Horizon:Volume 6A Chapter 11
Chapter 11: Wife at a Mini Meeting
It is to know the other person
It is to know yourself
It binds you two together
Point Allocation (Gift)
"Yes, that is a fascinating question. ...What would I have done if my husband had also loved someone else back then?"
The Reine des Garous used her words to preface her thoughts.
She thought it was an interesting hypothetical.
It was hypothetical and about the past, so there was no point in thinking about it. But...
...It is important for all of you now.
And a smile formed on her lips as she looked to the Asama Shrine Representative sitting in front of her.
...You don't need to worry.
In a way, that was a dangerous question. It could be interpreted as looking back and sullying her memories.
But it had to do with her daughter and the girl asking it was serious. So...
"That is a good question."
The Reine des Garous found she had taken a liking to Asama.
...She takes things very seriously.
But that was not the only reason she liked her. There were a few different reasons.
First, she had not called her the Reine des Garous. Ever since they had met, she had referred to her as "Mitotsudaira's mom" due to the relationship with her daughter.
Being called the Reine des Garous was not a bad thing. As Musashi's Vice President had said, she would soon be Musashi's enemy. So it was normal to use that realistic title that severed any closer connection.
But this girl was different.
Asama kept referring to her as her friend's mother. She realized her daughter's king had also been calling her "maman", so that must have been how this group viewed it. That would explain why she had been in such a good mood inside this tent.
And the other reason...
...This girl restrains herself a lot.
That reminded the Reine des Garous of herself in the past.
Long ago, she had found every excuse she could to avoid feeling "love" for her future husband.
Yet every evening when he did not visit, she had taken out the clothes and other gifts he had given her and just looked at them.
She had sniffed at the bed he had used, sat in the chair he had used, daydreamed about the next time he could visit, and snacked on the sauce he had made for her.
Even while enjoying herself like that, she had avoided thinking that she "loved" him.
This girl would not enjoy the boy's absence like that. Because this boy was so close by. But that meant the enjoyment of his presence never ended and she had grown numb to it. So...
Such a silly girl.
If my daughter's king is letting you wash some of his clothes and prepare some of his food, that means he's leaving his thoughts and everyday life with you.
She had gone numb and failed to notice her own situation.
That was why she hesitated.
The Reine des Garous knew she should really be supporting her daughter here, but...
"From the looks of things, that princess is doing a good job of managing my daughter's king. So reliability should not be an issue."
"Judge. I am an automaton, so I love acting as the gear that supports our controlled society."
She was quite the incredible princess, but nothing short of this could fully restrain that king.
...He was quite something when he visited before too, wasn't he?
She had never imagined anyone would escape the temptation of the Reine des Garous's hunger.
That told her something about this girl and her daughter who that princess had accepted in.
...They have a connection even greater than my temptation.
So she spoke.
"Tomo? You asked what I would have done if my husband had loved someone else back then, right? I might be tempted to say I could never stand that, but I think I will instead say I would allow it."
She sensed her daughter's back tense at that.
But she continued on regardless.
"Listen. ...I know I couldn't restrain myself even in that case. Although it would depend who it was."
"Listen," said the Reine des Garous again while thinking back to that time.
From time to time, he had mentioned a classmate girl of his.
"He was popular, you know?"
And who had that girl been?
...Yes, I certainly never imagined she was someone who supported the entirety of Hexagone Française.
But as someone who lived in the present that girl had given them, she could praise her.
"That girl was sickly, petite, and short in both height and temper. But as I listened to him talk about her, I lost confidence in what I had thought were my strongest points: my strength, my figure, my height, and my relaxed attitude."
So she had sighed countless times while he was away.
"I couldn't tell you how many times I wondered if he actually loved her."
"I didn't give up." A smile naturally formed. "So I started thinking I was fine with being 'Miss Loup-Garou in the Forest' to him. ...What happened outside the forest didn't matter. It wouldn't matter if he married her as long as he still came to visit me. After all, he was from outside the forest."
"M-mother." Her daughter made a half rotation. "That's like being strangers! Could you really stand never being any closer than that!?"
"Nate? Your father tells me I haven't changed at all since back then."
"...Are you sure there isn't something wrong with him?"
"He is perfectly normal. I mean, when I go the extra mile, he'll say I've gotten a lot better at it than I used to be while he cries tears of joy and-..."
"Ahhhh!! That's enough of that!"
My daughter certainly is talking back to her mother more than she used to.
But she rotated her daughter back around and said something else.
"...Are you using me like a toy?"
"You shouldn't say that about yourself."
"I notice you didn't deny the accusation!"
"Now, now." The Reine des Garous slapped her daughter's shoulders. "Listen. I was chosen by your father. ...And that means I fit his tastes better. Because he said I'm 'pretty and cool'."
The "sickly, petite, and short" description of the rival girl applied to him as well.
So to him, someone so similar was someone he had a mutual understanding with and who he could talk with, but not someone he looked up to and admired.
But even if that had not been the case...
"I had so much fun back then."
So, she added in her heart as she looked to her daughter's friend.
"Even if I wasn't chosen, my love would not have stopped. ...I would have made him mine alone for as long as he was with me. And if that led to any jealousy, well..."
She leaned in to her daughter's ear and brought her tongue to her lips.
She made a clear licking sound.
"I would put my scent on him to tell her that he was mine. With any luck, she would be the type to enjoy that kind of game."
Mitotsudaira groaned in her heart with her back still turned to her mother.
...She noticed that before?
When her king had been abducted at IZUMO, she had gone to rescue him and then met up with her mother. During a nighttime carriage ride, she had noticed her mother's scent on her king.
Her mother had most likely licked him.
Unable to bear that, she had rubbed her cheek against him to remove her mother's scent.
...Sh-she didn't notice, did she?
Her mother had been driving the carriage and had been enjoying their rampage through the night with Naito. Oh, night and Naito? Hee hee. I'm turning into Masazumi. Which must mean I'm done for.
But just as she tried to avoid reality by losing herself in thought...
"To be chosen does not mean to be selected like an object. It means to make a part of his feelings your own and keep him from ever forgetting about you." Her mother looked to Asama. "Once you've done that, he will send you gifts. But not to say 'look what I can buy' as a way of demonstrating his worth. These gifts say 'this is the kind of person I think you are' as a form of worship that carries his feelings for you."
She knew what her mother meant.
...For example, if he gives you clothing as a gift...
It was not the price tag or value that mattered. It was a way of saying "I think you are like this clothing".
Asama and Horizon must have understood because they nodded a few times.
Then Asama asked a question.
"Mito's mom, how was it for you?"
...Oh, she looks happy.
Everyone enjoyed talking about themselves. When asked to do so, her mother first took a breath to calm herself.
"After I met my husband, he would give me clothing and bring me food every time he visited. He would also tell me how to cook and about the outside world. It was all meant to show off his feelings for me. ...He gave me things he thought were pretty and enjoyable and that means he thought I was pretty and enjoyable. ...Because I understood that, I could spread those clothes out on the floor and bask in their presence and I could enjoy that food so much. It let me know just how much he worshiped me."
"Heh heh. I'm glad to see you didn't misunderstand."
Kimi let go of Asama's hips and sat up.
She looked to Horizon and then Mitotsudaira's mother.
"When a good woman takes a liking to someone, she will say they have such similar tastes. And even if they don't, she wouldn't be dumb enough to not accept that she is being called pretty through the other person's gifts. I mean, that would be like saying she wasn't pretty."
"Th-then what is she supposed to say when she receives a gift like that?"
Mitotsudaira asked Kimi the question that had occurred to her.
The idiot sister narrowed her eyes as she responded.
"You just have to say thank you."
"It is." A smile formed in those narrowed eyes. "After all, it took courage to give that gift. ...Listen. What you find pretty or lovely is based on your own values. You have to show people what those are, so they put in an effort to gain a consensus through that gift. That isn't something that happens to you every day. It's not an easy thing to do, so you should be thankful for it."
Kimi really has a way with words, thought Asama.
But she also saw Mitotsudaira clench her hands as they rested on the floor.
And she noticed something about her fingers.
They were manicured.
In England, Mitotsudaira had failed to achieve victory in her first duel with Walsingham in London.
In the previous battles and in their primitive life on the transport ship where she had given into her wild side... Is saying that going too far? I guess it doesn't matter. At any rate, all of that had damaged her nails.
To repair and reinforce her nails, he had given her a manicure.
He had colored them cool white.
The color of the moon.
Yes, thought Asama with a mental nod.
Before that, she had never decorated her nails because it might dull her sense of touch. But she had decorated them ever since.
Why had she done that? Mitotsudaira may have done it subconsciously and probably could not have explained her reasons if she had tried.
But she had just found the answer.
How did he feel about his wolf knight and how did she feel about herself?
She hung her head and her bangs hung down, but her face was red and her mouth was loose. Her heart must have been racing and she must have been sweating because her yukata seemed plastered to her skin.
But Asama had a thought as she watched that wolf.
...Horizon is the same too, isn't she?
He was giving Horizon her emotions as a gift. And the entire world along with them.
That showed off what kind of girl he thought Horizon was.
It was exactly the gift he had said he would give her back at Mikawa.
Both the knight and the princess were receiving a gift from the king.
...That must be nice...
I wish I had a gift.
Or just anything really.
She felt pathetic.
This is bad, thought Asama.
Very, very bad.
It was bad that she was comparing herself to others, but it was especially bad that a shrine maiden was begging for something.
In contrast to Mitotsudaira's red blush, she grew pale.
But she did have a question about this.
All she ever seemed to be for him was someone who did his laundry and got him released from the guard stations, but...
"U-um, Mito's mom?"
"What is it?"
"I'm not sure if you would call it a gift, but it if someone has you do their laundry and look after them, such as freeing them after an arrest, what does that mean? That isn't saying you're lovely or pretty, is it?"
She just threw the words out there.
And she immediately received an "oh, dear" in response.
Mitotsudaira's mother smiled as she answered.
"When I met my husband, it was only a small thing, but he caught a cold and I looked after him while he recovered. And he let me do it. ...During our trysts afterwards, he would also let me do his laundry and whatnot..."
"Yes. He was giving me his everyday life as a gift. Meaning..."
"Between a man and a woman, that's a way of saying you want to live with them."
Eh? thought Asama.
...W-wait? Live with them? Um, hello?
She thought about what that had to mean, she pondered it, and she contemplated it.
She started to place a lid on it and she stopped moving.
Kimi saw Asama freeze up just like Mitotsudaira.
...Oh, dear. Oh, dear.
She found the change in her two friends so amusing because this confirmed their feelings.
But it was unusual for Asama to end up like this.
Mitotsudaira had the clear relationship between knight and king, so that relationship would occasionally rise to the surface. And Mitotsudaira herself understood what that relationship was.
But Asama had placed a lid on her feelings.
She would have reached the point of deciding to respond if Kimi's brother made some kind of approach.
But that approach did not have to be a verbal thing.
If words were necessary, then no one could be bound with someone who could not speak.
And that was clearly not the case because some people had a thing for animals.
Wise Sister: "Isn't that right, Adele!? Isn't that right!?"
Flat Vassal: "I don't know what you're talking about, but I'm just going to say no!"
Wise Sister: "Then Date Narumi! How about you!?"
Gold Mar: "...Oh! So that's what this is about!"
Mal-Ga: "Eh? W-wait, Margot. What's it about?"
Mary: "Um, is it something that applies to Master Tenzou?"
Wise Sister: "Probably, if two conditions were met."
Unturning: "...I don't eat leftovers."
Gold Mar: "Oh, so close! But it's not about leftovers! Maybe more related to table scraps?"
Mal-Ga: Eh? Margot, another! Give me another hint!"
Flat Vassal: "I don't eat leftovers either!"
Hori-ko: "Oh? Adele-sama, you have often bought the Blue Thunder's 'Leftovers - Silver' meal over the past year."
Uqui: "Hm, so Narumi also disapproves of eating leftovers..."
Novice: "And Balfette-kun does eat them. Is that it?"
Tachibana Wife: "Master Muneshige, what about the curry we had for dinner?"
Tachibana Husband: "Not to worry, Gin. Curry tastes better when it is allowed to cook for several days, so 'leftovers' isn't really the right word."
Tonbokiri: "You seem to be enjoying yourselves, but what are you talking about?"
Bell: "I-I can't...say. I can't say."
Hori-ko: "Simply put, it is wrong that Adele-sama eats leftovers, so we are asking for a hint."
Vice President: "It's so hard to get by without money, isn't it? I know your pain."
Flat Vassal: "Please stop sympathizing with me over a twisted interpretation of events!"
At least everyone had plenty of energy.
But Mitotsudaira managed to take some deep breaths and recover while she watched that exchange.
The other girl, however, was dead.
Kimi looked to Asama.
Asama was hanging her head, viewing a sign frame, and performing a linefeed or some other kind of work, but her brain was not functioning.
Hanami stood on her head and used a cooling spell, but Hanami herself was functioning as a radiator and had shimmering heat rising from her.
Until now, she would have thought there was nothing between her and Kimi's brother.
At least not coming from the other direction. Even if she had her own feelings, she would have assumed they were unrequited and closed them up.
Especially after Horizon had arrived.
In the past, she had spoken with him like normal and been even closer to him than now, but starting sometime the previous year, she had seemed to set up some boundaries for herself.
She had placed a lid on her feelings.
She had concluded that, at least for the time being, she had not been chosen. So she had put a lid on them so as not to bother anyone until she had been clearly chosen.
But that was not the case.
Relationships were not words or objects. Signs and symbols could provide certainty, but the actual relationship was not made of such things.
It was an invisible line binding the two of them. It was simply there with them and remained no matter how far apart they were.
A flower blooms on the summit.
Even without putting that to words, it became apparent through the repeated attempts to climb the mountain. Eventually, the mountain climbing challenge would change from "a flower blooms on the summit" to "a flower awaits on the summit".
So Kimi could only think of her friend in one way:
You know what, Asama? You're contradicting yourself.
You can only relax and enjoy your current situation because you trust that your relationship will endure even if you put a lid on it.
But if you can trust in a relationship even when you put a lid on it, then it must be a powerful relationship indeed.
The temperature outside and inside the lid is the same, you know? But...
Asama had completely short-circuited.
Kimi had known this would happen eventually, but it was even more wonderful than she had imagined.
...Way to go, Mito's mom.
Was this thanks to the woman's many years of experience? It had only taken her this long to see through to what mattered to Mitotsudaira and Asama and what they saw as most important in their relationship with Kimi's brother.
She had to have been watching them carefully during the campfire meeting in the clearing earlier.
She had a perceptive eye.
Everyone in Class Plum knew each other well enough to never overlook each other's actions or signs, but they accepted those things as normal and could overlook their significance. In a way, their relationships had already been exposed to each other.
And that left them weak to having someone point them out anew.
When they learned that their normal actions appeared special when viewed by others, they would feel a sense of superiority, surprise, and an awkward unease like they had made a mistake.
That had to be what Asama was feeling now.
Mito's mom had also chosen her words well.
She had said "everyday life".
Asama had been taught household skills by her mother, she had inherited and protected those things, and she had built them up in her own way. Those were personal things for her, contrasting with her official Shinto duties.
Those things were hers alone.
If his gift to her was leaving her in charge of his everyday life, then he was not viewing her as the Asama Shrine Representative or as the Genocide Archer. He was simply viewing her as a girl.
That must have been unexpected for her. She had underestimated herself as someone less important.
...And this has pinpoint accuracy.
If he had been viewing her as Shinto or a fighter, she could have said there were others who could fill that role.
But Asama could not say that here.
Kimi knew nothing could have made Asama happier.
And that was why she had "frozen".
Asama nodded and Kimi knew what that "yes" was in response to.
Across from them, Mitotsudaira was taking deep breaths and hoping no one had noticed, but her mom smiled behind her.
...That's a smile that says she understands.
Kimi realized that woman must have had a time when she was like Asama and Mitotsudaira.
And for her, the person she cared for had not been with her.
Kimi had of course had a similar period of time. A time when her brother was not by her side.
During times like that, anyone would think about the person who was not with them.
They would remember that person's mannerisms, words, and breathing, hear those things in the house's creaking and other background noises, and suddenly get up in the middle of the night.
They would open the front door and look out into the night to see if that person was there.
Mito's mom must have done the same thing.
She could tell the distance between them was gradually shrinking.
"I'm going to sleep."
Asama suddenly threw her blanket over her head so Kimi could not see her face.
She became a blanket mountain and took up her usual spot in the tent.
She was next to Horizon, but closer than the night before.
"C-c'mon, everyone, we have an early morning tomorrow."
Her trembling voice sounded on the verge of tears and everyone exchanged a glance.
Horizon gave Kimi and Mito's mom a thumbs up and Mitotsudaira smiled a little.
They were relieved for Asama.
She was going to keep that lid on for a while longer, but the feelings inside had learned what things were like on the outside.
And just as Kimi began hoping she would let those out soon...
"Hey, I'm back!"
Her brother opened the tent's entrance and climbed in.
Kimi looked to her brother's face.
He turned to Horizon and nodded. Then he faced Asama's blanket.
"Oh, so you decided on a spot for me."
Horizon gave him a thumbs up and asked an expressionless question.
"Are you finished hunting bugs?"
"Judge. We went around to the most promising trees and Uqui was delighted. It's star-viewing time now, but that's mostly a Tenzou and Mary thing and we thought it'd be best to let them be alone together."
"Judge. We had something to discuss without you around, Toori-sama, but it can always wait until tomorrow."
"What were you talking about?"
Asama's blanket seemed to shrink down.
She had tensed up.
But Horizon answered calmly.
"That is a shared secret."
"D-damn, it's not fun when you're on the receiving end of that one!"
"Oh, what's this? Feeling jealous of your obvious superior? Does it pain you that much that I have stolen Asama-sama and Mitotsudaira-sama from you?"
"A-a shared secret should be shared with everyone."
"My king, that makes no sense even if you do act like a child."
Mitotsudaira was exactly right. But...
The blanket was laughing.
And without saying a word, Kimi's brother moved next to Asama. He swapped places with Horizon.
Asama's blanket trembled in surprise just once when she detected his presence.
"Yeah. My spot is next to Asama today."
Asama did not ask him why.
"I-I see," she said.
Then the blanket slowly nodded.
It still was not clear what that "yes" was in response to, but Kimi thought she understood how Asama felt.
Asama had accepted the "sleeping" part of everyday life.
It was not exactly a glamorous gift, but...
...It's still nice.
At home, Kimi and her brother would sometimes fall asleep together when they played a game or read manga late into the night.
But that happened naturally, so what did it feel like to emotionally "accept it" like this?
And Kimi also heard a blanket moving on the other side of the tent.
Mito's mom took a breath.
"Now, we have an early morning and so much to do tomorrow, so let's get to sleep."
"Judge. Mother, that means you're going to be busy tomorrow, doesn't it? Doesn't it!?"
"Testament. It very much does. ...I need to bring your father and then spend the night with you in what will be your new home."
Mitotsudaira froze in place as she tried to spread her blanket out on the floor.
"Wh-what does that mean!?"
Mitotsudaira saw her mother tilt her head.
"Oh? Nate, aren't you moving in with that king of yours soon? I was thinking I could bring your father to the Musashi tomorrow and spend the night there as a greeting."
"I have no idea what you're talking about!"
She really did not.
It was always some kind of wonderland inside her mother's brain, but this was especially bad.
However, her mother straightened her tilted head and placed her hands on Mitotsudaira's shoulders.
"Surely you aren't planning to throw your parents out in the cold."
"Just to be clear, it's summer and the Musashi has air-conditioning."
"You mean you're going to make us spend the night in one of Musashi's parks? But your father is so frail he might get sick. I'll just have to keep him warm all night long."
...I imagine father would have an...eventful night if he was stuck outdoors with mother...
"Mother, did you just start to plan out what you would do if that happened?"
"Don't be silly, Nate. I don't need to plan it out when we've done that countless times before."
"Ho ho? Mitotsudaira-sama's mother must be the outdoorsy type."
"Testament. Life outside is so exciting and fulfilling."
It was scary how she could hold a conversation like this.
But Mitotsudaira had something to say.
"You can just stay in the diplomat's quarters. That would be the normal arrangement."
"But Terumoto will be staying there. Since you have a meeting on the Musashi planned for tomorrow," said her mother. "Also, your house was destroyed, Nate, so we can't stay there. Isn't that why you were planning to stay at your king's house starting tomorrow?"
For the umpteenth time that day, she felt the blood rush from her face.
...H-how does she know about that!?
"Hee hee? Nate? You are a knight sent by Hexagone Française, remember? If your house on the Musashi is squished flat, the Hexagone Française embassy on the Musashi will of course notify us."
"What did...they say...?"
"Testament. That Hexagone Française Knight Nate Mitotsudaira's house was fully destroyed during a battle. They also asked for the funding to rebuild your house."
"We refused, of course."
Mitotsudaira's mother placed her hands on Mitotsudaira's shoulders.
"Go for it, Nate. Even if his right and left sides are already taken, climbing into his lap and having him pamper you there seems to be more your style, so just do that."
"What!? Where did that misinformation come from!?"
"Eh? For reference, I bought all the books based on you for sale at Musashi's mail-order doujinshi shop, Melon no Ana, and about 70% of it was that."
Silver Wolf: "Naruze! This is your doing, isn't it!?"
Mal-Ga: "Huh? What? I can think of so many things you might be talking about that mentioning the wrong one would be a bad idea, so I'm not going to respond. Knowing how to endure hardship is important, Mitotsudaira."
Silver Wolf: "Must you be so stubborn!?"
What was she supposed to do?
But trying to fight it would only make it worse. And when she looked toward her king...
"I will join you as well," said Horizon.
She was thankful for that. Horizon would act as a buffer and she could face Mitotsudaira's mother without fear.
And when she looked up...
Past her king, Asama had stuck her head out from under her blanket.
Mitotsudaira's king noticed her gaze and turned toward Asama.
"Oh?" There was a smile in his voice. "Has Ama-no-Iwato opened?"
"We're a Sakuya shrine."
She looked away and pulled the blanket up again, but not over her head this time.
She hid just her face and lay on her side with her cheek and neck resting on his arm.
When Mitotsudaira saw this...
...This is what my complaints look like from the outside, isn't it?
She decided to ask just to be sure.
"My king, are you okay with this?"
"Ah? Yeah, I kinda want to meet your Papan. I mean, I've gotta see what kind of guy can outdo your Maman."
Mitotsudaira sensed her mother's good mood behind her.
My mother likes my king even more than me.
But it was true her house had been destroyed. They would not be able to stay at the diplomat's quarters and they couldn't stay at the Asama Shrine either. And as a knight, Mitotsudaira felt it would be wrong to have them borrow a student dorm room.
...Oh, I'm making excuses to build up a justification for staying at my king's house.
Once she realized that, she moved over next to Horizon.
There was something she needed to say.
"Whatever may happen, we can set everything straight starting tomorrow."
She heard her mother laugh, but she did not let it bother her.
"Takigawa-san. I know this is no time for laughter, but still."
"What is it, Kakei Juuzou. And Mochizuki Yukitada."
Kakei nodded when she called his name.
There was a deep cut in the brim of his hat which shook from the movement of his head.
The eye visible through the cut briefly glanced in her direction.
This place was made from white plaster. It bore the precipitous peak and horns emblem of the Houjou Association of Indian States and the walls and floor were made from blocks of hardened earth.
Several mats had been laid out on the floor and plates of hardened leaves were lined up on those.
This was a dining hall.
And Takigawa was eating a late dinner there.
"You aren't here to laugh at me for eating a lassi parfait, are you?"
"I don't have time for that. Well, it is pretty funny, but..."
Kakei raised his right hand and sat across from Takigawa. He then produced the tray he had been hiding behind his back.
And it held...
"I'm eating a banana parfait."
"It doesn't come with a gator?"
"Take a closer look at the container."
The wood container was carved to look like an alligator with its mouth open.
"...They have a container exclusively for that dish?"
"When I got it at the counter, a local with a fake-sounding accent said, 'Use right hand! Three fingers, yes!?' But there's no way I can do that, so I asked for a spoon."
"They said the same thing to me."
"Then it must be a standard gag," said Mochizuki. "Now, Takigawa-sama..."
"Shaja." Takigawa nodded and took a breath. "The 1st Siege of Ueda happened yesterday."
"Testament. ...I heard it was at Hashiba's request. And that Sanada Nobushige will receive a warm welcome in exchange."
"Then," said Takigawa. "What will you do, Ten Braves? There's something else that matters to you and you're here to negotiate over it, right? You want to show me your worth to benefit Sanada. ...So what do you have to offer? I'm looking for someone I can buy cheaply. So," she said. "Let's talk."
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