Horizon:Volume 8C Chapter 61

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Chapter 61: Worrier at the Party[edit]

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Ah ha ha ha ha ha!

Anus Eye!

I’m calling you

Anus Eye from now on!

Point Allocation (I’ll let you do whatever you want tonight…)


“A toast to both of us selling out!”

Naruze raised a wooden mug and everyone else in the Main Blue Thunder followed suit.

While they were wooden, the hoops were made of metal and they made a nice sound when bumped together. After that, everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

“I thought I was going to die of weariness and exhaustion when I got in Suzu’s bath, but I’m glad I didn’t!” announced Naruze.

“Y-you could have…had your party…there.”

“No, no, no,” Naruze said to Suzu, snatching some food from the silver chains carrying platters to the tables. “The guys and the girls are separate there and we can’t hold a private party out in a public park either.”


Naito checked on the general atmosphere while watching Suzu nod in understanding.

The Chancellor, Horizon, Asama, and Mary were cooking in the kitchen while Mitotsudaira and Tenzou worked as waiters. Adele was providing support wherever it was needed, so it was all about the same as usual.

The fascinating part was how at home the Tachibana Couple and Narumi looked. The couple were focused on a PR Committee news program summing up the day’s events on the Ariake and Narumi was drinking happily, perhaps thinking back on what had happened during the day.

Naruze was giving herself a good head start on getting drunk, so she was already slapping Neshinbara on the back.

“Ah ha ha ha ha! Way to go selling Anus Eye! Now you’ve got nothing to fear! You’re the fearless Anus Eye! Ah ha ha ha!”

It was honestly impressive. Mitotsudaira commented on it while carrying some Blue Thunder boiled pork to their table.

“Naruze doesn’t usually drink this much, does she?”

“Yeah, I don’t think she expected this Summer ImMoral to be so much fun.”

“She didn’t expect to sell out?”

“It’s not that.” Naito waved a hand and looked up at Mitotsudaira skillfully slicing the boiled pork with a knife. “Maybe I shouldn’t say so, but this was her first time doing one of these events with the entire class.”

It was usually just Naito and Naruze. They would sometimes get help from students their year or below in the other circles, but…

“ImMoral makes you register by circle, so when she’s putting out her own book, the others are focused on their own books and can’t help out. And since it’s on the Ariake and the Musashi could be anywhere in the Far East, they oftentimes can’t show up at all.”

So…

“It was really to help out with Seijun’s negotiations, but I think she still enjoyed having everyone here with us. Also, I think this was a lot of pressure on her.”

I’m saying way too much, thought Naito, but she decided it didn’t matter.

“It might not look like it, but she actually feels kind of bad about drawing doujinshis all the time.”

“R-really?” asked Suzu.

“Probably.”

Why did it sound so much more convincing now that she had said it out loud?

Anyway, she had a pretty good read on this.

“The more time she spends on this hobby – or personal business or whatever you want to call it – the less time she can spend on whatever the Chancellor and the rest of you are doing. She also ends up feeling sick from sleep deprivation.”

“I get the feeling her grades actually improve when she’s sleep deprived,” said Mitotsudaira.

Suzu smiled a bit at that. Naito kind of agreed too. However…

“Everyone…understands.”

Suzu was right.

Once they had started working, they had all been focused on the event. When they had sold out, Tenzou and Adele had high-fived at the sales table and Mary had hurriedly joined in to not feel left out.

They can celebrate Ga-chan’s success like it’s their own.

This was different from the other circles or Naito. With those others, it was more about sharing a mutual understanding of the highs and lows of this kind of work.

But this is more about hanging out with some freak- with some friends. Yes, friends. I didn’t actually say it, so it’s all good. But anyway…

“She wants everyone to understand her, but she also doesn’t want you to just pretend you do. As selfish as that might be.”

“I know what you mean.”

Mitotsudaira could say that because she was only here with everyone because the others had come to understand her.

The wolf smiled and sniffed at the boiled pork.

“But I’m not sure if we really do understand her. I mean, I would expect a baffling answer if she was asked what was so great about what she draws. And I think everyone would have a different answer as to what made today such a success.”

“She understands all that. Which is why she’s so happy she could share this success with everyone. What we’re seeing now is a reaction to the pressure she was feeling.”

Naito pointed over at Naruze who was laughing with Kimi.

Naruze had likely received praise from the event staff for how well she had managed her line, so she was passing that thanks along to Kimi who had been in charge of that. From there, they began discussing the kind of people who had shown up.

“Heh heh. You can always count on me to bring in customers and manage the line,” said Kimi, taking Naruze’s hand and checking her nails for damage. It was enough to tell that Kimi really was perfect for that job.

“What would have happened if she was left with a lot of unsold inventory?” asked Tenzou, carrying a bowl full of blanched cabbage.


“In that case…” began Naito.

Tenzou placed a few hand towels on the table, so the idea was probably to wrap the meat in the cabbage. She spotted Horizon slicing some bread in the kitchen, so they were apparently making lighter snacks to last a while instead of one big heavy meal.

“Oh, I want some of that fresh-baked stuff,” said Naito and the right arm raised and nodded its hand.

Then she returned to Tenzou’s question.

“If it hadn’t sold, she would be right here having a consolation party. Then it would be best if we just grumbled and complained and commiserated with her. Don’t tell her she’ll do better next time, though. See, she tries to keep up with the latest trends, but sometimes that doesn’t work out. You can start by helping figure out what went wrong this time. I guess you can tell her she’ll do better next time after that.”

“Judge. The event really is a group effort, isn’t it?”

“Judge,” echoed Mitotsudaira, shrugging. “It’s like a kind of battle. If you win, you celebrate. If you lose, you accept that and come up with a plan. And you do that by reviewing what happened and planning for next time.”

“Right. But as passionate as she can get about planning out next time, it tends to be useless since the trends change or she changes her mind.”

“In that case,” said the wolf. “Wouldn’t it be more fun to discuss it all with us instead of feeling so responsible for everything?”

Naito felt some brief surprise at that. Oh, I should tell that to Ga-chan next time she screws up, she realized. That’s exactly right, she laughed. She doesn’t need to feel responsible for her failures. But…

“But she still doesn’t want to fail if she can avoid it.”

“Then today was enjoyable in about every way,” said Mitotsudaira as she finished slicing the meat and wiped off the knife with a hand towel.

“Mito-tsan, why does that pork smell weird? Not bad, just unusual.”

“It was boiled the Western way but seasoned the Far Eastern way. It was boiled in a pot of water in the oven and then left to soak in a pot of tsukedare sauce overnight. Then that entire pot was reheated in the oven.”

Naito could easily imagine that method had been designed to produce a lot of it at a time.

The entire pot was placed in the oven so it wouldn’t take up a spot on the stovetop. And heating the entire boiling pot in the oven during peak hours would let them prepare some soft meat in about an hour with minimal effort.

The Far Eastern seasoning will trick you into thinking it’s roasted more than Western sauces or salt would.

Was that to make the soft meat not seem so disappointing? But…

I bet this is how they do it at the other Blue Thunder.

That would make it a tradition the Chancellor learned from his mom, she thought.

“Hey, Tenzou!” called the Chancellor from the counter. “Take these noodles.”

Noodles? wondered Naito as Tenzou brought over a wooden bowl covered with a lid. Mitotsudaira and Gin looked over in interest, so Tenzou dramatically opened the lid. He managed to look pretty cool doing it.

“Not bad, Tenzou. Way to show off.”

Meanwhile, the wolf groaned.

The bowl was full of pasta cooked in olive oil. Then Tenzou brought enough small bowls for them all.

“First, you add a layer of blanched cabbage! Then you add as many noodles as you want and finally some boiled pork in tare sauce!”

The wolf’s eyes followed the bowl he handed to Naito, but Naito wasn’t about to hand it over.

“Hey, thanks.”

“Think nothing of it,” said Tenzou as he turned around to grab a bowl for Mitotsudaira too.

“Gold Mar, do you want some bread?” called the Chancellor.

“Yes, absolutely.”

“Okay, Nate. If you’re free, you can take these cod fritters to the tables.”

“M-my king, asking that of me now is just plain mean!”

“I see you aren’t going to let yourself be ‘free’ right now, Mito-tsan. …Huh, this meat splits real easy with only a fork, so it’s easy to divide into bites inside the bowl.”

Was that why it was boiled instead of roasted? The thick pork could be split into three or four layers, so Naito started by splitting it into its layers. She considered cutting it to bite size from there, but she instead stabbed her fork into it, tangled up some pasta, and shoved it all in her mouth for an extra-big bite.

Oh.

The olive oil made the pasta smooth but also gave it a somewhat fruity flavor. She split it with her teeth.

After feeling a non-noodly squishiness within, a teriyaki flavor and some pork oil flowed out through the net of pasta.

“Now this is a flavor that will get you fat.”

This was designed for guys, she concluded just as Tenzou returned with a plate covered in several glistening green sticks on it.

“Tenzou, what are those?”

“Skinned and boiled asparagus. Asama-dono made them.”

Naito speared one on her fork and tried it.

Oh? Oh?

It was soft. She had expected a crunchy texture since it was asparagus, but skinned it was more like a really long grape. It was seasoned with only a hint of salt, so it would go well with most anything and would probably be good cold as well.

“Now this is a flavor that’ll trick you into thinking you’re being healthy.”

Suzu nodded in agreement repeatedly, so she must have really liked them. Mitotsudaira had already finished her noodles, but the arms had carried over some freshly toasted bread and she was enjoying a sandwich made by taking some of her cabbage soaked in pork oil and olive oil and placing it between two slices of bread.

I can be creative too, thought Naito as she grabbed some parsley from the toppings on the table and sprinkled that on some pasta that she wrapped around some asparagus and pork. And…

“Margot.”

A hand reached over her right shoulder and snatched the fork from her hand.

Naruze brought the fork to her own mouth and pulled the rolled-up pasta off with her lips.

“Hee hee. That’s mine now, Mar-”

She froze before finishing her sentence. She chewed a few times in silence.

“…!”

Then she pointed at the Chancellor while listing to the side. It was kind of cute.


Masazumi took a breath while sensing the others heating up.

She sat at the side table next to the counter. She was using a stool, so she had her back resting against the wall. This position gave her a view of the entire room because she had hoped it would let her speak to them all at a moment’s notice, but then she realized that was how it always worked.

Still, a lot happened today.

She felt exhausted and she knew why.

It was about her mother.

She had known this was coming since Novgorod. She had suspected her mother had had something to do with the Princess.

But her mother had seemed the odd woman out compared to the big names like Henry VIII, the Prince of Orange, and Richelieu. Her mother hadn’t been a name inheritor and she hadn’t even been a teacher.

That would mean Lord Motonobu had been gathering people whether they were a name inheritor or not. What would that mean for the Princess Disappearances happening around the world?

“What a pain.”

“What is, Masazumi?” asked Futayo.

“If the Princess Disappearance victims are all from Lord Motonobu’s Nonexistent Academy, whether they were a name inheritor or not, we have to reassess the situation.”

“The Princess Disappearances have been happening for a long time, Crossdressing Honda-kun.” Neshinbara turned her way while grabbing a slice from a pizza given a square shape for a more efficient use of oven space. “Based on what we know, the Princess Disappearances seem to happen when someone comes too close to the truth about the Princess. The ones who knew what they were doing seem to have been from Lord Motonobu’s academy, but the others were probably unwitting victims.”

“My mother wasn’t investigating the Princess. I did go through everything she left behind.”

“In that case.” Adele turned around with a stack of empty plates. “Why not ask your dad about it?”

“Hmm. I’d have a hard time asking him since our personal feelings would rise to the forefront.”

“Really?”

“Judge.” Masazumi nodded. “I don’t know what his real reasons were, but he did leave his family behind. So me asking about it would be awkward and him talking about it would be awkward. And if he doesn’t know anything about this, it’s all the more awkward. Besides, we know it happened to her and we know she didn’t leave behind any clues, so I’m not sure what we could learn.”

“It could help you come to terms with what happened.”

“Honestly, I think we’ve done that fairly well already.” She nodded again. The idiot held out a cutting board of sushi and she placed one on the small plate Adele handed her. “I mean, we’ve had to deal with the questions of ‘why the Princess Disappearances?’ and ‘why us?’ this whole time. So…”

She decided to pause long enough to eat the sushi. At first glance, it looked to be gomoku sushi. But…

Nh!

She froze when she detected an unexpected flavor.

“Oh, this is pretty good,” said the Date Vice Chancellor. “It’s consommé gomoku rice sushi, isn’t it?”


Masazumi had expected the sushi to taste Far Eastern, but it actually tasted more like a pilaf. She looked over to see Horizon raising her hand.

“I was trying to make some takikomi gohan, but I know nothing about dashi, so I received a consommé cube from Asama-sama, threw that in with the gokoku fried rice, cooked it, and – abra kadabra – now we have some lightly-seasoned oilless fried rice.”

“I thought using it for sushi would make it easier to eat and I thought it would taste fine chilled. That’s why I chilled it and wrapped it up like that, but from your reaction, I’m thinking making chicken consommé would have been better.”

Asama’s smiling addition to the explanation meant this had been a joint effort.

The idiot held out the cutting board again.

“This one has vegetables inside it. It’s the whole roll, though.”

“Surely I’m supposed to cut it apart and eat it with chopsticks…”

Futayo looked interested, so Masazumi let her have it. However…

“That was surprisingly edible for you, Horizon.”

“Heh. An accident I assure you, Masazumi-sama. I never imagined it would turn out so appetizing.”

“What are you trying to make your food if not appetizing?” asked the idiot.

But the others hung their heads and whispered to each other.

“Come to think of it, you never see the dishes served here over at the other Blue Thunder.”

“They sometimes have limited-edition menus like the ‘Fun Morning’ one or the ‘Chancy Lunch’ one, but never anything normal.”

“How did it end up like this when you’re teaching her how to cook, my king?” asked Mitotsudaira.

Horizon silently struck a triumphant pose, which seemed to be all the answer anyone needed.

Masazumi had nearly lost herself in thought about that, so she appreciated the easy escape.

Then, without warning, Neshinbara turned around and spoke to her.

“You might not be aware, Crossdressing Honda-kun, but you aren’t the only person here whose parent was taken by the Princess Disappearances.”

“I think I heard something about that before.”

Hadn’t there been one other Princess Disappearance case in the past?

“Who was it again?”

Horizon raised both arms and her voice.

“I believe you are referring to me!”


“That’s right,” confirmed Asama. “But, Horizon, try to look a little more sad about it.”

“How can I when I have zero memory of it?”

After some scattered comments on Horizon’s positive outlook on life, Masazumi turned toward Asama with a frown.

“Really? Was it Horizon’s mother?”

“Well, it would be more accurate to say it seems like it was. It was never confirmed because all trace of it was gone by the time anyone from the shrine could show up to inspect it.”

“Where did it happen?”

“The Blue Thunder. The other one, I mean.”

Horizon turned toward Asama, trembling.

“Are you telling me I have been working in a haunted building this entire time!?”

“Well, it has been remodeled since then. But what made you think it was you?”

“Heh,” laughed Horizon, brushing a hand through her bangs. “Urquiaga-samaaaa! Oh, that was a random selection. Now, go ahead.”

“It is easily deduced from the fact that the Double Border Crest appeared behind her and that her parents are gone.”

“Since when can you be so reasonable, Kiyonari?”

That was a good point. Masazumi was worrying over her mother’s past, but the same conditions applied to Horizon’s mother.

“But.” Asama opened a sign frame. “This was before we entered elementary school. Horizon lived with her mom on Tama and their home was being remodeled into a café at the time. Then one day, she went to check on the state of the remodeling and never returned.”

“Where did we live during the remodeling?”

“A temporary home below Tama.” Asama wasn’t sure about this next part, but it seemed likely. “If Toori-kun’s mom set you up there, then I think the room you stayed in below Tama until you moved in here was actually the same place.”

Horizon began to sweat.

“Um, I would much prefer to learn it was not the same place. It seemed so cramped and dirty, so I thought I would remodel it and slammed my luggage against the wall, which made a bit of a crack and…well, let’s just leave it at that. There was also my high-powered tossing and turning or the very artistic way the corner of my dresser smashed the tatami mats…and I may have moved in here without telling anyone about any of it.”

“You should really report that for the sake of whoever moves in next. I can take care of that for you.”

Horizon gave her a double thumbs up, so Asama sent a template report.


Tama: “ ‘Musashi’-sama! ‘Musashi’-sama! I have received a request for a full interior replacement for a small room in my underground area even though we are so busy with the event! Over.”

Musashi: “ ‘Tama’, that is the room Horizon-sama once used for a short time, so it had been left untouched since. If she has damaged it herself, that means she is asking to have it remodeled instead. How could you let this happen, ‘Tama’? Over.”

Tama: “Eh!? This is my fault!? Over.”

Okutama: “If you ask me and my ample experience, you should have sent a warning or a notice to have something done as soon as her identity was revealed. Over.”

Musashino: “We have been unable to see eye to eye since that final exam, but for once we agree, ‘Okutama’! To think those people would actually solve our problem…oh, but they were the cause of it as well! Over.”


Asama received a message from “Tama” saying “Understood… Over.” The ellipsis was troubling, but she chose to continue the discussion instead.

“It was officially recorded as a spiriting away. No one actually saw a Double Border Crest and when Toori-kun’s mom arrived to check on things, she only saw some red light fading away.”

“Thanks to that, mom was actually a top suspect,” said Toori.

“That’s true,” added Kimi. She had just finished a slice of pizza, so she licked off her fingers and wiped off her fingers and lips with a napkin. “My foolish brother was a real mama’s boy at the time, so when the guards were questioning her, he said, ‘Mom wouldn’t do that! If she was gonna kill you, she’d be way more direct about it!’ Needless to say, that didn’t help her case.”

“Yeah, but sis, I seem to remember you laughing your ass off next to us saying, “Mom’s going to the pigpen!? Please no! I don’t want to be a piglet!’ ”

Asama hated how she kind of remembered that.

What she remembered more vividly were the grim look on her father’s face and that her sickly mother had been in charge of the inspection. It was possible that was a false memory she had created for herself, but thinking back, the choice was probably because another woman would have an easier time investigating.

At the time, the Princess Disappearances had been a minor type of spiriting away and there was no sign of the ether traces that usually lingered afterwards, so…

“After an inquiry at IZUMO’s small outer sanctum office, it was judged ‘a spiriting away that is currently thought to be a Princess Disappearance’. That appears to be what Neshinbara-kun believes as well…if you can trust him.”

“Wh-what is that supposed to mean, Asama-kun!?”

“Now, Asama-sama.” Horizon tilted her head. “Why didn’t you tell me about this?”

“Really, it comes down to you arriving on the Musashi as P-01s. And once we learned your identity…well, nothing was known for certain. And…” She hesitated but decided to say it. “You, um, never mentioned your mother.”

Horizon froze.


Everyone was sweating nervously in the summer night. Naruze watched Horizon raise her right hand, smack herself on the head, and turn toward the others.

“Now that you mention it!”

Margot clearly wanted to say something and poked at Naruze’s hip and Naruze felt the exact same way.

But Horizon crossed her arms and continued.

“It was partially just that it slipped my mind, but I also didn’t think much about my mother after the extreme impact left by my awful father.”

“To be honest, um, I did try to steer the conversation in that direction a few times,” said Asama. “Like with the unopened room over there.”

“I didn’t pick up on your hints in the slightest. What a blunder!” said Horizon. “But this never caused me any trouble, so it all worked out in the end. Yes.”

She’s the real deal, thought Naruze as Margot poked at her hip again.


Asama actually had something else to say about this.

“Toori-kun and Kimi’s mom has her reasons for refusing to accept that Yoshiki-san – that’s Horizon’s mom – was a victim of the Princess Disappearances. According to her, ‘she just wandered off somewhere and she’ll be back before you know it’. So…”

So…

“That’s why she runs the other Blue Thunder. She originally ran her café here, but if she doesn’t use that one, she would lose the rights to it. And it had just been remodeled into a café.”

“So technically speaking…” said Horizon.

“Yeah, it belongs to you,” said Toori. “My mom was originally your mom’s bodyguard, so this is probably her way of taking responsibility.”

So…

“You showing back up before your mom did was probably a big surprise for her.”

That made Horizon freeze again.

She was sweating again and she raised her right hand.

“Um, I just thought working part-time might be kind of fun and thought at most I would learn how to cook, so I’m not sure about suddenly learning I have to run the café myself.”

“W-well, I doubt you’ll just be put in charge all at once.” Asama sighed. “My dad can tell you about your mom too, so why not go speak with him?”

“Judge. He did have trouble keeping up with the shogi game against my arms. But anyway…”

Horizon took a breath, nodded a few times as if to accept the information she had just received, and turned toward Asama.

“Excellent work, Asama-sama.”

“Please, I didn’t do anything. I am happy that something in me could be useful, though.”

Naruze turned toward her with a straight face.

“Something in you? Useful? Which inner part of you were you hoping would be useful?”

“Naruze, let’s not think about a new book when you’re still celebrating the old one.”

“That aside, I am very glad to have you with me, Asama-sama.” Horizon bowed. “And your mother was part of my awful father’s academy, just like mine, Masazumi-sama’s, and Mary-sama’s father, wasn’t she?”


Asama didn’t know what Horizon was talking about.

The first thought in her head was simply…

Huh?

Her mother had died of illness. It had been a constitutional thing and her body’s mold had been affected by it. She recalled her mother saying she had chosen to live for the things she wanted in life instead of inhibiting herself. In that sense, it was less dying of illness and more…

Yes.

Asama belatedly realized her mother hadn’t been just been waiting for death to arrive. She had been using her limited life to live as much as possible. But…

“My mother wasn’t a Princess Disappearances victim.”

“Um, but, Tomo.”

Mitotsudaira turned Asama’s way after constructing a yakiniku burger. Whatever she might claim, she had clearly used too much meat. It was spilling out from between the bread.

“Oops.”

“Um, you can take care of that first.”

“Excuse me,” said the wolf before shoving the burger into her mouth, starting with the bottom where the meat was falling out. After quickly consuming about half of it, she wiped off her mouth with the napkin Adele handed her. “Do you remember what happened in Novgorod?”

“Eh? Of course I do. The Double Border Crest appeared behind Horizon, Masazumi, and Mary.”

Masazumi raised her hand.

“That isn’t accurate. Well, it is, but it isn’t the whole story,” she said. “It appeared behind you too.”


Mitotsudaira saw Asama freeze.

She frowned with a hand on her forehead and mimed moving a parcel from right to left.

“Umm…”

“Tomo?”

“What is it, Mito?”

“Judge.” She nodded. “I called your name back then. Because I didn’t know why it had appeared behind you.”

“Eh?”

Asama squeezed her lips together and Mitotsudaira thought she knew why.

“Did you think I was just asking you to solve the problem?”

“Yes, but, um…why would I think otherwise when the Double Border Crest doesn’t normally appear behind people?”

“Well, no, I suppose it doesn’t,” said Margot.

“Right?” replied Asama.

Asama then tapped her right neck hard point part and Hanami emerged.

“Yes,” said the Mouse.

“Oh, Hanami. They say the Double Border Crest appeared behind me at Novgorod. Do you remember?”

“––––––”

Mitotsudaira saw Hanami give Asama one hell of a look.

I didn’t realize she could make faces like that.

They were fairly in tune with each other on the emotional front, so it meant a lot when they had such different reactions. Asama didn’t know what this meant exactly, but she seemed to accept it. However…

“But…why?”

“W-well, I doubt it’s because of that,” said Mitotsudaira.

“You know.” Asama averted her gaze. “This is kind of depressing. I cast spells on the three of you back then and I’ve put together some countermeasures since then based on that, but if I was fine without any of that, it means nothing I did really mattered.”

“But you have all the best Asama Shrine divine protections,” said Toori. “Horizon doesn’t care about that, Seijun’s too poor, and Mary is a Shinto beginner, so their defenses and divine protections wouldn’t be on your level.”

“Huh, now that you mention it…”

“Hold on,” interrupted Masazumi. “Why did my reason have to be a personal attack!?”

Asama faced them again and gave a troubled smile.

“Sorry about that, Masazumi. …Toori-kun, try to be nicer.”

Seeing Asama’s posture and attitude recover, Mitotsudaira performed a mental fist pump.

Way to go, my king!

Everything to do with Asama’s “lid” had taught them she could fall hard when something got her down. But with that dealt with, Mitotsudaira felt comfortable asking another question.

“Tomo, you only provided protections for those three back then?”

“I’m embarrassed to admit it, but yes. After Hanami sounded the alarm, I activated the spells and divine protections I had prepared and I later received a feedback report on that. Basically, I didn’t look much past what I had done myself.”

“Since there wasn’t much of a difference between the four of you, failing to notice the one behind you doesn’t seem to have led to any real problems,” said Narumi.

Mitotsudaira appreciated that comment.

“Based on the known conditions, this would be related to your mother, wouldn’t it, Tomo?”

“We can’t say for sure…and I don’t like the idea of it,” said Asama. “You see, my mother sort of showed up at my father’s place uninvited and my father used to be fairly passionate, and, well…he doesn’t get along well with my mother’s family. They seem to think he stole her away when she was in poor health.” She placed a hand on her chin – or her lips really – and tilted her head. “If she did go missing for a while like Henry VIII and Horizon’s mom, then it might explain some things about my mother.”

“That’s right.” Kimi pointed at Masazumi, Mary, and Horizon in that order. “Heh heh. But the fact that you were too busy helping those three to defend yourself says to me your mom skills were activating.”

“I see,” said Nenji. “You do hear about mothers who rush into a burning building to save their child!”

“Oh, come on. What I did wasn’t that heroic.”

“It certainly was not.” Mitotsudaira sighed. She knew what she had to say here. “When you get so focused on something you get tunnel vision, you can also lose sight of yourself. You really need to focus on your own safety first.”

“Oh.”

Asama pressed her lips together and blushed.

Ho ho.

“Did that remind you of something?”

“I’m guessing something Odawara-related.”

“I-it’s not a guessing game, Naito!”

“Well, she saved my rear there, so I’d say it was heroic,” said Toori. “Besides, she understands what you’re saying. And if she doesn’t, the rest of you will help her out.”

“I see.” Horizon bowed toward Asama. “I should have done this much earlier, but thank you very much for your assistance at Novgorod.”

“No, thank you…”

Asama bowed back. Was this an example of courtesy between close friends?

“I will ask my dad if the Double Border Crest behind me could have anything to do with my mom.”

She already had a sign frame up, so she clearly saw this as a problem. Meanwhile…

“We have two more days,” said Mitotsudaira. “We are automatically a part of the Ariake’s event with the Musashi here, but if we can help Naruze’s circle through the third day, we might as well. After that, we will be sneaking away to visit my mother’s house, so we should review any related problems before that.”

“We have our tasks to complete too,” agreed Naruze before raising her wooden mug again. “This party somehow turned itself into a meeting, so how about we have another toast to focus back on what really matters?”


The party continued until early the following morning. Suzu and the others who tapped out early went to sleep in the futons laid out in the bedrooms, but Naruze was in high spirits and lasted a lot longer.

Naruze herself claimed she wanted to “see the day through to the end”, but she was still exhausted and ended up falling asleep in the café area. When the others carried her to the bedroom, they decided it was time for the rest of them to get to sleep in the bedrooms or café.

Horizon’s arms were on night watch duty and the boys set up a camping tent in the bedroom for some indoor camping (“I thought this would be useless after Sanada, but here we are using it again”), but after waking up the following morning, Adele made the mistake of saying that looked fun and ended up the unwilling new owner of a tent. They had it sent to her small room.

Once everyone was up the next morning, they returned to their homes and then went back out into the Ariake to prepare for the third day and afterwards. The second and third days went smoothly and the Summer Exchange of Immaculate Morals in Manga Form came to an end with an afterparty attended by many Europeans.

Afterwards, work began on cleaning up the festival structures, the Musashi exhibition continued, the European visitors spent the night in lodging facilities within the Ariake or aboard the Musashi, negotiations were held between corporate guilds, printing equipment was ordered, and all sorts of other deals were worked out.

Masazumi received a report from Tenzou on the actions of the other nations, but…

“A few of these are troubling, but that’s probably because everyone knows now is the time to act.”

With that in mind, Musashi’s main fighters slipped secretly away from the Musashi starting on the 25th. That was to keep P.A. Oda or Hashiba from asking too many questions about the Musashi’s presence in Protestant territory and so they could hold a strategy meeting for what was to come.

Their secret destination was the Reine des Garous’s home. The candy house in the forest.

Beforehand, they would all make their individual preparations for intervening in Honnouji and meeting with Akechi Mitsuhide. Once there, they would hold a weeklong meeting.

With all those plans in place, they entered the second half of summer break with their excitement from the Ariake intact.