Horizon:Kimitoasamade 4B Chapter 15

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Chapter 15: Surprise Stage Performer[edit]

Horizon Kimi4B 291.jpg

That is too flashy

To call an impromptu performance

That is too flashy

To call an audience member

Point Allocation (Intruder)


Watanabe was out in the city.

She lived on Okutama. Specifically, the student dorm wide block on the second underground level.

When she woke, it was already the afternoon and her divine mail inbox was filled with reports on the Tama collapse and security for the Gagaku Festival. She appreciated the occasional messages from Oosuga and Tadayo which both wished her well and kept her updated, but the excessively worried messages from her family made her smile.

She figured stopping by her family home might be a good idea. Oume wasn’t that far away.

But once she arrived on the surface using a crutch, she changed her mind.

There were large images in the sky.

One giant sign frame was visible from the academy schoolyard, the stairs leading down from there, the second schoolyard, and the plaza. There were also countless smaller sign frames on the road to the bow, in the parks, and elsewhere.

They were all broadcasting the Gagaku Festival stage.

This would of course not be limited to Okutama. Every part of all eight ships would be receiving this broadcast.

It would be the same in any underground areas where people tended to gather. You would also be able to view it on a personal sign frame using Musashi’s internal divine TV channel.

“They’re going all out on this one…”

Just like her, everyone else was buying something to eat and drink at the festival stands and sitting down in the parks or streets to take a break.

The music was already audible and the MC was making introductions and jokes.

“—————”

There were impressed voices, laughter when someone messed up, and cheers of support.

That’s right.

Watanabe was not a part of that. There was no point in coming to a stop here.

She tied her hair back with a handkerchief as a sort of disguise and walked to a festival stand.

It had been so long since she just enjoyed the festival atmosphere.

And it might never happen again.

“I’ll leave this to you, everyone.”

She ordered a kebab sandwich in lieu of breakfast and looked to the sign frame in the sky.

Four bands had already performed. It was about time to reach those who had real skill instead of just enthusiasm.


Naruze completed her preparations while listening to the deafening noise around her.

They had been given a 6 square meter room as a dressing room. Below the white light of a glow panel, the reverberation of the Gagaku Festival reached the new wood-floored room with enough force for their things to shake.

The band before them “Yes, We Can Banter” was making an impressive effort. The time limit kept them from doing their specialty MCing and folding screen drawing performance, but their musical performance was overwhelming the audience.

Not bad at all.

They had brought in large folding screen speakers, but how many layers did those use?

A high volume was a powerful weapon in a live performance if you could control it without any crackling. After all, live performances were all about experiencing the sound with your entire body.

This was not the time or the place to be stiff and formal.

So the audience members would each support the band that had excited them the most. That was all it was. No matter how excellent your style, no matter how good your musical talent, and even no matter how terrible a musician you were, popularity at a concert came down to pulling off a power play in your own way.

“In that case…”

Naruze amplified the sound of her guitar and checked the movement of her fingers using the Magie Figur by her ear.

Margot responded with a nod in the opposite chair.

“We use Magie Figurs, so the sound is flatter, but we can pull off anything depending on the power.”

“We need to put Kimi’s tuning data to good use.”

Of course, they could no longer aim for being the loudest band. Going loud after another loud band would only exhaust the audience. They would think “this again?” and it would have the opposite effect.

“But, well, we still need enough volume to keep them from cooling off.”

However, they had an even more useful weapon.

“Let’s go with a different kind of song, music, and…”

Naruze stood up. The sign frame above the door asked them to get ready.

Their time on the stage was nigh.

She reached a hand out toward Margot and the other girl took it. But…

“Margot? What’s so funny?”

“You’re pulling me along with your energy, Ga-chan.”

Naruze thought about what that meant and then smiled a little.

“Well, you put together our stage choreography, so I can’t wait. …Let’s give it everything we’ve got and try to win this thing, okay?”


Suzu was sitting in a seat.

Wow.

The sound was incredible.

The concept of senses seemed to have lost all meaning. The sound seemed to permeate her body just like the heat when she went out during the day.

It almost seemed violent, but…

“No…”

When she opened herself up to the sound, she could tell. All of the reverberations passing through her body were created by people.

She had heard the same thing at her family’s bathhouse and the Asama Shrine.

It was the same as what Kimi, Naito, Naruze, Mitotsudaira, and the others had spent so much time creating.

People who could create such things had gathered here to send out the sounds so that all could hear.

The sound would sometimes crackle with static, but Suzu knew what that was.

It’s like when…you mess up your line.

Or when Tenzou-kun…stumbles on his words.

Looking at it like that helped her relax.

The volume of the performers’ voices came from their desire to have their creation reach the audience. When looking at the intensity as a reflection of their feelings, the songs seemed like such adorable things. After all, the lyrics were mostly about love, one’s own worries, or old stories.

Everyone is…working so hard, thought Suzu.

In that case, was entrusting herself to the voices of those emotional giants the same as letting colossal arms hold her? When people swung their arms and raised their voices to match the singer, were they shedding tears of sympathy in response to that embrace?

Ah.

Suzu felt heat in her cheeks as she realized how eloquent she was being.

She was letting the setting influence her. She needed to listen to the songs to sense their meaning.

“Right.”

Just as she thought that, her surroundings erupted with applause.

“Okay, here they come,” he said while standing next to her.

There was no point in asking who “they” were. Two people would be appearing on the stage.

“Next up is the new second year unit Eisen! The duo is made up of Margot Naito and Marga Naruze. They’ve flown in from the sky while also advertising for their delivery business! They have three songs prepared for us today!”

With the MC’s introduction, the stage rotated.

However, the reverse stage only had two guitars on it.

Where are Ga-chan…and Go-chan?”

Above? thought Suzu as she directed her senses there, but she sensed nothing.

Then where? she wondered.

“Yeah!!”

It came from behind.

Far above the tiered seating, two sets of flapping wings dove down along a shallow angle.

Except they dove toward the audience seating.

It was a direct hit.


The illumination spell spotlights got in the way, thought Naito.

The light in her eyes had confused the landing point. But she had already judged it by eye. She made a head-first dive below the tiered seating and along the passageway leading directly to the stage. And there…

“————”

She had essentially been falling head-first, so she forcibly flapped her wings in midair.

The bursting sound of struck air shook the audience seating, whipped up the wind, and turned her body in a half rotation.

She made a forced midair forward flip to land on her feet.

It was a skill winged species learned to land without lowering their speed when moving at high speeds or in emergencies. Naito had done it on the starboard side. The beating of the air she heard to port had to have been Naruze doing it.

They flipped around and landed hard on their heels. But…

It’s not over yet!

In a second forceful action, Naito used the momentum of the half flip to stand up. And as she tilted forward…

“—————!!”

She flapped her main wings straight backwards.

She flew. She threw the air backwards and instantly reached a height of 20-or-so meters.

The crowd cried out in surprise as they briefly lost sight of her and then found her again. Most of the audience had seen them by now.

Okay!

They flew in tall arcs to land on the stage. Naito to starboard and Naruze to port.

They glided with their wings and arms spread high. They ignored the fluttering of their uniform sleeves and skirts. They could not show any fear of falling, so they raised one knee.

“There.”

They turned to face the audience. Their trajectory took them from the sky to the stage. If they landed like this, the crowd was sure to cheer for them. But…

“Here goes!”

Naito shouted toward the audience. Naruze did the same on the port side. They did so while raising their brooms high in their right hands.

“Verwandlung!!”

Immediately, a metallic cry sounded and their Technohexen equipment was summoned behind them.


Naruze fully spread her black wings.

“Weiss Fräulein…!!”

Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw Margot kicking her golden wings up in the air to starboard.

Her partner clearly matched the timing of her cry.

“Schwarz Fräulein…!!”

And it came.

Their voices were answered by flowers blossoming behind them.

The spell cloth forming their Technohexen outfits budded from a phase space.

Two Technohexen outfits blossomed: a white one for Naruze and a black one for Margot. Naruze thought it created a nice contrast for hers to have a touch of green and Margot’s to have a touch of orange.

Also, Naruze held a white pen and Margot’s broom glowed.

The Orei Metallo embedded in both were flashing with a yellow light to give off a warning. The light was accompanied by an audible warning.

“Expanding allotted space. Everyone, please be careful.”

At the same time, the white and black flowers behind them came and wrapped around them.

Both costumes were nothing more than angularly cut lengths of cloth that resembled bandages. But the Technohexen outfits danced in the air and calmly raced toward their bodies.

It reached their neck, chest, sides, waist, between their legs, between their butt cheeks, around their feet, and at the base of their throat.

“Hee hee.”

Their skin was only visible for an instant.

In exchange for the luxurious feeling of having clothes tailored, their uniforms were spatially cut away and drawn back into the allotted space.

It was like water dripping from their bodies after leaving the bath. And the towels they donned were Technohexen aerial combat uniforms. The clothing tightened around every part of their body and then loosened a bit to allow for some clearance.

Here it comes.

The iconic Technohexen combat equipment was ejected into the air. The Technohexen hats, gloves, shoes, armor skirts, puffy shoulder armor, and the rest were based around M.H.R.R. white and black hard points. They all instantly attached to the Technohexen inner suits.

They lightly spread their elbows in midair and twisted their bodies as if dancing so it all fit in place.

They were now Technohexen equipped with Technohexen hats and long skirts.

But it did not end there. In order to stop the audience from applauding, Naruze and Margot looked each other in the eye and gave a shout.

“Come out, Schwarz Fräulein!

“Come on, Weiss Fräulein!”

A moment later, steel parts were ejected around Naruze and Naito’s raised pen and broom.

These were the Verstärken Schale of Technohexen.


Hold on…!

Masazumi stopped collecting trash as part of the staff and instead looked up at the stage where Magie Figurs were opening in the air.

The large sign frame behind Naito and Naruze was repeatedly replaying the transformation scene from multiple angles.

But what had happened just a few seconds before no longer mattered. Some of the editing was clearly searching for the instant in which they had been naked, but they had bigger problems.

What had been ejected behind those two was what mattered.

Those collections of components looked an awful lot like rifles.

Masazumi was of course familiar with schale besen. Anyone would have learned that much after living on Musashi for a month.

But something was clearly different about these two. The two girls held them up in their right hand or left hand. Others in the crowd commented on the composition of the cowling constructed by the repeated ejections.

“Hey, look at that! It’s a full cowling…”

Yes.

Technohexen attacked using those brooms.

But not even Wild Kamelie’s broom had had a full cowling.

And yet…

“So Musashi now has two full cowling brooms. A white one and a black one.”

Solid sounds continued to arrive from the air.

The cowling brooms achieved their full form in the Technohexen’s hands.

The cowlings used a broom or a pen as a core and square bolts ejected from empty air fixed the parts in place.

At the same time, the white and black Technohexen outfits gained ribbons and their full bodies were fixed in place.

Then ether light pulsed through the joints of the cowling brooms’ parts.

The metallic sound of it all fitting together rang loud and far.

“Here we go…”

The Magie Figurs they held up forcefully detonated.

The familiar voices of Naito and Naruze rang through the explosion of light.

“Complete! Zwei Fräulein!”


Naito was awash in bursting light.

The explosion of light came from more than just their Magie Figurs. The large sign frame meant to decorate the stage had also exploded.

Wow, we’re just going with it, aren’t we!?

We didn’t ask if we could do that, so I hope it’s okay.

She then landed on the stage and turned toward the audience. She raised her broom on her left and pointed her right hand toward the crowd.

But she could not see them with all the giant sign frame’s fragments filling the air as ether light.

There was just one thing she knew: she heard nothing at all from the crowd.

She could not hear anything even from the Magie Figur she had next to one ear as a personal speaker. The only sound was the shattering of the many sign frame fragments.

No, she could hear one other thing: her own pulse. That rhythm beat in her temples.

Am I feeling impatient?

She wanted to see the audience. She wondered what everyone was doing there.

Was there any point in the poses she and Naruze were striking?

She did not know.

They had learned from the rehearsal, so the two of them stood a good distance apart on the stage. But was that working against them? Or wasn’t it?

In the end, they had done what they had done, so it felt like they just had to do what they could do. But…

“Margot.”

She heard her partner’s quiet voice from the Magie Figur by her ear.

“Don’t worry. Don’t forget that I hear the same thing.”

That reminded Naito of a moment from the past.

Oh, yeah. That’s right.

Even if there was no sound outside of them, they heard the same thing.

It was not logical. That was about right for someone who acted on momentum. Thanks, Ga-chan.

So Naito stomped her heel while still pointing towards the silent audience. She stomped the intro tempo loud enough for the audience to hear. That way they could start the first song at any time.

Naruze stomped her foot in response.

Once they knew they were together, their stomping grew in intensity. Naito shook her body and shoulders, tensed her sides, and finally let her broom float up.

Ah.

The light was clearing away.

The ether light fragments scattered like cherry blossoms and the crowd came into view in the night.

None of them said anything. But…

“Ah…”

Every single person there had stood up from their seats. So Naito relaxed her mouth and…

“Hoiiiiiii!!”


“What kind of call was that?”

Suzu smiled bitterly at Neshinbara’s comment. But…

“Hoiiiiiiiiiii!!”

The audience erupted. And it was started by the students in the tiered seating who wore Technohexen outfits. They were apparently the academy’s Technohexen. They all pointed toward Naito and Naruze, and…

“…!”

They all gave their own cheers of encouragement and excitement. Their voices formed a wave and moved the rest of the crowd.

“———! —————!”

When Naito and Naruze swayed on the stage, everyone raised their arms and cheered in unison.

Just then, Naito and Naruze opened their mouths.

They played music and began to sing.


“They’re going with Eisen for the first song!?”

Kimi nodded at Mitotsudaira’s question while making some final adjustments to their tuning data.

They had a lot of equipment, so their dressing room was 12 square meters. Even so, there was barely any space left and they could hear Naito and Naruze’s voices as well as…

“Listen to those cheers. The crowd is really into it. They’re loving this Technohexen exhibit.”

“Our Magie Herrlich knows no bounds…!” they sang.

They really do seem to know no bounds, thought Kimi while narrowing her eyes.

Since their first song was the poppy Eisen…

“I bet their second song will be the softer Morgen Nacht.”

“Eh? Should they really be lowering the energy of their Technohexen song?”

“Everyone is focused on them thanks to their entrance, so it would be a waste to rely on pure energy and volume for two songs in a row. That’s why they chose Eisen as the first song. It’s a new Technohexen song instead of an old one and it’s about their position at the top of the delivery business. They’re showing off everything the audience wants to see and hear from them. …These outfits and this song give a clear answer as to what happened to them after the battle the other night.”

“In that case,” said Mitotsudaira with her eyebrows somewhat raised. “They will choose a more traditional Technohexen song like Morgen Nacht because they are confident everyone is focused on them?”

“I imagine Naito ordered the songs this way because she predicted this.”

Naruze would have started with Morgen and gone with gradually increasing energy from there. But…

“When I woke this morning,” sang one Technohexen. “You were not by my side.”

Kimi was right. It was Morgen.

“Do you get it? Because the previous band focused on volume, they used the lingering intensity to fuel their own entrance. But they have actually been gradually lowering the energy level. The previous band performed three loud songs → a flashy entrance after only a short break → a pop song. So going with Morgen here only continues the trend. And since everyone has calmed down while focused on them…”

“Is there no avoiding it?” sang the Technohexen.

Then the girls in the audience cheered.

Mitotsudaira was sensitive to sound, so she looked up. And with a bark from the Cerberus…

“Wh-what was that?”

“Heh heh. I imagine they hugged and kissed. I mean, they stood far apart on the stage during the first song, right? But now that everyone is looking at them, they went for Morgen, which puts them closer together. They’re probably using the whole stage to move together and separate.”

“It’s the same as always,” they sang. “Why are you crying?”

Another cheer.

To 1st years, 2nd years were adults. To 3rd years, they were cute underclassmen. They were also flashy white and black Technohexen, so having them embrace was bound to get a response.

But in that case…

“Kimi, this might be exciting in a quieter sort of way, but what about the next song? They’ll have to get things boiling again, but aren’t things a little too quiet for that now?”

“Those two have the perfect song for building excitement, don’t they? A song everyone is familiar with so they can pick up on it easily.”

Namely…

“Kin Kon Kan Kon. …That’s up next.”


Naomasa was adjusting the power output in the engine division.

The festival was effectively over on Musashi. They had been providing extra power for the festival, but she wanted to return that to its original standby setting before too late at night. Musashi and the engine division agreed on this, so Naomasa was using Jizuri Suzaku to directly adjust the largescale power devices.

The work itself was simple. She used Suzaku and a specialized wrench to turn bolts taller than she was. The bolts were connected to stoppers within the control devices, so…

“The bolts are something like a faucet.”

However, there were a lot of them and the output balance would get screwed up if it took too long to finish. That required cooperation from the other gods of war, but…

“Hey! Quit getting distracted by the Gagaku Festival footage!”

“But your classmates are performing!”

“And if I can hold off on watching it, so can you! You’re recording it, aren’t you!?”

She heard some bitter laughter, but she also heard the song.

Kin Kon Kan Kon.

A few days ago, Naito had asked her how she would like to be mentioned in the lyrics. But…

When I told her I wouldn’t be offended if she just left me out, she looked legitimately confused.

Most likely, Naito had not been doing it out of kindness. She was just a perfectionist who wanted to get the entire class into the song.

If there had been any hint that Naito was putting her in there so she wouldn’t feel left out, she would have refused to be in the song. But Naito had looked utterly disgusted and waved her hands back and forth.

“No, no, no. That would just be creepy.”

“Then don’t bother. I don’t like standing out anyway. Besides, looking at the lyrics, you do mention ‘everyone’.”

“Judge, judge. Then I’ll rewrite it like that.”

What Naomasa heard next may have been the result of that conversation.

“Kin kon kan kon.”

“Everyone does their own thing.”

That’s right, thought Naomasa. Everyone does their own thing.

This would be the first time the audience heard the song, but they could all sing along to the “kin kon kan kon” part. So when it came to that part, Naito or Naruze would hold their microphone toward the crowd:

“Kin kon kan kon…!”

It was endearing how everyone’s voices were not quite in sync. But live performances like this were not about everyone being together. It was important for everyone to do their own thing while thinking about the same thing.

So Naomasa hummed along to the music and the others in her team was probably doing so as well.

“C’mon, let’s move on to the next controller! We can leave this one to Old Man Taizou!”


“Musashino” watched the Technohexen finish their song while cheers and applause washed over them.

She stood on the open-air bridge to the rear of the Fushimi Castle. That deck was a level higher than the top of the tiered seating, so Naruze and Naito had used it to jump into the audience.

“Musashino” saw Naruze waving back at everyone who was thanking her.

Cases like this are rare for Naruze-sama, aren’t they?

The automatons did not have much data accumulated on Naruze. “Musashino” decided they needed to monitor her reactions to things since she would be a representative of the delivery business.

The rest of the bands would also have unique requirements.

“Musashino” had worked to set things up differently for each band. Asama had already given her ether pathways for each one. Using those as a baseline, she still had time to set everything up.

There was no need to go that far before.

But Eisen had taken a lot of work.

She had been relieved that they did almost no adlibbing, but they had fired up the audience far more than expected.

Eight devices for storing ley line stagnations were installed below the Fushimi Castle’s deck. A few of those had grown warm from the people’s excitement during the Gagaku Festival.

“But this performance shifted a few of them into startup mode. Over.”

The question was how much more excitement the 3rd year band would produce. Eisen had only achieved that response because several factors had aligned just right.

But now that the containers had started up, they would begin extracting ley line stagnations. And “Musashino” wanted to control the power output of the bands that could influence that. So…

I need to set up individual settings.

Just as she decided on that, she received a divine transmission from “Kokubunji”, one of her subordinates.

Kokubunji: “ ‘Musashino’-sama, the Chancellor has contacted us. She says her band wants to go all out, so she would like control of the Torii clan’s Fushimi Castle during their performance. Over.”

She was essentially telling “Musashino” to stop managing the power output so the performance could be as exciting as possible.

“Musashino” thought the request was a reasonable one. She would be busy enough setting up the output settings for the rest of the bands and the Chancellor’s band was bound to be exciting regardless, so she could let the owner of the ship control her own band’s performance.

Musashino: “It is a good idea, but I unfortunately cannot allow it. Over.”

Yes, she could not hand over full control of the Fushimi Castle. If she did, she could not ensure the safety of everyone aboard. So…

Musashino: “I will keep control of ship movement and return control of the stage output and storage devices to the Torii clan. How about that? Over.”


Magoichi was surprised at how well she fit in here.

She lived a life centered on combat, so she was aware there was little entertainment in it.

So she was surprised to find this unfamiliar type of music seemed to jump inside of her.

“Is it the drums…?”

She knew little about music, so she could not describe it. But the drums sounding in the back shook her more than the string instruments on top.

When focusing on the music that sounded on top, she could identify which parts were European and which were Far Eastern, but the beating drums carried her away whether or not she understood it or focused on it.

Of course, this was not just a fundamental rhythm.

If that was all it was, the people around her would not be standing up and cheering.

But it was familiar enough to her that she could tap her feet to the beat.

She had never heard any of these songs before, so she found that strange.

But…

She had felt a rude gaze for a while now.

And it was not the curious looks a name inheritor often received. It was a cautious gaze watching to see if she would try anything.

If Mototada had her way, no one would be monitoring her. To ensure no one interfered, she would not inform anyone else and just let Magoichi handle it. That was what Mototada would do and the people close to her would respect that.

In that case, thought Magoichi. Do I have Watanabe from yesterday to thank for this?

She had heard that Watanabe was injured and had dropped out of the Gagaku Festival. She had not actually contacted Mototada’s group, but nothing had happened on the way here and the audience had not been filled with personnel meant to target her.

The gaze she felt now was the work of an individual.

She could think of plenty of reasons someone might be after her life, but this person would have acted by now if that were the case. Instead, they simply observed her.

Someone was definitely watching her to see what she would do.

The odd feeling about her surroundings told her it was definitely just the one person.

This was an individual act.

Watanabe could no longer be here as the 1st Special Duty Officer, so she must have asked someone else to keep an eye on Magoichi.

But who did the gaze belong to?

There was definitely someone in the crowd whose movements were slightly off from the rest. She picked up on it subconsciously, but when she actually focused on it, she could not quite locate it. The directionality of her focus was so much stronger than her subconscious senses that she crushed whatever it was she had sensed.

She had spent some time trying to trick herself by sending out a presence in search of whoever it was, but she had had no luck.

Whoever it was had to be skilled.

Also, the ninja student next to her was far too noisy. He had to be a 2nd year. That made him a year her elder, but he held ninja sword glow sticks between his fingers and swayed back and forth far too much. He was currently shouting at the mummy-style band, Dry Verse.

“Dry-chaaaaaaan! H-hwaaaaaah!”

In a way, his bad example helped her calm herself. Hiding his face behind a hat and scarf may have allowed him to become entirely shameless.

Of course, she set aside the fact that such thoughts did not belong here. However…

“Okay, we’re getting close to final performance now! Are you all ready for the mysterious phenomenon purification!? Then let’s do some stretching to help you relax and get fired up! …Oooookay! Everyone together now! …Oooookay! Are you in sync now!? No one fell asleep!? Then it’s time for the penultimate performance. I know you’ve all been waiting for Kagami, the Chancellor’s Officers and Student Council band!”

That was Mototada’s band.

The stage rotated, lots of white smoke rose from it, and a sudden sound started.

The MC gave a shout.

“Their first song is Mismatch. Their keyboardist, Watanabe-san, is out after being caught in the collapse last night, but I’m sure the others will work extra hard to make up for her absence!”

“Collapse-chaaaaaaaan! H-hwaaaaaaaaaahh!”

Shut up, ninja. And do you have to add “-chan” to every random word that comes along?

But if Mototada was on stage…

Both of us just have to leave things in the other’s hands.


After changing the color of his ninja sword glow sticks, Tenzou saw Magoichi suddenly stand up where she sat next to him.

Has she noticed I’m watching her!?

She was a name inheritor and a Gun Master who primarily fought as a sniper. It would not be surprising if she had picked up on him watching her.

That was why he had spent what little time he had preparing. He had memorized the high points of all the bands’ announced songs and lyrics. He had studied the most common moments for reactions and cheers. He had also trained himself to chatter on and on for about 20 minutes about band trivia if she happened to talk to him.

Had she seen through it?

But after she stood up…

“Excuse me. I’m feeling a little sick.”

Eh? Did I take it too far?

Immediately assuming that might be a flaw of mine.

But Magoichi bowed to the people around her and walked to the aisle. Everyone was quick to respond once they noticed. They stood from their seats and stepped back to let her through.

Where is she going?

If she left here, she would be unable to “slay” Torii.

Guards and automatons were monitoring things and the passageways were sealed off except where necessary for the Gagaku Festival. If she tried to force her way through, it would cause an immediate commotion on this 300m ship.

“In that case…”

He could not let her notice him watching her.

Torii’s band was visible on the rotating stage. The crowd’s cheers grew and their voices began to align.

But the gunner was leaving.

What is this?

Just as he wondered that…

“Hm?”

He felt a certain reverberation in his body.

A small but definite vibration reached his feet from the deck.

The music was already beginning the long intro of the first song, but Tenzou sensed a sound hidden behind it.

What is this!?


Suzu sensed something was off.

Huh?

What was this? Separate from the music, the cheers, and the stomping feet, she sensed a dissonant sound coming from somewhere on the ship.

Below?

The sound reaching her from there had been absent before. It sounded like large objects turning, connecting, spreading, and opening. It all reached the bottom of her feet from below the deck.

“U-um…Toori…-kun?”

She called to him who was now a crossdressing karate fighter.

“Something’s…starting?”


Asama listened to Torii’s band’s music from behind the stage.

Wow, their precision is unbelievably high…

Several bands had already performed, but this band was really good at blending the sounds of each member, just like a band from a school club.

Watanabe was absent and her part was being played from the song’s offering data. Asama had expected that part to stand out some, but Tadayo on guitar and Oosuga on drums matched the timing perfectly.

“Heh heh. Not bad. When we’re extracting the mysterious phenomena, we need to match our sounds too, okay?”

“Yes. By ‘matching’, we will connect with the Musashi. Then we will tune the activated storage devices and extract it all during our performance.”

“They say that Hidden Dragon or something might appear when we do, but we can leave that to the Chancellor’s group performing over there and to Adele’s group.”

Mitotsudaira explained that while holding the Cerberus in her arms.

And when Kimi rested her guitar on her shoulder, a sign frame appeared.

“Huh? Toori-kun? Is this for Kimi? …No?”

“Oh, what’s this?” asked Kimi as she turned around and Mitotsudaira tilted her head. They all looked to the text on the sign frame, but it was not all from him. He was relaying a question from someone else.

Me: “Bell-san noticed a bunch of movement down below. She says it’s growing and getting in the way of the music. …So what’s going on?”

“Eh? The storage devices for the extracted stagnations are below here. They should have started up by now.”

Silver Wolf: “Yes, and during our performance, they will begin to run and purify the mysterious phenomena.”

“I can’t directly check since ‘Musashi’ and the other automatons are in control of them, but is Suzu-san saying they’re already running and not just starting up?”

“Wait,” said Kimi. She turned a sharp look toward Asama. “Send a divine transmission to ‘Musashino’. …See if the extraction system is still running.”

Asama nodded, sent the divine mail, and knew Kimi was right.

She had put together some settings for the ether pathway control during the Gagaku Festival.

“Musashino” was supposed to be using those to run the entire ship.

In the planning meeting, they had planned for the storage devices below the Fushimi Castle’s deck to be fully activated during their performance. That would activate the ley line pathways to the Musashi and extract all of the stagnations.

So if Suzu really was sensing the continuation of the startup process, why was it happening already?

Asama knew the audience’s excitement from Naito and Naruze’s performance and from the other bands had heated up the storage devices and extraction system, but the full startup process would still need the extractors and storage devices to begin physically moving.

In that case…

Musashino: “Asama-sama, I have confirmed it. And I would like to confirm something with you as well. Over.”

Asama: “Understood. And what is it you want to confirm with me?”

Musashino: “Judge. Have you transferred your authority to Torii-sama? Over.”

That question elicited a “huh?” from Asama.

Asama: “Are you not running the extraction system early?”

That was what she had assumed.

It was possible their performance would not live up to expectations and the extraction would not go well. So running the extraction system during Torii’s band could help prepare things.

But that was not it. And to prove it…

Musashino: “No, I am not. Over.”

“Musashino” continued as if to clarify her short response.

Musashino: “Currently, I control the ship’s flight management, but Torii-sama controls the extraction system and stage management. Over.”


“…What does that mean?”

Mitotsudaira looked toward Torii’s band from behind the stage.

Of course, all they could see from here was the thick wooden wall between the two stages.

But the three people performing beyond that wall were creating a certain situation.

“The Chancellor’s group is trying to do the mysterious phenomenon purification we were supposed to do!”


“Musashino” was unsure which standards to base her decision on.

Of course, that kind of hesitation only lasted a few moments for an automaton. She divided that short time into countless pieces and used the instant to work her thoughts.

She first needed to think about a stable flight plan for the Fushimi Castle, but she currently worked on a different task.

That was what she needed to think about next.

What Torii-sama’s band is doing.

The extraction system below the deck was approaching actual work.

The simplest motivation would be a desire to steal Asama’s band’s role.

But why they would want to do that was unclear.

Why would they tear down Operation Emptying the Cup, which they had planned out together and all agreed to?

She also felt like she had allowed this to happen.

She had temporarily given Torii control.

It had been a suggestion from the Chancellor and Student Council President, the Fushimi Castle belonged to her clan, and she played a role in the operation. That was why “Musashino” had agreed to give her temporary control.

Torii was now “using” that in her own way.

“Musashino” had been naïve.

The decision itself had not been a mistake. A captain automaton could not refuse a suggestion from the Chancellor and Student Council President.

But she had made a mistake in a different way.

“—————”

She had not considered the “what ifs” when transferring control to Torii.

Trust was a matter of statistics for automatons. So “trust” itself had no value. When it worked well, it was the best form of security, but when it did not, it was the worst form of security hole.

She did not know why Torii was doing this, but the girl was preparing to carry out the operation early and under her own control. So what could “Musashino” do?

“I must prioritize success of the operation on this expedited timetable! Over!!”

The overall objective was to purify the mysterious phenomena threatening Musashi.

Asama’s band had planned to play that role, but Torii was doing it now.

However, if I stop the extraction system now, all our preparations will be for naught!

“Asama-sama.” “Musashino” spoke to Asama. “I apologize for my poor management. Over.”


After admitting to her mistake and taking a breath, “Musashino” looked to the stage.

In that place about 200 meters away, Torii was singing and dancing, but she turned toward the automaton.

Could she see her?

That question was meaningless. Torii was already giving her a smile with lowered eyebrows and waving her hand side to side. It was an apologetic act.

“Torii-sama…!”

“Musashino” wanted to ask why, but did that mean she was growing too interested in humanity?

At any rate, the first song came to an end.

Just then, “Kunitachi” gave a shout while monitoring the extraction system behind “Musashino”.

“The storage system has been fully prepared within the extraction system! The extraction system is running! Over.”


Suzu felt a definite sound with her entire body.

It came from 8 places below her feet. The metallic shaking had stopped and something else made itself known.

What was it?

She felt it was bad for whatever-it-was to ignore its surroundings and continue on like this. And…

Eh?

The ship was moving. It was approaching the Musashi with somewhat rushed movements.

“Um, Bell-san? What’s the matter? Is something happening again?”

She could not say yes.

Intense noise and heat struck the Fushimi Castle before she could.

It was lightning. But it was not pure lightning from the sky.

No!

It was an attack.

Electricity crackled along the Fushimi Castle and struck it.


“…!”

Suzu sensed the 300m ship shake and heard panicked shouts from the tiered seating.

Everyone in the audience stood up and looked up at the attack from empty air.

“Is it the mysterious phenomenon purification!?”

“No…that shouldn’t have started yet. And it shouldn’t be so sudden!”

A confused stir ran through the crowd as every last one of them looked up to the sky.

But it did not end there.

More heat and noise struck the Fushimi Castle from the empty space below it.

There should not have been any storm clouds. Suzu covered her ears over Noise Neighbor.

“…Here it comes!”

It came.

The lightning from below bent like a giant whip but also wrapped around the ship like a solid chain to capture the Fushimi Castle.

It produced a tremor that felt like the floor rising up.

The ship shook.

There were 8 lightning attacks in all. They were in constant motion as they sent heat to the audience and stage.

“—————!”

There was also a great roar.

Eh?

But it was not from the lightning strikes. This had more substance to it. It was descending from the sky.

It was located beyond the stage. She heard the rotating stage’s wall shattering, the falling splinters, and the swooshing of the armor stripped from the ship. And…

“Ah…”

The back of the rotating stage was destroyed by a massively heavy falling object.

The splintering sound Suzu heard pointed to a certain fact.

Asama-san…Kimi-chan…and Mitotsudaira-san….!

But something moved forward before she could sense anything from those three girls.

This time, Suzu properly sensed the giant form that leaped toward the audience from the splintered stage.

It was…

“The Hidden Dragon from before!?”

No, everyone had defeated that. So another one must have been created. However…

“There’s…more!”

It was not just the Hidden Dragon. Giant forms appeared from 8 locations on the deck.

They had humanoid and blade-like shapes seemingly made from combined swords. There were 8 in all and Suzu knew what to call them.

Non-Gods.

The 8 Non-Gods stood up around the Hidden Dragon with ether light enveloping them.


Tenzou saw a dragon just as large as the one he had faced along with Asama and the others.

It brought its fore legs and hind legs together in the space between stage and audience.

“Evacuate!!”

He had no idea if his cry reached them in time.

And even if they did escape the dragon, Non-Gods were standing up in 8 directions.

Not good!

The plan had been for one Non-God to appear at a time during Asama’s band’s songs.

But this was all of them at once. And they were joined by a large Hidden Dragon.

Their training would have been enough to respond if it were the Hidden Dragon and a Non-God or two.

But…

The enemy took action before he could finish that thought.

The Hidden Dragon used its wings to perform a full charge.

The Fushimi Castle was instantly transformed into a battlefield.