Horizon:Volume 2B Chapter 42
Chapter 42: Those who Move About in the Wings of the Stage
Why does it grow so noisy
I was not trying to cause a commotion
Point Allocation (Individuality)
The party preparations were complete in Oxford Academy’s hall, but there was still time until six o’clock when the party began.
The Musashi representatives – especially the girls – were not used to dressing up and were spending the full time available to prepare.
But as the girls showed their outfits off to each other in the hall-sized girls’ changing room, Masazumi was lost in thought.
…So this is the outfit the Aoi sister prepared for me.
In the carriage along with Aoi and Horizon, she had been handed a wicker basket and told, “Masazumi, yours is on the right, Horizon’s is in the center, and my foolish brother’s is on the left.”
“This does look like it would suit me,” she commented upon checking inside.
The Aoi sister had already finished changing and left. Masazumi had assumed she would head to the hall, but she had said otherwise.
“Heh heh heh. I finished with time to spare, so I’ll go check out the surrounding passageways. If we wait until something happens, it will be too late to find an escape route for everyone.”
That would normally be Tenzou’s job, but he and Naruze had been put to sleep and returned to the Musashi for healing. Kimi was skilled in dealing with others, so she was indeed ideal for reconnaissance.
Beyond the others who were relying on the Aoi sister, Asama and Mitotsudaira were helping Horizon into her dress. As an automaton, she had black flexible parts from the top of her chest to the neck and on both arms. From a shape and color perspective, one had to consider whether or not to hide those black parts when selecting a dress for her, but the Aoi sister had selected a black sleeveless dress with white camellia-shaped ribbons and other decorative cloths. It also had a few golden lines.
…According to the Testament descriptions, the Fairy Queen liked the color black and often wore gold dresses.
Masazumi had heard that the queen’s subordinates had all chosen black outfits to match the queen, so she felt the Aoi sister had made the right decision as a guest. The decorative camellias were an Asian flower that did not exist in Europe and the Testament descriptions said nothing about the seeds having made their way over. As such, selective breeding had long been practiced with the Far Eastern ones and it was the representative example of a Far Eastern flower.
…Overall, the Aoi sister is surprisingly reliable.
She likely understood that this was more or less Horizon’s debut appearance.
The diplomatic trio of Futayo, Suzu, and Adele had finished changing, so they too helped dress Horizon and groom her hair. Horizon may have felt the need to dress up, but she did not seem to grasp the point.
“You seem to be having trouble with the area around my waist, so how about I take apart my torso? My parts have individual survival lockdown functions, so I can remove my limbs or head for about half an hour without issue. See?”
When she removed her left arm at the shoulder, everyone froze. Asama was the first to react.
“W-wow, Horizon. How about we save that for the end-of-the-year talent show!?”
“Well done, Horizon-sama,” added Futayo. “I see you have developed an innovative new anti-decapitation technique. I never thought of removing the body part before it can be cut.”
“I’m used to seeing that with mobile shells, but this is like the person inside doing it,” commented Adele.
Aren’t you supposed to be disturbed by that? thought Masazumi as Horizon reattached her arm.
Masazumi frowned when she saw something strange behind the automaton.
Something was floating behind Horizon’s waist and Masazumi recognized it.
…But why is that floating there?
She approached in confusion and everyone turned toward her.
“Um, you’re too late,” said Asama with a tilt of the head. “We’ve already finished the best parts.”
That’s not what I’m doing, she thought while reaching for what floated behind Horizon.
“Can you see this?”
She indicated it with her hand.
“This is the hilt of Lype Katathlipse, the Logismoi Óplo that went missing.”
Asama saw it floating behind Horizon. The object Masazumi crouched down and touched was indeed a white and black hilt. But why was just the hilt floating there? She did not understand, so she thought and finally reached a conclusion.
“Masazumi, is this some sort of illusion?”
“I didn’t hide it here.”
As everyone watched in confusion, Horizon herself did the same.
She frowned in confusion as she looked at it. She turned toward it, but after a short delay, it followed her like a tail. “Ah,” said Masazumi as it left her hand and rotated to match Horizon’s movement. It looked something like a cat chasing its own tail.
…Its coordinates seem fixed to Horizon’s position.
But when Masazumi frantically grabbed it, she was able to hold it back with the gentleness of a spring gathering tension. Rather than fixed coordinates, it seemed to follow her half-automatically. Masazumi let go and it slowly started rotating behind Horizon.
Just as Asama prepared to give her opinion on this phenomenon, Horizon slowly reached for the floating hilt and pulled the entire thing out.
Silently and with gentle resistance, she produced Lype Katathlipse and placed it on a nearby table.
She placed a hand on her chin and tilted her head. As an automaton, she seemed unable to accept this unexplained phenomenon connected to her, but Mitotsudaira raised a hand and gave her opinion.
“When you visited me earlier, you produced an apple and knife. Where did those come from?”
Horizon stopped moving. Eventually, she brought a hand to her forehead and mimed placing objects on the table and arranging them.
…Oh, she’s recreating her actions with the apple.
After gathering the imagined plates, she brought them behind her.
She stopped once more and finally spoke with an emotionless voice.
“Really, now. What is going on, everyone?”
“Sh-she passed it on to us!!”
Anyway, thought Asama. I know what this is.
“It goes by a variety of names depending on how the space is made, but I think she has created an alternate space for storage. It is the same technique Naito and Naruze use for their Technohexen outfits.”
“Horizon has been sleeping a lot lately, so do you think that was in order to install this ability? You could say she was repeatedly installing and rebooting,” said Naito. “She had optimized the entire process, so she didn’t even notice she was putting stuff in there. It was a part of her body, so she didn’t have to think about it.”
“Most likely,” agreed Asama while remembering something else she had noticed. “Horizon, you took part in the divine chat during the meeting between Lord Howard and Shirojiro on the diplomatic ship. At the time, I assumed you had made a contract somewhere, but you hadn’t, had you?”
The silver-haired automaton frowned and brought a hand to her chin once more. After a moment, she again recreated the moment by tapping at the empty air with her right hand.
But nothing appeared there. She tried the same thing a few times, but the result was the same. Adele finally stopped her.
“This probably means that ability hasn’t been fully installed yet. Sign frames are at the base of the interface, so it’s probably especially complicated. The next time you fall asleep, it might be for this.”
“Judge. I have determined the same. They do say sleeping helps a child grow.”
I suppose that is what it means for an automaton to “grow”, thought Asama. And this isn’t a mechanical upgrade. It’s more like the automatically developed updates of an intelligent weapon’s internal spell.
She felt the same was happening to Horizon.
…But her ability goes farther than normal.
The event four days prior had happened so naturally that she had not noticed, but approval from a divine chat’s administrator was required to participate. Nevertheless, Horizon had cut in without it. The Asama Shrine managed the divine network, so Asama’s sign frame system was highly secure.
…And yet she managed to cut in like it was nothing.
She belatedly realized just what it meant for Horizon to be an automaton built by Lord Motonobu, ruler of Mikawa. If Asama increased the security, Horizon would most likely update to match it.
“So, um, Horizon? Once you’re able to produce sign frames, please tell me. If I register you, it will cut down on problems and-…”
She trailed off because Horizon had crouched down and stuck her right arm into empty space up to the elbow. She rummaged around inside with a searching look and eventually placed some objects on the table.
“Oh? This is the book I was reading. And this is…a pillow?”
…Isn’t she being a little too careless with this!?
She also produced a folded handkerchief, a textbook, a flyer for a sale, and some other things.
“Are you using it as a trash can?”
“Does it have a lid? You brought out some soap, but did the bath water flow inside? Is everything in there okay?”
As everyone gave their comments, Horizon hit the jackpot.
“Oh? What’s this?” she said. “Judge. Look. A bowl full of seaweed.”
Asama and the other girls fled from the room.
Twenty minutes later, those gathered in the party hall spoke up as someone arrived.
A stir filled the crowd as someone in a blue dress entered from the Far Eastern corridor. The blue showed off the long black hair and the dress had a simple design with few decorations and a second layer of white at the bottom of the skirt. To indicate peaceful intentions, the front of the skirt was clasped high, a decorative hat was worn deep over the face, and white cloths covered the neck and waist.
“Does that symbolize the clouds?”
The boys exchanged glances to hold each other in check.
“Long black hair and a flat chest. Is that Musashi’s rumored vice president?”
Many of them had been too far away to see during the daytime opening ceremony and a line of boys formed in front of the blue dress. Just as the dress gestured for them to approach by kissing the outfit’s white glove, Asama in her red suit-style Far Eastern outfit arrived with the others.
“Huh?” they reacted upon seeing the situation in progress.
While cheers washed over them, the girls exchanged frowning glances.
“Who is that?” asked a suspicious voice.
That was when Kimi appeared from the opposite corridor wearing a red dress. She wiped her hands with a handkerchief and spotted Asama’s group.
“You all are late. I had enough time to go sightseeing around the academy.”
Kimi followed Asama’s gaze and noticed the blue dress that had drawn a line of boys.
She too tilted her head for a moment, but she actually called out to the blue dress.
“Foolish brother, why are you wearing Masazumi’s dress?”
Everyone stopped moving and the blue dress removed the hat and a wig to reveal Toori’s frowning face below.
“C’mon, sis. Don’t give it away right when things are getting interesting.”
The hall filled with screams and shouts of protest.
While the boys hung their heads and fell to their knees, Masazumi finally grasped what was going on after entering late.
“That would explain why my outfit was a male ceremonial uniform with pants.”
It was white, likely as a contrast to Horizon’s black. As for how they had gotten mixed up…
…When the Aoi sister explained the contents of the basket, I never checked whether it was right and left from my perspective or hers.
While the idiot had taken the dress without question, she was still at fault. However, that idiot was now standing amid the unmoving crowd of boys and he spread the leg portion of the dress.
“Being a girl is hard work! The waist is super tight and the crotch and butt are…how should I put it? They sit weird. The position doesn’t feel right. It can’t be like this all the time can it? Well, can it?”
…Please don’t ask that while tapping on the shoulders of the people hanging their heads.
At any rate, Masazumi was glad Mitotsudaira had prepared a white version of her inner suit. The black camellia ribbons on the chest and ceremonial sword seemed like a bit much, though.
…I swapped out the neck parts, but how does that work with a Mouse?
The baby anteater was asleep on the transport ship to heal and Asama had said it would not awaken for a while, but she was still worried.
The Aoi sister walked over, ignored Asama’s group while humming and smiling, and stopped in front of Masazumi. She suddenly lifted the other girl’s chin with a finger.
“Judge. The scar is gone. Did Mitotsudaira do that?”
She can tell? thought Masazumi, but it was likely part of her skill with makeup.
She soon looked away from Masazumi.
“Asama, Adele, I will remain with Masazumi during the party, so you two stick with Mitotsudaira and Suzu. If they try to take any food, you get it for them. As we do not have official positions, our job is to wait on them.”
The sullen look on Mitotsudaira’s face suggested there was more to it than that. It was hidden with foundation, but her usual vigor was lacking. Asama could use purification spells, so she could provide support if something happened.
Masazumi asked the Aoi sister a question as Horizon entered the hall.
“Aoi sister, are you sure you shouldn’t stick with Horizon? And shouldn’t you have been the one to dress her?”
“Horizon has my foolish brother as a partner, so there is nothing to worry about. As for dressing her, I can enjoy that any day. Also, I have no official position, so she might have to change clothes for official business when I am not around in the future. She needs to be able to change even when she is all on her own.”
The Aoi sister pulled a change purse from between her breasts and stuck it between Horizon’s breasts.
“Wait a second,” said Masazumi while glaring at her.
“What is this?” asked Horizon with a tilt of the head.
“If a waiter does something for you, give them an arbitrary tip from there. You don’t need to if they are doing it as a favor, though. If you can’t determine which it is, ask my foolish brother, okay?”
Horizon nodded and the Aoi sister rubbed her hair with her eyes bent in a smile.
“I’m sure you’ll head out to enjoy the festival tomorrow as well, so you can use that then too. My foolish brother will undoubtedly insist all his money is for buying souvenirs for everyone, so use that to enjoy yourselves. Think of it as an allowance from your big sister.”
“Stop showing off.”
Mitotsudaira glared at her, but the Aoi sister smiled indifferently.
“This is my special privilege.”
“Why?” asked Horizon. “Why are you being so kind to me, Kimi-sama?”
“Because you’re going to be my little sister.”
“That has yet to be determined.”
“That doesn’t matter.” The Aoi sister stroked along Horizon’s cheek and down to her chin. “Women can invest in their dreams for what others will become, while men can only invest in themselves. If I invest in you, it makes my dream more likely to come true. Al-so.” She tapped on Horizon’s cheek with each syllable of that word. “Come to our place on the surface sometime soon. You don’t have to come with my foolish brother. There’s something I want to show you.”
“Judge. You mean the shop owner’s house, don’t you? As long as it would not be a bother.”
As the two spoke, Asama and Mitotsudaira’s expressions stiffened. What is it? wondered Masazumi with a glance, but the two of them frantically shook their heads.
…What’s that about?
Next, another stir filled the party hall. A girl in a golden dress appeared from the England-side corridor.
“It’s Fairy Queen Elizabeth. She’s come out fully equipped.”
The girl wore the color gold.
Her blade-shaped crown thrust out forward and her English girls’ uniform was woven with golden cloth. Two decorated guarders floated above each shoulder and blades over a meter long hung down from them.
Blades were also attached to the hard points on the back of her waist. The total of six blades and the spreading skirt gave her a butterfly-like silhouette.
She moved gently and was accompanied by maids. Without circling to the hall’s seat of honor, she simply stood in the center.
She turned toward the gathering of Musashi students. She smiled once she spotted Musashi’s princess amid the dresses and ceremonial clothing, but her eyebrows soon moved slightly.
“Where is Musashi’s chancellor and student council president?”
“I’m right over here. What is it?”
Elizabeth turned around and found the boy in a blue dress who was already eating meat served on the bone. His crotch contained a tarbosaurus made from hard chocolate.
She stared at him for a good five seconds.
“Is Musashi’s representative a pervert!?”
“We can’t argue against that,” muttered the entire Musashi group while hanging their heads.
Meanwhile, the queen reached the throne at the seat of honor and glanced over at the idiot who was being dragged away by Asama and Futayo.
She cleared her throat once and slowly but clearly spoke.
“For the advancement of our two nations and academies, we will hold tonight’s party and inter-academy meeting.”
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