Horizon:Volume 4A Chapter 21
Chapter 21: Uncertain Person in the Early Morning
Point Allocation (Regret)
Asama awoke to the distant sound of a morning bell ringing at the top of the hour.
She could tell she was lying on her side and she could tell where she was lying.
She was on a bed. Beyond the warm sheets and creaking bed, her sleepy mind heard the distant sounds of construction. And…
…Oh, no. I need to do my morning water purification.
That thought led her to a realization: didn’t she normally sleep in a futon? The night before, she had stayed at the Main Blue Thunder late into the night for their meeting. When Kimi had invited her to sleep over, her weariness had won out.
She trembled, stirred, opened her eyes, and found a face in front of her.
She gasped in disbelief, but then realized who it was sleeping on their side in front of her.
Mitotsudaira breathed quietly in sleep with her sleeves removed and her inner suit parted at the crotch portion. And occasionally…
Her sense of smell must have been reacting to the scent of the sheets and blanket because she would rub her cheek against them, relax her expression, and yet generally give stern looks.
…Toori-kun must be causing her trouble in her dream too.
That thought brought some unease.
He was not here.
It made sense. They had stolen his space to sleep.
But his absence still bothered her.
…Is he here?
When they had borrowed his bed, he had been making tea and some late night snacks while speaking with Masazumi, Shirojiro, and the others continuing the meeting. Asama had stayed with them until Tenzou, Mary, Gin, and Muneshige had left along with Horizon since they were all residents of Tama’s underground area, but…
His absence brought unease to her heart.
…I’m imagining awful things again.
She corrected her fear. He was in the house. He definitely was. He had to be. There was no reason for him not to be. But…
Asama slowly got up while looking over at Mitotsudaira who remained asleep with the sheets wildly strewn around her.
She glanced around and confirmed that this was his room. She would occasionally help Kimi with some spells or studying and she would bring by cooking spell charms from her father, so she was familiar with the Aoi home.
…But it’s been a while since I was inside Toori-kun’s room.
His room had originally been part of a twelve square meter living room. It had been connected to the hallway without any walls, so a T-shape of curtains had been added in. The space positioned next to the café area was Toori’s room and the opposite space was Kimi’s room.
Asama stood barefoot on the wooden flooring. She could see plenty of porn game boxes stacked up on the PC desk, but…
“Oh, that’s one of the ones I tested for safety. So he’s actually playing them.”
She nodded in satisfaction that her efforts were paying off.
…W-wait, there’s something wrong with this! Oh, but he actually has the nunchuck device connected! Is shaking it up and down really supposed to be fun!?
She had shaken it a lot while testing it. But…
She pushed aside the dividing curtain to check Kimi’s room.
Kimi was sleeping inside. She was naked, wrapped in her blanket, and embracing Suzu, who had also slept over, and Suzu’s unbound hair. They almost looked like mother and child.
…Although Kimi’s the one holding onto Suzu.
Seeing that brought some peace of mind, but the previous unease only grew.
…Where is Toori-kun?
She pushed aside the curtain bordering the hallway and peeked out.
The hallway continued to the left and right. The left led to the bath and the right led to Toori’s parents’ room and the café.
The left seemed deserted, as did the right.
…He wouldn’t be in his mom’s room.
After some hesitation, she opened the curtain and stepped out into the hallway. She thought about putting on her shoes, but she would be doing her habitual water purification afterwards anyway. She was only checking to see if he was here.
She placed her hand on the door to the café.
She hesitated and wondered what she would do if he was not in here.
“He is, isn’t he?”
She recalled a time in the past when she had felt this same unease.
…Back when we lost Horizon…
Toori had also been taken to Mikawa, so he too had been gone.
Asama had not seen the scene of the accident, so at the time, she had not known what exactly had happened to Horizon or Toori. It had generally been the same for the others. They had later learned that Horizon had “died” and everyone but Kimi had cried once they realized what that meant.
…But we didn’t know what had happened to Toori-kun.
Kimi, the one who had not cried, had asked something of Asama not long after that.
“Come stay at my house,”
Asama’s father had apparently decided it would be better for Kimi to come stay at the Asama Shrine, but…
“There has to be someone there when Toori gets back.”
Kimi had been insistent. And Asama herself had been worried about a lot and had also been interested in staying over at the Aoi home that she had visited a lot in the past. Before entering elementary school, her father had been busy a lot and she had often spent the night there with Kimi, Toori, and later Horizon too. The four of them had brought futons out into the café and slept on the floor there.
When asking her over, Kimi had said they could make and eat whatever they wanted because her parents were not there.
That had also been an attractive prospect, so she had decided to go.
It had come on the first night of her stay.
She and Kimi had crawled into the large bed and discussed silly things until they fell asleep. It had come during the time often known as the dead of night.
It was something formless. A great silence and a dark presence.
In the bluish darkness, where only the silhouettes of objects could be seen, she had known that they were the only two in the house. But…
“Is something there?”
The stillness had in fact created a great pressure as if indicating something’s presence. The house had occasionally creaked and the curtains had fluttered a little from the outside air slipping in.
She had felt like something was there even though no one was there.
She had felt like something inhuman that they could not perceive was watching them. The creaking of the house had seemed like footsteps as it passed through the walls, so she thought it might actually be standing next to the bed looking down at them.
…I really did think that.
The next thing she had known, Kimi had been clinging to her. That was when she had realized why Kimi had asked her to spend the night.
“Hey,” Kimi had whispered. “Do you think Horizon is here?”
She had not been able to say no. Honoring the souls of the dead was one of a shrine maiden’s jobs.
There were different categories and levels of ghosts and there had been some her young self had been unable to perceive even with Konoha, the false eye she had had even back then.
What were they supposed to do if something like that had been there? And then Kimi had said more.
“Or maybe it’s Toori.”
Without knowing the answer, she had clung to Kimi and cried.
She had been unable to irresponsibly say he would be coming back and she had not known if the silence and darkness surrounding them really had been something visiting them.
…But I had to wonder if we had lost Toori-kun who had always played with us and been like family to me.
What if the silent presence really was his dead ghost?
What if it was proof that they would never meet him again?
What if he had vanished before they could do or say anything? And what if he had become something that was simply there, unable to be say anything or touch anything.
Asama had slept over after that as well and she remembered the one time she had worked up the courage to search the house.
After hearing the house creaking, she had gone out into the hallway to open the door to the café. She remembered the creaking having been loud enough to make her think Toori might have returned.
…But he wasn’t there.
She had opened the door and found the café empty. She had found nothing that could have caused the creaking.
But despite seeing no on there, she had sensed a presence.
Had he died and come there?
But she had not known if he was there or not, so…
“If you’re there, then come back properly…Toori-kun.”
Only after speaking had she realized how weak her voice was. She had received high praise for her performance in her shrine maiden training (and thunderous praise for her skill at shooting), but conversing with the souls of the dead was dangerous.
…So I hadn’t been allowed to do it at that point.
When she had realized there was nothing she could do, she had returned to Kimi’s bed and the two of them had placed the blanket over their heads.
What had she been apologizing for?
…For the fact that I couldn’t do anything to bring Toori-kun back, to stop him from going away in the first place, or…
To do anything for him.
She remembered him being a handful. He had caused nothing but trouble. He had often had her heal injuries or apologize to people, so he had been something of a nuisance.
But the biggest trouble of all was not being able to do anything for him.
From then on, they had left the lights on when they slept and left the blanket pulled down a little from Toori’s bed. That was to make the silence more bearable and to make it easier for Toori to get into bed when he returned.
He had returned a while later, but he had become another person entirely.
…I remember not understanding what was happening.
But they definitely had “lost him” for a time and she had been unable to do anything for him during that time.
“Is he here now?”
What should she do if he was not beyond this door now?
She opened it.
The Main Blue Thunder was dimly lit by the artificial sunlight entering through the narrow window.
They had all had fun and discussed a number of things the night before and the smell of eaten pizza lingered inside. But…
“Oh? You’re up early, Asama. Did we wake you?”
“Good morning. We started eating already.”
“Oh, you want something to eat too, Asama?”
She saw three people there: Masazumi, Mary, and…
“If you need to do your water purification, our bath supports spells, so put in a purification spell and use it. Sis will probably unlock the door and interrupt, though.”
He was there and he spoke to her.
Asama was relieved by that fact, but she did her best to keep it from showing. After all, Masazumi and Mary were here as well. She started by interpreting what the idiot had said.
“D-don’t be ridiculous…”
She imagined the scene of Kimi interrupting while she was in the bath and she felt some heat in her cheeks.
Then Mary gave her a smile while cutting into an omelet with a knife.
“Lady Asama, you get along quite well with Lady Kimi and the spirit, don’t you?”
She wondered who “the spirit” was, but she decided to abandon that line of thought when the idiot puffed his chest out proudly. However, she did take a breath and released the tension from her shoulders.
Good, she thought. This isn’t like ten years ago.
“Yeah? What is it? Boobs? You want even more than you’ve got?”
She didn’t know what he was talking about, but she did know he was there.
Never again would she not know what had happened to him and never again would no one be able to reach a hand out to him or head out to save him.
Good, she thought again.
Drawn by her relaxed shoulders, droplets spilled from the corners of her eyes.
She unexpectedly began crying.
When the other three noticed, Masazumi was the first to speak.
“Aoi, what did you do to Asama!? She’s Musashi’s valuable long-distance attacker, divine transmission manager, and owner of my Tsukinowa! As the lessee, I’ll be forced to use my special attack: That is Most Regrettable!”
“That’s way too long, Seijun! A-and I didn’t do anything! I mean, did you see me do anything!? Hey, Asama, I didn’t do anything to you, right? Please tell them I didn’t.”
“No, that isn’t it, is it?” Mary gestured to the empty seat in front of her. “I don’t really know why, but something made you happy, didn’t it?”
Asama nearly nodded at that quiet question, but…
…W-wait, if I agree, they’ll ask me what made me happy.
She had recalled the past, compared it to the present, and involuntarily been so overcome with relief that she cried. They would not understand and it would be too embarrassing even if they did.
“Um,” she hesitated. “S-sorry, Mary. I need to do my water purification before eating, a-and I didn’t put any shoes on, so, um…”
“Sure. I’ll make you something that should be ready at about the right time, so hurry on up.”
Why did he read so much into things in the weirdest ways? At any rate, Asama used his words as the cue she needed to turn around, but…
“Um, what are we doing today? Are we having a meeting before going to school?”
“Judge. We need to decide who to send out as ambassadors. At the earliest, they could be sent out today, so I want to get that done now. …Now, Mary. Where are Crossunite and the Tachibanas?”
“Master Tenzou had some thoughts about the attack last night, so he went out to examine the site. Master and Lady Tachibana were summoned by Principal Sakai.”
“By Principal Sakai?”
“Judge.” Mary tilted her head. “He apparently said he had an idea to strengthen Musashi’s fighting force.”
“Well, anyway, it’s pretty exciting gathering three people with peerless combat skill.”
Sakai sat on the veranda of his home, pulled his hand from his pocket to rub his chin, and smiled.
“Oh, no need to be so formal. At ease, Muneshige-kun, Gin-kun.”
“Judge,” said Gin and Muneshige who were wearing track suits. They adjusted their sitting position on the gravel by lifting their feet on their toes to gently lift their hips. They also straightened their backs.
“What do you need with us today?” asked Gin.
Sakai looked to their left where Futayo sat more flatly with her shoulders pulled in tight.
“Da’s Daughter-kun, are you sure you want to reject my offer?”
“Eh?” asked Futayo before correcting it to, “Yes.”
She lifted up the Tonbo Spare sitting next to her.
“I have this already.” She seemed to be trying to convince herself more than anyone. “Using this to its fullest is my path.”
“Judge. I had a feeling you would say that and I’m relieved that you did.”
Sakai turned his smile back to the Tachibana Couple.
“Now, since the Vice Chancellor says she doesn’t need it, let’s get down to business. …I have something nice for you. ‘Musashi’-san.”
He held a hand back toward the room behind him where “Musashi” stood.
“You mean this?”
“Musashi” stacked up five unopened black disk box sets in Sakai’s hand and ignored how he nearly lost his balance.
“Honestly, I found all of these while searching through the closet. What is this Pax Sentai Five Good Emperors? Partway through, they added more to the team to gain a total of five, but why did they say, ‘I just realized we have three ‘Anus’s! Together, we’re the Five Good Emperors!’? That does not even function as a mnemonic for one’s exams. Over.”
“Yeah, and the first one is ‘Janus’ so it’s actually pronounced ‘Yanus’ instead. Oh, but I bought this and that previous one with points at the same Roman Fair, so I didn’t spend any money on them. And could I get some more tea? No?”
“More importantly, I assume this is what you meant. Over.”
“Musashi” glanced over at Sakai as she stepped from the veranda into the yard and slipped on the sandals waiting there.
“The transfer has not yet been fully made, so you can only look for the time being. Over.”
She held something horizontal to the ground: a steel spear.
“This is Kamenuki, the quasi-divine weapon Sakai-sama used in his days as a student. Over.”
Gin spoke as she looked at the spear that measured more than two meters long.
“Kamenuki? Isn’t that name based on the story in which you stabbed through a pot in an enemy castle to stab the enemy hidden behind it?”
“To be blunt, there are a lot of similar names out there.”
“That’s unavoidable, Gin,” said Muneshige. “Commanders and swordsmen of the Warring States period are pitif-…valuable creatures that cannot resist slicing, cutting, and stabbing through things. Pots, bamboo, and stones are the usual victims, but there are plenty of variations such as one powerful example of slicing a go board in two.”
“Come to think of it, my Tonbokiri is a type of animal abuse.”
“No, Tonbokiri’s name is based on a dragonfly cutting itself by landing on the blade. Let’s calm down and classify these things properly, Musashi Vice Chancellor.”
“Sakai-sama, are you hearing what they are saying about you? Over.”
“Now, now.” The corner of Sakai’s mouth rose in a smile. “Muneshige-kun, do you want this?”
“You’re willing to part with it?”
Despite his question, Muneshige had already started standing, so Sakai smiled.
“I am, but first I’d like a bit of excitement.”
“The two of you can work together if you want. Oh, but I’m not your opponent. I wouldn’t want anything unfortunate to happen. I don’t like pain, you see. So…”
Sakai clapped his hands and a tall maid appeared in the middle of the yard.
She was an automaton and Gin knew her name.
“You are Lady ‘Asakusa’, aren’t you?”
“Judge. I am here as captain of the first ship.”
She did not say “over” here. Her short hair swayed and she pulled something from her waist hard point.
“This is a Mikawa gravity sword. I will be using it as the opponent in your test. Over.”
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