Horizon:Volume 8B Chapter 36
Chapter 36: Chooser at the Rendezvous Point
You made her cry
You made her cry
You made her cry
Point Allocation (Don’t Get Carried Away!)
I can’t believe them, thought Unno as she waved her right hand dismissively.
…When they decide someone is one of theirs, they do not half-ass it.
Maybe that came with being a minority species. Or maybe they saw the dragons as the guardians of everyone who lived in Sanada.
She appreciated it either way. But…
“Yeah? You got a problem with this!?”
“You were planning to kick her out since she and her group are why we came to Sanada, right?”
“Once you kicked her out, you thought it would be easier to say we’re their equals here in Sanada, right?”
The three Terrestrial Dragons grew defensive.
“N-no! W-we weren’t doing this for you or anything!”
“Y-yeah! Dragons are a combat race, so we get aggressive! That’s all!”
“Don’t get such a big head, young lady! Do that again and we’re not defending you next time! Got that, babe!?”
Mochizuki slowly turned toward Unno.
“Why the effeminate pitch to the voice?”
“He’s so busy trying to hide his embarrassment I think he went crazy.”
It was embarrassing for Unno as well.
…They must think that stuff in our past still bothers us.
There was truth to that, but only some at this point.
They had gotten a lot better about it since the Siege of Odawara. But…
“And you. Now, I know we attacked you here, but…”
Unno addressed Katou Kiyomasa.
…That is some heavy-duty equipment.
She had only had Caledfwlch when they had fought in the past.
Saizou had been her opponent, but it had been more of a group battle than a series of individual duels, so there had been no clear divisions between who fought who. Still, Sasuke and Saizou had been separated out by this girl and Fukushima to buy some time.
Caledfwlch had not fired any glowing attacks back then, so she may have been holding back.
…No, she’s probably grown stronger since then.
Her equipment was different too, so she would have been less experienced back then.
But, thought Unno as she took a breath and stepped toward Kiyomasa.
Instead of approaching, it was more like stepping in for a better view.
5 meters was beyond arm’s reach, but within another step of it. She crossed her arms and viewed the girl from that distance.
Hearing her voice, Kiyomasa turned her way.
There was caution in her eyes and she was prepared to move at any moment.
But Unno spoke her thoughts about the girl she saw here.
“You weren’t this irritable before, were you?”
Kiyomasa realized something from Unno’s question.
What had she just done?
She would have died if she had not reacted and she had been kind enough to cast a blunt impact conversion spell on Caledfwlch.
She could explain her actions, but she had been the first to strike.
Their words had so infuriated her that she had launched an attack with Caledfwlch.
But thinking back…
…What was it they said?
The Terrestrial Dragons had refused to acknowledge her as a threat. And then…
…They said their real enemy would be Fukushima.
Someone who wasn’t here.
A terrible person. A liar. A liar who tried to deny it.
But once they even jokingly referred to her as an enemy…
Why did that make me so angry? thought Kiyomasa.
I said what I wanted to say, I cried, and I ran away, but…
Now I’m doing this.
Unno saw Kiyomasa stick Caledfwlch in the ground and cover her face with her hands.
Unno was unsure how her question had led to this, but…
“Eh? Hey, wait.”
Just as she reached out, the trio of dragons shouted in unison and the collapsed herbivore got up and joined them.
“You made her cry!!”
Unno realized the Terrestrial Dragons were pointing and protesting her actions.
“Hey, Unno! Why the hell’d you make her cry!?”
“Wow, that’s messed up! Like, really messed up! You only had to approach her to make her cry!”
“I mean, some delinquent girl in a track suit suddenly stepped out of the forest. That would make anyone cry.”
“Y-you were having a big kaiju battle!!” shouted Unno.
“Ehh? We’re not kaiju. We’re Terrestrial Dragons.”
Damn them, she thought, but then the herbivore ran over, also pointing at her.
“Hey! Is that any way to treat a guest sent by Hashiba-sama!? …I am so very sorry about this. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t have her makeup on, but our ninj- I, uh, mean, our somewhat gawdy girl is saying some things she doesn’t mean. Just leave this to me and I assure you I will make sure she never again-”
Mochizuki swiftly threw a sign frame that stabbed into his forehead.
“This is your work quota for the day. It appears you have yet to complete it, so please rectify that.”
“R-really!? You’re using your own Chancellor as a gofer!?”
“No. Everyone is eager to see you demonstrate your skills and I do not wish to disappoint them.”
I’ve never seen Mochizuki make such a big fake smile before, thought Unno, but the herbivore seemed to get the message.
“Oh!?” He spun around once. “Then maybe I should go help out my subordinates! …Hey, you! Treat our guests with respect! Got that!?”
“Tes, tes. Just get going.”
“Will do,” he said before running off with surprising speed. He always had a surprising level of skill, but his usual behavior did more than enough to keep it surprising.
But the real problem was still here.
Weeping Kiyomasa had reached the part where she wiped away the tears. She should be able to hear me at least, decided Unno.
“So, um, how about you come with me?” She pointed her thumb up toward the Sanada city and Sanada Academy. “We can grab some tea.”
“Unno-sama, are you hitting on her?” asked Mochizuki.
Mitotsudaira had thought they would start with some tea, but she was immediately proven wrong.
The Main Blue Thunder was her king’s home. She was living there too and had brought her things there, but…
“The place really has changed.”
The space given to them for rooms had originally been her king and Kimi’s rooms, just with added curtain partitions. If anything, they had Kimi to thank for opening the place up to give them space, but…
“They removed the wall to the adjacent unopened room.”
Asama stepped into a large space kept separate with a curtain divider.
The entire space had tatami mats elevated by wooden boards. Curtains hanging from the ceiling created rooms of about 5 square meters. Each of those counted as one of their rooms and there was another curtain dividing them down the center.
“That gives us some privacy if the curtain to the hallway is open, doesn’t it?”
That would be for when they were changing or trying to focus on studying.
Which would mean they generally left the hallway-side curtain open, letting anyone in and creating something like a garden in front of the rear partition.
“Oh,” said Asama.
In the back, there were no boards elevating the tatami mats, creating a lower space, but the floor there was made to be removed. There were also hooks for hanging shelves above there.
…I could put a dresser on the side…no, the side would be for underwear and everyday items. The dresser could be attached to the hanger from the ceiling and hold my uniform and everyday clothing.
“Heh heh. Redecorating the place in your heads already, you two?”
Kimi placed her elbow on Mitotsudaira’s shoulder from behind and, irritatingly enough, guessed exactly what Mitotsudaira was thinking.
She brushed off Kimi’s arm and sighed. She knew what she had to ask the girl.
“Did mother set this up?”
Kimi immediately opened a sign frame and sent a divine transmission to the Blue Thunder.
“Mom! Mitotsudaira just called you mother!”
“Good, good. I like the sound of that.”
“Now!” Kimi turned the sign frame toward Asama. “You too!”
“Eh? Eh!? Oh, um, well.” Asama bowed toward the sign frame. “Th-thank you for having us.”
“Ha ha ha. That works too! I’ve just got to tell Asama-kun that Tomo-chan is mine now!”
“And last but not least! Horizon, you’re up!”
“Owner, do you need my help tonight preparing for tomorrow morning?”
Horizon did not miss a beat.
“Heh.” Horizon raised both thumbs. “Composure and always having a plan is how Super Horizon does things.”
“I only need two more Logismoi Oplo before I am Perfect Horizon, so that title seems apt. Also, Owner, I can always send just my arms to assist tonight.”
“Hmm, last time you did that, the arms started kneading dough and chopping firewood without turning on the lights. Someone saw it while out on a walk and fainted.”
“Judge. I should have them turn the lights on, then.”
“Could you do that please?”
Won’t that just make the horror easier to see? But…
“Tell me if there’s anything you don’t like. I wouldn’t have a café in the surface city if I was hurting financially, after all. Also I feel like celebrating this momentous occasion. …If you want a second floor, we can have one built.”
“N-no, we don’t need that much.”
“Oh, you’ll want more eventually. I used to think we could get by with an even smaller place. When people first move in, they tend to restrain themselves more than average, so you’ll eventually want to cut loose and relax.”
Was that how it worked? Still…
“You’ll see that play out in our future interactions,” continued her king’s mother.
“By interactions, do you mean like conversations?”
“Yes,” said the woman. “There are people you feel comfortable telling anything you want and then there are people you feel comfortable telling even the things that don’t need to be said. The former requires a balance between the two sides, but the latter only requires the listener to put up with it. This is the same. …When you get past your restraint, will you become the former or the latter? It’s wrong to find you can’t say anything to someone, but it’s also wrong to force them to listen to things they don’t want to hear, right? You need a balance between what you want to say and what you don’t want the other person to have to listen to. And this applies to more than just conversations. There’s also the distance you put between each other. So keep all this in mind.”
“Oh.” Asama looked up in response. “So ‘what’s necessary’ and ‘what doesn’t need to be said’ are different things.”
“You like your nitpicky details, don’t you, Tomo-chan?”
“Well, you could say that’s my job.”
“That can’t be easy,” said the woman and Mitotsudaira felt much the same.
“We are not going to make things easy for Asama-sama, are we?” said Horizon, arms crossed.
“Yeah, well, I’m prepared for that. Sort of.”
“Judge.” Horizon nodded and raised her right hand. “Then let us allot rooms via rock-paper-scissors.”
When Horizon suddenly suggested they choose the rooms with rock-paper-scissors, Asama responded with confusion.
“Okay!” responded Kimi on reflex. “Everyone start with pa- rock! Freeze!”
Playing paper based on that initial syllable had been a mistake.
“Kimi.” Mitotsudaira glared at her. “Switching from paper to rock means the people who react to the second part lose.”
Mitotsudaira had played rock. So had Kimi. That meant Asama’s paper beat both of them, but…
“Then this was my victory.”
Horizon had played scissors, but her claim to victory was more of a “because she says so” thing than anything.
This gave Horizon the closest room to Toori’s. From there, it was Asama, Mitotsudaira, and Kimi.
“We can go with this for the first week,” said Horizon. “From there, we can periodically change rooms based on a rotation or more rock-paper-scissors.”
“Why?” asked Mitotsudaira.
“Judge. Because it means I don’t have to clean up my- because it will keep things fresh and help air out the place.”
Asama was only finding more things to add to her to-do list.
From there, they continued to work out their relative roles in this new household as they moved their luggage to the appropriate rooms and shut the dividing curtains.
Now it really felt like she was starting a new life.
Asama checked the state of the partitions on a sign frame. The sign frame allowed residents to check on the Main Blue Thunder’s generic divine protections and it already had each of their rooms registered.
Any divine protections set to open mode could be checked through that sign frame. The fact that an estimated monthly ether usage was set to visible showed the Aoi family knew what kind of life they lived.
It was unusual for Asama to see household settings like this. When she was doing Asama Shrine work, the system would be fully unlocked for her, so…
…Wait. Can’t I use my authority to do that here too?
But she had a feeling the Aoi family would politely decline an offer to give them unlimited use of a public service like that. Was that part of the restraint thing from before? Still, it would probably be best to discuss it with them eventually.
“Hmm,” groaned Asama.
There was a lot to think about concerning the sign frame in front of her, but she knew she was only pretending to think. It was her way to forcibly calm herself regarding the current situation.
The side curtain leading to Horizon’s room was waving in the shape of an arm for some reason or other. Hopefully that wasn’t too much of a cause for concern. The arm shape in the curtain would occasionally crawl or hop up nearly to the ceiling, so it may have been part of Horizon’s dream redecoration.
…Oh, they’re using the noise blocking.
The sign frame showed that no one outside their rooms would be able to hear what was happening within. She had supplied and set up that spell, so she appreciated that it had come in handy. But…
Still in her summer uniform and without unloading her luggage from the wicker basket cart, she sat down on the tatami mats.
Now she could think of the Asama Shrine as her childhood home. It was no longer her current home.
The tatami mats here were so new. She recalled that the ones in her Asama Shrine room dated back to her father’s generation. Thinking that they might be even older made her feel oddly homesick.
She decided to pull out her pajamas, but after being called “defenseless” so many times, she had made sure to bring underwear from the Asama Shrine this time.
“And a spare uniform.”
Oh, she realized. It’s summer break.
She had completely forgotten with all her official duties and a life that seemed to be a constant back and forth between Suzu’s bathhouse and the Student Council rec room with the occasional stop by the Asama Shrine.
She had her shrine maiden uniform for her Shinto work, but she had casual clothing as well. She had even packed a yukata even though she probably didn’t need it.
I was more serious about this than I thought.
She sighed and walked on her knees toward the futon folded up near the window.
She unfolded it and then flopped down on top of it.
She looked to the ceiling above, realizing she would see that every morning from now on.
When they had stayed here the other day, everyone had been sleeping wherever and they were all packed in close together, so it had felt like their usual sleepovers – something just for fun. But now…
It suddenly hit her that this was her home now.
She had not truly left the Asama Shrine to come here. She could return there any time she wanted. Her father had said so and she felt that way too.
So this didn’t replace her old home – it was an additional home.
Kind of amazing that just lying here on the futon made me realize all that.
But, she thought.
I’m not just visiting here.
I am here.
No, I should say I am here too.
She reached both hands toward the ceiling. Her fingers clutched at the air, like she was trying to grasp the light from the illumination spell.
But she wanted to remember every thought she had had today.
She was the Asama Shrine’s heir. She was Musashi’s Shinto #2 and its top representative after her father.
But now she had a home other than the Asama Shrine.
I can relax more, can’t I? she realized.
So she breathed in, relaxed her chest, and let the tension drain from her body.
What do I do now? We need dinner. Maybe I should make it. But if he’s going to do it, I can leave Horizon in charge there. So maybe a bath? Purification is my job. Cleaning and water heating are common spells, so…
“Okay.” She took a breath. “There’s a lot to do, isn’t there?”
A smile found its way to her lips and she held a hand to her cheek, as if touching her own emotion.
“There’s so much I can do.”
“Lying on the futon, her clothing disheveled, Asama said, ‘There’s so much I can do for you.’ ”
Hearing a voice, she gasped and sat up.
She spotted Naruze and Naito’s faces through the hallway curtain.
Mitotsudaira tilted her head at the strange “eek” or “ohh!?” she heard from the partition next to her.
She had set the partition to block all noise while she was unpacking her luggage, checking the shelf positions, and so on. But…
…If they haven’t set the noise blocking, it can still reach me.
Asama hadn’t set hers, proving herself to be as defenseless as ever. She had laid out her futon and now there were sounds of rustling clothing and quiet voices.
…Wh-what is she doing!?
Still Got It: “Nate! I just heard you referred to your king’s mother as ‘mother’! To avoid confusion, you should start calling me ‘maman’ like you did when you were litt-”
She shattered the sign frame. Who told her about that? she wondered before immediately realizing Kimi would have exchanged addresses with her mother. And she felt it was important to get closer to her king’s mother anyway.
…There’s no escape.
Still, she was starting to form some plans for the future.
She had moved her room’s curtain partition pretty far back toward the window. She did not know how the others would do theirs, but she hoped they would keep the hallway-side half of their rooms mostly open so they could all come and go or gather for meetings there. That would preserve the usual sleepover atmosphere.
She felt certain Asama would do the same, but even if it was only a curtain, shutting it really helped you lose yourself in thought.
There were times when that was necessary, times when it was harmless, and times when it was unnecessary.
Which is it now? she wondered, but when she heard a voice from the neighboring room, she deactivated the noise blocking divine protection and spoke.
“What are you doing here, Naruze? Did my king ask for something again?”
Naruze saw Mitotsudaira open the side curtain and enter Asama’s room.
…She just walked in without a second thought.
She was a little embarrassed, but she did not try to hide it. The flustered shrine maiden had not reached that level yet. She never knew what to do when she was caught off guard.
But after Mitotsudaira’s arrival, Kimi emerged from further back and Horizon from the other side.
The four partitioned rooms were connected together to create one long one.
“Hm.” Horizon viewed Asama. “I see Asama-sama already has her futon out and is ready to go.”
“N-no, it’s not like that! I just felt like taking a quick nap!”
“Oh?” Mitotsudaira glared at her. “Then explain all the squirming and strange voices I heard from your room.”
“A-a change of environment makes you think about a lot of things, doesn’t it!? And, um…Horizon, don’t do your ‘you thief’ bit with the curtain!”
“How do you not realize they’re teasing you?” asked Naruze.
“Right?” said Margot. “But, Horizon, what happened to your old room? It was on Tama’s second floor belowdecks, wasn’t it?”
Horizon froze in place.
After a while, she frowned and brought a hand to her chin with sweat pouring down her brow.
She started making right-to-left gestures in midair, so Margot started sweating too and waved her hand.
“Well, um, you don’t have to give it that much thought. You just left it as-is, I take it?”
“Most everything I need is stored in the space behind me.”
Damn, that’s gotta be convenient, thought Naruze, but she wasn’t one to talk since her Technohexen clothes and such were stored in a coffin-shaped alternate space.
For a change of subject, Horizon opened her curtain to show off what were displayed on the poles and hooks set up in front of the curtain.
“I have displayed everything from the Muneshige Cannon to the latest: the Pride and the Vainglory. I thought it might be nice to view my collection in smug self-satisfaction while I drift off to sleep.”
“That’s an entire nation’s worth of firepower in a single room,” said Naruze.
“Um.” Asama raised her right hand and asked a question. “Why are you two here?”
“Oh, were we interrupting something?”
Asama suppressed her reflexive response and finally managed to say something else.
“This is not part of the shrine.”
A good answer.
…She means this is equivalent to her old room at the Asama Shrine.
Horizon and Mitotsudaira would see it similarly. Kimi was smiling back behind them, so she may have seen herself as the landlord.
But as a Technohexen, Naruze was satisfied with the response she had gotten. So…
“Fine. We’ll knock next time, so set up a doorbell divine protection or something.”
“Neshinbara is afraid he won’t finish his manuscript in time, so he’s going to use the café in here for an all-nighter. We’re his assistants. …Do any of you want to help?”
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