Horizon:Volume 5A Chapter 7
Chapter 7: Exchangers in a Surrounded Place
Is this really a place for conversation?
Point Allocation (It Just Ended Up That Way)
Asama was in the girl’s bathroom.
Mitotsudaira was there too, but Mitotsudaira was in a stall.
“Mito, were you really so overjoyed that you, um…?”
“I-I didn’t! I swear I didn’t!”
“P-please don’t fall silent like that!”
Oh, right, realized Asama. She wouldn’t like that if she makes any noise. So…
“Should I play a song? Or should I play the sound of the waterfall behind my shrine to help you along?”
She went with the latter option. The sound of the great cascade reverberated through the bathroom.
…Oh, this is nice. It sounds really purifying.
“Tomo! Tomo! I feel like I’m going to wash down the toilet!”
“Then I’ll change it to the sound of water coming from our spring.”
She did so.
She now heard the sound of a smaller, quieter, and yet definite stream of water flowing through the air and falling to the water’s surface.
“Yes, this sounds like a nice small stream.”
“Tomo! Tomo! What if someone thinks this sound is me!?”
“I’m not sure there’s much we could do about that…”
“I suppose you’re right…”
She had no choice.
Asama tried opening the window. There were no roofs or anything else giving a peeping angle and she doubted any of the transport ships flying within the Ariake could see inside here.
At this time, she could hear the delivery workers and transport ships swaying and swooshing through the air. She could also hear the sounds of construction and repairs.
This was the sound of morning’s end. And as she listened to that, she also heard Mitotsudaira’s voice.
“What do you think, Tomo?”
“Think? About what?”
“About your position in the…battle formation.”
“Battle formation? Shrine maidens aren’t allowed to shoot people, you know?”
“What do you mean ‘eh’!? It’s true! It really is!”
That said, she did of course know what Mitotsudaira was trying to say. She had simply put a lid on it so she would not have to think about it too much.
Besides, she thought while looking up and out the window.
“I belong to the Asama Shrine.”
She knew a lot of people who lived on the Musashi.
“The Asama Shrine’s god, Konohana Sakuya, was established as a god during the Age of the Gods, but due to being a woman and due to what her divine protections were, her presence creates a ‘mold’. So a woman is best for using our shrine’s power.”
“The whole idea of shrine maidens being virgins doesn’t actually have much to do with Far Eastern Shinto rituals, but since purification works by keeping out anything unnecessary, getting married would hinder your purification as a shrine maiden, wouldn’t it?”
That was exactly right. That was why marriage and the various matters associated with it were taboo for a female heir to the Asama Shrine. Her god would bless her if she did so, but by placing something else above her god, distance would grow between them.
“A female heir can’t do any of that until she finds someone to be her heir.”
Her father was the official heir, but as a man, he had apparently had a fair bit of difficulty. A male heir had to find a partner who would give birth to a suitable heir.
She had heard that her late mother had married for love, but that had only been allowed because her mother happened to have the appropriate abilities.
Asama herself would have no difficulty inheriting the Asama Shrine.
But on the other hand, she could not live a normal life until she found an heir.
“Tomo. Naruze was asking about this earlier for reference material. …She wanted to know how a shrine maiden could become the same as everyone else.”
“Well, our Sakuya also handles matters related to love, so if you forcibly do those things to one of our musicians or shrine maidens, it’ll earn you some serious divine punishment. So be careful.”
Rules like that were not limited to Shinto.
The Catholics banned sex crimes against another Catholic or a pagan.
Their god would not allow any harm to fellow Catholics or to someone who might become Catholic.
“If I remember right,” said Mitotsudaira. “For Catholics, the first offense hits your crotch with a bolt of lightning and castrates you for 3 years. …And it comes from within, so it is impossible to dodge.”
“Catholicism certainly is strict.”
Meanwhile, Catholicism had no such restrictions when it came to heretics and Protestants. This was all in accordance with the Testament descriptions. That was why the Catholics had been able to cause such great tragedy during the sack of Protestant Magdeburg and it was why the Protestants and Catholics would “fulfill both supply and demand” using crossdressing warriors.
The crossdressing warriors would sometimes be sent to a normal battlefield due to a miscommunication and that would apparently cause quite a scene, but since Naruze had excitedly called it “reference material” it could not be all bad.
…But those crossdressing warriors are a major doujinshi genre that goes by the name “Spartan”.
“Musicians and shrine maidens are like terminals the god uses to obtain offerings and information, so the god will of course protect them. And that protection comes in both defensive and offensive forms. Defensive ones are primarily of the stealth variety and the offensive ones are direct attacks.”
“Just out of curiosity, what exactly is an offensive divine punishment?”
“Oh, there are all kinds. It changes depending on the level of your contract and some cases are different when it’s between a Shinto musician and another religion. And since our Sakuya is a mother god, even if it comes down to a punishment, the other person won’t be executed. Because that would make their mother sad.”
“Oh, is that so?”
“So if it looks like they’re going to commit a crime, their shrine’s pillar is pile-bunkered into their butt using teleportation and they’re only castrated for half a year. Surprising, isn’t it?”
“That’s direct! That’s really direct!”
“And it apparently comes from within, so it’s impossible to dodge. I’ve never seen it happen though.”
“It’s strict too! I can see why Naruze omits that part!”
“Well, no one would imagine it’s set up that way. And I’ve told Naruze that it’s probably best to just draw it however she wants.”
“…You’ve read a lot of her stuff, haven’t you?”
“Well, only the girl ones and the ones with Toori-kun-…I mean nooooo. I haven’t read any of theeeeeem. And you’re a pretty big genre yourself, Mito! Toori-kun takes you for walks!”
“That’s getting way too kinky way too fast!”
Mitotsudaira then took a breath and asked a question.
“But when you get down to it, what is it you want to do, Tomo?”
“Eh? W-well, the Asama Shrine supports Musashi, so…”
If she left, it would do a lot of damage to Musashi’s infrastructure and contracts.
…So I can’t even think about these things.
But just as she thought that…
“I was asking what it is you want to do.”
After voicing her confusion, she thought about what Mitotsudaira had meant. And…
Oh, no, she thought. I just about opened up and thought about something I had placed a lid over.
It would be best not to think about it.
Rationally, she did not know what would happen. But she was confident that she would lose everything if it all remained the same.
So she calmed her breathing.
And she closed it. The lid had started to open, but she closed it back up without looking inside. She placed the lid on, tightened it, tapped it once from above, and nodded.
She had held it back. She had suppressed it. So everything was the same. And…
“What is it?”
“Please spare me that.”
There was a delay before an answer arrived.
A few seconds definitely passed and she heard the distant voices of people erecting a pillar for some kind of construction.
“…Understood. I got carried away there.”
Asama heard exactly what she had hoped to. Her rejection of this had been accepted, but…
She felt like something large was about to spill out.
She held something in her hand and, instead of making a decision on it, she was going to just throw it out. And by letting the other person see her throwing it out, she was hoping to gain their understanding.
Asama recalled something.
Long ago, a certain boy had been lost and then returned, but he had been different afterwards. It had scared her.
She had used that as an excuse to keep her distance.
In doing that, she had not known what would happen and she had not known what she should do. But she had felt like nothing would change if she preserved the status quo.
She had essentially thrown out that decision.
In her fear of change, she had looked the other way and thrown it out.
And so when he had “returned” thanks to Kimi, she had been hesitant.
What had changed had returned to normal through yet more change.
Her father had called it purification.
“When something is greatly defiled and then purified, it becomes even purer than before.”
Even Shinto had a story in which purity was created by purifying the unclean: by caring for an unclean being instead of detesting it, it was changed into a splendid god and a hunk of gold.
“Look at him properly, Tomo. You were not the one who purified him, but that is why you must purify him from now on. Assuming you don’t want that to happen again, that is.”
She remembered, but she thought going any further would be dangerous.
She felt like her father’s admonition from the past and some childish promises made back then would connect to the present. But…
What was about to spill from her hand now was the same thing she had done in the past.
Back then, she had looked the other way and hoped it would all sort itself out in time.
But things were different now.
Unlike back then, she was not looking the other way. She was avoiding looking at the actual contents, but she was not trying to forget the weight of what she held in her hand. So…
Shortly before Asama made up her mind, Mitotsudaira sighed and rested her cheek on her hand in response to the conversation with Asama.
…I got a little too excited there.
Her position was settling into place and they were looking to the future. Horizon had proclaimed the meaning of their formation and her king had agreed.
There was no more reason to hesitate.
As the others found or were given a greater grasp of their position through the coming battles and negotiations, they too would enter this formation.
Their connections went beyond the Chancellor’s Officers and the Student Council.
Nor was it just Class 3-Plum. It was more all-encompassing than that.
…It is my king’s formation.
Had she been too excited or playful in hoping that she could find someone she could rely on in that formation?
But Mitotsudaira thought about something else.
She recalled when Asama had said she wanted to start a band. They still continued that when they had a chance, but when it had begun, Asama had been a mess of nerves and anticipation.
Mitotsudaira had been the same.
And she thought this was the same here.
This formation would likely be used against Hashiba and Nobunaga. They had already made allies in Oushuu and declared their comeback. They would naturally gather together with even stronger and more obvious bonds than before.
So Mitotsudaira would like it if Asama was there and if she could rely on her. Also…
…So would my king, Horizon, and Kimi…
Mitotsudaira’s position as knight had been included alongside the close relationships of lover and sister.
So she had to wonder how Asama would fit in if she joined as well.
But Mitotsudaira also had to acknowledge that Asama was heir to the Asama Shrine.
She was the Shinto Representative and that made her crucial to the world.
And so there was no helping it.
Mitotsudaira sighed and let the tension of joy leave her shoulders.
Perhaps because the tension had left her, that time arrived:
…The battle begins!
She prepared herself. And at that very instant, she heard the unexpectedly loud sound of Asama leaning against the door.
The battle was delayed.
“Wh-wh-what is it!? Is it an emergency!?”
“Eh? An emergency?”
After asking Mitotsudaira that through the door, Asama heard the half-werewolf clear her throat.
“…So what is it?”
“Oh, well, you see?”
She knew this would sound lame, but she had to say it.
“I-I said before to please spare me this, right?”
But. She had to say but. She would regret it otherwise. So she had to say it. She had to speak her mind.
“I’m the kind of person that says that kind of thing without thinking. I kind of have to given my position, but, um, if you want to, Mito…”
She could not let herself think about why there was heat rising into her cheeks. She simply gave her request.
“Could you talk to me about that kind of thing again?”
She thought this was horribly selfish. She was asking while assuming it would be rejected. And she knew this was something she would normally have to deal with herself.
…But I’m Musashi’s Shinto Representative and part of the Asama Shrine.
Her primary god was Konohana Sakuya. That was the god of birth, marriage, matchmaking, and love. She was also the god of water and sake brewing.
She understood she served that sort of god and she understood all of the divine protections that came with that, but she also placed a lid over it when it was about herself.
And she knew placing a lid over it would only allow it ferment and grow.
But putting a lid on those things was her nature.
So she wanted someone to remind her when it was about time to remove that lid.
“Can you do that for me?”
She did not receive a response for a while.
And so she leaned toward the door.
“Can you not?”
…Oh, I’m trying to force it onto her now. So…
“You can’t, can you? Ah…ha ha. Um, well, uh…”
She had made a weird request.
This was strange. She had been so desperate to prevent it from spilling earlier, but now she was laughing it off even as it was about to spill. But…
After taking a breath, the voice continued.
“So unlike the past, you aren’t going to pretend not to see it?”
After a while, Asama confirmed what she was asked.
It was a short response, but…
“Then I will be the Mouse that binds you with my king. Kimi and Horizon will invite you too. And if you ask me…”
“There is no way my king has not given this any thought. …Don’t you think? He has never once forgotten or overlooked us, has he?”
She heard quiet laughter from beyond the door.
“Just like you were in the past, I think I am in too much of a rush to do something. So when we realize we can’t do anything, we end up keeping our distance. Especially you since you have your work and your position at the Asama Shrine. So I have one other thought: you need to rely on others.”
“You don’t understand? You might be alone as the heir to the Asama Shrine, but you are not alone as one of us.”
“So just as I rely on you, if you rely on me, I will help you out.”
Things were different in the past, thought Mitotsudaira.
Back in elementary school, she had only just arrived from Hexagone Française. Asama had already been friends with the Aoi Siblings and Horizon, but she had still primarily been the “Asama Shrine Girl”.
…She had already lost her mother back then, hadn’t she?
Partially due to that, she had been too perfect.
She had looked after the idiot, the idiot sister, and the princess and she had also worked at the shrine.
She had always said doing all of that was “the least she could do” with a perfectly composed expression.
But Asama had changed after Horizon was lost and after he had returned different.
She had stopped saying anything.
Even Kimi had stopped inviting anyone out to play, so anxious days had continued for all of them.
But the day after Kimi had brought him back, she and Asama had taken him to school with Asama in the lead. The idiot and his sister had been the same as always, but Asama had been a little different.
She had fallen asleep during class.
She had likely been mentally exhausted. When she had woken to find the idiot laughing at her, she had blushed, but with that, everything had returned to normal except for the absence of Horizon.
“Tomo, I think you are a very well-made person.”
Mitotsudaira decided not to mention the porn game poison tasting or the doujinshi, but aside from that…
“You do such a good job looking after Musashi and our contracts. But when it comes to yourself, you use Musashi and us as an excuse to close it away. I think you need to do something about that.”
That’s right, thought Mitotsudaira as a bitter smile naturally reached her lips. And…
“For those things, you can just tap us on the shoulder and let us know.”
It was a deep sigh that seemed to let all the tension out of her body.
…I can at least think about what it is I want to do, can’t I?
She wanted to give it some serious thought eventually. And…
“Mito, thank you.”
“No, no. It’s just that Kimi went a little too far without ever giving a proper explanation.”
Asama knew exactly what she meant.
“Kimi really can look way too far ahead. She predicts what people will do in the very end and she acts based on that, so it can be hard to know how to respond to her sometimes.”
“I think you mean all the time.”
They laughed quietly together and their breathing seemed to synchronize.
They laughed as they discussed a friend who was not here. But they knew she would have zero problems with this if she heard them.
That was how well they knew each other. And so…
…I can rely on them when it’s something they can help with, can’t I?
Asama was really bad at that. She had always known that, but there had been nothing she could do thanks to her shrine work.
But if there was nothing she could do, she only had to rely on someone else.
She was glad she had friends she could rely on.
…Kimi might have crossed the starting line and forcibly pulled me along, but Mito was the one that made sure I continued on.
Where were they headed? Wherever their destination, the others would help her and ask for her help along the way.
She made up her mind a bit.
And she decided to demonstrate that later.
“That sounds like fun.”
And just as she said that…
“Um, Asama-san and 5th Special Duty Officer? The Chancellor is saying you’ve been spending a pretty long time together.”
Adele opened the bathroom door and peered inside. And…
Adele froze in place.
Why? wondered Asama as she thought back on their situation here.
…The heir of the Asama Shrine is leaning against the door of the stall Mito is in.
An awkward sweat started to seep out onto her back and the back of her thighs.
Adele shut the door.
“Ah, wait! Adele!”
She called out to the girl, but Adele was fast.
“Chancellor! Chancellor! Asama-san is pressed against the stall door listening to the 5th Special Duty Officer’s noises and saying ‘that sounds like fun’! Just as Vicereine Horizon predicted!!”
“Did this just get 2 or 3 times worse than I thought!?”
After removing herself from the door and asking that question, she heard Mitotsudaira’s voice from the other side.
“I’m just about at the critical point, so can you play the waterfall sound?”
Asama pressed her forehead against the door and smiled bitterly. Then she complied with Mitotsudaira’s request.
Immediately, the door burst open again. It was Kimi.
“Asama! Mitotsudaira! The Tottori Castle supposedly just arrived at Edo! According to the information Masazumi received from her dad, Hexagone Française is responding with some actions of their own, so we’ve ended the meeting to head out and check on the situation! Did you see that!? I’m taking this seriously for once! Now, do you want me to join you in listening!?”
Kimi looked to Asama, but she made an immediate about-face.
“Foolish brother! Horizon! Asama and Mitotsudaira are using a waterfall noise to disguise that they’re giggling about something with the stall door between them! They were having a duet while I wasn’t with them!”
“Not you too, Kimi!!”
It ultimately took a few minutes for them to catch their breath and head to the top of the Ariake with the others.
“Has the Ariake made any movements?”
A transport ship decorated with the six coin emblem of Sanada Academy flew through the sky of western Kantou.
Three people stood on the deck in summer uniforms: Kakei, Unno, and…
“Mochizuki, can you observe any motion? We won’t be able to see it once we meet up with the Shirasagi, so we need to record it while we can.”
Unno was speaking to an automaton who wore her hair up. She wore a Far Eastern style summer maid uniform and her eyes were directed toward the eastern sky.
“I have determined it is summer. The air is wavering quite a bit, but the air current left by the Ariake is indeed producing thin clouds.”
Mochizuki pointed at some flat wavering clouds floating far to the east and then she pointed south.
Their ship was flying south, but a bit to the right of its heading was Edo Bay where two giant silhouettes floated. They were not as large as the Ariake visible in the distance, but one of them was 6 ships measuring more than 6 km long floating in the air above Edo Bay. The other was a large transport ship measuring more than 1.5 km long.
“That is the Azuchi and the Tottori Castle. The Houjou fleet has ascended around them to protect them.”
“It’s the large nation pushing around the small and medium sized nations. That’s pretty much what’s happened to us too.”
“Kakei-sama, even large nations have their own rankings and future territories to worry about.”
Mochizuki gave that comment while looking to the northern sky. Beyond the bluish-black mountains of Oushuu, something was visible below the hazy white sky.
“Kakei-sama, Unno-sama, can you see that?”
“Testament. …Mogami and Date, huh? I recognize the Yamagata Castle, but is the Date one the Aoba?”
“Aircraft carriers all look so alike that it’s hard to tell them apart.”
“Testament. I have determined it is the Aoba Castle,” said Mochizuki. “When the Azuchi Castle moves tonight, they will most likely relay its location to their merchant fleets at the Ariake for as long as possible. And they will continue watching from that position until those fleets have left and safely returned to their territories.”
“A large nation’s intentions just keep spreading and spreading, don’t they?”
Unno spread her arms in exasperation. When she lightly spun around, Kakei spread his mouth horizontally and sighed.
“That’s not cute at all.”
“I wasn’t trying to be cute, silly.”
Mochizuki nodded at that.
“Everyone knows that you practice every single day, Unno-sama. Kakei-sama’s opinion aside, we can use your power as a Yamaga shrine maiden while in this land. Unlike in IZUMO. …If the Azuchi begins to move as part of Hashiba’s forces tonight and if the Musashi also takes action, we will likely be able to provide a decision concerning Musashi. So…”
Mochizuki gave Unno and Kakei a smile.
“I hope that happens.”
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