Horizon:Kimitoasamade 4B Chapter 19
Chapter 19: Gifter at a Promised Place
In the past
I didn’t even hope
It would reach you
Point Allocation (I’m Glad I Did It)
Torii awoke in a white room.
“I didn’t expect the spirit world to look like an infirmary.”
“No, you idiot.”
When she turned her head to the side, she realized she was lying down.
She was on a bed with a blanket over her, and…
“Whoa, I’m naked! Wait, who are you calling an idiot, Tadayo? And, Suga too? What are all of you doing alive?”
Oosuga looked up from the light novel he was reading at the foot of the bed.
“To make a long story short, once I graduate, I’m headed to the surface to travel around with my teacher.”
“You’re running away after causing so much trouble!? Not that I actually know how much trouble it caused.”
“I’m staying behind to help bring up our underclassmen, so I’m not too happy about that trouble, you moron.” Tadayo sighed in a chair by the head of the bed. “Besides, I might have gone along with it up until the false god showed up, but once Suzuki failed, I worked on regaining control of the ship. I just about fell off the bow, so I made sure to get the ether fuel stopped.”
“So you weren’t willing to make yourself an enemy, huh?”
“I’m still supporting you, but I’m also a little angry.”
Tadayo glared at Torii, but she also pressed on the girl’s forehead to get her to lie back down.
“What are you doing, Tadayo?”
“Well,” said Tadayo. “For now, I’m telling you congratulations on completing your history recreation. You died.”
After a pause, Torii spoke to Tadayo.
“Pretty sure I’m still alive.”
“Not as a name inheritor, you’re not.”
“It seems the Testament Union decided it would be trouble to let us keep a name inheritor who could complete a god summoning. But…”
Tadayo lightly tapped Torii’s chest.
“According to the Asama Shrine Representative, your ‘mold’ was damaged enough to keep you from using spells for a while and, even once you recover, you’ll be back down at the low level.”
“Is that because I made myself a vessel for stagnation?”
“Don’t ask me,” said Tadayo while lifting her legs.
She rested both her feet on top of Torii.
“Ow, ow, ow, ow! Pinning me down in the nude!? You’re into some kinky stuff!”
“Shut up. Well, whatever the reasons or justifications are, you really have caused a lot of trouble this time. How are you going to explain yourself?”
“What is a festival without a little excitement?”
Oosuga smiled bitterly at that.
“Deep down, you’re probably far more of a poet than me.”
“Anyway, I don’t mean to change the subject…but where’s Nabe?”
“You know this is the Fushimi Castle’s medical room, right? With all that stagnation, everyone on the ship is under quarantine, so only the head of the Asama Shrine is allowed in or out as an inspector.”
Tadayo opened a sign frame displaying a divine transmission from Watanabe with “we need to talk later” for the subject. Torii grimaced when she saw it.
But after a while, Torii threw her arms up over her head.
“So I can’t do anything anymore, huh?”
“You can still sing and dance, can’t you?”
“Yeah,” she said with a smile. And, “Huh?”
She heard music from the ceiling.
“What’s this? A second Gagaku Festival?”
“With a certain idiot making a mess of things at the end and the Asama Shrine Representative’s band unable to play with their instruments destroyed, anyone who wants to play was given the right to an encore. Everyone who can still play is performing when they feel like it.”
“What were the votes like before our performance? Who was at the top?”
“Oh.” Tadayo pointed toward the ceiling. “The Technohexen pair. Include the votes after that and it went to the Asama Shrine Representative, but her band didn’t even play.”
“I see,” said Torii.
“Torii, you need to talk with people more,” said Oosuga.
“I do talk with people.”
“Not what I meant,” he replied. “You need to say what it is you really think. …Do that and I bet everyone will understand what you did today.”
“What if I don’t care if they understand?”
“Then why are you still alive?” Oosuga took a breath. “Everyone wants to hear from you. Before you graduate, you need to practice doing that, including how to let them know how powerless you are now. That’s your senior project.”
The half-destroyed stage was unusable, so they instead used the tiered seating below the open-air bridge.
They had simply added some scaffolding partway up, but the wall behind them reflected the sound nicely.
Naito and Naruze were singing there in the light of illumination spells.
They had changed into their school uniforms, but…
“Kin kon kan kon…!”
They held hands and twirled around while singing the most requested song.
Some of the audience had removed their equipment and some had not, but they all sat on the badly damaged deck and ate a dinner comprised of the surviving stands’ products.
Time passed slowly there and the bonfires of the festival’s final night burned on the ships visible directly horizontal of the Fushimi Castle.
Everyone sighed as they occasionally waved at those lights and looked up at the fireworks.
“Honestly…” they said while singing along to the “kin kon kan kon” part. “The closing bell just never seems to ring.”
When most of them were taking a break, someone stood by the deserted half-destroyed stage.
Mitotsudaira placed the Cerberus down on that raised part of the deck.
The small three-headed wolf looked up at her and tilted all three heads.
The creature barked, but light enveloped her body.
That bluish-white light was occasionally scattering up into the sky.
The ether forming her body was breaking apart and disappearing.
Mitotsudaira crouched down and looked at the Cerberus.
She was Mitotsudaira’s justice.
Such a small and proud thing.
But the three heads seemed ignorant of the fact that she was disappearing. She stuck out three tongues as if waiting for some food.
So Mitotsudaira pulled three small treats from her shrine maiden outfit’s hard point.
These were the last she had on hand.
She had more at home, but she was glad she had not calculated everything out to use them all up.
Each of the heads bit at one of the bone-shaped treats.
The Cerberus must have been happy because the three pairs of eyes narrowed.
“Could we keep her from disappearing by continually giving her ether treats?”
“That would require an incredible amount since it would be supporting her very existence instead of just fueling a biological body. …You would essentially have to submerge her in ether fuel.”
Only the owner would like that, thought Mitotsudaira with a bitter smile.
But she was glad the creature was happy as she disappeared. And most importantly…
“I’m glad I came to understand you.”
“I enjoyed being with you and it made me happy.”
She picked up the Cerberus.
Kimi immediately began mock crying behind her.
“Oh, this is such a tragedy! Mitotsudaira doesn’t have any boobs to bury her in!”
Mitotsudaira felt a flash of anger, but Kimi may have been trying to keep her from feeling too sad.
However, the Cerberus was looking up at her from her arms.
Just as their eyes met, the three heads nodded. Or she thought they did. And…
The light left her arms and rose into heaven.
Mitotsudaira was still looking up at the light ascending into the sky.
The bluish-white ether light was vanishing. Tears welled up in the corners of her eyes and threatened to spill out, so she held her breath, kept herself perfectly still, and held her own body. And then…
While staring up into the sky trying not to cry, she noticed something odd.
She felt like there was something in the arms wrapped around herself.
There was a definite weight in them.
She gasped while still looking upwards. This was an illusion. Her body was desperately trying not to forget what it felt like to hold the Cerberus.
She gasped again when she heard three barks.
She looked down toward her chest even though that let the tears fall.
There she was. The three-headed wolf was right there in her arms.
The small forelegs were tapping at her chest as if to complain she was squeezing too tight.
“What does this mean?”
Mitotsudaira lifted up what she held.
This was real.
She held the exact same Cerberus in her hands and the creature was exposing its belly in resignation.
Mitotsudaira belatedly raised her voice and placed the Cerberus on the half-destroyed stage. That put the three- headed creature at her chest height.
The Cerberus sleepily stretched forward and yawned with all three heads at once. And then…
“Okay! Mito! I’ll register her, so let me see your hand!”
Asama tugged on Mitotsudaira’s right hand.
Asama rushed through the process in front of a noticeably bewildered Mitotsudaira.
She opened several Mouse-related sign frames and used her Asama Shrine Representative privileges to give approval.
She placed Mitotsudaira’s hand on the sign frames in a few places as a signature.
“Um, that should do it. …Complete!”
“Clap!” said Hanami.
“Huh?” said Mitotsudaira. “Wh-what is going on!?”
“A good question, Mito!” Asama could feel the excitement of explaining Shinto matters rising within her. “I just registered the Asama Shrine’s first…no, probably Shinto’s first Cerberus Mouse!”
“Th-that doesn’t really answer my…um…what is going on!?”
Mitotsudaira pointed alternately between the night sky and the Cerberus going to sleep in front of her.
“She just disintegrated up into the sky, but then she was in my arms and now she’s going to sleep like this. So, um…”
“Calm down, Mito.”
Asama patted Mitotsudaira on the shoulder and held out a hand to surround the Cerberus in a torii-style cage.
“Basically, it means you looked after her properly.”
Mitotsudaira did not know what Asama meant.
She was unsure whether or not she could celebrate what had happened.
“Um, what do you mean I looked after her properly?”
“Well, you see.” Asama was in full-on Shinto explanation mode. “She was born when the stagnation and Musashi’s pure ether was shaped by the ‘mold’ of a local spirit and a portion of your emotions. Do you understand that much?”
Mitotsudaira did. But saying the wrong thing here would only encourage Asama’s Shinto explanation mode, so she simply nodded.
“Good, good,” said Asama. “But ‘molds’ can change. She might have started as a ‘mold’ of your emotions and a local spirit, but your care allowed her to understand what she is and that made her ‘mold’ more like you.”
“Even if the Musashi leaves this airspace, her ‘mold’ will not be broken. Because her ‘mold’ is now more like you than the local spirit.”
Mitotsudaira understood what that “mold” meant.
The change must have occurred during the previous battle. Mitotsudaira had come to understand the meaning of the “mold’ and had taken action based on it. So the Cerberus had fully accepted herself.
Of course, it was their brief life together that had built them up to that point.
This small justice had decided to look to her and join her. But…
“Why did she ascend into the sky just now?”
“That was probably just the stagnation portion.”
Mitotsudaira was dumbfounded by how casual Asama sounded.
…Is it really that simple!?
But Asama picked up the torii cage and held it up.
“Losing that much of its base ether has left her deficient as an ether life form, so it’s a good thing she didn’t try to hide or run away. I’ll preserve her, so we can replenish her ether and return her to normal. …Oh, you’re okay with me looking after her until then, right?”
“I am. So, um…you can fix her?”
“Yes.” Asama nodded. “A spirit with a ‘mold’ is the same as a Mouse. I’ve already registered her, so she’ll be protected like a stray spirit. She’ll probably continue sleeping for a while, but I’ll make sure she’s running around again eventually.”
“H-how long will that take!?”
“I don’t know.” Asama kept her eyebrows flat. “She isn’t a Far Eastern spirit, she wasn’t created naturally, and she transformed herself for you. That balance has to be maintained, so I can’t say how much ether it will require. But…my guess is it will take 2 or 3 years.”
Mitotsudaira’s shoulders drooped.
Then tears dripped from her eyes and down her cheeks.
“Oh, dear,” said Kimi while wrapping her arms around Mitotsudaira’s shoulders and wiping the tears from her cheek. “Isn’t that great? Aren’t you glad we told you to look after it?”
“I am,” agreed Mitotsudaira. But then, “Wait, did you know this would happen?”
“Eh!? N-no, no!” insisted Asama. “I had no way of knowing this would happen. None at all! …Besides, I didn’t want to get your hopes up just to have it not work out!”
Kimi laughed and Asama’s smile grew stiff.
But Kimi took the Cerberus cage from Asama and held it up in front of Mitotsudaira’s eyes.
“Is that really the point here? You have to say goodbye to this girl while she stays at the Asama Shrine for a while, so aren’t you glad you could give her a treat and watch over her as she went to sleep?”
Mitotsudaira had to agree. Kimi always knows what to say, she thought.
“Tomo, if you feel bad, then you can buy me something at a stand. Maybe a crepe.”
Hearing that, Kimi laughed, narrowed her eyes, and tossed something shiny to Asama.
It was two 500 yen coins. Asama caught them and nodded toward Mitotsudaira.
“I’ll be right back.”
“Now that I’m out here, there sure are a lot of stands.”
The stands had been lined up on the outer edge of the ship and the ones to aft had mostly survived.
There were people inside them calling out to gather customers, the lights were on, and sweet or savory smells wafted over from them as food was cooked in sugar or soy sauce.
…A lot happened today.
Oh, I need to stop by the Blue Thunder to thank P-01s for the “water”, thought Asama while viewing the stands.
…Um, where are the crepes?
Was it a bad thing to simply search for the example given to her? Since it was Mitotsudaira, part of her thought a meat dish might be better, but…
She spotted the perfectly-ordinary Seventeen Articles of Ice Cream run by the Ohiroshiki family. It had originally been run by a couple who had trained at a major ice cream shop, but the Ohiroshiki family had bought it and expanded it. They had stopped by there in Murayama’s underground area before, but it looked like Ohiroshiki was not running it right now.
She walked into the light of the illumination spell below the stand’s hanging curtain.
“Excuse me. Do you serve crepes? My friend asked for one.”
“Sure thing. If it’s for Nate, do you want the yakiniku flavor?”
She just about agreed, but then she frantically faced forward to see who was beyond the counter.
“Hey, great work out there.”
The naked apron boy pulled the crepe stove closer.
Asama asked a question while watching his skilled movements.
“What are you doing here?”
“Well, you see, I was thinking of starting some part-time work and the previous guy in charge is apparently quitting, so I was able to slide right on in here.”
The nudist pulled some pork from the refrigerator below the table.
“I guess I’ll start with the ginger pork.”
“Why are you actually cooking yakiniku?”
“Just because.” He looked around. “Umm, the meat is going to take a while to cook, so it’s going to be a wait. Also, your dad was here earlier.”
She knew that. He was onboard as a quarantine inspector. She had not seen him yet, but given how much time had passed, he had likely finished his work and was probably viewing the encore performances.
…He’ll be taking a break too.
Her father was always busy, so maybe he chose to visit places like this for a change of pace.
While she nodded at that thought, Toori suddenly spoke up.
“Want to eat something to pass the time? My treat.”
“No, no. I can buy my own.”
“It’s fine. Really.”
She could hardly say no to that, so she put the problem off until later and looked inside the counter.
That was when she realized what was there: ice cream.
Toori saw Asama briefly freeze in place.
He watched her for a few seconds without rushing her or asking her what flavor she wanted.
“Um, Toori-kun,” she said while viewing the buckets in the counter. “Which is the white one with thin black specks inside?”
“That explanation sounds like something from a horror story, but is it the cookies and cream?”
“Which is that?”
He pointed and Asama placed a hand on her cheek.
“That doesn’t look quite right…”
“Then is it this one?”
He pointed at the rum raisin.
Asama’s gaze stopped on it and she crouched down.
“That looks a lot like the previous one. What is it?”
“Rum raisin. Um, it’s made by crushing rum-soaked raisins and mixing them into the ice cream.”
Asama’s eyes widened slightly. And…
“I’ll be eating it right here, won’t I? …Which would be the more mature choice?”
“I guess the rum raisin one because of the rum.”
“I thought so… Ah ha ha. I’ll take two of those.”
“Sure thing,” said Toori while pressing the ice cream into two cones.
“I-isn’t that a little much?”
“Business isn’t exactly booming here and we’re under quarantine, so I couldn’t bring it back anyway.”
“Then is it really safe to eat?” she asked as he held out the ice cream. “So how much is two cones?”
“Telling someone you’ll treat them and then having them insist on paying is pretty humiliating for a guy, you know?”
“In that case.” Asama thought for a moment. “I’ll let you pay for one of them.”
Asama heard Toori agree to that suggestion.
“That’ll be 200 yen.”
“Then will this cover it?”
She held out two coins and he stared at them with a straight face. And after a bit…
“That was quite the response there. Really makes you sound like part of the out-of-touch upper class.”
“Eh!? Oh, whoops. I was so nervous I got confused! I’ll need 300 yen in change!”
She kept one of the coins and he gave her 300 yen.
She thought as she held that change.
…Yes, I really am nervous.
But she wanted to do it right, so she held up the two ice cream cones. First, the right one.
“Toori-kun? This is the one you paid for.”
He made that into a question, but answering would only let him control the conversation. So instead…
“And this is the one I bought. Got that?”
She held that one out toward him.
“Here, my treat.”
Toori accepted it.
For some reason, Asama could not look straight at him as she ate the ice cream.
Then she pulled back her tongue.
“You really are something else,” he said. “But I’m impressed you remembered something from so long ago.”
Asama was speechless.
A dull, heated sweat dripped down her back.
“U-um, what thing from so long ago?”
“ ‘I can eat it because you purified it, Asama.’ ”
It was exactly what she had thought.
She could not speak a word, so he smiled bitterly.
“I was wondering if you still remembered, so I decided to treat you.”
“B-but, Toori-kun, why!?”
“Because I promised,” he said. “That was about 10 years ago, wasn’t it? I still remember it pretty well. I made a lot of other promises with you too, like with the contract and stuff.”
That only made her blush more.
“U-um, Toori-kun? Do you plan to keep your old promises with me?”
“Yeah. I mean,” he put a hand on his cheek and spoke in an affected way, “I will be a king.”
Asama felt her heart skip a beat at that.
At the end of its battle, the Non-Dragon Sword born from Musashi had turned back toward the stern.
Anything born of the ley lines would know that land and have seen what happened there. So…
“Yes, you are a king, aren’t you?”
“You got that right. I’ll come through on those promises when you least expect it, so don’t you forget them.”
“When I least expect it?”
“Judge. That’ll make you happier, right?”
If so, she thought. I don’t have to expect anything of him.
No, she was certain he would grant her wishes whether she expected anything of him or not.
…So even if we do things differently, it would be best to stay carefree.
He was a hopeless person, but to her, he was more than that. He was…
She decided to stop her thoughts there and make it a “promise”.
When he did eventually keep that promise, she could think back to this time.
A lot was bound to happen in the meantime. For example, what would happen between him and the Blue Thunder’s automaton, P-01s? So instead of worrying about what was to come…
He had kept a promise from a decade ago.
It was funny. It had bothered her so much and she had hoped so much it could happen even if he had forgotten, but now it had happened so easily and she knew they had felt the same way about it.
It was so funny she laughed until she cried. She decided to think of them as tears of laughter.
The ice cream was sweet and warm in her throat, but it tasted of alcohol on her tongue.
…This is because I made and drank sacred sake back then.
He thought that was a mature thing to do, so he gave me rum raisin. But if that was true…
…Ah, Toori-kun thought I was mature…
Did that give her some kind of advantage? He had turned away from her to chop up some garlic chives, but he asked a sudden question.
“Aren’t you going to play an encore?”
“No, our instruments were completely destroyed. I need to apologize to dad for that.”
“Then can you sing here? You had an encore song prepared, right? Sis mentioned it.”
There’s no way out now, she thought while glancing around.
No one else was around and she did not mind even if there were. So…
“Then, um, just right here, okay?”
She quickly fixed her collar, took a breath, and cleared her throat.
Calm down, she told herself while speaking to him.
“It is called Kimitoasamade.”
The song described the night on which she first decided to start a band.
“The sky is windy like usual.”
These were the lyrics she thought of while walking.
“I can see the night once more.”
They had changed form a bit since then.
“But my heart will not stop.”
Kimi opened a sign frame while watching the sleeping Cerberus with Mitotsudaira.
It contained Asama’s lyrics.
It was the song they had set aside for an encore and she sang it along with Mitotsudaira.
“It occurs to me during class.”
“The scent of hair and the sky overhead.”
How much did that girl keep inside?
“The view out the window sets my heart aflutter.”
Asama had gotten help from Kimi to write the melody. They had practiced with Mitotsudaira, so they all knew the flow of the song. From here on, the song grew restrained while also building up.
“When I think about it, I can feel my pulse.”
“That usual joyful feeling.”
“That alone changes the position of my heart.”
Silly girl, thought Kimi.
…You’re only talking about a slight change to the usual.
But what you really want is a much bigger than that.
The song described when she had confided in Kimi and Mitotsudaira that she wanted to start a band.
“What to do after school?”
That had been a lot of trouble.
“Walking home with you again.”
She had been desperate about so very much. But…
“But my heart will not stop.”
“The pale scarlet of sunset.”
If the others had not been there, she might have simply panicked.
“I face the darkening night.”
She would have been left behind by everything happening around her.
“Even the unseen sky is in a rush.”
But that was not what had happened.
“Let’s make things a little different.”
There had been so much excitement around her.
“Let’s place our futons by the window.”
Oh, I invented this part.
“So we can lie there looking up at the night sky.”
That wouldn’t be possible with how my house is built, she thought while continuing to sing.
Mitotsudaira smiled bitterly at the fact that Asama was capable of trying to look good in her imagination. But…
“An excited voice speaks in my heart.”
When Asama had made that confession below the bridge, when they had spent the night to discuss it, and…
“Once it starts, the fire blazes bright.”
…when they had such stupid fun in the bathhouse.
“I bring my hands together and undo the clasp.”
Mitotsudaira had felt the same excitement in her heart.
“I know I’m asking for the impossible.”
They both needed each other.
“But I will set even more fires burning.”
That’s right, thought Mitotsudaira.
“The wind in the trees blows through my heart.”
Asama’s hidden heart had set a fire in their hearts.
The song described when they had all decided to start a band.
“Walking to school with you.”
Things had changed.
“Our hair dancing in the wind is a melody.”
Everything she saw and heard now had a connection to the band.
“Our steps up the stairs are a rhythm.”
Even those little things were fun.
“The sound of flipping textbook pages.”
That exciting sensation may have been a recent discovery for her.
“And when we look out the window together.”
She was ashamed to admit she had even wished class would end more quickly.
“The sky is shining brightly.”
Kimi thought about the past several days.
“The sunset turns to night.”
They had slept over every night to plan for the Gagaku Festival.
“The unseen sky.”
At some point, their worries had transformed into enjoyment. So…
“Looks so lovely as we walk together.”
When they slept over, they always ended up in the futons.
“By the window with you.”
Liar, thought Kimi with an inner smile. We were in the center of the room. Oh, but with her room, pretty much anything could count as “by the window”. Still, every night was a big gathering of girls.
“Our hair spills out as we lie around.”
They had thought for a long time about how to make this exciting. They had decided it would be best to describe what made them excited.
“A racing pulse explained through words.”
That was time well spent, thought Kimi.
The song described what was to come – what was sure to come for the rest of her life.
“I cannot even see the stars.”
But even on the Musashi…
“I trust in you and my dream.”
That made her blush when she recalled what had happened earlier. But…
“The wind in my heart is forever changing.”
That was about the future, but for now…
She sang while thinking about what was happening now.
“The sky is windy like usual.”
But what counted as “usual” had changed.
“A fire burns in the night.”
A hopeless person had reminded her of the past. However…
“It started by being with you.”
Yes. And now…
“That will not change.”
Toori nodded while listening to Asama.
…I need to do things right.
Lately, he had been thinking about a few different paths for his future, but to do any of them right would require a lot of work, a lot of diligence, and a lot of improvement on his part. However…
…I’m a king.
With that thought, he gave himself over to Asama’s song like it was embracing him.
Just then, he saw a familiar figure in the distance.
It was Asama’s father.
He stood on a corner of the deck, but he was clearly listening to Asama’s song. And…
A woman stood next to him.
But that woman, who was surrounded in ether light, was not among the living.
She looked a lot like Asama. Just like her husband, she was likely here to see her daughter.
Your daughter’s doing things right. I need to work on that myself. When he gave a mental bow in her direction, the woman noticed him while apparently listening to Asama’s song.
She gave a slight bow and then raised her index finger in front of her nose. She apparently wanted to keep this a secret.
And Asama finished her song.
Asama took a breath and faced forward. She was aware how nervous she was.
“Um, that’s about it.”
“Yeah,” he said. “It’s a nice song to listen to. It really sets a mood that makes me want to get started on something too.”
“Can you please keep it short?”
“Then…could you only sing it for me from now on? It’d be a shame not to.”
Asama felt heat rising from her neck and she could not stop her mouth from spreading horizontally.
“But, well, um, that’s not really possible. Kimi and Mito can sing it too…”
“Yeah, I was just saying what I’d like. I don’t really expect you to do it.”
She was really glad he kept it at that.
“But,” he said. “You didn’t really get to perform today, so will you keep doing this?”
“Eh? Y-yes. Mito and Kimi said this was a real disappointment too. …And I enjoyed it, so I want to keep doing this while having fun with everyone.”
“Will the Asama Shrine be able to take it?”
“That won’t be a problem.”
By this point, she was used to it all and could say something like that. That may have been the biggest change for her. But in her current mood, she knew just what to say:
“I’ll make sure we don’t just use my place next time.”
He tilted his head forward, so she took a bite of her ice cream. She let the alcohol flavor envelop her tongue and she smiled.
“You won’t get a moment’s peace, so I hope you’re ready.”
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