Horizon:Kimitoasamade 4B Chapter 12
Chapter 12: Bargaining Girl in the Lead
How is this
A training ground?
Point Allocation (Such a Change in Just a Month!)
The second day of the festival continued where the first day had left off.
Those running stands were now comfortable with their roles and the guests had settled down from the rush of the first day. Overall…
“Now that everyone is taking their time to look around, we really need to keep customers coming in and out as quickly as possible. Today we’ll be going with soldiers, shrine maidens, knights, and ninjas, okay?”
The idiot was already crossdressing as a black-haired soldier and everyone moved to their posts when he said that. However…
“Hey, Tenzou. Can you head to the 2nd schoolyard where Class 3-1’s outside group is doing their Tasty Alche-Mist thing and buy some of their candied apples?”
“Oh, that thing where they spray it with a mist and it turns gold? I hear it instead turns silver if they don’t spray enough on it, so I hope they didn’t put anything funny in it.”
While that conversation played out, some others had also left to buy supplies.
They were at the Blue Thunder on Tama’s surface area.
When Asama entered along with Naito and the others, the Blue Thunder was peaceful inside.
Huh? she thought with a tilt of the head while she and Mitotsudaira saw all the customers were seated at the tables.
“Oh? Asama-sama and Mitotsudaira-sama. …Excellent timing.”
P-01s turned toward them with an order ticket in hand.
“I thought I would make the food myself to celebrate the Spring School Festival. Now, there are two seats open by the window, so please have a seat there.”
…This has taken a weird turn yet again.
Even as she thought that, Asama quickly put on a smile and waved her hand side to side.
“No, we’re here for some supplies.”
“Judge, is that so? I thought you might try some of my experimental food.”
Was Asama only imagining that the other customers further hung their heads at that?
But P-01s walked back to the kitchen.
And two voices could be heard within:
“Manager, Asama-sama is jiggling her boobs, but Mitotsudaira-sama cannot do the same. What should I do?”
“Hm, that’s a tricky one…”
And she nodded deeply.
“It is apparently a tricky one.”
“That has nothing to do with supplies, does it!? Does it!?”
Asama felt like Mitotsudaira’s argument was missing the point, but maybe it was Asama who was missing the point. Regardless, she tried to correct P-01s.
“Um, could you ask the old lady if our supplies are ready?”
“Judge. I will ask.”
P-01s returned to the kitchen and the same two voices were heard again.
P-01s returned while sweating.
“She refused to listen. Asama-sama, I have determined your poor word choice has created a situation that will be difficult to fix, so you should probably be careful.”
“U-umm, then could you ask the manager?”
“Judge. I will ask.”
P-01s returned to the kitchen.
“Yeah? What is it?”
The two could be heard holding a short conversation, but what they actually said could not be heard over the sound of sizzling oil.
Eventually, P-01s returned once more.
She carried a plate of some balled-up pieces of cloth. They were likely new dishtowels.
“I discussed it with the manager and…Mitotsudaira-sama. If you stuff your chest with these, you should be able to simulate the jiggling, even if it is not at Asama-sama’s level.”
“That isn’t what we wanted!”
Hearing that, P-01s looked up at the ceiling in thought. After a few seconds, she lowered her gaze once more.
“Then what do you want from me, Mitotsudaira-sama?”
“Supplies! Our supplies!”
“Judge.” The automaton nodded and held out the plate of dishtowels. “Here are your two boobs to go.”
“Umm, who stops by a café and brings back dishtowel breast pads?”
Mito gets along with her too, thought Asama while letting her mind wander. Meanwhile, P-01s gave a quick bow and returned to the kitchen.
After a while, she walked back out and held out a plate.
“Here, Mitotsudaira-sama. …I made some chicken breasts into pad shapes. Since you insist on the real deal, these should give you what you want.”
“Supplies! We are here for supplies!”
The wolf’s voice must have reached the kitchen because the manager poked her head out from the kitchen.
“Oh, sorry. Can you wait about 10 minutes?”
It felt like that had solved everything real quick.
Mitotsudaira seemed to go limp and Asama gave her a bitter smile. That couldn’t have been easy, she thought while speaking up.
“W-well, just think of it as some light warmup exercises and keep at it, Mito.”
“Indeed, Mitotsudaira-sama. We are only getting started.”
The automaton’s follow-up attack was not helping.
Asama looked over and saw the two Technohexen outside the window. The white one was holding up a Magie Figur that said “Having fun?”
…You two ran away, didn’t you!?
That was Asama’s initial reaction, but it was not inaccurate. Meanwhile, P-01s gestured them toward the window-side seats.
“Now, please wait about 10 minutes. That is just enough time for an enjoyable breakfast.”
They found a familiar face across from those empty seats. It was…
“1st Special Duty Officer Watanabe Moritsuna-san?”
Watanabe tensed up a bit at these unexpected tablemates.
She nodded at what they said, but…
It was the Asama Shrine Representative and the provisional Mito Lord.
The Asama Shrine Representative did not stand out much when she was wearing her school uniform, but the Mito Lord was different. That familiar face sent a slight stir through the café.
Of course, that stir was not a light, gossipy one. It was a tense one based on her social status. The response essentially said “an important person is here”. But at the same time…
…Some of them seemed to know she comes here.
There was an atmosphere of confidence and superiority that said “I already knew that”.
That suggested this was a place those girls were familiar with. So…
Watanabe relaxed in her seat. The aide next to her did the same.
“Don’t worry about us,” Watanabe said in a voice only the aide could hear.
“Judge,” the aide replied in the same way, so Watanabe faced forward.
She asked a question of those two girls who looked like polar opposites.
“Do you come here often?”
Watanabe saw the Asama Shrine Representative hurry a nod.
She must not have expected Watanabe to speak to her.
She had been facing the two Technohexen outside the window, so she quickly turned around.
“Eh? …Oh, yes. I have a lot of business here, so while I don’t visit on a daily basis, I do make appearances fairly often. Yes.”
“I visit fairly frequently as well,” said the Mito Lord while further opening the cracked-open window in the Asama Shrine Representative’s stead.
The morning air entered through the window. But the cooking smells swept outside from the kitchen made their way around and in through the window.
The Weiss Hexen and Schwarz Hexen duo rested their elbows on the windowsill from outside, but they did not look at Watanabe. They were likely on the Asama Shrine Representative and Mito Lord’s “side”. And with those two’s eyes on her, the Mito Lord looked Watanabe straight in the eye.
“I like how the Blue Thunder cooks their baguettes fairly hard, but I can’t deny my familiarity with the place has a lot to do with it.”
“Judge,” said Watanabe with a nod. Then the Asama Shrine Representative spoke up.
“What about you, Watanabe-san?”
“Judge. I’m here inspecting the records of the delivery workers’ battle from the other day.”
Without speaking a word, the Technohexen tried to slink away, but the Mito Lord smiled and grabbed the back of the white one’s collar.
“Have our Technohexen been causing you trouble?”
“No, because they dealt with it internally.”
The Schwarz Hexen grabbed the Weiss Hexen’s shoulders.
“We did it, Ga-chan! We’re innocent!”
You don’t have to say it so loudly.
But, thought Watanabe.
…These two will be the face of the delivery business from now on.
They were the face of a new era. Or at least of the generation after Watanabe’s.
The Mito Lord let go of the Weiss Hexen’s collar and the two Technohexen returned to the windowsill.
That conversation seemed to have removed some of their caution concerning Watanabe because the Weiss Hexen nodded and asked a question.
“Why is the 1st Special Duty Officer inspecting the scene personally?”
“It’s part of my patrol during the festival. And I thought I could grab some breakfast while I was at it.”
“That was a mistake.”
Something arrived just as the Weiss Hexen said that with a glare.
It was the automaton worker named P-01s. She held up an order ticket.
“Now, let me begin. I imagine you get your name called last a lot, so I will start with you, Watanabe-sama.”
Naito thought to herself while resting her elbows on the windowsill.
…I’m really curious, but I might get dragged into this if my curiosity is detected.
She focused on the presences inside the café while keeping her gaze nonchalantly directed elsewhere.
“Please tell me what you would like to eat,” said the automaton. “I will make it for you.”
This is dangerous, thought Naito. Her previous experience told her that P-01s’s cooking was very experimen-…creative.
…Give an unusual answer and you could die…
Naruze wrote something on a Magie Figur next to her.
“Ordering gyudon would probably be incredible.”
Ga-chan’s handwriting is so cute, but that selection is probably a little too incredible for the morning.
Watanabe picked up the menu on the table.
“I just have to order something from here, right?” she asked with a smile.
An obvious grinding of teeth and stirring of bodies came from the customers seated inside. They were definitely saying “don’t do that!”
…Oh, so they’re all here to enjoy the show.
Of course, if they were here as customers, there was a decent chance they would be the one on the chopping block, so were they really okay? Had their sense been numbed by experiencing such extreme stimulation on a daily basis?
But P-01s prepared her order ticket and spoke to Watanabe with a blank expression.
“Then I’ll have the morning combo.”
“What is that?”
It was an immediate response.
Naito noticed everyone in the café had stopped moving. Even Asama and Mitotsudaira opened a single menu in front of the two of them to hide their faces from Watanabe.
Silence fell and Naruze wrote, “So what have they been serving people in the mornings?”
Naito concluded it may have been a collection of leftovers from the night before and then focused on Watanabe’s presence again.
The 1st Special Duty Officer cleared her throat.
“The morning combo is…”
“Toast, coffee, and a fried egg.”
“Coming right uuuuuup!!”
P-01s suddenly shouted with an emotionless voice and dashed toward the kitchen.
“Is this the market?” asked Naruze with a tilt of the head, but P-01s returned precisely 15 seconds later.
And on her tray…
“Here is your morning combo.”
A brown rectangle sat on the plate.
“Since it is a combo, I made sure to combine the coffee, toast, and fried egg.”
That was exactly what it was.
And on the Magie Figur…
Silver Wolf: “Is that like French toast made with coffee?”
Mar-Ga: “No, it clearly looks like she chopped the toast into even pieces.”
Asama: “But, but! I feel like this is better than average for her!”
“Whoops.” P-01s pulled a knife from her apron like she had just thought of it. “I forget to mention it, but since it is breakfast, there is corn soup inside.”
Gold Mar: “It’s all over…”
It was actually a refreshing ending.
But when Watanabe saw the soup with yellow lumps that came out upon cutting open the brown rectangle, she maintained her smile and gestured toward the seat by the entrance.
“Then please serve that to the person seated over there. My treat.”
Mar-Ga: “This girl knows what she’s doing!”
Asama: “Actually, I think this means the damage has finally spread to some outsiders!”
Flat Vassal: “Eh!? Is P-01s-san doing something!? I wish I could see that, assuming I wouldn’t get dragged into it myself!”
Gold Mar: “Oh, so that’s how they get repeat customers.”
Silver Wolf: “I don’t think you can call those repeat customers for the café.”
Naito saw P-01s serve the dish and return.
Her cold footsteps stopped next to Watanabe.
“Now, Watanabe-sama, please order your breakfast.”
Watanabe stared at the menu.
Asama and Mitotsudaira showed Naito and Naruze their menu. It was a breakfast menu and it contained the following items:
- Straight-From-the-Farm Orange Juice
- Today’s Toast
- Five Grain Salad
- Mixed Sandwich
- Fresh Fish & Chips
And it went on like that. But to Naito…
…It all looks dangerous…
Why were they all qualified with stylish words like “today’s” or “mixed”? That only increased the sense of danger.
In a way, the Leftovers – Silver that Adele got in the mornings felt much safer.
But P-01s used her gravitational control to bring over a tray and served everyone glasses of water.
“Now, what will it be, Watanabe-sama?”
“Let’s see…” Watanabe thought. “You will make what I ask for?”
“I will fulfill your order as accurately as possible.”
The automaton had already proven how low the bar was set for “accurately”.
“In that case,” said Watanabe. “I’ll have the toast.”
Well done, thought Mitotsudaira, feeling impressed.
Watanabe had wanted to avoid the Blue Thunder’s dangerous-sounding official morning menu items while also not ordering anything weird. So…
…She removed the dangerous-sounding part from the menu item!
She turned the general idea on its head.
It seemed unlikely toast could turn into anything extreme.
It probably won’t happen, but maybe she should still be on her guard.
“Watanabe-sama,” said P-01s. “What is that?”
“…What do you mean?”
“Let us start with the shape,” continued P-01s. “What shape is the toast you picture in your head?”
Gold Mar: “Philosophy?””
Mar-Ga: “In cooking stories, alcohol is often compared to the universe, isn’t it?”
Silver Wolf: “That is just an excuse made by drinkers. Comparing it to the universe will not cure your alcoholism.”
Asama: “Wait, wait. Why is everyone looking at me?”
But Watanabe remained calm. She pointed at the rectangular English-style loaf of bread on the counter.
“Make two 2cm-thick slices of that, lightly toast them, and bring them out to me.”
“Judge. Thank you very much for the simple explanation.”
“Ohh!” some people cheered while P-01s moved back to the kitchen.
And a few seconds later…
With a sound of impact, the Blue Thunder shook. It was a vertical shaking.
The vibration shook Naito’s wings when it reached the windowsill. And after a few more seconds, P-01s returned.
“I have brought the toast as you requested, Watanabe-sama.”
The automaton held up a plate carrying two slices of toast.
The slices of bread were 2cm thick and they had been lightly toasted.
But something was wrong.
…Umm, is that…?
“Why does the toast still have the crust all around it?”
“Judge. I was told to make two 2cm-thick slices of that, so I sliced it in half and compressed the two halves down to 2cm thick. Oh, and I lightly toasted them.”
“There’s probably no point in asking, but how did you compress them?”
“Judge. …The manager swung the heel of her palm down toward them and crushed them with the pressure of the blow.”
It was best to not wonder why she was capable of that. Because…
“This is the Blue Thunder.”
“Judge. So you understand, Naize-sama. At any rate, I have determined I have completed my mission here.”
P-01s placed the ultra-compressed toast in front of Watanabe.
Watanabe hung her head a little.
“What is it?”
“How did I end up losing here?”
Asama: “I think Watanabe-san would have won if she had said ‘slice that 2cm thick’ instead of ‘make it into 2cm-thick slices’ ”
Far Eastern is a frightening language, thought Naito while P-01s nodded in front of her.
“I am not sure what you mean, but this was not my victory. I successfully fulfilled your order, so I have determined this victory belongs to both of us.”
She set a glass down in front of Watanabe.
“Now, here is your water. Although since it is breakfast, it is corn soup.”
Mitotsudaira focused on drinking her water when she saw two historical firsts: toast that required a knife to eat and corn soup served in a glass.
P-01s moved on to take other orders, but they eventually heard comments from the table behind them.
“Ha ha ha. You ended up with that!?”
“Yeah, but you’ve got that!”
The demonstratives hinted at something truly dangerous.
That said, the manager must have been making sure everything was just barely edible and she would add some sauce or side dishes as needed.
P-01s was only allowed to take orders for a limited time, so it had become a sort of attraction.
…Once her ordering period is over, I think I’ll get a thick-cut bacon sandwich to go.
Or, said Mitotsudaira in her heart. With the festival going on outside, maybe I should grab a meat dish at a stand.
The entire city had smelled like food since the day before and she had had a light breakfast today. She was prepared for some snacking.
…With K.P.A. Italia so close by, there are a lot of stands serving beef cutlets and other fried meats.
I can grab a bite to eat while gathering and preparing our morning supplies and I can grab something else while transporting materials during the afternoon…heh heh heh. That sounds great…
“Mito! Mito! Why do you look so happy sitting there with your eyes closed!? Is the scene so tense that your brain started sending out some weird signals!?”
“H-how rude. I wasn’t-…”
The aroma of some meat from a nearby stand wafted in through the window.
It was apparently a type of kebab. It was somewhat strongly spiced, but that made it all the more aromatic.
“Mito! Earth to Mito!”
She came back to her senses when Asama shook her, but she had been in a dangerous state there.
At any rate, she noticed Watanabe looking at her from across the table.
And the older girl had an amused smile different from her normal smile.
Mitotsudaira was somewhat confused to receive this sudden look.
“Is something the matter?”
“Judge. I just thought it was strange,” said Watanabe while P-01s handed her some jam for her compressed toast. “You’re all traveling down your own paths while also preparing yourselves.”
Watanabe thought, What is it these kids are “gathering”?
Authority, wealth, combat strength, academics, history, spells, and so much else would create differences between people. No matter how much you tried to deny it, people could not be made entirely uniform. How you viewed those differences could lead to inequality.
The Asama Shrine Representative.
The Mito Lord.
The face of the delivery business.
Their class also had the former crown prince.
…Not to mention a merchant who has started to make a name for himself and Crossunite-sensei’s son…
Normally, gathering that many “differences” would lead to something like factions or constraints. It would be entirely normal for them to cut off their interactions with one of the others to protect or strengthen their own position.
But as far as Watanabe could see, they were entirely unreserved while spending time with a vassal girl and all the others.
What did that mean?
Watanabe did not know too much about their class, but there was one thing she was certain of.
…They must have a leader.
There would be a leader that they all knew they were no match for no matter how much authority, wealth, strength, or status they had.
Someone like that had to bind them together.
That would not have happened overnight.
They had ended up like this after spending a very long time below a leader like that. They learned to not worry about the “differences” between them. Thus, these people in front of her, who had so many “differences”, were less like “high school friends” and more like sisters or very old friends.
Watanabe found herself wondering what kind of leader they had.
Was it their homeroom teacher Oriotri?
…No, she’s only been their teacher in high school, so it wouldn’t be her.
So she thought about the other names she knew.
…Could it be?
There was a boy who got along with Torii and always caused trouble during festivals.
He was the master of Remorse Way.
The boy who felt remorse for causing Horizon Ariadust’s death 9 years ago.
Watanabe thought about that boy.
And she asked a question.
Asama listened as Watanabe began her question.
“Could I ask a what-if question?”
“Judge,” she confirmed.
…I have no real obligation to go along with what-ifs…
But this was the 1st Special Duty Officer. It was possible she was using this roundabout method as a way to exchange some kind of information.
In that case, thought Asama while noticing Mitotsudaira and the Technohexen duo looking her way. She adjusted her collar and nodded.
Words were a shrine maiden’s field.
“Let me hear it.”
Watanabe nodded. She looked to Asama while slicing dice pips into her compressed toast.
“Let’s say you have the chance to make a certain decision.”
“What kind of decision?”
Asama could not answer carelessly. This could be taken as the Asama Shrine Representative’s decision, so she pressed the upperclassman for more details. And…
“A decision where you could resolve a major incident by offering up the life of a single individual,” explained Watanabe. “Doing so would change the Far East for the better. If your class had the chance to do that, what would-…”
“We couldn’t,” immediately replied Asama.
Asama actually felt relief when she heard Watanabe’s question.
…A decision that offers someone’s life as collateral?
That was not an option.
And she did not mean that as an idealistic position or as an expression of Shinto’s teachings.
“We would not make that decision.”
“Even if it would benefit the Far East as a whole?”
“Even then, we could not use a method that presupposes a loss like that.”
Only after speaking the words did she realize how she made them sound like a foregone conclusion. She worked to make sure she never lied so she could earn substitutions as a shrine maiden, but…
An image of him flashed through her mind.
She felt like she was following after and protecting him.
“We could never make that decision.”
Watanabe heard the rejection and also saw it with her own eyes.
When the Asama Shrine Representative gave her answer, it was obvious she was not just speaking for herself.
The Mito Lord and the new faces of the delivery business looked to the Asama Shrine Representative with slightly raised eyebrows.
And they all nodded at her rejection.
So Watanabe was confident that someone supported this common understanding of theirs.
There had been no hesitation in the Asama Shrine Representative’s rejection. So if she was not their leader, then they had some other leader capable of convincing her to that extent.
Was it the master of Remorse Way?
…It makes sense.
Someone important to him had been lost before his eyes, so he would naturally feel that rejection.
But, thought Watanabe.
He isn’t the type to lead others.
That told her something about the blatant solidarity in that class.
…It isn’t that he is actively binding them together.
The others had decided to help and protect him as their leader.
Most likely, it was so he would never feel that kind of regret again.
“I see,” said Watanabe. “Your generation is bound to be a powerful one.”
She took a bite of her compressed toast.
It was surprisingly well toasted and the sour flavor of the jam went well with it.
The girls in front of her clearly did not know what she was talking about, so once she finished eating, she and her aide left the Blue Thunder.
And when she stood from her seat…
“Let’s make sure tomorrow’s Gagaku Festival is a success.”
And to do that…
“I’ll need to work hard.”
“Hey, sis, what happened to Asama and the others who went for the afternoon supplies?”
Kimi, who wore part of a soldier costume, turned toward her crossdressing soldier of a brother.
He must have been too busy waiting tables to hear the various divine transmission conversations.
…He really does love being a part of so much hustle and bustle.
Kimi smiled in her heart while grabbing a sign frame posted at the back of the kitchen for taking divine transmission notes. She copied one page and tossed it to her brother.
It said, “We have finished gathering supplies at the Blue Thunder. We had an interesting encounter with 1st Special Duty Officer Watanabe-san there.”
“Sis, what does Asama mean by an ‘interesting encounter’? She didn’t shoot that blonde 1st Special Duty Officer with an arrow, did she?”
“The scary part is that it’s a distinct possibility…”
“Hey, the food is ready,” said Noriki while holding some plates out from the kitchen.
But it was Tenzou who took them with a “judge”. He had modified his white soldier costume to make it ninja-style and he balanced some of the plates from his hands to the inside of his elbows.
“These are all the appetizers, so I’ll get them served real quick.”
“What? You’re going to leave the main dishes to us?”
“Well, I’m not cut out for the small talk.”
“Silly ninja.” Kimi smiled while lining up some drinks on a tray. “You can always talk about yourself.”
She used her empty hand to touch herself. She started with the opened shirt at her chest and then the soldier’s helmet.
“Start by greeting them and then ask them what they think about your costume.”
“And what if they don’t say anything?”
“Then you only have to say, ‘This is the soldier hour, so make sure you do not drink too much and get arrested.’ You talk to them and, if they don’t respond, you smile and continue with the business talk. That’s an important pattern for beginners.”
“Talk to them and, if they don’t respond, smile and continue with business talk?”
“Judge.” Kimi nodded. “Do that and you can pass off your initial question as just part of the standard spiel. Let them know that and they’ll be more comfortable answering you. And then…”
“While taking their order and additional orders, tell them your recommendations and what they should probably avoid. With additional orders, you can tell them what just finished cooking. Taking orders and serving them count as conversations too, so you have to treat them carefully. Also…”
Her brother arrived next to her and he touched the handmade hard point attachment parts Suzu had made.
“Also…I know. You can tell them what parts of the costume are well made and what the most annoying thing about wearing it is. Tell them things that only the people doing it would know and they’ll feel like they’re hearing something they only could have heard by coming here.”
That was true.
It was important that the customers felt they had benefited from their visit and services that accomplished that were encouraged.
But simply showing off the costume would only feel like a benefit to people interested in such things.
That was not enough. You also had to create an enjoyable atmosphere for those who had only visited out of curiosity.
…Everyone likes it when you tell them “just between you and me”.
Is that what you called a shared secret?
The festival lasted three days, but it was generally held during the day. You could not visit too many restaurants in that time. Unless you were Mitotsudaira, but she was a special case. The supply group still had not returned, so they were almost certainly checking out the outside stands. Everyone was trying to make their most of the festival time, but…
“Everyone wants to benefit by making memories in this limited time.”
“So I should go talk to them without worrying too much?”
With that, Tenzou went to go wait on the tables.
He carried himself perfectly. That was a ninja for you. As for the small talk…
“…He tripped over his words,” said Naomasa who looked a little too good in her soldier costume. “I can tell from the way he’s moving.”
Kimi had to agree.
But the ninja’s amateurish reactions would also help make memories for the customers.
Kimi’s brother spoke up while cleaning up some plates next to her.
“Is there anyone out there that can sympathize with the way Tenzou screws up because he tries a little too hard?”
“Everyone on Musashi is too strict about gags for that…”
And just as the siblings nodded together…
The hallway suddenly grew noisy. The presence at the center of the noise was approaching.
“Hey, Toori! You working hard in here?”
The line at the entrance split apart and Torii walked in.
Torii was Musashi’s Chancellor and Student Council President.
Not only that, she was Kimi’s “upperclassman” as a high-level Ootsubaki musician.
She got along well with Kimi’s brother, but she did not hang out with him or accompany him on his path. That was another way in which Kimi saw her as a pure upperclassman.
When they met, Torii would make no distinction between Kimi and her brother.
“Ohh, Kimi! Looking sexy again today.”
“My, my. What brings you here, Chancellor? But no cutting in line. Go to the back if you want to get in.”
“Oh, I’m not here for that. This is part of my patrol.”
Hearing that, Kimi’s brother quickly held his hands over his crotch.
“Chuuko, you aren’t here to arrest me again, are you!?”
“Nah, you’re always like this.”
Torii glared at him, but then smiled bitterly.
Then she looked around.
“Huh? Is Asaman not here?”
“Asama went to the Blue Thunder for supplies. …She said the 1st Special Duty Officer was there too.”
“Oh… So Nabe was there.”
Kimi sensed something odd in Torii’s expression. If she was to sum it up in a single word…
After some thought, Kimi erased the assessment in her heart.
This was not trouble. Her senses corrected her, telling her it was somewhat different. Of course, some of her senses opposed that comfort, but she left it at that since the comfort would win if she kept fighting for 7 more rounds.
It was a connection between facial expression and location.
Torii’s expression had been that of a person avoiding someone who would lecture them. Given Torii and Watanabe’s characters, that was probably a common expression when they interacted.
…She isn’t here.
Why try to avoid someone who was on Tama?
That was why it was not “trouble”.
If anything, it was a look of “annoyance”.
But what was so annoying?
That group of four from the Chancellor’s Officers and Student Council had worked together when exterminating the Hidden Dragon and their band was predicted to give an encore at the Gagaku Festival.
Everything Kimi had heard around town and at school suggested they got along well. So…
…The location must mean something here.
Was there something on Tama?
It would not be the Blue Thunder. It would not be P-01s either. In that case…
Kimi could think of a few possibilities, but there was no one to answer her question. As for Torii herself…
“Okay, I’ve gotta hurry up with my patrol, so I’ll count myself lucky that I got to see you two, Toori and Kimi.”
Torii stretched and there was likely no keeping her here.
She got along well with them, but she was not on their “side” as part of their group.
She had her own “side”. It would be one thing if they knew each other well enough to break down that boundary, but…
…I doubt she wants that.
If she did, she would be making an attempt to come to their “side”.
They must have both understood that because Torii took a step away.
“See you tomorrow at the Gagaku Festival, okay?”
“Judge. We got the final performance, so we’re going to steal the show.”
“Are you now?”
The corners of Torii’s mouth rose.
And when her eyes turned toward the line at the entrance, Kimi spoke to her.
“Yeah? What is it, Kimi?”
“Here,” said Kimi while tossing Torii some cookies in a wrapper.
It was one of their to-go products and Kimi pointed at it with her eyes narrowed.
“If you’re leaving, here’s something to express our thanks. …Think of it like the dog wagging its tail for the VIP. We handmade these, so they’re special.”
“So, ‘Musashi’-san, are you not going to visit the festival?”
“Judge. Musashi as a whole is very busy given the special event. Besides, I can perceive it all with the reports from the automatons stationed across the ship. Over.”
“Musashi” replied to Sakai with a few mops and wooden buckets following behind her.
They were on Okutama’s bow deck. That open area functioned as a viewing deck and the mid-afternoon light washed over it through the stealth barrier.
That pale and warm light came from every direction and did not create distinct shadows on the floor.
Several chairs and oilpaper umbrellas were prepared for the people resting there and “Musashi” lightly bowed to Sakai below one of those umbrellas.
“Excuse me. Over.”
A few things could be heard slicing through the wind as they descended from the sky.
While Sakai took a sip of tea, the fallen objects landed in a neat row behind “Musashi”.
Mop after mop was fired into the floor.
There were 16 in all. “Musashi” waved a hand toward them to adjust her control privileges. And once they all followed her hand’s movement…
“ ‘Takao’, I will send an additional 7. Over.”
With that, she lightly waved her right hand.
Immediately, sign frames appeared over the mops behind her.
They were launch control spells using gravitational control. They focused the Musashi’s gravitational control on a single point, and…
“Securing 6 seconds of clearance on the course from Okutama’s bow to Takao’s starboard side. Launching. Over.”
With the light sounds of objects hitting the air, the mops took flight. Their destination was Takao. The airborne mops arrived there in exactly 6 seconds.
Some of the surrounding people noticed and made impressed comments.
“ ‘Musashi’-sama, this is ‘Takao’. I have received the supplies. Over.”
“Musashi” was already doing something else by the time that report arrived.
She was serving a snack.
She pulled it out of the insulated oven on the second level of the side table she had brought along.
“Sakai-sama, would you like one of the Far Eastern pizzas which are popular on Musashino? Over.”
“When did you buy that?”
“ ‘Akihabara’ who works under ‘Musashino’ bought a few this morning. She delivered this one with a gravitational launch. Over.”
The dish she placed on a plate was wheat dough cooked with vegetables mixed in. It looked easy to eat on the go, and…
“It is folded to keep the chuno sauce and mayonnaise inside. Over.”
“I used to eat these a lot on the way back from school… Oh, I love that it has an egg inside.”
“I have determined I am happy you like it. I have gathered a few other popular items, so I will serve them from every now and then. Over.”
“Thanks, ‘Musashi’-san. But if we’re doing this, why not go take a look around?”
“Musashi” glared at Sakai.
“You always make that invitation during these events, but I can never accept because I must manage the other automatons. Over.”
“Yeah, I know. But it’s so boring going around on my own.”
“Shall I call someone else who is free? Like ‘Okutama’. Over.”
“No, no.” Sakai smiled bitterly and waved his hand side to side. “The invitation was for you since you’re so busy.”
“Is that so?” responded “Musashi”. “Musashi’s population only continues to grow and the festivals grow bigger every year. I doubt I will be any less busy in the future. Over.”
She then produced an insulated bisque bottle from the side table.
“Would you like some tea? Over.”
“Did you buy that somewhere at the festival too?”
“No, this is a valuable item I do not usually use. I determined a festival would be a good time to use it. Over.”
She looked overhead as she said that.
She could see the pale light of the stealth barrier in the sky.
This was Okutama’s bow, so when she looked toward Musashino’s sky instead of straight up…
“That is the Fushimi Castle’s shadow, isn’t it? Over.”
“Will you be singing a song, ‘Musashi’-san?”
“Unfortunately, I do not have the right to participate in the Gagaku Festival. Over.”
She then opened a sign frame.
It displayed the Fushimi Castle’s status. The video footage was a little staticky because it came through the stealth barrier.
“They are currently doing their ‘supply carrying’ training, but what do you think about the mysterious phenomenon purification set to occur during tomorrow’s Gagaku Festival, Sakai-sama? Over.”
“Musashi” saw Sakai look up into the sky.
“The god summoning system using the Gagaku Festival’s dances and music as festival offerings will extract and purify the mysterious phenomena. Musashi doesn’t often get to exterminate something on that level.”
“Judge. So to avoid interference and political dealings from elsewhere, it will be done where everyone can observe rather than inside the Musashi. Aki plans to send out a few student-run viewing ships, but I assume they are actually meant to observe us. Over.”
“Do you think the purification will work?”
“Judge.” “Musashi” nodded. “Based on the Fushimi Castle’s ether storage devices and past statistics from previous god summonings, I expect the ley line stagnation surrounding the Musashi will be extracted. Over.”
“But there’s a problem, isn’t there?”
“Judge.” “Musashi” nodded again. “Extracting the stagnation is possible, but it has existed around the Musashi ever since Mikawa. That is a short time, but I have determined it may have created a ‘mold’. Over.”
“Is there no way to extract that ‘mold’ and destroy it?”
“Based on past statistics, that is dependent on the Gagaku Festival. Over.”
“Musashi” opened a single sign frame.
“During the second half of the Gagaku Festival, Chancellor and Student Council President Torii-sama, who owns the Fushimi Castle, will pave the way toward the purification. She will establish the link between Musashi’s ley lines and the Fushimi Castle’s ley lines and activate the extraction. And…”
“Then Asama-sama’s group will take over and control the extraction and manifestation. That will prevent Asama-sama’s group from moving, but I predict mysterious phenomena on the level of a Hidden Dragon or Non-God Sword will appear from each extractor in turn. …Thus, the Chancellor’s Officers and the rest of the warriors will have to defeat them each in turn. Over.”
“And if they can do that, the ‘mold’ will be destroyed, huh? But if they fail?”
“Musashi” nodded at Sakai’s question.
“The Fushimi Castle will be abandoned and it will self-destruct. The extracted ley line stagnation will return to its ‘mold’ in time, but the Hidden Dragon, Non-God Sword, or whatever else will be unable to maintain themselves for long if their ‘mold’ even temporarily loses its stagnation. It is possible they will do some damage to the Musashi, but…”
She lined up a few mops alongside herself.
“I do have means of defending myself, so I have determined I can respond if necessary. Over.”
“I see. So if they fail, the most damage will be to our reputation.”
“That is a political matter, isn’t it? Over.”
“Musashi” refilled Sakai’s tea.
He nodded and glanced aft.
The academy was located there. “Musashi” looked in the same direction.
“If we fail in an operation meant to protect the Musashi, I have determined it will indicate the Far East is a nation that cannot even defend itself. The Musashi will continue its travels like normal and you will continue on like normal, but it would be a problem for some: the Chancellor’s Officers, the Student Council, the Asama Shrine, and the other name inheritors. I have determined it would damage their reputation, which is used to judge people despite having no concrete value. Over.”
And because of that…
“I would like to see a wholehearted effort from Asama-sama’s group as they manage the purification and from the Chancellor’s Officers, Student Council, vassal unit, and other warriors as they intercept the mysterious phenomena. Over.”
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