Horizon:Kimitoasamade 4A Chapter 1
Chapter 1: Novice Girls in the Study Room
No matter what
It always ends like this
Point Allocation (Discussion)
An extended groan echoed through a lit room.
It was a 10-square-meter wooden room inside the Asama Shrine's main building.
"I love how spacious the floor is in Asama's room... I'm afraid I'll get used to sleeping over."
"Kimi, stop lying around like that." Asama spoke to Kimi who had stretched and then collapsed back onto the tatami mats while still wearing a yukata. "Look, Mito's putting in an effort. We'll be done with the exams after tomorrow's classical lit and health/PE ones, so this is the last spurt."
"That's right. And unlike before, it's only two subjects, so it's just a little more. The Spring School Festival begins the day after tomorrow and the Gagaku Festival is three days after that to signal the end of the festival. ...We can't perform at the Gagaku Festival if you fail any exams, so you need to be prepared for tomorrow."
Asama agreed with Mitotsudaira.
...It all comes down to this.
Naito and Naruze had completed their battle with Marine two days before. All of them were now preparing for the Spring School Festival and Gagaku Festival and the last day of the exams was tomorrow.
"So, c'mon. So let's stay focused to the very end and then go perform at the Gagaku Festival."
Asama reached out to shake Kimi awake.
But just then, Kimi twisted her body and Asama's right hand dug into Kimi's right breast.
Nh, thought Asama. And...
...It's bulging out between my fingers?
But just as she thought that on reflex...
"Ah, no, Asama! You want bigger boobs, so you're trying to absorb mine with your Palm Power, aren't you!? But I won't go down without a fight! Give me those!"
"What are you even talking about?"
She let go and Kimi went limp again.
That girl had too much of a difference between on and off.
But now that she had switched off, there was no reaction at all from Kimi.
Asama made eye contact with Mito who sat past Kimi and across the tea table.
The look in her eyes said, "Let's take a quick break."
Mito nodded back and then pulled a knife and fork from the basket next to her.
"Very well, Tomo. You want a late night snack, don't you?"
"Huh...? That's not quite what I meant..."
"Ahhn, you're going to devour my flesh as a late night snack, aren't you!?"
Kimi had apparently switched back on.
But it did not matter how loudly she yelled since the Asama Shrine was soundproofed by a barrier.
Kimi switched back off again, so Asama ignored her and placed her cokepen on the study notebook sitting on the tea table.
She looked to her left and saw off-mode Kimi lying on her back, entirely limp.
Looking at her somewhat disheveled yukata and hair...
...If it wasn't for her personality, you could just classify her as a beauty...
But thanks to what she was like on the inside, she could only be classified as a crazy person.
With people, it's what's on the inside that counts, thought Asama as she viewed her friend.
"Oh, honestly..." She sighed and reached for the basket of snacks on the tea table. "Look, look, Kimi. It's that apple agar you love so much."
The basket contained some grated apple agar held together by a sugar coating. Asama waved a bite-sized piece around over Kimi's head.
"It's here. Right here."
I can't believe I'm resorting to this, thought Asama. However...
...I already used this a fair bit over the past few days, so it probably won't work today.
Her fear was justified.
Kimi reached up and tried to grab for the basket, but...
After a while, she let her arms fall next to her body.
Her elbows were bent and her hands were on either side of her mouth.
"Feed it to me...mouth — to — mouth."
Mitotsudaira glared at her and grabbed a piece of apple agar from the basket. She then flicked the agar toward her.
Kimi moved her head to catch it right in her mouth.
"That's a weird trick..."
"I do it with my foolish brother. He'll be in the kitchen while I'm in the dining room, so when he wants me to taste what he just made, we have fun doing it like that. We also do it the other way around. ...Like this."
This time Kimi grabbed a piece from the basket and threw it high toward Mitotsudaira.
"Eh? Ah, wait."
She opened her mouth and tried to catch it, but it bounced off her cheek.
The Cerberus's right head trapped it and the left head flipped it over onto the middle head.
But the Mouse-like Cerberus was an ether lifeform and thus could not eat it. Even if she did eat it, she could not digest it. So the three-headed wolf tapped on her master's bangs.
With an adoring look, Mitotsudaira picked up the Cerberus and took the caught prize.
She then reached for her waist hard point that was sitting on the tatami mats. She pulled out some food for such lifeforms and gave it to the Cerberus. It was some small bones made of ether.
"She goes through three of them at once? That's a lot for a pet..."
"Well, I can manage this much."
I see, thought Asama before turning back toward Kimi.
The girl was asleep. Fast asleep.
"Th-that was fast! And Kimi! Kimi! It's only eight!"
The slumbering crazy person had lowered her hands from her mouth to her chest. But those hands were moving slightly and tapping on her chest through the open chest of the yukata.
She was asleep, but she had a full-faced smile with her eyes shut. Mitotsudaira glared down at her and commented while giving the food to the Cerberus.
"She seems to be saying 'c'mon'."
"...C'mon and what?"
"I don't know, but since Kimi likes to hold things in her sleep, I wouldn't touch her."
"That's right," agreed Asama as she experimented by taking some compressed bread used for writing and placing it between Kimi's breasts. The rising and falling of the girl's breathing caused it to roll along her chest, into the open chest of the yukata, and down below her breasts.
"Nn," groaned Kimi in her sleep. She also twisted her body around. "Ah, no, s-stop. If you keep playing tentacles like that..."
"...What kind of game is that?" asked Mitotsudaira.
"...And how are you supposed to play it with only two arms?"
Mitotsudaira glared at Asama.
It took Asama about 5 seconds to realize why.
"N-no, that doesn't mean I'm particularly familiar with the concept! It's that just that, you know, Naruze sometimes talks about it! Yes, and then I have to confiscate her books to crack down on that kind of thing, yes!"
Mitotsudaira was unusually strict this night.
So to dodge the issue, she turned toward Kimi who continued to produce odd moans in her sleep.
"C-c'mon, Kimi. Don't say such weird things in your sleep. Besides, who are you even 'playing tentacles' with in your dream?"
She asked that without really thinking, but then her expression and movements froze over.
In front of her, Mitotsudaira had frozen up in a similar way.
The half-werewolf made a suggestion with an unmoving smile.
"...Should we wake her?"
"Go right ahead!!"
Mitotsudaira shoved her hands underneath the tea table.
She was trying to pull on Kimi's legs to surprise her.
Mitotsudaira grabbed and pulled on Kimi's legs.
She of course did not use her full strength.
...Especially when this is in response to her having a weird dream.
There was no point in getting angry at someone for their dream. That was not something they could control.
So Mitotsudaira only lightly grabbed her legs.
"Stop it, Kimi."
And she pulled to correct the girl's position on the floor.
Or she meant to.
Kimi's legs were there.
But even though Mitotsudaira's hands were clenched as if holding something, they were not wrapped around the legs.
...I messed up my aim!?
"What's wrong, Mito? Did your meat gauge run out, so you can't move?"
"S-stop defining me by things like that!"
But it was true she had made a mistake.
She breathed in and readied her hands once more. And...
"Here I go...!"
"Go right ahead!"
She went. She grabbed. She held on tight. This time she made sure to check first. But...
It felt like things had shifted.
She did not understand, but it was like she had slipped or been deflected. Regardless, there was one thing she could say for sure.
...I can't touch her!?
She gasped and looked up. Past Asama who was watching on in confusion, there was a sign frame floating above Kimi's sleeping head.
It was a spell.
After confirming the presence of the unfamiliar spell, Mitotsudaira raised her voice.
Asama followed Mitotsudaira's gaze and turned back toward Kimi, but the spell sign frame vanished at that very moment.
Asama looked at Kimi who was still twisting around in her sleep.
"What is it, Mito?"
"W-well, um, there was a spell..."
She needed to grab those legs before saying anything more.
But just as she quickly reached for Kimi's legs and Asama turned her way again, the previous spell sign frame appeared above Kimi's head again. And...
She could not grab her.
Even though she had moved quickly and put a lot of force into it.
...Is it an evasion spell?
When did she get that? wondered Mitotsudaira. Kimi would use assistance spells developed from Turning Point, but Mitotsudaira had never seen such a blatant evasion replacement spell. However...
"Tomo, um, above Kimi's head..."
The spell sign frame vanished before Asama could turn around.
After staring at Kimi's sleeping face for a while, Asama turned toward Mitotsudaira again. She smiled with the ends of her eyebrows lowered.
"What is it, Mito?"
...Oh, she's definitely treating me like a troubled child...
It was obvious her current plan was not going to solve this, so Mitotsudaira decided to use the most surefire method of waking Kimi.
Mitotsudaira corrected her posture, straightened her spine, and faced the room's entrance.
"Oh, my king."
Kimi sleepily but readily got up.
"Now, Tomo! Get her!"
Asama had no idea what that was all about, but she woke Kimi up and put on some tea.
"C'mon, Kimi, let's not get careless just because this is the last set of exams. We can goof off after school tomorrow."
"I am not being careless. Tomorrow is classical lit and health/PE, and those are my best subjects."
"But," warned Mitotsudaira while pulling some wafery things from the basket on the tea table. "If you relax because those are your best subjects, you'll be caught by surprise. ...Oh, I made these for everyone, so feel free to take some."
"...What are they?"
"Biscotti. ...These are the original form of wafers. You mix flour, eggs, almond powder, and sugar, cook them into a bread, slice them up nice and thin, and then cook them again. I've brought store bought ones a few times before."
That meant these were handmade by Mitotsudaira.
...That's sort of surprising.
When Asama thought of Mitotsudaira cooking something, it was meats or soups that came to mind, not sweets.
When Mitotsudaira called them over for a meal, they generally ate at a restaurant or at least grabbed something at a food stand in one of the nature districts.
She must have made these sweets because they had spent so many nights in a row together.
"Aren't you going to eat some?"
Sensing an imploring note in Mitotsudaira's voice, Asama nodded.
After reciting the standard pre-meal phrase, she rolled up her sleeve and reached for one.
It was a light brown wafer about the width of her fingertip. It was flat and had the color of brown bread on the inside too.
...I think I've seen these before.
She put it in her mouth.
Her first impression was that it was hard.
It was like cooked bread. It felt a lot like a French baguette. And that sensation continued beyond the surface to reach the inside as well.
She could not swallow it or crush it with her tongue.
When she bit down, she heard an unmistakable crunch. And it did not have the stickiness of a rice cracker.
It reminded her of biting through hardened sugar. Specifically, brown sugar.
A cooked sweetness spread through her mouth.
It came from the powdery substance she had crushed with her teeth. The flour permeated with sugar was melting in her mouth.
An almost bitter sweetness and the savoriness of cooked flour both swept across her tongue.
...Oh, not good.
When she left it in her mouth, the hard thing soaked up her saliva and grew soft. She was still holding the other end in her fingers, so she pushed the rest into her mouth.
She bit into it and used her tongue to soften the whole thing in her mouth.
A somewhat rough and almost sticky cooked flavor reached even the area below her tongue and the sweetness seemed to soak into her. It was the distinctive sweetness of Western sweets.
The thick bitter aroma of brown sugar and a faint burnt aroma left through her nose.
She then used her tongue to carry the saliva-softened sweet powder from the back of her cheeks to her throat. None of it was hard anymore. A sticky bittersweetness remained on the back and top of her teeth, but she licked that off with her tongue.
After that, she took a sip of tea, took a breath, and responded to Mitotsudaira.
"That was really good. You said we've eaten these before, but those must have been a different flavor."
She realized Mitotsudaira was staring at her mouth, but the closed-mouthed reaction puzzled Asama.
"What is it?"
"Heh heh. The way you eat is a sight to behold. Isn't that right, Mitotsudaira?"
"Eh? Oh, um, uh..." Mitotsudaira waved her hands back and forth as if she had just returned to her senses. "I'm glad you enjoyed it."
"No, no. I'm not done yet."
Asama reached for another one, but then something occurred to her.
...This is the kind of food that makes you gain weight, isn't it?
Oh, but it doesn't have butter, so is it fine? Then again, it does seem to be nothing but carbs. Hmm...
"I'll have one of those."
She was jealous of how readily Kimi grabbed one. But then the girl looked their way and spoke.
"Anyway, Asama, Mitotsudaira? What are we studying right now?"
"Classical lit," answered Mitotsudaira. "I have a bit of trouble with that one when the exam covers so much material."
Asama was the same, so she nodded in agreement. But Kimi...
"I heard the health/PE exam will cover combination techniques."
Mitotsudaira saw Asama freeze in place.
But not because the biscotti would make her gain weight. In fact, Mitotsudaira had also stopped moving.
The only one who could still move was Kimi who was in invincible mode.
"Don't worry. You won't have to do a live demonstration."
"O-of course not!"
"Heh heh. What has you so jumpy? But I suppose we should make sure we're prepared!" Kimi pointed at Asama. "Now strip naked for tomorrow's exam!"
Asama was rendered speechless.
She knew all too well that Kimi was a sudden person. But what did this have to do with the health/PE exam?
The crazy person was simply nodding for no reason. Or she hoped it was for no reason because the alternative scared her.
But just to be certain, Asama tried asking.
"W-would you just sit still and watch?"
"I would also touch you."
"Well, we would be communing in our nudity. Together."
Asama adjusted the top of her yukata.
"Um," she began while seated. "I-if I let you see, would you actually study for the exams?"
"Well, I'd have to then." Kimi gave a definite nod. "Yes, if you went that far, I would keep studying until we went to sleep."
I see, thought Asama.
Then Mitotsudaira spoke up next to her.
"Tomo! Tomo! Are you planning to offer up your body just to get Kimi to study!? And Kimi, why would you-..."
Asama got Mitotsudaira to quiet down.
She did not really understand the situation, but there was one thing she could say for sure.
"I-I wouldn't do this for anyone else. Yes."
But, she hesitated.
...We have known each other a long time.
Kimi, him, and Mitotsudaira were different.
"You see," began Asama while realizing how hopeless this girl was. "Shinto is something of a last resort. For that reason and because I'm in charge of Toori-kun and Kimi, I feel like I have to do something about them. Since they're such a nuisance to so many people."
"Come to think of it, you're right..."
Hearing that made Asama realize just how heavy a burden she carried.
But one thing was certain.
"I trust that Toori-kun, Kimi, and Mito's odd requests are actually meaningful. Even if you won't tell me the reason behind them, I trust that it isn't anything bad if you're willing to ask me for it. Also..."
Asama recalled the past.
Specifically, the ice cream story they had told the day before. Back then, he had tried to take responsibility.
She could not forget her responsibility toward others. So...
"When you do ask for something...I know you'll do your part afterwards. Isn't that right, Kimi?"
She turned toward Kimi and found the girl looking at her through narrowed eyes.
That worried her.
Had she made some kind of misunderstanding here?
While feeling an odd sweat on her back and neck, Asama asked Kimi a question. She just wanted to make absolutely certain.
"Y-you did have a reason for telling me to strip here, didn't you?"
Kimi tilted her head and gave the most innocent smile imaginable.
"Here? I was only suggesting we visit your purification spring to get ourselves worked up. After washing each other and cheering each other up, we'd have to study until we went to sleep, wouldn't we?"
Asama slapped her.
Musashi had a curfew at night.
That was generally at 10 PM.
When the bell rang for 10 PM, most of the wide block gates would close.
Once the gates were closed, anyone who wanted to pass through would have to visit the guard station next to it, show their ID, explain why they needed through, and have a guard open the passage gate. That meant there was little foot traffic at night.
The short bell for 11 PM had just rung.
The flow of people had vanished from the central residential districts and nature districts of each ship. But there was some movement.
"The wide blocks and long blocks of the transport districts on the outer edges stay open at night for shipping purposes. You only have to show your ID at each long block, so use these areas when you have to move around at night, Magoichi."
"Thank you for going to all this trouble, Mototada."
The transportation wagons and laborers were much less numerous than during the day. The trio walking through Tama's transport district was Torii, Magoichi, and...
"Tadayo, have you cleared the way ahead for us?"
"Down to the third underground floor, right? I've got it all clear so we won't have to make any detours."
"Thank you," said the girl next to Torii with a bow. Tadayo frowned at the rifle-expert demon.
"Suzuki Magoichi. ...Just so you know, I do not welcome you here."
"Testament. I understand what you mean. It would be odd if you did welcome me."
"That's fine then."
"It is?" asked Magoichi.
Tadayo turned her back on the demon girl.
"A lot of this is up to Torii. The history recreation and everything that entails is important for Musashi's future."
"After that, I challenge you to a fight."
"If that will satisfy you." Magoichi gave an expressionless nod. "I will be doing enough to warrant it."
She has guts, thought Tadayo concerning Magoichi.
Tadayo was Vice President while Magoichi held no office.
Of course, Suzuki Magoichi had been part of the Honganji forces that joined with the Mlasi and she had repeatedly fought against P.A. Oda as they were taken over by Oda. Her skills had to be at least Special Duty Officer level if not higher.
Even with that, it was impressive how unshaken she was by a challenge from a Vice President. For one thing, Tadayo was a third year and Magoichi only a first year. But...
...She isn't underestimating me either.
She would accept a battle challenge from anyone.
That was just the kind of life she had lived.
The battles at Honganji must have been harsh.
"Judge. Then let's go with that. Torii, you don't have a problem with that, do you?"
"No." Torii smiled a little. "You can't know how it will turn out until you try it. But, well..."
She reached her arms around from behind Magoichi and hugged her.
The "Eh?" on Magoichi's face plainly showed this had caught her off guard.
This was an entertainer's sense of timing. Magoichi had the extreme focus of a sniper, but Torii's impeccable timing had easily slipped past her defenses.
She then grabbed Magoichi's chest.
"You really haven't changed at all, have you?"
"Changing as much as you have is not the norm, Mototada."
Tadayo had to agree with that. So she asked a question of Magoichi who knew Torii from a time before Tadayo had met her.
"What did she used to be like?"
Based on what they had been saying...
"You grew up in the same town, right?"
Tadayo heard Torii rather than Magoichi response.
"I'm originally from Sakai. My family worked as merchants on the edge of the large desert Harmonic Territory there. And her family ran a desert caravan guard unit. My family would often hire them."
"But then P.A. Oda arrived in Sakai."
Tadayo knew what that meant: Oda.
The Oda clan had done something as part of Nobunaga's history recreation.
"They conquered the previously free city of Sakai, didn't they?"
"Correct. I followed my father, the head of the family, by joining Honganji and fighting back against Oda. My father and brothers were killed in battle, but I lived on and was given an inherited name, partially as a means of strengthening our fighting force." Magoichi looked to Torii without slowing her pace. "But Torii used to be a horrible person."
"In what way?"
"She would readily serve me pork curry, she would eat fried chicken in front of me when I was fasting, and she would claim the lamb was pork so she could eat it all."
"Torii, you are scum."
"Don't say that so bluntly! It hurts, you know!? Besides, I was just a kid! I wouldn't do any of that now! I'd aim bigger!"
"You just earned about 5 scum points in as many seconds, so go think about what you've done, okay?"
Magoichi gave Torii a highly skeptical look, so Torii had probably been like this when they were younger too.
"But," said Torii with a sidelong glance towards Magoichi. "She would always accuse me of disgracing her family and then silently aim her rifle at me."
"I can't really blame her."
"Yeah. I think one time I said 'You're wide open down here!' and pulled down her underwear."
"I'm surprised she didn't shoot you to death."
"That's cause I dodged."
Oh, so she did shoot. That's fine then. They're even.
But, thought Tadayo as a wagon loaded with festival scaffolding passed by.
She listened to the sound of the wooden wheels and kept her own pace up while she asked something.
"So, Torii. You came to Musashi after Sakai was conquered?"
Torii never said much about her past, but both her parents were teachers now. Her father was teaching the first year and her mother was teaching elementary school.
Torii looked to Musashino in the distance as she answered.
"My grandfather decided we would go to Mikawa since he didn't like the oppressive atmosphere, but after using money and other factors to earn the inherited name of Torii, he passed away. The family moved to Musashi after that and then Mikawa started driving everyone away. ...I didn't want to leave the Torii name open for just anyone, so I worked to inherit the next generation name at Musashi."
Tadayo was familiar with that last part.
She remembered when her friend's name had become "real". She had been proud for her, but since she too had an inherited name, it had also been somewhat disappointing.
...I felt like I was losing my special privilege as the only one with an inherited name.
But her way of thinking had changed once they entered high school and she joined the Student Council. To be honest...
...The more name inheritors the better!
They could not afford to be lacking in authority during jobs dealing with the Testament Union or other nations.
I was only thinking about myself in the past, she realized. But...
"Has it been about ten years since you two last met?"
"We still had my grandfather's intermediary, so we would do seasonal greetings and stuff. The people of the desert see each other like family and we don't forget our debts of gratitude for each other."
"Debts of gratitude, hm?"
Magoichi nodded at that.
"I will give you what you want."
She brushed off Torii's arms and walked forward. She faced the stairs leading down to the lodging facility in underground Tama for the crew of non-Musashi ships.
"The people of the desert repay their debts."
Three futons were laid out in a dark tatami mat room.
Asama slept in the one by the entrance, Mitotsudaira lay face down in the center one so her hair seemed to be lying on top of her, and Kimi lay in the one by the sliding door that led outside.
"Foolish brother, are you still up?"
Kimi held up a non-illuminated sign frame while conversing with Toori.
She had woken up after the other two fell asleep, most likely because of the short nap she had taken while they studied.
She could have gone to sleep, but she was curious about things back home. She had been spending the night at the Asama Shrine so much that she had not slept at home in a while. Whenever she did go home, it was only to drop off or collect something.
"Foolish brother, how have you been the last couple of days?"
"Oh, well, I've made a ton of progress on my porn games..."
"Don't do that, foolish brother. You need to save the ones that I can make good jokes about."
"Yeah, I set aside the battle ones. Also the ones that look like they have really wordy confession scenes. You tend to cry with the sad ones, so I've been focusing on them. I could really feel the sinful nature of humanity when I was crying my eyes out and doing lewd things at the same time."
"You don't have to try and make me feel better."
"Judge, judge," he replied.
But then he asked a question, perhaps just out of curiosity.
"How are things with you?"
"Judge. Asama and Mitotsudaira are asleep. ...Want to see? Asama's blanket is slipping off and she isn't wearing any underwear, so the view up her yukata is quite something!"
"No, it's wrong to have someone just give that to you. That's something you have to go there yourself for."
"I suppose so," agreed Kimi.
Then her brother said something else.
"If you're afraid, just say so. Oh, and while you could tell me, it'd probably be faster to tell Asama or Nate."
"Oh, I'm fine. ...In fact, I'll probably be more afraid when I get back home and don't have someone sleeping by my side. If I can't sleep, will you hold my hand?"
"Yeah. If you need me to, I can play porn games next to you until you fall asleep."
His immediate response gave her a slight smile and some warmth.
That's the thing with him, she thought, but...
She heard Mitotsudaira and Asama breathing in their sleep.
So Kimi formed some more words.
"Hey, foolish brother, can you listen to something while pretending you don't understand?"
"Wow, I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Yes, that's the spirit."
But, she began in her heart.
"You've been spending a lot of time at mom's place lately, haven't you? I won't ask why, but I actually have high hopes for this situation too and I'm enjoying it."
But you know what?
"You can't cause any unnecessary trouble or betray the important things we already have. You're going to be a king, aren't you?"
"I looked into that smuggling incident from the other night," said Kimi. "In the end, you were the only one arrested, weren't you? Were you covering for your companions?"
"Wow, I really don't know what you mean."
That was fine. But...
...Was this what actually happened?
"You decided to stop doing those things with your companions the other night, didn't you?"
An underground porn game smuggling warehouse had been discovered.
It had gone undetected for so long, so it was odd for it to come to light all of a sudden.
According to Asama, it had begun with an ether reaction resembling a mysterious phenomenon.
In that case, thought Kimi.
...The warehouse's owner intentionally let it be discovered.
Why they would do that was simple.
They were beginning "something different". Her brother had split off from them and they had split off from her brother.
The incident the other night had been a ceremony allowing both sides to begin moving in a new direction.
It had been a form of purification by wiping the slate clean.
Asama's father likely knew all about it. After all, things could always take an inconvenient turn on the scene. It would have all been for naught if the decoy meant to reveal the warehouse's location had been caught. So...
"Foolish brother? Naito and Naruze did a good job back then. ...You were right to give them more than just a tart."
...Wicked thoughts, hm?
Either Naito or Naruze had been really clever there.
The mysterious phenomena they had cornered in underground Okutama had clearly been human. It was not clear who had been inside, but they had likely been involved in the porn game smuggling.
That was why Naito and Naruze had been so thoughtful.
They must have picked up on the circumstances as well, so they had treated the decoys like wicked thoughts and had made sure confused Asama dealt with them accordingly.
That thoughtfulness had saved some influential people on the Musashi and also allowed Asama to perform her purification.
"It was funny that Asama suggested one of your tarts for their victory celebration."
"I don't really get it, sis."
"Heh heh. Get what?"
"I've done a lot since entering high school."
"And I'm trying to pull myself together."
"That way I can do some big important thing that will probably be a lot of trouble for Asama, you, Nate, Tenzou, Shiro, Neshinbara, and everyone else around me."
She did not bother asking if it was some kind of crime.
He had stopped doing that and taken responsibility for it. So...
"Have you told anyone what it is?"
"No. Not yet."
That meant he had not told it to the "bad adults" from the other night. Did that mean he intended to do it all on his own? Because no matter what he was trying to do...
"No apologizing, okay?" she said. "And no matter what happens, I'll be there for you."
Good, good, she thought, but that was wrong.
After a pause, her brother responded.
"Ohh, I don't understand. Everything you're saying is so confusing, sis. What's this all about?"
"Yes, yes. That's more like it."
"Everyone is accepting the trouble you cause because you're 'hopeless', so if you apologize and say you know it's a lot of trouble, it makes us question why we're accepting it in the first place. ...No one is accepting it so you'll apologize. It's so you can accomplish your goal as best as possible, so if you apologize, it makes it look like we helped you do something bad."
"You can't thank us either. Because there are times when doing that would mean we helped you commit a crime. The people accepting you as 'hopeless' are casually doing so even though we know what you're doing."
"Umm, what does that mean?"
That one made it sound like he honestly did not understand, which worried her a bit.
But Kimi thought back to Asama before they entered the purification spring.
Asama trusted her and her brother head on.
Of course, she did not forget to question the things they did, she scolded them when they needed scolding, and she would stop them when necessary. So it was not that she was dependent on them.
...But she's decided to trust us in the very end.
She intended to support them even if someone abandoned them or everyone else turned their backs on them.
Kimi and her brother could not take advantage of that support.
If they did, they would grow dependent on her.
She trusted them on that final line, so...
"Trust in yourself, foolish brother. You, me, and everyone else have something worthy of that inside us."
"You cause us all sorts of trouble. And we'll respond accordingly."
"Yeah, can I ask about something similar? It isn't about me, though."
"Who is it about?"
"You really shouldn't do that with girls' names. Even if she does it herself."
"So what about that Student Council President?"
"Well, um, she said something similar. ...She said we were sharing a way of life."
Hearing that made Kimi think.
They had spent a long time cultivating her brother's territory and way of life. She wanted to avoid having anyone outside of their group interfering in that, but...
...She is surprisingly sharp.
Kimi looked to the side.
Mitotsudaira, Asama, and Kimi herself each shared a lot between themselves and with her brother. It was not that any of them was their leader. They had simply gone ahead with what they wanted to do and who they naturally were and that had coincided with and fit in with what her brother wanted.
Her brother was currently trying to add something new into that.
He was trying to add that girl who was "nothing" and had a unique sort of individuality.
Of course, since her individuality did not coincide with anyone else's, who took precedence would depend on how you looked at it.
"This is getting bigger. Big enough that a band of international porn game smugglers seems insignificant in comparison."
His dreams were growing bigger.
And they felt especially large compared to when he had wanted to lose everything.
"But you know what, foolish brother?"
"That isn't enough to surprise me. I mean, I can understand this much. I'm looking down on it from an even higher point, saying 'Is that all?' "
"Ohh, then I've gotta remember to dream even bigger."
"What will you be doing?"
"Well, I'll be starting a new part-time job tomorrow. My savings are gone and I'll only be buying the games from now on."
His dreams suddenly seemed to have shrunk, but that was fine.
It meant he had balance.
So Kimi decided to say one last thing.
"You need to find a way to thank Asama for purifying all that. Just make sure she doesn't notice. ...Okay?"
With that, Kimi closed the sign frame.
She was surrounded by darkness. That bluish-black world could seem frightening.
But she could hear the steady breathing of her sleeping friends.
And she had heard her brother's words.
She placed a hand on her chest to keep her many feelings from escaping and she shut her eyes.
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