Horizon:Kimitoasamade 4A Chapter 4
Chapter 4: Dancers Waiting for Night
Are we waiting?
Or are we preparing?
Point Allocation (Before the Performance)
Naito heard the beginning of the sound.
Turning Point produced the tuning sound that played before the intro to Kimi’s new song.
Tuning was important.
Especially given the location.
…Places like this can be difficult.
Shrines seemed like an open space, but they were not really.
It seemed like the sound would disperse through the sky and air to produce a dead sound void of reverberation, but the shrine building and gravel ground would reflect the sound back.
By playing low notes and high notes while adjusting the volume, you would come to understand which sounds were alive and which were dead so you could reshape things into the optimum form.
Kimi’s Turning Point was raising the volume of all the different sounds to match the special space of the Asama Shrine.
It was a thorough tuning that seemed to weave the sounds together.
Only Kimi would be able to do this since she offered songs at the Asama Shrine. She probably had a library of patterns set up from her past performances, but…
“Is it a bit tricky with a new song?”
Naito asked Kimi that and the dancer smiled thinly.
“Do you want a stage version?”
Naito had been trying to work her way up to asking that, but Kimi caught on immediately.
Naito did indeed want the tuning library for a theatre ship’s stage.
What were the acoustics like on a theatre ship’s stage? How did the sounds die there?
They had originally been planning to rehearse on the ship. They would have recorded the data from that performance and created a tuning pattern that matched their instruments.
That had been the plan.
But thanks to the mysterious phenomena, they had only been able to rehearse on Shinagawa’s cargo plaza.
So they would have to get the theatre ship tuning right the first time.
The third years could probably manage that. All of those bands had performed in the previous year’s Gagaku Festival. They could tune based on the previous year’s library.
However, Naito and Naruze were different. They did not have data from the previous year.
Naito thought, There is a way for us to obtain a tuning library for a theatre ship.
And that was…
Naruze spoke before Naito was finished thinking.
Her eyebrows were somewhat raised as she opened her mouth.
“You activated Turning Point when we defeated the Non-God Sword on the Tanigawa Castle, didn’t you? …Could we have the tuning data from that?”
Her tone was sharp and Kimi immediately responded to the question.
She turned her palms upwards and held out her hands.
And with a full-face smile…
“Giiiive me something!!”
She was so direct it was impossible to dodge. It seemed a Technohexen’s willpower was useless against a crazy person. That seemed like an important lesson, but she was also fairly certain she had learned this lesson several times before.
But Naito said what she had to say.
“An ‘object’ wouldn’t work, would it?”
“Oh? Then will you show me something?”
She knew what Kimi was saying.
Yes. That girl was a performer. But…
“Huh?” asked Adele. “But Kimi-san is a performer…so wouldn’t it make perfect sense for her to give you tuning data in exchange for some kind of ‘object’?”
Someone had an answer to that: Asama.
She smiled toward Adele and raised her right index finger.
“You see, Adele, Kimi’s tuning data is not a performance.”
Asama had gotten started.
“Listen,” she began. “You can provide an offering in exchange for a performer’s performance, but the tuning data that Naito and Naruze are trying to get from Kimi is not a performance. They need to show her-…”
“…You can just ignore her. Yes, you don’t need to feel down, Adele. You don’t need boobs to get Kimi’s support. Um…what was I saying again?”
Asama’s response was impressive in its own way. But they were getting nowhere fast, so Naito said it herself.
“As a performer, Kimi-chan will give us the tuning information if we show her some kind of performance.”
“Judge. That’s right. …But I know you two can do something that would entertain me, so do your best.”
Naruze gave Naito a puzzled look, as if to ask if they had anything like that.
Naito did not know the answer either, but if they had Kimi’s guarantee, then they had to have some kind of good performance.
…What is it?
Kimi was telling them to do their best, but her tone made it clear it would not be that hard to find. They simply had not noticed it. But…
“Then let’s get started.”
Kimi had finished her tuning and the actual music started.
This began her new song titled Dance of Joyful Awakening.
Kimi raised both her hands in front of her and opened her throat.
Mitotsudaira straightened up when she heard Kimi’s voice.
“Now, it is time to rise and shine. Your long slumber is coming to an end.
“Good morning, foolish masses. Good morning, Musashi.”
She was speaking.
These were not lyrics carrying a melody.
Just like a knight’s song, she was establishing the story with a talking portion. Then the actual lyrics began.
“I remember my dozing dream.
“In the dim light of my closed eyes.”
They were short sentences, but they came quick with only short breaths between them.
“I remember the light.
“In the brief time we were together.”
It was a dance song.
Not a knight’s song.
It began with talking and created a story, but it was not the song of a knight or a bard.
…How is she so good at this!?
Kimi had taken the structure of older songs and used it for a modern dance song.
She added the speaking portion to something other than a knight’s song to give it more of a story.
She seemed to be saying that the story format was not just for knights.
…And what is this she’s singing about?
The music could only be called bright and shining, but the words…
“I remember that parting.
“That sudden farewell.”
It was of course not a knight’s song.
The lyrics Mitotsudaira heard sang of a parting in the past.
But it was not a dark thing. The opening had established this as a song of awakening. The music was like a bright light and it was not looking back at the past; it was remembering the past while moving forward.
It was a song of the present. And to prove it…
“I remember what came after that.
“All the time we have spent together.”
“Kh,” groaned Mitotsudaira as she clenched her teeth.
She also heard voices of “ah” or “oh” from those around her.
…Judge. You understand the story Kimi is telling, don’t you?
It was about him.
No, it was technically about her life with him from the past to now. So…
“I hate the dark, so I wake up.
“I pull the blanket close and open one eye.
“I want to go somewhere bright.
“So I call and call and you hold my hand…”
Kimi sang of herself sleeping in a dimly-lit bed.
She wanted to go somewhere bright and called for him, so he took her hand.
“You open the window and bathe in the sun.
“A ring of light surrounds your hair.
“There is a smile on your face.
“There must be one on mine too.”
Mitotsudaira understood. She wanted to go somewhere bright, but she could not move once he took her hand. So he opened the window to brighten the place where they already were.
And those siblings would probably smile for no real reason while lying half-asleep on the bed.
Then another talking portion arrived to comment on that fact.
“Ha ha. This is such a luxury.
“Happiness fills everything for just this moment.”
The talking confirmed what Mitotsudaira had been imagining and showed her even more.
Of course, what Kimi said did not explicitly state what the story was.
But anyone who knew those two would imagine the same thing from it. Kimi showed them that by adding a question.
“…Don’t you think?”
It supported Mitotsudaira’s imagination even further.
That guidance was nearly a bluff, but it worked on those girls who really had been imagining it. But…
“I am thinking of the horizon.
“I always hold such high hopes.”
That lyric made Mitotsudaira think of something else. And…
“I am thinking and appreciating.
“My friends and you.”
It happened again. There was no mistaking it now.
Those were puns.
Or a play on words. She had used one word to sound like another. And in this case…
…She made it sound like our names.
Friends sounded like Tomo, appreciate like Mito, and high hopes like the summit. And simplest of all…
What had she been appreciating and hoping for from those words in relation to him?
But Kimi did not sing any more on that subject.
“When I look across the classroom,
“I see a nice and lively atmosphere.
“But I pat you on the back,
“To take that bright, bright time in my hand…”
At that point, Kimi clapped her hands once.
She began to dance.
She had only been doing some light swaying and stepping up to that point, but now she twirled around, showed her back, and opened her mouth to speak.
“Heh heh. I am always serious.
“This is fun, but let’s reach even greater heights, okay?”
The story continued. It had shifted from the morning awakening to everyday life. Those two still had their bright time together, but it was now shared with everyone else.
“Now, follow me, you lacking girls. C’moooon!”
She swung up both arms and Turning Point burst.
An incredible amount of light rained down and illuminated the entirety of the shrine grounds. Below that, Mitotsudaira saw the dancer holding white cloths in her hands so they streamed behind her as she bathed in the light and danced with a smile on her face.
“I think of the future.
“You place your arm around my shoulders afterschool.”
This was not about their date the other day. It would be about a date with him some other day. After all, the previous talking portion had established this as an ode to everyday life with him.
Mitotsudaira lightly swayed in time with the dance’s rhythm.
…Does she have to show off so much when I’m having trouble coming up with my own story portion?
She had the lyrics that Kimi had written music for, but now she was thinking about discussing it with Kimi and rewriting them.
This went beyond the story. The wolf wanted to create a knight’s song that broke free of her old shell and looked to the future.
Asama saw Mitotsudaira’s shoulders droop as if she had come to accept something.
She likely had a variety of thoughts, but she had come to an understanding or resigned herself to something as she listened to Kimi’s song.
“I think of walking alongside you,
“As our laughter blends together.
“I think of dinner,
“And laundry and cleaning.”
That was a very Kimi-like lyric structure. She added in a series of words to confirm their meaning and show the change between them.
That had a way of leaving the core of her meaning inside your mind. That friend looked wild, but…
“I think of our everyday,
“As we hold hands and fall asleep.”
You don’t hold his hand as you fall asleep every day, do you? Do you!?
Mitotsudaira was glaring at Kimi and clenching her fist, so Kimi’s guidance here was perfect.
“I wake up and see the moon in the window.
“When I call out, your voice answers me.
“There is a smile on your face.
“There must be one on mine too…”
That’s right, thought Asama to agree with Kimi’s words. Those siblings were always looking to the same thing, as if they were sharing their enjoyment and sorrow. And then the final lyrics rang out.
“You follow your dream.
“I smile and accept that.
“Let’s go together to the horizon and beyond.
“Let’s continue on forever and ever and ever…”
Nothing was as crass as asking if the play on words was intentional. That was something they shared in secret. Even if the story was stated and confirmed, the most important parts were left unsaid as a shared secret.
That dance song inspired joy and was inspired by joy.
Thus it was the Dance of Joyful Awakening. It was very much Kimi’s song.
As the last note finally faded, Kimi shook her hair and smiled.
The song was over.
Naomasa stated her own impression while seeing Adele applaud emotionally and Suzu applaud joyfully.
“They say going to a lot of trouble for a guy makes a woman beautiful.” She smiled bitterly and added something else for Kimi who was wiping away the sweat with a towel. “But going to a lot of trouble for family is just in a woman’s nature.”
“Is that what you have to say to ‘us’?”
Someone asked that while standing up.
It was Naruze.
She pointed at Naomasa with her pen and asked something else.
“I can ask how the plan to reinforce our brooms is going, right?” The Technohexen sighed and glared at Kimi. “After showing us that, it’s obvious we have to make quite a performance to pay for that data. …I don’t mean for this to count as that, but we do have something neat to show you. Okay, Naomasa. Can you bring those out now?”
“Don’t ask how it’s going and then immediately demand the result.”
“I got the order right. I just sped things up between those steps,” said Naruze. “So how about it? Are our brooms ready?”
“…Of course they are.”
Naito saw Naomasa take a sip of sake.
Then she looked to Naruze who was already scooting over toward Naomasa. As a winged species, she had to make sure her wings did not knock over the food and bento boxes as she did so.
She kept her wings pointed out from the center of the mats as she circled around to Naomasa’s side.
Naomasa glanced up at the others, and…
“What? Are you all that curious about it?”
The slight flush to her cheeks probably was not due to the sake. Everyone was focused on her because of the Technohexen’s brooms.
…We did try to keep it a secret that we had her modifying them.
But from the way it all worked out, everyone probably knew. They had not demanded it be kept secret, so while the information would not have left Class Plum, it would have been shared with the class.
In that case, there was no point in hiding it.
“So what are they like?”
Naomasa opened two small sign frames and tossed them to Naito and Naruze.
When they caught them on their palms, Naomasa explained in her usual disinterested tone.
“I’ve put them in the engine division’s shared phase space locker. I used my own privileges, but it’s apparently pretty expensive, so remove them and take them with you ASAP.”
“Could you explain what you did before we thank you?”
“It’ll only be a general explanation.”
Naomasa scratched her head.
And she opened two more sign frames. Naito initially thought they were widescreen, but they were even longer than that.
They displayed images of the brooms at half of life size.
Naomasa first held up Naito’s broom.
“With Naito’s, the front end tends to wobble at high speeds, so…”
“You held it in place?”
“No, I surrounded the brush on the tail so it would provide straighter speed. …That probably increased the top speed, but the front end issue is probably meaningless now. I wanted to transfer turning to the front grip, but I didn’t have time. I instead designed the stabilizing wings to double as a grip like you said, so when turning, grab the front and do it with your ass. You’re used to that, right?”
“Oh, yes, yes. Understood.”
Wow, I’m trying to act tough, thought Naito, but that was just who she was.
If they had achieved stability by adding weight to the front, the broom would have needed a lot more power. That would be fine if she just wanted a stable flight at mid-level speeds, but…
…That’s not what this is about.
She was not riding the broom for transportation.
She was riding it to fly.
And she was able to read most of the modified points with a glance at the sign frame. Then she looked at Naruze’s next to it.
“For Ga-chan’s, you focused on acceleration and tight turning, didn’t you? It’s more about initial speed than top speed.”
“My guidelines are more important the closer they are to the enemy, so I would appreciate enough acceleration and tight turning to zip all around them.”
"Even if Naito's emphasizes top speed, the high speed range was pretty much the same as with Naruze's, so I made them the same there. When you enter that max speed range, you activate the...after reflex was it?"
"Yes, but that wears down the brush. But as long as I don't use that, Ga-chan and I are the same speed."
"Had you not noticed that?"
Once Naomasa mentioned it, she realized that was true.
Flying on a broom was an analog technique. The spells had originally only been there to make the broom fly, so the settings spells for the restriction and release of power or speed had come later.
According to Naruze next to her...
"I always thought Margot was working to match my speed. Because I tend to fly out ahead. ...Looks like I was mistaken."
"Oh, um, I do work to match your speed. I intermittently use the after reflex acceleration to raise my speed. Without that, I can't keep up with your initial speed."
"Eh? Is that what you're doing?"
When Naito nodded, Naruze's shoulders drooped.
"I just thought you had a really good broom."
"That's just how it works. Schwarz Techno acceleration spells are pretty rough. The broom itself is using reduction repulsion to fly, so it starts out slow and has trouble building up speed. But if you add on an acceleration spell, the broom tends to hop up below you."
Hearing that, Naruze narrowed her eyes and looked up. She wrinkled her brow and finally responded.
"I remember you mentioning that a long time ago..."
Naito also remembered saying it, but she chose to respond differently now.
"Yes, you did." Naruze smiled with her eyebrows slightly raised. "When I offered to slow down because I always fly out ahead, you said that was fine because it let you see my butt."
Crap. That I don't remember. But it's true, so I guess it doesn't matter. And I'll sometimes intentionally slow down to get a good look from behind, so I guess it really doesn't matter.
She also saw Asama spit out her sake, so she just accepted it.
...As long as it made someone laugh.
She had a feeling that was not laughter, but oh well. Meanwhile, Naomasa poked at the sign frames with a finger.
"I did modify them like you told me to, but I'm honestly not used to working on Technohexen devices."
"So even you had trouble with the combination of machine and spells, huh?"
"I didn't say I had trouble with it. I said I'm not used to it."
She corrected Naito.
Naito thought about this correction from Naomasa.
...So many people in our class just refuse to admit defeat.
But Adele tilted her head.
"What do you mean by a combination of machine and spells?"
"Ohh... This can be a pain to explain, so I'll just run through it real quick. For example, you know it takes a lot of reinforcement spells and whatnot for a broom to fly, right?"
"In other words," said Naruze to continue for her. "The broom normally has spells built into it so it's best flown in its base state."
"Oh, I get it."
Adele seemed to have caught on. That would be thanks to the repair work she was doing on her mobile shell. Asama also nodded, but Kimi was more suspect. Naito had a feeling she was just going along with the others' reaction.
Mitotsudaira, however, tilted her head.
"What does that mean?"
"Judge. Ga-chan and I are experts at using spells to modify the broom's base state."
"Masa-yan is an expert at attaching machines to modify the broom's base state."
"Ga-chan and I don't really understand machines that well. And Masa-yan, um..."
"I'm not used to spells."
"Right, right. That's what I was going for," said Naito. "So doing both is really difficult."
"Is that so? ...But for both the spells and the machines, you can take readings and adjust them accordingly, can't you?"
"Flying through the sky is pretty unstable, Mitotsudaira. The directional control balance still does things we don't expect and can change entirely depending on the weather conditions or air currents. ...We aren't following a flat and straight path. It's more accurate to say we're flying forward with a technique that could send us rocketing any which way at any moment." Naruze held up the sign frame displaying her feather broom. "We are taking readings. Naomasa is helping us with that and should have included the optimum parts for our needs. But whether they give us what we want is up to the adjustments we'll be making from now on."
"I want to make sure it's balanced well from front to back."
If they could do that, they could at least fly straight and make ascents and descents.
Mitotsudaira then nodded.
"That sounds like a lot of work."
"No, no. We can't really call it that. Or rather, it just comes with the territory. ...But there is one place that has managed to mix the two aspects really well."
"Where is that?"
Naito saw the wolf's eyebrows rise slightly.
The knight had likely realized the reason why their enemy was so formidable.
So Naito gave the answer. She spoke the name of what they hoped would be their next destination.
Heidi stopped drinking her sake when she heard Naito's answer.
Until now, she had been focused on the same thing she always did at times like this: figuring out a way to safely sell Asama's sake. But...
She was interested in this topic because of how it could benefit her. She was of course familiar with the Edel Brocken brand and with Wild Kamelie, their tester in Musashi.
Wild Kamelie was ranked first in the delivery business. She used her high-speed deliveries to work as a messenger. And she limited her deliveries to letters and documents, refusing to carry anything else.
At first glance, that sounded like a simple job.
But she had an excellent reputation and charged high prices.
Those high prices were paid for both her speed and safety.
Of course, Wild Kamelie was not flying at safe speeds.
But if you hired her, your delivery was guaranteed to safely reach its recipient.
...Corporate conflicts and espionage by other nations does happen on the Musashi.
So there occasionally were "accidents".
But Wild Kamelie would slip past all of that.
She had more than just social status.
She was the pride and face of Musashi's delivery business.
So what if Naito and Naruze took her top ranking?
God, what a pain, was Heidi's honest thought on that. A change in the delivery business's internal ranking would not affect the corporations, nations, and other clients' trust in Wild Kamelie.
But it would be devastating for anything that relied on her strength.
So any clients who build up their brand name by having her use their products would instead rely on the new Rank 1.
How many of those clients does Wild Kamelie have? wondered Heidi as she began a search.
Naruze glared at Heidi when the girl raised her hand.
She had probably thought up some business deal related to the match with Wild Kamelie, so Naruze nodded once and gave her answer.
"You understand each other?" asked Naomasa as Naruze continued.
"You're asking for some influence over our delivery rights once we take Rank 1, aren't you?"
"Of course! We'll handle all of your advertisements! Your names will be known far and wide!"
"No, thanks. You would only hurt our reputation."
"Huh? Now wait just a minute." Heidi tilted her head. "Have we ever done anything that would hurt someone's reputation? I'll sue you for defamation!"
"How about what you're doing right now!?"
When everyone else shouted back at her, the merchant immediately pretended to cry.
"I-I can't believe you all... B-business is poor right now, you know?"
She was incredibly easy to read.
Naruze sighed and spoke to the merchant.
"You received a bunch of money to let the Konishi Company stay at the port, didn't you?"
"Eh!? Did I say that? Are you sure you aren't misremembering!?"
"Yes. You said that."
Heidi collapsed backwards.
She really was easy to read, but surely she was not like this during business dealings.
In any case, the sulking merchant rolled onto her side, opened a sign frame, and began a divine transmission.
"Fine then. I'll just find a way to make some money from Wild Kamelie's clients when she makes a mistake."
"Relying on someone else's mistakes is not a winning business strategy."
"A true merchant turns it into a winning strategy."
There was no longer any negativity in her voice. She had likely found something of interest and begun to act on it.
"Nothing keeps you down, does it?"
When Naruze said that, Margot turned toward her and away from the sign frame of her modified broom. Her eyebrows were somewhat raised for once and she spoke in a mildly scolding tone.
"Y'know, Ga-chan. Nothing keeps you down either."
"Yes. You might start feeling down, but you bounce back higher than you began. And you take everything so seriously that it can get dangerous."
Naruze could not think of any examples of that happening, but she did understand one part of it.
"I'll agree I take things seriously."
Everyone glared at her, but she chose not to worry about it.
"Just so you know, I do take things seriously. In a doujinshi, I make sure the combination begins within 3 pages, I always include a proper ending, and I never forget to write an afterword."
"Ga-chan, you really don't let anything keep you down, do you!?"
She chose to view that as a compliment.
But they had yet to really prove themselves.
The two of them had looked through most everything on the sign frames in front of them.
"Margot, what do you think?"
"Hmm, it's honestly hard to tell without actually riding it."
"Yeah, you are the type to not read the manual."
Naruze could hardly believe someone like that could pull off that Schwarz Hexen flight that essentially used explosions of acceleration, but according to Margot...
"If you can't adlib, I doubt you could ride something like this very well."
That may have been why she was such a good match with Naruze, who was the exact opposite.
"In that case," said Naruze while picking up the opening spell sign frame Naomasa had given her. "After checking the manual real quick, let's bring them out."
A chilly wind blew down from an elevated area.
The wind blowing down the tall wooden staircase would gather at the bottom of those academy stairs.
Night had begun on the Musashi and a few people were gathered at the bottom of those stairs.
One of them wore a black uniform with both the top and bottom shortened.
"Okay, 1st Special Duty Unit, gather here for the meeting of night guards."
The black-haired girl wore an armband that said "1st Special Duty Officer — Watanabe Yoritsuna" and the boys and girls seated in front of her straightened up and turned her way.
Everyone but Watanabe was down on their knees but with their toes pressed against the ground.
They were seated but prepared to move at any moment.
Watanabe nodded at them all.
"Okay, did anything weird happen on your way here?"
"Yes, Tenzou-kun. What was it? Did Crossunite-sensei do something again?"
"No, um, when I left the house, my idi-...Crossunite-sensei was collapsed on the floor with a smile on his face, his eyes rolled back in his head, and a paper that said 'How to Make Legal Herbs' in his hand. But that happens so often I would not call it weird."
"Did you call the guards?"
"No, because they've started telling me, 'Again? Please work this out within your family from now on'..."
"Hm. You still need to call them. Enough calls and you can still get him thrown in a cell."
"I see," said Tenzou with a hand on his head.
Watanabe then tilted her head.
"So what happened?"
"Judge. Just between those of us here, I saw Vice Chancellor Oosuga and Ohiroshiki from my class being taken to a guard station together."
"Yeah, they apparently got into a serious fistfight inside a food stand. The report came to us too."
"So that's what happened. ...Is it true the Chancellor was with them too?"
"Um, yes. She was caught red-handed trying to swap out her skirt with the contents of the register while the other two fought. She apparently insists that she was 'bartering'."
Everyone hung their head in silence and Watanabe continued.
"The Student Council is pretty normal, but I'm the only normal one in the Chancellor's Officers, so keep that in mind when dealing with them."
She then raised her right forearm and opened her smiling mouth.
When she said that, sign frames opened in front of everyone. They were small, only as large as the space between their eyes, and they did not emit light.
They were used to display private or secret information and opened when a password was spoken.
Tenzou viewed the sign frame which was drawn with transparent thin ink.
The image was drawn with a gradient of thin ink, but each shade of gray was assigned a color on a virtual chart. Anyone on the 1st Special Duty Unit needed to see the image in full color the instant they saw the transparent thin ink image. However...
...Get too used to this, and doujinshis printed in thin ink become a lot harder to read.
The artist was not familiar with their shades-to-colors chart, so once he was accustomed to viewing things like that, his mental image would see the skin as green, dark red, or striped blue and yellow.
He still remembered the fear he felt when various body parts or the "man beam" had looked pink or blue.
It can be so hard to deal with.
...But full color doujinshis is too much to ask for, so I tend to go for the porn games instead.
With that thought, Tenzou settled down and viewed the image. It displayed...
Watanabe quietly spoke the individual's name using a ninja technique.
Tenzou was familiar with her.
She was ranked first in the delivery business and she was Edel Brocken's current tester in Musashi. Naito and Naruze had recently moved up to Rank 2, so they would eventually challenge her over that Edel Brocken tester position.
Since those two might challenge her, he had looked up some information on her.
...But I doubt Naruze-dono would want it.
Naito-dono would probably accept the information, though, he added.
"Generally, Technohexen battles are in violation of Musashi's aerial laws and city security laws. She is not a student, so self-defense is the only legitimate reason for her to fight. Even if they are only competing over the delivery business's internal rankings, we cannot overlook this as the Chancellor's Officers in charge of protecting the city."
As Watanabe spoke, the image of Wild Kamelie changed.
She was now wielding a schale besen.
...And firing through a transport ship.
He did not know why, but...
"She once sunk an M.H.R.R. corporate transport ship after it 'lost control'. We avoided disaster because one of Konishi-san's large transport ships caught it down below, but if something like that happens again, it would harm the Chancellor's Officers' reputation."
A third year girl next to Tenzou raised her hand.
She then stood up.
"If we are acting on a legal basis, shouldn't the 2nd Special Duty Unit handle it? We primarily do intelligence work, so trivial fights don't really seem like our business."
"The 2nd Special Duty Unit is in Aki. Negotiations related to the festival are underway there, so they will be on guard duty for the time being."
"Yes," said someone else nearby. "If we are going to perform a largescale mysterious phenomena purification of the Musashi using the theatre ship, then K.P.A. Italia wants to rob us of our forces so that will fail."
"It's a political issue. ...If all goes well, we'll be able to show off Musashi's power without any interference from other nations. And," added Watanabe. "We can also show off our resolve."
No one immediately nodded at what Watanabe said.
She provided no explanation for the word resolve, so everyone made their own interpretation and responded after a short pause. They all faced her, and...
"Yes, yes. Don't think about it too much. But there's a good chance Wild Kamelie-san here will be fighting two of our students pretty soon. ...Tenzou-kun."
He stood up.
...I guess it's interrogation time.
In a way, this was where he had to show off his resolve.
He had to make up his mind and convey what information he had, no matter who it was about. Yes, even if they are my friends... Actually, are they even my friends? H-hmm...
"What is it, Tenzou-kun?"
"Oh, um, I was just realizing how very difficult this is."
"Now, now." Watanabe waved a hand dismissively. And, "We've already seen their combat abilities in the other day's Hidden Dragon battle and during their recent training early in the mornings."
The thin ink image displayed a shot of those two performing aerial combat training with Urquiaga. It was shot from a distance.
...Uqui-dono is surprisingly nimble.
Tenzou was used to seeing the two Technohexen flying, but it was more unusual with Urquiaga. However...
"We can all determine their combat abilities from these images, can't we? So, Tenzou-kun, I'd like for you to give us information other than that."
"Where do those two often go? What stores or restaurants?"
Asama received a divine mail from Tenzou.
The Asama Shrine's barrier was closed, so any incoming divine transmissions would pass through her first. So she checked who it was sent to.
"Um, Naito and Naruze? ...You have a divine mail from Tenzou-kun."
"Huh?" Naruze frowned. "What's that ninja up to now? Is he aiming for Margot just because he loves busty blondes?"
"Hey, Ga-chan? Let's not suddenly start drawing a doujinshi based on Tenzou."
Naito then turned toward Asama.
"Could you read the message? I don't want this weird atmosphere to hang over us."
"Oh, yes," said Asama with a nod.
She went on to read the message from Tenzou verbatim.
" 'What stores or restaurants do you two often visit?' "
Tenzou saw an immediate reply.
The message connected him to a local divine chat, so he could see them posting in real time.
Mal-Ga: "Tenzou, I hope you're fine with going uncensored."
Gold Mar: "Wow. Attacking from below!?"
Asama: "Tenzou-kun, there's a difference between courage and recklessness."
10ZO: "Wait! You're...you're taking this in some weird direction!!"
Wise Sister: "Heh heh heh. Then tell us what that was supposed to mean. Ready, set, go!"
Tenzou realized the truth was the only option here.
10ZO: "I am at a 1st Special Duty Unit meeting and we decided we should know where those two are if we want to ensure Musashi's safety!"
Asama was aware she was glaring as she sent the divine transmission to everyone. And...
"You heard him."
"Couldn't Tenzou-san have come up with a better excuse?"
It was wonderful how quickly Adele reached that conclusion.
"Judge," said Mitotsudaira next to her. "Last month, didn't he try to confess to the blonde girl working at a Murayama udon shop, but couldn't work up the courage to say anything, ate 5 bowls of udon, and left? No one asked him about it, but on the way back, he still felt the need to insist he had succeeded by showing her his love of her udon."
"He is so pathetic..."
"And wasn't it the manager that actually cooked the udon? I saw him once, but he was an incredibly muscular man with tons of chest hair and he was reading a horse racing newspaper."
Asama saw Naruze nod at Adele's comment and then use Asama's divine transmission assistance.
"I'll be making an outside connection."
"Oh, yes. Go right ahead."
"Um, but what does this mean?" asked Mitotsudaira. "Why would Tenzou do this all of a sudden?"
"Heh heh heh. You don't know? The Spring School Festival and Gagaku Festival are coming up! Who doesn't dream of bringing someone there!?"
I see, thought Asama. And when she wondered who she would bring with her...
...Yeah, it would just be Kimi and Mito like always.
At best, he might be dragged along by Kimi and join them.
He loved these lively events, so there was no helping that. But...
"What is Tenzou-kun going to do...?"
Tenzou saw a second-year girl raise her hand. She held a sign frame and walked over to Watanabe.
Watanabe nodded as she whispered in her ear.
The girl returned to her position and Watanabe turned to face Tenzou.
"Tenzou-kun, it seems a freely-distributed adult doujin based on you is being uncensored on-...no, I got that backwards. An uncensored adult doujin based on you is being freely distributed on the divine network. What did you do?"
10ZO: "Wait! What did you do!?"
Asama: "Eh? I-I didn't do anything. I only opened up the divine transmission environment for Naruze."
10ZO: "That's something! Something major! And Naruze-dono! Why do you always make adult doujins of people to harm them!?"
Mal-Ga: "Sob, sob. Margot, that pathetic ninja is cruelly calling me an adult doujin terrorist..."
Gold Mar: "There, there, Ga-chan. But Tenzou can't help it. He isn't used to being drawn in those like Asama-chi is."
Asama: "Huhhh!? I'm not used to that at allll. What are you talking aboooout!?"
The damage had spread, so why didn't it seem to have diluted any?
At any rate, asking those cruel people was a waste of time, so Tenzou raised his hand.
"Uh, I believe their most recent hangouts are the Blue Thunder and the Asama Shrine."
"Hmm. Then we'll have to make sure no ground battles occur there."
When Watanabe said that with her arms crossed, a first year sitting at the edge raised their hand.
"Will there be a ground battle?"
"When the Rank 2 and 3 fought at the Asama Shrine the other day, it was a ground battle. ...Although they fought inside a barrier, so it didn't cause any damage outside," explained Watanabe. "Also, Wild Kamelie was apparently the leader of a Technohexen unit that fought demons in the area from eastern M.H.R.R. to the border of Eastern Europe's Russia. She uses high-speed attacks and gunner spells and she's more of a lone wolf than anything."
Watanabe's words echoed quietly around them.
"She is a Technohexen of an older age."
Asama heard Naomasa voice her confusion.
"There are old and new Technohexen?"
It was Mitotsudaira who responded.
"I remember my mother telling me that druids and shamans qualify. But..."
She trailed off and faced Naito with the ends of her eyebrows lowered.
Asama knew why she would give Naito that doubtful look.
"Wild Kamelie-san has a black broom...so she's a Schwarz Hexen just like Naito, right? Are there old and new versions of that?"
"Well, yes. There are actually many different types of Schwarz Hexen...and Technohexen in general."
Naito spread her mouth horizontally and waved a hand dismissively.
And next to her, Naruze pointed at Asama.
"Asama is a shrine maiden, so she would be classified as a shaman. Shinto is polytheistic and its gods have the primitive origin of being born from natural phenomena, so it's actually a fairly old type."
"Using that sort of classification, I suppose it would be. To put it another way, we 'have a long history'."
"Judge. In Europe, you have the shamans who led the various rites and then the druids and elementalors that grew from that. You could call them the old magic users. But..." Naruze shrugged. "When the Tsirhc religion spread across Europe, Rome made it their national religion, the churches built a cooperative support system, and the musicians were obligated to assist each other. The old magic users had been entirely separate without any kind of system like that, so the people moved on to the more convenient option and those magic users faded away," she explained. "But tightening down on it too much would lead to resistance, so some level of flexibility was necessary. Y'know, how that works, right? Like with clothes?"
Asama thought about that.
...Is that how it works?
It seemed wrong to her.
"I don't want my clothes to shift out of place, so I keep them pretty tight. Or rather, my body presses against them on its own..."
Everyone stopped moving.
Confused by this unexpected reaction, Asama also stopped moving.
Adele was the first to move again. She silently approached the barrel of sake and dunked her cup in it instead of scooping the sake out with the ladle.
"J-just so you know, the bagginess of my clothes since starting high school isn't because I can't find ones that fit! It's to match the connections for the mobile shell!"
Asama had apparently reopened an old wound. But as they tried to work out what to say and oddly found everyone's eyes focused on everyone else's chests, Kimi walked up to Asama's left side.
She tilted her head.
"Asama, do you really keep your clothes that tight?"
"Yes, I have several divine protections in place since I don't wear a bra...but to avoid stiff shoulders, I tighten them to fit my body and distribute the burden under the arms and on down."
"Hmm," said Kimi before suddenly reaching for Asama's back.
Before Asama could do anything, the control component on her back sent instructions to the hard point parts on her sides.
Those two parts instantly slid down somewhat. This tugged the shrine maiden inner suit toward her sides, which seemed to cause the shape of her breasts to show through even more clearly than usual.
With Kimi's voice and a popping sound from the collar and chest of the suit, the chest came open.
"Heh heh. What's this? You're using a divine protection to maintain their shape, aren't you? That's the kind of boobs care I like to see!"
Asama held her chest while the thin obi part came undone and the suit below it split all the way down to below her navel.
Kimi must have given a random instruction because the wide parts tried to slide further back and she had to quickly stop them.
"Wh-what are you doing, Kimi!? And stop sketching this, Naruze!"
"That's a trick I've never seen before. I need to try it with Margot sometime."
"No, I think you need a whole lot of inner pressure for it to work. Oh, but, Ga-chan, not many people would be able to do that to Asama-chi, so keep that in mind when using the material."
That was true. A Musashi resident's hard point parts managed their divine protections for life support and other things and they were linked to things like the financial system necessary for everyday life. They were locked down when removed, but when worn, they could only be controlled by the wearer and...
"Outside of emergencies, the only other people who can use mine are my dad, Kimi, Toori-kun, and Mito."
Asama watched as everyone except Kimi immediately formed a scrum.
Eh? she thought while sweating.
...D-did I say something wrong!?
The term "two in a row!" came to mind, but it was too late now.
With an odd impatience in her heart, she called out to the others.
Mitotsudaira looked up from the scrum and held out her right palm.
She was telling her to wait. When the wolf sank back into the scrum, Naito began speaking.
"...Why would she let him do that?"
"What, is she saying she's ready to do it at any time?"
"I will defend her since I was on the list too, but I do think there is something wrong with her brain if she doesn't even question that decision."
"D-don't worry... Toori-kun wouldn't...treat her...badly."
...Suzu-san, they're going to take that the wrong way!
Asama wondered if she should warn her.
But as the others began nodding to each other, Kimi breathed through her nose and spoke.
"Well, I imagine she just hasn't changed the settings since we were kids and had things set up to test out the divine protections we made."
"Yes... Well, I guess that is part of it..."
There were a lot of reasons like that, so it was hard to sum up succinctly.
But everyone seemed to accept that and Naruze nodded as their representative.
"Don't worry. We understand."
As soon as she said that, blood burst from the Doujin Technohexen's nose. From both nostrils.
Everyone cried out as Naruze held her nose from below.
"D-don't worry, Asama. We understand, so...yes, there's nothing to worry about."
"Now I'm two or three times more worried!"
"Calm down," said Naito as she passed Naruze a reduction cooling spell. "Let's get back to what I was saying about tightening down too much being a bad idea. ...Tsirhc may not allow heretics, but they do allow pagans. That's what led to the whole Reformation, but while the church was corrupt and using the inquisition to get away with their corruption, some pagans were treated like monsters and were persecuted due to the ancient dragon invasion."
"That led to all the various old magic users being called Technohexen."
Most everyone knows that much, thought Naito.
But the rest was more specialized knowledge.
"And then, with the Technohexen hunts and whatnot, the Technohexen grew defiant and Tsirhc's Reformation began at about the same time, so they began reassessing it all."
"You mean the Peace of Augsburg, don't you? The Protestant advocate, Luther, spoke with the Catholics and got them to accept Protestantism."
"Right, right. The Technohexen hunts continued after that as part of the history recreation, but they reaffirmed that pagans were acceptable and the Technohexen began 're-paganizing' themselves."
The Technohexen said that Tsirhc had been trying to split the Technohexen between the old and the new, just like Tsirhc had been. But...
...Some things just wouldn't work without that division.
Everything had two sides to it, with different advantages and purposes.
The whole could not be supported with just one or the other.
And the persecution of Technohexen had continued even as they "re-paganized" and lived among the people.
That was why Naito and Naruze had ended up with Musashi, but...
"Anyway, when we 're-paganized', the Technohexen needed to show our worth so the people would accept us."
"Like what?" asked Adele.
Naruze responded while drawing a hat on her Magie Figur. It was a white bonnet.
"The simplest example would be Weiss Techno. ...Those are additive spells that specialize in positive things like healing and regeneration. It is primarily made up of healing spells, so it is useful in supporting the Tsirhc religion."
"And Schwarz Techno is reductive, so the Schwarz Hexen often joined the national defense organizations and other combat groups to hunt down resisting Technohexen or fight against mysterious phenomena."
"So," said Naruze. "It was split into Weiss and Schwarz. And the Weiss Hexen and Schwarz Hexen who follow that rule are what you could call the new Technohexen."
"Then what about Wild Kamelie...?" asked Mitotsudaira with a frown. "Is she the old kind of Technohexen without that division?"
"Exactly. Most of the Technohexen from Europe are that way. Wild Kamelie's techniques tend toward the Schwarz Hexen side of things, so that's what she's registered as on the Musashi. But..." Naito nodded. "I expect her to use both spell types in battle, so...we can't let our guard down even with the two of us together."
Musashi's nights truly began at 10.
That was the curfew, so the gates between wide blocks and long blocks closed then.
Of course, people still had jobs to do and cargo had to be transported, so it was still possible to move between blocks with permission. There were just far fewer people after 10.
But things were different for visitors from outside. The curfew strictly applied to them unless they had a Musashi resident escorting them.
And the Musashi currently had a lot of visitors from Aki. Thus, a warning was broadcast across Asakusa, Shinagawa, Takao, and Oume after 8 at night.
"This is a notice from 'Shinagawa'. It is now past 8 PM. In another hour, the visitors on the Shinagawa derrick mast observation platform and on the bow deck will not have enough time to return to Tama on foot. ...I can imagine some of the horrible things which will happen to you if that occurs, but you would be better off not knowing. Over."
"That was blunt!" said the cargo workers on Shinagawa.
"That's 'Shinagawa'-san for you! She's so cool in a careless sort of way!"
"And she's so much cooler on the days when 'Musashi'-san is being difficult!"
"Her criminal law attacks are nice, but this is the side of her I like best!"
Someone stood on the derrick mast observation platform that overlooked that discussion.
She was a slender girl, but she had firearm equipment hanging from her skirt.
"I would prefer to avoid having the name Suzuki Magoichi listed in the arrest records..."
She smiled bitterly and looked down from the railing, but then she looked to her left shoulder.
There was nothing there, but then three insha kotob appeared there.
They floated and rotated while displaying something: wing-like rifle symbols.
She called to them as they spun around her face as if to get a good look at her.
"Yatagarasu. Remember this place."
She narrowed her emotionless eyes and looked out horizontally.
"Because we could set history in motion from a position higher than this."
Magoichi rested her elbows on the railing and pulled her hips back.
She looked up into the sky.
The stealth barrier surrounding Musashi's night was a vast presence.
...It makes this feel like its own little world...
She felt like the outside world had disappeared, but that was incorrect. The transport and diplomatic ships that connected the Musashi with the outside were opening holes in the barrier to move in and out and informational toriis in the city displayed the sky and scenery of the outside world.
The people of Musashi saw this as a "location" that connected to the outside world.
...It's so complicated.
It felt enclosed and protected to the people outside.
But did the people inside only see it as a room they could easily move in and out of?
"The other nations may hold a mistaken view of Musashi."
Magoichi thought from her position as a name inheritor.
She thought about how the leaders, officers, and other high-ranking members of other nations had to view Musashi.
The Far East was currently under the other nations' provisional rule, their lord was in Mikawa which was a neutral area between the Testament Union Tsirhc nations and P.A. Oda, and Musashi was the only official territory they were allowed.
...Because they had no military power, their reservations and the Musashi relied on the other nations for their continued existence.
The Musashi was seen as somewhat creepy and pitiable, like the Flying Dutchman that had become a ghost ship and wandered the sea for all eternity.
But now that she was here, she found it to be a lively and peaceful world.
She wanted to compare it to the ark found in the Vetus Testament, but...
"They have almost no status as a nation."
They could not exist in history.
They should not exist, but they did anyway because they were convenient.
"Just like Mikawa's ley line reactors or the Technohexen."
But what would make the world understand that?
...Musashi would have to take a more proactive stance.
Would that ever happen?
She knew enough of its history to assume not.
In its 160 years of provisional rule, Musashi had never resisted. However...
Magoichi called out to the insha kotobs.
"If our actions here led Musashi to act...that would be stressful."
The insha kotobs spun around in response. All three of them did.
And Magoichi thought of the Musashi like a war god.
It had not actually received the divine protection of a war god.
...But it's elevated.
Magoichi was from a desert people. She had wielded her guns in an endlessly flat expanse of sand and defeated her distant enemies.
In the flat desert, the slightest rise or dip was a crucial factor. If she could have viewed or fired on her enemy from above, she would have won a unilateral victory and felt like she had a war god on her side.
So she sought the sky. And that was what she saw horizontally from herself now.
It was the sky. Magoichi looked up from her elevated position.
She saw the dim white defense barrier. That wall seemed to protect the Musashi, but did not fully do so. She narrowed her eyes and spoke as she looked up at it.
"Is that what Musashi would view as a war god?"
She saw a point of black in the sky.
It was a Technohexen's color.
She was so high in the sky that even a sniper like Magoichi could barely make her out.
A single Technohexen was stopped atop a black schale besen.
...Just like a hawk eyeing its prey.
Magoichi turned around, as if turning away from the sky.
To return to her inn on Murayama, she chose the stairs to descend the derrick mast.
On the way, she spoke quietly.
"What do you call something that chooses to target a war god?"
Naruze felt the tactile feedback.
She had just pulled her feather broom out from the locker that the engine division kept in a phase space.
It was heavy.
But that was not just due to its weight.
...It pulled straight out.
The feather broom did not waver as she pulled it out into the air. It followed the angle of her original pull, so it appeared almost exactly horizontally. It pulled out with the weight and accuracy of something on rails.
Then she viewed the device in front of her.
"You sure treated us to something nice..."
Overall, it looked like a flat boxy quill covered in armor of a similar texture. It seemed a little bigger than its original size.
Naomasa remained seated and took a drink before speaking.
"I didn't mess with the seat, but I added reinforcements below it. It shouldn't feel any different when seated and you won't be able to tell anything has changed, but you should notice more support from below once you get up to speed."
"...Will they run?"
"I completed a combat proof according to engine division standards."
"I see." Naruze nodded. "So the test run is just for us to get used to them."
"You can complain after flying around some. I'll make some adjustments once you get back. ...So don't hold back once you get up there."
"Judge," she said and Margot smiled after pulling out her own broom to the right.
She turned toward Asama.
"Asama-chi, can you open up the top?"
"You're doing it already?" Asama did not even try to hide her exasperation, but she did clap her hands. "Then how about we all stop by the Blue Thunder? ...I doubt everyone would be satisfied with just the food we have here. We can put in an order on the way and pick it up once we get there."
"Heh heh. And we could always order wine or beer."
"No, no," insisted Asama. Then Naruze made a suggestion while spinning her broom around.
"Want a ride? Although Margot and I can only take one person each."
"Oh, you'll do that?"
Asama was all for it. That seemed a bit casual for a Shinto shrine maiden, but...
...That might be who Asama is outside of her religious rules and official obligations.
Instead of criticizing Asama, Naruze found herself impressed by her own observant eye.
She had become more accepting of a wider range of behaviors from other people.
She felt like she had gone soft and that displeased her. So...
"Um, Margot, you take Mitotsudaira. You can carry a lot more that way, right?" Naruze was aware she was selfishly taking control. "Now, let's get going. This is our first time using these new versions, so don't expect us to fly like normal. ...This won't be nearly as exciting."
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