Horizon:Volume 6B Chapter 30
Chapter 30: People of the Present at the End of the Hall
You ask what it is
While it is right in front of you
Point Allocation (What You Can See)
While sitting or lying down on the path through the sunny wheat field, they were blocked from view.
Fukushima sighed in that location that felt wide open but also placed several barriers around them.
She was currently resting in Kiyomasa’s lap.
…And she told me not to move.
Kiyomasa had said she was healing and examining Fukushima.
“I did some thinking and started studying the Shinto side of things recently. At Mito, I realized I was at a disadvantage when outside of Catholicism’s reach. So I’ve started coming up with hybrid spell forms that combine a variety of things.”
Ether light grew from the ground like vines and supported Fukushima’s hips and back.
They were likely removing the heat and pain. To assist, Kiyomasa held up a Shinto charm to adjust the distribution of vines.
…They have a definite scent to them.
It was a minty aroma. She did not know if that was a trait of the spell or if Kiyomasa had added it.
She would be free to speak like this, so Fukushima asked Kiyomasa a question while belatedly noticing the spell cloth placed on her hip.
“What happened to the enemy?”
“You drove him away.”
That would be the interpretation Kiyomasa had relayed to the others.
“I thank thee.”
“For arranging that for me.”
Kiyomasa sighed, unseen beyond her breasts.
Did she feel exasperated?
…I cannot believe this.
“Essentially, this is two losses in a row for me.”
“You drove off the enemy in both cases.”
“But I did not defeat them.” Fukushima held her right hand in the air. “I am not achieving the results necessary for the leader of the Ten Spears…no, necessary for achieving our goal. At this rate,” she said. “We will have difficulty maintaining our position in this age of Warring States, not to mention confronting Musashi.”
Just as she said that, Kiyomasa’s voice arrived from beyond her breasts.
“Fukushima-sama. …Should I stop healing you?”
Fukushima listened to Kiyomasa.
“If I don’t heal you, you can take a break here. I can even discuss it with the others and have you removed from the main force in tomorrow’s Paris attack for the Invasion of Mouri.”
And she went on to say more.
“Fukushima-sama, you’re tired, aren’t you?”
That did not follow from what she had said before.
But she did not correct herself.
In her mind, those seemingly separate statements were effectively the same.
“I am sorry,” said Fukushima.
“Do not apologize until you have given up on everything. …Or is that what you meant?”
“No,” responded Fukushima. “But how am I supposed to win?”
“Isn’t that what you told that underclassman named Kani last night? You grasp the flow of battle.”
“Some things are easier said than done.”
“You shouldn’t sound so confident when you say that.”
That warning silenced Fukushima.
She was aware she was falling into a vicious cycle.
When she received a negative result, she asked herself negative questions to try to learn from it, but gaining an awareness of her deficiencies caused her to lose confidence in herself which led to further negative results.
She wished she could snap herself out of it.
“How am I supposed to win?”
“There is no need to win at the moment.”
Fukushima tried to sit up when she heard Kiyomasa’s response. She wanted to look the other girl in the eye when she asked why.
But when she gathered strength in her abs and sat up, she only pressed against the bottom of those giant breasts.
And she decelerated.
When she lifted her head starting from her stomach, those breasts stopped her.
…What is this…!?
She lost to the pressure.
She could not keep pushing herself up. No, her momentum was absorbed as the breasts deformed.
…Such an incredible shock-absorption effect…!
Pushed back down by their weight, Fukushima returned to Kiyomasa’s lap. Then Kiyomasa cleared her throat and spoke.
“Listen, Fukushima-sama. I am healing and examining you, so please stay still.”
“Yes, you’re asking about what I just said, aren’t you?” she said from beyond her breasts. “There is only one crucial point at which we must win. That is all we need. We only have to stop Musashi when it is time to stop them. That is why the Ten Spears exist.”
“But victory here will make things easier in our later battles and for the other units.”
“Let’s worry about others only after taking care of ourselves, Fukushima-sama,” said Kiyomasa. “You do not ‘need to win’ because of later battles or the other units. You can think about those things after you are able to win.”
Kiyomasa was saying the ends and the means were different.
Fukushima of course thought she understood that.
But, she began in her heart.
“We have no time. …The battle in Paris begins tomorrow.”
“Are you saying you will ‘lose’ in the battle tomorrow?”
Fukushima tried to sit up and was stopped once more.
After about two seconds, Kiyomasa held out her hands to tell her to calm down.
Fukushima took a breath, lowered her head once more, and then let her shoulders relax.
And she spoke.
“I am worried.”
“I can tell just by looking at you, Fukushima-sama.”
“That only depresses me further.”
“I really need you to cheer up soon.”
Kiyomasa’s tone made it sound more like casual advice than a warning, and that made it all the harder for Fukushima.
…She makes it sound like I merely made a mistake while cooking…
Was this problem really only on that level?
Meanwhile, Kiyomasa brushed up her hair.
“I don’t want to constantly be asking each other if we can do this.”
“That would be difficult.”
“Just listen,” said Kiyomasa. “We have our current positions because we forced someone else out of them. We have these positions because it was decided we can do it better than those other people. …If that doesn’t mean we can do it, then what does? Listen,” she said again. “Let’s rid ourselves of worry. That is enough.”
“That is enough?”
“Testament,” she quietly responded. “If we get worried and cower back, we won’t be able to move. Conversely, if we’re in high spirits, we can move even more than usual. …And to move means to work toward our objective, but while it is logic and reason that control how we move, it is our emotions that act as a stopper or accelerator for those actions.”
She took a breath.
“To put it another way, feeling worried or in high spirits does not change the basic abilities of your body. …But how much of that ability you can draw out is influenced by the reason-driven tactics and the emotions that drive them. …At the moment, you score well on the tactics side, but your worry is preventing you from using them effectively.”
“Kiyo-dono, thou really are calm…”
Fukushima was not quite sure how to put it, but Kiyomasa seemed like “an adult”.
Yoshiaki would also seem that way sometimes, so maybe people with the surname Katou tended to be more mature. No, one’s surname does not determine their personality.
“Is there a trick to staying so calm?”
“It’s more of a secret than a trick.”
“There is something!?”
That was a shocking truth.
She heard Kiyomasa laughing up above those breasts. And…
“Fukushima-sama, let’s have a quick sparring match later. To prepare for tomorrow.”
“Testament. As I said before…I would like to spar at the transport ship pool.” She then grabbed Fukushima’s shoulders. “Okay, Fukushima-sama, your healing and examination are complete. I can see how you are doing when we spar.”
“The others are probably up to their usual nonsense right about now…”
A mop-wielding figure said that while looking up into the sky.
It was Noriki. He was swabbing the deck with several rigging hooks hanging from his waist.
The afternoon sun was already sinking and the summer heat was reaching its peak. Even if it was a transport ship, there was not much going on on the deck, so the deck crew called over to Noriki.
“Hey, boy! You might be restless, but how about you take a short break!?”
“This is who I am. I’m just doing what I always do, so don’t worry about it.”
“You sure are tough!! Do you have a heat-resistance divine protection and enough water!?”
When he held up the bamboo bottle hanging from his hip, they raised their hands in surrender.
“Use as much water as you want! We’ll resupply in Suwa soon!”
“I appreciate it.”
The transport ship he was swabbing belonged to the engine division.
…They put this thing through a lot.
Musashi’s transport ships were generally owned by companies, merchants, or Musashi itself.
The ones owned by companies or merchants would be decorated and otherwise made to look nice.
The ones owned by Musashi would be maintained by the automatons and were always as good as new.
But the engine division’s ones were different. They looked grimy, but they were tough.
He could easily tell their stance was just to keep it moving, keep it transporting, and to keep it sturdy.
“I haven’t ridden on many engine division transport ship’s. But well…how should I put it?”
“Hm? What?” asked Hiro via sign frame since she was cooling off in the shadow of the bridge. “How should you put what?”
“Judge. There are some stains here you don’t want removed, aren’t there?”
“Oh, yeah, yeah. We’ve got a pretty dangerous belief that oil stains act as a lubricant. Don’t touch anything near the engine or on the exterior seams. As for rust stains, what you see covering the surface is the rust we’re intentionally allowing to come off.”
“What happens to the bolts when you do that?”
“They use a special lock, so even if the rust gets inside, we can remove the core of the bolts and take them apart.”
Noriki looked to his feet where a bolt the size of his hand was placed in a hole to hold the exterior in place. When viewed from above, he could tell the bolt had a plastic core and could be broken down into four pieces from the center.
“That’s apparently so they won’t bend and break or get permanently bent even if the ship bends. Since the automatons don’t go to the engine division often, we do things a bit differently than the ships outside.”
“So these are handmade?”
“No. The engine division came up with the idea, but IZUMO produced them. They’ve apparently made their way to other nations too. I mean, they don’t have automaton maintenance, so they actually want this kind of bolt even more.”
“In that case,” said Noriki. “Do Mikawa and Houjou not use this kind of bolt?”
“I guess not. I don’t really know since I haven’t actually seen the receipts, but it would make sense. …Mikawa and Houjou are pretty technologically advanced, but if you ask me, they’re better at the more delicate things and they wouldn’t have seen the need for crude things like this.”
“I imagine not,” agreed Noriki while moving to a new cleaning spot.
This was one of the areas he was not supposed to clean.
Hiro continued speaking as the sign frame followed along next to him.
“What do you think about things back at Musashi?”
“If you mean the afternoon meeting, that’s none of my concern.”
“Even if they’re making decisions about the duels with Houjou and Mouri? They say they’re going to work out the details soon.”
“Working that out is none of my concern either.”
“But you want to duel their Chancellor, don’t you?”
“That’s why I’m on this ship.”
“It would be great if you got to.”
“Depending on how it turns out, it might not be so great.”
Hiro tilted her head at that.
“Even if you fail, can’t you focus on what you gained in the process and use that to do better next time?”
“Don’t ask me that when I’m out in the sun.”
“You have a point. …I have shaved ice here. Want some?”
“Can you save me some for later?”
“It’s now or never.”
“Fine then.” Noriki’s shoulders drooped. “I’ll join you.”
“You’re surprisingly easy to get along with.”
“Only because Suwa still isn’t in view.”
“Oh.” Hiro smiled bitterly in the shade. “You’re out on the deck because you want to see Suwa. Then you should move further out front.”
“I’ll do that next time,” said Noriki as he walked toward the bridge. “When will I be able to catch up to the others?”
Gin walked alone to the Main Blue Thunder.
She was walking to Musashino from their home on Tama.
And as she crossed the thick rope passageway between ships…
…Even with the winds of this elevation, Musashino is still very hot.
She held a stacked bento box of summer foods in her left arm and she operated a sign frame with her right hand. She had her prosthetic arms set to cooling mode.
It was hot. It had only been for a few days, but the time spent on the surface in Sanada territory made it feel all the more hot.
The atmosphere on the ship was maintained, but the summer sun on the ship’s surface still contained heat. Especially near the outer hull. The armor panels were more densely packed there, so the accumulated heat had trouble escaping.
She had been told that coolant water was pumped through hardened bamboo pipes within the armor panels, but that water rapidly heated up. She would sometimes see additional heat insulation tanks on the surface, but those may have been gathering the hot water and sending it to the bathhouses and such.
…It’s all so robust.
Fortunately, when the wide-range armor panels heated up, the moisture was taken from the air. The outer hull area lacked the humid heat often found in the Far East and instead had the dry heat of a desert.
Tres España was a dry region, so the similar air felt nostalgic.
That outer hull was generally where the transport district wide blocks were located.
Despite the summer heat, Musashino was being repaired at the moment. The transport district was busy dealing with the approaching transport ships and the unloaded cargo. Also…
“Are they rethinking their defenses with the Siege of Odawara and Kantou Liberation coming up?”
As she passed by the transport district, a large sign frame was being used to send instructions to the various team leads.
The Siege of Odawara was expected to be fought on the surface, but there was a good chance that the Kantou Liberation would be a fleet battle. Because it would be fought across a wide area including both Edo and Satomi.
Until now, they had focused their repairs on the horizontal and lower armor, but now they were shifting toward the armor and maintenance on the ship’s deck.
Of course, the Siege of Odawara was tomorrow, so there was only so much they could do. So instead of adding armor panels to the surface area, they seemed to be reinforcing it with spells. It was all based on instructions from “Musashino”:
“Place bundles of large armor charms in the cases and connect them to the terminals in regions requiring armor. We will add slots in the terminals, so use those slots to insert them. Over.”
Hearing that, the men quickly gathered together.
“Chief! We’re supposed to place the armor charm bundles in cases and use the slots to insert them, right!?”
“You fool! You pronounced it all wrong! ‘Musashino’-san says ‘insert’ way cooler than that!”
“Ehh!? That was ‘Asakusa’-san’s ‘insert’! I will not let this stand!”
The men were working hard while forcing their pickiness onto others.
…I kind of understand why Tres España lost to Musashi.
She had a number of theories, but her latest one was just how “oppressive” things were here.
She had a feeling her theory would change again tomorrow, but she had started to think that looking into that issue was pointless and she was wondering if she should make more of an effort to hide that investigation since she was starting to view this place as her home.
Whatever the case, she was amazed that those men could actually do their job while bickering so much.
They would almost certainly achieve decent results tomorrow.
As for Gin…
Once she passed the outer hull area, the air rapidly cooled.
It was still hot, but the floor was made of packed dirt instead of the hardened wood or armor panels. It was actually more humid, but there was more shade.
Large linked wagons loaded with materials approached while going the other way.
And she heard the hammering of repairs coming from the underground central area.
“…Musashi really is preparing for battle.”
While noting that their resolve had changed considerably while Class Plum was at Sanada, Gin faced forward.
Down the road, there was a large hole in Musashino.
And the Main Blue Thunder was beyond that.
She saw the English Princess and the ninja crossing it on a suspension bridge. The Mito Lord noticed them from the other end of the bridge.
Just by walking around a bit on this city aerial ship, Gin would run into familiar faces like this.
“Now, what is going to happen to this place tomorrow and beyond?”
Masazumi knew she had arrived late.
They had invited Mouri Terumoto and Houjou Ujinao to a buffet-style meal starting in the evening at the Main Blue Thunder. They would use that as a chance to make some decisions about the Siege of Odawara, the Tenshou Jingo Conflict, and the Invasion of Mouri being held the following day.
“I thought that café would seem a little small, but I see they found a way to get around that.”
The café’s entrance-side wall had been removed.
The café portion was now a roofed terrace.
The eating space was designated by a fence that had been placed in the road running in front of the café.
That created an open-air dining area as wide as the Aoi home.
An extra stone pavement block had been added in front of the house across the road, so the width of the road was maintained. However…
“Did you get permission for this?”
“Yeah. Shiro went to the house across the street with a box of candy, so they know more or less what’s going on.”
An old woman holding a dog smiled and bowed in front of the house diagonally across the road. Oh, is that dog named Josephine? I think the Aoi Sister or Asama mentioned that before.
“Oh, Masazumi. Could you step to the side real quick?”
Asama wore an apron over her shrine maiden uniform and she held stacked bento boxes full of stewed eggplant in both arms.
They were already lining up the food on the party tables set up on the road. Asama looked across the few tables there.
“This is the Far Eastern table, isn’t it? Kimi? Huh? Where’d she go…?”
Asama looked back in search of the Aoi Sister and her hair lacked the ear-shaped sensory devices usually seen with shrine maiden outfits. Did that mean she was not “on duty” at the moment?
…She works a lot regardless.
“A swimsuit this morning, a summer uniform earlier, and now a shrine maiden outfit. You sure change clothes a lot, Asama.”
“I’m just used to changing. I changed into this real quick over there.”
Masazumi saw everyone come to a stop.
Asama also seemed to realize what she had said.
“Ah,” she said. “N-no, that’s normal! It’s perfectly normal, isn’t it!? Changing clothes at the worksite is perfectly normal!”
Unturning: “What’s the point of denying this?”
Uqui: “Narumi, futile resistance is a standard skill for a Musashi resident. And refusing to believe these claims is another standard skill, so worry not.”
It sounded crazy, but sadly, it was all true.
And just as Asama began sweating from the silence around her, one of the Aoi home’s windows suddenly opened.
It was a narrow lowered window and the Aoi Sister stuck her head out from inside.
She held the chest cloth of Asama’s uniform in front of her face.
“An eye mask…! A-Asama, this is too big! Now I can’t get any shuteye while everyone else works! Should I return the defective product to the Asama Shrine!?”
“You know what that really is, don’t you!? And bring the rest of the food labels out here, Kimi!”
Oh, that’s right, remembered Masazumi.
…Asama is staying at the Aoi house starting today, isn’t she?
She could not stay there permanently because of her work at the Asama Shrine, but it seemed Mitotsudaira would be moving in too.
Vice President: “It is a relief to know Mitotsudaira and Asama will be right there with Aoi and Horizon.”
Mal-Ga: “It really is. Now I know I’ll always have plenty of material to draw from and it will create a lot more interest in the readers.”
Gold Mar: “That’s right. Mito-tsan, Asama-chi! Ga-chan and I fully support your decision! So don’t worry!”
Silver Wolf: “That’s more than enough reason to worry!”
That kind of energy was a good thing.
Aoi was sure to relax more if there was a lot going on around him.
As far as Masazumi could tell, the idiot did more dangerous things the more serious his surroundings were.
…It’s always at the most serious moments that he does the topknot or brings fireworks to morning assembly…
In a way, did that mean he was paying close attention to his surroundings?
But that idiot and Horizon had received two supporters in an unexpected fashion.
Vice President: I would normally want to ask Crossunite or Urquiaga, but that’s not really an option.”
Mal-Ga: “Want me to use that for material?”
Scarred: “If that’s my fault, then I’m sorry.”
Gold Mar: “Hm? It’s not your fault, Ma-yan. The thread titled ‘It’s That Ninja’s Fault” is really picking up steam.”
10ZO: “Not again! You set something up again, didn’t you!? Oh, but anything caused by Mary-dono joining Musashi is my responsibility, so I don’t mind at all.”
Tachibana Wife: “Then how will you take responsibility for not being able to act as the Chancellor’s bodyguard, 1st Special Duty Officer?”
10ZO: “Th-that is a difficult question when presented so bluntly!”
Mal-Ga: “With your body… Yes, I understand completely. That’s the only option.”
10ZO: “I don’t understand at all.”
Azuma: “Do you mean doing hard labor?”
Gold Mar: “Ga-chan, you don’t have to laugh that hard. And you don’t have to get so excited about misinterpreting the term hard labor.”
Masazumi had heard the Technohexen were monitoring them from an elevated position that allowed for sniping, but what were they doing?
Meanwhile, Naomasa spoke while starting to install the fence.
Smoking Girl: “Well, this has been a meaningful change for a number of reasons. Besides, not even the Musashi has been a safe zone recently.”
Tonbokiri: “Judge, that is correct. Isa-dono and others of the Ten Braves boarded the ship, the Terrestrial Dragon Torahide-dono flew onboard, and the Celestial Dragons Sasuke-dono and Saizou-dono snuck onboard.”
Flat Vassal: “I just realized. Wasn’t it all done by Sanada?”
Everyone fell silent again.
Eventually, Futayo turned toward Masazumi from where she stood guard at the entrance.
“Should I have completely beaten up Nobuyuki-dono the other day?”
“No, the Sanada Chancellor is from their pro-Musashi group. Also, I’m a bit surprised what you did to him didn’t count as ‘completely’ beating him up.”
Naomasa stood up from the other side of the fence and she used her prosthetic arm to carry a portion of the fence.
“I guess I’ll set a double layer and add an industrial defense charm in between. Asama-chi, did you bring one that provides data stealth?”
“No, I didn’t bring any industrial charms. But I can use a temporary amplification spell on a normal charm to strengthen it, so let’s do that instead.”
Masazumi did not know much about this, but she could guess that took incredible skill.
Naomasa removed a portion of the road’s stone-paved block to install the fence. Lifting up the road seemed like a rare thing to do, but her utter lack of hesitation suggested she had experience doing it.
Everyone gained something different from their life on the Musashi.
And that brought something to mind for Masazumi.
…I need to do something that lives up to that.
Mary held Tenzou’s hand and entered the eating space built in front of the Main Blue Thunder.
The wooden arch at the entrance was still there, so…
…I should ask them later if I can decorate it with flowers.
I should choose something that won’t wither in the summer sun and heat, she decided while mentally perusing the available options.
Then she noticed something.
Everyone was performing some kind of work or chatting, but there was one person who simply watched over it all.
When Mary called out to her, Masazumi’s shoulders shook and she turned around. For a moment, it was the confused reaction of someone who had forgotten something. But then she smiled with her eyebrows somewhat bent.
“Y-yes. What is it, Mary? And Mitotsudaira too.”
Instead of Mary, the response came from Mitotsudaira who had joined her and Tenzou on the way here.
She first looked to Mary with a look that said “She was, wasn’t she?”
“You zoned out there for a moment, didn’t you?”
“Yes, sort of. I was thinking.”
She must have thought that was not enough of an answer because she smiled bitterly.
“I was just noticing that we’ve gathered people with a wide variety of skills.”
Hori-ko: “Now, everyone, we have Masazumi-sama’s approval to toot our own horns.”
Tachibana Wife: “I am very proud of the Far Eastern-style tortilla I made today. I was skeptical about serving it to other people with the duck soy sauce that Master Muneshige likes, but since he said I should, I worked hard on it.”
Tachibana Husband: “Ha ha ha. I love how much of a hard worker you are today, Gin.”
Scarred: “Judge. On the way here, Master Tenzou gave me a water lily.”
10ZO: “And, Mary-dono, it was very thoughtful of you to prepare a change of clothes for me as soon as we got back to our room.”
Flat Vassal: “Th-that’s not tooting your own horn! It’s just a husband and wife seeing who can brag about the other more!”
Marube-ya: “Wait! Shiro-kun just gave me some vegetables! It’s nappa cabbage! Let’s see, ‘Make sure this lasts us 3 days. Then we will have money leftover in the food budget.’ You’re so bold, Shiro-kun!! Oh, does this mean we have to wait until the weekend to enjoy any meat!?”
Uqui: “Narumi, your mechanical noises are nice and short today…”
Unturning: “That’s because I reverted them to their Musashi settings. And as far as I can tell from a distance, you’re really showing off with your thruster heat today.”
Righteousness: “…Does that count as bragging?”
Four Eyes: “Then let me take a stab at it. …I see you’ve started sending me name inheritors’ autographs without me asking. This will really help build up my collection. …Your turn.”
Novice: “You’re forcing me to say something!? …And besides, you want those autographs, right? It’s just that we happen to meet a lot of name inheritors while flying around the world. That’s all it is.”
Four Eyes: “…Then if I get a name inheritor’s autograph, I can send one to you too.”
Novice: “You could start by giving me yours!”
Four Eyes: “Send a certain form and I will send it back signed.”
Almost Everyone: “Eeeek!”
Tonbokiri: “Everyone really does have something, don’t they? What about you, Masazumi?”
Vice President: “I think getting through that earlier meeting is impressive enough… Asama, Mitotsudaira, what about you two?”
Asama: “No, we don’t really have anything to say… Right, Mito?”
Silver Wolf: “Yes, nothing at all… Isn’t that right? Yes.”
Mal-Ga: “I smell some good material here… I can tell. I can so tell…”
Worshiper: “I feel like this partner bragging is gradually transforming into something else…”
Masazumi relaxed her shoulders as she listened to everyone’s conversation.
… I guess this means everyone is observing each other pretty well.
She had thought that was a product of knowing each other for so long in the confined space of the Musashi, but an outsider like her and former enemies like the Tachibana Couple, Mary, and the Date Vice Chancellor were fitting in as well.
…For better and for worse, their overall framework of relationships is really loosely built.
They all were easy to get along with and they would readily tease you where it would hit you hardest. But even when they had suspicions, they would not dig too deeply into each other’s issues. They might touch on them, but they would not help resolve them or join them in that resolution.
Nevertheless, they would always cheer each other on and tell them to do things for themselves in the end.
That occasional support had saved Masazumi a few times already.
She would rather it not take the form of pulling down her pants like at Mikawa, but that was likely the same basic idea.
“Honestly…” she muttered while looking around.
…Just because I’m a politician and negotiator doesn’t mean there’s nothing I can do.
She could of course cook. Her mother had taught her. But at the moment…
“I’d like to put together a report to give you all in advance, so is there some space I could use? Oh, and Neshinbara and Bertoni…oh, he’s at the vegetable market. Well, anyone with a moment to spare can answer my questions.”
“Sure thing, Seijun. Let’s head inside for a moment. We’ll open up some space there. Also, Horizon, Asama, and Nate, you three come too.”
“Judge,” said Horizon as she stood up from moving the potted plants in the shade below the eaves.
Asama and Mitotsudaira also responded:
“Um, us too, Toori-kun?”
“Yeah. Masa, you come too in a bit.”
“Sure,” agreed Naomasa.
“I was thinking we could open up a room. After all…”
“Heh heh. Ex – act – ly.”
What, what? thought Masazumi as the Aoi Sister stepped out while roughly wearing her summer uniform.
“We can use this as a chance to mark the end of one stage and the beginning of the next one. Come on in, you two. And you, Horizon. …We have something to show you.”
“There’s a room in here that Horizon used when she used to live here. It’s empty now, though. We’re going to open it today, so come see.”
Horizon looked up at what Kimi said.
She accepted some tea brewed by Asama while below the eaves of the open air café.
“You mean the room used by the previous Horizon…that is, my original model?”
Flat Vassal: “That’s a rather dynamic way of looking at the distinction…”
Righteousness: “Looking at it that way, am I something like a prototype model?”
Wise Sister: “Don’t do it, everyone! Don’t even think that Yoshy has already reached her final model! Some girls these days work day after day to fight against their inherited traits and body type!”
Vice President: “That was pretty cruel, Aoi Sister. …But anyway, Horizon’s room is here?”
“Yeah,” replied the idiot who was wearing a summer uniform for once.
He shook his butt so the skirt fluttered as he turned around. He did that to gesture toward the kitchen entrance in the back of the café.
“C’mon. Oh, you come too if you’re ready, Masa. I can tell you our plan for remodeling the house.”
“Judge,” said Naomasa as she stood up beyond the fence. She grabbed the double fence with her prosthetic arm and shook it. “That should be good enough. …And I will be charging for my services, so be ready for that.”
She then approached with her arm still holding onto the fence.
On an intellectual level, Horizon knew the girl had to have jumped over it.
But it had looked an awful lot like she had simply passed right through it.
“Naomasa-sama, I have an important question before we move on: What was that?”
“Ah? I just used my prosthetic arm.”
Horizon did not know what that meant, but someone tapped on her shoulder: Mitotsudaira.
She smiled with her eyebrows lowered.
“On the arm’s side, she lifted up her body and carried it onto our side. The arm’s balance can be tricky when her body is lifted up, so she took a crouching pose that lifted her legs over the fence. Her head and shoulders remained at the same height, so it can be hard to tell what happened when you aren’t used to it.”
“Is it that unusual?” asked Naomasa. “There are a lot of narrow areas and areas you don’t want to step on in the engine division, so this is pretty normal for anyone with a prosthetic arm.”
Then they heard a creaking from the fence by the entrance.
Narumi, who had arrived with Gin, was holding her forehead on the other side of the fence.
Gin was fixing her slipping hat and Narumi was pinching the bridge of her nose.
“I was careless…!”
“Well, that was sad.”
Next to Narumi, Urquiaga looked to his partner and let his shoulders slump.
“Narumi, even if it sounds like fun, you really shouldn’t try things while we talk.”
“No,” said Gin. “That was my fault for doing it while watching the 6th Special Duty Officer.”
“So could you at least pull off the motion?” asked Naomasa.
The two other prosthetic arm girls turned toward her and slapped the palms of their prosthetic arms on top of the fence.
“Judge, of course.”
They responded in unison, so Horizon applauded.
Both Gin and Narumi’s faces were a light shade of red, Gin cleared her throat, and Narumi walked through the arch with the half-dragon. Then Narumi looked away from the group and toward the back of the café.
“The Vicereine used to live back here?”
“Ohh, are you interested too, Uqui Wife?” said the idiot while he fixed the summer uniform’s chest band.
Hearing that, the others exchanged a glance and Horizon nodded.
“I see,” she said. “It would seem I need to go first. …Let us finish this quickly. We need time for the meeting later.”
Asama approached, so Horizon returned the teacup, stood up, and slapped her belly.
“Okay, I’m ready to go now.”
Naomasa felt like she had not been in the back of the Aoi home for quite a while.
They walked into the kitchen and she took a peek at how someone else lived in their home.
…The last time I was here was to work on the plumbing, wasn’t it?
That had been in middle school and she had changed the height of the kitchen sink.
“Toori said he wanted to use this place to run a café.”
The sink had been set at the average height for a woman, so he had had it raised a bit.
That had required lengthening the water pipe, but there had been a problem.
…By starting back up the main café, he had to use a lot more water for the cooking.
Registering as a business could get approval for a lot of that, but he was not going to run the café to that extent.
That was why Naomasa had added a water purification tank out back to recycle the drain water. However…
“Well, it’s a pretty unique building.”
“It’s hard to tell when you live here,” said the crossdresser as he looked back from the hallway in the back of the kitchen.
When he saw everyone was following, he pointed around from the ceiling.
“It’s made by England’s IZUMO, right?”
“Judge. Probably because it was meant to be a bakery. The connection units are standard, but the space between them and the units of measurement are different. That’s why the water purification tank had to be installed above ground and why I thought I was going crazy while working on it. …It all made sense once I checked the registration information, though.”
“Hmm,” said the others as they looked around the hallway and kitchen.
Then the crossdresser smiled bitterly.
“Hey, hey. There’s nothing hidden around here other than porn games.”
“Anyway, Toori-sama, to get back on topic: I used to live here?”
“Right, right. You moved her after your mom passed away.”
“How long did I live here?”
“About three years, I think?”
“No,” said Asama. “It was two years and five months. Sorry for the unnecessary detail.”
…Asama-chi sure is caring.
Naomasa smiled bitterly at her friend’s concern.
The idiot would die if he felt sorrow.
So even though he was estimating, Asama had stopped the idiot from making things worse by rounding up the time they spent together. And by correcting him, she could also show the idiot that she too knew this.
She really is a caring girl, thought Naomasa, but then Asama suddenly stepped forward with her eyebrows somewhat raised.
“Ah! Wait. Excuse me a moment.”
“Huh? What is it, Asama?”
“Um, sorry, but I need to visit Kimi’s room.”
“Oh!? Are you interested in my bed!? You are, aren’t you!? Then you can go warm it up for me! But make sure you don’t get boob prints in it! Or O-Prints as I like to call them!”
“Sis, wouldn’t Pai-Prints be clearer?”
“Heh heh heh. Foolish brother? That precedent would mean dick prints have the nonsensical abbreviation of Ck-Prints. So to make sure we end up with D-Prints, it has to be O-Prints here. See? The rules put dicks first!”
Asama ignored all of that, pushed aside the curtain to Kimi’s room, and stepped inside. And immediately…
“Ah! Kimi, you arranged my clothes in a human shape doing a ‘suuuuuun!’ pose! We’re not an Amaterasu shrine, so please don’t do that!”
What kind of pose is that? wondered Naomasa as the idiot pointed further down the hallway.
“The room next to sis’s and mine is the one Horizon used to live in.”
“I see,” said one of the people standing alongside Naomasa: Horizon. “Why did you not reveal this information earlier?”
“Hmm. I think you’ll understand once you see it. Masa, Asama, you come too.”
“Oh, yes! Wait just a moment!”
Asama must have been rushing because she came out while holding a summer uniform shirt. When Naomasa and the others followed the idiot, they soon reached the end of the hallway.
Next to their rooms on the left was the entrance to the room that used to be Horizon’s.
The bath and bathroom were on the other side.
So they looked to the left.
“Toori-sama, can you open it?”
“Judge, take a look.”
The idiot opened the door to show the girls who had followed him.
Suzu sensed what was beyond the opened door.
The wind moved and the sound spread out.
The way her ears sensed the scene, it was like an empty space had suddenly appeared on the left side of the hallway.
But there was a back end to that space.
The sounds made by everyone’s breaths and movements reflected off of that, so the inside of the space was revealed to her like she was reaching out and feeling it.
The reverberating sounds came from just inside. But even if there was an obstacle, she could circle behind it.
There were walls, a ceiling, and a floor. By understanding that, the state of things inside was rapidly revealed to her.
But after checking through some of it, Suzu said the same thing as someone else: Mitotsudaira.
They both expressed confusion.
Horizon had lived in that room. That was what they had been told, but once the door was opened, they found something there.
The room had been cleaned up and the futon and such were piled up in the back.
No matter how she perceived it, there was only one way to describe it.
“This is a…guest room…”
It was no longer Horizon’s room.
- ↑ O from oppai which means boobs.
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