Volume 1, Chapter 8: Preparation and Maturation
Which one did I go with?
Point Allocation (While Making a Suggestion)
On the first day of their stay at Totomi, Kimi realized her brother was uneasy about something when he returned from school late.
They were very close, but more due to how they shared their everyday lives than simply how long they had known each other. She could sense his general mood, but she could not always tell what exactly he was thinking. So…
“Foolish brother? You just had an evening date with Suzu, didn’t you? What has you so lost in thought now?”
He was supposed to have gotten his spells and divine protections adjusted by Asama the previous night, but he was apparently caught up in a bizarre ghost pursuit or something like that. Kimi’s fear of ghosts made her loath to ask for details, but she had heard that Mitotsudaira played a large role.
…I thought he might be thinking about that, but it doesn’t seem so.
Kimi casually opened the curtain dividing their rooms.
She found him holding up a porn magazine in each hand and staring straight at them with eyebrows flat.
“Sis, I got home to find mom had stacked my secret collection on my desk with a note telling me to throw some of them out cause of the weight tax. Which one do you think I should toss?”
“The one on the right follows the current trends, so wouldn’t it be better to hold onto the one on the left?” She entered his room and reviewed his selections. “That certainly is motley collection.”
“Well, I was choosing the best ones from each genre. She told me to get rid of 2/3 of them.”
“Wait, hold that thought.” Kimi opened a sign frame and pulled something out of the multileveled file hierarchy she had set up. “How about you scan them with this photography spell I’ve started using for selfies?”
“Ohh! You’re so smart, Sis!”
He opened one of them up. The right page contained a black-haired nude and the left page was an ad for the Ueno god’s circumcision services.
For some reason, the spell placed a smile detection frame over the diagram on the Ueno ad, so maybe that meant a god really did reside within that.
She snapped a photo, but then they both fell silent for a few seconds.
“Foolish brother, how many pages would this entire stack be?”
“About 2000, I think.”
“Maybe you should buy a scanning sunlight camera.”
“Yeah, but those are black-and-white and they only work in direct sunlight. …Thanks for the help, Sis, but I’ll probably just spend tonight burning all of this into my memory.”
“So what did you spend today doing?”
“Oh.” He immediately shook his hand side to side. “I can’t tell you that.”
“I see,” was Kimi’s response to her brother’s rejection.
That was not a big deal. Some secrets they shared and others they kept to themselves. So…
“Who could you tell?”
He looked at the roof with a magazine still in each hand.
He thought for a bit and then tilted his head.
“Suzu-san and Asama, I guess?”
Kimi opened a sign frame.
“Asama? Did my foolish brother tell you anything today?”
“What? Is he up to no good again?”
“Hm?” Kimi tilted her head at that response and opened another sign frame. “Suzu, did my foolish brother tell you anything today?”
“Eh? Oh, s-sorry, Kimi-chan. I-I am…draining the bath…right now.”
“Hmm.” Kimi thought. “A no from him, a no from Asama, and Suzu is d-draining the…bath.”
“Isn’t that impression of Suzu-san a little off? And you have some guts to call them up right in front of me like that.”
“Heh heh. I’ll find out eventually anyway, so I thought I would get a head start. Besides, I more or less already know the answer now. And I can see why you can’t tell me that.”
His eyebrows shot up.
“That was enough for you to figure it out!? You’re so great, Sis!”
“Heh heh heh. Asama didn’t know despite you naming her, you didn’t name Mitotsudaira, and Suzu is draining the bath. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out.”
Kimi breathed a sigh of relief and approached her brother from behind. She reached past his shoulders and grabbed some of his collection.
“Heh heh. It says this woman is 19, but she looks 32 to me.”
“L-let me have my dreams!”
“I’m only helping you narrow down your choices. Oh? You have an issue of Gorgeous Beauty? That’s what I call vintage.”
“Yeah, I found it at the used book market in Prague last year. I bought it just because, but when I brought it back, I found out it’s actually the very issue that brought Nobu-tan and Koni-tan together as friends.”
“You mean as friends who exchange porn and anime? You’re still underage, so tell me when you want to buy these things. I’ll buy them for you.”
“Yeah, but when you go to those stores, you tend to comment on how the most popular model has fake boobs or something, bringing every guy there to his knees.”
“Then you can come with me and enjoy the show.”
“For real? I’m coming of age within the year, so I’m definitely getting my name on the receipt!”
“Good boy,” she said while rubbing his head with her chin, but she also had something to say to him. “Hey,” she began. “Will you feel lonely if Mitotsudaira gets her act together?”
“Nate’s already got her act together. And I know you know that, Sis,” he said. “Also, I can tell how not together my act is when I look at all the others.”
“Does that bother you?”
“Not really. It makes me…glad I have all of them with me.”
He paused to think mid-answer, but he came up with a good answer all the same. Kimi felt it would be a shame to ask further, but she still wanted to ask about someone she saw as a friend.
“When you say ‘all of them’, are you including Mitotsudaira?”
“Yeah.” He sighed and then shrugged. “In fact, I’ve gotta make sure she doesn’t abandon me.”
“At least you haven’t grown complacent.”
Kimi smiled and lowered her chin from his head to his left shoulder. She pressed her cheek against his and restarted the conversation while choosing the magazines.
“Will you help me choose what fashion magazines to keep later on?”
“Silly brother.” She smiled. “Because I have way too many to scan with my photography spell.”
Hori-ko: “Kimi-sama, could you not emphasize the intimacy of your relationships quite so much?”
Wise Sister: “Heh heh. Horizon? If you find yourself lacking when compared to someone else, you should work to improve yourself and to whip yourself into shape. Everyone has things they want but cannot have, so when you find such a thing, you must either resign yourself to envy or work to improve yourself.”
Silver Wolf: “Looking back, I really want to apologize to my king.”
Mar-Ga: “Because you want him to pamper you, right? Yes, what a lovely idea. What a lovely idea for a doujinshi.”
Gold Mar: “Ga-chan, you’re starting to feel tired, aren’t you?”
Flat Vassal: “But wasn’t the following day a real ordeal for Kimi-san?”
Vice President: “An ordeal? For her?”
Wise Sister: “Now, now, silly girl. The best women must go through the occasional ordeal to keep their womanhood sharp! It’s not quite the same thing as rubbing a pumice stone on your heel. Once you find you need that, either take another look at your footwear or take another look at your age!”
Asama: “Oh, Sanyou-sensei! Where are you running off to!? You just got here!”
Scarred: “So what was that ordeal about?”
Silver Wolf: “We couldn’t visit Totomi with the port so full and we provided a report on the previous night’s incident to the guards and the Chancellor’s Officers, but we found a few questions remaining. We ended up discussing it all during our break, but Kimi is afraid of ghosts.”
During their second day at Totomi, Kimi was being awfully quiet.
…It’s been so long since she barely did anything at all.
Adele was looking over at Kimi whose head was lying flat down on her desk. She had a sign frame over each ear, so she was probably using an auditory spell.
She had been muttering something and wiggling side to side earlier, but Asama had put an end to that:
“Yes, yes, we can give Kimi the attention she so badly craves later on. Right now, I want to bring all our heads together.”
During lunch, their class gathered together and viewed the report that had been sent to Asama and Mitotsudaira.
The seating arrangement was fairly arbitrary. Asama sat near the center and they did not want to bother Kimi over by the window, so they had shifted more toward the center.
But not all of them were there. Noriki had left early for his part-time job. And…
“Did Toori-san leave early, Mitotsudaira-san, Asama-san?”
“Wh-why are you asking me that?” asked Mitotsudaira.
Since everyone responded with a puzzled “eh?”, they apparently thought of her as constantly with him.
Plus, Kimi was not an option right now. So…
“Do you know, Asama-san?”
“No, I don’t. In fact, if I always knew what he was up to, the guards wouldn’t have to contact me when he’s up to something.”
“Yeah, I suppose not.”
“But Toori-kun goes missing all the time. You should be able to contact the Musashi and have them look up his location for you.”
“Couldn’t he have deactivated that divine protection using an entertainer spell?” asked Tenzou.
“Who gave him a spell like that, I wonder?” added Naito.
Everyone turned to look at Asama, so she nodded aback.
“Now, about this report.”
Hori-ko: “Asama-sama dodged that one masterfully. Since when has she been so powerful!?”
Asama: “Th-that’s only because you’ve all gotten so much better at messing with me since then! Kimi, get your hands off my shoulders and wipe that smirk off your face!”
Flat Vassal: “Talking about one thing from the past is really dragging up a whole bunch more old memories, isn’t it?”
Gold Mar: “This is also a good way to give yourself false memories of the past, so be careful. For example, I’m pretty sure I was out doing delivery work to Totomi that day, so I wouldn’t have been there during lunch.”
Marube-ya: “Oh, then that question was probably me. We can sound a lot alike sometimes.”
Mar-Ga: “No, you and Shirojiro were in the home ec cooking room making noodles for your ramen research, remember? I think Margot was there and it was me who wasn’t. We’re registered as a pair in the delivery business, so I could handle it on my own.”
Wise Sister: “Oh? Are you saying Adele remembered correctly?”
Mar-Ga: “No. I’m always on Margot’s side, so I think she was right.”
Almost Everyone: “Which is it!?”
Gold Mar: “Ga-chan, Ga-chan. All your recent all-nighters are catching up to you.”
Scarred: “As a compromise, how about we say everyone was there?”
While they all viewed the report sign frame, Adele saw a hand go up.
She looked over to see it was Futayo.
“Asama-sama! This looks confusing, so could I go grab a bowl of udon from the cafeteria!?”
Vice President: “Hold on, Balfette! Futayo still lived in Mikawa back then!”
Flat Vassal: “Yeah, but we were saying everyone was there even if it wasn’t true, right?”
Hori-ko: “Ho ho? Then I should begin warming up for my big performance.”
Tonbokiri: “April of three years ago? Back then, I was…”
Futayo looked to the eastern sky.
She sat atop a hill near the sea west of Mikawa.
The spring flowers and grass grew thick but short there.
There was a rectangular black patch within all that.
It was an area of dirt packed down enough to prevent any grass from growing.
The dirt area had two sections: a flat area and a sloped area. Futayo looked east from one of the large stones there.
Below her, a slope led down to a long wooden building.
The roof bore the marker for a material drop-off point and “Mikawa 1st Middle – Samurai – Military” in white writing.
That was one of the middle school buildings. Another one was visible a short distance from it.
This hill was near the western pathway between the Musashi’s landport and the general-use landport to the south. The middle school buildings for Mikawa residents were all located on the hill’s eastern slope.
But even if that was a middle school, Mikawa was one of the Far East’s primary cities. It belonged to the Matsudaira clan, who would later rule the Far East, so there were four school buildings divided between four subjects: samurai, farming, industry, and commerce. That building there contained most of the military classes and most of the samurai cultural classes used the Buddhist temple on the mountain.
Futayo attended that military-focused school building, but…
“Futayo-sama, are you training out here again?”
Someone else climbed the hill from the direction of that building.
Kazuno was the automaton that served Futayo’s Honda family. She was made from one of Futayo’s late mother’s possessions, but that had apparently become the automaton’s core, making her incredibly strong.
She did not have any of Futayo’s mother’s memories, but she still had plenty to teach Futayo.
Kazuno walked up through the grass, but she was not actually stepping on that grass.
She used her gravitational control as an automaton to part the grass before planting her toes on the bare ground. A samurai-in-training like Futayo could not hope to match that perfect ascent of the unmaintained slope.
Once at the same height as Futayo, Kazuno bowed and raised a hand.
“One of the teachers told me you were here, so I have brought your lunch.”
“What is it?”
“Last night’s leftovers and some vegetables.”
“More bamboo shoots with rice? Maybe I shouldn’t have asked for seconds and thirds and fourths last night just because it tasted so good.”
“Thank you, but you did not have to do this. I could have waited until I got home.”
Kazuno’s shoulders drooped.
“We both know you wouldn’t have gotten back until dinnertime.”
“But I don’t want you going to all this trouble over me.”
“I was heading out anyway to grab some ingredients for dinner. Plus, Tadakatsu-sama joined Ii-sama and Sakakibara-sama to have some fun in Mikawa while claiming they are hunting mysterious phenomena.”
“So you’re on your way to arrest them?”
“Judge,” said Kazuno as she tossed over the box in her hand.
She used her gravitational control, but she relinquished that control once it reached the downwards part of its arc. Futayo relaxed her wrist the instant she caught it to protect its contents. And…
“From how that shook, did you include a bamboo container of soup too?”
“A clam soup since it is April. I will serve it chilled tonight.”
That meant dinner’s main dish would be something hot. Probably a meat. Since it was paired with a refreshing clam soup, the meat would likely have a sweet and salty seasoning.
That sounds promising, thought Futayo before noticing Kazuno look down at her feet.
Futayo tilted her head at that.
“Is something wrong?”
“No, Futayo-sama. I am merely impressed that you actually spent the past two years making this place according to Tadakatsu-sama’s instructions.”
“He bought this land to make a field, but as we all expected, he abandoned the idea almost immediately, freeing it up for me to use.”
“Judge, I have determined that was a good and non-wasteful choice. I believe it was also a good choice to create this place all on your own.”
Futayo knew what she meant. This packed down area of dirt had begun as something her father told her to do two years ago. Kazuno would still bring her a lunch here on occasion, but since the automaton had gone out of her way to mention it this time, this must have been very near the actual two year mark. But…
“I could only prepare about a third of what he told me to do. I am far too inexperienced.”
“It is best to only ever listen to about half of what he says, Futayo-sama.”
She thought about that, looked up into the sky, and worked out the calculation.
…I have completed a third of what he told me to do and she says to only listen to half of what he says.
That meant 1/2 was her target and 1/3 was where she stood now.
“Kazuno-sama, thank you for pointing out just how inexperienced I truly am!”
“Judge, I fear you may have misunderstood my point, but a drive toward self-improvement is still a good thing. I will tell Tadakatsu-sama to work on his math too.”
The mention of math reminded Futayo of someone.
“Masazumi was always good at that.”
Vice President: “Wait, but I was never any good at math.”
Flat Vassal: “So is this another case of us remembering things wrong?”
Gold Mar: “It’s a scary thought, but could it be that Nida-yan’s brain was so bad that even Seijun looked good at math in comparison?”
Tachibana Wife: “But she did manage to complete that odd calculation in the blink of an eye.”
Asama: “Okay, okay. Less chatting, more flashbacking.”
Futayo realized Kazuno’s eyes were following her gaze into the eastern sky.
“What does the east look like to you, Kazuno-sama?”
“New Nagoya Castle is too large. But beyond that…”
A giant shape was visible in the distant sky beyond even Mikawa Bay. It looked small compared to the closer Nagoya Castle, but…
“The Musashi is enormous, isn’t it?” said Futayo.
“Starting this year, it will be traveling north from Totomi, so it should arrive in Mikawa from the north. It used to arrive from the east, but since the costal route from Mikawa to the Kii Peninsula required an eastern to southern course, Mikawa’s landport was already pointed south. But anyway,” said Kazuno. “Something Tadakatsu-sama and his friends were indirectly involved in is belatedly setting a portion of the world in motion.”
Futayo nodded at that line while seated on the boulder with the lunchbox on her lap.
“Do you mean the Battle of Okehazama that served as the final showdown between Imagawa and Oda?”
“Judge. That battle led to some nuisances, such as Oda hunting down the Imagawa remnants, but Matsudaira suffered minimal damages due to already holding a neutral position with P.A. Oda.”
“When Okehazama occurred, Matsudaira served Imagawa. They were Oda’s enemy.”
The Battle of Okehazama.
Futayo still remembered it well.
…According to the Testament, that battle was fought between Imagawa, who were growing into a powerful nation, and Oda, who had taken their first step toward being a powerful nation.
It was an early but largescale victory for the Oda clan – or really, for Oda Nobunaga who was turning Oda into a powerful player in the Warring States period.
When Imagawa’s forces attacked, Oda had their fortresses taken in the early fighting and their advance unit was slaughtered, but they launched a surprise attack on the main Imagawa camp after it rained. It developed into a frenzied battle where the commanders of both sides ultimately dismounted their horses and fought. It ended in an Oda victory.
The Imagawa Lord, Imagawa Yoshimoto, was killed and his land became the property of Oda and the other nearby forces. The battle increased Oda’s reputation and laid a solid foundation for them.
However, the Testament put Matsudaira in a tricky position there.
At the time, Matsudaira had served Imagawa, so…
“My father, his friends, and Sakai Tadatsugu-sama attacked the Oda fortresses to scout things out and hold them in check.”
Musashi: “If I may interject, the Musashi was in southern Hexagone Française during Okehazama, so Sakai-sama was watching a European soccer tournament at the time. Over.”
Tonbokiri: “Since Mikawa itself was neutral, my father’s group visited eastern Mikawa past New Nagoya Castle and called it an ‘Okehazama Tour’.”
Vice President: “To be clear, I’m pretty sure Lord Tadakatsu’s group was there to protect the Imagawa forces fleeing to Mikawa after their defeat.”
Unturning: “We never heard about any of this up in the north. Are you saying Mikawa protected Imagawa during Okehazama but did not oppose Oda?”
Vice President: “Judge. To remain neutral, Mikawa laid no claims to the land between east Mikawa and Totomi afterwards.”
Silver Wolf: “Masazumi! Record this with a flashback, don’t just say it!”
Masazumi was eating a late lunch in the bell tower of a Buddhist temple in the forest.
That mountain temple acted as the cultural building for the school’s samurai division. It existed under the same division as the military classes, so she would sometimes visit that military school building depending on the class, but the school events here had a strong local color to them.
…Still, this building suits me better.
Some of the samurai family parents complained that their children shouldn’t have to perform farm work when they weren’t in the school’s farm division, but Masazumi thought experiencing life as a producer was important for a future political leader. Lord Motonobu had made the decision and she trusted him, but she really wished he would stop giving them rejected prototype automatons to use as scarecrows in the fields and paddies. The fact that they had all been made to look exactly like him and the way they would occasionally say “Welcome to New Nagoya Castle! It’s huge!” made them terrifying to encounter at night.
But it was daytime now and she had some of her mother’s rice balls wrapped in a bamboo leaf.
There were three in all: one seasoned only with salt, one with an umeboshi inside, and one with mountain vegetables inside.
The bell tower’s thatch roof cast a large shadow, so she had recently formed a habit of eating lunch here while reading. After all, the forest had been cleared between here and the ocean, presumably so the peals of the bell could reach that far.
She would eat lunch while viewing the distant ocean from the forest.
Rice balls were perfect for eating one-handed while reading. According to her mother, her father had similarly said to fix rice balls whenever he needed a meal during a meeting.
…Maybe I take after my father.
“Koni-tan! Koni-tan! Did you hear that!? Setting up those eavesdropping spells everywhere has finally paid off! You all thought I was crazy 10 years ago when I told the Asama Shrine we had to record the vibrations of the wall for ‘quakeproofing purposes’, but look at me now! You never know when these things will come in handy, Koni-tan! What’s that, Koni-tan, you’re sleepy!? Well, if you want to go to sleep, you have to say the magic words: ‘I’m so sweepy.’ …Ha, you actually said it!? But you’re not cute, so no sleep for yooooooooooooou! It’s late-night karaoke until morning for uuuuuuuuuuus!”
Masazumi’s eastern view showed her New Nagoya Castle to the left and Mikawa Bay to the right, but she could see the Musashi when viewing the sky straight out from the forest.
Long ago, the Imagawa fleet had gathered near there.
It had eventually led to a major battle and the adults had argued every day about whether Mikawa should side with Oda or Imagawa and about what would happen afterwards.
According to the Testament, when Matsudaira learned of Imagawa Yoshimoto’s defeat, they secured a portion of the Imagawa land and submitted to Oda.
That was a difficult history recreation for the current Mikawa to pull off.
Imagawa was powerful and Oda was well on its way to being the same. Allying with P.A. Oda in advance would mean an attack from Imagawa and it might change how the Oda clan treated Matsudaira.
But everything had ended so quickly when the time came.
It had poured with rain that day and, once the rain let up, the Imagawa fleet was gone.
She had heard P.A. Oda had attacked during the afternoon. Since Oda was north of Mikawa, they should have been arriving at the Imagawa fleet from the northwest, but…
“They bought a fleet from their allies in Houjou and the Association of Indian States to make a powerful strike from the southeast in the middle of the rain.”
Imagawa had all their defenses turned to the northwest in preparation for Oda’s arrival, but this had come from the complete opposite direction. And the attack had come from below as well.
The Imagawa fleet was routed, but most of them had fled north, since the attack was from the south. But even they were sunk, so…
…Imagawa was destroyed.
Everyone here had discussed so much about the future of Mikawa and what they should do, but Oda’s surprise attack had come during the pouring rain first thing in the afternoon and it had all been over in just a few hours.
Mikawa had been so tense for a while, but in the end, nothing had changed for them.
She had later learned that Mikawa had sent advance word to Imagawa that they would be preserving their own neutrality, but they would protect any of the defeated Imagawa people and prepare a new home for them.
Lord Tadakatsu had put together an “Okehazama Tour”, but that had likely been a cover for taking in Imagawa people.
“I had wanted to ask Futayo about that if we had time, but it’s probably been too long now.”
She got along fairly well with that other girl in her middle school, partially because they both had the same family name. Futayo was the daughter of a name inheritor and they would sometimes run into each other when moving between school buildings, but she never knew how to respond to the bizarre things that girl would say:
“Look, Masazumi! Soba!”
“Such a wonderfully sunny day, don’t you think!? An umbrella!? Why would I need one when it is only sprinkling!?”
“Look! A tomato! To-may-to, to-mah-to!”
Futayo probably just let out whatever random thought was on her mind when she saw her.
Regardless, that girl was the daughter of a super famous name inheritor, so Masazumi had heard she was considering whether she would join the Chancellor’s Officers, join the guard unit, or keep her options open. Masazumi on the other hand…
She held her book up toward the distant Musashi.
Her father was on that ship. He had failed to inherit a name, yet he had not returned from the Musashi.
“That must mean he’s enjoying himself there.”
“Anyway, this is far from an enjoyable topic, but I thought it might help us find some kind of hint. I mean, we don’t really know why the ghosts appeared near my home – that is, in the nature district that doubles as the shrine’s forest. I was hoping this lunchtime meeting could help us get to the bottom of that.”
“I see,” said Urquiaga. “From what I heard, these ghosts were a fairly special case when it comes to the rules of ghost appearances.”
“Our internal divine management system showed no record of anyone’s ghost making an appearance, so a unique case is the best explanation I can give at the moment.”
She passed a sign frame to everyone and then displayed a large one next to herself.
It showed the same thing as the one she had passed to them, so she tapped the glowing frame once before speaking.
“I will now sum up what we know.”
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