Horizon:Volume 6B Chapter 42

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Chapter 42: Chicks of the Gathering Nest[edit]

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There is no need to grow stubborn

When surprisingly enjoyable

Confusion is a luxury

Point Allocation (Photo Shoot)


Festival flames wavered in the southern sky.

The Roi-Soleil viewed them from atop Paris’s wall. He was surrounded by Belle de Marionnette guards and he voiced his thoughts from the stone wall.

“Enemy though they may be, festivals have such wonderful atmospheres. I can just sense the enjoyment radiating from it.”

He received a response from below.

“Hashiba does love their luxuries. Even if this is only a recreation, they do their entertainment right.”

“Testament. So even with your grudge against Hashiba, you can still judge them fairly there. …Flying Katou.”

“Testament,” said an old man kneeling beside the Roi-Soleil.

He looked to the left and right.

“Where are Bernard and his dragons?”

“At the northern beach. …They said they will have fish for dinner. They brought some white wine with them.”

“A Celestial Dragon is sharing a meal with Terrestrial Dragons?”

“Do you have a family, Danzou?”

The old man, Danzou, fell briefly silent at that question. And finally…

“…I left them in Sanada.”

“Great Teacher! Great Teacher! There you are! I’ve been looking for you!”

Seikai ran up the stairs to the top of the wall and the Roi-Soleil smiled and pointed at him.

“Your home town must have been lots of fun.”

“Testament. My incompetent students are such an embarrassment. …Excuse me.”

Danzou stood up and walked toward Seikai with audible footsteps.

“What is wrong with you!? You are in the presence of the Roi-Soleil, so make sure you kneel!”

“Oh, my apologies. Great Teacher. Here is a souvenir from Sanada.”

“Huh…? Seikai, I hear you have been good at this sort of thing ever since you were in Shikoku, but…ohhh, are these konetsuke mochi!? You…wait, how did you forget my favorite: the mincemeat one!?”

“Oh, my apologies, Great Teacher. There was a starving man on the way here and what kind of Sanada ninja would I be if I didn’t save his life? …Yes, and that starving man was me.”

“Damn yoooou!!”

“Ha ha. You two get along so well.”

Danzou and Seikai turned toward the Roi-Soleil’s laughter. Danzou forced Seikai’s head down and the Roi-Soleil cast his gaze across Paris.

“Look.”

“Testament,” said everyone else as they looked to Paris.

They saw a giant festival pot there.

Paris’s interior had been divided by stealth barriers to keep anyone from seeing in, but now only a largescale barrier covered it from above. Since the battle had yet to start, the interior barriers had been removed so everyone could see each other, so the city could air out, and…

“—————”

…so a festival could be held.

Tables lined with food filled the streets and kegs of wine and beer were prepared here and there.

“…!”

People spoke, told stories, laughed, and danced together.

Mouses ran around the city and occasionally used a spell to launch fireworks.

No part of the city was left dark and even the shadows of the buildings and Lourd de Marionnettes were faded by the lighting from multiple directions.

Armand spoke from among the guards viewing that scene.

“Humans are such a mystery. Why do you hold festivals like this? If you wish to pray for victory, then you only need to pray, so why do you cause such a commotion in the name of ‘celebration’? It feels like it contaminates your prayers if you ask me.”

He was answered by Henri who stood on the other side of the guards. She looked across Paris and viewed the festival permeating every centimeter of it.

“They want an excuse to cause a commotion, Armand. If they can find one of those, they will cause a commotion no matter the time or place. Also, drinking alcohol and eating meat is a ritual for accepting that power into their bodies as a blessing. So they do have a justification, Armand.”

“That is an interesting interpretation, Henri, Armand.” The Roi-Soleil gave a “heh” of laughter. “But the people of Paris are hard workers, Henri, Armand. I mean, I live here and yet they do not throw a festival every single day. What can you call that if not a dedication to hard work?”

Seikai tilted his head.

“Roi-Soleil, don’t they actually treat you pretty bad-…”

Danzou hit him to knock him down onto the floor.

The Roi-Soleil ignored that solid sound and turned his gaze back to the southern sky and then the east.

“Now, we have the larger festival, Hashiba. …Has anyone predicted when the battle will begin tomorrow?”

“Testament,” said Henri. “Hashiba is even now continuing the reinforcement of its construction work. We believe the battle will begin tomorrow afternoon at 2.”

“So a major counterattack for a post-lunch workout? Not bad. …Terumoto’s group begins at 1 in the afternoon, so they are starting before us.”

The Roi-Soleil crossed his arms and nodded into the eastern sky.

“I wonder if Terumoto, Musashi’s phony nudist, the Reine des Garous, and the rest are enjoying themselves below that sky.”


“E-excuse me, um, I know you must be enjoying yourselves, but, uh, my room has been squashed in a whole lot,” said Toori.

“Judge. …We needed our own living space.”

Horizon responded while laying out her futon. Kimi and Asama did the same with theirs, but Mitotsudaira was speaking with her parents who were sitting at the hallway end of the room.

“Um, mother, father? You will be using my king’s parents’ bedroom, so you can go get ready there.”

“Oh, Nate. Are you embarrassed? Don’t worry. We are more than ready already.”

For what? wondered Mitotsudaira with a cold sweat, but she decided it would be best not to ask. Her mother would provide a demonstration.

Then a silhouette approached on the other side of the hallway curtain.

“Hey, you okay?”

It was her king.

So she made eye contact with everyone. Horizon and Asama nodded and Kimi picked up a pillow and started slapping it, saying “C’mon! C’mon!” Mitotsudaira ignored that last one.

“Everything is fine, my king.”

“Judge. I’ve brought some food, but what order should we use for the bath? Should I go first?”

Her king opened the curtain and stepped in. Her father reacted to that question.

Her father looked exactly the same as he had in the past and he must have been somewhat cautious of her king because he bowed toward him.

Then her father gestured toward the hallway and spoke.

“Oh, my wife and I can go either last or first.”

“Ohh,” breathed Asama and Kimi.

Kimi elbowed Asama’s shoulder and Asama responded with a serious expression.

“So they take their baths together…”

“My, my… And I was just about to say he seemed so reserved.”

“That was a trick, wasn’t it!? A trick question!”

Mitotsudaira’s mother narrowed her eyes in a smile.

“Don’t worry. We are borrowing someone else’s bath here, so we’ll make sure to be done in only 2 hours.”

Done with what? wondered Mitotsudaira with a cold sweat in her heart, but she decided it would be best not to ask. Her mother would explain.

Then her king carried in the tray he had left out in the hallway.

“Okay, let’s eat. For Horizon and sis, I have apple pie. For Asama, I have that white peach pie you were eyeing when Bell-san took it home with her. …For Nate, I have a duck crush pie. For Mito’s mom, I have a smoked steak with the Aoi family recipe jam. For her dad, I have a citrus mousse.”

“I-isn’t one of those more involved than the others?”

“Nate, being a mother is not easy,” said her mother.

“Yes, but let’s eat.”

With that, her father looked to her mother and her before pressing his hands together.

Ah.

It had been a while since she did this family ritual.

Her father must have been fairly nervous. Both her memories of him and the periodic divine mails he sent her told her how thoughtful a person he was.

As a daughter living far away from home, that had been reassuring and appreciated. But scenes like this showed his thoughtfulness in a different light.

Wise Sister: “…I know this is rude, but he’s like a small animal.”

Asama: “Eh!? I thought you were going to call him a rare beast!”

Flat Vassal: “W-wow, I wish I could see this!”

Silver Wolf: “Should we really leave this open to the entire class!?”

But the next thing she knew, Horizon, Kimi, Asama, and her king were doing the same thing as her father.

Tomo, is this okay from a religious perspective?

She gave Asama a look and the girl shrugged.

Asama: “Shinto isn’t very strict.”

That was somewhat reassuring but also worrying in a different way.

But her father began to speak.

“Meeting new people is the greatest blessing God has given us, so we should make our farewells as fulfilling as possible. Amen.”

That varied a little too much from a standard pre-meal prayer, but that was the way of things in her family.

She had not understood what it meant when she was younger, but now she felt like she did.

That is not limited to mealtimes.

After what had happened in Hexagone Française and M.H.R.R., she could see how much more was included in that prayer.

“…Wait, mother! Why are you already eating!?”

“Wh-what are you talking about? I’m only separating out your father’s portion…oh, this is so good.”

“Are you eating it without even noticing!?”

“Oh, Nate, you eat yours too,” said her king.

But everyone relaxed after her king poured them some tea from the teapot. Mitotsudaira saw her father eating a scrap of meat her mother gave him.

He must have been nervous being in someone else’s home.

He was scooted right next to his wife and just about leaning against her while he ate.

In front of the king, he hung his head a bit as he placed the fork in his mouth.

“…”

And he stopped.


Eh?

Mitotsudaira panicked when her father stopped moving.

Had he eaten something bad?

He had always liked cooking. Her king was also a good cook, but her father had his preferences.

Was the food prepared for his wife’s tastes not working out for him?

But he suddenly resumed moving.

He used his fork to get some of the sauce on his wife’s steak plate and placed it in his mouth.

“…Nn.”

Hearing that, the king stopped drinking his tea and turned around.

“Is something the matter?”

“Eh?” said her father with a start.

He instantly blushed and hesitated, but…

“Did you make this?”

Kimi waved her arms left and right in an exaggerated fashion, but they ignored her.

The king nodded lightly toward the father.

“Judge. How is it?”

“…It’s interesting. Oh, it tastes fine. I’m sure Miss Loup-Garou likes it too.”

“Miss Loup-Garou?” asked Asama with a tilt of her head.

Th-that’s what he calls her when they’re alone!

But Mitotsudaira could not exactly say that. Meanwhile, her mother smiled bitterly and lightly tapped her father’s shoulder.

“It tastes good. I served you this when you were at our house, so you made some modifications to that, didn’t you? …You made it a little sourer, and…”

“Yes,” continued the father.

He may have been intentionally supporting what his wife had said. He stabbed his fork into the fruit in the sauce on her plate.

“The flavor is quite good.”

He sounded somewhat excited.

But instead of stopping himself, he leaned forward and asked the king a question.

“I can make something similar with an apple jam, but it wouldn’t have this consistency. …What is this?”

“Oh, I took quinces pickled in sugar and sliced them up.”

“Quinces?” asked the mother. She made a circle with her index finger and thumb. “Aren’t those only this big?”

“Those are Western quinces, which are also known as Western loquats. The Eastern ones have fist-sized fruits.”

“Oh?”

Both parents focused on the king.

The king responded to their gazes with a slicing gesture.

“I thought they would give some nice texture behind the meat. It would be a little much on a daily basis, but these things are important at times like this, right?”

“I see,” said the father while the mother used her knife to taste just the sauce portion.

“The ingredient has some real volume to it. But it doesn’t have a cloying smell and it’s more like an apple than anything…”

“They’re from the rose family just like apples, so that’s probably why they have a nice scent. But they’re too hard to eat as-is, so you need to pickle them in something first. But that hardness makes it easier to slice them up for a sauce like this. I gave Nate some before and she quite liked it.”

“My.” The mother turned toward Mitotsudaira, narrowed her eyes, and laughed. “Sounds like he’s really taking care of you.”

Heat instantly filled her body and an unpleasant sweat soaked her.

But her father looked to her king and her.

“Really?”

“Eh? Um, uh, the quinces were, uh, well, from one of the times he brought food to my place…”

None of that denied what her mother had said.

But her father smiled a little.

“I’m glad.”

Eh?

Just as she thought about what that meant, her king asked her a question.

“But, Nate. …Did I ever manage to reproduce Nate Papan’s sauce?”

Only then did Mitotsudaira realize what her father’s words had meant.


Ah, thought Asama.

This is a very important time.

So she held her breath.

She did not want to intrude on this short but dense time between her friend and that friend’s parents. So…

Do your best.

Asama supported her friend in her heart.

I know you can do it, Mito.

Yes.

Because you can even speak with your mom now.


Judge.

Mitotsudaira regulated her breathing and understood everything.

She understood what her father had meant with “I’m glad”.

He was not saying he was glad for himself. He was saying he was glad for her.

But she could not just leave it like that.

She had to quickly reply that he was overthinking this.

So she leaned forward and spoke to her father.

She placed a hand on her chest while putting on an expression that was not too insistent.

“I don’t think anyone can make the meat dishes you do, father.”

So…

“Could you cook some tomorrow, maybe? The bottled sauce just isn’t the same.”

She saw her father’s eyes widen slightly before he finally smiled a little.

“Really?”

He smiled toward her king.

“Thank you.”

It was a short exchange.

But for Mitotsudaira…

Yes.

I’m glad, she thought.

Her father had a reserved personality, so when he accepted that there was someone here who would feed her, he must have decided to hand over everything.

He had decided that his daughter no longer needed him.

That was what it meant to let your child go. But that way of doing it meant making your child into a stranger. That was one way of doing it, but when looking at how he felt about it…

Hori-ko: “He said thank you… Good job.”

That was it.

Her king had created a compromise.

He could feed the wolf who had come to his house, but only the wolf’s family could cook the food of her family.

So as his daughter, she had been able to say there was no need to throw that out.

I’m glad.

Mitotsudaira repeated her father’s words with both meanings.

That exchange had allowed her to demonstrate that she would be fine living away from her parents while also maintaining that bond with them.

She probably would have noticed what was going on regardless, but given the timing and her own personality, she was not sure she could have handled it quite so well.

Thank you, my king.

And just as she breathed a mental sigh…

Wise Sister: “Heh heh. Now you have the approval of both parents!”

Kimi’s words clued Mitotsudaira into the true meaning of what had just happened.


Asama felt heat radiating from Mitotsudaira.

Everyone had finished eating their food and the wolf’s parents were discussing cooking with him.

But Mitotsudaira had yet to touch her own food.

That hit her pretty hard…

One’s own awareness and someone else’s acknowledgement were two very different things.

Mitotsudaira had viewed her mother as an enemy and was seeing her father for the first time in a long time. As for what that meant…

Hori-ko: “Her parents seem to be raising death flags like crazy. Will they be okay?”

Asama: “Well, there’s always the example of Tenzou-kun. He raised death flags like crazy, but managed to survive and even brought a wife back with him.”

10ZO: “Th-that was a man’s determination! It was determination!”

Meanwhile, Mitotsudaira’s parents and he began exchanging divine mail addresses. They also checked a cooking site, but was that a page Mitotsudaira’s parents had made?

Toori-kun is so good at making friends…

Asama could do it as part of the shrine business, but she was not sure she could do it so naturally. She tended to erect walls around her using her position as the Asama Shrine Representative.

But after their discussion, Mitotsudaira’s mother turned toward her daughter.

“Okay, Nate. We’ve eaten some meat, so we’ll take our bath first.”

“Are you going to stay in there for two hours?”

The daughter sighed, but it was not her parents who reacted. Nor was it him.

It was Kimi. She watched him leave with the stack of plates.

“Okay, let’s have some fun with a photo shoot. To celebrate you moving in.”

“A photo shoot?”

Asama asked, but she did know what that meant.

They would sometimes do that when gathered at someone’s house.

Kimi seemed to have been fine-tuning a photography spell originally meant for taking pictures of yourself or the scenery.

“We made body pillows for everyone before, didn’t we…?”

“Yes.” Horizon nodded. “Who will be the victims this time?”

“H-Horizon, you’re plotting something, aren’t you!?”

Kimi narrowed her eyes at Mitotsudaira’s yelled words. She crawled over and rested her cheek on Asama’s thigh.

“Asama? Mitotsudaira? You brought swimsuits with you, didn’t you?”

“Eh?”

She had seen right through them.

Asama thought about lying, but she could not. Her substitutions kept her from lying.

She tried to figure out what to do, but the words left her before she settled on anything.

“U-umm, I-I did, but…yes, I brought one.”

“Of course you did. You have one for the jacuzzi and your morning purification when you sleep over somewhere.”

That was true.

When doing the morning purification alone, she would do it naked, but when with someone else, it was easier on the other person if she wore a swimsuit. When taking a bath, she would end up doing purifying acts along with them, but when doing a formal purification, she would use the swimsuit.

And during our sleepovers, everyone gets drunk, talks about indecent things, and snacks like crazy, so I end up with so much impurity…

She had a set prepared for the morning purification when spending the night at someone else’s house.

As for Mitotsudaira’s swimsuit…

“Yes, Suzu-san and I prepared a new one for Mito. It combines the design of the one Mito has been using with the Asama Shrine’s charm unit. Since Mito’s kept almost coming off during the study camp.”

“Nate… You have nothing for the swimsuit to hold onto, do you?”

“Th-that had more to do with someone nearly taking it off of me!”

Yes, that may have been the case.

But however she had interpreted this, Kimi gave a nasal laugh.

“Then let’s get started. While Mitotsudaira’s maman and papan are enjoying themselves.”

“Wh-what about me!? I could crossdress and…gfhh!”

The crossdresser stuck his head through the curtain and Horizon downed him in the same turn.

What is even going on?

But anyway, thought Asama. Kimi is probably trying to help us relax.

They could free themselves to a state of near nudity in this room.

For Mitotsudaira, that was probably a lot like putting her scent on the place or building her den. For Asama, it let her judge her “freedom” in this space.

He was doing the same. When he had brought them the food here…

He was showing us that this is our home.

Eating was a personal act.

They had been served the pies and breads they were familiar with at the Main Blue Thunder, while Mitotsudaira’s parents were served dinner food and different sorts of sweets. Asama could see the meaning there.

Those two were guests and the others lived here.

“…What am I even supposed to say about this?”

With that, Asama looked to the curtain wall.

I don’t have to set up a barrier, do I?

She used that as her own form of allowance and then she nodded to Kimi.

“We have a battle to fight tomorrow, so how about we enjoy ourselves some tonight?”

“Oh, you’re onboard?”

“Well.” Asama felt a belated blush on her cheeks. “You’ll make it a fun photo shoot, won’t you? It’s our first day here, after all.”


The next morning was cloudy.

They were not rain clouds and they did not entirely obscure the sky. The summer air currents had created a thick layer of clouds over coastal Odawara and it was spreading out and flowing toward the sea.

The summer sunlight above made the low clouds glow dully. Below them, several forces were gathering in the sky above Odawara.

Houjou, Mouri, and Musashi were there. Mogami’s Yamagata Castle arrived from the north, as did Sviet Rus’s Fukushima Castle and its accompanying aerial ships.

First, the Houjou fleet took its position in the sky to secure air superiority and manage the battlefield. The other fleets passed by below it.

Next, Sviet Rus moved to the west of Odawara while Mogami and Musashi moved to the east.

P.A. Oda’s Kanie Castle had arrived ahead of the rest, so it was positioned in an artificial lake to the north.

Finally, the Mouri fleet set up its formation in the south.

“Now then, everyone. At noon, Odawara will be opened up as a battlefield.

Everyone within every group exchanged a glance and nodded at Houjou Ujinao’s divine transmission.

Each force’s warriors set up a formation around Odawara Castle and the city

They were preparing for a festival.

Just like with Hashiba, each camp was setting up a festival at Odawara.

Of course, what really mattered were the representatives who would participate in the battle.

They were individuals, but they were also the representatives of nations.

“National interests are at stake here, so we can’t hold back.”

Just as Houjou Shigenaga said on the Fukushima Castle, they were all fully focused on preparing for their duels.

The festival was beginning.


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Study:

Siege of Odawara

Toori: Sis! Sis! The Siege of Odawara is starting, but what’s that gonna be like!?

Kimi: Heh heh heh. Siege brother, this is what the terrain looks like.


Top left: Mountains

Top middle: Forest

Top right: Road

Diagonal white rectangle: Kanie Castle

Black oval: Artificial Lake

White square on right: Musashi Camp

Circle around Musashi Camp: Hill

White rectangle on left: Odawara Castle

Bottom: Odawara City


Toori: Looks like something from an old game… You clear the city, go to the castle, and complete a maze in the end…

Kimi: Yes, that is generally how it worked with side-scrolling games starring ninjas.

Toori: But this is a top-down view? Oh, yeah! Everything’s 3D these days! Let’s put in some nude mods!

Kimi: Hey, gamer boy. Gamer boy. Focus on reality here.