Horizon:Volume 6A Chapter 15
Chapter 15: Dragon in Transit
Is something you are capable of
Is something you are recognized for
Point Allocation (Talent)
"Going to Houjou, right? ...Yes, I can take you part of the way."
Yoshiaki confirmed what Kani had said.
She would be carrying Kani partway to Houjou. That was the role she had been given the night before.
Weiss Fürstin was a high-power schale besen, but an extra person would be no more than a burden. Any unfortunate movements could put them in danger during a high-speed flight, and...
...It affects the fuel efficiency.
Yoshiaki had better fuel efficiency than Angie. Angie could be absentminded and she tended to get careless in her flying when the scenery was nice, so Yoshiaki sometimes had to share Weiss Fürstin's fuel with her.
Of course, Angie often discovered useful things when she was not focused on her flying, so Yoshiaki did not stop her from doing that.
But this was a little different.
They had to reach Houjou quickly.
Kimee: "Is everything ready for Kani to be dropped off at the other end?"
Kuro Take: "Testament. A supply ship will be leaving P.A. Oda territory and some personnel were sent to Houjou to prepare for the Siege of Odawara."
"What is it, Angie?"
"Oh, um." Angie was unsure whether she should respond via Magie Figur or to Yoshiaki. "Kime-chan, which should I do?"
"Just shout real loud."
Angie placed her hands on either side of her mouth and shouted. Then she turned back toward Yoshiaki.
"Sorry, that wasn't what you meant, was it?"
"As long as it's calmed you down."
Everyone on the deck had fallen silent, but they did not care.
AnG: "Takeko. What did you mean when you said some personnel were sent to Houjou for the Siege of Odawara?"
Yoshiaki had noticed that too.
What Takenaka had said made no sense. Because...
AnG: "We only learned last night that the Siege of Odawara is happening, right? So how could you have already sent them? ...Or are you saying they've already arrived?"
Kuro Take: "Testament. There are two people in P.A. Oda who can do that. Although one is a member of our Ten Spears."
"Yes," agreed Yoshiaki. "It shouldn't be a problem then. ...So it’s someone with a great warrior's righteousness. With us and this underclassman here, we should be able to fight as a decent Hashiba force."
"Eh!? Me too!?"
"If you do your job well."
"I will!" Kani showed off her teeth with a smile. "I will do my best and achieve results! ...Is there anything else I need to watch out for!?"
□□凸: "E-excuse me. H-how is this person so cheerful, or bright, or whatever you would call it? ...Huh? That's odd. Aren't I supposed to be that kind of character? So why does my heart ache like this?"
6: "So in a week, he'll be one of us, huh?"
Kuro Take: "Fukushima-kun? Make sure Kani-kun isn't influenced by us. She still needs to command and work alongside our other subordinates."
Llaf: "Testament. I am not sure I wholly understand, but are thou saying it would be dangerous if she became like us? It is true I have difficulty imagining Kani-dono using the Giant Breasts Defense like Kiyo-dono..."
Kiyo-Massive: "Um, I don't actually have that bizarre skill..."
AnG: "Yeah, we can't have her turning out like this."
Nari Nari Nari: "Why are you people always like this?"
Monkey Girl: "Mi-chan? I need to make some final adjustments, so please come here."
Nari Nari Nari: "Y-yes! Testament! I'll be right there!"
Kiyo-Massive: "Mitsunari-sama seems like the cheerful type as well."
Hmm, thought Angie as she looked up into the sky.
She thought about what Kani had said, but...
...Anything else she needs to watch out for.
"Well, make sure you don't get so focused on achieving results that you lose sight of other things. Like taking care of yourself."
She took a breath.
"The Ten Spears have to make it back alive, so we can't have our Kanitama not making it back, now can we?"
Everyone working on the deck silently turned her way, but she ignored them.
On the other side of Kanitama, Yoshiaki briefly froze, but she soon recovered.
She looked to Angie and gave a thumbs up. That meant it was not a problem and she approved of what Angie had said.
Meanwhile, Kani responded to her line.
"Understood! I will do everything my upperclassmen say!"
"Oh, how disciplined. So what would you say if I asked you to go buy us drinks?"
Unsure what to do, Kani's eyes wandered back and forth.
Angie reflexively followed that eye movement, but...
"Oh, how about this!"
Out of nowhere, Kani held out a paper cup.
And it contained...
"This is a drink born of the Age of Discovery idea that pepper is a panacea which has had a recent resurgence! It's called Doctor Pepper!"
"If I remember right, that doesn't actually have pepper in it and just has 21 different chemicals."
"Eh!? Really!? I was tricked!!"
"Then you can drink it as a punishment."
Kani held the cup in both hands and started drinking it. And after two seconds...
"It's bad! It tastes so bad!"
"Can I try some?"
"No! I can't let an upperclassman drink something so bad! I'll drink it!"
"Putting it like that really makes me want to try it."
"Then it's good! It tastes so good! I want to let an upperclassman drink something so good! I don't want to drink it!"
Yoshiaki glared at her.
"Isn't that going too far in the other direction?"
Angie had to agree.
But Angie also gave a deep nod in front of Kanitama.
"Okay, Kanitama, let me see what you can do."
Everyone on the deck started chanting "Chug! Chug!" as Kanitama gulped down the contents of the cup. Meanwhile, Yoshiaki pulled three harnesses out of her luggage.
She raised Weiss Fürstin behind Kanitama's back, and...
"Okay, stay still for a bit. I'm going to attach the harnesses."
"I finished drinking it!"
"Good girl, good girl. ...Now don't move."
"There are two Katous, so just call me Yoshiaki."
Kani nodded at that.
"Good point! Takenaka-san told me to use 'Giant Katou' and 'Massive Katou', but that doesn't really work, does it!?"
AnG: "Takeko, who are you trying to pick a fight with?"
Kuro Take: "But it's true, isn't it? In a certain way."
Angie was not going to ask what that certain way was, but Kamitama had been attached to Weiss Fürstin in the meantime.
The girl was strapped on around her torso, her waist, and her thighs.
"Umm, Yoshiaki-san! What are these straps for!?"
"We're about to leave for Houjou, so I've attached you to Weiss Fürstin. Get it now?"
"But! What about my luggage over there!"
There was indeed a woven bamboo carrying case on the deck.
It was surprisingly large. While it was not as tall as Kani herself, it would reach as high as her chest.
"That's pretty big. What's in it?"
"...I thought the case was pretty big, but now I'm impressed at how well you compressed it."
"Thank you very much!!"
"Okay, let's get going."
Kani looked over at her carrying case.
"Eh!? What about my futon!?"
"You can find one once we arrive."
Yoshiaki said that while lightly hopping up.
She landed halfway up Weiss Fürstin as it stood vertically. For a winged Descended Angel, the angle and height of a schale besen was never an obstacle. She immediately dropped down in the pilot's seat.
"Let's get going before the sun rises. The ascent is going to be a pain, but it will be easier once we're horizontal again."
"Testament. Will you be going out ahead, Kime-chan?"
Yoshiaki simply nodded.
And while sitting in the vertical seat...
"Let's get going."
"Eh!? What do you mean I can find a futon once we arrive!? You can't know there will be one there!"
"You'll just have to put some effort into it."
With that, a powerful wind blew.
Angie looked forward, but there was no longer any sign of Weiss Fürstin or Yoshiaki's blonde hair.
There was only a sound resembling a cannon splitting the air and the cry of acceleration.
When she looked up into the early morning sky, she caught a brief glimpse of Weiss Fürstin's acceleration light.
It's so pretty, she thought, but...
She had to pursue it.
She was supposed to be flying after Yoshiaki.
"So the Technohexen have left. I fought against and alongside them back before they were split between white and black."
A voice fell towards the dirt ground within Paris.
Someone looked up at two long strands of cloud rising into the sky which did not yet contain any sunlight.
"Sir Bernard, you have been commanding the dragons without taking any rest, so are you sure you don't need to sleep now?"
"When a dragon sleeps, they sleep for a long while. But this is human land. Something could go wrong."
An elderly man with his black hair tied back walked through the construction underway on the dirt road.
He was Bernard.
He turned to his right where a Belle de Marionnette followed one step behind.
"You said your name was Armand, didn't you? You seem to have helped quite a bit with the construction last night."
They were headed south to check over the city wall and the moat closest to Hashiba's camp.
"Today, we must fortify the inside of the moat. Armand, I assume you will be helping too?"
"With my wide-range gravitational control, yes."
Bernard nodded at that.
"Your strength rivals that of a large Terrestrial Dragon. I see the humans continue to create new technology."
"They may have created us, but it is up to us whether or not we will cooperate with them."
"Do you dislike humans?"
When asked that, Armand reached for his hat and looked into the sky.
"Belle de Marionnettes cannot judge things by emotions such as like or dislike."
"Then how do you judge them?"
"Oh?" said Bernard as he slowed his pace.
He chose as path toward the city wall as he continued.
"What about them do you find incomprehensible?"
"How they give meaning to their decisions."
Armand adjusted his hat so the brim lined up with the city wall and he shut one eye.
He then looked left and right as if checking on the wall's structure.
"Losing this battle does not mean the destruction of the human race. Nor will it mean the end of Hexagone Française. The same is true for Hashiba and M.H.R.R. 'Working together' is always an option. But humans seem to have an instinct to protect their territory and way of life."
"We have something like that too."
"Of course you do." Armand spun his hat around with his finger. "Because you're human."
"I am a Celestial Dragon."
The subsequent pause lasted a few seconds.
Finally, Armand asked a question.
"You look human to me."
"I have transformed."
Bernard lowered his hips and thrust his right hand forward.
And while spinning around...
"Trans — Form!"
He nailed the transformation, so he took a breath while everyone in the street applauded.
The old man from a bakery held up a container of hops beer.
"Mr. Celestial Dragon! I think the two of us could get along! You're far better than my daughter's husband!"
Someone shouted "Yeah, and I think your daughter agrees with you!" and everyone grew a lot more lively.
They had all been basking in the morning stillness while doing construction work or preparing for the day.
But with Bernard as the focus, they began looking up and exchanging glances. But they soon forgot about Bernard and began their usual interactions with each other.
"Oh?" Armand viewed his surroundings. "Sir, you've woken up the city just by paying a visit to the dragons at the city wall. And more importantly..."
"Were you serious with that 'transform' thing?"
"Of course I was. It was the usual ceremony. When a dragon takes on a human form, it feels like converging in on yourself, but when returning to your dragon form, you need some kind of symbol to return to your proper body. Although that symbol differs from person to person. ...We all have 'molds'. We can play around by taking on other forms, but that can be dangerous if we do not maintain our focus while changing back. Human forms make it especially easy to lose sight of our 'mold'."
"I see." Armand nodded. "Where did you learn to do that?"
"800 years ago. ...Doing that made most of the humans flee, so it was popular among us dragons."
"So even Celestial Dragons don't like fighting, huh?"
"No living creature does."
"Wouldn't you do it if you knew 100% that you would win?"
Bernard responded immediately.
"I would not," he said. "That must never be the case."
Just then, the door to a nearby pub opened and the woman proprietor ran out with long strides.
It took her seven steps to reach them. She passed Bernard a bundle of skewered meat wrapped in leaves and smiled at him.
"I doubt that's anywhere near enough, but stop by tonight. We'll have plenty more for you then."
Bernard remained silent, but he pulled out one of the meat skewers and stared at it.
And as everyone silently watched on, he bit into it.
The woman proprietor's eyes widened as he ate the skewer right along with the meat.
There was an odd crunching as he tore through the skewer with his teeth and then he audibly swallowed.
But he ate it.
After swallowing, he let out a breath and a snort.
He looked to the woman proprietor and spoke.
"If you used a little less salt, it would taste nicely like blood."
Everyone cheered at his assessment.
The woman bowed respectfully, but then spun around and practically danced back into her pub. A traveling entertainer played his musical instrument in time with her dancing and someone raised a shout.
"Indeed! We are the servants of god who will race to deadly lands for 4 gulden...!"
"Does that mean Protestant mercenaries are going to assist Hexagone Française in our fight against the Catholics...!?"
This improvised story had no real meaning.
Bernard and Armand simply continued to the city wall. But their path produced a wave of cheers, respectful looks from children, and interested voices from women.
"Well, Sir Bernard? ...What do you think of this lively city that was built by the previous generation?"
"Anne of Austria, you mean?"
Gazes turned toward Bernard from the windows and buildings along the road.
He turned his sharp bestial eyes on them, but none of them seemed to mind.
"That's not gonna work." Armand laughed. "Hexagone Française has as big a nonhuman unit as England. We're used to having bestial eyes on us."
"I have a question."
"Yeah? What is it?"
"Did Anne of Austria create the people of this city?"
"No, she didn't."
"Then were you born this way?"
"I was only made about 10 years ago, so I can't tell you that. Well, it's possible the previous generation set things up for how the people here act, but that wasn't what clinched it."
"The current generation then?"
"Yes," said Armand as he put his hat back to normal and viewed their surroundings.
Construction was underway. The sounds of Lourd de Marionnettes walking and of bellowed commands came from seemingly empty roads.
The color of approaching dawn filled the eastern sky.
"As the construction continues, the stealth barrier makes it look like the city's people are disappearing," said Bernard. "This level of defense and effort is not something I saw in the past."
"No, no. It might look like a lot, but it was recorded by two Technohexen as they ascended into the sky earlier. The enemy probably knows a lot of what we're doing."
"You saw them recording it?"
"They made a vertical ascent, so it's a safe assumption. That allows easier focusing of the footage than when moving away or approaching."
Bernard nodded at Armand's explanation. He also chewed apart another skewer of meat, wooden skewer and all.
"A vertical ascent is a way of avoiding dragons."
"Explain. I could always use more tactical lessons."
"Very well. ...We dragons generally fly using our thrusters, but due to our weight, we have difficulty making vertical ascents. And as living creatures, we have to worry about our breathing and body temperature, so we cannot remain active for long at extreme altitudes without any kind of equipment. ...Technohexen are light enough to pull it off, so in dragon-controlled territory they usually make powered descents and vertical ascents instead of horizontal take-offs and landings."
"When those Technohexen were taking you all on last night, they made a vertical ascent beforehand, didn't they?"
"They must have had an excellent teacher."
"You're basically praising yourself there."
"I am not. I am merely stating a fact. ...The fact that dragons are superior to all."
Just as Bernard said that, the sun rose.
They were headed south, so the light rose into the sky on their left.
It appeared above the city wall, and...
"Good morning, my subjects!!"
They heard the Roi-Soleil's voice. It too came from the eastern city wall where the sun was rising.
The nudist was there.
Henri inspected the city while listening to the Roi-Soleil's morning greeting.
"Such wonderful weather today! As long as I remain in Paris, this land will always be filled with this pleasant atmosphere!"
His voice reached her on an eastern avenue and she saw the Roi-Soleil himself on the eastern wall.
But that was none of her concern at the moment.
She was not on bodyguard duty right now.
...Because the musketeer unit must prepare for the defense of Paris.
She was working with the Belle de Marionnettes under her command to check the simultaneous functioning of the defense and stealth barriers.
She stood before a 3m block of metal placed among the trees lining the road.
But this was no mere block of metal. It was a reinforcer for the Gallican terminal chapels set up around Paris.
Amplified by those, the terminal chapels opened the stealth and defense barriers.
They were made by the Europa business guild, so they looked like white half-arches. The stealth ones bore a relief of the Roi-Soleil and the defense ones bore a relief of Terumoto swinging a wooden sword.
When the two were set up together, the full arch seemed to depict the Roi-Soleil rejoicing as he was pummeled with a wooden sword, but that may have been Europa's way of rebelling.
At any rate, the Roi-Soleil's voice reached her ears as she measured the output to make sure it was sufficient. His words were accompanied by light harpsichord music.
"Now, everyone, it is time for some light morning exercise. First, some hip twists. ...Ooone, twooo, threee, fooour. Can you feel the Roi-Soleil Power welling up in your loins?"
Quiet down, Roi-Soleil.
But this was a nice break for the people who had been working since late at night. A lot of them probably used his appearance as their sign to get to sleep.
...There's no real reason to rush it, but it is important to do it together.
Protecting a city was not something a single group of personnel could accomplish. If the entire city was not working together, the enemy would break through somewhere no matter how much they fortified the actual city's defenses.
That was what had happened at Magdeburg.
Henri understood it well since she had been there.
Magdeburg had used deflection-style defense barriers and had set them up within the city walls as well.
But due to the persistent attack from the front and the constant pressure from the flooded river on the side, the barriers had bent and then broken.
But what would have happened if more people had remained behind in Magdeburg?
...Is it meaningless to think about that now?
For a Belle de Marionnette, past events were only used as a basis on which to predict future events.
But there was one thing not even that idea could make happen: allowing Roi-Soleil Louis Exiv to meet Anne of Austria.
What should she have done and when?
She did not know.
Of course, knowing would only lead to the regret of not having done so. Then she would once more search for a reason why she could not have done it.
Past distortions only led to never-ending guesses and assumptions because they were already over.
In that case...
...Perhaps I should end this with what the Princess said.
"We were glad to have you with us."
What had that meant?
For one thing, Terumoto's words concerning Anne's death had not reached Anne.
They only provided self-satisfaction.
But then why did Henri sense some logical acceptance of it?
If she could understand that, she guessed she would make more progress in the present instead of using so much processor time on the past.
She cursed her lack of memory space.
She looked up to the eastern wall and saw the Roi-Soleil stretching.
His hair formed a flare and he produced his own light on top of the morning sunlight.
"Heh. My subjects, now that we have completed our morning Soleil Stretches, let us begin the morning greeting. ...Good morning, everyone. It is I, the Roi-Soleil. Disappointed it isn't Terumoto, aren't you?"
Henri found herself disrespectfully agreeing with him.
He then frowned and nodded. He swung his head down thrice.
"I too would prefer Terumoto! Why have the likes of me rise so early in the morning!? I’ve risen in the morning? Is that supposed to be a euphemism, Terumoto!?"
In a cypress bath with a view of the rising sun through the window, Terumoto rolled over with a towel on her head.
She rolled onto her stomach as if embracing the edge of the tub.
"I thought I would listen in on what was happening back there while enjoying this morning bath, but this is what I find? Just end the divine transmission."
"Testament. Should I play some music?"
Mouri-01 was mixing some shampoo and Terumoto put a hand on her chin.
"Hmm," she groaned with a tilt of the head. "The divine radio stations would be different here, wouldn't they?"
Mouri-03 responded to Terumoto's doubt by opening a signe cadre in the bath. She pulled a divine radio station broadcast list from a local newspaper company.
"The Shinto stations should be the same as ours, even if they're a little less unique."
At the same time, another signe cadre appeared.
It showed Mouri-02 down on the surface. She bowed with a large Shinto shrine behind her.
"These are the ones that have been approved back home."
A few select stations appeared.
Terumoto noticed some local ones in addition to ones that used the Shinto network to cover the entire Far East.
"Oh, there's a lot in the Fierce Monk style. I guess you have to be wild with the strings if you want to be popular."
"Terumoto, you really do like those rude songs."
"We can leave the polite stuff to Exiv. Mouri-02, thanks."
"Hee hee," laughed Mouri-01. "As your maid, it's a relief to see how well you get along."
"Is that so, is that so?"
Terumoto wiped off her face with the towel. She was wiping off the sweat. She then reached for Mouri-02's signe cadre which already had links attached to the list of stations.
"Okay," she said and a cheerful personality began speaking over the divine transmission.
"This week on the serial drama 'The Wu-rst', Sun Ce-kun fired his doctor for giving him the Wu-rst diagnosis, but now his mind is rapidly deteriorating. The next entry is titled Sun Ce Dies. I can't wait to find out what happens."
"Oh, this region would be pro-Wu, wouldn't they?"
After flipping through a few different stations, Terumoto spoke to Mouri-01.
"Tell that idiot to be quiet since I'm in the bath."
"The bath!? You're in the bath, Terumoto!?"
Henri saw her leader jumping up and down like an overexcited elementary schooler.
He placed a hand on his forehead and bent backwards.
"Heh. First thing in the morning and you're already filling me with doubt, Terumoto! In these two days without you...or has it been three days? Either way! The Roi-Soleil cares not for details!"
An-Ri: "Just keep quiet and watch. ...And the watching part is optional."
But the Roi-Soleil turned toward Paris with a signe cadre in hand.
"Listen, everyone! While all of you are working to protect Paris, Terumoto has gone to Houjou as a representative of Mouri and she is apparently taking a bath there!"
Why tell everyone that? wondered Henri.
Just then the signe cadre exploded as the Roi-Soleil held it overhead.
He spun four times as he flew northward, but he soon returned to his original location. And he opened a new signe cadre.
"Heh. Feeling shy, Terumoto? But I am willing to accept that side of you."
He now had an enormous afro, but he fixed it with a single stroke of his right hand.
He confirmed he was positioned right in front of the sun and then took a breath.
He spread his arms and legs while the sun slowly rose behind him.
And he shook his head so his flare hair whipped behind him.
"Heh. Watch, my subjects, as the sun and I become one!"
A Belle de Marionnette under Henri's command sent her a divine transmission.
"Lady Henri! The sun is aligned with the Roi-Soleil's crotch! ...There's no stopping him with Lady Terumoto gone, is there!?"
It had indeed been awhile since the Roi-Soleil's stopper had been absent.
But then he crossed his arms and put on a flat expression.
An-Ri: "Roi-Soleil, the sun has risen some, so it's shifted a bit out of place."
He stood up on his toes.
Henri decided it was best not to say anything more as he raised his right hand.
"Let us continue our talk, my subjects."
The people had begun to ignore him, but now they turned back his way.
With their attention on him, he nodded once and spoke softly.
"Everyone...it is very unfortunate that Terumoto is not with us today. We all feel the same way, so we are brothers and sisters in this matter, my subjects."
What he said made enough sense that Henri nearly found herself believing him.
But there really was no one to stop him without Terumoto around.
"Listen, my subjects. The climax is tomorrow. ...Hashiba is sure to attack us using methods the likes of which we have never seen. They have the power and the skill to do so. ...So do not hold back as you prepare the conqueror's city. We have vainglory and pride. But being proud does not imply a lack of skill. Make your preparations such that we can have pride in the skill we do in fact have."
Everyone had come to a stop.
Even the rumbling of Lourd de Marionnette footsteps had ceased. There was only one thing below the quiet morning sky.
The Roi-Soleil with the sun behind him.
The French nudist lowered from his tiptoes.
He took a breath and continued with a smile.
"The climax is tomorrow. But Hexagone Française's climax is not tomorrow. We still have much greater heights to reach as the conquerors of Europe. ...Then do you know whose climax is tomorrow, my subjects?"
It would be...
"Hashiba and M.H.R.R.'s climax. They face decline after conquering the Far East and after the Thirty Years' War and they also face the Oda clan's decline. We are merely accompanying them as their climax begins. ...It is unfortunate Terumoto could not be with us. We have the privilege of seeing the climax of a group fearing their own ruin and decline. This is a scene we will never see in ourselves, so it is entirely unnecessary as reference material. But it will help relieve my sorrow."
The Roi-Soleil slowly moved.
He pointed toward heaven and then to the east.
He breathed in and raised his voice.
"Vive la Anne!"
Henri then heard inhalations across all of Paris.
A moment later, everyone moved in unison. She even heard the rumbling and mechanical noises of Lourd de Marionnettes beyond the stealth barriers.
"Vive la Anne...!"
The Roi-Soleil swept his hand to the side.
In an instant, everyone held their breath and tensed up.
There was stillness, but it was more than mere silence. Everything that should have moved had stopped to forcibly create this motionless atmosphere.
But even without motion, there was intensity.
And the Roi-Soleil smiled as their gazes fell on him.
"I must apologize for using Anne as a tool to build morale. Not even the sun of pride can hope to match that lively star of guidance."
"Let us follow that star's guidance, everyone. ... The moon will return before long, but we must prepare this sleepless fortress before then."
"Ridiculous... Let's stay an extra week visiting hot springs."
"Hee hee. Princess, did the Roi-Soleil's wonderful speech make you blush?"
"I'm not blushing," insisted Terumoto as she turned to look out the window.
Sunlight entered through it.
And since she had needed to turn around to see the sunlight...
"We were facing in the same direction."
She wiped off her face with the towel.
"He's the type to check on that kind of thing if he can. I'm the type to accept it if it happens to happen. But..."
"I'm vainglorious. Even if I don't like being alone, I can't bring myself to say it. ...And he probably needs some more time to cool his head a little."
"Oh, dear. But, Princess?
Mouri-01 poured out some more mixed shampoo as she answered.
"Do you really think the sun can cool?"
"The moon would never get along with him if he couldn't."
Terumoto looked the other way and messed with the divine radio stations.
"Hm? We can get Musashi ones on here?"
"Probably because they have their stealth barrier down. ...Princess, let me wash your hair."
When she held out her head, her bangs covered her face.
Mouri-01 smiled with that head and a bucket of bathwater in front of her. She stuck her finger in the water to measure the temperature and checked the reading on the signe cadre that appeared above the finger. She nodded.
"Princess, it's a little hot, so I will redo it."
"Oh? ...No, this is pretty lukewarm."
"But it is a little hot for your hair. And you have official duties today, so I will add extra yuzu."
"Isn't that a little much?"
"It should help wake you up."
"Then you might as well. ...Okay."
Mouri-01 let the contents of a small plate drip onto Terumoto's hair and Terumoto made an amused comment as it soaked in.
The morning light created a dimly-lit space.
It was a triangular pyramid tent.
The Reine des Garous awoke below a blanket by the tent's edge.
Her daughter slept next to her, creating the scent of a "pack" that she had not sensed in a while. Her adorable daughter had a mixture of her and her husband's scents. That wolf had inherited so much but had also begun her own independent life.
But she was curious about one thing concerning her daughter's relationships. She was likely to find out about it today, but...
...It's about her king.
She had a question there.
Just how important was her daughter to that king?
She thought she had some understanding of that.
But, she thought as she rolled from her side to her stomach. And...
There was an arm in her cleavage.
This was unusual, so she stopped moving.
There were in fact two arms there.
...Oh, now I get it.
"That would explain the dirty dream about having my husband in there."
When she freed the two arms, they crawled back to their owner. On the way, they looked back and gave a reluctant wave, so she waved back.
The Reine des Garous lifted her butt, stretched, and took a deep, deep breath. And then...
She silently moved across her daughter.
She looked to Musashi's princess on the other side.
...Why is she sleeping with her eyes open?
The arms had already returned, but she remained entirely stiff as she slept.
And the Reine des Garous's daughter's king was beyond her.
Determining his relationship with her daughter would be easy. She only had to smell him from up close.
She had already done that plenty after abducting him in Hexagone Française, but...
...If there hasn't been any progress, I'll have to scold you a little.
They had to be fighting a series of intense battles.
He would need a knight, so her daughter's scent should have grown stronger. But if it had not...
She detected her daughter's scent, just like she had in the clearing the night before.
But it did not come from him.
Yes. Her daughter's scent came from the blanket covering him.
And oddly enough, it came from the bottom end.
When she sniffed it, she detected several scents on that king's blanket. From head to toe, there was a gradation of different people's scents.
Starting from the top end, she found the Asama Shrine Representative, Musashi's princess, the king himself, and lastly her daughter.
The four scents were lined up on the blanket.
And the Reine des Garous realized how the scents would end up on the blanket like that.
Given the size, the king's feet would stick out if it was turned on its side. In fact, the same would be true for her daughter, their princess, and the Asama Shrine Representative.
But this king had chosen what he could do in that moment.
The Reine des Garous felt a smile on her lips as she returned to her spot.
She no longer felt a need to smell him again.
For a wild wolf, giving someone a place to sleep held great meaning. When the forest had stopped feeling like home and she had nearly lost herself, she had met the person who had given her her current home.
Whether her daughter wanted it or not, there was someone who would give the girl a home.
Her daughter was being taken care of. So...
"I should probably spend the day making sure she is behaving properly. As the Reine des Garous's daughter, as a citizen of Hexagone Française, and as the second in line to the Far East."
She sat back down on her blanket.
Her daughter slept on her side like she always had. No, when she was little, she had slept with her belly defenselessly exposed. The Reine des Garous had always placed a blanket over her then, but now...
"You've grown into a proper knight."
"I look forward to seeing where you go from here."
Just then, the blanket on the other side shot up into the air.
That was the Asama Shrine Representative.
She pulled a sign frame out of her cleavage. It was vibrating, but it soon disappeared.
"Kimi! I don't need an 'it's purification time' message!"
She twisted around a bit, but then noticed the Reine des Garous.
"Ah," she said. "G-good morning. Um, uh..."
She frantically looked away and reached for the change of clothes folded next to her.
"I'll be at the bath for my morning purification!"
"Yes, go ahead. ...Take care."
The girl groaned a little and blushed.
But she soon stood up and kept her footsteps quiet as she left the tent. The Reine des Garous smiled as she watched the girl go.
There had been a whitish mark of a dried liquid in the corners of her eyes.
She must have been crying below her blanket the night before.
A multitude of feelings had spilled out while she used a borrowed arm as a pillow.
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