Horizon:Kimitoasamade 4A Chapter 3
Chapter 3: Gift Giver in the Shrine Bar
That is less of a breather
And more of an earnestness for a different matter
Point Allocation (Refocus Your Feelings)
The Musashi's sky was transitioning from evening to night.
At this time, there was a greater contrast between the whiteness of the stealth barrier wall and the darkness outside it. And someone noted a certain fact while looking up into that sky.
"There are an awful lot of delivery workers out today."
That comment came from Sakai as he descended the stairs in front of the academy.
He was followed by "Okutama". She was using a "Tama"-style frame instead of a "Musashino"-style frame and she used her gravitational control to sweep the stairs behind her with a broom.
"I have determined that is due to the coming festival, Sakai-sama. People are likely making their final preparations. Over."
"Everyone has so much work to do, don't they?"
Sakai then turned his skyward gaze toward the bow.
A line of aerial buoys floated above Asakusa. They were normally used to inform foreign ships of the Musashi’s route, but these had a different purpose.
"The delivery workers' Null Vier. Are they setting it up for anyone to try? ...Tamako, have they ever done that before?"
"According to 'Asakusa', the head of the delivery business decided to make it as exciting as possible since their rankings have changed so much this year. Over."
"Almirante-san, hm?" Sakai opened the inro hanging from his neck and dropped the kiseru parts into his hand. He quickly assembled them. "The Technohexen in our academy's 2nd year who are named after Naitou and Naruse are ranked 3rd, aren't they?"
"They moved up to 2nd the other night. Over."
"Did they? Then they might just make it to 1st next time."
"...Sakai-sama." "Okutama" glared at his back. "Why are you such a sore loser? Over."
Just as she said that, a silver line dropped from the sky. It instantly pierced her apron and stabbed into the stairs.
She tried to back away, but the back of the blade held the cloth in place. She was unable to move and Sakai looked back curiously.
He spoke when he saw the sword still vibrating as it stood from the stairs.
" 'Musashi'-san, will you not be visiting today?"
A sign frame opened in response.
It opened from the sword's pommel and displayed an image of "Musashi". She turned to face "Okutama", made sure that other automaton had been held back, and then faced Sakai once more.
"My apologies, Sakai-sama. Even if overthrowing one's lord is common in this age, my management skills were clearly lacking if the captain of just one ship felt she had 'defeated' you in any way. ...You may slay her with the sword before you if you like. The choice is yours. Over."
" 'Musashi-san', you know very well I would never choose to do that."
Sakai crouched down to be on eye level with the sign frame and "Musashi" did not respond for several seconds. Eventually, she lightly brushed back her hair.
"I have determined you are someone who would strike someone down if necessary. Over."
"I just hope I haven't gotten rusty." He smiled bitterly. " 'Musashi'-san, the scabbard."
When he heard her response, Sakai stood up and raised his left hand.
A moment later, a red-lacquered scabbard fell into that hand.
Once he heard it slap into his hand, he moved his fingers to spin it around. He then pulled out the sword piercing the automaton's skirt.
"And it's sheathed. ...Tamako."
He tossed the sheathed sword to "Okutama". And without even checking to see if she had caught it, he picked up the sign frame displaying "Musashi".
"Use that to be my bodyguard."
"Sakai-sama, you are being too easy on her. Over."
"No, no. I'm going to have her watch my black disk of Future Destructor Jiraida."
Hearing that, "Okutama" hung her head a bit and "Musashi" went through the motions of a sigh.
"Sakai-sama, the festival begins tomorrow. I have determined we will be very busy, so please do not waste her time. Over."
"It sounds like it's going to be quite the festival."
"What makes you say that? Over."
"Well, earlier, Torii's group sent in their decision for the band order during the Gagaku Festival."
Sakai turned away from "Okutama" and descended the stairs.
"Which band do you think got the last performance?"
"Sakai-sama, when you ask for information I have yet to receive, I can only tell you that I do not know. Over."
"I see," said Sakai.
He glanced over at "Musashi" who followed him in the sign frame and then looked up into the stealth barrier sky that had some faint scarlet in it now. He finally gestured toward the bow with his chin.
"Well, I want to eat dinner on the bow deck, so take care of that, 'Musashi'-san. We can go over some things then."
Asama operated a sign frame while looking up into the evening sky covered by the Musashi's stealth barrier.
She was creating a barrier to surround the Asama Shrine.
That barrier prevented others from entering or leaving and it kept sounds and images from getting out.
"Okay." She took a breath and clapped her hands. "We will now submit the 1647 Term 1 Post-Exams Party held by the girls of Class 2-Plum!"
Mats were laid out across the shrine's grounds and the girls of Class Plum were seated on them. They all raised their sake cups and their voices as one.
They all took a breath and began placing bags of snacks and bento boxes on the mats. Meanwhile, Naomasa set down a wooden container of fried rice and walked to the main shrine with her sake cup in hand.
Hanami was floating above a bench placed in front of the main shrine.
A sign frame appeared behind Hanami:
"Direct Connection: Sakuya: Connected"
Naomasa placed her sake cup on the bench below Hanami.
"Take care of it." She clapped her hands and spoke to Hanami. "I might be at the wrong place for this, but make it a prayer for safety."
Hanami clapped her hands and some ether light rose from the sake cup.
At the same time, the words "Received: Intermediary: Ame-no-Ma: Confirmed" appeared on the sign frame behind her.
Sakuya acted as an intermediary for her prayer to the technician's god Ame-no-Ma.
Naomasa saw a sign frame appear next to her in response. It was...
...A formless spell charm.
The charm was made of ether instead of paper. Since it was not physically attached when used, the engine division could use that kind without interfering with any moving parts. That made them more valuable, but...
"Asama-chi, just how valuable is this sake?"
"I don't know... I made it myself, so I've never run an official calculation. But if it worked as a substitution, I must have gotten better at it."
"Is that how it works?" asked Masazumi.
Naomasa knew very little about that transfer student, but...
...Is she going to be someone important when she grows up?
Naomasa did not know if the two of them would have any kind of lasting connection, and she was not the type to go out of her way to build one. But she did think it would be mutually beneficial if they had some things in common.
"This is Asama-chi's kamizake."
Masazumi looked down at her cup, so Asama clarified.
"It has been purified, but if it still bothers you, you can use it as an offering like Masa did."
"No, um." Masazumi tilted her head. "Kami Sake? Is that a special Shinto drink?"
Hearing that, Naomasa put her false hand on her chin.
This would be a pain to explain, so she looked to Asama who smiled bitterly.
"Simply put, saliva is used as a catalyst for the fermentation of the rice. So in this case, kamizake means chewed sake. It's possible to continue using the same seeds, but the older they get, the more you have to purify, so we remake them every year."
"Oh." Masazumi narrowed her eyes toward the cup in her hands. "My mom would put chewed herbs in when making sake, but I never knew why until now. ...I just always assumed it was some kind of custom or etiquette."
"Nobu-tan! Nobu-tan! Are you hogging all of the sake made from your wife's sake seeds again!?"
"Of course I am, you fool! This is my wife's kamizake that has been aging in my hidden sake cellar! It is truly priceless! And nothing is more expensive than that which is free!"
"Th-then, Nobu-tan! What happened to your plan of extracting saliva from Masazumi-kun's leftover food and producing kamizake from that!?"
"Heh heh heh. Have a sip of this sake here, Koni-tan."
"...Mh. It's so good! Is this Masazumi-kun's kamizake!?"
"No, it is mine, you fool! Oh, but Masazumi is my daughter, so you could say it is nearly Masazumi's. Oh? Koni-tan? Why the glum look, hmmmmmmmmm?"
"C-curse you. You tricked me into an indirect kiss with you, didn't you!?"
"My mom didn't drink, so I assume she sent it to my dad."
Suzu sensed Masazumi somewhat curling her back while turning away from the others.
It was the joyous laughter of someone who had run across something nostalgic. It just happened to include tears as well, so Masazumi felt the need to turn the other way.
"Sorry. The air here sure is damp."
"Oh, it's fine. ...Because I can use that for a doujinshi."
"Wait! What are you planning!?"
"I mean..." Naruze nodded, juggled her pen between hands, and sometimes raised her left shoulder to check on it. "Kamizake is given to the person you like and waiting until later to tell them what it is, right? Well, that or feeding it to them mouth-to-mouth."
Asama waved her hand to say that was not what it was for, but was it really not?
"Asama-san...do you not...think about...that kind of thing?"
"N-no, I don't. Because this is holy sake. Yes."
Hearing that, Kimi took a drink from her cup.
She puffed out her cheeks, swished the sake around, and then swallowed it.
"Phew..." She relaxed her sitting position and held a hand to her cheek. "Asama just roughly violated my mouth... She pumped it full of her hot stuff and rubbed it all around..."
"You made that joke before, didn't you!? Didn't you!?"
"But, Tomo, this kamizake really neutralizes the scent of my mouth," said Mitotsudaira. "If possible, I'd like to drink some when we have yakiniku."
"That's right, Asama-chi! Let's sell it! People sometimes try to order some in secret, you know!?"
That sounded incredible, but Suzu suspected it was not actually a good thing.
Besides, this topic always had the same conclusion.
Asama waved her hands back and forth.
"It's for friends. Only for friends. I haven't even given any to my dad since elementary school. It's for girls only."
"Oh? I've wondered before: what does your father think of all this?"
"He has my mom's sake seeds, so he's fine."
"Ohh..." said Suzu and all the other impressed girls.
...Asama-san's dad...must have really gotten along...with her mom...
Suzu had heard a bit about Asama's mom from her own parents. She had married into the Asama Shrine that supported Musashi, so of course she had gathered attention.
Her memories of Asama's mom began with the woman who had given them snacks when they visited Asama at the shrine.
She had been a pretty person.
Suzu recalled the shockingly pretty presence she had sensed when meeting her and she had tensed up when the woman had touched her. It had naturally been him who had spoken upon noticing her unease.
"Oh, if you're going to touch Bell-san, you need to make a noise like this to give her some warning."
The woman had laughed lightly.
...And she said, "Like this, then?"
When she had taken her hand, Suzu had sensed something strange.
She had felt cleaner.
Since her parents ran a bathhouse, she was confident in how clean she kept herself. That had been around the time she had realized the daughter of bathhouse owners could not look worn-out and filthy.
But this had been different.
It had been a permeating purification that moved beyond the surface.
Something like a wave had passed from her hand to her back.
And the woman had said, "Someone takes very good care of you, don't they?"
Suzu had found that embarrassing.
She had understood what it was that had left her body.
The people who lived at the shrine were said to purify impurities.
She had thought she was keeping clean, but she had been wrong. There had been something deeper inside.
So when she had gotten home, she had asked her parents something.
"If I want to...purify the inside...of my body too...what do I need...to do?"
That was how she had started helping out at the bathhouse her parents ran.
It had always made her happy when she visited the Asama Shrine and Asama's mom had complimented her. It had also made her happy when she realized the woman was surprisingly careless and would laugh like normal.
It had made her sad when she had died.
...But Asama-san...is still here...
She was the same.
When Suzu took a drink of the sake she had been given, she could sense it.
The impurities within her were purified starting from her mouth and left her through her back and feet.
She could not drink it all at once.
She could only take one small sip at a time.
It made her soul tremble.
It was amazing that the girl could drink it in such an exaggerated fashion. That likely meant she had no impurities within her.
Asama also drank it like normal, although that might not mean as much when she was the one who had made it. She would occasionally lose control of herself, but Shinto generally accepted male-female relationships and encouraged baby-making.
Suzu thought to herself while taking another sip.
...Asama-san is...so pretty.
She was approaching the same prettiness her mom had had.
Suzu suspected she would one day surpass even that.
...I need to...do my best too.
Suzu was the same age.
She felt a desire to grow in some way like Asama had. So...
Suzu took a large gulp of the sake to test herself.
This was apparently not how she was meant to grow.
People were not meant to push themselves too hard.
She trembled and felt like the core of her body was leaving her from throat to hips.
She felt a little woozy.
Adele approached from the side and supported her from behind with an arm.
"Whoa, Suzu-san! ...Oh?"
While supporting her, Adele moved her arm up and down Suzu's body a bit. And...
"Oh, uh, well, I guess we'll have a clear answer during next year's class trip."
Adele paused for a second, but then she smiled.
"Not to worry! I'll do my best too!"
Was she referring to the mobile shell repairs she was obsessed with lately?
If so, Suzu needed to support her. So...
...Umm, mobile shells are...a type of armor...right?
But the latest trend was lightweight, high-speed models, so she had heard the armor was very thin and flat.
So she knew what she had to say:
"Flat and...hard is...best, isn't it?"
For some reason, both Adele and Mitotsudaira spoke up.
Mitotsudaira turned toward Asama.
"H-how would I know!? ...Masa!"
"Are you sure you're all talking about the same thing?"
Suzu thought it was cool how simply Naomasa excluded herself from these discussions. Meanwhile, Kimi crossed her arms and raised her empty cup toward Asama.
"Another. ...And you were saying you hadn't let your dad drink this since elementary school, right? Was that on your mom's orders?"
"Hmm, I guess you could say that. She said I should stop since I would be a grownup soon."
Adele held her hands in front of her chest and pantomimed some curves, so that may have been what that was about.
But Masazumi asked a question while taking a drink from her cup.
"You said you aren't going to sell it, but what would happen if someone tried to?"
Asama thought about that.
The security settings were mostly unchanged from when her mother was in charge. So...
"If someone without my authorization tries to drink it, the sake will teleport such that it flows up their urethra, a rule violation alarm will sound across the entirety of Musashi, a Sakuya Surefire Red-Hot Rod will be shoved up their butt, and the sake will turn to no more than water."
"...Wouldn't that last part be enough?"
Masazumi had a point. But...
"That was constructed from generation to generation, so it's added up. Removing them would mean getting our ancestral spirits involved and they see it as 'protecting their descendants'... Oh, but my mom and I didn't add anything."
"...Asama-chi. Could we use that for assassinations? It would work great!"
Lately, Heidi seemed to be becoming something other than a merchant.
"You can take it home with you if you want. But be careful because it would be something of a disaster if someone else tried to drink it. Using it while cooking would be the most dangerous thing."
"What if you're cooking just for yourself?" asked Naomasa.
"Then it should be fine. And the black algae creatures break down filth instead of drinking it, so they shouldn't be affected if any washes down the drain. Any rats that drink it won't be so lucky, though."
"This is pretty much a chemical weapon, isn't it?" said Naomasa.
"Then you can just drink it here like you always have."
"That's right." Naruze took a sip. "We have a party and some sake. So if the drinking is mandatory, you know what comes next, don't you?"
Someone spoke up in response to that.
It was Kimi and she stood up.
"Can someone sing a song? I'll dance to it."
She whirled around and designated a singer.
Mitotsudaira was of course surprised, but Asama also found this to be unexpected.
"Mito, you've already finished a song?"
"The conditions were the same as with you, Tomo. I wrote the lyrics and then Kimi gave it a rough melody."
That response came with a sidelong glance that placed pressure on Asama as well. She was supposed to write two songs. She had already given some of it to Kimi, but...
...Oh, right. There's only 3 days left, isn't there?
She could not say that Mitotsudaira had finished her song quickly. It was Asama herself who was slow.
The astonishment arrived after a short delay and she began sweating in her heart. And then...
Here it comes, she thought. Kimi had gotten a refill for her sake cup and she now placed her elbows on Asama's shoulders. She then wrapped her arms around Asama and narrowed her eyes.
Asama glared back as Kimi laughed smugly.
"What do you mean 'oh, no'?"
"You don't know?" Kimi lowered her eyebrows in a smile and then sucked in a breath. "Silly girl! Listen! Why do you think I had fun making you say dirty words while you two were studying for the exams!?"
"Don't ask me."
"Heh heh. Because I was spending night after night preparing for the Gagaku Festival and writing your songs instead of studying! Surprised!?"
"Very." Asama's expression remained flat. "Yes...surprised that anyone would be dumb enough to goof off during our study sleepovers when we can't participate in the Gagaku Festival if our exam papers are covered in red marks."
"Eh!? What? You're going to attack me over that!?"
"I would rather not, but yes."
"In other words, you just can't keep your hands off of me, can you!?"
Why would it mean that? she wondered, but since Naruze passed her chopsticks to her left hand and raised her pen in her right, that must have been how it sounded. Meanwhile, the idiot spoke loud enough for her voice to reverberate through the shrine grounds.
"N-no! Asama is going to attack me inside this Shinto stealth field! Now say it! Say, 'Look, it's all red because of all the fun we had night after night... I would really rather not, but today I need to lecture you and Toori-kun.' "
"Toori-kun has nothing to do with this."
"Eh? But after you and Mitotsudaira would go to sleep, I would chat with him via divine transmission while I worked on the songs and he worked on his porn games. He completed a loup-garou knight one while I made Mitotsudaira's song."
"What have you been doing!?"
Asama completely understood the knight's protest, but...
"Don't tell me he was completing a shrine maiden one while you worked on my song."
"Oh, what are you talking about, silly girl? While completing one? Of course not."
"Are you sure?"
"Judge. ...I mostly finished it while the game was installing. My foolish brother said it took so long because it had a lot of images."
"Th-that's even worse! Couldn't you have at least done it while he was playing it!?"
"Tomo! Tomo! You're losing sight of your own argument here!"
Mitotsudaira was right.
But that idiot aside, the exams had been their greatest concern and they were complete. Warning Kimi about her idiocy here would accomplish nothing.
"Yes. ...The exams are complete, so let's refocus ourselves."
"Heh heh. That's right! Now that the exams are complete, we need to refocus ourselves! Right!?"
Why did her own idea sound so infuriating when that idiot spread her arms and restated it? However...
"Otherwise you can never erase the fact that you drew the Sailboat! Right!?"
Asama's face went entirely pale and she looked up.
She had questions like "when did she see that?" and "she's bluffing, right!?", but...
"Heh heh heh. Acrobatic~"
The idiot sister bent over and did a handstand.
She apparently did not intend to respond no matter what Asama said. Asama tried to hide her blushing face, but then she felt sweat on her neck and back.
...I-it's kind of dark out, so hopefully no one will notice!
Suzu spoke to her.
She had likely detected the blush based on its heat.
Suzu's considerate nature would be a threat here.
"I-I'm perfectly fine. Just a little drunk is all. Y-yes!"
"Isn't it highly unusual for you to get drunk?"
That may have been true, but it would be dangerous to admit to it.
So she ignored the eyes on her, and...
"Umm, how much of your song have you finished, Mito?"
She was less curious than she was in desperate need of a new topic. Also...
"We'd like to hear it too," said Naito.
"That's right," agreed Naruze.
That was important since Asama, Mitotsudaira, and Kimi had already heard their new song.
But Mitotsudaira sighed and shrugged.
"To be honest, there's one part I haven't figured out yet."
"Eh? ...But you've sent the lyrics to Kimi to write the music, haven't you?"
Kimi was the one to answer that.
She nodded first.
"You mean what you're going to say during the intro and interlude, right?"
"Judge," replied Kimi. "Knight songs always have an 'introductory statement' or MC portion in addition to the lyrics, don't they?"
"Now that you mention it..."
The knight songs that Mitotsudaira sang at karaoke had a few unique features.
Due to the time period they came from, they all demanded a male vocal range, they included a roar of praise for their king or nation, and...
...They have a story.
Before the song began, they would state what kind of story the song would tell. And in the middle, the developing contents of the lyrics would be explained.
"It's a lot like a stage play," said Mitotsudaira. "With just the music and lyrics, you could be singing about any battle or triumphant return. It is the statements in the beginning and middle that reveal the background to the song."
"Why are the lyrics made to be so generic?" asked Naomasa.
"There is a simple reason for that: kings change and orders of knight are disbanded or reestablished due to fluctuating numbers. If those things were specified in the lyrics themselves, you would have to remake the entire song. Also..."
"This is not limited to knight songs. The bards who spread gossip and folksongs do not create new songs about each new area they travel to. ...They take a generic song and add the appropriate 'story' portion for that nation or region. It's all part of a performance to make it sound like a cohesive whole. ...It's not quite a tradition, but old songs tend to work that way. That is why the story portion is important when writing a song in that style."
"And you haven't come up with yours yet?"
“Judge. I know what I want to sing and convey, but I haven’t decided how exactly I will do that. Without the story, it is my own knight song. With it, it is a story that includes me. I am not good at improvising.”
“Heh heh. If you could improvise, you could add an adlibbed story to a romantic tune in the medieval bard’s special attack; the Love Song.”
“Again with this!?” said Mitotsudaira while baring her fangs toward Kimi.
But Asama understood why Mitotsudaira could not sing here.
“You want to include that story part when you first publicly perform the song, don’t you?”
Mitotsudaira heard Naomasa say “I see” and everyone else voiced their own understanding.
She had been asked to sing a song to help liven up the party.
But if they understood why she could not do that…
…It means they’re expecting something from me and don’t think I’m going to half-ass this.
The Cerberus on her head gave three simultaneous cries in response to everyone’s understanding. The Cerberus must have picked up on her feelings and seemed to be telling her to calm down. Everyone smiled a bit at that.
But she also saw Uzy twirling around above Kimi’s head. The Mouse held an acoustic spell sign frame. It was a spell circle bearing the word “microphone”.
Kimi grabbed the sign frame and stuck it in her cleavage.
“Now, Mitotsudaira, put it in your mouth!”
“What are you talking about!?”
The idiot sister responded to her shout by kissing and licking it. Then she looked back at Mitotsudaira.
“It was actually a strawberry milk flavored chitose-ame…! Well!? Surprised!?”
“…Um, I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Silly girl! I was doing the bit where the servant warms her master’s cough drop with her body heat so it will melt more quickly! Asama! Since Mitotsudaira won’t lick it, you come here! Let’s press our boobs together to the double cough drop! You really missed out, Mitotsudaira… This has a divine protection on it that makes your boobs grow if you lick it.”
Adele stood up fast enough to flip over the table in front of her, but Naomasa grabbed her waist with her prosthetic arm and had her sit back down.
Beyond them, Asama was making an “ignore her” gesture and Mitotsudaira had to agree.
So she took a breath and spoke.
“If something like that does exist, could you just leave it there for me so we can skip the licking part? I can pick it up before I head home.”
“Eh!? You actually believed me!?”
Mitotsudaira raised her fist, but the idiot and Uzy escaped with long strides.
However, she left behind the sign frame.
And another dozen or so sign frames appeared behind Mitotsudaira.
This was Turning Point, the spell that Kimi used, and it was already in standby mode.
“…Who is going to use this?”
Kimi sounded confused.
She swayed back and forth as she walked back over Mitotsudaira’s way.
“Me, of course. We need a song and dance here and my plan fell through, so it’s my responsibility to provide a replacement.”
“You’ve already completed your song for the Gagaku Festival?”
“Of course I have.” Kimi agreed as readily as breathing and gave a smiling wink. “So I’ll be performing a new song here. It’s titled Dance of Joyful Awakening.”
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