Horizon:Volume 2 Chapter 24
Chapter 24: Guide to a New World
If something is convenient
But you stop just before reaching it
Is it inconvenient?
Point Allocation (Unease)
“Now, let’s get started. Come over here, Masazumi. Everyone else, we will be borrowing the area of the tub near the tap.”
Asama moved toward the edge of the tub on the northern end of the bath and Masazumi unsteadily followed.
Masazumi copied how Asama had her towel on her shoulder and her long hair on top of that, but she was still self-conscious about her body. It did not help that she was comparing herself to Asama. She watched the other girl from a bit behind.
…She really is big.
She meant her height. Asama was as tall as Naomasa and the Aoi sister. Mitotsudaira was somewhere in between and Masazumi was shorter still.
…Is this what it would be like to have an older sister?
As she was made painfully aware of what she lacked, she watched Asama check on the tamagushi and charm she had placed in a bucket. The other girl then came to a stop.
“Okay, we can do it here. Um, to prepare…”
Asama picked up the Shirasago-made tamagushi with her right hand, held it up to her forehead, and chanted something. She then spread out the tamagushi with a snap of the wrist, kneeled down in the tub, and placed the tamagushi’s paper decoration in the water.
The light paper decoration sank into the water without resistance and Asama narrowed her eyes as she watched the water soak into it. As if crawling up the tamagushi, small firefly-like jewels of light and something resembling a vine wrapped around it.
“Eh?” exclaimed Asama.
“What is it?”
“Nothing really. It’s just that there should be some filth in the bath after two people bathed in it. But…what is this? Not only is there no filth, but it seems to have been sublimed to a level greater than my purification. Either Tenzou-kun or that Scarred person must have used a sublimation spell rather than a Shinto purification spell. Tenzou-kun is as filthy as the rest of our class, so I assume it was Scarred-san. How strange.”
As light clung to the tamagushi, Asama removed it from the water and brought it to herself.
Starting from the tip, the tamagushi was rapidly dyed in the color pink.
“H-huh? What? Wh-why is there so much impurity in me!?”
“Your wicked thoughts were at full swing back when Crossunite and Scarred were bathing. By the way, what kind of impurity does pink signify?”
Asama suddenly looked to the side where Hanami was looking at a sign frame.
The title of the frame read “Impurity Meter (Personal Use)”.
“Um…Hanami? Who…uh…is that for?”
When Hanami noticed Asama, she turned around, frantically hid the sign frame behind her back, and shook her head back and forth.
“Th-th-th-th-this is nothing. Nothing at all. C-clap!”
“No, wait, Hanami. Is that what I think it is?”
Asama’s eyebrows rose slightly as she smiled and tried to peek behind Hanami. The Mouse turned around in an instant and broke the sign frame with a karate chop. She then started clapping her hands above her head to avoid the issue.
“That Mouse is quite well made,” muttered Masazumi.
Asama’s head drooped a bit and nodded, but she recovered after a few seconds.
“Okay, time for a new contract. I have a quota to fill, so I need to focus and do my best.”
That last comment worried Masazumi, but the other girl’s different-colored eyes were looking firmly at her.
“Please sit on the floor here.”
She laid out a meter long piece of thin paper that was shaped like a human’s upper body. It was Japanese paper with visible fibers, but the bathwater did not soak into it. Assuming it was used for spells, Masazumi sat down and Asama fixed her hair. As she did, she removed the towel.
“I will be pouring water on you, so please sit still.”
As soon as Masazumi closed her eyes, hot water poured over her. It soaked through her hair, and poured over her scalp, neck, and shoulders. The warm caress of the water brought a sense of calm. As she sat with her eyes closed and her straightened back to Asama, she was reminded of the past.
…My parents would wash me like this when I took baths with them long ago.
She wondered what her father was doing now.
Even though it was nighttime, around a dozen carriages were stopped in front of a mansion on Musashi’s surface. It belonged to Konishi, a wealthy merchant. The drivers were gathered around a fire in a waiting area inside the mansion while their masters were drinking aged wine in a parlor further inside.
“Okay, tonight’s viewing party will cover the episodes of Transforming Musician Peterman we have been recording since it began in April. The only advance information we have is that it is a ‘giant hero’ series following the previous series and his special attack is the Petrification Beam.”
“Judge. We have had so many meetings over the past month or so that we haven’t had a chance to watch any of it! Avoiding any information on the divine network was really hard, Nobu-tan!”
“Yes, Koni-tan. We have both experienced the same joy and suffering in this journey. I hope this is the beginning of an excellent series.”
“Judge. I know what you mean. To distract yourself from the loneliness of Masazumi-kun’s absence, you have become all the more diligent. Is that why my delivery department has been visiting your place a lot more often?”
“Judge. I normally have things sent to somewhere other than my home, but simply going around to the different delivery locations keeps me from getting home. Lately, I have grown fond of loading offerings into the storehouse before meetings.”
As everyone nodded in agreement, someone hesitantly raised his hand.
“Um… I actually watched a recording of the first two episodes with my kid.”
The others raised their wineglasses, crossed their legs, and adjusted their positions on the sofa.
“Merely stay silent. If you spoil anything, we will force you out of the committee and the market! After all, you can only ever watch a show for the first time once! Nothing is better than preserving that innocence!”
They all took a sip of their wine.
“Glory to our new meetings and partings, and glory to Vice President Honda Masazumi who we adore in secret!”
“My father is probably having a serious meeting right about now.”
“He does seem like the serious type.”
“Judge. …Ever since the Mikawa incident, I think he has been working to change how he views me. But I sometimes think he’s been trying too hard lately.”
“May I ask why?”
“Judge.” Masazumi recalled what had happened before the transport ship crash and began to speak with an exasperated tone. “He just seems really restless whenever we’re home together. And there have been a few times when he suggested things like seeing an anime movie as father and daughter because he got some tickets from Konishi. He’s clearly trying to build a closer relationship, but wanting to see ‘Las Casas, Protector of the Indians’ is a bit much. Does he think I’m a little kid?”
“He is probably having trouble deciding how to approach a child.”
More water was poured on Masazumi. This action had been repeated several times now and she could tell Hanami was using a sign frame nearby.
“Oh, Masazumi. I am cancelling your contract with Mikawa. Mikawa shrine disappeared when Nagoya Castle went boom. A new shrine is being built aboard Musashi, but the former shrine would interfere with this contract if the previous contract remained in effect. That is why I am cancelling that contract before transferring you to a contract for our shrine on Musashi.”
“Will my contract with the god of my birthplace remain?”
“Mikawa’s birthplace deity works with Asama Shrine, so you can keep that contract. Your contract will be with the same god, but you will be using us as a point of contact since your previous one disappeared with Mikawa. You did make a resident contract at our shrine when you came to Musashi, but you received weak divine protection because you retained your birth contract with the birthplace deity of Mikawa and did not own a handheld.”
“This is complicated…”
“Yes, it is,” replied Asama with a bitter laugh. “The free divine protection of a birthplace contract provides support for your entire body via the parts on your neck, sides, and waist. You did make a resident contract with the Asama Shrine here on Musashi and that provides support for life on Musashi which travels through the sky, but that support was weakened in you due to interference from Mikawa. That may be why you are always about to starve to death.”
“Oh, so I might stop collapsing on the roadside now?”
She thought she felt everyone glance over at her, but she decided to assume it was her imagination.
“Anyway, this is a major contract, so we will throw in the Asama Special of sunblock and dry skin protection for free. You must meet with important people in your position, so that certainly can’t hurt.”
“I don’t really worry about that very much, but I guess that just leaves…”
“Yes. You have completed your contract for the protection of your birthplace god and resident god. In other words, the god of your birthplace and the god of the land you currently live in. They do not actually have names because local deities are simple nature gods. Now, before moving on to the Mouse contract, you can make an individual contract with a god you want to worship. Will you?”
“Is there a reason to do that before the Mouse contract?”
“Personal contracts are made with powerful named gods and spells and the like can be acquired via the shrine in charge of that god. However, that god will usually have a Mouse specific to them, so it is recommended to make the personal contract ahead of time. After all, a Mouse is usually modelled after a god’s messenger, so they are a symbol of that god.
“But you only have a birthplace and resident contract. Those are usually made with nameless local deities that do not have their own Mouse. If you do make a personal contract first, you can later choose a Mouse specialized to that god’s abilities.”
“So not only are there nameless local deities, but there are also named gods one can make a personal contract with?”
“Yes,” replied Asama. “In the Far East, gods are a part of nature and they reside in the land. The earthly gods reside in the Divine States which are governed by the environmental gods that became local deities. On the other hand, the heavenly gods reside in the heavens.”
When the gods had abandoned the planet due to the worsening environment, it had been the environmental gods who had normalized the environment based on instructions left by the gods. But their overly strong definition of “normal” led them to go overboard in creating an environmental balance. When the people had returned from the heavens, they had only been able to descend to the Far East which the environmental gods had left relatively safe. Afterwards, the harmonic world had been created and the people had started the Harmonic Unification War.
“The gods and mankind managed to calm the environmental gods who were doing too good a job, but we’re still essentially renting space here, aren’t we?”
“The environmental gods were absorbed into the ley lines, so you could say they and the world are now one and the same. Rather than saying they do not have names, it would be more accurate to say they are on too great a scale to have names.”
Hanami then showed Masazumi the sign frame. It showed a site that let one search for a god. It had lists of gods in order of name, ability, sex, court rank, ancestors, and more.
“What is with these aggressive categories in the genre search? ‘Loves crossdressing’, ‘peels back the skin’, ‘an older sister is fine too!’, ‘cruel’, ‘crotch splitting’, ‘quick to prostrate’, and ‘always running errands’?”
“There really are gods like that. Shinto is great with genres.”
It sounds more like it just tries to pander to everyone, thought Masazumi. Anyway, what should I do?
Hanami opened another sign frame which displayed gods related to negotiations and politics.
…There are a lot of Amaterasu-types here, but they’re too over-the-top for me. Oh, the God Mosaic is on the list of popular techniques.
“Would it be possible to eventually make another contract for this?”
“Oh, of course. …Just make sure to do it with me.”
The corner of Masazumi’s mouth stiffened when she saw Asama’s smile, but Naruze began adding to her storyboard in the bath.
“And while naked, Asama says to Masazumi, ‘Just make sure to do it with me.’ Okay, the next chapter is going to be great!”
“Ga-chan, I think you just drew up five years’ worth of storyboards.”
Would the student council’s approval rating drop if I wrote up a bill cracking down on doujinshi events? wondered Masazumi with a half-lidded glare.
But then Asama spoke up.
“Well, we can scold her plenty later. …So, um, you can make a personal contract at a later date, but those gods usually have specialized Mice. If you already have another Mouse, the shift can be inconvenient, so keep that in mind. …Anyway, what will you do? Do you want a personal contract? Um…Are you sure it wouldn’t make you feel better to make one?”
“Why did that last part sound like you were trying to sell me something?”
“Don’t worry about it.” Asama smiled and held out a hand to stop her. “For now, would you like to use a generic Mouse as a substitute? A generic Mouse is ranked lower than one under direct control of a god. Their abilities are not specialized, so they may be unable to draw out the full ability of the god you ultimately make an individual contract with. And given your job and status, it would need pseudo-shock absorption, so even a generic Mouse can cost a fair bit.”
“You can’t make it any cheaper? I’m worried about after I graduate.”
“Okay,” said Asama while smiling more than necessary. “In that case, we can keep the cost down with a heavenly blessing contract.”
“A heavenly blessing contract?” asked Masazumi.
Asama showed her the wooden charm in her hand. She pressed in on a few of the characters written on the thirty centimeter oak board and the characters began to emit a bluish-white light.
“Your Mouse is determined randomly. A choice contract is expensive because searching for a Mouse that meets your requirements takes some effort. In some cases, a request has to be made for a new Mouse to be created via the union of two existing Mice.”
“Is it really okay to decide randomly?”
“It usually produces a dog, rat, fox, or bird as there are large numbers of them. A heavenly blessing contract is inexpensive, but it can produce a powerful Mouse or one that would otherwise be quite expensive. …Oh, just press here.”
Asama handed her the charm. At the bottom was a super-deformed shrine maiden face with the words “press here” below it. Masazumi placed her finger on it, worried about the state of the Shinto religion, and pressed it.
She handed the charm back to Asama who turned around. Beyond her swaying black hair, Asama used the end of the charm to draw a square on the floor.
Hanami clapped her hands and a glowing box suddenly grew from the ground in front of Asama.
As everyone in the bath watched on, a charm invoice could be seen on the surface of the glowing one meter square box. It said “To: Honda Masazumi-sama via Asama Tomo-sama. Contents: Mouse. By: God.” Without bothering to read it, Asama tore off the ether seal and it vanished into thin air.
She focused on opening the top of the box and peering inside.
“Oh?” She nodded twice. “Oh, oh?”
“Why do you look so impressed, Asama?”
“Oh, um…” muttered Asama as she circled around to the other side of the box.
The light from below really emphasizes her breasts, thought Masazumi, half in exasperation, as she watched Asama place her hands on the box.
“I have a question for you: what kind of Mouse has arrived?”
“How am I supposed to know?”
“Then I will give you a hint. Um… It is not a symbol, an inorganic object, a plant, or a person. It is an animal.”
“Wrong. Have another hint. It begins with a vowel in Far Eastern.”
Masazumi’s first thought was “Is it a dog?” And in the next instant…
…Is it a dog!?
She had often wanted to own a dog. She liked cats too, but cats had a way of not settling down and making her feel lonely with all empty rooms in her house. A lot of her classmates had owned dogs to prepare them for strange phenomena and to frighten away criminals. She had often seen the dogs being taken for walks on leashes or sitting by their owners in the park. Her general thoughts at those times had been the following:
Okay. Masazumi nodded. Bring on a dog. In M.H.R.R., they would call it a Hund. I think it will be small enough to ride on my shoulder, but a puppy is delightful in its own way.
She swung up her right fist.
“Okay, Asama! Open it!”
“As you wish.” Asama lifted up the box and brought out the Mouse. “Tah dah! It’s a giant anteater!”
“What kind of scam is this!?”
Masazumi saw a mother and a child anteater that were too big to have fit inside the box. The mother was almost two meters long and the small child was clinging to her back.
“Right, right.” Asama looked down at the two. “IZUMO has been working in Kyushu and the New World recently, so they have been creating Mice for people there. Also, having many different types available helps the shrines respond to many different situations and increase the survival rate. Dogs, cats, rats, and foxes are popular, but there are situations they cannot handle. If they were the only ones, they would be wiped out.”
“Sure, but…an anteater?”
“Oh, it eats special food made from ether, not ants, so don’t worry. It can go inside the hard point pocket on the neck of your clothes.”
Just as she was going to continue complaining, she saw the mother anteater cry as it tore its child from it and moved away. While still shedding tears, the mother waved its front right paw and disappeared. The child anteater looked absolutely grief-stricken now that it had been left behind.
Everyone began whispering as the child anteater lay on the ground, cried, and trembled.
“Poor thing. If Masazumi doesn’t take it in now, she belongs in the ‘cruel’ genre.”
“Is it just me, or are a lot of politicians cold-hearted people?”
“Masa…zumi… H-how…about it?”
…I have to take it in to keep my approval rating from dropping!!
Masazumi approached the twenty centimeter anteater and tried to place her hands under its front legs to pick it up, but it merely trembled in her hands.
“Wah!” she shouted in surprise as it flailed its legs and tail, but she did not let go. “Are you-…”
Before she could say “okay”, the child anteater rolled up into a ball. Instead of curling its tail around itself, it seemed to hide its face and legs inside its own tail. Masazumi now had a trembling ball of fur in her hands.
…What am I supposed to do?
Asama picked up on her thoughts and lowered the ends of her eyebrows.
“Um… It seems you received one that is a bit too young.”
“What should I do?”
“You can only wait for it to get used to you. But it cannot perform its job as a Mouse like this, so I can arrange another Mouse for you.”
“Well…” muttered Masazumi.
She could feel it trembling in her hands. With the shock-absorption setting, she would likely have been unable to feel that slight movements of the animal’s heat and fur.
…But this isn’t about feeling sorry for it.
“Okay.” Masazumi nodded. “It isn’t actually running away. It’s just afraid of the unfamiliar outside world. Once that fear goes away, it should do fine.”
“Are you sure?”
Masazumi gave her judgment. She placed the child anteater in a nearby bucket while it continued to curl up as if trying to hide inside itself.
“Asama, is that all?”
Masazumi’s decision produced a sigh of relief from the others in the bath. Naomasa wiped her face with the towel folded up on her head while leaning her left elbow against a stone in the tub.
“Ha ha. Now you have a kid, Masazumi. Not too long ago, you wanted to be a father, so this is a good change.”
Masazumi blushed and everyone else smiled bitterly. Meanwhile, Suzu laughed while leaning against the wall on one end of the tub. Just like Masazumi, scarlet tinged her face.
“This is fun,” she muttered quietly. “Everything has been…more fun…since Horizon…came back.”
She sighed and relaxed her body.
“This is fun…”
She leaned to the side and collapsed onto Adele.
“H-huh? Suzu-san!? W-wait!”
Adele held Suzu up, but Suzu had already passed out. Adele frantically held her up so she would not sink.
“U-um, everyone! Everyone! Suzu-san is…”
Suzu slid down in Adele’s arms but then stopped. Adele frowned at this fact.
“…bigger than me!? Sh-shit…no, I mustn’t swear! Um, Suzu-san, I’ll be lifting you… Wow! I can hook my arm under her breasts! Shit…no, I mustn’t swear. At any rate, I’ve lost! Am I in our class’s lowest caste!? Does failure taste like milk!?”
“Um… Are you trying to say Suzu-san spent too much time in the bath and passed out? Please calm down, Adele.”
Asama entered the tub while having Hanami use a stimulant spell. Adele turned toward her, but her vision was not great without her glasses.
“Ah! Instead of a stretcher, you brought some lovely cushions! Okay, let’s place Suzu-san on top!”
A carelessly outstretched hand grabbed onto Asama’s “chest armor” and knocked her over.
Asama gave her diagnosis of Suzu who had been carried to the beach.
“She has a slight fever. She was heated by the yakiniku fire and then the hot spring, so it is not surprising her body temperature rose a bit. She is delicate, after all.”
“Wait… Then why is everyone else perfectly fine?” asked Adele.
As the other girls hung their heads down, Suzu was asked if she would leave the diplomatic ship and return to Musashi, but she said she wanted to do her job as diplomat. Even on Musashi, everyone would be busy in the coming days and the coming and going of the transport ships would make everything noisy, so England’s first level had been chosen as a peaceful place for her.
Adele and Futayo would go along as her bodyguards.
“Listen up, Bell-san. If they say anything inconvenient or you want to force some kind of demand, just start coughing.”
“I-is that really…okay?”
She received plenty of advice like that. The next day, the three of them took their luggage and travelled to London. The day after that, preparations for the joint spring festival began.
Suzu’s health recovered on the second day of preparations and she began her work as diplomat along with Futayo and Adele in the guest building of Oxford Academy’s central school building group.
Her first job was nothing more than handing Jonson, England’s diplomat in charge, the data gathered by Heidi, but the English group was curious and cautious of Suzu and her two bodyguards who had combat styles useful in battle. The English students in charge of looking after her observed Suzu’s attitude and demeanor to make sure they did not intrude on her lifestyle.
The preparations lasted four days plus one day off. Musashi’s presence alongside England’s third and fourth levels produced excess food consumption over that extended period and the ship’s location meant it primarily affected England’s middle class.
On the night of the fifth day, when festival preparations truly came to an end, large-scale celebrations were held in various places. The following day, the joint spring festival finally began with a combined announcement from Masazumi and Dudley.
After the opening ceremony on the second level, the residents of both nations were allowed to come and go between the two nations and the cultural exchange of the festival began.
Below the clear sky, carriages travelled about and the area grew filled with people, music, dancing, and flowers blowing in the wind.
The week-long festival had finally begun.
In the transport ship, Horizon’s Logismoi Oplo had yet to be found. It could still be detected “nearby” and the search continued.
However, the festival had begun and Toori had challenged Horizon to a date so he could decide on a stance. Also, the others attempted to watch on from a distance.
Many different people moved throughout the festival.
And among them…
“My moment has finally come. I just hope my books made it to the event site.”
Neshinbara looked up at his bandaged right arm as he held it in the air and he walked with a splint on his leg.
Unlike the others, he had arrived on a standard transport ship as if he were a normal person.
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