Horizon:Volume 2 Chapter 23
Chapter 23: Scarred Ones in a Closed Room
What rises up
As if emitting a scent
Even if you hide it?
Point Allocation (Sitting Politely)
Tenzou sat politely in a wooden room.
The room was almost ten meters square and the walls on either side contained shelves lined with baskets. In front of him was a wooden sliding door, he sat in the changing room, and a stained glass sliding door was behind him.
The stained glass led to the bath and it was made to show Mt. Fuji.
…We planned to put this room in the transport ship, didn’t we?
They had instead set it up outside because the transport ship would be abandoned and likely destroyed after Musashi left England. By building the bath outside, the local people could use it even after Musashi left.
He and Scarred had both been outside about ten minutes earlier, but Scarred was currently bathing to check over the inside of the bath.
He had planned to wait outside the whole time, but she had said it would look suspicious if someone saw him waiting outside. That was why he was now waiting in the changing room.
Scarred would call out to him when she was getting out, so he could leave ahead of her and pretend to have taken a bath.
…That is the ninja technique False Bath!
He would place hot water on his cheeks to redden them like a beautiful woman’s and he would lightly dampen his hair.
“Except I always hide my face.”
In that case, I can just head out like this, concluded the ninja.
“Excuse me,” called a voice behind him.
“Wh-what is it?”
Having a naked girl call out to him for the first time in his life made Tenzou nervous.
“I checked over the floor and tub, but there is no sign of the water or air leaking out. Is there anywhere else I should check over?”
Tenzou recalled the work they had carried out that afternoon and mentally went over the instructions he had given the kobolds.
The inside of the bath had been made by placing another layer of stones over the tub and floor which had been surfaced with spells and stones. The water flowing in was also sent through a pipe to the northern wall. The pipe led to a few holes which would pour water over the people in the washing area.
There was one thing she needed to check on.
“Is the pipe sending water evenly out of the holes at the washing area?”
“Of the five holes, the two that are farthest back are weaker than the rest. There is a stopper partway down the pipe, so I can try to regulate it.”
Her voice contained a smile as she began working.
The girls were frowning and pressed up against the wall and door of the bathhouse.
They had initially come to see the water lily blossoms in the spring near the bathhouse. They had been discussing whether the blossoms were white or red, but their atmosphere had changed as soon as they saw Naomasa kneeling down in front of the door. She was pressed against the square glass to hear what was happening inside, but she frowned and spoke to the others.
“Kimi, Mito, Heidi, I take it you three finished cleaning up. Asamachi, were you able to detect Horizon’s Logismoi Oplo?”
“Yes. I used a detection spell usually used for mysterious disappearances, but it seems to be nearby.”
She could not tell what direction it was in, but it was not far. They had decided to begin a search later.
“It’s possible Horizon stored it somewhere while asleep and she simply doesn’t remember.”
Only those aboard the ship were going to continue searching because having unfamiliar people wandering around would only confuse matters.
“Then I’ll leave that to you. Anyway, listen up, all of you. It sounds like something interesting is about to happen in here. You know what I mean, right?”
“W-wait, Masa. Stop this. He’s our classmate.”
“C’mon, Asamachi. It’s because he’s a classmate that we can do this. Otherwise it would be illegal.”
“No, but…” mumbled Asama. “Wait. I think it’s illegal regardless.”
Asama began using the divine network via Hanami to search the sites of shrines for law gods. Naomasa ignored her and waved over Suzu who was blushing. Suzu detected the gesture with the sensors on her waist and head. She tilted her head and approached the beckoning girl.
“Um, Suzu. That Noise Neighbor or whatever you call it can amplify voices, right?”
Suzu reached for the small cylindrical terminal hanging down from the sensor on her right hip. With a quick manipulation, she pulled out a connected cord. Naomasa took it and placed the sensor against the square glass of the door.
“Oh, but this will force you to repeat everything they say. Asamachi, could you have Hanami sync with it and display it as text? It’s IZUMO-made, so you can do it, right?”
“Ehhh?” Asama frowned. “I-if they’re saying anything weird, I’m going in to stop them.”
Everyone nodded enthusiastically and Hanami hopped to Suzu’s head. After Hanami produced a default setting sign frame, text started to appear.
“Scarred-dono, this is rather difficult, isn’t it?”
“Oh, we’re picking up their voices!” exclaimed Adele in admiration.
Masazumi folded her arms and closed her eyes partway.
“Still, I do not approve of this.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Naomasa waved a hand dismissively. “And this is Tenzou, so I doubt anything is going to happen. He can be quite conservative.”
“You saw that hooded guy he was speaking with today, right? Well, that guy asked that stupid ninja about why he stopped him during the transport ship crash.” She nodded. “And, because he’s an idiot, he wouldn’t give a straight answer. Yet he even has a proper answer.”
“As a ninja, he wants to take all failures onto himself. His combat style is to erase his own heart.” Naomasa took a breath. “That idiot refuses to give his reason because he does not want to give that guy the shame of being ignorant and not realizing the truth. While ignorance is nothing to be ashamed of, the children’s lives were on the line. Ignorance doesn’t cut it when that guy is this level’s representative. …A ninja wears down his own body for the sake of his leader. The problem with him is he takes it beyond his combat style and into his everyday life.”
“Then,” said Suzu quietly. “Isn’t it…diffi-….tough for…the one in the hood…too? He wants to…apologize…but he isn’t…able to.”
“That’s right.” Naomasa nodded. “There’s nothing he can do while Tenzou is trying to be considerate. Then again, he must be a bit of an idiot too since he tried to run out toward the crashing ship. I think that is why Tenzou respects…no, that sounds a bit off. Well, I think he likes the guy. Tenzou understands what the guy is trying to do but can’t admit the truth because he is a ninja. He appreciates what the guy is trying to do, but I’m not sure if the Englishman will notice.”
“After how well they were getting along today, I could see Tenzou staying in England,” added Naito.
“Surely he wouldn’t go that far,” said Asama as she looked back down at Hanami’s sign frame.
The others followed suit and read the text representing the voices inside.
“How…How about further in, Scarred-dono!?”
“Ah…oh! Farther, yes! I-it’s coming out! The warmth is going all the way in!”
“Scarred-dono, reach for the front now! That should settle it down!”
“Nnn. I-it’s really hard! Ah, M-Master Tenzou! All of it is coming out now!”
“Oh, well done, Scarred-dono. I would never guess this was your first time doing this!”
Everyone exchanged a glance. Naruze had already produced a crop mark sign frame and was speedily drawing a storyboard with her pen.
“Okay! Their erotic conversation is giving me tons of progress! That cloaked man speaking to Tenzou with feminine language is reaching uncharted territory for characters in my works! I have so many ideas now!”
“W-wait. This has to be some kind of misunderstanding.”
As Asama tried to find another explanation, more text appeared.
“Th-then let’s move on, Tenzou-sama.”
“Yes. Making sure everything is working properly will prevent problems later.”
“Okay,” said Scarred in the text. “That just leaves this thick one down below and the rear penetration.”
“What in the world are you doing!?”
As Tenzou sat politely in the bathhouse, the sliding door directly in front of him suddenly opened, revealing Asama with her eyebrows raised.
The sudden action and Asama’s attitude surprised him.
…Eh!? Ehh!? I don’t know what’s going in, but should I apologize?
After all, they had been about to test the thick pipe leading to the bath lower down and to check and make sure none of the water was penetrating the seal at the rear of the bath. Scarred seemed to have noticed the situation because he heard her hide in the bath. Meanwhile, Asama still did not understand the situation and she frowned when she saw him sitting on the floor.
“Huh? …Why are you here, Tenzou-kun?”
“Eh!? What!? Am I an unwanted ninja!?”
“No, that isn’t what I meant. Oh, Hanami, you can continue searching the site ‘Castration for Minor Crimes’. …Anyway, why are you here?”
Tenzou suddenly realized what she meant. He and Scarred were supposed to be in the bath together.
“Have you not taken your bath yet?”
He frantically gave a vague answer, but that turned out to be a mistake. Asama sighed.
“I do not know what is going on here, but let me take a guess. You were too afraid to take a bath with someone else, so you were sitting out here putting on a one-man play of your perverted fantasies, weren’t you!?”
…Ehhhhhh!? I-I mean, a few perverted things – just a few! – may have gone through my head, but that would happen to anyone in this situation. But still…
“Honestly,” said Asama as she seemed to stretch her body forward to look toward the bath. That action and her curiosity were bad enough, but Tenzou caught sight of a Technohexen and some other girls crouching down and peering in from the darkness behind Asama. He decided to settle this here and now.
“N-no need to come in! I am simply inspecting the floor here. Scarred-dono is performing the inspection in the bath.”
“Um, Tenzou-kun? We can look over the floor here afterwards, so please hurry up and take your bath. An inspection with a purification spell will find any flaws, so I will tell you later if there is anything wrong. …Everyone is waiting out in the cold and we cannot wait in here before you two finish changing.”
…You certainly showed no restraint in coming in just now.
He decided he needed to pretend to take a bath, but Asama gave one final half-lidded comment while closing the sliding door.
“Oh, and Tenzou-kun? After living in the transport ship for so long…um… How can I put this gently? You smell like a dog, so go take a bath.”
“Nwoh! That was hardly gentle!”
She ignored his protest and closed the door.
He heard the sound of the door shutting.
…What do I do now?
1: Take a bath with Scarred, thus making her hate you. ← Making a well-endowed blonde hate me would be the greatest disgrace of my life.
2: Do not take a bath, thus making the other girls hate you. ← They’re a bunch of monsters, so who really cares?
3: Peep on the bath without taking one, thus making Scarred and the other girls hate you. ← How did I even think up this one?
…Basing it on who I have known the longest, 1 would be the answer, but all of our girls are of the cement type, so maybe 2 would be the way to go. I have a feeling that would achieve the most damage control.
But then Asama cracked open the door and glared at him.
“You still haven’t gone in?”
“Th-that’s really scary, Asama-dono! Are you an overprotective mother!?”
“Just hurry it up.”
The door closed again and he heard whispering from outside.
“Eh? What? So it was all Tenzou putting on a one-man play? Why isn’t he part of one of the literature clubs!?”
“Personally, I think he has been rejected so many times his fantasy engine has reached warship-class.”
…Was that the three-hit combo of misunderstanding, assumption, and pity?
But there had to be as many variations as there were people there, so he tried to think positively and assume having them speak about him like this was a victory.
“Um, Master Tenzou?”
He heard Scarred speaking from the bath.
“What is it?” he asked while turning her way.
“I do not mind, so…please come take a bath.”
For an instant, he considered using the “quick disrobe” or “jumping disrobe” ninja techniques developed for disguises.
“N-no. I-I-I-I… Th-that…”
He realized he had already failed by growing flustered like that. But…
“You don’t want to…?”
“Of course I do!”
For some reason, he reflexively and proudly answered.
“Then…feel free to come in.”
There was nothing he could say in response to that, so he collapsed sideways to the floor.
The bath was large. Of the 30 square meter space, about 10 was taken up by the tub.
It was simply constructed. The tub and floor had been constructed directly on the ground and a pre-made room had been placed on top with the floor removed. For the construction of the foundation and the hardening of the floor, they had used the same spells and quick-acting materials that were used to build the residential districts on Musashi. The material used to fill the gap between the foundation and the walls was still drying, but it was holding up well enough.
The tub had a large stone sticking up from the bottom to alter the flow of water and to give people something to lean up against. Scarred currently had her right shoulder leaning up against it.
The stained glass door depicting the Far East’s sacred mountain opened and the ninja entered.
The ninja had a towel wrapped around his waist.
“Master Tenzou, I see you did not remove your hat and scarf.”
“That is because I am a ninja.”
The real deal really is something else, thought Scarred while feeling a little impressed.
However, he avoided looking at her and began washing his body at the washing area.
“Oh, this stopper…”
“I already checked that.”
“Th-then what about this pipe?’
“I checked that on your instructions as well.”
“Umm, th-then what about…”
“I checked it all. Your instructions were very good.”
She could tell he was trying to be considerate.
…But this is no big deal.
With that thought, Scarred watched the ninja as he let the water wash over him from the pipe above. He held his hands together and muttered some kind of sutra, so she guessed it was a type of mental focus ritual.
“How about you do that after warming up in the bath?”
“I suppose I could do that, but…”
“Do you not want to take a bath with me?”
…That wording should get through to him.
He did indeed tilt his head and groan, but she decided to avoid using that kind of wording in the future.
He approached the tub, said “excuse me”, placed his towel on the edge of the tub, and quickly submerged himself up to the shoulders.
The way he let out a relaxed sigh seemed to be the Far East method, so Scarred moved next to him, turned her back to him, stepped into the tub, and placed her towel on the edge of the tub.
“Wah! Scarred-dono, what are you doing!?”
“Eh? But this is Far East etiquette, right? I will make sure to teach the village children about it. And I hope you can teach me a lot more, too.”
Tenzou lowered his head.
“What is it?”
“This situation is…indecent.”
Oh, my, thought Scarred with an inward smile.
This ninja had moved resolutely and quickly enough to cut in and stop her as the transport ship crashed, he had acted on an intention to keep the children unharmed, he had moved the graveyard and constructed the bath, and he had even given tips on improving their farm land.
…I can’t believe someone like him would get embarrassed.
As someone who always hid her identity, for better or for worse, being treated this way was a new experience for her. She felt he was quite diligent, but she decided not to tease him about it.
“There is nothing worth seeing here,” she said.
“O-on the contrary! There is an entire genre for it!”
He suddenly spoke very passionately, but she did not know what he meant.
“Genre?” she asked before speaking the words in her heart. “My body is covered in scars, so it is not worth looking at.”
“That is…not true.”
“Is that because of the…genre you mentioned?”
“No.” The ninja shook his head. “Your scars are…I apologize, but as far as I can see, they are only on the front of your body.”
He then stopped speaking.
…It can’t be.
A mixture of unease and hope filled her heart, so she spoke to him.
“Judge,” he replied, but he hesitated a while longer before speaking. “I may be wrong, but it appears a lot your scars were gained during a single event and the others were gained with gaps of time between. As an outsider, I do not intend to inquire what it was that caused them, but I can say one thing for sure.”
She listened to him.
“You have never once turned your back and fled. You have always faced your opponent and your opponents understood and appreciated that fact.”
In which case…
“Speaking ill of those scars is an insult to both your opponents and to yourself.”
Scarred gasped. She recalled when she had gained those scars. She went over what had happened and what she had thought.
…Is he right?
Part of her wanted to agree, but the reverse side of her intent to punish herself produced a question.
“You could say I gave myself these scars because I wanted to. I felt I might as well die.”
The ninja named Tenzou faced her.
“If you gave yourself those scars and are still alive…”
“Then I should live on and accomplish something? Are you saying fate is telling me that? That would just be deceiving myself.”
“No,” he said. “I was saying you could continue doing so until you are satisfied.”
“But I feel you have done enough. After all…”
Part of Scarred wanted to hear what he was going to say, but part of her did not.
He was definitely going to speak about her. She had not told him much about her, but she would still feel disappointed if he said something that showed he did not know what he was talking about.
…He chooses to live a life where he remains on the losing side.
She was jealous of his ability to be satisfied with that.
And so she spoke up as if taking a step forward.
Her resolute question received an immediate response.
“I do not think you need any new scars. If you wish to have pride in the scars on the front of your body, you should not add on more scars. You should maintain your current body with the proud scars on the front and the untouched back which proves you never faltered. Adding any more scars would only damage the pride you and everyone else have. This may be presumptuous of me, but I think you have done enough.”
“I think you have done well to continually protect so much.”
Tenzou’s words had contained a hint of admiration.
The girl with the Urban Name of Scarred had likely been an excellent leader. He did not know why she now used “judge”, the response of a criminal, but he knew one thing without knowing her identity.
…She is a good person. And she is the type to walk a life filled with negative things.
He had seen her scolding the village children. Scolding held the risk of making the children wary of you or angry at you, but she had made sure each child knew what exactly they had done wrong and then forgave them.
…She left them with the memory of being scolded and the memory of improving themselves.
But that was likely why she had gained those scars. And she was hiding her identity as if to make sure no one could tell her they had changed their ways. In that case…
…Someone, it doesn’t matter who, needs to be her ally.
He turned toward her and saw her lower lip was a bit tense.
Her eyebrows wavered and a tear suddenly fell down.
As she suddenly cried, lowered her head, and covered her face with her scar-covered hands, Tenzou panicked.
“No, um…. Did I do something wrong?”
But as Scarred covered her face, her arms squeezed her breasts together and Tenzou instinctually looked down. As he saw the distortion and change to the physical shape caused by the pressure, he prioritized saving the image in his brain.
…I am being terribly indecent!
As the phrase “Now I’ve done it!” repeated in his head while accompanied by alarm bells, he chanted a Mikkyou sutra and managed to take back control from the evil thoughts.
He called out to her, but Scarred continued to lower her head and cover her face with her hands. Her only response was to shake her head a bit.
…I have no idea what to do! I should have studied those porn games more.
While trying to keep everything below Scarred’s neck out of vision, he stared into empty air and thought. The first thing that came to mind was a fragment of an article from the ninja magazine Monthly Cannabis Jump.
—Immediately tell a joke.
…I can’t afford to tell a terrible joke like Masazumi-dono! In that case…!
“Okay, Scarerd-dono. Um…To change the subject…”
As he spoke, he recalled the title of the article had been “The Stereotypical Patterns of Unpopular Ninja”. I guess my life is over now, he thought while somehow finding it easier to speak now that he knew that.
“Well, you see… All of my scars are on the back because I am always running away.”
He sat back down next to Scarred and raised his right arm. That arm had a scar on the front.
“This is a rare example of a scar on the front, but I got this while Musashi was stopped at Edo. A monster appeared due to a disturbance in the ley lines down below. Anyway, I went out to face it as a part of my training, but it turned out to be a monkey that understood human language. As soon as I faced it, it shouted ‘monkey magic’ and attacked. I assumed it was using some kind of spell, but it simply scratched at me. Anyway, the monkey was captured and sent to the monkey mountain in Ueno. Because that is on the god of Ueno’s land, the monkey was probably at least partially cut.”
He looked over and saw Scarred’s shoulders shaking while she continued to cover her face. He drew back, assuming she was angry. But…
She raised her head and faced him with eyes and face wet from the tears and steam and with a smile on her flushed cheeks. However, the ends of her eyebrows were lowered.
“I really do not understand you.”
…That would be my line!
Then again, if he did not understand her, it was only natural that she would not understand him. But he was relieved that she did not seem to hate him.
…No. I mustn’t interpret this in a way convenient for me. I always end up losing something when I do that.
After telling himself that, he spoke to her.
“I will get out first. I will hold off the others outside, so use that time to get dressed.”
“Y-you make it sound like holding them off will be difficult.”
“Judge,” he agreed. “If only they could be…”
He started to say “more like you”, but stopped because he felt that comparison was rude. He started to leave the tub, but instead scratched at his head and thought.
…Oh, no. If I would so readily use her as a comparison, I must be focusing on her a lot.
As Tenzou began to leave the tub, Scarred quickly looked away from his naked body. As she did, she spotted something floating in the tub.
Wondering if it was trash, she looked closer and saw it was a scrap of reinforced wood. She wondered what it was doing here, but she quickly stated her answer as a question.
…Part of the transport ship’s outer hull?
The bow of the ship had been smashed during the crash and the water in the bath had come from a hole in the crust opened on the edge of the inlet.
…A piece that fell in the hole in the crust must have floated up with the water.
She knew why it was here, but its presence still counted as a failure on her and Tenzou’s part as the ones performing the final check. And so she reached toward it.
But the fragment gave her an odd, dull pain.
…Eh? Why does it hurt?
She had not touched a sharp corner or edge. She had only reached for what looked like the painted surface.
Nevertheless, she felt a pain like something was being jammed below her fingernail or scraped across the bottom of her finger, so she jerked her hand back. Tenzou seemed to notice as he left the bath.
“What is it?” he asked.
However, he considerately did not turn around.
“Nothing,” she quickly answered.
With slight doubt in her mind, she reached for the floating fragment once more.
…It can’t be…
She felt as if she had found the answer to the mystery that had been filling her mind for so long.
…Why did he say it was his own carelessness that led him to stop me during the crash?
Why had he insisted he had not noticed her spell when he had to have noticed?
She carefully reached out and touched the fragment. The palm of her hand felt as if a mass of needles was pressing against it but not breaking the skin. She knew what this pain meant.
…It is resisting my ether control.
The wood had been treated to oppose spells. Specifically, it would repel them. In order to protect the ship, it had been given the ability to repel any external power. However, it was rare for even warships to have this spell applied to all of its armor. The costs were too great, so spells would normally only be used to defend certain points.
But she quickly realized why this spell had been applied to the transport ship’s outer hull.
…Because it is Musashi’s transport ship.
Not only that, but it was a high-level transport ship that Musashi was willing to use even during battle. The repel spell had created an outer shell that protected the ship from wind resistance and the inertia applied during quick actions.
…In that case…
If she had tried to save the children by using her spell to blow away the crashing transport ship, the spell might have blown the ship away, but the repelled power would have struck the children with her spell.
Even in the warm water of the bath, Scarred felt a definite chill.
…If that’s true…!
Why had he rushed in to stop her?
And why was he refusing to tell her the truth and insisting he had not noticed her spell?
She had solved the first question, but she had to guess at the second.
…If Master Tenzou had told me the truth…
Scarred’s speculation brought her to something close to certainty.
…Everyone would learn that I ignorantly and hastily rushed in.
Part of her wished he had told her and did not want to feel that ignorance was something to be ashamed of. But if the people learned her ignorance could expose them to danger, they would lose their trust in her. Also, this situation was very out of the ordinary and the children had been safe in the end. He had likely decided that there was no need to tell the truth and have the people lose faith in her.
What was she to the residents of the fourth level? She could not answer that question in a way that was not conceited or self-deprecating, but he had seen through it all in the instant he saw her spell and he had taken action to keep that shame from her.
He had lied and said it was his own carelessness and he had not blamed her of anything despite her ignorance.
…He did not just protect the children. He protected me, too.
How much easier would it have been if he had simply let her apologize? After all, even though she understood the truth now, he would still not admit the truth because he understood her position.
And on top of that, she spotted something else he had done.
He had a wound on his back, near his right shoulder blade. It had a complex shape and it appeared to have gouged out his flesh as it stabbed in. The flesh below could be seen through the new skin growing above.
She remembered that wound. He had gained that while protecting her.
She stood up, scraped her waist along the tub, and approached his back.
Tenzou gasped as he placed his hands on the edge of the tub and suddenly felt wet skin press against him. Her skin felt cold at first, but he felt a wet and sticky warmth as she pressed up against him.
…Boobs!! No, stop thinking about this like Kimi-dono would. You need to focus on analyzing and recording the-…no, stop thinking about such indecent things. Just calm down and chant a sutra!! But…
…I am hopeless. I should just roll over and die.
Just as he came to that simple conclusion, he felt a damp wetness on the right side of his back. After a moment, the sensation vanished and she spoke.
“Where did you get this injury?”
…She would feel ashamed if I told her truth.
“I-I was attacked by a talking dog the other day.”
He heard her laugh, but she did not move away.
“Would you mind if I healed it? Or does it need to be healed with a different spell?”
Tenzou recalled Scarred’s spell ability. Her healing spell could likely heal that shallow wound without leaving a scar.
…But that would erase the sign that I protected her. Such cheap heroism.
But from her point of view, the wound may have been nothing but a burden.
…How does Toori-dono feel when he sees Horizon-dono as an automaton? Then again, he peeks between her legs when she crouches down and wants to touch her breasts, so maybe he is satisfied like this. He may be looking at things in the long run.
And so he made up his mind.
As she spoke, her bangs touched his back and he felt a small damp sensation. Before he realized that was her lips, she had passed her arms under his arms.
“Please do not turn around. It would interfere with the spell.”
Tenzou poured all his energy into mentally chanting sutras and the healing was complete in a few minutes.
After Tenzou and Scarred exited the bath with a slight delay between the two, some other people entered the bath.
“First of the vanguard in the bath!”
Adele dashed full speed into the bath with her glasses removed.
“Ah… Don’t run,” warned Suzu as she followed her in.
Adele slipped, flipped around, and unintentionally dove into the tub, causing a huge splash.
Next, the rest of the girls entered with exasperated looks. Two of them with black hair exchanged a glance. The taller one, Asama, spoke to Masazumi.
“Okay, let’s begin.”
She nodded along with Hanami on her shoulder.
“Masazumi, it’s time to make a Mouse contract and get it all set up.”
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