally managed to bite at Kimi’s towel. The three-headed wolf swung the cloth around for a bit, but finally ran back over to Mitotsudaira with it.
Uzy was swung around in a 180 degree turn on top of the beast.
“Oh, oh, oh.”
She forced her body into a spin and danced. And that became a substitution between Mice.
The ether light floating around Hanami changed from a heated yellow to a bluish-white. Things were calming down. Meanwhile, the Cerberus handed the towel to Mitotsudaira.
…Mito really isn’t used to this kind of thing…
She probably can’t do it, thought Asama as she tried speaking to Mitotsudaira.
“Mito, think back to when you were little and play with them like that.”
“Eh?” said Mitotsudaira. “When I was little!?”
“Hee hee. Honey? Look, I was cleaning and I came across this picture from when Nate was little. Look at this. When I would sing, she would try to dance but ended up just wiggling her butt around. And we didn’t have an inner suit that fit her right back then, so she was only wearing the hard point parts with a towel wrapped around her. She liked playing with the towel and would swing it around, but I think she was trying to copy how I danced.”
“Yes, I still did so much for her back then.”
“Hee hee. Oh, that girl. She preferred being wrapped in a towel to a diaper, so she really was a little wolf.”
Asama realized Mitotsudaira had become entirely useless.
She must have pressed some unpleasant switch from the girl’s past.
The silver wolf hung her head with her mouth spread horizontally while blankly immersing herself in something even darker than the evening. Seeing that, Asama wanted to say something helpful.
“Mito? C-c’mon, if you don’t play with the towel, the Cerberus and Uzy can’t-…”
A bark from the Cerberus seemed to revive her master from her melancholy about the past.
She gasped, but…
“P-play with the towel!?”
“Eh? …That’s what you’re focusing on?”
Mitotsudaira responded to that with an “ah”.
She quickly waved her hands back and forth.
“N-no, um, when you say ‘play with’ it, what exactly do you mean?”
Kimi smiled and mimed placing a towel between her legs and rubbing it back and forth on her crotch, but the crazy person did not matter. You don’t have to mime slapping it over your shoulder too. And I guess it’s a testament to her skill as an entertainer that I can imagine the scene so vividly.
However, the Cerberus moved.
But not for the towel; for Mitotsudaira’s hair.
The Cerberus was always on top, so the bottom of the five large rolls must have been a rare sight.
The three-headed wolf chased her master’s hair and tried to jump up at it.
Mitotsudaira lightly spun around to keep the hair out of reach.
But the Cerberus made a dash with Uzy dancing on her back.
Mitotsudaira twisted around some more as she was chased and followed.
She spun and spun.
She hopped a bit. Then the Cerberus kicked off the gravel in a jump. And of course…
…She can’t reach her.
But that was why this counted as “playing”.
“Heh heh. You’ve created a nice flow there.” Kimi nodded at Mitotsudaira and lightly grabbed her own hair so the other girl could see. “Your hair probably looks like a tail.”
“Yes, it probably does.”
“A three-headed wolf pursuing five tails. …That certainly is a strange sight.”
But Asama knew what she needed to say now that the wolf and Cerberus had gotten the hang of this game.
“With a dog or any animal with a strong desire to serve its master, when they’re fulfilling a task given to them by their master, don’t they see it as a game?”
“That’s right.” Kimi twisted around on the gravel as she responded. “When they are successful, their master will give them food and praise them. That master-servant relationship is what they want. So you mustn’t misunderstand: we might see it as a simple game, but they see it as a confirmation of that relationship, so, Mitotsudaira, you can’t just continue escaping. You have to reward her properly afterwards.”
“Th-this isn’t easy…!”
Due to their difference in size, Mitotsudaira could easily escape if she wanted to.
But that would simply prove to the Cerberus that she was no match for her master.
…That isn’t a master-servant relationship.
Mitotsudaira understood what that meant, so she spoke to the others.
“That would be a submissive relationship, wouldn’t it?”
“But if you go easy on her, it will mean you are looking down on Troiko. You will turn that three-headed wolf into a pet that doesn’t realize she’s being toyed with.”
“Then I just have to change the type of challenge.”
Mitotsudaira jogged forward a bit, looked back, and made a turn to get the Cerberus to chase after her. Then she suddenly let the towel she held dance in front of the Cerberus’s face.
The Cerberus naturally bit at it, but Mitotsudaira pulled it back.
Mitotsudaira threw the towel so the Cerberus could see. She then pointed at the towel and gave the Cerberus a command.
Asama saw the Cerberus dash toward the towel.
The wolf ran in a dancing way and worked to follow after her target.
With Uzy dancing on top of her, the three-headed wolf chased the towel while her feet sounded quietly on the gravel. And just as the towel fell…
She bit at it and turned around.
She did not bark. She simply let Uzy pull the towel back up and returned to Mitotsudaira.
Her master spread her arms to welcome her.
“U-umm? How am I supposed to reward her…?”
“Heh heh. Aren’t you getting a little ahead of yourself? Are you going to reward her after every little game? You should play with her more and wait until she’s starting to wonder when the reward is coming.”
“That’s right,” agreed Asama as she operated a sign frame. She accessed the Asama Shrine’s divine transmission store and paid for something herself. “Mito, to celebrate your new relationship, I bought some Mouse snacks and sent them to your hard point parts. You can pull them out from the hip ones.”
“Judge,” said Mitotsudaira with a nod as she took the towel from the Cerberus. The three-headed wolf continued wagging her tail without sitting down, so she seemed to want to play some more. So when Mitotsudaira threw the towel again…
The Cerberus dashed away again with Uzy riding her.
Asama was aware of the smile that scene put on her lips, but she also had a thought.
…What is that Cerberus really?
Its appearance had likely used a Greek mythology “mold” from the Kojima Peninsula as well as the ether within the Musashi. But in that case…
…I wouldn’t think she would get along with Mito so well…
“Molds” of a mythological being tended to prefer that land itself. They were originally from that land and they had become a guardian deity for it.
But since this one was playing with Mitotsudaira like this…
“She clearly views Mito as her master.”
“Yes, she does. Even when I try to play with her, she always focuses on Mitotsudaira in the end. And since she seems to belong to Mitotsudaira…”
Kimi faced Mitotsudaira with a pale look.
“Is she your secret child…!?”
“You saw her appear!!”
That was true. But in that case…
“Kimi might not be all that wrong about this Cerberus.” Asama put her theory to words. “She may have used Mito’s emotions or something else for a portion of her ‘mold’.”
…Used my emotions or something else for a portion of her “mold”?
Mitotsudaira tilted her head at that.
“What does that mean?”
“Heh heh heh. You don’t get it!? The ‘mold’ of your boobs leaked out and became Troiko! Ahhn, but it’s too bad! She worked so hard to get out, but she’s so small! You only had tiny boobs, so Troiko ended up tiny too! It’s all your fault!!”
Now you’re just being ridiculous.
Anyway, Asama waved her hands back and forth to say that was not the case. That was hardly surprising, but it was still a relief to hear it from Musashi’s Shinto representative.
So Mitotsudaira ignored the idiot sister and asked Asama a question.
“Tomo, what does this mean?”
“Well, Mito, that Cerberus appeared when you were operating the extractor. I think it helped that we were near the Kojima Peninsula, but you too provide a wolf ‘mold’. So I suspect the two effects combined and created her.”
“…But what exactly is my ‘mold’?”
Kimi slid her hands straight up and down in front of her own chest, but Mitotsudaira pretended not to see it. Trying to figure out what she meant was a bad idea.
Asama seemed to reach the same conclusion because she faced to the side so she could not see Kimi.
While Asama thought, Kimi gently slid over. Asama responded by turning further around.
“To put it simply…”
“Tomo! Tomo! You have your back turned!”
The towel returned to her, so she swept it around a few times and then threw it.
Asama then turned all the way around. The idiot sister must have been satisfied because she resumed stretching next to her.
And Asama looked back and forth between Mitotsudaira and the running Cerberus.
“Mito, are you letting some stress build up?”
Kimi made a move where she seemed to tightly hold her own chest, but Mitotsudaira ignored her.
However, Asama wrinkled her brow as if she did not entirely understand it herself.
“We were extracting stagnations there. So, Mito, if you were worrying about something or had lost confidence about something, that could have become a ‘mold’.”
“Is that how it works?”
If so, thought Mitotsudaira as she crouched down toward the creature approaching with towel in mouth.
She took the towel, but the Cerberus wanted to play some more. So she tied a knot in the towel and threw it higher but a little farther than before.
“Is she mine?”
“That I’m not entirely sure about. But even if so, it means the Cerberus simply used a ‘mold’ inside you; she is not a piece of you that came off. So there’s no reason to despair.”
“My chest! You think this is about my chest, don’t you!?”
“But,” suddenly said Kimi. “You know what this means, don’t you? If it was enough to create a ‘mold’, it must be something quite substantial inside you.”
…Something substantial inside me…?
She had no idea what that was.
But the Cerberus barked while waiting below the towel falling from the sky.
“If this was something inside me coming to the surface, why did it happen?”
“Heh heh. This certainly would be an annoying method of finding yourself.” Kimi smiled bitterly while bending forward and pressing her knee against her chest. “It would have to happen when you started looking at the things inside yourself. Just as Asama said earlier, wouldn’t that be when you were losing confidence in yourself?”
“Has that ever happened to you, Kimi?”
She said that so readily.
…That’s about what I expected.
They had known each other long enough for her to think that.
But Kimi had more to say.
“And this is a good thing. What you were trying to look at came out so you could see it. Doesn’t this seem nice when you look at it like that? What was subconsciously bringing you stress and killing your confidence has come out to say, ‘That isn’t true and don’t you forget it.’ ”
She understood what Kimi was saying. But that was only a way of imaging it. It might be true, but it might not.
Although if she did not know the answer at the moment…
“Then it would make me feel better to think about it that way.”
“Exactly. And if that is the case, Troiko is sure to eventually tell you just what she is. …Look, here she comes with the towel.”
Mitotsudaira looked over to see the Cerberus running over with Uzy on her back. Her small body raised the towel in her mouth and she looked ready to play some more.
…If she is my “mold”, she should be quite strong.
She tried holding her hand out.
She was not asking the Cerberus to “shake”, but the creature did look at her outstretched hand.
The Cerberus stepped her front half up onto the hand.
Am I soft for finding this so irresistibly cute? But the strength was nothing out of the ordinary. It was the same as when the Cerberus was on her head. So even if the creature had been copied over from her…
“It would have to be a portion of my heart…”
But what? she wondered even though the Cerberus could not answer. So she prepared to throw the towel for the three-headed beast that still wanted to play. And…
A sign frame appeared. It was shaped like a crop mark frame Magie Figur.
“I just finished a job and I’m headed your way, but are things closed up top?”
It was Naruze. “Up top” likely referred to the sky above the Asama Shrine.
Asama nodded and looked up to the sky.
“It’s Naito and Naruze, right? I’ll give both of you authorization, so come on in.”
“Judge,” replied the voice while Asama accessed the shrine’s settings. She used the “The Usual” list from the citizen register to give authorization for those two. And…
“There…that should do it.”
She turned around to see the instruments piled up next to the stairs into the main shrine building.
Their next task was to check over those instruments.
She then looked to Mitotsudaira, who was throwing the towel, and Kimi, who was still stretching.
…They live so freely…
She seriously thought that as she opened her mouth.
“Okay, let’s get to preparing for the Gagaku Festival.”
“Margot, the Asama Shrine is opened up top, but what will you do? You said you still have something to deliver for the Student Council, didn’t you? Should I deliver the things from the Blue Thunder?”
Naruze glided gently through the Musashi’s sky below the stealth barrier.
She spoke into a communication Magie Figur connected to Margot.
“I finished my last delivery and I’m flying by on the right of Tama’s free flight lane.”
“Ohh, then could you stop by the Blue Thunder in a bit? I’m still at Okutama, but the port side is congested and I’m stuck. Maybe I should have gone in from below…”
“You’re carrying too much with you for that, aren’t you? …So what are we going to do?”
When Naruze asked that, Margot pointed her Magie Figur toward her hands. The hand-drawn lines moved inside the crop mark frame and pointed to the delivery hanging from the broom.
They were posters. A dozen or so of them were rolled up into tubes.
…Wait, it can’t be…
“Are those using my drawing?”
“Yes, they are. They’re posters for the Gagaku Festival. I had them give me one extra so we can hang it up at home.”
“Thanks. …So, Margot, are you on the way to the shops and homes where they’ll be displayed?”
“Yup. I thought it would be fine since it would help advertise Eisen. …I’ll be stopping by the Blue Thunder too, but what about you, Ga-chan?”
“How about we meet at the Blue Thunder and head to the Asama Shrine together?”
Something was bothering her, so she tried asking. And…
Margot hesitated and that settled it.
Naruze understood most of it.
It was about the Edel Brocken tester exam, Marine, and the Gagaku Festival.
They had decided to take part in all three, but there was something they still did not know.
There was one question they still did not have an answer to:
…Can we actually do it?
I bet we can, thought Naruze.
She felt like their daily training and countermeasures would allow them to succeed at the tester exam, the battle with Marine, and the Gagaku Festival.
But Margot was different.
She did not think they could do it.
If she could not reach that conclusion, then she could only spend her time worrying over it.
And even if Margot thought they could probably do it, she was not confident enough to go beyond that.
Margot was the type to make up her mind immediately, but that speed did not just come from doing it all instantly. She was constantly thinking about all sorts of things and she simply did not let it show.
Because she was constantly thinking about a wide variety of things, she could make an immediate decision when a problem presented itself.
She was that type of careful but immediate decision-maker.
However, this kind of situation was a poor match for her.
“We have no time and we have our current skill, but we’re presented with all sorts of possibilities.”
Naruze kind of felt like she had forcefully invited Margot to take part in the Edel Brocken tester exam.
And the battle with Marine came from that.
Their performance in the Gagaku Festival was much the same.
The Gagaku Festival was especially troublesome.
The tester exam and the battle with Marine were challenges to move higher, so even if they lost, they would have their result. Even if they lost, they could say they fought and lost.
So the result would be theirs and theirs alone.
But everyone was taking part in the Gagaku Festival, so its result was more than just their own.
Their result would be shared with the others.
…And if we do poorly, I don’t want the others comforting us, sympathizing with us, and acting like it’s adorable that we were so bad.
For a Technohexen, having people act like they understood was the most painful thing of all.
Of course, it was a bit of a mystery whether or not their classmates really understood them, but…
“Margot, if we screw up, what do you think our classmates will do?”
“They’ll start a public debate about why we failed and settle on some pretty selfish conclusions like the poor sales of your doujinshis were weighing on your mind or we were distracted because the nudist came to cheer us on while wearing clothes.”
She would kind of appreciate that, but she also wanted to avoid it since it would probably damage their lives.
“The fact that it’s a lot of work even though we’re trying to not take it too seriously really gives us two different ways to look at the end result.”
Naruze said that while setting aside that she had invited Margot into all this.
For the tester exam, Marine had made an appearance before Wild Kamelie. For the Gagaku Festival, they had tried to just have fun with it, but they had realized how poorly prepared they were during rehearsal.
And with the Gagaku Festival in particular…
…Asama, Kimi, and Mitotsudaira are performing, too.
They were a novice band, but that alone would give them some popularity and Kimi worshiped an entertainer god.
They had the upper hand when compared to a lower-middle level band like Naruze and Margot.
They were not really in competition, but…
“We can’t afford to lose.”
“I’m talking about a few different things, but I think Marine comes first.”
A light laugh escaped her mouth.
Naruze did not let go of her smile as she traveled gently through the sky. There was only one thing she had to say:
“Margot, it isn’t often you’re so worried about things.”
“Ohh, sorry… Ah, but it isn’t your fault, Ga-chan, and I don’t think you did anything wrong. Okay?”
“It was your responsibility for agreeing and you aren’t thinking about the possibility of failure because you’re thinking about how we can do this properly, right? But there are just too many problems. …Marine, for example, I think will come for us as soon as the festival starts.”
Margot sounded like she was about to say “so you understand”. That deepened Naruze’s smile and then Margot said more.
“We were pretty worked up last night after eating that chicken, weren’t we?”
“We really were.” Naruze nodded. “Can you see Asakusa?”
The Null Vier was being held in the sky to the port of Asakusa.
This time, neither Wild Kamelie nor Marine were taking part. The familiar bunch was drinking alcohol, working to improve their records, and testing out their new brooms or thrusters.
Naruze watched them as she spoke.
“I really like that atmosphere.”
“I want to experience something different right now.”
“You sure are greedy, Ga-chan.”
“I’ve been given the opportunity. But…”
“Whether or not we can do it is a different matter. Isn’t that right?”
Naruze felt like she had hit on what Margot was thinking about.
So she decided to stop there. She honestly wanted to delve further into her partner’s worries and she thought she was in position to do that, but…
…Margot simply hasn’t made up her mind.
Margot is an immediate decision-maker, thought Naruze again.
And she added, Her immediate decisions are based on whether or not she can do it.
Margot was not the type to compromise.
Even if it was with Naruze, she would decide against it if she thought she would fail. No matter how much she thought she might be able to do, if it might not be possible, she would decide against it.
That was the kind of person she was.
And she had agreed to Naruze’s invitation. Which meant…
…We have enough time and skill.
But, thought Naruze.
…Margot hasn’t completely made up her own mind.
She needed a slight starting point to get her going. And once that piece was added to the puzzle…
“We’ll be unbeatable.”
She heard a sonic boom arrive from Asakusa.
Someone had likely set a record. She heard cheers, the stealth barrier around Asakusa shook, and warning sign frames blossomed.
“Margot, I’m headed to the Blue Thunder ahead of you. Some of the orders must be hot food, so I’ll deliver those first.”
Because if I don’t…
“They’ll get cold.”
|Back to Chapter 8||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 10|