Horizon:Volume 2 Chapter 21
Chapter 21: The Two in the Meeting Place
What is it
That cannot be done alone?
Point Allocation (Misunderstanding)
Masazumi could see the sea from where she sat.
Naruze and Naito sat between her and the sea while Mitotsudaira sat between her and the hill. Balfette and Mukai were sitting among the English and eating with the local children. According to Mukai, she could still hear the periodic odd sound from the upper levels, but the local children and adults had not noticed it.
…But she never doubts herself and thinks she might be imagining it.
That was just how much she trusted her ears.
…That level of confidence is rare for her.
As the representative of the English village, Scarred sat with Crossunite, Aoi, and Horizon. Despite being a student council officer, Masazumi had a reason for not sitting with the English.
…I hold a political position, so they are worried about a spy or attacker.
Naruze, Naito, and Mitotsudaira were her bodyguards.
Mitotsudaira came from Hexagone Française who historically did not get along with England, so anyone plotting something would think twice when they saw her next to Masazumi. Masazumi felt they were going overboard, but she understood why they were doing it.
There was one problem.
…I’ve never really eaten yakiniku.
“How am I supposed to eat this?”
Mikawa had mostly produced vegetables and fish, so the most meat Masazumi had eaten there was the occasional chicken.
She was used to eating at home, so she had never had only a sauce plate, chopsticks, and rice bowl.
…This isn’t enough!
She was used to having three dishes on the table and there was no soup here, so it all felt horribly lacking.
…Is the meat really that good? I guess it is different from ham or bacon.
The students who had been aboard the transport ship began to move. Masazumi saw Futayo take command of the grill.
“Ch-chief! After two weeks, meat is so delicious, isn’t it!?”
“Was yakiniku sauce this delicious before?”
“Thick slice,” displayed Tonbokiri.
“Listen up!” declared Futayo. “Everything past this line is my territory.”
That’s more than half, silently commented Masazumi before turning to her right.
There, Mitotsudaira was adding more and more vegetables to her plate.
…Girls do need their fiber.
Guessing Mitotsudaira was displaying a more normal method of eating than the others, Masazumi began emulating her.
…I’ll start with some vegetables.
She looked over and found all the vegetables gone from the grill. They had also vanished from the large plate to her side. A glance over at Mitotsudaira showed her plate was empty too. The girl sighed and then smiled.
“Okay, I ate all the vegetables. Now I can eat as much meat as I want.”
…She really is a wolf!
“W-wait a second! I didn’t get any of the vegetables!”
“Eh? Will you be okay tomorrow morning?”
…Whose fault do you think it is?
Meanwhile, Naito and Naruze were speaking across the table.
“Margot, I’m sorry I haven’t been very useful lately. …Look, you can eat this meat while imagining it’s me. With chicken, eat the wings! With pork, eat the butt! With beef, eat the legs or arms or whatever!”
“Ga-chan, that sounds great, but I’m pacing myself to have room for the yakisoba and Asamachi’s five-grain fried rice afterwards. Oh, and Seijun? This table eats a lot, so be careful. Ga-chan and I both have wings, so we consume about twice the calories of a normal person and Mito-tsan-…”
Suddenly, a naked boy and Horizon showed up. They both held large plates that required both hands. The plates contained various cuts of meat.
“Hey! Heidi sent these over for Nate.”
As she held out the meat, Horizon gave a satisfied nod.
“You are a carnivore, Mitotsudaira-sama? I will remember that.”
“N-no, I am not exactly carnivorous.”
“You put up a good fight for the past two weeks, so just leave it at that, okay?”
Mitotsudaira hesitated for a moment but ultimately took the two plates with her silver chains.
“Do you love meat that much?” asked Masazumi.
She only asked out of curiosity, but Mitotsudaira blushed.
“That is my nature as a Bête du Personne.”
“I can explain,” cut in Naito. “You know how carnivores and herbivores have different cells in their stomachs and their organs are otherwise different, right? For example, rabbits and guinea pigs have trouble digesting meat while tigers and ferrets have trouble digesting plants.”
“I do think I’ve heard that solid pet food is divided into those two categories.”
“Judge.” Naito nodded. “Herbivores can acquire the nutrients they need just by eating plants, but carnivores can’t eat plants. To gain those nutrients, they eat herbivores and gain the nutrients stored up in their body. Well, wolves are basically carnivores. Dogs are pretty omnivorous, but Mito-tsan isn’t a dog. That pretty much covers it.”
…It must have taken a toll on her to go two weeks without meat.
She had not been imagining it when she thought Mitotsudaira was not eating much.
…She must have decided going hungry was better than eating grains and vegetables which could make her sick.
If Mitotsudaira accepted Masazumi’s ignorance as an excuse, it showed how tolerant she was.
“So that’s why you brought this over, Aoi.”
For someone who walked around naked, he could be quite thoughtful at times like this. Masazumi wanted to criticize him for not having a clear stance on England, but he was not completely slacking off.
Meanwhile, the idiot had a huge grin on his face.
“Meat beats sweets, right?”
“I-I will eat sweets too. I would love it if you sent some over. I am half human, remember? …Wait, Horizon?”
Horizon was using chopsticks to hold some cooked meat out toward Nate from the side. She expressionlessly held up the sauce-covered meat.
“Judge. Have this entire piece,” she said. “Now, say ah. This is a ceremony to recognize what you have done for us.”
What is going on here? wondered Masazumi as Mitotsudaira blushed and tried to draw back from the meat held up to her.
However, the naked boy circled behind her and grabbed her shoulders. She shrunk down, her eyebrows twisted, and her nose twitched a few times as the steam hit it.
She closed her eyes, opened her lips with a resigned look, and stuck her tongue out a bit as she received Horizon’s chopsticks. She pursed her lips and drew in the steaming piece of food with the back of her teeth.
She lightly bit down and slowly swallowed.
She took a breath.
She stretched up a bit and then relaxed as her expression loosened up.
She leaned forward to escape the idiot’s hands and quickly covered her face with her hands.
“Wait, wait! What’s wrong, Nate?”
The excess silver chains twisted their long forms into words.
She tugged and pulled back the intelligent chain that was speaking out of turn. She then slipped from her short chair and her butt fell to the sandy ground. She placed her hands between her legs.
With her eyes closed, she raised her chin to look up at Horizon. She looked like a baby bird asking for food, but everyone exchanged a glance as she wordlessly stretched her throat up.
Before Masazumi or anyone else could say anything, Horizon grabbed the idiot’s hand and handed him another pair of chopsticks.
With the griller and feeder roles set, they worked to feed Mitotsudaira. Everyone watched as the girl continually narrowed her eyes every time she had meat brought to her mouth.
Masazumi sighed and looked around.
…This got out of hand quickly.
“Hey,” she called out to the others. “Does anyone have any extra vegetables?”
The tables with a mix between Musashi and England had extra vegetables because some had been brought in from the local area.
With Wet Man and Musashi’s princess gone, Scarred was left alone with Tenzou. Tenzou went to hand their extra vegetables to Wet Man and returned.
“Does anyone need anything to drink?” he asked.
“Heh heh heh. Ninja! Get me a beer! Three minutes!”
He was back in thirty seconds. Whenever Scarred tried to speak with him, someone would call out to him and he would quickly return. She was left staring blankly at him.
…He certainly works a lot.
Only he knew her identity, so her look of admiration was hidden deeply beneath her hood. She tried to do her best for the fourth level village, but he completely outdid her in consideration, effort, and especially problem solving.
The same had happened with the hot spring Wet Man had asked them about that morning.
…I never thought he could actually do it.
Scarred recalled what had happened a few hours earlier.
They had finished having the kobolds carry the gathered stones and swords of the graveyard to a hill with a nice view. He had asked her if the original graveyard had contained any remains.
…When I told him no, he simply nodded. He did not question it at all.
That graveyard contained no remains. All it contained was the last thing the people had held and a stone from the spot on which they had fallen.
“Then let us move on to the hot spring.”
His idea was to send water to the hole created when the ground below the graveyard had collapsed.
As a water source, they used the waterway passing between hilltop wheat fields. To create a conduit, they used the unused water pipes the diplomatic ship had brought for the cargo ship.
A few of the living blocks had only been used for remodeling floors and walls, so some leftover walls and a roofs had been set up for the changing room and bath area. They had hired the kobolds to dig up the ground and lay stones for installing the living block.
“Now, all we need to do is pour the water into the hole in the ground.”
She had had her doubts whether that was all it would take, but while they were preparing the floor with the kobolds, new kobolds had poured into the hole along with hot water.
…It was like magic.
But he had explained it.
“Kobolds are spirits that live along veins of ore and land with those veins is more likely to have hot springs. In other words, land with kobolds has heat sources closer to the surface. That means a hole opened where kobolds are will lead to magma or somewhere close to it. As long as the hole does not open up somewhere else, if you pour water in to fill the hole, a blast furnace level of geothermal heat will warm the water and create a natural boiling pot. Basically, we have artificially reproduced the structure of a hot spring.”
England was a floating island and each level and block had its own crust. Accumulated trash on the surface and side walls would be swallowed up and the internal heat would melt it down like a furnace so it could be reused as part of the crust.
This technique took advantage of that aspect of the crust.
“England’s crust is controlled, so a hole leading down this far is quite rare. But if you understand the system, this is not difficult.”
The mud had left the water they had sent in and the geothermal heat had turned it into hot water which rose back up.
From what she had heard, the Far East’s mainland had a lot of hot springs and a similar method was used to dilute the much hotter springs in the mountains and send them down to the base where health resorts could be built.
The elders of the village understood how rough this area could be on those working the fields, so they had rejoiced. It would also help with the children’s health and with washing clothes.
Tenzou had surprised her again and again when he had looked after the spring’s water lilies and removed the graveyard’s swords. And now…
“Okay. I should finally be able to eat,” he said as he sat next to her.
Tenzou sat to Scarred’s left so as to hide her from the others.
He had planned to do everything he could to protect her identity. Luckily, the most dangerous of his classmates had moved to other seats or wandered off, but that had produced a lot of odd jobs for him and he felt bad about leaving her alone for so long.
“Here you go.”
Scarred quietly offered him some grilled meat and vegetables, so he accepted.
Until that morning, he had felt something threatening between the two of them.
…But working together helped us understand how to get along.
“What is it, Scarred-dono? You aren’t eating.”
“Judge. Um, about that.”
Because she was speaking too quietly for the others to hear, she used more feminine language and she looked awkwardly at Tenzou.
“I was just wondering. How do you eat with your scarf like that?”
…I had never thought about it. I guess it’s a form of ninja technique. Probably.
He had formed the habit before his earliest memories, so he had never questioned it. In fact, he was a little confused how one ate without wearing a scarf.
After thinking for a bit, he decided he should give a standard response.
“It is a ninja technique.”
…Ah, I feel like I just became an incredibly boring guy! But at least I don’t tell terrible jokes like Masazumi-dono.
Scarred nodded a few times in understanding and the action contained none of the harshness she showed while hiding her identity.
…This is quite a gap.
He found it hard to remember her using masculine language like she had before.
…She is a good person and a diligent one.
When building the bath, she had not hesitated to work in the dirt to level it off for the floor. When walking through the village, people had called out to her. They were usually thanking her for something she had done for them, so it was obvious she was the type to do work for herself.
…That harshness came from a misunderstanding and her diligence.
“You really are diligent, aren’t you?”
He had been thinking of her that way, but he had never thought of himself that way. When she suddenly used that word to describe him, he spoke up without thinking.
Scarred was placing meat on top of the grill while facing him.
“Isn’t it a lot of work? I have only seen you today, but you have done so many things and you are always running around doing things for people.”
“Judge. I suppose so.”
It was true that the horrible people around him were a lost cause, but this was a different issue.
“The truth is, I enjoy it the most,” he said. “At least, that is what I think.”
“What do you mean?”
“Judge.” Tenzou grabbed some meat. “You just saw how I perform a lot of odd jobs and get asked to do a lot of things, right? In a way, I am filling in the gaps everyone else leaves behind, but if you think about it differently, this allows me to be involved in more than anyone else.”
Tenzou nodded and ate the meat Scarred had grilled.
Scarred glanced down at his hand for an instant, but she missed the instant he ate it and bit her lip in regret below her hood.
Tenzou inwardly smiled at that and continued speaking.
“I am not involved too deeply in any one thing, so I feel no responsibility toward it yet I get to play the role of the mini-hero. Butting in on so many things is nice and I can give a ninja’s opinion whenever it is needed. I enjoy helping everyone with what they aren’t doing, what they are trying and failing to do, or what they can’t do. I lose interest in things quickly, so being able to pop in for just the best part like that fits my personality well.”
“Then… You couldn’t continue doing the same thing?” Scarred switched from beef and began grilling pork and chicken. “And…doesn’t that put you on the losing end?”
“The losing end?”
“Judge,” she said. “You may gain something from the things you do, but aren’t some of them things you would rather not do? And aren’t there also times when you end up doing things for someone else so they will not suffer a loss? You fill the gaps the others leave behind by doing the things they do not want to do.”
“I suppose so.”
He did not deny it. Most of the requests were unexpected and he would sometimes make a sacrifice for those in the leading roles who kept the situation moving. But…
“That is the point of a ninja.”
“What do you mean?”
“Judge. A ninja is one who acts while hiding his own heart. And so-…”
He was going to give a businesslike answer of “I do not view it as a loss”, but she spoke up before he could.
“But… That means you still think of it as taking a loss, right? You are still human, after all.”
He could not come up with a response to her preemptive statement.
He thought for a bit, considered how he felt about his job, and said “I suppose so” yet again.
“But it is not just the things you yourself hold that have value,” he added.
“I have little strength and I cannot use many Shinto spells. But if my actions help someone who has more strength, I can be proud of supporting everyone else. The Testament descriptions decide history ahead of time in this world, but the influential people who protect those descriptions and maintain the proper flow of history require people like me if they are to do their jobs. And…”
“Even if I am only involved in just a few of the words written in those history descriptions, that is more than enough for me to feel proud.”
Suddenly, Tenzou recalled an article he had read in the ninja magazine he had bought the other day.
“The Three Major Types of Unpopular Ninja”
1: A ninja who talks on and on about himself.
2: A ninja who denies what the other person says.
3: The kind of ninja who reads this article.
…I fall under all three!!
As he ate more meat, he began to panic and felt like all his strength was being sapped from his butt.
But Scarred suddenly spoke up while sitting next to him.
“Thank you very much.”
He turned toward her and saw her looking down at the grill with a small smile.
“The others are starting to notice.”
Their voices must have grown too loud because the others were glancing over at them. Tenzou straightened his posture and lowered his voice again.
“But you must have it tough too, Scarred-dono.”
“Eh? Wh-why do you-…?”
“Judge. You look after this fourth level, don’t you?”
Scarred smiled bitterly at that. She seemed to be unsure whether to correct him or not.
…Did I get something wrong?
But she sighed and returned her expression to normal.
“This is indeed a tough time for England. The country’s religion changed and we must fight a war with another country. The Testament descriptions say we will prosper the most, but what must we do to gain that and how do we oppose the other countries who will try to suppress it? Most of the residents of the fourth level could be called victims of all this. A lot of them were driven here as scapegoats for political problems,” she explained. “England was moved here 160 years ago during the Harmonic Unification War, but our land was remade via our cooperation with IZUMO. The island used to be made of a single rock, but now we are all separated. And it is true that remaking has left us trailing a bit behind in areas such as farming. Master Tenzou, could-…”
She trailed off.
“Um, may I call you Master Tenzou? I have been calling you that, but I never asked.”
“O-of course. Call me whatever you like!”
“Heh heh heh. Mr. Grass! Cider! One minute!”
He was back in five seconds.
Once he sat back down, Scarred nodded and continued.
“Master Tenzou, could you teach us some of your knowledge?”
Scarred continued her request.
“How to cultivate a wheat field, how to create a waterway, and how to build roads and houses. While carrying the swords and stones to that hill and while building the bath, you asked about all of those things. You know a better way of doing them, don’t you?”
The ninja looked toward her a bit, but…
“Well…” He nodded. “I think that might be making myself a nuisance.”
“Why? Why would you think that?”
“The people here respond with ‘Judge’.”
She was left dumbfounded, so the ninja scratched at his head and continued.
“These people have escaped political strife, so I do not know how abundant a lifestyle they want.”
Scarred realized what he was thinking, so she finally spoke.
“I-it’s fine,” he said. “If I keep that in mind though, we have a pedo-…I mean, a life worshipping agricultural expert. It might be best to just give them the knowledge at first. Rather than giving them a method they must use, we can give them methods they can incorporate if necessary. Plus, we will be back next year, so there is no hurry.”
Scarred accepted his point of view. And…
The people of Musashi would eventually leave. They would return after a year, but with the Apocalypse coming, it was unclear if that would ever happen. However, it relieved her to hear he would be coming again next year. They had had their misunderstandings, but…
…He does not hate me.
She suddenly realized what her thought meant and stopped herself.
…If he does not hate me, what does he think of me?
She felt this was a foolish thing to think and that she was reading too much into it. She felt reversing the concept to reach the conclusion she wanted was improper. But…
“What is it?” he asked.
“Oh, u-um… Nothing.”
He nodded and took back the question while Scarred was thankful for the hood over her head.
Honestly, why am I thinking such improper things? she thought. He is a lot like me yet quite different at the same time.
He put himself on the losing end of things and he gained pride from it.
…On the other hand, I cling to pride. If I could live like him, would I have an easier life?
Before her thoughts could continue, something shot between the two of them.
“Stop, you two! Scarred! You must not get so close to this strange boy!”
It was Milton.
Tenzou looked toward the black bird that had suddenly flown between him and Scarred.
He wore the coat of an English boys’ uniform and had three legs.
“Honestly! I was wondering if you were getting along with them, but who is this boy!? Do not get so familiar!”
“Milton. Settle down, Milton.”
Scarred’s words reminded Tenzou of what she had said when he had learned she was a girl.
…She said Milton would get mad at her.
He had wondered who that was, but he had never expected this.
“A giant hill myna?”
“No! I, Milton, am a splendid crow! A crow! I am Milton the crow! I am also the messenger of death told of in English legend, but the one time I tried it, I got lost and ended up giving the person a long life! The grim reapers were not happy with me, let me tell you!”
“Here you go, little myna-dono. Have some friendly yakiniku.”
“Nh!? Yakiniku from the hand of the enemy? You must think me a-… Delicious! What kind of meat is this!?”
“It is the skin of a Mikawa Cochin.”
“Nwohhh! This may nearly be cannibalism, but this is some delicious Cochin!!”
“Here, little myna-dono. This squash will cleanse your palate.”
“Kh… And now I must eat my favorite food from the hand of the enemy!? I cannot stand this! But I will remain positive and eat it! Also, I am not a myna!”
Milton began pecking away at the squash.
…There are so many different races in this country.
Musashi had their own half-werewolf who was being fed a few tables over, but it was still interesting to see.
…But does this Milton-dono act as Scarred-dono’s guardian?
Tenzou felt Milton was in some kind of assistance role like a butler. That was why he had risked his own safety by flying in between her and a stranger.
Scarred on the other hand…
“Milton, this is Master Tenzou, a ninja. He is Far Eastern technician who moved the broken graveyard and built a hot spring for the fourth level.”
“A hot spring!? How… How lewd!”
…That was fast! He reached that conclusion way too fast!!
Scarred tilted her head with a troubled expression.
“Milton, you had a reason to come here, right? What do you need?”
That question brought fear to Tenzou.
…N-no, this hill myna was probably worried about her as a man!
That was also why he had flown between Scarred and Tenzou. Tenzou did not know if it was due to the species difference, but his actions were getting across to Scarred yet his feelings were not. This meant he came across as something like a parent.
…Ahh. When I was rejected, is this how I looked when I was rejected?
He was so shaken up he accidentally made a redundant sentence. He decided to show his support for the energetic hill myna, but Asama suddenly looked toward them while preparing five-grain fried rice on a grill instead of yakiniku. Her sleeves were rolled up and she was mixing a pile of fried rice with two spatulas while Hanami used sign frames to carry out some work.
“Huh? That crow…”
When Milton realized she was talking about him, he slowly turned toward her. Their gazes met and he gently hid one of his legs behind his body. Asama frowned in response.
“Wh-what is a yatagarasu doing in England? They’re supposed to be doing work for the shrines!”
“I-I am not a yatagarasu! Y-yes, I am just a cute little hill myna!”
Asama ignored him and turned a half-lidded look toward Hanami.
“Hanami, contact my father and ask him why a yatagarasu is eating yakiniku in England. He is probably filled with impurity, so we will have to give him a fist cleansing from a stubborn priest at a shrine that specializes in purification.”
“Eeeeee! Anything but that!”
While everyone tilted their heads at this exchange, Suzu spoke up while holding a bowl for the fried rice.
“Yata…garasu…? Yata…grass? Is it a plant?”
“Suzu-san made a joke!” whispered someone.
“Was that unintentional!?” whispered someone else.
“Eh? Aren’t you treating her a lot different from me?” complained Masazumi.
Everyone ignored her and Asama took a deep breath to suppress what she wanted to say to Suzu. She then gave a proper explanation.
“The yatagarasu is a spirit beast type of Mouse from the Far East’s Kumano shrines. It is also one of the information-type Mouse models we use. They can of course act as messengers, but they can also store and supply Blessings. They are supposed to be in the care of a Kumano shrine and perform labor when a contract is made with them, but this one…”
As she spoke, Milton turned his back and started moving away from everyone else.
“Wait a second, you runaway Mouse!” shouted Asama when she noticed.
“I must escape! Secret Technique: Crow of the Night!”
As the crow vanished in the darkness, Asama closed one eye, aimed her bow, produced a flash of light from her false eye, and fired.
“Clap!” declared Hanami.
An indistinct shriek could be heard in the distance and Asama sighed.
“Honestly, spirit beasts are surprisingly unstable, so they need regular care in a stable land. I’m impressed it can survive on its own.”
Scarred nodded in response.
“Judge. England has ley lines running through it, but their supply is limited. I have heard strange phenomena are common on the Far Eastern mainland, but they are not very common here.”
Asama nodded and Scarred began eating once more.
However, Toori turned toward her.
“Cloaked gentleman, if you know so much about the ley lines, do you know about the Double Border Crest?”
“The Double Border Crest?”
“Oh, he means this.”
Tenzou used his finger to draw a diagram in the sand. It was a circle with a horizontal line down the center.
“It is said to often appear along with the mysterious disappearances known as the Princess Disappearances.”
The instant he said that, Tenzou heard Scarred gulp.
He looked up questioningly and found her drawing back in the firelight. As he wondered what this was about, she spoke up quietly. And she did not use the masculine language she used when speaking to everyone.
“England is looking into that as well.”
Masazumi had barely heard Scarred’s words, but she found them odd.
But she needed to focus on Scarred’s comment about the situation in England more than on that question.
“Looking into it? Where?
“Oh.” Scarred looked up and nodded. “Well…”
After a brief hesitation, Scarred continued.
“If you meet those on the higher levels and gain a friendly relationship with them, ask them about a place called Avalon. If you tell them you learned of it from me, they should let you see it.”
“Judge.” Scarred nodded. “A flower garden like Avalon is the safest place in this country of fairies. After all, the fairies would be eaten in a forest, drawn under in a river, taken away on a hill, hidden in a mountain, chased on a road, locked in within a house, and drowned in the ocean. Hence, the flower garden. If you meet the gatekeeper, you should gain some kind of hint toward what you seek.”
Scarred paused for a moment.
“Sorry. I am an outsider now, so I do not know what the current state is. I cannot say much, so please do not ask me to show you the way.”
“Judge. Simply knowing England has some information is useful.” Masazumi nodded and looked between Tenzou and Scarred. “Mr. Scarred, if you remember anything else or have something you would rather not say here, feel free to tell Tenzou. As our 1st special duty officer, he takes care of our intelligence work.”
“Judge. If I have a chance, I will tell him what I know concerning the Double Border Crest and the Princess Disappearances.”
“Judge. We appreciate it.” Masazumi glanced across everyone else who looked back at her in confusion. “Now, we need to have the meeting we missed out on earlier due to England’s representatives arriving. I would like to discuss what we will be doing here. After all, we will be truly entering England the day after tomorrow.”
Suddenly, a voice came from the path to the inlet beyond Tenzou and Scarred.
Masazumi and everyone else turned toward the sudden voice and saw a 15 cm dog-like creature beyond Tenzou and Scarred. Masazumi knew it was a kobold, but she had never seen one in person before. Scarred and Tenzou exchanged some words with it and Tenzou pulled a 5-yen coin from his wallet and handed it to the kobold. The kobold forcefully threw the coin to the ground.
“I will take it,” said the kobold as it put the coin in its mouth.
“Kh!” groaned Tenzou. “If I get mad, I lose!”
“Don’t you lose either way?” muttered everyone as the kobold left.
Scarred turned toward Masazumi
“It seems the hot spring and bathhouse are ready.”
“I see,” said Aoi as he fed a third plate to Mitotsudaira. He and Horizon were working together to thoroughly cook the cartilage. “Tenzou, you and the cloaked gentleman go take the first bath together. There might be some kinks to work out, so you two go check on it ahead of time.”
“S-Scarred-dono and me!? N-no, that wouldn’t work.”
“Eh? What’s wrong with that?”
Scarred and Tenzou froze in place and did not respond.
…They’re both guys, so I don’t see why it would bother them.
Then again, Masazumi still showered at home rather than using Musashi’s general bath, so she was not one to talk. But before Tenzou or Scarred could say anything, Asama looked up from the fried rice again.
“If you don’t mind, could you two hurry it up?”
She turned a serious expression toward Masazumi.
“Masazumi, you and I will be taking a bath together after them.”
For about three seconds, Masazumi had no idea what had just been said. Even after three seconds, she had not figured it out, but that was when Naruze spoke up.
“Reality has outdone the doujinshis! Asamasa!? Or Masa-asa!? Which is it!?”
Masazumi did not understand any of that, but the general atmosphere it brought told her it was nothing good. If people started saying what they thought was going on and she denied those possibilities, she had a feeling it would take five hours to arrive at the truth.
“Asama… Um…” She chose her words carefully. “My sex change operation was not completed and I still view myself as a girl.”
“I-I didn’t meant it like that!”
“Heh heh. Bath shrine maiden! So you meant something even more amazing!? Like body soap! What a sexual term! How wonderful!”
“No! I wasn’t talking about body soap or anything inappropriate!” she shouted. “I was talking about her Mouse!”
She held Hanami up in her hand.
“I keep seeing Masazumi borrowing sign frames from Mito today. Handhelds are unstable in England and during attacks like the one by Tres España. So when I heard we had a bath, I thought I could use it as a place of purification to contact the shrine. That way Masazumi can sign a contract for a Mouse.”
“I can get…a Mouse?”
A Mouse required at least an average plan out of the different divine transmission contracts.
They were autonomous and could be given plenty of additional features, so they were quite convenient. But even if they entered sleep mode while inactive, keeping one around used up one Blessing’s worth of internal Blessing or ether fuel every week. If one was negligent in feeding them, their information density would thin out and they would be destroyed.
…But in exchange, you get a pet.
When Masazumi had been in Mikawa, the students in elementary and middle school who had a Mouse would always brag about it. Masazumi’s family had been poor, so she had barely even had a handheld.
…That’s why I wasn’t able to head there right away when my mother disappeared.
That would no longer happen if she had a Mouse. And she did kind of want to raise a small animal type like Heidi’s white fox.
“But…I have no money.”
“Judge. Then we can cover for it with the student council’s divine transmission budget. Shiro-kun, that will work, right?”
“It will, but she will no longer have that money once she graduates. That will cause problems because she will still have to pay for the Mouse.”
“If that happens, the shrine will freeze her contract and either buy back the Mouse or hang on to it temporarily. Once she does get some money, she can take it back.”
“Good, good.” Heidi nodded twice. “The Asama Shrine is a monstrous place with only a 2% cancellation rate. Once they get their teeth in you, they never let go.”
“You could just say we have excellent service, you know? Anyway, I will make it a temporary rental with Far Eastern ley line properties, but who is the manager of the ley lines in this area?”
“That myna, maybe?” suggested Tenzou.
“Oh, that’s good. I can have him do it in exchange for keeping quiet about his escape just now.”
“Shiro-kun, I think Asamachi might be a formidable enemy.”
“Yes. Offerings are meant to cover the shrine’s managing costs, but she is so authoritarian that people throw money her way even though she does nothing. She is the enemy of merchants everywhere.”
“Give it a rest,” said Masazumi to the merchants.
Next to her, Mitotsudaira was chewing on the cartilage Horizon had given her and Horizon spoke up.
“Tenzou-sama, shouldn’t you hurry to the bath with Scarred-sama? Once we finish eating, everyone will be waiting. And after this, we intend to perform a ceremony as an offering to the campfire god. We will all dance a super high speed folk dance and the slowest will be thrown into the fire while we all shout excitedly. You do not want to be caught up in that, do you?”
Ohiroshiki suddenly tried to crawl away, but everyone grabbed him and stopped him.
“H-how exciting,” muttered Tenzou.
Scarred then resolutely stood up.
Scarred tugged on Tenzou’s shoulder, exchanged a few words with him, and began walking toward the bath.
As Tenzou followed, he turned back.
“N-no peeping, okay!?”
“Who would peep on you?” muttered Naomasa whose right arm was removed for maintenance.
As everyone nodded in agreement, Tenzou hesitated for a moment and continued after Scarred.
Once the two of them disappeared into the darkness, everyone let out a breath.
“Those two are suspicious,” said Adele slowly.
Adele’s comment brought silence. After a while, Ohiroshiki spoke up as if it was his duty to say something.
“Adele-kun pinpointed exactly what I was trying not to think about.”
“In Ga-chan and my homeland of M.H.R.R, they are developing techniques of making children between two guys or two girls,” said Naito. “As Protestants, England trades with M.H.R.R., so I see nothing wrong with it.”
“That makes it okay?” muttered most everyone else.
Suddenly Azuma looked up. He was sitting politely on a handkerchief spread out on the beach and he was eating yakisoba with chopsticks.
“By the way, I wanted to ask you again about something, Naruze.”
“Hm? What is it?”
“Well.” Azuma nodded. “Could you teach me more about sex?”
After Azuma’s final word, Mitotsudaira choked, Asama stabbed her spatulas into the fried rice, Naomasa took a swig of alcohol, Suzu tensed up, the treasurer duo began recording, Adele clenched her fists excitedly, Kimi performed a joyous dance, Urquiaga meaninglessly raised his primary wings, and Naito let out a groan.
“I-I never thought I would be made into the foolish husband of an NTR doujinshi…”
“N-no!? That’s not it, Margot! This is a misunderstanding! That’s all! Right, Azuma!?”
“Right… I don’t really understand, though. All you did was teach me in that underground passageway during the battle. I asked you what it was and you said it was about getting along.”
“Ga-chan, you shouldn’t give a sudden roadside lesson on that kind of thing.”
“Th-that isn’t what happened! Azuma! Why are you explaining this so strangely!?”
Everyone began wondering when Naruze would realize they were teasing her, but Masazumi was fairly certain Azuma did not understand the situation.
“You see.” He tilted his head. “When I said it to Miriam, she got really mad, so I was wondering if Naruze’s explanation or my interpretation of it were wrong. Anyway, she locked me out of our room, so I began knocking on the door shouting ‘Miriam! Miriam! I don’t understand, but I can tell I was wrong! So please have sex with me!’ After that, she sealed the door with a Classic Sign.”
“Oh? Poqou-san did?” said everyone with a nod.
However, Azuma did not pick up on their nuance and nodded back.
“She was in a bad mood and made some excuse about being Catholic and needing to drive out evil. Since she won’t let me back in, I thought I would ask to see if I could resolve the misunderstanding. Could you teach me, Naruze?”
Everyone turned toward Naruze, but she frantically shook her head and embraced Naito’s arm.
“I-I can only teach you so much! So, u-um… Masazumi!”
“Why would you hand this off to me!?”
Masazumi felt a burst of surprise and a flash of anger, so she frantically looked around at the others. At some point, Asama and Naomasa had turned their backs to her and started poking at their grills. They were clearly not going to listen to her. Kimi and Aoi were gesturing welcomingly, but even without hard evidence, she knew for a fact those horrible siblings would turn this into a disaster if she asked them. That left…
The silver chains appeared in the edge of her vision and pointed toward the person in question. Oriotorai was near the ocean with empty bottles stabbed into the sand around her. She was fast asleep with her head resting on a tripod created from three of the bottles. The seaweed on her mouth showed she had enjoyed a full course meal all the way to the yakisoba. Simply put, their teacher would be no use here.
“I would also like to learn about this,” added Horizon.
“Ah! Th-then I will-…gwah! Y-your backhand is wonderful too, Horizon!”
…That guy never learns, does he?
Meanwhile, someone else raised their hand. Surprisingly, it was Futayo.
“I am not familiar with that word either, so I would like to hear this. I am sure you can give a proper explanation, Masazumi.”
The other girls nodded several times while moving to the other side of their grills to have a proper view. This formed a half circle around Masazumi.
Just as she was wondering who would save her, Mitotsudaira hid a sign frame behind her hair and positioned it so only Masazumi could see it. Masazumi curiously glanced at it.
“Your only option is to make a bad joke!”
…I don’t want to always be limited to that! And what kind of joke am I supposed to make here? Oh!
“I look forward to Seijun sitting down and saying ‘There are five or sex important things to know here’.”
…That idiot said it! What is going on!? Is this the end of the world!? This is it. I can’t stand it anymore. I’m just going to die. The commanders during the Three Kingdoms period would “feel shame and die in agony”, but that was due to a rise in blood pressure, right?
However, Azuma, Horizon, and Futayo were staring intently at her, so she had to give some kind of answer.
“Okay, to put it simply…um… when a man and a woman…um…you see…”
“What’s that, Seijun-kun? I can’t hear you! Can you speak uuuup!?”
She swung up her fist and the idiot quickly crawled out of range. She sighed and used the momentum of the breath to speak.
Even she could tell she was angry.
“It refers to deepening your relationship with each other! There is nothing else to it!”
Horizon, Futayo, and Azuma all nodded deeply, but everyone else returned to their original seats with exasperated looks. As they did, they began speaking to each other.
“But that was only one thing.”
“Yeah, weren’t there supposed to be five or sex things?”
…Are all of them against me!?
Meanwhile, Asama spoke up while moving the finished fried rice to a large place sitting next to the grill.
“Masazumi, we can prepare for the bath after this meeting. Before the contract, we need to check over the plan and perform a quick identity check. Is that okay?”
…I guess I have no other option.
Masazumi sighed and felt a mixture of anticipation and unease, but she decided to keep it all inside for the time being.
“Okay. Before heading to the bath, we can finally have our meeting about England.”
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