Horizon:Volume 6A Chapter 10
Chapter 10: Battle Formation at a Mini Meeting
It is not that the world is small
It simply does not need to be large
Point Allocation (Revolving)
"Since we have a parent with us now, it is time to decide anew where we will sleep."
Horizon sat near the center and spread her blanket out.
Based on that, Asama thought about where she would sleep.
...Kimi will probably lie across the entrance while the rest of us line up perpendicular to that.
"Umm, I guess it would be Mito's mom, Mito, Toori-kun, Horizon, and then me."
Since they were the leaders of the room, Asama made sure Horizon and Toori nodded.
...Other than Mito's mom being here, it's the same as yesterday.
Just as she thought that, Kimi touched her butt while lying down.
When Asama gave her a scolding look, Kimi pressed her face against her waist.
"Heh heh. Relieved that you have the same position as yesterday? Or disappointed?"
"No, not really."
She decided to answer, but she could not help but wonder which of the questions she was responding to. However...
"Want to trade spots?"
In Kimi's spot, she would no longer be able to use his arm as a pillow, but she would be able to view his face.
...W-wait just a second here.
She started thinking about which spot would be better, but there was a slight problem.
Her definition of "better" needed to take everyone in the tent into account, not just herself.
Looking at it that way, Kimi's spot was closer to the center than her original one and it let her view all of them once, which meant she could see his face while he-
...No, that's not the point!
Just as Asama quickly erased those thoughts, Kimi rubbed her cheek against her waist and spoke in a quiet, rolling voice.
"If I had your spot, I wonder if Horizon would trade spots with me."
"You can't do that." Asama immediately answered with a glare. "Our current spots are just fine. Yes."
"Oh, dear. You really can't negotiate when it comes to my foolish brother, can you?"
It irritated Asama how Kimi's shoulders shook with laughter. The dancer's head was in the perfect position, so Asama grabbed and twisted her ear.
"Ahn. A-Asama, no, you can't just grab my sensitive flesh like that. Before moving onto my foolish brother, have you chosen me as your first target to ra...ra..."
Good enough for what?
But when Asama looked over, she saw Horizon nodding their way while sipping a cup of tea she had pulled from somewhere and he clearly wanted to join in his sister's gag as a black-haired crossdresser.
It was the usual way of things.
Mito was glaring at Kimi and her mom was the only one seeing all this for the first time.
Asama realized Mito's mom was responding to the idiot sister's antics differently than expected. Asama had expected an "oh, dear" or "my, my" of exasperation or surprise and maybe a bitter smile, but...
Why was she narrowing her eyes like this was a familiar sight?
It made no sense to wonder if she had seen this before.
Kimi and Mito's mom should never have met before.
Of course, it made sense that she knew him. If what they had said was to be believed, after he was abducted in IZUMO, he was bound with a chain and collar and fed some food while naked, he bled during the night while naked, and he had slept in the same bed as her.
...I-I have no idea how much of that is true, though!
It was all so hard to understand that Asama had once tried drawing up a picture, but the result had been too powerful. She felt the biggest problem was having him be on all fours since this was Mito's family. She had burned the picture for purification purposes, but she had made sure to take a picture just in case. Long story short, she had one more thing she could not afford to have anyone else find out about.
At any rate, they had an early morning tomorrow.
"C'mon, let's get to sleep so we're ready for tomorrow."
"Oh? Can't we talk a while longer?"
Mito's mother sounded disappointed.
Asama sensed no falsehood in her tone.
...Yes, I suppose she hasn't spent time with her daughter in a long while...
They had briefly worked together in Hexagone Française, but they had still been enemies. That was true here as well, but there would be little clear hostility between them until the meeting with Mouri tomorrow.
It was possible they would never have a chance like this again.
Asama mentally scratched her head.
She recalled the past.
...I lost my mother...
The problem was that she did not understand what it was like to be a mother.
Her mother had treated her quite well and she still sometimes felt something like her mother's presence around the shrine. Was that like an ancestral spirit? She wanted to think her mother was watching over her.
...Huh? Come to think of it, would our ancestral spirits be okay with the situation here?
She had expected her thoughts of the past to make her sad, but that did not happen.
She was far too accustomed to the way things happened around here.
But there was a specific reason she did not feel sad.
Before her mother had died, there had been a period of time when she had spent a lot of time together with her mother.
During that time, her mother had taught her so much about cooking, general life skills, and Shinto.
They had laughed together while she asked all about how her parents met and about her mother's past.
Thinking back, that was one way of "inheriting" things.
So when her mother had died, she had been sad, but the feeling of having left anything undone in their relationship had been much weaker than it otherwise would have been.
She had lost her mother, but she could act in her mother's place.
She had been taught everything she needed to do that.
What made it even more incredible was how her mother had not skimped on the foundational knowledge.
For cooking, she had taught Asama the purposes of different broths and cooking methods instead of just how to make a few specific dishes.
For Shinto, she had taught Asama the purposes of different spell and contract types instead of just how to use some spells.
That allowed Asama to use her mother's techniques to create her own techniques. That meant she could also adopt spells that were suited to the current age.
...I'm not even on the same level as her...
She had plenty of her own spells, but she was not sure she could teach someone else to make things like that.
Her mother had her beat.
Of course, Mitotsudaira and this sleepover with her mother was not that sort of thing.
But while "inheritance" could happen all at once like with Asama, it could also happen slowly over many years without either party noticing.
But what would happen if they did not have that?
They would temporarily become like he had. So...
At some point, Asama had become completely lost in thought.
Kimi was peering up at her past her breasts.
"Have you made up your mind? Are we going to talk or not?"
"Y-yes, let's talk. ...But why is it my decision to make?"
Horizon raised her hand in response.
"In emergencies and when we need a decision with real finality to it, I can take over, but I believe decisions about human relationships and everyday things are best left with you."
"Judge." Horizon nodded. "For example, that is why I had you heal my wounds today."
Asama listened to Horizon's decision.
"As an automaton, I could always just replace my parts. I sometimes choose to do that in order to lessen the overall burden. But personally..."
She showed off the healing charm attached to her arm.
"This is definitely better for me as an individual. And the boy next to me tends to live from moment to moment, so he needs someone to lecture him," explained Horizon. "Also, Asama-sama, while you generally claim you do not want to go along with Toori-sama, myself, Kimi-sama, or Mitotsudaira-sama, you always ultimately give in."
"I-is that how you see me!?"
"No," he said. "If you say 'let's do this', then we'll definitely do it."
That left her speechless and he raised his right arm.
He too had a charm there.
"I've always had you heal me when I'm hurt, but even if I said it wasn't necessary, I know you'd never take no for an answer. ...But of course you won't. You can't just ignore someone who's hurt. If someone acts all tough and says they don't need help, it isn't gonna make the injury heal any faster."
She found herself agreeing with him, but did that mean he already had her in checkmate?
But there was something she wanted to ask.
No, there were a lot of things she needed to ask. But if she had to choose just one...
...What does Toori-kun think of me?
She then added another thought.
...Choosing that one is useless if I don't actually ask it!
She had done it again.
She had closed the lid and covered up her heart.
But if he could make that decision, then he had the right idea of her. She trusted him that much. So if she did ask her question, it could not be done to doubt him.
It had to be a confirmation of their trust for each other.
...Oh, that's a good excuse.
She may have been closing yet another lid, but that was probably what was causing her so much internal turmoil.
She definitely trusted him.
She understood what Horizon was saying and that automaton was not the type to lie.
But this was sudden and she was not sure if she could trust in herself and her trust of him.
This could mean a lifelong commitment, so of course she was giving it careful thought.
And more importantly, she found herself unable to imagine what would become of her relationship with him and the others.
But was her mood really what determined whether this mindset was cowardly or prudent?
There was one thing she could say, though.
...I don't dislike the idea.
Kimi would pounce if she said that, so she held her tongue.
Simply being here may have qualified as self-destructing, but she wanted to hold onto some pride for the moment. That might be cheating, but it might be the last time she could ever cheat like this.
So she spoke.
"Do you need me with you?"
That question contained a strong sense of "good grief".
She felt the comfort of knowing she would receive an affirmative response and she was all too aware of how unfair a question it was. Even though she was always putting on acts like this.
He then lowered his head a bit.
His response was coming.
That was to be expected, but she still tensed and straightened up.
He replied while scratching his head and looking extremely troubled.
"You just asked if I need you with me, did you not?"
"Why so formal?"
"Don't worry about it," he said while miming setting aside some luggage.
And he still looked troubled when he continued.
"The thing is..."
He said it.
"Do you really think I could get by without you? Because I really don't think I could."
Mitotsudaira saw Asama's head briefly slump down.
...Oh, that did a lot of damage.
Translated into words, her reaction was "He's right...!"
After all, they had a spell contract that could kill him as well as the standard Shinto divine protection management and other everyday things.
"Tomo, you do a lot of my king and Kimi's laundry, don't you?"
"...Well, yes, it does end up that way. Since they change in my room and stuff..."
"Also, you go through the process to get my king released when the guards arrest him."
"...Yes, the guards just seem to contact our shrine when that happens..."
"And you make lunch bentos for my king and Kimi..."
Once Mitotsudaira said that, Asama looked up with her eyebrows raised in a smile.
She looked incredibly tired or desperate.
And she spoke to Mitotsudaira with that smile.
"But, Mito, you sometimes make lunch for Toori-kun too!"
Her king could cook, but he tended to neglect himself. Since Asama did not prepare a lunch for him every single day, she would sometimes arrange for something instead. However...
Just as she was about to ask what Asama's point was, she felt a hand on her left shoulder. Then she heard a voice.
"Nate? I'd like to hear more about this."
It was her mother.
Silver Wolf: "Tomooo!!"
Asama: "Eh? What's wrong? It's the truth, isn't it!? Isn't it!?"
Hori-ko: "Now, Mitotsudaira-sama, can you survive this?"
Wise Sister: "Heh heh heh. This is so entertaining! I'm glad I'm his sister!"
Silver Wolf: "Th-this is no laughing matter!"
Mitotsudaira heard her mother take a breath behind her on the left.
She could not afford to turn around.
If she did, she would definitely be at her mother's mercy.
If possible, she wanted to slowly move forward and out of her mother's attack range. But...
"Hey, my daughter's king? How often does that happen?"
Her king looked to the princess and his sister to confirm.
"About once for every three times Asama does it?"
Time to run, thought Mitotsudaira. My life will be so much more peaceful if I just run and run and meet back up with them at Houjou. Yes, and my king is sure to forgive me if I make it in time for the battle.
Oh? But how is she still holding onto my left shoulder after I scooted forward?
"Mitotsudaira-sama, you should do something about that strange smile and return to reality."
"You're not going to let me run away, are you!?"
"Calm down," said her king before turning to her mother behind her. "Nate makes sure I eat right, so it's not a problem."
"Judge. That is correct, Mitotsudaira-sama's mother. Her lunch event only triggers when Toori-sama has forgotten a lunch and Asama-sama did not prepare one, but it is always a proper lunch, so I will eat it with him."
"Really? What does she make you?"
Horizon answered without a moment's delay.
"My! In the classroom!?"
"Judge. She uses an incendiary spell with the metal grill she stores in a locker. As long as she puts in an order with the vendor by the start of third period, she can prepare it in time."
Mitotsudaira had a realization as she listened to Horizon's explanation.
...My unrestrained lifestyle is finally catching up with me...
She loved yakiniku. Her king also loved yakiniku. Everyone had to love it.
She had started it as something of a joke, but it was well received and it had since become something of a rare skill of hers. However...
...The second in line to rule the Far East and a Rank 1 Knight really shouldn't be cooking yakiniku in the classroom...
What was her mother going to say? It was all true, so there was nothing she could say if her mother laughed.
And then she heard her mother's voice.
"Way to go, Nate!"
Her mother grabbed her by the hips and instantly spun her around so she faced backwards.
Her mother was there. And the woman placed her hands on her shoulders with a serious look on her face.
"A man and a woman eating yakiniku together is a way of saying you want to have a different sort of meat festival that night, isn't it!?"
She was spun back around.
She saw her king, Horizon, Kimi, and Asama there.
Kimi sighed with her arms still around Asama's waist.
"Oh, Mitotsudaira. So that's what you meant when you tried to get up on my foolish brother's lap from below the table and barked with joy when he gave you meat with his chopsticks."
"Nate...you went that far...?"
"I did not! I really didn't!"
"But you did eat it from my chopsticks," said Horizon.
She was spun around again and had hands placed on her shoulders again.
"Nate! You were trying to win over the princess before moving onto the king, weren't you!?"
She was spun back around and saw Horizon nod.
"Exactly the way I want it."
"What!? What does that mean!?"
But her king tilted his head.
"Hmm?" He crossed his arms. "Nate?"
"When I stayed at your Maman's place, she served me a ton of meat dishes. Is this what that was about?"
She spun herself around.
"Oh, I definitely meant it that way."
Horizon suddenly hit the king.
Without leaving his seated pose, he spun around twice and the back of his head slammed into the floor. Horizon grabbed his collar with her right hand and lifted him up, but her arm popped off and his head slammed into the floor again. The arm frantically crawled over to hide behind their luggage where it poked up above and turned back and forth like a periscope.
"This boy really needs to stop nearly getting himself preyed on thanks to his inherent heroine nature."
"H-hey, are you just going to ignore what happened there!?"
"That is a different issue."
"Yes, but that's not the point!"
Meanwhile, the right arm returned. It crawled cautiously toward its owner a few times and then leaped to the side. Horizon glared at it and then held out her left hand.
"Come on over. There's nothing scary here."
"Yes, there is!!"
The right arm seemed to give up and stopped moving, so Horizon grabbed it and reattached it. Then she spoke to the king.
"See? Now I forgot what I was about to say."
"A-and that's my fault!? That's what you're saying, isn't it!? Okay, fine. Give me your worst!!"
He pointed his butt toward Horizon and lay down on his side.
"Okay! Bring it oooon!!"
Horizon gently stuck Lype Katathlipse's blade between his butt cheeks.
"Ah, wait, watch out! You're really gonna make that crack deeper!"
"I wonder what would happen if I used the overdrive cutting that I rarely ever get a chance to use."
Mitotsudaira could only watch.
It seemed even her mother could not intervene. And since Horizon seemed to have such an advantage over her mother...
...That's my king for you...
"Mito! Mito! Why do you look so impressed!?"
"Anyway," said Horizon. "Toori-sama, I am not sure how many people you could support beyond Asama-sama and Mitotsudaira-sama, but do not forget that I am at the top and Asama-sama, Mitotsudaira-sama, and Kimi-sama are also here."
"If you try to expand this battle formation just for fun, then I will stop you."
Asama felt her heart race when she heard Horizon's words.
...Don't expand this battle formation just for fun?
Did that mean Asama and Mitotsudaira were not just for fun?
Heat filled her face and lowering her head was the most she could do.
The idiot sister clinging to her waist rubbed her cheek against Asama as if to say "me too, me too", but Asama restrained her with a Shinto iron claw.
And he spoke to Horizon.
"Oh? Acting humble, are we?"
"Judge. ...You see, we first introduced this whole battle formation idea before the study camp, right? Well, Nate Maman was before even that, so it doesn't count! Isn't that how it works?"
Asama watched Horizon's reaction.
Horizon looked up at the pyramid of fabric that was the tent's ceiling.
A lamp spell charm hung down from a string.
Horizon stared intently at that charm as it swayed in the tent's slight air current.
This lasted a few seconds.
As everyone tensed, sweated, and wondered if this would turn out okay, Horizon lowered her gaze.
She turned toward him and nodded.
"You and your cowardly excuses."
"You spent all that time trying to find an excuse to attack me instead of apologizing, didn't you!?"
"Ho ho? So after trying to act all responsible, you're going to say what you did in the past doesn't count?"
"H-Horizon?" said Mitotsudaira. "You can be stubborn if you want, but before you were saying it wasn't right to accept my mother into the formation and now you're nearly asking him why he won't accept her in."
"You need to face reality, Mitotsudaira-sama. This is reality."
"Well, yes! Of course it is!"
I'm glad I'm not on that side, wholeheartedly thought Asama.
Even in such a small tent, your position could lead to further damage depending on your proximity to certain others.
But then he waved his hand forward and back.
"Hey, it's not like we can accept Maman anyway."
"Oh? Why not?"
"Because you've got a husband. And he's crazy reliable."
"My," said the Reine des Garous with a blush. That smile made Asama realize something.
...Not only did he compliment her husband, but he implied Mito's mom is an incredible woman who needs someone really reliable to be on her level.
He probably only meant it as a statement of fact, but...
"Heh heh. What has you so upset?" asked Kimi.
"I am not upset," replied Asama.
"Oh, dear. You could stand to learn a lesson from Horizon."
She looked over to see Horizon had changed her pose. She was forming a square frame with her index fingers and thumbs and getting low angle shots and bust close ups of Mitotsudaira's mother.
"You have a point..." She placed a hand on his shoulder. "Heh. You wouldn't stand a chance."
"D-did you just laugh at me!?"
"Calm down," she said.
A question occurred to Asama as she looked to Horizon, him, Mitotsudaira, and Mitotsudaira's mom. It concerned the idea of being "reliable" that they had mentioned.
...What if that happened?
Could she just ask?
She was hesitant.
And there was a simple reason for that hesitation: his presence.
Could she ask this in front of him? She considered the question for a while.
But she sensed the answer would be of use to her, so she opened her mouth.
"Um, Mito's mom?"
She addressed the woman to end her hesitation.
And she asked.
But just then, a voice called in from outside.
"Chancellor! The 1st Special Duty Officer and the others are saying it's time to head into the forest for a bit!"
It was Adele.
Adele regretted volunteering for a guard shift.
After all, she could see everyone leaving their various tents.
...Well, it's not absolutely everyone.
"Are you heading out to catch bugs and view the stars!? You all sure are tough!"
"No, no." The 1st Special Duty Officer carried a telescope in a leather bag. "Since it's the last night, I thought it would be nice to have some more childlike fun. Plus, I've been resting using Mary-dono's spells since we got back from the ruins."
"Hee hee. Master Tenzou, thank you for entertaining my selfishness."
"Judge." Mary smiled bitterly in her track suit. "You suggested this after I said I wanted to see the stars you told me about last night. ...I said we could always wait until we were back on the Musashi, but you said viewing the stars is surprisingly difficult because the Musashi is moving."
They must have decided on this after mutually compromising and making excuses.
...It would be wrong to interrupt them...
The odds were good they would not even notice if she did interrupt, but she wanted them to make a nice memory here. What happened tomorrow was a different matter.
But at some point, the Secretary, Ohiroshiki, and Persona-kun had showed up too. And then someone stepped out of the central tent.
"Okay, let's get going then. Tenzou, you show the way."
It was the Chancellor.
They must have already had plans. And then he noticed her.
"Oh? Are you coming too, Adele? I thought it was just going to be us guys, but now Mary's coming too. ...Uqui, what about your wife?"
"She says I am enough to fill the armored position."
"She sure is cement-like... Anyway, what about you, Adele?"
"Oh, um, I'm on guard duty. ...But if you catch anything neat, let me see, okay?"
"Sure thing," said the Chancellor as he opened the entrance to his tent.
The Vicereine, Kimi, and the Reine des Garous were inside with perfectly composed expressions. Plus...
"M-my king, are you going?"
"Well, that was the plan... But should I stay?"
"No!" added Asama. She forced a smile with an awkward sweat that had already reached the critical point. "I-I think you should go. Because we're going to be busy soon!"
"That really worries me... Hey, Horizon?"
"What is it? Do you want me to hit you again?"
"No, it's just that we seem to be in agreement, or we're two sides of the same coin, or we're facing in the same direction, or however you want to put it."
"Judge. ...We stand in opposite positions, but that is what brings us together."
"Yeah, that's it."
Adele realized something from the Chancellor's satisfied nod and proud stance.
...He seems so much more dependable with Vicereine Horizon.
He would sometimes get in trouble when the Vicereine chose to give one of his jokes a serious response, but he generally seemed to do things right around her.
That must have been because his questions were more or less directed at himself.
He had promised to retrieve her emotions and had said he was willing to conquer the world to do so.
The Vicereine was at the foundation of that, he stood on a line parallel to hers, and they had introduced the idea of the borderline. That was not something he could forget.
And that was why they would occasionally hold a conversation that seemed meant to reaffirm that.
This was the same. It was a small thing, but they were reaffirming each other. The quick exchange of questions proved that they were still functioning for each other.
Adele did not know if that was a good or bad thing. But...
"So, Horizon, you decide where I'll be sleeping. I'll be out having some fun."
"Ho ho? And what if you get back to find your blanket outside?"
"W-we wouldn't let her do that."
"I was waiting for that."
The Vicereine gave the 5th Special Duty Officer a thumbs up and then faced the Chancellor again.
"I do have some thoughts about who holds responsibility here. I will be sorting out those thoughts here, so you feel free to head out. ...In a way, we are parallel on this as well, Toori-sama."
Adele sighed after seeing their tent close.
The Chancellor sighed as well. Adele noticed the relief in that breath, so...
"Ah? What is it, Adele?"
"I think I understand now why it isn't just you and Vicereine Horizon and why you included Asama-san and the 5th Special Duty Officer in your battle formation."
"Hold on now." He smiled bitterly. "I'm pretty sure I know why too."
He pointed towards those walking toward the forest as a "I'll be there soon" gesture. Then he scratched his head with the bitter smile still on his lips.
"It's because there are a lot of things I care about and that matter to me, right?"
"If you told them that, I know it would make the Vicereine, Asama-san, and the 5th Special Duty Officer happy. ...Kimi too. And Suzu-san, yes. I guarantee it."
"I can't, I can't." He started walking away and stumbled over a rock as he did so. "I'm an entertainer, so I want a better way of expressing it. That's one of the ways I show my reliability. ...Do you understand, Adele?"
There was now one less person in the tent.
Asama found that had calmed things down quite a bit.
So she asked a question.
It was what she had started asking before.
It was a difficult question to ask in front of him because it could apply to them as well.
But she wanted to hear what Mitotsudaira's mother had to say as someone with more experience in such things.
"Can I ask something, Mito's mom? ...I know you have your current life because you and Mito's dad got together, but..."
What about this?
"What would you have done if your husband had also loved someone else back then?"
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