Horizon:Volume 1B Chapter 25
Chapter 25: Advocate at the Confession Grounds
To first decide on one's own wish
To wish for the words that would decide everything
What would that be
Point Allocation (Essay)
The bell sounded, stating the beginning of the second period.
The title of the essay assigned to the class was written on the blackboard: “What I Want to Do”.
Everyone was filling their manuscript paper with letters using writing tools like brushes and charcoal pens. Among them, one person had her head in her arms.
It was Asama.
With her head held between her hands, elbows on the table, Asama was hanging her head down.
She thought. She’ll be screwed at this rate. She faced down on the table, still holding her head.
…Whatever it may be, my family is a priesthood after all.
Such an occupation basically does things for others. Having a natural role as a mediator, transmitting the intentions of the gods to the people, one would need to be honest and free of desire.
…Despite everything, “What I Want to Do”? What is with this killer theme…!
Think. There are three things I want to do.
1. Will someone please take over the ground cleaning duty for me? ← What the hell am I wanting to slack for!?
2. Will someone please make snacks or food for me? ← Gluttony! Gluttony!!
3. Will someone please tell Father to quit using young people’s slang so recklessly? ← Dad will cry-!
Asama held her head yet again.
While she wondered whether 3 would happen, most people would just be like “Why the hell is a priest thinking something like that!?”
She indirectly asked everyone about it during the break earlier, but she only held the utmost jealousy towards how quickly everyone’s desires rushed out of their minds.
• Heidi: “I want to do unspeakable things to Shiro-kun!” ← So it would be acceptable in letter form!?
• Adele: “Will someone please make me taller?” ← Can anyone even do that!?
• Kimi: “Money! Free time! Beauty! I don’t need things like love!” ← What is with that manly wish!?
…It’s hopeless, I won’t get anything from the opinions of those carnal creatures.
Whatever the case, pretty much all the jokes are of the dirty kind with this class.
All the guys were putting their heads together and going on about a lot of things, but I’m pretty sure their conversations were something like “Let’s find out who is the most evil of us all!” to the ears of a priest.
People like Urquiaga, being part of the Inquisition, should have had at least a noble ambition of some kind; but he was with Tenzou saying things like:
“No, I am not like you are, ha ha ha.”
“No, I am not like you are, ha ha ha.”
…So they can just fall straight into hell shoulder to shoulder.
Still, other than those guys, only one person never joined the circle.
Still hanging her head, Asama moved her gaze. Stooped over the farthest desk to the back, by the window, was…
Asama thought. Everyone was concerned about him today. He was the one everyone would turn to, with the stories he tells while his eyes go over to the distance.
If she were to ask, everyone would deny their worry for him. Still, they were concerned; that was just the kind of relationship they had.
She didn’t know much about what had happened to him after he rushed over to Horizon’s place last night.
She heard that Oriotorai helped smooth over the hearing at the police station, stating to the Testament Union that he only came over hearing that his childhood friend was still alive, without any other intentions.
…Still, it has been a while since I saw Toori-kun like this.
There was a time, very long ago, when he was like that: rejecting the world around him. We couldn’t do anything for him, and only heard about the time Kimi brought him back to his senses.
She remembered that time clearly. She also recalled the time before as well.
They were together for a long time. Because their parents knew each other, they were very close friends.
To be honest, there were also times when they were conscious of each other’s sexes.
That was during primary school. When everyone learned of the festival of the Saint of Love, Valentine, the girls naturally began to dare among themselves to give out love presents to others, calling anyone who didn’t a chicken bastard.
Valentine was a Catholic saint of the Roman Era. According to the Testament, he spread the message around that the Roman Emperor banned marriage to his soldiers as he feared the fall of their fighting morale.
Because of that Valentine was executed, but he earned respect among the people as the Saint of Love.
Even in history recreation, the person who inherited Valentine’s name encouraged the marriage of soldiers with a resolve to die doing so.
…Yes, under the name of history recreation, marriage between soldiers became compulsory.
Under the name of history recreation, soldiers under the Roman Emperor were to marry each other if they were caught by Valentine; so panic rose and people ran all over the place. Still, one by one they were captured by Valentine and married off; the fighting morale of the soldiers certainly fell, accompanied by a thousand screams. In order to end the reality of waking up to each other in a positive note, they called Valentine the Saint of Love, but…
…Well, it is only a matter of course that Valentine himself would be executed, no?
In a present study, there were discussions about whether or not there was a large mistake in that method of recreation; but the dispute was ended on a positive note by saying that there were no differences in the results of the recreation.
The festival of Valentine was a Western event by nature, but both Shinto and Buddhism were ambiguous religions that tolerated the matters of others.
There was the Prohibited Religion Act, but the celebrations still could go on under the interpretation of “Community Support of Other Religions”.
Asama belonged to a lineage of Shinto, but after various complications and circumstances she was given permission by her father to join the Western festival provided that she gave him a present as well. At that time the gift was coincidentally chocolate, something that had only appeared on the market recently.
While making the chocolate, she was thinking about whom to give it to; then…
…There’s no one else but Toori-kun, huh…
They were childhood friends. Horizon was already gone at that point, but his old brightness has already returned to him. And, at last…
…He’ll only take it lightly.
Other girls seemed to give him presents as well, if only as a means of escape. Thinking back, it was quite a rude thing to do; but she prioritized someone who would not cause others to make noise around her, whether she liked him or not.
…Still, we were friends for a long time; I was nervous so I went to the Academy…
With self-made solid chocolate horns held between his sides and nether region, Toori was running around the school grounds chasing after both guys and girls saying “Look, I’m a triceratops dinosaur!”
As a result, not being able to give anyone the chocolate in the Academy, Asama returned home in the end with the chocolate never taken out from her bag.
She still remembered Toori’s joyful remarks like “Turn around! Turn around!” and “Aah, it’s melting!” mixed with everyone’s screams of disorientation. She could not forget the bitter taste of the chocolate she ate after returning home, mixed with her tears. It was pure cocoa after all, because she forgot to add in the sugar. Thinking back, that was what caused her to cry, huh. Father was crying as well after all.
Still, looking at the triceratops making noise down the corridor, Asama thought thus: The act of life is not the same.
It was a Styracosaurus in middle school, so the act should have been determined from childhood. Over those few years, any girl who even thought of giving a present to anyone would have to fight the indiscriminately hindering Toori and his followers.
Even then, looking at such a scene over and over again, Asama had this thought as well:
…Perhaps, has he come to understand?
Everyone else should have, as well. In contrast to the “chicken bastard” dare between the girls, there was a trend between the guys to call anyone who did not receive a gift a loser. Furthermore, if there were girls who did not have the courage to give anyone a present, there would be boys who could not defy the trend as well. The names of such people were concealed. Still, because of Toori’s actions, everyone could participate in the festival.
Because of his all too different act, there were no incidents concerning the opposite genders after that. Because she was with Kimi as well, he felt like a brother or a cousin of the same year to her; so she thought:
…If I were to choose, because of Kimi being Kimi, I feel more like a mother here…
Still, Asama thought while looking at his figure rushing off after hearing Horizon’s name on the broadcast.
…I was shocked, wasn’t I?
Asama thought. His way of acting was different compared to hers. Not only hers, but likely from everyone else as well; including the one he ran after. She wondered what he would have looked like in Horizon’s eyes as she is now.
She had become an automaton, without any memories. There was that gap of ten years’ time between them as well. Even Toori should have understood that. He said that he loved her and meant that in the present moment.
Even when they really haven’t talked all that much…
…He still ran after her.
He hasn’t taken it lightly after all.
One would wonder about the case of the Plesiosaur he did this year; but differing from that lightness he showed, there is something heavy at the deepest part of his heart. No matter the case, he would have made his decisions according to that heavy part; then displayed only his carefree side when it was time to act. The reason for that would have been…
Asama looked towards Suzu who sat in the seat on her right. She was writing on the manuscript paper in a way that suited her inability to see. Suzu had told her about something the day before.
…The fact that Horizon started the way we talked to and held our hands out to Suzu-san…
He was to accept her, and…
…Everything was meant to begin again, but…
Yet again, she was gone.
Thus, Toori returned to his depressed state similar to his condition in the past.
…I wonder if he’s alright.
Thinking that, Asama let go of her head and reached out for the writing tool with her right hand.
With her chin on her left hand, her gaze went up to the ceiling.
Staring up there with a lot of things on her mind, she finally started thinking about what to write about. The beginning was…
…Do your best.
Today was supposed to be the long-awaited day of his confession. If last night’s incident had not happened, how would he have been like?
Everyone would have wished success for him.
She thought about how he would have acted. The way he usually did.
The first to rise from her heart was…
…He’ll grope her breasts-…
Wait. No matter the case, that would have been too sudden.
No way, no way, thought Asama, her eyes half-closed looking at the ceiling, lost in her heart, waving her neck from side to side.
…The confession must come first. I don’t know if he’ll use a letter or whatnot.
What’s important is that he is sincere. Sincerity. That’s what both of them must confirm to.
Then Asama closed her eyes, continuing to think.
She hypothesized what would happen from there, if novels and television dramas were anything to go by.
They would have come close together, then embraced each other with a smile or something. No; Horizon is an automaton, so she doesn’t have emotions and thus can’t smile. Still, if Horizon gave her permission carelessly, it would have been fine for her to fall into his embrace without any expression; furthermore the judgement of automatons would have mostly considered everything, so how much longer could Toori-kun keep his calm after that? Naturally, he will grope her breasts; and then next, umm, err, like a kiss? Umm, eeh? Eeeeh? How far is this going to go, up here? All the way there? Umm-…
Before she knew it, Asama’s eyes looked forward. Looking past the figures of everyone bent forward to write on their manuscript papers from her side, Oriotorai was looking over to her, both elbows on the teacher’s desk and neck tilted to the side. Asama straightened her posture.
“Ah, s-sensei, what is it!?”
“Ah, yes, do you meed more paper?”
Why? she thought, looking downwards. All her copies of paper were overflowing with words.
The contents were…
Feeling a sensation extending from below her nose towards both sides of her face…
…I’m writing an ero-novel, am I not!? And the title is “What I Want to Do”!
No. This must not be. What in the world am I doing? Going straight to that place from just a confession is just being too impatient! If anyone were to read this it’ll be banned from Life boardgames at first notice!
Panicking, Asama brought out an erasing pressure pen from her case and rubbed it on the manuscript paper. But…
The writings won’t go away. Thinking about why…
…No way, did I use an ink pen for this-?
She looked to her right hand and found the mentioned thing held there.
The figure of the charcoal pencil, whose writing can be erased, was visible in her pencil box; but the distance between them was cruelly far. Thus, feeling something heavy on her lower body…
Hanging her head, a stifled voice leaked out from inside her throat.
She felt the sweat coming out without her control sticking to her whole body.
The reason for her screw-up was simple. She was careless about her ability to focus. Still, understanding this at such a time was no use.
…S-still, what is with this ero-novel!? I can’t believe I wrote this for class!
I see, thus Asama thought. I’ll just hide this in the desk and start over.
…Right, here goes-…
“Okay, everyone should be done by now, so can I have someone who’s done stand up and read their essay out for us? Umm, let’s see, someone who looks like he’s done. …Asama. You look like you’re finished, so can you read yours out?”
“Eeeeh!? N-no way! There’s no way I can read this!!”
Asama sprang out of her seat. Frantically looking around her, she saw that everyone was already looking on with anticipation.
Still warmly sweating, Asama thought. But she could not think up anything; thus, reflexively, Asama stated the truth for now.
“This, this is, you know? This is, umm, err. …Right! This is not an essay!”
Oriotorai bent backwards from the teacher’s desk and narrowed her eyes.
“That’s a new one. Well, what is it?”
“No, see, well, um…”
Whatever, thus she said the truth.
“Then, it’s an evil thought I caught! I turned it into words and sealed it with the manuscript paper!”
“Oh. …Working even in the classroom, it must be tough over at the Asama shrine.”
“Y-yes, it is! It’s very hard! Shooting out things like apparitions feels good, you know!? It’s the same thing here, umm. …Incinerator! Can I go to the incinerator!?”
“Wait, leave that for after. Other people are still having class.”
Eeeh, destruction impossible? Asama thought, but for now she seemed to have avoided having to read it out.
After she sat back in her seat for a moment, Oriotorai parted her gaze from her.
“Well, it looks like Asama wrote out something different, so…”
The one on Asama’s right shrunk her body at her words. Oriotorai looked over to that place.
Looking over there, Oriotorai said with a greeting:
To Suzu’s answer that held a hint of surprise, Oriotorai showed her smile.
“Suzu. Is it alright to read yours out?”
…Wait a minute, why didn’t you ask me the same question just now!?
She thought that, but this must be her being mindful of other people’s character.
Privately, she sighed in her heart, wondering what the response would be. Still, Suzu replied.
“…Yes, it, it’s fine.”
At her response, Asama’s body cooled down.
…It’s fine, is it?
Around Asama, everyone’s eyes were looking at Suzu, probably thinking the same thing as she was.
All their gazes had a shade of worry.
She knew what it meant. Suzu’s eyes cannot see. To even line up the words on the paper, most of which were written in hiragana…for her this was next to impossible. Even for her to read what she wrote; if she were to use the scanning part of the IZUMO-made pen “Voice Out!” located on her back, the contents would be read out loud into the headphones she was wearing.
Still, right now, the manuscript paper lay on top of Suzu’s desk.
…There are more than ten…
All of them were lined up with words. Even if their sizes varied and their orders were in disorganization, most of the words were there. That’s why Oriotorai asked:
“Umm, Suzu? Can you read it by yourself?”
To Oriotorai’s question, Suzu shook her head from side to side.
That can only mean that she is entrusting her own wish, that she wrote herself, to another person to read out for her.
Asama felt something being pricked from inside her chest.
Even if Suzu wrote something normal instead of the ero-novel she had written…
…Can I even let someone else read it out…?
Still, drawing a breath, Suzu said this:
Right, Oriotorai’s voice could be heard to say.
“Well, then, Asama, read it out for her.”
Suzu heard the sound of Asama’s short gasp beside her.
The next thing she heard was her voice.
“Umm, Suzu-san. …Is it alright?”
…It’ll be fine if it’s Asama.
It’ll be fine because both of us understand each other on various things, Suzu thought. She’ll surely be able to read it out with the same thoughts as mine. Thus, ascertaining their presence on the desk by touching them with her hand, Suzu gathered the manuscript papers together.
“Here. I, w-wrote numbers, on them, s-so, read them, in order.”
She held them out in Asama’s direction.
For a moment, the sound of Asama’s thin breath could be heard; and finally…
Accompanied by her affirmation, there was a brushing sound of a uniform’s sleeve, and the manuscript paper was lightly taken over to the other side of the aisle. Thus Suzu let go of her hand. She let go of the thing containing the thoughts she wrote towards the person who she believed could pass it on.
As if to pray, she handed it over.
Holding the bundle of manuscript paper in her hands, Asama slowly stood up.
She no longer cared about everyone’s gazes.
…This is the same as a ritual.
Being similar to the offering of a Shinto prayer to a god, there was a need to remove all worldly thoughts from her words.
Words were an expression of thoughts; they were a medium for one to bring their thoughts together with another. That was why each and every one of one’s pure words, whether they be spoken or written, possess the absolute power of resonating with the will.
If she were to read Suzu’s thoughts, there would be a need to cast away her own thoughts to allow Suzu’s words to properly reach everyone.
Everyone would have wished for the same. This was one of the very few cases the thoughts of the usually reserved Suzu which she wrote herself were exposed for everyone to hear after all.
It was her duty to correlate the words she spoke to the written words entrusted to her without error.
Thus Asama closed her eyes for a moment and straightened her posture. Holding up the manuscript paper as a greeting, she drew a breath.
“I will now recite this in her place.”
Over on the other side, her hands on the teacher’s desk, Oriotorai’s smile showed light relief. Everyone, including Suzu, probably did the same as well. If that’s the case it’s fine; with that thought, Asama cast her gaze down to the manuscript paper.
The number written on the upper right part of the paper was 1.
The numeral was in a contorted shape. For Suzu, who cannot see, her recollection of the characters she needed to understand and be understood by others are no more than what her hand movements leave. The overshots of her nervousness, the quivers of her pauses as well as all other imperfections could clearly be seen; but, still…
…It was written with a lot of care.
Nothing was left out, and nothing was simplified. Her making up for her overshots and pauses was also properly done.
Thinking how earnest it was, Asama thought…
…Is this what it feels like to be touched by Suzu-san?
The girl who couldn’t see was definitely standing up straight and walking forward. There were times when someone helped her up when she tripped and fell, but she was straightforward, nevertheless.
Thinking that it’s as if that itself was inscribed into the written word, Asama held out her right hand.
Touching the words written on the paper with her fingers; then, from the bottom of her throat…
“What I Want to Do.”
“…a person I like.”
“I have a person I like.”
With gentle movements, everyone had their gaze on Suzu. Still…
“I have had one for a very long time.”
With her back to the wall on the corridor’s side, Suzu had her face straight forward. Her eyes, hidden behind her long bangs, couldn’t see; but precisely because of that it was as if she was looking at everyone.
“It was during the entrance ceremony in primary school.”
Suzu listened to Asama’s words.
“I didn’t like it. I didn’t like going to the Academy.”
That’s right, Suzu thought.
She felt as if she was reminiscing on her own past. It was probably because of the way Asama read it out.
“Father and Mother were busy in my house from the morning.”
A moment, breathing out along with Asama…
“…Both of them could not come. I was by myself during the ceremony.”
She remembered even now. They apologized to her during breakfast.
Now, she understood. While they have their own activities as well, both her parents were working to cover her tuition fees.
She was never aware of that then. Still…
“But so that Father and Mother wouldn’t be worried, I didn’t cry.”
She didn’t understand why, but she thought it was because of her parents’ apology that she must not cry.
“I really wanted them to congratulate me.”
“The Academy was on a high place on the outer part.
“There were long stairs, the stairs I hated.
“That was why, in front of the stairs, I thought.
“ ‘If no one would congratulate me, it’ll be fine not to climb up the stairs, right?’
“Other people, the people I first met, didn’t notice me.
“They were climbing up the stairs with their mothers and fathers.
“I was by myself. But…”
Asama read on. As if to devote her voice to the letters brushing against her fingers…
“I heard a voice.
“ ‘Hey, what’s wrong?’
“ ‘Hey, why are you crying?’ ”
“It was Toori-kun and Horizon.”
“Both of them were together. They were alone together.
“Their fathers and mothers were at work.
“Toori-kun suddenly grabbed my hand.
“Horizon was mad for a bit.
“Then Horizon took my left hand…
“…and persuaded me to climb the stairs.”
“I asked them.
“ ‘Is it alright?’ ”
Asama’s voice resounded throughout the room.
“The ceremony was already starting.
“I told them that they will be late.
“But Toori said ‘I’m a delinquent, you know?’
With her breath, everyone took their own.
“Then, Horizon took my hands.
“Toori-kun supported my back.
“And we climbed up the stairs together.”
“The scent of the wind, the sound of sakura petals falling.
“The echoes of the town, the roar of the sky, everyone’s voices; everything.
“Before I knew it, I was climbing the stairs.
“I came to realize.
“Somewhere along the line, both of them let go of my hands and back.
“I was climbing the stairs on my own.”
“I climbed the stairs on my own.
“But the three of us were climbing the stairs together-…”
Asama turned over the manuscript paper and moved her gaze to the next page.
“And I realized.
“On top of the stairs, everyone was waiting for us.”
Ah, someone murmured quietly. There was something like that.
“Everyone was cheering me on.”
“With Horizon, both of them said.
“ ‘Congratulations, and we’ll be in your care from now on.’ ”
“When I came home, I talked with Father and Mother.
“They were happy and they congratulated me.
“They said ‘You did well, didn’t you?’ and I cried again.”
The manuscript paper was turned over again. The sound traveled all over the room.
“The middle school was on the second level, so there were no stairs.
“There were stairs in high school, but…
“I could already climb up on them.
“Still, Toori-kun, just once, during the entrance ceremony…
“…he held my hand.
“It was my left hand, the one Horizon used to hold.”
A breath was drawn. After that, yet again, Asama gently…
“Everyone was waiting for me on top, like before.
“Then Toori-kun let go of my hand, just like Horizon did.
“I climbed the stairs on my own and got together with everyone…
“…but Horizon wasn’t there.”
Asama’s fingers ran over the next few words, and pressed on them with a little strength.
Still, with the same pace as before, she continued reciting the words.
“I have a person I like.”
“I love Toori-kun.”
“I love Horizon.”
As if building up…
“I love everyone.”
“I love Toori-kun the most when he is with Horizon.”
“I’m alright by myself now.
“That’s why, just like how you held my hand-…”
As if to stop Asama’s words, Suzu’s body moved. Raising her thighs from the chair, ignoring even the pain of her body hitting the desk, she stood up and spoke before Asama could turn her head.
“Please! Save Horizon…!”
She drew a breath and opened her mouth.
Suzu’s body shivered from the loudness of her own voice.
Her roughened breathing and the surge of heat on her body, neither backing down, continued to be transmitted to her ears and skin.
Still, Suzu thought.
She understood neither politics nor business well. She felt the pessimism in Shirojiro’s standpoint towards Musashi’s fate, but that probably is how reality is. Her thoughts were no more than simple expressions of discontent from an emotional standpoint. Still…
…I was saved by Horizon long ago after all…
She wanted to reach out to the person who continued what Horizon did as if to succeed her.
She stated. And at that moment…
A voice suddenly reached her from right in front of her. It was not that of Asama.
“Hey, hey, Bell-san, you’d do better than to look down on me. I’m planning to do just that, you know?”
It was the young man’s voice she remembered hearing. Puffing out his chest, making a sound with the ornamental chains on his uniform.
“Rest assured. I, Aoi Toori, am right here.”
Hearing the sound of a breath being drawn, the next to come were the words that were mixed in with happiness.
“And also, Bell-san, you know?”
“Why are you crying?”
Everyone looked on. Over on the corridor side of the classroom, by the wall in a slightly darkened place, Suzu and Toori were facing each other.
Leaving the tears streaming down from below her long bangs be, without wiping them off, Suzu…
“Yep, it’s me. It’s Toori-kun.”
To his light response, Suzu’s expression changed, forming a smile with her quivering lips.
“Y-you see? I’m, already, f-fine.”
Suzu lightly beat her thighs with both her arms. As the Suspended Scroll-type Sensors attached to the hardpoints on her hip made a sound like a bell, both her hands reached out in Toori’s direction.
Toori’s hands, laid on his knees, moved in response. He held them out and allowed each of her thin hands to touch them. It was a gesture of respect and praise. Right then…
Suzu held both of Toori’s hands and pressed them down on her chest. Nn, she made a sound, her face turning red, but turned to look in Toori’s direction.
“I, g-grew up properly, didn’t…I?”
“Yep, it’s the clear truth.”
“Y-yes, s-so, I-I’m not like, before, anymore.”
“Yeah, you’re working hard every day at stuff like the committee, aren’t you? Over at the reference room and rabbit pens.”
Over their side, Asama was looking over at everyone with a confused face. With only her lips…
“What is with this situation? I don’t know whether to be glad or pissed about it!”
Everyone shook their hands left and right in response.
“Don’t mind it. You were on the primary school on the other road, weren’t you?”
“It does feel like an oath between a knight and a princess, but he’s just being a pervert in reality, huh…”
“Or rather, why are they treating breast-groping like a coming of age ceremony here?”
“Hey, you guys, why is the atmosphere this bad when I’m at a good part?”
Everyone ignored his words.
Realizing everyone was looking at their act, Suzu’s face reddened even more and slowly let go of Toori’s hands. But Toori, his hands still held out, panicked and begged to her.
“Ah! Wait, I have to prepare my heart! Just a bit more! Load at the good part! Load!”
“You’re not at the good part at all!”
Ignoring everyone’s punchline, Toori held out a hand to Suzu.
Brushing his sleeve once, he turned to face her, who was standing up with a reddened face.
He patted her as if to insert his hands in between strands of her hair as if to correct Suzu, who let out a voice at his actions.
“Can I make a bit of a correction?”
“Yep,” Toori said.
“I didn’t hold your hand because I was worried about you, Bell-san. I just wanted to try holding your hand because you’re so cute and nice. I was just thinking about how good it would be to do so, you know? …Everyone else, guys or girls, you think so too, no?”
To his question, everyone looked at each other for a moment, but surely answered.
Judge, that was everyone’s judgement.
Turning to everyone with a smile, Suzu wiped away her tears…which had stopped streaming.
Right after, Shirojiro suddenly spoke up with his hands in his lap and a bitter smile mixed in.
“So you’re finally up from your crying nap, huh? You’ve wasted quite a bit of our time, you idiot.”
“Huh? Crying nap? Are you a moron? Look closely at my desk.”
Right after Toori’s words, Kimi turned her head and approached his desk. After a few moments, the thing she brought up between her forefinger and thumb was…
“Heh heh heh. Foolish brother, what is this eroge magazine? ‘Azuchi Castle, Eastern Hall: Kanouha Brand Edition’?”
“Ah? No, Sis! Not that one! No, not ‘The Real Era: Team Velázquez Edition’ either!”
“Huh?” Kimi said, spreading out the next page for everyone to see. The samples of the color prints laid out on the pages had something in common. Realizing that, Tenzou said the common point in a small voice.
“…It’s a silver-haired character feature, isn’t it?”
“Yep, because Horizon has that hair color after all! I swiped the magazine from the police station and spent all morning looking at them filling up my manliness gauge! I filled up seven of them…!”
While he was laughing, someone patted on his shoulder from behind.
Toori turned around to look along with everyone; Oriotorai was there, her face full of pity.
She looked at him with half-closed, upturned eyes.
“While people were bailing you out of the police station, you were filling up your gauge, huh?”
“Hey, I’m grateful to you, sensei, you know? They were making me eat something horrible again, after all. Still, just because you don’t understand my adorable, neat and clean ways doesn’t mean you can bully me, sensei. At that age…”
“Are you still a kid at 100,027 years old!?”
In the middle of their reading period the students of Class 3-Bamboo and the teacher, Sanyou, encountered the Toori who flew through the wall behind the class, twirling.
At the back of the class, Sanyou was reading the horror piece “The Thirteen Days of Abstinence – 8: Valentine Goes to Rome”, but she had bad timing. She also made a mistake in starting at the part where the Roman Emperor was going on about stuff like “Right, let’s make it dry tonight!” while preparing to bathe. Her reading figure was facing towards the front of the classroom. As if to recreate the assault of Valentine holding two chocolate baseball bats, there was a sudden, thunderous roar of destruction. As Sanyou turned back…
“Hyaaa…! The manhunt is here…!!”
“Aah, sorry about that, Sanyou, I got the walls mixed up. Forgive me, I’ll take care of that after.”
Turning her head, half-crying, Sanyou saw Oriotorai pulling Toori out from the rubble by the collar and into the hole made in the wall.
Ignoring the numerous gazes on her, Oriotorai threw Toori to the other side of the hole and quietly went back through it.
Finally, she waved her hand over to this side.
“Yep, it’s fine. It’s just a little push, a little push!”
She left with those self-centered words.
The hole was immediately blocked, this time by a curtain set up by the people on the other side.
“…So? What are you planning to do?”
Oriotorai, standing in front of the hole in the wall beside the blackboard, turned to face Toori who was sitting on the teacher’s desk.
Raising her eyebrows slightly, she posed a question to the person cross-legged on top of the table.
“Going to save Horizon. …How are you going to achieve that?”
“How, huh? …Well, for the most part, I already made sense of this whole stalemate thing.”
“Is that so? So it’s a stalemate, huh?”
Oriotorai showed a smile to Toori.
“Well then, how about you explain to me what kind of stalemate this is?”
To that answer, Toori let out a “let’s see” and raised his right index finger. He opened his mouth, but…
“…Hey, did you really understand?”
“D-don’t say such silly things, sensei! I do! Of course I do, you know!?”
“Then, can I get an explanation about whatever this stalemate is?”
“No, that’s why, you see…”
After three seconds, Toori pulled out a textbook from his bag and slammed it onto the teacher’s desk.
“Damn! What is this! What’s with this female teacher! Is it that much fun to chase me around!? Though I’m super excited that you are, you know!? What do you think of that!?”
“Alright. Before that, can I use my full strength?”
“Oh my, did I strike the nerve of a yeti’s instinct!? How cruel can I be!?”
Toori ignored Oriotorai’s half-closed eyes and turned his head away. Hanging her head, with her palm to her forehead.
In the middle of their reading period, the students of Class 3-Bamboo and the teacher, Sanyou, encountered the Toori who, as if to repeat its destruction, flew through the wall behind the class twirling.
Behind the rising smoke…
“Owww! Sensei! Aren’t you being too harsh with that punchline!?”
“How noisy… Ah, Sanyou, sorry! But this is just another push, just another little one!”
Yet again, the newly made hole was covered by a curtain on the other side.
Under the gaze of Oriotorai behind him, Toori returned to sit on the teacher’s desk with his uniform torn here and there. Still, with a beat of his hand, looking at everyone…
“I’ve understood the main point of this stalemate so I’ll have it out here, part by part~.”
To his words, everyone turned to face each other. After a moment, whispers could be heard along with light applause.
“Man, he understood even to the point of the stalemate, despite being an idiot.”
“But really. …Isn’t this case such an easy one to look at?”
“Toori talking about something other than breasts is news to me…”
“Hey, hey, you guys, don’t just associate my nature with idiocy and breasts, alright? It’ll look like I don’t talk about anything other than those two!”
“You don’t at all!!”
Fluttering around everyone’s punchline, Toori looked at Oriotorai.
“Well, sensei. I know that we’re in trouble, but I don’t know what we should do from now on.”
And continued like so:
“I only want to save and confess to her. …That’s why, first, let’s see, hey, Shiro!”
“What is it, moron? I’ll only entertain discussions about money.”
“Then it’s fine,” Toori said.
“So you’ll talk about economic activity, Shiro? Probably. The reason you went on about all the various things back then was because you likened our situation to money, right? Was it not? You’re a narrow-mined, dangerous person with nothing in his head other than money and trade after all.”
“Wait, wait, wait, you ass, don’t just associate my nature with money calculations and trade. It’ll look like I don’t talk about anything other than those two after all.”
“You don’t at all either!!”
In response to everyone’s punchline, Shirojiro turned to look at Heidi on his side.
“Am I always about money and trade?”
To his question, Heidi’s face went red. Along with the white fox on her table, she put both her hands on her cheeks and wriggled around.
“I-I don’t think I can answer that question.”
“I see,” Shirojiro nodded. He looked over to everyone, then turned to Toori.
“Alright, listen well, moron. I am fine. You are not. Seriously, calling someone a zombie of money? Truly a man of not even a shred of worth. You’ll lose money for every second you talk to him, for real.”
“You should do something about that, you know? How your way of speaking sounds like mine every so often. For now, you have quite a few ideas in your head, don’t you? Whatever the case…”
“You can’t avoid considering all-out war with the Testament Union in your opinion, after all.”
To his words, everyone held their breath for a moment. Still, from among them…
“Heh heh. Foolish brother, you sure say stuff like that freely, don’t you? Do you know what that even means?”
“Aah? I mean, nothing would happen from just ignoring something that would happen, you know? Even for Sis, you’ll eventually grow old and your skin and…”
“Ah…! Ah…! Can’t hear you, can’t hear you!! That’s right, I’m a cute Methuselah…!”
Ignoring his sister shutting her ears off with her hands and raising a weird voice, Toori held his hands together.
“Well, no matter the problem, if it’s broken down and looked at, then conclusions drawn from it, we’ll get an answer or a decision, won’t we? Only those who’d get themselves drunk would want to follow serious directions here. Don’t think about it too much, and, well, just take it easy and think things through. …Hey, miser, you do know your way around business, right? Where would someone like you start from, I wonder? Tell me, which one of the bricks of the wall in front of me can be broken through?”
To his question, Shirojiro changed his expression.
He let out a small laugh.
Fu, thus a small sound escaped his throat. Moving around his shoulders, Shirojiro faced Toori.
“It’ll cost a lot.”
“It’s a business opportunity, you know? I’m not smart, and I can’t do anything. I can only use that as an excuse. Still, because of that, lend me a bit of your head, miser.”
“I see,” Shirojiro said. Turning his shoulders, as if loosening them.
“Hanging your faults in front of my eyes as a business opportunity is what’s good about them.”
Whatever, thus Shiro turned to face everyone else.
“Now then, listen well, everyone. What is required for us to do is to not only secure the rights to negotiate with the king and the Provisional Council as well as our right to speak, but also to obtain an influential voice that will display our intended course of action. To that end, I have already stated our method before: we are to pull Honda Masazumi over to our camp.”
To the name he stated, everyone’s gazes met Shirojiro’s in response. Inside that atmosphere that wanted to say something but didn’t, applying a medical bandage to his cheek, Noriki opened his mouth.
“That might be impossible.”
“Why is that?”
“Say it yourself.”
To his question, Noriki gave a short answer and held his hands behind his back.
He had no intention to answer. That’s why, following through, Heidi spoke up. Looking up to Shirojiro who had his eyebrows down.
“I don’t think the parliament will allow Seijun to meet with us until Horizon’s suicide at six in the evening is over. It’ll be dangerous for them if Seijun, who still holds a student authority, were to meet us and have a change of heart.”
“I see. But, to say it conversely: …The parliament side wants to keep a hold on the student authority; that is why they did not strip Masazumi of the position.”
“We’ll create a scenario in which Masazumi has no choice but to come, then pull her over to our side.”
“The method would be…”
“We’ll hold a special student general meeting.”
Huh? Thus everyone tilted their heads to Shirojiro’s words.
Even Toori stood up on the teacher’s desk and wriggled.
“Huh? Are you an idiot!? I know all about it after what Heidi said, you know!? You can’t hold a special student general meeting if students with authority are still here~. You’re a true idiot, aren’t you? Idi~ot, boo~.”
“Miss Oriotorai, there is a way to hold the meeting even in that condition, isn’t there?”
Oriotorai nodded to his question.
“You’ll be able to talk about only one thing, but you can.”
Huh? Thus Toori stopped his wriggling dance of triumph. Oriotorai and Shirojiro looked at each other.
After a while, Toori suddenly took off his uniform and kneeled, topless.
“Damn it…! Everyone’s going out of their way to get me, aren’t they!? Fine, fine! Laugh already! I’m sorry I was wrong, Shirojiro-sama…!!”
“You’re quite the roller coaster, aren’t you. …Your social position, I mean.”
“You still can eat curry at the last position~.”
“Eh? Seriously!? Fine by me!”
Repelling everyone’s “Are you really!?” punchline, Toori posed a question to Shirojiro.
“Well I’ll bite. How’re we going to hold a special student general meeting while Seijun’s still here?”
“You heard it before, didn’t you? A special student general meeting held with Seijun still here can only mean one thing. That is… A vote of no confidence towards the one who holds authority (Masazumi). Having ambitions being from a political family, she should experience this at least once.”
Ignoring everyone’s face glued to him, Shirojiro let out a small laugh from his nose.
“If Masazumi doesn’t come, she’ll be removed from being Vice President and we’ll be able to have the original special student general meeting. If she does, the ‘special’ part will be omitted and it’ll become an official student general meeting. It’ll be more interesting if she does. Many things will move and become money after all.”
“I see,” Toori said. Still half-naked, he raised his right hand with a serious face.
“…But it’s quite hard to get a gag in here, isn’t it? It’s too hard.”
Everyone ignored him. Toori peeked frantically at the seats to his left and right, and finally…
“Wait, are you guys ignoring me…?”
Then, for some reason, he dropped all the way to his seat and laid face down on the teacher’s desk. Eventually he bent forward and started wiggling, Shirojiro looking at him.
“Everyone, just take it in. Miss Oriotorai will clean the idiot up afterwards, so don’t worry about him.”
“Shiro-kun? It looks like she won’t wait that long.”
The students of 3-Bamboo and the teacher, Sanyou, experienced it for the third time today.
“That was quick! That’s too quick, sensei! Ah, ow ow ow, my arms don’t bend that way…”
“Ah, Sanyou? A push, it’s a push!!”
Covering up the newly-made hole, Shirojiro drew a breath and looked over at everyone.
Furthermore, he only took a single glance at the figure of Toori on the teacher’s desk, wrapped in curtain from his feet all they way to his head, before ignoring him.
“Now then, everyone-…”
“Hey! He~y! Are you ignoring me!? It’s not every day you see someone rolling himself up in a curtain on the teacher’s desk, you know!? I’m doing a pretty good job at looking like a white pea pod, am I not?”
Continuing his ignoring, Shirojiro looked at everyone.
With the preface “See here?” that he’d repeated a number of times today, Erimaki (still on top of Heidi’s head) clapped its hands and brought out a sign frame onto midair. Displayed on it were rows of text. The verse where the scrolling stopped was…
“According to the Academy rules, where certain conditions such as the deficiency of a leader are met, students will be able to hold a special student general meeting during a crisis that threatens the Academy; the opinion the meeting decides on will become representative of the whole student body. …Losing the Chancellor’s Officers and the Student Council, we are essentially staging something like an appeal or a coup d’etat over the whole academy grounds.”
Then Shirojiro said, while stealing a glance at Toori over at the teacher’s desk:
“If we hold a special student general meeting and call Masazumi over to us, we will be able to decide. We’ll be able to decide what happens to Horizon, Musashi and the Far East, as well as our own selves. Everyone, get in touch with the people you care about and be prepared for when the time comes. Whatever the case, we students are a main part of this world; they are going to be dragged into whatever decision we make after all.”
“…What about the opinions of the other classes, Shiro-kun?”
“I’ve already sent out mail to them as a representative committee member. Did you think I was not doing anything all this time? And the majority of the replies were ‘I don’t know what to do so let me hear your story.’ Do you understand? Even with the pressure the Testament Union is putting on us, we are still in a position where we cannot avoid the possibility of hesitation.”
“The guard unit, then. The people in charge nearby would surely need to hear our story. Honda Futayo is escorting King Yoshinao over at Musashino after all. Being the vice commanding officer of her Academy, her unit consists of about 150 people, I assume.”
“Will it be bad if we don’t tell them, Shiro-kun?”
“They are about the only combat unit we have in the Far East. If we are to deal with the Testament Union after this, their power would most definitely be needed. Also, they are well aware of the might of each country, so they are torn between the Union and the Far East. There is a need to understand, and again, because of this the situation calls us to get our intentions through to them. That’s why we should get them to understand and, while we still can, get them over to our side so that it’ll be easier on us after.”
Saying that, Shirojiro let out a breath.
Then, looking at Toori’s still rolled-up figure on the teacher’s desk said.
“Hey, I’m done, idiot. Say something interesting. Something profitable would be better.”
Toori laid his rolled-up figure sideways, and bent backwards.
The students of 3-Bamboo and Sanyou experienced it for the fourth time that day.
“W-wait, sensei, it’s not my fault, you’re just passing off harsh judgement on my gag, aren’t you!! Ah, wai-… it’s stuck, ua, no, don’t pull the gyouza~!”
“Aah, seriously, that was so cheap I could not contain myself! Ah, Sanyou? In other words, a push!!”
In a white room, a voice leaked out.
“I would not expect these to properly answer your request, but…”
These were the words of a female student, her uniform in red, holding several volumes of books under her arm.
At the end of her gaze, the white-haired automaton seated on a chair responded.
“Judge, it is fine. To be honest, Horizon can conclude that I do not myself have much of the experience of reading, after all. Either of them will exceed Horizon’s expectations, thus I can conclude.”
“Is that so,” the student spoke while approaching Horizon with the books in her arm.
She realized that there was nowhere to place the books in the room.
Horizon noticed the confusion of the female student.
She stood up and left the chair open.
The student went over to her side and placed the books on top of the chair. Still…
“Um, Horizon-sama, you…”
Without answering, Horizon took one of the volumes in her hand and…
“Thinking back, Horizon was always like this.”
With those words, Horizon sat down beside the wall. Then, with a broken sitting posture, she laid down the book on her lap and opened it with her two hands. Looking at the figure of the doll drawing her gaze to the opened book in that position, the female student panicked, and then…
“N-no, please, I’ll immediately get a chair…”
“I heard that bringing things into this place is quite hard. I would gather that even clearing a book to be brought here would have taken some effort. Also this is Horizon’s usual reading posture in a room, so I’d ask you not to mind.”
The female student, a little lost, alternated her gaze between Horizon and the entrance without a handle. But, with her gaze quickly turned to the book, Horizon said…
“What kind of things are in the contents of this book, I wonder.”
“Ah, tes. I have asked Musashi about the good-selling and popular books; there are about ten books, which I have divided into genres. It seems that some of them were censored, but the ones cut out are stuff that would promote feelings of resistance or weaken one’s resolve…”
Stopping her words, the female student made a sound gulping her throat, and…
“Anyway, things like those won’t be in there. So as to remove any dangerous things or wards inside them, they have been selected from those sold at the stores and checked by the higher people for safety.”
“Judge, thank you. Also…”
Turning her gaze from the book to the female student, Horizon held the collar of the white clothes she wore and showed it to her. Those were provided by Tres España, but…
“Horizon would like to have my clothes, please.”
The student lowered her eyebrows.
“Those are the clothes of a citizen. For the lord of a country…”
“Those were the clothes Horizon chose. Horizon was aware of my duty to find out who I am, but before that, I myself was the one who chose those clothes. I can conclude that those clothes are appropriate for myself, so if it’s possible, I’d like to wear them, please.”
To those words, the female student let several seconds pass.
After a while…
“Tes. I’ll bring them over after they are cleaned. Tres España uses an Osman-originated cleaning technique so the clothes will become like new.”
“Judge. Thank you.”
Horizon gave a sign of gratitude. Returning the greeting, the student went back to silence. Thus, Horizon said:
“Is anything wrong?”
“Ah, no. …About the thing before. If Horizon-sama, were to wish to be saved, a hypothetical situation, so to say…”
“Judge, whatever the case, Horizon is only following the best decision. If Horizon were to understand her desire to be rescued or anything…”
“I would gather that the person to do so will give up.”
“? …W-why is that?”
“The decisions of an automaton are perfect. That person would surely bring the words meant to save Horizon, but… I wonder if he’ll be able to keep up with all of my refutations?”
“Parallel conversations. Horizon would surely come to an understanding with that person, but until that moment, will he be able to separate the boundary between us that is the perfect judgement, I wonder.”
Saying that, Horizon realized one thing.
“It’s just like Horizon wants to be saved. Whether I want to or not, that decision lies under my perfect judgement. Even so, whether I would wish for such a thing or not; right now I do not know. It’s just that…”
The female student in front of her did not say anything. As if to conclude, Horizon continued.
“When Horizon heard of her origins, only one thing was clear in my thoughts: if it was possible, instead of a monarch or whatever…it would have been better if I was an employee in a cafe.”
To her words, the student hardened her body.
At a loss for words, she only stood still.
Horizon could not understand the meaning behind the girl’s silence. She thought of inquiring, but at that moment, a dull sound started to echo.
“If I may ask, was that a ship?”
“Ah, tes, the ship modified to house the refugees of Mikawa has started to head towards Musashi. They were going to obtain water and ether fuel supplies, but that would probably take until close to night time to complete.”
“Judge. I believe that Horizon will no longer be around at that time, so I wouldn’t expect to see those people safe and sound.”
“…Ah, I-I’m sorry.”
Horizon tilted her head. She only meant to speak the truth, but something must have probably gone wrong.
She looked up at the colored ceiling.
“Whatever the case…”
“I will never get to meet all the various people at the store again, will I?”
- ↑ This school of painting was the dominant style of Japanese painting from the late 15th century to the 19th century.
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