Horizon:Volume 4B Chapter 50
Chapter 50: Rester in a Small Space
Did I end up like this?
Point Allocation (Process of Growth)
Musashi Ariadust Academy’s library was filled with voices even though it was night.
Everyone had already gathered around Sanyou and Azuma at the table in the back and they were discussing various topics centered on Oushuu’s history and geography.
Some of the students were originally from Oushuu, Kantou, or Sviet Rus, so they had a chance to discuss their former home. Others were learning some new details about their friends and neighbors.
Watching from a short distance were those who had arrived to check out a book to help with some late night boredom, and…
Ookubo was there alone.
Two bookcases away, she listened to Sanyou and the others speak while she received a divine transmission report from Kanou.
Kanou spoke from the sign frame next to her face.
“Milady, we have located the Vice Chancellor. I will send you the location.”
“…The Blue Thunder? It’s the Tama one, so wouldn’t that be the Chancellor’s family’s bakery?”
“Judge. One of our people is nearby, so I will send them over.”
“Judge. Make it accurate. I don’t want a repeat of last time. Do this right, okay?”
After answering quietly, Ookubo closed the sign frame.
She took a breath and placed her hand on the book before her.
It was the Taikoki, a work of fiction about the merchant-turned-drummer HIDE-yoshi’s rise to power. The series was still being released, but Volume 3 was checked out. That was the volume where he was caught sniffing and licking his beloved upperclassman NOB-naga’s stage sandals, claimed he had simply been keeping them in his pocket to warm them, and continued insisting as much even as he was punished.
…There are a lot with the same title, so it must be hard to tell if someone hasn’t returned it.
Ookubo heard laughter from the table and she suddenly pulled out the book she had her hand on.
She pondered whether to put the book back or not.
After all, she had looked through plenty of documents already, so she had no intention of checking out this book. She had only grabbed it because she thought she would seem more at place here with one in her hand.
Why was she here? Because of the discussions and conversations she could hear.
…That must be nice.
She had been so focused on taking action lately that she had not had any time to relax. She had been doing nothing but meet with the members of other committees to make deals and show her concern.
“What I’m saying is the snow would pile up to easily three meters and just bury the academy.”
“And they didn’t collapse? How were the roofs made?”
“The Sviet Rus school buildings on the Russia side of things have tower and dome roofs that look like onions, so the snow doesn’t matter. Ours had flat roofs, though, so when it snowed, some selected students had to periodically apply heat spells to the roof to melt the snow. In a hurry, they’d send out a shovel unit.”
She felt as if she had not heard casual conversations like this in a while.
She started feeling like she was a part of it, so when she heard the occasional laughter, she nearly laughed herself.
…But I can’t be part of them.
No one had noticed her or maybe they were simply ignoring her, but was she being overly self-conscious to assume she would seem out of place if she did try to join them?
She was not sure.
She simply felt the people in that circle knew her upperclassmen more than they did her. She did not speak much, so even the people in her own class were more familiar with the crossdressing Vice President or the Chancellor who would head home from school as a nudist, a crossdresser, or both.
…Wh-why do our superiors go with clothing jokes so much?
That was a new discovery. She decided to use that in her accusations tomorrow if she could.
“But for now…I should probably head back.”
She had acquired all the material she needed. The best way to prepare for the upcoming special student general assembly was to let her body rest. She was also curious about their person who had gone to the Vice Chancellor. So…
…Time to leave.
She returned the book with that in mind, but…
“Ookubo-san. You’re the last one! How about it!?”
Sanyou suddenly called out to her.
Azuma looked in the direction Sanyou had called.
A figure in glasses and a red stole poked out from behind a bookcase. She had a long sleeve over her left arm and Sanyou’s voice caused her to stumble on her way to the hallway.
…Is she unsure what to do?
It looked like she had been hesitating over whether to check out a book or not and that she had decided to leave without checking it out. It was possible Azuma’s group had been too loud. But…
“This is what the betting is up to now!”
Sanyou indicated the sweets, rice balls, and other snacks piled up on the table. After the history lesson, those who had not wanted to leave had started a trivia and region quiz and those prizes had naturally appeared.
The winner only got to take one thing from the pile, but that included the wrapped PG Kiritanpo that Oriotorai had given Sanyou. They had just been discussing how it could be “Perfect Grade” inside a wrapper, whether that was maybe a typo, or if the given weight was a little too realistic. They had concluded that this was actually a punishment game.
Ookubo came to a stop and looked back toward Sanyou.
“If it’s about tomorrow, this doesn’t count.”
Everyone exchanged a glance at Sanyou’s comment. Some of them had known who Ookubo was already and some only just now caught on. Others were confused, received an explanation from someone next to them, and nodded in what may have been surprise or admiration.
However, Ookubo’s hesitation seemed real and Azuma realized why.
“Please, can’t you help us out here?”
He called out to her too and Ookubo shrugged, but…
“I can’t refuse a request from a teacher and Azuma-sama.”
She nodded, straightened her back, and walked over.
She was not timid. There were a lot of third years in the circle of people, but she approached while simply nodding at them.
“Sorry if we get too noisy.”
She faced the entrance, held her hands together, and gave a quick bow.
Everyone else did the same. Sanyou did as well, so Azuma followed suit.
There was a management household shrine at the entrances to all the school’s rooms and it applied divine protections to anyone who entered.
The library’s restricted noise and Azuma had heard it was more effective if it was periodically reset with some worship, but…
“Azuma-kun, you probably know since you’re in Class Plum, but there are rumors that a ghost appears in this school’s library. Well, I guess it’s a pretty stereotypical part of a school’s seven mysteries.”
Sanyou had likely directed that to him because of the ghost hunt during the spring. That was in fact where the girl Sanyou held had come from, but…
…I wonder if this girl is that ghost.
Ookubo must have wondered the same thing because she looked to the girl and spoke.
“I’ve heard about that from Principal Sakai before. The Musashi had its major remodeling ten years ago, but it was also remodeled about thirty years ago. The ghost started appearing after that old remodeling and stopped appearing after the one ten years ago.”
“An older remodeling? What did they do?”
“Judge.” Ookubo nodded and calmly answered. “The Musashi was created 160 years ago as a basic fleet. At the time, it had a port and starboard ship plus two central ships for four in all, but as its trade activities grew, so did the crew. First, two ships were added as port and starboard diplomatic ships and then the port and starboard ships were added thirty years ago. Also…”
“The old school building that was here was remodeled as the basis for the current Musashi Ariadust Academy.”
“That’s right,” agreed Sanyou. “Until the major remodeling when Principal Sakai transferred here ten years ago, the Student Council managed things like the Musashi’s course, so the main bridge was here. According to the records, the library was used as the OS management room and it was the center of the ship’s ether pathways. …But during the major remodeling ten years ago, ‘Musashi’-san and the others were gathered, the four additional ships were made official ships, and the current arrangement was established.”
“Then the ghost was…?”
“Judge. It’s said the lingering ether created afterimages of the people who came here to check out books. But it might have been real since a ghost living on a ship is seen as the spirit of the ship. That’s why it’s said that those ghosts exist in the library or other parts of the Musashi as things that ‘don’t exist but are still there’.”
Sanyou held her hands together toward the library entrance.
“So this place is a little different. …But if you’re worried, you just have to make sure to bow whenever you pass through any entrance. The god’s will has been sent out to all of the different household shrines.”
“I see,” said Azuma with a nod as Sanyou pushed the pile of snacks his way.
“Have a reward for understanding that, Azuma-kun.”
He did not want to try his hand at that punishment game, but did that mean he lacked a spirit of adventure? Miriam might laugh at me, he thought as he heard Ookubo’s voice.
“Sanyou-sensei, what is the current topic?”
She tilted her head and spoke to the others.
“I am waiting for word on something else, so I can join in until then.”
A room was lit by a few torch spells.
It was a traditional Far Eastern style room and piles of barrels, firewood, and food nearly reached the ceiling.
Someone’s gaze looked weakly up and realized this was the Blue Thunder.
It was Futayo. She leaned her head back in her chair and blinked a few times while staring at the ceiling.
Strange, she thought.
Her surroundings and her position were not what she had expected.
After the battle in Mito, she recalled somehow getting aboard a ship to Ariake and then passing out there. She had been injured, so she had assumed she would be carried to the school’s medical room or some other medical facility. However…
“Oh, are you awake, Futayo-chan?”
She heard a voice to her right, so she turned toward it and found the manager there. She really does look like Kimi-dono. Don’t ask me about the crossdresser, though. But…
Something was indeed not right. Why was she in the Blue Thunder? She had been fighting in Mito. She had fought Fukushima Masanori, and…
“I was injured when the Tonbo Spare failed to activate…”
She touched her body, but she did not feel the unique stinging pain felt when pressing on an injury.
She was not injured.
She assumed that meant she was fully healed, but that was due to her clear memories from the day. Masazumi and the others had been there and it had not been her fight alone. That allowed her to at least say that battle had been real.
How much time had passed since then?
She looked to the clock on the wall and found it was eleven o’clock. There was light outside the window, but that was likely because it was not the lights out test period. It was eleven at night. There were a total of two customers: one in the back wearing a lab coat and one at the entrance wearing a hood.
As she watched the hands of the clock move, Futayo noted that time was indeed moving and yet the events around her were odd.
…What does this mean?
When she looked up to ask the manager, she saw a butt on the edge of the table. It was the manager’s. The woman placed a bamboo bottle and a wrapped piece of bread in front of Futayo, and…
“I just received a data letter from my husband. Want to see it?”
Futayo was at a loss for words because it was so sudden, but the manager used her foot to pull over the divine monitor stand. She pulled an envelope from her apron pocket and pulled a charm from that.
It was a special charm that contained audiovisual information inside.
The surface was almost entirely covered in black compressed writing, so it had to contain high density data and prayers. The manager attached it to the top of the divine monitor and operated it with the sign frame that appeared by her hands.
“And play. I wonder where he is now.”
Futayo did not really understand, but she looked at the screen while tilting her head. A few confirmation texts scrolled by, and…
As the manager leaned forward, the blue sky and the colors white and black appeared on the screen.
The ground was a vast hole and a single white bridge crossed it below the floating fog and blue sky.
…What is this?
“That idiot had Suga or Nabe head out ahead of him to film him as he crossed, didn’t he?”
A pink arrow and the word “here” appeared above the suspension bridge. The black dot moving below the arrow must have been the manager’s husband.
The wind could be heard blowing, but a voice spoke over it. It was a man’s voice.
“Hey, it’s been a while. What do you think of this scenery, Toori, Kimi?”
The manager shut off the video and glared at the sign frame to the blacked-out monitor.
“Your wife is supposed to come first. Your wife. It was addressed to me.”
At that very moment, the café’s door opened and a student carrying a delivery bag walked in.
“Sorry! This arrived shortly after the previous data letter! It’s labeled a ‘reshoot’!”
“Judge. Then I’ll forgive him. …I can sign for it via sign frame, right? And can you leave the door open? It helps air the place out and I can tell if they’re still at it out there.”
The delivery student placed the envelope on the counter.
The manager peeled the previous charm from the monitor and spoke with her back turned.
“Hey, Futayo-chan? Can you go get that from the counter? Sorry about making you do this.”
“Eh? Of course. I don’t mind.”
“Judge. Yes, I really am sorry.”
No need to be so apologetic, thought Futayo as she walked to the counter.
She honestly had no idea why any of this was happening. Also…
With that much snow, that had probably been Sviet Rus. But that large shadow on the ground had to have been a hole. Where was there a hole that big? And…
She felt like she recognized that video from somewhere. Not the scenery. Her time on the Musashi was her only experience outside of Mikawa. If she recognized it, it had to be the layout.
A suspension bridge and a deep darkness. She thought about that layout.
It came to her. It was from the night before when she had left the Blue Thunder, and…
…On the way to Musashino, I crossed the still unbuilt atrium on a rope passageway.
No, that was technically not accurate. She had tried to cross and been attacked.
Then too, she had been injured and fallen from the passageway, but she had come to in the Blue Thunder with no injuries, having been asleep.
She turned to ask the manager what that was about, but the woman cut her off.
“You forgot this.”
She tossed Futayo the Tonbo Spare.
At the same time, there were two movements.
The first was the hooded customer by the entrance standing up and drawing a sword from each hip. The second was a short figure rushing in through the open door.
It was an unfamiliar figure and voice, but the wind approaching her was sharp.
As she sensed its strength, a third motion arrived.
It came from the window. The large window covering one side of the Blue Thunder was shattered as three figures jumped through it.
Darkness fell. It was not time for the lights out testing. Someone had shut off the lights in the Tama district.
And in that darkness, a multi-sided battle began.
- The kanji used makes this a pun on the historical Taikoki by using the Japanese word for “drum”.
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