Horizon:Volume 1 Chapter 09
Chapter 09: The One Waiting Beyond the Door
When I had thought that it was nobody existsnobody
That was not it
It was not no need for somebodyno body either
Then, what was it
Point Allocation (At the point of death)
There was an underground hallway. It was an illuminated underground passage in the residential areas.
In the corner, a single boy with his shoulders drooping was standing in front of a western-style sliding door.
It was Azuma.
Without even paying attention to his messy hair, he stood there lost in thought.
In the end, I came back here… But I really failed…
I was planning on resolving the situation where there was already a previous resident in the room that would be my new one, but…
…What kind of wild goose chase was I subjected to?
First, I went to the office that manages the rooms. The manager’s office was at the entrance to a vertical passage at the end of the horizontal sections.
But at the office I discovered that they weren’t the ones managing the paperwork needed for me to move, even though they were supposed to be the ones in charge of the residences; so I was told that I had to bring my residency change documents from the Academy if I wanted to change my room.
At least at that office I was able to confirm who the resident in my room was.
Miriam Poqou, 18 years old. She was in the same class as me. The manager, who was an aged werewolf, looked into it and burst into laughter.
“Isn’t that fine?! Are appearances really that important among the young?!” he asked.
“If that’s the case, then as expected, this won’t do.” I thought. I had largely completed my transition into a secular life yesterday; but living together with a girl from my class right as I become a citizen after being a member of the imperial family is too big a character change.
…And more than that, the other side of this equation is troubling.
However, when I went to the Academy’s business office in an attempt to acquire my residence change documents I was told: “You need the permission of your guardian…”
After that, as it was really important, I was stuck searching for Oriotorai. It seems she wasn’t carrying the paperwork I needed and it wasn’t in the teachers’ staff room either, so I had to look for it around the school. In the classroom being used by the tea ceremony club was an acquaintance of mine, Asama, who along with the other club members was performing the tea ceremony with sport drinks for the athletics club. At that time Asama had a hat pierced with arrows placed to one side, while drinking the IZUMO-brand lemon-flavored sports drink “CC-EMON” and kneeling. I was able to explain my case to her, but she said:
“Isn’t that fine? Are appearances really that important among the young?”
In short, all that happened was that I learned that this girl was also something else.
However, according to their information Oriotorai had the habit of “inspecting her territory” around that time, so with everyone’s cooperation I found Oriotorai in the cafeteria two hours later.
As I was trying to head to the cafeteria, I heard laughter and saw an amazing woman who had been getting smashed on the local brand sake since noon there.
I didn’t really understand it, but a recklessly cheerful Oriotorai told me:
“Ain’t that fine!? Are appearances really that important among you young’uns?”
…Could it be that all the residents of Musashi have been brainwashed in such a way that their thought patterns have been completely standardized?
And after talking about a lot of things for what was likely a whole hour…
I’ve been utterly defeated…
In other words, Azuma was now in front of that room thinking from the bottom of his heart that this was bad.
Being defeated meant that I can do nothing but stay in this room. But doing so and staying in this room will probably affect my image, given my youth. Meaning that I can’t, so I will live outside. There should be some place sheltered from the wind and rain even there, right? But isn’t becoming homeless immediately after my return to secular life too big a character change as well?
…Could it be that now, I am in the midst of running away from reality?
While he was thinking, a girl’s voice could be heard from the other side of the sliding door before his eyes.
“What are you doing? You can come in, it’s fine.”
At that question, he panicked and glanced around at his surroundings. School was over and the sun was starting to set, so the students in the clubs were going to their respective activity areas; and all the people in the hallways were on their way to wash their laundry or clean their rooms. Which meant…
After that question, there was a pause.
In that empty space of time, he took a breath, then a second one; and when he was in the middle of the third…
…Huh? Did I say something wrong?
Thinking of that question, he started sweating profusely. Then she said:
“—I don’t really understand what you mean, but I guess it’s fine even if you don’t come in.”
So naturally, his hand reached out to the sliding door. While he was wondering if this really was fine, he felt that not entering would be even worse; so therefore, Azuma opened the door by sliding it to the left.
Faster than he was able to get a clear look at the figure of the girl seated in the wheelchair in front of him, she said this:
“—I want to talk with you a little. Is that fine with you, Azuma?”
Azuma did not close the sliding door.
He didn’t want to give the feeling that he was going to stay by closing the door; but…
“Please close it. This is a room with a girl inside, you know.”
As she had said, he decided to close the door. He closed it, hands behind his back, in such a way that he would make the least amount of noise possible.
Directly in front of him, the girl called Miriam Poqou continued to face her wheelchair towards the desk and looked his way by just turning her head.
What should I say? No, I should start with my question.
“I was told that I would stay in this room from today onwards by the Academy—”
His words were cut off. Miriam looked as if she was thinking a little, but…
“It’s something that happens all the time. Generally everyone involved gets perplexed, but you’ll get used to it.”
“Get used to it…”
“This isn’t the first time I’ve shared a room… It’s the first time with a boy, though.”
“I-if that’s so—”
“It’ll be fine once we get used to it; that applies for the both of us. There’ve already been a lot of cases where boys and girls are assigned to the same room. I think that’s just what happened this time… Also, if this room was assigned to you, then it’s yours as much as mine.
“Even so, asking whether it’s fine for yourself to be here is the same thing as asking me whether you should leave, you know? I don’t want to leave, so it’s fine if you stay as well.”
“Use the space in front of you as you please and the corner will be mine. Also, I want to use the bottom bunk; is that fine?”
Azuma could not answer the question, as he was currently in a state where he had lost all words.
…Doesn’t she think it’s a problem?
She said, “It’s something that happens all the time.” The girl who lives her life in a wheelchair. The “all the time” she’s talking about is different from my “all the time”. While he thought about the meaning of that, Miriam tilted her head.
“…Well, whether it has some thought behind it or it’s a mistake, it’s something the Academy decided upon, right? It’s something that happens all the time. I think that I’ll be able to get used to it, but is it fine with you? Staying in the same room as me.”
He said himself and came to a realization. Is this about the distance between boys and girls? As such, Azuma returned a question with the same words.
“Is it really fine with you to share a room with a boy?”
“…Umm, you don’t really understand what I’m saying, do you—? Well, whatever. You know, Azuma, if you really think that it’s wrong for boys and girls to live together, why are you standing there?”
Miriam’s voice could be heard.
“I’ve already done things like showed parts of my body to doctors, you know. And there’s no distinction between doctors and male students in that if something goes wrong in that situation, it’ll be a crime. But I don’t think you’re that kind of person.”
“You know,” Miriam said.
“I basically understand what you did after you left earlier. You understand the implications of boys and girls being in the same room, so you went to object; and you were argued with because you’re too nice. You’re honest to the extent where you couldn’t even decide that ‘it’s fine if she understands’; so you were standing in front of the door, right?
“Isn’t it fine? If you understand just that one thing, I know that when both of us get rid of this nervousness, it’ll be over and done with. That’s why…first I’d like for you to make a promise with me; is that OK?”
“Yes…to not raise a word against each others’ lives. For example, I’m an overly religious Catholic but you’re a Shintoist, right? Things like that and…that’s right, if we were to talk about the extremes, I wouldn’t say anything even if you brought a girl here.”
“I-I won’t do anything like that.”
“My, ‘won’t’ means that it’s something that you ‘could’ do but won’t, doesn’t it?”
Spoken to thus, Azuma felt that heat was rising to his cheeks. Words like “No” or “Um” leaked from his mouth, but in response, Miriam suddenly relaxed her eyes, and with a small laugh she waved her hand.
“I’m sorry, I was joking. That was my bad, I know that you’re serious.”
“Is that why you made fun of me?”
“Not that. I wanted to confirm whether you were even more serious than I thought. It was unnecessary; I apologize.”
“You know,” Miriam said again.
“Fundamentally, the fact that I take classes through the notes that everyone brings to me means I’m treated the same as taking lessons from home. And I’ll choose times when the bath and canteen are empty, so if you’re interrupted by my life, you won’t have to do anything. I move at different times from everyone else.”
“Sh-should I help you?”
Her eyes opened, and being asked in question, Azuma realized that he had said those words out of reflex.
Therefore, while feeling panic in his heart…
“I mean, things like helping you move in your wheelchair…”
The sound of his voice faded, as he strongly felt that he was saying something unnecessary.
In response, Miriam closed her opened eyes in a relaxed manner and narrowed them, smiling wryly.
“That’s not why you were sent here to share a room, was it?”
After he was remonstrated, Miriam looked around the room…
“Is it fine? Being treated the same as anyone else, assuming that wasn’t a mistake or a misunderstanding… That it means you’ll be trusted by me, you know? Looking from your viewpoint, this is probably because there was indeed some sort of mistake or misunderstanding; but from my point of view, it’d be nice if the guilt stemming from this room being underused was gone. That I’m being treated as a human being is also something I’m grateful of.”
At her words, Azuma felt something hard around his throat.
…As a human being…huh?
The equivalence that the girl in the wheelchair hopes for.
…That is, to welcome the new resident of her room just like anyone else…
That what everyone else is doing, she can do too. She is saying that she is thankful for such a normal thing.
Azuma thought of himself. His power sealed, he had returned to a normal life and started to live as a normal person; but…
…He hadn’t even considered that this was something to be thankful for.
It wasn’t something he had needed to think of, because his and Miriam’s viewpoints were different. However, this crossed Azuma’s mind: Her daily life and mine hold different weights for each of us.
And now, Miriam was telling him to not care about her legs.
She was saying that it was even fine to live together with a boy if she got used to it. Even saying that this had happened before.
She also has a certain stubbornness to her, Azuma thought. To not make others feel concerned for her, she tries to be normal; and there were a lot of times where she would just say “It’s alright.” Therefore…
“Then, I want you to make a promise with me too.”
“…What? What promise can I make to you?”
Azuma spoke to the girl, who was frowning slightly and tilting her head. After giving a single gesture…
“—If the other looks troubled, I hope that it will be allowed to at least ask about it.”
“…You won’t suddenly make a move?”
He nodded, and Miriam showed a smile where the corners of her eyes dropped.
“You are serious, aren’t you?”
With the same expression, Miriam shook her head up and down.
However, when she raised her face she had already changed her expression to its regular smile…
“But if asking questions is allowed, then can I ask a single question right now? …You know, why have you been shaking the entire time we have been talking?”
“—Eh? No, um.”
“Would it have been better if I were a cute and quiet girl?”
No matter what he answered, it seemed as if it would be an insult; but denying that would be a lie without a doubt. Therefore, Azuma said…
“That’s unfair…it feels like you have been testing me the whole time.”
“Is that so? Even if I’m the one to give you points as score, you’re the one the only one who can earn them, you know?”
“…? Why is it that girls can’t earn points?”
“That is because a girl’s points are determined by…the points of the boy she’s with.”
“Huh?” Azuma faltered. In front of him, Miriam was laughing softly while waving the palm of her hand.
“Isn’t that right? No matter how much one is dressed up, if it’s only that then it’s just a hobby. If you dress up while being aware of what people see, then you’re expressing yourself. Because of this, it’s fashionable if you are able to dress up in such a way that people are captivated. And if you are able to dress up such a way that you can steal the eyes of a person who holds the points that you want…”
Widening her smile, she looked up from drooping her head…
“…that’s what it means to reach out to the one you yearn for.”
Saying that, Miriam looked his way. She left a smile at the edge of her lips…
“What kind of person are you? An honest person, a soft-hearted person unable to throw away your earnestness…”
“Le-let’s stop with all this points business.”
“—You’re rather conceited, so I got a little ahead of myself, didn’t I?”
He was laughed at. But, that really is true, he thought…
…Am I earnest?
That’s a bad point, he also thought.
And looking at Miriam, who wiped away the tears at the corners of her eyes that came about from laughing, Azuma thought this:
Marking the lines of each others’ spaces, without interfering in each others’ lives, asking whenever we take interest in something. In short, this is…
“Good enough for two strangers, isn’t it.”
“If you say ‘let’s start as strangers,’ that’ll be the time I say, ‘That’s it, get out,’ you know?”
“Ahh, then…now, I guess that sets my score.”
So he said, and Miriam raised her eyebrows. For about a breath she looked his way with an expression that was not quite a smile nor surprise; but suddenly she bent her body forward, burst out laughing, and formed words.
“—If you hadn’t said that you’d have rather high points. You are so foolishly earnest.”
“But,” saying that, Miriam stuck her left hand out his way. Lightly opening her hand for a handshake…
“—I can’t be suspicious of foolishly earnest people.”
The checkpoint at the foot of Kakamigahara had a bridge.
It was a checkpoint different from the quarantine and trade checkpoint at the upper side of the mountain. To be sure that things that descended from the mountain would be unable to immediately enter Mikawa, it was a place whose purpose was a second inspection.
The gate that was proof of the checkpoint was built on the riverbank of the river running down the mountain, in front of a bridge.
The wide, roofless gate was open; and from the opened gate, a bridge around 10 meters in width was visible.
And south from the bridge, if one looked at the sea, on the other side of the wide fields and forests, at the foot of the gentle slope, was a village stained with blue.
In the center of the village, the flat New Nagoya Castle laid, as if covered by brown cloth.
Before this backdrop, there were three figures.
One was a past middling, slender man.
One was a full-figured man, around the same age.
And the other was a girl sticking close to the back of the second.
The three were standing with the village of Mikawa to their backs.
To that place, another figure came. He too was a past-middling, hunchbacked man…
“Oh, to think that two of the Matsudaira Four Heavenly Kings, Sakakibara Yasumasa and Honda Tadakatsu would come to greet me… Was this to not disappoint me? Where’s Ii? Sakakibara, Da-chan.”
At his words, the middling, slender man called Sakakibara raised his face slightly. He brushed his white hair aside…
“About that, Sakai-kun, actually, Ii-kun has—”
“Don’t say a word about Ii. Have you forgotten, Sakakibara?”
The middling, full-figured man called Tadakatsu spoke without turning his gaze to Sakakibara.
Sakakibara, beside him, let his lips falter; but looking in Sakai’s direction he shut his mouth together with a nod.
As if a substitute, Tadakatsu stepped forwards half a step. Tilting his body forward a little…
In an instant, the figure of the girl at Tadakatsu’s back disappeared.
In response, Sakai raised his face slightly…
“Huh? Heyheyhey, the ‘show me’ you’re talking about isn’t about something good is i—”
Before his line was over, a figure that outlined two arcs approached Sakai’s back.
One of the arcs was the trajectory that the tied hair of the girl from just now had traced.
The other arc was a silver trajectory that told of a drawn blade.
The movement did not stop. And as such…
Sakai also put his body into motion.
- Azuma uses 余, a rather old masculine first-person pronoun.
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